LTTE Urges U.N to Update their Database on Child Soldiers

"The remaining five cases were underage children coming to the LTTE political office determined to join and refusing to go home. Before these five children could be taken back to their homes by the LTTE members, the parents have complained to UNICEF. All the seven cases except the police case are back at their homes. Investigation is continuing with the police case"

(March 31, Killinochchi , Sri Lanka Guardian) The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) urges U.N to update their database on the released child soldiers as the U.N database reminded static due to the difficulties in verifying and clearing cases of released.

"The UNICEF database of under-18 persons in the LTTE has remained static for several months now and continues to hold around 178 names," The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) peace secretariat statement said.

"The database has remained static because of the inability of UNICEF to verify and clear the cases released last year due to the prevailing security situation and staff shortage at UNICEF," statement added.

"UNICEF also handed to CPA seven complaints of alleged underage recruitment this year. One of these seven cases was an arrest by the Tamil Eelam police for a crime committed. Another was a case of confused identity between two siblings aged 17 and 18."

"The remaining five cases were underage children coming to the LTTE political office determined to join and refusing to go home. Before these five children could be taken back to their homes by the LTTE members, the parents have complained to UNICEF. All the seven cases except the police case are back at their homes. Investigation is continuing with the police case," statement noted

“CPA will continue to publish this table once a month with whatever updates that takes place in that month.”

Meanwhile, The U.N has documented more than 235 cases of child recruitment by the Sri Lankan government aligned Karuna group in Sri Lanka’s eastern districts although the real numbers of child recruitment by Karuna group is certainly much higher due to underreporting. International rights groups have alleged the Sri Lankan government colludes with the Karuna group to recruit children to fight the Tamil Tigers
- Sri Lanka Guardian

GoSL reinforces Asian misgivings on Myanmar Resolution

“No positive constructive change is possible in any given country, without the support of its neighbours and those of the continent to which it belongs.” Vedio: No move against Sri Lanka at the 7th Session of the HRC

(March 31, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) “Sri Lanka wishes to associate itself with the sentiments expressed by the distinguished representatives of China, the Philippines and Pakistan on this issue of the resolution on Myanmar,” said Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at the Seventh Session of the Human Rights Council prior to the adoption of the Resolution titled “Situation of human rights in Myanmar” A/HRC/7/L.36.

According to the statement released by Dr. Dayan over the resolution, “Mr. President, her Excellency the Ambassador of the Philippines mentioned in passing the engagement of Myanmar with the International Labour Organization. I would like to use that mention, that reference, to draw attention to a far more balanced and fair manner of dealing with the Myanmar situation, and that was the resolution that was passed just a week or so ago in the International Labour Organization at its Governing Body Meeting.”

“Unfortunately, Mr. President, that sense of balance and realism is not displayed in this resolution that is before us. In everything, Mr. President, there has to be a sense of proportion. When the situation in Myanmar was dramatic and urgent, the Council responded in a spirit of almost unanimity. The situation has improved, Mr. President. The situation in Myanmar is not static. The system is not hermetically closed and sealed. Now that change, however modest, however molecular, is important, and it has not been registered in the draft resolution that we find before us,” he noted.

“Mr. President, no positive constructive change is possible in any given country, without the support of its neighbours and those of the continent to which it belongs. I would therefore urge those who wish to take action on Myanmar to be guided far more than they have been, by the almost unanimous sentiments of Myanmar’s neighbours and those of us in Asia, the continent in which Myanmar is located. I agree with the representative of Pakistan who flagged the intrusive character of the present resolution,” he added.

About Video: Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka - Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Geneva.
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The four-week-long Seventh Session of the UN Human Rights Council which was held from 3rd to 28th March will conclude its work in Geneva today, with Sri Lanka as one of its 47 members, actively participating in the deliberations.

The Council took action on more than 35 resolutions and decisions on the promotion and protection of human rights and Sri Lanka was not on its agenda once again. There was no action taken by the Council on the country's human rights situation in any of the three standard forms, namely a resolution, a special session or a statement by the President of the Council. A clear majority of members of the Council showed their solidarity with Sri Lanka in its efforts to promote and protect human rights while combating terrorism.

Reference to Sri Lanka's human rights situation was made by several Western countries and Sri Lankan and international NGOs which attended the Seventh Session. However, such criticism fell well short of gaining necessary support within the Council for any specific action on Sri Lanka due to a successful briefing campaign spearheaded by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva. This campaign was a part of Sri Lanka's long-standing policy of open and constructive engagement with the international community on human rights issues.

- Sri Lanka Guardian

Response of the GOSL to the US State Department Country Reports

“The Government’s response reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing and that all human rights must be accorded equal weight. Sri Lanka’s socio-economic indicators compare well with those of other medium income countries.”

(March 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has issued today (31/03/2008) the detailed Response of the Government of Sri Lanka to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices–2007 that had been released by the US Department of State relating to Sri Lanka, on 11th March 2008.

In a letter forwarding the Government’s response, addressed to US Ambassador Robert Blake, the Foreign Minister has referred to the preliminary response that had been conveyed to him when he was called into the Ministry on 14th March 2008. At that meeting the Minister expressed the concern of the Sri Lankan Government on the substance of the report which presented a distorted view of the actual situation in Sri Lanka during the year 2007 and appears to have been based on unsubstantiated allegations. The Foreign Minister regretted that none of the positive steps taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to address the concerns on human rights had been reflected in the US State Department Report on Sri Lanka. Minister Bogollagama conveyed the expectation that the US Report would stand corrected in light of the facts contained in the Government response.

The Government response stated that the US Report carried several serious and baseless allegations against various officials of the Sri Lankan Government, while pointedly ignoring the many steps adopted by the Government to protect the sanctity of human life, and uphold fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Throughout the report, it had been observed that the approach of the US Report towards Sri Lanka was critical and judgmental, and such a slant undermined the objectivity and impartiality of the report.

The preamble of the response of the Government highlighted the fact that Sri Lanka is a vibrant multi-party democracy which accords the highest importance to the preservation and promotion of human rights, in keeping with the Government’s constitutional obligations and the rule of law. In recent decades, LTTE terrorism has affected Sri Lanka’s economic and social progress and the welfare of its people. However, it was possible for the Government to clear the Eastern Province last year from the LTTE presence and enable the people of the area to enjoy the fruits of democracy. The Government is determined to clear the remaining pockets in the Northern Province of the LTTE menace and restore the democratic process in those areas as well.

Minister Bogollagama underlined the failure of the US Report to reflect the difficult environment in which the Government operates, namely, promoting and protecting human rights whilst fighting a terrorist organization banned by the US, India, UK, EU and Canada, and described as ‘among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world’ by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Government response referred to a recent FBI report, which described the LTTE as a terrorist organization which ‘has perfected the use of suicide bombers, invented the suicide belt, pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks, murdered some 4,000 people in the past two years alone, assassinated two world leaders – the only terrorist organization to do so.’

It was pointed out in the Government response that the US Report did not refer to the terrorist attacks committed by the LTTE against civilians including women and children, in sufficient detail. In particular, the indifference shown in the report towards the murders of school children by the LTTE, and neglected to reflect the facts in their proper context, could be seen as deeply offending to the feelings and sentiments of the families of the victims and the general public of Sri Lanka.

The Government’s response reaffirmed that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing and that all human rights must be accorded equal weight. Sri Lanka’s socio-economic indicators compare well with those of other medium income countries. In the 2007 Human Development Index, Sri Lanka ranked 99 out of 177 countries, the highest in South Asia. Amongst countries affected by conflict, Sri Lanka is unique in that the administrative machinery and infrastructure facilities in uncleared areas affected by the conflict, are funded and maintained substantially by the Government, despite the fact that some of these funds are known to be siphoned off by the LTTE.

Moreover, it was pointed out that Sri Lanka is a Party to the seven core international human rights instruments. Sri Lanka is also a State Party to other related instruments including the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 relating to armed conflict and international humanitarian law. Furthermore, Sri Lanka enacted enabling legislation in 2006 (Act No. 4 of 2006) to fully implement obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

The Government of Sri Lanka expressed its deep appreciation of the pro-active measures taken by the US Government to stop the procurement of weapons by the LTTE as well as to curb fund raising by the LTTE and its front organizations.

The Government’s response underscored the fact that Sri Lanka and the US, are thriving democracies and have a shared and abiding interest in promoting and protecting human rights and therefore it should be the common endeavour of the two countries to engage in a constructive dialogue, which would further strengthen the existing bilateral friendly relations.

The response of the Government concluded with the expectation that the US Congress would take cognizance of the matters presented in its submission so that they would be able to understand the issues in a more balanced manner and also take necessary action to prevent the recurrence of such erroneous and biased reports being presented to it in the future.

- Sri Lanka Guardian

The Lord Takes Many Forms

“The story is usually told to suggest that for every such Rama there is a Ramayana. The number of Ramayanas and the range of their influence in South and Southeast Asia over the past 2,500-odd years are astonishing. Just a list of languages in which the Rama story is found makes one gasp: Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian, Chinese, Gujarati, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan—to say nothing of Western languages. Through the centuries, some of these languages have hosted more than one telling of the Rama story.”

Even as an unlikely debate rages around the Ram Setu, right-wing student activists in a pocket of Delhi University took exception to a celebrated essay by an eminent scholar...

by A.K. Ramanujan

(March 31, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Even as an unlikely debate rages around the Ram Setu--whether it was built by man, nature or divinity--in a pocket of the Delhi University, right-wing student activists have taken exception to this essay by the celebrated scholar A.K. Ramanujan, on the many Ramayanas living across languages and narrative genres, each different but no less legitimate than Valmiki's epic. Excerpts from the The Collected Essays of A.K. Ramanujan (OUP, 1999; copyright: Molly Daniels Ramanujan).

How many Ramayanas? Three hundred? Three thousand? At the end of some Ramayanas, a question is sometimes asked: How many Ramayanas have there been? And there are stories that answer the question. Here is one.

One day when Rama was sitting on his throne, his ring fell off. When it touched the earth, it made a hole in the ground and disappeared into it. It was gone. His trusty henchman, Hanuman, was at his feet. Rama said to Hanuman, "Look, my ring is lost. Find it for me."

Now Hanuman can enter any hole, no matter how tiny. He had the power to become the smallest of the small and larger than the largest thing. So he took on a tiny form and went down the hole.

He went and went and went and suddenly fell into the netherworld. There were women down there. "Look, a tiny monkey! It's fallen from above!" Then they caught him and placed him on a platter (thali). The King of Spirits (bhut), who lives in the netherworld, likes to eat animals. So Hanuman was sent to him as part of his dinner, along with his vegetables. Hanuman sat on the platter, wondering what to do.

While this was going on in the netherworld, Rama sat on his throne on the earth above. The sage Vasistha and the god Brahma came to see him. They said to Rama, "Your work in the world of human beings is over. Your incarnations as Rama must now be given up. Leave this body, come up, and rejoin the gods." So Rama summoned all his followers and arranged for the coronation of his twin sons, Lava and Kusa. Then he went to the river Sarayu and disappeared in the flowing waters.

All this while, Hanuman was in the netherworld. When he was finally taken to the King of Spirits, he asked Hanuman, "Why have you come here?"

"Rama's ring fell into a hole. I've come to fetch it."

The king showed him a platter. On it were thousands of rings. They were all Rama's rings. The king said, "Pick out your Rama's ring and take it."

They were all exactly the same. "I don't know which one it is," said Hanuman, shaking his head.

The King of Spirits said, "There have been as many Ramas as there are rings on this platter. When you return to earth, you will not find Rama. This incarnation of Rama is now over. Whenever an incarnation of Rama is about to be over, his ring falls down. I collect them and keep them. Now you can go."

So Hanuman left.


The story is usually told to suggest that for every such Rama there is a Ramayana. The number of Ramayanas and the range of their influence in South and Southeast Asia over the past 2,500-odd years are astonishing. Just a list of languages in which the Rama story is found makes one gasp: Annamese, Balinese, Bengali, Cambodian, Chinese, Gujarati, Javanese, Kannada, Kashmiri, Khotanese, Laotian, Malaysian, Marathi, Oriya, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sinhalese, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan—to say nothing of Western languages. Through the centuries, some of these languages have hosted more than one telling of the Rama story. Sanskrit alone contains some 25 or more tellings belonging to various narrative genres. If we add plays, dance-dramas and other performances, in both the classical and folk traditions, the number of Ramayanas grows even larger.

Obviously, these hundreds of tellings differ from one another.I have come to prefer the word tellings to the usual terms versions or variants because the latter terms can and typically do imply that there is an invariant, an original or Ur-text—usually Valmiki's Sanskrit Ramayana, the earliest and most prestigious of them all. But it is not always Valmiki's narrative that is carried from one language to another. We have a variety of Rama tales told by others, with radical differences among them.

The motif of Sita as Ravana's daughter, for example, occurs in one tradition of the Jain stories (for example, in the Vasudevahimdi) and in folk traditions of Kannada and Telugu, as well as in several Southeast Asian Ramayanas. In some, Ravana in his lusty youth molests a young woman, who vows vengeance and is reborn as his daughter to destroy him.

In the Thai Ramakirti (Rama's glory) or Ramakien (Rama's story), though many incidents look the same as they do in Valmiki, many things look different as well. For instance, as in the South Indian folk Ramayanas (as also in some Jain, Bengali and Kashmiri ones), the banishment of Sita is given a dramatic new rationale. The daughter of Surpanakha (the demoness whom Rama and Laksmana had mutilated years earlier in the forest) is waiting in the wings to take revenge on Sita, whom she views as finally responsible for her mother's disfigurement. She comes to Ayodhya, enters Sita's service as a maid, and induces her to draw a picture of Ravana. The drawing is rendered indelible (in some tellings, it comes to life in her bedroom) and forces itself on Rama's attention. In a jealous rage, he orders Sita killed. The compassionate Laksmana leaves her alive in the forest, though, and brings back the heart of a deer as witness to the execution.

The focus in the Ramakien is not on family values and spirituality. Thai audiences are more fond of Hanuman. Neither celibate nor devout, as in the Hindu Ramayana, here Hanuman is quite a ladies' man, who doesn't at all mind looking into the bedrooms of Lanka and doesn't consider seeing another man's sleeping wife as anything immoral, as Valmiki's does, or Kampan's Hanuman in his Tamil Ramayana.

Ravana too is different here. The Ramakirti admires Ravana's resourcefulness and learning; his abduction of Sita is seen as an act of love and is viewed with sympathy. The Thais are moved by Ravana's sacrifice of family, kingdom and life itself for the sake of a woman. Unlike Valmiki's characters, the Thai ones are a fallible, human mixture of good and evil. The fall of Ravana here makes one sad. It is not an occasion for unambiguous rejoicing, as it is in Valmiki.


Thus, not only do we have one story told by Valmiki in Sanskrit, we have a variety of Rama tales told by others, with radical differences among them. One point of difference is the intensity of focus on a major character. Valmiki focuses on Rama and his history in his opening sections; Vimalasuri's Jain Ramayana and the Thai epic focus not on Rama but on the genealogy and adventures of Ravana; the Kannada village telling focuses on Sita, her birth, her wedding, her trials. The Santhals, a tribe known for their extensive oral traditions, even conceive of Sita as unfaithful—to the shock and horror of any Hindu bred on Valmiki or Kampan, she is seduced both by Ravana and by Laksmana. In Southeast Asian texts, Hanuman is not the celibate devotee with a monkey face but a ladies' man who figures in many love episodes. In Kampan and Tulsi, Rama is a god; in the Jain texts, he is only an evolved Jain man who is in his last birth and so does not even kill Ravana. In the latter, Ravana is a noble hero fated by his karma to fall for Sita and bring death upon himself, while he is in other texts an overweening demon.Thus in the conception of every major character there are radical differences, so different indeed that one conception is quite abhorrent to those who hold another. Every one of these occurs in more than one text, in more than one textual community (Hindu, Jain or Buddhist), in more than one region.

Now, is there a common core to the Rama stories, except the most skeletal set of relations like that of Rama, his brother, his wife and the antagonist Ravana who abducts her? Are the stories bound together only by certain family resemblances, as Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein might say? Or is it like Aristotle's jack-knife? When the philosopher asked an old carpenter how long he had had his knife, the latter said, "Oh, I've had it for 30 years. I have changed the blade a few times and the handle a few times, but it's the same knife." Some shadow of a relational structure claims the name of Ramayana for all these tellings, but one is not necessarily all that like another.

We read the different tellings of the Ramayana for different reasons and with different aesthetic expectations. We read the scholarly modern English translation largely to gain a sense of the original Valmiki, and we consider it successful to the extent that it resembles the original. We read Kampan to read Kampan, and we judge him on his own terms—not by his resemblance to Valmiki but, if anything, by the extent that he differs from Valmiki. In the one, we rejoice in the similarity; in the other, we cherish and savour the differences.

Every author brings out a unique crystallisation, a new text with a unique texture and a fresh context. The great texts rework the small ones, for "lions are made of sheep," as French polymath Paul Valery said. And sheep are made of lions, too: a folk legend says that Hanuman wrote the original Ramayana on a mountain-top after the great war, and scattered the manuscript; it was many times larger than what we have now. Valmiki is said to have captured only a fragment of it. In this sense, no text is original, yet no telling is a mere retelling—and the story has no closure.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Our world is confronted by the threat of terrorism

“Political leaders in a democratic society would like to be as close to people as possible. They dislike being cordoned off by a ring of impenetrable security. To protect leaders in a democracy and at the same time ensure that they are accessible to the general public, requires considerable skill.”

Dr. Manmohan Singh

(March 31, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) “It is a great pleasure for me to be in your midst once again. I sincerely compliment you for your thorough professionalism, your competence and dedication to work. The SPG has completed yet another year of highly satisfying service, notwithstanding the difficult and trying conditions under which you have to work. On this happy occasion I, my wife and our family extend our warm felicitations to all officers of SPG and to their families.

I am delighted to greet all the officers and personnel who have won medals and trophies in recognition of their meritorious and distinguished services and for their excellence in different professional fields.

We are all aware of the tragic circumstances under which the SPG came into being. These very circumstances highlighted the necessity of setting up a dedicated and specialised Protection Unit. It was also around that time that the scourge of terrorism appeared. SPG was, therefore, set up as a committed, disciplined and highly trained outfit, comprising handpicked officers, assigned the exclusive responsibility of providing discreet, yet effective and foolproof security to the highest political office of the country.

Today, after 23 years, SPG has developed and evolved into a formidable force, displaying a high degree of professionalism and the most outstanding level of commitment to its responsibilities. It is indeed a matter of pride that India has such a committed and well-trained force, a force that is second to none in the world, for the security of the highest political leadership.

I would like to compliment you for the most interesting demonstration that we witnessed a little while ago. The adoption of ‘Proximate Use of Force’ by SPG is indicative of SPG’s quest to equip itself with the most appropriate techniques to face the challenges that lie ahead. I am happy to learn that SPG is thinking of setting up a new Counter Sniper Unit. This is indicative of forward thinking that we associate with the SPG.

I am also happy to note that the SPG proposes to build capabilities in the field of ‘Bomb Disposal’ and is making a determined bid to equip itself to deal with threats from Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear agents. I assure you that our Government will ensure that SPG gets all that it requires to upgrade the skills of its personnel and the organisation.

A close and personal association with the SPG is an inevitable part of my present position. I have over the last four years been observing the SPG from very close quarters. As you know, protectees rarely relish being protected, but in all honesty I have come to value our association greatly. My admiration for what you are doing has only grown over time.

Political leaders in a democratic society would like to be as close to people as possible. They dislike being cordoned off by a ring of impenetrable security. To protect leaders in a democracy and at the same time ensure that they are accessible to the general public, requires considerable skill. A protective security organisation like SPG has, therefore, no alternative, but to act as an interface between the people and the political leaders while ensuring the security of the political leaders. This, I realise, is a task that requires considerable tact and is not an easy task.

Your procedures and practice of handling the public must continue to evolve along with your professional skills. I am aware that sometimes you face criticism on this count. While I am conscious that a lot is being done to minimise the inconvenience levels faced by the ordinary citizen, I am sure that a lot more can be done to further professionalise and improve matters. Innovative lateral thinking along with an independent approach is perhaps the way ahead. I am confident that the SPG, as part of its culture of excellence, would endeavour to produce even better results in this sphere in future.

Our world is confronted by the threat of terrorism, sometimes from non-State actors. The number of important dignitaries at risk from terrorist threats has increased and is a source of great concern for governments around the world. We have to work with the international community to devise measures that combat this menace, particularly in democratic countries that are open societies and where people enjoy freedom of movement. As I have said before, terrorism anywhere is a threat to freedom and democracy everywhere.

I reiterate our Government’s firm commitment to deal with such threats to peace and security, to political stability and economic progress, to social and communal harmony in our country. Whatever the source of terrorism, we are determined to root it out and ensure that in a democracy political change can only come through the ballot box and not through the barrel of a gun.

I wish to once again place on record my deepest gratitude and appreciation for the selfless service being rendered by SPG. I am confident that the SPG would continue its quest for excellence. I wish all members of the SPG family every success in their endeavours.”

( The Prime Minister of India , Dr. Manmohan Singh addressed the 23rd Raising Day of SPG in New Delhi today. Published above is the text of the Prime Minister’s speech)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Sea tiger base bombed: Mullaithiv

More than 500 soldiers have so far fallen to Chikengunya and Dengu diseases

“More than 500 soldiers have so far fallen to Chikengunya and Dengu diseases due to the worsening sanitary conditions in the front lines affected by rain. Necessary steps are being taken to prevent the spread of such diseases and reserve forces have been deployed in the affected areas.”


by DefenceNet

(March 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka Air Force fighter jets bombed a sea tiger base located in Alampil in LTTE stronghold of Mullaithiv district yesterday. The raids which were made yesterday afternoon, are reported to be accurate. No casualty details are available as of yet. The Air Force has shown more activity in the past week with its fighter jets and gunships both assisting the ground forces, even amidst bad weather conditions.

Meanwhile continuous rain in Mannar has greatly affected the ongoing operations by the army. The flood like situation and soggy ground conditions have made the deployment of armored vehicles near impossible. Ground forces advance has also slowed down as trenches dug and death traps set by the LTTE are now covered with water and are not easily visible. However against all odd the army captured LTTE controlled Ilantheevan, located to the south of Adampan junction on the 29th.

Meanwhile more than 500 soldiers have so far fallen to Chikengunya and Dengu diseases due to the worsening sanitary conditions in the front lines affected by rain. Necessary steps are being taken to prevent the spread of such diseases and reserve forces have been deployed in the affected areas.

Around two weeks ago Military Intelligence received fresh intel on the massive trench that is been dug in the northern FDL to stop the Mechanized Infantry Brigade which the tigers apparently consider to be a great threat. The multi layered trench complex with iron fences and reinforced concrete are supposed to not only stop the heavy armor from storming tiger defenses but the tigers are also planning to capture any vehicles that fall into them. Mechanized Infantry brigade has changed its strategy and future plans based on the new intel.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

China Mobiles Han Diaspora To Counter Tibetan Diaspora

“The Chinese have been surprised that despite the significant prosperity of the Tibetans as a result of the undoubted economic progress, there is a high level of discontent against the Government and support for the Dalai Lama. They attribute this to the failure of the local officials to realise the importance of "patriotic education" of the Tibetan youth.”

(March 31, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Chinese Ministry of Public Security,which is responsible for internal intelligence and security and oversees the administration of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, is reported to have issued instructions to the Chinese Embassies in countries having a large number of Tibetan refugees to mobilise the local Han residents to counter the anti-Beijing propaganda and activities of the Tibetan refugees and to prevent any attempt by the refugees to disrupt the passage of the Olympic torch through different countries.
They have been advised to counter them through the Internet as well as on the ground. These instructions have reportedly come on the eve of the planned observance of March 31,2008, as a "Day of Action" by the Tibetan diaspora. On this day, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) proposes to hand over to the Chinese Embassies in important countries a petition calling for Tibetan independence, which has been signed by over one million people----Tibetans as well as foreigners--- all over the world. The petition was circulated and the signatures obtained through the Internet.

The Chinese have been concerned over the effective manner in which the TYC and Tibetan exile groups supporting it have been using the Internet to keep in touch with each other, to propagate the cause of Tibetan freedom, to carry on propaganda against Beijing and to call for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Despite the Chinese clamp-down on the use of the Internet and mobile telephones in Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu, the TYC office-bearers abroad and the leaders of the Uprising Movement, formed by the TYC inside the Tibetan-inhabited areas of China, continue to exchange communications with each other and keep the world informed of what has been going on inside Tibet. Thanks to the Internet and the mobile telephones and the ingenuity of the Tibetan youth, the Chinese have failed to impose a total iron curtain around the Tibetan-inhabited areas, though a partial iron curtain, which is 75 per cent effective, functions. Even young Tibetan monks in Tibet and other provinces have become adept in the use of the Internet.

The Han diaspora abroad has been advised to copy-cat the Tibetan use of the Internet in order to widely disseminate the Chinese version of the developments in Tibet since March 10,2008. There has been a mushrooming of Han-run blogs and chat rooms in the last one week to counter the Western version of the developments. A visit to some of these sites indicates that while they have been hitting hard at the Dalai Lama and his so-called clique and at Western media and Governments, they are avoiding any criticism of India. They are also avoiding blaming India for the activities of the Dalai Lama and the TYC.The Chinese authorities have been avoiding taking cognisance of the TYC and giving it a locus standi in the Tibetan issue. Instead, they continue to blame what they call the Dalai clique, which includes His Holiness himself, his set-up in Dharamsala, the TYC and other Tibetan non-governmental organisations agitating on the issue of the Tibetan rights.

The Chinese do not want to give the impression that they are doubting the sincerity of the Government of India when it says that it continues to regard Tibet as an integral part of China and is opposed to any anti-China activities from its territory. While accusing the Western countries of following double-standards with regard to the use of force to deal with internal disturbances, they have been avoiding projecting the uprising in the Tibetan-inhabited areas as engineered by the West. They have been recalling the ruthless manner in which President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, as the Interior Minister in 2005, put down the riots by the Muslim migrants in France and describing his present expression of concern over the Chinese use of force against the Tibetans as hypocrisy.

While continuing to make arrests of the suspected participants in the uprising and those, who could pose a threat during the passage of the Olympic flame through Tibet, they have at the same time mounted a campaign to re-assure the Western Governments and investors that the situation in Tibet is not as bad as projected by the Western media and has returned to normal. Their exercise to take teams of foreign journalists and diplomats to Lhasa to see the situation for themselves proved an embarrassment. When the journalists were visiting a monastery in Lhasa, a group of monks shouted anti-Chinese and pro-Dalai Lama slogans. The diplomats have expressed their dissatisfaction over the way the Chinese sought to exercise strict control over their movements in Lhasa and did not allow them to freely interact with the local population.

The Chinese have been surprised that despite the significant prosperity of the Tibetans as a result of the undoubted economic progress, there is a high level of discontent against the Government and support for the Dalai Lama. They attribute this to the failure of the local officials to realise the importance of "patriotic education" of the Tibetan youth. The importance of "patriotic re-education" was the running theme of the remarks made by Mr.Meng Jianzhu , the Minister for Public Security, during his interactions with local officials when he visited Lhasa on March 23 and 24,2008. His visit has been followed by the beginning of what appears to be a purge of local officials, who are seen as responsible for failing to anticipate the disturbances and prevent them. The "Tibet Daily" announced on March 30,2008, that Mr.Danzeng Langjie, Director of Tibet's Ethnic Minority and Religious Affairs Commission, has been "removed" from his post and replaced by Mr. Luosang Jiumei, who was the Vice-Secretary of the Communist Party committee of Lhasa since 2004. Both are ethnic Tibetans.

The Chinese Foreign Office is also reported to be unhappy with the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi for failing to closely monitor the activities of the Dalai Lama's set-up and the TYC and forewarn the Government in Beijing of their plans to create incidents before the passage of the Olympic flame through Tibet. The purge may eventually affect the staff of the Embassy too.

(B.Raman, Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Undertones of the Sri Lankan conflict

“Indeed, the ethnic bomb is easy to explode. The primary inputs are twofold: a few perceived lapses on the part of the dominant group of the given polity and some Machiavellian leaders among the uprising group. Then the fire is ablaze: business interests, arms dealers, drug dealers and regional power politicians come into play remaining in hiding for obvious reasons and concealing the growing complexity of a campaign which to the unsuspecting public manifests itself only as an straight-forward struggle for self-determination.”

by Shyamon Jayasinghe

(March 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lanka, ‘Ceylon’ during the days of the British Raj, has been in the grips of a civil war where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), acknowledged as one of the world’s most ruthless guerrilla groups, has been battling with the Sinhalese-dominated government over the last 17 years in order to form a break-away state (‘Tamil Eelam’) comprising the island’s northern and eastern provinces as a homeland for its Tamil inhabitants.

In this country 65,610 sq km in size, the Sinhalese constitute about 74 per cent of a total population of 18 1/2 million and Tamils constitute about 2.6 per cent. The Sinhalese are mainly Buddhists while the Tamils are mostly Hindus. It is estimated that the war has already cost over 60,000 human lives and has brought political disintegration to what was once a vibrant and thriving democracy.

The emotional power of appeals to ethnicity has created a curious dichotomy in a contemporary world characterised by the forces of globalisation and the shrinking of boundaries. Demands by ethnic groups in several countries for secession from the wider polity have become a fashionable political development. "Should we allow a secessionist free-for-all?" asks a writer in the London ‘Economist’ in an interesting article appearing in its issue of 29th January- February 4th of this year. A critical question for today’s global and regional leaders: Are there rules, which could guide us through the darkness of these conflicts?

Indeed, the ethnic bomb is easy to explode. The primary inputs are twofold: a few perceived lapses on the part of the dominant group of the given polity and some Machiavellian leaders among the uprising group. Then the fire is ablaze: business interests, arms dealers, drug dealers and regional power politicians come into play remaining in hiding for obvious reasons and concealing the growing complexity of a campaign which to the unsuspecting public manifests itself only as an straight-forward struggle for self-determination. The morale of ordinary followers is kept up by romanticism and a halo built around the cause and its leader.

Human Rights activists and influential writers who have hitherto supported separatist movements as a matter of routine on the basis of the old argument about self-determination, find their enthusiasm waning partly due to the human rights violation blatantly carried out by such organisations against civilian populations. Salman Rushdie, well-known British writer, disenchanted with the LTTE campaign against the Sri Lanka government, wrote thus in Australia’s AGE newspaper (issue of 27th January 2000): "... terrorism isn’t justice-seeking in disguise. In Sri Lanka it’s the voices of peace and conciliation who are getting murdered".

The doctrine of self-determination is no longer regarded as valid in all situations. The writer in the Economist enunciates four "rules" for determining support of any given secessionist movement, and self-determination is not one of them. The first rule is "that secession should neither be encouraged nor discouraged: it is in itself neither good nor bad". It depends on the circumstances.

The second rule is that the decision to secede should be "carried out only if a clear majority have freely chosen it, ideally in an unbiased referendum held in tranquil circumstances". We shall apply these rules to the Sri Lankan case: Would the LTTE, for instance, allow such a referendum? They will have to quit their "controlled areas" and guarantee a vote under tranquil circumstances. The LTTE is a totalitarian organization and it would be foolish to imagine the Tigers laying down their guns and participating in a democratic exercise of this nature exposing themselves to competition from other rival Tamil groups that are bound to assert themselves freed of constraint in a democratic environment. Other than ascertaining through the mechanism of a referendum there is no available objective indication of the general stand of the Tamil community with regard to the issue of autonomy. It is clear that their stance falls in a political spectrum beginning with indifference at one end, through a demand for simple autonomy and going onto secession at the other extreme.

The third rule enunciated in the Economist is that "the secessionist territory must offer guarantees that any minorities it drags along will be decently treated". In the Sri Lankan scenario there are the ‘low-caste Tamils’, the Tamils of Batticaloa who constitute a subculture of their own, the Sinhalese themselves who inhabited those regions until the LTTE expelled them, the Portuguese descendants in Batticaloa and the large block of Muslims in the eastern province. These groups would all constitute local minorities of ‘Tamil Eelam’. History has many an example of a successful secessionist group denying the very fundamental rights which they purportedly fought for, toward minority groups within their newly won jurisdiction. In the Sri Lankan instance, the very wording of the proposed new State with the prefix ‘Tamil’ would obviously rule out minorities who are not Tamil.

The fourth rule is "that the secessionists should be able to make a reasonable claim to be a national group". The Tamils in Sri Lanka can undoubtedly claim to be a distinct community, but they are too dispersed geographically and are not as a whole concentrated in the territory, which the LTTE claims. Indeed many Tamils have been living for ages in what the LTTE rhetoric refers to as "Sinhala Areas". It is most unlikely that these preponderant numbers would agree to leave these areas for a new life in "Eelam". They mingle freely with the Sinhalese: they own property, work freely in the public service and in business on equal terms; they intermarry; their children attend the same schools and they share all public facilities without hindrance. This fact, by the way, undermines any accusation that Tamils are a persecuted group.

This brings us to a consideration of a fifth rule, which is outside the article in the Economist: "are the secession-seeking group and the dominant community so incompatible that severance is the only option?" On the other hand, is the perception of incompatibility shared only by a power-wanting political elite that has chosen to play upon ethnic differences? Exploiting ethnic differences as an easy road to power is a common modus operandi of politicians. The LTTE is doing just that. It has created a generation of brainwashed people who have been conditioned from childhood (child soldiers) to hate the Sinhalese. Their suicide bombers are the products of such robotic material.

Tamils are not persecuted in Sri Lanka. Even the Tamil leaders of the past who argued for autonomy did not go on record saying that Tamils were persecuted. Some Tamil leaders held portfolios in successive Sinhala-dominated governments of the past. Also, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is a Tamil, would not remain in a government, which persecutes Tamils. Furthermore, not a single court case has ever been filed invoking the strong provisions available in the constitution, then and now, alleging discrimination on the grounds of race in Sri Lanka. And, mind you, Tamils have graced top positions in the judiciary. These are telling objective indices that refute any charges of persecution or serious discrimination. There was the riot of 1983. But that was not a grassroots movement like, for instance, ethnic riots in places like Kosovo or parts of Africa. It was organised by a handful of dirty politicians with the aid of the urban underworld. The scale and intensity of that campaign was relatively small and confined largely to a few Colombo suburbs.

The Sinhalese community has not been guilty of acts like forceful assimilation, threats to Tamil culture or ethnic cleansing. There are numerous common strands in cultural attributes between the two communities. The Buddhist ethic, dominant among the Sinhalese, as well as the latter’s exposure to modernised western ways, have made them, by large, a tolerant and non-insular community. The Sinhalese have never been a conquering or militant civilization. This milieu partly explains why they have never resorted to backlash action. since 1983 despite countless provocative attacks by the LTTE. These attacks included the slaughtering of 30 Buddhist monks at Arantalawa while on their way to an alms-giving, the killing of innocent devotees at one of the most sacred shrines of Buddhists, the Siri Maha Bodhi, and, most provocative of all, the bombing of the crowning possession of Sinhalese Buddhist civilisation – the Dalada Maligawa. Indeed it may be said that the passiveness displayed by the Sinhalese in the face of such offences is rare in the world’s history of ethnic conflict.

Instances of discrimination (not persecution) against non-Sinhalese communities (Tamils included) did occur but they occurred as unintended consequences of attempts on the part of the Sinhalese to regain privileges lost under colonial rule rather than as deliberate attempts to avenge minorities. The ‘Sinhalese only’ language policy was the outstanding example. This admittedly disadvantaged the non-Sinhalese. As a result of that, the Burghers left for Australia and the Tamils stayed behind to fight. Under ordinary circumstances, a very large majority group such as the Sinhalese would have been unimpeded in pushing such a policy. However, the Sinhalese politicians at the time failed to realise that the doctrine of majority rule is not unconditional in its application. The ‘Ceylon Tamils’ are, understandably, a proud community with a rich cultural inheritance. The language policy infuriated them, and when it was later modified their populist politicians had already exploited the blemish.

Nevertheless, the Sinhalese have now grown out of that experience. Opposite trends among them are now clear: They have displayed a great deal of political maturity as is seen by the fact that extremist groups among them have not been able to take root.

They have experienced adult franchise over the past 70 years and over ninety per cent of the Sinhala population are literate. Besides, the major political parties are deeply committed to the idea that only a political solution on the basis of power devolution can bring sustainable peace.

Two more rules need to be added: The sixth rule can also be framed as a question: ‘Will secession seriously affect the viability of the new constituent units?" ‘Tamil Eelam’ would mean that a third of the mainland of Sri Lanka and two-thirds of its coastline would go to the new state. Tamils are already occupying large areas of the ‘non-Eelam territory’. Hence, in effect and in ethnic terms, non-Tamils would have even less mainland territory to support a naturally expanding population. Sri Lanka, already a tiny market, will be redrawn into two smaller states each losing advantages of scale and made tragically poorer as a result. In the current context the area to be allocated for ‘Tamil Eelam’ is subsidised by the rest of the island.

In the light of the above realities, the post-secession era would see the LTTE having recourse to two possible strategies both of which would impinge on our final rule, namely: "Will secession lead to regional / international instability?" Because of the consequences of these two strategies the answer will be an obvious ‘yes’. What are the strategies? Firstly, the LTTE will tend to encroach and invade the ‘non-Eelam sector’ on the pretexts of ‘border disputes’ (Ethiopia vs. Eritrea?) and disputes over the inevitable need to share common resources.

The LTTE’s steel-like intransigence and unrelenting hostility would leave no other options open. The war will enter a new and more vicious phase. The Sinhalese, who have only Sri Lanka to call their home in the whole wide world, would undergo a metamorphosis and fight back developing their own suicide bombers and their own Velupillai Prabhakarans. Peace for Sri Lanka will be a receding dream even to those Tamils who now think that Eelam would be the lasting road to peace. An opportunity is open for international power players.

The second strategy would endanger neighbouring India. The LTTE once declared its ambitions about an all-encompassing Tamil State (‘Greater Eelam’) including Tamilnadu. Leaders in the latter state were reported seen in the island’s Jaffna peninsula as far back as the 1960s, fanning racism. The LTTE’s anti-Indian stance has never been a secret. The World Tamil Movement is one of the principal sponsors of the LTTE. The emotional potential for fuelling a pan-Tamil racist state cannot be underestimated. The 20th century was scarred by the nightmare of Hitler’s dream for the Aryan race. Will the 21st century witness a similar phenomenon in a strangely unexpected quarter of the world?

(Article published in the October 2000 issue of ‘Contemporary Review’, Oxford, England. The writer was a career civil servant in the Sri Lankan government heading several Departments and teaching and writing on Public Management until his retirement. Presently based in Melbourne, he works as a political analyst and freelance writer.)
- Sri Lanka Guardian

Film: Coronation of ‘King Siri’

“The film shows the two different worlds of the children of well-to- do and powerful parents but who have no connection to the country's culture, language or way of living as opposed to the talented children coming from the rural, under privileged background who have respect for culture and tradition.”

(March 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Somaratne Dissanayake's latest direction 'Siri Raja Siri' (King Siri), a tale of a child from a rural background who is selected to a leading college in the town and the challenges he had to face thereafter will be screened from March 6 at Savoy Wellawatte and other 35 EAP circuit cinemas. Another children's film with a message to the world of adults, 'Siri Raja Siri' alias 'Kiriibbanaare Maharajathuma', Somaratne Dissanayake yet again introduces another talented child Kokila Jayasuriya to the cinema

Sirimal played by 'Kokila', an11 year old boy from a very poor family in a remote village, obtains the highest marks at the year five scholarship exams, and enters a star college in the city. As he has to mix with classmates from rich and high class families Sirimal encounters a lot of social and financial challenges. He gets selected to play the lead role as the king in a school stage drama, and now, his biggest challenge is finding money to make the royal costume.

The film shows the two different worlds of the children of well-to- do and powerful parents but who have no connection to the country's culture, language or way of living as opposed to the talented children coming from the rural, under privileged background who have respect for culture and tradition. The film also is critical of the system of education and the type of generation produced specially by the privileged schools in the country.

As in 'Suriya Arana', director Dissanayake proved his ability to capture the rural beauty of this county with the help of cinematographer Channa Deshapriya. Rohana Weerasinghe's score with soothing melodies with traditional music styles is effective and rendition of Edward Jayakody's voice has added much colour to it.

Speaking to the ‘Sri Lanka Guardian”, producer Renuka Balasooriya said the film is partly her husband (Dissanayake) own experience as he too came from a remote school to a town school.

"My husband was inspired to do this film by a short story written by Srilal Nanayakkara sometime ago. It was about a child who passed the scholarship examination and came to town for higher education," says Balasooriya.

And everything that he have captured in his film is relevant to the present. "Parents would do anything to admit their children to popular schools.

They will change their addresses and teach the children how to lie,". "Of all the films I did about children, 'Siri Raja Siri' is a film that appeals to the children's world very much," explained producer Balasooriya on her husband's new film.

Details of Film

Country of production : Sri lanka
Year of production : 2007
Running time : 88 minutes
Screen ratio : 1:1.66
Original format : 35mm
Sound : Dolby digital

Kokila Jayasuriya (child) - Sirimal
Jayalath Manoratna - Drama teacher
Mahendra Perera - Father
Dilhani Ekanayaka - mother

Music Rohana Weerasingha
Art Director Lal Harendranath
Sound Kalinga Perera
Editor Ravindra Guruge
Cinematographer Channa Deshappriya
Producer Renuka Balasooriya
Story & script Somaratne Dissanayake
Directed by Somaratnee Dissanayake.

About director - Somaratne Dissanayake

Studied science subjects in school, and obtained the first degree from London University in Medical Radiography. Migrated to Australia in 1978, and while practicing in the medical field, did the post-graduate studies in performing arts.

Obtained M.A. degree (Directing) from Sydney University in 1997.

Given up the permanent residency and citizenship in Australia, with the highly lucrative medical profession in view of making films in the motherland, Sri Lanka.

All of his films have won many international awards in various world festivals, interestingly, his films are not only artistic successes, but also commercial successes, as he is in a habit of breaking his own box office records every time with a new film.

He is the recipient of the “Peoples Award” as the best artist of the country for last three consecutive years.

Filmography of Somaratne Dissanayake.

2000 - Saroja
2002 – Punchi Suranganavi (Little Angel )
2004 – Suriya Arana (Fire Fighters)
2005 – Samanala Thatu (Butterfly Wings)
2008 – Siri Raja Siri (King Siri)

- Sri Lanka Guardian

What can Tamil people and Tamil Political Parties, do to resolve Tamil question?

“Where does this conclusion leave the Tamil people in the matter of resolving the Tamil question? Is the path of armed resistance adopted by the LTTE the only course open to them? No. There are in my view two insuperable and inevitable objections to the militarism advocated by the LTTE. Firstly, it is out of date. The world unfortunately for Mr. Prabhakaran does not look favourable on totalitarianism, especially where it is in tandem with terrorism.”

by E. A. V. Naganathan

(March 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I refer to a Tamil question, firstly, because it is a question that concerns the Tamil people primarily, and, secondly, because it arises from a self-image projected by them. It is the Tamil majority areas in the North and East that have been the scene of military conflict between the state and the guerilla forces of the LTTE. Again, it is the claim of the Tamils of the North and the East, where they are a majority, to recognition of their separate nationality, with its corollary of the right to statehood in their areas of traditional historical inhabitation and its denial by the Sinhalese, who are a majority in the rest of the country and an overall majority countrywide, that is the cause and origin of the Tamil question.
It is, also, a Tamil question because the burden of substantiating it has been borne by them by a rare demographic displacement. An estimated population of 2.6 million are split today into 0.8 million refugees living abroad, 0.8 m internally displaced and living in other parts of the country, or in refugee camps in the "cleared" parts of the Tamil majority areas, controlled by Government, with the remaining 1.0m distributed in the ratio of 0.7 million residing in the cleared, and 0.3 m residing in the "uncleared" parts of the Tamil majority areas, controlled by the LTTE. All figures are estimates. They do not include the estimated 61,000 Tamil civilians and estimated 15,000 belligerents who have died in the twenty-six year conflict, dating from the incident of 10th January 1974 with the meeting of the International Association of Tamil Research at the Weerasingham Hall and the deaths of 9 Tamil youth by electrocution. It is, finally, a Tamil question because to the average Tamil the bottom line, politically speaking, is sufficiently expressed by the Thimpu Principles of 8th July 1985, which in summary form state that the Tamil people are a nation, entitled to self-determination and to recognition of the North and East as an undivided homeland of the Tamil people, and to citizenship rights in Sri Lanka, unexceptionally.

It is within the framework of the above positions that the Tamil people and political parties, and the LTTE, would be expected to resolve the Tamil question. Let us begin with the Tamil people. No one can deny that the experience of the Tamil people with the Sri Lankan state since Independence (1948) has been a disappointment. Let me explain. How different would the country, let alone the Tamil, situation be today if there had been no exclusionary Citizenship Act, no disputable flag or anthem, no mono-lingual Official Language Act, the delimitation as provided in the 1948 Constitution had been left alone, there had been no ‘schools take-over’ no ‘standardization’ no state colonization in the North and the East, no "nationalization", no discrimination in the matter of public spending, resource allocation and development, public service and employment and security had not become, selectively, a form of state violence?

This provides the general background. Then there is, also, the passage of the two Constitutional Reform Acts of 1972 and 1978, unilaterally, by the two major Sinhala parties, respectively, without any reference to the Tamil minority. The net result of these constitutional revisions were that the reasonably effective system of checks and balance provided by the 1948 Constitution, including the supremacy of the Constitution, judicial review of legislation, access to the Privy Council, Section 22B, and the Second Chamber, which protected and enhanced minority participation in the law-making process and acted as a buffer against majority power, were struck down. I should not fail to refer at this juncture to the 13th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution of November 1987, which was the result of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987. Ironically, the Provincial Councils set up under its aegis, with three sets of powers i.e., those devolved List No. 1, those reserved - List No. 2 and those concurrent - List No. 3 - have thrived in the other seven provinces located in the Sinhalese majority areas of the country. The North-East P.C., however, has had only a brief respite from November 1988 - March 1990 under the EPRLF led by Varatharaja Perumal with IPKF backing, before it collapsed, with the IPKF withdrawal under attack from the LTTE, with the logistical support and military expertise provided by the Government under President R. Premadasa, who took office in December 1988. Since then it has been under direct Presidential rule, with the administration run by Secretaries and a Governor, presently an army Brigadier. It is in this scenario that the Tamil people have today to decide on what course of action to take as to the Tamil question.

The Tamil people are at present divided into two broad categories. This bifurcation is reflected in the line-up of Tamil parties as well. The first category place their trust in one or the other of the two major Sinhala political parties represented in Parliament - the Government constituted by the PA under President Kumaratunga and the Opposition led by the UNP under Opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Among the Tamil parties, the EPDP has thrown in its lot with the Government and taken up a Ministry under its leader, Devananda. The others i.e., PLOTE, TELO, ACTC, TULF and EPRLF sit in opposition, keeping their options open as to which side to back on a case-by-case basis. All the Tamil parties subscribe, however, in principle, to the 4 Thimpu Principles. The second category of Tamils will have no luck with either of the major Sinhala political parties and place no trust in the parliamentary process. They favour the militancy espoused by the LTTE. The first category expect from the two major Sinhala political parties, further devolution of power in terms of the 13th Amendment. This, in effect, would do away with the Concurrent list No. 3 and considerably dilute the reserved list No. 2, as were, indeed, embodied in the Constitutional Reform Bill, tabled by President Kumaratunga in Parliament on 3rd September. They are prepared to accept a N-E P.C., equipped with the powers provided under the above constitutional reform proposals, as a first step towards attainment of the final goal of the Thimpu Principles. A preliminary Interim Council has been suggested. The second category place their hopes on the armed struggle launched by the LTTE and will not consider any political goal other than self-determination. The majority among the latter category belong to the Tamil diaspora, settled abroad, where they are comfortable and well off. Broadly speaking these are the two alternatives under consideration by the Tamil people, with the political parties falling into position on either side.

My observations on the first alternative are based on the opposition to the Constitutional Reform Bill, when it was presented on 3rd September, both on the part of the Opposition, without whose support the 2/3rd majority needed for its passage in Parliament cannot be mustered as well as sections of the influential Buddhist clergy and Sinhala intelligentsia, plus the new factor in Sri Lankan politics, the JVP who made their debut in Parliament at the General Elections of 10th October, with 10 seats. As a result the LTTE to be put on hold, where it remains to date. This occurrence is linked to the Government’s previous, abortive attempt to enact the Equal Opportunities Bill of October 1999. The opposition to that Bill, by both the Opposition in parliament, as well as the Ultras led by the present Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, within the SLFP, was a pointer to the unacceptability to Sinhala opinion-makers, by and large, of the premise that in Sri Lanka all people are equal.

The withdrawal of the Equal Opportunities Bill on 20th October, 1999 and the placing on hold of the Constitutional Reform Bill on 3rd September, are a symptom of the majoritarianism which has been the operative instrument by which the Tamil position within the united Sri Lankan state structure has been progressively eroded. In Sri Lanka, majoritarianism has expressed itself by the Sinhala representatives in parliament, who constitute a permanent demographic majority dividing irrespective of party affiliations on ethnic lines on any issue that is seen by them to concern the hegemony of the Sinhalese people, which they believe is their right and proper due. Its exhibition in the case of the Equal Opportunities Bill in October 1999, and its demonstration on the occasion of President Kumaratunga’s tabling of the Constitutional Reform Bill on 3rd September are, I am afraid, very unfavourable to the expectations of a settlement of the Tamil question, even in part or stages, through the constitutional process by a consensus of the Government and the Opposition. The President’s political instincts served her rightly, when, as I read it, she went in for the Presidential Elections on 21st December 1999, and for the General Elections on 10th October. She went back, in each case, to the people for a fresh mandate hoping to strengthen her hand. However, she has had to compromise. The appointment, hot on the heels of the incidents of 3rd September, of Mr. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Leader of the SLFP Ultras as Prime Minister is to my mind, symbolic of a shift in the SLFP towards a hard line on the Tamil Question.

Where does this conclusion leave the Tamil people in the matter of resolving the Tamil question? Is the path of armed resistance adopted by the LTTE the only course open to them? No. There are in my view two insuperable and inevitable objections to the militarism advocated by the LTTE. Firstly, it is out of date. The world unfortunately for Mr. Prabhakaran does not look favourable on totalitarianism, especially where it is in tandem with terrorism. The trend increasingly is towards democracy. Maybe, because of a growing conviction that even the worst-run democracy is usually more just, more peaceful, and even more prosperous than the best-run dictatorship. So there can be no quarrel between Tamil rights of nationality and democracy, because, as a part of the great whole of humanity, the Tamils have a claim on democracy, and the LTTE and all its works, just does not fit into this wider and futuristic framework. Secondly, the LTTE methodology of militancy is proving far too expensive in terms of Tamil lives and resources. The question has been asked whether any other strategy could have coped with the violence of the Sri Lankan state practiced on the Tamils since 1956. The answer is that violent militancy, too, has failed to deliver, instead devastating the North and East and stalking the Tamils with displacement and death.

There is an alternative that I support and that is Non-Violent Direct Action, exemplified several decades ago by the Civil Rights Movement under Martin Luther King in the USA, and in our own times by the Falun Gong Movement in China, which are very practical alternative techniques to militancy-cum-terrorism. I see several features in this strategy which are positive and relevant to the Tamil people everywhere.

Firstly, it will involve large masses, if not all, of the Tamil people. No longer will the lucky ones, who managed to get or stay away and are currently marketing their brains or brawn aboard or in the non-combatant zone in the country, be able to get the vicarious satisfaction of participating in the "struggle" by simply opening their purses from time to time, leaving it to the rustic inhabitants of the "uncleared" area of the North and East to face the reality in all its nastiness. Secondly, it will preclude the enormous waste of resources in the purchase of arms, presently finding its way into the pockets of the global merchants of death, which could be far better spent in rehabilitating the N. and E., presently lying in ruins. Personally, I find the spectacle of 3rd party Tamils gloating over the conflict on their TV screens or in the headlines of newspapers, deplorable. The alternative I support provides a less unethical, less immoral and certainly less mortal route to the same experience of involvement - and it is open to every Tamil.

In line with this thinking I suggest that all Tamil parties should establish their permanent headquarters in the North and the East. So, also, the Tamil social service organizations or humanitarian agencies. All the foreign NGOs have already done so. The Hindu cultural and religious organizations should follow suit. The Tamil people everywhere else should consider it their bounden duty to look after their less-fortunate brethren in the N. and E. as a priority, live soberly, and demonstrate to the rest of the world that they take their responsibilities as a people, seriously and ethically Non-violence with Direct Action is not naive, but a rough factor for ‘real politic’ based on careful study of human psychology. There is the Tamils evolution in the revolutionary tactics of non-violence to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Thondaman’s prayer campaigns were a case in point. It will enable the Tamils and the parties to appeal with confidence to the conscience of the international community, as expressed in international law, world opinion and international institutions. It will realistically facilitate an UN-sponsored armistice and UN-supervised referendum that will hand back the Tamil land to the Tamil people.

I believe that it is for the Tamil people in the North and East to decide how they wish to settle the Tamil question - to plagiarize Al Gore, "Let the people have their say". There has been no properly elected civilian representation in the N. and E. since 1977 - a period of 23 years in which a whole generation has grown to maturity without experiencing democracy in action. The Tamil peoples’ will can only be vindicated after this lapse of 23 years, if they have an opportunity of expressing that will at free and fair elections. This is not possible, regrettably, under the present dispensation, whether it be the present Government or the Opposition that is in power. It can only be feasible under the auspices of an UN-sponsored Election Monitoring Team.

The peace groups, which include the Norwegians and now the British, seem to have no role in their act for the Tamil people. All current peace initiatives seem directed towards one end - talks with LTTE. I am sorry, but I do not see that as an equation that is ipse facto, true. Does the LTTE, or for that matter any of the Tamil parties, have a mandate from the Tamil people? The peace groups, the Government, the Opposition, the Norwegians, the British seem to accept this as an axiom. No one has, however, cared to test it with the Tamil people. That is why I say that it is time that Tamil people everywhere, whether in the "cleared", or "uncleared" areas, or in the rest of the country, or abroad, demand their right to an open forum in which to have their say. How create the conditions for the Tamil people to exercise their right to enter the debate and negotiate the final answer to the Tamil question that concerns them most? My suggestion is, in the context of the inability or unwillingness of all these parties concerned to keep the peace in the North and East, that a UN Elections Monitoring Team be called in to install a properly elected, civilian government, freely chosen and clothed with power and responsibility. This is the rationale for UN intervention. For one thing, it will yoke all the Tamil parties, including the LTTE, into agreements and arrangements that explicitly provide for democracy and human rights safeguards. In addition, life in the N. and E. will return to normal. What that means can, perhaps, best be expressed in terms of the reverse of all the abnormal, aberrant behaviourism that have been observed in that land in recent times.

Every opportunity should be grasped by the Tamil people and parties alike to establish links with groups of enlightened Sinhalese opinion that perceive the good of all implicit in breaking the hold of the present Sinhala ruling class over the affairs of the country, defeating majoritarianism and replacing the present unitarianism and centrist structure of government by a new confederative structure or consociation of nationalities. This, in a plural society such as ours, is the only suitable vehicle for democracy, according parity, equality and tolerance at all levels of government and society and culture and liberating the down-trodden and oppressed, whether Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malaya or Burgher or other, so that they may live in peace, dignity and concord, without either class or ethnic bias and where there is scope for all without the one subsuming the other.

- Sri Lanka Guardian

Good governance - where did we go wrong?

- To quote Kautilya: "Subjects when impoverished become greedy, when greedy they become disaffected; when disaffected, they either go over to the enemy or themselves kill the master." He stressed the need to avoid having a king who would not be just. Image: Prime Minister Ramasinghe Premadasa attends a rally December 2, 1989 in Galle, Sri Lanka. Violence continues daily as the JVP, a Buddhist-Sinhalese Nationalist Marxist organization, the DJV and other militant groups fight for the removal of Indian peace keeping force in the cities of Sri Lanka and attempt to overthrow the government.

by R. M. B. Senanayake

(March 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) What is good governance? It is a value-loaded term. But when theorists of public administration discuss administration, they prefer to talk of efficiency rather than good governance. Efficiency is an economic and an accounting concept and refers to minimizing the use of resources per unit of output, the resources referred to being mainly manpower, capital and materials. Governance is also concerned with getting things done to accomplish certain objectives.

The objectives are concerned with the public good - the welfare of the people. If politicians and their bureaucratic accomplices seek merely to pursue their own interests as the Public Choice theorists have argued they do, then there must be countervailing forces in society which will direct them to the correct path - the pursuit of the public interest or the public good rather than the private interests of the rulers and the bureaucrats. How to do this is the prime problem of governance.

This problem was foreseen even by Kautilya who stressed the need for the ruler to be proficient in the knowledge of the ‘sciences’ as well as training in the control of the senses. Competency in the ‘sciences’ will not give control over the senses; it is possible that the king has both, neither or only one of the two. There is the question of preference between one who is good but has no competence and one who has competence but is not good. One would then fail to get a ruler who will uphold the ‘dharma.’

Checks and balances

Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution wrote about democracy. American democracy profited more from the thinking of Alexander Hamilton than from the democratic sentiments of Thomas Jefferson. If men were angels, no government would be necessary while if angels governed men, there would be no need for checks and balances. But men are not angels and angels do not govern men. According to the bible, all human beings are sinners and prone to selfishness; and power tends to corrupt and absolute power to corrupt absolutely according to Lord Acton. So checks and balances are essential institutional features for good governance whether the ruler is a hereditary king or an elected representative of the people.

Our constitution makers have not paid enough attention to institute checks and balances. In the chapter on State policy there should have been a commitment to moral values in governance like in the Preamble to the American Constitution. We find reference only to social values and not moral values, which should govern the behavior of those exercising power on behalf of the people. The Indian Supreme Court has looked into the Statement of State Policy in interpreting the Constitution. The president has few checks on her power and enjoys absolute legal immunity unheard of in any democracy anywhere.

Party government where the party dictates comes before the conscience of the MPs has vitiated whatever checks remain. But even constitutional checks and balances are only a safeguard. It would be best if the ruler rules on the basis of dharma or the moral law. It is not only in the West that they developed a concept of a law above the law of the state, which was binding on the ruler as well as the subjects. A ruler who did not follow the dharma could lose his crown to others of royal standing or even to pretenders to the throne.

To quote Kautilya: "Subjects when impoverished become greedy, when greedy they become disaffected; when disaffected, they either go over to the enemy or themselves kill the master." He stressed the need to avoid having a king who would not be just.

According to a newspaper report the prime minister is supposed to have said that party manifestos are not to be taken seriously as they are intended to fool the people. The president promised to abolish the executive presidency within a time frame but she went on to contest a second time ignoring the promise. Can a ruler tell lies to the people? Is it all right for a ruler to betray the trust of his people? The ancient Indian sages said that the ruler must be governed by the ‘dharma’ even in the pursuit of ‘artha’ or the secular affairs of the state. Is it all right for a ruler to take bribes and kickbacks for awarding contracts of the state? Good governance requires that the ruler is good. Plato thought that only a philosopher king should rule but a learned man is not necessarily a good man as noted by Kautilya.

Violating ‘dharma’

What is the remedy if the king himself were to indulge in corrupt practices? History has shown how other peoples in other countries in other times have dealt with this problem. King Charles II was beheaded in England. Louis XVI of France was guillotined in 1789. People’s Power in the Philippines overthrew Marcos and the Americans had to cart him to exile. Estrada was to be impeached when he stepped down. These instances show that the people themselves must take the lead to get rid of errant rulers.

Can a subordinate state institution like the Bribery Commission inquire into allegations if any against a president, when such an institution is dependent on the government for its resources and working procedures in interacting with other state institutions? Can such an institution confront a president in office if it were to happen?

Political patronage

Consider the system of political patronage in decision-making in the government. Modern government requires rational decision-making and economic rationality is the principle that should be utilized to decide on economic matters. Modern government requires technical expertise to deal with issues. But if these decisions are taken on the basis of political patronage, what will become of the public good? The exercise of political patronage has ruined financially state institutions like the former Ceylon Transport Board, the Peoples Bank, the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation as well as rendered inefficient corporations like the CEB, the Petroleum Corporation.

When a business enterprise has a negative net worth where liabilities exceed assets we say it is insolvent. If we consider the enormous public debt owing both to the local people and the foreign debt and tot up the value of the assets remaining in the hands of the state, we realize that the state is bankrupt. It may be able to pay its debt in local currency because of the monopoly in the issue of currency but it will not be able to repay the foreign debt if the foreign reserves are inadequate to do so after paying for much needed goods and services bought from foreigners.

Political patronage, which is known as the spoils system in USA, funded by deficit finance, is the single cause of our present economic and political plight. Both mainstream political parties are responsible for this sad plight.

Locke & Montequieu, political philosophers were concerned with the problem of arbitrary government and how to control the exercise of such power to safeguard the rights of the people. We have the same consideration today championed by those who want to secure human rights. But there is the other problem confronted by men like Woodrow Wilson and Frank Goodnow. This is the problem of political patronage in decision making at a time when the business of government had become highly technical; where chemistry, physics, medicine or mathematics enter the scene and determine what constitutes a right decision. This requires technical men to assist the politicians in decision-making. So there is no place for political patronage.

Politics and administration

But how to control the exercise of political patronage in recruitment to the public service and how to ensure that decisions are not made on the basis of patronage but on the basis of rationality, technical and economic rationality? The theorists of public administration divided all government into politics and administration, assigning to the political executives, the ministers, the job of policy-making and to the bureaucracy the task of execution of policy.

Theorists of public administration have picked holes in the theory pointing out that there are levels of policy-making and execution and that no clear distinction between the two is possible. This is of course correct. But as in the theory of separation of powers to secure freedom such criticisms ignore the normative purpose of such theory. The distinction between policy and execution is to safeguard rational decision-making since the politicians left to themselves would rather decide to exercise patronage than select the best person for a job or the best offer for the award of a contract.

Just as the separation of powers secured freedom from arbitrary government, so the division between policy and administration secured rational technical decision-making. It is this theory we have failed to observe and it’s this failure that has led to unchecked political patronage. The decision making process in recruitment and promotions will be hived off to an independent body like the Public Service Commission. A similar hiving off of financial decision making prevailed during the colonial regime and down to the Donoughmore Constitution.

Today the pendulum has swung too far to the politicians and block sums of money are voted to MPs to be disposed of according to their whims and fancies. How are we to check this tendency? Perhaps by binding the political executive to follow the Financial and Administrative Regulations if the ministers do not respect the division between policy and administration and engage in administration.

There is the principle of the greatest good of the greatest number. But democratic governance is not the same thing as good governance. One may be tempted to argue that political patronage is necessary for the functioning and maintenance of political parties, which are an essential feature in the structure of government. Without the structure of government there may well be no government. We have seen how state structures have collapsed in war torn countries including our own North and East. The people then undergo great hardship. But whether necessary or not (the need has not been established) there is no doubt that patronage politics seriously interferes with the efficiency of governance.

Those who look up to economic development or modernization will agree that efficiency is the fundamental value in governance. Anything like patronage politics, corruption or nepotism undermines efficiency. The Swedish sociologist Mancur Olson argued that the institutional fabric affected economic growth. Political institutions affect the content of decisions on investment versus consumption, growth versus equity. Economic growth is like a public good. While everybody benefits from economic growth and everybody has to contribute to the growth effort, there is the free rider problem. Those who do not contribute to the growth effort also benefit from it.

So there is no individual incentive to contribute to the growth effort since he would benefit even if he does not contribute. So special interest groups like trade unions and even professional groups will try to push their interests even at the expense of economic growth. It pays for the special group to increase the share of the income going to its group than to make a sacrifice for an increase in over-all income.

More checks and balances

It is the duty of Parliament to control the Executive and the Administration which are in the charge of the Executive - the ministers. How is this to be done given the political party system where the Member of Parliament has to follow the orders of his whip and vote rather than decide for himself according to his understanding and analysis of the law or executive action? Other countries have set about this matter firstly by excluding the executive from the legislature as in U.S.A. and in France allowing the ministers to sit in Parliament but not giving them a vote.

The separation of powers is the essential feature of the executive presidential system. Unfortunately we enacted a hybrid form of government neither presidential nor Westminster. By adopting features of both systems we missed a fundamental feature of constitutional government - the system of checks and balances. So our ministers have to be drawn from the parliament and by allowing them to sit in parliament they are able to dominate parliament as well, eroding the parliamentary control of the Executive.

The ministers no longer have to pay attention to their backbenchers that could otherwise haul them over the coals in parliamentary select committees. This must be changed to adopt the position either in France (on which model we have drawn heavily) or in the USA. The ministers too are important for the process of good government. Good government requires that there be competent ministers who understand how to manage large organizations. Those not having any management skills or some superior intellectual capacity will not command the respect of the top officials.

It is not by raising questions in parliament that parliament can control the executive. Lying to parliament, if proved, forces a minister to resign in the British Parliament. But lying to parliament or even lying to the people does not carry any such stigma in our society although it is one of the precepts to be followed according to the majority religion. So wrong or misleading answers are given to questions raised in parliament by the opposition. Sometimes questions raised by the opposition are not answered without considerable delay thus rendering them ineffective.

In other democracies the select committee is one of the most important institutions to control the executive. Members of the opposition chair these committees and they have power to summon ministers and examine them on any subject within the purview of the minister. Officials too can be so summoned and examined about the details of a policy. The parliamentary control of state corporations is exercised through the Select Committee on Public Enterprise. There is also the Public Accounts Committee, which is assisted by the Auditor General. These institutions are essential to ensure parliamentary control of the Executive.

Today decisions are highly technical and these select committees should summon experts from outside the public sector to advise on matters like the environmental impact. Whether a particular decision was guided by technical factors or by the personal preferences of the minister or his officials can be known only by calling experts from both sides of the divide and then the select committee can decide which set of experts are more expert and likely to be more correct.

Judicial control of the Executive

There must also be judicial control of the Executive. The absolute legal immunity of the executive president should go. In the celebrated case United States vs. Lee (1882) the supreme court stated that : "No man in this country is so high that he is above the law. No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity. All the officers of the government from the highest to the lowest are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it. It is the supreme power in our system of government and every man who by accepting office participates in its functions is only the more strongly bound to submit to that supremacy and to observe the limitations which it imposes upon the exercise of authority which it gives."

But it is up to civil society to see that the elected MPs and ministers who violate the law are punished. We need to allow the supreme court to recognize the need for public interest litigation as in India. There must be accountability for failure to act by administrators, which is so common in our administration.

All praise to the Ravaya editor for his single-minded devotion to the cause against one of the highest in the land. As long as such men are there we can have some hope for good governance. But civil society, particularly the professional men and business groups must back such civic leaders and honor them instead of honouring rogues who are in high places. The judicial control of administrative decisions will make public officials to be more careful in avoiding oppression to individuals.

Free and independent press

Another important control on the Executive is a free and independent press. The offence of criminal defamation must be abolished and a Freedom of Information Act should be passed by parliament. Without a free press exposing the abuses of power, the corruption and irregularities in government, there will not be good governance. In democratic countries it is always the press that first exposes corruption and malpractice. They are invariably then taken up by civic groups and the parliamentary opposition which demands further investigation by a select committee of parliament or other inquiry body. When such inquiries are completed and their report made available to the public, civic groups and parliament demands punishment for the offenders and if they are politicians they resign to avoid further damage to their reputation.

This sequence does not take place in our country. The Sunday Leader has published a series of exposures but the rogues carry on regardless. It is a pity that there is no opposition press which can counter the regular government false propaganda. The opposition party should at least set up a publicity bureau to counter the government propaganda machine.

Improving public administration

We know what public administration involves. Any large organization is noted for the impersonal way in which it deals with its customers. Those at the top cannot deal personally with the large number of persons who make contact with the organization. They may come to collect birth certificates or passports or pay taxes or utilities. Those at the bottom have to cater to them. So those at the top confine themselves to laying down general rules and confine themselves to handling the unusual cases. So they deal only with files.

Those at the bottom know the practical problems faced by the customer but they have no power to vary the rules and must either apply the rules rigidly or refer them to higher authorities for decision entailing delay and hassle for the customer. Those at the bottom nowadays don’t seem to understand the rules or if they do they tend to apply them rigidly and not in the spirit of the rules at all. Often not having the benefit of tradition through lack of knowledge of English they lose sight of the rationale for the rule.

Training could of course remedy this inadequacy. Those at the top today don’t seem to check on how those at the bottom are doing their work and following the rules laid down by them or whether they are serving the public at all. They don’t bother to find out what problems they encounter and find out whether the rules should be modified.

Public servants are expected to act justly and impartially. This aspect has also been undermined by the politicization of the public service. Now they are expected by the ministers to serve only the ruling party supporters and not those who supported the rival political parties. It is the duty of the top officials to see that their subordinates serve the people impartially.

It’s surprising to hear from public servants that they have to go through the contortious procedure because they are accountable. This is a myth. Nobody is accountable in the public service for whatever acts of omission or commission he commits in the course of his duties. There is the policy of the higher official protecting the lower official. The red tape is being used today more as a lever to seek bribes and gratification. The public servant thinks he is doing the public a favour by doing what he is expected to do for which the public are paying him.

Since the organization do not face any competition there is no incentive to efficiency either. It is not surprising that in the absence of competition and accountability there is lethargy, inefficiency and downright callousness on the part of public servants today. The answer is to hire and fire with due safeguards to natural justice. The excessive job security while making promotions depend on politicians means the worst of both worlds. Those who don’t work can’t be fired while they have no incentive to work since they get their pay anyway and their promotions are not dependent on work but on cultivating the politicians. With the politicization the public servants have lost their dignity and dignified status enjoyed under the colonial regime. Morale in the service is therefore very low.
- Sri Lanka Guardian