Essence of denial is refusal to admit a loss. That liberal democracy is dead within their country, has become too much to admit. So, there is this "it’s not that bad" attitude. While hating J.R. Jayewardene, still thinking that the system he created is "not that bad".

by Basil Fernando

(September 15, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) For all Sri Lankan's but particularly for those of the educated classes the problems that have come by way of political and constitutional change has created many emotional and psychological problems. Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka's remark, "Nations are too strong a reality to be killed off by constitutional amendments" reflects this same mentality. The changes which are so enormously negative have naturally created a state of denial, a sort of "things are not that bad," attitude. In fact, this attitude has prevailed since the 1978 Constitution itself. “Did J.R. Jayewardene create that much of a change in the political and constitutional structure of Sri Lanka?”, is a problem that many people have in the back of their minds.

Many find it difficult to deal with this problem and there are many reasons for this. Despite of many statements indicating anger and even hatred against J.R. Jayewardene the full impact of the changes he brought about in the political and constitutional landscape of Sri Lanka remain a difficult problem for many people to grasp or to admit.

One reason for this is that for the conservative sections of the Sri Lankan elite classes J.R. Jayewardene was at one time their darling. He was at one time referred to as the most conscious representative of the capitalist class in the country. After all, such large numbers voted for him in 1977 that he was able to acquire 80% of the seats in parliament. He never represented any kind of a radical idea in Sri Lankan politics. The Lanka Samasamaja party (LSSP) and the leftists in general were often branded as communists and people who were possibly endangering democracy. Against them, Jayewardene was perhaps the most articulate exponent. His cry was always for the defence of democracy.

That he turned out to be the one that destroyed the very foundation of liberal democracy in Sri Lanka sounds like a contradiction. If this had been done by the leftists it would have been quite understandable as they have always been charaterised as the enemies of democracy. However, when the person who came up with the slogan, the defense of democracy, becomes the person who subverted democracy to the greatest extent, this remains a problem in the minds of many people.

J.R. Jayewardene was also the leader of the United National Party. The UNP has always made 'democracy' their main slogan. In the early 50s when the LSSP was still strong and there was even a possibility of it forming a government, all conservative sections, including the Buddhist clergy rallied round the United National Party in the defence of democracy. The posters that were circulating at that time of the Samasamajists trying to burn the Buddhist temples turned the election in favour of the United National Party. That the leader of this conservative party would be the person who would subvert liberal democracy so completely has also been a riddle that still confuses many people. The whole struggle against the trade union movement was made to appear as a struggle against the communists who were trying to destabilise Sri Lanka and the defense of democracy was led by JRJ who was opposed to this trade union movement.

When the Janathā Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) emerged J.R. Jayewardene became one of the most outspoken spokespersons against them who called JVP as a terrorist group and he supported ruthless suppression of the JVP. He wholeheartedly supported the coalition government of Sirimao Bandaranaike in the ruthless suppression of the JVP. The massacre of the youth at the time was portrayed as a great act in the defence of democracy.

In subsequent years when the militant Tamil groups emerged these people were also portrayed as those who were trying to destroy the democratic foundations of Sri Lanka. In the militarisation of Sri Lanka over a period of 30 years all the propaganda has been in the defence of democracy.

To admit that democracy was destroyed in 1978 is to admit that there has been much that has been amiss in the entire political propaganda during all these periods. That the man who made the slogan of democracy to encourage the people of Sri Lanka to engage in the destruction of the leftist movement, the destruction of trade union movement, the destruction of the JVP and also against the LTTE was the very man who has done more to destroy liberal democracy of Sri Lanka than anyone of these groups is a difficult problem for many people to digest.

There is another reason which makes it difficult for Sri Lankan to understand J.R. Jayewardene. This is because almost everyone who has been Jayewardene's most vociferous critics have later turned out to be his most ardent followers.

Let us recall a few:

The SLFP, as the traditional opponent of the UNP was battered by the attacks of J.R. Jayewardene's regime and naturally became his bitterest opponents. When the SLFP opposed Jayewardene as members of the opposition they promised to abolish the constitution he had made and pointed him out as an authoritarian leader and on occasion referred to him as a monarch and a dictator. When for the first time the SLFP succeeded in gaining power after the long UNP period of rule the team headed by Chandrika Bandaranaike vowed to end the political system created by J.R. Jayewardene. However, within a short time that perspective was abandoned and Chandrika modeled her politics in almost every aspect on Jayewardene's constitution and political style.

The second time, when the SLFP once again opposed the UNP candidate for the presidential and parliamentary elections it was under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapakse. Rajapakse also vowed to abolish Jayewardene's executive presidential system and his political style. This was even part of the 'Mahinda Chinthanaya'. However, after coming to power in 2005 he too followed the same model. However, he continued to state that he will abolish it at some time in the future. By 2010 the very talk of abolishing the system changed and JRJ’s system was made permanent by the adoption of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

Mahinda Rajapakse has realised Jayewardene's dream more completely than Jayewardene himself. Jayewardene wanted a third term as president but was unable to do so due to problems within his own party and other problems in the country. In order to ensure that he would not face the same problems Rajapakse brought in the 18th Amendment early after his election for the second term so that nobody would have any dream, either within his party or outside, of challenging him in the future. Now the Jayewardene scheme has been completely adopted by the SLFP regime.

And there were other critics of J.R. Jayewardene, for example in the leftist parties. They too have joined the government of Mahinda Rajapakse as partners and abandoned their criticism and supported the political scheme of the continuity of Jayewardene's constitution by Mahinda Rajapakse. They continue to say that, in principle, they are opposed to the Constitution but ended up voting for it.

There were other opponents such as the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka which was a small party but at one time spoke out vociferously against J.R. Jayewardene. One of the persons who wrote continuously against Jayewardene was Rajiva Wijesinghe. Wijesinghe wrote several books, with a continuous and detailed attack on Jayewardene and his personal situation which destroyed all the expectations regarding the protection of democratic institutions. However, he too is now a member of the Rajapakse regime and voted in parliament for the 18th Amendment.

These are the political party opponents but together with them were the various intellectuals who had been writing on various political issues and many of whom for a long time opposed J.R. Jayewardene's ideas and unequivocally talked about him as an authoritarian ruler. However, they have later come to support others who are following the Jayewardene model.

Compounding this issue is the fact that when the UNP itself became an opposition party they also began to promise the abolition of the executive presidential system. However, at the same time they were making statues for their late leader and promising to continue with his policies. Ranil Wickremasinghe, who became the leader of the United National Party, was a close associate of J.R. Jayewardene, supporting his every move during his political career. He was also a minister in J.R. Jayewardene's party. Even after J.R. Jayewardene's absence he has made no attempt to criticise the man's politics or political philosophy. However, he talks about the abolition of the executive presidency and now talks about opposing the 18th Amendment after it has been passed. It would be most unconvincing to anybody that this political party has in any way changed from the overall political philosophy and style of J.R. Jayewardene.

Thus, for the average citizen it would be most difficult to know who is for or against J.R. Jayewardene anymore.

All this make it difficult for the people to admit, that the system of liberal democracy that was introduced through the first constitution of independent Sri Lanka, known as Soulbury Constitution, has been completely undone. Has that really happened? They cannot admit that things have turned out that bad.

Essence of denial is refusal to admit a loss. That liberal democracy is dead within their country, has become too much to admit. So, there is this "it’s not that bad" attitude. While hating J.R. Jayewardene, still thinking that the system he created is "not that bad". Tell a Friend

"Here’s my problem: If we don’t respect the decision of the courts and disagree with those of the people at repeated elections (which Mahinda Rajapakse wins handsomely), what do we have left, and who is the ultimate arbiter whom the citizens of Sri Lanka should follow?"


(September 15, Singapore City, Sri Lanka Guardian) I have no disagreement with the thesis that freedoms die, but I contend that the spirit of freedom does not. In any case, the critic sets up a straw man, since my intention was a critique of the many voices that claimed and still do, that the 18th amendment marked the death of democracy (and some even opined, the nation). As I have stated elsewhere, I agree with Kalana Senaratne’s critique of 18A in the last issue of the Sunday Leader while I also think the Supreme Court has made some valid and interesting points, worthy of serious debate. (Mr Senaratne whose LLM is from the University of London, is a doctoral student of law at the prestigious University of Hong Kong).

But let us meet the argument head on. This critic sees the glass of Sri Lanka’s freedoms as empty or near-empty while I see it as half full.

Living and working in Asia, he should look around him more often and ask himself whether some of the freedoms we Sri Lankan citizens still enjoy are so much in evidence elsewhere that we can cavalierly write them off as ‘dead’. Sri Lanka’s freedoms have been diminished but to declare them dead only means that we do not protect the area of freedom we still have or use it as a liberated zone to win back those freedoms that have been diminished as well as gain those we lost long ago or never enjoyed.

I look at things from the perspective of comparative international politics. Here is an Associated Press (AP) report from Ankara, Turkey, dated Sept 14th.

‘A senior court official has warned that the independence of the courts could be brought into question after Turks approved changes to the constitution...Some 42 percent voted against on Sunday, fearing the changes would give the ruling Islamic-oriented party powers to appoint judges and prosecutors close to the party, and allow it to advance a pro-Islamic agenda. Kadir Ozbek, who heads the Judges and Prosecutors Higher Board, said Monday Turkey is at point that is "more backward than yesterday."

Does that sound familiar? Does this mean democracy or freedoms are dead (or on their death-bed) in today’s Turkey? For my part I have a very positive overall view of Turkey and its current leadership, largely due to its stances in world affairs.

Sure there was a referendum on Turkey’s recent Constitutional changes, and I would have preferred one in our case too, but in Sri Lanka the only legal authority that can deem one necessary is the Supreme Court and it did not, giving reasons why not. Some may have a problem with the composition and character of the highest court. Here’s my problem: If we don’t respect the decision of the courts and disagree with those of the people at repeated elections (which Mahinda Rajapakse wins handsomely), what do we have left, and who is the ultimate arbiter whom the citizens of Sri Lanka should follow?

[Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore and author of Fidel’s Ethics of Violence, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor and Pluto Press, London.]

Related Articles:

Nations may not die but freedoms do - a reply to Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Nations don’t die, they are murdered!

Hardly the death democracy or the Nation Tell a Friend
 " One has to ask why our President who wrested power from Chandrika by fair means or foul, who wiped out terrorism and earned the plaudits of the majority Sri Lankans, China, Russia and India and who now is enjoying the reputation of leading a country known for its dharmista is surrounding himself with goons."

by Pearl Thevanayagam

(September 15, London, Sri Lanka Guardian)Of the 19 amendments to the Sri Lankan Constiution since 1978 the last two were challenged before the Supreme Court and the speaker decided in 2002 these could not be enacted with validity. The 19th amendment is rather a challenging one since it would restrict the President’s power to dissolve parliament after it completes one year and to enable parliament members to vote according to their conscience without being expelled by their political parties. Suffice to say a catapult shot determination by our puppet Supreme Court (directly elected by the President) would see that it never sees the light of day. The 18th amendment is being pushed through with indecent hurry rather like marrying off the eldest daughter nearing 40.

The President, who has found the cream and wants to savour it as long as it takes, would jump through burning hoops to stay in power. Still basking in the glory of ending terrorism and passing on the mantle of covert terrorizing to sycophantic Tamil politicians who were former terrorists and thuggish mavericks from his electorate who helped rig votes and stuff ballot boxes, he is now tampering with our rights to elect our own President with the will of the majority by forcing through an Urgent Bill deemed invalid by the Supreme Court in 2002.

Even the state media organ, The Daily News, has not changed its mast since 1918 but the incumbent Presidents are messing about with our constitution and changing it more frequently than you change underwear.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was only allowed to take my O/Ls three times which I did and finally made it to the A/Ls. But our legal luminaries are doing their equivalent of my O/Ls 19 times. Why could not they have got it right in three attempts at the most.

As secretary to a fledgling journalists association I too helped draft a constitution and know first-hand the difference between drafting a constitution and implementing it once it is in place. With 200 journalists from 40 countries election day is always a mayhem. After we had prepared ballot boxes and agreed on secret ballot the management committee decided to vote by show of hands. When you scratched your head your vote was counted.

OK, we are not in the same league as our revered Sri Lankan constitution but then we are also attempting a semblance of democracy and equal opportunities in the UK amidst members who speak Swahili, Pashto, Serbo-Croatian, English, French, Arabic, Urdu, Nepalese, Hindi, Tamil and Sinhalese and for the majority English is not even their distant cousin.

Now I am studying the debate on the 18th amendment to enlighten my association on the pitfalls of extending the MC’s term and hope to warn them they could go the way of Sri Lanka if they insisted on extending our Nigerian Chairman’s term who when elected gave a speech in which he said that he was the new Barack Obama; meaning he was handed a dysfunctional group and that he had the onerous task of putting it right.

Do allow me to stray here and concentrate on our own constitutional expert. It was the year 1995 and the former VC of the University of Colombo, Prof. G.L.Peiris, was answering questions from the press as the newly elected constitutional minister as well as a fledgling in politics.

He announced with his familiar pregnant pauses between phrases and pursing of his lips, not unlike the late Lakshman Kadirgamar that henceforth press releases would be given in all three languages. I pointed out to him that even the cabinet press briefing announcing this glad tidings is being conducted in Sinhala and English only and what chance did we have there were any competent officials in the Information Department to give us press releases weekly in Tamil.

Alavi Moulana guffawed, G.L. cracked a wan smile and the briefing was interrupted by sumptuous snacks catered by Lanka Oberoi. This ploy is to divert the discussion at hand and is habitually followed by all our politicians. Of course we waited the following week for a Tamil press release and we were still waiting until the last cabinet briefing I attended in 1997.

Amendment Date of Assent Subject matter
First Amendment  -20.11.1978 Dealing with jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal
Second Amendment  -26.02.1979 Dealing with resignations and expulsion of Members of the First Parliament
Third Amendment  -27.08.1982 To enable the President to seek re-election after 4years; vacation of office of President
Fourth Amendment  -23.12.1982 Extension of term of First Parliament
Fifth Amendment  -25.02.1983 To provide for by-election when a vacancy is not filled by the party
Sixth Amendment  -08.08.1983 Prohibition against violation of territorial integrity
Seventh Amendment  - 04.10.1983 Dealing with Commissioners of the High Court and the creation of Kilinochchi District
Eighth Amendment  -06.03.1984 Appointment of President's Counsel
Ninth Amendment - 24.08.1984 Relating to public officers qualified to contest elections
Tenth Amendment  -06.08.1986 To repeal section requiring two-thirds majority for Proclamation under Public Security Ordinance
Eleventh Amendment  -06.05.1987 To provide for a Fiscal for the whole Island; also relating to sittings of the Court of Appeal
Twelfth Amendment (Not enacted)
Thirteenth Amendment  - 14.11.1987 To make Tamil an official language and English a link Language, and for the establishment of Provincial Councils
Fourteenth Amendment  -24.05.1988 Extension of immunity of President; increase of number of Members to 225; validity of Referendum; appointment of Delimitation Commission for the division of electoral districts into zones; proportional representation and the cut-off point to be 1/8th of the total polled; apportionment of the 29 National List Members
Fifteenth Amendment - 17.12.1988 to repeal Article 96A to eliminate zones and to reduce the cut-off point to 1/20th
Sixteenth Amendment  -17.12.1988 to make provision for Sinhala and Tamil to be Languages of Administration and Legislation
Seventeenth Amendment - 03.10.2001 to make provisions for the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions.

Now this legal beagle is the man behind the much talked about 18th amendment to the constitution which would firmly enthrone our sixth President for life. If he reaches his third term he would be 71 years old Bigen notwithstanding and GL reaching 80. GL forsook integrity when he left the academia for political gains and although he nurtured hopes of becoming the President earlier now he is quite content to be the lap-dog of Presidents.

While the world’s best democracies have youngish leaders such as UK’s David Cameron, US’s Barack Obama and Nicholas Sarkozy in France we are saddled with geriatrics who refuse to inject neither fresh blood nor modern ideas into our already defunct democracy; that is if there is any semblance of such a thing.

One has to ask why our President who wrested power from Chandrika by fair means or foul, who wiped out terrorism and earned the plaudits of the majority Sri Lankans, China, Russia and India and who now is enjoying the reputation of leading a country known for its dharmista is surrounding himself with goons.

The answer my friend is goons do not ask questions and that should do nicely for our President to go his merry way until the country is brought to its knees. Lord Soulbury should be turning in his grave. Tell a Friend
by Sarath Wijesinghe

(September 15, UAE, Sri Lanka Guardian)
China and Sri Lanka were related connected and bonded together for thousands of years. Monk Fahian’s visit and the Buddhism with Asian way of life connected China/Sri Lanka uninterrupted and undisturbed. Even when China was in isolation Sri Lanka always made friendships and associations. The Sri Lanka- China Rubber Pact initiated by Hon. R.G. Senanayake and the other economic bonds has shown that the two countries are economically and politically bonded for a long period.

China became a world power on its own merits and in the Security Council she is one of the five powerful members. In every turn China Protected Sri Lanka genuinely and vehemently. Today China reaches second place in the world having passed Japan and becoming the world’s second largest economy behind United States. China’s economy is valued at 1.33 trillion and expected to pass US economy in 2030. As things go they need not wait so long. Sri Lanka has the target to be the Wonder of Asia in 5 years. As things go it is possible that Sri Lanka will reach the goal in two to three years as currently the economy is stable, tourism is booming, poverty is declining and the growth rate is 7%.

China has roughly the same landmass as the United States, but it is burdened with a fifth of the world’s population and insufficient resources. As things go China is going to bypass all obstructions. The European Union is struggling to grow in the wake of the worst economic crisis in decade. However China has continually climbed on the economic lead tables by investing heavily in infrastructure and backing a 586 million stimulus plan. At the moment Sri Lanka has two advantages. One is a durable and lasting peace; the other is an unprecedented degree of political stability. The Government in power is enjoying almost two thirds support in the Parliament this year when Sri Lanka expects largest number of tourists ever on record in Sri Lanka. There is no iota of terrorist activities for the last one year and the Government in power is the most strongest and powerful in Asia, so much so there is political stability predicted for the next 500 years.

Visit by Prof. G.L.Peiris, the Foreign Minister

Recently Prof. G.L. Peiris, the Minister of Foreign Affairs made an important visit to China and the speech he made at the Chinese Institute of International Studies is unprecedented. He was elected a distinguished fellow of the Institute and the contents of the speech was assimilated and digested by the peoples by cementing the age old bond between the two countries. The essence of his speech was based on the achievements of defeating terrorism in Sri Lanka as a result of the correct political leadership, the vision of His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa and also the competence, determination and the discipline of the armed forces and the main strategies of Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, His Excellency’s brother who led and spearheaded the humanitarian operation. The Foreign Minister is the one who represents the country and the leader of the Nation. Generally it is held by the leader, the Prime Minister or the most trusted Minister. Minister Peiris is trusted, respected, dedicated and reliable. What he has achieved during his short stay in China is enormous. He spoke from China to the international community on Sri Lanka on the economic and political structure and the future strategies. He reiterated the international community has duties obligations within certain limitations. International community or part of the community has a right to criticize and advice the colleagues, but they have no right to insist countries especially aiming to develop - if you do not do this we will take away great concessions from you. We will cut off access for your communities from the markets of the developed world. Developed world should understand that they are developed today out of the sweat of the rest of the world without which they cannot exit. It is the basic international law that countries are sovereign irrespective of their population and small countries have a self-respect and they must be respected as equal and senior members of the world family. In the world family China is magnanimous, friendly and not as selfish as other powerful nations. Other powerful nations should follow the example of China for friendship magnanimity and to be good friends.

Combat of Terrorism

Professor Peiris has extensively discussed on terrorism and to what extend the Nation has gone through the effects of terrorism for three decades. He said that no single country can combat terrorism alone. There should be both regional and global strategies to deal with terrorism. This is absolutely correct. When small Sri Lanka disproving the myth that terrorism could not be crushed militarily eradicated terrorism completely when powerful and strong countries are struggling in Iraq and Afghanistan by involving into unwanted and unwinnable wars. This shows that terrorism cannot be won in isolation and quite correctly Prof. Peiris said that China means a great deal to us and terrorism cannot be combated in isolation. It has to be done in association with other countries. Sri Lanka has been fortunate in finding friends who have always stood by us.

Non-Aligned Policies

We state with great affection and gratitude that China, India SAARC countries, African countries, Middle East and Latin American countries wholeheartedly supported Sri Lanka to come out of the rubble and the threat of terrorism. Prof. Peiris’ mission to China has been fully fulfilled and accomplished. China gave us BMICH, china gave us Hambantota Harbour which has a potential to cater 36,000 ships sailing on the silk route per year. China is one of the main trade partners and major donors and investors to Sri Lanka with no hidden agendas or ulterior motives. China and India equally believe Sri Lanka when Madam Bandaranaike in 1960’s acted as the peace maker to avoid confrontation on a border issue. It is noteworthy to note that Sri Lanka is one of the main pioneers of the Non-Aligned Movement which practices policy of Non-Alignment to the last word. President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his policy document reiterated his commitments for Non-Aligned Movement and Non-Aligned Policy. He chaired SAARC which spreads over one fourth of the globe and currently G-20 by heading very powerful industrial nations as a fearless respected unshaken emerging world leader famous to be down to earth and outspoken. Minister Peiris has to the utmost satisfaction of President Rajapaksa fulfilled his obligation in the capacity of the Foreign Minister for which the entire nation is grateful for and the Nation as a whole will vote for him indicating their confidence on him and the Government at this transition era of the emerging wonder of Asia.

(The writer can be reached at
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Defying Authority – Gayan’s Story

" Finally in the evening Gayan was able to return home. He started vomiting, and his parents brought him to the hospital. He was given medical treatment, kept overnight and released a day later. He went to the police to file a complaint against the teacher who had hit him, but the Police took the side of the teacher, told him to return to school and forget about it."

by Gaston

(September 15, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Respect for elders and authority figures is deeply ingrained in the culture of Sri Lanka. Children are instructed to show deference towards their parents, grandparents, as well as towards teachers, and members of the clergy. However, in some case, there can a fine line between demanding respect and inflicting abuse. That is the situation in which a young man called Gayan Mangala found himself.

In 2007, as a student in a Buddhist school, a teacher asked Gayan to go from class to class to gather names for an upcoming school trip. In one classroom, the teacher felt that Gayan had disturbed him, and responded by hitting him repeatedly on the back of the head. When Gayan asked him why he is hitting him, the teacher answered with a renewed round of battery.

Gayan went to protest to the school principal, a Buddhist monk, who in turn defended the teacher’s actions and asked Gayan to return to class. Gayan complained of severe head pains and blurred vision, but his request for medical attention was ignored. He asked permission to go home, but the principal refused, saying he would probably go to the Police to complain, so they would keep him as long as they could.

Finally in the evening Gayan was able to return home. He started vomiting, and his parents brought him to the hospital. He was given medical treatment, kept overnight and released a day later. He went to the police to file a complaint against the teacher who had hit him, but the Police took the side of the teacher, told him to return to school and forget about it. In school, he faced intimidation tactics by the principal and the teachers, who tried to have him expelled for having reported them. When he tried to complain to the police a second time, he found the assaulting teacher and the school principal at the Police station, working together with the officers, to make sure this case was never reported.

Gayan Mangala
According to Gayan, since the school principal was also a Buddhist monk, he had a lot of power in the community. Police officers felt it was more important to obey and protect him, than to do what was right for Gayan, a simple student, and pursue this case.

Left with no other option, Gayan went to Janasansadaya to seek legal aid. Janasansadaya provided him with a lawyer, helped him file an official complaint with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, and bring the case to court. Since then, the assaulting teacher has been trying to negotiate a settlement out of court with Gayan, and has paid him some compensation money. However Gayan intends to push on with the case, until it is taken to court, regardless of the settlement offers.

As an organization that works to eliminate violence and torture in Sri Lanka, Janasansadaya felt it was important for them to get involved in this case. “Corporal Punishment is prohibited by law in Sri Lanka, and that applies at all levels, including schools,” says JusticeMaker Fellow and Janasansadaya lawyer, Harshi Perera. “Violence in schools affects the students both physically and mentally. I myself, like many others, was subjected to corporal punishment in my school years, and I am glad that through Janasansadaya, I can now work to protect today’s children from ill treatment in school.”

Since this incident, Gayan has passed his Advanced Level Exams from the Buddhist school with the highest marks in his class, and is now doing an external university degree. He continues to work with Janasansadaya to inform the public of his ordeal, of abuse of authority in schools and the lack of protection offered by the Police. He hopes in this way to empower people to report and fight against unnecessary violence that was committed in the name of respect and authority.
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Selig Harrison's Wake-up call: My Comments

"Considerable details came from Gilgit-Baltistan when the Government of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power from 1998 to 2004. It was during that period that the PLA presence in GB increased. His Government failed to highlight this threat to our own population and to the international community. It is not known whether we have factored this into our plans for the protection of the Ladakh-Kargil sector."

by B.Raman

(September 15, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) On August 27,2010,the “New York Times” carried an article by Selig Harrison, former correspondent of the ”Washington Post” in New Delhi who now works in a Washington-based think tank, stating inter alia as follows: “While the world focuses on the flood-ravaged Indus River valley, a quiet geopolitical crisis is unfolding in the Himalayan borderlands of northern Pakistan, where Islamabad is handing over de facto control of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China.The entire Pakistan-occupied western portion of Kashmir stretching from Gilgit in the north to Azad (Free) Kashmir in the south is closed to the world, in contrast to the media access that India permits in the eastern part, where it is combating a Pakistan-backed insurgency. But reports from a variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists and Pakistani human rights workers reveal two important new developments in Gilgit-Baltistan: a simmering rebellion against Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.”

Selig’s wake-up call should not have been a surprise to intelligence sources and policy-makers in India and the US. They were aware of the high level of involvement of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China and its nuclear establishment in the construction and maintenance of high-altitude roads in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).The PLA was interested in infrastructure development and maintenance in GB because of its strategic importance for possible use by the PLA in the event of another military conflict with India. China’s nuclear establishment was interested because it wanted to use the PLA-constructed Karakoram Highway (KKH) as an overland route for the movement of missiles and spare parts to Pakistan.

The first wake-up call that China had been using the KKH for moving missile supplies to Pakistan was sounded by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US, which managed to take satellite photographs of such movement. On August 6 and 7,2001, the “Washington Times” gave the following details:

* The China National Machinery & Equipment Import & Export Corporation sent a dozen shipments of missile components to Pakistan since November,2000, and a US spy satellite detected the latest shipment as it arrived by truck at the mountainous Chinese-Pakistani border May 1,2001. The company supplied components for Pakistan's Shaheen-1 and Shaheen-2 missile programmes. The consignments were sent by ship and truck.

* The missile components are being used for production of the Shaheen-1, which has an estimated range of 465 miles, and the development of the Shaheen-2, which US intelligence agencies think will have a range of up to 1,240 miles.

Following the disclosure by the “Washington Times, Gen.Pervez Musharraf visited Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, including GB, for four days from August 27,2001. In an article of September 3,2001, titled MUSHARRAF'S VISIT TO POK & N.A., I wrote as follows: “The US media reports that its intelligence agencies had detected the transport of 12 consignments of Chinese missile components by sea and land since China pledged to stop such supplies in November last. The consignments sent by trucks came via the Karakoram Highway through Xinjiang and the N.A. (Northern Areas). To avoid detection of transport by sea by US satellites or by the CIA's port-based sources, China and Pakistan had decided to move future consignments by road, which, they felt, would not be vulnerable to detection by the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US. Pakistan has also sought Chinese assistance for the movements of future consignments of missiles and components from North Korea by road through the same route. The military junta had taken considerable precautions to prevent detection of the truck movements by not associating any of the officials of the NA Administration, particularly the Shias, with the arrangements for the movement. In view of this, both Islamabad and Beijing were surprised and embarrassed by the US media reports that US intelligence had detected the truck movements. Pakistani officials claim that even if US satellites had detected the trucks, they could not have known that the consignments contained missile components. They, therefore, reportedly feel that there must have been leakage to the CIA from one of the Pakistani officials associated with the movement. Moreover, following past US detection of the storage of the earlier missiles/components in Sargoda, the military junta had drawn up alternate plans for storage in Gilgit in the hope that there would be less possibility of detection there by the CIA. Before Musharraf's arrival in the POK, Lt.Gen. Jamshed Gulzar, Corps Commander, 10 Corps based in Rawalpindi, had visited the N.A. to enquire into the leakage jointly with the Force Commander, NA, Lt-Gen Muhammad Safdar. Measures for tightening up security in N.A. was one of the subjects which figured during the discussions of Musharraf in Gilgit in which apart from senior military officers, Abbas Sarfaraz, Musharraf's Minister for Kashmir and NA Affairs, who is also the Chief Executive of the NA, also participated. “ In this connection, reference is also invited to my article of August 7,2001, titled GILGIT & BALTISTAN, CHINA & NORTH KOREA.

When the KKH was constructed by Chinese engineers in the 1970s, China had no private construction company. All construction companies were State-owned. Only the Engineering units of the PLA had engineers with experience of construction at high altitudes. Right from the beginning, PLA engineers had been involved in the construction, maintenance and upgradation of the KKH. As a result, there had always been a sizable presence of engineers of the PLA in GB. This number has gone up since the beginning of this year following severe damages to the KKH by two natural disasters in January and August. Regular units of the PLA have always been deployed in the GB to provide security to the Chinese engineers and humanitarian workers. It has been difficult to estimate the total number of Chinese engineers, humanitarian workers and security personnel in GB. This number will go up further when China starts the construction of a railway line through GB.

While information has been coming from time to time about the role of PLA engineers in infrastructure development in GB, similar details are not available about the role of engineers of the North Korean Army. Nationalist sources from the area, who have been fighting against the Pakistan Army, have been saying that North Korean military engineers have good expertise in high-altitude tunnel construction and have been helping the Pakistan Army in the construction of roads which would facilitate all-weather road movements to the Chitral area. According to them, for part of the year, the Chitral area is cut off from the rest of Pakistan by landslides. The only way of reaching Chitral is via Afghanistan. Other sources say that the engineers involved in this are from South and not North Korea. It has not been possible to verify this.

Thus even before Selig sounded his wake-up call, considerable details were available for over a decade on the presence and activities of the PLA and possibly North Korean military engineers in GB. Considerable details came from GB when the Government of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power from 1998 to 2004. It was during that period that the PLA presence in GB increased. His Government failed to highlight this threat to our own population and to the international community. It is not known whether we have factored this into our plans for the protection of the Ladakh-Kargil sector. Infrastructure development in our territory in the areas bordering GB has remained neglected. It is time we sit up and pay more attention to this. If we do so, Selig’s wake-up call would have served a useful purpose. Chinese and North Korean activities in GB should also figure prominently in the talks during the visit of President Barack Obama to India in November.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )
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Nations don’t die, they are murdered!

"An attack on the constitution, precisely for this reason is an attack on the nation itself. Killing a constitution, as an extension of that, is killing a nation. It is killing that democratic contract which people had made in order to emerge as a nation. It is a usurpation of the sovereignty of the people by an individual or a collective of undemocratic bunch."

by Avinash Pandey Samar
Response to the Article written by Dr. Dayan Jayathilleka

(September 15, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Nations do die, in fact they get murdered despite all the claims on the contrary. Only problem is that one needs to have a little understanding of both the social sciences and the society in its everyday life to see that happening. This is no mean task though, especially, for the academicians living in their ivory towers. It helps, also, if the ivory towers have been provided to them by the powers that may. No wonder then that such academicians keep coming up with justification for unjustifiable atrocities committed on people and institutions alike.

If not for this selective amnesia, all of the twentieth century has been an evidence for the birth and death of nations. After all, what is a nation if not an ‘imagined community’ in the words of Benedict Anderson. He calls it imagined because “the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their community.” And yet, he asserts that this imagined community is no less real, and no less legitimate.

So what is that which makes such imagined communities real? It is the feeling of a shared history, a sense of solidarity and a sense of belonging to the same nation, with equal rights I would assert, that turns a people into a nation. Yet, the idea of the nation still remains in the domain of the abstract. The closest this idea gets in material physical senses is the constitution of the nation. Constitution becomes the embodiment of all that is shared, the past, the feelings of bondage, the beliefs and even the hopes.

The constitution, in that, does not remain just another book. It turns into the soul of the nation, achieving something miraculous in the process. Having a constitution marks a fascinating journey of the nation, from the abstraction to real, from being just a belief to a material reality inhabiting the physical world. It is thus a journey back into the realm of abstraction while making it real as well.

It goes without saying that the constitution can exist only in democracies. Autocracies and dictatorships, of any types, do not need to derive their legitimacy from a book, however sacrosanct. They operate out of force, sheer brutal force and impose themselves upon the people inhabiting the area of their operation. These autocracies, for the same reason, do never become nations. They remain stuck in times gone by, remaining the monarchic aberrations in today’s world.

An attack on the constitution, precisely for this reason is an attack on the nation itself. Killing a constitution, as an extension of that, is killing a nation. It is killing that democratic contract which people had made in order to emerge as a nation. It is a usurpation of the sovereignty of the people by an individual or a collective of undemocratic bunch. It does not require being a political scientist to understand this simple fact that a nation comes out of all individuals democratically surrendering their sovereignty to a universal sovereign through a social contract. Needless to say is that this happens through a social contract achieved through democratic means.

Democracy, thus, emerges as the soul of the constitution and anything that compromises democracy compromised the nation. The 18th amendment does not merely compromises this but in fact kills that democracy. It is an attempt to usurp all powers and consolidate that into the person of one man. This is why it kills democracy and the nation in the process.

A changed constitution does not merely mean a changed book. It means much more than that. It means a new system which does not remain the same as old.

And yet, it does not mean that we can let the nation die just like that. The whole nation needs to resist this. And the resistance is, as Edward Said had put it, a struggle of memory against forgetting. After all, no autocrats can erase a people. They need them for cheap labour. They need them to toil. And for that, they need to keep them alive. And a living people cannot accept anything just like that. They recreate all those they have lost in their memories. They commit the killed nation to their dreams. Then, as they say it, dreams keep the hopes of a resurrection alive, forever.

Avinash Pandey Samar is a Research Scholar at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi. He can be reached at
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The other side of the eighteenth amendment

" The revolutions and dictatorships are outside constitutions but it may be that some of the Marxists among the pundits are dreaming of a revolution within the constitution. We wish them good luck and also many happy dreams in their deep slumber that has made them dissociated from the public."

by Prof. Nalin de Silva

(September 15, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The eighteenth amendment has been passed and it is now part of our constitution. As usual the thousand or so pundits in Sri Lanka have been proved wrong again and we still have a democracy in Sri Lanka with of course Messrs. Tissa Vitharana and D E W Gunasekera holding ministerial positions and Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara still being an MP.It would be interesting to find out whether they would lose the membership of their respective parties in the name of democracy. The thousand pundits including NGO "intellectuals" the anti Sinhala Buddhist "intellectuals" and such people are crazy of democracy and remind us of the obituary on D E M O’cracy published in an English daily sometime ago.

The democracy continued to live in Sri Lanka even after that notorious obituary and the passing of the eighteenth amendment is not going to do any harm to democracy in Sri Lanka. It appears that democracy has more than nine lives defeating the proverbial cat and it is difficult to kill or destroy democracy. It may be that democracy cannot be killed because it is not living. One cannot destroy something that does not exist. In any event democracy is only a word found in Civics, Government and Political Science text books written by pundits in the western world and copied by our thousand or such people and as far as a villager from Hambanthota District is concerned the only meaning it has is the freedom to vote for one of the candidates put forward by the political parties. The villager has no possibility to vote for a candidate he has in mind and has to settle down for a candidate representing a political party. The choice of a candidate for a political party is outside his powers though the political party concerned in theory would decide on the candidate most likely to get the maximum number of votes at the elections.

However, there are exceptions to this theory and we all know that the UNP is willing to select Ranil Wickremesinghe as their candidate perhaps without any idea of the current popularity of the party or the candidate chosen. After the eighteenth amendment the SLFP has two more candidates to be considered when the Presidential candidate of the party is chosen any time after 2014, assuming that Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is still a member of the SLFP. If Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga still has aspirations to become the President of the country, she should start her campaign now itself without postponing it to 2014. If Ranil Wickramasinghe continues to be the CEO of the UNP then one does not need to be a soothsayer to "predict" who would be the next President of the country after 2016.

The pundits forget that in the USA a person is barred from being a President for more than two terms only after 1951 after Roosevelt became the President for a fourth time. In any event Roosevelt did not become a dictator but the pundits forget that Hitler became a fascist dictator without serving two terms as President or Chancellor of Germany. It is noteworthy that Hitler became a dictator through the Weimer constitution supposed to be one of the best if not the best constitution that the western pundits have drafted. Those who want to be dictators do not waste time by amending constitutions and all that they have to do is to suspend constitutions. There is no correlation between establishing a dictatorship and the "quality" or the "democratic nature" of the constitution.

The revolutions and dictatorships are outside constitutions but it may be that some of the Marxists among the pundits are dreaming of a revolution within the constitution. We wish them good luck and also many happy dreams in their deep slumber that has made them dissociated from the public. At least Tissa Vitharana, D E W Gunasekera and Vasudeva are still not so much dissociated from the public and they know that Ranil Wickramasinghe and Sarath Fonseka would have been dictators given half a chance. If the latter became the President of the country he would have suspended the constitution just as much Ranil Wickramasinghe is stretching the UNP constitution to the maximum. If he tries to stretch it further the UNP would rupture with dire consequences.

Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse unlike the Ranil Wickramasinghe and Ravi Karunanyaka has no politics outside the party and if at all he could be a populist dictator heading the only party. In that sense it is the UNP that has to make sure that the SLFP does not become the only party in Sri Lanka. Thus Ranil Wickramasinghe has to see to it that the UNP is not destroyed. However, in Sri Lanka a situation has arisen that no party can be a strong party without being a nationalistic party and unfortunately neither Ranil Wickramasinghe nor Ravi Karunanayake has any nationalistic roots and they are not the ideal candidates to lead the UNP. Karu Jayasuriya is not a genuine nationalistic leader and he is supported by some NGOs. Sajith Premadasa does not have the maturity and thus the UNP is without quality leadership personnel at present. Thus one can see many UNPers leaving the party and joining the SLFP.

However, the most important aspect the eighteenth amendment is not the removal of the obstacle to become the President for more than two terms but the amendment of the seventeenth amendment. Thus Mr. Dayananda Dissanayake would be able to retire soon and a Parliamentary Council would be set up in place of the constitutional council. The constitutional council though claimed to be a victory for democracy amounted to a success for the anti Sinhala forces. The thousand pundits who praise each other rejoiced at the seventeenth amendment becoming the law as it gave a definite advantage to the so called minorities. The time when the pundits spread the myth that a two third majority cannot be obtained without the so called minority vote is over vindicating our position that if a party can poll around three fourths of the Sinhala votes it could obtain a two third majority even with the proportional representations. In a number of provincial councils the UPFA obtained a two thirds majority and in the present Parliament it has a near two third majority. The days when the SLFP (or the UNP) had to go behind the so called minority parties in order to form a government are also over and now it has become a case of minority parties supporting the UPFA in order to get some services done.

The nation that had been begun to be built during the time of King Pandukabhaya has to be broadened with the inclusion of so called minorities. It is not the aborted Ceylonese nation first led by the Burghers and then by the English educated Tamils we have in mind but a nation that has already been built. It is not a question of building the nation but a problem of broadening the nation that has been built and in this regard the support given by the so called minority parties for the eighteenth amendment augurs well for the future of the country. The ethnic representation in the legislature and the constitutional council from the nineteenth century to the seventeenth amendment has to be thrown away and we have to make sure that only those who accept the significance of the Sinhala Buddhist history and culture of the country should be appointed to the Parliamentary Council. If anyone of the thousand or so pundits object to this statement we would only invite him/her to come out with any western country that does not have a dominating culture where the citizens irrespective of the ethnicity have to accept the dominance of that culture.
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' There is a clear trend of the displeasure of the opinion making elite in the West and their favourites in Eurasian societies and those of the global South, against strong, independent–minded, often populist leaders who strive to build or re-build strong sovereign states..."


(September 15, Singapore City, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is, in equal measure, ironic and amusing that the UNP has chosen to move a motion of No Confidence in Parliament, against the newish Minister of External Affairs, Prof GL Pieris.

Antonio Gramsci notes that in an intellectual argument one must strike at the opponent’s strongest point, while in war and politics, one strikes the weakest spot in the defences. One certainly does not strike at a stronger point of a strong adversary when one is at one’s weakest. Yet, this is precisely what the UNP, under the “cool, JR-like strategist” Ranil Wickremesinghe and spearheaded by his acolyte Ravi Karunanayake, has signalled its intention of doing.

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s strong suit is not exactly foreign policy. JR Jayewardene appointed him Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and soon made it clear that when it came to foreign affairs they had ‘no confidence’ in him, by removing him from the post in one year flat. The reason seems to have been that while Sri Lanka was still the Chair of the Non Aligned Movement, and Mr Jayewardene had succeeded Madam Bandaranaike as Chairperson of NAM, Mr Wickremesinghe as Deputy Foreign Minister was pushing an unbalanced, anti NAM agenda which the President and the Foreign Minister, ACS Hameed (the UNP’s Shadow Foreign Minister in ’70-’77) found disturbing.

Possessing the highest academic attainments of any Sri Lankan parliamentarian and indeed any Sri Lankan politician today (and here, the contrast with our post-Kadirgamar pair of former Foreign Ministers could hardly be more striking!), the new Minister of External Affairs is not exactly the weakest link in the administration’s armour. On the occasions that Prof Pieris’ passed through Geneva when I was serving as Permanent Representative, I would eagerly arrange for him to address audiences of ambassadors and academics, and our team would watch with pride as he delivered his remarks, without a note, on almost any subject. In terms of civility and intellect, of the many who came to Geneva (since it was a hub of UN and multilateral organisations), GL Pieris was in a class by himself. Yet it is precisely against him that the UNP has chosen to move.

This is a UNP that was rightly accused by a fellow Opposition MP belonging to the TNA, of lacking “the guts” to be present in parliament during the debate on the 18th amendment and vote against it.

The SLFP is generally better at ‘doing’ defence and external affairs while the UNP is usually better at modernisation and economic development. The three worst fiascos of Sri Lanka’s external relations occurred when the UNP was at the helm: Bandung (“Booruwa”) ’55, the ‘dhal’ drop ’87, the CFA ’02. The UNP administration’s deliberate deviation from Nonalignment (fairly soon after President Jayewardene relinquished his duties as NAM Chairman) and the enormous damage to relations with India, resulted in the worst collapse of Sri Lanka’s foreign relations in 1987, with the Indian airdrop and the conspicuous silence of almost the whole of the world.

When Mervyn de Silva, writing in the Lanka Guardian and as columnist ‘Kautilya’ in The Island, defined the war as it was fought by the UNP administration of the 1980s as “unwinnable”, he referred to the gross mismanagement of relations with neighbouring India and the latter’s own axiomatic compulsions over the Tamil question (Tamil Nadu), which meant that the war would not be allowed to be won on Colombo’s terms. Mervyn contrasted the UNP elite’s foreign policy fiasco of 1987 with the triumph of the SLFP’s Non aligned foreign policy in 1971 when India and Pakistan, Russia and the USA, UK and China and Yugoslavia were the most prominent of 21 states that came to Sri Lanka’s aid and assistance.

The UNP that was not motivated into a motion of no confidence against the professor’s predecessor, the most abysmally ignorant and atrociously unintelligible Foreign Minister Sri Lanka ever had, has sprung into action now. It has chosen to do so, not after a decent period of testing like a year or two, but mere months after Professor Peiris has been appointed and is doubtless still grappling with the legacy he was left by a man whom the voters tossed out without a second thought at the last election.

The text of the UNP’s imminent motion of No Confidence accuses Prof Pieris of having failed to secure the support of the Non Aligned Movement against the Ban Ki Moon panel. That process started rolling well before GLP was appointed Minister and consequent to an ambiguous reference to accountability conceded when his predecessor held the post. The UNP did not feel motivated to indict the failure to mobilise the Non Aligned, when Sri Lanka lost the vote held in New York for re-election to the Human Rights Council. Mr Bogollagama flew to New York to lobby support and flunked. Perhaps unsurprising, when one considers the fact that in a three way telephone conference in the run-up to the Special Session against Sri Lanka in 2009 with the same Minister and his top official, the Minister dismissed my suggestion of securing a supportive statement from the Non-Aligned Co-ordinating Bureau in New York with the incredible observation that the Non Aligned Movement was split in three and therefore of little use to us!

The UNP is so solicitous of the support of the Non Aligned that Mr Wickremesinghe, addressing the UN General Assembly, tilted in favour of George Bush’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq, strongly opposed not only by the NAM, but public opinion in the West. The Opposition leader’s nominee for managing a ‘mass media campaign at the grass roots’, Mr Mangala Samaraweera as Foreign Minister, assumed a position on Israel/Palestine and Iran in multinational forums, that can only be described, in relation to the NAM stand, as deviant.

The UNP’s motion charges the Minister of External Affairs of having “overstayed” his invitation to China by two days, which is bound to raise a chuckle or two, coming as it does from Mr Wickremesinghe who seems to have overstayed his stint as leader of his party and the Opposition, by well over a decade!

Why then is the UNP moving this No confidence motion at this time? There are three discernible reasons in ascending order of importance. Firstly the “tall poppy syndrome” (as the Australians dub it): the semi-spontaneous collective attempt motivated by petty jealousy, to level down. Secondly, the same reason that made the LTTE murder Lakshman Kadirgamar: deprive Sri Lanka and the administration of the most sophisticated communicator and best possible bridge with the world system, thereby isolating Sri Lanka. The third motive is the most serious. When viewed in a global perspective the ‘no confidence’ manoeuvre clearly takes place in a particular context and forms part of a specific strategy. It is part of a ‘pincer move’ against Sri Lanka as a state; a country.

Sri Lanka is in serious danger from an attempt to (a) project the State and the Sinhalese as proxies of Beijing in a grand strategic contest between the West and India on the one hand and China on the other, and (b) on this score, to leverage India and the West against Sri Lanka. This pernicious effort comes from three sources: anti-China Cold Warriors in the West who are attempting as in the 1950s and ’60s, to ‘contain China’ and in fact thwart and reverse the rise of Asia; the pro-Ranil Wickremesinghe neo-comprador elements of the UNP, its supportive journalists and civil society ideologues; and the anti-Lankan ultra-nationalists of the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu. This bloc of forces is not new, and indeed dates back to the Sri Lankan political polarisation of the Cold War decades.

In the same week as our civil society cosmopolitans and the international media focused on Sri Lanka, the latter was saying virtually the same thing about two other places at least: Russia and Rwanda.

The Financial Times (UK) editorialised as to why the West should oppose Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s possible plans to stand for re-election as President in 2012. For his part, Mr Putin deployed the argument of Franklin D Roosevelt’s fourth term argument—which should be familiar to Sri Lankan readers. In the same week the Western media mounted pressure on President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, with chatter about a UN report on possible ‘war crimes’ and ‘genocide’, allegedly committed by this man who saved Rwanda from its situation of a genocidal hell on earth. He is a wildly popular (elected) president who has not only brought peace and victory to his country but greatly modernised it, exponentially improved standards of public administration and vastly enhanced the presence of educated women in government.

There is a clear trend of the displeasure of the opinion making elite in the West and their favourites in Eurasian societies and those of the global South, against strong, independent–minded, often populist leaders who strive to build or re-build strong sovereign states. This does not mean that everything those leaders do is right or defensible, but that this external dimension of prejudice is also present, must be demarcated and defended against.

Take for instance the new article by Sonali Samarasinghe, currently a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard, which has this to say: “Why must the world take action now?... Rajapakse has now aligned his formerly westward-looking country with China, Iran, Pakistan and Libya...” (‘Why The World Must Stop Sri Lanka’s Decline’, Global Post, Sept 10, 2010). Samarasinghe does not specify that golden age when this country was “westward –looking” but one may safely assume these were years under UNP administrations, (barring of course, that of President Premadasa, who far-sightedly looked to East Asia from the 1960s, declared David Gladstone persona non grata and whose favourite political leader contemporary with his own presidency, was Malaysia’s outspokenly West-bashing Mahathir Mohammed). Never was Sri Lanka more “Westward looking” than under the short, unhappy Prime Ministership of Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is the “fall” from this ‘golden age’, the deviation from the “westward –looking” orientation resulting in or occasioned by Sri Lanka’s alleged alignment with China, that is the problem for some sectors of our society as well as for certain elements of the world order.

Thus, the motion of No Confidence against Minister Pieris and the recent external (metropolitan) criticisms of Sri Lanka’s domestic politics must be located and understood in this wider, North-South, West-East context of the long battle for national sovereignty and a multi-polar world.
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"When policies force hundreds of millions to cut their already meagre diets, can they be discussed? When they trample on people's rights, and people go to courts seeking redress, what do the latter do, Prime Minister? You are right that the Supreme Court should not make policy."


(September 15, Mumbai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Disgusted with millions of tons of foodgrain rotting in the open yards (the godowns not being large enough to house them), The Supreme Court of India said the grain should be distributed to the poor rather than allowing to rot and go to waste. The Prime Minister hit back saying the court should not stray into policy matters, or as he put it, "the realm of policy formulation." Meanwhile the media which always cheer judicial activism in cases involving the middle classes, clicked their tongues and said this was taking judicial interventionism a bit too far (the order than the grain be distributed amongst the poor.)

Hence my open letter to the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh.

Dear Prime Minister,

I was delighted to learn that you said, while also “respectfully” ticking off the Supreme Court, that tackling food, rotting grain etc., — are all policy matters. You are absolutely right and it was time somebody said so. With that, you brought a whiff of honesty so lacking in the United Progressive Alliance's public blather. It is for your government, not the court, to decide what to do with the grain now rotting in millions of tons. If policy dictates that it go bad rather than let hungry people eat it, that's no business of the court. The “realm of policy formulation,” as you put it, is yours. It feels good to have the nation's leader accept — well, sort of, anyway — that growing hunger, falling nutrition, rotting grain, lack of storage space, all these arise from policy. (They were certainly not caused by any Supreme Court rulings I know of.)

A lesser man would have copped out, blaming it all on the opposition, the weather or the mysterious (but ultimately beneficial) workings of the Market. You don't do that. You clearly locate it in policy. And policies are far more deliberate, far less abstract than markets.

Storage space for foodgrains

It was, after all, a policy decision to spend almost nothing for years on building additional public storage space for foodgrain. Governments have the money to subsidize the building of new cities, malls and multiplexes across the country. By “incentivising” private builders and developers. But none for building storage space for the nation's foodgrain.

The ‘new' idea, instead, is to hire privately-owned space. Which does raise the question sir, of why your government decided, by policy, to de-hire a few million metric tons worth of hired space between 2004 and 2006. That was done on the paid-for advice of an expensive multinational consulting firm. Re-hiring space now will surely mean much higher rental costs, bringing cheer and joy to the hungry, starving rentiers. (Maybe even to the MNC which could now be paid for giving you the opposite of the advice it did the last time.)

More so, since your latest policies “incentivize” things further for the rentiers. Pranabda's budget speech (Point 49) hiked the guaranteed period of space hire from five to seven years. Actually, it's been upped to 10 years since then. (A word of caution from a well-wisher: the reports of that expensive MNC consulting firm have been the kiss of death for any government dumb enough to act on them. Ask Mr. Naidu in Andhra Pradesh.) There was always the option of building foodgrain storage space on government-owned land. As Chhattisgarh is now doing. It would cost much less in the long run and curb profiteering from our need to tackle hunger. These being policy matters, that's just a suggestion, not an order.

As your message makes clear to the Supreme Court, the rotting grain is none of their business. As the nation's most important Professor of Economics, I'm sure you have well-thought out policies on what to do with the grain, rotting or about-to-rot, in open spaces and bad godowns. I just wish someone of your erudition would explain these policies to an increasingly aggressive rat population which thinks it can do anything it likes with that grain and simply ignores the courts altogether. (Maybe we need to incentivize the rodents to lay off the grain.)

Meanwhile, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson has all but admitted that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had paid the price on this very issue. A wipe-out at the 2004 polls. Amazing what a consensus there is on all these being policy matters. Even the Supreme Court seems to agree.

Nine years ago, Dr. Singh, the apex Court in the very same, ongoing Right to Food case, had this to say (August 20, 2001). “The anxiety of the Court is to see that the poor and the destitute and the weaker sections do not suffer from hunger and starvation. The prevention of the same is one of the prime responsibilities of the Government — whether Central or the State. How this is to be ensured would be a matter of policy which is best left to the government. All that the Court has to be satisfied ... is that the foodgrains ... should not be wasted ... or eaten by rats...What is important is that the food must reach the Hungry.”

The farmers who have been committing suicide in tens of thousands also agree with you totally, Prime Minister. They know it was policies, not the law courts, which drove them to take their lives. That's why several who left behind suicide notes addressed those to you, to the finance minister, or our own beloved Maharashtra chief minister (busy, even as we speak, Saving the Tiger in a TV studio). Ever read any of these letters, Dr. Singh?

Has the government of Maharashtra, led by your own party, ever given you a single one of them? They speak of debt, credit, rising input costs and falling prices. Of governments that do not hear their cries. These are not even addressed to their families, but to you, Dr. Singh, and your colleagues. Yes, they understood the role of policy in their misery — and therefore addressed the authors of those policies in their notes.

Farmer distress

Ramakrishna Lonkar of Wardha put it simply in his suicide note after your historic visit to Vidarbha in 2006. He said: “After the Prime Minister's visit and announcements of a fresh crop loan, I thought I could live again.” But “I was shown no respect” at the bank, where nothing had changed. Ramachandra Raut of Washim was so keen to be taken seriously by his Prime Minister, that he not only addressed his suicide note to you, the President and your colleagues, he even recorded it on Rs. 100 non-judicial stamped paper. He was, by his lights, trying to make his protest ‘legal.' Rameshwar Kuchankar's suicide note in Yavatmal blamed the procurement price of cotton for the farmers' distress. Even those letters not addressed to you, speak of policies. Like Sahebrao Adhao's farewell note which paints a Dickensian portrait of usury in the Akola-Amravati belt.

All highlighted policy. And how right they were! Recent revelations (see The Hindu, August 13, 2010), show us that almost half the total “agricultural credit” in the state of Maharashtra in 2008 was disbursed not by rural banks, but by urban and metropolitan bank branches. Over 42 per cent of it in the financial farming-heartland of Mumbai alone. (Sure, the city has large-scale farming, but of a different kind — it cultivates contracts.) A handful of big corporations seem to hog much of this “agricultural credit.” No wonder Lonkar, Raut et al found it so hard to access credit. You can't have a ‘level playing field' (to borrow one of your favourite phrases) with billionaires.

While these are outflows of policy, the exclusive realm of your government, I confess to being a little flummoxed. The astounding price rise of several years is surely the well-foreseen outcome of government policies? This year, as you lectured world leaders in Toronto on inclusive growth, your government decontrolled petrol prices fully and diesel partially, while hiking kerosene prices, too.

When policies force hundreds of millions to cut their already meagre diets, can they be discussed? When they trample on people's rights, and people go to courts seeking redress, what do the latter do, Prime Minister? You are right that the Supreme Court should not make policy. But what do they do when confronted with the consequences of yours? Policies are made, as you know better than I, by people. In your case by many distinguished economists including those who have fought attempts to ban child labour.

One who even wrote an article in The New York Times titled “The Poor Need Child Labor” (November 29, 1994) where he admitted to having had a 13-year-old work in his home. (And who also favoured the decontrolling of fuel prices — to tackle the price rise, no less. And perhaps to help child labour, too?)

What too, does the Supreme Court do when the government's 2006 promise of a new Below Poverty Line (BPL) Survey to be completed before the start of the Eleventh Plan never materializes? What do they or anyone do when the government sets grain allocations to the states based on poverty estimates of year 2000 based on the 1991 Census. Twenty-year-old data which result in 70 million fewer people getting BPL/Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) grain than should be the case.

I humbly suggest that while the Supreme Court copes with those dilemmas, we reconsider your policies. I would also be most grateful if you could forward a copy of this letter to your Food and Agriculture Minister if you remember who he is and where he is.

Yours sincerely
P. Sainath

P. Sainath is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, where this piece appears, and is the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories From India's Poorest Districts. He can be reached at:
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