Reconciliation – Internal through Universal Truth or External through Global Systems?

by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(February 23, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) This is in response to the article by Mr. Jehan Perera, published in Sri Lanka Guardian, on 22 February. I write also in the consciousness of the protest march being organized by the AFTA - Australian Federation of Tamil Associations, against the nomination of recently retired Navy Commander Tisara Samarasinghe as the next Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Australia.

In his article, Mr. Jehan Perera says ‘A recent public lecture given by one of the Commissioners, H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, a former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN, is worth quoting at length in this regard. In his lecture, among other matters, he dealt with the international pressures on the government that stem from the problems that have arisen from this and other human rights issues that are related to impunity.’

Mr. Jehan Perera goes on to quote Commissioner of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission “Most importantly, the Government needs to show the victims of the conflict, be they victims of LTTE terrorism or of the military operations, that the Government is responsive to conflict related grievances as well as their root causes. The Government has done well by establishing an independent mechanism for reconciliation.

It is important to show that the nation after emerging from an injurious and costly conflict, still retains the strength of character and the political will to introspect; look at its own track record and see if we had gone wrong somewhere and if we had, what remedial measures can we, as a civilized society undertake and what course corrections should be made."

It is understandable that a former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN would refer to the LTTE as terrorists. But by using that qualification in this context, Mr. Jehan Perera is also claiming that to him also the LTTE are/were terrorists. As per my analysis, to that extent, Tamils who have invested in the Western system of Justice and Governance are also entitled to find the Sri Lankan Government guilty of war crimes.

Mr. Jehan Perera provides the following example of such actions:

‘Sections of the Tamil Diaspora will continue to press the politicians of the countries they reside in to take action. Many of them lost relatives who were either in the LTTE or were simply civilians who went missing or died in the last phase of the war.

There is currently another petition being circulated on the internet. Recipients are being urged to sign the petition and inform their friends, family, neighbours and colleagues to do the same whether they are Tamil or non-Tamil. The petition makes the call "Are they alive? This petition is to find our people. Where are they? Sri Lanka has to be called to account for those who were killed, those who are incarcerated and for those who are missing! They are our kith and kin - our children, our brothers and sisters". The target is 100,000 signatures in a week.

The spurt in activism on the human rights issue is likely to be linked to the debate that will take place next month at the UN’s annual Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. It was to this forum that President Rajapaksa carried files of missing persons during the JVP insurrection period as an opposition parliamentarian over two decades ago seeking redress from the international community. It was an occasion to name and shame the then government for its poor human rights record. Ironically, the last three years have seen his own government under intense pressure at this same forum on account of its own human rights record.’

We make relative (hence relatives) decisions on the basis of common faith and/or merit basis. When we act outside there two bases, we are strangers living in isolation – even though we may ‘seem’ to live together due to physical closeness. Decisions made through common faith are subjective and intuitive. They usually help us balance internally through our gunas / qualities. The core purpose of any institution is towards developing this internal force of faith. The other day, we learnt through TV news that a White Australian was able to save his wife by following the instructions of the operator of the emergency help line ‘000’. There are many instances where Tamils in Australia have demonstrated lack of confidence to use those systems and therefore have failed to save lives due to lack of faith in White Australians. This is more applicable to non-working adults who migrated to Australia largely to support their children and spouses. As I often say to those who have faith in me – I follow the safety demonstrations on the plane, each time I fly, because to me it is a way of connecting to the mind of the crew during emergencies. If we start calculating ‘merit’ of the demonstrations, we would have difficulty connecting to the mind of the crew helping us during emergency. Once we start calculating on merit basis, we are losing the opportunity to connect on faith basis. If we do neither – as is the case with the indifferent idle voters/residents, we are actually strangers.

Merit needs to be applied through common base equally applicable to all participants. This would be cultural in a country where legal system is weak and/or is corrupt. I believe that if Sri Lanka’s legal system had been stronger than its cultural system based largely on Buddhism, there would have been no basis to claim racial discrimination as the reason for the war that happened in Sri Lanka. We need a common culture based faith or a strong merit based legal system to develop peace. The latter helps us connect to global systems. The former helps us realize ourselves / our Truth and function independently in any environment. In other words, we become Universal. When we realize the goal of one system, we naturally enjoy the values of the other. They are naturally integrated systems.

Case 1 – Admiral Samarasinghe’s nomination for the position of Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Australia

As per Wikipedia ‘Admiral Samarasinghe was awarded Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP) for gallantry in combat, the service medals Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya (VSV), Uttama Seva Padakkama (USP), the Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal and other medals that include the Purna Bhumi Padakkama and the North and East Operations Medal’

The fact that western nations came/come forward to help Tamils through the LTTE, confirms that to them also, the LTTE was a highly talented fighting group. As per internal assessments they were also strongly disciplined within, in terms of their combat administration. Hence one needs to ask the question as to whether Admiral Samarasinghe’s awards were on global merit base or local cultural base ? To me, it was the latter. It is more like promoting the teacher’s child in class. Unless a clear merit base is used, the candidate with cultural influence needs to be taken as having vested interest and therefore ineligible to participate in special promotional activities.

Hence even if Admiral Samarasinghe were as talented and cultured as or more talented and cultured than someone opposing the Government – in this instance the LTTE – we would never know the answer because the Government blocked the International Community from making observations. This includes Diaspora Tamils and Sinhalese who have demonstrated political independence.

Democracy needs Equal opposition to make faith based decisions that are valid. In other words, decisions made on the basis of cultural faith, would lose their value when the participants come outside that circle of faith. One’s faith in job related work-culture needs to be stronger than one’s faith in local social culture, for one to succeed at the global level. We call this work related dharma/righteousness – Thollil Dharma”. When Thollil Dharma is strong one’s other weaknesses and are absorbed by that Thollil Dharma. The local Universities in Sri Lanka, suffer from this weakness. Grades earned without this root of faith in higher education, would distract from the path of finding intellectual solutions. Grades earned on the basis of cultural faith, when used outside that circle, would become abusive if the custodian gets quick access to authority.

Unless therefore, Admiral Samarasinghe is able to demonstrate high achievements through systems common to Sri Lanka and Australia, he represents the group that he is bound to culturally and not nationally or lawfully. The Sri Lankan Government seems to want to give the impression that everything is ‘hunky dory’ after the end of the military war. It is dishing out ‘answers’ that it seems to have in its custody – answers such as Karuna and Douglas Devananda as well as Admiral Samarasinghe. These answers are short terms objectives in the path of Tamils seeking self governance made out as goals by those choosing the short path.

Case 2 – Petition by UK Tamils regarding war related missing persons

Given that the petition includes Tamils who seem to have gotten lost due to LTTE actions, one needs to conclude that to that extent, the LTTE supporters are outside the faith of this particular group. Hence, those who are openly operating on the LTTE ticket – such as Rudrakumaran’s Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam – would be taken as being punished by the global community – through the work of this group. Like groups influenced by Buddhist culture, this group is influenced by Tamil Military culture.

Case 3 Commissioner Palihakkara endorsing that the Government has done well by establishing an independent mechanism for reconciliation – i.e. the LLRC of which he is a part

How independent is Commissioner Palihakkara of the Government? The only way the LLRC could establish its independence is by either showing its reconciliation at the level that the common citizen would understand and use for her/his own everyday life or submit its work to be endorsed by the United Nations – to a body that is strongly committed to eliminating all forms of racial discrimination.

All three cases above show strong signs of cultural paths being used in preference to the global merit based path. The funny commonness is that the two sides keep copying each other and are going round and round in circles. Mr. Rajapaska used JVP uprising to access the UN. Now Tamil leaders are following in that path. If Due Process had been followed in regards to JVP problem, it is highly likely that there would be no opportunity now for Tamil leaders to take Mr. Rajapaske to the same forum as an accused. One must pay one’s dues to own solutions.

That is the lesson that Tamil leaders need to learn from their opposition. If we are not ready to pay our royalties to the global systems of Justice, we need to remain in our local cultures – however small they may seem in status.

Reconciliations through rights and wrongs need to be through common systems accessible equally to both sides. Where this is not possible, we need to work on the gunas / qualities – internally – as we do with families through internal disciplinary actions. At that level, it is about the likes and dislikes of the one with stronger faith in the common group, until there is common identity. In short – Sinhalese need to work on their leaders and Tamils on theirs or both start investing actively in Common Global Systems. Where this does not seem possible there is always the path of the Universal Power - Truth. One empowered by Truth does not impose nor take imposition.

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