Judging War Crimes

| by GajalakshmiParamasivam

( August 25, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian article‘Canada can find the war crimes that Australia can't’byStephen Keim and Jordan Sosnowski.

In essence, the article is based on the judgment by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board which was upheld by the Federal Court of Canada to reject the application of Mr. NadarajahKuruparan to migrate to Canada. The article compares that with the status of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Australia – Mr. TisaraSamarasinghe who was not rejected by the Australian Government. The two bases are different – the former has given up in his mind, his Sri Lankan citizenship after benefiting from the war activities whereas the latter continues to hold and demonstrate value as a Sri Lankan Public Officer. It’s as if Mr. Kuruparan is trying to ‘retire’ in Canada whereas Mr. Samarasinghe is continuing to work and support the government anyway he can. Hence an ‘independent’ assessment would rank Mr. TisaraSamarasinghe above Mr. NadarajahKuruparan in terms of citizenship value.

Surface readers often tend to bring out the net value of hearsay. Sometimes judges are also surface readers of migrants and those not of their class. Not so the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, in this instance.We as community leaders also get misled by refugee applicants who take the place of more deserving refugees. We recommend them to our governments and remain silent even when we know they cheated us. Unless we take action at the levels where we have authority to rectify the mistake – we are guilty of recruiting war criminals. Those who falsely claim refugee status due to alleged war related damages – are as guilty as those who have committed direct war crimes. It’s the ‘profit’ element that makes it a crime. One who kills in the line of duty – believing that he is doing his duty – is not a criminal. This is the essence of the message from Lord Krishna through Prince Arjuna to all of us. Arjuna fought against his own family elders to uphold Dharma / Righteousness. It was his duty. How many Tamil leaders have done that within their community – especially against the LTTE who are on the Sri Lankan Government’s opposition in this? This message through the Geetha is that we need to first fight against our inner enemy and would do so if we are true governors. That is when we would be global enough to judge on the level field.

In instances where we have ‘objective evidence’ that stands on its own merit – one could calculate and prove the crime. In others – there is subjective influence and hence one judgment cannot be compared with another at the surface level. This is why nations have the entitlement to claim sovereign rights. If they abuse that privilege – they hurt their own people because they are judged by Natural Justice – through their own conscience.

The authors state ‘Australia is a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention and is obliged to ensure that people who fall within the UN definition of "refugee" are provided with asylum.’ The UN definition of “refugee” is interpreted differently by different persons/groups/countries. Facts likewise are interpreted differently by different groups. Hence unless facts are truly public and independently produced – they would not be objective. Transparency in everyday processes gives credence to the independence of facts through those processes. In the case of Sri Lankans – both sides to the war kept their activities close to themselves and hence the value of facts are limited to what happened and not why they happened? We are therefore left with subjective judgments in these matters. These could be used for ‘internal management purposes’ only. Once we are global there is no distinction between internal and external.The credibility of the interpreter is the key to successful subjective judgments. The deeper the investment in the issue and/or the persons involved – the stronger the faith of the judge. The stronger the faith – the greater the contribution of the judgment to our social values.

Canadians judged for their internal purpose and we Australians judged for ours.

Tamil Refugees who support separation often come to Western countries and do not go to Tamil Nadu. Likewise Sinhalese who seek refuge need to go to countries that have supported the Sri Lankan government subjectively – and therefore supported the majority race that elects government. This gives them ‘collective power’. Otherwise they need to be ready to use the Equal Opportunity systems of the West.

Genuine suffering due to war (even if it is not apparent and therefore could not be objectively verified) ‘frees’ us of our debt to our country of origin. That is when we are eligible to use UN conventions. Others are guilty of abusing these global systems. Free refugees would show quiet ‘dignity’ in what they do. Likewise, one who does his/her duty as per his/her belief. If Mr. Kuruparan performed his duties with faith in the government, he would carry himself with that dignity. To claim that Mr. Kuruparan rose to high administrative level in the Sri Lankan Navy purely through merit – would state that Sri Lanka does not have an ethnic problem. Not many would swallow this. Mr. Kuruparan rose to the high level due to assimilation – something many migrants of Sri Lankan origin do here in Australia – and thus lose their opportunities to realize the value of Racial Equality.

Between Mr. Kuruparan and Mr. Samarasinghe – the latter carries the dignityof his faith to his employers more than the former. One needs to go deeper than the surface and read through one’s own faith in work and workplace. That’s when one qualifies to judge subjectively. I do not identify with the judgment of these authors. As outsiders – they need to seek, find and show through independent work, objective evidence to compare the two. Australian Government has demonstrated wisdom and has negated for us Australians any bad karma from hasty judgments by those of Sri Lankan origin, immigration issues.

In matters of citizenship, the value of faith based work needs to be measured at the higher level than the objective value of paid work – to reward or to discipline / punish.