Professor Kingsbury’s eyes – Colonial or Global?

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( October 21, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) This morning’s mail included some   from Raj Jayadevan one of which is about the talk  that Professor Damien Kingsbury gave in Melbourne under the topic “Why are the Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka? and reported by Chris Slee.

As per the report -  “Repression of peaceful protest led to the rise of militant Tamil groups, among which the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) came to dominate. Kingsbury said that during the war both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE used terrorist tactics and attacked civilians.”

This is confirmed by the UN Report also. The question is how many of these perpetrators have been brought to justice through International Laws? 

As per the article  “A tale of two Tamils: High value assets in SL, criminals in India”
by G Pramod Kumar of FIRSTPOST This week saw the curious case of two influential Sri Lankan Tamils, wanted in India on sensational criminal cases but close to the island’s government, making news again. One of them is “KP” or Kumaran Pathmanathan who once allegedly controlled LTTE’s transnational finance and arms procurement network, and the other is an anti-LTTE Tamil leader and minister Douglas Devananda who had survived many attempts on his life.’

We are not able to see a commonness  in the application of Law even at regional level. As per Dharma that the Sri Lankan Government is required to be committed to through the Constitution,  once leaders such as KP are ‘excused’ – all below them in positions within LTTE are excused. The first responsibility and therefore blame,  lies with the leaders. In a Dharmic/Righteous  system a lower level person would not be punished more than a leader in the name of the same crime.

In terms of Australia which now has greater leadership responsibility at the UN due to its membership in the UN Security Council – to the extent of its acceptance of its fellow UN member – the Sri Lankan Government - ‘excusing’ LTTE leadership, the Australian Government also has the moral obligation to lift bans on the parallels of KP and below – here in Australia – including in relation to ‘security checks’ when processing  refugee applications.

As per Chris Slee’s report : ‘ The government won the war in May 2009. An estimated 40,000 people, mainly civilians, died just in the final few weeks of the war as the government bombarded the LTTE's last stronghold.
Since then, Kingsbury said the victors “continue to behave in ways that continue the atrocities of the war they have won”. Tamils face detention without arrest, arbitrary execution, torture and forced displacement. Tens of thousands of Tamils cannot return to their homes and farms in areas occupied by military bases.’

To my mind, anyone who says in relation to the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict ‘The government won the war’ is assessing the issue at surface level. As an academic, I expect Professor Kingsbury to appreciate that there are different levels at which one identifies with an issue. The deeper our research the wider the spread of our teaching. Information without this root connection carries the risk of abuse when used by those in high positions. Without our own research and/or belief in those who have had the experience, we accumulate egoistic tendencies.

As per my direct experience with Professor Kingsbury, he is amongst Australian Academics who are not able to work their own University system. To use University language - the depth of  our teaching is as per the depth of  our investment in research – directly and/or through our investments in deeper investors. The depth of our solution is as per the depth of our investment in the problem. I find that those who were actively discussing the Sri Lankan  war during and soon after May 2009 which recorded the highest numbers of dead and injured in this ethnic conflict, have failed to demonstrate at least equal level of participation in helping the victims. Those who publicly criticize and/or praise one side or the other – have the responsibility to publicly show their current work to uphold the basic principles and values underpinning such criticism.

Professor Ben Saul of Sydney University stated through ABC -  ‘Australia's trying to demonstrate to the world that it's a good international citizen as it seeks a seat on the United Nations Security Council and at the same time it's tearing down the UN human rights system which Australia helped to build after the Second World War.’

ABC’s Kerry Brewster reports ‘ Premakumar is among 38 Tamil refugees whose indefinite incarceration has been challenged by Professor Ben Saul. He lodged a formal complaint with the UN's Human Rights Committee in August 2011, arguing Australia is breaking international laws by detaining them indefinitely because of adverse ASIO security assessments.

Relative to that is Professor Kingsbury’s report : “Disappearances have become “routinised”, with people being abducted every few days. Not only Tamils but also some dissident Sinhalese, including journalists, have disappeared.
These are the conditions that cause people to flee Sri Lanka. “People become refugees for many reasons, but desperation is always the driver,” said Kingsbury. “No-one willingly gives up their home and their community and then attempts to undertake a life-threatening journey for any reason other than they believe their future is under threat.

I know of many, who left their homes in Sri Lanka to live in Australia under refugee status, for lesser reasons than desperation.  I therefore conclude that Professor Kingsbury’s investment in this part of the issue is much weaker than mine.  When it comes to ‘telling’ top-down, Professor Kingsbury is not second to Sri Lankan academics close to the Government. Professor Kingsbury did not follow the principles underpinning laws of Equal Opportunity when he ‘told’ me to remove him from my email list. I took that as a heritage of colonialism from his ancestors. To that extent Professor Kingsbury lost the right to criticize top-down - the Sri Lankan Government on ethnic problems. All of us have the right to criticize through our own direct experiences. Others who have not had the direct experience would need to limit their criticism to intellectual analyses and/or their official positions in a common system.

During my latest visit to Sri Lanka, I shared my feelings with families whose youth seek to go overseas, including to Australia by boat - without preparing for life in these new countries. Mothers left their children and sons their parents – towards earning more money in these countries. I also left Sri Lanka in 1982 - before the latest conflict – to earn more money. But I prepared myself for life in a new environment and had the intention of returning after earning enough money to build a home in Colombo – which was my home since the age of 17.  All my three children were born there and this to my mind, contributes strongly to the feeling of ‘home’. I continue to be highly respected in those circles even today. Relative to that,  I have lived for 27 years here in Australia – as an Australian and yet am taken as per my ‘looks’ including by Australian Academics and the Police. That surface assessment is the basis on which weak judges deliver judgments. As per my direct experience - Australia is yet to invest deeply in Racial Equality. This could lead to abuse of power through the UN Security Council, unless we consciously address the issue at our leadership level.

Each of us as Australians, has the right to share in that membership but none of us has the authority to use those powers through surface assessments. The parallel of UN Security Council at the University of New South Wales – is the Security Office.  Likewise at any Australian University.  In the case of the University of New South Wales, despite its delegated powers to remove me from the University (if I was found to have acted in breach of applicable laws )   the Office of the Vice Chancellor  called the Police, through the Security Officer, to have me arrested and removed. In other words the Vice Chancellor  used the power of the Security officer’s position to protect himself from any possible attack.  That University was my ‘home workplace’ due to my work beyond the level at which I was paid. The real position earned by me is as per the level of real work performed by me as per my genuine assessment of the needs of the institution. We develop this position as employees, employers, citizens and governors. My earned position was governing position and yet I was treated by the Administration – like a criminal. One governor would have recognized the other – as the Chancellors – Sir Anthony Mason and Dr. John Yu  did. So long as the experience is  left ‘open’ – the University system would in real terms have less than global status – especially in issues where I am continuing to actively invest. That is the way of Truth. They may have the official status but not the real one – not even as a University of global standards –  due to lack of investment in their ‘other side’ by the leadership/management. As per my observation, when it comes to ‘internal’ matters – such as email systems – Professor Kingsbury is also part of this residual of Colonial leadership. Hence his criticism is taken as not being connected to the root of the Sri Lankan issue which is primarily seen as an ethnic issue by the world.

As stated in a recent article ‘As a Hindu, I tend to find completion through lessons embedded  in legends known to me. The six faces of Lord Muruga (Who according to Hindu legend went around the world, renounced parental wealth  and established His own  kingdom)  to my mind, depict our five outer senses and  the sixth inner sense.’ This sixth sense is our own investment at root level of the issue. We need to manifest that to give it form through this matter to identify with the complete picture for our purposes. On that basis, the way I interpret the refugee events in relation to Sri Lanka-Australia would be different to the way Professor Kingsbury would. Given that I am recognized naturally as part of the group having the direct experience – I conclude that my expressions are more valid than Professor Kingsbury’s – the same way his was taken as being more valid than mine by other academics – including from Harvard and the University of New South Wales. All those who remained silent are taken to have taken the side that looks like them.

To my mind, I had the Australian parallel experience of those fleeing Sri Lanka. Ultimately we live with our minds and not as per others’ sight. What others see as outsiders would help us give more ‘wholesome form’ to our experience.  When we are true to ourselves we register the experience through our own Truth which also leads  us to  identify with others’ Truth which may or may not be confirmed by the picture they ‘show’. It was by remaining within my Truth – however painful the outer experience was – that I feel a more wholesome part of Australian environment. 

In marriage – it is common to say ‘for better or for worse’. I did not abandon Australia after I had the ‘better’ part. I was tempted to and hence my resignation from my  substantive position at the University of New South Wales – after I heard Ms Pauline Hanson on ABC’s 4 Corners – tell us migrants to go home. I am staying and sharing in the ‘worse’ part through my own positive karma in Equal Opportunity and Universal Oneness. This is the value I share also with Sri Lankans with whom I naturally connect. Towards this I work and wait to discard their ‘maya’ / delusions – including of better life in Australia. Most predecessors of these ‘fleeing Sri Lankans’ do not share their Truth with those back at home – due to fear of losing status. Once we  stay on and share in any area that has become ‘home’ we would feel more wholesome. I do believe that there are exceptions at all levels where individuals are actively persecuted by the ‘other’ side. I make myself  an ‘outsider’ to that environment – even if it includes leading academics and politicians. In those instances I observe from a distance the manifestation of their Truth. That way I allocate equal status as  I to them and not higher or lower. I also continue to connect to them as part of wider society and not my immediate environment. That to me is the better approach for foreign leaders  to take with the Sri Lankan Government or the LTTE.

We may be legally ‘Australians’ but not in real terms. To majority mainstream – we migrants from the Indian Subcontinent are ‘Indians’.  The common Australian – including the Police who react naturally – translates this - the country of our birth -  to read as our nationality.  Many migrants accept this so long as there is no loss of benefits. I did not - despite the pain of being in Police custody and in being sent to prison and being labeled as a mentally ill person. By accepting these natural flaws in our system – and recognizing them as my ‘other side’  – without reacting and taking revenge – I became a stronger Australian. My loss became an investment through this ‘acceptance’. This is the lesson I share with Sri Lankans seeking to ‘flee’ without preparing for life in Australia.