| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
I write in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Another Example of Army Rule in Jaffna’ by Professor Laksiri Fernando.
( December 4, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is good to note the response from wider community against apparent injustice in Jaffna. I believe that every caring person who adds her/his credits with Natural Justice would influence the minds of the people concerned. Influencing the mind, without direct position power, requires us to have insight into the psyche of the person/s needing to be influenced. Professor Laksiri Fernando states in relation to the University of Jaffna incident on Karthigai Theepam day ‘There were undoubtedly oil lamps that were lit. The Lord Shiva is supposed to appear in the form of flame to dispel evil.’
Karthigai Theepam is the celebration of the birth of Murugan who was born from the fire of the Third eye of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity at the University of Jaffna. Yesterday, I added the following passage to my book ‘Who am I?’ which is largely for those who have faith in me, starting with my children and grandchildren: ‘By seeking from within I learnt that when I believed, my intuition prevented me from taking actions that would make me feel bad later. This I feel needs to be experienced. Most wrong-doers are not punished and the apparently punished are not always the wrong-doers. Unless therefore we rely on ourselves the effects of our actions and thoughts would be as what others ‘tell’ us and ‘show’ us. When we rely on ourselves – we are in control of our own destiny. In this instance ‘destiny’ is not what happens on the outside. It is about the picture in our mind – seen privately by our mind’s eye – the Third Eye.
Some academics at the University of New South Wales said that I had strong ‘insight’. I identify with that. I believe that this insight is the sight through our Truth and happens when all outer senses are stilled. Hindu elders have denoted this through the Third Eye of Lord Shiva – the Lord of the Mind. Like in Christianity, we Hindus also have our Holy Trinity. Brahma the Creator; Vishnu the Protector/Regulator and Shiva the Destroyer of body consciousness. During funeral ceremonies, we chant Sivapuranam – to invoke the powers of Lord Shiva. To me the reason for this is to help release from the combined force of body attachment, the spirit towards the Lord. The combined force is ours plus that of the person passing away.’
To me this addition in my book at this point of time was due to the urge I felt within. Some of this urge I believe, happened due to my investment in University of Jaffna through Lord Shiva – the presiding deity at the University temple. I went to the temple after my meeting with the immediate past Vice Chancellor – Professor Shanmugalingam. I felt that Professor Shanmugalingam was very agitated over the delay by the President in appointing the Vice Chancellor. Three candidates were elected through a voting process – the current Vice Chancellor Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam, Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole and Professor Shanmugalingam. I met Professor Shanmugalingam during a conference in relation to post-war development - the invitation to which was extended by Dr. Noel Nadesan. During the conference, Dr. Ramanathan Narendran who was very kind to our family when we were recovering from the effects of a serious accident here in Sydney, introduced me to Professor Shanmugalingam. To me these ‘caring connections’ come with the spirit of the person who makes the connection of her/his own free will. Professor Shanmugalingam did meet with me and promised to arrange for me to conduct a seminar on resource management. Towards this I went to meet with him during my following visit Jaffna and that was when I found Professor Shanmugalingam in a very anxious state. I advised him to the extent I could and beyond that I went to the University temple and prayed. I prayed to help the University and to help Professor Shanmugalingam feel more settled in his area of expertise. After participating in the midday poojah I sat down on the steps of the temple, ate the sweet rice from the poojah and contemplated. Then a lady walked over to me and talked to me. This lady who was also at the poojah, said she was a member of the staff. I now feel that that was the indicator that the successful candidate for that position was going to be the female candidate. The physical looks of this lady is similar to that of the current Vice Chancellor. I felt that from Professor Shanmugalingam’s side it was more a race between himself and Professor Hoole which when aggravated was negative energy for the University and therefore for him also. Later I wrote publicly in support of Professor Arasaratnam whom I am yet to meet in person. It was more a process of elimination to get the best elected person. After Professor Arasaratnam was appointed I learnt at Yoga Swami Poojah here in Sydney that Professor Arasaratnam was a close relative of fellow devotee of Yoga Swami. I felt that all this confirmed that Professor Arasaratnam was the best suited out of the three candidates. I did contact Professor Arasaratnam through email and offered my services (as I had done with Professor Shanmugalingam) but that offer is yet to be taken up.
This week I could not help wondering about the ‘lost influence’ of the international community that the University was suffering from. The parallel of my offer to University of Jaffna but without the Community connection - was when I applied for the position of UN Secretary General. When Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala was nominated by the Sri Lankan Government for the position of UN Secretary General, I felt the need to have his parallel from the Tamil Community. I did not know what the due process was. I felt the urge to express that a member of the Tamil Community would also be eligible and made my application. The UN Administration did respond and said whilst they appreciated the spirit in which I had applied, the due process was for the government to nominate the candidate. So I wrote to Mr. John Howard – who did not respond. There ended my responsibility to the outer system. Compared to the UN Administration the Administration of the University of Jaffna had greater responsibility to accept contributions from wider Tamil Community. Since they did not – I concluded that they sought to limit themselves to ‘local resources’.
Even today, from a fellow Chartered Accountant, I received a message about Lord Krishna’s saying ‘Do your duty and leave the rest to God’. Not many known to me practice this. I myself did not consciously practice this but by nature I was able to adjust my mind to living within limited resources available to me. This, together with the natural commitment to working at the highest possible level known to me – helped me not to lose faith when the returns did not happen. Gradually this helped me take public action at the highest level of my work – as if I was in that position as opposition to the occupant – starting with the position of Vice Chancellor of the University of New South Wales. This was followed by actions against Ministers and Prime Minister Howard through the path available to me – which was the legal path. In terms of the Sri Lankan Government – it was the application for the position of UN Secretary General. Without this feeling – we do not have the moral authority to say ‘I am the University/ I am the Government.’
I now believe that such actions on the basis of true belief do have the power of influencing the real powers within an institution. Fellow believers benefit from such influence. In Jaffna – at the time Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam was elected through majority vote – Professor Arasaratnam was part of minority power in male dominated Jaffna Administration. Hence the powers of other minorities such as myself would have worked for Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam. Jaffna University Community as a whole did not have enough credits with the system of Natural Justice to deserve an intellectually robust leader familiar with international standards. Professor Shanmugalingam when I met him during the conference and later during our discussions at his office, failed to fit the position of leadership in Democratic Resource Management, as per my inner wisdom. At an interview with Business Today, Professor Shanmugalingam is reported to have stated ‘So to answer your question, it is our aim to give students a good rehabilitation and reconciliation and a normal life for them and their families’
Jaffna’s strength lies within its ability to govern itself. University students and their families have taken on their share the struggle for self governance. I believe that education is the best pathway through which Tamils would achieve self governance. It was for me and hence my destiny too me to the University of New South Wales to begin the public demonstration of my sense of ‘independence’ through Equal Opportunity laws. Hence I expected the chief of University of Jaffna to demonstrate that strength in Tamils. Taken as a whole we do not need rehabilitation or even reconciliation. Traditionally, Tamils undertook higher education towards Financial Independence. This is the case with my generation. This is also the reason why a high percentage of Jaffna Tamils seek to go overseas. Yet, Professor Shanmugalingam failed to demonstrate similar wisdom.
Professor Shanmugalingam stated during the above mentioned interview in August 2010 ‘Recently we signed an MOU with the Management Institute of Northern Province and began the training of officials in the following areas, Project Planning, Community Development and English for Communication’.
Professor Shanmugalingam failed to connect to my wisdom in all of the above and that to me confirmed that he would not fit the role of a leader of Tamil University that would carry forward my generation’s traditional values. Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam seemed to be the one out of the three with the capacity to influence the community to ‘keep going’. The fact that last week’s attack did not get more violent than it did confirms that this has happened through Professor Vasanthy Arasaratnam’s quiet influence with the Government. The incident itself confirms the gap between intellectual pursuit of ‘independence/freedom’ and political pursuit including through armed resistance. Like the Parliament of Sri Lanka, the University of Jaffna also failed to maintain the Separation of Powers between the Academics, Politicians and Society.
After my own inner judgment of the University leadership I moved on to other sources available to me towards sharing my wisdom in ‘Project Planning, Community Development and English for Communication’ – including through Jaffna College and local groups. Some of these could be viewed at http://www.austms.org
Maaveerar Day is Remembrance day of brave soldiers. It is NOT a Remembrance day of intellectual leaders. Who celebrates the death of the Hon Appapillai Amirthalingam whose humble beginnings started at Pannagam in Vattukottai? The Hon Appapillai Amirthalingam qualified as an Advocate and was killed by the LTTE. Hence LTTE and all its supporters lost the moral authority to use intellectual forums and institutions through which to remember their heroes. In addition, University of Jaffna’s presiding deity is Lord Shiva the parent and not Lord Muruga the son who defeated the arrogant Soorapathman in battle. Karthigai Theepam is a celebration of the birth of Lord Muruga. The name Karthigai comes from the celestial maidens who took care of Baby Murugan. There were six of them representing the group of six stars that were formed during the time of birth of Baby Murugan. Hence His other name Karthigeyan. Those who sought to remember brave soldiers – ought to have gone to Murugan temples – including Nallur. Those who were killed by these LTTE Maaveerar include many intellectual Tamils. LTTE supporters need to respect them and through them their contribution to intellectual pursuit of Justice and Independence. Tamil community should not be limited to LTTE leadership. LTTE played a significant role in the pursuit of self governance by Tamils. But their contribution through the traditional path of Education was minimal. LTTE supporters must take their earned position in the Tamil Community as a whole – beyond time and space borders, if we are to realize self governance as a community.
Remembering LTTE at University of Jaffna is the parallel of military training at the Universities – as proposed by the Sri Lankan Government. One invokes the other. Hence the conflict here is between intellectual powers and armed powers. Tamil students who knew about the LTTE supporters ought to have objected confidentially to lighting of the lamp to remember LTTE soldiers. The Tamil MP who joined the students ought to have led others in that path – especially to honor the likes of the Hon Appapillai Amirthalingam of Vattukottai. One who is not independent of her/his own group cannot lead that group to become independent of an outside force.
Professor Laksiri Fernando states ‘The evolving events are alarming and perhaps indicate a major political calamity to come soon. It could be in the form of a ‘quasi-military rule headed by the Executive President’ sans an independent judiciary and a meek Parliament which could sanction anything of the ‘military-executive’ claiming to be a ‘supreme legislature.’ What might be crucial is the unity between the opposition forces in the North and the South.’
I often get asked by Tamils who have similar fears about even visiting Sri Lanka, as to whether I am not afraid of going to Sri Lanka? I respond that I have my people there and to the extent they have the need to live there I feel the need to go there. Each one of us would ‘see’ through our own ‘sight’. I feel Sri Lankan and I do not ‘see’ such a sight for Sri Lanka I have invested in. That is the only Sri Lanka that matters to me. The rest does not. Hence my mind is calm and is not agitated. Others may have invested in other parts of Sri Lanka and this could include in senior positions through which they could lead and direct. To me what happens in those parts where I do not have any portfolio duties are not my responsibility. I can and I do invest in the substance that influences those outcomes. In other words I invest as per my insight into the insight of my parallel in that institution. Beyond that, happenings in those parts that I have not invested in are ‘acts of God’ just like Tsunami. I have not contributed directly to the human efforts to prevent Tsunami. When my people in Batticaloa feel anxious about Tsunami the contact me and I pray with them and add my strength to influencing Divine Powers to prevent damage from Tsunami for my people. Similarly, my prayers are with those who have faith in me as an intellectual. To the extent the community of the University of Jaffna and I are connected through Common faith including through Lord Shiva – my credits with intellectual systems and paths would benefit the University also.