Accountability as Applicable to Sri Lanka

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( March 13, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) During my most recent stay in Sri Lanka, someone who openly declares that I am her role model said that she was not able to complete her workplace activities to her satisfaction. I listened to her account of the state of affairs at her workplace and suggested as follows:

  • 1. Foundation Layer – the work done within this is the common area for the (a) worker, (b) senior management and (c ) governors - including the chairperson – connecting the organization to the outside world – including the National Government and beyond
  • 2. Accountable Layer – the work done within this is the extra work done by the individual as per her/his position within the organization. Group (c ) above would not directly identify with this work but others within (b) would relate to it through their own positions
  • 3. Independently Observable Layer – To most in (a) and (b) this would largely be theory. My advice to my friend was to do work in that area to satisfy those in group (c ) who would have the responsibility to deliver to wider world. I said that in this area one would largely work for grades from those in group (c ) and suggested not to try and produce objectively measurable outcomes in this area.

In terms of the Sri Lankan problem / solution also one could identify with the above three layers. Most residents are in Foundation Layer. Within that layer – we do not need to explain or be accountable to each other. There is common understanding and identification within this area.
The Accountable Layer is the most active layer – with strong investors in Sri Lanka working through their respective positions. If the positions they take are earned as per their true assessment – they would appreciate where others in that layer are coming from. Most Diaspora investors are in this category. To the extent we seek to ‘show’ our work belongs in this Accountable area.
The Top layer is the Observable layer and is the Governing area and includes the Sri Lankan Government and those who position themselves as the Sri Lankan Government’s Opposition or Allies/ Associates.
I group myself as belonging in the Foundation layer as well as the Accountable layer– the same groups that my friend identifies herself through in her organization. When working at grassroots level – as part of the resident community – I feel that we understand each other. If there is continuous misunderstanding - then to me that area needs to be escalated to the accountable level as per my earned position in that environment. I find that most Diaspora members take up positions within Governance layer – and thus contribute less than their share to the Accountable layer – as per their earned positions.
Today I received an email from a Diaspora leader and the essence of it is:

Academics criticize R2P, emphasize inapplicability to Eezham Tamils
[TamilNet, Sunday, 10 March 2013, 20:12 GMT]
Even as certain groups of the establishments are suggesting the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine to the Eezham Tamils, the concept has come under severe criticism by academics who attended the “Conference on Tamil People’s Rights” at Geneva on 02 March. While British academic Dr. Andy Higginbottom argued that R2P was “a humanitarian face to further US interests”, Ireland based Sinhala academic Dr. Jude Lal Fernando stated that “At a time when the powers are giving economic diplomatic and military support to the Sri Lankan state, talking about R2P is nonsensical”, in their opinions conveyed to TamilNet. Dr. Fernando also stressed the need for “the application of remedial sovereignty by means of an UN referendum conducted by powers who were not involved in the genocide.”
The Responsibility to Protect is for those who have taken up Governance Position. To my mind, there is no accountability within this area. Where the responsibility could be calculated, applied and monitored – it falls within the Accountable area. It cannot be imposed on Governors – be they Tamil or Sinhalese. One has the Natural Right to expect to be Protected to the extent of one’s genuine faith in the Government. Those who have denounced the Sri Lankan Government and have declared that they do not have any faith in that government do not have any natural right to expect to be protected by that Government. This is where there is a natural gap between Resident Tamils and Diaspora Tamils.
Recently I received an email regarding the interview with Ms Niromi De Soyza ( with the following message:
If Niromi De Soysa, a self confessed Tiger is granted refugee status, what about the many refugee seekers in detention because of adverse reports from ASIO.

To my mind, when Niromi De Soysa was granted refugee status in Australia – the Australian Government was using its Discretionary powers as a Government. Now, with stronger investment in the Sri Lankan issue – the Australian Government has the responsibility to use the Accountability layer in relation to Refugee Applicants from Sri Lanka. Besides, Ms Niromi De Soysa has confessed to not having been back to Sri Lanka – the post war situation. By expecting other Tamils to be treated in the same manner as she was – Ms Niromi De Soysa is taking up Governing position – instead of the Accountability position – especially considering that she is being presented as an educated contributor to the Sri Lankan issue. Time and Place are strong influences that take our participation from one layer to another.

The contributions within the Foundation layer and the Top layer are natural to the common owners in those areas and hence there ought to be no accountability requirements in this area – be it for Sri Lankans or for Australians. Membership in this area is through self placement as per one’s feelings. Membership in the middle Accountable area is as per merit. The Foundation area is driven by common faith and the Governing area is driven by Discretionary Powers of the Leadership – the same way most Judges are allowed discretionary powers – beyond the calculated area. Where Accountability is required – the matter automatically comes down to the Middle Accountable layer. The requirements of the UN in relation to the Sri Lanka need to be grouped appropriately and one measure should not be indiscriminately applied to all requirements.

As happened to me as an individual in Australia but not in Sri Lanka – one could be blocked by Administrators in taking up Governing positions as per one’s own assessment. As per my experience – to the extent we are genuine, the recognition comes from someone who actually needed that kind of governance. If we are not attached to the returns of our investments – we would recognize that the investment in Australia is returned naturally in Sri Lanka – provided we raise the contribution to ownership level – which means we are the workers and we are the beneficiaries. The returns happen where we feel we belong. Once we are blocked effectively from taking up official positions of governance – it is time to retire from active work in that environment – unless one needs money and status – for self and/or family and community.