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Navi Pillay’s Antagonists

( September 11, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the typical Sri Lankan style they have helped to give her credibility. The core criticism that had been leveled against Navi Pillay is her primary disqualification in that of being of Tamil origin, she was incapable of being fair in her assessment of the supposed human rights violations against the Tamil people and of course generally. This gives credibility to the suspicion that that Tamil people since independence have harboured of never having been treated fairly and with natural justice even by the justice system. This begs the question that all these years that even Sinhalese judges in the courts of law in the trial of Tamils had been unfair, partial and biased in their decisions towards the Tamils. The Tamils until recently had never thought on those lines and have thus always tried to believe that they could expect justice from the Sri Lankan courts presided over by even Sinhalese judges. The question is whether the Tamils should now contemplate on the presumption that they could expect no fairness and justice from a justice system in a Sinhalese dominated regime especially in the current context.

The judiciary in Sri Lanka until recently comprising judges of all communities for the past many decades had shown unquestioned fairness and sense of justice. The rot started in 1984 when under the 1978 Constitution under J.R. Jayewardene, Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon was impeached under article 107 when Sri Lanka lost one of its fairest judges.

Criticisms against Pillay have opened new avenues of thinking of being suspicious and wary of any action by the Sinhalese government even if said to be taken in their best interests. The animosity as revealed in the tirades against Pillay is itself revelation of the deep seated animosity against the Tamil people was indeed greater than what had been apparent.

What make Navi Pillay more credible are rather more fortuitous than what she would have envisaged. A minister of state, evincing absolute vulgarity and disrespect for women announces with impunity that he was prepared to marry Pillay, not funny at all, unprecedented and unknown in the ruling circles of even in a barbaric society thus revealing the inequality and the disrespect the Sri Lankan society have for the status of women thus also explaining the numerous instances of rape of Tamil women as a weapon of repression. The presence of the two carcasses of female dogs on the burning pyre of the late mother (who was no terrorist) of the LTTE leader and the verbal abuses and insults showered on female journalists by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa are some of the instances of the absolute disrespect for women. What is more, the minister who made those vulgar remarks has to this day refused to apologise.

Further some of the racist remarks based on unfounded assumptions made by some chauvinist ministers like Weerawansa, Ranawake, Rambukwella and others go to strengthen the stand taken by Pillay. In absolute distortion of Pillay's stated intentions some of the subservient media controlled by the Rajapaksas playing second fiddle to them even stated that Pillay had expressed her desire to honour the leader of the LTTE.

Again, the displays painstakingly put up by the Buddhist monks in front of the UN office and elsewhere were a spectacle of the hatred that these holy men bear towards the Tamil people were more than a demonstration against Pillay.

Despite what she unequivocally stated in sharp contrast: "...the LTTE was a murderous organization that committed numerous crimes and destroyed many lives. In fact, my only previous visit to Sri Lanka was to attend a commemoration of the celebrated legislator, peacemaker and scholar, Neelan Tiruchelvam, who was killed by an LTTE suicide bomb in July 1999. Those in the Diaspora who continue to revere the memory of the LTTE must recognize that there should be no place for the glorification of such a ruthless organization." And further..."I would like to pay my respects to all Sri Lankans, across the country, who were killed during those three decades of conflict, and offer my heartfelt sympathy to their families,........." ; the newspapers subservient to the Rajapaklsa regime, unashamedly made out that Pillay had indicated her intention to lay flowers upon the grave of the LTTE leader.

Pillay, it must be noted is no John Holmes, Vijay Nambiar the "honest" broker from India or Sharma. She is incorruptible and made of sterner stuff.

It would be recalled that in early 2009, on a three-day mission in Sri Lanka, Sir John Holmes the UN, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordination, admitted that he hoped to "persuade the Sri Lankan government to suspend its assault and allow a humanitarian team into the conflict zone" adding "the situation of these people is very dire and that's why we need to somehow find a way to stop the fighting". Holmes further stated: "For its part, the government of Sri Lanka must stick to its promise of not using heavy weapons while the fighting lasts, and hold off from any final attack in the conflict zone while the pause is negotiated. ....... Beyond this we need an end to the conflict, and rapid political progress to tackle the underlying issues through the devolution of power and long-term accommodation and reconciliation. With thousands of lives in the balance and the clock ticking, the time for decisive action by the government, the LTTE and the international community is now, before it is too late..... Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places on the earth for humanitarian workers....." Nothing happened.

The progressive repression of the Tamil people over many years not only through the various legislations such as the official languages Act, the Anti Terrorism Act originally directed against the Tamils, the artificial restrictions on the admissions of Tamil students into universities but also the evolution of a terrorist State with its planned Pogroms against the Tamils and the cultural genocide by the burning of the Jaffna library to ashes are all evidence of this kind animosity evinced in most echelons of the Sinhala society.

The Rajapaksa brothers being crude, lacking in the finesse as their predecessors and coming from a rural background cannot but expose themselves to such assessment but it makes them all the more popular with the sections of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists. The irony of it all is that Mahinda Rajapaksa the Head of the terrorist State made out that he was at war with international terrorists who happened to be just Tamil militants who believed that they were fighting the terrorism of the Sri Lankan State. We do not in any way condone the acts of terrorism committed by the LTTE.

It is interesting to recall the comment made by a prominent and respected Tamil parliamentarian who said that racism under the apartheid was skin deep whereas the racism in Sri Lanka was soul deep. The general Sri Lankan attitude towards the Tamils as reflected in the majority attitude towards Pillay has confirmed the impression prevalent in the international community.

( The writer is the editor of the Eelam Nation, an online journal)

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