Drying up Ideological Wellsprings of Arab – Israeli Conflict

| by Nicola Nasser*

( October 31, 2013, Birzeit, West Bank, Sri Lanka Guardian) Gradually, awareness that de-Zionization of the US and European foreign policy as well as the internal policies of the State of Israel has become a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East is steadily taking roots in Israeli and world public opinion and consciousness.

However this awareness has yet to wait for drying up the Zionist ideological wellsprings of the Arab – Israeli conflict and translating it into real politics by de-Zionization of Israel and disengaging western foreign policy from its ideological attachment to Zionism.

In his article published by Foreign Policy on last October 25, James Traub quoted US President Barak Obama in a speech last May, “announcing a re-formulation of the war on terror,” as saying: “We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root;” the only alternative to “perpetual war” is a sustained effort to reduce “the wellsprings of extremism.”

The “wellsprings” of “perpetual wars” and “extremism” in the Middle East during most of the past twentieth century until now could easily be detected in the unholy combination of real politics and the “radical ideology” of the secular - turned - religious Zionism.

This combination made it possible and seemingly ethical for Americans and Europeans to accept and justify the unethical displacement of the indigenous Arab people of Palestine to be replaced by a multi-national artificial gathering of Jews who suffered oppression, anti – Semitism, pogroms and holocaust in their western home countries.

US and European continued attachment to the Zionist ideology lies at the heart of their treatment of Israel, the offspring of this ideology, as one of their top “vital interests” in the Middle East, which is an attachment that in turn lies at the heart of anti-Americanism and other forms of Arab conflicts with the “west.”

The safe haven of the “new world” in America was a timely and practical solution for Europeans to get rid of and solve their “Jewish Question;” it now absorbs more Jews than Israel does.

The communists offered their own solution; it materialized in the Jewish autonomous “Oblast” first ever republic in the Russian Birobidzhan, close to the border of the former Soviet Union with China, which was home to some three million Jews before some one third of them immigrated to Israel following the collapse of the communist empire.

The nation states basing citizenship on the rule of law is now the rule of the day in Europe, where Jews enjoy full constitutional religious, civil, political and all the other rights enjoyed by their compatriots.

There is no more a “Jewish Question” in Europe in particular or in the west in general. If such a question still persists there it is one related to the disproportionate influence of Jewish citizens on the decision makers in the political, financial and media arenas.

Nonetheless, the Zionist propaganda in Israel and abroad is still fervently inciting that Jews are an endangered species outside Israel, soliciting Jewish immigration, encouraging dual citizenship and binational loyalty among them and considering all Jews outside Israel as “refugees.”

Writing in the http://www.huffingtonpost.com on September 6 last year, Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian leader and elected parliamentarian, quoted Shlomo Hillel, a government minister and an active Zionist from Iraq, as saying, “I don't regard the departure of Jews from Arab lands as that of refugees. They came here because they wanted to, as Zionists” and quoted Former Knesset member Ran Cohen, who immigrated from Iraq, as saying: “I have to say: I am not a refugee. I came at the behest of Zionism.”

Consequently, the “Jewish Question” moved ironically to the very Arab safe haven to which the oppressed European Jews fled with their lives to survive the culture of inquisition in Medieval Europe. The largest Jewish minority among Arabs in Morocco nowadays tells the story.

This Arab safe haven was turned by the Zionist ideology into a hell of wars, instability, ongoing conflict and home of a revived “Jewish Question” since Israel was artificially created 65 years ago in the heart of the Arab world, where Jews used previously to be a prosperous minority in every one of the capitals of the 22 Arab states except Jordan.

Zionism justifies the creation of Israel in Palestine by two basic controversial arguments: That God promised the land to Jews no matter what would happen to its Arab inhabitants who was there long before Joshua and his army crossed River Jordan to destroy Jericho and kill every man, woman, child and animal by “God’s command.”

On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary then, Lord Balfour, acted as the self – appointed messenger of God’s will to issue a modern God’s promise to Jews to have a “homeland” in Palestine.

The modern justification of the Holocaust does not care that another people, namely Arab Palestinians, pay the price for a crime they did not commit.

Ironic but informative as well is the fact that Zionism was not originally a Jewish product.

According to the author of “Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?” (InterVarsity Press, 2004) Revd. Dr. Stephen Sizer, writing in the Middle East Monitor on last August 1, “The origins of the movement can be traced to the early 19th century when a group of eccentric British Christian leaders began to lobby for Jewish restoration to Palestine as a necessary precondition for the return of Christ… Christian Zionism therefore preceded Jewish Zionism by more than 50 years. Some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates were Christian clergy.” Dr. Sizer headlined his article, “Christian Zionism: The Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace.”

He, together with the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem: The Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad of the Syrian Orthodox, the Episcopal Church Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal and the Evangelical Lutheran Church Bishop Munib Younan issued in 2006 and signed the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, which concluded: “We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.”

The Zionist narrative was challenged by Israel’s “New Historians.” Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe’, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Hillel Cohen, Baruch Kimmerling and others have already reconsidered and created a post – Zionists’ awareness. Pappe’ concluded that the Zionist leaders planned and executed “ethnic cleansing” to displace most of the Arab Palestinians.

Shlomo Sand’s trilogy - - “The Invention of the Jewish People,” “The Invention of the Land of Israel” and his upcoming third volume “The Invention of the Secular Jew” - - hits hard at the very foundations of Zionism.

The fact that the secular Zionism was not popular among the world religious Jewry in the early stages of the movement and that it is an ideology still opposed by a strong Jewish minority is a fact Zionists are keen to smokescreen.

“The UN avenue” in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was renamed "The Zionism avenue" in response to the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) of Resolution 3379 on November 10, 1975, which determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination;” it was revoked by the UNGA resolution 46/86 in 1991; the ongoing Israeli Zionist ideology and practices render its repeal a premature step that should be reconsidered to reinstate it.

The world community as represented by the United Nations, by adopting resolution 181 of 1947 dividing Palestine between its indigenous Arab Palestinians and the invading aliens of the Zionist settlers played in the hands of Christian and Jewish Zionism to commit an historical mistake that doomed peace in the Middle East as an elusive humanitarian hope for a long time to come.

Jews were an integral part of the region’s history and social fabric until Zionism cut this fact short. Only the prerequisite of de-Zionization of Israel and world politics will make peace a dream that would come true in the region and restore history to its normal course in it. The Crusaders’ interruption of the regional history is an informative precedent from which all those concerned could draw lessons.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

Children of a Lesser God

| by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“…justice by its very nature has to have a universal reach, rather than being applicable to the problems and predicaments of some people but not of others”.
Amartya Sen (The Idea of Justice)

( October 31, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Rs.1.8 billion was spent on building one kilometre of the Katunayake-Colombo expressway.

That was more than the 2014 Budgetary allocation for Child Development and Women’s Affairs (Rs.1.24 billion), Culture and Arts (Rs.1.48 billion), Telecommunication and Industrialisation Technology (Rs.0.957 billion), Wildlife Resources and Conservation (Rs.1.31 billion), National Heritage (Rs.1.26 billion) or Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare (Rs.0.58 billion).

The total cost of the new expressway was Rs.45.7 billion, reportedly sufficient to purchase 7 tonnes of gold at current market prices2. The money spend on this one short expressway is higher than the 2014 Budgetary allocation for Education (Rs.38.84 billion), Irrigation and Water Resource Management (Rs.41.2 billion), Agriculture (Rs.44.47 billion), Higher Education (Rs.29.5 billion), Power and Energy (Rs.23.74 billion), Technology and Research (Rs.3.76 billion), Environment and Renewable Energy (Rs.4.26 billion) or Social Services (Rs.4.3 billion).

The Southern Expressway is a loss-maker (around Rs.5.5 billion annually, due to debt-service costs3); there is no reason to think that the Katunayake-Colombo Expressway would fare any better. This danger is particularly acute given that the new expressway was built with a Chinese loan and the Chinese seems to be more prone to Shylockian methods than even the Americans or the IMF - as evidenced by the sudden punitive increase (5%) in the interest on the loan for the jobless-Hambantota Port. (The ordinary homes of ordinary people near the new expressway have become structurally compromised. They are yet to receive the promised compensation – and may never will.)

According to Fitch Ratings, post-war Sri Lanka has been remarkably unsuccessful in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI); the average net FDI since 2009 is a miniscule 1.2% of GDP. “This is low in comparison with most regional peers and has fuelled a reliance on debt-creating capital….. This has kept the external debt burden at 57% of GDP which is much higher than all other emerging Asian markets, except Mongolia”4.

Predictably the largest chunk in the 2014 Budget is set aside for Defence and Urban Development. A recent news item indicates the confoundingly illogical manner in which some of this mammoth allocation might be spent. According to the Daily Mirror, post-war Sri Lanka is planning to buy JF-17 Thunder combat plane(s) from Pakistan5. The jets are being manufactured as a Pakistan-Chinese joint venture; the minimum production cost of a plane is estimated at US$ 15 million. Even if Colombo buys only one fighter-jet and does so by paying only the lowest production cost, it would cost the country a behemothic Rs.1.96 billion.

Why does Sri Lanka, which is not menaced by any armed threat internally or externally, need to buy fighter-jets at such a mountainous cost?

China is reportedly keen to find buyers for the JF-17 combat planes – since 2011. So far only the Pakistani Air Force has actually agreed to purchase the jets. Are we buying weapons we do not need, due to Chinese pressure? Have the Chinese adopted the US/Western practice of tied-aid and taken it to still more execrable lengths? Is Mao’s warning about the ‘Sugar-coated bullets’ of the bourgeoisie more applicable to the international economic policies of his successors?

China is the world’s fifth largest exporter of major conventional arms, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Tiny Sri Lanka reportedly accounts for 2% of total Chinese arms sales6. Will we have to spend increasing amounts of our national wealth – and incur more Chinese debt – to purchase superfluous pieces of exorbitantly-priced military hardware, as our ‘contribution’ to China’s growing military-industrial complex?

Are the Rajapaksas beggaring the nation and burdening countless future generations with a colossal debt to appease their Chinese patrons and keep the money coming for their megalomanic projects?

Even as national security costs become rooted at stratospheric levels, the security of ordinary people continues to erode. Ordinary Lankans are menaced not just by increasingly violent criminals and increasingly ubiquitous criminal politicos but also by the discriminatory politico-economic-social polices of the Rajapaksas.

In the 1990’s the UNDP warned about false growth paths which can undermine a country’s future: Jobless Growth, Voiceless Growth (growth without participation, empowerment and democracy), Ruthless Growth (growth which widens the rich-poor gap), Rootless Growth (growth which destroys positive cultural traditions) and Futureless Growth (growth which denudes the environment). The Rajapaksa economic strategy seems to be a concourse of many of these false – and anti-developmental - growth paths. The Hambantota Harbour is a classic example for ‘Jobless Growth’ while the incidents of water and air poisoning in Weliweriya, Dorape and Batakettara indicate that people might find their habitats unliveable in the most basic sense, sans breathable air and drinkable water. (Incidentally, such basic environmental degradation can affect the rich and the powerful as well).

The Supreme Court ruling against the residents of Slave Island has opened the door to mass-eviction of people from their homes/communities in the name of development. Emboldened by the UNP’s indifference (a mindset common to Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa; neither one nor the other has come forward to protect Colombo’s poor who are also UNP supporters/voters) the regime is likely to intensify its land-grabbing. Incidentally, the seven acre prime-land freed from its Lankan inhabitants will be given to the Indian TATA company.

In Kattuwan North, Jaffna, the military has begun demolishing houses to expand army bases. Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya dismissed this dispossession by claiming that it was being done legally: “There could have been legal owners previously. But now the lands have been taken over by the government”7.

From North to South, the Siblings will use the Rajapaksa-judiciary to provide legal cover for acts of pillage by the Rajapaksa-state. And ordinary people, of all ethnicities/religions, will be left with no protection, succour, recourse or rescue.

Discriminatory Governance

Discrimination is a fundamental Rajapaksa trait, a defining characteristic of the Siblings’ political and socio-economic policies. Treating ordinary Lankans (including their own supporters – ex. Weliweriya) as ‘children of a lesser god’ is a basic tenet of Rajapaksa rule.

Adam Smith warned that the “disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition…is…the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”8 That attitude has become the leitmotiv of Rajapaksa Governance, as is evidenced by sharp contrast between the Siblings’ juvenile excitement about the Commonwealth or their reverential welcome to the likes of James Packer and their total indifference to the socio-economic trials and travails of ordinary Lankans.

An economy can be neo-liberal or state socialist/capitalist; it can be market or state dominated or a combination thereof. But if policymakers do not place human welfare at the centre of development or factor human welfare in crafting and implementing economic strategies/tactics, development will remain an abstraction as far as the majority are concerned.

To use a Biblical parable, it will be the kind of economy where the stealing of the poor man’s sole ewe by the rich man is depicted as development. Isn’t that the Rajapaksa-Way?

1 The title is from an American movie which in turn was inspired by a line in a Tennyson poem, ‘Idylls of the King’.
3 http://www.ceylontoday.lk/27-28421-news-detail-southern-expressway-incurs-rs-55-b-loss.html
4 http://www.fitchratings.com/gws/en/fitchwire/fitchwirearticle/Sri-Lanka's-Resilience?pr_id=805953&cm_sp=homepage-_-FitchWire-_-%20Sri%20Lanka's%20Resilience%20Masks%20Medium-Term%20Credit%20Risks
5 http://www.dailymirror.lk/top-story/37722-pakistan-to-sell-jf-17-fighter-jets-to-sl-report.html
6 http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/china-shoots-into-top-arms-exporters-club/article4522762.ece
7 http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/sri_lanka/2013/10/131028_jaffna_houses_land.shtml; http://colombogazette.com/2013/10/29/army-says-land-acquired-legally/
8 The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Palestine's Mandela

Marwan Barghouti's popularity can give new momentum to the Palestinian struggle.

| by Shannon Ebrahim
Al Jazeera

( October 29, 2013, Dhoha, Sri Lanka Guardian) On Sunday, October 27, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation launched an international campaign from the infamous Robben Island - where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years - for the release of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian political prisoners.

The symbolism is powerful. Kathrada launched the "Release Mandela" campaign in 1963, just prior to his own arrest, which saw him also incarcerated on South Africa's Robben Island for 18 years. Now half a century later, as an 84-year-old veteran, he is launching yet another campaign for an iconic freedom fighter.

Barghouti's wife, Fadwa, travelled to Robben Island with the Palestinian Minister for Detainees, along with hundreds of special guests, including South African struggle veterans and five Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Barghouti was the first member of the Palestinian Legislative Council to be arrested by Israel, and is one of the most prominent of the more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners who remain incarcerated in Israeli jails. The European Union and the Inter-Parliamentary Union have called for his release.

Barghouti's struggle

Huddled in the back of a fish restaurant in the Gaza Strip in 2001, a few African National Congress (ANC) members of parliament and I sat whispering with Marwan Barghouti. We knew he was number one on Israel's hit list, but little did we know that within nine months he would be kidnapped by Israeli forces, interrogated and tortured for 100 days, put in solitary confinement for 1,000 days, and, more than 11 years later, become known as "the Palestinian Mandela".

In an interview Barghouti gave to Al-Monitor in May 2013, he described how the Israelis had kept him in solitary confinement for almost three years in a tiny cell infested with cockroaches and rats. His windowless cell had denied him aeration or direct sunlight, with dirt falling from the ceiling. He was only allowed one hour of exercise a day while handcuffed. He proved unbreakable after three years.

Barghouti's defiance of the largest military power in the Middle East was inspiring, reminiscent of the fiery determination of the ANC leaders in South Africa twenty years earlier. At the time we met him he was the Secretary General of Fatah, the leader of Fatah's armed branch Tanzim, and had been the brains behind the first and second intifada. His revolutionary spirit was electric.

He knew very well that sooner or later Mossad would catch up with him, despite his best efforts at being a black pimpernel. In one of a number of attempts to assassinate Barghouti in 2001, the Israeli military ended up killing his bodyguard in a targeted strike. In April 2002, Israeli forces hid in the back of an ambulance and ambushed the house he was staying in, grabbing him. He was later charged for his activities under Tanzim and given five life sentences.

But as with most exceptional freedom fighters elsewhere, his message and persona grew in prison. His popularity has surpassed that of all Palestinian leaders - both in Hamas and Fatah - and he is being hailed by Palestinians as a unifying figure who could lead his people to freedom.

His propensity to unite Fatah and Hamas into one powerful liberation movement insisting on a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders makes him a dangerous threat to Israel's political establishment. Barghouti's message is so powerful that Hamas has rallied behind him. When Hamas recently engaged in negotiations on a prisoner exchange with Israel in return for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, they had put Marwan Barghouti at the top of their list. For Israel, Barghouti's release was not negotiable.

Apartheid and resistance

Palestinian unity threatens Israel's strategy - which seems to be to delay peace talks, claiming to have no peace partner, while grabbing more land through settlements. That strategy has worked so far, in that settlement building has increased three or four times over the two decades of negotiations. What is left of historic Palestine is Swiss cheese - full of holes, with little contiguous territory. Its comparison to the old South African Bantustan maps is hard to avoid. Where Palestinian villages and towns remain, they are surrounded by the massive apartheid wall, in most instances cut off from their water resources and farm land, which have been annexed by Israeli settlers.

Where Mahmoud Abbas has given in to Israeli demands, opposing all forms of armed resistance, and establishing unprecedented economic and security cooperation with the occupying authorities, Marwan Barghouti has called for an end to all forms of cooperation with the Israeli occupation. Barghouti has been against the collaboration of US-trained Palestinian security forces with Israeli forces, which he believes has guaranteed the security of growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Barghouti has also been scathing about the Arab Ministerial delegation to Washington in April 2013, which proposed amending the 1967 borders in return for land swaps. He considers this the Arab rulers' worst betrayal of the Palestinian cause. While the Gulf monarchies may have tried to gamble with the future of the Palestinian people, Barghouti's principled stand has found resonance on the Arab street.

The most famous Palestinian political prisoner is now calling for a third intifada - a non-violent mass uprising. Non-violent protest will deny Israel the ability to dismiss legitimate Palestinian demands as "terrorism", a strategy that has discredited the Palestinian cause for many outside observers. It will be a Palestinian version of the Arab Spring that will dominate the headlines and galvanise international public opinion.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is only too well aware of the dangers of such calls. His focus at the United Nations and in private diplomacy on Iran as a nuclear threat has deflected the world's attention from Palestinian independence, settlement building, and freeing legitimate peace partners.

If Barghouti's attempt, from prison, to inspire a non-violent protest movement captures the imagination of Palestinians, it could start a significant new chapter in the heretofore tragic history of the Palestinians' struggle for justice.

Shannon Ebrahim is a South African columnist on foreign affairs, a freelance writer, and political consultant. She has worked as the Director for International Relations for the South African Presidency, and coordinated Government policy on the Middle East and East Africa. Follow her on Twitter: @shannonfield7

South Korea: Samsung's way of the denial of the Constitution?

( October 30, 2013, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is alleged that the 'No-Union Policy' has been the management principle of the Samsung group since it was established 75 years ago. This policy has allegedly been perpetrated and has subsequently become public knowledge. According to the information received, a lawmaker disclosed a document (called, "2012 S group's labour and management strategy" in Korean, personal information in the eleventh slide is withheld by author, hereafter 'the strategy document') on October 14, which was used for an executive members' meeting in 2012 for the group, containing Samsung group's strategies for the destruction of efforts to unionise. The document is significant because it verifies this policy, is the first written evidence of such a scheme, and it elaborates as to how the management intends to thwart employees involved in any attempt to create a union. This raises deep concerns and has drawn the immediate attention of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The strategy document contains detailed strategies on how to react to any attempt to prepare for the establishment of a union, one of which says: "If a situation where a union is established arises, collapse it as quickly as possible with full capabilities. If the union is not collapsed, then kill it (cause it to dissolve – explanation by author)." It also advises that the management should daily collect and keep records of delinquent acts of work performance or non-performance of the employees so that if anyone attempts to form a union, the records can be used as evidence to either dismiss them or take disciplinary action against them in order to avoid possible charges of unfair labour practices. It also recommends profiling personal information such as hobbies, friendships with other employees, personal assets, and tolerance for alcohol. The document exemplifies the Samsung Everland Co. as a company with the best practice. This company had made a "yellow union" in late June with which it had made a collective bargaining agreement, which provided a legal basis for denial of engaging in collective bargaining with the newly established union: Korean Metal Workers' Union Gyeonggi Regional Branch Samsung Local. As proved, employees involved have faced several legal cases from the company before and after the Samsung Local was established in July 2011.

In fact, trade unions exist at eight Samsung companies and most of them existed before the companies were taken over by the Samsung group (which now has a total of 27 affiliated companies). However, allegedly, most of these unions are so called "yellow unions." Notably, the Samsung Local, established in July 2011 at the Samsung Everland Co., has been continually targeted by the Samsung group. Employees involved in the establishment of the trade union have reportedly suffered from various forms of harassment and threats from the company in an attempt to deter them from forming a union for any length of time. According to the union activists such harassment includes illegal surveillance, conciliation, threats, assaults, disciplinary action, dismissal, legal action, and interference with distribution of the union's magazine. Considering these circumstances, it is reasonable to believe that the Samsung group has adopted and operated strategies such as those written in the strategy document on more than one occasion. Reports indicate that investigations and prosecutions are not carried out properly; it appears that those responsible are not beyond the influence of the group. (see further: AHRC-STM-073-2012)

When it comes to occupational diseases the relevant authorities, such as National Labour Relations Commission and Korea Workers' Compensation & Welfare Service, have been criticised for deciding in favour of the company and deciding appeals on the advice of the relevant company of the group. This would mean that the institutions that are supposed to function for the protection of workers are in fact playing a role in delaying justice to the families of the dead or those suffering occupational diseases. It is reported that more than 40 workers died and at least 100 workers, as of November 2011, have suffered from blood cancers (leukaemia and lymphoma) in Samsung Electronics factories producing semi-conductors, LCDs, mobiles, and other devices (please see further the report prepared by SNU Public Interest Legal Clinic Source Book). Another obstruction in similar cases is that the burden of proof that lies on the complainants who are workers. The Samsung Electronics Co. has refused to provide any requested information claiming it would reveal business secrets (see further a letter of allegation sent to relevant UN Special Procedures on September 25, 2013). Despite the serious nature of these cases, the families of those who died or suffer have been struggling for justice for many years.

Failure of the Korean government to adhere to their obligations to the UN Covenants

Being a state party to both international covenants on civil and political and social, economic and cultural rights, it is the obligation of the government of South Korea to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil those rights. The right to form a trade union and the freedom of association are enshrined in the article 8 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and article 22 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights respectively.

Obligations are incurred by the commission or omission of an act by the government. In order to ensure the rights are implemented, the government shall take steps by appropriate means of legislative, administrative and judicial measures. Thus, the government's obligation to protect includes a duty to prevent individuals or third parties from violating those rights.

Accordingly, if no action is taken against the unfair labour practices of the Samsung group by the government, it will be highly likely that international human rights bodies will hold the government of South Korea responsible for their lack of due diligence to prevent the violations. Therefore, the contents of the strategy document require immediate attention from an investigatory body to take appropriate action, unless the government intends to disregard its international obligations as well as any potential negative impact on foreign investors in the future caused by the lack of due diligence.

Protection of domestic legislation
In fact, domestic legislation provides more protection of those rights. According to article 33(1) of the Constitution "workers shall have the right to independent association, collective bargaining and collective action." In order for the realisation of these rights, article 81(1) of Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act further prohibits employers from committing acts that include, 'Dismissal of or discrimination against a worker on the grounds that the worker has joined or intended to join a trade union, intended to establish a trade union, or performed a lawful act for the operation of a trade union.' However, in spite of this being codified it is not enforced, rather it is ignored, particularly in the workplaces of the Samsung group. As expected then, there has hardly been any action taken by the government against the continued deprivation of rights guaranteed in the Constitution. This dereliction should no longer be tolerated.

It is necessary to recall the rapid development of the normative framework in the field of business and human rights; the global companies will have less space for their business if such discriminatory practices continue.

In response to the release of the strategy document, the Samsung group acknowledged on 14 October 2013 that the document was prepared for a seminar for higher level officials of the group in early 2012 in order to discuss the desirable culture of the organisation. It added that Samsung group has maintained a no-union stance throughout its growth as a global company like other companies (such as Apple, IBM, HP, Google and MS). In response to criticism, the group noted, on October 20, that Samsung did not prepare the document.

However, there are important facts that the group has acknowledged: firstly, the group encouraged and educated its high-level officials to violate the Constitutional rights of their workers, other rights such as the right to privacy and against discrimination of employees on grounds of their union activities; secondly several cases currently at trials are enough to prove the strategies are indeed carried out in accordance with the strategies mentioned in the document.

In addition, the examples of the US based companies are actually misleading. The fact is that the rights of workers written in the Korean Constitution are not the same as those in the US Constitution. This evidence illustrates that the rights of workers of the Korean Constitution are not applied to employees of the group, since their rights are not as protected as one would imagine the Constitution demands. Thus, if no investigation is carried out, it will only prove that a policy and practice of an enterprise is above the law of the Constitution of a country. Furthermore, in the United States, cases of discrimination against union activists on grounds of their union activism and the criminal activities of obtaining personal information, threat or harassment to deter them from joining a union by the company are taken very seriously by the judiciary which is not the case in South Korea.

Given the above, the AHRC wishes to share its concerns and add its voice to those of the local organisations asking for a special investigation to be carried out in the workplaces of the Samsung group where Constitutional rights are ignored. The AHRC urges the government to take appropriate steps to ensure the rights enshrined in the Korean Constitution are enjoyed in its jurisdiction and to fulfil its obligations to international human rights laws to which the government is a state party. The AHRC will closely monitor, follow up, and take further action on this situation as it deems fit. The Samsung group is explicitly urged to declare to the public that those rights are acknowledged in all affiliated companies of the group and the rights of workers enshrined in the Constitution are enjoyed by its employees. The group must also declare publically that their discriminatory practices against workers wishing to create a union has ceased forthwith.

( The statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission)

How well will CHOGM Chairmanship sit on MR?

| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( October 30, 2103, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Some believe the chairmanship of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), officially referred to as 'Chairperson-in-Office,' which will be bestowed on Mahinda Rajapaksa, could be more of a crown of thorns than a crown of power and glory. Observed in the backdrop of the Indian-levered Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections, the UK Government-influenced action in arresting a government politician for the murder of a British tourist and the withdrawal of CHOGM visa restrictions imposed on foreign journalists, who were critical of the government, are some events which hint at the possibility that the crown much anticipated by Mahinda may yet prove to be too thorny to wear. But, when considered with clear objectivity it may prove, after all, to be a crown which will adorn the wearer, Mahinda.

India, which made it possible for Sri Lanka to host CHOGM here, was strongly convinced that Mahinda Rajapaksa would be amenable for a reformed performance, once he is bestowed with the CHOGM Chairmanship. India showed the West that the strategy it adopted in persuading Mahinda to hold the NPC election was a strong indication that they are on the right track. After assuming the CHOGM Chairmanship, Mahinda would be more careful in his political pursuits, which in turn would help preserve and uphold democratic traditions in Sri Lanka.

Khuram Shaikh murder

Britain too condoned the Indian strategy and benefitted from it by exerting pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to instigate action to do justice for the murder of the British Red Cross worker, Khuram Shaikh, on Christmas Eve of 2011, by a powerful local-level politician. Britain, it is now apparent, is fully assuaged by the governmental action in the tourist murder case and is no longer seen to be displaying much interest in the apparent irregularities in the process followed in the removal of former Chief Justice, Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake.

Mahinda Rajapaksa saw to it that the ouster of the 43rd Chief Justice went through quickly and was concluded before the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group Meeting, which was then poised to seal the fate of holding CHOGM in Sri Lanka. He was successful in both ventures.

Presumably, Mahinda does not appear to consider the CHOGM Chairmanship as anything detrimental to his future activities, either internally or externally. Judging by his shrewd and subtle manipulation of the opposition, the media and the NPC; it is patently clear the CHOGM crown on Mahinda's head will not just be an ornament, but a powerful weapon, which he could wield to good effect when it suits him best.

Realistically, Mahinda likes to have the CHOGM Chairmanship, not just for the sake of adding another feather to his cap. It stands to reason to think that he has an apparently weightier compulsion to wear this crown. That is, to use it as a shield for protection when Western powers with vested interests and holier-than-though attitude raise war crimes and human rights violation charges against the government. It could be effectively used to fend off such vexing unsubstantiated charges.

Medamulana diplomacy

Recently, when Kenya was calling on the African Commonwealth member countries to boycott CHOGM, Mahinda used Medamulana diplomacy to effectively silence Kenya, thus preventing a probable crisis situation.

In a media statement over the weekend, the Deputy Foreign Minister stated that after assuming the CHOGM Chairmanship, Mahinda Rajapaksa would be looking forward to addressing the problems of the African nations. It is also a clear indication that Mahinda would use his new role to widen his scope in international involvement.

Mahinda was able to successfully deflect human rights violation charges brought against the government by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), after the conclusion of the war in 2009. Yet, in 2012, he was unable to successfully handle the UNHRC allegations.

As is evident now, when the UNHRC allegations are brought to bear on the country again, Mahinda will not take things lying down; he will use his influence as the CHOGM Chairperson-in-office to elicit support from other member countries, to strengthen his hand. The Kenya crisis is a good starting point for him to cleverly use as an opening gambit to marshal forces against spurious human rights allegations raised against various countries by Western powers from time to time. Therefore, undisputedly, CHOGM Chairmanship is going to be a crown with a halo of power and strength to adorn Mahinda.

Return of the Tiger

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( October 30, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) This morning, I received advice regarding the destruction of Kali Amman Temple in Dambulla, Sri Lanka. It is very saddening to read about such barbarism. Mother Kali is common to Tamils as well as Sinhalese in Sri Lanka.

Even if one true devotee feels the pain – the return karma would be physical. Karma happens naturally and unless we raise our expressions to the higher level, we are seeking return at the physical level. As per Hindu belief – Holy Mother is personified as Kali, Lakshmi & Saraswathi depicting Physical strength, Money wealth and Education respectively.

In Jaffna those who use their physical strength worship Mother Kali. We take care of a Family Vairavar-Kali temple in Northern Sri Lanka and I feel strongly protected by Mother Kali. I believe that I am protected from physical violence due to my faith in Mother Kali. When we believe, we naturally invoke those powers.

Even though the Sri Lankan Constitution recognizes Buddhism as the first religion, majority race in Sri Lanka are actually so only in name. True Buddhists would seek the path of non-violence. By making Buddhism the first religion in Sri Lanka, the Government has placed on itself, the responsibility to lead Buddhist citizens to consciously follow in the path of Buddha. When one acts violently – in an area without specific responsibility – the return is at that level – one to one. But when one acts violently in an area where one has position duty - the return is raised to that level. When the violence is natural to the person or the act hurts a person committed to non-violence – the return is exponential. That was how I saw the karma of the Vice Chancellor University of New South Wales who failed to protect my work return through the Governing Council resulting in the dismissal of the Vice Chancellor. Likewise Mr. Howard who was then the Prime Minister was present with the American President during the 9/11 experience. Those who raise their work genuinely to that level will recognize the return karma as observers. We then know that our Energies have added themselves to produce that return at the appropriate time.

To my mind, the Tamil Tigers chose the title Tiger due to their physical approach to the ethnic problem. Many rural areas in Northern Sri Lanka were strongly influenced by the Tamil Tigers because they were naturally driven by physical level returns. These folks need not necessarily identify with the LTTE’s goals. They just feel comfortable with the physical level actions and reactions. They conclude and act before conflict could be raised to the intellectual level. To the extent they were deprived of educational facilities and / or economic opportunities – they would be right and hence their strong devotion to Mother Kali.

Mother Kali’s Consort is Vairavar – the Protector and is the deity of armed forces. The destruction of Kali temple therefore is damage of the armed forces protecting that area. Given that Tamils are now not retaliating at the physical level – Buddhists are killing their own Protecting Forces. That is how karma happens once we do our duty. We just need to observe and not compete with the Buddhists – seeking an eye for an eye. Once we start retaliating we stop raising ourselves to the higher level to observe. Let’s observe. Some of us have sacrificed enough to find higher solutions.

Good Australian Tamils v Smart Australian Tamils

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( October 30, 2913, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) This morning I received advice from the Supreme Court of New South Wales that in the matter Paramasivam v Sabanathan, my Application for Leave to Appeal has been dismissed with costs against me. As usual I was upset – not because I expected fairness and Justice from our Australian Judiciary but because of the defeat I need to work on before the value is passed on to our next generation. It is my son’s birthday today and as a mother I felt even more obliged to recognize the Reality of the threat of loss of cultural values for my descendants. Until now it was about Equal Racial Opportunity with White Australians on the other side. Now it is about Tamils who are excessively showing lateral cultural spread rather than root values.

This morning I received also an email regarding presentation by Tamil Youth Organization UK (TYOUK), about the importance of Mother Language – Tamil with the following comments by the Diaspora Leader: ‘ It is amazing that the entire program was organized by the youth, under TYOUK leadership. One child, probably about 6 years old, spoke for 14 minutes without buffering.’ I did listen and the kid did speak well. The kid reminded me of the smart granddaughter of Mr. & Mrs. Sabanathan of about the same age. But the question is whether this child would carry forward the Tamil ancestry of her grandparents? The answer from with me is a definite NO as per my Truth. Language is the parallel of Votes. Spreading the language without the connection to the root values would confirm excessive focus in Rule by majority opinion.

I filed action against Mrs. Sabanathan and 7 other relatives of hers for ridiculing my marriage as second marriage claiming it was for the purpose of money. Most of the respondents are living in Australia due to my second marriage. Others are benefiting due to my second marriage. Yet, because my husband stated that the Estate of his late brother Mr. Subramaniam Yoganathan ought to be distributed on the basis of Thesawalamai and therefore it should go to the brothers and not the sisters – Mrs. Sabanathan and her group made the above claim – that I was going after other people’s monies. What perhaps Mrs. Sabanathan does not appreciate is that her own grandchildren would benefit from including diverse marriage systems which are intrinsic parts of Australian society. One of them may need gay marriage laws to protect her from abuse by wider society.

To my mind, the basic principle in Jaffna Tamil families is that dowry is given to daughters to maintain the specifics of woman’s role in a family. Where the work of a daughter becomes ‘common’ with sons – no dowry ought to be given and we need to restructure the laws of Thesawalamai to suit our current needs. Majority residents of Northern Sri Lanka continue to practice the dowry system and I am aware that Tamils do give dowry even within the Tamil Diaspora. But then here in Australia, we do not have laws to support such a practice and genuine practitioners often get cheated by the beneficiaries.

Mrs. Sabanathan along with her sister Mrs. Mahadevan was given the largest share of the parental wealth and the children of both of them were sponsored by us. Their dowry included inheritance/ Muthusum due to my husband and his brothers. But the sons did not oppose the distribution as they wanted their sisters to get married. In addition they continued to support the families – including through migration to Australia for which I worked very hard and added my own Energies to ensure that the youth focused on their education, leading to income earning jobs. I believe that those of us who forego benefits contribute to structures and beyond towards developing Natural Energies. To me that is God’s system. The question here is not whether or not Mrs. Sabanathan and her sister believed that I was going after their monies. The question is whether they are damaging a structure developed by us for our family, by integrating the values of both countries.

Our Australia’s first Lady Prime Minister did not need marriage laws to live in partnership with her man. I understand that Mrs. Sabanathan receives Australian pension without having worked here at all. I worked here, contributed to Government through my taxes and am yet to receive any welfare benefits. I earned enough money to support myself in old age as well. In addition, my husband recognizes that whatever we earned is our common wealth until we die or lawfully part. After the shocking revelation that these so called relatives would claim wealth as per their individual thinking, we rewrote our wills so that Mrs. Sabanathan’s and Mrs. Mahadevan’s children did not make a claim on ours through expensive barristers. They had enough money to hire barrister to have my application defeated in the Supreme Court. There was no internal ‘reconciliation’ but only the further claim that I was mentally ill. They all speak Tamil language much better than I. But ask them about Thesawalamai – and they are likely to ask ‘How much is a kilo of that?’ The Australian Judiciary is also feeding such migrants. Let’s then not complain about illegal refugee problems. To me, every person who works against traditional laws is carrying the heavy potential of acting illegally.

When we value the dowry we get – we become good mothers not only to our children but beyond that to others’ children. That is the higher value of inheritance. Such mothers merge naturally with mothers of all cultures. THAT is the value we need to treasure as Jaffna Tamils. That is when we would value diversity in our new home countries.

As recipient of Australian welfare Mrs. Sabanathan has the greater responsibility than I, to accept Common Australian culture.

To me, the wealth of knowledge I brought from my life in Sri Lanka is my Inheritance from Sri Lanka for my life here in Australia. The wealth I earn here in Australia – including human relationships and status through such relationships – is my acquired wealth – called Thediya Thettam in Thesawalamai. I have the right to spend my acquired wealth/knolwedge during my lifetime but I have the responsibility to carry the inheritance forward, use it to earn more wealth (including knowledge) here in Australia but not deplete it by converting it to Australian looks - including Australian Tamil looks. To me such conversion leads to assimilation with other cultures who also convert.

Under Thesawalamai law, daughters inherit mother’s dowry and sons inherit father’s Muthusum. This separation helps us maintain the essence of the values of those structures and systems that helped our mothers function as mothers and fathers as fathers. Similarly those of us who carry forward our traditional values will carry forward the essence of our inheritance from Sri Lanka’s North, South, East or West – as values and not as dispensable property / surface knowledge. Separation as migrants is needed where mainstream cultures tend to interfere. Hence devolution of powers.

Mrs. Sabanathan’s dowry in Vattukottai for example is idling as is her brother’s. What right do we have, to complain about take overs by the Government of Sri Lanka when we fail as a community to protect and preserve our ancestral wealth as precious to develop current wealth towards a higher base for our next generation?

Recently I got cross with a relative of mine for selling one of our ancestral properties without first checking with me. The relative knew that I was investing in development work in Northern Sri Lanka including through our family temple. Yet, he failed to check with me. I felt saddened by this and have asked the new owners whether they would rent it out to me. To them it has only cash value at the moment. To me it carries ancestral Energies.

Similarly – any position status I get here in Australia is of dispensable value to me. The status I brought with me from Sri Lanka – carries ancestral Energies. Much of it is through my Sri Lankan education and qualification as a Chartered Accountant.

We show our current benefits and costs in our new activities and from time to time we need to find their net value and carry the net value forward – to appear as our status as in Balance Sheet.

Due to excessive expenditure in surface knowledge such as Tamil language – by the Tamil community – my inheritance from Sri Lanka shows negative value here in Australia. The likes of Mrs. Sabanathan use our Welfare monies to hire expensive lawyers to show defeat for their own Thesawalamai ancestors.

Whilst this is painful – I believe that Truth is always healthy. It keeps the mind steady. One who investments more in unpleasant Truth than in pleasant Truth develops structures for the next generation.

Christian killed in Karachi over a False Blasphemy Accusation

| by Xavier Patras William

( October 30, 2013, Karachi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Boota Masih a 58, who worked for over 30 years at the Liaqatabad Gold Market in Karachi was murdered by a fellow worker over a false blasphemy accusation.

Professional rivalry or blasphemy? A member of the Liaqatabad Jewelers Association said," I have been seeing Boota Masih working in this market from past 3 decades, he was an honest worker, no complaint was ever reported against him, had never seen him even speaking against anyone ever."

The family of the deceased is convinced that the blasphemy allegation was used as a tool to murder him.

No one in the entire market has testified that they heard or saw Masih saying any derogatory remarks about the Prophet; this clearly is a case of false accusation to murder an innocent man on professional rivalry.

Muhammad Asif a worker at the jewelry market brutally stabbed Masih, calling him a blasphemer and no one dared to intervene.

Masih`s family talked to the people in the market, everyone confirmed that this is a case of false accusation and the blasphemy accusation was used as an excuse for murder, the jewelers association is also silent in the matter.

The family got a FIR registered, No. 226/13 for murder against Muhammad Asif, Initially the police seem reluctant in pursuing the matter, but on 24th October 2013 armed men forcefully entered Masih`s family home and threatened to kill the family if they don’t convert to Islam.

The family reported the matter to the police and the police investigated the matter and managed to arrest the prime accused Muhammad Nadeem along with 2 other men who broke into Masihi`s house and harass the family.

This is not the first time a person has been falsely accused and murder on accusations of blasphemy, last year a mentally unstable man was burnt alive outside a police station in Bahawalpur and no one was arrested, there have been over 40 extra judicial killings on Blasphemy accusations, unfortunately no one was arrested for killing these people.

Last year a 14 year old girl suffering from down syndrome was falsely accused by a cleric who himself had burned the pages of the Quran, the mod tried to burn her alive as well, but the police intervened in time and saved her, later she was acquitted by the court.

The people who had raised their voice against the misuse of the blasphemy laws have been assassinated or threatened; the former government tried to form a committee to talk about the misuse of the blasphemy laws, but had to take a u-turn when the former governor Punjab Salman Taseer was assassinated in Islamabad by his own guard.

The civil society has condemned the incident and demanded that the concerned authorities act and immediately arrest Muhammad Asif. Human Rights organization Life for All Pakistan has condemned the incident.

A Statement issued by LFA Pakistan said, “This is indeed a sad incident, an innocent has been murdered for professional rivalry and his family has been threatened to convert. The minorities are already insecure and such incidents fuel the uncertainty. The minorities in Pakistan are forced to live in fear and distress, the concerned authorities should work together to promote harmony and discourage such incidents. The people have hardly came out of the shock of the Peshawar incident, they are forced to experience such incidents.

Blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been misused to settle personal vendettas, how many more innocent lives will it take for the legislators to work on to stop the misuse of these laws. People, dont trust the system, they take the law in their own hand, the judiciary needs to show their writ and display that there is a rule of the law so that people would think before taking the law into their hand and dont kill the innocent. In Pakistan even being accused of Blasphemy is equal to the sentence, There are state laws for blasphemy and it is duty of state to investigate whether one is really involved in it or not. But who has given right to anyone to breach the law and kill someone in the name of blasphemy. Action to amend dual nationality law to suit parliamentarians is taken in hours but no action taken in years on the misuse of the blasphemy law because it does not concern the law makers personally nor they feel the pain of the innocent lives lost in the course. "

Peace and communal harmony in Sri Lanka – Part 1

| by Dr S.L.M Rifai

( October 30, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) No doubt each one of us loves to see a prosperous and thriving Sri Lanka. Whether we come from Tamil community or Singhalese community or for that matter from any other community each patriotic Sri Lankan wish to see a flourishing Sri Lankan economy and they hope for the rapid development and progress of our nation: This is the inner feeling of all Sri Lankans in SL and Abroad. No one wishes destructions and devastation for our nation. Every patriotic Lankan wishes that Sri Lankan should become one of the wonders of Asian countries. This is the expectation and hope of the majority of Sri Lankan people across all communities. This is indeed, the prayers of most communities in Sri Lanka. It is a natural instinct of people to love their mother lands. It is a human nature to have some patriotic feelings on birth places.

In this sense, each and every Lankan who are born in Sri Lanka love this Island. This is the general perception of all communities in Sri Lanka. Yet, to claim that only Singhalese are true inhabitants of this land gives negative implications and impacts in our communal relationship between communities in Sri Lanka. All minority communities love this country as the majority community loves it. All minority communities manifest and show their loyalty to this country as does the majority community. BBS and its cohorts have made some deliberate attempts to say that minority communities have no loyalty to this nation. They have made some deliberate attempts to denounce the historical heritage and antiquities of minority communities in this country.

In fact BBS and its cohorts failed to recall that like all other community their ancestors too inhabited this Island sometime ago in history. Historical evidences indicate they hail from the Bengal region of India. In this sense all communities are new comers to this Island sometime in history. Some may have come early in history and some might have come later in history. But it can be argued that all are new arrivals to this Island except indigenous people of this Island. They live now in some part of Mehiyangane. They are the native Vedas of this Island.
The point I’m trying to make here is that there is a common feature to all contemporary Sri Lankan communities. That common feature is that all communities are migrants to this Island except the native Vedas who live in some parts of Island. If anyone has got ancestral and historical rights in antiquity to claim the real native people of Island it should be Vedas of this Island. In this sense all communities should be treated equally without any discrimination. All should have equal rights and equal privileges. We all live in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country. This should be acknowledged and proclaimed openly by all communities in Sri Lanka.

We have majority community and minority communities. Each community shares some common human values and each community have some differences in culture, traditions and faith. How do we get on with all these differences and make unity among communities with all these differences. How do we make peace and harmony with all these differences between us? Rather than highlighting the differences between us we should focus on the factors that unite all of us. Our human nature and human sense should unite us all for the goodness of entire country.
First and foremost we all are human beings. We may have different faith and different ethnicity or language and yet we all belong to human one human race. This universal human brotherhood should unite us all for the goodness of humanity. In this sense this universal brotherhood should unite us as Lankans for the goodness of all communities. All we should have sense of humour to share happiness and sadness of each community.

I think that religious leadership in our country should emphasis on this universal brotherhood of humanity and indeed, this is one of the teachings of Lord Buddha; He did not discriminate humanity in terms of their colour, faith, language or ethnicity. To build a long lasting peace and harmony among Sri Lankan communities we should make some awareness among public about this basic human brotherhood. Of course we have all differences with us and yet we too have common humanistic features between us. Yet, some of us try to highlight the differences at the expense of our common humanistic features. This universality of human brotherhood is lost today in our modern world not only in Sri Lanka but in the entire world. Sometime animals have better treatment in the hands of some people than their follow human beings.

Look at how millions of people die out of hunger and yet, some people spend billions to feed their pats and animals at the expense of starving their follow humans. I do not say that we should starve animals to death. If we do that it would be animal cruelty and there is no place for that in religion but what I’m saying here is that millions of people go hungry each day and yet, rich people and rich nations do not care about these hungry people. Millions of people die out of huger in some parts of world and at the same time millions people are suffering from obesity. This is the so called modern civilised world we live: a world of self –contradictories. Because, this universal brotherhood of humanity has already dead in this materialistic and capitalistic world.

We Sri Lankans have been maintaining some supreme human qualities such as love, compassions, affections, sympathy, kindness and respect. I wonder if these human qualities are eroding in our modern time. Some inhuman qualities are overriding our basic human qualities today in Sri Lanka. Look at how communal hatred and racism are overriding love and affection of human race. When we live in multi-ethnic country we should have some ethical and moral principles and protocols in dealing with people. These moral and ethical principles should be maintained at all levels at official and public levels. These should be maintained in all our dealings and interaction. There must be some fair legal and judicial systems to deal with all communal and social issues in accordance with rules of laws.

Unconditional justice for all should be the basic principle in dealing with communal and sensitive issues. The equality of humanity in the eye of law should be the second basic principle in dealing with different ethical groups. Law and order should be applied to all communities equally without any bias or discrimination.
Unconditional justice to all communities without bias:

Justice is unconditional. It should be applied equally to all communities. There is no one system of justice for Singhalese and another type of justice for Tamil community. There is no one sort of justice system to the majority community and another type for minority communities. There is no one sort of justice for rulers and another type of justice to his subjects. There should not be one type of justice for powerful people and another type of justice for weak in the community. We should not have one type of justice system for the party in power and another type of justice for the party in opposition. The miscarriage of justice is taking place in Sri Lanka across all communities and political parties. This miscarriage of justice is unprecedented in our history.

Any discriminative attitude in the application of justice will lead the country into chaos and people would not have any trust and confidence in the rule of law. Unfortunately, in recent time justice is not applied equally in Sri Lanka. Justice system and courts of law have been fully controlled by the politicians. This put the judges of this country in precarious situation even if they wanted to apply justice equally to all they cannot do that because they under immense political pressure. In case of hate campaign against Muslims police and justice systems in Sri Lankan could not take any necessary steps to curtail the activities of BBS and its cohorts. It is apparent that they are acting against of the rule of laws and yet no action has been taken against them. It is apparent that BBS and its cohorts take the laws in their hand and yet, no one objects it. It is shame on the legal system of this country that the judges could not take any actions against this open hatred campaign.

(To be continued next week)

The Role of Sri Lanka in the Growth of Buddhism

| by Ananda W. P. Guruge

( October 30, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) May I begin by expressing my grateful thanks to the Indo-Sri Lanka Buddhist Network, SUCCESS Sri Lanka, German Dharmaduta Society, Buddhist Cultural Centre, Nedimala, International Buddhist Centre, Wellawatte, and in particular Venerable Kirama Wimalajoti Thero and Mr Senaka Weeraratna for the privilege accorded to me to speak to you on the role of Sri Lanka in the growth of Buddhism in India in the new millennium.

Being a part of the Indian subcontinent Sri Lanka’s relations with the mainland date back to the distant past. Even before the arrival of Aryans in our Island, trade relations are said to have existed between the two countries. According to the Tamil Buddhist classic Silapathikaram, a shipwreck happened near Sri Lanka and only one of its Tamil-speaking victims could speak the Naga language and seek assistance. Onesicritus, the admiral of the naval force of Alexander the Great around 320 before Christ has recorded that a regular maritime commercial route existed between Sri Lanka and the Indus Region in modern Pakistan.

He mentions the time taken to go from the Island to that region and compares the quality of Sri Lankan ships with his own. Megasthenes, the Greek Ambassador to the Mauryan court of Chandragupta makes reference to Sri Lanka in his book Indica. Asoka the Righteous makes two references to Tammapanni in his edicts and sent Buddhism through his own children Arahants Mahinda and Sanghamitta. The voyage of the latter bringing a sapling of the sacred bodhi-tree establishes that a regular sea-route connected the Indian port of Tamralipti in Bengal with Jambukola in the Jaffna Peninsula. Gokanna, the present day Trincomalee, was also a seaport, in addition to Mahatittha or Mantai, with connections to India.

It is with the establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka that our relations with the mainland became stronger, perennial and fruitful. Sri Lanka does owe an immense debt to India for giving us Buddhism along with significant cultural attributes contributing to the development of religion and philosophy, art and architecture, literature and a serene life-style. Ever since, Sri Lanka has also played an important role in the development of Buddhism in India.

A cursory survey of the history of Buddhism in India shows that Sri Lankans were deeply engaged in Buddhist activities in several main centers. The Sinhala Commentaries, which are said to be an initiative of Arahant Mahinda, continued in the Island until about the first century before Christ and appear to have been used by Indian Buddhist Sangha. It was the evolution of the languages in our two countries which made it difficult for the Indian Sangha to use our Sinhala commentaries seven centuries later. The impetus for Buddhaghosa, Dharmapala and Buddhadatta to translate them into Pali came from the fact that Sinhala commentaries were indispensable for the study of Buddhism in India as well.

A Prakrit inscription at Nagarjunakonda, dated around the second century of the current era, refers to a Sihalavihara there and credits its monks for the promotion of Buddhism in Kashmir, Gandhara, China, and several parts of the mainland. King Silamegha of Sri Lanka is known to have negotiated with the Gupta Emperor Samudragupta to establish a pilgrim rest in Buddha Gaya for the convenience of Sri Lankan pilgrims. An inscription by a Sri Lankan monk named Mahanama of that time as well as several epigraphical records show that the Vihara, thus established, was frequented by Sri Lankan pilgrims up to the time of the disappearance of Buddhism from India.

It is also well-known that Aryadeva, the renowned disciple of Nagarjuna and his successor as the abbot of Nalanda University, was a Sri Lankan prince. His work Catusshataka is a major contribution to the development of Mahayana Buddhism. Our history records several waves of Mahayana Buddhism influencing Sri Lanka. Of the three main monasteries of Anuradhapura, Abhayagiri and Jetavana were partial to the Mahayana tradition, used Sanskrit and had relations with Indian Institutions. Apart from the massive Buddha statues of Aukana, Maligawila, Buduruvagala and Galvihara, the gold plates with the Sanskrit text of Prajnaparamita, discovered in Jetavana, provide proof for the impact of Mahayana. So is the exquisite image of the seated Bodhisattva found in Weragala.

In India Fa-hien could not find a written Buddhist Vinaya and came to Sri Lanka in search of Vinaya texts. It is here that he found the Dharmaguptika Vinaya and enabled the Mahayana tradition to regulate its Sangha. The Kashmir King Gunavarman abdicated his throne and came to Abhayagiri Vihara and became a specialist in Vinaya before proceeding to China. Sanghamitra, a disciple of the Mahayana monks who were banished to South India by Gotabhaya came to Sri Lanka and prompted Mahasena to campaign against the Mahavihara. Hsuan-tsang or (Xuan Tsang) in the seventh century wanted to come to Sri Lanka for further studies of Buddhism. When prevented from doing so, he wrote the last chapter of his Si-yu-ki on the state of Buddhism in the Island on the basis of information he could gather in Tamil Nadu. It is also significant that Vajrabodhi, who hailed from India and his pupil Amogharajra departed for China from Sri Lanka.

It is also possible that Sri Lankan monks held positions of authority in Indian monasteries. Ajanta seems to have had such an eminent monk for the arrival of Sinhalas in Sri Lanka to be illustrated in one of the largest and most prominent murals in one of its caves. Thus was the close interaction between our two countries until Buddhism degenerated into Tantric practices and ultimately disappeared when Buddhist institutions and the Sangha succumbed to the Muslim onslaught around the twelfth century.

The restoration of Buddhism in India was therefore left to Sri Lanka and this was done by Anagarika Dharmapala who was guided and encouraged by Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala and Ven. Weligama Sumangala and ably supported in early stages by Colonel Henry Olcott and Sir Edwin Arnold. This was gratefully acknowledged by Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal, who presided over the golden jubilee celebrations of the Maha Bodhi Society in 1941 and declared that Anagarika Dharmapala has fully repaid the debt that Sri Lanka owed to India for the gift of Buddhism. The main contribution of Anagarika Dharmapala and Colonel Henry Olcott was that they made the intelligensia of India aware of the prestige their motherland accrued due to the Buddha. The campaign to have Buddhist shrines of India restored to the Buddhists had tremendous success in that the Sangha from Sri Lanka could be placed in them to assist pilgrims, develop the institutions and bring the doctrines and philosophy of Buddhism to popular attention. Buddhism ceased to be a lost religion in India and especially its egalitarian principles against caste became a source of solace to depressed communities and tribes. Both Anagarika Dharmapala and Colonel Olcott had a message for the 141 million untouchables in India that their redemption from the oppression of ‘high caste’ Hindus could be conversion to Buddhism.

An eminent untouchable of the Dalit caste to respond to this call was Babasahab Bhimrao Ambedkar who commenced his in-depth study of Buddhism quite early in his life. As described by Dr Narendranath Jawab in his book “The Untouchables,” Ambedkar inspired all around him to study Buddhism and to give the highest possible education to children. While urging them to use education as the social elevator for the untouchables, he advised them to seek spiritual upliftment through Buddhism. As the Minister of Law, drafting the Constitution of the Republic of India, he came to Sri Lanka to attend the founding conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in 1950. Foreseeing his role in the revival of Buddhism, Dr Gunapala Malalasekera introduced him on that occasion as a Bodhisattva. Further developing his conviction with Buddhist scholars he decided on October 14, 1956 – the year of the 2500 Buddha Jayanti - to embrace Buddhism as his personal religion. He took refuge in the Triple Gem and recited the five precepts in Nagpur at a ceremony presided over by the Sri Lankan scholar-monk Venerable Dr Hammalawa Saddhatissa Thero. Many thousand Indians of Dalit and other scheduled castes embraced Buddhism along with him. Urged by him, millions have followed in his footsteps and the current Buddhist population of India is estimated to be at least twenty million and growing.

Sri Lanka did play an effective role in the early stages of the new movement. Monks trained in Sri Lanka like Kosambi Dharmanand, Rahul Sankrityayan, Jagdish Kashyap and Anand Kausalyana provided the spiritual leadership to the new Buddhists. So did the Sri Lankan monks of the Maha Bodhi Society, as well as those from the Chakma Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Books were produced in Hindi and Marathi. Monks like Venerable Rahul Bodhi spent long years in Sri Lanka to become conversant in monastic practice and have provided leadership to the new Sangha emanating from among them.

Even while Babasahab Bhimrao Ambedkar paved the way for mass conversion to Buddhism, the indigenous Indian Buddhists of Ladakh, who were adherents of the Tibetan tradition of Vajrayana grew in strength. The arrival of the His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama with a stream of Tibetan Buddhists and the establishment of Dharmasala as their spiritual centre further enhanced the influence and presence of Buddhists in India. Today the cooperation and interaction of these traditions have made Buddhism a living force in India. Their vocal presence in international Buddhist fora like the World Fellowship of Buddhists(WFB) and the World Sangha Council is quite impressive. The multiplicity of associations and societies causes some concern as the lack of communication, consultation and coordination among them results in dispersed effort. It also may indicate obstacles to unity and solidarity. Over the last several years, India under the leadership of the Ladakhi monk, Venerable Lama Lobzang has taken steps to set up the International Buddhist Confederation to present the collective wisdom of Buddhism to the world in a united voice. It was officially inaugurated in New Delhi in September 2013 in a founding conclave attended by a representative body of the international Buddhist community. It chalked out a comprehensive program of action ranging from the propagation of Buddhism to the preservation and development of the Buddhist heritage.

Role of Sri Lanka in the growth of Buddhism in India in the future

The question before us is whether Sri Lanka has a role to play in the growth of Buddhism in the new millennium. If we have a role what should be the road-map that we should adopt. Let me begin by listing what Sri Lanka has to offer India in the present situation. With the twenty three centuries of unbroken presence of Buddhism and a series of unique contributions made to the promotion of Buddhism in Asia in the past and all over the world in recent century or so, Sri Lanka has a wealth of experience which would be very helpful to India. Among them, the close relationship between the Sangha and the laity is of special significance. The Sri Lankan Sangha has tremendous experience in ensuring social well-being through education, spiritual development, social services and institution building. The high standard of Buddhist scholarship is revealed by an extensive and constantly growing treasure house of treatises, research papers and popular literature by both Sangha and lay scholars.

What the Indian Buddhists need most urgently is a committed Sangha with a very high level of education, comprehensive monastic training and expertise in organizing the lay society to sustain the Buddhist dispensation. Can the Sri Lankan Sangha undertake the task of providing facilities for the recruits to the Indian Sangha to acquire these qualifications through our temples, Pirivenas, the Buddhist and Pali University, the Bhikshu University of Anuradhapura and the Departments of Buddhist Studies in other universities?. The most important thing that both countries should do in collaboration is to safeguard and develop Pali Studies so that the language of the Buddha is preserved and the invaluable resources of Pali literature are utilized for the better understanding of Buddhism.

I am aware of several institutions which already exist to serve this purpose and many foreign monks are their current beneficiaries. All that is needed are more resources to cater to the increasing needs of the growing Sangha of India.

When speaking of the Sangha, it is necessary to highlight the importance of the Bhikkhuni Sasana to enlist Indian women to play an enhanced role in the promotion of Buddhism. Sri Lanka has over a couple of decades developed a viable order of Bhikkhunis with the capacity to ordain and train women. The development of a Bhikkhuni Sasana in India could be another of the initiatives which Sri Lanka is capable to embark upon.

Already in India are a fair number of Sri Lankan monks who are effectively engaged in safeguarding the sacred Buddhist shrines, assisting pilgrims and educating the people. Sri Lanka should be able to send more Dharmaduta monksto support the relatively meagre human resources at the disposal of the Indian Sangha.

Equally important is to involve the lay Buddhists of the two countries to cooperate in joint operations to promote Buddhism and attending to the needs and challenges they encounter. Solidarity and unity among them is a vital need. Buddhist channels in radio and television in the two countries can function as social media among Buddhists and develop intellectual and social communications. Similarly the sharing of information, opinion and knowledge through the Internet can be explored.

Exchange of students, seminars and conferences can bring scholars and students together. Pilgrimage already functions as a means of taking Sri Lankan Buddhists to sacred sites of India. A significant element of tourism could be added to the usual pilgrimage sites by adding popular centres of Buddhist art and architecture like Sanchi, Ajanta, Ellore, Karle, Bhaja and other cave temples of western India. Reciprocally, Indian Buddhists should be provided facilities to come as pilgrims and tourists to Sri Lanka to our sacred monuments to be inspired by how the Buddha’s teachings had impacted the cultural and spiritual development outside its borders.

There is no dearth of things that can be done to bring the Buddhists of the two countries to appreciate how each country has contributed to the promotion of Buddhism. Already Anagarika Dharmapla is remembered and honoured in India with statues, memorials and publications. The steps taken to erect a statue of Dr. Babasahab Bhimrao Ambedkarat the Headquarters of the Maha Bodhi Society in Colombo and establish an Ambedkar Centre in Arawwala, Pannipitiya to educate and train monastic and lay Buddhist leaders of India can go a long way in creating an awareness of this eminent Indian Buddhist leader’s services to humanity. Honouring those who have worked hard and struggled to revive and spread Buddhism in our two countries will be a direct way of encouraging the present and future leaders to emulate them.

The efforts of Buddhists to cooperate in joint activities will have significant benefits in building better understanding between the two countries. We have been neighbours whose interaction in diverse fields has had invaluable results. Ignorance of each other’s aspirations and the unintended consequences of what each country has done in self - interest, result in prejudices, misunderstanding and even hostility which are inevitable in the present world. Buddhism with its emphasis on loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity has the capacity to enhance tolerance, accommodation, and forbearance. It is a task for the Buddhists of the two countries to undertake together and severally. With our spiritual goals and training, we certainly can and should preserve and build upon the friendship between India and Sri Lanka.

(Text of speech delivered on Sunday October 27, 2013 at 2.30 p.m. at the "Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya" ,Colombo 05. The talk was sponsored by the newly formed Indo – Sri Lanka Buddhist Network in association with SUCCESS Sri Lanka, German Dharmaduta Society, Buddhist Cultural Centre and International Buddhist Centre, Wellawatte, Colombo 06).

Courtesy: Sri Express