Sunday, September 28, 2008

"A trade off on my dignity"

This blogger is quoted in a news item that appeared on The Economist available on their website here.

"THE police served them toffee and sweet drinks as they queued up to register at designated centres in Colombo. But for many of the thousands of Tamil civilians obliged to turn up, this was scant consolation for a violation of their rights. Guru, a 23-year-old law student from Jaffna, called the toffee “a trade-off on my dignity”. The orders to register were given on September 20th by police with loudhailers moving slowly along the streets of Colombo’s Tamil areas, which have recently been receiving swarms of civilians fleeing the intensifying war in the north.

The government labelled the exercise a “census”, to determine whether there had been a change in the ethnic balance of the Western province, where the capital is located. It is increasingly edgy about attacks in the capital by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. For 25 years the Tigers, who have a history of terrorist atrocities, have been fighting for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east of the island. But Tamil civilians fear the real objective is to weed out anybody suspected of Tiger links. The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa says the war is entering its final stages. And the president’s brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the defence secretary, maintains that stringent security measures are an “inconvenience” that the minority Tamil community will have to endure."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Victor Ivan lends his intellect to the 'Victor'

The joyous mood of victory has caught up with everyone and this time it is Victor Ivan who thinks it’s prudent to lend his intellect to the victor.

He wrote a piece for Ravaya about two weeks back saying that its good for the Tamil people that the LTTE will get defeated. Kumar David responded in the Sunday Island and a translation of Victor’s piece also appeared. Gamini Viyangoda also had responded. I have not read any of these pieces in detail. This weeks Sunday Island (28 September) carries a response by Victor to Kumar. This is a response primarily to this piece of Victor’s.

The crux of Victor’s argument seems to be the following: It is naked power that operates in any war. It is the same naked power that the security forces and the LTTE are unleashing against each other in competitive fashion. And when the LTTE is defeated when the war is over freedom will be restored to the Tamil people though nothing new to them might be “offered”.

Now I do not quarrel with the fact that LTTE uses naked power. Naked power, Victor defines quoting Bernard Russel is, as being the loyalty enforced through the infusion of fear disregarding all traditional beliefs and social approval under a situation when two or more fanatical creeds are contending for governance and when all traditional beliefs have decayed. I agree with this.

However my quarrel starts here. The issue is this: whether the Tamils like it or not through a bloody system of killings and counter killings ‘they’ remain the only option for the Tamil people for a just solution to the problem. This is because it is power and hard power that politicians in the South take notice of and they are the only ones who have it. Now that is what is under a threat of destruction. Victor thinks this is desirable. Of course he might ask the question is it worth risking the lives of Tamils for a ‘just’ solution? The following is a response to that.

Destruction of one naked power will lead to ‘no war’. That’s very simplistic. The naked power that is sought to be destructed was a response to the naked power exercised by those who are ‘winning’ now. Victor thinks that the naked power that was unleashed on the Tamil people will stop once the naked power that responded to this ‘original’ naked power is destroyed. The original naked power is still there and its roots are in majoritarianism. Has this changed? No. That might not be visible militarily once the responsive naked power is destroyed. But this ‘original’ naked power will continued to be exercised politically and this will lead eventually to the annihilation of the Tamil people or to their assimilation in a grand ‘Sri Lankan society’. Of course Victor makes a value judgment as to which naked power is better to live under. His choice: The original majoritarian naked power. That can’t be for me. Hence I agree with Kumar. The only option is for the LTTE to be reformed.

Here are a some excerpts from Victor and my comments on them:

Then in the absence of an armed rival group to fight the security forces, the need does not arise for physical suppression, maintenance of high security zones and for the security forces to get involved in the management of day to day matters. Along with the cessation of war assassinations, disappearances, abductions and arrests will cease.

The problem is the word 'absence' here. When will one be satisfied with finality that there is now an 'absence' of the armed rival group? It is predicted that the weeding out process will continue for a long time and my prediction is that the final result of the weeding out might be the total annihilation of the Tamil people.

Victor also seems to have completely subscribed to the now popular notion that once the armed rival group is gone the ethnic conflict will be gone. We will have a rosy Sri Lanka.

(After the defeat of the armed rival group) the democratic outlets which were hitherto closed will gradually be opened. The freedom of expression will be restored. They will get an opportunity to carefully review the issues pertaining to their struggle and assess the reasons that led to the defeat of the Tamil struggle, comprehend the true rights that they should fight for and the right course of action to be adopted etc.

And then what Mr Ivan? What do you think the right course of action will be? What are the ‘true’ rights that the Tamils should fight for? How should they ‘struggle’? Another armed movement? Or Parliamentary politics? Or Provincial council politics? Tell us which one? Or is it the option that the Tamil people become slowly assimilated with the 'Sri Lankan' society? But you are the one who is quite sure that there will be nothing new offered to the Tamil people? So where does this comment come from Victor?

Victor says the LTTE was never serious about internal self determination. Sad. And probably true. But is that an excuse for the South not working on a solution? Of course he does think that there will not be anything new offered to the Tamil people. That can’t be helped according to Victor probably. That’s your fate he seems to tell people like me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

White Van Abduction Legalised

I am reporting on this because the English print media has either got it wrong or didn't understand the proceedings in the Supreme Court (Daily Mirror) Or they have chosen not to report on it (Island - probably wasnt important enough for them). I think the flawed reportage or non reportage is deliberate because they probably believe or fear that such reporting will or will be considered as undermining the war.

The Supreme Court heard a case filed by Thondaman's party (the Ceylon Workers Congress) which is part of the Mahinda Rajapaksha Government yesterday, regarding the abduction of one of their trade union officials. The person had been abducted by a white van and becuase of the political influence CWC yields its party leaders were able to trace the person to the custody of the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID). The facts were not disputed by the State represented by the Attorney General's Department (Mr. Palitha Fernando, the Additional Solicitor General appeared). This is probably the first case and will be the only case where somebody who had been abducted had the courgae to go to courts to file a case. The reason is obvious because the person belonged to a political party in alliance with the Government. The CWC is to be commended for bringing it to courts and not pushing it under the carpet to save the reputation of the Government.

When the case was taken up before the Chief Justice's bench (the other two judges sitting with him were Justices Shiranee Tilakawerdena and Justice Sripavan) the Chief Justice in the course of the proceedings refused to condemn the mode of 'arrest'. He chasticised the petitioner's counsel, blaming him for bringing a case for 'international news consumption'. He said that the court can do nothing to give directives regarding the use of white vans as there were too many of them in the country!! He made unintelligible assertions in open court like for instance that Sri Lanka has the largest van population in the country and that it would not be possible to restrict the import or usage of white vans into the country etc!! (He was laughing when he said this and to my disgust a majority of the members of the bar and most of the public present laughed with him) Clearly what was being asked was for a delcaration that the police had violated the petitioners fundamental right by engaging in a mode of arrest that was blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional. The CJ also said that what was important was whether one was able to find the person who was abducted and hence it was an affirmative in this case there shouldnt be an issue. The counsel protested saying that this was possible because the petitioner belonged to a political party. The CJ was dismissive in his response. The CJ thought that a receipt being issued after arrest through the local police station should be satisfying. In his order at the end of the hearing he included the above 'condition' for 'arrests' being made using white vans nd also went on to say that since torture was not being alleged in custody that violation of article 13 of the constitution was not at stake. The conusel for the petitioner protested and said that they didnt say that. The CJ queried in response as to whether they are assuming torture was being inflicted. Surely the CJ was assuming that torture was not being inflicted!! The fomer assumption is more closer to the truth than the latter for anyone who knows anything about the TID.

What the Supreme Court has essentially done is legalise the use of white vans for 'arresting' a person on the condition that a receipt be issued after the abduction is carried out. This is probably the most absurdest of all sorts of 'justice' that this Supreme Court has meted out. And hence the white van abductions can now proceed with glee!!

The CJ was worried that the case was being brought beofre him for international news consumption. (I dont think the international media is that interested in what is happening in this country. For a start not even the national media is bothered). But irrespective of what has been said in the brackets above, surely if the international community didnt know this before the decision has confirmed that even the third organ of Government - the judiciary in this country is incapable of protecting the interests of its minority populations. Now thats the message that the CJ has clearly given for international news consumption.