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26th September 1999

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From the blue corner

Making political mountains out of molehills won't win elections!

By Paakshikaya

imageWriting in these pages, my unseen friend Viruddha Paakshikaya describes himself as a sad man. Instead I would like to label him as an opportunistic man. Here is a person representing a party which actively promoted a brutal suppression of the media and governed the country when journalists of the calibre of Richard de Zoysa were brutally killed. And now, just a few years later, here he is lecturing us on the virtues of media freedom following the killing of Satana editor Rohana Kumara!

I do not believe it is my duty to hold a brief for the ruling party on the killing of this journalist because, in the first place I do not believe the government stands accused of this crime. Even so, I do think it is my right to reply some of the insinuations raised by Viruddha Paakshikaya last week.

Viruddha Paakshikaya is quick to draw a parallel between the deaths of Rohana Kumara and Richard de Zoysa. "The wheel has turned full circle. What the UNP suffered as a result of Richard de Zoysa's killing is now being felt by the PA government with Rohana Kumara's death," he says.

There is a major defect of reasoning in your argument, my friend. It is true that the then UNP government - and the credibility of President Ranasinghe Premadasa- suffered immensely following Richard's killing.

But that was because of the nature of the incident itself. Richard was abducted from home and there were those who were able to identify his persecutors by name. And, they happened to be policemen whose affiliations were well known and I shall not mention them by name here because I do not believe in insulting the dead but the entire country knows who they were.

So, Viruddha Paakshikaya, the UNP suffered not simply by default but because the people of this country had good enough reasons to believe the party was responsible for the killing of a competent and decent journalist. If you are a lawyer, Viruddha Paakshikaya, you may even say there was a 'prima facie' case against the UNP in the public mind.

Now, compare this with Rohana's killing. Even his colleagues in the media are unanimous that Rohana would not have won an award for integrity and decorum. His writings ensured that he had many enemies and he was killed in rather mysterious circumstances.

And what would the public think about all this, Viruddha Paakshikaya? Is it logical for the government to eliminate this editor, when he was carrying out a no-holds-barred campaign against the Peoples' Alliance knowing very well that suspicion would naturally descend upon the government? Of course not, my friend and I'm sure the people of this country would consider that aspect before deciding for themselves whether the government is culpable or not.

Then there is another important factor that has a bearing on public opinion. That is the difference in leadership in the two governments. We all know that extra-judicial killings were the rule rather than the exception during the stewardship of President Premadasa.

But with President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the public is aware that the lady may have her faults but that she would not tolerate assassination for political gain having herself suffered from the losses of her father and her husband, both killed at their homes by gunmen.

Therefore, Viruddha Paakshikaya, from what I have seen and heard since the killing, I think the people have already decided that there is more than reasonable doubt about the incident and that the benefit of that doubt should accrue to the government.

But my friend, I must also assure you that we are happy to let you in the UNP play ball with Rohana Kumara's killing. You do so because you believe it could be a major campaign issue but that is where you err.

I do not know who is advising you on these matters- and I must confess it rather looks like that British chap about whom Batty revealed- but we believe the UNP has got its priorities absolutely wrong in terms of campaign issues.

Judging by the public posturing of your leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and others, your major concerns are the Channel Nine issue, Minister Batty Weerakoon allegedly 'tapping' Ranil Wickremasinghe's electronic mail, the alleged police assault on a few media men during a protest in Colombo and now, the killing of Rohana Kumara.

Now tell me my friend, which of these issues affect the daily lives of the average Citizen Perera of this country? Will the resolution of any of these so-called scandals and outrages ensure a better tomorrow for our Citizen Perera? Of course not.

And then, what must happen, Viruddha Paakshikaya. Remember how Velupillai Prabhakaran once said that the greatest talent of the majority in this country is the ability to forget things very soon?

That is exactly what will happen, my friend. Give another three months - and I promise you, elections will not be held before then- and the people would have relegated these issues into the limbo of forgotten things and the UNP and its leaders will be left flogging a dead horse!

On the other hand, Viruddha Paakshikaya aren't there issues which affect the lives of people? What of the war in the North and East? What of the massacre last week in Punchi Sigiriya? Why don't you protest and demonstrate about those issues? Why don't your television stations hold talkshows on those matters instead of wasting hours and hours on a 60-minute tape? Why do you maintain a deafening silence about what you intend to do about the war, the LTTE or even the executive presidency?

Now, Viruddha Paakshikaya, these are not my queries. To me, the answers to these questions are obvious. You in the UNP do not wish to raise these matters because you are well aware that it could be potentially politically suicidal if you did so.

So, you resort to the next best strategy: that of trying to make mountains out of molehills by blowing up politically trivial issues in a thinly veiled attempt to foster hatred against the government.

Why, Viruddha Paakshikaya you have even attempted to cast aspersions on the appointment of Sarath Silva as the Chief Justice.

Now, we all know that the CJ is a competent, decent and respected man but what really has the public laughing at you is not the CJ's credentials but the audacity of the UNP to suggest impropriety in his appointment!

Even the average man on the street in this educated and literate country is aware my friend that J. R. Jayewardene broke convention not once but twice by appointing Neville Samarakoon and then Parinda Ranasinghe as Chief Justices.

In the case of Sarath Silva, he was after all the Attorney General and you should know that in many countries it is accepted practice for the AG to be elevated to CJ.

Pardon me for I did digress but the point I make is that by raising such issues to the level of controversies when in fact none exist, you are only doing yourself a disservice. So, when you raise all these non-existent scandals and then say the PA will be "thrown out of office next year" I think my response should be appropriate: The chance of that happening -with the present leadership of the UNP and with the kind of issues that are being raised- is even less than that of Vasudeva Nanayakkara being elected as the next President of the country!

Dangerous aspirations and ethnic cleansing

By Kumbakarana

In Dec. 1944 the Soulbury Commission ar- rived in Sri Lanka. They came here to dis- cuss the granting of Dominion status.

The ACTC was established in Oct. 1944. The ACTC and other Tamil leaders made the charge before the Commission that the government spent more money in developing Sinhala areas than Tamil areas (See Ethnic politics. in colonial Sri Lanka, (1927 - 1947) Nira Wickramasinghe chap. 5). The Soulbury Commissioners examined the charge and found that although more funds had been spent on Sinhala areas than on Tamil areas, more money had been spent per head in Tamil areas because the Tamil formed only 12 percent of the population. (Report of the Commission on Constitutional Reforms (Sept. 1945 - p 43-47).

Thus it is evident that the so called discrimination against the Tamils and their grievances are based on fraudulent grounds. These views going back to many decades unfortunately persist to the present day. For the most part the Leftists promoted these ideas and raised Tamil racism to the status of a liberation struggle. These so-called grievances found expression in the TULF manifesto of 1977. But the leaders took care not to publish it in Sinhala or English. An English version first appeared in the 'Tribune' of Aug. 6 and 13, 1977. The TULF charged that there was discrimination against the Tamils in the areas of Tamil language, land distribution, colonisation, citizenship, security, education and employment. It proposed a Socialist Federal Tamil Eelam as a remedy.

Now apart for a few doddering Leftists no one talks about discrimination against the Tamils. Not even Tamil racists. This is due to the fact that far from discrimination, Tamil 'hegemony' has transformed the Tamils into a privileged group. Only Tamils can live in any part of Sri Lanka. The north/East, parts of Colombo and Nuwara Eliya-Tamil dominated areas-are being cleansed of other communities. In addition Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where Tamil has the status of an official language.

In November. last year during 'Mahawira' week Prabhakaran announced that the north/east would be cleansed totally of all Sinhalese. In their latest map Eelam borders extended right upto Negombo. It is a matter of time before the borders extend to Colombo north to Wellawatte and onto Galkissa.

Ponnambalam Ramanathan told the Donoughmore Commission that universal franchise would lead to rule by thugs. He said it would go against the tenets of caste based Hindu culture and aspirations. (P. Ramanathan: Memorandum on Donoughmore Constitution p 4-14).

Arunachalam Ramanathan stated the following before the Donoughmore Commissions: Tamils are the original settlers of Sri Lanka. The 10,000 year old Tamil Civilisation is the ideal of world civilisation (Evidence of A. Ramanthan Dec. 7, 1927. Nathan Mss 606)." So does this mean that we should accept these statements as authentic?

Research into a people's history is acceptable, but Max. Muller's research into Aryan origins ended up as Hitler's racist policies. In keeping with his Aryan aspirations he presented a policy of ethnic cleansing leading to a totally Aryan German state.

Such ideology in the Sri Lankan context could extend Eelam borders to Colombo, Negombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Eelamists could declare the whole of Sri Lanka their homeland. Their aspirations could even embrace dominance over the whole world. This shows that such aspirations could be limitless and could lead to the decimation of all values. In a world bound by goodwill there is no room for individuals or races who don't seek freedom and independence. Today the ethnic conflict is due to the fact that the Tamil race does not comprehend this reality. Queen Victoria and Hitler realised these truths after much destruction. The time has come to make Prabhakaran and other Tamil racists realise this truth.

inside the glass house:

Fighting terror with their lips

by: thalif deen at the united nations

Are most UN member states paying only lip service to the cause of anti-terrorism?

As the General Assembly began its annual sessions last week, several member states, including those battling separatist movements and domestic insurgencies, took to the podium to denounce terrorism as a vicious and unpardonable crime.

Speaking on behalf of the 15-member European Union, Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen said that "terrorism constitutes a threat to internal and international security."

"Therefore, the European Union reaffirms its unreserved condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and continues to support initiatives to suppress it," she told the Assembly as she appealed to EU member states to sign and ratify all international anti-terrorism conventions.

But despite this public condemnation of terrorism by one of the world's more powerful regional organisations, only 47 of the UN's 188 member states have so far signed the UN Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings— and only seven have ratified it: France, Spain, Sri Lanka, India, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Panama. Of the seven, only two are members of the European Union.

The Convention can enter into force only with 22 ratifications — but this seems a long way off judging by the pace at which it is proceeding ever since the treaty was adopted by the General Assembly in December 1997.

Some of the countries most vocal on the issue, including the US and Britain, have not even indicated when they will ratify the Convention. Without the necessary ratifications, the Convention seems a dead letter.

The US, Britain, Russia and Germany, among others, have not only been victims of terrorism but have also taken a strong public stand against both domestic and international terrorism.

But their public pronouncements carry little or no weight as long as they drag their feet over ratification.

Last week India became the seventh member state to ratify the Convention. After depositing the instrument of ratification, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said that under the convention, states are required to either prosecute or extradite persons accused of terrorist bombings within their territory.

Although India's push against terrorism is primarily directed at Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir, the Indian government is convinced that the convention is a culmination of UN efforts to prevent and eradicate international terrorism "which affects all countries and all regions."

Addressing the General Assembly Thursday, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar argued that terrorism must be tackled collectively, if it is to be tackled effectively at all.

Taking a dig at Western nations, he said that in earlier years the plea against terrorism had fallen on stony ground.

"But a rash of terrorist bombings in the West galvanised the rich and powerful countries into action," he noted.

"Today, we have one UN convention in place, and two under consideration at this session," he added.

The two currently under discussion are the Convention Against the Funding of Terrorism and the Convention Against Nuclear Terrorism.

Criticising Western governments who offer the excuse that they do not have laws under which fund raising for terrorist activities can be punished, Kadirgamar gave them the benefit of the doubt.

But that excuse, he warned, will cease to exist when the Convention Against the Funding of Terrorism is adopted, "one hopes and prays", at the current 54th session of the General Assembly.

The minister said that once the General Assembly adopts this new convention, it will require signatory states to enact domestic legislation in keeping with the provisions of the convention.

"I urge other countries, particularly in the West, to follow the lead of the United States of America in enacting legislation to outlaw terrorist organisations," he said.

In the unfolding debate on the stand-off between state sovereignty and the rights of individuals being subjected to human rights violations, "we must be careful to see that terrorist organisations do not reap the benefit of misplaced sympathy in situations of civil conflict."

Criticising the recruitment of children in war zones, he said that in Sri Lanka only the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam resorted to this "abominable practice."

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