Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Families of missing demonstrate in Jaffna on Human Rights Day

Home10 Dec  2016

Families of the missing demonstrated in Jaffna town on Saturday marking international Human Rights Day. 
Holding photographs of their missing loved ones, demonstrators called on the government to provide answers about the whereabouts of their relatives. 

Sinhalese & Tamils: The Widening Gulf


Colombo Telegraph
By Rajan Hoole –December 10, 2016
Dr. Rajan Hoole
Dr. Rajan Hoole
Southern Perceptions Mid – 1983
What became increasingly conspicuous in the run up to the 1983 holocaust was the widening divergence in Sinhalese and Tamil perceptions. A common standard seemed to have become out of reach. Among the Sinhalese, as seen in press editorials and letters to the editor, the drift was that the Tamils were passively or otherwise supporting the terrorists, and to meet such a situation, anything goes. Perhaps without fully realising where it was leading them to, the Government too encouraged this. It diverted attention from the rigged Referendum of December 1982, the Government’s lack of legitimacy, the violence at the bye-elections of May and its cavalier attitude to democratic norms. There was a two way relationship in extremism in public sentiment as articulated by the media on the one hand and by the Government on the other. Each seemed to feed the intemperateness of the other. By mid-July the obsession with terrorism as Tamil terrorism seemed to supersede everything else. President Jayewardene’s interview to the Daily Telegraph of London (Sect. 4.5) about his no longer being able to take into account the lives of Tamils or ‘their opinion about us’, had the effect of raising the flag for a showdown. The Press and even the SLFP seemed to have swallowed the bait, and were rallying to the standard either vocally or passively. The UNP Government of Jayewardene’s had thus silenced opposition in the South and had secured temporary conformity; but at a disastrous price.
As for Tamil opinion, it seemed to have largely opted out of trying to find expression in the mainline media. The Jaffna-based Saturday Review was perhaps the most spirited exponent of the Tamil point of view. The fact that it was sealed under the PSO on 2nd July 1983 with hardly a whimper of protest from the Southern media was a sign of what the country was sliding towards. It is also notable that on the eve of the July holocaust, Amirthalingam pointed out that the English Press had in recent times failed to publish his letters written to the President in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition. In those times these letters accurately detailed events in the North-East, and offered a different perspective.
We first give a few examples that point to the two-way interaction between public opinion as represented in the media and the rulers.
The Island of 19th May 1983 carried a letter by A. de Silva of Wadduwa on suggestions to stop terrorism in the North. His main suggestions were the following:
Declare Emergency in the North and East. Send Army and Police reinforcements to hunt terrorists and kill at sight. Colonise the so-called Traditional Tamil Homelands with Sinhalese. Declare once and for all that under no circumstances will Eelam ever be given. The cost of maintaining the security forces in the North must be recovered by a special tax on the residents. Pay no compensation to the victims of terrorism [presumably civilian victims of counter-terrorist actions] as the former [i.e. civilians] refuse to give information.
It may be noted that some of the key suggestions became more or less open government policy from mid-1984 under Lalith Athulathmudali as National Security Minister.
Just after the commencement of relatively small scale communal violence in Trincomalee, Colombo and elsewhere, the Sun of 4th June carried an editorial that showed genuine alarm at the prospect of spreading communal violence and the upsurge of lawlessness:

Human Rights Day, Transitional Justice and the Reform Agenda in Sri Lanka: What Next?



Photograph courtesy ‘Sampur’ documentary, featured on TJ Sri Lanka

BHAVANI FONSEKA on 12/10/2016

10th December marks international human rights day. While we should respect, promote and protect human rights regardless of a special day, 10th December ideally should be when we revisit and reflect on our human rights obligations, their relevance and how best to fully realize them. On this day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), providing a common standard and facilitating members of the international community to develop binding human rights guarantees and obligations. 
PM, Sampanthan discuss constitutional reforms with MR

2016-12-10

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, joined by Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan, met a joint opposition’s delegation led by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday and discussed constitutional reforms. 

The meeting took place days after President Maithripala Sirisen assured the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that he would ask the Prime Minister to discuss constitutional reforms with Mr. Rajapaksa who is now an MP representing the Kurunegala district .

 JO parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardane who also attended the meeting told Daily Mirror Mr. Rajapaksa did not agree to commit himself to anything in this regard because the government, as a coalition of different parties, was yet to come out with its stand on the proposed constitution.

 He said the JO members who served in the subcommittees that worked out constitutional proposals raised concerns that their views were disregarded and noted that the JO would stand by the 14 proposals it had submitted earlier. 

The protection of the country's unitary nature, the foremost place accorded to Buddhism and new electoral reforms are among the proposals submitted by the JO.

 “We remain concerned over the non-recognition of the JO in Parliament despite it being the largest group in the opposition,” Mr. Gunawardena said. 

JO MPs Lohan Ratwatte, Bandula Gunawardene, Vidura Wickramanayake and Shehan Semasinghe also attended the meeting. (Kelum Bandara) 
Only oppose illegal erection of Buddha statues - Wigneswaran

Only oppose illegal erection of Buddha statues - Wigneswaran

logoDecember 11, 2016

The Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran, has issued a statement refuting Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakse’s allegation that he and the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) have demanded a ban on Buddha’s statues being erected in the Northern Province. 

The Chief Minister said that he and the Northern Provincial Council had only objected to the illegal erection of Buddhist statues and the building of Buddha Viharas in areas where there are no Buddhists. He also said that the objection was to the erection of these illegally on forcibly seized privately owned lands and that statues of the Buddha and the construction of Buddhist temple are being done without consulting the elected Provincial Council. 

Wigneswaran clarified that neither he nor the Council is against the building of Buddhist places of worship, provided it serves the people around, is done with the sanction of the local council and on land which is not seized from private owners. 

Justice and Buddha Sasana Minister Wijedasa Rajapakse said in parliament recently that the Northern Provincial Council had no constitutional authority to ban the construction of Buddhist places of worship. 

 According to the Governor of the Northern Province Reginold Cooray the threat from the construction of Buddhist places of worship is being blown up as there are only 15 Buddhist places of worship in the entire North in contrast to hundred so Hindu temples and Christian churches. 

But Wigneswaran said that the whole controversy had arisen from a misunderstanding of the Tamil case. No one in the North would object to construction of Buddhist temples there if it can be justified in terms of the population around, and if it is done as per the law of the land. But the fact was that there had been illegalities and absence of consultation, he pointed out. 

Source: The New Indian Express -Agencies


LGBTQI Rights In Sri Lanka: Long Way Ahead


Colombo Telegraph
By Chamindra Weerawardhana –December 10, 2016
The 2016 world conference (#ILGA2016BKK) of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) was held in Bangkok last week. ILGA carries out a great deal of work regionally (Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Oceania, Pan Africa and Asia), and the world conference brings together all the regional bodies. The 2016 conference included some 700 delegates from 98 countries. In sum, it happened to be a microcosm of global LGBTQI advocacy and activism. ILGA also has secretariats specifically dedicated to women’s trans and intersex issues, and the caucuses of each of the secretariats provided insights into ongoing challenges, strategic priorities and trends in the influx of funding. The conference was especially significant in the backdrop of the UN’s increased attention to what is referred to as SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity). In June 2016, the UN HRC adopted Resolution A/HRC/32/L.2/Rev.1chaminda-weerawardhana-and-jayampathy
Photo – Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana and Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne at the #ILGA2016BKK Commonwealth side event.
which provided provision to appoint an independent expert on SOGI. The independent expert, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, a law professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, a senior academic with a strong advisory track record in the UN system, was personally present on the first day of #ILGA2016BKK.
#RepresentationMatters?
At the 2016 conference, an effort to think along intersectional lines, and to provide spaces for voices from indigenous peoples and the global South/s was apparent. Yet, it was also clearly apparent, when seeing things from a global south/s perspective, that there is a long way ahead to reach a semblance of a balance between the ‘north’ and the ‘south’. ILGA World did make considerable strides in this direction at last week’s conference, by providing spaces for people from the global South (including this writer) to attend, present, chair conduct workshops and be wholesomely included in their global platform. It was also commendable that people of colour (based in the global North as well as in the global South) and most importantly, indigenous communities from Turtle Island, Aotearoa and several other places were also accorded the possibility of chairing panels and conducting workshops.
Commonwealth Side Event
One of the most important and significant side events of #ILGA2016BKK was a Commonwealth side event, organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat. This event included three eminent MPs from Seychelles, Kenya and Sri Lanka. The event, chaired by the Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat, shed light upon the legislative challenges and hurdles that parliamentarians face in promoting LGBTQI equality legislation. It also demonstrated the extent to which cisnormativity, and to be more precise, cis-heteronormativity and a very narrow understanding of gender and sexuality continue to oppress and exclude a large number of people across the world.
Sri Lanka at #ILGA2016BKK
This writer, a Sri Lankan trans woman living in the island of Ireland, was among several other Sri Lankan activists and human rights advocates who attended and presented at #ILGA2016BKK. Although Sri Lankan representation at ILGA should have been much higher, this nonetheless suggests that despite the obstacles and Victorian (im)moralities of a cis-heteronormative lobby, Sri Lanka is home to brave and courageous LGBTQI activists and advocates. International organisations, on occasion, happen to see us, and give us platforms for self-expression. Our own elected government, however, has a tradition of looking down upon us, if not, not seeing us at all. jayampathy-wickramaratne
Photo – Commonwealth side event at the 2016 ILGA World Conference
At the Commonwealth side event, the presentation by Dr Jayampathy Wickramaratne MP (entitled ‘Sri Lanka: Using the constitutional review process to advocate for equality and non-discrimination’) on the efforts to include an equality clause in the proposed new constitution of Sri Lanka was simultaneously promising and, to say the very least, inviting ‘concern’. The veteran jurist made an excellent presentation on the legislative and ideological challenges involved. Dr Wickramaratne’s talk also brought to light the difficulties of familiarising MPs with LGBTQI equality and justice.

Reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Mission Impossible?



On track For a new beginning
Photograph courtesy The Hindu

MCM IQBAL on 12/11/2016

During the past few years much has been spoken and written about the need for reconciliation between the different communities in Sri Lanka.  The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse to hear what   was needed to be done to bring about reconciliation among the tattered communities in the country. This Commission’s recommendations did not receive   the earnest consideration they deserved.  Instead that regime continued to indulge in activities that made the possibility of a reconciliation become more remote.

President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in 2015 realized, inter alia,   the importance of reconciliation if he is to bring about the promised good governance and enable genuine peace and development in the country. He appointed a Task Force to conduct consultations with the public to get their ideas on the mechanisms that have to be set up to bring about a meaningful reconciliation. After extensive consultations the Task Force submitted a report with its recommendations. It is not the intention of this writer to go into the much publicised report and recommendations therein   but to make an assessment on whether the daunting task before the government in this regard is achievable or a ‘mission impossible’.

Though the country as a whole suffered during the protracted conflict, it is the people of the North and the East who suffered the most.   This fact is yet to be sufficiently driven home into the minds of the people in the South.  Once that is done, the call for reconciliation should be made to originate from the majority community.  The leaders in the South have not done enough to make them want reconciliation.  Many are still with the superiority complex clinging to the Mahavamsa mind-set.   They refuse to see that Sri Lanka has a plural society and every one living in the country has an inalienable right to live as a person with equal rights and obligations.  Even recently President Maithripala Sirisena had to make a ‘passionate appeal for reconciliation’ saying that he is committed to the current process of constitutional reforms for the devolution of power to address the concerns of the minority Tamils.[1]   This plea was in addition to the plea of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs who made a similar appeal a few weeks earlier.  He had this to say   “Reconciliation is not a box that can be ticked or a journey that can end as per a timeline. There are no magic portions to achieve what we set out to achieve. It requires hard work and constant striving, and a commitment towards which our nation should be bound across generations.”[2]

Despite such appeals, a large majority of   those in the South and even in the North   are yet to realize the true meaning of reconciliation and its importance.  Neither the government machinery nor its constituents both in the Parliament and outside, or even the State media,   have made a sustained attempt to imbibe the importance of reconciliation into the minds of the people.    Without the unstinted support of those in the South, achieving reconciliation will be an impossible task.   It is this deficiency that has enabled the revival of hate speeches against the Tamils, Muslims and other minorities in the country.  The hate mongers continue unhindered despite calls by various organisations to take stern action against them.

The recent disgraceful behaviour of the Buddhist priest of the Mangalaramaya in Batticaloa and the inaction of the police officers present at the scene has received wide publicity. This incident is symbolic of the inability of the State mechanisms to deal with such anti-social behaviour and  has dealt a heavy blow on those calling for reconciliation.  Subsequently many other Buddhist priests had organised a march to the Batticaloa District with an ulterior motive.  In that instance prompt action by the Government has averted a disastrous consequences that could have followed if they had not be stopped from proceeding.  A section of the Sinhala public and some extremist element among the politicians too, appear to support the behaviour of such priests.  These incidents are perhaps those of the chauvinists in the South who expect the minorities to be subservient to the majority and do not want any kind of reconciliation with them.    The deafening silence of the hierarchy of the Buddhist clergy on this matter is perhaps indicative of their tacit approval of the conduct of racist Buddhist priests.

In spite of such incidents, the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council had appealed to the Sinhala protagonists to come for a dialogue to understand the problems of the Tamils.[3]   There appears to have been no response to this appeal. Even those having extreme views in the Parliament had not responded.  With the defeat of the LTTE and the rejoicing that followed, many of those in the South thought the ethnic conflict is over.  They are yet to realize the importance of finding out the circumstances that led to the rise of militancy among the Tamil youth and deal with  the relevant issue to prevent the shimmering discontent amongst the minorities in general and the Tamils in particular. Without trying to understand the reasons why they are discontent, there cannot be lasting peace or reconciliation in the country.

Some have now begun a tirade against the Muslims and the Christians in the country.  These communities have now become convenient targets to assert the dominance of the Sinhala Buddhist hegemony spearheaded by Buddhist priests.   Those lobbying for such dominance have the backing of some unscrupulous politicians who want to ride on their backs to get back to power.  Their lobby is quite strong and have the support of a considerable section of those gullible persons among the Sinhalese.  The voice of the moderates in the South is not strong enough to restrain the extremists.    The latter can be a stumbling block to the government’s intention to bring about reconciliation. The government is neither able to deal with them nor ignore them.   There is therefore a strong need for an organised effort deal with the fears of the lobbyists.  This can be done only by promoting elitist civil society groups in the North and the South to interact with the educated Tamils and Sinhalese to make them realise the importance of living in  amity with the members of the other communities in the country as against living in suspicion of each other.  This cannot be achieved overnight. It has to be a long and sustained process with the full participation of institutions such as the schools and the media.  Doing so while there is simmering communalism is a challenge that has to be faced.  Reconciliation is going to be a mission impossible unless this challenge is encountered successfully.

The lethargic attitude of the Government of Sri Lanka in implementing   the provisions of the Resolution passed at the UNHRC in March 2014 is another matter that could completely stymie the reconciliation process.  The victims of the war saw this resolution as a step towards the fulfilment of their hope for justice for the suffering they had endured during the conflict, in general, and during the vicious war, in particular.   But subsequent conflicting statements by the President and the Prime Minister diminished the hope of justice for the war victims. The Foreign Minister who had personally spoken at the UNHRC saying that unlike those of the previous regime, this regime is an honourable one and that promises made would be kept, was a silent observer of the contradictory statements about honouring the pledges given.    The President has repeatedly stated that he will not let any ‘war hero’ to be charged for any crime he has committed during the war against the LTTE.  That statement added insult to injury on the victims of the war, waiting for justice.  Many of whom are waiting to find out  what happened to those who surrendered to the military during the war in the presence of witnesses,  and the others who had been arrested and have   disappeared.  Their expectations for justice have turned to be a mirage that keeps drifting further and further away on the road to justice.  Though an Act to set up an Office of Missing Persons (OMP) was passed in a haste ostensibly several months ago, the Government has shown no hurry in setting it up to help the victims. The effectiveness of the provisions in this Act to find the disappeared and provide compensation to the victims have also been found to be ineffective.[4]     The promise of re-settling all those who were displaced by the war is yet to be fulfilled. Many are still in refugee camps in the country and in India.   Even the promise that all lands taken over by the military in the North, would be returned, still remains to be honoured.  So is the promise to repeal the obnoxious provisions of the   Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).  The draft of an Act to replace it, prepared recently, caused uproar among those concerned as it contains provisions that are worse than those in the PTA.

The promise to set up an ad hoc hybrid judicial mechanism  to deal with human rights violations during the war,  has now been toned down to a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism ‘which has the confidence of the Tamils’.[5]   This is in spite of the UN Secretary General mentioning in his Oral statement of 30th September, 2015, as follows – “the total failure of domestic mechanisms to conduct credible investigations, clarify the truth of past events, ensure accountability and provide redress to victims” underlines the need for a hybrid judicial mechanism.      However, President Sirisena has ruled that out completely and stated that the participation of any foreign judges in any probe into alleged offences by the military during the war will not be permitted. [6]    Without accountability for the human rights violations during the conflict   reconciliation is bound to be a mission impossible.

Yet President Sirisena believes that without any of these being done, he could bring about reconciliation through a new constitution with greater devolution of powers which will address the concerns of the minorities.[7]  He seems to be very optimistic that the provisions in the draft proposals prepared by the Parliamentary sub-committee on Constitutional Reforms would  be accepted by the Parliament with a 2/3rd majority, in spite of  the sabre rattling by President Mahinda Rajapakse, even before the proposals are placed before the Parliament.  Besides even if by some jugglery the President manages to get the required support in the Parliament, it is doubtful that he would be able to muster the required number of votes at the referendum to get the peoples approval for the Constitution. In the circumstances even this expectation of the President to bring about reconciliation through Constitutional reforms is going to be wishful thinking.

The ‘Yahapalanaya’ Government has already wasted two years in office without doing anything meaningful to heal the wounds of the war.   It has done  practically nothing serious to imbibe into the minds of the victors of the war of the need to understand the extent of the damage done to the psyche of the Tamils to make them want to live in peace with the Sinhalese.  Efforts should have at least  been made to appease the losers at the war to forgive and forget the past for the sake of a better future.  With over 90,000 women who had been made widows by the war and many still waiting either to find their husbands or sons and/ or to start life afresh, there is no  well planned national development programme to directly deal with their problems.   Many  are still waiting to get back their lands from the military.  With the presence of more military personnel in their areas than during the days of the war, the people are still living  in an atmosphere of an  occupied territory.  As if these problems are not enough, there has arisen a new threat to the Tamil and Muslim communities from Buddhist priests taking a lead in erecting  statues of the Buddha in places where no worshippers of the Buddha lived in the days before the conflict escalated. It is clearly an attempt to change the demography of the North and the East with the tacit approval of the authorities. .    While all these problems persist,  lawlessness and use of drugs have become common place in this part of the country in spite of the presence of police and the army in massive numbers supposedly to maintain law and order.    In such an environment and while the issues mentioned continue to prevail, bringing about reconciliation is certainly going to be a mission impossible.

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The author was formerly Secretary to two Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances in Sri Lanka.
###
[6]  Ibid

‘Government is breaking its promises’ -National Movement for Just society expresses its displeasure for first time (Video)


LEN logo(Lanka-e-News -10.Dec.2016, 11.45PM) For the first time the National  movement for just society which made a major contribution to install the good governance government in power made an official statement expressing its disappointment over the continuous dishonoring of its pledges made to the people by the government of good governance .
This official statement was made  by Professor Sarath Wijesuriya , the convener of the movement  during a media  briefing held last 8th noon .
Working committee members of the movement , Saman Rathnapriya , lawyer Namal Rajapakse (not the synthetic criminally involved  lawyer) and several others attended the meeting.
 
The video footage of the statement made by the professor and his answers in response to the questions posed by the journalists is hereunder. It were the Sirasa journalists as usual who raised stupid questions. The statements made by others are published elsewhere. 
Video footage below 
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by     (2016-12-11 01:09:37)

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa: An influential figure in post-Congress India, she was mercurial on Sri Lanka


article_image
by Rajan Philips- 

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa who passed away last week was a much maligned figure throughout her political life, but she evoked as much love and adoration among her followers as she provoked ridicule and hate among her detractors. Her political epitaph could well be that she was a very influential Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in post-Congress India. Jayalalithaa wielded remarkable influence for nearly thirty yearswhile the Indian Union and its constituent Stateskept jostling towards a new equilibriumeven as the once dominant Congress Party kept losing power at the centre and in state after state. That she did not always use this influence quite properly and productively would be a reasonable qualifier to her epitaph. In fact, her biggest political achievements were in climbing back to political power and reckoning, time after time, after suffering electoral defeats and political irrelevance through her own follies and the traps set by her adversaries.

Death bridges divisions in political life, perhaps more than it does in personal lives. So it did in Tamil Nadu, as tributes flowed in from across the political divides, with her relentless adversary and the grand old patriarch of Dravidian politics, 92 year old M. Karunanidhi, lamenting her death at so young an age (she was 68, which is 38 as 70 is the new 40) and reiterating the Tamil adage that her fame will far outlive her death. Tributes across India, the condolence sessions at the two houses of parliament in Delhi, and Prime Minister Modi flying to Chennai for the funeral were indicative of the political respect that Jayalalithaa had earned at the national level. And thousands thronged the funeral procession from the historic Rajaji Hall to Chennai’s long Marina beech.

The inconsistency and opportunism that she was often criticised for were seen in full measure in the positions she took on the Tamil question in Sri Lanka. After becoming the chief denouncer of the LTTE after it assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, she swung through 180 degrees to become the chief advocate for Tamil Eelam after the LTTE was decimated in 2009. On both occasions, her primary motive was to gain electoral advantage by discrediting her political opponent and DMK leader M. Karunanidhi, who too flip-flopped on the Sri Lankan question for electoral advantage. That said and with the benefit of hindsight, I would suggest in this obituary that of the three Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers (Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa) after 1977, Jayalalithaa was the one person who could have played an intermediary role in developing a consensus between the Sri Lankan government, Tamil political organizations and New Delhi. This suggestion is based entirely on my reading of the background and attributes that Jayalalithaa brought to her politics. Seen that way, it was a missed opportunity for Sri Lanka even though it was not anyone’s fault that it turned out to be so.

Political obituaries are invariably balanced articulations of the personal attributes of political leaders, their style of leadership, the sociopolitical forces they mirrored and mobilized, and the consequences they generated. In this brief obituary, I am inclined to focus on the dialectic between Jayalalithaa’s background and attributes, on the one hand, and the sociopolitical forces in Tamil Nadu that she mobilized to engineer electoral success in the State and exercise influence in Delhi, on the other. It is not my purpose to offer judgement on her achievements or her failures, but to reflect onwhat it was for India and Tamil during Jayalalithaa’s time in politics and what was missed in regard to Sri Lanka.

The parpaththi who led an

anti-Brahmin movement

"Nan oruParpaththi (I am a Brahmin woman)", Jayalalithaa would declare without hesitation early on in her political career to deny her detractors in the Dravidian movement the caste cudgel that they would have gladly used to put her on the defensive. Instead, she went on the offensive in a deeply religious, caste ridden and tradition laden society and won its acceptance as a political leader despite her being a convent-educated, never married and single Brahmin woman, and taking over the leadership of an organization that at its core stood for rationalism, atheism and ending Brahmin domination in Tamil Nadu. That she was a popular film star and was inducted into politics by her film-world and life partner-mentor, MG Ramachandran (MGR) after he became Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, certainly gave her a strong beginning. But everything after the induction was her earning, and she owed nothing to anybody for all her political achievements just as she alone was responsible for all her political failures.

I am inclined to emphasize the gender aspect of Jayalalithaa’s politics in light of America’s inability to elect its first female president in the November presidential election. Even without the patriarchy of traditional societies, the immigrant American society put on anappallingdisplay of male vulgarity and chauvinism to attack and discredit Hillary Clinton. The emergence of women leaders in South Asiansocieties has been attributed to the practice of residual inheritance – where women become ‘residual heirs’ of family property in the absence of male heirs. From Sirimavo Bandaranaike to Sonia Gandhi, widows, daughters and daughters- -in-law became political successors in South Asian countries, although in the case of Sonia Gandhi the succession was vicarious and indirect. But residual inheritance could only be one explanation, for in every South Asian country where women became political successors there were other country-specific reasons that enabled their succession as well as their downfalls.

Jayalalithaa, on the other hand, broke convention in that she was not the traditional successor to MGR. Socially, it could be argued, that it was not unconventional for men of power and wealth in Tamil Nadu to possess two houses, if not more, the big house and the small house. After MGR’s death in 1987, there was a tussle between MGR’s wife, Janaki Ramachandran, and Jayalalithaa and their followers over political succession, and Jayalalithaa prevailed. It was even reported that Jayalalithaa apparently considered sati (widow immolation) at MGR’s funeral. Mercifully, she did not carry out that dreadful and dead tradition. More to the point, Jayalalithaa brought to her politics attributes that resonated well but differentially with different sections of the people of Tamil Nadu.

South Indian Tamil society is not a monolithic entity, but a society of nearly 80 million people who are vibrantly divided by region, religion caste and class, and who have learnt to co-exist administratively and economically while differing politically and socially in a modern state since it was first established by the British in 1653 as the then Madras Presidency. The Tamilian bourgeoisie is pan-Indian and multi-lingual, and Chennai one of India’s three major port cities, has always been a cosmopolitanand multi-lingual city, not so much in terms of westernization but in being the settled home to merchants, professionals, academics and artists from practically every state in India.

It would seem that Jayalalithaa was able to relate to this Tamilian diversity as well as, if not better than, any of her male political contenders. On the one hand, the ‘haughty aloofness’ that she became noted for during her first term (1991-1996) as Chief Minister, could be attributed to her Tamil Brahmin family roots. Her maternal grandfather was the principal surgeon in the princely state of Mysore (now Karnataka) and her paternal father was aeronautical engineer who moved from Tamil Nadu to Mysore.On the other hand, like MGR, she used the medium of her film popularity to empathize with the marginalized sections of the Tamil society – the poor, the rural peasants, unorganized workers and urban underclasses.

Jayalalithaa was multilingual, with fluency in Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi and English, and acted not only in hundreds of Tamil films but also quite a few Telugu and Kannada films. She was born in Mysore, had her early education in Bangalore’s Bishop Cotton Girl’s School. She later studied in Tamil Nadu, becoming first in the state in the Grade 10 examination, before joining Stella Maris (university college) run by Catholic nuns in Chennai. She lost her father when she was two years old and it was their family circumstances that moved first her mother and then, on mother’s insistence, Jayalalithaa into dancing and acting giving up her studies. Perhaps in her own mind, surveying the field of her Dravidian political contenders, she would have felt an edge of superiority over every one of them. And they did make her pay a hefty price for it.

Given her multi-lingual fluency, MGR made her the Party’s ‘propaganda secretary’ and in 1983 got her elected to theRajya Sabha in Delhi, the upper house in India’s parliament. That was the beginning of Jayalalithaa’s Delhi and Rajya Sabha connections that would serve her well throughout her political life. Since 2014, she has been providing the Modi government its lifeline in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP lacks a majority, and the support will certainly continue under the new Chief Minister Panneerselvam. On her route to becoming Chief Minister in 1991, she became the first female Leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu State Assembly in 1989. It was then the DMK government with more than a nod from Chief Minister Karunanidhi physically attacked Jayalalithaa in the assembly, tearing up her saree and forcing her to leave the legislature shaken but defiant. She theatrically, although not unjustifiably, compared her humiliation to the humiliation of Draupathi in the Mahabarataepic, and vowed political retribution.

And retribution did come to the DMK with a vengeance when Jayalalithaa led an AIADMK alliance to victory and her first term as Chief Minister in 1991. From becoming Tamil Nadu’s youngest ever Chief Minister until her death, she became the state’s alternating contender with her rival Karunanidhi. But she did better than her much older rival, winning a greater number of state and national elections and holding office for longer periods than Karunanidhi. Her terms were often marred by real and alleged corruption. She found herself on the wrong side of the law, not without trumped up charges, and disqualified from office on more than one occasion. But every time she was reinstated after winning her appeals. And she came back to haunt her opponents.

Jayalalithaa leaves behind a mixed record as Chief Minister, but what is remarkable are some of her initiatives for women in Tamil society. In 1992, she started the "Cradle Baby Scheme" to support abandoned female babies in a country that places a premium on male newborns and has even bent medical ethics to abort female fetuses. She gender-transformed the state’s police force, introducing a 30% quota for women in the state overall while starting up women-only police stations to cater to women’s needs and concerns. She established the first women police commando force in India, including all the aggressive training that male commandos go through. Gender segregation has been a curious feature in Indian buses to minimize the harassment of women. Jayalalithaa took a different turn and established libraries, banks and co-operative outlets of women, for women and by women.

(To be continued: Jayalalithaa’s Opportunism in Delhi and Missed Opportunity for Sri Lanka)

Sri Lankan Lobby & Foreign Policy


Colombo Telegraph
By Asanga Abeyagoonasekera –December 9, 2016
Asanga Abeygoonasekera
Asanga Abeygoonasekera
No foreign policy – no matter how ingenious – has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.” ~ Henry A. Kissinger
Sri Lanka was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement with the first women Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike depicting her courageous leadership to the entire world not being a spectator but playing an active role in global arena. Her foreign policy outcomes can be explained only when interests, values and power are combined, a rich understanding of her beliefs. It was a period when small nations had to commit allegiance between US or Soviet power blocs.
We now live in a Multiplex world. After the fall of Berlin Wall a unipolar world order was created by US and then gradually moved to a multipolar world with emerging China and many other nations acquiring nuclear capacity. According to Prof. Amitav Acharya at Yale University, the causation of a multiplex world includes many powerful individual groups apart from governments. On Dec 7th this year marks the 75th anniversary of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour which killed 2400 Americans, the day US declared war against imperial Japan and fascist movement. After this the second biggest attack was 9/11 which got US to fight the present day Al-Qaeda and IS.US foreign policy could take dramatic adjustments with President elect Donald Trump. He has already proven from a recent phone call to Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen which has not been standard practice since 1979. China was threatened by this and expressed their displeasure over the incident. Trump’s advisor clearly explained he was well briefed and was aware of what he was doing.
In a threatened neo-liberal world order, Sri Lanka should craft our foreign policy to suite the present day environment to benefit the nation. President Sirisena’s Government has clearly balanced the West and the East. The Asia centric foreign policy spelled out by the President is clearly looking first towards Asia since we are a nation in Asia and balancing the rest. It is an equidistant foreign policy with global powers including the neighboring India, China and US .While we gain support from foreign nations at Governmental level we should work towards gaining support from 3 million Sri Lankan diaspora which includes Sinhalese, Tamils and all other ethnic groups overseas.
“The Lobbyʺ is a term for the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to achieve a positive outcome for their nation of birth. The use of this term is not meant to suggest that ʺthe Lobbyʺ is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Such as certain sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora who are yet engaged in lobbying for a separate homeland “Eelam”. Diaspora could bend the residing nation’s policy and view, so that it advances Sri Lanka’s interests. From voting for candidates, writings, financial contribution and supporting individuals who could contribute to achieve the goals are among its key functionalities.
This is pivotal for three reasons. First, the Sri Lankan diaspora may be re-aligned with the county which will help to project both the State and groups image. What we require is a re-alignment strategy opening strong communication channels for whoever is disconnected from Sri Lanka due to various reasons. Second, the diaspora could act as a powerful lobby for the challenges Sri Lankan diaspora is a huge asset untapped to lobby for the nation. Third, Diaspora could be a huge support to achieve economic prosperity if we open the doors to expats with professional expertise to join the ailing government enterprises and assist other sectors of the economy and bring investment.
The Israeli diaspora who is a much powerful larger group which receives the largest donations and assistance from US and influence US foreign policy is a good example but with a different magnitude in terms of population percentage. This was clearly explained by Chicago School Scholar John Mearsheimer and Stephen M.Walt of Harvard JFK School in their brilliant thesis “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”, a paper worth revisiting. “Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one‐fifth of America’s foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.” this was possible because of the strong Israel lobby in US. The overseas Indian diaspora is a further example of a group who contributed immensely to support Indian economy especially Indian ICT sector. The second largest student population in US is from India with 165918 and China the largest 328547 students.

Tug of war between Governor and Finance Minister

Tug of war between Governor and Finance Minister
 Dec 09, 2016
The talk in the Financial sector is that Governor Kumaraswamy is finding it extremely uncomfortable with the Finance Minister who is a go getter getting the better of him.
The Governor is trying to take a total independent line from the government and not cooperating with the Finance Ministry to address some of the very serious structural issues.
He is ably supported by Crysantha Perera an ex Chairman of Forbes and Walker Tea. He was appointed to the Monetary Board by Charitha Rathwatte .
Another parachutist in the Yahapalana government. In fact it is well known that UNP supporters had visited Rathwatte's house to canvass his vote. Crysantha Perera only has his O/L.
The Monetary Board usually has people who are qualified. It was during his tenure that the notorious Bond Scam happened.
Crysantha Perera should have resigned like the ex Governor and gone home. But shamelessly he stayed on. His conflict of interest is well known. He is Chairman of Tea Service Ltd. A company owned by Capital Alliance buying and selling government  bonds. Crysantha was Chairman of Capital Alliance until very recently. Capital Alliance is owned by Jetwing.
The Coorays owners of Jetwing Group, Hiran and Shiromal were close associates of Basil Rajapaksa. It was touted around in 2012 that Basil Rajapaksa was a silent investor in Jetwing . Hiran Cooray supported Mahinda Rajapakse by speaking at the business forum to support Mahinda Rajapaksa and openly canvassing for him.
All these companies should be fully investigated to make sure Rajapaksa money was not laundered during their reign through these companies.

SL faces currency risk on debt servicing: IMF 


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by Azhar Razak-December 10, 2016, 6:09 pm

Sri Lanka is facing vulnerabilities linked to inadequate reserve coverage, exchange rate depreciation, and deleveraging which could pose a risk for debt servicing, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.

Presenting the Debt Sustainability Analysis in an IMF Staff Report released yesterday, the global lender has cautioned that Sri Lanka’s currency risk, notably related to the dollar, is at present high.

"Large rupee depreciation could pose a significant risk, if sustained; as stress tests show that a 30 percent real depreciation would raise the external debt to GDP ratio to about 72 percent. In the short run, tighter global liquidity and shifts in investor confidence could raise rollover vulnerabilities and costs," the IMF pointed out.

It noted that although rollover risks are generally low due to the high share of medium-to-long-term debt, there are lumpy repayments starting in 2019 and external financing at non-concessional terms gradually substitutes concessional financing which points to a need to build up buffers. Lower than expected GDP or export growth would also deteriorate debt dynamics, the report cautioned.

According to recent statistics, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves fell by US$ 404 million to US$ 5.65 billion in November 2016 from US$ 6.053 billion a month earlier. According to the Weekly Economic Indicators released on 9th December, gold reserves at the end of November 2016 plunged by a sharp 8% to US$ 848 million compared to the figure at end October 2016.

On the other hand, the Sri Lanka rupee has depreciated by 3.1% against the US dollar during the year up to December 9, 2016, official data showed.

Over the medium term, the IMF report however stated that the ratio of external debt to GDP is projected to gradually decline. Under the program scenario, external debt is projected to decrease by 6 percentage points of GDP to 49 percent in 2021. The decline is driven by robust GDP growth, gradual current account adjustments, and subdued FDI loans and other debt-creating private capital inflows.

SL faces currency risk

on debt servicing: IMF