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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mannar Catholic Diocese condemns police threats against protesting priest

Home25 Jun  2017
The Mannar catholic community has condemned police threats made against the parish priest of Iranai Matha Church for joining and supporting the land-return protests of Iranaithivu villagers.
Reverend Father Arul Selvan was threatened by a police officer while supporting a road-block protest undertaken by the people of Iranaithivu, on their 54th day of protest, on Friday.
The Manner Diocese Catholic Union reiterated in a statement on Sunday thats its priests had always been united with the people and their struggles.
“No-one can forget that our priests even gave their lives during the war, staying with and serving the people until the very end,” the statement said.
The union condemned police and military threats on religious leaders and activists, and called for the local police to begin engaging with the people in order to understand their struggles.
The union also called for the police officer concerned to issue a personal apology to Father Arul Selvan.
The people of Iranaithivu, two islands off the coast of Kilinochchi, have been protesting for the return of their lands and fishing ports from the Sri Lankan Navy.

Reporter seeks justice for 'white van' torture in Sri Lanka

Poddala Jayantha
  •  -
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Jun 24, 2017, 11:02 PM ET

The sight of a white van still haunts Poddala Jayantha, a Sri Lankan journalist exiled in the U.S.
Eight years after he was abducted in his home country, he says he saw only a pair of hands pulling him inside the vehicle where he was tortured for hours. He had broken bones in both his legs, fingers smashed, body burnt, beard and hair cut and stuffed inside his mouth. A group of tricycle taxi drivers found him dumped by the side of a deserted road and took him to a hospital.
The decades-long civil war has ended, but the suspects in Jayantha's ordeal are still at large. On a visit back to Sri Lanka, Jayantha is now pressing his case for justice but it's far from clear he'll be getting it anytime soon.
Jayantha, 52, was the president of the Working Journalists' Association of Sri Lanka, the largest media organization in the country, and spoke against suppression of the media and organized protests at a time when doing so was considered dangerous. Government forces were closing in on Tamil Tiger rebels who sought to carve out their own state for minority Tamils; advocating accountability, transparency and human rights meant taking a personal risk.
Jayantha doesn't know who snatched him. But he said he had angered Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, one of the most powerful officials in his brother's administration with the title of secretary to the minister of defense, by arguing against Rajapaksa's criticism of the media. Jayantha said he was openly warned of dire consequences of challenging such a formidable figure.
Rajapaksa has been implicated in most other cases where journalists had been targeted, but has repeatedly denied any role in violence against the media.
There are no clear statistics available on the number of journalists targeted during the war, in which at least 100,000 people were killed and another 20,000 are missing. Scores of media workers were killed both in the war-torn north and the rest of the country allegedly by military, pro-government groups or Tamil Tiger rebels.
According to a March report by the International Truth and Justice Project — an evidence-gathering organization administered by a South Africa-based nonprofit foundation — the abuse continued beyond the civil war through 2016, well after the country elected a new president who promised accountability for past injustices.
The report is based on testimony from 46 Sri Lankan Tamils who fled to Britain or Switzerland and were once held at Sri Lanka's security forces' headquarters. Some victims said they were abducted in a "white van" and held for months or even years without due process; kept in cells so small they could not lie down; beaten, raped or tortured by means of having barbed wire inserted into their anal cavities. The military's chief aim, they said, was to learn of any ongoing rebel activity as well as the location of hidden weapons caches, according to the report.
Police investigations have not led to any convictions more than two years after hard-line President Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated by a moderate, Maithripala Sirisena. Only a few high profile cases are being heard in courts at a slow pace while investigations haven't even begun in dozens of others, mainly those relating to Tamil journalists who were killed or persecuted in the country's north and east.
A court this past week released on bail six soldiers accused of abducting and torturing journalist Keith Noyahr a few months before Jayantha was seized. Both were victims of the "white van" cases. Noyahr has fled to Australia.
Sirisena's government is being criticized for being reluctant to pursue suspects, nearly all of them military or paramilitary personnel who are held in high esteem by many Sri Lankans for their role in defeating the Tamil Tigers.
After the change of government, Jayantha said he wrote to the police and a reparations committee appointed by the president, but to no avail. Sirisena himself has publicly spoken against arresting soldiers suspected of crimes.
"It is a joke to say that the war heroes will not be punished. When you make such statements, what message do you give to the investigating bodies?" Jayantha said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"The army must be cleaned up by punishing the small section that was involved in these crimes," he said.
In Jayantha's hometown of Mirihana, a police officer asked him to provide the plate number of the white van used in his abduction, which Jayantha said he had no way of seeing.
Last Tuesday, Jayantha visited the Criminal Investigations Department asking it to take over the investigation from the local police. Days later, the police chief referred Jayantha's case to the CID, which questioned the journalist at length over two days and recorded his statement.
The case now being handled by the CID however doesn't guarantee a speedy resolution. Courts have not been able to move other cases quickly enough because the military has not been cooperating by providing data and records, media activists say.
Jayantha said that any white van he sees gives him "a continuous mental agony," and that he sometime feels death would have been better than living with the trauma. He said that the steel plates used to mend his broken bones are a reminder of his pain that shoots up more often in the U.S., where the cold weather makes it worse.
Lasantha Ruhunuge, the current president of the Working Journalists' Association of Sri Lanka, said the government's attempt so far has been to compensate the victimized journalists and avoid prosecution of the alleged offenders.
"We are frustrated. We have been calling for a presidential commission of inquiry for two years," Ruhunuge said. "As long as the wrongdoers are roaming free in the society, you can't give guarantees for democracy and media freedom in the country."
Soon after the attack, the then U.S ambassador visited Jayantha in the hospital and offered to arrange for him to live in America. Jayantha at first declined, but changed his mind after a few months when he began receiving threats because he was beginning to speak of his ordeal. He is now a green-card holder.
In New York, his daughter, who left Sri Lanka as a 12-year-old, has entered college to study engineering, he said, adding that he plans to work again in Sri Lanka after she graduates.


Poddala Jayantha: A bravejournalist (c)s.deshapriya.

Sri Lanka Brief25/06/2017

Breaking eight years of prolonged quiescence, Poddala Jayantha has made his presence in the country to lodge a complaint with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) against his abduction and persecution in 2009. After making several complaints to the police verbally and in writing prior to and after fleeing to the USA as a political asylum seeker, Jayantha says no satisfactory decision was taken by the authorities.

“I feel relieved today since the authorities at least listened to my grievances after eight years,” remarked Jayantha after giving a six-hour-long statement to the CID. The former journalist and the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association Poddala Jayantha told Ceylon Today that due to the inaction of the authorities in investigating his case, he was compelled to appear before them and explain matters.

“In the course of eight years

I was suppressing my agony and today I’m in a state of solace,” said Jayantha while exposing the psychological trauma he had to undergo as a result of persecution. The intensity of the trauma was such that he often had to spend sleepless nights and wake up at odd times at night under depression. His situation made his wife suffer physically and mentally. I often told wife that they should have killed me instead of leaving me in this deplorable condition for the rest of my life,” Jayantha said.


He said the Yahapalana government is taking steps to compensate him for the damage. “I do not know how they are going to assess the physical torture and psychological trauma I had to undergo.
My attempt is not to claim damages, but to make my case an eye opener to the authorities to act responsibly to take preventive measures in the future.” Although there are many shortcomings in the government, he is hopeful that the government would provide him with a satisfactory solution.

According to him, the vehicle that was used to abduct him was a mobile torture outfit. “They trimmed my hair and forcibly shoved them into my mouth. They broke my leg by beating with wooden poles. I fell unconscious due to the severity of the torture. The abductors tied my arms and then dumped me somewhere at Mulleriyawa. A kind taxi driver took me to hospital and later I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I was in hospital for nearly a month,” he said.

He showed the X-ray of his leg and explained how iron splints are fixed to support the bones of his leg. He is worried that he cannot engage in activities he used to do prior to the mishap. “I cannot run to catch a bus or train. Going up steps is another difficulty,” he says.

protest against Poddala abduction held in Colombo


What made the abductors to torment him so mercilessly? According to him as a journalist he used to expose in high places. He was doing his duty as a media person, but those who were engaged in corruption wanted to silence him. “I was the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA) which had 1,200 members. I told them that I would expose injustice faced by them.”

Jayantha was a journalist on the government owned “Silumina” editorial at the time of his abduction. Any exposure of corruptions in government departments or corporations was not expected from a journalist who worked for a state newspaper. However, he went ahead with his mission undaunted exposing corruption in government departments and corporations. “I had the guts to change the existing culture of a state-run newspaper. It is a well-established tradition of state-run newspapers to whitewash government misdeeds. I broke the tradition and revealed the corruption in the government managed institutes. I did investigative reporting and produced all the facts and figures to the editor for publication.”

He says he exposed corruption in state-run institutes as they were maintained by the tax payers’ money. He simply did something legitimate in a peaceful manner. He revealed the Value Added Tax (VAT) scam which involved a loss of Rs 500 million to the state. He kept on revealing the facts and figures until it reached a staggering Rs 600 million. Eventually, the country lost over Rs 1, 500 million due to the VAT scam. “I personally lodged a complaint at the Bribery Commission against the VAT scam, but he was told that the commission was inactive at the time.

Poddala Jayantha leading media protest. 


Jayantha was instrumental in launching several protests against various corruptions and the suppression of media freedom which led to his abduction and torture. However, he continued to remain in the country even after his abduction and torture. He stayed in the country for eight months although many embassies offered him political asylum. The embassies of the United Kingdom, United States and Switzerland were keen to help me. “The US ambassador Robert O Blake visited me at the hospital and asked me to get ready to fly to the US to obtain political asylum,” he said.

Jayantha fled to India subsequent to the assassination of the Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge thinking that he would face the same fate if he remained in the country. However, on his return to the country, he decided to seek asylum in a foreign country.

He left for the US with his wife and only daughter who was 12 years at the time. “My daughter is reading for her Bachelor of Engineering Degree at New York City University,” he said. Jayantha seems to be happy with his life in the US. He said he earns a decent income and has all the facilities for him to lead a comfortable life. Jayantha who now leads a happy life in the US has a humble beginning. He was born and bred in Poddala, Galle. His father was a rubber tapper and mother a tea plucker. He said he was compelled to find a job after completing his education due to the dire situation at home. He first worked as a security officer at Wijeya Newspapers (Pvt) Ltd. He began his writing career as a freelance journalist at “Ravaya” and later joined “Silumina” newspaper after following a Mass Media course at a university.

“Although I want to come back to Sri Lanka and work as a journalist, I am unable to do due to personal issues.One reason is my daughter’s education. Once she settles down, I will surely come back and return to journalism,” Jayantha said with a note of expectation.

Limits of exclusivism

he recent crisis in Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council (NPC) has more to it than a fight against corruption.  The recent no-confidence motion in the NPC in Jaffna, moved by a section of the Council members against Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, has brought the deep divide in Tamil nationalist politics to the fore.
The turbulence lasted a week, after he called on two ministers to resign on corruption charges and two others to go on compulsory leave, until Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan engineered a compromise that let Mr. Wigneswaran continue in power.The controversy was essentially a manifestation of a simmering political conflict within the Tamil polity. Tension had been brewing within the NPC since the regime change in January 2015. The Tamil nationalists’ preferred discourse of victimhood and the need for international intervention during the authoritarian Rajapaksa regime suddenly confronted the geopolitical agenda of the West and India, which moved close to the new government in Colombo. The TNA leadership in Parliament shifted its approach towards engaging Colombo. However, the CM, along with politicians within and outside the NPC, firmly held his exclusivist, if not separatist, line.
In the parliamentary elections of August 2015, these fissures became pronounced with the CM supporting the hard-line Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) which suffered a thumping defeat. The TNA’s landslide victory seemed a timely moment for the CM’s removal, but Mr. Sampanthan’s indecisiveness let the status quo be.

"It is only a generational political shift breaking away from Tamil nationalism that can redeem Tamil society from its tragic predicament"

Political culture

The recent developments in the NPC also reflect worrying trends in Tamil political culture. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and later the Rajapaksa regime had curtailed peoples’ struggles for decades. However, with democratic space opening after 2015, protests around land, fishing rights, wartime disappearances and militarization mounted. Through these agitations, the war-affected people voiced their growing frustration as their livelihoods remained precarious. But the government in Colombo was comfortably indifferent.
The lack of solutions through meaningful leadership in the TNA and the Colombo government has left the field open for the crass politics of nationalists aligned with Chief Minister Wigneswaran. Their campaigns are essentially repackaging the LTTE’s politics of ethnic exclusion, often with anti-Muslim sentiments. They glorify martyrdom and victimhood, blame all ills on the south, and claim to be devoted nationalists who can lobby the West for deliverance.

"Tamil nationalist politics that has centred on exclusivism culminating in separatism, or demands towards constitutional change without political rapprochement requires a rethink"

It is true that substantive devolution is yet to be realised in the country, but the CM actively blocks development projects allocated from Colombo.The pro-Wigneswaran mobilizations culminated in attacks on the dominant sections of the TNA, with the labelling of politicians as “traitors”, reminiscent of the LTTE’s politics of character assassination. Meanwhile, sections of the local Tamil media project his populist appeal through religious and cultural imagery betraying an emergent Hindu nationalism in Jaffna.  
The Tamil chauvinist forces do not pose any threat to the state for the Tamil community cannot stomach another insurrection. However, they can further undermine the Tamil community by preventing moves to rebuild its social, economic and political institutions. While the LTTE mowed down committed social and political Tamil leaders for its military project seeking a separate state, its opportunistic and talking-head avatars pose a political threat to what remains of progressive Tamil society and its institutions.

Downward spiral

The next year, ahead of NPC elections, is likely to be wasted with a lame duck Council, with possibly more extreme nationalist theatrics to keep the Tamil population at boiling point. In this context, early elections, following its dissolution is one possibility. Alternatively, the electorate may demand changes in provincial governance through local struggles. The Centre also aggravates the dire state of the Tamil community with a terribly flawed reconstruction programme, with no meaningful investment in the local economy or job creation. The promised constitutional reforms to expand devolution of power have been virtually put on hold as the coalition government wobbles, with unchecked Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist forces surging. Having wasted two and a half years in power, the President and the PM offer little confidence to the war-torn population by way of a solution. As for Tamil nationalist politics, whether it is the TNA leadership or its rivals little is likely to change. There isn’t even reflection and introspection about how the LTTE and, for that matter, the current leadership have brought about this abject situation.
Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s politics have been a disaster. He has severed relations with the south and is the subject of ridicule by international actors whom he claims to lobby. However, the faith placed by many in Mr. Sampanthan as a senior leader who can finally deliver a solution is also waning, thanks to his political indecisiveness and failure to engage and mobilize the Tamil population.
In this context, Tamil nationalist politics that has centred on exclusivism culminating in separatism, or demands towards constitutional change without political rapprochement requires a rethink. It has never sought to genuinely engage the other minorities and progressive Sinhalese, or consider ways of achieving devolution of power in tandem with broader democratization and economic justice. Worse, it has failed to address the contradictions within its fold of caste, gender, class and religion, and instead depended on an elite consensus within its narrow, Jaffna-centred base. The downward spiral of Tamil nationalist political competition in recent years signals a destructive path for an already debilitated, war-torn society. It is only a generational political shift breaking away from Tamil nationalism that can redeem Tamil society from its tragic predicament.

Ahilan Kadirgamar is a political economist based in Jaffna
Courtesy ‘The Hindu’

Globalised World, It’s Actors & Spectators: Three Spheres

Dr. Siri Gamage
logoThis is a topic that consumes most minds in the corporate and government sectors in contemporary times. It is because of the way contemporary world is shaped by the global and regional economic and political forces. In order to understand who benefits from this arrangement and who aren’t, we have to understand the nature of different spheres operating simultaneously in a hierarchical fashion in the global order connecting a multitude of large and small nations. In my view, there are three main spheres in the current arrangement of the global order: 1) global, 2) intermediate 3) local. Let me explain.
The global sphere includes the weak and powerful states formed into multilateral organisations such as the UN and its agencies, bilateral agencies, and the multinational corporate sector. Various political and regional alliances among states form an important part of this sphere as is the network of close relations in the corporate sector by way of a multitude of servicing agencies in professional fields such as accountancy, law, transport, finance, trade, tourism, medical, security and so on. The NGO sector is also a key element of this global sphere.  They work closely with multilateral and bilateral agencies partly to design and administer various projects sponsored by states or non-state organisations. There is a significant difference between the corporate culture, diplomatic culture and the NGO culture at the global level. Upper echelons of each of these sectors adhere to well developed formulae from their predecessors. Personal factors interfere in their operations to a lessor extent.
Rules and regulations governing these sectors are generally clearly defined and the masters of each sector keep a tab on the operations of those below in the respective hierarchies.   Goal setting and achievement of such goals within defined time and financial frameworks plus natural and human resource boundaries are key considerations. Organisations originating from the global north or metropolitan capitals of Western Europe and USA in the corporate sector have to be responsible to the shareholders of companies and other entities for the operations of respective organisations.  NGO sector also has specific mandates that are closely followed by their superiors in the capital cities of the developed West and USA. Operations of these organisations in countries of the global south, including for example India, China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is essential for the value adding for various products and services. Thus the officials from all three sectors have a need to connect and do business with those with power, status and wealth in the intermediary sector.
Intermediary sector includes the politicians, government officials, rich businessmen, investors, NGO activists and significant others within states and in the diaspora. In order to transact business within specific countries, those in the global sphere need to connect with these figures officially and unofficially, e.g. in social occasions. Current world is moving on the basis of transactions undertaken, projects planned and implemented, finance organised, and the social justifications for the projects thus designed. Those active in the intermediary sphere or zone come from the local contexts within specific countries but also from the diaspora and the global context. (This is as a result of various migration waves in the last few decades plus the facilitation of business visa for those with sufficient wealth and capital by the developed countries of Europe, USA, Australia, Canada etc.) Thus we can imagine about a private sector initiated port development, road development, irrigation projects, apartment complexes or other businesses to provide specific services. These are the products of negotiations between those from the global sphere i.e. global North, and those in the intermediate sphere ie. global South, working on behalf of the populace in general or specific constituencies with vested interests. As elected representatives carry the mandate to negotiate business on behalf of the nations, they play a key role in all this to provide legitimacy.  In a country like Sri Lanka where the indebtedness is growing by the day, negotiations for further projects, businesses, investments etc. have become an essential activity of the elected government and its functionaries.  These are conducted in line with the dominant economic doctrine in the minds of ruling elites, ie. Neoliberal, free market economic norms and principles. Very little questioning of this doctrine seems to occur within the ruling class or in the broader society!
The culture and lifestyle of those in this intermediate sphere is globally oriented. Key players need to have an understanding of how the world works and how to turn events and dealings and wheelings with global partners in their favour? With time, those who engage in this game acquire a certain versatility and acumen with experience, networks and opportunity provided by their backgrounds and affiliations. Members operating in this sphere lead a high life mostly with the public purse and others by using their corporate or INGO resources. The discourses used by specific personnel vary depending on the sector. Those in the intermediate sphere move across countries and regions easily and have well-established connections with those in the diaspora. They are the custodians of designing, changing, delaying and even manipulating the overall ‘system of governance’ and its sub systems. They use the mandate received from the voters at periodic elections (heavily manipulated though) as well as the experience and political and culture capital acquired to achieve these objectives. In addition to the political layer, there is a technocratic layer of individuals attending to the transactions.
Now we come to the third and final sphere. It is the domestic or local sphere. Average folk in the lower to middle classes and those in poverty belong in this sphere. By far, they are the majority looking to the political masters and other authority figures to manage the country and provide rules and space for a peaceful life. There are many divisions within this sphere based on language, religion, ethnicity, class, gender, lifestyle, etc. In fact in this sphere, there are dividing factors more so than uniting factors. The daily life of members of this sphere is fed with national news about national and international affairs by a multitude of media.  Members of this sphere carry diverse aspirations for themselves and their kith and kin. They operate within ‘the system’ designed by those who know better and those who are well placed in the social, political and economic hierarchies. Such hierarchies end up in the intermediate sphere and we refer to them as elites.
Those in the domestic sphere tend to lead their life according to the rules –except the deviants- and this make their progress slow. They encounter many challenges for getting ahead in life or creating a better future for children due to lack of material resources and culture capital. For example, if they or their children did not attend Royal College or similar Colleges with a chequered history going back to the colonial days or enter the university to do a professional degree, or well connected to the players in the corporate sector their life chances are dismal. However, their connectivity with significant others is weak though many tend to go after such figures at the local levels to obtain various benefits which are things like a job, license or permit, local contracts. Many seek spiritual help to secure even the simplest task in life and go through sets of anxieties generated by the system in place, which they consider as not just.
Social justice is not the principle upon which most hierarchies are based. Ideally, administration of justice in terms of resources is in the hands of those with power and resources to deliver to the rest. What comes down from their hands is unevenly spread across ethnic, religious and other boundaries. Members of the domestic/local sphere are ‘mere spectators’ of the system and its failings rather than active players of the system’s design or its manipulation for personal benefit unlike those in the intermediary sphere. Thus various ideologies and discourses have been designed by those in the intermediary sphere to manage and direct the interests and aspirations of those in the domestic sphere. An easy way to do this is by promoting antagonisms among the people in the domestic sphere based on micro categories such as ethnicity, religion, language etc. (In Western countries of the global north, terrorism is also used to create fear among the people and introduce restrictions on civil liberties)

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How to deal with the crises of independent journalism and political communication

How to deal with the crises of independent journalism and political communication

Jun 15, 2017

To mark the World Press Freedom Day in Budapest, the Center for Media, Data and Society at the CEU School of Public Policy and CEU’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) organized two panel discussions on the challenges and problems independent media and political communication face today, with the participation of CEU President and Rector Michael Ignatieff, CEU faculty, journalists and media activists.

The event began with a brief introduction of the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM), a study funded by the European Commission that is designed to identify potential risks to media pluralism in Europe. Mario Viola de Azevedo Cunha, researcher, Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at European University Institute gave an overview of the latest trends that were spotted in the soon-to-be-launched MPM2016 report, while Attila Batorfy, resident CMDS fellow who worked on the Hungarian country report for the MPM discussed the alarming results in terms of political influence over media.
Where is independent journalism headed?
“What does political influence in the media look like today?,” asked Eva Bognar in the first panel discussion of the event. Responding to Bognar’s question, Tamas Bodoky, editor-in-chief of described the current situation in Hungary by saying, “This is not Russia. We don’t get followed, beaten, or shot, but we are discredited and smeared.” He noted that the Hungarian government was now the “biggest media company in Hungary” and that this “can give you the feeling of being outgunned.” SPP Visiting Professor and CMDS Fellow Dean Starkman observed that the Hungarian government is also a major media advertiser and that it uses its advertising budget to favor some media outlets while “punishing” others.
Jody McPhillips, who is regional editor of Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), described some of the many ways in which journalists are pressured these days – and how they are fighting back. She described how journalists are increasingly being trained not just on how to protect themselves electronically, but also how to protect themselves physically.
In her remarks, media lawyer and Non-resident CMDS Fellow Francesca Fanucci spoke about surveys that had been conducted in Spain that showed that journalism was the third most distrusted profession (after politics and the judiciary). She explained that the reason people gave for mistrusting journalists was that they were too politicized. Fanucci noted that the public was well aware of the fact that some journalists were close to the government while others were aligned with the opposition. The public had much less appreciation, however, of how financial/economic arrangements could affect journalists’ objectivity. “There is a lack of transparency related to who controls the media,” she said.
Fanucci spoke of journalists’ responsibility to “educate the public.” Panelists also discussed the need to reach the “average person” and to deliver the news in a way that is meaningful to them. They agreed that there were some developments that made it easier to reach people such as the growing availability and decreasing price of certain technologies (such as smartphones).
How to deal with misleading public speech
The second panel, moderated by Erica Benner , fellow at IAS and at the Department of Political Science, Yale focused on the crises of political communication and misleading public speech; how serious these threats are and how we should respond to them, from various academic and research angles. Benner asked the panelists to focus on three questions: how bad is the current crisis of political communication, what’s new in the field of misleading public speech and what to do about it?
Simon Rippon, associate professor at the Department of Philosophy and School of Public Policy took a philosophical approach, quoting Plato, who said that “knowledge is tied down to the truth”. Rippon emphasized that our knowledge is based on epistemic authority, warned that motives do matter when we decide to believe someone, and this should not be forgotten. So, why are we experiencing the greatest demagogic threat in democracy? Because we’ve lost confidence, knowledge and the robust link between belief and truth.
Drawing on lessons from science studies, Maria Kronfeldner, associate professor at the Department of Philosophy highlighted that post-truth is in fact nothing new, and people’s skeptical attitude is not the problem. How can we tackle it? We need to watch out for the rhetoric of doubt and be aware of inductive risk. We must not forget that a stress on objectivity, balance and fairness will not suffice, since “it’s not just facts, it’s your values that in the end matter”. And finally, we need to watch out for the rhetoric of complexity as a strategy of confusion.
“Anybody can be an intellectual”, started András Bozóki, professor at the Department of Political Science his talk by a quote from Antonio Gramsci, likening it to the digital age, where anybody can be a journalist. Bozóki mentioned that people today feel isolated, atomized and they can easily be manipulated technologically. He recalled that the advent of radio and then, TV, had brought along warnings and fears for their strong potential for brainwashing, so in this sense, there is nothing new, although the digital era marks a difference in having created a huge digital divide and inequality in access to information. Instead of rational dialogues, we now have emotions, and short visual messages can dominate politics. Bozóki emphasized that “the largest propaganda campaign of the past fifty years in Hungarian politics has been the government’s anti-migrant campaign, and in times of growing fear and insecurity, people take refuge in well-established nationalities such as religion and nationalism.” However, let’s not forget that if there’s an organized minority against the disorganized majority, the minority can win.

Michael Ignatieff, president and rector of CEU began his speech by emphasizing that academia have earned authority, and our universities play a crucial role in defending our authorities. He also warned that we should not forget, “the merchants of doubts have always been at work” but reality, an infallible test to questions keeps intruding and will always show the deceptions of the merchants of doubt. He emphasized that we need to hold on to the promise of technology, assisting and sharing this knowledge. With regard to the civility of politics, he said that although we lament the loss of this civility, let’s not forget that politics has always been about combat.          
Marius Dragomir, director of the Center for Media, Data and Society, School of Public Policy presented the key findings of his recent research into why open society failed and why good journalism lost to populists. He cited a study by Emily Bell and Taylor Owen on how Silicon Valley reengineered journalism, and listed the key reasons for open society’s failure in fighting populism: the failure to fact-check and lack of follow-up on facts; the failure to use and analyze big data beyond purposes of monetization; the failure of the open society camps in terms of feeding into polarization instead of working against it; the failure of academia to use its enormous power to shape public debates, partly by not engaging with popular media, which can be attributed to lack of incentives or training academics how to explain complex issues to the general audience; and finally, the biggest problem of media: the disconnect from the people journalists should actually cover. Dragomir emphasized that there’s a growing need from donors to research trust, and this is a field CMDS is planning to engage with in the near future.
Departments Under Law And Order Ministry Ignore Request Under RTI

by Nirmala Kannangara-

Jagath Wijeweera and IGP Pujith Jayasundara

It is now proved how incompetent the country’s Law and Order Ministry and the institutions that comes under it are, following the offices of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Criminal
Investigation Department (CID), Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB) and Special Investigation Unit’s (SIU) failed to provide information this newspaper requested under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on April 22.
Jun 21, 2017
The Sri Lanka Campaign is deeply concerned by recent attempts by senior government of Sri Lanka officials to intimidate Attorney at Law, Mr Lakshan Dias – a vital and irreplaceable voice within the human rights community who has worked tirelessly in support of detainees held under Sri Lanka’s draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, as well as asylum seekers who have been deported back to the country. Unaddressed, these attempts could have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression of members of the judiciary and civil society at large. Without a quick change of course by the government, they may also help pave the way for further violent attacks against Sri Lanka’s minority communities.
The incidents in question followed an appearance by Mr Dias on the popular Sri Lankan talk show ‘Aluth Parlimenthuwa’ on Derana TV on 14 June, in which he stated that 195 attacks and other types of harassment against Christians had occurred since the beginning of 2015. These figures were drawn from credible research by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) – research based partly on police statistics, and echoed in the findings of other organisations who have examined this issue. Mr Dias’s remarks were made during a discussion about the latest spate of anti-Muslim violence which has swept the island, allegedly instigated and orchestrated by extreme Buddhist nationalists, including monks affiliated with the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS – “Buddhist Power Force”).
The response to the remarks was two-fold. First, President Sirisena, speaking on state television on 16 June stated that he had inquired about the comments with the strongly pro-government Roman Catholic Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who had reportedly told the President that he was unaware of any such attacks. In and of itself, that statement is a remarkably brazen whitewash. As recently as 31 May, Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission had written a letter to the President bringing to his attention recent attacks against Christians. It is also a deeply irresponsible one. In the context of ongoing violent attacks, they are words that will no doubt risk further emboldening perpetrators against critics such as Mr Dias, and generate even more fear and self-censorship among others like him who wish to speak out.
Second, on 17 June the Sri Lankan Minister of Justice, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe made an appearance on a state television channel in which he dismissed the figures cited by Mr Dias and threatened to remove him from the legal profession if he did not apologise to the nation within 24 hours. The emptiness of this threat – for the Minister of Justice lacks the power to take such action – underscores its political nature, and raises serious questions about respect for due process and the rule of law. Any attempt to arbitrarily and unlawfully interfere with Mr Dias’s right to practise his profession would clearly run counter to international human rights standards. This includes the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which state that lawyers “have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights… without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action”.
Responding to government officials, civil society activists issued a statement earlier this week in which they made clear that they “view the targeting of Mr Dias as an attempt to silence activism”, and expressed “serious concern about the threat posed to Mr Lakshan Dias’s legal career and his safety”. Today, protestors gathered at Fort Railway Station to voice their solidarity with Mr Dias and to urge the Justice Minister to row back on his remarks. Meanwhile, and as if to underline the crossroads at which the government of Sri Lanka now stands on this issue, extraordinary reports emerged of the arrest and release on bail  – twice – of Gnanasara Thero, the leader of the BBS who has evaded arrest for over a month despite multiple police warrants.
The government now faces a stark choice as to the handling of these twin issues, a choice with decisive consequences: it can help stem the tide of recent violence against minorities, by acknowledging its grave scale as outlined by individuals like Mr Dias, and ensuring meaningful action is taken against perpetrators. Or it can provide a concrete guarantee that the future will repeat the past, by continuing to dismiss those who dare to recognise the problem, and giving further space to those who are at the root of it. On the third anniversary of anti-Muslim rioting in Aluthgama which left 3 citizens dead and many more injured, it is a choice which should weigh heavily on the minds of Sri Lanka’s leaders.

How can sauce for gander (sister) be poison for goofy goose Lahiru ?

Not attacking ministry with iron rods is my regret – JVP MP Handunetti
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(Lanka-e-News - 24.June.2017, 11.30PM)   The convener of the Inter University students  Federation and  a member of the Peratugami socialist party Lahiru Weerasekera , convener of the Inter Bhikkhu federation council Tempitiye Sugathananda , and a student of the Moratuwa University Faizal Ahamed were arrested in connection with the forcible entry into Health ministry and for causing damage to property to   the tune of many millions of rupees .These culprits who wrought  this havoc while demanding the disclosure of SAITM were arrested by the police , and remanded until the 5 th of July  after they were produced before court.
Sugathananda was arrested on the 23 rd , while Lahiru and Faizal were arrested today when they were leaving after a media discussion convened  by them  . They were charged with causing damage to State  property which is a non bailable offence. 
Lahiru after attacking and damaging the health ministry , addressing a media briefing said , they are not hurt by  the police attack , but they are hurt because they could not attack the policemen wearing helmets  until their helmets were smashed into smithereens.
Interestingly , the elder sister Thilini Weerasekera of Lahiru (the  leader of the Peratugami socialist students  party who is very  vociferous against private medical university )  is a  B.Sc. graduate of the 2010 batch of students of the SLIT private University  . Yet , this moron Lahiru does not seem to understand his own self destructive policy to the detriment of the country vis a vis  his own sister who preferred a degree from a private University .  Hence, it is an irony of ironies , it is such an eccentric who cannot put his own house in order who is trying  to crusade against private medical Universities .
The damages caused to the Health ministry has not been assessed yet .Even the reception counter had been totally destroyed. The iron gates , iron doors , windows , doors and the attendance recording finger print device too have been damaged. Consequently , the employees of the ministry staged a protest on the 23 rd  demanding that all those responsible for causing this monumental damage be arrested immediately. 
Meanwhile, the rowdy secretary of the GMOA ( goofy goon doctors) , Nalin Herath (who said he does not remember his GCE adv. Level results) speaking today (23) justified  the violence of the hooligan students , and  encouraged them to take arms. According to legal luminaries ,  Herath can be arrested under the penal code  based on this dangerous statement .
The students of Ruhunu University staged protests on 22 nd  and 23 rd in Galle and Matara. These wild and violent students attacked two individuals and damaged their cameras on the 22 nd and 23 rd alleging that they took photographs of their protests. According to the marauding students only those with media identity cards can take photographs   , and all others are police informants. These student morons and marauders do not even know that anybody has   a  right  to photograph any protests staged publicly. While themselves are not recognizing that basic democratic right of a citizen  , these same student morons and marauders are at the same time demanding democracy and freedom. How ludicrous  ! 
During the debate in parliament pertaining to the attack on the health ministry , the higher education minister Lakshman Kiriella who participated in the debate said , the students who attacked the ministry of health were not unarmed , and they carried iron rods , and it is with those weapons the vehicles were damaged. 
M.P. Sunil Handunetti  of the JVP (most notorious for sacrificing precious lives of youths due to  their foolish and failed insurrections ) who could not  even win at  elections, and crept into parliament through the national list said in his characteristic style  , he is full of remorse that those student marauders  could not carry those weapons. 
When Dinesh Gunawardena of the joint opposition said SAITM should be closed , Kiriella pointed out SAITM was not launched by this government  , and it is Dinesh Gunawardena who tabled the SAITM bill in parliament for ratification instead  of S.B. the then higher education minister .
by     (2017-06-25 02:02:32)

A new play

Gnanasara Thero

by Sanjana Hattotuwa- 

The theatre of racism does not entertain coincidence. When the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, following a meeting of the Karaka Sangha Sabha, issues a statement and the very next day, Gnanasara Thero of the BBS, after over a month in hiding and with two arrest warrants against him, surrenders to the courts, one sees a plan, process, purpose and indeed, peril.

Despite official statements around coexistence, diversity and religious tolerance by the Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers, coupled with the surveillance and investigative powers of the entire Police force and our intelligence services, Gnanasara Thero remained hidden until he was ready to come out. The verbal acrobatics of the Police spokesperson when grilled by the media clearly suggests the Thero enjoys the protection of powerful politicians and political elements. The Thero may well be, unknown to himself, a pawn in a greater game. The context that led to surrender, and his subsequent kid-glove treatment by the Police, mark disturbing and dangerous trends that will undermine the January 8 promise of fully realizing Sri Lanka’s democratic potential. The events of last week also indicate a hidden pulsating power grid, within and outside of government, discernible only by looking at the systemic collapse around a clear, coherent response to what is clearly a fascist threat. The head of this snake is the BBS, but its venom writhes and slithers through the veins of government.

The statement by the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter is unprecedented. Even at the height of the anti-Muslim violence under the Rajapaksa regime, almost three years ago to date in Aluthgama, the chief prelates of maintained a silence and distance from Gnanasara Thero, affording at best a rare audience. They didn’t condemn. They didn’t condone. They just didn’t engage. And while their silence was damning enough, allowing the space for the BBS to grow, the statement last week is a dramatic reversal in the dynamics of their engagement - and for the worse. English mainstream media, which featured the statement penned in Sinhala, focussed on a single sentence that noted the Karaka Sangha Sabha did not approve of the aggressive behavior and speech of Gnanasara Thero.

In his first interaction with the media after he was arrested, then released on bail, arrested again, and then re-released on bail, Gnanasara Thero indirectly references this concern, and says that the campaign henceforth will be in the hands of other monks, who are more civilized, cultured and well-mannered. What was a campaign of the BBS, in concert now with a statement by the Asgiriya Chapter, is now a campaign of all monks. This is congruent with the tone and thrust of the original statement, couched in a considered, even cunning Sinhala. A gentle knuckle rap on Gnanasara Thero is the entry point into what really is a statement that articulates and amplifies what the BBS has noted in the past.

It suggests that many are disrespectful of Gnanasara Thero, particularly in how they address him, and denounces this. It denounces the purported silencing and targeting of Buddhist monks who flag what they perceive to be racist comments by politicians. It denounces the introduction of what it says are new laws targeted against Sinhalese-Buddhists in Sri Lanka. It denounces what it says are acts conducted in the name of reconciliation, around the destruction of ancient archeological artifacts in the North and East, and the appropriation of protected lands. It calls for the intervention of the President. The statement rails against what it says are attempts in the media to destroy the Sinhala race, and reminds that it is the duty of the government to act in this regard. The statement says that there are those in the guise of Buddhists, speaking on behalf of Buddhist as well as non-Buddhists who are engaged in a concerted effort to destroy Buddhist culture and the Sinhalese.

It asks the government to hurriedly bring about and enact laws that address these concerns and protects the Buddhist culture and Buddhism. Its final point is the most chilling. The statement reminds all non-Buddhists that Sri Lanka’s Buddhist population has always protected and respected them. It condemns the acts of those, from other religions, who act against the core values of Buddhism and suggests that this destructive plot is also supported by various domestic and foreign forces. The statement ends on a rallying cry, noting that it is the duty of the Sangha and a patriotic public to stand up against the discrimination of the Sinhala-Buddhists.

To my knowledge, a full and accurate translation of the statement has not been published in any English media. This itself is revealing. The thrust and tone of this extraordinary statement, aimed at the majority community and religion in the country and with the powerful symbolic imprimatur of the Asgiriya Chapter, lays the foundation for the internalization of all the BBS stands for, by the sangha writ large. Those like the Ven. Dambila Thero, who have been openly against the BBS and Gnanasara Thero, and are now also in opposition to the Asgiriya Chapter and the Karaka Sangha Sabha, stand to be even more marginalized than they are today. The end result of developments this past week is to make the agenda, concerns, fears and targets of the BBS, the same as that which the Asgiriya Chapter and other senior monks will support, secure and indeed, strengthen. Mark how fundamentally different this response is to how in Myanmar, in May this year, the Sangha Maha Nayaka (MHN) Committee, a government-appointed group of monks responsible for regulating the country’s Buddhist clergy, announced a four-point order effectively banning Ma Ba Tha, the equivalent of the BBS.

This places Sri Lanka is a precarious situation, and to my mind, more incendiary than what it faced in 2014, which is saying a lot. The BBS may well have same electoral impact as the odious UKIP before the Brexit referendum, in that it moves the centre, fearful of losing a majority vote, far more towards the right and into a new normal that is in fact the cementing of fringe lunacy and continuation of deeply racist responses, structures and discrimination by the State against minorities. The pernicious political project isn’t in fact the generation of votes to enter Parliament. Rather, it is the rejection of an alternative future proposed at a referendum or any other electoral contest through uncertainty, fear and the generation of distrust around everything and everyone. To this end, far more than Gnanasara Thero and the BBS, it is the Asgiriya Chapter’s statement that I find deeply troubling, catapulting strained ethno-political relations in polity and society into a mine-field of uncertainty, ripe for spontaneous violence that can easily lead to sustained conflict.

That all this happens before a promised constitutional referendum is also not mere coincidence - it is the hacking of our democratic future by targeted, timely measures to undermine the government’s confidence and public standing. None of this is helped by those like the Minister of Justice, who is the equivalent of a computer virus that undermines and sets out to destroy a network from within it. In targeting lawyer Lakshan Dias for what he went on record saying in public using research also in the public domain, as well as for what the Minister has said, done and not done since his appointment, any statement, any project and any desire of government to meaningfully address racism today is a cruel joke as long as he holds the position he does.

Large sections of the Sinhala-Buddhist and even the Sinhala-Catholic communities are being primed to countenance, if not directly engage in violence against religious minorities and Muslims. Rwanda had Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, broadcasting content that normalized hate, violence and othering. We saw in Aluthgama, three years ago, what impact a single rally could have around the incitement to violence. The stage is being readied for a new play. And in the wings are saffron guillotines, ready to be pushed centre-stage at any moment.