Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sri Lanka’s Path to Victory: A Story of Leadership, Tactic and Sacrifice.

By Sanjeewa Karunaratne

No one would have believed in their wildest dreams that the Sri Lankan military had the capability of defeating the number one terrorist organization in the world, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A well-organized, heavily-funded and deadly terrorist outfit that ran a mini state in the northern parts of Sri Lanka has lost its last stronghold: Mullaitivu. The only terrorist organization to have an infantry, a naval force and an air wing was responsible for the largest number of suicide attacks in the world, has used state-of-the-art weaponry, including surface to air (SAM) missiles. Nevertheless, President Rajapaksha and his government have taken its “war against terrorism” to the very end as the LTTE is fighting an existential battle.

Strong military and political leadership and focus underlined this accomplishment, something, Sri Lanka lacked for many years. Not in a slightest moment did the political or military leadership shy away from its objective of defeating the LTTE, which boosted the morale of the forces to the highest level in 25 years. The creation of an independent office of the Defense Secretary, headed by a retired army colonel, Gotabaya Rajapaksha, a U.S. citizen, was a key factor in the concerted war efforts. An army officer, who almost captured LTTE’s supremo twenty years ago, took a hard-line stand against the terrorists, and together with his one-time classmate, Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, provided a stanch leadership for this humanitarian mission. (They also shared rare fortunes of surviving suicide attacks.)

This focus and momentum propelled recruitment in the Armed Forces—3000 or more in every month since 2006 (The Army recruited 4,000 in December 2008 alone). Consequently, the Army increased its roaster from 115,000 to 180,000. Over 50% hike in troop numbers gave Army Commander a free hand to dispatch its military. He directed attacks in multiple, wider fronts as the LTTE showed a considerable lack of fighting power in the absence of its former commander, Colonel Karuna Amman, and his eastern cadres.

The defection of the LTTE’s, then, second-in-command, Karuna Amman, who is a member of the parliament now, was not an isolated event or a coincidence, but the result of years of intelligence work involving Sri Lankan military and regional intelligence agencies. It was a turning point in the quarter-century war. This defection weakened the LTTE, enabling forces to quickly recapture the eastern province and march toward their de facto capital, Killinochchi.

The contribution of the intelligence community, highlighted by the breakaway of “Karuna faction,” was a key feature in this counter-insurgency measure. Sri Lanka Police spearheaded the spying efforts by thoroughly investigating leads and previous attacks to uncover terror cells. Explosive laden trucks, cashes of C-4 plastic explosives that are used in suicide vests were discovered. Revitalized Civilian Protection Force—government more than doubled its numbers from 19,000 to 42,000—with the help of vigilant civilians apprehended key LTTE operatives and spotted time-bombs, some within minutes of its trigger.

Military tactics have changed too. Small commando units were established to engage in rapid raids behind enemy lines to support the advancing troops. However, the real shock came from the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) units viz., the “Deep Penetration Unit” and “Mahasohon Brigade,” which were deployed to conduct covert operations inside the enemy territory. These highly trained and well-equipped detachments proceed deep into the terrorists’ held area and attack. They were responsible for eliminating top-brass LTTEers such as Charles (head of military intelligence), Shankar (head of the air tigers) and Amaran (deputy head of sea tigers), and targeting, though unsuccessfully, Soosai (head of sea tigers). These units have taken the war to the terrorists’ backyard delivering chaos within the insurgency.

The coordination between Army, Air Force and Navy was impeccable.

The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) supported the ground troops while maintaining the “Zero Civilian Casualty Policy” by skillful maneuvering and using advanced equipment. Shouldering a mammoth task of targeting terrorists like a needle in a haystack, who used civilians as a shield, Air Force provided an example to the world and bolstered the confidence of the internally displaced persons (IDP) in the government for their protection.

The efforts of the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) were phenomenon in restricting LTTE’s weapon supplies pouring through the 30-mile Polk Strait, which separates Sri Lanka from India. To block this vital supply route and spot LTTE’s “floating armories,” unmanned surveillance drones were deployed and powerful radar stations were installed. By this time, Navy had broaden its capabilities to go after these vessels as farther as 1800 nautical miles into the deep sea —one by one Navy destroyed all ten cargo vessels operated by the LTTE to smuggle weapons into the country.

Navy had to overcome another hurdle—LTTE had been inflicting heavy damages on naval ships and transport vessels by using suicide boats. To counter this threat, Navy locally developed smaller fast attack crafts (FAC) to intercept LTTE suicide boats and shield larger vessels. A fleet of FACs cordons the ship making it impossible for suicide boats to penetrate. This strategy proved to be very effective: since the new phase of the war started in 2006, LTTE could not sink a single naval ship using suicide boats.

Realization of this unprecedented success is mainly attributable to the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces. Marching many miles in unfamiliar thick jungles infested with snakes and disease carrying mosquitoes; withstanding stiff resistance and booby traps from the enemy; bearing heavy monsoon rain that filled boots with water and created knee high puddles, government forces showed a remarkable dedication and commitment. And many of them paid the ultimate sacrifice—since the new offensive began, forces lost over 3700 of its valiant soldiers.

At present, eyes of the world are glued to Sri Lanka to witness the unfolding of a historic victory of humanity over insanity. A country, plagued by decades of war had found a cure in the form of a military campaign after a number of attempts for a negotiated settlement failed. LTTE’s imminent defeat opens up the most fertile land with the largest limestone and mineral sand deposits and the best beaches in the country. The government has already started to rebuild Sri Lanka’s only cement factory, chemical, paper factories and infrastructure that had been destroyed by the terrorists. Government’s efforts have been noticed: when security exchanges around the globe are declining, Colombo Stock Exchange is recording considerable gains. Future looks bright for Sri Lanka as it prepares for a journey of unity, understanding and nation building.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations President Barack Obama

Barack Obama, Sri Lankans for peace congratulate your assumption of the president’s office of the United States of America. We are happy and hopeful because you are a man of judgment. You gave a new meaning to the power and importance of the democratic values to change the world towards better directions. And we are thankful for saying that violence is not the way to achieve political aspirations, and that the unity among Americans is derived from the will for freedom and justice for all, not by their blood, religion, or race. We need people like you to help us to counter violent means taken by the LTTE in Sri Lanka to win a mono-ethnic state that occupies 2/3 of the coast and 1/3 of the landmass of Sri Lanka for 6% of the population (Tamils living in the North and the East of Sri Lanka). Moreoever we are looking forward to collaborate with American people to empower and protect the lives of moderate minority representatives so that they can come to power and serve the legitimate aspirations of all communities through democratic traditions.

Sri Lankans for Peace Blog team

Monday, January 19, 2009

Corruption, Governance and Judiciary, A Case Study Based on Sri Lanka

By Dr. S.W.S.B. Dasanayaka


There are very many strong evidences available for corruption and bad governance in Sri Lankan society. Today this endemic issue is so widespread and it renders many consequences for whole society especially it very much harms the poor and in most cases powerful rich and ruling elites and their supporters and regime loyal bureaucrats are main beneficiaries of this. Sri Lanka is generally considered as the world’s largest inefficient government with over hundred cabinet, non-cabinet and Provincial Council ministers and highest number of per-capita government employees. Some of these become very corruptive within a very short period. The Transparency International always ranks Sri Lanka as the bottom level country where the corruption is tolerated and informally legalized. Especially from authorities no visible actions are taken to control it. The Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) revealed that the country had lost colossal amount of wealth due to financial malpractices of many state institutions and departments. According to the latest (2008) corruption ranking, education, police, health, defense and judiciary are the most corruptive institutions in the country. In this context, this paper assesses the corruption and governance aspects of Sri Lankan society with special emphasis on judiciary. Many strong evidences exist regarding the abuse of entrusted power for private gain by undermining justice by the judiciary of Sri Lanka. On the one hand it denies victims and the accused the basic human right of a fair and impartial trial and on the other, it has a far reaching negative implication for whole Sri Lankan society and its main socio-economic and political fabric. These implications can be erosion of the ability of the international community to tackle transnational crime and terrorism, diminish of trade, economic growth and human development and finally it denies citizens impartial settlement of disputes with neighbors or the authorities by loosing confidence of the law of the land. Especially, if judicial system dishonored by bribery and corruption undermine confidence in good governance across all sectors of government by giving a blunt message: corruption is tolerated and legalized in this society and people must find alternative ways of justice. It has many negative impacts for sound less poor people in Sri Lankan society. The bad governance in Sri Lankan judiciary starts from political interference in judicial processes by the executive or legislative branches of government to bribery and nepotism, etc. The Sri Lankan judiciary has very many provisions to improve its checks and balances, transparency and accountability aspects. But practical implementations of these are not happening due to very many reasons explained in this paper. Therefore most institutions related to judiciary are out of the equation of good governance and personnel and political agendas are the day of reality. This paper concludes that Sri Lankan Judiciary need full reforms with decentralization of courts system with introduction of very tight good governance framework by empowering independence with high quality human resources in apex and auditing bodies. Furthermore, the judiciary should be more open to civil society and international norms to improve its governance, transparency, accountability and quality aspects.

Key words: Corruption, Governance, Judiciary, Sri Lanka.
JEL Classification: K4, H11.

1) Introduction

The legal system of Sri Lanka is a highly complex mixture of English common law, Roman-Dutch law, Muslim law and customary laws. The basis of criminal law and procedure is the English common law. After Sri Lanka was colonized by the British Empire, British laws were gradually applied throughout the nation. Sri Lanka has an adversarial system of justice. The Attorney-General is the principal law officer of the state. The District Attorney and state counsels in his department conduct prosecutions. However, the bulk of prosecutions in minor cases are instituted in the Magistrates' Courts by the officer in charge of a police station. This may be the start of bad governance and corruption in all judiciary. However, due to the unsatisfactory nature of the existing criminal laws, which led to a state of uncertainty, the Penal Code of Sri Lanka was first enacted in 1883. It was based on the corresponding Indian law. The Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 was established and then replaced by the Administration of Justice Law of 1973. This was later replaced by the Code of Criminal Procedure Act of 1979 and the Judicature Act of 1978 as amended by the Judicature (Amendment) Act of 1979. The hierarchy of the judicial system is as follows: the Supreme Court in three courts in session, the Court of Appeal six or seven courts in session, 25 High Courts, 77 District Courts, 92 Magistrates' Courts and 18 Primary Courts. All these courts have around 220 judges and over 3000 court employees. The criminal courts of first instance are the Primary Courts, Magistrates' Courts, Combined Courts, and the High Court. Cases may be appealed to the Court of Appeal and further review may be sought in the Supreme Court. The High Court is the court of first instance for all prosecutions initiated with an indictment. The court of second instance is the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court exercises final appellate jurisdiction as well as special jurisdiction for alleged violations of fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. The Judicial Service Commission has responsibility for the appointment, promotion, discipline, transfer and dismissal of all judges except those in Court of Appeal and supreme court. During the last few decades the integrity of the whole judiciary was been questioned by very many researchers (Marga Institute, 2001, Ivon.V, 2002) and openly debated by many international bodies. Most of the reported stories regarding the integrity and bad governance of the Sri Lankan judiciary start with political interference in judicial processes by either the executive or legislative branches of government and various forms bribery and other human evils due to very many reasons. In this context this paper ascertains the corruption and governance aspects of the Sri Lanka with special emphasis on the judicial system by using questionnaire survey supplemented by the literature survey and interviews with various stakeholders in the judicial system.

2) Objective

The main objective of this paper ascertains the corruption and governance aspects of Sri Lankan society with special emphasis on the Judiciary.

3) Methodology

A comprehensive literature survey was carried-out to find the situation of other countries and the works done in this field of Sri Lanka. A structured questionnaire was administered to conduct interviews with various stakeholders in the whole judiciary system. This structured questionnaire was carried-out at lower and upper level courts in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. But most of the times judges and senior lawyers declined to respond to the questions due the fear of contempt and defame of court and very many other excuses. In addition to this series of interviews were undertaken with key lawyers, legal sector managers, and important officers in the court system and justice Ministry decision makers.

4) Key Issues in Sri Lankan Judiciary
  • Many recorded and un-recorded strong evidences are existed regarding the abuse of entrusted power for private gain undermining justice by the judiciary in Sri Lanka. This is happening in lower level to high courts in various forms (Ivon.V, 2003; Marga Institute, 2002).
  • On the one hand it denies victims and the accused the basic human rights of a fair and impartial trial and on the other, it has a far reaching negative implication for whole Sri Lankan society and its main socio-economic and political fabric.
  • Sri Lankan judiciary mainly understands their duty as to settle disputes between different citizens and their organizations. Judiciary is very weak in settling disputes between state and the citizens.
  • This can lead to erosion of the ability of the international community to tackle transnational crime and terrorism, diminish of trade, economic growth and human development and finally it denies citizens impartial settlement of disputes with neighbors or the authorities by loosing confidence of the law of the land.
  • Dishonored judicial system undermine confidence in good governance across all sectors of government by giving a dull message: corruption is tolerated and legalized in this society and people must find alternative ways of justice or get used to live with corruption. It has many negative impacts for sound less poor people in Sri Lankan society.
  • The main forms of bad governance in Sri Lankan judiciary starts from political interference in judicial processes by the executive or legislative branches of government to bribery and nepotism, etc.
  • The Sri Lankan judiciary has very many provisions to improve its checks and balances, transparency and accountability aspects. But practical implementations of these are not happening due to very many reasons.
  • Judges form only one part of the ‘judicial system’ in Sri Lanka. They only operate after the police, prosecutors, lawyers and other court personnel have entered to the scene. Therefore, judges alone can not be achieved so called good governance without proper stakeholder integration in the whole chains of Judiciary.

5) Reasons for the corruption and bad governance in Sri Lankan Judiciary
  • The failure to appoint judges on merit, which can lead to the selection of corruption-oriented judges.
  • Appointing judges with a bad record and misconduct for senior judicial position gives a bad example for the whole Sri Lankan society.
  • Poor salaries, bad working conditions and lack of training makes judiciary personals vulnerable to bribery.
  • Unfair processes for the removal of corrupt judges, which can lead to the politicization of judge transfers and removals.
  • Complex and outdated court procedures that can make it difficult for the media and civil society to monitor court activities.
  • Insufficient resources and backlogs of cases.

6) Concluding Remarks
  • The Sri Lankan Judiciary needs full reforms with decentralization of courts system with introduction of very tight good governance framework by empowering independence with high quality human resources in apex and auditing bodies.
  • Special attention should be given to improve governance in lower level courts system.
  • Furthermore, the judiciary should be more open to civil society and international norms to improve its governance, transparency, accountability and quality aspects.
  • Delayering also may be good. It involves a radical redesign of an organization’s structure to take account of late 20th-century developments in information technology, education and consumer demand, and other socio-economic and politico changes.
  • Among the benefits claimed for the delayered organizations are the following: it needs fewer managers, it is less bureaucratic, it can take decisions more quickly, it encourages innovation, it brings judicial managers into closer contacts with the organization’s customers and it produces cross-functional employees.
  • Very recently the country’s highest court improved its credibility by giving very controversial judgments regarding high powered politicians and senior bureaucrats. Removal of Country’s powerful Finance Ministry Secretary and Chairmen and Minister of Oil Corporation, interrogation of powerful former President and many more…..These judgments improved Chief Justice’s past bad image and improved people’s trust and respect to upper level Judiciary.

7) Policy Remarks
  • Non-existence of a good mechanism with proper checks and balances to improve transparency and accountability of whole judicial system is the main factor responsible for lower level of governance with corruption in Sri Lankan judiciary.
  • Actually there should be some promotional campaign to get the best talented people into this legal profession. At the moment in many countries good quality talents are not in the door-steps of law colleges.
  • Formulation and implementation of good Information and Communication Technology (ICT) framework may improve the efficiency in whole judiciary in a very transparent and accountable manner.
  • Introduction of many ethics and value based soft sciences into law curricula may be a good way to start the inculcation of these good practices into the legal professional’s minds at early stages.
  • There is no magic set of guidelines, formula or mechanism to completely eradicate the judicial corruption in Sri Lanka. Case by case approach necessary taking into consideration of each and every court system’s special operational circumstances.
  • It can start with formulation of the minimum standards for developing and maintaining integrity, accountability and transparency in whole judicial system.
  • The critical question is that in a country where each and every sector is highly corruptive how only the judiciary can be expected to be non corruptive.
  • Actually the extent of corruption and bad governance in judiciary is a reflection of the society which it operates. It is less likely in societies where there is board adherence to the rule of law, transparency, trust, good codes, good perks and job security and independence for all legal workers and accountability measures are in place.


Cooray.A (1984), Court and Legal System in Sri Lanka – Historical Analysis.

Ivon.V (2003) An unfinished struggle, An investigative exposure of Sri Lanka judiciary and the chief justice, Rayvaya publishers.

Karunaratne, N.H.A., "Dispositional Decisions in the Criminal Justice Process in Sri Lanka," UNAFEI Resource Material Series, No.16, pp. 234-241, Tokyo, Japan: UNAFEI (1978).

Law and Society Trust, personal communication of unpublished research data dated October 13, 1993, Kynsey Terrace, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka.

Marga Institute (2002), A system under siege, An inquiry into the judicial system of Sri Lanka.
The Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) (2008), Corruption on Government Depts and Institutions, Sri Lankan Parliament.

Singh. A and Zahid A (eds.2008), Strengthening governance through access to justice, PHI Publishers, New Delhi, India.

Singh.A, Kapoor.K and Bhattacharyya.R (eds.2008), Governance and poverty reduction, Beyond the cages of best practices, PHI Publishers, New Delhi, India.

Transparency International (2008), Annual Report - 2007.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The price of the failure to decolonize

The world is condemning the assasination of the journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga in Sri Lanka. The government should certainly take action to catch the culprits. It is also worth noting how and why the Sri Lankan Government investigators missed the LTTE's art of recruiting female suicide cadres by double victimizing them, but somebody from a far away country could reveal these sensitive information as shown in the following book. This revelation is a good proof to say that unnecessary delays and lack of focus in the Government bureacracy is Sri Lanka's best enemy. These delays are direct results of Sri Lanka's lack of interest in clearing colonial practices of running the Government.

The book "Dying To Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (Hardcover)" says:

"Three Tamil women were raped by perpetrators who spoke Sinhalese.The attacks were not reported, other than to the int'l aidorganization, and yet they were not long after approached byrepresentatives of the LTTE and recruited as ultimately 'BlackTigresses.' to save the honor of their family after their rape. Thesame int'l org reported that the original 'Sinhalese' rapists werereally Tamils, (and that this was a 'set up.')

Two of the three women were executed after arranging to speak with theauthor of the book."

Title of the book: Dying To Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror (Ch 3, page 164)by Mia BloomPublisher: Columbia University Press, 2005

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Attacks against the media must stop

The past week has seen two attacks against the media the first, an armed attack and destruction of the MTV/MBC studios and second, the killing of The Sunday Leader Editor. We condemn these attacks unreservedly, because they strike at the very foundations of a free society. Any society worth living in must be one where we can "speak truth to power." As university academics we are committed to the pursuit of truth. Our academic freedom consists in the ability to conduct free inquiry and the space for free expression of ideas it is a tradition that goes back to Socrates and beyond.The government itself, inclusive of the highest in the land, has called for a full inquiry into these incidents. While we welcome this, we wish to assert that the mere calling for inquiries will not be enough. If a speedy and credible conclusion to such inquiries is not forthcoming, the government must appreciate that its own credibility is at stake, since both the recent attacks have been directed at entities that were critical of the status quo. The silencing of dissent is not a hallmark of a democratic society.

Professor Priyan Dias (Moratuwa)
Dr. Ranil Abayasekara (Peradeniya)
Dr. Sarath Dasanayaka (Moratuwa)
Dr. Suresh de Mel (Peradeniya)
Shantha Fernando (Moratuwa)
Dr. Hans Gray (Moratuwa)
Dr. Dileni Gunewardena (Peradeniya)
Dr. Romaine Jayewardene (Colombo)
Dr. T.S.S. Jayawardene (Moratuwa)
Dr. Chulantha Kulasekere (Moratuwa)
Rushira Kulasingham (Colombo)
Professor Amal Kumarage (Moratuwa)
S.N. Niles (Moratuwa)
Dr. Asoka Perera (Moratuwa)
Dr. Ranjan Perera (Moratuwa)
Dinesha Samararatne (Colombo)
Professor Vasanthi Thevanesam (Peradeniya)
Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe (Colombo)
Professor Sunil Wickramasuriya (Moratuwa)
Dr. Suren Wijeyekoon (Moratuwa)
Dr. Shehan Williams (Kelaniya)

Others who wish to sign, please submit a comment.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I call upon the 22 Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarians to do their duty or to honourably vacate their seats in Parliament. They have fooled enough, the people whom they claim to represent in Parliament, but never championed their cause. Instead they always defended the LTTE at whose mercy they got elected fraudulently to Parliament. They have mis-led the International Community, the people of Tamil Nadu in particular. Tamil Nadu if left alone or properly briefed would have contributed their best towards a workable solution, without earning the dis-pleasure of the people of Sri Lanka and without causing embarrassment to their own Central Government, with un-fair and un-implementable demands. Unfortunately the people of Tamil Nadu got mis-led by the advice given by the TNA Parliamentarians. Without demanding the war to stop, if they had, in a friendly way, agitated for a reasonable settlement of the ethnic problem, they might have succeeded. I extended my invitation to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Hon. Dr. M. Karunanithy four years back to pay a visit to Sri Lanka. Let us not forget that the President His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse himself invited the Chief Minister Hon. Dr. M. Karunanithy, a couple of months back when a mass scale agitation was going on in Tamil Nadu, to visit Sri Lanka and would have been very happy, if the Chief Minister had accepted the invitation, came to Sri Lanka and offered to mediate. This is yet another lost opportunity for which the TNA should bear the blame for not making use of this opportunity.

“What sin have we committed to undergo this agony all these long years, extending to a period of quarter of a century and how long are we to endure this?”, ask the people of Kilinochchi, who are all now displaced and living at Dharmapuram, a small village in the district of Kilinochchi. I know most of them because I lived with them and represented them in Parliament for many years. Apart from this more than a hundred thousand people men, women and children, including the sick and the toddlers, deprived of their normal life, had been mercilessly driven like cattle into Kilinochchi by the LTTE from the areas under their control in the neighboring districts of Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitheevu. They were pushed into Kilinochchi by the withdrawing LTTE cadre, unable to confront the advancing Government Forces. Left alone most of them would have stayed in their homes or could have gone to their respective homes and saved whatever left over after being looted or robbed. Instead they are brought from far off places and squeezed into small villages already over crowded with the locally displaced persons from the Kilinochchi district itself. The LTTE holds these people to ransom for no fault of theirs, but only for the sole purpose of using them as human shield for their own protection. The distress call of these unfortunate people is not heard in Tamil Nadu.

The International Community which is much concerned of the Human Rights Violations in the LTTE held areas also, is compelled to keep silent, perhaps due to their reluctance to go against the demand of Tamil Nadu for a Cease Fire although it is very obvious that, the demand is more in support of the LTTE, than in the interest of the Tamils trapped in the LTTE areas. It is very unfortunate that Tamil Nadu is refusing and the TNA is ignoring to respond to the distress call of these two hundred and fifty thousand people who are caught up between the LTTE which is compulsorily recruiting men and women only to sacrifice them at the battle front and the deadly snakes that are multiplying in their thousands. Hundreds had been stung by snake and many have died. Leave aside the TNA, even nature is against them. The down pour of rain is so heavy that all areas are flooded and people have to move from place to place in search of highland to camp and to cook their food. Apart from the snake menace the other one is the mosquitoes with the threat of an out-brake of malaria or dengue. I dare say that all these sufferings of the people do not seem to be of any concern for the TNA Members of Parliament in Sri Lanka and some leaders of Tamil Nadu, who were in the fore-front of the recent uprising in Tamil Nadu, most of whom take pride in boasting of “umbilicus code relationship”, between the Tamils of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. They least know of the same relationship the Sinhalese have with the Tamils of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Their only concern seem to be saving the LTTE under the pretext of stopping the war. A TNA Parliamentarian had said in Parliament recently that 55000 children from 190 schools are not attending school. He did not have the guts to tell the world as to why this has happened?, because of whom? and where? To add to what he said, in the Eastern Province more than 6000 children do not know their alphabet. The MP did not tell how teachers on the Government’s pay roll are fighting in the war front for the LTTE. These MP’s children are quite safe in foreign countries having good education. The irony is a TNA Member of Parliament whose entire family is in Australia, recently referred to me in Parliament as a traitor.

The people in Vanni want the war to continue, because they want the war to end with the LTTE defeated. The forces that had marched forward about 200 miles liberating the people all along, has only a few more miles to go. The people only plead that the forces should avoid civilian targets and night time aerial bombings.

Everyday a few dead bodies of the LTTE fighters are handed over to the ICRC to be delivered to the LTTE. They are young boys and girls, children of poor parents compulsorily recruited by the LTTE and sent to the battle front with hardly any or very little training. One can understand the TNA Members of Parliament remaining silent on this type of matters merely to please the LTTE and to save their seats in Parliament. But one cannot understand as to why Tamil Nadu, which is rich in culture and civilization, God fearing and pious, always sympathetic towards the Sri Lankan Tamils and proudly boast of its “umbilicus code relationship” with them, should remain silent without raising one word of protest against the cruel and uncivilized manner in which the brutal LTTE is treating the innocent Tamils whom they are keeping under compulsion in a pre-dominantly jungle area, infested with snakes and mosquitoes, in chilly weather and pouring rain, without timely food and proper shelter, shifting their temporary abode from place to place off and on like nomads. It is traditional for the LTTE to take away first, all what they need and only what is remaining is distributed to the people. This is happening even today. The TNA Members did not protest when the LTTE ordered all those 8000 students who sat for the G.C.E(O/L) examination held recently, to under-go trainings while the Catholic Church protested against the attempt of the LTTE to take away some orphans from an orphanage run by the church.

All what is mentioned here is only a minor fraction of the sufferings of our people. Why can’t Tamil Nadu, which is partly responsible for the present situation, wake up from its deep slumber and persuade them or, if unyielding, warn them to release the people to go anywhere they want.

If Tamil Nadu, adamantly keeps silent or out of fear for a handful of pro-LTTE leaders of Tamil Nadu and also if the TNA Members of Parliament who misled Tamil Nadu and roused the feelings of the people there, fail to move them inspite of all these pleadings, I have to look upon the expatriate Tamils who had largely helped the LTTE to grow, with substantial financial assistance, to intervene and bring pressure on them to free the people detained. The LTTE has lost the war and it is ridiculous for anyone to still believe that they will regain all what they have lost.

If the LTTE is willing to lay down their arms they can do so and negotiate with the Government for a solution within a united Sri Lanka, wherein all ethnic groups can live as equals, enjoying all rights without any form of discrimination what so ever. Failure to do so, will only pave the way for some unscrupulous elements to takeover, like snakes taking up residence in the anthills built by the labour of infinite number of white-ants. The Government of Sri Lanka and the International Community has a morel duty to see that the Tamils are not allowed to jump from the frying pan into the fire. I assure the TNA Members of Parliament that I sincerely feel that they have failed in their mission and therefore to quit their seats in Parliament. As for me I am not interested in any office but my whole interest is only on the people who are suffering for the last quarter of a century.

V. Anandasangaree,
President – TULF.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sri Lankan People Have Made History

By Sanjeewa Karunaratne

As a result of years of struggle by Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and other civil rights activists, President Johnson drafted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ensured equal treatment to women, minorities and other under-represented groups. The 60’s in the U.S. was hallmarked with civil rights and feminist movements. On the other side of the globe, in Sri Lanka, Sirimavo Bandaranayke became the world’s first female prime minister in 1960. She was elected in three different terms—a world record. Her daughter, Chandrika Bandaranayke Kumaratunga, is one of the longest-served presidents in the country. Women and minorities were predominant in universities, government, education and private sectors in Sri Lanka ever since it’s independence.

Current, 1978 constitution is, by far, the most minority-friendly constitution in Sri Lanka, and its inventor, Junius Richard Jayewardene, was a converted Buddhist. His ancestral name was “Thambi Mudiyanselage”; “Thambi” means Muslim, but it didn’t deter him from securing five-sixths majority in the parliament in which Tamil United Liberation Front became the main opposition in 1978, security 18 seats (11% representation in the parliament). Until 1988, Sri Lanka’s leader of the opposition was a Tamil. Minority parties, Thondaman’s Workers Congress and Ashroff’s Muslim Congress, became “king makers” in Sri Lanka as proportional representation system, established by the 1978 constitution, did not ensure a clear mandate for a single political party—they had to form coalitions with minority parties to secure the majority in the parliament.

Present parliament has 32 Tamils (14%) and 24 Muslims (11%)—altogether 25% minorities. It is well-represented based on demographic proportions.

Two well-respected Tamils were in the verge of becoming prime ministers in Sri Lanka, Neelan Tiruchelvam, a Harvard lawyer, and Laxshman Kadirgamar, an Oxford lawyer, both were assassinated by the LTTE. Another Tamil, who represented a Sinhalese electorate, and had promising hopes to succeed Mahinda Rajapaksha as the leader of SLFP, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, was also assassinated by the LTTE. Out of 30 parliamentarians killed by the LTTE, the majority (18) were Tamils. Will Sri Lankans ever get a chance to elect a Tamil president if LTTE keep eliminating Tamil intellectuals?

Culturally, religiously and in physical appearance, Sinhalese and Tamils are the most similar ethnic groups in the world. They share a number of traditions including the New Year. Hinduism and Buddhism originated in India and have many parallel features. Those are the only religions in the world that preach rebirth. Buddhism acquired many practices from Hinduism including the “worship of Gods.” Consequently, all the Gods Buddhists’ worship are Hindu Gods. Similarly, Lord Buddha, being one of the appearances (avathara) of Vishnu, is a God in Hinduism.

One of the most famous Hindu Gods pertaining to business transactions is Skadakumar, who has a popular temple in Katharagama, down-south. My father, a Sinhalese, who is a strong devotee of the God Skandakumar used to drive over 300 miles (a very long distance in the context of Sri Lanka) every three months to pay homage.

Unlike Blacks and Whites in the U.S., Tamils and Sinhalese are look alike. One cannot distinguish a Tamil from a Sinhalese by physical appearance, which brings an interesting question of how the alleged marginalization is possible in such circumstances.

Comparison of Sri Lankan separatism and American civil rights struggle is comparing apples to oranges. Sri Lanka hadn’t had a segregated school system; separate restaurants, bars, theaters or restrooms for Tamils and Sinhalese; it wasn’t the law of the country that Sinhalese sit on the bus, while Tamils stand; a Tamil was not considered as three-fifths of a Sinhalese. In order to curb this inhuman discrimination, U.S. had to draft stiff legislation such as the Civil Rights Act.

The most recent population statistics in Sri Lanka and the U.S. reveal:
Sinhalese 73%
Northern Tamils 13%
Muslim 7%
Hill Country Tamils 6%
Other 1%
Source: Department of Statistics, Sri Lanka
White 66%
Hispanic 15%
Black 12%
Asian 4%
Other 3%
Source: 2007 ACS (U.S. Census Bureau)

It is unjust to play a numbers game, while thousands of our people Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims alike are suffering. Having said that, statistically, there are significantly more Sinhalese in Sri Lanka than Whites in the U.S. Nevertheless, a more plausible comparison of ethnicities could be drawn between Hispanics and Tamils. Like Northern Tamils, Hispanics are the largest minority in the U.S. and are immigrants, but Blacks were brought to the U.S. for forced labor by the British, who brought Hill Country Tamils for tea plantation. Hill Country Tamils, who are different from Northern Tamils, have had a very strong political presence in the parliament through their venerated leader, Savumiamoorthy Thondaman, one of the most influential politicians in Sri Lankan history, who held powerful ministerial portfolios. Hill Country Tamils have never complained about mistreatment. Therefore, Northern Tamils are more comparable to Hispanics than Blacks.

There is no language division among ethnicities in Sri Lanka, which has two official languages: Tamil and Sinhala. Muslims, original Arabic speakers, speak Tamil for convenience because they are concentrated in areas populated by Tamils. My wife and her sister spoke Tamil when they were young because they were raised in hill country, where their farther was a headmaster. I spoke a little bit of Tamil, when I shared a room with two Muslim students from Batticaloa.

Like any other democracy, there are many problems in our political system, yet, those do not warrant a war. The claim that Tamils are marginalized in Sri Lanka is unfounded propaganda. Tamils and Sinhalese have a lot in common than otherwise; therefore, let’s stop this numbers game and build consensus to eliminate extremism to develop our nation together—“united we stand, divide we fall.”

Sanjeewa Karunaratne can be reached at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

American People Make History, Can We Sri Lankans Ever?

By Muttukrishna Sarvananthan

In April 2008 I met an American national in Colombo who works for the World Bank in Washington, DC. At that time both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were contesting for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination and John McCain was already the sole contender for the Republican Party Presidential nomination. When we conversed about the upcoming American Presidential election he told me that, although in his opinion John McCain was too old for the office of the President, he believed American people are still not “ready” for a woman or non-white person to become the President of the United States.

His prognosis was proved wrong on November 04th when the American people made history by electing their first African American President. I was fortunate to be just a couple of blocks away from the White House to witness this historic moment of the American people; minority communities in particular who overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama. My thoughts went back home; can we Sri Lankans ever make the same epic history? I remembered the pronunciations by heads of two pillars of the Sri Lankan state, viz. the chief executive and the head of the armed forces. In 1994, the then President of Sri Lanka claimed that the minority communities are mere branches of the majority Sinhalese community. Just a couple of months ago, in September 2008, the chief of the Sri Lanka Army said that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese (majority community) and therefore minority communities should not demand “too much”.

It is not that this kind of racial supremacy exists in Sri Lanka alone; it is all over the world, but America has crossed this supremacist disposition on November 04th 2008. United Kingdom is an example of the supremacism of the majority community, viz. the English. I still vividly remember the national elections of 1992 when John Major of the Conservative Party (incumbent Prime Minister) and Neil Kinnock of the Labour Party (Opposition Leader) were contending for Premiership, while I was a postgraduate student in the UK. Whilst most opinion polls showed a very close run between the two parties, on the day of the election (April 09th) The Sun newspaper (the most popular tabloid at that time) had a banner headline and lead story that was widely believed to have contributed to the loss of the Labour Party and its leader Neil Kinnock at that election. The Sun asked the British people to switch off their lights in order to mark dark times ahead if a “Welshman”, Neil Kinnock, was elected. Despite moving his Labour Party away from leftwing politics, Neil Kinnock lost to John Major largely due to his ethnicity, I believe. Even now, there are undercurrents of racism whipped up by certain media (and perhaps by certain sections of the Conservative Party as well) against the incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown who is a Scotsman. These experiences indicate that it is a Herculean task for a person other than English to be elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In this respect, American people have proved to be above the rest in the World.

The case of Sri Lanka is different from the United States or the United Kingdom at least in one important respect. In the case of African Americans, Scottish or the Welsh, they by and large speak the language of the majority community and their religion is by and large the same as that of the majority community (different denominations of Christianity notwithstanding). Whereas in the case of Sri Lanka, Tamil and Muslim minority communities by and large speak a different language and follow different religions than the majority community. Thus, whilst the majority community speaks Sinhalese and is largely Buddhist, Tamils and Moors speak Tamil and are largely Hindu and Muslim respectively.

Nevertheless, the demographic composition of the United States is almost the same as in Sri Lanka; in the former the majority community accounts for 73% of the total population (minority communities account for 27%) and in the latter it is 74% (minority communities account for 26%). In spite of the differences in ethnicity, a common language binds the people of America (religious sectarianisms notwithstanding), which is not the case in Sri Lanka. Having said that, the differences between the United States and Sri Lanka go beyond the differences in languages or religions of the peoples of these two countries. It is more to do with the fundamental differences in the governance structures of the two countries: for example, America is a federal state while Sri Lanka is a unitary state; America does not have a state religion whereas Sri Lanka does. Moreover, affirmative action programmes have made America an inclusive society (notwithstanding enduring discrimination in many respects even now), whereas in Sri Lanka lukewarm implementation of the dual official language policy, advertent and inadvertent discrimination in education and employment opportunities and very limited implementation of devolution of powers enshrined in the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution have alienated the minority communities. These are some of the fundamental differences between the two countries.

Nonetheless, Barack Obama’s election as the President of the United States has given a glimmer of hope to minority communities around the world, including in Sri Lanka, that they too could become rulers of their respective country by peaceful democratic means. It is a powerful, peaceful message against separatist nationalism and armed violence of marginalised communities around the world for equality, justice and freedom. In order to emulate the American historical feat of November 04, 2008, States that are confronting separatist nationalist struggles (by peaceful means – ala Scotland and Quebec – as well as by armed rebellion – ala Palestine and Sri Lanka) should reform its governance structures to be inclusive based on equality of opportunities irrespective of gender, race, religion, etc, and decentralisation and devolution of economic, political, administrative and cultural powers.

Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, Ph.D. (Wales) M.Sc. (Bristol) M.Sc. (Salford) B.A. (Hons) (Delhi), is the Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, Point Pedro, Northern Sri Lanka and a Fulbright Visiting Research Scholar at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, DC, U.S.A. Corrections, comments and suggestions are welcome to

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Peace with Dignity

As Sri Lankans sometimes we wonder whether the Peace in Sri Lanka is an illusion but some rare moment there are rays of hope that peace can become a reality in Sri Lanka.

As peace loving people, most of us would love to see peace comes back to our beautiful island nation. There is a saying that “The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war” In other words no matter how noble the cause of fighting/war, at every possible chance we should strive to reach for peace.

What is peace? How can we achieve peace? Especially given the long history of violence that we experience in Sri Lanka. If for instance we believe peace as an absence of violence and war, can we ever achieve peace?

We can attribute many reasons for destroying the peace in Sri Lanka. We can analyze the history of Sri Lanka from the very beginning to the recent past and there have been many dark and unfortunate phases that many are ashamed and cannot be defended. There are many perpetrators as well as victims in this whole saga of events.

Without living in the past, we need to move forward. Not by forgetting the past but by learning from the past and with sheer determination not to let some of the gross injustice happened to our fellow Sri Lankans ever happen again.

We understand that there is a tension between the national security and human rights. Maintaining that delicate balance knowing that all citizens of Sri Lanka have a right to expect equal treatment is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government. As an elected government, the Sri Lankan government has to stay above an organization like LTTE. It is not a valid argument to say that LTTE is violating the human rights hence the Sri Lankan government selectively can trample the rights of some members of the Tamil community. Sri Lankan government should at all times, while making every effort to eradicate terrorism has to respect the Geneva Convention on Human Rights.

As peace loving Sri Lankans we all should urge, all parties concerned to put an end to this senseless violence and resume negotiations now to reach a peaceful resolution in conformity with international law and respect of human dignity.
Peace Lover

Monday, January 5, 2009

Peace in the new context

According to the census in 1921, the total population in Sri Lanka was 4.5 million whereas the population today is just over 20 million people. Therefore, migration from densely populated areas to more suburban areas has become a mandatory phenomenon. Though 54% of the Tamils live among the Sinhalese in the South, Sinhalese migration to North and the East of Sri Lanka has been felt as a threat by the LTTE. Tragically, entire Sinhalese villages have been annihilated by LTTE in certain parts of the North and the East as a hostile gesture. Despite such ethnic tensions, the need for a distributed development of infrastructure and freedom for migration within Sri Lanka is felt with more vigor than ever before. Furthermore, the demand for a traditional homeland of 2/3 of the coast and 1/3 of the total landmass of Sri Lanka for 46% of the Tamils who live in the North and the East (6% of the total population) is increasingly felt as an unfair demand in a country with so much pressure for internal migration and co-existence of multiple ethnic groups.Therefore, the historical arguments based on conditions prevailed a quarter century ago are no longer relevant to a dialog for peace today. The war itself has transformed both ethnic communities from who they were in 1983 to who they are today with dramatic changes in the fundamentals in their thinking. For instance, soon after the Government captured Kilinochchi, two bomb blasts took place in Colombo targeting civilians. However, the celebrating communities did not use their unity and upbeat mood to harm a single Tamil civilian in Colombo. However, it would have been different in 1983. Therefore, the process of dialog should provide room for all Tamil and Sinhalese views and concerns to interact among each other without threats from LTTE or the Government armed forces.

It is my personal belief that the emergence of greater National goals centered around respect for human life will be the basis for a solution. A healthy dialog among different communities could evolve that if they speak out their hearts. At least during the 2004 Tsunami disaster, it was seen that such powerful National goals have helped to bring peace to Aceh province in Indonesia, whereas the LTTE's hard stand on the petty political objective for an Interim Self Governing Authority (ISGA) shattered all hopes of a collective effort to serve the Tsunami affected communities in the East. A National dream that transcends such rudimentary political goals should emerge providing room for all ethnic groups to find opportunities to achieve their individual religious, cultural, economic, philosophical, and ethnic aspirations with dignity. Therefore, this dialog should happen with wider participation of the general public free from political pressure from armed groups. Ideally, new political leaders should emerge whose vision transcend tribalism and racism.

More specifically, my personal suggestion is to decentralize power to local authorities to set regional development priorities, collect Taxes, and law enforcement to uphold basic human rights such as language rights, religious belief rights, etc. Full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the constitution could be an immediate step towards this direction. Moreover, private sector leadership should be allowed to serve community aspirations. This can be accommodated if the Government monopolies are dissolved in areas such as aviation, ports and shipping, energy, etc. Instead, the central Government should give high priority to improve access to education. Nearly 97% of the Sri Lankans today can not have a university education even if they have financial resources to secure a paid education, due to Government restrictions on private sector involvement in University education. Youth should get wider opportunities for higher education either through state universities or private universities, for any sensible distributed economic growth. This would also help eliminate some of the root causes of this conflict. Furthermore, the central Government should allocate more resources to strengthen the legal bodies and law enforcement infrastructure to uphold human rights. It is my belief that an important part of sustained peace is the perception of the people of a country that the Government has enough regulations and mechanisms to protect their human rights as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All Sri Lankan police officers should be trained to genuinely appreciate the importance of upholding human rights of people regardless of their social status, ethnic or religious background, or Nationality. Finally, Democratic institutions and traditions should be strengthened to make sure a healthy political dialog will continue to shape up the Sri Lankan Government to serve the aspirations of all its c itizens.

However, if Sri Lankan Tamils continue to be victims of world Tamil Movements to create a Tamil Homeland in Sri Lanka, no Government will be able to quench their thirst for they will never be allowed to settle down for anything less than a Tamil state. They will be forced to find some fault in the system and interpret it as a deliberate discrimination against the minority Tamils, when the truth is they are just a victimized tip of the 100 million Tamils in the iceberg. This dimension of the problem can not be addressed without effective regional cooperation. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka should always pay due care to maintain healthy regional cooperation and a dialog with our own Tamils to prevent them from becoming prey to Global predators.

Thrishantha Nanayakkara

Thrishantha is a Radclifffe Fellow at Harvard University, USA.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What is peace?

This forum will discuss matters related to peace in Sri Lanka. First of all lets open the floor for a discussion on the fundamental question "what is peace, and how can it be maintained in a world of conflicting human endeavors, aspirations, and rituals?" Even in a family, there are daily instances where peace is broken. But peace is re-built through various natural mechanisms like sitting down together for dinner, breakfast, or lunch, shopping together, etc. Can these simple forces that re-builds peace be extended to large scale confilicts that are new and old? Can the mechanisms that are applicable to relatively new conflicts be applicable to relatively old conflicts?A discussion on these fundamentals would help us to bring and maintain peace in Sri Lanka.