Response to S. L. Gunasekara’s article titled ‘Cardinal Errors’
‘Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter’ -Â Dr Martin Luther King
I feel compelled to defend the blasphemy committed through the article titled ‘Cardinal Errors’ (Island, 10th November, 2010) against holy Churchmen of the highest ranks who expressed their concerns in the interest of peace and reconciliation. It was a trying exercise not only to read but also to respond to such arguments. Although I was deeply provoked to respond in similar language, thankfully I managed to rise above it.Â I address the following issues point by point:
SLG: exhorting their flock to oppose or simply refuse to obey the orders of the LTTE’
Response:Â Is it a realistic proposition to have confronted the LTTE which violently resisted any opposition under the leadership of Prabhakaran. The church had no choice but to take a conciliatory stand in order to maintain a communication link with the LTTE who were young men formerly of their own flock who gradually turned violent as a consequence of ethnic marginalization.
SLG:Â publicly condemning the LTTE unreservedly and exhorting them to lay down arms and surrender to the Government.
Response:Â The churches and priests were the only link between the LTTE and civil society and public condemnation of the LTTE by the churchÂ would have broken that very frail link of influence which was essential at the time.
SLG:Â The churches,Â by their conduct, conveyed to the People the distinctÂ impression:Â that the LTTE was a responsible body of persons which was responsive to reason with whom a just ‘negotiated settlement’ was possible
Response:Â It was an obvious tactic of attempting to appeal to the rational side of the LTTE in the hope they couldÂ respond positively to negotiation
SLG: The churches were sympathetic to the `cause’ of the LTTE
Response:Â The church was aware and concerned about the Tamil youth who were marginalized and repeatedly frustrated with regard to education and employment and undoubtedly were sympathetic to the cause.
They were also aware that of caste discrimination and its stifling effect on thier social mobility. However, they never condoned the use of violence.
SLG: Thus, for example, Kenneth Fernando, the former Anglican Bishop of Colombo gave a wholly heretical and equally unfounded character certificateÂ to Prabhakaran to the effect that he was a humane person
Response:Â Only a compassionate being can understand the circumstances leading to violent criminal behaviour, like Gautama Buddha was compassionate towards the serial murderer Angulimala and his conspiring friend Devadatta.
SLG: Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church openly consorted with the leaders of the LTTE
Response:Â Despite objections by many of his followers, Jesus openly consorted with criminals in the hope of positively influencing their thinking and behaviour.
SLG: Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Mannar, actually, participaterd in and spoke at a rallyÂ held by the LTTE to condemn the wholly praiseworthy killing ofÂ the terroristÂ Kaushalyan by the Armed Forces
Response:Â If he didn’t sympathize with their loss of a leader, the nation would have faced even more adverse repercussions.Â He may even have been personally known to Kaushalyan and his family before he joined the LTTE. One must not forget that the LTTE youth also emerged from normal families and passive backgrounds. In fact Prabhakaran’s father was a government servant who constantly advised his son not to resort to violence. It was the unjust status quo that frustrated them towards violent reaction in the absence of legitimate recourse to address their grievances.
SLG: It is also an undeniable fact that when affluent nations of the West sought to intimidate us into giving the LTTE a fresh lease of life by declaring a cease fire when we were on the point of victory
Response:Â Because they feared large scale blood shed which would re-ignite further conflict in the long term.
SLG: Thus, neither of these Churches helped in any way to liberate our country from the LTTE. That liberation was achieved by the blood, toil, tears and sweat of our armed forces backed by the President and all patriotic People, and the doughty resistance offered by President Mahinda Rajapakse to the filthy efforts of the West to resurrect the LTTE.
Response:Â Victory was achieved by the armed forces who exerted maximum force with cutting edge weapons and technology which far exceeded that of their opponents. Even the ancient epic Mhabaratha refers to such tactics as ‘unjust war’ when one’s weaponry far exceeds that of the foe. â€“ it was not a war but a massacre with scant regard for civilian life. However, there was a public display of humanitarian action towards the final stages in order to counter international accusations of war crimes. The war victory left in its wake adverse economic consequences so deep which could extend to several generations of financial, social and emotional payback. This is what the peace mongers like the churchmen wanted to avoid.
SLG: Indeed, that liberation was achieved in spite of the doings of these Churches.
Response:Â It is vile and vicious to distort the truth and condemn compassionate and holy men and religious organizations for trying their best to advocate peace through negotiation in order to minimize violence and blood shed
SLG:Â By acting in such manner these Churches betrayed our country
Response:Â Implicit ethnic victimization and creating acute frustration among the Tamil ethnic minority citizens through the denial of legal recourse is an even more villainous act
SLG: Now that peace had been restored without the assistance of these Churches and in spite of them, I find from the newspapers that they have now come forward to proffer advice to the Government about what they should do after achieving the victory towards which they made no contribution
Response: If the GOSL is sincere they must be prepared to receive advice from anyone who advocates reconciliation. They did attempt to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table which could not materialize due to multiple obstacles and lack of sincerity on the part of the GOSL which is now patently obvious through their indifference in addressing the grievances of the tamils, post war.The objective of the LLRC does not even cover this aspect and only serves the purpose ofÂ vilifying the opposition’s implementation of the CFA.
SLG: The following items of advice/views expressed by the Roman Catholic Church, either directly or by necessary implication:
a) OnlyÂ a political solution could solve the grievances of the minorities and the devolution of power is a `m’
Response:Â Wasn’t that the original intention of setting up the APRC to seek a political solution through devolution?
b) TheÂ LTTE having been defeated on the battle field, there was no need for a heavy `military presence in the North and East nor for the continuationÂ of the Prevention of Terrorism Act or the Emergency Regulations which should therefore be repealed [The Anglican Bishop, however says that they should be reviewed].
Response:Â If the GOSL is serious about peace and reconciliation they must be seen to implement it through reduced military presence which conveys trust of the Tamil community despite a risk component which can be overcome by a good intelligence network.
c) There should be no `colonization’ in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in such a way thatÂ would change the ethnic ratio of the area;
Response:Â A natural process of settlement by Sinhalese in predominantly Tamil areas will occur with peace and reconciliation in the long term. It is the planned and hurried attempts by the state to settle Sinhalese in the north, post conflict that arouses suspicion among the Tamils.
d) The 13th Amendment should be fully implemented.
Response:Â Why not , if it is legitimate and will foster trust and confidence of the minority community, in particular.
e) The Sinhala Only Act, the 1972 Constitution and other laws as well as the `colonization’ of the Northern and Eastern ProvincesÂ with Sinhalese were causes of terrorism.
Response:Â Definitely so, because it aggravated ethnic tension in Tamil speaking areas of the country through the denial of their basic rights.
SLG: These views/adviceÂ appear to be based on an unquestioning acceptance of the hoary myths:-
a. that there exists in Sri Lanka an ethnic problem between the Sinhalese and the minorities
Response:Â Only a minority member knows with certainty the pain of discrimination and victimization
b. that the minorities, to the exclusion of the majority have a monopoly of grievances that can and must be solved by a `political solution’ in the form of a devolution of power
Response: Because their grievances have been ignored since independence and they have been subject to continuous victimization and persecution that the Sinhalese have not been subject to. In fact, it warrants affirmative action by the state. Devolution of power does not mean relinquishing but sharing of power in critical areas identified by the centre.
SLG: at the Northern and Eastern Provinces are the â€œexclusive homeland of the Tamils” [a wholly racist view expressed by the TULF in its manifesto for the 1977 elections] and that the settlement of Sinhalese in ‘PeasantÂ Settlement Schemes’ [to which they referÂ by the pejorative term ‘Colonization’] in the North and EastÂ must be stopped.
Response:Â The term ‘exclusivity’ arises out of the fact that the minority prevail in those areas.Â State initiated and hurried settlement of Sinhalese communities in predominantly Tamil speaking areas appears to have a sinister motive of demographic manipulation. In contrast, their settlement as a consequence of trade and agriculture is natural and welcomed by the indigenous people.
SLG: The good Churchmen appear to be wholly oblivious of the fact that except where some power hungry politician or some racist psychopathÂ such as PrabakaranÂ intervenes, there is no ethnic tension between the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Moors or any other race that inhabits our land; and that the tensions that do exist among our People are not INTER-racial tensions such as tensions between the Sinhalese and the Tamils or the Moors but INTRA racial tensions between Sinhalese and Sinhalese, Tamils and Tamils and Moors and Moors etc.
Response:Â There is no denying thatÂ inter-racial tensions are a reality which has been amplified for political expediency. On the other hand, intra- racial tensions are as a consequence of caste, religion and caste differences also form political and social under currants. Deliberately exacerbating both tensions for political gain are national cultural ploys aggravated by poverty and asymmetric regional economic development. All social tensions and vulnerabilities have been prevailed upon and exploited for political advantage.
SLG: Indeed, any attempt to solve these problem piece-meal by solving the problems of one or more communities to the exclusion of the others, and seeking thereafter to solve the problems/grievances of the other communities can only, and will inevitably, cause ethnic tensions and ethnic strife where there presently is none.Â Yet, this appears to be one of the ‘gems’ of advice given by the newly minted Cardinal !!!
Response:Â I repeat, covert ethnic marginalization by the state is a reality not a myth and needs to be addressed with affirmative action in order to overcome the threat of renewed ethnic conflict which will serve to enhance good governance and not stifle it. The Sinhalese will benefit from such affirmative action which will have a complementary effect both nationally and internationally.
SLG: an equitable implementation of Peasant Settlement Schemes must necessarily result in Sinhalese from the over-populated South being given land in the under-populated areas of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.Â It is inevitable that the settlement of an appreciable number of members of one race in a particular locality, would result in an alteration of the ethnic ratio therein.
Response:Â I repeat, post conflict planned and hurried Sinhalese settlements in Tamil speaking regions will foster mistrust in an already traumatized community resulting in negative impact on peace and reconciliation.
SLG: However, ethnic ratios in any particular locality can never be as constant as the morning star in any developing country, but must change with the times and the needs of the country.
Response:Â This is true if communities are allowed to expand naturally, over the long term,Â due to normal economic and social impact which will promote reconciliation and ethnic harmony.
SLG: Accordingly, to restrict the settlement of Sinhalese in the Northern and/or Eastern Provinces in such Peasant Settlement Schemes on the ground that such settlements would alter the ‘ethnic ratios’ of the District concerned would be both unjust and inequitable in that it would call for discrimination on racial/ethnic grounds against the Sinhalese in the matter of the allocation of the natural resources of the state around development schemes paid for with public funds which could be deemed to constitute funds of which 74% are those of the Sinhalese.
Response:Â Although Tamil speaking people are in the minority, their contribution to state coffers is major due to their high contribution to entrepreneurship. However, in order to promote multi-cultural amity, economically driven settlements must be encouraged instead of politically driven settlements.
SLG: It is also worthy of note that the objections of Tamil racists to the settlement of Sinhalese in such schemes in the Northern and Eastern Provinces does not stem from any complaint about an inequitable distribution of allotments of land in such schemes, but that they are based on the silly ground that settlement would alter the `ethnic ratios’ and that the Northern and the Eastern Provinces constitute the traditional/exclusiveÂ homeland of the Tamils.
Response:Â I repeat, State sponsored settlement, gives to the indigenous community, an impression of attempts at ethnic reconfiguration which must be avoided, in the post conflict scenario, specifically, to build the confidence of marginalized minorities.
SLG: We [including the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches and the Tamil polity] must even now realize that Sri Lanka is equally the home of all its citizens and that every citizen has equal rights in respect of every inch of her territory, so that the rights of a Sinhalese to be granted state land in a Peasant Settlement Scheme in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is, in every respect, equal to that of a Tamil or a Moor.
Response:Â I repeat, that such action in a post conflict scenario arouses distrust which is natural to a long suffering marginalized community.
SLG:Â The implementation of the views of the Roman Catholic Church in this regard would only result in bringing into being a system of `Apartheid’Â with the division of the country into ‘Bantustans’, ‘Tribal Homelands’ or ‘Tribal Reservations’ and bring to naughtÂ the laudable principle enunciated by President Rajapakse in the immediate aftermath of the victory of over the LTTE when he said that there is in this country only one People namely the Sri Lankan Nation, and that there is no minority or majority community therein
Response: The constraining of hurried settlement of Sinhalese in war affected areas in order to build trust and confidence of the local community is essential for peace and reconciliation. Denial by the leadership of the existence of ethnic marginalization is an indication of its insensitivity to the root cause of terrorism.
SLG: The views of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith about the causes of tiger terrorism fail completely to take into account the anti-national and divisiveÂ policies adopted by Tamil chauvinists/supremacists such as G G Ponnambalam who called for discrimination against the Sinhalese in the matter of representation in Parliament, and S J V Chelvanayagam who propounded the necessarily divisive and hateful theories that denied the existence of one Ceylonese [Sri Lankan] Nation comprised of Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors etc. and of the Northern andÂ Eastern Provinces being the traditional/exclusive homeland of the Tamils. He also failed to consider the undeniable fact that the divisive conduct of these learned professionals commenced long before the enactment of the Official Language Act in 1956, the 1972 Constitution and all the communal riots that succeeded them.
Response:Â Sinhalese politicians are as guilty as Tamil politicians for using divisive policies for political expediency. There is no point now in pointing accusing fingers at each other but to realize the danger of continuing suchÂ intrigue into the future.
SLG: The call for a repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations as well as the call for a reduction of the ‘military presence’ in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is wholly misconceived.
Response:Â The repeal of the PTA is critical to build trust and confidence of Tamils who are looked upon with suspicion, post conflict, by the GOSL.
SLG: It is no doubt true that the LTTE have been defeated militarily in Sri Lanka.Â However, the organizations of the LTTE in foreign climesÂ remain intact and are still advocating total separation and support for the tiger ‘cause’. Thus, it is the prime task of the government to see that there is no recurrence of terrorism and to ensure that it does not raise its ugly head again.
Response:Â This requires collaboration withÂ international strategic intelligence networks to efficiently track down terrorists, not draconian anti-terrorist laws and a perpetual state of emergency.
SLG: The vast quantities of arms still being recovered by the armed forces inÂ the Northern and Eastern Provinces bear ample testimony to the fact that the LTTE had made plans to regroup, recover such arms in the event of defeat and resume their murderous campaign with the aid and assistance of those Tamil supporters of terrorism in foreign climes.
Response:Â They are most likely arms caches that were stored as reserves by the LTTE which were abandoned in defeat.
SLG: One of the biggest dangers that face the country in this regard is the danger of sinking into complacency.
Response:Â A greater danger is the denial of the existence of ethnic marginalization of Tamil speaking people and the delay in addressing it post conflict.
SLG: Further, inasmuch as the Northern and Eastern Provinces are as much a part of Sri Lanka as the Southern, Western or Central Provinces and our armed forces are the armed forces of the State they are equally the armed forces of every Province.Â Â Accordingly, just as much as nobody has raised objections to or can raise objections to the military presence in the South, particularly in Colombo, there should not be and could not rationally be any objection to the heavy military presence of our troops in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
Response: It is not a question of objection but the GOSL’s efforts to co-opt the Tamils through confidence building and trust by helping them re-connect as citizens.
SLG: These silly objections also fail to take into account the monumental sacrifices made by our troops to destroy terrorism and the monumental amount of work being done by them to repair and rehabilitate the damage done to those areas and the People resident therein by the tiger terrorists and their cohorts.
Response:Â The responsibility of the state for rehabilitation and rebuilding of war affected areas must go hand in hand with the responsibility to build trust, confidence and mutual respect among all its citizens as a multi-cultural polity
SLG: There remain for consideration the totally nonsensical calls for the full implementation of the abomination called the 13th Amendment which was forced down our throats by the Indians who trained, armed and equipped the terrorists to murder our citizens and destroy our property.Â We have now had over 22 years experience of these Councils and nobody with an iota of intelligence can fail to realize the fact that they are the biggest white elephants this country hasÂ ever seen and/or is likely to see.Â The prodigal extravagance of the Government andÂ the waste incumbent upon that prodigal extravagance is nothing compared to the waste of resources incumbent upon the maintenance of these white elephants.
Response:Â This is due to bad governance and corruption rather than the structure of devolution. It shows the center’s failure to devolve power rather than the failure of the process.
SLG. The opposition toÂ the 13th Amendment being implemented in full is not based entirely on the dangers of separation that such implementation would bring about
Response:Â This is an unwarranted fear psychosis created by the centre to have an excuse to retain maximum power.
SLG: Would do well for the Attorney-at-Law representing the Catholic Church who expressed this view to ponder upon the law and order situation that would result in this country if the Police Force in each of our Provinces is placed in charge of and/or under the direction and control of the political functionaries known as the Chief Ministers of these Provinces
Response:Â The APRC agreed that limited Police powers should be considered as a devolved power
SLG. Further, no explanation had been given as to why or how the implementation of this odious 13th Amendment which causes the devolution of power not to the People but to the hierarchies of our various political parties and has hence multiplied many times over, the epidemic of sycophancy which has enveloped our land, could ever bring any benefit to this country.
Response:Â If the leadership sets the example by discouraging sycophancy, cronyism, nepotism and corruption through the practice of good governance then it will, undoubtedly, flow down to the provincial governments, as well.