Colombo, Human Rights, Media and Communications, Politics and Governance

The Case of Tissainayagam: Who is on Trial?

J.S. Tissainayagam, who had been under detention since March 7- 2009, was convicted on all three charges under the Prevention of Terrorism Act  (PTA) on August 31- 2009 by the High Court of Colombo, and given the maximum sentence of 20 years rigorous incarceration. In a symbolic and focal sense, what has been tried and imprisoned is the Tamil nation, and all those who stand for its right of self-determination. Journalist Tissainayagam stood for the right of self-determination and for the security of the Tamil nation, and it is this fundamental right that has been tried and suppressed in such a severe manner. Tissainayagam allegedly confesses that he maintained some dialogue with the LTTE and that he did write and publish the articles for which he was convicted. These articles, as alleged by the state, purportedly had the intention and the effect of fuelling communal violence. In that case, every member of every successive neo-colonial government, including the Opposition,  would have to be put away for  20 years, for the crime of sabotaging any possible political solution and inciting communal violence! In my opinion, the court simply failed to establish this accusation, beyond any reasonable doubt. There is no evidence to prove that these articles had incited communal violence. Evidently, only 50 copies of this journal had been sold. The fact is that the PTA has been designed to allow for such subjective and arbitrary interpretation. My opinion, and that of all enlightened progressive people, is that Tissa never intended to provoke communal violence. That is not his nature or political agenda. He simply took a stand on behalf of the right of national self-determination of the Tamil people and highlighted  the crisis of human security and human rights faced by the Tamil people.

Are we to deny that there was no such crisis, when there was incessant bombing of Tamil populated areas and selected assassination of individuals, including eminent political representatives such as Hon. Joseph Pararajasingham and Hon. Raviraj? Now, if we are to argue that no such crisis existed, and that, as the regime has claimed that this war has been waged with a policy of zero civilian causalities, then I say that this is an exercise in crass self-deception. The whole world knows that the war created a colossal humanitarian catastrophe for hundreds of thousand Tamil civilians, and that both the LTTE and the State engaged in massacre of civilians. Leading representatives of the regime have publicly boasted that ‘ you cannot defeat terrorism, without resort to terrorism’. Even now, it is reported that the security of those who are kept in detention in barb-wired concentration camps face a threat of human security and gross violations  of human rights.

Is it treachery to stand for the independence, freedom and security of an oppressed nation, which they feel is under military subjugation and suppression? Is it a crime to feel anguished and cry out for justice in the face of wanton, wholesale violation of human security and basic human rights? Even in the United States, the No 01 imperialist-terrorist super power, the media and civilian lobbies openly and constitutionally advocate for the truth and for justice against the horrible human rights violations committed in Abu Graib and Guantanamo and on the battlefields of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, and against its own people. Even though there exists the draconian Patriotic Act- much like the PTA- there the masses still enjoy the right to protest and resist any form of imperialist military aggression or any other violation of human rights. Besides, to refer to the crimes against humanity committed by the US and the NATO in Iraq and Afghanistan as a means of justifying the same here, expresses a twisted logic. Whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, or in Vakarai, Mullaitivu or Sampur, such terrorist crimes against the people are to be condemned. Here, in Paradise, anyone who resists and opposes the political agenda of the regime is hunted and hounded as a terrorist and a traitor. Well, who is a traitor to some is a patriot to another. Who is a terrorist to some is a freedom fighter for another. Depends on where you stand at the barricades.

If we are to imprison people for cavorting with the LTTE, then none other than Hon. Basil Rajapakse, Hon. Mangala Samaraweera and the late  Hon. Sripathi Sooriaratchi – all part of the top leadership of the People’s Alliance government at the time- could be the first to take the hike for 20 years. All these three individuals had allegedly entered into a secret conspiracy with the LTTE, on behalf of Presidential candidate  Mahinda Rajapakse,  to prevail upon the LTTE to ensure a boycott of the Presidential elections by the Tamil people of the North-East, in order to ensure his electoral victory. Taking this legal logic further, the entire People’s Alliance regime could be jailed for 20 years for this type of duplicity and conspiracy. This whole issue was publicly debated in Parliament, only to be effectively sabotaged and suppressed. Now, I may be taken to court and sentenced to 20 years on the argument that none of these allegations have been proven in a court of law. Or, I could be made to be killed in a motor accident, or be abducted by a white van. As a citizen, I can say, please file a case in court, or appoint an independent commission of inquiry, and let the public know the truth of the case. Then, what about the conscious, planned and deliberate provocations to incite communal violence as in the case of Bindinuwewa, Maligawatte, Kandapola, those who attacked and torched churches and so on and on? Has any one being sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment? What about the statements by Sarath Fonseka and Champika Ranawaka, at the height of the war, to the effect that this is the exclusive homeland of the Sinhala-Buddhist nation and all others are alien minorities who live here by default? Would this ideology and politics not inflame passions and incite communal violence? This is the putrid Comprador bourgeois ruling class ideology and politics that has provoked communal violence beyond anything anyone can even imagine. Why do we not even think of sentencing Cyril Matthew and J.R. Jayawardene- and others-  for fermenting communal violence on a horribly brutal scale? What about Black July, and the wholesale rigging of the cosmetic DDC elections and the burning of the Jaffna library- a form of cultural genocide against a nation? Who is to be sentenced for such abominable crimes, and yes, treachery?  What about the massacre of 17 humanitarian workers, of five Tamil students, of the series of abductions, extra-judicial killings, extortion and torture? These bestial violations have the potential to incite communal passions, breed hatred and distrust among the people. They serve to fuel the politics of separatism. So then, who is on trial? Now, when Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama pronounces in Parliament that challenging the verdict by the District court may be in disrespect of the rule of Law, he is presenting a threat to all of us. Let it be known that we shall not be intimidated  by these types of threats. And also, we shall tell him to read the Constitution, to which he is also subject.

As the repository of the people’s mandate, the state and as the regime in power, are constitutionally obligated to prosecute and reveal the truth to the people. In law, the state, including the legislature, executive and the judiciary, and all other bureaucratic appendages of the state, are there to execute the will and sovereignty of the people and to ensure their freedom and human security. These institutions, even according to bourgeois democratic theory, exist to protect, serve and enshrine the supreme sovereignty of the people. Yet, at present, there are close to 300,000 Tamil citizens who are being detained and fenced in barb-wired concentration camps simply for the crime of being Tamil, and inhumanely victimized for being deliberately manipulated by both sides to be trapped in the crossfire of a brutal war. These are the pitiless consequences of seeking a military solution. The military solution has simply nurtured the aspiration for a separate state as never before. The seeds will be replanted, only that much more firmly and on fertile soil by the generations to come. So, the question of who stands for the unity, integrity, equality and dignity of the nations and communities of Sri Lanka remains to be adjudicated. The question of who stands for truth and justice remains to be adjudicated.. The question of who are the real patriots who truly love their country and the people of Lanka, and stand for their unity, independence, dignity and freedom is to be decided. The question of “Who is On Trial” remains to be adjudicated. As it is, there are some 25,000 political prisoners, added to nearly 300,000 detainees. This is an intolerable violation of human and democratic rights. Believe me, the people will have their day, and they will file their suit against all imposters, gangsters and murderers, and history will deliver its verdict. For now, the People’s Tribunal is in formation. That is one of the supreme  tasks and responsibilities of the People’s Movement for Freedom and Democracy to hold the state accountable for its crimes against democracy and humanity. This is the political essence and the historic challenge presented by the Tissainayagam Case.

The Case of Tissainayagam is a concentration of the systematic, gross and intensifying discrimination, political repression and armed suppression of the oppressed Tamil nation carried out deliberately by the Sinhala chauvinist, hegemonic, Comprador Capitalist unitary state, executed by every successive government and brought to a culmination by the present Mahinda Chintanaya regime. All those who stand for the national-democratic rights of the Tamil nation, and thereby, for truth and justice, and for the unity, integrity, independence and sovereignty of the country, and all those who stand for freedom and democracy, should take up the struggle to free Tissa, to free the Tamil nation and to free the people of our beloved Lanka from the political agenda of the putrid and parasitic Comprador state.

The war is said to be won. There have been victory parades to establish this fact. President Mahinda Rajapakse is hailed as a new king who has vanquished the alien invaders. Then, what is the need for such revenge against Tissa? Is it not time for forgiveness and reconciliation? What is the real intention of extending the PREVENTION OF TERRORISM ACT-PTA and Emergency regulations, instead of presenting a political solution that recognizes the legitimate status of the Tamil nation? As Lenin analysed, whatever the form, the essence of the Capitalist state is that it represents the terrorist dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The PTA and Emergency regulations serve merely to legitimize the terrorism of the state against the people. The case against Tissa and his abominable rigorous imprisonment for 20 years reveals the essence of the political agenda of the state and the regime. This agenda consists of liquidating Tamil nationhood, establishing the undisputed hegemony of the Sinhala-Buddhist theocratic unitary state, dismantling the Tamil homelands by colonization and militarization of the entire region and selling this land to multi-national corporations for fat commissions and profits, continue and multiply corruption and abuse, and to instill terror on any one who would dare to oppose and resist. So Tissa is paying the price for all of us. It is in this historic moment that we have joined together in struggle as the People’s Movement for Freedom and Democracy. We shall honor those who have dared to stand for truth and justice, along with Tissainayagam and thousands of other freedom fighters who pay the price for the cause of human liberation.