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Friday, November 27, 2015

Sanjiva Wijesinha’s ‘Lest we forget’: a response.

Colombo Telegraph, 27 November 2015 Sanjiva Wijesinha’s ‘Lest we forget’: a response. Dr Sanjiva Wijesinha’s article appeared in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, 22nd November 2015. Those who haven’t read it should be able to access it or infer content from what follows. The main thrust of his reproach is that while there was massive coverage of the terrorist attack on Paris, Sri Lanka was left alone during the years when the Tigers were active: “we grieved alone”; “we grieved and mourned and suffered alone”. It has been observed that success in a legal case depends on one’s financial resources or the lack of it, the ironic question being: “How much justice can you afford?” O. J. Simpson when charged with murder employed some of the best (highest paid) lawyers in the US, forming what was described in the press as a “dream team”. On similar lines, mutatis mutandis, some countries can garner publicity while others don’t have the necessary power and influence. For example, the attention paid to the atrocities committed by the Japanese during the Second World War pale when compared with the extensive and continuous coverage given to German atrocities. The crimes of the Japanese were against Asians (until recently, a poor and powerless people) while that by Germany was against the Jews, now ranked, because of unqualified US (and Western) support, as one of the most influential of people. To cite another example, as I have written elsewhere, the African slave trade is the worst blot on human history, taking into consideration its (a) nature, (b) numbers (millions) and (c) duration over centuries. Punishment was appallingly cruel. I cite one case: Thomas Thistlewood came to Jamaica (1750) and kept a diary in which he meticulously, methodically and dispassionately noted his diurnal doings. These include flogging slaves and rubbing pepper, salt and lime into the wounds; “taking” slave women when and where he pleased; burning to death over a slow fire; rubbing in of molasses, followed by exposure to flies during the day and to mosquitoes at night. One of Thistlewood’s punishments was the “Derby’s dose”. The whipped slave had “salt pickle, lime juice & bird pepper” rubbed into the open wounds, and then another slave was made to defecate in his mouth. He was immediately put in a gag whilst his mouth was full, and made to wear the gag for “4 to 5 hours”. Yet the slave trade gets little attention when compared with what the Shoah receives: the Afro-Americans are not as rich and influential, as organised and powerful, as the Jewish lobby. Government, media and public sympathy depends on non-humane factors. To my knowledge, there is no national day in the US to mark and mourn the slave trade. The end of the slave trade marked the beginning of ‘Jim Crow’: see my article in Colombo Telegraph, 14 November 2015, titled ‘Film, fiction and falsity’. This is not to decry remembering the Holocaust, most certainly not, but to draw attention to the comparatively little publicity; the public reminding that slavery receives when compared with what the Shoah is accorded. Germany has repeatedly confessed its guilt, expressed contrition and paid compensation. Chancellor Willy Brandt, in his Warschauer Kniefall, went down on his knees in penance at the Warsaw memorial (7 December 1970). The contrast with Japan vis-à-vis Asians is extreme. There is also the element of affinity. It’s not surprising that the Western media gives prominence to an attack on Paris, a Western capital. The plight of a Sri Lankan housemaid now about to be stoned to death in Saudi Arabia on the allegation of adultery receives far more attention in Sri Lanka than it does even in neighbouring Asian countries. The unfortunate victim of this barbaric sentence is a human being, a woman, a mother: that she is a Sinhalese, a Muslim or a Tamil should make no difference. Whether it does influence reaction, I don’t know. (‘The New Testament’ of The Bible, John 8 : 7, relates the story of a woman similarly sentenced to stoning, and the words of Christ: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” One by one, the crowd dispersed.) Conversely, if the woman had been from, say, Indonesia, I doubt there would have been an equal sense of outrage in Sri Lanka: affinity and identification do play a role, though in an ideal world they would not. Yes, as Wijesinha points out, there is discrepancy; and the functioning of double standards in the world but, “lest we forget”, Sri Lanka did not stand alone while combating the Tigers. On the contrary, Sri Lanka received massive help – diplomatic and financial; weaponry and advice - from the US, Israel, China, India, Pakistan and other countries. Such help is more effective than what appeals to the ephemeral emotions of the excitable public: words of sympathy, lighting of candles, observing a minute’s silence. “Lest we forget”, foreign powers either maintained a loud silence or made token noises at the nature of the final phase of the war and its immediate aftermath. Now that it’s over, some climb onto the high horse of ethics, justice and human rights. To alter the saying, it is to hunt with the hounds and, when the chase is over, pretend sympathy for the dead hare. It is unfortunate Wijesinha has nothing to say about Tamil suffering; no sympathy, much less empathy: Professor Rajan Hoole in his ‘Sri Lanka: the Arrogance of Power’ details Tiger cruelty under which Tamils suffered, as have several other writers: “Lest we forget”. Wijesinha writes of the security checks, and the atmosphere of fear in which Sinhalese people lived. This is fully accepted but it applied even more to Tamils - and still applies. Sympathy and understanding, rather than being broad and inclusive, are narrow and excluding; perpetuating rather than helping to heal “illness”. Physician, heal thyself‘ (The Bible’, Luke 4:23): we need to undertake honest soul-searching, reach an accurate and fair diagnosis of sickness which will, in turn, lead to a cure of society and the body politic. “Terrorist” is now the term of political abuse, freely used and misused; rarely paused over and examined. States can also act in terrorist fashion by visiting violence on civilians, even if the pretext proffered is that terrorists are harbouring among them. “The ‘Final Report’ presented to the UN Secretary General on 13 November 2006 by the ‘High-Level Group’ states that injustice and inequality fuel violence and conflict. “Wherever communities believe they face persistent discrimination, humiliation, or marginalization based on ethnic, religious, or other identity markers, they are likely to assert their identity more aggressively” (3.13). State terror has done far more damage than that unleashed by terrorist groups. To their list of the Holocaust, the Stalinist repression, the genocide in Cambodia, the Balkans and Rwanda (3.12) one can add the two World Wars, North Korea, Burma under the military junta, certain dictatorships in Africa and South America, China under Mao – the list is long, and the destruction and death caused by governments is much more gross (“greater” is inappropriate here) than that carried out by “terrorists”. Indeed, there is no comparison. In the First World War, 15% of the casualties were civilians; in the second, it reached 50%. This destruction of life was caused not by terrorist groups but by states. (Sarvan, Public Writings on Sri Lanka, Volume 2, pages 51-53.) Terrorists are not a sudden, inexplicable and unfortunate phenomenon but the product of certain factors and historical development. These must be taken note of, not to exculpate (emphasised) but to understand, and so work towards a more decent and kinder; a ‘healthier’ and happier society. Finally, Wijesinha writes that during ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s period of office there was corruption: “It is easy and fashionable nowadays to castigate Mahinda Rajapaksa for the corruption he allowed to flourish”. This formulation seems to imply that though there was corruption, President Rajapaksa himself was not involved in it, did not profit, and therefore remains an unstained hero worthy of electoral reward and power. I don’t know whether Wijesinha was aware of, and intended, this implication; and if intended, whether it’s valid. The last is for others, far better informed than me, to speak. Dr Sanjiva Wijesinha is to be thanked for an article that stimulates discussion and the sharing of perspectives. Charles Sarvan, Berlin

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Dear friends, relatives and you all

As you perhaps knew that our father/grandfather Mr.Raamanadhar Sinnathambi Nadarajah passed away on the 29th of September 2013. After the demise of our father/grandfather, the information was published in a multimedial announcement. Lots of friends and relatives all over the world contacted us and expressed their condolences and compassion towards the love of our father/grandfather and they were very helpful and supportive at difficult times etc... 
Thank you so much for all the curing words, condolences, supportive calls and messages over the phone and social networks during our heart broken time periods. We used to avoid calling friends and relatives, if they would demise someone in their families. Now, after our own experience of loss, we realise how the words - even the words, which we have plenty of, can be so much helpful. 

We would like to request the honour of your presence at the memorial event for our father/grand-father Mr. R.S.Nadarajah (04.02.1930-29.09.2013) on 
Sunday, 03.11.2013 between 11:00 a.m. - 02:00 p.m.
80-82 Lythalls lane, Holbrook, Coventry   CV6 6PT, UK

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Full text:
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome Your Excellency to this great city. If you can ignore the oak trees and the mocking birds you could easily mistake this for Sri Lanka.

It is in Sri Lanka that I was born, and my mother and the parents of my wife Shanthi, our grand fathers and grand mothers are all buried under the sacred soil of my motherland. I grew up Your Excellency, in Jaffna and moved to Colombo when I was only ten years old. My wife is from Badulla, grew up in Diyatalawa where her dad was a well a respected captain in the army.

I have smelt the sweetness of Margosa trees in Jaffna and taste of the Red Jumbu fruits that left red stains on my white shirt as I walked to school in Colombo. I know the allure of Jack fruits ripening on the trees as crows begin to break them open.

I have seen the bright colour of pandals during Wesak and shamelessly ate food at Dansala meant for the poor. And I have heard the chanting of Kovils and inhaled the smell of jasmine and Joss sticks. I’ve heard the bell of All Saint’s church as I assisted Father Herath during Mass.

But since I left Sri Lanka in 1975 there has been such pain, such sorrow and such agony. The mighty Mahaweli Ganga that usually brings its sacred waters to the paddy fields spat out blood. Both the Sinhalese and Tamils. From up here in the United States I have watched the land of my forefathers descend from paradise deep into hell. No one can say with certainty who is to blame but the time for blaming is long gone.

Your Excellency, your power be descended from Dutugemunu and my people from Elara. Remember how Dutugemunu fought Elara on his Elephant Kandula and killed Elara. Dutugemunu of course is still remembered for uniting Sri Lanka for the first time. But he is also remembered for something else. After defeating and killing Elara he built a monument for Elara out of respect for his worthy opponent. He ordered all the citizens of the land to stop, dismount and pay respect to Elara. In so doing he not only showed what a great noble man he was. But also proved to be a great politician. He knew that He had to rule the Tamil people too after the defeat of Elara.

Your Excellency, faith and fortune and your great political skills have placed you at a unique point in history.

Children years to come, will read in their history books, that a great leader, a great warrior by the name of Mahinda Rajapaksa finally defeated the rebellion after nearly 25 years when several before him failed. They may even say that you are Dutugamunu of the 21 century. But if you want to wear Gemunu’s mantle, Your Excellency, you will have to build a monument too. That monument does not have to be a Dagoba or a building. It will have to be new policy backed by laws with teeth to enforce.

Do not make the mistake that started 58 riots. Do not hold back Tamils who want to get into Universities. Do not make the Tamils feel like they are second class citizens. Respect their religion, and respect their language. There is something about the Tamil people you need to know Your Excellency. To them their language is God. There are only few cultures in the world which has such devotion to the language.

You were trained as a lawyer and in your early career you were a formidable defender of human rights.

Now you have the popularity, you have the power of a hero, like Julius Caeser, returning to Rome from his conquests. No one can deny what you ask. Ask the parliament to pass some entrenched clauses; you and I read in law school. Then we have had to study the Soulbury Constitution. If you need my help I will give it free like many in this audience would. The Tamil people are naked and hungry looking for you to assure them that there is a place for them.

Make sure they have one. You killed one Prabhakaran but do not let another grow. You cannot prevent another one with swords and guns. You can only do that with your heart and wisdom. Compassion, truth and justice, you learnt from Buddha are the only weapons you will need. According to Dhamma Pada, Buddha said that hatred does not cease by hatred at any time. Hatred cease by love. This is an old rule. That's what the Buddha said.

Your Excellency, as you leave this fair city and return to Sri Lanka, promise me that a 10 year boy walking to school tomorrow in his white shirt will have no other red stain than from the Jumbu fruits. The morning crow will not open anything other than the jackfruit. That there will be nothing else hanging from the Magosa trees, than the fruits I smelt.

Your Excellency return us to paradise, return us to paradise. Thank You!