A RESPONSE TO US ABASSSADOR Ms. SISON
Posted on May 12th, 2013

By, Gamini Gunawawardane Rtd. Snr. DIG Police

( Published in two installments in the Sunday Island of 5th  and 12th May 2013) of these problems, I would like to put down one quotation I have 

It is necessary to respond to the statement made by Ms. Michele J. Sison addressing a meeting with Foreign Correspondents Association at the Galle Face Hotel Colombo as reported in “ƒ”¹…”The Island’ newspaper of 10th April. Hence this response.

You have said that “History had shown that societies which did not satisfactorily deal with reconciliation and accountability issues in the in the aftermath of war, usually returned to a conflict situation at some point down the road.” I would wish to examine the validity of this statement.

This may be so depending on the breadth and depth of reading of history of Ms. Sison; also judging by the probable age and her service. But my experience as a retired senior police officer of this country who had had fair exposure to policing and conflict management both here and in some other parts of the world and also, to Public Administration issues and having been a student of history of this country, I hold a different view which I will present below for her edification.

In my service of 35 years in the Sri Lanka police as a senior officer, I have served in this “ƒ”¹…”war’ zone in Jaffna and in several other places in this country where I have handled communal as well as other conflicts, I believe, successfully. In the course of this long tour of duty I have dealt with all 3 main communities that live in this country. I have also read fairly extensively on the Sinhala-Muslim riots of 1915 and lived through the other conflicts thereafter, some of which are now referred to as “ƒ”¹…”pogroms’ and “ƒ”¹…”genocides’ more for political reasons. I must say that my experience and understanding of these problems is different from yours. I also cannot but feel that I may be more close to the reality compared to you since you have only spent a short time here so far.  Being a paid servant of the diplomatic service of the US government, your interest here may be to make statements of the US policy in regard to these matters, whereas ours remains a lifetime’s interest in the future wellbeing of our country.

It is this background that I examine your statement. First of all, you have referred to our present situation as “aftermath of WAR”. I cannot agree with your statement that we have not had a “ƒ”¹…”war’ here. It is only a nomenclature given by the NGO community and other foreign interested parties who wanted to blow this to fit their own agendas. Our Governments were not at war. It only had to face an internal armed conflict with some section of its people as much it had to face similar situations in 1971 and in 1988-89 in some other parts of the country. People of this country had fought wars last only during the last 4 centuries with Portuguese, Dutch and British invaders, successfully defending their country, teaching them some unforgettable lessons like of which they had not learnt in this part of the world. Finally we only ceded this country to the British on a Convention, that too due to our own internal dissensions. So there is no AFTERMATH of a war here now, since 1818 AD.

“History had shown that societies which did not satisfactorily deal with reconciliation and accountability issues in the in the aftermath of war, usually returned to a conflict situation at some point down the road.”

Though histories in other countries may be so, the history of our country has been different. We have a very long history to learn from and we have developed solutions of our own. That is how we as a nation were able to rise from a ruthlessly put down rebellion in 1818.

Now this “ƒ”¹…”reconciliation and accountability’ issues that you and the so called “ƒ”¹…”International Community’ are constantly harping on “”…” let us first deal with the “ƒ”¹…”reconciliation’ matter.

As I said, after our conflicts down in our recent history we have successfully handled reconciliation, whether they are “ƒ”¹…”issues’ or not. I had the opportunity of dealing with a communal conflict between the Sinhalese and Muslims of Galle which was recurring almost annually in the late 70s and it was put down for good in 1981. This is still holding good since. This was not due to “ƒ”¹…”reconciliation’ but due to the Police on behalf of the government being able to hold back the majority community and show through impartial action to dispel their perception that the government was partial towards the minority which was the perceived reason for them to take the law into their hands. The historical reason for this type of conflicts in this country is deep seated. It was the perception of the majority community here that they were discriminated against for 150 years as against the minorities by the British Colonial government since the 1818 uprising. This was natural because the British government suspected the loyalty of the Majority who fought against them, while they were more comfortable with the minority communities who co-operated with them. This was so during the Portuguese and Dutch rule of the Maritime Provinces too. Again, it was the Sinhalese who rose up in revolt from time to time in these provinces and not the other communities. When it came to the analysis of deeper social and political undercurrents of the 1915 riots too, the deeper reason that emerged was the sense of discrimination by the British Colonial Government towards the majority as perceived by them. After the political “ƒ”¹…”revolution’ of 1956, when some steps were taken by the new government which was conceived as a “ƒ”¹…”peoples’ government’, to correct this situation to some extent, such measures were naturally considered discriminatory by the minority communities, religious, since their “ƒ”¹…”comfort zones’ enjoyed under the colonial masters were disrupted. This sense of “ƒ”¹…”Reverse Discrimination’ continues to date among all communities, so much so that the slightest perception in the variation of a balance, causes alarm and panic on all sides providing opportunities to Human Rights Watchers, NGOs  and other such “ƒ”¹…”vultures’, to exploit in furtherance of their own agendas. In the  perception of the majority community “ƒ”¹…”weakness’ on the part of the governments to allow perceived “ƒ”¹…”undue advantages’ (looking for political advantages in the short term) as seen by them at least after Independence, is considered unwarranted. The majority community wants the balance maintained strictly. Any appearance of disturbance of this balance deeply disturbs them and leads to mistrust and unrest. I think the serious out pouring of emotional disturbance of the majority community that occurred in the disturbances of July ’83, which is exploited by different parties for different seasons, too was owing to this reason

Thus, as I understood, rather than reconciliation, what is necessary was to tightly hold the balance and generating confidence of all sections. That sets the majority community at rest. Once that is achieved, all parties are relieved and they start living in amity. What is necessary here is to establish the confidence in the administration to bring this environment around. This in my view, is quite different from the concept of “ƒ”¹…”reconciliation’ that you and the Human Rights people are talking of. In fact it may surprise you know that there is no word in the Sinhala language to denote “ƒ”¹…”reconciliation’. We only have a word called “ƒ”¹…”Samagi’ where quarrelling parties simply settle down to live together forgetting the past.

On the same principle, I as DIG Central Range, was able to bring order in a chaotic communal disturbance in the Nuwara Eliya & Hatton Districts in 1986. When people of all communities found that the police on behalf of the government held back the majority community without giving undue advantages to the other communities, sanity returned. A situation that required me to open fire myself, ended up in a peace campaign with a pilgrimage by all communities to Sri Pada jointly for 3 consecutive years. The peace thus achieved is still holding in upcountry.  

The proof of the pudding is that people of all communities in both these places told me that they were confident that there would not be another outbreak. The peace achieved in both these places is still holding now over 25years. However the advantage in both here and at Galle was that politicians of both sides kept out of it without trying to fish in troubled waters.  Of course I concede that there is a difference here, in the present case of Northern and Eastern provinces where politicians resort to communalism as their bread and butter without which they are politically bankrupt. To add to the problem there are the other vultures, the Tamil diaspora, Tamil Nadu politicians and other “ƒ”¹…”peace wallahs’ of different shades including the UNHRC. That appears to be the problem that the government is grappling with in regard to the Northern Province.

Contrary to your experience that in countries that do not deal with “accountability and reconciliation issues” in the way you say should be dealt with “usually returned to a conflict situation at some point down the road” has not happened so in this country. In addition to the two experiences mentioned by me in Galle and in the Hill Country, there has been no repetition of  the July ’83 experience in this country over the last 25 years despite lot of noise created by the alarmists that it is almost about to happen, at the slightest ruffle. You might perhaps know that Prabhakaran tried desperately several times to incite a repetition of ’83 during this period. He engaged in some extremely provocative tactics to engineer this result but the Sinhalese precociously refused to react. The last desperate attempt was to get Muslims to react in mid-2009 through a bomb explosion triggered at a mosque procession in the deep South. This too failed. This is because the people of this country had learnt a bitter lesson of the disastrous consequences of the emotional outpouring of the ’83 riots, giving the much needed opportunity to the Eelamists world over to make maximum mileage for their terrorist project. In my considered view, such an outbreak is very unlikely here though minor hiccups are magnified by interested parties through the worldwide information network. Besides I believe the subsequent governments were strong enough to hold fast the majority community as stated by me earlier, by reacting fast and tactfully, to correct any perceived misgivings. There are other reasons for phenomena such as Bodu Bala Sena to arise. But constraints of space do not permit the analysis of that problem here.     

“ƒ”¹…”Proof of the pudding is in the eating’ they say. The proud record of this country is that there has been not a single terrorist related death or destruction here in the former “ƒ”¹…”war’ theatre or elsewhere, since vanquishing the LTTE on 18th May 2009. This situation was achieved without your theories of “ƒ”¹…”accountability and reconciliation’. Besides, your country has not been able to achieve this in any country that you intervened like Iraq, Libya and in Afghanistan whence you are still able to extricate yourself. Only other place where perfect peace has been achieved is in Vietnam where you were roundly beaten and were thrown out, allowing them to build their own peace. Vietnam is today a peaceful country where the economy is rearing to go.

And the irony is, terrorism is back at your door step in Boston, despite all your exhortations to us. We are breathlessly waiting to see how the US government will conduct themselves in this instance, displaying their genuine commitment to “ƒ”¹…”Accountability and Reconciliation’. Needless to say, your performance in Iraq and Libya and also in Afghanistan in this respect is putrid.                       

   So we do not believe in digging into the past, reviving ugly memories on both sides, which we think is counterproductive in bringing about peaceful co-existence, is not a useful exercise. It will only help those making a political living out of communal thinking. What is gone is gone.  Look forward to a peaceful future. We in this country believe in Restorative Justice and not in Retributive Justice which even in your country, is an outdated concept. This has been our philosophy all along.

Buddha said: “He abused me, he defeated me, he robbed me: the hatred of them who harbour this thought is not appeased.

 “He abused me, he defeated me, robbed me: the hatred of them who do not harbour this thought is appeased.

                                Dhammapada

 

                                                                 

                                                             II 

You had said that by reconciliation we mean finding a way for all Sri Lankans to live together in peace, harmony and security in a unified country”¦”¦a country in which democratic space exists for all to be able to express their views freely and for all to share in the prosperity of the country in terms of access to land, employment and education and so forth.” 

“..all Sri Lankans to live together in peace, harmony and security in a unified country”¦”¦ “ You would see the best example of this in the city of Colombo which was earlier a city gripped by fear of mutual suspicion, explosions, mayhem and check points etc. Now all communities are living there in peace, so are the people of the rest of the country other than in some parts of the Northern Province where some people are bent on reviving the old conflict attitudes, without allowing the embers to die, not for the love of the people, but for the love of themselves. Otherwise there is no reason for such situation to prevail only there, when the rest of the country has settled down to peace. One cannot say that the people there should at least now, be left to live in peace? And why should the government not adequately do so? It will be very much to their advantage.

  “”¦a country in which democratic space exists for all to be able to express their views freely”

Perhaps this may take a little time, judging by the mood of some people to whom, the longer this appear to be not provided, so long they would have a cause to rouse the people to dissatisfaction. It is only four years after the war. We may have to give some more time to achieve this. Rome was not built in one day.

“and for all to share in the prosperity of the country in terms of access to land, employment and education and so forth.”

I believe the productivity of the Northern and Eastern Provinces have risen to an all-time high of 22% ? If the people did not have access to land and other facilities they could not have achieved this? And if the people were not gainfully employed this productivity level could not have been attained?

Access to education which was denied to the Tamil people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces by LTTE, was resumed from the IDP camps themselves and now students are freely entering Universities. Inter-school cricket matches are resumed between schools in the North, East and South as prevailed before all these was deprived to them by the LTTE. So our achievements here are quite good I believe?          

Now to “ƒ”¹…”accountability’. Apparently, “ƒ”¹…”accountability’ according to you is ” identifying those responsible for committing abuses and imposing consequences for these acts or omissions”

I believe, a democratically elected government is accountable, primarily to its people who voted them to position of power. If they are not satisfied with their government’s accountability they will suitably deal with them at the hustings or even earlier.  But no government will be accountable to some foreigners Ms. Sison? For instance, will the US  government be either accountable to Sri Lanka or to the UNHCR or some such agency, on the way US Marines entered another country illegally and committed cold blooded murder of an unarmed Osama-Bin-Laden and his family? Your government will certainly be accountable to your people if yours is a democratically elected government, but not to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s case is different from Iraq, Libya etc. leaders of which were not democratically elected. They may be perhaps held accountable to world bodies. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, our governments’ accountability to its people have been quite good, down the history. In regard to credible investigation into “ƒ”¹…”war’ crimes allegations referred to by you, we have a fairly good record down the recent history.  I recall that several court cases were filed in our criminal courts on the Communal violence cases of 1958 and so many people were, if I remember correct, sentenced to death and imprisonment. Also after the 1971 JVP Revolt, I recall an Army Colonel and some soldiers were sentenced to imprisonment over rape and murder of a local beauty queen named Manamperi of Kataragama. The Colonel died in prison. A sub-inspector of police somewhere in Puttalam District was convicted to jail on the murder of a woman during the 1988 JVP Revolt. Again, a soldier and some others were convicted & jailed over the rape and killing of a girl caught at a check point in Jaffna some years ago. So I am sure this government too would do the same if any information with some credible evidence is presented to them instead of producing some dubious films and photographs with the aid of Photoshop and such technology.

Another question. When the JVP revolt of 1988/90 was quelled in this country, the leader of that movement and his top lieutenants disappeared under dubious circumstances. An estimated 60,000 people were also killed by both sides. Despite this, people of this country were greatly relieved as much as now after the annihilation of Prabhakaran and his cohorts in the battle field,  are “ƒ”¹…”reconciled’ and living at peace since, without rancour. But there was not a whimper from the US or other “ƒ”¹…”world community’ for accountability on that occasion! How come?      

Next question is, why you speak of some atrocities alleged to have been committed by the SL Army only towards the END of this “ƒ”¹…”war’? What is so significant of what happened at the last stages of the “ƒ”¹…”war’ as against during the entire “ƒ”¹…”war’? Does it mean that the rest of the “ƒ”¹…”war’ was all cleanly fought according the book of rules  Why are you selecting the tail end only? I believe, people of this country may welcome a probe into all matters of accountability throughout the 30 years of this “ƒ”¹…”war’. In such an event accountability would be due, apart from the GOSL, from authorities who trained and armed our terrorists in their countries and who imparted to them military know how, from those who prevented this “ƒ”¹…”war’ from being finished 25years ago, and whose ostensible peacekeeping forces, on the pretext of bringing peace to the country, brought untold misery especially to the Tamil in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Also from the UN who failed to prevent Prabhakaran from mobilizing child soldiers, from those who openly wrote books boasting that they were responsible for recruiting and training child soldiers to become suicide bombers, from those countries that prevented the quicker ending of this “ƒ”¹…”war’ by goading this country into fake Cease Fire Agreements and helping Terrorist to acquire high powered communication equipment and from those governments who did their damnest to prevent/delay the end of Terrorism in this country by placing all kinds of obstructions, and so on.

Among other things you have said at this press briefing is:“A dialogue between the government and the Tamil National Alliance on devolution was also crucial to achieving real reconciliation.”  It is certainly so since they are a part of the problem, having been a political front of the Terrorist LTTE, who accepted the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people. Now in the absence of the LTTE, it is natural that we have now to deal with its “ƒ”¹…”ghost’, sans the weapons and bombs. But the TNA is not the only stakeholder in this matter. There are several others whose country this is. That may be why the government has invited all stakeholders to a Parliamentary Select Committee to discuss this issue. And the TNA seems to be reluctant to attend this meeting of all stakeholders. Something that you could do by way of helping to solve the devolution and other political issues, is to persuade the TNA to participate in these discussions without hidden agendas.

Finally, this must be said since you are still new to Sri Lanka. You will perhaps know that throughout the last 25 years, you and your “ƒ”¹…”International Community friends have been saying that this “ƒ”¹…”war’ was “ƒ”¹…”unwinnable’ and pressurizing Sri Lanka to agree to a peaceful settlement conceding a separate state to the LTTE. Sri Lanka disregarded this “ƒ”¹…”advice’ continued the struggle, defeated the terrorists saving nearly 300,000 Tamil people who were held hostage by the LTTE which though you do not acknowledge, is a unique achievement. So this, we have achieved our way. The “ƒ”¹…”international community’ said that the IDP camps were virtual prisons and would never end. But they no longer exist. Thousands of combatants have since been rehabilitated and returned to a normal life.

When the Tsunami struck this country in 2004, “ƒ”¹…”the international community’ said there will be epidemics, dysentery etc. following the disaster. We managed the refugee camps without any epidemics and now everyone is back in their new homes whereas the US was unable for a long time to provide housing to your people who became destitute after the Katrina disaster. And mind you we did all this whilst fighting a “ƒ”¹…”war’. So all this would show that we as a nation is capable of handling our problems “ƒ”¹…”Our Way’. We are well equipped to do this. The greatest help that US government could do is to leave us alone, without trying to manipulate us through your so called “ƒ”¹…”International Community’, to enable us to find our own solutions to the rest of the problems.

Our government may not be squeaky clean. After all which government in the world is? They may be even foolish at times. We will deal with that too in due course, at the right time. You please leave us alone for the moment.    

3 Responses to “A RESPONSE TO US ABASSSADOR Ms. SISON”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “Thus, as I understood, rather than reconciliation, what is necessary was to tightly hold the balance and generating confidence of all sections.”

    Exactly.

    We have to MAKE TAMILS A MINORITY in the north. This is the SOLUTION.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    USA has enough CIVIL WARS why interfere in SL?

    From rt.com

    Twelve people are being treated for gunshot wounds following a shootout at a second line parade on Mother’s Day in New Orleans. The youngest victim in the surprise attack was 10 years old, according to a local resident.

    Over 100 people were participating in the residential festival, on Frenchmen Street, in the north of the city, when several shots were fired. The incident occurred around 2pm local time on Sunday.

    Police believe three suspects were responsible for the gunfire.

    “The shots just started ringing out, and everybody just started running, and the next thing I heard, 10-15 people got shot,” one witness told local station WDSU.

    Police confirmed the number of casualties stood at 12 following some discrepancies in initial hospital reports, suggesting that between five and 11 may have been injured.

    No fatalities have been confirmed, but three are reportedly in a critical condition.”

  3. Ratanapala Says:

    I agree with Lorenzo. Reconciliation is a loose ended and unending non entity just like grievances and aspirations. These things take time for that Sri Lanka needs time and space. No outside force can force it down on a nation. It is a hearts and minds issue. If any reconciliation is required it should first come from those who afflicted untold miseries on the Sri Lankan nation. These efforts of the Christian West are to make the Sri Lankans feel guilty for ending the war. The fact of the matter is Sri Lanka will do, what Sri Lanka did to end the war, not once but even a hundred times, if it has to do it again.

    The Tamil racists must understand that there is no Tamil Land, Tamil Homeland or so called Traditional Homelands or whatever that they used to call the North and the East of Sri Lanka. There is no history to prove it, there is nothing one can find archaeologically to substantiate any such claims. There is not a shred of evidence to show their claim of 5000 years of land occupancy in Sri Lanka.

    The situation on the ground is that they can settle anywhere in the south, live and prosper. They simply must stop the Eelam call. Sri Lankans will never accept a border with any other entity within the present Sri Lankand border – which is the ocean. Any form of devolution is only an addendum to “Little now – more later” paradigm. Any form of border is the beginning of another wave of hostilities and unending war. Sri Lanka has suffered enough. Any politician who gives into devolution demands are traitors to the nation for they are laying foundations to unending violence in the country.

    Sri Lanka has outlived all its rulers so far in her over 2500 years history. It is the duty of all Sri Lankans, the Ranaviruwoes and the present rulers to see that the process continues.

    Amabassador Sissal knows very well that the Christian West led by the US are not in Asia to impart Democracy and Human RIghts. They are their to plunder and lay waste lands – which they are doing so successfully in the Middle East. Even if there were zero casualties in the Eelamist rebellion that ended at Nanthi Kadal lagoon on May 19, 2009, these powers would have found some other excuse to pick on Sri Lanka. Their ultimate target is dismemberment of Sri Lanka as a stepping stone to balkanize India. This is what all Sri Lankans and the present leadership take into heart and prevent from happening.

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