18 May 2017
Jaffna the litmus test for Democracy in Sri Lanka
I arrived at around 1300 hours at our Vaddukoddai training Centre. The current training is how to be an orderly customer. Kajani, one of our regular trainee customers arrive about 10 minutes after my arrival and said words to the effect ‘Ammah (Madam) is late today’. It was quite annoying given that I had to clean the place, arrange the goods and look ready for the students who would arrive around 1300 hours. In the olden days, Kajani would have been part of the workforce doing the above jobs. But now, to pave way for democracy, it is largely ‘Do It Yourself’ by the Australian Tamil Management Service. I reminded myself that I was in Vaddukoddai not because Kajani asked me to go there but because I chose to be there. I said to Kajani that it was a Service and not Business and hence the start time is the time I arrive there. I reminded her that the center was to Train (especially students like her daughter who is now studying at Jaffna College) and not to trade. I said if she did not follow the rules set by me – I would seriously consider closing down that project. Kajani became quiet and ‘waited’ for me to announce when I was ready. But that experience reminded me about the need to write my own reports about the value of my work. Further reminder about the costs to me came last night when we had a blackout. If not for my mobile phone, I was completely cut off from the even the folks on the other side of the road who do not like coming onto our side which is considered Toddy Tapper village. Kajani’s attitude confirmed the risk of reverse discrimination to the extent I was seen to be of higher caste. When the higher caste ruled officially, many used the lower castes for menial jobs and then discarded them. Now in reverse discrimination the lower castes who are ‘compensated’ use the likes of me and then start ‘telling us’. I kept vigil in that consciousness and then resumed my paperwork once electricity was restored.
This morning brought news report headed : International Crisis Group: Sri Lanka's Transition to Nowhere. The opening paragraph goes as follows:
[Two years into President Maithripala Sirisena’s term, Sri Lanka’s fragile hopes for lasting peace and cooperation across party and ethnic lines are imperilled. Despite significant achievements in the coalition government’s first nine months, progress on most of its reform agenda has slowed to a crawl or been reversed. As social tensions rise and the coalition slowly fractures, it is unclear whether it can push its signature new constitution through parliament and to a national referendum. Neither the president nor prime minister has made a serious attempt to win support for a more inclusive polity or to reform the national security state to tackle the institutionalised impunity that has fed ethnic unrest and harmed all communities. To protect democratic gains, enable lasting reforms and reduce risks of social and political conflict, the “unity government” should put aside short-term party and individual political calculations and return to a politics of reform and openness.
Ambitious promises to improve the economy, eliminate corruption, restore rule of law, address the legacy of war and write a new constitution remain largely unrealized ]
The above reminds me of Lawrence Pathinathar’s question to me at our last gathering of Engineers’ of Sri Lanka in Sydney. I said to Pathi that these days I say to Param that I felt led down because when I married Param, I thought he was very intelligent! Pathi smiled and promptly asked me ‘Did Param ever say to you that he was clever?’ We ask the International Crisis Group and indeed the so-called International community – Did we Sri Lankans say that we were clever economists, clean of corruption, followers of Law & Order and wrote our Constitution to preserve our heritage also? Did other nations not have these problems? This morning’s news all the way from Australia, for example included the following:
[One of Australia's most senior tax officials is entangled in a major fraud investigation involving his son in which $165 million was allegedly stolen from the Commonwealth.] ABC News
In democracy, the election promises are to voters and not to others – including those who fund governments. Did Sri Lankan voters of majority race expect the promise of Peace? NO. Minorities who earned Peace by not taking eye for an eye – became the media of those who were entitled to but were denied their leadership positions in Sri Lanka. That happened through the system of Truth. The International Crisis Group is one such source, to the extent it forewent earned benefits for its work in Sri Lanka for Sri Lankans.
Not only the Government but all those who take on management positions are part of the Management that has the duty to uphold democracy by limiting their shown judgments to 50%. The rest has to happen bottom up including by Management becoming part of the managed. As I said recently to one of my clients, if I do for someone that which s/he could do, then I take on their weaknesses. If for example, I do for the folks of Vaddukoddai – that which they themselves can do – I take on their weaknesses. Likewise, the international community that does what Sri Lankans can themselves do. When we share on the basis of Need – both sides become stronger.
Shamara Wettimuny of Ground Views for example poses the question ‘Sorting Bad Apples: Is Lustration the Answer to Sri Lanka’s Military Impunity?’ The response that comes from within me is ‘Apple does not fall far from the Tree’. Once the tree is taken to the grounds that is its ‘home’ its apples become harmless. Hence the facility to vote as per our belief and enjoy the values of Democracy. When Hambantota goes International the apples pollute the International Community that expected as per its own desires.
The Jaffna Apple Tree was also taken to India and hence this government is now considering bringing in Indian teachers to teach in Hill Country. Today is a day of mourning for many Jaffna Tamils due to Battle of Vanni in 2009. Did Jaffna Tamils die to satisfy Indian Tamil expectations? Every Tamil who accepted armed struggle – killed the investment of fellow Tamils in intellectual pathway to freedom from desire for matter.