Tuesday 24 October 2017

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

24 October  2017

Belling the UN

When I read the adaderana.lk news report ‘Political promises on ‘war heroes’ offer no warranty internationally – UN expert’ and I took a quick look at the report – I was reminded of my experience at the University of NSW  which was included in my book ‘Naan Australian’. The relevant excerpt would help interpret the report within the Sovereign borders of our respective institutions:

[Then again later on Monday, 19 April 1999 I wrote to Kerry with copies to Phil Kringas (who was no longer my supervisor because I was employed by Sports Medicine as a contractor ), Jeff Bateman - Director, Human Resources, Alan Pettigrew – Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chris Lidbury – Director Business & Finance:
 …………………It is a clear case of discrimination to me and through this communication which is being copied to the Director of Human Resources – I am lodging a formal complaint – not just about what happened today – but also what you did back then. You even wanted to check with my former employers just because I had criticized the FSD systems. I was not just critical – I gave you the answers. At that time you said that Mr. Lidbury had said ‘what if the Auditors saw this?’.  I then said to you ‘Why? Do we have anything to hide? Let us do it right and fear no one.’ The Auditor General did not need my memo’ to find out – he found out himself – as was confirmed by his report that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 05 November ’98. Had your department heard me and discussed matters objectively – we would today have progressed well in the direction of true Accrual Accounting and effective Budgetary and Reporting Systems. Despite all this – this is exactly what I am giving the schools – and more. I give them Cost Benefit Analyses by Subject and by Staff – so they can operate more efficiently and effectively. You and others within FSD will not stop me from helping the schools. All you are doing is to slow down the pace of progress. But despite your hindrance progress will take place – whilst your department adds to the cost of bureaucracy that brings little or negative value in some instances.] Appendix 3 – Naan Australian

The above is an example of how I escalated the conflict to the level of the Auditor. To my mind, I am the parallel of those who escalated the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict to the UN level. I have mentioned above,  05 November ’98. This is  the day on which Kungkumum (Holy Red Powder denoting  Love) appeared on the picture of Sri Sathya Sai Baba who to my mind at that time was a Saint respected by many in my family and community. That picture was given to me by Mrs. Vara Visvanathan whose son was killed by Tamils when he tried to protect Sinhalese in their student hostel in Madras. I felt for ‘Vara Acca’ (as we call her) – as I could identify with a mother’s pain. That picture of Sri Sathya Sai Baba represented that sharing.

I believe that when we share pain – the value becomes exponential  and when such is given form, it becomes a protective structure for all those to whom we feel connected and all those who feel connected to us.

On that same day the Auditor General’s report criticising the University’s Budgetary system was published by the Sydney Morning Herald. I found out about it when I went to the University the following day and one of my believers Phil Dulhunty gave me a copy of the article. Phil, like the ordinary Sri Lankan voter in terms of the UN report, did not have special expertise in Accounting. But Phil believed in me and he became part of that experience. Each time I appreciate that sharing, Phil gets Royalty on his contribution to the common system.

The  above report states:
[Transitional justice processes are nothing like ‘witch hunts’ and they do not involve massive purges, and do not trade on charges of collective responsibility or guilt by association, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence said. 
Mr. Pablo de Greiff made these observations at a press briefing held in Colombo today (23), on the conclusion of his 14-day official country visit to Sri Lanka.
He also noted with concern the use of rhetoric such as ‘war heroes will never be brought to trial.’ 
He stated that this seems to him to misrepresent the target of transitional justice accountability measures by suggesting that it is a generally anti-security agenda, and also by forgetting that no one who has committed violations of human rights law or of the laws of war deserves to be called a hero.]

The University of NSW was also going through Transitional management systems when it recruited a group of Accountants with wider experience which included my supervisor Mr. Phil Kringas who to my mind, did identify with my path but did not have the courage to  oppose those who were already in the system. He is the parallel of the Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe in Sri Lankan Public Service.

The parallel of ‘war heroes will never be brought to trial’  in the case of the University in essence was - ‘old staff  will never be found fault with’. It came from Head of Research Administration Mr. Peter Cook to me during our first meeting on Research Funding:

[Mr. Cook: You come from a Commercial background, but we do not operate that way here at the University. This University like all other Universities operates on a Cash Basis and semi accrual basis.
Gaja: I have worked also with Public Service
Mr. Cook: ‘Shirley Kueh will be moving to the Research Office soon. We receive grants from various bodies and we have to report to them in a specific manner. We have to have a united approach together with all other Universities. (This said to me that Peter Cook was relying heavily on group power and  not individual merit based power. Later I heard reports about his heavy reliance on male power. He was one of the persons I complained against but Professor Alan Pettigrew abused his discretionary powers to leave him and Chris Lidbury out of the investigations) This University cannot do anything on its own.(An admission of dependence on the more powerful universities). The Researchers may want this and that but you have to tell them how it is to be done. As far as the Medical Faculty is concerned, the Faculty had it all under control until almost three / four years back. But this has not been the case since then. (The recorded fact is that Peter Cook was the executive officer of the Medical Faculty at that time – before Jeff Warnock)……………………………………………

Sandi: That is how it was required by NH&MRC a while ago.

Gaja: But do they require in the same format now. Have we asked them recently about it?
Mr. Cook: We cannot do anything different on our own. Don’t think that you have all the answers. (In other words he thought I had more answers than himself and he was irritated by that). We have known about these problems for sometime now and Shirley has been working on these problems for a while. Don’t think that Shirley started after you discussed it with her. (In other words, he was trying to suppress my higher status above Shirley earned through performance. Shirley was already part of his group. I was not. Hence if I am above Shirley, I am above him for these matters. He could not have that could he?)
Gaja: I did not think that Shirley started it after I suggested it. (In other words – ‘Don’t think for me or speak for me)
Mr. Cook: But you implied that Shirley was  discussing with the group after you spoke to her.
Gaja: Are you suggesting that I refrain from making my observations and Recommendations on the system?
Mr. Cook: Gaja, I find you most offensive.
(This made me speechless and I recoiled inwardly, staring at Mr. Cook)
Mr. Cook; (again) I find you most offensive
I pushed the pain to the back of my mind and reminded myself that I had to focus on the issue – I owed it to the University; it was my job. However, I thought that it would be rude not to respond at all – so I said:
Gaja: That’s alright by me
And I turned to talk to Sandi]

The Auditor General did not mark me ‘right’. The Auditor General started listening more to me – which resulted in the Auditor General directly communicating with me over a Common Public   issue in relation to using Performance Indicators. The UN likewise, is communicating more with Tamils over Human Rights issues because Tamils have endured the pain of war enough to escalate the issue  to UN level. It is now up to us to share it in common with all Sri Lankans and others facing similar problems – including in the USA.

The true pain of the loser when borne with forbearance naturally gets converted into Common Energy, needed to work the Common structure. One who has done that gives form to Mother Lanka. If such person is global minded – the new structure would be of global value. If that person is tradition-minded, the Common Sri Lankan would stay at home and feel wholesome. At the moment we have too many fathers and not enough mothers on both sides of the Lankan matter. Hence the tendency to separate once pleasures are enjoyed. I said recently to a close junior relative who was trying to ‘tell’ me – ‘You use family, you lose them; You respect/appreciate  family you keep them’. 

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