Wednesday 18 December 2019

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

18 December  2019


When our youngest daughter was a teenager and I complimented her she said ‘you are my mother . Hence what you say does not count.’ Now our daughter is with Legal Aid serving needy Australians.
I was reminded of the above when a caring relative said recently that I ought to have become a lawyer. I said that that was what the ABC lawyer also said but that to my mind, this would have prevented me from interpreting the law as a lay citizen. Each profession comes with its own karma. Lawyers  who are clever and manipulate the mind of the judge have strongly contributed to victory in courts as per the ‘dynamics’ between the judge and the lawyers concerned. A lay citizen’s facts are often ‘lost’ in the play of dynamics. But it is the citizen’s truth, including as an opposition that contributes to social cohesion.

Our daughter was exercising in a subtle way – the separation of powers needed between family and wider world. On 12 December 2019,  Colombo Telegraph published article headed ‘University Dons Condemn UGC Decisions To Bar Dr. Guruparan And University Academics From Practising Law
Tamil Guardian published the relevant circular on 04 December 2019, under the heading ‘Sri Lanka bars academics from practising as lawyers’. The relevant circular from the University Grants Commission is dated 26 November 2019. The timeline is important in working out the less visible causes for our own purposes. As per my personal experience with the University of Jaffna – I wrote on 10 December -  my article ‘LAW ACADEMICS AND LEGAL PRACTITIONERS’ on this subject matter. To my mind, if I cannot connect to my own experience – it is something that is not relevant to me and therefore I would not be able to invoke natural powers to support my contribution to the needy. When I connect through my truth – I become an insider with insight. I consider this to be Educare about which my Guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba states as follows:

[What is education? It is of two types. The first type is collection of facts and knowledge about the external world, and sharing them with students. The second type is educare. Educare involves the deep understanding of the knowledge that springs from within and imparting it to students. But today’s education gives the students’ knowledge only about the external world.] Sri Sathya Sai Baba
This differentiation holds the key to Dr Guruparan’s dilemma. Many Academics have signed a petition which concludes as follows:

[While condemning the military’s attempts to threaten and intimidate Dr. Guruparan and demanding that all state authorities ensure his safety, we call upon the University Grants Commission to revoke its decisions to bar Dr. Guruparan and university academics from practising law. We make these demands in the name of academic freedom and in defense of our social role as teachers and researchers. ]

As researchers, academics go into a problem to find its root cause. The deeper we go, the more we become the problem as well as the solution.
As legal practitioners – lawyers, like politicians take one side or the other. The academics in support of court practice state as follows:

[We as academics believe our teaching and research should be meaningful to not just our students and peers but also society at large, especially those who occupy its margins and peripheries. An education that is disconnected from and uninformed by the stark social realities amidst which we live has no social value. In order to make what we teach dynamic and substantive, we should constantly subject to academic scrutiny how what we teach, discuss, and examine in the classroom plays out and is experienced in the real world. We are of the view that the work Dr. Guruparan does as a practitioner of law, especially his appearance on behalf of victims in cases involving discrimination, abuse, and violence by powerful actors like the Sri Lankan military, will enrich the work he does as a legal scholar, benefit his students, and strengthen the intellectual and social credentials of his institution. The University Grants Commission appears to have completely ignored this important aspect of intellectual praxis in making the decision to bar Dr. Guruparan from practising law. ]

The UGC is funded by the Public through the Government. So is the Sri Lankan Military. So is Dr Guruparan. Is there not a conflict of interest against the Government and therefore the People of Sri Lanka whom the Government represents? In the cases against the Government there is no moral authority for one who is being paid by the Government, to represent the opposition of that government. It is based on the same principle that underpins dual citizenship policy. Similarly, however much the crown solicitor may identify with the opposition s/he does not have the authority to represent a private party.

The individual in a position may be wrong. But if we react at her/his level – we would not reach the heights of the position but become like them when we become leaders/seniors.
The practicing lawyer, like a politician has to think that her/his client is right. The academic needs to escalate her/his thinking to the higher level – where there are no rights and wrongs but causes and effects.

Practically speaking I am a victim of Jaffna lawyer giving priority to local politics. Our Attorney Mr Visvalingam Manivannan went to Geneva instead of representing us in Court. On another occasion, he failed to turn up in court due to lawyers’ striking at the last minute. All these confirm politics being given preference over Professional duty. I resigned from my position at the University of NSW before challenging the Vice Chancellor. Hence as per my pathway – those who seek to challenge seniors outside Due Processes, through primary level approach, will need to first resign from their  Tertiary positions – as Gandhi did. One cannot be Politician representing a part – and governor of the whole at the same time. As Politician there has to be Equal Opposition. As Governor the two are in the same person.

The Editor of Daily Mirror highlights the need for strong Opposition as follows:

[It is time for all of us Sri Lankans to realise, whatever our political differences may be, is that for democracy to function efficiently in any country, a strong opposition is a must. Its time wake up, whether we like it or not,  UNP, the largest political party in parliament. But a parliamentary democracy cannot flourish without a strong opposition.
The leadership and general membership of this party has to get its act together fast, especially in light of the fact that a general elections  are expected some time during the first half of next year, There is a need for/to build a new team and field a team which can provide a decent opposition in parliament.
 ] A tale of two elections - EDITORIAL

There was Opposition to Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the Minorities. But not so from Mr Premadasa in terms of the most challenging issue facing the whole of Sri Lanka – armed Terrorism from outsiders. One who claims victory over another is an outsider. An insider disciplines as a senior.
In the Gambia v Myanmar – Genocide Prevention  matter before the International Court of Justice, one is able to appreciate that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi did not recognize the victims’ group as Rohingya Muslims but rather recognized them as a group connected to ARSA Army. Likewise, the current Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who referred to LTTE specifically and blamed the UNP led government as follows:

No country in the world would humiliate its armed forces in the manner the former government did’ – Tamil Guardian

This confirms that the new Government is living off  the past government’s alleged mistakes and its own alleged victory in past life.  The old government in new clothes is invoking LTTE so it could continue to have a military government similar to Myanmar . Mr Rajapaksa also indicated that Myanmar was also a beneficiary of Sri Lankan’s contribution to preventing Terrorism. In turn this means that the Rohingya Muslims would be worse off  during the tenor of  the current Political leadership which is showing strong indicators that it is very much a military leadership.
How can one expect UNP to oppose such a government? One would need to bring back Mr Ranasinghe Premadasa to oppose this government within the Sinhalese community or invoke LTTE leadership in the young and the restless like Dr Guruparan’s clients.

True governors would project from their own truth. As an activist Dr Guruparan is right in representing the victims on behalf of Tamils. As an Academic – Dr Guruparan needs to keep educating all concerned on the basis of his own research work. The two do not mix – including within an autonomous Tamil Community.

In his Daily Mirror article ‘Who Burnt One of South Asia’s Biggest Libraries?’ Mr KKS Perera points to evidence that LTTE did it. As an outsider, he needs to prove. As an insider I believe that we escalated the loss to the true level and are more educated than we were at the time the Library was set on fire. A community under LTTE leadership would not have needed a library, any more than Sinhala-Buddhists need libraries under military governments. We need real intelligence through experience.  Minorities of Sri Lanka have in abundance of such intelligence.

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