Wednesday 8 April 2020

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

08 April  2020

How Nature Works

It was heartening to read and listen to the personal touch in messages of unity by many Sri Lankan leaders. Today’s Financial Telegraph carries a report under the heading ‘President, RW wish UK PM speedy recovery from COVID-19’. I shared mine yesterday. To my mind, mine is strongest in natural identity with Mr Boris Johnson - the natural leader. Next comes that of Mr Karu Jayasuriya who is reported to have sent the following message:


[“I join millions of Sri Lankans in their wish for a speedy recovery to the UK’s PM @Boris Johnson. As the leader of a strong democratic nation, he will be much needed by the people of Great Britain. His implicit message to the world is clear: power is no defence against #COVID19,”]

Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe’s is reported to be as follows:
[The UNP Leader also wished Johnson a speedy recovery and said his presence in the frontline in the battle against COVID-19 was vital for both the UK and the international community.]
The President’s message is reported to be:
[Our prayers are with you and the people of UK during these trying times.”]

All three are relatives through their positions – current and past. Relative to the President, the UNP leaders are connected less through current position and more through their natural positions in Sri Lanka. Mine is natural community position as a Tamil and as Australian of Sri Lankan origin. I am yet to see the parallels of the above from our Tamil Community Political leaders – including from within the Diaspora. We need to identify with and express from our natural positions during times of need – as we did through the Vaddukoddai Resolution in 1976. The truth comes with us and when we are true to ourselves we would express with confidence.
War was a global problem until Coronavirus happened. We do not know the causes but we know and fear the ‘effects’. To my mind this virus is a natural disaster. We Sri Lankan Tamils likewise experienced the war through the gory effects. Many of our leaders became victims. If we do not know why they were killed then that also was a natural disaster to us at community level. Often we do not know because we are one of them. Mr Boris Johnson for example is reported to have shaken hands with the Coronavirus patients. Being himself – that is what one would expect from such a naturally caring  leader. Many healthcare workers also got infected. We have had Mr Sumith Premachandra, of Sri Lankan origin die in Dandenong (Victoria)  hospital on Sunday. He was also 55. Grandparents in the Australian Tamil community have also been sharing in the sadness felt by this loss. The reason for this sharing is confirmed as follows:
[When he was in self-isolation, he wrote that he was heartbroken that he could not see his grandchildren, according to Nine News.]
The one who shared with me at community level is also a grandmother about whose isolation pain,  I have written previously. These are natural feelings that help us come together as human beings.
During this period of natural pain-sharing, I came across the review of the Tamil film Baaram. This award winning film was released in India in February this year. It is based on mercy killing of elders – practiced as ‘Thalaikoothal’ (Thalai=head; Koothal = cold shiver). The process is presented by Wikipedia is as follows:
[Typically, the person is given an extensive oil-bath early in the morning and subsequently made to drink glasses of tender coconut water which results in kidney failure, high fever, fits, and death within a day or two. This technique may also involve a head massage with cold water, which may lower body temperature sufficiently to cause heart failure. Alternative methods involve force feeding cow's milk while plugging the nose, causing breathing difficulties (the "milk therapy") or use of poisons
Although thalaikoothal is illegal in India, the practice has long received covert social acceptance as a form of mercy killing, and people seldom complain to the police. In some case the family informs their relatives before performing thalaikoothal, and the victims sometimes even request it. However, social acceptance may lead to more egregious abuses: the issue gained a higher profile in early 2010, when an 80-year-old man escaped when he came to know of his fate and heard his family members discussing how they were going to "share" his lands, and took refuge in a relative's home.
Investigation revealed the practice to be "fairly widespread "in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. Dozens or perhaps hundreds of cases occur each year.]
Educational media – including films such as the above, are more powerful than direct government intervention to self-eliminate prejudices. Majority fatalities of Coronavirus are reported to be in the elderly. If it is according to our karma the virus is also a natural disaster. As in the case of Thalaikoothal,  to some it would bring relief and to some others it would seem like punishment. Finding medication is not enough. More importantly we need to know why the imbalance in normal life happened. When we, in isolation dwell in our true pain – step by step – we would find the solution. The Tsunami was such a disaster in Sri Lanka. If both sides to the war in 2009 believed that they were fighting to preserve sovereignty – then that also was natural war.

In his article ‘Presidential Pardon For Sunil Ratnayake: Another Perspective’ Mr C.A. Chandraprema states:


[On page 9 of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s presidential election manifesto, it was stated that steps would be taken to either indict or release those who had been arrested on terrorism charges and had spent a long time in remand. This is obviously a reference to the small number of hardcore LTTE cadres still in custody. The government rehabilitated and released over 11,000 LTTE cadres who had surrendered with their weapons. If the government applied the vicarious liability provision in Section 32 of the Penal Code to these cadres, the likelihood is that many of them would be convicts by now. ]
Section 32 of the Penal Code – Sri Lanka states:
[32. Liability for act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention.
When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone.]

If indeed Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s intentions were to judge the war related accused persons in the custody of the government – then he came to power on the platform of dictatorship and that amounts to cheating in the name of democracy. His actions in releasing Sunil Ratnayake may be to balance his own conscience. But unless this is extended to LTTE prisoners also – it seriously damages the true and natural powers of the Judiciary and they would become a burden on society. Here in Australia – Cardinal Pell was cleared of all his charges – but that was by the High Court of Australia. Legally Cardinal Pell was found to be ‘not guilty’. In real terms he may be as per the victims. This happens when there is a big gap between haves and have nots in the world of law.

As the head of Defence Forces Mr Rajapaksa then made an Administrative decision to discipline the LTTE cadre who surrendered – as if they were juniors. The parallel of that in this instance would have been to openly support Sunil Ratnayake when the matter  was escalated while it was in the custody of the Judiciary. The judgment of the Supreme Court was delivered on 24 April 2019. At that time the alternate avenue available to Mr Rajapaksa was the media – including his own. Only a good citizen becomes a good president through the natural pathway. Such good citizens naturally empower good leaders. Often we do not even know about the outcomes of such empowerment. But it happens.

For example on 31 March 2020 I wrote under the heading ‘RELEASE ALL PRISONERS OF WAR’ –

[ I met Dr. Deepika Udagama when the lady was honoured by the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney. This was before Dr. Udagama became Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission – Sri Lanka. Dr. Udagama is reported to be  ‘Sri Lanka's alternate member to the United Nations (UN) Sub-Commission on the promotion and protection of Human Rights’. Yet I have no knowledge of any public criticism by Dr. Udagama about the Presidential Pardon.
As a person carrying high status on the basis of expertise  in  international human rights law, Dr. Udagama had the duty to protect the institutional values of the UN. Accordingly all prisoners of war ought to have been released under the Licensing system, when the President pardoned Mr Sunil Ratnayake who was found guilty of war crimes by the Sri Lankan Judiciary.]

On 02 April – Colombo Page published the following:

[The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expressing its deep concern over the presidential pardon to former Army Corporal Sunil Ratnayake, who was convicted of killing eight civilians including three children.

The HRCSL in its letter to the President said the granting of a presidential pardon to a person convicted of such a heinous offence and whose conviction was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court sends a negative message that reinforces allegations of impunity and lack of justice for victims of violations in Sri Lanka.

Following is the full text of the letter to the President:

H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa
President of the Republic of Sri Lanka
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1

Your Excellency,
Granting of a Presidential Pardon to Former Army Corporal Sunil Ratnayake
The Human Rights Commissions of Sri Lanka expresses it deep concern on the reported grant of a Presidential Pardon to Corporal Sunil Ratnayake who was convicted of eight counts of murder by a Trialat-Bar and which conviction was subsequently confirmed by a unanimous judgment of a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on 24 April 2019 (SC TAB 1/2016).
We are deeply concerned due both to the serious nature of the charges brought by the Hon. AttorneyGeneral against Mr. Ratnayaka, which included the killing of three children, and the strength of the Supreme Court judgment which upheld the conviction. The case arises from the killing of 8 persons including 3 children aged 5, 13 and 15 years on 19 December 2000 in the village of Mirusuvil in the Jaffna District. The bodies were then disposed of and later dug up consequent to a Judicial Inquiry. According to the Presiding Judicial Officer and the then officer in charge of the Military Police in the Jaffna Peninsula, the location of the bodies was identified by Sunil Ratnayake.
Mr. Ratnayaka was sentenced to death per the law of the country which makes that sentence mandatory for murder. Our Commission has been resolute in its opposition to the death penalty and has repeatedly called for its abolition and replacement with suitable alternate punishment. Our expression of concern about the pardon in this instance does not in any manner amount to an acceptance of the death penalty. What we wish to emphasize is that a person convicted of such an offence should undergo commensurate punishment. We would have been in agreement if Your Excellency had commuted the death sentence to long term imprisonment given the serious nature of the offence.
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka]

To my mind, Natural Justice restored itself in Sri Lanka through those who respect the law above personal thoughts. The Chairperson of the Commission may or may not have seen my communication. Likewise Mr Boris Johnson. But Nature will do the needful at the point of commonness.

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