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Selected Writings - Chandiravarman Sinnathurai

Drawing Circles in the Sand
19 December 2005

The Robert Litvack Human Rights Award of McGill University for 2005 was received by Dr Radhika Coomaraswamy on November 8th. Her acceptance speech conceals more questions than reveals intelligent solutions. The speech unearths emotive philosophical constructs. On the one hand, while hoodwinking painful political realities and appalling human rights breaches in her own back yard (i.e. Sri Lanka), she is deliberately dishing out biased unrealistic opinions. By paying lip-service to her international clientele, she is gratefully giving a thumbs up to the power brokers behind the award.

Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy (RC) is a splendidly subtle act to pay attention to within the human rights industry on the international circuit! Dr RC has philosophical leanings towards Ghandianism. When delivering her Gandhi Memorial lecture in 2004, she confessed:

"Of all the political celebrities in world history, Mahatma Gandhi has had the most profound impact on my political ideas and practice." True to her leanings, Dr. RC in her speech spoke of her admiration of Martin Luther King Jr. during her school and university years (Yale & Harvard) in the US and moaned of the 'Folly of violence':

"It is my experience as an adult in Sri Lanka where the folly of violence is so apparent and the consequence is so dire that we don't want to contemplate its repercussions."

Hardly any one would disagree with that sentiment. The paradigm-shifting Question in her narrative remains unsettled, especially in regard to Sri Lanka. How do we square the circle?

Most world leaders in the West, on the other hand, would only give lip-service to non-violence. When it comes to sorting out third world conflicts these Western powers would not waste their time finding the route to praxis of such philosophies/theologies. Recent revelations in Iraq and the distant memories of Vietnam would speak volumes on double standards.

I am indebted to my brother for introducing me to the writing of Oriana Fallaci. The Force of Reason"What do you think of Western civilization?" a reporter once asked the Mahatma. With his characteristic chuckle, Gandhi replied: "I think it is a very good idea."

Dr RC, while receiving the award at Montreal, and speaking, in her specific role as newly appointed (for the last 2 � years) Chairperson of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, promoted Sri Lanka to her international audience as a "good idea."

About the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, she explained: "Their idea of Sri Lanka is as a Sinhalese Buddhist land where the majority will must prevail and where the markers of Buddhist identity must be celebrated above all others."

When she toys with the 'idea of Sri Lanka' for the Tamils, her choice of words is loaded with calculating politics, which, sadly, undermine her credibility in terms of human rights. Excerpt:

"For Tamils in the North and the East, Sri Lanka is put forward as two nations where the north and the east are a separate ethnic and cultural space requiring either independence or power sharing with the Sinhalese Buddhist South."

The following statement is designed to be an ear massage to her audience:

"For others [the idea of] Sri Lanka is seen as a multi ethnic, multi religious country where pluralism is required and where institutions reflect that pluralism through power sharing and equality of protection."

According to Dr RC, when her ideas of "ownership" collide, and strive for their respective vision, 'that ensues in a desperate struggle. "Each side wants to conquer and eliminate the other and so the violence continues," she states.

Imagine if you would, all these separate ideas presented by Dr RC and try and synthesize it in to one bigger and a wider circle. In Dr RC's 'Alice in Wonderland,' these imaginative circles [or more precisely stereotypical squares] produce a virulent struggle over the larger and harmonious 'pie-in- the sky' idea of Sri Lanka. As a corollary to that struggle, Dr RC admits to the inescapable fact: "Sri Lanka has developed an appalling human rights record."

Yet again, one hears the biased bile of Dr RC. Excerpt:

"At the moment the worst forms of violence come from the eastern province, political killings where the perpetrators are the LTTE and their break away group the so-called Karuna faction and the recruitment of child soldiers by the LTTE.."

Is Dr RC so sophisticated as to forget that the Buddhist State is currently engaged in a all-but-in-name war with mercenary paramilitaries as accomplices? Dr RC might be helped by dusting her Fallaci collection. You would think truth was a fool!

Blaming the Tamils and the LTTE? 'None should teach their grandmother to suck eggs.' Dr RC is dreaming of a "Democratic space" in Sri Lanka. Jolly good! If democracy had functioned as it should post-independence, then Sri Lanka would not be caught in such a blood-letting quagmire. DR RC's audience is been taken on a high brow digression from:

a) The genocidal horrors perpetrated by the Buddhist State against the Tamils for over half a century;
b) The Tamils' reluctant last resort embracing of an idea of Eelam - as an autonomous spiritual and cultural and political and hospitable space for themselves;
c) The Gandhian Tamils were forced to defend their rights by hesitatingly entering in to a violent liberation struggle;

All the above were consequences of to a bellicose state turning against its own defenseless principle minority. Who will raise their voice against such systematic racist oppression and the systemic suppression of the fundamental human rights of the Tamil-speaking people of the NorthEast? Dr RC proves to be just a noise.

All the symptoms of a convenient disease which notoriously infects irreducible intellectuals who maintain allegiance with State terror is detected in Dr RC. That incurable disease is called selective amnesia. Bless her heart!

Dr RC's friends in the corridors of power in Colombo, the US and in the Indian-Brahmin intelligentsia have had the rumor mills humming with devious propaganda against the Tamils. Their aim is to turn world opinion against the Tamil military system and ultimately against Mr. Prabaharan. I have no doubt Dr RC would have listened to Pinter's 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech only a few weeks ago. I wonder what her take is on the following words of Harold Pinter:

"How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore, it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore, if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London."

I wish to recommend that Dr. RC refresh her memory of recent history by reading a detailed analysis by a Scientist based in Japan which knocks out these state-manufactured myths and half-baked ideas propagated by herself and her clan. (Sachi Sri Kantha, Pirabhakaran Phenomenon, Lively COMET Imprint, Japan, ISBN 1-57087-671-1).

"Peace must come soon to Sri Lanka," Dr RC grieves, "Not only with a federal model; it must also come with a commitment by national and international actors to transform the politics of the north and the east into a haven for democracy."

Tamils have strived to live harmoniously within a united Ceylon. It is after a series of pogroms and well documented human rights abuses that the Tamils chose the path of autonomy. What Dr RC has to convince the 'actors.' as she rightly puts it, both domestic and foreign, is that to approach this struggle with a commitment to dismantle the police state which is underpinned by the 'Mahavamsa mind-set.' This one-track view does not lend itself to the glorious vision of plurality and equality that is mouthed by Dr RC.

Power knows the truth. The proposal of Dr RC to speak truth to power is a deviant occupation which lacks intellectual integrity, moral persuasion or ethical force: because, quite frankly, she belongs to that power bloc. Or shall we say that she has a blind spot and a soft spot towards the State terror networks? In such a mind frame, she is seeing the liberation struggle in terms of 'one side trying to "conquer" the other.' Wake up! Smell the coffee. Tamils are struggling for their freedom and they are fighting to recover their lost sovereignty to the Sinhalese via the back door of Western colonization.

In essence, Dr RC is part of the problem as opposed to being a solution. That is no good credential for Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. The seductive colonial mind-set has no relevance to grassroots' reality, which is where the abuses and denials of human rights predominantly occur. Dr RC's barren moral authority has clay feet.  Einstein's observation neatly deconstructs the "residual idea" called Radhika Coomaraswamy:

"It is difficult to say what truth is, but sometimes so easy to recognize a falsehood."


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