Was Ms. Vijayakala Maheswaran Wrong? – Column 04 of From the Palmyra Peninsular to the Rest of Sri Lanka | තල් අරණින් ලක් දෙරණට


This post was original written for Colombo Telegraph. You can read it at https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/was-ms-vijayakala-maheswaran-wrong/ and join the discussion as it has a wider audience than my blog.

For most of you, this could be stale news. But I thought of writing this piece even at a later time after Vijayakala Maheswaran’s controversial speech. My first hand experiences in the North since June this year made me write this piece. Being 6 months in the North on and off (at least 3 weeks per each month) won’t be enough for me to come to a right conclusion about the subject but I would report what I saw. I don’t speak Tamil but can manage with the little English I know and sometimes in Sinhala as I found many people I meet in the North can speak some Sinhala. Besides, I think I am good at the universal language, the sign language 

I have no connection or whatsoever with the then State Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Ms. Vijayakala Maheswaran. I even didn’t know if such one ever existed before her speech came to the limelight. But with all those hullaballoos about her “controversial” speech at Veerasingham Hall Jaffna on July 02, 2018, I thought of reading the full English translation of her speech “for the heck of it.”

Apart from the controversial and illegal part of “reviving the LTTE,” I don’t find anything wrong in what she talked in the rest of her speech. Ms. Maheshwaran must be really lucky not to be in jail for talking about reviving a ruthless terrorist outfit that dragged the country back to the Stone Age, literally. If this speech was made in any other sovereign state, she would have been counting the bars in a cell by now. But Sri Lanka is a funny country with funnier constitution which is less funny than a Kushwant Singh’s sarcastic column! I would refrain from making any comment about judiciary here as, at this age, I don’t have much time left to be in a secluded cell for several years. I have better things to in my life.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, the slain leader of the LTTE Terrorist Group – Courtesy – https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/ltte-chief-prabhakaran-exdeputy-was-raw-mole-book-335249-2016-08-15

About child abuse/rape/killing which Ms. Maheshwaran talks, she is right. It is true these were not committed by the Sri Lankan military but mostly, the people of the neighborhood were the perpetrators. (There are some allegations that Ms. Maheshwaran herself tried to save one such accused of the high school girl Vidya rape and subsequent killing being, I don’t know.) What I do know is that the post-LTTE era has compromised the rigid law and order which had been implemented in the North by the terrorists. So, naturally, maybe the people might think that the “known devil” was better.

Raped and murdered high school student Vidhya and the accused perpetrators of the crime – Courtesy – http://247latestnews.com/category/sri-lanka/page/23/

It was the same with the extensive substance abuse by the youth and the men at large in the North. The LTTE was trafficking drugs to sustain their organization but they did not sell them in Sri Lanka, well, at least not in the North. Drug trafficking was one of their main ways of illegal fundraising to the so called “liberation struggle” but they ensured the drugs would not make their way to the North. But now, after the conclusion of the bloody war, one can read from the press that large hauls of drugs are being captured by the police and the Special Task Force (STF) in the North and East. I myself have seen numerous times the youth spend hours under street lights in Jaffna just loitering till late hours of the night. I cannot see what they do but I just have a friendly word or two and find most of them are intoxicated. I don’t think this happened during the LTTE era.

Leaders of the
Deshapremi Janatha Wyaparaya Terrorist Group – Courtney – https://www.facebook.com/Deshapremi.Janatha.Viyaparaya/

Terrorism should be condemned at any level, but didn’t the women in the South themselves kind of “approve” the rigid jungle laws implemented by “Deshapremi Janatha Wyaparaya” – the terrorist unit of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) for that matter? People, especially women, love to see the men being controlled at least by a terrorist outfit if the authorities cannot do their job any better?

A haul of cannabis arrested in Jaffna – Courtesy – https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/sri-lankan-navy-seizes-835kg-cannabis-jaffna

I am not a legal expert. But as everyone knows damn well, atrocities were committed from both sides during and the immediate aftermath of the war. There is no point in harping on these forever. A government military has to abide by the international ethics of war no matter how hard it is. They will be forced to retaliate when the opposite happens from a terrorist group. But this is why a state military is trained how to become a professional military. One cannot justify an illegal retaliatory action a state military commits by pointing at a ruthless terrorist or guerrilla group’s heinous acts. This is where the state military has to draw the margin. A terrorist organization has the luxury of ignoring international war ethics. This is why they are called “terrorists.” So, the better thing to do is to forgive and forget. There are allegations and reportedly, hard evidence too, of atrocities committed by both the military and the terrorists according to what I read, hear and see. So, why not we go to a South African model Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which all parties are pardoned and integrated to the society? It is never too late, even after 9 years of conclusion of war.


Truth and Reconciliation Commission, South Africa
Members of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission—including Dr. Alex Boraine (second from left), deputy chair; Archbishop Desmond Tutu (centre), chair; and Rev. Bongani Finca (right), commissioner—at the commission’s first hearing, April 1996, East London, S.Af.
Courtesy – https://www.britannica.com/topic/Truth-and-Reconciliation-Commission-South-Africa/media/607421/140426

I am not the best person to comment on Ms. Maheshwaran’s complaint on Thenmaratchi not being named as a separate district. The same is requested for Kalmunai by the Muslim politicians. My personal view is that there are more sensitive things to pay attention on at this stage rather than creating more divisions on demands of this nature. First, let us work on what we can agree, and then the rest. Let’s not complicate things anymore. Enough damage has happened for three decades and let’s forget some of not-so-important issues.

Thenmaratchi Map – Courtesy Google Maps

Maybe I am wrong, but I cannot rule out the possibility of a long term plan by the authorities to weaken the youths and the men in the North by getting them addicted to drugs and then their “possible” revival with an armed struggle could be foiled in a cheaper way. This happened to the Chinese under the British rule during colonial times. It could happen here too. But, then again, I have never seen any Sri Lankan leader designing such long term plans for anything good or bad. They just want to see the results before the next election comes after 5 to 6 years and reap the cheap benefits by that time. So, long term planning is the last thing one could expect from such shortsighted leaders I guess.

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Ernesto Che Guevara’s 50th Death Anniversary – Revisiting Che After 50 years of His Death


Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary (fondly named as Che) was a big inspiration to me while I was a teenager. Though I was born into a family of conventional socialist communist values, I also admired Che more than I did Lenin. My late father being a member of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka  from its inception, our home was full of Soviet communist literature translated into Sinhala that were directly sent from the former Soviet Union. I grew up reading Soviet fairy tales as a kid and then I had the capacity of reading and comprehending hardcore communist doctrines that were sent in huge volumes as I was an avid omnivorous reader ever since I could read the Sinhala alphabet. (I could not read a decent English book till I was 25.) I had the luck of reading much-loved Soviet revolutionary novels and short stories at a very young age. Oh, I cherish those good old days. Being an inexperienced and immature kid in 80’s, I believed that all those propaganda literatures was 100% true and the Soviet Union was the Heaven on Earth. But within the next decade (to be exact between 1990 – 1991) I saw the great Soviet Empire collapsing and reducing into rubbles and a cake baked into the real size and the shape of the Founding Father of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin was cut into slices and eaten by the Russians themselves.  My dad was lucky enough not to be alive to see such horrific scenes as he left the planet in 1989, a year before the great collapse of the Soviet Union started.

Coming back to Che, I read about him from some (mostly hidden) books my eldest brother Nayanasena Wanninayaka used to bring when he came home during his vacations from his higher studies. For me, Che was more attractive, charismatic and sexier than any of the other revolutionaries, be it Lenin, Mao or Fidel. But I did not find much to read about Che except for the few weekend newspapers articles published during his birth and death anniversaries. Che was not a welcome word in my village, Mahawilachchiya, where a big-time massacre of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) cadres said to have taken place in 1971, a year before I was born. The dead bodies of the JVP cadres were dragged by police jeeps in ropes and put into public display during Rohana Wijeweera’s failed rebellion in 1971. The JVP cadres were commonly known as “Che Guevara guys” (චෙගුරා කාරයෝ) those days by the people. So, people were that scared of Che, whom Wijeweera (blindly) followed. The books about both the Argentine and the Sri Lankan revolutionaries (Che and Wijeweera) were usually burnt as soon as they were read since it could always invite troubles. To make things worse, late Rohana Wijeweera again attempted to topple the government during 1988-89 and the whole country came into a standstill when his then banned party, the JVP imposed “a curfew” in the country and Wijeweera was only a few steps away from overthrowing the government. So, me being a teenager during that time meant a lot of risks and I had to hide my admiration to Che, the revolutionary. Besides hundreds of both military and government sponsored paramilitary troops were haunting at night everywhere in the country and in the morning, one could see slaughtered young men and women by the roadside. Rohana Wijeweera was apprehended by the government security forces and killed and burnt -some say alive – in 1989. The then President Late Ranasinghe Premadasa brutally annihilated the rebels after the invitation for peace talks by the former was completely rejected and ignored by the latter.

I read Malini Govinnage’s Che Guevara (මාලිනී ගෝවින්නගේ – චේ ගුවේරා,) a Sinhala language biography of Che in 2006 which was short and sweet. Then I read Ernesto Che Guevara’s The Bolivian Diary in a year or two later which gave me more insight into this amazing man’s life. I also could watch the movie The Motorcycle Diaries during the same period which depicts as to how Che’s sympathy with the downtrodden people started. Much later, I watched the two-part 2008 biopic named “Che” by the director Steven Soderbergh. This gave me much insight into the man than any of the aforesaid publications I mentioned. I fell in love with this as it used both feature and documentary style that did not end with a “suckumentary” as it happens with most of the hero-worshipping genres.

I am yet to read the other books written by and about Che and hopefully I would get the chance within the next couple of months as I too am eagerly getting ready to go to volunteer in some South American countries during the next 5 years. No, I will not try to imitate him as I cannot make up my mind even to kill a venomous serpent creeps into my house and mostly, I would make it go peacefully.  So, killing is not my kind of revolution. It is more into educating the children and youth to make a difference in themselves and eventually, the rest of the world.

I am not in the right position to evaluate the place Che has been given in the history as I am not informed enough for getting into such a daunting task. All I can do as of now is to explore into the legacy the “Comrade Che” has left behind for me and the rest of the world.

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

INHUMAN RAGGING IN SRI LANKAN UNIVERSITIES AND HIGHSCHOOLS


Ragging in Sri Lanka

Ragging in Sri Lanka

I think most of Sri Lankans are already aware of inhuman ragging in Sri Lankan universities (Visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragging_in_Sri_Lanka) that has caused several deaths, lifelong injuries and both physical and mental trauma to the freshers. The most recent heinous act where a bunch of male and female students in the University of Kelaniya forced a new female student to remove her jeans saying that it does not suit to freshers and the girl in turn refused it blatantly and made a complaint in the police and the alleged raggers were remanded could be just the tip of the iceberg. Ragging should have been nipped in the bud but authorities turned a blind eye at the beginning and ragging went out of control.

In some universities or faculties ragging has been replaced with just socialization with fun activities but where there is strong Inter University Students’ Federation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inter_University_Students%27_Federation influence ragging is going berserk causing the new students severe traumas. (ISUSF is allegedly controlled by Frontline Socialist Party. Formerly Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna -JVP did the same but they lost control of the ISUSF as a result of the party split into two due to inernal clashes.)

Ragging with Fun

Ragging with Fun

Due to inhuman ragging in universities, a significant number of students do not enter universities despite university entrance exam being highly competitive affair and only a small percentage of students get the opportunity to enter a state university. They either give up higher education totally or attend private higher educational institutes by paying huge sum of monies at a time they can get a better free education (with a bursary also) in state universities. (According to University Grants Commission statistics, just 17% of qualified Advanced Level test takers found places at state universities in 2009/10 (and just 10.5 percent of all test-takers.)

According some friends of mine, the humiliation they were subjected to was “worse than death.” They had been forced to perform sodomy and lesbian sex totally naked with a fresher of the same sex at least once in their hostels (in front of 100s of seniors and freshers) just to “educate” the freshers such relationships exist in hostels and the freshers have to accept such behavior. If they themselves do not find gay sex as their cup of tea, they should not at least disturb others who find so.

Due to some unfortunate circumstances I could not sit for my Advanced Level in the stipulated year (1991) and had to sit for it in 1998 exactly after 10 years after sitting for Ordinary Level (1988) in a totally different stream (Arts) than what I studied for (Bio Science) without much assistance from others. I was already an English teacher when I did so and all I prayed was, “Please do not pass me to be selected to university. Give me a result where I can pass the exam but not too many mars to be selected university, just because of these horrific ragging.” I knew I will be targeted for who I am. Luckily I got ‘yes’ marks and not enough marks to be selected to a university. Thank God.

I love to learn in a university even at this late stage of my life but never in a Sri Lankan state university. I will invite troubles there. I will somehow save and study in an American university even at the age of 50 (in 6 years time.)

Ragging prevails even at high school level in Sri Lankan public schools. I entered Central College, Anuradhapura in 1990 to do my Advanced Level (university entrance exam) and was ragged severely inside a boys’ toilet for just “being tall.” The excuse given by senior students was that “if we did not rag you like this to a tall guy like you, you will become a dickhead in the school.” (උඹට මෙහෙම රැග් නොකළොත් උඹලා මේකේ කැරියෝ වෙනවා.)

RAG

Sri Lanka University Ragging (7)

Kumudini-Wathsala-De-Silva

Ragging-incident-Ruhunu-Campus

24-ragging.jpg

z_p17-Rag

SRI LANKA – A LOST REVOLUTION? The Inside Story of the JVP – Professor Rohan Gunaratna


Sri Lanka A Lost Revolution?

Sri Lanka A Lost Revolution?

A year ago, I had the privilege of reading “SRI LANKA – A LOST REVOLUTION? The Inside Story of the JVP” by Professor Rohan Gunaratna. This is about the second attempt to topple the government by the Rohana Wijeweera-lead Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during late 80’s. It was an interesting read as I could remember most of the stories mentioned in the book as I was a teenager during the days of the insurrection. The JVP looked very attractive those days and I don’t know why I didn’t join the movement as it was so compelling to join them. Maybe due to the fact that my late father was against the violence though he was a leftist.

I have never seen Rohana Wijeweera except on TV. I listened to his speeches on TV during the 1982 Presidential Election and also listened to a recorded audio cassette which was then clandestine. He had the ability of mesmerizing people with his eloquent speeches. His posters were pasted everywhere during the election time and he became the third in the election by beating the old leftist candidates. It was this reason that lead to their proscription as a party by the then president late J. R. Jayawardene. Having cornered in the political arena like a wounded tiger, the JVP had to operate as an underground organization and resort to terror. Professor Gunaratna details these events extensively in the book.

The biggest turnaround of the rebellion happened after late Ranjan Wijeratne was assigned the Ministry of Defense. He meant business and took every action to quell the rebellion no matter how many were killed. Prof. Gunaratna says in the book “Indian Intervention” that Mr. Wijeratne had a chance of becoming the next president had he not been killed by the LTTE. Ultimately the hunter was hunted.

A detailed account is given about how Rohana Wijeweera was murdered and cremated in Borella cemetery. Some said that he was burnt alive. Recently a former soldier gave an interview to a weekend newspaper telling that what was reported earlier by many was wrong and Wijeweera was not burnt alive.

I can remember the day Wijeweera was killed. We were surprised by the news in the evening news bulletin over SLBC. People didn’t know whether to repent or to rejoice as everybody wanted a change but too much of killings from both sides had taken its toll on the general public and they wanted an end to this. I still lament that I missed the video clip which he made to television under threat of the army. It is not available in YouTube too.

The book includes a number of rare pictures of the bloody events and provides a list of people who were allegedly killed by Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya, the military wing of the JVP which the JVP distances itself from up to this date.

There is another book written about the same subject by veteran journalist C. A. Chandraprema but I didn’t feel like buying it as Prof. Gunaratna has given a full account of the failed rebellion of the JVP.

There is another review about the book by Kasun Herath at http://kasunh.wordpress.com/2008/03/24/a-lost-revolution-book-by-rohan-gunaratna/