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December 29, 2008

Lankan Govt Blames Lawyers Appearing For Those Accused of Terrorism

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The Sri Lankan government's Ministry of Defence website published the following caption with a photograph of a President's Counsel, Romesh de Silva PC.

President's Counsel Romesh de Silva, Mr. M A Sumanthiran, Mr. Viran Korea, Ms. Lilanthi De Silva and Chamaine Gunarathne are the team of lawyers who regularly appear for the detainees charged with terrorist activity.

 

http://www.defence.lk/img/20081223-ROMESH%20DE%20SILVA.jpg
On October 22, 2008, a letter was widely distributed by a group calling itself the Mahason Balakaya (Battalion), which published this threatening message for those lawyers who appear for suspected terrorists:

In the future all those represent the interests of the terrorist will be subject to the same fate that these terrorist mete out to our innocent people.

Obviously, the Mahason Balakaya is acting with the acquiescence of the government. The publication of the names of these lawyers in this manner at the Ministry of Defence website exposes them to death threats and other serious consequences as threatened by the Mahason Balakaya.

In previous statements the AHRC has strongly asserted, not only the right but also the duty of lawyers to represent anyone before courts of law. To forbid lawyers from representing persons before courts is to negate the very meaning of 'courts'.

On November 19, 2008, we wrote:

To attack a lawyer for his professional work is to attack the legal profession as a whole. This profession need not exist if it does not do what this profession is expected to do. Expecting a lawyer not to appear for a terrorist is similar to asking a medical surgeon not to operate on a terrorist who needs medical care.

Please see the full statement, SRI LANKA: There is nothing funny about lawyers being named as traitors for doing their jobs as lawyers; getting closer to cannibalism?: http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2008statements/1772/

In response to a similar publication at the Ministry of Defence website naming some Tamil lawyers who had been instructing attorneys in fundamental rights applications before the Supreme Court there had been several protests to President Mahinda Rajapaskse himself. However, no action has been taken by the government to eliminate such attacks by the Ministry of Defence by such publications in their website. The repetition of the same with the naming of more lawyers demonstrates that these actions are sanctioned by the government.

defence coverThe issue that was posed by the letter from Mahason Balakaya (October 22), a letter blaming some Tamil instructing attorneys for filing fundamental rights applications for alleged terrorists (published in November and modified on December 15) and the present publication published on December 23, are serious threats to the existence of the court system itself, the possibility of fair trial and the legal profession that is allowed to act within the scope of their professional obligations.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka has shown some response to the threats to lawyers in recent months by the adoption and publication of several resolutions. To name a few, the resolution to call for inquiries into threats to the lawyer who represented the assassinated Sugath Nishanta Fernando of Negombo, a lengthy resolution on the grenade attack on the residence of Mr. J.C. Weliamuna and the inhumane treatment of Mr. D.W.C. Mohotti at the Bambilipitya Police Station. However, there are no reports of any action on the first publication against the lawyers who were instructing attorneys in the fundamental rights applications. The present attack on a President's Counsel and several of the lawyers should awaken the leadership of the Bar Association to the very threat that the legal profession faces in Sri Lanka for its valid and justifiable existence. If the partisan political agenda of some in the leadership of the Bar Association lead them to ignore this threat the profession will suffer irreparable damage.

Mr. Vasudewa Nanayakkara, on December 10, wrote to the President of Sri Lanka protesting against the attack on lawyers by the Ministry of Defence and strongly urged for the elimination of such attacks. His letter was published in several media channels. However, the opposition political parties, the trade union movement and other civil society organisations, showed no adequate interest in the attacks on lawyers which, if successful will virtually destroy the possibility of the protection of any of the civil rights of Sri Lankans within the framework of the law. It is hoped that this latest attack will awake the Sri Lankan opposition political parties and all movements within Sri Lanka and also all civil society organisations to the enormous threat that the country's legal system is exposed to now by the executive, using the pretext of anti terrorism for their own purposes of destroying the concept of the separation of powers in the country. Despite of lip service being paid to the separation of powers, such separation cannot exist without a judiciary that is capable of protecting the individual through the law. Attacks on fair trial and the legal profession make the very existence of the courts a meaningless affair. It makes the government one that is run entirely by the executive.

We urge all Sri Lankans as well as those concerned with human rights globally, to study and comprehend the attacks on the independent legal profession that is taking place in Sri Lanka and the wider objectives of such attacks which is to destroy the very possibility of the rule of law of and democracy within the country.

For further information please see a pamphlet relating to the attack on Mr. J.C. Weliamuna house at:

http://www.ahrchk.net/pub/mainfile.php/weliamuna/

The text of Mr. Vasudewa Nanayakkara, letter on December 10, may be found at:

http://www.ahrchk.net/pr/mainfile.php/2008mr/580/

The print copy of the booklet Sri Lanka, In defence of the legal progression may be obtained from the AHRC

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Posted on 2008-12-28

Minority political parties must move away from victim mindset

By Suraj Deen

According to people in the know, dissolution of parliament is imminent, perhaps a few months away. While the merits and demerits of dissolution are debatable, one fact remains unassailable; that elections put the minority parties in a quandary. In a covertly racial society, the legacy of minority parties is unenviable, because they symbolize the complexities of a racially divided nation and a belligerent ethno-majoritarian politics practised without purpose or vision in our country.

This lack of purpose is evidenced by today’s political rhetoric. The governing collective will beseech the electorate to return them to power to finish off the war. While a political solution will remain a distant dream, issues such as good governance and development will take a back seat. It is well known that Sri Lanka’s divided polity votes on racial and religious lines, returning a divided parliament. The elected will jostle for position and perks disregarding the will of their electors. Various incentives will be dangled in front of potential cross over candidates. Without resorting to horse trading mainstream parties will not stand the remotest chance at regaining power. Trial balloons have already been floated to test the air. In the well of parliament both sides promote the need for an all encompassing grand alliance. The minority parties would capitulate eventually being forced to form alliances with the mainstream political parties, ostensibly to “serve the people”. Thus unfolds our shameless litany of political failure.

A new election is another occasion for the minorities to feel let down again, and rue their inability to contribute to a lasting solution to the problems afflicting our country. As a dream recedes, so does the dignity and the fight to live with equality and respect.

The minority electorate must reflect on the value of fringe parties as they become increasingly disillusioned with their inability to play a constructive role in policy making at the centre. Minority parties too realize that they are getting progressively marginalized; yet will remain captive within the present system. This is particularly true of those parties operating outside the northern theater of war. Today, an election is no contest at all for the minority parties as it is actually a battle for self preservation of the minority party politicians. The voter on the other hand is disinterested because the political system does not provide a window to present their viewpoint, leading to widening of the chasm between the voter and their party.

This is one challenge that the minority parties know well. That challenge encompasses finding meaningful ways to get electors engaged. Voter apathy is not the only challenge; the other is to keep their membership from falling prey to political deception. All minority parties have had to bear the ignominy of defection by elected members to the ruling coalition.

A strategy that minority parties have adopted is to align themselves to the major political parties. Thus they concede albeit indirectly, that they cannot garner enough voter interest on their own.

The minority parties face a common dilemma because they appeal to a narrow polity based on communal lines. Their core claim is that they are the voice of the aggrieved minority dedicated to upholding minority rights. They would argue that in a country where the majority votes on party lines aligned to race-based politics, the small minorities are not left with much choice but organize themselves along racial lines to combat ingrained mistrust and lack of equality. The argument is that asking the voter of one minority community to vote along racial lines could boost the chances of equity for the minorities. Strategically, is this the route the minority parties should follow?

While the intention of the writer is not to dwell too much into the history of the politics of this country, it is thought suffice to make one or two salient points. Firstly, unlike most democracies, Sri Lankan politics is based on ethno-racial lines. The birth of the precursor to the SLFP, the SMS and the Tamil Congress, the countervailing Tamil party were all clearly based on racial and religious lines. The UNP too has always had ultra-conservative racial underpinnings, colouring their ideology. Even to this day we do not have a truly secular party.

Secondly, our country’s lack of a sustainable economic policy framework, compounded by opposing economic policies of the two main political parties led to inconsistent economic development. The SLFP advocated social distribution as an ideology, while the UNP has clearly followed the capitalist path of free enterprise. The only common ground was that the two political parties fundamentally identified themselves with the majority Sinhala Buddhists on language and religion. The minorities were aligned to the UNP because the market economic policies of the UNP afforded opportunities for free enterprise. As long as there was no threat to their basic rights, the minorities were willing to go along with policies that were to the advantage of majority race. Thus minorities, who were under-represented in the government and other institutions, needed the UNP to further their livelihood through private enterprise and the informal sector.

Clearly the policies of both these parties sought to limit the mobility of the minorities, on lines of language. Separate Muslim and Tamil schools were created. Existing popular schools became Buddhist schools overnight. Politicization of the state led to employment opportunities being dished out on party lines and therefore by default on racial lines. While the minorities make nearly 25 per cent of the population, their representation in government is well below par. The minorities therefore were kept away from matters of the state by the unstated policy of majoritarian appeasement.

The enactment of the 1978 constitutional changes institutionalized some of the fears of the minorities. The new constitution however created a window of opportunity for the representation of the minority voice in parliament. This was a voice in the wilderness as over the years, the majority party leaders failed to take cognizance of the aspirations of the minorities. For the first time, those disillusioned with the centre had a choice. A significant number of minority voters flocked to these parties and embraced the new reality with boundless enthusiasm. However the inability of these parties to articulate minority concerns has resulted in further disenchantment, and in the case of Tamils, militancy.

The 1978 Constitution also paved the way for other fringe parties with extremist views. These parties saw their opportunity and aligned themselves with majoritarian politics.

The SLMC and TNA are ramifications of half a century of ethnocentric mainstream politics and seek to win their due rights (meaning the minorities) based on race. The CWC may perhaps be the exception. These three parties face the same challenges. One such challenge faced by the minorities is gaining acceptance as serious entities that protect the rights of minorities, instead of being perceived as racist, communal minded parties.

Internal squabbles apart; the SLMC is perhaps the most desecrated minority party because of its commitment to pursue the rights of the Muslim minority.

The Muslims, wherever they live, have over the years sought to integrate with the Sinhala and Tamil communities. The Tamils believe a common identity based on “language” binds the Muslims with them. While Tamil may be a shared language the Muslims remain a distinct ethno –religious minority. Despite a few cultural commonalities across the two communities, ideologically the Muslims have always looked to inclusion and accommodation within the mainstream political parties. They are also an economically active enterprising group and need unfettered access to opportunities for growth. That in essence is Muslim politics.

Just as much as the Muslim polity is dispersed so are their political realities. The Muslim people of the Eastern province have their own unique challenges. Their greatest tragedy is that they live in the midst of another community that has taken to arms and the inability of both sides to the conflict to see the Muslims as a neutral player, and the unwillingness to treat the Muslims as a community that has no truck with militancy, on either side of the political divide. Thus both the Tamils and Sinhalese mistrust the Muslims of the East. There is another section of elite urban Muslims, who share cosmopolitan values and have aspirations of a secular pluralistic Sri Lanka. They have always stayed with the mainstream political parties, and voted with the majority supporting either the SLFP or the UNP and their affiliated political parties. These are the Muslims who elect Mohammed, Fouzie and Bakir Markar to parliament. The vast majority of the voiceless rural Muslim poor. These are simple people, easily manipulated and most alienated both economically and politically.

As the minorities move away from the centre, due to limited avenues for participation in state craft, feelings of alienation from the state and isolation etc become paramount. The inability of the minority parties to fulfill their aspirations, allow informal institutions step into the vacuum thus created. Therefore while there is a clear role for minority parties, the question remains if they have been able to settle and occupy the vacuum created by the lack of political maturity among the mainstream parties.

Let me illustrate this point taking into context the needs of the urban and rural Muslims. There is a severe drop, in the number of Muslim students (nearly 10,000 according to Rauf Hakeem the SLMC leader) enrolling in government schools in Colombo. Parents apparently are unhappy with the quality of the education provided to the Muslim students in the racially segregated (or more politically correct) Muslim Schools, preferring to admit their children to private English medium schools. These Muslim parents are undergoing immense hardships and deprivation in order to provide their children the education that will give them an equal opportunity to compete in the global job market. The state unfortunately does not play a role and the Muslim people have found an alternative of their own.

Another facet that illustrates the frustrations and the alienated mindset of young rural Muslim youth is reflected in their aspiration to go to the Middle East to find employment. A large number of Muslim men and women work in the Middle East. Again numbers will be disproportionately high for the minorities. Often large sums of money are paid to unscrupulous agents to secure these jobs.

A final point that demonstrates the inability of the government to meet the needs of Muslims in general is in banking. Muslims abhor the concept of interest. Sharia decrees that Muslims play an active role in sharing the risks involved in financial transactions. Many western countries have recognized this need and have introduced Islamic Banking legislation including the UK. If Sri Lanka is to bring its Muslim minority into the mainstream it must help set up the required institutions speedily. If not the Muslims will use more and more informal channels for their banking needs.

If the government has failed the minorities, they have failed the majority even more, by failing to address the aspirations of the mainstream communities, and putting down two uprisings with unmitigated brutality. The findings of the Presidential Commission on Youth unrest address these issues.

The majority community suffers from as much insecurity as the minorities, some imagined and others real. While there is no point involving in polemics about imaginary insecurities, deficiencies in economic inequality among the rural populace is real. The perception that the Sinhalese are a Pan-Indian regional minority is real. The need to establish a Sinhala Buddhist identity is only a manifestation of this. Therefore, a majority that feels it is under siege will feel threatened when minorities assert their rightful place, and usurp what little the majority has gained politically. This particularly so given the wave of sympathy the Tamil minority has elicited in Tamil Nadu. The positional politics of the minorities, by virtue of the fact that it is assertive and affirmative, reinforces this fear and will not achieve anything substantive for the minority groups.

If rights based politics are untenable with entrenched ethnocentric majoritarianism, what other options are available that would meet the twin aspirations of pluralism and ethno-cultural identity of the minorities? Is the scenario of majoritarian exclusivity inevitable or is there a strategic role that minority parties can play so that a joint path to equality with self-respect and dignity can be forged ahead?

To understand the contextual political opportunities, it’s important to revisit the failed ideology of the mainstream political parties. The majority mainstream political parties would like to assimilate the minorities and make the minorities “one among us”. Others would like to throw in a bit here and a bit there and follow a policy of minority appeasement and accommodation, whereas the minorities seek to live with dignity, self-respect and equal opportunity. However the challenges the country faces stem from two fundamental issues of recognition and distribution. If we are to move on as a nation we must stop harking back to and re-enacting the inequalities of the past and instead embrace the progressive politics of the future. This future can be only built on the principle (according to the Canadian Philosopher Charles Taylor) of respect for the individual and recognition of the unique identify of that individual. “Equal recognition is not just the appropriate mode for a healthy democratic society. Its refusal can inflict damage on those who are denied it …. The projection of an inferior or demeaning image on another can actually distort and oppress, to the extent that the image is internalized (CT 1994).”

The question then is “Can a party such as SLMC rise above some of the intractable issues and focus on the larger issues that affect the total Sri Lankan polity?” If the SLMC does see such a role, it can bring the other minority political parties together on a common platform. Thus far we see the aspirations and the fears of the minorities as presented by the needs of the Muslim minority are justified. We also see that based on the current widening positions, and the fact that the politics of majoritarianism seeks to protect the majority community from the perceived inequities in sharing economic benefits of our country; political posturing on regaining rights may not be the solution.

If equity, social and distributive justice in a multicultural pluralistic society is the aim, the minority parties can fire the first salvo and thus be the harbingers of change. The TNA, CWC and the SLMC can be the drivers of sound policy, and good governance. These parties can work together to remove social inequality, and establish the required institutions with the right checks and balances needed to take this country forward. When the minority parties move away from the mindset of the victims, who seek to restore purported past injustices and take to activist politics the majority will take note, and change sure will come to our beleaguered nation.

Pashtuns aren't Iraqis: Taliban's message to Gen. Petraeus

by B. Raman

Gen.David Petraeus, the Commander of the US Central Command, who previously headed the US forces in Iraq, was credited with bringing down the level of violence in Iraq and weakening the capability of Al Qaeda in Iraq by creating a divide between the secular Baathist Arabs of Saddam Hussein's army and local administration and the Wahabi Arabs of Al Qaeda by strengthening various local militias with names such as the Awakening Councils, which had come into existence even before he took over in Iraq.

2. When he was appointed by President George Bush to be the head of the Central Command, which, inter alia, is responsible for the US operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the bordering Pashtun areas of Pakistan, he was reported to have set up a brains trust to advise him on a new strategy to be followed against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. While the new strategy is still being worked out, some elements of it are already in the process of being implemented.

3. These include a planned surge in the US forces in Afghanistan in the coming months by inducting another 30,000 troops and the setting up of local militias, which would work on the pattern of the Awakening Councils in Iraq. Many Afghan observers have been expressing doubts whether Petraeus' ideas would work in Afghanistan. The Pashtun society---particularly in Afghanistan--- is different from the Iraqi society. Hatred of non-Muslim foreigners is very strong among the Pashtuns and the hatred of Pashtuns who are perceived as collaborating with non-Muslim foreigners is even stronger. Moreover, the Pashtuns look upon the Arabs of Al Qaeda, now operating from sanctuaries in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan's Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as their honoured guests and as their co-religionists, who had helped them in driving out the Soviet troops in the 1980s and who are now helping them in their fight to drive out the Americans and other NATO forces.

4. These observers have been saying that the intensifying violence in Afghanistan and the inability of the US-led forces to control it are due to the sanctuaries available to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Pakistani territory and the inability or relcutance of the Pakistan Army to destroy these sanctuaries. While the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda in North Waziristan and of the Taliban in South Waziristan are being repeatedly attacked by the unmanned Predator aircraft of the US intelligence community, those of the Taliban in the Quetta area of Balochistan have largely been left untouched with neither the Pakistan Army nor the American Predator aircraft targeting them. These observers are of the view that unless these sanctuaries are destroyed no amount of surge and local militias will help.

5. The current operations of the Pakistan Army in the Bajaur Agency of the FATA and the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) are mainly targeting the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which poses a threat to Pakistan and not the Afghan Taliban, headed by the Quetta-based Mulla Mohammad Omar, which the Pakistan Army continues to perceive as its strategic ally. While the Pakistan Army has reduced the scale of its operations in the Bajaur Agency and its presence in South Waziristan, where Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the TTP is based, in order to re-deploy the troops thus relieved on the Indian border particularly in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), its operations against the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah, in the Swat Valley have not so far been reduced.

6. While the Mehsuds and the Ahmedzai Wazirs of South Waziristan, who were in the forefront of the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir in 1947-48 and in 1965, have informally agreed not to take advantage of the thinning out of the Pakistani forces in these areas, the Pakistan Army has not yet been able to reach a similar informal agreement with the TNSM, despite the fact that it is a component of the TTP. Moreover, the Pakistan Army is prepared to face the risk of a temporary dilution of the Pakistani writ in the Bajaur Agency and South Waziristan if the Mehsuds and the Ahmedzai Wazirs do not keep up their informal agreement not to create problems for the Army and the Frontier Corps.

7. It is not prepared to face a similar risk in the Swat Valley, which it sees as important for maintaining its writ in the NWFP. It is concerned over the recent increase in the activities of the Pakistani Taliban in Peshawar and is determined not to allow the TNSM undermine the Government position in the NWFP. The operations against the TNSM in the Swat Valley, which started in November,2007, have been continuing for over a year now without the Army and the Frontier Corps being able to make any headway in neutralising the TNSM. Even long before the Pakistan Army thinned out its presence in the FATA in the wake of the tensions with India after the terrorist attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET)----acting alone or in association with Al Qaeda--- in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, it was facing difficulty in reinforcing its presence in the Swat Valley.

8. Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), borrowed some of the Iraqi ideas of Gen.Petraeus even before the latter assumed command of the US Central Command. He set up in some villages of the Swat Valley as well as the FATA people's militias called Lashkars, which were trained and armed to counter the Sunni forces of the TNSM and the Pakistani Taliban. A large number of Shia Pashtuns were recruited by Kayani into these Lashkars and they were given the task of countering the TNSM and the TTP. The Sunnis of the Pakistani Taliban retaliated with vigour against these Lashkars and killed a large number of them.

9.In October, 82 persons were killed and 241 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a grand Jirga held at Khadizai area of the predominantly Shia Alikhel sub-tribe of the Pashtuns. The Jirga was specially convened to form a tribal Lashkar against the Taliban.

10.Thirty-two people were killed and over 120 others injured in a blast just outside a Shia Imambargah called Alamdar in Koocha-e-Risaldar, located behind the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar, in the Peshawar area on December 5,2008. A vehicle driven by a suicide bomber destroyed a multi-storey hotel, a girls’ school, and dozens of shops selling crockery and plastic-wares.

11.On December 7,2008, the Afghan Islamic Press disseminated a message purported to have been issued by Mulla Omar, which warned the US as follows in response to the reported new strategy of Petraeus without, however, naming him: “Today the world’s economy is facing growing risk from meltdown owing to the belligerent and expansionist policies of US. This has left its negative impact on the globe and it is the collective duty of all to work for a lasting peace in the world. You should understand that no puppet regime will ever stand up to the current resistance movement. Nor you will justify the occupation of the Islamic countries under the so-called slogan of rehabilitation anymore. Deployment of more troops (by the US) would lead to battles everywhere. The current armed clashes will spiral and your current casualties of hundreds will jack up to thousands.The US has imposed the war on the Afghan nation and the followers of the path of Islamic resistance will never abandon their legitimate struggle. The invading forces wrongly contemplate that they will be able to pit the Afghans against the mujahideen under the so-called label of tribal militias. No Afghan will play into the hands of the aliens and fight against his own brothers for worldly pleasure.”

12.On December 13,2008,Pir Samiullah, who had formed one of the Lashkars at the request of the Army, and eight of his followers were killed by the TNSM in Swat . The TNSM members captured over 50 AK-47 rifles with ammunition and two rocket launchers issued to the Lashkar by the Pakistan Army

13.Over 40 persons, many of them Shias, including two policemen and four children, were killed and 20 others injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a polling station set up in a school in Shalbandai village, located about six kilometres south of the Buner district headquarters, Daggar, on December 28,2008.The Swat chapter of the TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack.Speaking on the group’s illegal FM radio channel, TTP Swat chapter Deputy Head Maulana Shah Dauran said the bombing was in retaliation for the death of six TTP members gunned down in Shalbandai by a local Lashkar set up by the Army.He warned that the revenge wasn’t yet over and that every person in Shalbandai would be eliminated for killing the Taliban members.

14. In addition to stepping up the attacks on the Lashkars, the TTP has also embarked on a programme of disrupting the movement of supplies to the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port.About 150 containers go to Afghanistan from Karachi every day. A majority of these containers crosses the Torkham border in the NWFP into Afghanistan while others take the Chaman route in Balochistan. In addition to this, about 150 to 200 oil tankers transport fuel from Karachi to Afghanistan via Torkham every day.About 100 tankers carry fuel through the Chaman border post.Around 300 vehicles and containers have been burnt in six attacks since December 1. The TTP has projected these attacks as in retaliation for the Predator strikes on the TTP hide-outs in South Waziristan.

15. Concerned over the attacks, US and other NATO officials have reportedly been negotiating with the authorities of Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for alternate routes to reduce their dependence on the Pakistan route. Not only the TTP, even the religious political parties of Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League are opposed to the movement of supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

16. The TTP, which has till now been attacking the trucks and tankers only after they reach Peshawar, has warned that if the Predator strikes do not stop it will start attacking the supplies everywhere in Pakistan. This would include at the Karachi port itself as the supplies are brought by ships. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Group (IMG), a splinter group of the IMU, are also likely to attack the supply convoys in Central Asia when the US starts using the alternate routes. (29-12-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

December 28, 2008

How India has been influencing Sri Lanka at multiple levels

by Prof. D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke

When we refer to the interaction of India and Sri Lanka in whatever field, we assume that India and Sri Lanka are two separate countries, but there was a time in the distant past when India and Sri Lanka were a single land mass. Even today after the land mass has split, the distance between India and Sri Lanka is only 22 miles. That is the full distance of the Palk Strait.

In earlier ages when transport and communications between countries and contacts were minimal, the only significant foreign impact on Sri Lanka was that of India. Of course, everybody knows that the greatest gift to Sri Lanka made by India, is Buddhism. The religion, which originated in India but was superseded there by Hinduism and Islam, was brought across to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C. by Rev. Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka of India, who founded the order of monks here. He was followed by his sister Sanghamitta Theri, who founded the order of Buddhist nuns here. The arrival of Rev. Mahinda in the 3rd century B.C. is recorded in the Mahavamsa, the Great Chronicle, and substantiated by a rock inscription after his passing away, found in Amparai.

Buddhism is the fountainhead of Sinhalese literature. Pali texts brought by Rev. Mahinda were translated to Sinhalese and designated the Hela Atuva. These texts were translated back into Pali by Rev. Buddhagosha, who came from India in the 5th century. The Sinhala texts were destroyed and Pali became the official language of Buddhism. The earliest extant prose works of importance in Sinhalese date from the 13th century and were pietistic – the Amavatura of Gurulugomi, the Butsarana of Vidyachakravarti. Of special significance for the development of the short story were Dharmasena Thera’s 13th-century Saddharma Ratnavaliya and Saddharmalankaraya (1398-1410) by Dharmakirthi Thera II, based on earlier Pali texts. It has been observed that the Saddharma Ratnavaliya and the Saddharmalankaraya combine an ever present moral and religious didacticism with a surprisingly rich, earthy yet subtle vein of psychological exploration dealing with emotional impulses and social pressures that govern daily life. The Jataka tales (stories of the past lives of the Buddha) which were recorded in the 14th century and were popularized by monks who used these to illustrate their sermons, form a part of a popular oral tradition. These contained the rudiments of fiction which influenced the rise of Sinhalese fiction as from the late 19th century, as well as stimulated later literary works.

The Sinhalese during the long years before the impact of Western literary criticism were indebted exclusively to India, to Sanskrit in particular, for literary touchstones – for ideas as to what constitutes literature, for ideas as to how to appreciate and evaluate literature. The touchstones include alankara (embellishment, decoration), shailya (style), reethi (style in a provincial sense), guna (inherent quality), vakropti (indirection, obliqueness), rasa, auchitya (suitability, appropriateness) and dvani (denotation and connotation). In the 9th century, King Sena’s Siyabaslakara was more or less a translation of Dandin’s earlier Sanskrit work Kavyadarsha which discussed general issues and poetic figures.

Sri Lanka also inherited literary forms from India. Sanskrit drama was, probably, read but was never performed and did not provide a stimulus to local playwrights. On the other hand, Kalidasa’s Mega Dutha or Cloud Messenger inspired a whole host of Sinhalese sandesa or message poems such as the Mayura Sandesaya (the Peacock Messenger Poem) and the Tisara Sandesaya (the Swan Messenger Poem). It is interesting to note that among the Sigiri Graffiti is a Sanskrit sloka written by a visitor from India called Vajira Varman, responding to the frescoes.

It is interesting to note that Sanskrit was not only a seminal influence on the arts in Sri Lanka but that Sri Lanka made a contribution to Sanskrit literature itself by means of a poem named the Janaki harana which has for its subject the story of the Ramayana. Manuscripts of the poem found in the 1950s in Malabar proved that the poet of the Janaki harana was indeed named Kumaradasa. He was not a king but a scion of the Sinhalese royal family, the son of a prince named Manita.

Tamil literature in Sri Lanka lay in the shadow of South India for a very long time, and a distinctively Sri Lankan kind of Tamil literature was unable to emerge until the 17th century. As purist scholars on both sides of the Palk Strait endeavoured to follow a South Indian and Sanskrit tradition, the first Sri Lankan Tamil literary works were written in a religious spirit, the spirit of Hinduism which was another great gift from India. These were confined to commentaries on the ancient classics, tedious and conventional. The first spark occurred in the late 19th century as a consequence of religious zeal and conflict. Christian missionaries sought to proselytize by preaching in the native language, and they enlisted traditional poetic forms to express Christian themes. On the other hand, to combat the inroads of missionaries, Hindu poets created works which explicated and exalted their own religion. This literature too was of a didactic sort.

The South Indian film and dance forms like Bharata Natyam, Kathak and Kathakali continue to exert a potent influence on Tamil mass entertainment and art in Sri Lanka, but the winds of change in Sri Lanka in the 1950s made a deep impact on Tamil writing – fiction, poetry and drama – and brought about a Tamil literature that broke free from South Indian literature and assumed a distinctively Sri Lankan identity. Tamil writing became irrevocably secular and popular in character. Nevertheless the South Indian influence was a catalyst. It should also be observed that dance forms like Bharata Natyam, Kathak and Kathakali have interested Sinhalese performers and audiences.

In the 20th century, among the Indian individuals who exerted an influence on Sri Lankan culture, the greatest was Rabindranath Tagore. He is the only Indian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, a hallmark of world recognition, and the creator of the song in Bengali which was adopted as the national anthem. In his Bengali essays, Tagore stresses that the Bengali word for literature, "sahitya", derives from "sahit" and etymologically means together or intimacy. Tagore was not chauvinistic. He emphasized that an India, bereft of Western contact, would have been wanting in an essential element in her quest for fulfilment. Like Jawaharlal Nehru in The Discovery of India, Tagore believed that the greatest blessing of British rule was that it enabled the heterogeneous country that was India to rise in a single voice, the Indian voice. Tagore expresses his view of freedom:

Where the mind is free,

and the head is held high,

where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up

into fragments by narrow domestic walls.

Tagore seems to me the quintessential Indian.

As commonly in ex-colonies, the presence of the colonial ‘masters’ had a suffocating effect on the creative energies of the local inhabitants in Sri Lanka and the emergence of Sri Lankan English literature flows from the growth of nationalist currents. This growth was stimulated by the freedom struggle in India and by certain remarkable Indians who were active in that period. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the Kandy Lake poets were inspired by Indian poets such as Tagore and Sarojini Naidu. R.K. Narayan’s success in the West is likely to have stimulated Jinadasa Vijayatunga. D.F. Karaka was a household word in Sri Lanka at that time; his fiction and non-fiction would have acted as a stimulus to local writing. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike attended a performance of Tagore’s Saapmochan which Tagore himself staged in Colombo during a visit to Sri Lanka in 1934, and Bandaranaike wrote in his review (which included a quotation from Sarojini Naidu’s poetry):

As commonly in ex-colonies, the presence of the colonial ‘masters’ had a suffocating effect on the creative energies of the local inhabitants in Sri Lanka and the emergence of Sri Lankan English literature flows from the growth of nationalist currents. This growth was stimulated by the freedom struggle in India and by certain remarkable Indians who were active in that period. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the Kandy Lake poets were inspired by Indian poets such as Tagore and Sarojini Naidu. R.K. Narayan’s success in the West is likely to have stimulated Jinadasa Vijayatunga. D.F. Karaka was a household word in Sri Lanka at that time; his fiction and non-fiction would have acted as a stimulus to local writing. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike attended a performance of Tagore’s which Tagore himself staged in Colombo during a visit to Sri Lanka in 1934, and Bandaranaike wrote in his review (which included a quotation from Sarojini Naidu’s poetry):

India has as good a reason to be proud of Tagore as of Gandhi; for he has made an original contribution to art which can stand the test of comparison with anything of the kind the West has evolved.

Ediriwira Sarachchandra (1914-1996), a remarkable bilingual, became the pre-eminent man of letters in Sinhala as well as the leading novelist in English. Some of his formative influences were Indian. When he was a schoolboy at St. Thomas’s College in the 1920s and early 1930s, he came into contact with Tagore, a collection of whose short stories was a prescribed text at the College. The mysticism of Gitanjali made a deep impact on Sarachchandra. He read of Tagore, and of Santiniketan, the institution Tagore had founded in Bengal, where the life led by the teachers and students accorded with Tagore’s credo of ‘high thinking and plain living’ and seemed to Sarachchandra ideal. When Sarachchandra was a student at University College, Colombo, he saw at the Regal Theatre a performance of the same Tagore dance drama which Bandaranaike did, and recorded his experience:

During the ballet we saw the great poet Rabinranath Tagore seated on stage,keeping time with his foot to the rhythm of the music, and savouring the pleasure given by his creation. In his long robe and black headgear, with white hair flowing on either side of his face and a beard that covered his chest, he was an impressive individual with an aura of majesty about him. To see him in the flesh was happiness of a sort I had never hoped for.

Shortly afterwards, Sarachchandra witnessed Uday Shankar dance, with his troupe, at the same theatre. Sarachchandra became enchanted by Bengali music and dance, which he identified as a part of his cultural heritage, and desired to go to Santiniketan to study it. He succeeded in doing so. When he returned to Ceylon from India in 1940, he was a transformed man. He gave up Western dress for the Indian kurta. He was employed for a while as a Sinhala teacher at St. Thomas’s College. The young Westernized students there found him amusing and nicknamed him ‘Tagore’, which Sarachchandra considered a compliment.

Wilmot Perera was inspired by Tagore’s Santiniketan and his association with Tagore himself to found Sri Palee in Horana as a school for music, dance, the fine arts and allied subjects. Perera felt the British system of education in Sri Lanka at that time did not suit Sri Lankans and he favoured traditional learning. He modelled Sri Palee on Santiniketan and followed Tagore’s system as practised there. In fact, Sri Palee was launched by Tagore himself in 1934.

In the last 20 years, translators into Sinhala have shown a remarkable interest in Indian literature, both the literature in English and the literature in the vernacular languages. Bobby Boteju believes that one should know the literatures of neighbouring countries before one ventures further afield. He has devoted himself to translating Indian short stories and translated over one thousand of these. He was the first to introduce R.K. Narayan to the Sinhala reading public by translating Malgudi Days in 1991. He has translated stories by C. Rajagopalachari, the first Governor General of India after Independence, and stories by Asokamitran, originally written in Tamil; stories by Premchand, originally written in Hindi; stories by Takazi Sivasankar Pillai, originally written in Malayalam; stories by Tagore, originally written in Bengali; and stories by numerous other writers.

Translations into Sinhala from the Indian vernacular languages have been usually done via English renderings, but Chinta Lakshmi Sinharachchi has translated Indian vernacular literatures directly from the original languages, Bengali, Hindi and Urdu. She has translated Tagore’s Gora from the Bengali, Premchand’s Godani from the Hindi, Chattopadyaya’s Aranayak from the Bengali, the original texts of Satyajith Ray’s trilogy, Apparajitho, Pather Panchali and Apu Sansar. Among the Indian writers in English, R.K. Narayan has been a favourite among translators into Sinhala: W.A. Abeysinghe has translated Swami and Friends; Kulasena Fonseka The Painter of Signs; Milroy Dharmaratne The Dark Room.

All the translations from Indian literature have been well received by the Sinhala reading public, probably, because of their relevance, given the similarities and links between the Indian environment/culture and the Sri Lankan. It is perhaps too early to think in terms of their impact on creative writing in Sinhala. But there are already signs of influence.

During the Kandy period, the phase before British rule in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese kings brought wives from South India. As a consequence, Carnatic music entered Sri Lanka. In more recent times, earlier Sinhala drama such as the nadagam and nurti use Carnatic music.

Marris College of Music, later named after its founder as the Bhathkande College of Music, at Lucknow has been, and still is, the Mecca for oriental musicians from Sri Lanka. Sunil Shantha, Lionel Edirisinghe and V.S. Wijeratne, all studied there. On his return, Sunil Shantha became the first popular artist in Sinhala music. Amaradeva, who was Sunil Shantha’s violinist, took off from where Sunil Shantha left. He adopted a North Indian style and infused an increased musical content into his songs. Before Sunil Shantha, Sinhala music as practised by Sedris Master and Rupasinghe Master was based on Raghadhari music.

The music of popular Sinhala films was often provided by Indians such as Naushad or copied from India by Sri Lankan singers such as H.R. Jothipala. Sri Lankan popular Sinhala films were, and still are, influenced by South Indian cinema/Bollywood. Indian teledramas dubbed in Sinhala and Hindi songs are popular fare on local television channels.

George Keyt is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s most famous painter. The dominant influences on his art were Hindu mythology and literature. Keyt’s sensuous, stylized art, in turn, had a great impact on younger painters.

The profound influence of India on Sri Lanka in the field of culture has been underpinned by political and economic links. The Sri Lankan Independence movement drew inspiration to a certain extent from the Indian Independence movement. There was cooperation between the Indian National Congress and the Ceylon National Congress. Delegates from Ceylon such as S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike addressed sessions there, while delegates from India such as Gandhi and Nehru addressed sessions here. It was mainly as a consequence of the militant freedom struggle in India that the less militant Sri Lanka won its independence.

In the sphere of economics, India is currently Sri Lanka’s biggest trading partner. In addition to normal trade, there is a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries. India is one of the major investors in Sri Lanka.

The interaction of India and Sri Lanka in every sphere – culture, economics, politics – is now more intense than ever before, while at the same time both countries are more open to influences from other countries as well. Perhaps Gandhi has suggested the final wisdom in this context: to keep one’s windows open while not being blown off one’s feet.

"Good governance" is key for moving toward solutions

by Sie.Kathieravealu

Why did this happen? what are the causes? How to bring peace and serenity to the country?

We should move towards solutions rather than continue to express or analyze the problem.

The main cause for all the ills of any country and every country is the present democratic system of governance which allows "corruption" of all forms to thrive unchecked.

In my opinion "Corruption" includes any kind of waste, neglect and every form of malpractice, dishonesty, abuse, misuse, unreasonable exercise of power, failure or refusal to exercise power, anything and everything left undone which results in the right of the people being denied or impaired.

Without a "just society" in existence much talked about "terrorism" cannot be eradicated. For the creation of a "just society" there should be "good governance" in the country. For the creation of "good governance" in the country "corruption" in ALL its forms must be eradicated. And to eradicate "corruption" the present democratic system of governance, where full power to make final decisions ultimately rests in the hands of one person, must be changed.

So the only way to salvage a country is to change the present system of governance to one that is truly democratic where the final decision-making power will NOT be in the hands of ONE person BUT shared by as many people as possible and thus restricting individual hasty decisions that lead to trouble everywhere.

To make a country truly democratic, the powers of the Parliament (the decision making supreme body of a country) should be split and separated and each of the separated powers must be handled by different groups of persons selected and elected by the people for the purpose of administering EACH SET OF POWERS or duties as the case may be.

Particular care should be taken to see that all powers are NOT CONCENTRATED in one place and that they do not overlap and there must not be a secret budget to be handled by a single person.

All transactions should be transparent including Diplomacy which has to be diplomatically transparent.

One set of powers dealing with the development of the country should be given to the set of representatives at the village level. The people of each and every village must be empowered to determine their way of life (lifestyle). The life-style of a village, its lands and resources shall not be disturbed by external forces. All plans of development of a village that remotely/indirectly affects the village must have the concurrence of the people of that village concerned. Something like the "Gam Sabah" of the past. Village administering itself.

Even now the administration is from village level unto National Level in many countries with many stages in between - one above the other - with powers overlapping and the final decision-making power is at one place - the top. That is the problem and so that system must be changed.

The decision-making powers with regard to every set of powers must be spread through-out the country.

We can lead the world with such a REAL DEMOCRACY with a parliament encompassing representatives from all the villages and starting the administration of the country at the village level and going unto national level.

Mahatma Gandhi wanted the villages of India to be empowered but it has not been implemented by the government of India yet due to human nature of not willing to lose the little power each person (office) is already in possession.

A change in the people's attitude and understanding of the problem is important. They must be made aware of the benefits the "rule of law" will bring to them in the long run. Now they are after short-term profits. They are not considering the future generations. A corrupt-free society will bring-in good-governance that will benefit everyone other than the crooked politicians.

In my opinion the people are ready to change the present system but they are not being given the opportunity by power hungry politicians. I think the countries of the World must move towards this goal and like-minded persons from all walks of life must join the movement and strengthen it. Only then can the people be able to give a send-off to ALL the corrupt politicians of ALL political parties and usher-in a new era of a corrupt-free society in any country.

Rajaji (the last Governor-General of India) tried it in India but was not successful.

Rather than continuing to express and analyze the problem of the day we must move towards a solution.

They (the people) should move away from race/religion/language/class-centered/oriented politics and move towards a needs-focused administration that which is race-blind, religion-blind, language-blind and class-blind for sustainable peace, prosperity and a pleasant living for ALL the people in a country.

December 27, 2008

Whither Leadership qualities among Sri Lanka Politicians

By A. Rajasingam

Leadership is one of the most salient aspects of the organizational context whether it is politics or business. Leadership is difficult to define but it can be described as facing the challenges by demonstrating various qualities accepted by civilized societies.

The Bhagavad Gita while providing means and ways of leading people, emphasizes that leadership qualities focuses on motivation, meaningful decisions and framing plans thereto, firmness in the achievement of goal, excellence in work, controlling of emotions, etc., for all of which mind should be clear. This philosophy is applied not only to the concept of modern management, but also to freedom fighters leading a liberation struggle. This was seen when George Washington, Jawaharalal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and others organized and led their people in obtaining freedom. They have not massacred innocent men, women and children for political ends and even did not had torturing camps.

DS1228.jpg

[Pic: courtesy of sundaytimes.lk]

Had there been an inborn leadership qualities among the Sri Lankan political leaders at or before the independence, such political leaders could have avoided the present conflict between the Sinhala-dominated government and the Tamil people, in spite of the imperfect amalgamation of the Tamil nation and the Sinhala nation under a Unitary rule by the British. Making statements such as “if they want a war, let there be a war” by a President, releasing of a prisoner (Naval rating) immediately after assuming the office of Presidency, protesting vehemently on the streets over the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord and the presence of the IPKF and thereafter going after India, failure to tender an apology for violation of human rights, appointing convicted criminals as Parliamentarians which are a liability and costly affair, maintenance of a mega Cabinet, reluctant to resign on matters of corruption and malpractices by Ministers over National issues followed by a decision of the Supreme Court, conflict between the judiciary and the Executive President and Parliament etc., are matters that raise a question mark on leadership qualities among the Sri Lankan politicians. Similarly leaders leading a liberation struggle engaged in murders, abductions, having torture camps, illegal transactions, conscription by both parties, etc., also do not justify the leadership qualities.

Furthermore, leadership qualities implies sincerity, responsibility, steadiness and discouragement of corruption. The selfish motive of politicians allow room for undue influence for the terrorists to achieve their mission. Had there been selfless motive among the Sri Lankan politicians, the assassinations of A.Amirthalingam V.Yogeswaran, Dr.Neelan Thiruchelvam and Laxman Kadirgamar would not have taken place. If there is a selfish motive, the presence of the element of threat cannot be wiped out from the leadership quality. The leadership quality discouraged the element of threat in the minds of the peace loving people. Greed for Power should not affect the life of ordinary citizens.

Bhagavad Gita stressed the importance of democratic methods even when combating the evils. Every religion like the Bhagavad Gita stresses that the improvement of the basic thinking of humans will automatically enhance the quality of their actions which can be seen in federalism. At this juncture, mention should be made that leadership qualities are found in every sector (be it Health, Social, Police, Transport, etc) for which Canadians are really proud of, while in Sri Lanka the people are deprived of such benefits enjoyed by the Canadians resulting from such leadership qualities. Instead several hundred thousands of lives of innocent people in the current ethnic problem as well as during the time of JVP insurrections were lost due the lack of leadership qualities in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan political leaders has yet to improve their leadership qualities as gar as politics is concerned and realize that Federalism is not separation. Federalism is not the discovery of communal leaders but by eminent persons with leadership qualities who visualized that Federal Government as a Guide to the Provincial Governments which later became a reality. Federalism is a concept that emerged with the independence of the United States of America. The struggle for Parliamentary supremacy was seen during the Stuart period in England and the achievement of the Glorious Revolution in 1688 was due to the able leadership qualities of the political leaders. Similarly in France the works of Mondesque, Rousseau and Voltaire were instrumental for the quest for civil liberties which called for wider participation. The French Revolution marked the beginning of the continuation of democracy, though the foundation for the birth of democracy took place in Greece.

After 1848 Europe saw the beginning of the downfall of Monarch regime and the rise of Republics in general after the First World War. But it is in America, the first federal constitution was realized with the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. It was a successful arrangement between the thirteen colonies which allowed for the spread of representative government based on unity in diversity. Another notable achievement of leadership quality was seen when President Abraham Lincoln won the struggle for the underprivileged class. Thereafter number of countries with large territories and small countries with various races speaking and practicing different languages, and faiths adopted this federal arrangement to meet the legitimate aspirations of the people without any discriminations whatsoever. Such federal arrangements became successful mainly because of the leadership qualities found in their leaders. It is the leadership qualities of the rulers which accounted for the achievement of such a federal arrangement resulting in a remarkable economic development and avoidance of conflicts among citizens.

In Sri Lanka politicians are surviving on the existing divisions of the people in relation to the language, religion and cultures. They do not want to come for a happy compromise for a union of Provinces where the Representatives of the Provinces would be given prominence in matters relating to the economic development of their respective Provinces. This could be seen for the last sixty years ranging several Pacts to the present APRC and still breaking their heads over devolution of power to the periphery. Merely making statements that Sri Lanka is proud to be the successors of a 2500 year old Buddhist civilization is not sufficient, but should have the courage and determination to adjust a federal arrangement to changing conditions. Even Britain, being a Unitary country with an unwritten constitution, passed devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Ireland by way of Acts of Parliament, which in fact was a federal arrangement. The failure to arrive at a meaningful conclusion points out that the Sinhalese politicians lack the leadership qualities. This applies even to leaders leading a liberation struggle when they resort to illegal methods especially violating the laws of other countries.

Politicians failed to realize that the money spent on this meaningless war could have been easily utilized for the development of the entire country with wider participation of the people through Federalism, which has the force of cultivating leadership qualities. Had there been a proper wider participation in the country, Sri Lanka would have been flooded with housemaids and labourers from other countries for development projects. It is a pity to see that that housemaids and labourers, risking their lives, leave for Middle East countries on account of the denial of wider participation by the politicians, all of which call for cultivating leadership qualities of the politicians. The strong motivation among the politicians to build a strong economic Sri Lanka is lacking. Perhaps the politicians wanted this war for their survival to conceal their malpractices which are detrimental to the country.

Further, the leadership qualities can be observed during negotiations. When negotiating for peace, the leader and/or his team should be well versed with the vital issues and the suitable remedies for the unsettled problems, international relations, law, economics, etc. Mention should be made that when the armed conflict between the Sinhala-dominated government and the Tamil people was due to an "imperfect" de-colonization process by the British, the LTTE failed miserably in not pointing out the initial remedy of federalism to the ethnic problem and that the forced marriage of unitary rule had become a futile exercise. Since the LTTE team was inexperienced, it should have got round the Negotiator for a Federal solution so that the Negotiator could have demonstrated his skill to place the ball in Dr.Palitha Kohona's court. Such a technique required for negotiation, calls for leadership qualities. One cannot expect leadership qualities from gun tottering cadres. However, on the Sri Lankan side Dr.G.L.Peiris had shown his skill to give room for accommodation to begin with a confident building measure. Love and compassion (respect for each other) should have been exhibited at the negotiating table.

Had Dr.Neelan Thiruchelvam and A.Amirthalingam been alive, the negotiation would have seen a meaningful outcome with the passage of time which would have drawn the attention of the international community. Negotiation is an art and involves technique. Negotiation helps to build a confident building measure. Even the Palestinian leader Yaseer Arafat and the Israeli leader were brought together at the Camp David Accord which laid the foundation of limited self-rule to Palestinians (itself a symbol of confident building measure) on account of the masterly skills demonstrated by Bill Clinton. History has reminded that the lack of leadership qualities would ultimately pay for heavy loss of lives and destruction of properties.

Terrorism is a 21st century phenomenon. There are differences between the freedom fighter and the terrorist. Piracy, subversive, torture, murder, robbery are all part of terrorism. Though terrorism is carried out on various levels, it deprives a man of his civil liberties. Briefly the element of 'threat to life' would be present in the concept of terrorism, though such act may be in pursuit of political end. As Human Rights is recognized throughout the world by civilized Nations, the need for terrorist acts by leaders carrying on a freedom struggle is not required. A compromise between the oppressed party and the ruling party with the assistance of a moderate State would be more promising. But the trend today is the ruling majority party is reluctant to recognize the right of self-determination of the oppressed community in Sri Lanka. The inevitable thing that cannot be digested by civilized Nations is that innocent Tamils are being abducted and shot not only by Security Forces but also by paramilitary groups when finding difficult to gain support, without realizing the plight of the innocent Tamils. The conduct of the paramilitary groups towards the innocent Tamils reminds of the dogs which cannot straightened their tails forever. Hence the uprising of the aggrieved community leading to bloody battle cannot be ruled out. The root cause for such conflicts is the lack of leadership qualities on both sides.

December 26, 2008

Terrorism & Security in South Asia: Likely scenarios during 2009

By B. Raman

A paper prepared for presentation at the Regional Outlook Forum being organized next month by the Institute For South-East Asian Studies of Singapore. Not to be extracted or reproduced without my permission:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Al Qaeda is organizationally intact, but operationally weakened because of the losses suffered by it in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and because of the strong anti-Al Qaeda measures taken by many countries.

It has not been able to organize any major terrorist strike outside Pakistani territory. Two of the 2008 terrorist strikes in Pakistan----the attacks on the Danish Embassy (June 3,2008) and the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad (September 20,2008)--- had definite Al Qaeda signatures. However, while claims of responsibility in respect of the attack on the Danish Embassy were made on behalf of Al Qaeda, no such claims have been made in respect of the Marriott Hotel attack.

The attack in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, was by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which has emerged as an international terrorist organization on par with Al Qaeda.Its planning to the minutest details, faultless execution and the barbaric methods used against the Israelis and other Jewish persons speak of a possible Al Qaeda hand in the planning and orchestration. The targets chosen by the LET were also the favoured targets of Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban.

Al Qaeda operates where it thinks there are physical security deficiencies and where it thinks it can successfully attack American and Israeli nationals and interests. The physical security deficiencies exposed in Mumbai could tempt Al Qaeda----directly or through intermediaries--- to mount another terrorist strike against American and Israeli nationals and interests in Indian territory.

Indian and Western pressure on Pakistan to act against the JUD/LET combine might affect the chances of its being able to repeat Mumbai—November 26. But there are four other Pakistani organizations, who would be happy to do the bidding of Al Qaeda----namely, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), a rabid anti-Shia organization. All of them except the LEJ have been operating in India off and on. The HUM is a founding member of bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by him in 1998. The LET and the other organizations joined it subsequently.

Of these, the most successful in the Indian territory, after the LET, has been the Bangladesh branch of the HUJI known as HUJI (B). It profits from the presence of a large number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh not only in Assam and West Bengal, but also in other urban centres of India. Successive Governments in Bangladesh have avoided taking action against the HUJI (B) just as successive Governments in Pakistan have avoided acting against the LET. There cannot be effective counter-terrorism in Indian territory without effective action against both the Pakistan and Bangladesh branches of the HUJI and without equally effective action to stop illegal immigration from Bangladesh and to identify and expel those who have already settled down in India.

One of the lessons of 9/11 was the importance of effective immigration control in counter-terrorism. India has the weakest anti-immigration infrastructure among the democracies of the world. There is a lack of political will to act against illegal immigration due to partisan considerations and unwise electoral calculations. The proposed National Investigation Agency and additional powers for the police alone will not be able to prevent another November 26 unless accompanied by strong measures against illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

Whatever be the extent of Western pressure on it to act against the LET, Pakistan is unlikely to give up the use of the LET, the HUJI, the JEM and the HUM against India. In its strategic calculation, that is the only way of changing the status quo in J&K and countering the increasing Indian presence in Afghanistan.

The West is unlikely to increase the pressure on Pakistan to an extent that might hurt it. It needs Pakistan’s co-operation to prevent another 9/11, another Madrid---March,2004 or another London, July,2005. It has sympathies for Pakistan because its co-operation with the US and the rest of the West have made it a victim of jihadi terrorism. During 2008, there were about 90 acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory----- 60 acts of suicide terrorism and 30 of other kinds. The West’s continued dependence on Pakistan and its sympathy for it would put a limit to its support for India.

The ground situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is likely to get worse during 2009 despite the US proposal to induct an additional 30,000 troops and the more robust policy towards Al Qaeda sanctuaries in the FATA promised by President-elect Barack Obama. His options are going to be limited. He could step up the Predator strikes, but these are unlikely to be effective unless driven by precise intelligence. Without a significant inflow of human intelligence, Predator strikes alone will cause more collateral damage and add to anti-US feelings.

There is no convergence of views between the political and military leaderships in Pakistan as to how to deal with terrorism. There is no convergence either among different political formations. Strong sections of its political class such as the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and the religious parties believe that Pakistan’s co-operation with the US against Al Qaeda is the root cause of its problems. They would want Pakistan to opt out of the war against international terrorism. Sections of the Pakistan Army too ask themselves why the Pakistan Army should fight against groups which pose a threat to the US and not to Pakistan.

The Soviet Union failed in Afghanistan in the 1980s because of the failure of the Soviet leadership to attack on the ground the sanctuaries of the Afghan Mujahideen in Pakistani territory. The US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan are failing because of their reluctance to attack on the ground the sanctuaries of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan. Indian counter-terrorism is facing serious difficulties---- which are likely to increase in future--- because of the reluctance of the policy-makers to authorize clandestine actions against the sanctuaries of anti-India jihadi organisations in Pakistani territory.

If the Western pressure on Pakistan to dismantle the LET’s terrorism infrastructure in its territory fails to produce results, India should have an alternate plan ready for appropriate operational options short of a direct military strike.

It is in India’s interest that the US succeeds in its operations against the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda. This would not put an end to Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism in Indian territory, but could make it more manageable. It is not in India’s interest to unwittingly create difficulties for the US war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by engaging in a military confrontation with Pakistan. Obama should be given time to try out his more robust strategy.

In its preoccupation with the external dimensions of the problem arising from Pakistan’s continued use of terrorism, India should not neglect the internal dimensions arising from the grievances in sections of its Muslim youth and the weaknesses in its counter-terrorism community.

There is a need for a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy with strategic and tactical dimensions. The decision to set up a National Investigation Agency and give additional powers to the Police are the building blocks of the strategic dimension. A revamping of the intelligence agencies to improve the flow of terrorism-related intelligence and of the physical security agencies to prevent physical security failures of the kind witnessed in Mumbai by promoting the culture of joint action should also be part of the strategic dimension. The tactical dimension would involve the identification of vulnerable cities and targets and immediate action to protect them.

Preventing another 26/11 should be the immediate priority. Making jihadi terrorism---home-grown or externally sponsored---- wither away through a mix of political, diplomatic and operational measures should be the strategic priority.

THE TEXT OF THE PAPER

India faced six major acts of terrorism in 2008. Of these, four in Jaipur (May), Bangalore (July), Ahmedabad (July) and Delhi (September) were committed by some members of the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which has had contacts with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan. In messages sent before and after the attacks, they described themselves as the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The IM came to notice for the first time in November 2007 when it organized three explosions in three towns of Uttar Pradesh. In a message sent to sections of the media that day, it accused the Indian criminal justice system of being unfair to Muslims. All these four were acts of reprisal terrorism with no strategic objective.

2. During these strikes, the IM did not attack foreigners either in Jaipur, which has the second largest foreign tourist traffic after Goa or in Bangalore which is one of the favourite destinations for foreign business companies.

3. India has been facing terrorist attacks by home-grown jihadi groups since 1993. The defining characteristics of these attacks have been:

• No suicide or suicidal (fedayeen) terrorism. No Indian Muslim has so far indulged in suicide terrorism in Indian territory. The only instance of suicidal terrorism by an Indian Muslim was in Glasgow in the UK in June,2006.
• No barbaric methods such as slitting the throats of the victims. Such barbaric methods are the signature modus operandi of jihadis from Pakistan. Well-known examples---slitting the throat of an Indian passenger on board a hijacked plane of the Indian Airlines in December 1999 by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) of Pakistan and of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in Karachi by the HUM and Al Qaeda in January-February,2002. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM), a Pakistani member of Al Qaeda, who allegedly co-ordinated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, has reportedly confessed before a US military tribunal in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre that he slit the throat of Pearl.
• Reliance more on improvised explosive devices (IEDs) than on hand-held weapons.
• No attacks on foreign nationals except once in 1991 when the J&K Liberation Front (JKLF) killed one Israeli tourist in Srinagar.

4. Of the remaining two terrorist strikes in 2008, one in Assam in October was committed by a local ethnic group with the help of elements from Bangladesh and the other in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, by 10 Pakistani members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). The LET is the militant wing of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), a Pakistani jihadi organization based in Muridke, near Lahore. The US designated the LET as a foreign terrorist organization in December 2001 and the JUD in April 2006. Pakistan, under US pressure, banned the LET on January 15, 2002, but it started functioning under the name JUD. Pakistan denied that the JUD is the same as the LET and refused to ban it. After the Mumbai terrorist strike, the Anti-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council designated the JUD as a terrorist organization. Thereafter, Pakistan has placed some of its leaders, including Prof-Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, its Amir, under house arrest, but has not yet formally banned it on the ground that there has been no evidence, which would justify a formal ban.

5. The defining characteristics of the Mumbai attack were:

• This was the first attack of suicidal (fedayeen) terrorism in the Indian territory outside J&K. All previous fedayeen attacks were in J&K.
• This was the second attack in the Indian territory outside J&K in which all the principal perpetrators were Pakistani nationals. The first one was the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13,2001. Some Indian Muslims played peripheral roles in the attack on the Indian Parliament. One cannot rule out the possibility of similar peripheral roles by Indian Muslims in Mumbai too, but there has been no evidence in support of this so far. All other attacks of jihadi terrorism in Indian territory outside J&K since 1993 were committed by either Indian Muslims or mixed groups of Indian Muslims belonging to the SIMI, Pakistani Muslims belonging to the LET and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and/or the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Bangladesh.
• This was the second attack of jihadi terrorists on India’s economic infrastructure. The first was in March,1993, when a group of Indian Muslims, raised by Dawood Ibrahim, the Indian mafia leader now living in Karachi, and trained and equipped by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), attacked economic targets in Mumbai killing 257 civilians.
• The LET terrorists attacked a mix of targets------ human beings as well as economic capabilities, the man in the street as well as the elite and Indians as well as foreigners.
• This was the first attack by jihadi terrorists on foreigners in Indian territory outside J&K. Since 9/11, there have been 13 targeted attacks on foreigners in the Indian sub-continent---- 12 in Pakistani territory and the Mumbai one in Indian territory. Of the 12 attacks in Pakistani territory, five were on Chinese nationals, four on American nationals and one each on French, German and Danish nationals or interests.
• The LET terrorists in Mumbai killed 160 Indian nationals ---- civilians as well as security forces personnel--- and 30 foreigners. Four of the foreigners were from South-East Asian countries. The remaining 26 were either from Israel or were Jewish persons of other nationalities or nationals of countries which are participating in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
• The Israelis and other Jewish persons were subjected to barbaric torture and then killed. There was no evidence of such barbaric acts against other foreigners.
• This was the first terrorist attack on Israelis and the Jewish people in the Indian territory outside J&K. It came in the wake of intelligence warnings that the LET and the SIMI were planning to attack Israeli tourists in Goa. KSM had reportedly told his American interrogators that Al Qaeda had wanted to attack the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. Mumbai has two establishments associated with Israel and the Jewish people---the Israeli Consulate and a Jewish religious-cum-cultural centre located in a building called the Narriman House. The terrorists came by sea and attacked at night. They chose the Narriman House and not the Consulate because it is near the sea and had Jewish people living there whereas the Consulate has no Jewish people at night.
• There was a mix of modus operandi (MO)--- urban warfare of the kind waged by the Hezbollah in Beirut in the 1970s and the 1980s and orchestrated acts of mass casualty terrorism of the kind waged by Al Qaeda; and old terrorism involving the use of hand-held weapons, hand-grenades and explosives and new terrorism involving the use of the latest communications and navigation gadgetry. The TV visuals from Mumbai during the 60 hours that the attack lasted brought back to the minds of professionals visuals, which used to come out of Beirut.
• There was a mix of strategies---- a strategy for disrupting the till recently on-going Indo-Pakistan peace process was combined with a strategy for acts of reprisal against India’s close relations with Israel and the West. A strategy for discrediting the Indian counter-terrorism community and policy-makers in the eyes of the Indian public was combined with a strategy for discrediting them in the eyes of the international community and business class.
• There was a mix of attacks on the man in the street in public places such as a railway station, a public square, a hospital etc and on the business and social elite in the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi/Trident Hotels. These are not ordinary hotels patronized by tourists who travel on a shoe-string budget. These are very expensive hotels patronized by the cream of the international business class, who visit Mumbai not for pleasure, but for business. Apparently in respect to the sensitivities of the elite, the Governments of Maharashtra and India have wisely chosen not to identify the cream of the business world who were staying in these hotels at the time of the attack.
• The terrorists did not indulge in classical hostage-taking tactics, where one takes hostages in order to put forward a demand. They took hostages and locked themselves in buildings in order to force an armed confrontation with the security forces.
• The grievances of the Indian Muslims was not the cause of the terrorist attack. Pakistan’s strategic objectives against India such as forcing a change in the status quo in J&K and disrupting India’s economic progress and strategic relations with the West and Israel were the motive. Reprisal against the US-led coalition in Afghanistan for its war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda was another motive.

6. There has been considerable criticism of the Indian counter-terrorism community---some justified and some unfair. In September, there were reports from the Indian and US intelligence that LET terrorists in Pakistan were planning to carry out a sea-borne terrorist strike against sea-front hotels in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal hotel. A high-alert was issued. Security was tightened up by the Police, the Navy, the Coast Guard and the security set-ups of the hotels. The terrorists, who had planned to strike on September 26, postponed their attack. There was no fresh information in October. No terrorist strike came. The alert was downgraded in November. The attack came on November 26. It is always a dilemma for the counter-terrorism community as to for how long a high alert should be continued.

7. There has also been criticism of what has been described as the slow response of India’s special intervention forces such as the National Security Guards (NSG). While some Western analysts have criticized their response as too slow taking about 60 hours, some Israeli analysts have criticized it as too hasty, without trying to tire the terrorists out by indulging in talks with them. The NSG did not have the luxury of many options since it was not a classical hostage situation. Their objective was to save as many lives as possible from three different places which were under the control of the terrorists.

8. There are two ways of assessing the performance of the NSG and the Police. The first is from the number of people killed by the terrorists in these three places--- about 100. The second is from the number of people, whom they rescued alive--- nearly 1000. Let us applaud them for saving so many people despite the difficulties faced by them.

9. The most objective assessment of the performance of the NSG and the Police has come from Ami Pedazhur, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of the forthcoming book "The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism," in an article contributed by him to the “New York Times “ ( December 19,2008). I am annexing a copy of this article to this paper.

10. Mr.Pedazhur wrote : “It is clear that the Indian security forces made some mistakes. However, mistakes are inherent in such crises. At the same time, given the complex nature of the attacks, it seems likely the death toll could have been much higher. After the initial confusion, the Indians seem to have done a thorough job of gathering intelligence and carefully planning their counterattacks. The execution itself was careful and thorough.”

11. He added: “The Mumbai attacks showed just how difficult it is for large, multiethnic states to protect themselves from terrorism, something
Americans have known well since 9/11. There is certainly much for New Delhi and Washington to learn from the Israeli experience, but there is
no one-size-fits-all solution. While Israel has much to be proud of in how it has handled terrorism, it also has much to be humble about.”

12. Counter-terrorism is much more difficult in India than in any other country because of its large size, federal constitution which gives greater powers to the State governments in respect of crime control and law and order, multi-party system and coalition governments at New Delhi and in many States. Moreover, India is located right in the centre of the Islamic world with Islamic countries to the East, West and North-West of it. It has the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia. Actions against jihadi terrorists----whether home-grown or externally sponsored--- have to be attentive to the sensitivities of the Muslim community while acting against the terrorist elements from them. This often creates a Hamlet-like situation for the counter-terrorism community. Political consensus on counter-terrorism related issues is more difficult to achieve than in other democracies.

13. India has had a successful record against insurgencies and terrorist groups, whose activities were confined to a single State or region. The difficulties faced by it since November, 2007, are due to the fact that the post-November,2007, terrorism is pan-Indian in nature with a presence in a number of States. To meet this phenomenon, the Government has decided to create a National Investigation Agency to facilitate co-ordinated investigation, which has not been possible till now. It has also added to the powers of the police after the Mumbai strike.

14. Indian counter-terrorism agencies managed to catch alive Mohammad Ajmal Amir Imam, one of the 10 perpetrators trained in Pakistan---initially in a camp in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and subsequently in Karachi--- and sent to Mumbai for launching the attacks. In his interrogation, he has reportedly stated that he and the other nine terrorists, who were killed, were Pakistani nationals, who were recruited by the LET, trained, armed and sent by boat to Mumbai. His Pakistani nationality has been confirmed by independent enquiries made by the Pakistani correspondent of the “Observer” of the UK and sections of the Pakistani media such as the highly-respected “Dawn” of Karachi and the GeoTV. Even his father has admitted in a media interview that the captured perpetrator is his son.

15. In order to disown any responsibility for the terrorist attack, the Pakistan Government has adopted various tactics. Initially, it tried to create an alibi by making a Pakistani lawyer claim that Ajmal Amir Imam was his client, who had been arrested by the Nepalese authorities two years ago and handed over to the Indian intelligence. When the Nepalese authorities denied this, the Pakistani authorities, including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani, have started denying that he is a Pakistani.

16. Because of the death of many foreign nationals, many foreign intelligence agencies----including those of the US, the UK and Israel--- are making their own independent investigation. The Government of India has given them free access to the captured terrorist and allowed them to interrogate him independently. All the agencies have independently of each other come to the conclusion that the arrested perpetrators were Pakistani nationals belonging to the LET, which had trained them in Pakistani territory and infiltrated them into Mumbai by sea.

17. While there has been a consensus among the various intelligence agencies of India and other countries that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has been using the JUD/LET as a clandestine arm for acts of terrorism in Indian territory, there is as yet no consensus as to whether the ISI sponsored the attack in Mumbai. Indian investigators believe so, but the Government of India has refrained from articulating their belief. It has restricted itself to saying that the perpetrators were Pakistani nationals from the LET who were trained for this attack in camps in Pakistani territory.

18.India has made two specific demands to Pakistan. The first is for the arrest and handing over of the Pakistani LET operatives who had orchestrated the Mumbai attack as well as of all Pakistan-based terrorists, who had carried out terrorist attacks in the past. The second is for closing down the terrorist infrastructure of the LET in Pakistani territory. There has been considerable pressure on Pakistan from the US, the UK and other Western countries to meet the Indian demands.

19. The Zardari Government has vehemently refused to do so. It continues to claim that there is no evidence so far to show that the attack was mounted from the Pakistani territory and that Pakistani nationals were involved. It has also stuck to the traditional Pakistani position that no Pakistani national---whatever be his crime--- will be handed over to India for interrogation and prosecution and that the Indian Police will not be allowed to interrogate them in Pakistani territory either. Its so-called actions against the leaders and other operatives of the JUD/LET and other organizations such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) have been a farce. It has not yet formally banned the JUD despite the action of the Anti-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council in designating the JUD as a terrorist organization and four of its leaders, including its Amir Prof-Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, as international terrorists.

20. The strategic significance of the Mumbai strike arises from the fact that the Pakistan-based LET has emerged as an international terrorism organization on par with Al Qaeda. In fact, some US experts view the attack as probably jointly mounted by the LET and Al Qaeda. The LET poses a threat not only to India’s national security, but also to international peace and security. That is the point India has been highlighting in its diplomatic campaign.

GROUND SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN & PAKISTAN

21. The ground situation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region shows no signs of improvement. The Afghan Taliban headed by Mulla Mohammad Omar, which has been fighting against the NATO forces in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in the Balochistan area of Pakistan, has maintained a high level of activity in southern and eastern Afghanistan as well as in the Kabul area. It has shown a capability for conventional fighting in sizable formations of up to 200 as well as a capability for suicide attacks. There have already been over 100 acts of suicide terrorism in Afghan territory till November 30,2008, mounted from sanctuaries in Pakistani territory.

22. The difficulties faced by the NATO forces are partly due to the unwillingness of the Pakistani army to act against the Afghan Taliban, which it looks upon as its strategic ally to regain its influence in Afghanistan. These difficulties have been aggravated by the increase in the activities of the Pakistani Taliban called the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) founded by Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan after the raid by the commandoes of the Pakistan Army into the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) of Islamabad in July 2007 in order to free it from the control of pro-Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda elements.

23. The large number of fatalities of young tribal students---many of them girls--- during the raid caused a wave of anger in the tribal belt, which has not subsided. This anger led to 56 acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistani territory during 2007 . There have already been 60 acts of suicide terrorism this year. Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister, who supported the commando raid, was killed by one of the suicide terrorists on December 27,2007. There has been no progress in the investigation and prosecution of the terrorists responsible for her assassination. In recent months, terrorists of the Pakistani Taliban have also succeeded in disrupting the movement of supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port.

24.The activities of the Pakistani Taliban started initially in the South Waziristan and Bajaur areas of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) adjoining Afghanistan. From there, they spread to the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and they are now threatening Peshawar itself, the capital of the NWFP. There have been repeated acts of suicide terrorism in the Peshawar area giving rise to fears that it could eventually become Pakistan’s Beirut.

25. Suicide terrorists operating from the tribal belt fall into two groups---- those of the Pakistani Taliban and the so-called Jundullas (soldiers of Allah), who are self-motivated individuals without any organizational affiliation. These suicide terrorists have been able to operate not only in the tribal areas from where they often originate, but also in cantonments in the non-tribal areas and even in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, Rawalpindi, where the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Army are located, and Lahore. There have also been reports of clandestine cells of the Pakistani Taliban being set up in Karachi, where there is a sizable migrant Pashtun population.

26. The Pakistan Army, which is greatly concerned over the increase in the activities of the Pakistani Taliban, had mounted special operations against them through the Frontier Corps, a para-military force consisting largely of Pashtuns, in the Swat Valley and the Bajaur Agency. It had also trained and armed tribal militias called Lashkars to counter the Taliban. These Lashkars consist largely of Shias specially trained and motivated to counter the Taliban, which is mainly a Sunni force. This has led to the Taliban indulging in large-scale reprisal attacks against the Shias.

27. Thus, one finds three waves of anger in the FATA, the Swat Valley and in the Peshawar area ---- an anti-Army anger because of the commando raid into the Lal Masjid and the perceived co-operation of the Army with the US in its operations against Al Qaeda, an anti-US anger because of its operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and an anti-Shia anger because of the Shias’ co-operation with the Army as members of the anti-Taliban Lashkars.

28. There have been nearly 30 air strikes by the unmanned Predator planes of the US intelligence agencies against Al Qaeda hide-outs and suspects in the North and South Waziristan areas this year. Some middle and lower level operatives of Al Qaeda were killed in these air strikes. Among others killed by these strikes was Rashid Rauf, a UK citizen of POK (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir) origin, who was suspected to have played an active role in the conspiracy to blow up a number of US-bound planes, which was unearthed by the British Police in August,2006. Senior leaders of Al Qaeda such as Osama bin Laden and his No.2 Ayman Al Zawahiri have managed to avoid capture or death. They continue to guide the activities of Al Qaeda from its sanctuaries in North Waziristan.

29. Apart from Al Qaeda, two other organizations associated with it have their sanctuaries in the Waziristan area----the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG), another Uzbeck organization. While the IMU has a limited agenda relating to capture of power in Uzbekistan, the IJG, which is sometimes also referred to as the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), has a much larger agenda. It refrains from projecting itself as a purely Uzbeck organization. Instead, it projects itself as a global jihadi organization and has been recruiting members from the Pakistani diaspora in Europe---- particularly in the UK and Germany.

LOOKING TO 2009

30. Al Qaeda is organizationally intact, but operationally weakened because of the losses suffered by it in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and because of the strong anti-Al Qaeda measures taken by many countries.

31.It has not been able to organize any major terrorist strike outside Pakistani territory. Two of the 2008 terrorist strikes in Pakistan----the attacks on the Danish Embassy (June 3,2008) and the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad (September 20,2008)--- had definite Al Qaeda signatures. However, while claims of responsibility in respect of the attack on the Danish Embassy were made on behalf of Al Qaeda, no such claims have been made in respect of the Marriott Hotel attack.

32. The attack in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, was by the LET, but its planning to the minutest details, faultless execution and the barbaric methods used against the Israelis and other Jewish persons speak of a possible Al Qaeda hand in the planning and orchestration. The targets chosen by the LET were also the favoured targets of Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban.

33. Al Qaeda operates where it thinks there are physical security deficiencies and where it thinks it can successfully attack American and Israeli nationals and interests. The physical security deficiencies exposed in Mumbai could tempt Al Qaeda----directly or through intermediaries--- to mount another terrorist strike against American and Israeli nationals and interests in Indian territory.

34. Indian and Western pressure on Pakistan to act against the JUD/LET combine might affect the chances of its being able to repeat Mumbai—November 26. But there are four other Pakistani organizations, who would be happy to do the bidding of Al Qaeda----namely, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), a rabid anti-Shia organization. All of them except the LEJ have been operating in India off and on. The HUM is a founding member of bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by him in 1998. The LET and the other organizations joined it subsequently.

35. Of these, the most successful in the Indian territory, after the LET, has been the Bangladesh branch of the HUJI known as HUJI (B). It profits from the presence of a large number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh not only in Assam and West Bengal, but also in other urban centres of India. Successive Governments in Bangladesh have avoided taking action against the HUJI (B) just as successive Governments in Pakistan have avoided acting against the LET. There cannot be effective counter-terrorism in Indian territory without effective action against both the Pakistan and Bangladesh branches of the HUJI and without equally effective action to stop illegal immigration from Bangladesh and to identify and expel those who have already settled down in India.

36.One of the lessons of 9/11 was the importance of effective immigration control in counter-terrorism. India has the weakest anti-immigration infrastructure among the democracies of the world. There is a lack of political will to act against illegal immigration due to partisan considerations and unwise electoral calculations. The proposed National Investigation Agency and additional powers for the police alone will not be able to prevent another November 26 unless accompanied by strong measures against illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

37. Whatever be the extent of Western pressure on it to act against the LET, Pakistan is unlikely to give up the use of the LET, the HUJI, the JEM and the HUM against India. In its strategic calculation, that is the only way of changing the status quo in J&K and countering the increasing Indian presence in Afghanistan.

38.The West is unlikely to increase the pressure on Pakistan to an extent that might hurt it. It needs Pakistan’s co-operation to prevent another 9/11, another Madrid---March,2004 or another London, July,2005. It has sympathies for Pakistan because its co-operation with the US and the rest of the West have made it a victim of jihadi terrorism. During 2008, there were about 90 acts of terrorism in Pakistani territory----- 60 acts of suicide terrorism and 30 of other kinds. The West’s continued dependence on Pakistan and its sympathy for it would put a limit to its support for India.

39. The ground situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is likely to get worse during 2009 despite the US proposal to induct an additional 30,000 troops and the more robust policy towards Al Qaeda sanctuaries in the FATA promised by President-elect Barack Obama. His options are going to be limited. He could step up the Predator strikes, but these are unlikely to be effective unless driven by precise intelligence. Without a significant inflow of human intelligence, Predator strikes alone will cause more collateral damage and add to anti-US feelings.

40. There is no convergence of views between the political and military leaderships in Pakistan as to how to deal with terrorism. There is no convergence either among different political formations. Strong sections of its political class such as the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and the religious parties believe that Pakistan’s co-operation with the US against Al Qaeda is the root cause of its problems. They would want Pakistan to opt out of the war against international terrorism. Sections of the Pakistan Army too ask themselves why the Pakistan Army should fight against groups which pose a threat to the US and not to Pakistan.

41. The Soviet Union failed in Afghanistan in the 1980s because of the failure of the Soviet leadership to attack on the ground the sanctuaries of the Afghan Mujahideen in Pakistani territory. The US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan are failing because of their reluctance to attack on the ground the sanctuaries of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan. Indian counter-terrorism is facing serious difficulties---- which are likely to increase in future--- because of the reluctance of the policy-makers to authorize clandestine actions against the sanctuaries of anti-India jihadi organisations in Pakistani territory.

42. If the Western pressure on Pakistan to dismantle the LET’s terrorism infrastructure in its territory fails to produce results, India should have an alternate plan ready for appropriate operational options short of a direct military strike.

43. It is in India’s interest that the US succeeds in its operations against the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda. This would not put an end to Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism in Indian territory, but could make it more manageable. It is not in India’s interest to unwittingly create difficulties for the US war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by engaging in a military confrontation with Pakistan. Obama should be given time to try out his more robust strategy.

44. In its preoccupation with the external dimensions of the problem arising from Pakistan’s continued use of terrorism, India should not neglect the internal dimensions arising from the grievances in sections of its Muslim youth and the weaknesses in its counter-terrorism community.

45. There is a need for a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy with strategic and tactical dimensions. The decision to set up a National Investigation Agency and give additional powers to the Police are the building blocks of the strategic dimension. A revamping of the intelligence agencies to improve the flow of terrorism-related intelligence and of the physical security agencies to prevent physical security failures of the kind witnessed in Mumbai by promoting the culture of joint action should also be part of the strategic dimension. The tactical dimension would involve the identification of vulnerable cities and targets and immediate action to protect them.

46. Preventing another 26/11 should be the immediate priority. Making jihadi terrorism---home-grown or externally sponsored---- wither away through a mix of political, diplomatic and operational measures should be the strategic priority.(24-12-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

ANNEXURE

From Munich to Mumbai
Author: Ami Pedazhur
Publication: The New York Times
Date: December 19, 2008

NOW that India and the world are over the initial shock of the terrorist attacks last month in Mumbai, efforts to understand what happened and prevent future calamities are being hampered in ways familiar to Israelis like myself, who have lived through far too many such events: pointless efforts to place blame, and a failure to put the attacks in the proper historical context.

First, contrary to much punditry in India and the West, these attacks did not indicate the emergence of a new form of terrorism. Actually,
after decades in which terrorism had evolved mostly in the direction of suicide bombings, Mumbai was a painful reminder of the past.

The multiple hostage-takings and shootings, carefully planned and executed, were a throwback to the wave of hijackings and hostage situations that were the trademark of terrorists in the Middle East from the 1960s until the 1980s. The most famous of these events, of course, was the attack on the Israeli delegation at the 1972 Olympic Games.

In Munich, the Black September terrorists succeeded in capturing the attention of TV viewers around the world for a whole day. They knew most TV networks had sent crews to cover the Games and thus would broadcast the hostage situation as it unfolded.

The terrorists in Mumbai were even more successful, in that they created a drama that lasted much longer. They did so by aiming at high-profile targets like the hotels that are hubs for Western tourists and businessmen. They knew that viewers around the world would be glued for days to the constant stream of images on their TV and computer screens.

In addition, that the majority of the Mumbai terrorists landed from the sea was another ugly flashback. For years, terrorists favored arriving
at Israel's beaches on speed boats to take hostages in residential neighborhoods.

One of the most notorious perpetrators was Samir Kuntar, who in 1979 led a group of terrorists to the beach of Nahariya and shot a police officer and a civilian, Danny Haran, before smashing the skull of Haran's 4-year-old daughter, Einat. Mr. Kuntar was released this year from Israel in a prisoner exchange, and in Damascus was awarded the Syrian Order of Merit.

Yet, despite the horrific nature of the attacks in the past, from a counterterrorism perspective the events in Mumbai were even more worrisome. Though they did not detonate explosive belts, the attackers were truly suicide terrorists. They did not take their hostages for the purpose of negotiations and it is quite clear that they did not hope to leave the scene alive.

They also created chaos by attacking several locations at once. When the terrorists have the advantage of surprise, it really does not matter how well trained the counterterrorism forces are. It takes a long time to figure out what is going on, to gather tactical intelligence and to
launch a counterattack.

No one should be aware of these facts more than the Israelis who in the 1970s endured a series of similar albeit less sophisticated attacks.

Hence, I have been very surprised to hear Israeli security experts criticizing the Indian response. These experts probably forgot the devastating civilian death tolls of the attacks in Maalot in 1974 (22 Israeli high school students killed), at the Coastal Road in 1978 (37 murdered, including 13 children) and at Misgav Am in 1980 (two kibbutz members killed, one an infant). These incidents all illustrated the extreme difficulty of rescuing hostages even when the attacked state has highly trained forces and a lot of experience.

Yes, Israel enjoyed a few successes that have been glorified around the world. The most famous were the raids on hijacked planes in Lod, Israel, in 1972 and in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976. But these two airport rescues cannot be compared with the events in Mumbai.

The Israeli success was due mainly to the fact that the terrorists involved were interested in negotiating, giving security forces the
opportunity to gather intelligence, devise a rescue plan and take the hijackers by surprise. Hostages and rescuers were killed in both cases. Yet no security experts argued at the time that the Israeli forces were inadequately prepared or failed in their execution.

It is clear that the Indian security forces made some mistakes. However, mistakes are inherent in such crises. At the same time, given the
complex nature of the attacks, it seems likely the death toll could have been much higher. After the initial confusion, the Indians seem to have done a thorough job of gathering intelligence and carefully planning their counterattacks. The execution itself was careful and thorough.

Israel and India both face a lasting terrorism challenge. Yet, if I was asked to give India policy recommendations, I would be extremely
cautious about advocating the Israeli approach. Protecting a huge multiethnic, multireligious country like India is far more challenging
than securing a rather homogeneous, tiny state like Israel.

Just to illustrate, Israel's airport security is rightly considered to be a model. However, the Israeli security establishment took years and
experienced a number of direct attacks on travel hubs before it slowly introduced its impressive security measures. That Israel has only one
major international airport - Ben-Gurion, near Tel Aviv - made the process much easier. And so far, Israel has not been able to tightly secure more challenging targets like train and bus systems.

The Israeli experience teaches that countering terrorism is a long and frustrating process of trial and error. Terrorists are fast to respond
to new obstacles.

For example, the security barrier erected after the start of the second intifada in 2000 has brought a sharp decline in the number of suicide
attacks. But Hamas adapted quickly. Suicide bombers were replaced by rockets. While the number of casualties caused by the rockets is
significantly lower, I am not convinced that residents of the towns near Gaza feel any safer.

The Mumbai attacks showed just how difficult it is for large, multiethnic states to protect themselves from terrorism, something
Americans have known well since 9/11. There is certainly much for New Delhi and Washington to learn from the Israeli experience, but there is
no one-size-fits-all solution. While Israel has much to be proud of in how it has handled terrorism, it also has much to be humble about.

- Ami Pedazhur, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of the forthcoming book "The Israeli
Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism."

December 25, 2008

UN Expert Calls on Parties to the Sri Lankan Conflict to Better Protect the Displaced

The Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin, has expressed his increasing concern for Sri Lankan civilians in the northern Vanni region. In a letter today to the Government of Sri Lanka, the Representative acknowledged the Government’s continuing efforts to enable humanitarian convoys to reach the estimated 200,000-300,000 internally displaced persons in the region but stressed that current supplies of food, medicine, emergency shelter and sanitation materials are inadequate to meet the severe and increasing needs of the displaced. The Representative has called on the Government to significantly improve access for more humanitarian relief and humanitarian personnel to reach all civilians in need.

The Representative also raised the situation of civilians who have crossed from the Vanni into cleared areas and are now being held in camps at Kalimoddai and Sirukandal. The Representative observed a legitimate need for screening of armed elements from the civilian population, but recalled that such screening must be concluded promptly and in accord with clearly established and transparent criteria and procedures. IDPs, who are civilians and who retain their right to freedom of movement, must not be detained in camps.

The Representative is concerned by reports that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is restricting IDPs’ freedom of movement and ability to seek safety in another part of the country. Only the most limited and narrow exception would be allowed for a temporary relocation or restriction of civilians, and only then for imperative military reasons or when safety of the civilians so requires. The Representative also cautions that the intermingling of combatants or military objectives within a civilian population violates at a minimum the duty to take precautionary measures and to respect the principle of distinction.

The Representative urges the parties to the conflict to agree a mechanism that will allow safe and adequate access for humanitarian personnel and assistance to all civilians in need in the Vanni. He equally reiterated the obligation of all parties to the conflict to scrupulously respect international humanitarian law, including the duty to take precautionary measures and prohibition of the use of human shields.

December 23, 2008

Sri Lankan Courts and Anti-Tamil Legislation: A lack of Judicial Creativity

by T.Sabaratnam

I covered the first Justice Siva Sellaiah Memorial Oration delivered by Prof. G.L. Peiris, then Minister of Constitutional Affairs in Chandrika Kumaratunga government, on January 12, 1998 for the Daily News. Prof. Peiris spoke about judicial creativity and its limits.

One of the judgments he gave as example for the lack of creativity of our judicial system was the ruling given by the Supreme Court and upheld by the Privy Council on the celebrated case of Kodakanpillai vs. Madanayake.
K.G.S. Nair, whose first name was Kodakanpillai was the Joint Secretary of the Ceylon Indian Congress, which was later renamed Ceylon Workers’ Congress.

His name was removed from the electoral register in 1952 following the enactment of the Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948.

He filed an action in the Kegalle District Court against Madanayake, Commissioner of Immigration and Emigration, challenging the removal of his name. District Judge N. Sivagnanasundaram ordered that Kodakanpillai’s name be restored in the electoral list and held that the citizenship laws were ultra vires of the Constitution.

He held that the citizenship laws violated Article 29 1 (C) of the Soulbury Constitution which provided that no such law shall… confer on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage, which is not conferred on persons of other communities or religions.

The government appealed to the Supreme Court where Chief Justice Jayatilleke, Justice Pulle and Justice Swan quashed the judgment of the District Judge and ordered that there was nothing in the face of the law to indicate that the legislation was intended to apply to the Indian Tamil community. Kodakanpillai appealed to the Privy Council and it concurred with the decision of the Supreme Court and ordered that the citizenship laws were intra vires the Constitution.

Prof. Peiris commented that the court refused to look into the element of discrimination contained in the law, which was so framed as to disfranchise only the Indian Tamils. He said the fact that the second of those laws, the Indian and Pakistani Residents (Citizenship) Act stipulating one’s paternal grandfather and great grandfather had to be born in the country to be entitled to gain citizenship rights, which was a devious and indirect means adopted to disfranchise the Indian Tamils was not taken into consideration. He correctly diagnosed the impact of that decision: “That was the beginning of the process of disillusionment on the part of the minority communities with the judiciary of the land.”

The disillusionment strengthened when the Supreme Court dodged the issue when the legality of the Sinhala Only Act was canvassed before it. In the Kodeeswaran case and in the Trial-at-Bar where former Tamil United Liberation Front leader A. Amirthalingam was charged with sedition the Supreme Court avoided making a pronouncement on that matter.

Kodeeswaran, a government servant, challenged the stoppage of his salary increment because he failed to sit for a Sinhala examination. He also questioned the legality of the Sinhala Only Act under which it was done. O.L. de Kretzer, District Judge, Colombo held that Sinhala Only Act was incompatible with Article 29 and declared that the Sinhala Only Act, bad in law. The Attorney General appealed against that judgment to the Supreme Court. The case was argued before a Bench comprising Chief Justice H.N.G. Fernando and Justice G.P.A. Silva.

The Attorney General raised a preliminary objection saying that a public servant was not entitled to sue the state for arrears of salary. Fernando CJ upheld that objection. He did not call upon the Attorney General to submit his arguments on the Sinhala Only Act.

Kodeeswaran appealed to the Privy Council, which held that Kodeeswaran had the right to sue the state, but declined to comment on the Sinhala Only Act since neither they nor the Supreme Court had heard any arguments on that matter.

The Privy Council remitted the case to the Supreme Court for a hearing on the validity of the Sinhala Only Act and the Treasury circular. The case was not pursued by Kodeeswaran because during the tenure of Dudley Senanayake as Prime Minister in 1965, the Treasury circular stopping the salary increments of those who did not pass the Sinhala examination had been amended and all Tamil public servants received their arrears of salary.

The District Court’s ruling that the Sinhala Only Act was void had not been challenged by the state at the Supreme Court or at the Privy Council. In this sense, the Act remains void in law, but the state decided to ignore de Kretzer’s ruling and live with it, thus debasing judicial process.

In the Trial-at-Bar too the Attorney General withdrew the case after the Supreme Court ruled that the Emergency Regulations under which Amirthalingam was arrested had lapsed and the arrest was illegal. The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to decide on the constitutionality of the Sinhala Only Act.

In this context I wish to record a conversation I had with S.J.V. Chelvanayakam Q.C., the founder president of the Federal Party who led the democratic phase of the Tamil struggle till his death in 1977. I asked Chelvanayakam why his party did not challenge the legality of the Sinhala Only Act before the Supreme Court. His reply was: “It’s useless. It’s a Sinhala Supreme Court. The judges will find some technical reason to dismiss the case.”

He pointed out how a former chief justice Hema Basnayake led the opposition to the District Council Bill after his retirement.

In this context the new activism of the Supreme Court is definitely welcome to the Tamils. Some of its verdicts have benefited them, especially the judgments on road blocks, night searches of Tamil houses, ejection of Tamils from Colombo lodges.

But Tamils who believe in democracy and good governance are worried that the judiciary should not overstep its limits. Strict separation of powers demands that the judiciary should act as a check on the misuse and abuse of power by the executive, but not amount to, to quote Prof. Peiris’s words at the Siva Sellaiah oration, “A direct encroachment upon the legislative function.”

December 20, 2008

The Mumbai aftermath: Need for Indian restraint and a South Asian solution

by Rajan Philips

Not without justification the Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks in Mumbai on 26 November have been compared to al-Qaeda’s aerial devastation of Manhattan in 2001. From the standpoint of Indian political actors and public opinion, it is difficult to resist extending the parallel and taking the fight to Pakistan just as America did after 9/11. The Indian sentiment is tired over the world media’s constant reference to Kashmir as the ultimate cause of the attacks on Mumbai and others before; instead, India wants the world to recognize that there is a whole network of terrorism in Pakistan targeting India and that India is justified in asking for its destruction to India’s satisfaction.

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[On 13th Dec 2008 a group of Indians gathered and protested before WhiteHouse in Washington DC against recent terrorist attack in Mumbai-pic by: Sathish Mantha]


This is strikingly similar to the Weapons of Mass Destruction argument that the Bush Administration used to invade Iraq, with one big difference: there was no WMD in Iraq, whereas Pakistan is replete with terrorist groups some of whom have declared jihad against India. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the Head of the LeT, and Osama Bin Laden have publicly tagged Hindu India on to the axis of the infidels along with the Crusaders, Zionists and Western Christians. They not only challenge India’s position over Kashmir but also envisage restoring Islamic rule over India.

Yet, it would be a bigger mistake for India to undertake a military response targeting terrorist groups in Pakistan than the now acknowledged American blunder of invading Iraq. While India and Pakistan have had border skirmishes over Kashmir sometimes bordering on wars as in 1947 and 1965 (the 1971 war was primarily over the liberation of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, from Pakistan), there was no jihad dimension to these clashes. The jihad dimension in Pakistan is the result of the Afghan contagion, and in India it is creating the potential for a Hindu counter-jihad. A new war between the two countries will not be limited to the two armies at the border but will ignite violence throughout the two societies. There is the even graver risk of triggering the use of the nuclear warheads that the two countries possess.

The Congress government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, unlike the Bush Administration in less provocative circumstances, has shown tremendous restraint in the face of opposition criticism and public outcry for retaliatory action. Their restraint has been vindicated, for now, by the election results from four Indian States, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Madhya Pradesh that were held after the Mumbai attacks. Even while the Mumbai attacks were on, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political flagship of Hindu nationalism, took out front page newspaper advertisements ridiculing the secular Congress’s ineptitude against Islamic terror and asking the people to ‘vote BJP’ to rebuke the Congress. The voters did not agree.

The Congress Alliance won in three of the four States, registering its third successive victory in the capital State of New Delhi to the huge disappointment of the BJP. BJP’s only victory, in Madhya Pradesh, was a victory for the incumbent BJP Chief Minister who showed competence in governance after disastrous performances by his Hindu nationalist predecessors, one of whom was a female Hindu fanatic. The results augur well for an even broader endorsement of the policy of restraint in the national elections due in May 2009. The BJP will have to reconsider its strategy of using Hindu nationalism as its main campaign plank, and the Congress has time to regroup itself nationally and demonstrate to the Indian people that India could deal with Islamic terrorism without succumbing to Hindu nationalism.

The new Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, has declared that the Congress government will respond with “resolve and determination” to the Mumbai attacks. But in dealing with Pakistan, India cannot afford to risk alienating the Pakistani people who are helplessly fed up with the virtual takeover of their country by mostly non-national jihad forces. Simultaneously, India should spearhead a regional solution to what has become the South Asian contagion of terrorism and violence.

Jihad and non-Jihad violence in South Asia

Jihad in Arabic literally means struggle and Islam recognizes four different forms of jihad – struggle against the self, of the tongue, of the hand, and of the sword. According to many Muslims and Islamic scholars, jihad of the sword has been misappropriated by Islamic fundamentalists to justify acts of terrorism. Jihad violence in South Asia emerged only after the regional destabilization following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and its withdrawal. After the Soviet departure in 1989, the vacuum was filled by the Taliban regime and thousands of young men from forty countries, all trained mujahideen (jihad soldiers) ready to spread the cause of radical Islam. The Lashker-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure), the group reportedly responsible for the Mumbai attacks, was founded in 1990 with Saudi money, under the tutelage of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

According to Hussain Haggani, Pakistan’s US Ambassador, the group was created during General Zia-ul Haq’s military dictatorship as the instrument of Pakistan’s “state sponsorship of jihad against India” in Kashmir. It was given a sprawling 200 acre premises near Lahore and a network of Madrassa seminaries, hospitals, mobile clinics and markets throughout Pakistan. Its forays into Kashmir began in 1993, and as many as 750 estimated members, mostly foreign mercenaries, have been operating in Kashmir. LeT and other jihad groups have established links with Indian Islamists and have Islamic networks in Bangladesh and Maldives.

The emergence of Hindutva in India is less a response to Pakistan’s state-sponsored jihad against India and more a reaction to India’s state-sponsored secularism within India. Although an assertive Hindu ideology has existed for most of the 20th century, its political traction began only in the 1980s as a reaction to perceived favoured treatment of Muslim and Christian minorities by the Indian State, legislature and the judiciary. At one level, Hindutva ideologues rail against the smug secular superciliousness of the Congress Party and the Indian Left, and identify the Indian subcontinent as the homeland of the Hindus. They want India to be a Hindu Nation rather than a secular state, and support a more aggressive Hindu response to the Islamic jihad in Kashmir.

At another level, Hindutva storm troopers foment violence against Muslims and Christians. Unlike mob riots of the past, the violence against Indian Muslims is now more organized. A shocking new development is the attack against Christians, about 600 of whom have been killed in the last eight years, in retaliation against Christian conversion of lower caste Hindus. More ominous is the recent exposure of ties between Hindutva groups and sections of the Indian military in organizing attacks against Muslims. The exposure came with the arrests of Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit and retired Maj. Ramesh Upadhya for alleged involvement with Hindutva groups to carry out attacks against Muslims.

The Hindutva phenomenon, notwithstanding the international network of its organizations, is mostly confined to India in its agenda and activities. The BJP is the main political front of the movement striving for power both at the Centre and State levels based on a broad Hindu unity cutting across webs of caste and regional differences. The BJP was in power nationally from 1998 to 2004, and while pursuing a fundamentalist agenda within India, it worked to improve relations with Pakistan.

South Asia is also the site of several non-religious forms of violence and terrorism. Sri Lanka is in the throes of renewed fighting between government forces and separatist Tamil Tigers. The island has seen much violence in the last thirty years. Nepal’s long experience with Maoist insurgency recently ended with the abolition of the monarchy and the assimilation of the Maoists into democratic politics. India has the largest number of incidents of political violence and terrorism. According to one estimate, 231 of India’s 608 administrative districts have active insurgent, terrorist or fundamentalist groups. The number of deaths due to political violence is second only to Iraq. In 2006, 2765 died due to political violence in India compared to 1470 in Pakistan. Although more than 1000 of the 2765 deaths were in Jammu-Kashmir involving Hindu-Muslim conflicts, there are many non-religious sources of political violence in India – remnant and isolated Maoist and Agrarian insurgent groups operating in several parts of India, as well as ethnic separatists active in the northeastern state of Assam and surrounding areas and occasionally spilling over into Bhutan and Bangladesh.

None of these groups, however, have regional implications and even their impact on India’s national stability is minimal given the isolated and spread-out nature of their activities, not to mention India’s behemothian size. However, the human dimension of the rural and agrarian problems and the impacts at the State and local levels are not insignificant. More than 16,000 Indian farmers have been committing suicide annually since 1997, and the State of Maharashtra has been registering 4000 farmer suicides every year for the last three years. Farmer suicides have also been reported with disturbing frequency in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Despite these heartrending numbers, farmer suicides are not sensational to attract world media attention, nor do they preoccupy South Asian religious fundamentalists and nationalists.

A South Asian solution

The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, its subsequent implosion and the end of the Cold War have had two separate and contradictory consequences for South Asia. During the Cold War India and Pakistan were respectively aligned with the Soviet Union and the US with a quiet containment of South Asian differences. The main exception was the 1971 dismemberment of Pakistan (into Bangladesh and present Pakistan); after 1971, India emerged as the dominant regional power. The onset of globalization and India’s gravitation to a market economy have brought India closer to the US in foreign policy, economic priorities and, more recently, in nuclear policy.

The inter-governmental relations between India and Pakistan have been improving after the Cold War, and were supplemented by growing cordiality at the popular and civil society levels. Cross-border televisions contributed to this cordiality and so did tourism and the increasing number of cricket encounters between the two countries. India also began to make conscious efforts to accommodate the interests of its smaller neighbours within the framework of the South Asian Regional Cooperation (SARC). The Gujral Doctrine formulated by Inder Kumar Gujral, India’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minster during the late 1990s, codified the new nuances that India was trying to follow in its neighbourly relations. Countering these positive developments, as I have been discussing in this article, are the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism and the forces of jihad unleashed after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A third development in South Asia during the Cold War with continuing hangovers is what the late E.M.S. Namboodiripad, onetime Kerala Chief Minister and longtime General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), used to call the “internal component” of the Indian national question, but which is equally applicable to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India has had quite a few manifestations of this internal component after independence. It successfully addressed the early eruptions in the South, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The more violent secessionist demand of the Sikhs of Punjab is also reasonably settled. As I noted earlier, ethno-territorial violence haunts the northeast parts of India, but Kashmir is the real thorn on the sides of both and India and Pakistan. The Kashmir question has been a continuing crystallization of the vicious fallouts from colonialism and partition, the Cold War, and now the Afghan imbroglio.

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[The proper solution to the war in Sri Lanka is Thamizh Eelam, says a placard carried by the protestors opposite the Sri Lankan Deputy High commission in Chennai in Sep 2008-pic:TN]

Pakistan’s national question has its own internal components involving the ethno-territorial conflicts among the Punjabis, the Sindhis and Pashtuns. But their conflicts are mostly submerged by Pakistan’s overwhelming problem of Islamic fundamentalism and the related sectarian infighting between the Sunnis and Shiites. The Sri Lankan crisis has proved itself to be internally intractable although it has minimal regional or extra-regional security implications. This is notwithstanding India’s implication in the crisis on account of its past involvements and the new outcry in the southern State of Tamil Nadu that has linguistic and cultural affinities with Sri Lankan Tamils, over the plight of Tamil civilians caught in the crossfire.

Nonetheless, the three South Asian developments – post-Cold War, post-Afghanistan, and post-colonial hangovers, are interconnected although not uniformly or consistently. As I have been arguing, the post-Cold War development of somewhat improved relationship among South Asian countries is being undermined by the jihad fallout from Afghanistan, with Kashmir providing the fault line between the two. The aftermath of Mumbai is that more jihad attacks from Pakistan targeting India will only provoke belligerent Hindu fundamentalist calls for retaliation. It should be commonplace that jihad attacks from Pakistan and military retaliations by India will feed each other in an endless vicious circle of violence. The question is how to prevent the two countries and the rest of South Asia getting trapped in this vicious circle. The answer, it would appear, lies in a coordinated approach comprised of bilateral, multilateral as well as South Asian regional elements.

There are reasonably encouraging signals from Pakistan even though India may want Pakistan to do more and a lot sooner. Despite the official insistence on Indian proof that the Lashkar group masterminded the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s President in a rare op-ed article in the New York Times has acknowledged Pakistan’s predicament in dealing with the terrorist fallouts from the Afghan imbroglio. He has asked India to show patience and understanding, and for India and others to help Pakistan overpower the forces of fanaticism, install democratic infrastructure and rebuild its economy.

India would do well to take President Asif Ali Zardari at his word and hold him to it. Ordinary Pakistanis, civil society activists, professionals and many of the political actors would really like Pakistan to get rid of the jihad groups and the terrorist network. The Pakistani army itself is not monolithically hawkish, or fully identified with jihad forces. India should make its appreciation of these differences clear to the people of Pakistan and the only democratic instrument they have – the Zardari government. India should leave the difficult task of pressurizing Pakistan to systematically take on the jihad groups to the US and the NATO countries. In any event, the terrorist network in Pakistan cannot be dealt with in isolation from the goings on in Afghanistan. The incoming Obama administration has its work cut out in embarking on a triangulation exercise of an international kind, involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

On the vexed question of Kashmir, Pakistan would be well advised to avoid the ‘K’ word to provoke India in international parleys, such as it did at the UN recently. Just as Pakistan is asking for patience and help to put its house in order, so must India be given the time and space to rethink its position and explore new possibilities for Kashmir. As Tariq Ali recently remarked, a feasible solution to the Kashmiri problem as well as the Tamil question in Sri Lanka could well be a South Asian arrangement that recognizes, where necessary, ethno-territorial autonomies within the existing state boundaries.

The first of the five principles of the Gujral Doctrine is for India not to ask for reciprocity in its relations with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, but to give and accommodate what it can in good faith and trust. By and large, India has been acting in this manner with these countries both before and after the Gujral Doctrine. Strange as it may seem, India should apply the same principle to Pakistan without seeming to be condescending. Even if the government of Pakistan is not “an innocent bystander”, as Fareed Zakaria, a Mumbai born American Muslim, has called it, the people of Pakistan are innocent bystanders as jihad terrorists launch attacks on India. And the Pakistani people need every help they can get to rid of the menace in their nation’s bosom.

Underreported Sri Lankan conflict deadlier than Afghan war

Time Magazine Online in a recent special report states that judging by the death toll the Sri Lankan conflict is deadlier than the war in Afghanistan in the year 2008.

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[pic appearing on Time online by: Ishara F. Kodikara-AFP]

Ranking as the # 3 Underreported News of the year, The Time magazine said:

In January the Sri Lankan government pulled out of its shaky 2002 cease-fire agreement with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in an official nod to the fact that the country is once again engaged in civil war. Deadlier this year than the fighting in Afghanistan, the combat has raged largely under the radar because the government has banned from the war zone foreign journalists as well as most aid groups, which is bad news for the 300,000 Sri Lankans who have been forced out of their homes.

Time online's List of Top 10 Underreported News Stories:

1) The Pentagon's latest nuclear snafu
2) Civil war displaces a million Congolese
3) Sri Lankan conflict deadlier this year than Afghanistan
4) A victory for mental-health advocates
5) Genetically modified meat: coming soon to a grocer near you?
6) Southern Baptists decide against pedophilia database
7) More Mexican immigrants move home
8) A gap in genetic nondiscrimination law
9) U. S. ships sand from Kuwait to Idaho
10) Venezuela's potty-mouth President

December 19, 2008

Ten British MP's spoke on Tamil plight during adjournment debate

10 Members of Parliament from all three main political parties representing the people of the United Kingdom, without exception spoke in favour of Tamils, in the allocated 14 minutes during the adjournment debate on Dec 18th secured by the Hon Andrew Pelling MP for Croydon Central.

The fact that many MPs turned up for this debate especially being the final item at the end of parliamentary session before the Christmas recess was itself commended by MPs, British Tamil Community and political observers.

Varied in their concerns MPs highlighted from the abuses of human rights by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), use of banned cluster bombs by the GoSL, the indiscriminate nature of the aerial bombardment to the genocidal war that has been perpetrated by the GoSL against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.

Many MPs including the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Hon. Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell) condemned the GoSL and its High Commission here in the UK for its attacks on MPs who raise their genuine concerns against human rights violations and against the genocidal war that has been waged by the GoSL against its own people.

" Anyone who dares give any consideration to the prospects of genocide in Sri Lanka is described as a terrorist” , observed a MP at the UK Parliament

MPs also highlighted how British citizens and organisations have been targeted by the Sri Lankan High Commission here in the UK in falsely accusing them of being aiding and assisting terrorists.

They also suggested that the proscription of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in this country should at least be partially lifted for political and humanitarian work to take place.

A direct comparison was made with how the ban on People’s Mujahedeen was partially lifted for that organisation to conduct political and humanitarian work.

The need for international intervention in some form or other (Commonwealth, UN, EU, Norway, India, The US, Japan and G20 were some of the suggestions) was stressed by many MPs including, Hon Andrew Love (Labour), Hon Simon Hughes (Lib Dem), Hon Jeremy Corbyn (Lab), Hon John McDonnell (Lab), Hon Paul Burstow (Lib Dem), Hon Susan Kramer (Lib Dem), Hon Andrew Dismore (Lab), Hon Andrew Pelling (Independent), Hon Lee Scott (Conservative), Rt. Hon Keith Vaz (Lab) and the Hon Minister Bill Rammell (Lab).

Mr. Scott MP (Conservative – Ilford, North): “In the past few years, Iraq has put on trial its leader, Saddam Hussein, who bombed and killed his own people. Exactly the same thing is being done by the Sri Lankan Government now”

Lobbying by the British Tamil community of the UK political establishment, law makers and civil servants highlighting the plight and suffering of Tamils in Sri Lanka is slowly making progress, it seems.

It is evident and commendable that following the adjournment debate that was secured by Hon Simon Hughes MP in January 2008 soon after the unilateral abrogation from the internationally sponsored Ceasefire Agreement by the Government of Sri Lanka, there have been many such debates including today’s and many questions written and oral both at the Houses of Parliament and the House of Lords and Early Day Motions raised by various Hon Members of Parliament and Noble Lords of cross parties.

(This is a press release by the British Tamils Forum)

December 17, 2008

Barrirers in implementing the 13th amendment of the constituition

By M.I.M Mohideen

Devolution of power was first introduced into the Sri Lankan Constitution with the passage of the 13th Amendment, certified on November 14, 1987, following the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 29, 1987. Although the scheme of devolution was meant to cover the nine provinces, it is indisputable that the catalyst was the ethnic conflict and the need for a politically negotiated settlement by addressing the legitimate grievances and aspirations of the minorities of Sri Lanka--the Tamils and the Muslims.

Owning to the President intervening and proposing that the 13th Amendment be first implemented until the final report of the APRC is made available the full implementation of the 13th Amendment has become a prerequisite for a possible negotiated solution to the national question in Sri Lanka. When the 13th Amendment was first introduced in 1987, the minorities expressed strong reservations about many aspects, including the provisions on land, law and order, role of the Governor and on the limited financial powers granted to Provincial Councils. Most of our Chief Ministers from both the UNP and the UPFA are now expressing the same frustrations that were expressed initially by the minorities.

The 13th Amendment in practice

The three lists are the Provincial List, Concurrent List and the Reserve List. The list dealing with Central Parliament powers is drafted in a very expansive and inclusive way, whereas the list dealing with Provincial powers is drafted in a very narrow and restricted way. If you look at the provisions which deals with Local Government, something that can be devolved without any problems with respect to national security or sovereignty, you will see that it is drafted in such a way that there are lot of conditions attached. This means that the Central Parliament retains powers over a number of aspects of Local Government. Land is even more interesting. It talks about alienation and use of land to be a provincial subject. Provinces are given responsibility over land is through the establishment of an institution called the National Land Commission. The Commission is to consist of Central Government representatives and Provincial Council representatives, so that the provinces also have some sort of say over the use of land. But for twenty years, the National Land Commission has not been established.

There is no criteria spelt out as to what is a ‘national school’ and what is an ‘ordinary school.’ The Central Minister of Education can wave his ministerial wand and convert a school from an ordinary school into a national school, thereby taking it under the control of the Centre. While the Provincial Council elections were on, the Minister of Education declared a number of schools in Ampara District to be national schools.

The 13th Amendment says national highways are matters for the Centre. Who decides what a national highway is? Under the Thoroughfares Ordinance, there is an amendment, Section 5A introduced in 1988 which empowers the Minister, either to declare a road or a class of roads. So he has declared all ‘A Class Roads and B Class Roads as national highways. The roads connecting Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Pottuvil all along the eastern coast are either A or B - that is for the Centre.

For over twenty years, the provisions on police matters have not been implemented. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution devolved police powers to a certain extent on the provinces and also provided for the establishment of Provincial Police Commissions. Yet, none of the provinces other than the North-East showed any interest in establishing its police force. When she was the Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council in 1993/94, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga insisted that the police powers be vested in the Provincial Councils, but she did not sign the relevant gazette notification when she became the Executive President.

In last year’s meeting of Chief Ministers, a resolution was adopted to push for land and police powers to the provinces. SLFP General Secretary and Minister Maithripala Sirisena said in May 2008, that the Government would devolve all powers including police powers to the East in accordance with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Eastern Province Minister M.L.A.M. Hisbulla has also told recently that a three member committee would be appointed soon to grant land and police powers to the Eastern Province.

Article 1 54G about the power relating to executive matters

The Provincial Councils have the power to make statutes. Unless and until statutes are made in respect of Provincial Council subjects and Concurrent subjects, the Provincial administration will not be able to exercise executive powers. The average delay in the Attorney General’s Department after a draft has been sent is 2-3 years and this is what has affected the legislative capacity of Provincial Councils. In 2003, the Supreme Court unanimously held that paddy cultivation is a matter for the provinces. However, even after that judgment was delivered, Provincial Councils still do not implement it. The Centre is not giving up and the Provincial Councils do not want to take over. This is the unfortunate situation.

The Cabinet Ministerial Sub-Committee appointed on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment has not met yet. The Minister of Constitutional Affairs is not a member of that Committee. Neither is Prof. Vitharana who is the Chairman of the APRC. When the 13th Amendment is the law of this country, what the Eastern Provincial Council could do is to pressurize the Government. First tell them “Stop declaring national policy on Provincial and Concurrent list subjects without consulting us.”

Specific problems encountered by the North-East Provincial Council

The problems that the elected North-East Provincial Council (INEPC) faced from December 1988 to March 1990 are with regard to the implementation of the powers devolved by the l3th Amendment. The 16 month administration of the first Provincial Council for the merged North-East was mired in controversy and a fight for political survival. It was reported that the Muslims in the North-East were harassed by province’s ruling Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) and their guardian - the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). On March 1, 1990, Varadharaja Perumal, the then Chief Minister of the merged N and E, convened a special meeting of the North Eastern Provincial Council and announced an ultimatum to the Premadasa Government for the fulfilment of 19 demands of his party, the EPRLF. The reason was that the Provisions of the 13th Amendment were not fully implemented —powers on police and land were not granted to the periphery.

Problems in respect of the administrative structure

The implementation of the devolution of powers down to the grassroots level cannot take place without the NEPC exercising control over the District Kachcheri System, the Divisional Assistant Government Agents and the Grama Sevaka Officers. A request was therefore made to the President to transfer the District Kachcheris in the provinces and the offices subordinate to it, to the NEPC. The President was not agreeable to that request but decided on an alternate solution, which was for both the NEPC and the Central Government to have control over the District Government Agents, while only the NEPC was to exercise control over the Divisional Assistant Government Agents and Grama Sevaka Officers. Subsequently, the President even made the appointment of the Government Agent Trincomalee without consulting the Chief Minister, and reversed the earlier directions regarding NEPG control over the Divisional Assistant Government Agents and Grama Sevaka Officers. The President also proceeded to elevate the Government Agents as District Secretaries on par with Provincial Secretaries. He also elevated Divisional Assistant Government Agents as Divisional Secretaries on par with Provincial Heads of Department. These executive actions frustrated devolution of powers Thus, the institutional structure to implement devolution at the district level and below became a major problem, reducing the NEPC to a glorified Municipal Council in Trincomalee.

Sinhalisation of the Eastern Province

After de-merging of the East in October 2006, the Eastern Province administration was ethnically transformed. There are many Sinhalese ex-servicemen now in key positions. The Eastern Province Governor, the Government Agents of Ampara and Trincomalee Districts, the Rehabilitation Coordinator, the Governor’s Secretary, the Provincial Chief Secretary and the Secretary to the Eastern Province Public Service Commission are all Sinhalese. The Land Minister in the Eastern Provincial Council and the Secretary to this Ministry are also Sinhalese. Although 80% of schools in the Eastern Province are Tamil medium schools, the Education Minister is a Sinhalese. The combination of Sinhala administrative and security officials are well equipped for the rapid implementation of the Sinhalization programme of the Eastern Province.

Shortage of management services personnel

There is an acute shortage of engineers, accountants and administrators to work in the Provincial Councils. The Centre was not at all helpful in meeting the requirements of the PCs. The NEPC took the next logical step of calling for applications and recruiting engineers and accountants. This was strongly resisted by the Central Ministry in charge--Public Administration. That Ministry even wrote to say that the recruitment of engineers and accountants was the prerogative of the Centre. When the NEPC was earlier pleading for engineers and accountants, that Ministry turned a deaf ear. It was at that stage that the Chief Minister A. Varatharaja Perumal remarked that even if the Sinhala political leadership of Sri Lanka wished to keep the country united, the bureaucrats in the Centre would ensure the division of the country.

Conclusion

1. Most of the Sinhala Politicians have an anti-devolution mindset.

2. The all-island management services is not devolution friendly.

3. The existing institutional structures in the provinces and the districts are not conducive for devolution.

4. Even after all the Provincial Councils came into existence, only the NEPC was clamouring for institutionalizing devolution of powers. The other provinces waited for the benefits of devolution to accrue to them through the efforts of the NEPC.

5. All the three Lists of devolution given in the 9th Schedule to the Constitution are weighted in favour of the Centre, due to the unitary character of the Sri Lankan Constitution.

6. The unitary character of the Sri Lankan Constitution helps the Sinhala majority central authorities, most of whom have an anti-devolution mindset to infringe upon the powers devolved to the minorities.

7. The experience of the last twenty years shows that even the minimum devolution to the minorities will not be possible until the anti-devolution mindset of the Sinhala politicians and bureaucrats is first got rid of.

Today there is no democracy in the Eastern Province. Election monitors have said that the Eastern Provincial Council Election was the most corrupt election ever held in Sri Lanka. The Tamil community cannot go about freely, the Muslim community cannot go about freely and even the Sinhalese community cannot go about freely in the Eastern Province. If the para-military groups are not disarmed and the 13th Amendment is not fully implemented immediately, the minorities in the North-East would soon join hands to mobilize local and international support to protect their legitimate constitutional rights in Sri Lanka.

Funeral Fracas: Martyred commando's father vs.Marxist Chief Minister

By M.S.Shah Jahan

"Is there a rule that the chief ministers of Kerala and Karnataka should be there at the same time?"

It was 29th November 2008. The above out burst was from the Chief Minister of Kerala, V. S. Achuthanandan in reply to angry media personnel’s question, why he did not attend the funeral of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan in Bangalore, a son of Kerala and a NSG – National Security Guard commando who died in the terrorist attack on Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on the 26th November, while the Chief Minister of Karnataka B. S. Yeddyurappa and his cabinet were present through out, and politicians of all hues from Karnataka were there in full strength at the funeral.


The CM never realized that his words would spin him to a whirlpool of outrage. Since there is no accountability on VIP’s words in our part of the world, to get away from a situation they utter what ever that comes to their mind without minding their language, and later if happens to face criticism, they unhesitatingly use the age old card of "press misquoted"- just because they are powerful or influential.

In this high tech electronic era there is no room for the press to misquote when every breath can be recorded but the press might keep mum in fear of the sticks VIPs carry when they refute their own statement. But the fact is most of these VIPs are ignorant of modern gadgets.

Within few hours Kerala started boiling as the media went all out against the communist Chief Minister. Opposition parties including the BJP accused the state of insulting the martyr and showing disrespect to the Kerala-born soldier, by not sending any minister to his funeral. The parties pointed out that there was a partial hartal in parts of Kerala when even former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was hanged.

As the heat became unbearable, next day Sunday 30th, accompanied by his home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Kerala CM rushed to Bangalore without realizing the cold reception awaiting him there. Sandeep’s father was angry with Kerala government for the state had not conveyed a timely condolence even.

As a mark of protest he declined to receive the ministers when he was called five to six times on phone, did not allow police sniffer dogs into his house and told the security personnel who came there ahead of the Kerala CM’s visit, that no Kerala politician is welcome there. Unnikrishnan further reportedly said he would commit suicide if any of them entered his house.

Despite of the cold atmosphere, Achuthanandan and Kodiyeri visited the commando’s parents to convey the state government’s condolences. But the attempt backfired as the family shut the doors. Sandeep’s father remained firm and refused to meet the leaders from his own state, expressing his anger so strongly that officials accompanying the ministers had to restrain him while the police persuaded Dhanalakshmi, the slain commando’s mother, to talk to the visitors.

But the dead commando’s furious father who agitated against the CM’s presence, shouted at them to leave at once and refused to let them into the house, using harsh words before asking the duo to "get out’’ of his house. Amid pandemonium, Balakrishnan gave words of comfort to Dhanalakshmi and Achuthanandan followed him. Unnikrishnan, who hails from Kerala’s Kozhikode, had told his friends that his son, whose valour was witnessed by the entire country, did not belong to Kerala alone but to the entire nation.

On the other hand, Kerala CM who was infuriated by this insult retorted to a news channel in Bangalore, "not even a dog would have visited the house’’ had it not been the martyr’s. "Is there a rule that the chief ministers of Kerala and Karnataka should visit together. Not even a dog would have glanced that way had it not been Sandeep’s house. Our attachment to Sandeep’s family is special. Should not Mr.Unnikrishnan, a soldier’s father understand this?’’

Dog may be a pet domestic animal but when it is quoted in speech it is used to express disrespect only. Even the Iraqi journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi who threw shoes at President Bush in Iraq on the 14th shouted at him in Arabic, "You dog!" CM’s insensitive remark rekindled the subject not only in Kerala but through out India and caused a huge uproar in the Kerala Assembly making the Left parties red faced. Though pressure mounted on the CM to apologies he stead fast refused.

"I did not say anything wrong. We respect their family and that is why we went there," defiant CM told TV channel Times Now. "I was not angry at their behaviour. When I and the state home minister went there, his (Sandeep’s father) wife and relatives told us that his mental state is not right, so please don’t misunderstand him," he said.

"He (Sandeep’s father) says that the Kerala chief minister did not come whereas the Karnataka chief minister came in the morning itself...and that Kerala has ignored him. He got all worked up over this," Achuthanandan said in Thiruvananthapuram. The chief minister asked, "Is there a rule that the chief ministers of Kerala and Karnataka should be there at the same time?"

CP Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat, who is also a Keralite, described in a brief statement "Certain remarks made by Achuthanandan are regrettable." "I have spoken to him (chief minister) over telephone. He has assured that he had no other intention but to go to the home of Unnikrishnan, who was brutally killed by terrorists, to pay homage and to offer his condolences."

Though, Karat apologized for Kerala CM’s remarks, unapologetic CM bounced back and told a TV channel, No apologies to slain major’s dad. "I did not say anything wrong. We respect their family and that is why we went there. I was not angry at their behaviour. When I and the state home minister went there, his (Sandeep’s father) wife and relatives told us that his mental state is not right, so please don’t misunderstand him," he said.

The Left faced the heat, as protests mounted in Kerala now demanding that the CM be sacked. For the CPM, V. S. Achuthanandan has become a huge embarrassment. The Marxists found itself in an untenable position, forced to chastise a state CM and senior member of the Politburo for his loose comment.

The opposition asked the Chief Minister to issue an unconditional apology and threatened to walk out from the state assembly if their demand was not met. Finally the dawn arrived on the 3rd of December when Kerala’s mighty Rajah Elephant knelt down.

"I deeply regret my comments," said the Kerala CM. "If my comments have hurt Major Unnikrishnan’s family, I’m sorry," he added.

Achuthanandan spoke before Kerala Assembly amidst immense pressure to quit for his comments. He said his comments were misinterpreted and that he was quoted out of context. He also went on to say that he was hurt and felt regret. He lashed out saying that instead of giving due importance to the Mumbai attacks, the media was giving more importance to this particular matter, blowing it out of proportion.

In the mean time Unnikrishnan said that he holds no grudge against politicians, it was for a specific reason that he turned the Kerala CM out. "The Kerala government did not respond spontaneously to the hero’s sacrifice but after they saw media reports, they tried sending their condolences".

"The family was not expecting something special from the Kerala government. A spontaneous gesture would have done for a hero born in that state. I don’t like someone acting under compulsion or duress. It seems the Kerala ministers did so after media reports. The Karnataka ministers immediately responded made all the arrangements and came to meet us. I never refused".

Besides, on the 7th December a press release from the Karnataka Chief Minister’s office said that the Karnataka government had sanctioned Rs. 30 lakh to the family of slain NSG commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan. "A cheque of Rs. 30 lakh will be sent to Unnikrishnan, father of slain major Sandeep Unnikrishnan" it said.

On the other hand as a rare tribute, on Sunday 14th, Army chief Deepak Kapoor said, hundreds of Sandeeps were ready to protect India. "Though we may have lost one Sandeep Unnikrishnan, we are preparing many such officers here at the Indian Military Academy,’’ he said after reviewing the passing-out parade and oath-taking by newly-commissioned officers at IMA in Dehradun.

December 16, 2008

The international community Must Speak Up On Human Rights Situation in Sri Lanka

by Charulata Hogg

In the week of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, three media workers – a journalist, a publisher and his wife – will complete nine months in prison in Sri Lanka. The three are being held under the country's sweeping anti-terror laws, aimed at the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has been fighting for an independent Tamil state for nearly three decades. They are the latest victims of the increasingly authoritarian government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

A columnist for the island's Sunday Times, JS Tissainayagam is the first journalist to be charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in its almost 30 years on the statute books. His crime? The government cites two articles in a July 2006 editorial in the North Eastern Monthly. One, under the headline, "Providing security to Tamils now will define northeastern politics of the future," says, "It is fairly obvious that the government is not going to offer them any protection. In fact it is the state security forces that are the main perpetrator of the killings."

JSST1216.jpg

[Journalist J.S. Tissainayagam (C) is escorted to High Court by prison officers in Colombo November 5, 2008, pic: Buddhika Weerasinghe, via Yahoo! News]

Passages such as this are classic free speech, yet Tissainayagam is currently on trial at the high court in Colombo. There have been many irregularities in the case, such as the refusal of the government to allow private consultations with his lawyer, which is the basic right of any detainee.

Tissainayagam is not the only critic of the government's military campaign, which started afresh in early 2006. Human Rights Watch and others have reported on the government's responsibility for enforced disappearances, targeted killings, detention of displaced persons, and unnecessary restrictions on humanitarian aid. The LTTE – progenitor of suicide bombings – has continued to target civilians, particularly moderate Tamils, place strict limits on basic freedoms in areas under its control, prevent civilians from fleeing combat areas, and forcibly recruit adults and children as soldiers.

In echoes of the discredited rhetoric of President Bush, in December 2006 President Rajapakse asked Sri Lankans to make a choice – either to be for the "war on terror" or against it. Since then, critics of the government have been threatened, attacked, disappeared, killed or jailed. The attacks have spread to foreign governments and international organisations who raise human rights concerns with Sri Lanka. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, Sir John Holmes, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Crisis Group, and the International Commission of Jurists have all been accused of essentially being in league with or dupes of the LTTE after criticising the government on rights.

These attacks are taking place in a country where a potent cocktail of ethnicity, language and, to a certain degree, religion have long polarised the majority Sihalese and minority Tamil populations. And while the Sri Lankan government certainly has a responsibility to fight terrorism and criminality, it must do so consistent with international human rights law.

Those in the LTTE responsible for horrific attacks like the 1996 bombing of the Central Bank building in Colombo and numerous other attacks targeting civilians before and after must be punished. But arbitrarily arresting and detaining journalists and others will not root out terrorism. On the contrary, acts like these will only succeed in alienating those who also oppose the LTTE's tactics.

Ironically, President Rajapakse was himself once a human rights activist. In the aftermath of a leftwing Sinhalese insurgency in the late-1980s he worked closely with an organisation to collect information for family members of the "disappeared." Tissainayagam worked on the report which Rajapakse took to the UN in Geneva, demanding action against those responsible. Today Rajapakse's government angrily denounces the UN and its mechanisms when they take the government to task.

Rajapakse makes two arguments to defend himself against critics: first, that the government is fighting terrorism, so critics must not be genuinely committed to fighting terror. Second, since he and his government were elected they have the legitimacy and right to pursue their policies. Neither of these points, of course, provides any excuse for jailing peaceful critics, engaging in forced disappearances, or denying access to the UN to provide humanitarian aid to hungry Tamils trapped in the fighting in the north. And if press freedom is a fundamental part of a functioning democracy, then the vibrancy of Sri Lanka's democracy must be questioned.

According to Reporters sans Frontieres, the media watchdog, Sri Lanka has slipped to 165 of 173 countries in its global ranking of press freedom for 2008 – below Zimbabwe and Sudan.

The Sri Lankan should simply release Tissainayagam, the publisher and his wife. It would be a fitting way to show that it remains a vibrant democracy. But this won't happen without sufficient pressure from Sri Lanka's friends in the UK, EU, US, Canada, Japan and India. They need to let President Rajapakse know – loud and clear – that they will not stand idly by while Sri Lanka's human rights record continues to deteriorate.

(This op - ed piece by Charulata Hogg of Human Rights Watch appeared in Guardian newspaper)

December 15, 2008

Sri Lanka Court Upholds Alleged Confession by Tissainayagam

Full Text of Media Release by RSF

A Sri Lankan court has ruled that an alleged confession made by senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam while detained by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) was voluntary and admissible as evidence in his trial on terrorism charges. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is informed however that Tissainayagam was forced to make a statement to TID under extreme duress.

Giving evidence in Colombo's High Court on November 5, Tissainayagam denied making a voluntary confession.

After being detained by the TID of the Sri Lankan police on March 7 this year, Tissainayagam was held without charge or explanation for more than 150 days. It is alleged that Tissainayagam, the editor of an online newspaper, OutreachSL.com, made a voluntary confession during this time.

However, Tissainayagam was reportedly subjected to duress and denied private access to lawyers. Court hearings during this period were postponed arbitrarily. The Supreme Court denied Tissainayagam's lawyers a fundamental rights petition for interim relief, submitted on the grounds of arbitrary arrest, torture, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and a denial of equality of protection under law.

Indictments against Tissainayagam and his two colleagues, N. Jesiharan and his partner Valarmathi, were filed before the High Court of Colombo on August 25. The three were charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a draconian law introduced in 1979 as an ostensibly temporary measure.

The IFJ and other international press freedom organisations are extremely concerned for the safety and welfare of the three. Tissainayagam and Jesiharan, the owner of E-Kwality Printers, were moved from a remand prison to the notoriously dangerous Magazine Prison in Colombo on November 17, according to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate.

The continuation of the trial against Tissainayagam has reportedly been postponed until December 18.

The IFJ joins the FMM in calling for fair judicial process to be applied all aspects of the continuation of Tissainayagam's trial, including the procurement of his safety and protection in Magazine Prison.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide

December 14, 2008

Devolution of Power or Separation of Power - Which is desirable

by A Rajasingam

Today politicians are breaking their heads on the concept of power-sharing with the ethnic minority Tamils. The word 'Federalism' appears to be a filthy word in the eyes of the majority of the Sinhalese while the word 'Federalism' appears to be a sacred word in the eyes of the Western democrats. One must have a clear understanding of the concept of power-sharing whether the Central Government should devolve the power to the Provincial Government or the sovereign people should allocate certain powers to the Provinces and other powers to the Federal Government by way of enshrining such division of powers in the constitution. Such a knowledge of the difference between the Devolution of power and the Separation of power is a must for the Sri Lankan politicians and the Sri Lankan people in general.

Devolution is a type of political decentralization where the Central Government devolve political authority to the Provincial Governments. The 13th Amendment provided for such decentralization but the Central Government was not sincere in providing adequate powers and allocating adequate funds to the North East Province. Instead the Central Government took meaningless measures that denied the smooth functioning of the administration which constituted a form of oppression on the Tamils. This is where the people of the North East Province lost the confidence and faith on the Central Government and demanded for self-determination rule. In this context a word about decentralization should be made. Decentralization is basically an administrative concept. However, United Kingdom is a Unitary State but with a unwritten constitution. Neverthless it had devolved powers to Ireland, Wales and Scotland which appears at the outset as a federal arrangement. Power has been considerably devolved to Ireland, Wales, and especially to Scotland. Even this arrangement is denied in Sri Lanka.

Unlike the Unitary State, in Federalism the people give power both to the Federal Government and the Provincial Governments. This is a constitutional arrangement. Accordingly the Federal Government cannot snatch the powers of the Provincial Government while at the same time the Provincial Governments too cannot intrude into the areas of powers allocated to the Federal Government. This is monitored by a Senate and the Judiciary in a Federal State. Mention should be made that in Sri Lanka Sinhalese rulers deliberately abolished the Second Chamber with the view to deny the knowledge of federalism to the people in order to conceal their corruption. It is this corruption which had eventually made the country bankrupt and also loss of lives and property. So it is seen that a meaningful power-sharing is possible in a Federal form of government, which implies a mechanism involving a nation within a nation. Such an arrangement would definitely lead to a healthy unification of the country.

The most appreciating factor in a federalism is that people in various Provinces are represented in a Federal Parliament. It would be meaningful if a Senate is enshrined in the constitution. The element of accountability and transparency is seen when Provincial Council Representatives and Ministers of National Parliament have a conference over developments in areas like agriculture, industries, fishing, health, education, culture, etc.

There can be arguments that federalism is suited for large countries with many races. But it is not only countries with large territories have federalism but small countries also have experimented it successfully with the concept of Federalism, such as Switzerland, Malaysia, etc. Sri Lanka is a small country but with people speaking two languages along with English and practicing different faiths and cultures. What is essential is the reduced number of Provinces preferably with Five Provinces with Colombo retaining a Corporation status, the reduced number of Parliamentarians (which should be cut into half the size) in the National Parliament, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, the establishment of a Second Chamber, Provincial Courts, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the Canadian model, the declaration of natural rivers, lakes, Dams, etc., all of which should be enshrined in the constitution. Above all there should an introduction of the system of Checks and Balances as existed in the constitutions of USA and also in Canada with establishment of a Second Chamber. Each Provincial Government can have a local Provincial Assembly consisting of 25 to 30 members and a Provincial Cabinet consisting of six to eight Provincial Ministers. If such a method is experimented, it is certain to promotes a good atmosphere of friendship and brotherhood among the races. Briefly separation of powers lays the foundation for a confident building measure.

The idea of federalism is based on the principle of unity in diversity. In short, it is a union of Provinces within a country with the distribution of powers between the Provinces and the Federal Government ensuring two levels of governments. The Federal Government can guide the Provincial Governments by retaining the areas of Fiscal policy, Defence and the Foreign Policy. This is not separation, but coordination between the Federal Government and the Provincial Governments and also within the Provincial Governments. The anatomy of such a federal framework demonstrates that the interests of the people are well represented as citizens of the larger union (Federal Government) while retaining their identity of their own Provinces. Therefore the centre of gravity of Federalism is based on the balance of power policy between the Federal Government and the Provincial Governments through coordination and cooperation. If this simple logic can be understood by the political leaders, then with the passage of time, Asian Union too can be formed like the European Union. Otherwise there will be internal struggle in every country leading to poverty and misery.

Further there is no harm in having concurrent powers between the Provincial Government and the Central Government. Federal countries such as USA, Canada and some other federal countries have concurrent powers in relation to tax, environment, health, economic planning for Provinces, etc., which are been simultaneously exercised by both the Provincial Governments and the Federal Government and nothing went wrong. If Sri Lanka is reluctant to include concurrent powers in what way are they better than the USA, Canada, India and other federal countries. All these countries have sound economic policy.

The draw back in the APRC proposal is that the development of a Province is hindered when the Central Government follows a malignant economic policy in the absence of a concurrent powers between the Central Government and the Provincial Governments. There is no harm in having concurrent powers between the Provincial Government and the Central Government. Federal countries such as USA, Canada and some other federal countries have concurrent powers in relation to tax, environment, health, economic planning for Provinces, enforcement of law, etc., which are been simultaneously exercised by both the Provincial Governments and the Federal Government and nothing went wrong. If Sri Lanka is reluctant to include concurrent powers in what way are they better than the USA, Canada, India and other federal countries. All these countries have sound economic policy.

If there is a conflict affecting the national issues such as Defence, Foreign policy, etc then the Supreme Court can determine the matter using the Doctrine of Paramouncy., i.e. laws allocated to the Central Government shall be effective and in force. Freedom to work with the view to develop the economy is a vital factor for a vibrant democracy. The beauty of such a federal arrangement is to lend support not only to other Provinces but also to the Central Government by the flourishing Province in times of bankruptcy. All these western federal countries have raised their image by having a sound economic policy. Today most of these countries are in the forefront in giving aids to developing and under developed countries including Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka still depends on sending housemaids and labourers to the Middle-East countries for exchange other than exports of tea and rubber and tourism which are now at a very low profile. What is there to boast about the image of Sri Lanka when Sri Lanka is still carrying begging bowl to other countries having such concurrent list of powers between the Federal and Provincial Governments. Such narrow-mindedness has eventually led the country to poverty and misery.

At present the issue is whether the APRC proposals falls within the concept of Separation of Powers or Devolution of Powers. If it is the devolution of powers, whether it would follow the British trend of devolving powers to the Provinces. Though the assurance that the Centre will not interfere with the Provincial Government is complemented by a Second Chamber, it raises another issue whether the incorporation of such a Second Chamber is powerful to stand as a symbol of system of Checks and Balances. Though the APRC proposals appear to be more promising, the phrase “to meet the aspirations of the minority communities without prejudice to the majority community” is ambiguous. What if the phrase is included as “to meet the aspirations of the majority without prejudice to the minority”. This is where the mischief tend to occur by the majority ruling party and the minority are at the mercy of majority community when it comes to the issue of economic development of the Province. This is because the sovereign people have not granted the power to the Provinces. Mention should be made that soon after the communal riots in 1983, the words that came from every Sinhalese was 'Never to repeat'. But what happened the North East Province was, the required powers and funds were denied for the smooth functioning of the Provincial administration. This is because the Sinhalese leaders were not concerned about the 'Devolution of Powers'. Now it appears to repeat the same tone to drag on this ethnic issue.

When a proposal is drawn to meet the legitimate aspirations of the minority, it is the sovereign people who should grant powers to the Federal and Provincial Governments, of which the Federal Government should assume the role as a Guide to the Provinces. It is not the question of dictating terms on the Provincial Government but accommodating such Provincial Governments through consultation and discussion on the viability of the venture.

December 13, 2008

Changes vital for regaining Sri Lanka’s future

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

Sri Lanka has been confronted by many mounting problems since the early 1970s. The ethnic problem is not the only one that denied peace and balanced development of all sectors and regions beneficial to the people in the different communities. The disparity between the rich and poor has also widened in the past three decades. The breakdown of good governance, law and order and the democratic process is now quite visible. Human rights violations have also been rampant. The governing system without the effective checks and balances has enabled those wielding power to exploit it for their own advantage. Corruption is endemic in the public sector, which is highly politicized. Given the nature of the problems confronting the nation, piecemeal approach will not arrest the continuing damages to the whole society and the country. The political system has been manipulated for satisfying the immediate needs of those wielding power. This has to change completely to secure a better future for the citizens and the country.

Whatever the original intent of the architects of the Republican constitutions may be, the political system that evolved with the changes introduced in 1978 and thereafter has failed to serve the broad interests of the entire population and the country. It seems to have attracted mainly the self-seeking opportunistic persons into politics. The highly attractive perks and privileges of ‘democratically elected’ representatives, especially the ministers are not available even in the more affluent countries. There are now 110 Ministers in the present coalition government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Parliamentarians after five years of service are entitled to State pension. Free and fair elections now exist only in theory. Not surprisingly, the contest for power and confrontational politics are intrinsic to the ‘democratic process.’

Recent damaging decisions

According to G. Victor A. Goonetilleke, an industry expert with extensive knowledge on hedge products and international experience in financial services, the oil hedging deal between Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and banks (foreign - Standard Chartered, Citibank and Deutsche Bank and the state-owned People's Bank and public listed Commercial Bank) is a one-sided financial instrument unfavourable to the Petroleum Corporation. The latter had taken reckless gamble on the assumption oil (crude and refined) prices in the world market would not be declining in the coming years. But the prices which rose to 147 dollars a barrel in September 2008 dramatically slumped to 47 dollars in December 2008. The resultant foreign debt owed to Banks is estimated to be the equivalent of Rs. 2.5 billion. The collar price in the hedging agreements with banks was 100 dollars per barrel.

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[Lanka fuel bowser-pic-Shehal Joseph]

According to this expert both incompetence and sleaze are evident in the one sided conditions underlying the deal. In the fundamental rights petition filed by Chairman of Laugfs, W.K.H. Wegapitiya and UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake, the Supreme Court on November 28 called upon President Mahinda Rajapaksa to remove the Petroleum `and Petroleum Resources Development Minister, A.H.M. Fowzie from this ministry and the Chairman, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Asantha De Mel from his post. The Court wanted the President to take over the Petroleum Ministry immediately and appoint a new Minister. The Supreme Court also halted payments in the derivatives deal pending an inquiry by the Central Bank.

On December 3 Minister A. H. M. Fowzie told Parliament that it was the Central Bank Governor, Nivard Cabraal who wanted the oil hedging deal with the banks. Hedging is an instrument widely used in international trade, and there is nothing inherently wrong in urging the government to consider it. It is not clear whether the Central Bank approved the draft agreement before it was signed. However, the CPC has signed up to a deal in which it stood to lose infinitely more than the banks, should the hedge go wrong as it did later. Apparently the Petroleum Minister had submitted a Cabinet Paper on the oil hedging deal and got prior approval. It is unclear whether legal and other expert advice was sought and obtained before agreeing to the draft agreement.

The hedging deals which had now gone wrong were a high-risk options strategy called a 'Leveraged Target Redemption Swap' requiring expertise in the field “to change instruments based on the developments in the market”. A novice cannot become an expert overnight through brief visits to few countries abroad. Apparently, this is exactly what happened with the former Chairman of the Petroleum Corporation. The foreign trips were also financed by the principal foreign bank involved in the hedging. It is likely the CPC has been influenced by the views of the top foreign bank official in Sri Lanka.

mihin lanka 2

[Mihin Air-pic by Asanga Rathnayaka]

The controversial new budget airline ‘Mihin Air’ is another case of a passionately conceived venture without proper feasibility study. High investments of this magnitude require cost-benefit analysis based on different plausible assumptions. Many established air lines including budget airlines in countries where there are known demands for air travel are finding it difficult to survive, particularly at the present time with the global credit crunch and economic recession. The new budget airline, Mihin Air could not continue even for a year as it incurred a loss of Rs. 1.5 billion. In an interview published in the Sunday Observer December 7, the Minister of Ports and Aviation and Irrigation and Water Management Chamal Rajapaksa conveyed renewed confidence in the viability of Mihin Air under the new management and with the additional capital Rs. 1,100 million currently sought from the government. According to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe the government has “committed Rs. 6,000 million to resurrect the insolvent Mihin airline which has already squandered Rs. 3,250 million of public funds”.

The basis for the confidence in the reorganized Mihin Air is not from a sound analysis taking into account the anticipated demand and the full cost of operation but on a set of assumptions which as in the case of the oil hedging deal can turn out to be wrong. To the question, “why do you think the Government wants to promote Mihin Air when the concept of budgeted airlines seems to be a failure”, the Minister replied: “The Government felt the need of having our own airline which air freight is affordable to the ordinary people. On the other hand, we had to face the challenges from Emirates. We started Mihin with a good intention, but we did not have the total capital it required at the beginning and faced financial crisis but Mihin was in operation for a year. Therefore, this concept is not a failed attempt”.

To another question the Minister replied: “It is our aim to make it (Mihin Air) a profitable airline. We have taken steps to re-start it. In future Sri Lankans can select Mihin as their budgeted airline. We want to serve the ordinary people of this country” He also said that the targeted customers are “those working in the Middle East and the pilgrims to Buddhist destinations”. There are lots of ifs in the anticipated success. “If the air freight is cheaper than other airlines they will come to Mihin”. What proportion of the ordinary people are in need of ‘cheap’ air travel? The vast majority are desperate for other pressing needs. Public road and rail transport services need considerable improvement.

Sri Lanka - 084 - Upcoming tunnel

[Train from Kandy to Hatton-Oct 2007 pic: byMcKay Savage]

The All Ceylon Railways General Employees Union has charged that none of the 100 train compartments recently imported from China can be used for travel in the upcountry as they have a tendency to slide down the slope when stopped as the breaks are unreliable. The cost of each compartment is Rs.25 million. Furthermore, four dining cars that were also imported from China have not been used at all, as they do not have sufficient water supply. The Union General Secretary S. Manawadu is reported to have complained: “The Ministers and officials who made the decision to import these compartments at massive costs had no idea regarding the requirements of local travellers. The dining habits of Sri Lankans are different from the Chinese”.

According to him, “the purchase of 15 power sets would have been sufficient to upgrade the beleaguered train services of the entire country, but with the massive expense incurred in the Chinese transaction, many irregularities have come to light”. The General Secretary pointed out that “only 64 of the 100 compartments are being used, but even these are hampered by technology incompatibilities as they do not match the engines already in possession of railway authorities. The 36 remaining compartments have not been used as there are not enough engines”. The haphazard ways decisions are made and the lack of efficient system for ensuring the accountability of the decision makers are also matters that need to be considered.

‘Corruption Watch’, a non-governmental organization has vowed to go ahead revealing corruption and misuse of public funds regardless of possible life threats or other intimidation to its members. Attorney Shiral Lakthilaka of the Corruption Watch is reported to have said that “it had become a pattern where authorities swindle public funds and deposit in some other country. They then come back to the country and stay as if nothing has happened. We at the Corruption Watch would like people to know that they can inform us about any fraud or a corruption and we are willing to go beyond the boundaries. We assure that we will take legal action against those who flee the country or seek salvage in foreign countries under the fiscal laws in those countries.”

The Attorney said that “the government would not do such a thing as it was corrupt from the top to the bottom while adding it was not only the hedging deal but the entire government was a gamble. He also said that the government engaged in gambles where it misused public founds and committed corruption while comfortably guarding itself by talking of patriotism and the successes of the war”. He also challenged the government to remand former CPC Chairman Asantha de Mel for causing a loss of Rs 4 billion and take legal action against former Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundara who was earlier declared by the Supreme Court in a separate rights case, as unfit to hold any public office.

The corrupt practices under the executive system are not exclusive to the present regime. This is evident from the recent exposure of the sleaze behind ‘Waters Edge deal’ following another successful rights case heard by the Supreme Court judges. They found former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and other connected persons guilty of abuse of power and engaging in an illegal land deal. She has been fined Rs. 3 million for her improper role in this deal. The Court directed Mr. Ronnie Peiris to pay Rs 2 million and Messrs. Shantha Elroy Godwin Wijesinghe, Siva Selvaratnam and Ms. S.Gressel Selvaratnam each to pay Rs. one million to the State and also instructed the Director General Commissioner of the Bribery and Corruption Commission to conduct an immediate inquiry of the entire transaction with particular scrutiny on the action of former President Kumaratunga, the Urban Development Authority, the Asia Pacific Golf Course Ltd., Ronnie Peiris, the Board of Investment, Managing Director of the Asia Pacific Golf Course Ltd. and other involved individuals. The Commission on December 3 tendered to the Supreme Court a confidential report on the impugned transactions alienating land in Narahenpita for the purported golf course project. There are other cases related to the ‘Waters edge deal’ awaiting the judgment of the Supreme Court.

Intentionally keeping the system deficient

The Parliamentary Select Committee system provided some check on the utilization and management of public funds. The Committee on Public Enterprises and the Public Accounts Committee found many irregularities including corruption, mismanagement and misuse of public funds. Instead of taking follow up actions on their findings, the committees were reconstituted with government Ministers as Chairmen. Obviously, there is no real interest even to cut costs and improve the effectiveness of the public sector by making use of the available limited controls. Executive powers under the present constitution as intended by its founder are unrestrained and could be misused. It has been found those leaders who are aware of this danger and vowed to change the system once elected to this powerful office preferred to keep it as powerful as before for reasons known to themselves. The implementation of the 17th Amendment will restrict some supreme powers of the Executive President. The Constitutional Council and the various independent commissions to be set up as stated in this Amendment should have been intrinsic elements of the original Constitution adopted in 1978.

Excuses are given for delaying the implementation. The delay in constituting the Constitutional Council is due to the waiting for the final report of the Parliamentary Select Committee set up in 2006 to consider improvements to the hastily approved 17th Amendment. Although the initiative to introduce the 17th Amendment came from elsewhere, in a rare act of bi-partisanship it came into law in 2001. The reason for this partnership was that on the eve of a parliamentary election the two main rival parties did not want to be seen by the electorate as opponent of good governance.

In the rights petition filed by Sumanasiri Liyanage, senior lecturer in economics at University of Peradeniya and Subash Ravi Jayawardena, Attorney-at-Law and Executive Director of South Asia Peace Institute, they complained that despite repeated requests by the public and civil society organizations, the Constitutional Council a mandatory requirement under the 17th Amendment had not been reconstituted as fresh appointments had not been made since March 2005. The two petitioners had cited President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Speaker, W. J. M. Lokubandara, President’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, the Attorney General and the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as respondents. The Supreme Court had declared earlier that the President, Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should reach a consensus on the nominations to the Council and notify Court of the developments. Now the Court had granted final time for the parties to convene a meeting as early as possible (within one month) in order to arrive at a consensus on the nominees.

The recent intervention of the Supreme Court in executive matters would not have arisen had these independent bodies been set up and political influence in public administration and enforcement of law and order prevented. Political patronage, nepotism and other unacceptable practices had undermined good governance. The clamour for good governance by few concerned citizens and civil society organizations fell on deaf ears. In Sri Lanka people power has significance only during election times and that too not to the same extent as it was 30 years ago. The persistent clamour for independent election commission has also been ignored. Setting up committees to investigate unpleasant incidents is seen as mere tactical move and not for bringing the culprits to justice. The culture of impunity is intrinsic to the corrupt system. Under the pretext of security concern, attempts have been made to curb media freedom.

In matters of constitutional governance citizens are increasingly compelled to go to the judiciary for help. How long can this continue? Not for long, because under the system the authority to appoint the Chief Justice rests with the Executive. The Morning Leader December 3 in its editorial said, the absence of sense of responsibility among politicians and officials occupying high and responsible positions in state institutions has been suppurating wound in Sri Lanka’s body politick. This was not the case before the 1972 Republican Constitution and the administration politicized. The rulings of the Supreme Court on important decisions of the executive branch show clearly the neglect of public interest in governance. Given the extent and nature of the problems in Sri Lanka, holistic approach is needed to get rid of them all together and secure a promising future for all citizens - Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others. When the civil society remains silent as in dictatorial regimes, democratically elected political masters behave like autocrats.

Ethnic problem and 13th Amendment

Following President Rajapaksa’s idea, the 13th Amendment re-emerged in January 2008 as interim recommendation of APRC. This Committee served to mislead all including foreign diplomats and intellectuals clamouring for a political solution to the protracted ethnic problem. The intent of the President was to give hope rather than pursue with determination a reasonable political solution acceptable to the ethnic minorities. This is a difficult task given his desire not to upset the Sinhala nationalists. Although full implementation of 13th Amendment was promised as an interim solution, there has been no serious move towards this for nearly a year.

The JVP parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake questioned in Parliament on December 4 the report in the government owned Sunday Observer November 30 that a committee has been appointed to inquire into the granting of land and police powers to Eastern Provincial Council. He then drew the “attention of the august assembly to the serious situation pertaining to the sovereignty and the unity of Sri Lanka"!

Apparently, the JVP does not want the government to betray the victories of the security forces by any move towards devolution. He also annoyingly said, "On many occasions, the government has discussed extensive devolution of power beyond the 13th amendment" and specifically referred to President’s interview with Al Jazeera television in which he stressed the need for extensive power devolution as the solution to the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. He also cited the joint statement issued after Basil Rajapaksa’s official visit to Delhi for bilateral talks, which stated that “the two parties had discussed granting land and police powers to the provinces in accordance with the 13th amendment”. He accused the government of trying “to politically betray the achievements of the heroic security forces at the battlefront”. The war has raised patriotic feelings amongst the Sinhala nationalists and helped to overlook serious shortcomings in the administration.

It is apt here to quote William Shakespeare. "Beware of the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry, [who] infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How will I know? For this I have done. And I am Julius Caesar."

It is with the support of the government Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan of the TMVP became the Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council. He expected the full powers listed in the 13th Amendment to be devolved and was demanding land and police powers. Given the opposition of the Sinhala nationalists, especially those who believe in ‘military solution’ to this request, the President’s office was in a dilemma. A way to check Pillayan was found by promoting Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman the ex-Tiger militant and founder of the TMVP. The latter, who is now an appointed MP, openly stated that land and police powers to the Provincial Council were not necessary. This kind of tactical moves will not help in solving national problems.

Earlier federalism was synonymous with separation and now devolution is also considered as such by Sinhala patriots. No attempt is being made to disprove this misconception. There are many broadminded Sinhalese who believe strongly that devolution with the center retaining some control as in India will not endanger the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. On the contrary, this will unite the divided Lankan society and reinforce the sense of belonging to one Nation. .

In a two-part article (The Island 26 and 27 November 2008) Chandra Wickramasinghe has discussed the devolution imperative and certain perceived impediments to the effective implementation of the 13th Amendment. He has drawn attention to the present weaknesses at the center and provinces that need to be addressed for successful implementation. He has also explained how the Indian Constitution makers have protected unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of their Nation. They have “with admirable foresight, retained certain powers perceived by the Central Government as being vital safeguards necessary to ensure consistency in national policy and most crucially to protect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of that Nation State”. Thus there is no threat from devolution of powers per se with t vital constitutional safeguards. It was the Sri Lankan State that made the centralized system in its present form unacceptable to the ethnic minorities.

The need for holistic approach to free Sri Lanka of several problems blighting the nation’s future is also evident from the detailed analysis. “Corruption, lethargy and inefficiency may be replicated or even amplified in the devolved units unless effective safeguards and preventive measures are introduced to check them. Corruption is so pervasive island wide today due primarily to the horrible example set by the elected representatives and the political decision makers. Political patronage nurtures and protects official corruption and often there is collusion between dishonest politicians and obliging public servants”. Thus there are formidable challenges that must be overcome for Sri Lanka to become a tranquil island nation with improved outlook. The analyst has stated the obvious. “The above problems could well be successfully surmounted if the political authorities have the necessary determination and the political resolve to do so”. The vital question is: Do they have these? There is no sign yet to answer affirmatively.

Eachchilampattu 04-12-08 058

[10,000 displaced persons returned in 2007, Eachchilampattu, Sri Lanka East-pic. Drs. Sarajevo-more pics]

In conclusion

The social and economic problems have been somewhat overshadowed by the ethnic problem that intensified into a secessionist war at enormous cost to the people and the country. The failure of the State to resolve it at the beginning when it was possible within the existing structure led to the tragic consequences. No firm estimates of the casualties since the early 1980s when it escalated into armed struggle are available It is believed more than 200,000 lives have been lost. The national economic loss is much higher than the cost of the destroyed tangible assets. The cost of neglecting the development of some regions bestowed with valuable natural resources, because of ethnic politics is huge. The consequences of avoiding political settlement at an early stage to internal problems of his nature are also significant.

K. Godage former Ambassador and now a political analyst has also emphasized the need for a new Constitution in his article in the Sunday Island 23 November 2008. His observations are very relevant to recognize the need for action to improve the future of Sri Lanka. On politics in Sri Lanka he has said it has become a blood sport governed by the rules of the slum. “After 60 years and three Constitutions the sad truth is that we have, as a country, regressed and not progressed in almost every sphere of human endeavour. The country has been torn apart by the so-called system of Cabinet government that the British imposed upon us perhaps with the best of intentions. We have even corrupted that system, removed the entrenched safeguards for minorities, made a caricature of the electoral process, and from 1978 established a constitutional dictatorship. None of the four Presidents who succeeded President JR Jayewardene, who was the architect of the abominable system, have sought to change it. We the people must mount a campaign to change the constitution”.

He has also said: “It is the moral obligation of this generation of citizens of this country to ensure that the next generation will not inherit this corrupt political system”. Leaders in every segment of the society “should take their civic responsibilities seriously and “come forward to mobilize the people and usher in a non-violent, peaceful revolution to save our country and make it a better place for the generations to come. Now is the time to demand that a Constituent Assembly be established to draft a new Constitution”. He has not gone into the details. If it is a repeat of the ways used in the 1970s when mainly the Sinhala majority views decided the structure and the contents, it will not serve the intended purpose. The situation now is more confused and difficult with political parties like the JVP, JHU and JNP or NFF whose firm stands on the ethnic problem are well known from the APRC experience.

Following the many favourable responses received to his call for a new Constitution, he has proposed in his next article – “A new constitution – the need of the hour” (Sunday Island 30 November 2008) - a suitably modified Executive Committee System instead of devolution based on the Indian model. His main argument against the Indian model is the vast difference between the sizes of the two neighbouring countries. This is not a convincing reason, as there are small countries in Europe where devolution has been successful in fostering unity, stability, peace and progress. His focus is mainly on the elimination of confrontational politics and not the resolution of the ethnic issue. Both are important for securing the future of Sri Lanka. Without the consent of incumbent and the aspirants to the Presidency, the suggested Constituent Assembly is a non-starter. The proposed “non-violent, peaceful revolution to save our country” is also wishful thinking. People must be fully aware of what the future will be for them and their children if the system remains in its present form. The call for change must come from all sides. Spreading this awareness is the noble task of the media and civil society leaders.

[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]

December 10, 2008

Communal Politics and Discrimination in Schools

by Kanimozhi Karunanidhi

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"While India is attaining freedom, She is attaining it in a manner which does not produce joy in the hearts of people or a radiant smile on their faces. Some of those who were charged with the responsibility for the administration of this country, tried to accentuate communal consciousness and bring about the present result which is a logical outcome of the policies adopted by the lesser mind of Britain. But I would never ever blame them. Were we not victims, ready victims, so to say, of the separatist tendencies foisted on us? Should we not now correct our fault of character, our domestic despotism, our intolerance which has assumed the different forms of obscurantism of narrow mindedness, of superstition, bigotry? Others were able to play on our weakness because we had them. I would like, therefore, to take this opportunity to call for self examination, for a searching of heart"
- Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, on August 14, 1947, in the Constituent Assembly.

True, this is a moment for self-examination, an honest one. When the Mumbai siege is still fresh in our minds, when the anger and pain are still fresh and our own personal biases have not yet taken over, when fear still unites and holds us together and the blame game has not yet deteriorated into a full-scale slanging match, and when the economic crisis and the demands of electoral politics have not yet jaded our judgments. Without suppressing the questions that rise in many minds but are buried under the fallacies of condescending secularism or politicised fundamentalism, let us examine the small incidents that contribute to the rift that seems to envelop the minds of most of us, consciously or otherwise. It is the right time to de-construct some accepted norms and understand the underlying reasons.

We should put aside our fears of being politically incorrect or of giving in too much to “our” religious competitors. And the fear of abandoning our gods — who we think need our protection. And put to test our spirituality, which we believe cannot be nurtured except with our hatred and superiority.

Today (December 9) is Bakrid, an important festival for Muslims. And this country has a reasonably large population of Muslims who celebrate that festival. There is a sizeable number of educational institutions run privately that decide to work on this day — institutions whose founders claim to subscribe to other religious beliefs.

A few days ago, in a particular school, when the teacher announced a project work for this day, a Muslim student expressed his inability to attend school on that day. She answers him, in a matter-of-fact manner: “Students who do not come to school on that day can consider themselves as failed."

This would look like a minor incident. But ask the child. I can imagine the anger, the fear, the sense of being excluded, that moment would have created in the mind of the child. When the teacher spoke to him thus, did he feel he was queer?

That he was different from the 50-odd students in the class?

Will he search for answers when he gets out of school?

I can cite many such examples of exclusion and the communal politics that leads to a few more — or fewer — red letters in a school calendar. These attitudes are reflected in many layers and levels.

This is not to blame any particular group or to say the others are all blameless. The others might have different versions of such stories to share. There are many such institutions that play similar games in the name of religion and end up sowing the seeds of hatred and divisiveness in the minds of children. The world today would like to claim that education, the evolution of civilisation, and the experience of wars has brought humanity to understand that people are more important — than even the state.

But what we think will lead our next generation to enlightenment, tolerance and peace today, our educational institutions, are turning into production houses of intolerance and hatred. Schools discriminate in terms of the income of parents, on the lines of gender, and sometimes even on the lines of caste, religion and language. However ridiculous and unreal — bordering on the surreal, it may sound — often even on the lines of eating habits.

Some schools, under the excuse of religious sentiments or spiritual beliefs, do not allow children to bring or eat the food of their choice inside the school premises. These rules are often unwritten but enforced. Staff members routinely reprimand students who fail to abide by the unwritten codes. Emboldened by the act of those in authority, other students ostracise those who do not conform. What happens when these children leave school and face people of different belief systems and habits when they start their own lives?

Where does it leave them in terms of tolerance if we, under the pretext of protecting them or being sensitive to a particular section, alienate them from experiencing the diversity?

If we isolate them from exposure to other cultures or thought processes or faiths — as is being done in many places now — we have to prepare to reap the whirlwind.

Do we believe that every Siddhartha who is kept away from truth and reality will miraculously blossom to be a Gautama Buddha who will turn the world towards love and peace?

Is it that educationists in this country cannot understand such a complicated theory: that ignorance is the breeding ground of fear and malice?

Or is it intentional ignorance on the part of the people, the parents and the authorities with larger agendas who turn a blind eye to it. And do government agencies have no say on this?

If students are exposed to such biases on an everyday basis and if they imbibe it into their belief system at an age when thoughts are shaped through the images they witness, it would leave an indelible impression in their minds. Educational institutions and parents have to understand their responsibility and the important part they play in sculpting the future minds of this country. We have to ensure that at least they are free of these endless mazes. This is the least we can do for them.

(Kanimozhi Karunanidhi is the daughter of Tamil Nadu chief minister Muttuvel Karunanidhi and a DMK Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.)

Human rights are sidestepped at times to promote short-sighted security agendas

by Navanetham Pillay

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Today we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that marked a crucial turning point in human history as the first international agreement setting out freedoms, rights and entitlements for all humanity to claim. Six decades ago, it affirmed that the force of shared ideas and a common vision of respectful and peaceful coexistence can prevail over brutality, hatred and destruction.

Since then, the world may have changed a great deal, but the recognition of our inherent kinship in rights, of our common claim to a life in dignity, of our right to count and be counted irrespective of our ancestry, gender and colour, status and creed applies to today’s realities as much as it did in1948.

And so does the Universal Declaration’s emphasis on the inextricable relationship between fundamental freedoms and social justice, and the connection of both these elements with peace and security. By not ranking rights, the Declaration clearly expressed the equal status of political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as their interdependence.

It envisaged a world in which every man, woman and child lives in dignity, free from hunger, violence and discrimination, and enjoys the benefits of housing, health care, education and opportunity.

An extensive and growing corpus of international law has fleshed out the Universal Declaration’s principles, specifying States’ obligations in upholding them. They have found an echo in the constitutions and laws of more than 90 countries. Dedicated international, regional and national mechanisms have been put in place to be both the custodians and the monitors of human rights, their promotion and protection. Civil society everywhere exerts vigilance over rights implementation with growing capacity and influence.

There is no doubt, however, that despite all our advances in law and practice, serious implementation gaps remain in protecting people from fear, injustice and inequality.

Impunity, armed conflict and authoritarian rule have not been defeated. Regrettably, human rights are at times sidestepped to promote short-sighted security agendas. And lamentably, a tradeoff between justice and peace is often erroneously invoked when societies emerge from conflict and combatants return to their communities.

We must take stock of the fact that racism, discrimination and intolerance represent some of the greatest global human rights challenges of our time.

Violence against women is still a daily occurrence in too many countries. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, as it is in most situations of conflict, such violence is endemic and widespread. The United Nations Security Council and international tribunals have clearly established that rape and other forms of sexual violence can amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity or may be regarded as constitutive acts with respect to genocide. Yet such assaults often remain unpunished. Perpetrators should be brought to justice if cycles of violence and brutal retribution are to be halted.

The fact is that in too many countries, violence against women and vulnerable groups, such as indigenous people and minorities, is fostered by laws and customs that make them second class citizens and systematically discriminate against them. This occurs despite strong international standards that protect them and call for their full participation in society. It takes place despite recognition of the critical role that such groups play in building knowledge, enriching a culture with diversity and thus in fostering development, as well as peace and security.

Irrespective of gender, origin or race, communal welfare hinges upon respect and promotion of all rights, freedom and liberty, as well as economic rights, including the right to adequate food, health, housing and education. This is why States should do more and work faster to meet the Millennium Development Goals which are eight globally endorsed objectives addressing many aspects of extreme poverty. They should do so by injecting a human rights perspective into poverty reduction strategies in order to provide a framework of institutions and norms which can help reduce disparities, address the roots causes of inequality, and mediate those conflicting claims that inevitably arise through development processes.

Repression and poverty challenge us today just as they did the framers of the Universal Declaration. At the same time, daunting new challenges are emerging, such as climate change, the food and financial crises, globalization, terrorism, and new or resurgent epidemics. The sheer magnitude and the multifaceted aspects of the tasks ahead of us require collective efforts predicated on the common ground of our human condition and universal acceptance of international law.

Yet attacks on the universality of rights continue to stand as barriers to human rights implementation. Some critics maintain that the Declaration went too far in promoting the freedoms and values of liberal traditions. Others hold that its framers did not go far enough, and that liberty occupies a higher plane than material welfare.

The truth is that the Universal Declaration was not merely congruent with some customs and foreign to other cultures. It drew its principles from many diverse traditions, and it made them more robust through a uniform codification.

Rights— as well as their violations, or neglect of the obligations that those rights engender—hold the whole world in solidarity and in responsibility. Only by attaining all our universal human rights will we be able to reach the higher standard of life and greater enjoyment of freedom that Eleanor Roosevelt and her co-drafters claimed for all of us 60 years ago.

(Navanetham Pillay is United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She is a South African national of Tamil Nadu origin)

Video: Increase in Sri Lanka's HR violations - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Remarks At the 2008 International Human Rights Day Awards Ceremony:

Remarks At the 2008 International Human Rights Day Awards Ceremony
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
December 8, 2008

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you, David. And thank you for your excellent leadership of the bureau.

This week, we are joining in solidarity with human rights defenders across the globe in marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration is celebrated by men and women of every culture and creed, every race and religion, in countries large and small, developed and developing. It transcends political and ethnic differences and national boundaries, even as it embraces humanity in all of its diversity. Indeed, the Declaration speaks directly to the desire inherent in every human heart for freedom.

Over the past six decades, democracy has spread across the globe, accompanied by remarkable gains for the rights that the Declaration enumerates. Yet, we are sobered by the fact that hundreds of millions of people are still denied fundamental freedoms by their governments.

The United States remains committed to championing what President Bush has called “the non-negotiable demands of human dignity.” To that end, and in commemoration of International Human Rights Week, I have the pleasure to bestow three awards today. The recipients were chosen out of an impressive group of nominees.

The Freedom Defenders Award is given each year to a foreign individual or nongovernmental organization that has shown exceptional courage and leadership. This year, the honoree is Yulia Latynina, an independent journalist, writer and radio host from Russia. In Russia, we are seeing disturbing efforts to increase control over, and pressure, the media, as part of the emergence of clearly authoritarian trends.

Members of the independent media have been the victims of violent – and even deadly – attacks committed by perpetrators, most of whom are yet to be brought to justice. In September, the owner of an opposition website in Ingushetia was shot to death while in police custody. And just last month, the editor-in-chief of a Khimki-based independent newspaper that had exposed environmental abuses was brutally assaulted. In the last fifteen years, some 300 journalists have been killed in Russia, making it the third deadliest country for journalists worldwide. In her investigative reporting and hard-hitting commentary, Yulia has exposed corruption and abuses of authority among government officials as well as egregious human rights violations by both government authorities and private actors, particularly in the North Caucasus. With great bravery, she has been outspoken in the defense of besieged fellow journalists at a time of growing self-censorship or forced silence, and I am deeply honored to present to Yulia Latynina the 2008 Freedom Defenders Award. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY RICE: The Diplomacy for Freedom Award is given annually to a U.S. Head of Mission for his or her work to end tyranny and promote democracy. This year’s honoree is James D. McGee, our Ambassador to Zimbabwe. At a time of deepening crisis in Zimbabwe, Ambassador McGee has developed a strategy for his Embassy that is designed to support the Zimbabwean peoples’ demand for democratic change, to train a spotlight on the mounting human rights abuses, and to press for free and fair presidential elections.

In the aftermath of the presidential election in March and in anticipation of the run-off vote in June, the Mugabe regime unleashed a reign of terror against the political opposition and barred most international media from Zimbabwe. Ambassador McGee personally led convoys of diplomats from like-minded countries and the U.S. Embassy personnel to rural hotspots to talk with victims of persecution and witness to violence, to be able – they were stopped on several occasions by armed people. Ambassador McGee’s strategy of exposing regime violence helped to establish a truth that could not be ignored and contributed to mounting international pressure on Mugabe and his party to enter into a power-sharing arrangement. Thus far, the Mugabe government has refused to implement this agreement in good faith.

I said in Denmark that it is high time for President Mugabe to go. And Ambassador McGee, I know that you have tried to work to make the electoral process fair and then to make the power-sharing arrangements work. But ultimately, you are working with and for the United States Government to make life better for the Zimbabwean people, and we deeply hope that that will soon come. It will come only, though, if there is a concerted international response, especially by the countries of the region, to the terrible, terrible humanitarian disaster that has now broken out, a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, but also to the terrible and outrageous behavior of the Mugabe government. And you are leading that effort internationally.

So to Ambassador McGee and his outstanding Embassy team who are continuing to support the courageous people of Zimbabwe as they want and work for peaceful and democratic change, I am pleased to you with the 2008 Diplomacy for Freedom Award. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY RICE: Our diplomatic effort to advance human rights is not just a job for ambassadors, and that is why annually we confer the Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award upon an outstanding officer serving at one of our posts abroad. This year’s recipient is Michael DeTar, the chief of the Political Section of our Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s 25-year conflict has escalated over the last two years, triggering a sharp increase in human rights violations by the warring parties – the government, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil, and paramilitary organizations. Michael found creative and pragmatic ways to engage constructively with Sri Lanka while underscoring our human rights concerns. Michael helped position the United States to play a leading role in the stabilization and recovery of the conflict-torn Eastern Province, focusing on disarming and demobilizing paramilitaries there. He was also a key actor in the international effort to monitor an official Commission of Inquiry investigating high-profile cases of human rights abuse, and he has responded quickly and effectively when journalists and other activists have been threatened or arrested. The Sri Lankan Government adopted Michael’s proposed road map to induce a paramilitary aligned with the government to begin to release its child soldiers. So using his extensive network of civil society and media leaders, Michael has enriched our reporting on human rights conditions in Sri Lanka. And he has not only reported, he has acted. And so I am delighted to bestow the 2008 Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award on Michael De Tar. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me again join in congratulating all of our outstanding award winners and thanking them for their selfless work as they’re working to spread the blessings of liberty. And as long as men and women around the globe remain deprived of their basic rights, we, who live in freedom, have an obligation to give our strong support to the cause of human liberty, and to those who courageously advance it.

This is my last ceremony as Secretary of State on International Human Rights to make these awards. I just want to say that in doing so, I myself have been inspired by the stories of these extraordinary people. It is one thing to sit in the halls of Washington or in the halls of Congress or even in the White House and to talk about the importance of liberty and freedom, to talk about the God-given right to it, and to express, as the President did, that America can never rest as long as any man, woman, or child lives in tyranny. But all of us, whether we are in the White House or in the State Department or in the halls of Congress, are inspired by the true stories of those who take great risks to advance the cause of freedom. And that is why we created these awards, because we wanted to give a face and a story to the struggle for human rights around the world. And what better faces and what better stories than these. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

2008/1019

Released on December 8, 2008

December 09, 2008

60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Time to Deliver

Statement by Amnesty International

(Brussels, 9 December) Amnesty International today called on the EU to make tomorrow’s 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) a time for action as well as celebration.

Although the EU has been a human rights leader on some important issues, such as helping to abolish the death penalty, progress on basic human rights should not be taken for granted, neither in the EU nor in the world.

The complicity of member states in CIA led renditions, for example, remains a key area illustrating serious EU shortcomings. Given the gravity of the violations at stake the EU’s response to this issue has been far too limited and indeed as of yet there are still no guarantees that renditions have stopped.

“The recent revelations indicating that the Spanish government authorized renditions demonstrate, once again, the involvement of member states in such illegal practices. It took the EU four years to denounce Guantanamo, how long will it take for it to address the illegalities that occurred in its territory with the complicity of its member states?” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.

Discrimination is another key area where the EU has not lived up to the spirit of the UN Declaration. The idea that all human beings should benefit from the same rights should be the cornerstone of a Union which claims to be based on “values”. Yet the actions of member states with regard to migrants, Roma or LGBT* people, for example, show discrimination across Europe is still prevalent.

“The EU Directive on discrimination that is being prepared is a good step to address this question but the fact that it has still not gathered the support of all member states and is in danger of being watered down is disturbing” Beger added.

Noting the impact of the global economic crisis on poor countries, which risks throwing millions more people into poverty, Amnesty International today called on governments to protect economic and social rights with as much vigour as civil and political rights.

Amnesty International welcomes the fact that on this very day the United Nations General Assembly will endorse the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and hopes that EU member states will be amongst the first to ratify this important instrument.

“The gift of the UDHR is universality and indivisibility. Human rights are universal – every person is born free and equal in rights and dignity. Human rights are indivisible – all rights, whether economic, social, civil, political or cultural – are equally important and there is no hierarchy of rights,” said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“The time has come for governments to deliver on their human rights commitments” she added.

--
*LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.


For further comment/background and interviews:

     Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):
     Tel: 32-2-5021499
     Fax: 32-2-5025686
     Email: amnesty-eu@aieu.be  

December 07, 2008

Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Wins Order to Silence Media House

Statement by International Federation of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned about restrictions on reporting of defence matters in Sri Lanka after a court prohibited all Leader Publications newspapers publishing any information referring to the Defence Secretary until December 18.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, a magistrate granted the ex-parte injunction application by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on December 5. Rajapaksa accuses the Sunday Leader newspaper of publishing articles which allegedly defamed him.

In the national Parliament, United National Party parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekara reportedly said the Defence Secretary's actions were intended to prevent the publication of a Sunday Leader exposé on the assassination of General Janaka Perera in a suicide attack in October.

"This is against the right of expression. This violates the fundamental right of expression enshrined in the Constitution," Jayasekara told the Parliament.

Rajapaksa has had several confrontations with the media in Sri Lanka in 2008. After a peaceful demonstration in Colombo on May 27 to protest a violent attack on defence writer Keith Noyahr, Rajapaksa threatened the President and Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association, Sanath Balasooriya and Poddala Jayantha, saying the Government would not offer them safety or protection if they continued to advocate for press freedom in Sri Lanka.

"The two-week gag on Leader Publications is a setback for press freedom and further stifles independent media in Sri Lanka," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The court hearing will resume on December 18, when Leader Publications will defend the publication of the allegedly defamatory material.

The IFJ joins the FMM in raising concerns about the Defence Secretary's efforts to restrict reporting on defence matters and welcomes the move by some Members of Parliament to open dialogue on the public record to challenge the Government's prevailing antagonism toward press freedom in Sri Lanka.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide

Federation is not Eelam says N.K.Choksy

KNC126.JPG
Senior constitutional lawyer and UNP parliamentarian K.N. Choksy yesterday told parliament that he advocated a system similar to a ‘federation of States’ to resolve the longstanding national question in Sri Lanka.

“A federation is not Eelam. Neither will it result in a division of the country. The Centre will be in sole control of the armed services, the police, sea and airports. Revenue from income tax, customs and excise duties and stamps will be collected by the Centre. The federating units will be dependent to a considerable extent on the central government for finances,” he said adding that the bogey of cessation Federation or separatism was therefore ill-founded.

“Such thinking cannot arise and will not be allowed to arise,” he said.

He said this was of course his personal opinion and not that of any organization.

Mr. Choksy said that the demarcation of the land areas and the boundaries of the federal units would not be a difficult task and Sri Lanka would continue to be a single sovereign, free, indivisible and independent state, and the power and the authority of the central government to ensure the unity of the country as one entity would continue.

Mr. Choksy said a federation only means greater freedom of distinct areas of the country to decide and handle local issues such as language, civic requirements and taxation and cited the United States, Canada, Switzerland and Australia as examples of federations.

“India is a multi-racial, multi-linguistic country. Its political organization is a de-facto federation of states. The authority to maintain the indivisibility of the country is vested with the Centre. No call for a division of the country has taken place during the past 50 years,” he said.

Mr. Choksy said the idea of a federation of states had not been considered as a means of resolving the ethnic conflict that had been plaguing the country for decades.

He said through the 13th Amendment to the Constitution the Provincial Councils had been devolved some powers and strengthened the local government institutions.

“But, it is clear the country has to go further down the road of devolution if it is to achieve peace,” he said.

Answers to readers' questions

By B. Raman

(In this article, I will try to answer some of the questions, which I have received from readers of my articles on the Mumbai terrorist strikes)

1.How strong is the evidence of the involvement of Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) ?

It is very strong.The evidence collected till now is partly direct and partly circumstantial. The direct evidence has come from the interrogation of one of the perpetrators (Mohammad Ajmal Amir, son of Mohammad Amir Imam, of village Faridkot in the Okara District of Pakistan's Punjab), who has been arrested and who is under interrogation. He has given details of the entire conspiracy and the involvement of the LET in it. The circumstantial evidence has come from the interrogation of four Indian Muslims arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police in February,2008, during their investigation of the terrorist attack on a camp of the Central Reserve Police Force in Rampur on January 1,2008. They had reportedly spoken of the plans of the LET  for future terrorist strikes, one of which was planned in Mumbai. One of them, Faheem Ahmed Ansari, was carrying a fake Pakistani passport and a list and maps of nine targets in southern Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal Hotel and other sites attacked on November 26,2008. Some other circumstantial evidence  has also come from technical intelligence  reportedly collected by the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) in September,2008, which spoke of the plans of the LET to launch a sea-borne terrorist strike in Mumbai.

2.Were there only 10 terrorists involved?

That is what the Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra Government  have been saying, apparently on the basis of the interrogation of the arrested perpetrator. The operation involved detailed intelligence collection, reconnoitering the places to be attacked and the final planning and execution. It is difficult to accept that the same 10 persons performed all these tasks. There must have been definitely more people in the conspiracy--- at least performing peripheral roles such as intelligence collection and reconnoitering.

3.What are your comments on  the modus operandi used?

Jihadi terrorists indulge in acts of collective brutality and individualised brutality. The collective brutality is in the form of planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in public places, throwing hand-grenades into crowds etc. There is no face-to-face brutalisation. Individualised brutality is face-to-face brutalisation of targeted individuals. Examples of individualised face-to-face brutality: the kidnapping and murder of Ravi Mhatre of the Indian Assistant High Commission in Birmingham by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in 1983, the kidnapping and murder of the Vice-Chancellor of the Srinagar University and two others by the JKLF in 1990, the kidnapping of some Western tourists by the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) under the name of Al Faran in Kashmir in 1995 and slitting of the throat of one of them,the slitting of the throat of a young Hindu passenger of the Indian Airlines aircraft, which was hijacked by the HUM to Kandahar in December,1999, and the kidnapping and beheading of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, in Karachi in January-February,2002, in which the HUM, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JUM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) were reported to have been involved.  We had in the past seen instances of individualised brutality in J&K, but not in Indian territory outside J&K.There are many reports of individualised face-to-face brutality against Indian and Israeli nationals and other Jews. Reports of individualised brutality against Indian nationals have mainly come from the Taj Palace Hotel and against Israeli nationals and other Jews mainly from the Narriman House.While some Indian nationals in the Taj Palace Hotel were allegedly lined up and shot dead, Israelis and other Jewish persons in the Narriman House were allegedly tortured and killed in a savage manner.Of the six Americans killed, at least two seem to have been killed in a brutal manner not because they were Americans, but because they were Jewish, holding the dual nationality of the US and Israel. India's home-grown jihadis outside J&K have till now not come to notice for indulging in individualised brutality. Slitting the throat of an infidel or of a Muslim apostate is a typical MO of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Pakistani jihadi organisations. They do it not only to intimidate non-Muslims, but also as an act of religious sacrifice to Allah just as one slits the throat of a goat before Id.

4.The LET is reported to have denied its involvement?

This does not mean anything. In fact, it is not the LET which has denied involvement. It is the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), of which Prof.-Hafiz Mohd.Sayeed is the Amir, which has denied involvement. Indian and American intelligence professionals look upon the JUD as the political wing of the LET. The Americans have included the LET as well as the JUD in their list of terrorist organisations. The Musharraf Government, which banned the LET as a terrorist organisation on January 15,2002,  refused to ban the JUD on the ground that it has nothing to do with the LET. In fact, it was the contention of the Musharraf Government that the LET had ceased to exist in Pakistan as a result of the actions taken by it  and  that what operated in India under the name of the LET was a purely Indian organisation. However, even large sections of the Pakistani media have refused to accept the Govt's  contention and describe the JUD as the political wing of the LET.    While the LET sometimes accepts responsibility for successful strikes in J&K, it never claims responsibility for terrorist strikes in Indian territory outside J&K, lest it embarrass the Pakistan Government.

5.An organisation called the Deccan Mujahideen (DM) is reported to have claimed responsibility in a message sent to the Indian media. Some reports say this message had originated from a computer in Pakistan?

The word Deccan refers to South India and was widely used during the Moghul and British rule. It is now rarely used in India, but in Pakistan it continues to be used widely. Many Pakistanis refer to the Indian Hyderbad as Hyderabad, Deccan, to distinguish it from Hyderabad in Sindh. After independence in 1947, the ruler of the state of Hyderabad, who was known as the Nizam of   Hyderabad, and the ruler of the State of Junagadh in Gujarat, who was known as the Nawab of Junagadh, hesitated to join the Indian Federation. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, sent the Army into Hyderabad  to merge it with India. Junagadh also joined India without the need for using the Army there. Many pro-Pakistan Muslims from Hyderbad fled to Karachi and settled down there. The LET has long enjoyed some support from the descendents of some Muslims who migrated to Karachi from Hyderabad and Junagadh. It describes Hyderabad and Junagadh as Pakistani territory illegally occupied by  India. One of its objectives is to liberate J&K, Hyderabad and Junagadh from what it describes as Hindu rule. It is possible that some of these Muslims originating from Hyderabad have been constituted by the LET into an organisation  called   the Deccan Mujahideen and told to claim responsibility for the Mumbai terrorist strike. The ISI and the LET are known to adopt this MO of asking someone else to claim responsibility in order to conceal their own involvement. During the Kargil conflict of 1999, the Pakistani Army shot down a plane of the Indian Air Force. The Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), an Indian terrorist orgnisation whose leader Syed Salahuddin is based in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the shooting down. Subsequently, the R&AW intercepted a telephone conversation between Lt.Gen.Mohammad Aziz, the then Chief of the General Staff (CGS), and Musharraf, who was then in Beijing. In that tape, which was released by the Govt. to the media, Aziz clearly said that the Army shot down the Indian aircraft and asked the HM to claim responsibility. Musharraf replied : "Very good."

6. Has there been the involvement of home-grown jihadis in the Mumbai terrorist strike?

Very likely. It is very difficult to carry out an operation of this nature by a group of Pakistanis without at least the logistic support of some indian Muslims. India's home-grown jihadis fall into two groups. The first group consists of those who have joined the LET and the HUJI and have been helping them. These are the fifth columnists in the Indian Muslim community.The second group consists of those calling themselves the Indian Mujahideen (IM), who maintain they have no links with the ISI or the Pakistani jihadi organisations. The IM was responsible for the serial explosions in many cities since November 2007. It has also claimed responsibility for the Mumbai suburban train blasts of July,2006. There is so far no evidence to show that the IM might have been involved in the Mumbai terrorist strike. The involvement of the group of fifth columnists is a strong likelihood. This possibility was also corroborated by the interrogation  of Faheem Ahmed Ansari.

7 What are the links of the LET with Al Qaeda? Is there a possibility of the involvement of Al Qaeda in the Mumbai terrorist strike?

The LET is a member of the International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998. Abu Zubaidah, then projected as No.3 in Al Qaeda, was arrested from the house of an LET operative in Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab in March,2002. In 2002, when the command and control of Al Qaeda was disrupted by the US military strikes in Afghanistan, the LET took over the responsibility for the co-ordination of the operations of the IIF.Subsequently, suspected individual members of the LET in the local Muslim communities were arrested in a number of countries and an LET cell getting itself secretly trained in the US with the help of some local Muslims for operations in India was neutralised in the US.  A press note issued by the US Department of Treasury on October 16,2003, after designating Dawood Ibrahim as a global terrorist said: "Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian crime lord, has found common cause with Al Qaida, sharing his smuggling routes with the terror syndicate and funding attacks by Islamic extremists aimed at destabilizing the Indian government.  He is wanted in India for the 1993 Bombay Exchange bombings and is known to have financed the activities of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Army of the Righteous), a group designated by the United States in October 2001 and banned by the Pakistani Government -- who also froze their assets -- in January 2002. Ibrahim's syndicate is involved in large-scale shipments of narcotics in the UK and Western Europe. The syndicate's smuggling routes from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa are shared with Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network. Successful routes established over recent years by Ibrahim's syndicate have been subsequently utilised by bin Laden. A financial arrangement was reportedly brokered to facilitate the latter's usage of these routes. In the late 1990s, Ibrahim travelled in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.Ibrahim's syndicate has consistently aimed to destabilise the Indian Government through inciting riots, acts of terrorism and civil disobedience. He is currently wanted by India for the March 12,1993, Bombay Exchange bombings, which killed hundreds of Indians and injured over a thousand more.Information from as recent as Fall 2002, indicates that Ibrahim has financially supported Islamic militant groups working against India, such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LET). For example, this information indicates that Ibrahim has been helping finance increasing attacks in Gujarat by LET. "  See my article at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers9/paper818.html  . The meticulous planning and execution of the Mumbai atrike and the targeting of Israelis and other Jews and the use of shocking brutality against them indicate strongly an Al Qaeda mind. The mind that planned and orchestrated was Al Qaeda's, but the hands that killed were of the LET.

8. What about the involvement of the ISI?

The terrorist organisations operating from Pakistani territory fall into four groups: Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, which is mainly active in Afghanistan from sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban, which poses a threat to Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, and the LET and other organisations, which are operating against India from sanctuaries in Pakistan. Pakistan has been acting only against the Pakistani Taliban known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and co-operating with the US against Al Qaeda. It has not taken any action against the Afghan Taliban and the anti-India organisations, which it looks upon as strategic assets to promote its national interests in Afghanistan and against India. It has not taken any action against their terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory. There are two old definitions of what constitutes state sponsorship of terrorism given by George Shultz, the Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, and George Bush, the father of the present President, who was Vice-President under Reagan. They gave these definitions after the terrorist strikes against the US Marines  and the French commandoes in Beirut. They said that any State that provides sanctuaries or  training or  arms and ammunition, or funds or travel documents to terrorists  is a state-sponsor of terrorism. In subsequent years, the State Department clarified that these facilities must have been provided by the guilty State repeatedly. One or two isolated instances would not bring a State under this category. The LET entered India via J&K in 1993. Before that it was active only in Afghanistan. Since 1993, it has been enjoying all these facilities in Pakistani territory with the co-operation or at least the connivance of the ISI. The accumulated evidence of nearly 15 years collected not only by the Indian intelligence, but also by the agencies of the US and many West European countries clearly shows the involvement of the ISI in propping up the LET and using it against India. There is, therefore, enough evidence to act against it.

9.How about the denials of President Asif Ali Zardari? He has even denied that the arrested LET perpetrator is  a Pakistani?

This is nothing surprising. By his denials, Zardari has shown that he has the same reflexes as the previous Pakistani rulers. In 1999, regular Pakistani troops posing as militants infiltrated into indian territory. the Indian Army killed many of them. The Pakistan Army refused to accept the dead bodies of its own soldiers and contended  that they were Indian militants and not Pakistanis. It is immature on the part of us to expect that Zardari or any other Pakistani ruler would do a mea culpa.

10.How about suggestions for joint investigation emanating from the US and some sections of our own elite?

These, if accepted, would give an escape valve to Pakistan.After the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, the US and China, independently of each other, proposed that the chiefs of the ISI and the R&AW meet secretly to discuss the Indian allegations of ISI involvement. Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister, rejected their suggestion. He had many reasons for doing so. One of his reasons was that the ISI would find out during these meetings what evidence the Indian Police had been able to collect and try to cover up its tracks.

11. Zardari says that India has not been able to produce any evidence against persons living in Pakistan whose arrest and handing-over it has been demanding.

The people, whose arrest and handing-over India has been demanding fall into four groups. In the first group are the Khalistanis, who hijacked Indian aircraft to Lahore. Pakistan terminated the hijackings and returned the aircraft, but refused to hand over the hijackers to India for trial. The hijackings were covered by the internatinal media, including the press conferences addressed by the hijackers. Pakistan did try Gajendra Singh, the hijacker of the Dal Khalsa. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to imprisonment, but he was allowed to spend the period in a gurudwara instead of in a jail. He used to meet and address the Sikh jathas visiting the Nankana Sahib in the Lahore area. When Pakistan was asked to re-arrest him and hand him over to India for trial in cases pending against him in Indian courts, it denied that he was in Pakistan.In the second group are Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, who are wanted for trial in India in connection with the March,1993, Mumbai blasts. The evidence against Dawood Ibrahim has been produced not only by the Indian intelligence, but also by the US intelligence as could be seen from the press release dated October 16,2003 of the US Treasury Department. The third group consists of  terrorists from J&K operating from Pakistani territory such as Syed Salahuddin, the Amir of the HM. The fourth group consists of Pakistani nationals such as Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Hafiz Mohd Sayeed, the Amir of the JUD etc. Pakistan's stand has been consistent, whoever might be the ruler. In the case of the Indian nationals in the first two groups, it denies their very presence in Pakistani territory even though sections of the Pakistani media have been reporting about their presence and activities in Pakistani territory. In the case of the Kashmiris in the third group, it denies that they are Indian nationals and projects them as freedom fighters and not as terrorists. In the case of the Pakistanis in the fourth group it says that India has not been able to produce any evidence against them.

Since India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, there has not been a single criminal case involving a Muslim in which it has extended mutual legal assistance to India---- whether it was a  case of terrorism, robbery, cattle-lifting, narcotics smuggling, rape or even child sex. It has had no hesitation in handing over nearly 200 Muslims suspected by the US as Al Qaeda members to the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the US without following the due process of law, but it has never handed over a single Muslim criminal to India for trial. Even in the case of the US, it avoids handing over persons whose interrogation might bring out their links with the ISI.A typical example is the case of the accused in the Daniel Pearl murder case. Another typical example is that of Dawood Ibrahim. The ISI is worried that his interrogation outside Pakistan might bring out his involvement in the nuclear proliferation activities of Pakistan.

12. How about the role of the Pakistan Army?

There are two defining characteristics of the mindset of the Pakistan Army. It thinks that its nuclear and missile capabilities have given it a psychological parity with India and will enable it to continue to indulge in terrorism against India without fear of a retaliation by India. It thinks that the Indian policy-makers are not prepared to take the risk of a military option for fear of provoking a nuclear confrontation. It has also convinced itself that the US will not allow India to choose a military  option due to the same fear of a nuclear confrontation. It thinks that its strategic position and its role as the so-called frontline state in the US-led war against Al Qaeda will guarantee that the West will not exercise too much pressure on it to  respond to Indian concerns. This mindset has to be changed through appropriate actions by India.

13. Is a military option available to India?

Yes. We should not paralyse ourselves into inaction through fears of a nuclear confrontation if we choose the military option. By doing so, we should be confirming Pakistan's thinking that its nuclear capability will protect it against any Indian retaliation. However, this is not the time for a military confrontation when nearly 50,000 NATO troops are fighting against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and when more US troops are expected to go there when Barack Obama takes over as the US President. A military confrontation between India and Pakistan could come in the way of the movement of supplies for the NATO forces from Karachi. It could hamper the war against terrorism in the Pashtun tribal belt. We might lose whatever little support we have from the US and other NATO countries. If the worst comes to the worst, we may have to use the military option if and when the time for it comes. It has not yet come.

14. You talk of the covert action option?  What do you mean by it?

One of the definitions of a covert action is a deniable para-military or para-diplomatic action against an adversary---whether it is a state actor or a foreign-based non-State actor--- when traditional military or diplomatic options are considered as not feasible or not advisable. It is an unconventional option to meet an unconventional threat from terrorists and a State sponsoring terrorism.

The US and Israel have reserved to themselves through public declarations the right to use unconventional covert options if left with no other alternative. Other countries believe in this option, but have not publicly admitted it.

15.Is not covert action immoral? Will we not be stooping to the same level as Pakistan?

By saying we should use the covert action option, one does not mean that we should indulge in actions against the Pakistani people which would amount to terrorism. There could be a wide choice of covert actions to convey a message to Pakistan that the use of terrorism against India will be counter-productive. The objective of the covert action should be limited to neutralising the LET and its capabilities in Pakistani territory. During the election campaign, Obama said that he would be willing to consider actions against Al Qaeda in Pakistani territory if he concluded that Pakistan is either unwilling or unable  to deal with Al Qaeda. We should have a similar policy with regard to the LET.

Mumbai: The human cluster bomb tactics

By B.Raman

There is a need for a thorough investigation into the unprecedented terrorist strike in Mumbai, which lasted from around 9-21 PM on November 26 till the morning of November 29.It was unprecedented in conception, planning and execution and in the brutality inflicted by the terrorists on the victims---particularly Indian and Israeli nationals.

2. Indian nationals---Hindus and Muslims--- were the largest number killed----about 160. The second largest number were Israelis---about nine. There were another 16 foreign victims of different nationalities.

3. While the modus operandi of terrorists coming stealthily by sea and taking the security forces by surprise had been seen in the past in Sri Lanka and Israel, a new MO seen for the first time in Mumbai was what some Israeli experts have described as the human cluster bomb tactics. In a cluster bomb, a number of bomblets separate from a mother bomb and spread in different directions killing or maiming people in their path.

4.A group of at least 10 terrorists landed in Mumbai at one place, split into four groups and spread in different directions. Two terrorists---one of them reportedly belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba arrested and under interrogation--- went round the areas close to the sea front and killed people indiscriminately through hand-held weapons. One of them was killed and another captured----but not before they had killed at least about 70 innocent civilians.

5. A task of this group apparently was to keep the police preoccupied in hunting for them and to prevent it from going to the main scenes of attack, which had a strategic significance. These were the Taj Palace Hotel, the Oberoi and Trident hotels, belonging to the same management and located side by side, and the Narriman House, in which a Jewish religious-cum-cultural centre is located.

6. Four terrorists forced their way into the Taj Palace Hotel, and two each into the Oberoi/Trident hotels and the Narriman House.Their targets were the Indian and foreign guests staying or eating in the hotel and the Israelis and other Jewish people living or staying in the Jewish centre.

7. As per information available till now, they did not take hostages in order to make any demands. They detained the foreigners and Indians in the hotels and the Jewish people (eight of them) in the Narriman House in order to force a confrontation with the Indian special intervention forces spearheaded by the National Security Guards (NSG).

8. The confrontation reportedly started only on the morning of November 27---nearly 12 hours after the terrorists took control of the places and continued for nearly 40 hours before the terrorists could be eliminated. During this period, the terrorists in the Narriman House inflicted shocking brutalities on the Jewish people in the religious centre and reportedly lined up and gunned down many of the guests---Indians and foreigners—in the Taj Palace Hotel, which appeared to have been the strategic focus of the entire operation.

9.The delayed response of the NSG and the failure of the local authorities to keep the media out of the scenes of confrontation by imposing a curfew, if necessary, or, at least, by switching off all TV transmissions till the operation was over resulted in three consequences. Firstly, despite the outstanding bravery of the NSG officers, the credibility of India’s rapid response mechanism has been damaged in the eyes of the Indian public and international opinion. Secondly, the TV transmissions even as the confrontation was going on enabled the terrorists to find out what was going on outside without the intervention forces being able to find out what was going on inside. The TV channels unwittingly provided an assymetric operational advantage to the terrorists.Thirdly, the terrorists received a colossal supply of oxygen in the form of publicity, which is likely to increase the flow of volunteers for more terrorist strikes in future.

10. It is evident the terrorist strike had three strategic objectives: firstly, to discredit the Indian political leadership and counter-terrorism apparatus. Secondly, to damage our tourist economy and to create nervousness in the minds of foreign investors about the security of life and property in India. Thirdly, to disrupt the strategic co-operation between India and Israel. To what extent they have achieved these objectives remains to be seen.

11.The present investigation by the Mumbai Police, assisted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), has a three-point focus: the role of the LET and any others involved; the role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); and a reconstruction of the entire strike.

12. One gets the impression that while the first two have been receiving adequate attention, the third is not receiving the immediate attention it deserves. Without a satisfactory reconstruction, our ability to prevent a repetition of Mumbai---November 26 in other cities would be weak.

13. The strike in Mumbai was not a one-shot isolated attack. There is a strong likelihood that it was the precursor of more such attacks in future. The only way of preventing a repetition is by revamping our entire counter-terrorism machinery, which has failed to deliver repeatedly for over a year now and drawing the right lessons from our colossal failure on all fronts---intelligence, physical security, consequence management and leadership, which failed equally.

From Bretton Woods to the G-20 Summit: The new economic landscape and the calamity of casino capitalism

By Rajan Philips

The G-20 summit in Washington on 15 November was touted as Bretton Woods II that would replace with new financial and monetary architectures the old ones that were established in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944. July of next year, Bretton Woods would be sixty five years old, the normal retirement age in many countries. This will be no normal retirement party, rather the occasion to overhaul the international economic system that was created to avert a repeat of the Great Depression of the twentieth century but could not prevent the Great Recession of the new century.

More than the failure of the structures established in 1944, what has happened is the systematic deviation from them by the more powerful among the Bretton Woods signatories. In addition, the world economy has outgrown Bretton Woods and faces new problems and challenges, even as the landscape of global economic power has been vastly transformed from what it was in 1944.

Forty four countries attended the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference. The United States, then the emerging superpower, was assertive to the point of being arrogant; the United Kingdom, the receding colonial power, could only throw its dead weight around, although in John Maynard Keynes it offered the world the most influential economist of the century. Almost all the attendees were World War II allies and signatories to the UN Declaration of 1942. Many of them were colonies. Germany, Italy and Japan, the Axis countries, were excluded. The Soviet Union, then the formidable socialist threat to world capitalism, attended Bretton Woods but did not sign on to the agreements. India came to the conference, but only as Britain’s biggest colony. China, under Chiang Kai Sheik, was there as a lackey of the West, pre-Mao Zedong and not yet the red star of the East.

The new landscape

Fast forward to 2008 and the G-20. The emergence of the Group of Twenty itself illustrates the changes in the global economic landscape. What began as the exclusive economic club of five (G-5 comprising US, UK, Germany, France and Japan) in the late 1970s, guardedly expanded to include Canada and Italy to become G-7, and then invited Russia to make it G-8. Thus far and no further was how the US and Europe rebuffed attempts to expand the group to include emerging Asian and South American economic powers. Keep the barbarians at the UN political talk shop and keep them off from the inner sanctums of global economic decision making, was the thinking. The Europeans did not want to lose the majority they had in G-8. Individual western leaders like Paul Martin, former Canadian Finance Minister and Prime Minister, worked hard to set up the Group of Twenty but it was stalled at the level of Finance Ministers and Central Bankers.

It took a financial tsunami and the Great Recession for America’s lame-duck President Bush to get off the high horse and host in Washington the first summit of the G-20. The old power houses, US and UK, have been cut to size. The former outlaws, Germany, Italy and Japan are in but neither Germany nor Japan is as economically strong as they used to be for most of the postwar period. Regionally, Canada and US, the world’s largest trading partners, are the two North American countries; Argentina, Brazil and Mexico represent the Central and South Americas; from Europe are Germany, France, UK, Italy with a separate chair for the EU; South Africa is the only member from Africa, and so is Australia from down under; Saudi Arabia is there for its oil along with Turkey, the hothouse between the East and the West; Russia is the lone attendee from Eastern Europe, a sad shadow of the once mighty Soviet Union; completing the pack are the five Asian countries – China, India, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.

The new landscape tolls not the demise of capitalism; capitalism doth prevail despite its crisis. The socialist hopes of the past - Russia and China, and the exponent of mixed-economy experiment – India, are all now entrenched in market capitalism, in their own ways. India has moved beyond the old self-deprecating annual “Hindu growth rate” of 3.5% and is registering rates two to three times high. It is even poised to ward off a technical recession - two successive quarters of negative growth. China is the new power in the global economy, not anyone’s lackey; but it is a capitalist power, no more the red star of the east. The era of Mao has come and gone between Bretton Woods and G-20, between the Great Depression and the Great Recession.

Casino capitalism

Yet, the G-20 summit was not a ringing celebration of capitalism, but a crisis gathering to deal with its latest calamity. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the only academic economist at the summit, reportedly went into lecture mode and quoted from Keynes’s General Theory: “Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation.” Also borrowing from Keynes, Dr. Singh had earlier criticized the current crisis as the result of casino capitalism.

For most of the last three decades, casino capitalism has enjoyed currency under the euphemism of risk taking. For Alan Greenspan, the former US Federal Reserve Chairman and until now the universally respected financial oracle, competition and risk taking are the essence of capitalism. The purpose of the welfare state, Greenspan suggests in his book, The Age of Turbulence, is to control excessive risk taking through regulation, and to reduce the rewards of risk taking through taxation. True to his free market principles, Greenspan, during his long and influential stint as Chairman, led the dismantling of a good deal of the regulatory scaffoldings that were set up by President Roosevelt as part of his New Deal to rescue America from the Great Depression and avert its recurrence.

Not that there were not enough American economists or regulatory officials who raised voices of informed concern about the casino forces that deregulation was unleashing. But these voices were silenced and marginalized by the magic of Greenspan, Rubin and Summers (the powerful triumvirate in the Clinton Administration), perhaps more gently and less obtrusively than Colin Powel’s concerns over invading Iraq were dismissed in the Oval Office by the war mongering pair of Cheney and Rumsfeld.  The deregulation fiasco that Greenspan presided over is at the root of much of America’s current woes.

Greenspan’s mea culpa

It is poetic justice, therefore, for Mr. Greenspan to live through America’s melt down, and in an extraordinary Congress hearing in October, to confess mea culpa. It was really maxima culpa! He admitted to being “in a state of shocked disbelief” after what he described as “once-in-a-century credit tsunami” brought about by the failure of the financial institutions to rely on their self-interest to protect the equity of their share holders. Contrite though he was, Greenspan was far from becoming a zealous convert supporting a revamped regulatory regime. Regulatory changes are necessary to compensate for the “failures of counter-party surveillance … the central pillar of competitive markets”, he characteristically convoluted; in the next breath, he waxed eloquent that any new regulatory regime will pale in comparison to the self-restraint that the markets have already begun to show.

To translate, the markets will be more cautious and careful in future against individual or corporate casino capitalists. The market requires no Smithsian “hidden hand”; it can play god. Rather, Greenspan let the market play god with people’s lives, not just in America, but around the world. Remarkably, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers (both Treasury Secretaries under Clinton) of the old triumvirate are now new converts supporting a stronger role for the State in the incoming Obama Administration as it tries to formulate the elements of a new ‘New Deal’ even before the inauguration on 20 January, 2009.

The old New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt was a comprehensive assault on what was then the prevailing laissez faire system. It included a social safety net for workers, farmers, the elderly, and the jobless; public works programs to stimulate the economy; and institutionalized regulations of the financial industry. At the international level, Bretton Woods achieved a consensus among states on financing public works programs, stabilizing exchange rates around a fixed value of gold in dollars, and fostering free trade. The biggest roadblocks to free trade were the more powerful countries. Bretton Woods also established the IMF and the World Bank, but both structured to be oligarchic and undemocratic in their operations.

Today, the world needs not only a universal return to the old New Deal, but also the democratization of the international financial institutions. It is conventional history that the world was saved from the Great Depression by the ideas of John Maynard Keynes. The so called ‘Keynesian revolution’ of state welfare programs and government spending on public works beyond its normal revenues was the result of several antecedent and contemporary developments that both challenged and forced reforms in the operations of unbridled capitalism. Not least among them was the fear of revolution that Karl Marx had envisaged. There is no fear of revolution at the present juncture, but only a new interest in the writings of Marx and his critique of capitalism. Ironically, the impetus for new changes could come from China and India but not by the strengths of their market economies; only if they are able to harness the projects of rescuing capitalism to the interests of their ordinary citizens and those of other developing countries.

December 06, 2008

“A Profound and important work” - Fidel’s Ethics of Violence, By Dayan Jayatilleka

A review by Rémy Herrera

[The following is the English translation of a review essay by Prof. Remy Herrera which has just appeared under the caption “Morale de la révolution” – "Morality of the Revolution" - in the December 2008 edition of Afrique-Asie, the reputed French magazine.]

Re-defining the terms of a moral ideal of rebel resistance: How to master revolutionary violence? questions the Sri Lankan academic Dayan Jayatilleka in his latest book. It is by practicing a strict code of ethics, the way the 'Maximum Leader' did, proving that the limits imposed on legitimate violence help avoid terror and extreme violence and that those limits help gain popular support.

FDJ126.jpg
For nearly a decade, Latin America has become a place of resurgence of the peoples’ struggle for national sovereignty, respect for cultural diversity, social progress and democracy. This renewed vigour in the Latin American people’s resistance, and the strong and permanent ideological reference that the Cuban revolution and its historic leader Fidel Castro (whom Hugo Chavez Frias, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, calls his "political father") constitutes in the heart of that popular movement, compel us to interrogate the nature, value and the modernity of Fidelismo.

That is precisely what Dayan Jayatilleka, a steadfast progressist, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Colombo and representative of Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council at the UN in Geneva, has undertaken to do in a profound and important work titled Fidel's Ethics of Violence, published in English, by Pluto Press, London.

Cuba's adherence to communism since 1959 and the survival of the Cuban revolution beyond the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s can be understood only in the long-term perspective, through a complex analysis of the conditions under which they fused with Cuba’s struggles for national liberation and social emancipation. The role played by Fidel Castro - from the commander of a guerrilla war to the victorious head of state of the Tricontinental - in the consolidation of the Cuban people’s resistance and in maintaining their unity in the face of the dangers they encountered, should be evaluated for what the Cuban people were, and still are: this is absolutely vital.

It’s to the fundamental basis of this reality that Dayan Jayatilleka chooses to draw the attention of the reader; although many Western leftist administrations might still be hampered by great confusion and have not yet found, due to the incessant bombardment of the media feedback, the ways of rebuilding their internationalism and an active solidarity with the peoples of the South; although great leaders of the Third World may not yet be truly recognized - even by many Marxists - as having contributed to the advancement of the history of thought in political philosophy, in general - and in Marxism, in particular; although Fidel himself, disgusted by the personality cult and political pragmatism, has not systematized his vision of the world in a completed, written doctrinal work.

According to the author, Fidel Castro’s major contribution is the moral and ethical dimension which characterizes his thought and action. The sources of his ethics are deeply rooted in the history of the "Cubanism" itself, in its very special mix of idealism and realism, in the successful combination of the humanist heritage of Jose Marti (the initiator and hero of the war for independence who died in the battle in 1895) and Marxism-Leninism, and in the unique way of balancing the exercise of power and the imperative for virtue.

This is one of the fundamental reasons for which the Cuban revolution not only was not entombed with the USSR (how many times should it be reminded that Cuba is not a residue of the Soviet Union, lost in the Caribbean?), but also did not, hitherto, resort to terror to prevail. And this is certainly not strange because up to now, of all the great revolutions, it is the one that took place in Cuba that gave its leaders - first of all, to the first among them - the longest, widest and most solid support of its people.

At the heart of the topic resides of course the issue of revolutionary violence and its containment - that is to say, the use of violence in a "fair" or "correct" manner - when an entire nation rises up clamouring for its liberation. Because, if we accept that (these obvious facts have now become taboos) the violence of the oppressed is not of the same nature as that of the oppressor - a Palestinian child who grabs hold of a stone against an Israeli soldier who holds him at gun point - and that people can legitimately opt for armed struggle to resist oppression - French resistance under Nazi occupation, the Algerian "rebels" during the fight for Independence, the Vietnamese fighting against the U.S. aggression, were they terrorists? -, an inevitable disquieting concern arises: what are the limits that are to be imposed on this legitimate violence?

Dayan Jayatilleka shows how Fidel Castro was capable of defining these impassable limits through an inflexible code of ethics, and how he put it to practice in Cuba even during the movement of people’s rebellion. And this code of honour, these universal values which were practised even in the guerrilla war, who else than Ernesto Che Guevara - the heroic guerrilla, the "moral giant" as Fidel called him- could be more pure and popular to have been able to symbolize them? One day in 1958, after a battle against the army of the dictator Batista in the mountains of Sierra Maestra, a guerrilla asked Fidel "What shall we do with the prisoners?” Fidel’s answer was: "Treat them humanely. Do not ever insult them. And remember, for us, the life of an unarmed human being must always remain sacred."

It’s this ethic that nurtured the Cuban Revolution since its very beginning, on the island as well as beyond its borders, in the deployment of its military internationalism in solidarity with the struggles of other nations, against colonialism, imperialism and apartheid. And again, it is this ethic that made him constantly safeguard the lives of the non-combatant civilians, refuse the execution of the prisoners of war and reject torture. After all, everyone knows this (even John McCain, who nevertheless claimed to have been "tortured" by Cubans in Vietnam ... although there were no Cuban fighters in Vietnam!): If torture is used on Cuban soil, it is in the Guantanamo base, and nowhere else, that is to say, it is in this piece of land that the United States holds since the military occupation of the island in 1898 and which it refuses to give back to the Cuban people for over a century.

Dayan Jayatilleka does not brush aside any problem (neither of philosophical nature nor of practical nature), makes no effort to differentiate (from other revolutionary experiences in the South, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka ...), does not forget any of the painful issues (for example, the Ochoa case). Through his nuanced, courageous and ‘against the current’ thinking, he offers all progressives the opportunity, both to set up the terms of a moral ideal of rebel resistance and to rebuild a concrete alternative which fits challenges of modernity. And to the most radical among them, this book might help them even to rethink the unthinkable under such trying conditions at the beginning of this twenty-first century: another world, which is better and ... socialist.

[Rémy Herrera, Professor in Development Economics at the Université de Paris 1, France, is a researcher at the CNRS, the National Centre for Scientific Research, and the Director of the Social Forum collection at Edition L’Harmattan, Paris. A collaborator of Prof. Samir Amin, he is a member of the World Forum of the Alternatives - FMA, Dakar.]

Link to the original review in French published in Afrique-Asie:
http://www.afriqueasie.fr/article.php?article=567

December 05, 2008

The killing of a Religious leader

A statement by the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo

The recent killing of a Hindu Priest, Sivasri Subramanyan Kamalraj of the Mariamma Kovil in Batticalao, is a tragic and senseless act and must be condemned by all persons committed to religious values and peace.

I extend the condolences of our Church to Swami Sivaraj’s wife and children and the Hindu community of the East. May God absorb and convert your sorrow into a stronger commitment to end this destructive violence that the vast majority of our people of all communities do not want .

This killing is one of a spate of recent killings of civilians, TMVP Cadres and Security personnel that has spread fear, suspicion and desperation in the East. The President must take note of this totally unacceptable trend and ensure that those responsible for security will establish law and order without delay. If this is to happen effectively, Civil Society leaders of the East should be consulted. This brazen disregard for the sanctity of life must stop.

With Peace and Blessings to all

Rt. Rev. Duleep de ChickeraBishop of Colombo
5th December 2008

December 04, 2008

Accountability Of Intelligence Agencies

By B. Raman

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) have mounted a damage-control exercise by sharing with senior journalists details of technical intelligence (TECHINT) collected by them, which clearly indicated that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Pakistani terrorist organisation, which is a member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) For Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People, was planning to carry out sea-borne terrorist strikes against hotels on Mumbai's coast, one of the hotels being the Taj Mahal hotel, which was actually attacked and occupied by some terrorists on the night of November 26, 2008. This intelligence was disseminated by them to those responsible for physical security. It seems to be the contention of the IB and the R&AW that what happened in Mumbai was a serious instance of physical security failure and failure to act on available intelligence and not an instance of intelligence failure.

2. Other independent reports indicate that the reports were acted upon by the Mumbai Police and the security authorities of the Taj Mahal Hotel. It was not as if they ignored them. The Mumbai Police alerted the hotels mentioned in the R&AW report and advised them on the need to strengthen security. The Mumbai Police also set up a security barrier at a point near the sea where , in their assessment, clandestine landings might take place.

3. The two specific reports of the R&AW based on intercepts were disseminated in September. There was no follow-up report for nearly five weeks, either from the IB or the R&AW. As a result, the Mumbai Police and hotels downgraded the security alert. The Taj Mahal Hotel removed a security barrier, which they had erected, and the Mumbai Police removed the security barrier which they had set up to prevent clandestine landings. The terrorists from Pakistan seem to have landed at this very point, where the Mumbai Police had erected the security barrier on the receipt of the alert from the R&AW.

4. The R&AW and the IB have their offices in Mumbai headed by senior officers to interact closely with the local police and the Armed Forces units. All of them are members of special co-ordination committees. How come the IB and the R&AW officers did not come to know that the security alert had been downgraded following the non-receipt of any follow-up reports from the R&AW? Did the R&AW immediately advise the Mumbai Police, the Navy and the hotel authorities that the alert should be continued till they receive information that the LET has abandoned its plans?

5. While the intercepts of September speak well of the interception capability of the R&AW, it does not necessarily speak well of its capability for analysis, assessment and follow-up action. Many questions are relevant in this regard: In what form did it report the intelligence? Did it tone it down while reporting the intercepts in a paraphrased form? Did it tell the persons to whom it sent the two reports of September that the intelligence was based on intercepts of telephone conversations of an LET operative based in Pakistan? If it did not do so on grounds of operational security, how come it is now sharing them with journalists? This only strengthens the suspicion that the IB and the R&AW show a greater readiness to share sensitive intelligence with journalists to protect themselves than with each other to protect the nation and its people. To which Ministries and departments were the reports sent and at what level?

6. Unless one looks into all these questions, one cannot say where the failures occurred, which made the terrorist strikes possible. In 1987, the R&AW received a human intelligence report about a Khalistani plot to kill Rajiv Gandhi, then Prime Minister, during his visit to Rajghat on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. The R&AW officer----of the rank of Director, one rank below a Joint Secretary--- conveyed the information in a written note to a Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry and the Delhi Police. He did not alert other senior officers.

7. The report proved to be accurate. Rajiv Gandhi narrowly escaped the assassination attempt. T. N. Seshan, who was then co-ordinating the security arrangements for Rajiv Gandhi, was asked to enquire into this. He held both the Delhi Police and the R&AW responsible for omissions, which could have led to a national tragedy. He blamed the Delhi Police for inaction on the R&AW report and the R&AW for not realising the gravity of the information when it was received and for disseminating it at a lower level without alerting the senior officers responsible for Rajiv's security.

8. A report in the "Hindustan Times" of December 2, 2008, quotes an unnamed officer of the R&AW as saying that its job in the Mumbai case was over with sending the report to the concerned quarters in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and that it had no other responsibility since it does not operate in Indian territory.

8. This is a highly irresponsible mindset, which needs to be checked. B. N. Mallick and R. N. Kao, the founding fathers of the Indian intelligence, used to stress on their officers that the responsibility of an intelligence officer does not stop with his sending a memo or a note about intelligence of a serious nature collected. It is equally their responsibility to ensure that the intelligence receives the attention it deserves in the ministries and departments concerned and that the necessary follow-up action is taken. In respect of terrorism, the role and responsibility of an intelligence officer starts from the moment he collects a piece of intelligence and continues till it is acted upon and the act of terrorism thwarted.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai)

December 03, 2008

Free Journalists Unfairly Held

Sri Lanka Government Abuses Anti-Terror Laws to Muzzle the Media

The Sri Lankan government should immediately drop charges and free J.S. Tissainayagam, a prominent Tamil journalist on trial for his writings, Human Rights Watch said today. A Tamil publisher, N. Jasiharan, and his wife, V. Valamathy, who were also arbitrarily arrested, should be freed immediately.

"The Sri Lankan government is shamefully using antiterrorism laws to silence peaceful critics in the media," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This is no way for a government that claims to be a rights-respecting democracy to act."

Tissainayagam, a columnist with the Sunday Times newspaper and editor of the Outreach website, was arrested by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the police on March 7, 2008. The previous day, the terrorist investigation unit had arrested Jasiharan, the owner of E-Kwality press, and Valamathy. Tissainayagam and Jasiharan are co-directors of the company Outreach Multimedia. Valamathy has no official role with the company.

On August 25, more than five months after Tissainayagam's arrest, prosecutors charged him under the country's Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act for printing and distributing the North Eastern Monthly magazine, of which he was previously an editor, and for aiding and abetting terrorist organizations through raising money for the magazine. He is currently on trial before the High Court in Colombo.

Tissainayagam's indictment cites two of his writings from the North Eastern Monthly. In a July 2006 editorial, under the headline, "Providing security to Tamils now will define northeastern politics of the future," Tissainayagam wrote: "It is fairly obvious that the government is not going to offer them any protection. In fact it is the state security forces that are the main perpetrator of the killings."

The charges against Tissainayagam also include part of a November 2006 article on the military offensive in Vaharai, in the east, which said:

"Such offensives against the civilians are accompanied by attempts to starve the population by refusing them food as well as medicines and fuel, with the hope of driving out the people of Vaharai and depopulating it. As this story is being written, Vaharai is being subject to intense shelling and aerial bombardment."

Human Rights Watch said that the written passages over which Tissainayagam has been charged reflect mere opinions about the conduct of the armed conflict between the government and the LTTE, which is seeking an independent Tamil homeland. The rights to freedom of opinion and expression are protected under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sri Lanka is a party. Although the covenant allows for certain restrictions on freedom of expression on grounds of national security, the terms of any such restriction must be specific and narrowly tailored to prevent against arbitrariness and to ensure that the internationally recognized human rights of all individuals are protected.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern for the safety of all three detainees. Since November 18, the authorities have held Tissainayagam in the Magazine prison in Colombo, which houses 140 convicted criminals. Upon his transfer there, Tissainayagam was threatened by other inmates.

Jasiharan and Valamathy have also come under threat. On November 25 and 26, Jasiharan's family in Batticaloa received calls demanding Rs.100,000 (approximately US$900) in return for his safety. The caller threatened that if payment was not made within three days, Jasiharan would be killed in prison. The family has filed a complaint with the police. Human Rights Watch has also learned that Valamathy is in the female ward in the Colombo prison with 110 other prisoners, the majority of whom are convicted criminals. The international covenant provides for the separation of accused persons from persons convicted of crimes.

None of the three detainees has had adequate access to counsel. Police officers have been present during Tissainayagam's discussions with his lawyers, violating his right to communicate and consult with a lawyer in full confidentiality. The three have filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court challenging the legality of their continued detention.

Article 14 of the Sri Lankan constitution enshrines the right to freedom of speech. However, since 2006 the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse has increasingly intimidated and tried to silence the media, nongovernmental organizations, and others with independent or dissenting views of the government's military policies and human rights practices. Senior government officials have attacked such critics as supporters of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and traitors of the state.

"The government's disregard for the basic rights and well-being of three well-known detainees raises even greater concerns for the hundreds of others detained under the security laws," Adams said.

December 02, 2008

Mumbai attacks and the Muslim question

by Hasan Suroor

India’s “secular” political establishment, barring the Left, has relied on a class of Muslim “leaders,” whose own political interest lies in keeping the community backward-looking.
— Photo: AP

Muslims in Ahmedabad holding a demonstration against terrorist attacks in Mumbai. There is now a growing, educated, and politically aware Muslim middle class.

This, it is believed, may no longer be true; and — as The Times put it — if “fanaticism” has indeed taken root among Indian Muslims then “the future for a country built on tolerance , secularism and multi-ethnic balance looks grim.” This has been the dominant theme of much of the analysis of the Mumbai outrage in the British media with fears being expressed that a possible Hindu “backlash” could further undermine the already fragile Hindu-Muslim relations.

But before the Hindu Right gets into the self-congratulatory we-told-you-so mode, here’s the sting in the tail. The same analysis that suggests that home-grown jihadi-ism has arrived in India also holds that Muslim extremism is a reaction to the way the community feels it has been treated over the years — exploited as a vote bank, suspected as fifth columnists, discriminated against, and intimidated by Hindu militants. The communalisation of Indian Muslims, it is stated, is a result of the failure of the Indian state to confront the “fault-lines in the system” (an euphemism for anti-Muslim bias, and Hindu communalism) that Al Qaeda-inspired groups are now exploiting.

There is almost a sense that Muslim extremism and other violent campaigns going on in India — a simmering “insurgency” in the north-east and Naxalite violence in central India — are a “comeuppance” for a state that has tended to neglect its minorities and the poor. There is also a view that thanks to its image as a “thriving democracy” India has, largely, escaped international scrutiny whereas other countries are routinely censured for lesser crimes.

Mohsin Hamid, an expatriate Pakistani writer, thinks that the West is often soft on India over its handling of ethnic tensions.

“Had recent protests in Indian Kashmir occurred in a former Soviet Republic, they would have been hailed by the world as a new Orange Revolution and had they occurred in Tibet they would have resulted in calls for international pressure on Beijing. Similarly, the tensions in India’s north-east, the armed Naxalite movement, and the slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat all run counter to the half truth of ‘India-shining’,” he wrote in The Guardian.

Meanwhile, portents for the future don’t look good. There is concern that after the Mumbai attacks, the BJP could be tempted to revert to its “default” Hindutva programme in the run-up to next year’s general elections. Among Britain’s India-watchers, it has not gone unnoticed that the next putative BJP Prime Minister is the same man who led the inflammatory campaign on Ayodhya resulting in the demolition of Babri Masjid and the mayhem that followed. Nor do they find it comforting that the party’s next big star is Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 when the riots took place.

The “biggest challenge” before the Indian government is to maintain communal peace, says Edna Fernandes, a British-Indian writer and author of Holy Warriors: A Journey into the Heart of Indian Fundamentalism. Journalist-broadcaster Ian Jack, an old India hand and among the more sobre interpreters of Indian events, believes it is time to “pray there are no riots.”

Maria Misra, an Oxford historian, has no doubt that Al Qaeda-style extremism has penetrated India’s Muslim community and asserts that “there is evidence of an entirely domestic element at play” behind the Mumbai atrocity. But, she suggests, that it is hardly surprising given the sense of Muslim grievance. Pakistani involvement notwithstanding “the chief recruiting officer” of Muslim terrorists is “often the Indian State.”

“This is especially true at regional and state levels where the police and judiciary are often ‘captured’ by Hindu political interests that have used anti-terrorist laws to pursue political vendettas,” she wrote in The Times.

This was also the burden of an Economist editorial which described India’s Muslim community as a “fertile ground for those sowing hatred” because it felt discriminated and had “occasionally been subject to hideous communal slaughter.” Besides, the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat “pogram” had never been brought to justice. The sense of injustice that this bred among Muslims made them a sitting duck for jihadi propaganda.

Nor was the Left-leaning Observer surprised that Indian Muslims had fallen prey to the “terrorists’ conspiratorial narrative.” The reason was simple: the “vast majority” of Muslims had been excluded from the economic boom and though this was a fate they shared with “millions of poor Hindus” there were additional factors that militated against Muslims such as the fact that “they have also been subject to terror at the hands of ultra-nationalist Hindus and have had little or no state protection.”

It is nobody’s case (and all commentators have been at pains to stress this) that the Muslims’ sense of grievance, genuine though it may be, is a justification for terrorism. But if wounds are left to fester for too long there’s a real risk of the infection spreading.

One point that the British commentators have not made but which an “insider” can see is that Muslim fundamentalism has also been helped by India’s “secular” political establishment which, barring the Left, has not only made no effort to develop a progressive Muslim leadership but actively prevented it from taking root. Instead, it has relied on a class of Muslim “leaders” whose own political interest lies in keeping the community backward-looking.

By mobilising Muslims around issues that have nothing to do with their daily lives they have landed the community in a situation where it finds itself a target of Hindu fundamentalists, on the one hand, and susceptible to faith-based militant Islamist elements on the other.

While the Congress is the chief culprit in this respect, it is not alone in propping up self-serving Muslim leaders. The fact is that it is hard to name any progressive Muslim leader in any of the secular parties. Over the years, the only change that has been noticed is that instead of “mullahs” with long beards we now have suave English-speaking Muslim leaders to match the “modern” face of Hindutva. Their language and worldview, however, remain unashamedly sectarian.

But what about the ordinary Muslims themselves? The idea of an amorphous — uneducated, poor Muslim mass as hapless victims of either their own leaders, or Hindu communal groups or jihadis has become part of the secular/liberal mythology. It is a view that is not only patronising but also misleading. There is now a growing educated and politically aware Muslim middle class which does not fit this description.

Only if they could divest themselves of their “victimhood” mindset they could be a huge force for good for the community. [courtesy: The Hindu]

Allow Aid Groups to Help Cyclone Victims

Statement by Human Rights Watch

Sri Lanka Government Should Lift Restrictions on UN and Other Groups Now

The Sri Lankan government should immediately lift its September order barring humanitarian agencies from the Vanni conflict area in northern Sri Lanka so they can assist thousands of persons displaced by flooding from Cyclone Nisha.

Experienced and impartial humanitarian agencies have offered to respond to the crisis, but face government obstruction. Only government-approved food convoys have been allowed to enter the Vanni since the government in September 2008 ordered the United Nations and nearly all humanitarian agencies to withdraw from the Vanni, severely limiting humanitarian access to the affected population. Cyclone Nisha hit northern Sri Lanka on November 25, 2008, causing heavy rains and flooding that reportedly forced between 60,000 and 70,000 people to relocate. Thousands of shelter kits and tarps are available from the humanitarian community to provide emergency shelters for the affected families, but the government has reportedly insisted that only tarps without logos from humanitarian agencies will be allowed into the Vanni. Such unnecessary restrictions on assistance are unacceptable in this time of urgent need. “The Sri Lankan government should stop playing games with aid organizations and let them get on with their life-saving work,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Tens of thousands of people in flooded areas of the Vanni are without adequate shelter and need help now.”

Government officials and humanitarian agencies estimate that between 230,000 and 300,000 displaced persons have been trapped in a small area of the eastern Vanni by fierce fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE has refused to allow displaced persons in areas under its control to leave for government-held territory. It has increased forced recruitment of civilians, including children, as well as making civilians carry out regular forced labor in dangerous conflict areas. The LTTE has almost completely stopped giving out passes allowing civilians to leave the Vanni, with the exception of some urgent medical cases. Only about 1,000 persons have managed to flee the conflict zone since March 2008.

“The LTTE bears a heavy responsibility for the suffering of the civilian population in the Vanni,” said Adams. “By refusing to allow civilians their basic rights to freedom of movement, they have trapped hundreds of thousands of civilians in a dangerous war zone, in horrible conditions.”

The Sri Lankan authorities have not released any figures on the impact of Cyclone Nisha in the Vanni region. Local authorities have reportedly been instructed not to release any data to the public about the current humanitarian situation in the Vanni, but credible assessments indicate that between 60,000 and 70,000 persons in the Vanni have had to relocate because of the flooding. According to government figures, more than 20,000 persons have been displaced by flooding in neighboring Jaffna district, and the local authorities have called for emergency assistance, indicating the extent of the crisis in the region. The impact of the storm is likely to be far more severe in the Vanni because so many persons were displaced in the Vanni prior to the storm and were already living in flood-prone areas. Because of the flooding in the Vanni, a government aid convoy traveling on November 25 was forced to turn back, unable to deliver its supplies.

Human Rights Watch has previously reported that the Sri Lankan authorities have detained many displaced persons leaving the Vanni, holding them in closely guarded militarized camps near Mannar town. The government claims this is necessary for the safety of the detained civilians themselves, but the families detained in the camps have repeatedly stated their desire to leave; the government’s detention policy violates the rights of these displaced persons to freedom of movement.

On September 5, the Sri Lankan authorities ordered all UN agencies and humanitarian nongovernmental organizations to withdraw their staff and operations from the Vanni conflict zone, only allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic church-affiliated Caritas, which employs local staff only, to continue their operations. Since the forced humanitarian withdrawal in September, only six UN convoys with limited amounts of mostly food aid have entered the Vanni, as well as a smaller amount of government-supplied aid. India has donated more than 1,000 tons of humanitarian assistance to be distributed through the ICRC, but the restrictions on humanitarian operations have prevented the distribution of India’s aid to date.

Human Rights Watch rejected the government’s position that the forced withdrawal of aid agencies was necessary for the security of the humanitarian staff. The ICRC and Caritas continue humanitarian operations in the Vanni without significant security problems, and many of the most urgent humanitarian needs are found in areas away from the active fighting. The most serious security incident against humanitarian groups in Sri Lanka in recent years concerned the execution-style slaying of 17 local aid workers with the Paris-based Action Contre la Faim in August 2006; credible investigations found that Sri Lankan security forces were responsible, but to date no one has been arrested, let alone convicted, for the killings.

“If the humanitarian community can operate in conflict zones like eastern Congo, Somalia, and Iraq, they can operate in the Vanni as well,” said Adams. “The government’s argument that the safety of humanitarian workers in the Vanni cannot be guaranteed comes across as more of an excuse to conduct military operations without scrutiny than a statement of concern.”

Prior to the cyclone striking Sri Lanka, the humanitarian community repeatedly warned that living conditions for the displaced population trapped in the Vanni were deteriorating and urgently needed to be addressed. They found that the food supplied by the humanitarian convoys has been insufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of the population. There is also a desperate need for shelters, water and sanitation services (particularly toilets and safe water to prevent the spread of disease), medical assistance, and other basic needs. An October humanitarian assessment by a United Nations team concluded that at least 20,000 shelters were immediately needed at that time.

“The Sri Lankan government has prevented aid agencies from assisting thousands of desperate people in the Vanni,” said Adams. “Now is the time for the authorities to rethink these restrictions on humanitarian activities or be held responsible for the resulting deaths and suffering.”

December 01, 2008

Deepak Chopra: Why Mumbai Attacks Happened and Preventing Future Violence

Deepak Chopra on why Mumbai attacks happened and preventing future violence:

CNN Larry King Live Transcript:


(CNN) — The Indian city of Mumbai exploded into chaos early Thursday morning as gunmen launched a series of attacks across the country’s commercial capital, killing scores of people and taking hostages in two luxury hotels frequented by Westerners.
Deepak Chopra says extremists could be reacting to Barack Obama’s gestures toward Muslims.

CNN’s Larry King spoke with author Deepak Chopra about the situation.

Larry King: Let’s go to Dr. Deepak Chopra, the physician, philosopher. His new book is “Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment.”

Where were you born in India, Deepak?

Deepak Chopra: I was born in Delhi, but I have been in these hotels many, many times. I have stayed there, so I know the scene; I know the restaurants. I have been trying to get in touch with my friends and relatives, some of whom I have spoken to, some of whom I can’t speak to. The lines are jammed. We’re texting each other.

A friend of mine from Egypt was in the restaurant at the Taj hotel when the firing started, and somehow she managed to avoid the fray, hid in a basement and is now holed up in a room which is right next to the Taj hotel and is waiting to be told what to do.

The situation is complex, Larry, because it could inflame to proportions that we cannot even imagine. It has to be contained. We now recognize that this is a global problem, with only a global effort can solve this.

And you know, one of the things that I think is happening is that these militant terrorist groups are actually terrified that [President-elect Barack] Obama’s gestures to the rest of the Muslim world may actually overturn the tables on them by alienating them from the rest of the Muslim world, so they’re reacting to this.

You know, this is Obama’s opportunity to actually harness the help of the Muslims. (keep reading below video)

You know, there’s 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. That’s 25 percent of the population of the world. It’s the fastest-growing religion in the world. We cannot, if we do not appease and actually recruit the help of this Muslim world, we’re going to have a problem on our hands.

And we cannot go after the wrong people, as we did after 9/11, because then the whole collateral damage that occurs actually aggravates the situation.

In India, this is particularly inflammatory, because there’s a rise of Hindu fundamentalism. We saw what that did in Gujarat, where, you know, Muslims were scorched and they were killed, and there was almost a genocide of the Muslims.

India has 150 million Muslims. That’s more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. So this is an opportunity right now for India and Pakistan to recognize this is their common problem. It’s not a Muslim problem right now; it’s a global problem.

King: Do you think that this is just the beginning, that there’s a potential impact, or more?

Chopra: There is a potential impact of a lot more carnage. But it can be contained. And right now, one of the questions, you know, after I heard Barbara Starr talking about how coordinated this is, that there are militant groups that cross international boundaries, is who is financing this? Where is the money coming from? We have to ask very serious, honest questions. What role do we have in this? Are our petrodollars funding both sides of this war on terrorism? Why are we not asking the Saudis where that money is going that we give them? Is it going through this supply chain to Pakistan?

It’s not enough for Pakistan to condemn it. Pakistan should cooperate with India in uprooting this. They should be part of the surgery that is going to happen.

It’s not enough for Indians to blame Pakistanis. Indians should actually ask the Pakistanis to help them.

And it’s not enough for us to worry about Westerners being killed and Americans being killed. Every life is precious over there. We have got to get rid of this idea that this is an American problem or a Western problem. It’s a global problem, and we need a global solution, and we need the help of all the Muslims, 25 percent of the world’s population, to help us uproot this problem.

King: What does India immediately do?

Chopra: India at this moment has to contain any reactive violence from the fundamentalist Hindus, which is very likely and possible. So India has to condemn that by not blaming local Muslims. They have to identify the exact groups.

And the world has to be very careful that they don’t go after the wrong people. Because if you go after the wrong people, you convert moderates into extremists. It happens every time, and retribution against innocent people just because they have the same religion actually aggravates and perpetuates the problem.

King: Are you pessimistic?

Chopra: I think Mr. Obama has a real opportunity here, but a challenging opportunity, a creative opportunity.

Get rid of the phrase “war on terrorism.” Ask for a creative solution in which we all participate.

King: Is it because the war on terrorism really can never be won because the terrorists (inaudible)?

Chopra: Because it’s an oxymoron. It’s an oxymoron, Larry, a war on war, a war on terrorism.

You know, terrorists call mechanized death from 35,000 feet above sea level with a press of a button also terror. We don’t call it that, because our soldiers are wearing uniforms. They don’t see what is happening, and innocent people are being killed. So, you know, terror is a term that you apply to the other.

King: Thanks, Deepak Chopra, as always, extraordinarily enlightening.

[DEEPAK CHOPRA, M.D. Chairman and co-Founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California]

After Mumbai: Points For Action

By B. Raman

(This incorporates some of the points coming to my mind, but is by no means a totally comprehensive list. I have deliberately not touched upon the Pakistan dimension. I would like to wait for some more details before commenting on the action that needs to be taken)

POINT 1: Set up a National Commission of professionals with no political agenda, in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, to enquire into all the major terrorist strikes that have taken place in the Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) since November, 2007, and task it to submit its report within four months, with no extensions given. Its charter will be not the investigation of the criminal cases arising from these terrorist strikes, but the investigation of the deficiencies and sins of commission and omission in our counter-terrorism agencies at the Centre and in the States, which made these strikes possible.

POINT 2: Induct proved experts in terrorism and counter-terrorism from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the State Police and the Army into the R&AW at senior levels. Presently, the R&AW does not have any such expertise at senior levels. Of the four officers at the top of the pyramid, two are generalists, one is an expert in Pakistan (Political) and the other in China (Political).

POINT 3: A similar induction from the State Police and the Army would be necessary in the case of the IB too. Since I have no personal knowledge of the officers at the top of its pyramid, I am not in a position to be specific.

POINT 4: Make the IB the nodal point for all liaison with foreign intelligence and security agencies in respect of terrorism, instead of the R&AW.Give the IB direct access to all foreign internal intelligence and security agencies, instead of having to go through the R&AW.

POINT 5: Have a common data base on terrorism shared by the IB and the R&AW directly accessible by authorized officers of the two organizations through a secure password.

POINT 6: Make the Multi-Disciplinary Centre of the IB function as it was meant to function when it was created----- as a centre for the continuous identification of gaps and deficiencies in the available intelligence and for removing them and for effective follow-up action.

POINT 7: Revive the covert action capability of the R&AW and strengthen it. Its charter should make it clear that it will operate only in foreign territory and not in Indian territory. Give it specific, time-bound tasks. All covert actions should be cleared and co-ordinated by the R&AW. Other agencies should not be allowed to indulge in covert actions.

POINT 8: The National Security Guards (NSG) was created as a special intervention force to deal with terrorist situations such as hijacking and hostage-taking. Stop using it for VIP security purposes. Station one battalion each of the NSG in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. Ensure that its regional deployment does not affect its in-service training. Review the rapid response capability of the NSG in the light of the Mumbai experience and remove loopholes. In handling the Kandahar hijacking of 1999 and the Mumbai terrorist strikes, the delay in the response of the NSG would appear to have been due to a delay in getting an aircraft for moving the NSG personnel to Mumbai from Delhi.

POINT 9: Give the police in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore a special intervention capability to supplement that of the NSG.

POINT 10: After the series of hijackings by the Khalistani terrorists in the early 1980s, Indira Gandhi had approved a proposal for the training of Indian experts in dealing with hostage situations and hostage negotiation techniques by foreign intelligence agencies, which have acknowledged expertise in these fields. The training slots offered by the foreign agencies have been largely monopolized by the IB and the R&AW. The utilization of these training slots and the selection of officers for the training should be decided by the NSA---- with one-third of the slots going to Central agencies, one-third to the NSG and one-third to the State Police. It is important to build up a core of terrorism and counter-terrorism expertise in all metro towns.

POINT 11: The IB’s Multi-Disciplinary Centre should have a constantly updated database of all serving and retired officers at the Centre and in the States, who had undergone overseas training, and also of all serving and retired officers and non-governmental figures who have expertise in terrorism and counter-terrorism so that their expertise could be tapped, when needed.

POINT 12: Strengthen the role of the police stations in counter-terrorism in all major cities. Make it clear to all Station House Officers that their record in preventing acts of terrorism, in contributing to the investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases and in consequence management after a terrorist strike will be an important factor in assessing their suitability for further promotion. Revive and strengthen the beat system, revive and intensify the local enquiries for suspicious activities in all railway stations, bus termini, airports, hotels, inns and other places and improve police-community relations. An important observation of the UK’s Security and Intelligence Committee of the Prime Minister, which enquired into the London blasts of July, 2005, was that no counter-terrorism strategy will succeed unless it is based on the co-operation of the community from which the terrorists have arisen. The UK now has what they call a community-based counter-terrorism strategy. The willingness of different communities to co-operate will largely depend on the relations of the police officers at different levels with the leaders and prominent members of the communities.

POINT 13: Adopt the British practice of having Counter-terrorism Security Advisers in Police Stations. Post them in all urban police stations. Their job will be to constantly train the PS staff in the performance of their counter-terrorism duties, to improve relations with the communities and to closely interact with owners of public places such as hotels, restaurants, shopping malls etc and voluntarily advise them on the security precautions to be taken to prevent terrorist strikes on soft targets and to mitigate the consequences if strikes do take place despite the best efforts of the police to prevent them.

POINT 14: Stop using the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) as a dumping ground for retired officers, who are favoured by the Government. The NSCS cannot be effective in its role of national security management if it is not looked upon with respect by the serving officers. The serving officers look upon the retired officers of the NSCS as living in the past and in a make-believe world of their own totally cut off from the ground realities of today in national security management. The NSCS should be manned only by serving officers of acknowledged capability for thinking and action.

POINT 15: Strengthen the role of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) as a Government-sponsored think tank of non-governmental experts in security matters to assist the NSCA and the NSA. Give it specific terms of reference instead of letting it free lance as it often does. It should be discouraged from undertaking esoteric studies.

POINT 16: Set up a separate Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) to deal with internal security. Assessment of intelligence having a bearing on internal security requires different expertise and different analytical tools than assessment of intelligence having a bearing on external security. In 1983, Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister, bifurcated the JIC and created a separate JIC for internal security. Rajiv Gandhi reversed her decision. Her decision was wise and needs to be revived.

POINT 17: Set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) under the National Security Adviser (NSA) to ensure joint operational action in all terrorism-related matters. It can be patterned after a similar institution set up in the US under Director, National Intelligence after 9/11. The National Commission set up by the US Congress to enquire into the 9/11 terrorist strikes had expressed the view that better co-ordination among the various agencies will not be enough and that what was required was a joint action command similar to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Armed Forces. Its tasks should be to monitor intelligence collection by various agencies, avoid duplication of efforts and resources, integrate the intelligence flowing from different agencies and foreign agencies, analyse and assess the integrated intelligence and monitor follow-up action by the Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other concerned agencies. Every agency is equally and jointly involved and responsible for the entire counter-terrorism process starting from collection to action on the intelligence collected. If such a system had existed, post-Mumbai complaints such as those of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) that the advisories issued by them on the possibility of a sea-borne attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) on Mumbai were not acted upon by the Mumbai Police would not have arisen because the IB and the R&AW would have been as responsible for follow-up action as the Mumbai Police.

POINT 18: The practice of the privileged direct access to the Prime Minister by the chiefs of the IB and the R&AW, which came into force under Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, should be vigorously enforced. This privileged direct access is utilised by the intelligence chiefs to bring their concerns over national security and over inaction by the agencies responsible for follow-up on their reports to the personal notice of the Prime Minister and seek his intervention. If the intelligence chiefs had brought to the notice of the Prime Minister the alleged inaction of the Mumbai Police on their reports, he might have intervened and issued the required political directive to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

POINT 19: Either create a separate Ministry of Internal Security or strengthen the role of the existing Department of Internal Security in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and make it responsible for dealing with internal security operationally under the over-all supervision of the Minister for Home Affairs.

POINT 20: Either create a separate federal terrorism investigation agency or empower the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate all cases involving terrorism of a pan-Indian dimension. It need not take up cases where terrorism is confined to a single state or a small region such as terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir or the Al Umma in Tamil Nadu. It should be able to take up the cases for investigation without the need for prior permission from the Governments of the States affected. It should not have any responsibility for investigating crimes other than terrorism. If its charter is expanded to cover other crimes too, there will be political opposition. There is a lot of confusion about this concept of a federal terrorism investigation agency. Many critics ask when the IB is there, what is the need for another central agency. The IB is an intelligence collection agency and not an investigation agency. The IB has no locus standi in the Indian criminal laws. It collects intelligence and not evidence usable in a court of law. It cannot arrest and interrogate a suspect or search premises or perform other tasks of a similar nature, which can be performed only by police officers of the rank of Station House Officers. The IB officers are not recognized as equivalent to SHOs.

POINT 21: Set up a task force consisting of three senior and distinguished Directors-General of Police (DGPs) and ask it to come up with a list of recommendations for strengthening the powers of the police in respect of prevention, investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related offences and the capabilities of the Police in counter-terrorism and implement its recommendations. This is the only way of getting round the present political deadlock over the revival of the Prevention of Terrorism ACT (POTA).

POINT 22: Expedite the erection of the border fence on the border with Bangladesh without worrying about opposition from Bangladesh.

POINT 23: Start a crash programme for the identification of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and for deporting them. Ban the employment of immigrants from Bangladesh anywhere in Indian territory.

POINT 24: Strict immigration control is an importat part of counter-terrorism The post—9/11 safety of the US is partly due to the tightening up of immigration procedures and their strict enforcement. Among the best practices adopted by the US and emulated by others are: Photographing and finger-printing of all foreigners on arrival, closer questioning of Pakistanis and persons of Pakistani origin etc. We have not yet adopted any of these practices. Hotels and other places of residence should be banned from giving rooms to persons without a departure card and without a valid immigration stamp in their passports. They should be required to take Xerox copies of the first page and the page containing the immigration stamp of the passports of all foreigners and also the departure card stapled to the passport and send them to their local Police Station every morning. All immigration relaxations introduced in the case of Pakistani and Bangladesdhi nationals and persons of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin should be cancelled with immediate effect. The requirement of police reporting by them should be rigorously enforced. It should be made obligatory for all persons hosting Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to report to the local police about their guests. A vigorous drive should be undertaken for tracing all Pakistanis and Bangladeshis overstaying in India after the expiry of their visas and for expelling them.

POINT 25: The MEA’s capability for terrorism-related diplomacy should be strengthened by creating a separate Division for this purpose. It should continuously brief all foreign governments about the role of Pakistan and Bangladesh in supporting terrorism in Indian territory and press for action against them.

POINT 26: The Mumbai strikes have revealed serious gaps in our maritime security on our Western coast. This is partly the result of our over-focus on the Look East policy and the neglect of the Look West dimension. This was corrected earlier this year. Despite this, there are apparently major gaps and an alleged failure by the Naval and Coast Guard authorities to act on the reports of the IB and the R&AW about likely sea –borne threats from the LET. The identification and removal of the gaps need immediate attention. The Mumbai off-shore oil installations and the nuclear and space establishments on the Western coast are also vulnerable to sea-borne terrorist strikes.