At last it is refreshing to see that many countries are acknowledging the terrorists menace and taking appropriate steps to counteract its cancerous growth. President Clinton is the latest Head of State to legislate against terrorist activity in the United States, an aftermath to the Oklahoma bombing which devastated the World Trade Centre killing over 165 innocent people. Canada too is now closely monitoring the conduct of Tamil terrorist suspects who are engaged in dubious activity in such areas as in drug trafficking, money laundering, gun-running and fiddling with its Social Security System. France too has had its share of terrorist bombing in the city of Paris and is keeping a close watch on suspect terrorists.
On the other hand it is very unfortunate that England still continues to pay lip service to terrorism whenever the IRA detonates a bomb in the city of London, forgetting its responsibility towards not only its own citizens but also its obligations to the citizens of her commonwealth partners, India and Sri Lanka. The IRA commenced its rebellious stance as far back as 1916 and in spite of Margaret Thatcher's unequivocal declaration after narrowly escaping an IRA hotel bomb blast, that 'by whatever name you call these killers a terrorist is a terrorist' little has been done to eliminate terrorism in England. Her successor John Major continues to live in a fool's paradise by having discussions with the IRA whenever there is a lull in its killing spree.
In such a scenario, England continues to accommodate or harbour Sri Lankan Tamils who once went there in the guise of refugees by giving them a free hand to publish terrorist literature, appearance on BBC television, to exhort funds to purchase arms etc., in a continuing and vain attempt to destabilise the sovereign state of Sri Lanka. Great Britain as England was called during its colonial past was responsible by its divide and rule policy for leaving a haunting legacy of ethnic and communal strife in India (Kashmir Issue) and an uncontrollable disfranchised South Indian Tamil population in Sri Lanka's plantation sector.
Our President Chandrika Kumaratunga is the only Head of State who made a meaningful and sincere effort to have a dialogue with the LTTE on the ethnic issue, but then its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was and is in no position to settle the issue through discussion, as he lives by the gun and has to die by the gun finding no place in a civilised and peaceful society. Presently it is very distressing to find that some so-called humanitarian organisations on Civil Liberties and Human Rights espousing the cause and or actions of the LTTE completely failing to see the wood for the trees. Since the devolution package offered by the PA government has not found acceptance among the Sinhala majority and the minority Muslim communities, one need not emphasise the urgent need to crush the present terrorism as a prelude to any further constitutional exercises.
With the launch of "Operation Riviresa II" to liberate the Nothern civilians from LTTE command, it has been an admirable sight to watch through the media, the home coming of the Valikamam natives in numbers adding up to thousands, not only in human numbers alone, but also in the shape and size of pets and animal husbandry. These people who took part in an exodus not long ago, have willingly and trustingly placed their lives in the hands of the Sri Lankan troops, to once more venture into a war-torn territory.
Many would have lost house and property, wealth and honour, and even family members at Valikamam, during the period when the cursed black cloud hung over this terrain; the still of the atmosphere, shattered with the sounds of unceasing gun fire, explosion of bombs and the heart wrenching screams for mercy. Yet having seen all, heard all and finally lost all, these people once more dare to enter into a place where the ghosts of the traumatic past, still roam, having found no quiet resting place.
How many of us would dare risk stepping back in time, to a place which would awaken buried memories, a place where the healing wounds of heartache would once more be exposed? To most of us, deserting a place which holds sad memories or simply running away from the past would be the most common thing to do, in fact burying the past and starting a new life elsewhere would be advised by most professionals themselves.
What is it that draws these people back to Valikamam? Is it their faith in themselves, that they could once more build up their lives from scratch at the very same place where they once possessed all, or is it merely their belief in the simple saying that, "night does not last forever for the dawn is but a few hours away."
The TNL deserves the plaudits of the public for bringing to focus the police attack on the NSSP May Day procession; and the GMOA strike, on its Janahanda programme of May 6.
A peaceful protest march is a democratic right. The suppression of peaceful and non-violent protest invariably leads to violent forms of protest including terrorism. It was in realization of this fact that the British even at the height of their power refrained from restraining or provoking peaceful and non-violent demonstrations, particularly in pre-independence India.
The ordinary law of the land recognizes this fact. The Police Ordinance, the only statute dealing with meetings and processions gives considerable discretion to the Police for their regulation. In the case of processions, the requirement is that six hours' notice of a procession be given to the officer-in-charge of the police station of the area. The police will not disallow such a request unless there is good reason to believe that it could lead to a breach of the peace. Understanding Police officers here on occasions suggested alternative routes or requested the organizers to stop drumming, music etc. when passing places of worship etc. On May Day, the procession routes and meeting sites are usually decided upon mutually after discussions initiated by the Police.
In a friendly atmosphere the organizers are even spoken to on the need to keep to the scheduled times, the importance of refraining from abuse, the consumption of alcohol etc. In my experience as the DIG Colombo for several years Trade Union leaders were extremely co-operative and helpful. Confrontations with the Police or rival groups were furthest from their minds. I believe the thinking is the same even today.
In the case of meetings, there is no provision in the ordinary law to ban them. Provided the site selected is not in dispute or likely to cause inconvenience to the public, all what is required is a loud speaker permit. There is nothing in the law to prevent a meeting of a lawful nature being held in private premises without the use of instruments for the amplification of sound.
However, in Sri Lanka processions and meetings have at different times been banned by Emergency Regulations. All governments in this Country here resorted to long periods of Emergency rule. But even during the worst of times governments have traditionally not invoked Emergency laws to thwart the enthusiasm of workers on May Day.
May Day crowds and slogans reflect the mood of the working people; and sensible governments can learn many lessons. For instance, the joint May Day rally of the opposition of 1970 clearly reflected the unpopularity of the regime of that time. When I gave a frank description of this mammoth gathering to Dudley Senanayake, the Prime Minister, he merely commented, "I know things are not good at all. But it is a little too late". The democrat that he was, he never contemplated banning May Day processions. The fact is that this joint May Day rally of the SLFP and the Marxist parties sealed the fate of the UNP in 1970.
Banning is bad enough. But discrimination is unpardonable. Why did some processionists get favoured treatment? Why did a few get a taste of police brutality? According to Deputy Minister Mowlana who spoke on the same programme, the Police are to blame. Gone indeed are the days when governments and Ministers accepted blame and even resorted to the extreme step of resignation. Gone is that great tradition when Ministers stoutly defended the bona fide actions of their officials. Honourable, courageous self-respecting masters do not blame their servants for their follies and failures. Leaders who look for scapegoats are not worth their salt. But the sad fact is that 'scapegoatism' has come to stay as the refuge of cowardly politicians.
The police of this country deserve the sympathy of all. What a thankless job. If they baton charge, it is wrong; if they don't baton charge, it is wrong. If They arrest, it is wrong; if they don't arrest, it is wrong. If they raid, it is wrong; if they don't raid, it is wrong. "Do your duty impartially. Be fearless. Do what is right. The law is on your side. Be guided by the law and your superiors. Don't listen to politicians, just do your job". Great words spewed out by the Chief Guests at the passing out ceremonies of the Police College year in and year out. Wonderful advice indeed to be taken if you hate your wife and children, dislike your parents and if you wish to work in Mankulam or Oddisuddan, leaving all of them behind in Galle!
So much has been reported of late regarding the privatisation of the Puttalam Cement Company and the issue of debentures by the Thawakkal Group.
However, there is one fact that very few people are aware of. In December '93 all four Unit Trusts obtained approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission to take up these debentures. The letters to the respective Trustees sanctioning the Trustees to take up these debentures on behalf of the Unit Trusts were signed by the Director General of the SEC himself. At the time the debentures were issued the SEC never said anything about the legality or illegality of the issue.
However, in December '94 (after the change of Government) two days before the Puttalam Cement share issue was to open, the SEC stepped in and stopped the issue on the grounds that the issue of debentures contravened Section 55 of the Companies Act. If this was the case, why then did the SEC permit the Unit Trusts to take up an illegal debenture issue? What was legal in December '93, suddenly become illegal in December '94, although the Companies Act has not been amended since 1982. Moreover the composition of the majority of members of the SEC has remained unchanged since 1992. Why then the about-turn?
As Unit Trust Funds are made up of public funds the SEC should explain why they permitted public funds to be invested in what the SEC now says is an illegal debenture issue. If the Unit Trusts lose this money as a result of the SEC's current stance, would the SEC compensate the Unit Trusts?
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