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By Sumanasiri Liyanage

Even if one were to operate within the framework of conventional thinking and assume that the Government of Sri Lanka has the right of recapturing the territory previously held by the LTTE, which was not a legitimate power, she or he cannot miss the logic of Sambandan’s argument. Both at the parliamentary election held in April 2004 and the presidential election held in November 2005, a significant number of people, especially its Tamil population, voted against the parties that exercise governmental power in Colombo today. A military victory over its opponent, the LTTE, in itself does not make the incumbent government a legitimate power in the Eastern Province.

One may argue that the Government of Sri Lanka has launched its reconstruction and development programme in order to gain legitimacy by proving that it is genuinely interested in addressing the basic needs and issues of the people and redressing their
grievances, which they have been facing since the recommencement of the Trincomalee District MP R. Sambandan raised a valid point by questioning the legitimacy of the government in Colombo in initiating a plan of reconstruction and development in the Eastern Province. armed conflict in 1983. However, the legitimacy of the state depends on many things, among which the critical aspect is whether the state receives the consent of the governed and it represents their interests. As Seyla Benhabib writes, “the basis of legitimacy in democracy is to be traced back to the presumption that the institutions that claim obligatory power do so because their decisions represent standpoint equally in the interests of all.” Therefore, such decisions should be open to appropriate processes of public deliberation by free and equalcitizens. Sambandan has noted that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has opted out of this process. SLMC Leader, Minister Rauf Hakeem has also expressed his dissatisfaction about the ongoing process.

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This is Emergency

September 29, 2007

By Indrajit Samarajiva

Woke up to like 5 cops in my living room, rifling through my stuff. Literally, there’s a guy with a T-56 looking through my DVDs. Re-tie my sarong and sleepily locate my ID. No warrant, no nothing. This is Emergency. Thank God we’re not Tamil. It’s a Tamil neighbourhood, which is otherwise lovely. Last week we saw this procession down the street, women with harvesty things on their head. Now I presume they’re getting their underwear looked through. Asking where they’re from, what their business is here. There’s an army female at least. Kinda cute.

But I digress. The cops here can come into your home, they can lock you up for months, anything in the name of the state. Understandable with the LTTE, but my problem is that I definitely don’t trust the cops. They are complicit in abductions, bribery, murder, etc. Don’t take my word for it, that’s the word of the IGP. The cops are undertrained, underpaid and overpowered. They’re not especially qualified or trustworthy to be looking through peoples’ homes at 5 in the morning, but that’s how it is. This is Emergency.

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By Victor Ivan

Yet another crisis in Sri Lanka’s education system-triggered by the drafting of new guidelines for state school admissions-drags on. That such a sensitive issue has caused such strong reactions is no surprise. What’s surprising is that it’s taken so many twists and turns in the space of just a few months.

The present crisis is based on several fundamental rights petitions filed against a circular presenting a new framework for admission of pupils to grade one. The Supreme Court declared that the circular violated the principle of equal opportunity guaranteed by the Constitution. The Court correctly ordered the Secretary to the President to submit a circular that would not violate people’s fundamental rights. As a result, the responsibility
of preparing guidelines was handed over to the National Education Commission (NEC). Thereafter, the Commission recommended a good, reasonable framework. Surprisingly,
this framework was not submitted to the the Supreme court. Instead, a different set of guidelines reached the judiciary.

It was then that the Supreme Court put forward its own detailed guidelines. But they recommended a system that would sharpen the dissimilarities and would push the process of admitting children to a greater mess. It was severely criticized by the educationists who pointed out the destructive effects the implementation of those recommendations might cause. Ranil Wickremesinghe a former minister of education, took up the matter in parliament. He made an excellent analysis of the recommendations of the Supreme Court, basically tearing it apart. The parliament then took the issue up for discussion. As a better alternative to the Supreme Court recommendations could not be found immediately, it was decided to use the previous system with some amendments for the coming year only, pending the introduction of a new system.

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September Editorial

September 26, 2007

There’s an old tale about a frog in a pot of water. If you turn the heat up very slowly, the frog just sits there and boils to death. In case you didn’t notice, it’s been getting awfully hot in Sri Lanka. More people are dead, more are without homes, and inflation and corruption are picking the pockets of all. Are you hopping mad, or are you sitting still?

Sri Lanka is actually a perfect fit for the ‘boiled frog’ metaphor. We are literally a small pond where everyone thinks they’re a big fish. Thirdtier feudals like the Rajapaksa family behave like generational kings. Everybody and their uncle is a Minister, entitled to a security detail of six and their choice of imported cars. Each Minister, in turn, appoints scores of their cronies to redundant government posts and promises even more to agitated university students. However, in the grand scheme of things, these people are barely qualified to manage a 7-11. Everyone feels like a big fish, when they are really just warty toads.

Take those two metaphors, and you have a small pond on slow boil. We have generations of feudal leaders who feel entitled to power, cars, attendants and more. We have new money politicians who have no scruples at all, turning Parliament into a mafia, simply taxing, borrowing, extorting, robbing and often assaulting the public while delivering nothing. In the midst of it all you have Sri Lankan citizens, blinking stupidly wherestheir blood should be boiling.

Hundreds of thousands of our citizens live in tents. You may not have noticed, but nobody has civil rights. Under Emergency Regulations our Constitution effectively doesn’t exist – we can be searched, seized and jailed on the whim of the state. Meanwhile, the state is run like a mafia and our ‘security’ forces are implicated in abductions, killings of aid workers and more. We have given up our national rights with nary a peep, letting the threat of the LTTE lower the level of our basic civilization. Our very Constitution and identity as a democratic nation is melting into so much pulp.

But Sri Lankans sit still. We might go to a protest if we get a lunchpacket. We might yell ‘Mahinda Chinthaney’ when food prices go up at the office canteen. But it’s not enough. The Rajapaksa family is stealing more generational wealth every day. Our young soldiers are sleeping and dying in the jungle while Mahinda’s naval son has been shipped off to
train in the UK. The rampant inflation is making each paycheck carry a bit less far. The war is taking us down a well-worn path. The slow boil is rising fast. If you feel it, maybe you should do something. Doesn’t have to be anything drastic, just kick, flap and make some noise. Perhaps the toads selling us out will start feeling the heat as well.