Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Human Rights Charade and the Delusions of Rajan Hoole

by Sachi Sri Kantha, May 12, 2007

Even after this restrained disapproval by the Faculty Council of the University of Jaffna, Hoole and Sritharan continued to use the deceptive name ‘University Teachers for Human Rights – Jaffna’ for their publicity and camouflage for a non-existing “office or establishment.”

You name your sponsors and I can tell your bias and partiality. Now, Rajan Hoole tells us that he was “helped immensely by Sinhalese friends”. One has valid reasons to doubt that his sponsors were/are not only from a “Left background”, but also from the power-holding and power-sharing mandarin classes among the Sinhalese. This, thus, reflects in his churned out “reports” and “briefings.”

Amnesty International and Democracy

It has been announced on May 4, 2007 that Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan of Sri Lanka were two of the three awardees of the 2007 Martin Ennals Award (MEA) for Human Rights Defenders. Human Rights Defenders, huh! The third awardee for this year, sharing the spotlight with Hoole and Sritharan is one Pierre Claver Mbonimpa of Burundi.

I don’t know anything about Mbonimpa, but I have kept track of the activities of Hoole and Sritharan since 1990. So, permit me to state something about the questionable quality of the human rights service of this duo.

This MEA award (as per the website information) was created in 1993, to honor the contributions of Martin Ennals (1927-1991), who was a livewire of Amnesty International. The first awardee was one Harry Wu of China in 1994. This year’s jury who anointed Hoole, Sritharan and Mbonimpa consisted of reps from 11 organizations or institutions (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Huridocs and International Alert) of the human rights industry, which certainly has become a big business in the past two decades. It is pertinent to note that when Nelson Mandela was languishing in a South African jail from the 1960s to 1980s, these human rights watchdogs (if they had been founded then) treated him as a pariah. In his autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ (1994), Mandela sarcastically noted Amnesty International’s role as follows:

“Even during the bleakest years of Robben Island, Amnesty International would not campaign for us on the grounds that we had pursued an armed struggle, and their organization would not represent anyone who had embraced violence.” (p.612)

But check the website of Amnesty International now. In its history lines, there is a sentence which notes that Amnesty International was an ‘observer’ in the Mandela trial. Huh!

This year’s anointed human rights awardees from Sri Lanka, Hoole and Sritharan, have barked from the rooftop about their conviction about the foundations of democracy and have demonized the LTTE and its leadership for destroying democratic traditions among the Eelam Tamils. Again, Mandela provided a legitimate answer in his autobiography, which fits our blessed island as well. To quote Mandela,

“Despite Britain being the home of parliamentary democracy, it was that democracy that had helped inflict a pernicious system of iniquity on my people.” (p.302)

Even long before Mandela, that penetrative observer of human foibles and follies, Bernard Shaw, had written about the worthlessness of democracy as practised in Britain and elsewhere. In his preface to the play, ‘The Apple Cart: a Political Extravaganza’ (1928), Shaw skewered democracy as follows:

“Consider the democracy first as a big balloon, filled with gas or hot air, and set up so that you shall be kept looking up at the sky whilst other people are picking your pockets. When the balloon comes down to earth every five years or so you are invited to get into the basket if you can throw out one of the people who are sitting tightly in it, but as you can afford neither the time nor the money, the balloon goes up again with much the same lot in it and leaves you where you were before…”

Sure, it is too much to expect our local human rights barkers, Hoole and Sritharan, to posess the lucid brain and clear vision of Mandela or Shaw. But these two so-called activists do boast paper qualifications attesting to postgraduate degrees in mathematics. However, Eelam Tamils have been kept in the dark so far about their noteworthy achievements in mathematics. Eelam Tamils certainly know about Prof. Christie Jeyam Eliezer, a world-class mathematician, who was also a Tamil human rights activist. I have no hesitation in stating that compared to Prof. Eliezer’s contributions in academia and human rights activism in three countries (Ceylon, Malaysia and Australia), the so-called “achievements” of Hoole and Sritharan in human rights activism on behalf of Tamils is miniscule at best and laughable at worst.

Deception in Name

The claim to “recognition” by Hoole and Sritharan rests on their churning out “Briefings”, “Bulletins”, “Reports”, “Special Reports”, and “Statements” at regular intervals, since 1989, to “highlight” human right abuses in Sri Lanka, which they have passed to the print media under the dubious and deceptive name, “University Teachers for Human Rights – Jaffna” (UTHR).

Deception in the name should be the last thing for social reformers who wish to stand on their own legs. In his recent email interview to M.R. Narayan Swamy for the Indo-Asian News Service [May 6, 2007] following the announcement of the MEA, Rajan Hoole stated,

“We were helped immensely by Sinhalese friends with a Left background to survive in the south (of Sri Lanka). We were never left homeless or in want. Security prevented us from finding regular jobs. Our wives worked. Our needs were basic. We did not maintain an office or establishment. We managed living expenses with occasional support from friends and by dipping into our savings. Formal donor funds were sought only for publication expenses.”

Holy Spirit! Now Hoole lets the proverbial cat out of the bag, incompletely though. He is just exposing the four legs and the tail of the cat. Let me repeat. (1) He was “helped immensely by Sinhalese friends”. (2) He was “never left homeless or in want”. (3) He “didn’t maintain an office or establishment”. (4) “Formal donor funds were sought only for publication expenses.”

Even if he was not maintaining “an office or establishment”, he preferred to stick to releasing his “reports, briefings, statements, and what not” under the deceptive name, “University Teachers for Human Rights – Jaffna”, for which the then Vice Chancellor Prof.A. Thurairajah issued a restrained disapproval.

A news release dated 16th November 1992 under the signature of Prof.A. Thurairajah, stated [the phrase in bold font, as in the original]:

“The following resolution was passed at the 142nd Meeting of the Council of University of Jaffna held on January 18, 1992:

‘It has been brought to the notice of the Council of University of Jaffna that a publication titled ‘Human Rights in Jaffna’ has been put out in the name of the University Teachers for Human Rights – Jaffna Branch.

The Council wishes to inform the public that this publication is neither a publication of the University of Jaffna nor any of its teachers are associated with this publication.’”

University of Jaffna Vice Chancellor's circular on University Teachers for Human Rights - Jaffna Branch ( UTHR J ) November 1992

Even after this restrained disapproval by the Faculty Council of the University of Jaffna, Hoole and Sritharan continued to use the deceptive name ‘University Teachers for Human Rights – Jaffna’ for their publicity and camouflage for a non-existing “office or establishment.”

Secretive Sponsorship and Inaccurate Posturing

You name your sponsors and I can tell your bias and partiality. Now, Rajan Hoole tells us that he was “helped immensely by Sinhalese friends”. One has valid reasons to doubt that his sponsors were/are not only from a “Left background”, but also from the power-holding and power-sharing mandarin classes among the Sinhalese. This thus reflects in his churned out “reports” and “briefings”.

In the 1990s, more than once, I bothered to comment critically on these UTHR “reports” and “briefings”, when they appeared in the Tamil Times (London) magazine. But the editor [P. Rajanayagam, if I’m not wrong] of Tamil Times was a fan of UTHR-J, and while he allocated reams of pages for the insipid “reports” and “briefings” of UTHR-J, he would permit only brief rebuttals by the readers. Here is one, I wrote and which appeared in print.

Tamil Leadership

[Tamil Times, January 15, 1997]

After reading the lengthy Special Report No.7 by the University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna, I am disappointed that the authors trot out a stale tune as their solution to the vexing problem in Sri Lanka. They conclude that ‘for the Tamil community to survive as a cultural and ethnic identity’, a ‘new leadership will have to be helped to emerge…’ [Tamil Times, Nov.’96]. That’s funny. I have heard this tune for the past 35 years since 1961, when the then (and current) Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike sent the army for the first time to Jaffna.

Long before the LTTE made its way into the lexicon of South Asian politics, the ruling Sinhalese establishment as well as a certain section of vociferous Leftist intellectuals have made the same criticism on the leadership of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam and A. Amirthalingam, even though these two stalwarts never touched a gun to speak for Tamil rights. Towards their ends, both the UNP and SLFP had presented ‘puppets’ like Devanayagams, Kumarasooriyars and Kadirgamars as the Tamil leaders and the Tamil population never even bothered to blink their eyes on these ‘puppets’.

The authors of the Special Report No.7 also has written about the ambivalence of Tamils in supporting the LTTE. I only wish that they should first recognize their ignorance on the history of freedom movements of this century before trying to hold the LTTE to a stricter code of morality under trying circumstances, than for example Mao’s guerrillas or PLO rebels. Prabhakaran may not have a university degree, but he surely has heeded one of Einstein’s maxims: ‘Organised power can be opposed only by organised power.’

I should add here that quite a few other critical letters of mine sent to the Tamil Times magazine about the dubious quality of these UTHR-J “reports” and “briefings” had gone unpublished.

***

Dispersal of Gossip, Hearsay and Innuendo

One characteristic feature of Rajan Hoole’s writings is the dispersal of street gossip, barber-shop gossip and kitchen hearsay as certified facts. Almost all of these were aimed at slighting and demonizing the LTTE and its leadership. Of course, he has to please his Sinhalese sponsors, doesn't he? Sometimes this sophomoric gossip and hearsay make hilarious reading. The cited sources are almost always unnamed and hidden to prevent independent verification. I quote an example, culled from his book awkwardly titled ‘Sri Lanka: The Arrogance of Power – Myths, Decadence and Murder’ (2001):

“…The following incident was related by M, an LTTE supporter with several close contacts in its intelligence wing.

During about the late 1980s, the LTTE had a jungle camp in Alampil, Mullaitivu District. Nearby was a spot where the LTTE murdered and buried a large number of TELO men. The sentries doing night duty started having abnormal experiences. They heard noises from the kitchen, of people mixing tea and talking. What was worse, sometimes relief sentries arrived and sent away the ones on duty. Later they were dumbfounded to discover that the place had been left unguarded.

These experiences caused much perplexity in the camp and the matter was referred to the Leader, who had his main base nearby. The Leader sent his personal trouble-shooter Sornam to clear up the matter. Sornam went to the camp, sent the other sentries inside, and armed with an RPG (rocket-propelled-grenade), took up his position alone as night sentry. Sure enough, he saw a relief guard walking towards him, who paid no heed to his expostulations. Sornam fired at the object without any effect, and only then realised that it was an apparition. Though Sornam failed to disentangle the enigma, he earned himself an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the first person to fire an RPG at a ghost. The Leader solved the problem by ordering the camp shifted.” [page 429]

What a childish nonsense! And this sort of gibberish by Hoole passes as human rights activism! But, Hoole knows what to tell to his sponsors. LTTEers getting goose bumps on prancing ghosts does make a good story for Hoole’s Sinhalese sponsors, right?