by Sachi Sri Kantha
The other day I received an e-mail from one appreciative Tamil reader of my essays and commentaries. Here is a relevant excerpt:
"…Almost every international writer or human rights worker (such as a doctor) supporting the Tamils of Sri Lanka is placed on a travel restriction list by the international airlines. I am aware that Mr. Sri Kantha and many of our friends were subjected to cancellation of travel or vigorous search during their air travel. Sri Lankan government keeps a list of our activists and urges the Western Governments to bar their travel. Striking down our democratic activists is their goal, while complaining about the lack of ‘pluralism’ in the NorthEast regions of Sri Lanka…"
This is a topic which has occupied my thoughts seriously for the past year. On August 24, 2004, I suffered harassment and humiliation from this travel restriction list [aka ‘No Fly List’] at the Leonardo Da Vinci airport, Rome, on my way to attend an international science conference held in Turin. I had a narrow shave from detention and imprisonment, and was saved by the quick-thinking, common-sense endowed, police chief of Rome airport who was on duty that day. I’d ever be thankful to that Officer, whose name I don’t know. I also believe that I was saved by the roaming spirit of Da Vinci, which protected me from the malady caused by bureaucratic vermins.
I have been a law-abiding citizen in the three countries [Sri Lanka, USA and Japan] I have lived in and not a single criminal record of any sort has been filed against me in any of the countries in this world. Thus, I’ll never forget that quite a number of bureaucratic weasels in more than one country, whistling the banal tune of ‘democracy and terror fighting,’ trampled on my human rights. I also know for certain who was the mastermind who thought up and activated this ‘travel restriction’ edict first for Eelam Tamils like me. This person traveled in Sri Lankan diplomatic garb; he was by far Sri Lanka’s best political clone of Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945); and he touted ‘democracy’ in air-conditioned podiums. He was hailed as a ‘hero’ and ‘visionary’ by the beneficiaries of his servile deeds. Just think about it; he received a ‘one-way no-return visa’ to the Kingdom of Gods and Demons on August 12th, within one year of my suffering.
Tamils, especially the god-fearing types, have been taught to gain solace from the wisdom of a proverb, ‘Arasan anru aruppan; Theivam ninru arukkum’ [The King decides instantly; God decides eventually]. Let others – the likes of D.B.S.Jeyaraj and K.T.Rajasingham - say many good things about the guy who passed away on August 12th. Even Joseph Goebbels had admirers in Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. I don’t care. But I have learnt something about the wisdom of this wonderful Tamil proverb. The guy who restricted the freedom of international travel for me and hundreds of other Tamils by his nasty edict, while he was enjoying such a free ride at Sri Lankan taxpayer’s expense, had to answer the summons from the Hand of Fate, despite heavy protection from designated mortals tagged as ‘security personnel.’
What hefty protection this Sri Lankan clone of Goebbels has had, under the phony garb of ‘fighting Tamil terrorism.’ If one believes the numbers provided by reporter Frederica Jansz [Sunday Leader, Colombo, August 21, 2005], 12 million Sri Lankan rupees per annum was spent on his protection.
"There were an estimated 96 security personnel guarding Kadirgamar at any given time. Forty, from Sri Lanka's Light Infantry on a monthly basic salary of Rs. 10,000 each which would mean Rs. 400,000 a month.
In addition, there were 42 army commandos who were on a payroll of Rs. 15,000 each every month. This is apart from 'Commando Allowances' also to which these men are entitled whereby their salaries each month can range from between Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000. This indicates the State paid a minimum of Rs. 630,000 for this security contingent guarding the foreign minister.
Separately another Rs. 20,000 basic salary, a month was paid to Captain Manatunge who was in charge of the 42 army commandos. Ten thousand rupees a month was paid also for each of the 12 personnel from the Ministerial Security Division requiring a total of Rs. 120,000 every month for these men.
So in total the government was paying a minimum of Rs. 1.2 million to security personnel every month to guard Kadirgamar. This is also apart from monies allocated for three drivers for three of the security back-up vehicles that accompanied Kadirgamar almost everywhere together with three motorcycles. There was no fuel limitation for these vehicles. Certainly one cannot discount that all these men were necessary in view of the fact that Kadirgamar was indeed a top target for the Tigers.
The issue however is this. None of these men, all supposedly trained to guard a high security target were able to prevent the assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar from a vantage point that clearly was a risk…."
The elegists may lament and wail that it was the LTTE who took the life of Sri Lanka’s clone of Joseph Goebbels. It was a security lapse, and what not. Baa, humbug. If God has willed otherwise, the LTTE’s alleged gun-slingers can’t overreach that will. Having been a direct victim of one of Mr. K’s nasty bureauracratic edicts one year ago, I wish all success for his endeavors in the Other Land. I have still some time to spend and deeds to finish in this Land.
Kadirgamar the hypocrite
One thing which rankled me most was the penchant shown by Kadirgamar, since 1994, for ‘democracy,’ whatever he meant by that word. His own political record speaks for itself. He preached ‘democracy’ unctously. First, did he practise democracy? Three general elections (2000, 2001 and 2004) were held in Sri Lanka, during which Kadirgamar – as a high profile public figure and politician - could have tested his own democratic standing by being a contestant representing the SLFP. Did he try? The hypocrite couldn’t bother to contest. This indicated that his love for democracy was only for public posturing.
Secondly, Mr.K exuded punditry in political and historical affairs. If his punditry was flawless, he would have learnt that freedom-fighters and revolutionaries [Mahatma Gandhi and Mao Ze Dong are two big names in this category] didn’t bother about democracy. They didn’t contest any elections, like run-of-the-mill politicians, to ascend as leaders. If Mr. K had learnt this fact, but ignored it for convenience in his propaganda against the LTTE, this is another defect in his scholarship.
Thirdly, in his extensive begging trips to Asian countries (especially China and Pakistan, on behalf of his political patron), has Mr. K. indulged in his penchant for democracy in discussions with the current political leaders of these two nominally non-democratic countries? I haven’t seen any evidence for this. If not, then why was Mr. K indulging in propaganda that the Tamil Tigers are anti-democratic? Apart from China and Pakistan, even Singapore, during the past four decades of its viable existence, cannot be labeled as a bastion of democracy. The less said about the manacled, dysfunctional democracy [the most appropriate term should be 'nepocracy'] prevailing in Sri Lanka, the better. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party into which Mr. K crept in 1994 to chase his rainbow hasn’t seen any leader other than a Bandaranaike at the helm for the past 54 years.
Posted September 3, 2005