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Analysing Sumanthiran: A Reality Check On Hejaaz, Muslim Politicians & Lawyers

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass Usuf

On 09/12/2020, at the Committee Stage Debate in the Parliament on the Appropriation (2021) Bill, Honourable Member of Parliament Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran made some terse remarks given the limited time allotted to him.

He justified the need for an international inquiry and international judicial process to look into serious crimes committed in this country which has an impact on international law. In order to drive home his point, he alluded to several instances and, euphemistically made reference to the “depths to which your judicial system has sunk”. As a recent example he cited Mr. Hejaaz Hizbullah, an Attorney at Law who is currently in detention. Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran said, “a brilliant young lawyer denied justice for eight months. All kinds of false allegations were made against him.” Further, he drew attention to the fact that if there were any grounds for prosecution, they should have filed charges against him. The Opposition Member of Parliament questioned the Minister of Justice Mr. Ali Sabry “what were you doing for eight months?”


Voicing concern over the sacrosanct Attorney/Client communication, he pointed out that two of the client briefs of Attorney Mr. Hejaaz Hisbullah were taken away. He also deplored the fact that Hejaaz had not been given proper access to his lawyer. Mr. Sumanthiran then emphatically asked the million-dollar question, “if you treat a lawyer like that how do we expect you to treat anybody else?”

Silencing The Voice

Like Mr. Sumanthiran not many Muslim politicians dare to express themselves in Parliament. One may question, why not? The answer is in the lack of cohesiveness between the Muslim politicians, at least on matters of common interest. It is very rare. Some are gagged by the influence of external factors, political slavery. Ironically, among them are also those probably not really aware why the hell they are sitting in Parliament – day dreaming!


As for the handful of the handful who wish to speak, the moment they do say something relating to the detention of Hejaaz and the many others or on any matter relating to the Easter Sunday attack, they would be accused of aiding and abetting extremism. Many government members in Parliament, deliberately do not allow the person to speak by drowning his voice with louder noise of interruptions and unruly behaviour.

Hot on the heels of such accusations are the notorious spin doctors, the media. They would build up a misleading or deceptive story incriminating the politician to create a negative impact of that person. Other vested interests, in this grand agenda, would pick it up from there and give their own interpretation, modify and reframe the allegations exacerbating the negative public opinion created. By this method the voice of the few who have the nerve to speak are often silenced or overwhelmed by disturbance. Freedom of expression, leave alone outside the Parliament, even under the Parliamentary Privileges has been stultified in our august assembly by vested interests.

Psychological Torture


Mr. Hejaaz Hizbullah is not alone. Like him there are so many others under detention orders unable to make sense of what is in store for them. Neither charged nor released, they are in a continuous state of suspense. Just like a live bird in a skewer over fire. It does not want to die burning but, yet, it does not have the freedom to fly away. This state of affairs naturally causes much anxiety and depression not only to those who are detained in this manner but also to the near and dear ones. This is plain and simple mental torture violating the fundamental right against torture enshrined in the constitution besides the international ratifications.

(1) The Charter of the United Nations in relation to obligation of States under the Charter states in Article 55 (c):

“universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

(2) The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 banning torture mentions in Article 5:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

(3) The ban is further enshrined in Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

(4) The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted in 1984 defines torture, in Article 1.1:

“For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person …”

Article 2.2

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

The infamous PTA

The infamous and dreaded Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, No. 48 of 1979 as amended provides the legality for such incarceration. The PTA was a law enacted to prevent terrorism but it is alleged that many people with no connection to terrorism have been arrested and detained under its provisions.

Imagine the sorry predicament of an Attorney who is supposed to work for the advancement of civil liberties, fearing for his own civil liberty. Is it something to laugh at or a signification of a continuously corroding system? The constant reminder of what happened to Hejaaz hangs like the Sword of Damocles over the head of Muslim lawyers. They were in other words indirectly pressurized into silence except for some selected Attorneys. Who would want to face the situation that Hejaaz Hizbullah is in? This form of pressure is not sustainable because with the passage of time, people do bounce back when the level of tolerance is exceeded.

Fear Psychosis At Work – Lawyers

With the arrest of Hejaaz, the Muslims lawyers felt an unprecedented sense of insecurity in their professional and personal life. Such was the threat of the PTA and its tool of unpredictable detention. Members of the legal profession are supposed to be in a privileged status because they are part of ‘the administration of justice and essential for the maintenance of law and order and the preservation and advancement of civil liberties and the maintenance in general of the rule of law’. (Professional Ethics, A.R.B. Amerasinghe, Page 43)

We also witnessed the most unfortunate split among lawyers on the matter of Hejaaz. Can it be considered fair if the public questions the depth to which the legal profession has sunk. (See: Gota’s ‘Sinhala-only’ lawyers mount offensive to keep Attorney Hejaaz Hizbullah in illegal detention, Colombo Telegraph: 02/05/2020).

Such unprofessionalism was openly noticed among some of the doctors too, who failed to speak out on Dr. Shafi’s issue, the so called ‘wanda pethi’ and so many other stupidest allegations made.

It is a shame to see professionalism being a pawn to racism and racist agendas. Professional ethics and conduct demand a level higher than the conduct of an average person. “The legal profession has a responsibility to ensure that its guiding principles are conceived in the public interest and not in furtherance of parochial or self-interest concerns of the Bar and its members.” (ibid, Page 43).

Unaware of the pressure, limitations and fear that had mentally terrorised most of the Muslim lawyers, the Muslim community was often accusing the Muslims lawyers for maintaining silence at times they were supposed to speak out.

In the words of Crampton J. in Rex v. O’Connell:

“This court in which we sit is a temple of justice; and the advocate at the bar, as well as the judges upon the benches, are equally ministers in that temple. The object of all equally should be the attainment of justice; now justice is to be reached through the ascertainment of the truth…”

It is time that the legal fraternity get their act together and function in furtherance of justice, equity and fairness. Let the lawyers stand up as true and good professionals and be an example to other professions as well. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka as the premier institution of the legal profession may have a major role to play in this area o

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“There were no virologists in the committees set up” - Prof Vitharana

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  • The authorities have to prospectively study and see if Ayurveda and traditional medicine would be beneficial
  • Govt. wanted to take credit when first COVID wave ended
  • Current viral strain is more infectious, but isn’t severe
  • Outcomes of vaccine uncertain as of now
  • Bulk of the budget should have been allocated for COVID-19 relief
  • If we are going to use the vaccine we can rely on what is recommended by WHO
  • So it’s the duty of the Government to ensure that economic activities are sustained at the maximum possible level
  • So far, the coronavirus doesn’t show a big shift, but a gradual drift
  • We have experts in the field, but none of them has been called for discussions
  • Our capacity for PCR testing is inadequate and we aren’t doing sufficient tests

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) National List MP Prof. Tissa Vitharana recently said that COVID-19 is now in the community and nobody has immunity against it since it’s a new virus. He made these observations in his capacity as a specialist in the fields of bacteriology and virology. Having obtained a Diploma in Bacteriology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a Ph.D. in virology from the University of London, he also served as the Director of the Medical Research Institute in Colombo. He headed MRI’s virology department and apart from that he was a consultant virologist at the Edinburgh City Hospital’s Regional Virus Laboratory and deputy director of the Victoria Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Melbourne. He was the leader of the Lanka Samasamaja Party prior to joining the SLPP.

Following are excerpts of an interview Prof. Vitharana had with the Daily Mirror:


" The PHIs, midwives can do this health education programme, but the decision has to be taken from the top. This will be the lasting and cheapest solution rather than getting vaccines from abroad which are questionable"


Q Many are not aware that prior to being a leftist politician, you have had an extensive career as a medical expert specialized in virology and bacteriology. What should have been our plans to fight a global pandemic like COVID-19?

This is a global pandemic from a virus that probably originated from an animal source and it is completely new to the world. Therefore there’s no immunity against the virus and it’s like an open field. It’s a virus which spreads like the common cold, but the difference is that it goes right down to the chest and presses the lungs. Other viruses are confined to the nasal area. Around 80% are asymptomatic and therefore the infection can easily spread within the society. Therefore it has a so-called second wave which itself may extend further and become a big wave or drop off a bit if human behaviour is conditioned properly. Or it may reappear as a third wave. It’s not only easily spread, but would affect elderly people and those with chronic conditions, tipping the balance between life and death. Therefore it’s a novel problem and in every country there was no possibility of being prepared for it till it actually hit the society. Though people are finding fault with governments and various people I call it unfair. By and large the Government reacted quite quickly.

Q What is the alternative in that case?

What I have recommended is that at this particular stage we need an intensive health education programme where we make it known to every individual in the country that now it is a point of us not knowing whether we have it or not. We need to follow health precautions as a habit. Now there’s an element of fear and it is the authorities who are communicating the message and people are reacting to the authoritative approach. We see people wearing the mask on the neck and wearing it properly when they see the police. By this health education system it will be digested mentally and every person will realise that there’s a danger to one’s life out of self-interest. If we protect ourselves by observing these three rules then the virus itself will die out of the country and we will be free of the epidemic. The PHIs, midwives can do this health education programme, but the decision has to be taken from the top. This will be the lasting and cheapest solution rather than getting vaccines from abroad which are questionable.

Q Do you observe any loopholes in the way Sri Lanka attempted to stop the spread of the virus?

During the cluster stage everything was efficient. Both the service personnel as well as the health personnel who participated in it from the highest level down did a great job. Now in this new stage necessary action is not being taken. It maybe taken here and there, but not like a definite programme. Earlier in my medical career the main cause of death was diarrhoea especially among children. Therefore the health ministry setup a diarrhoea eradication committee. We had a lot of discussions on causes, treatments etc. But before we did all those we said we’ll take some simple public health measures. These include washing hands with soap and water once they use the washroom, doing the same before sitting down to a meal and the water should be boiled prior to consuming. That health education was introduced at school level and incorporated into the curriculum. As a result everybody developed it into a habit. So we can do the same with regard to COVID-19 as well. But this has to be accepted from the top.

Q One key concern was getting technical expertise. What are your views/concerns about keeping aside experienced individuals like you and allowing the military to take control of the matters?

It started as a military exercise for the simple reason that the military was ready at hand, organised, quick to get into action and enforce restrictions initially. But now it is entirely a matter for the health personnel to handle which should be supported by the army and the police.

Q Prior to the second wave, Sri Lanka maintained a lesser number of cases and retained number of deaths to 10. Why was it impossible during the second wave? Was it due to the heavy viral load in this strain or because patient zero was unknown or the authorities didn’t take matters seriously?

The Government also wanted to take credit and said we have controlled the situation. If there’s a particular cluster, say in Borella for example, people living outside that area thought that there’s no cluster there. But we would have been intermingling with people having the virus. Especially when the occurrence of cases and deaths came to a standstill, people thought the problem was over. From there it flared up again and that led to the so-called second wave. It’s clearly a matter of human behaviour. We have to have a real understanding and follow health guidelines for our own survival, incorporating them into our normal behaviour patterns.

"More than 20-30 companies are now claiming over 90% positivity. Since fear has been generated, people are being rushed to buy it. But we shouldn’t fall for that trap. If we are going to use the vaccine we can rely on what is recommended by WHO"

Q Although you mentioned that the spread has gone beyond clusters towards a community spread, statements by the authorities such as Epidemiology Unit repeatedly deny such claims. They were referring to the definitions given by WHO thereby claiming that we haven’t reached community transmission stage. Is this a situation where people can go by such definitions?

The WHO guidelines have been based on available knowledge. These are only guidelines. They don’t lay down the rules, but we have to decide on how we will tackle it. They only point out possibilities and guidelines to protect the community. But we have to use our judgements to decide what is best for the people. There may be social practices that facilitate the spread and after all people’s behaviours differ from country to country.

Q Let’s talk about PCR and Rapid Antigen testing. Does Sri Lanka  have the capacity to conduct them and what are your thoughts on the results?

In the case of PCR tests, they have been used for diagnosing so many illnesses. But for each virus you need to develop a special test. For instance, the efficacy of the test itself is about 70% and around 30% are being missed. Our capacity for PCR testing is inadequate and we aren’t doing sufficient tests. Therefore more research needs to be done to improve the quality of tests. At the Medical Research Institute and Sri Jayawardenapura University, we have trained people to improve tests to obtain 100% results. This needs continuous research where you need to change conditions such as acidity, alkalinity, quantity of different reagents and experiment. PCR tests are done widely for different conditions and generally the positivity rate is over 90%. But what is now available in Sri Lanka and around the world is below par. We have experts in the field, but none of them has been called for discussions. On the other hand, this is a virus, but as far as I know, there were no virologists in the committees that were set up. When you’re trained in a particular discipline you get to know all aspects of it and be able to adapt it to suit the problem.  We should have made use of the trained personnel we have, but the idea that it should be done by people with connections is the kind of thinking we have.

Q Are Rapid Antigen Tests any better?

The Rapid Test is very much cheaper, the test itself is quick and results are produced quickly. But the number of positive cases it picks up is around 60%, which is less than that produced by PCR tests. I suggest that both tests should be used.

Q This global pandemic said to have spread from Wuhan in China is also seen through a geopolitical perspective. Even there are allegations that the pandemic is being used as a biological weapon. In a way there is evidence to support this as some economies, specially in the Europe, have failed while other economies have managed to survive or thrive. Your comments?

In China, when you have a population of 1.5 billion, it is not a surprise to see a virus emerging. It cannot start from a population of 20 million like that in Sri Lanka. When it comes to viruses, there are stable viruses that don’t undergo genetic changes. For instance the small pox virus is stable and the vaccine that was prepared was effective and stayed effective till the end, so we could eliminate it altogether. But there are other viruses that change their genetic configuration and could be of two varieties; there could be a gradual change that takes place once or once in two years, which causes minor outbreaks which is called an antigenic drift. Once in about five to ten years there is a big change, which is called an antigenic shift. Therefore the body faces a different virus from what it faced earlier and the immune system is also not recognising the virus. Then you find that it spreads like wildlife and turns into a pandemic. So far, the coronavirus doesn’t show a big shift, but a gradual drift. What I heard from my virology contacts is that the strain of virus that is now circulating is more infectious, but isn’t severe. So we have to watch how it evolves and respond proactively.

Q The pandemic also highlighted a stark contrast among social classes. In a way, the rich can survive through it while the poor are left to die. How do you see this as a leftist political leader?

This is where we are facing a challenge like facing a foreign invasion and we have to protect our people. The most vulnerable individuals need to be safeguarded. The requirement to maintain distancing means that many companies have cut down on staff or closed them down and small businesses too will be badly affected. So it’s the duty of the Government to ensure that economic activities are sustained at the maximum possible level. People should receive livelihood support and if there’s a shortfall the Government should top it up. Measures also have to be taken to take care of people getting displaced and those having to go home with no source of income need to be financially assisted. It may then be possible to get alternative sources of income, new ventures can be developed and the Government should play the leading role. The Government can obtain assistance from private sector if the need arises.

Q But there were discrepancies in distributing the Rs.5000 relief and the budget didn’t address a relief system for those affected. Do you think it should be revised?

Definitely. There should have been a much bigger allocation for COVID-19 and its consequences. In fact the bulk of the budget should have been for that. I would have put long-term ventures on hold and given priority to the immediate needs of the people. We need to workout on priorities and address them accordingly. Those who are affected now are suffering. That should be given priority.

Q As an expert in this subject don’t you think that a vaccine against a viral infection should have been tested for a number of years?

It’s a new type of vaccine called mRNA and it’s a new illness. Even during natural infections what has emerged from laboratories is that antibody formation is short lived. Therefore the vaccine itself may not offer protection for very long and therefore people may have to be prescribed repeated doses. As such it’s uncertain how effective it will be. In order to get a sufficient vaccine to effectively break the transmission you need to  immunise at least 70-80% of the population. This is going to be costly and the outcomes are uncertain.

Q The availability of a life saving vaccine will depend on the capitalistic market system. Would there be any possibility to avoid it?

I’m sorry to say this, but after the armaments industry the second biggest source of profits is the medicinal drug industry. One aspect of it is the production of vaccines. There has to be investment and so on, but when they come up with a vaccine, they try to cash-in on the fear to sell the product and may even come up with bogus data. Those should be tested by accepted reference and laboratories linked to WHO and the outcomes must be confirmed. Then they maybe used. More than 20-30 companies are now claiming over 90% positivity. Since fear has been generated, people are being rushed to buy it. But we shouldn’t fall for that trap. If we are going to use the vaccine we can rely on what is recommended by WHO. This is because they always ensure that the best laboratories test them out, carry out population studies and results are examined carefully. Once they establish that its efficacy is over 90% then they give the go-ahead to use it. In that case we can act on it.

Q Another division of social class will be seen once the vaccine is made available to the populace. How should governments such as those in developing nations look at ensuring the equal distribution and accessibility to the vaccine?

If the WHO gives it free for 20% of the population, that would be adequate to protect the vulnerable groups. This means those who are liable to get severe diseases and die. Once you get that, people will still get infected but those who are healthy to withstand the infection may not succumb to it.

Q Ayurveda and traditional medicine have become a trending topic today. Can traditional medicine cure a mutating viral strain such as COVID-19?

Traditional medicine has been used widely in our country. They have been used over a period of time and people continue to use it if they feel they have benefits. But this is a new problem. There’s no past history which we can fall back on. So we have to prospectively study and see if it will be beneficial or not. There are traditional medicines which have been attributed to increase one’s immune ability and people take them for a long period on that premise. If there are responsible scientists who have verified and tested outcomes they can establish whether it is beneficial or not. They could check if the medicine could prevent the infection or make it milder or whether they have any curative effect. There are medicines available that were effective against other viral infections, so they can try it out against COVID-19 and see if they’re effective. Antivirals tend to be specific for some viruses and the range is smaller. All these need to be tried out. We can only draw conclusions in the future when we compare the outcomes.

We are approaching a new year and it looks like we will have to live with the virus for sometime. What are the immediate measures the Government should execute at this point?

We don’t need to harbour  an unnecessary fear. We know that the percentage mortality is less than 5%. So there’s no major degree of threat and in our country the count has been less. That doesn’t mean that we have to be overconfident and careless. But we need to realise that we are in a position to protect ourselves and in the process get rid of the virus. Therefore Sri Lankans who return should be carefully isolated minutely, so that they don’t infect anybody. If we can act in that way I’m sure we can minimise the risk to ourselves. We must get back to normal economic life while taking necessary preventive measures.



MP Sumanthiran questions denial of justice for Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah

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Written by Pavani Hapuarachchi    10 Dec,

2020 | 4:14 PM

COLOMBO (News 1st): Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah who is a brilliant lawyer has been denied justice for eight months now with no evidence to prove he is guilty of being charged, MP Sumanthiran told Parliament on Wednesday (Dec. 09).

YouTube Link :

“What are you doing for eight months if you had evidence that he was involved in anything at all? You could have charged him with that?” queried Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) Member of Parliament – M.A. Sumanthiran, while claiming that false allegations were being levelled against Hejaaz Hizbullah.

According to MP Sumanthiran, when Hizbullah’s house was searched, authorities had even seized his case briefs, which is a violation of sacrosanct attorney-client privilege.

“When his house was searched and he was arrested, they took away two of his case briefs; not even in a court of law can questions be asked with regard to communication between client and attorney, you know that very well. There are only two instances of privilledge, one husband/wife and the other is attorney/client privilledge. That’s how sacrosanct communication between a lawyer and his client is,” MP Sumanthiran emphasized.

The Parliamentarian also questioned as to whether a lawyer can be blamed for crimes committed by a client later on adding if there is a connection, it should be brought to light with Hizbullah being produced in court.

“Can’t he have clients? Can’t he handle cases for people who are later found to have committed other crimes? Is a lawyer to be blamed? Alright, even if you did that, in those files if you found anything you could’ve brought that to light. You could’ve produced him before the court. Nothing to-date,” MP Sumanthiran told parliament.

Further commenting, he pointed out that the allegations with regard to Qatar Charity and a school are both baseless as Qatar Charity and the said school are functioning without any hindrance to this day.

While claiming that the state itself benefits from Qatar Charity, MP Sumanthiran questioned as to how can Hizbullah be accused of having been involved with it; “He is said to have got some assistance from Qatar Charity. Qatar Charity is still running, it’s still involved. The state is a beneficiary as well. What is wrong with Qatar Charity? You can have it, you can use it, but you accuse him of being involved in Qatar Charity?”.

Commenting on the family of Attorney-at-Law Hejaaz Hizbullah, MP Sumanthiran said he has been denied of seeing his wife and newborn child, while free access to lawyers has also been denied, with a police officer being present to take down notes on the conversations between Hizbullah and his attorneys.

Thereby, the MP queried the parliament as to how anyone can expect to be treated equally when even a lawyer himself is denied the legal privileges and treated poorly.

“I’m picking one emblematic case to show how many more thousands are suffering like this. I’m picking that case because he is a lawyer. If you treat a lawyer like that, how do you expect anybody else to be treated any better? A lawyer who is well known, a lawyer who is regarded as a brilliant advocate in our courts is being treated like this,” ITAK MP M.A. Sumanthiran told parliament on Wednesday (Dec. 09).


Time To Stem The Rot; Next Generation Growing Up Hating The “Other”

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By Mohamed Harees

Lukman Harees

When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

There is lot of hate out there simmering, waiting for the social volcano to burst. With the corona pandemic, in parallel, racist pandemic has burst open a can of bigotry worms. There is lot of ill feelings and mutual suspicions among communities for various reasons, mostly thanks to Media sensationalism and State sanctioned racism. There appears to be politics being played over dead bodies too. Presently, Tamils are going to Courts to remember their dead; Muslims to bury their dead and Christian community asking for justice for their dead. No justice in sight to redress these grievances. An increasing tempo of targeting of the Muslim community has been in progress, while very interesting revelations are coming out at the Commission hearings pointing at some political scheming behind the perpetrators’ senseless massacre of innocents and the apathy of the State in preventing it. Hate groups emboldened after the successful election of an ultra- nationalist government in August 2020, have been at their game of demonization of minority communities in both public and private space, leading to mainstreaming of hate. The ultimate tragedy is an entire generation of young people, are being caught up in this national quagmire, with Sri Lanka fast losing hope to be an inclusive nation. Is this Nation’s blind-spot?


The cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand has shown how environmental shocks can cause societies to become “tighter” – meaning the tendency to be loyal to the “in-group” gets stronger. Such societies are more likely to elect authoritarian leaders and to show prejudice towards outsiders. This has been observed under past ecological threats such as resource scarcity and disease outbreaks. Under most climate change scenarios, we expect these threats, in particular extreme weather events and food insecurity, to only get worse. The same goes for the coronavirus pandemic. While many hope such outbreaks can lead to a better world, this pandemic appears to have done exactly the opposite.

This enhanced loyalty to one’s local tribe is a defence mechanism that helped past human groups pull together and overcome hardship. But it is not beneficial in a globalised world, where ecological issues and our economies transcend national boundaries. In response to global issues, becoming bigoted, and xenophobic and reducing cooperation with each other will only make the impact on our own nation worse as seen in Corona stricken-Sri Lanka. Making matters worse, the State building in Sri Lanka has been riddled with paradoxes. The curious notion of numerically dominant ethnic group, Sinhala manifesting a “minority complex” or anxieties about minority groups, Tamil and Muslims, has been evident in the rise of State sanctioned ultra- nationalism not just during the 19th and the 20th centuries, but also in this decade of the 21st century too. In this context, many canards, misconceptions and fake news are being circulated about the minority people among the majority population, which also affects the thinking patterns of those young minds, designed to take over the leadership of the Nation in the not too distant future.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it eloquently in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” But we have heard similar sentiments even in our country through the ages, by one national or intellectual leader to another. The belief that our children’s generation will be less racist gets repeated by teachers, parents, politicians and activists. And understandably so. Much of our culture is predicated on the idea that we can create a better future for our progeny, instilling in them values that we as a nation have often failed to uphold.

However, are the new generation less racist than their parents or grandparents? Sadly, present day IT savvy kids, with most of their time being spent on social media, don’t give us any reason to believe that the new generation of leaders will naturally or inevitably hold more open-minded and tolerant viewpoints on race or religious co-existence than previous generations. Any observer about the developments and biased media coverages specially in Post-war Sri Lanka, will vouch that warped beliefs based on racial superiority, xenophobia and hate towards the ‘Other’ are being promoted both consciously or unconsciously in our society, and families and being passed from generation to generation. Thus, there is scepticism about racism fading away when old bigots die? Thus, dismantling racism therefore will require more than just passive hope.

Looking at the picture as a whole, unfortunately there appears to be far too much evidence of politicians only looking ahead as far as the next election, rather than thinking about the next generation. Be it as it may, when politicians fail to look beyond the next election, they are neglecting the rights and future of the next generation. Thus, if they are a generation apart, this is less to do with apathy, and more to do with their well-orchestrated strategy to meet ulterior political ambitions in Sri Lanka. The Media too is in hand in gloves with those in the government in promoting a warped disjointed culture which does not augurs well with the much needed nation building exercise, which will be both inclusive and also conducive to the well-being of the younger generation who will take over the mantles of leadership in the future.

According to a Report ‘Next Generation Sri Lanka’ by British Council Sri Lanka(2019), ‘Most Sri Lankan youth feel cultural and religious biases have been taught to the younger generation by the older generation, and most young people also see themselves and their generation as different from the older generation. However, an overwhelming number of youth still identify parents as the most influential adults, with teachers and adult relatives coming in next…. Sri Lankan youth believe the communal issues facing society were created by the older generation. Focus group participants perceive cultural and religious biases as having been taught to the younger generation by the older generation.


‘They see themselves as different to previous generations, whom they characterise as holding cultural and religious biases, and are willing to play an active role in their own communities – if they had improved direction and support… young Sri Lankans are ready to play an active role in the peace and reconciliation process, but need avenues to be opened up by the government, relevant ministries, policymakers and civil society. The diversity of aspirations regarding reconciliation should be factored into the reconciliation mechanisms that are currently being designed and implemented’.

‘The majority of young people stated they have a close, trusted friend from a different religion, ethnic group and/or from a different part of the country, there remain many who are not familiar with the cultures of different ethnic and religious groups, due to language difference and segregated education systems’. ‘Eighty-five per cent of young Sri Lankans think their generation is ready to play an active role in peace and reconciliation, but they don’t yet know how to fit into the current process. .. Looking ahead, nearly three-quarters of young Sri Lankans, both male and female, do not believe the country is heading in the right direction’.

‘They identify a number of problems for themselves: the inability to complete education due to economic hardships, unemployment, discrimination in the government job sector, the high cost of higher education, and corruption in public institutions, as well as poor governance and political instability’. The Report says ‘Need to enable the voices of Sri Lankan youth from all communities to be heard within the wider society… [and] ultimately contribute to policies that address their needs’.

In a day and age where teens are sending Snapchats instead of passing handwritten notes and “selfie” has become a regular part of our vocabulary, there’s no denying that social media is impacting the way teenagers view themselves. It has been a tragedy that that apart from many benefits, social media also acts as an amplifying echo chamber for much hateful rhetoric and racist views. Even the racist mass media like Hiru and Derana are using the social media in this regard. Their racist videos are going viral among their teen audience. In the social media, the main user group are those who are young and the millennials. And it reinforces how they see the internet as a place where it’s acceptable to post comments with racially motivated language, often with the caveat that they are not racist but simply hate an ideology. It’s important to recognise that these comments on social media reflect wider attitudes that are endemic in the offline world. Social media can appear to act as a megaphone for racists, but these opinions are much more mainstream than we think. As a society we need to grapple with how these ideas have become normalised, and challenge and expose them.

It need to be recognized what is defined as ambient racism by experts, in everyday articulations on social media. Ambient racism occurs at the micro-level of Internet communication, in user comments, tweets and affective responses circulating between users. In open-networked publics such as Facebook groups, racism is connected with and produced at both the micro and the macro level. Through the constant articulation and circulation of messages between ‘ordinary’ users and racist and bigoted political actors, mundane forms of racial and racist expressions and far-right content become conflated. Social media publics facilitate a seamless flow of communication that does not distinguish between the intentional strategies of hate peddlers and the affective responses of everyday users. Their strategy builds on the idea that racist views become acceptable when mainstream discourses increasingly target minorities in various ways. Reciprocally, the increase of racist ideas from the fringe has an equivalent effect on mainstream discourses.

By taking advantage of commercial social media, hate peddlers gradually normalize previously unacceptable attitudes and utterances, and as recent research suggests, ‘radical right-wing sentiments on social media may instigate and/or facilitate violent (anti-minority) political action’ This also suggests that racist discourses on social media do not exist in a vacuum; they are manifested as part of a greater political scheming and majoritarianism. This process of brainwashing and indoctrination through the social media particularly affects and impacts upon young people. If the blind-spot is not identified and young generation not rescued from the clutches of the impending disaster of “Hate towards the ‘Other’” without delay, it will be too late to stop the sudden descent of the entire nation down the cliff and be another failed State.

It therefore behoves on government to keep a close eye on the social media, instead of playing dirty games with the rogue sections of the media to promote hate for cheap political gains. It is important for the intellectual and religious leaders to impress upon the political leadership not only to inspire action to tackle racism in the society and to support people to work together in new ways to tackle racism and create lasting solutions to racial injustice, but also to set an example to the next generation to enable them to live in a fair, just and equal society. People should be encouraged to pledge to take action too and support everyone working together on solutions we know to be effective, sharing ideas and strengthening this message. A business might pledge to work harder to ensure its employees reflect the make up of the population at all levels of the business, including the boardroom. A school or university should introduce lessons on peaceful co-existence and inclusivity in their curricula and inter faith activities as well as declare that it will take action in ensuring equality of educational experience for its minority students. Voluntary sector organisations could pledge to highlight how its work reduces racial inequality. And the government too should be compelled to put into action what were proposed in the constitution and laws to ensure inclusivity and pledge in a similar manner in respect of government jobs too. There is also a huge responsibility cast on the majority community as well and see through the vote winning short term tactics of political leaders. Otherwise this polarizing strategy will eventually affect the majority too.

Yes! as A. Sivanandan, British Sri Lankan Tamil novelist, activist and writer, emeritus director of the Institute of Race Relations UK explaining the roots of ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka in a speech to ‘Marxism 2009’ echoed, ‘What, in sum, we are faced with in my country today, is a brainwashed people, brought up on lies and myths, their intelligentsia told what to think, their journalists forbidden to speak the truth on pain of death, the militarising of civil society and the silencing of all opposition. A nation bound together by the effete ties of language, race and religion has arrived at the cross-roads between parliamentary dictatorship and fascism. It is for the Sinhalese people I fear now – for if they come for me in the morning, they’ll come for you that night.’. Well! this reminds of the poem of Martin Niemöller, a German theologian and Lutheran pastor, which ended: ‘Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me’. Men build too many walls and not enough bridges and then do not see the blind-spot until it is too late! Aren’t they?


විනිසුරු අර්ජුන ඔබේසේකර හිස්බුල්ලාගේ පෙත්සම සලකා බැලීමෙන් ඉවත්වෙයි

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පාස්කු ඉරුදින එල්ල කෙරුණු ත්‍රස්ත ප්‍රහාර සිද්ධිය සම්බන්ධයෙන් අත්අඩංගුවට ගෙන රඳවාගෙන සිටින නීතිඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා හමුවී උපදෙස් ලබා ගැනීම සඳහා ඔහුගේ නීතිඥවරුන්ට ප්‍රවේශය ලබා දෙන ලෙස අපරාධ පරීක්ෂණ දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ අධ්‍යක්ෂවරයා වෙත නියෝගයක් නිකුත් කරන්නැයි ඉල්ලා ගොනු කළ පෙත්සම සලකා බැලීමේ කටයුතුවලින් ඉවත් වන බව  අභියාචනාධිකරණයේ සභාපති විනිසුරු අර්ජුන ඔබේසේකර මහතා අද (10) විවෘත අධිකරණයට දැනුම් දුන්නේය.

හිජාස් ඉස්බුල්ලා මහතාගේ අයිතිවාසිකම් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින නීතිඥ චලන පෙරේරා මහතා විසින් ගොනුකළ මෙම පෙත්සම අද අභියාචනාධිකරණයේ සභාපති විනිසුරු අර්ජුන ඔබේසේකර සහ සෝභිත රාජකරුණා යන මහත්වරුන්ගෙන් සමන්විත විනිසුරු මඩුල්ලක් හමුවේ කැදවිණි.

එහිදී සභාපති විනිසුරු අර්ජුන ඔබේසේකර මහතා විවෘත අධිකරණය හමුවේ සඳහන් කළේ පෞද්ගලික හේතුවක් මත තමා මෙම පෙත්සම සළකා බැලීමෙන් ඉවත්වන බවය.

ඒ අනුව මෙම පෙත්සම ලබන 14 වනදා ප්‍රියන්ත ප්‍රනාන්දු සහ සෝභිත රාජකරුණා යන මහත්වරුන්ගෙන් සමන්විත විනිසුරු මඩුල්ලක් ඉදිරියේ සලකා බැලීම සඳහා කැඳවන බව ද සභාපති විනිසුරුවරයා තීන්දු කළේය.

මේ බව දැනුම් දෙමින් පෙත්සම සම්බන්ධයෙන්  වගඋත්තර කරුවන් වෙත නොතීසි දන්වා යැවීමට  පියවර ගන්නා ලෙසද විනිසුරු මඩුල්ල පෙත්සම්කාර පාර්ශ්වයේ නීතිඥ වරුන්ට දැනුම් දෙන ලදී.

නීතීඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා වෙනුවෙන් ඔහුගේ නීතීඥවරයා ගොනු කළ මෙම පෙත්සමේ වගඋත්තරකරුවන් ලෙස අපරාධ පරීක්ෂණ දෙපාර්තමේන්තුවේ අධ්‍යක්ෂවරයා, විශේෂ විමර්ශන ඒකකයේ ස්ථානාධිපතිවරයා, නීතිපතිවරයා ඇතුළු පිරිසක් නම් කරනු ලැබ සිටිති .

පෙත්සමින් සඳහන් කර ඇත්තේ දැනට රැදවුම් භාරයේ පසුවන නීතිඥ හිජාස් හිස්බුල්ලා හමුවීම සඳහා ඉකුත් සැප්තැම්බර් මාසයෙන් පසුව මේ දක්වා ඔහුගේ නීතිඥවරුන්ට අපරාධ පරීක්ෂණ දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව විසින් අවස්ථාව සලසා දී නොමැති බවය.

අත්අඩංගුවේ පසු වන හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා හමුවීම සඳහා අවස්ථාව සලසා දෙන ලෙස ඉල්ලීම් ගණනාවක් ඉදිරිපත් කළ ද ඒවා අපරාධ පරීක්ෂණ දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව විසින් ප්‍රතික්ෂේප කර තිබෙන බවද පෙත්සමේ වැඩිදුරටත් සදහන් වේ.

ඒ අනුව අත්අඩංගුවේ පසු වන නීතිඥ හිස්බුල්ලා මහතා හමුවී අවශ්‍ය උපදෙස් ලබාගැනීම සඳහා ප්‍රවේශය ලබා දෙන ලෙස වගඋත්තරකරුවන් වෙත නියෝග නිකුත් කරන ලෙසද පෙත්සම මගින් අධිකරණයෙන් ඉල්ලා සිටී.


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