Radhika, children of war, peace talks and our final future

by Prof. C. Suriyakumaran

‘… The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck..Whence all but He had Fled….’

Radhika Coomaraswamy erstwhile rapporteur on abuses of women in war, has now been given charge of child combatants.

A person whom, if I may say so, I had known for three generations — her grandfather, along with the late E. W. Kannangara being my first wonderful boss while in Service here; her father Raju and I later as colleagues. He in UN New York and I in Bangkok on truly excellent Technical Assistance Development Programmes we initiated in Asia in years past; and now Radhika herself, close to us from her childhood, and her Sussex education, of whose abilities I do not need to know from any one else.

In her new responsibility, she has taken on a task in which she could well assume it as simply a one way street.

The sub-title/quotation which I have given above is one which every school boy would have known in the old days — and would have been taught to consider with affection and pride.

In today’s context, and that of Radhika’s and the UN’s present pious concern, those two lines are a flagrant violation of a child’s rights. The purpose of setting this down is the hypocrisy that was practiced by countries when they needed something and the sermons later preached by them when they had no use for it.

Slavery, child labour, child recruitment for War were among the common practices especially by the present so called Developed Countries when they still needed these. On child labour, the World probably does not know that this was freely prevalent ‘till the other day’ both in the US and UK armies, with no qualms or apologies. Yet the whole purpose of pointing this out is not to recommend it for us, but to know the context in which a group or country is driven to get the maximum possible man power for its resistance against being openly overwhelmed by the enemy.

In this country in the North there was no physical alterative to child recruitment as an additional resource. Two evaluations then become necessary:

One on the recruitment themselves; and Two, the manner in which these were concluded — both clearly matters for every evaluation. Inducement, propaganda and others Yes; but force, abduction from home, certainly are violations with no excuse.

In a passing recollection, when I visited the LTTE in Jaffna (mainly for Development during President Premadasa’s period as a basis for future peace) l was also shown without request a well trained teenaged contingent, then on R & R in Jaffna from the Vanni looking self confident, indeed with education, capable — as their mentor said, the inevitable price of a total National Folly, perpetrated for years, by the so called political leaderships of this country (which meant solely Southern) and then forced into a situation with all hands to battle.

It is not out of place to add too that when the Tamils were under total assault of most shameful nature in Colombo in ’58 and neighbourhood Tamils had converged at my house, I ‘forced’ a gun on one of the younger boys and just ordered him on point of assault by me to stand up with me out front. We had to!

Most sad indeed — and one may not easily tar only the agency or group that employs child recruitments but the powerful National Political, perversions which led to this. The Rapporteur on Children in War would need to be careful in reporting and look beyond recruitment, to causes mid solutions.

Lakshman Kadirgamar of course erred in the same manner in unqualified attack on the LTTE on this and other matters.

Kadirgamar’s ‘concerns’, including branding of the LTTE as a purely terrorist organisation on the World stage — place Ben Gurion and others past — to virtual silence on wholesale killing of a church full of Christians in his hometown in Jaffna; and a string of others; did not attract him to the LTTE, or indeed others in the Community, although it was someone else who dismissed him with the words, ‘He knows no Tamil and no Tamil Knows Him’. One of the best contrary examples is the Members of the larger Kadirgamar Family themselves — not simply that the exemplary Rajan was deeply affected by the extremism; or that Saro held the fort for ‘Kalalaya’ during the worst days; and so on.

Not nearly a St. George after the dragon, Kadirgamar for his own sought to abort the prospects of a Sri Lankan Foreign Service Diplomat himself having hopes apparently on an eventual Secretary General position; having -failed in that, declared himself in search of Head of the Commonwealth Secretariat — pronouncing he was not needed anymore at home; and so on, apparently in all these, looking to himself more than to ‘peace’ or the Country. The Government is, now, not on eliminating the LTTE — but on the Peace Trade!

None can ever justify foul murder — by whomsoever done — as too with that different ‘soul’ Neelan Thiruchelvam whose error on carrying a non-’solution from then President JRJ. to a stunted District Council was obviously a total “folly’ (in Palmerstonian language more than a crime, a total blunder). Too, too late, JR confessed later — ‘too little foresight, too little intelligence, too little courage’!

The need for all to report on all matters connected to these issues — now applies for Radhika no less. The Rapporteur on children has a heavy task.

May peace come soon — very soon — and we shall have no need for the task of a rapporteur on children; though for Radhika of course — hopefully much slimmer than now — always the best.

B – “Patria Non Dividenda Est!” When all is said and done all these will finally hinge on the peace Talks, to which both Government and the LTTE have now committed themselves. These are — have to be – at three successive stages of:

(A) Peace Keeping; (‘Military’)

(B) Peace Making; (Political’).

(C) Peace Building; (‘Economic’)

(I am not dealing with Stage Three — there are enough earlier writings by me, also in the papers).

No movement to the Second stage can take place unless there is honesty, patency and totality in the first-Some valid yet even seemingly radical considerations may have to be considered. At all stages boldness is required.

For example on the Fkst- Stage, why not the concept of joint Government/LTTE Units in the concerned Areas to keep the Peace pending movement to the Second Stage. This must apply as much to the so called high Security Zones as to other points of concern, to Government or the LTTE. Only confidence can breed confidence were there to be lasting peace. At the end indeed, we shall be having joint units of the Arme A Forces, as elsewhere in the world.

At Stage Two, whether some like it or not, we shall have — repeat have — to be discussing Devolution. (If some luminaries declare Devolution to be separation, however eminent they be, let them go back and look up all this once again). For myself, I have written copiously on these earlier (c. f.my ‘Anguish 11’ and ‘Anguish III’, prefaced by Regi Siriwardena).

As for the most authoritative thinking on this, we will simply need to go back to none other than S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike whose multifarious lucid expositions I have used as basis below.

I can only beseech the Editor (on plea also that I shall not be writing any more on this or other subject) to kindly re-produce this, as annex to this writing, for all our sake.

S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike on DEVOLUTION*

* Bandaranaike distinguished between Central Government; Local Government; _and Devolutionga. Government.

* Devolution, while fundamental, simply consisted in the sums of the 3 Decentralisation namely:

* The Decentralization of Democracy;

* The Decentralization, of Administration; and

* The Decentralization of Development

* Any without the other, would not be Devolution, but “Deconcentration” from the Centre i.e. Direct or Indirect Rule from the Centre); or Decentralization (i.e. Local Government _dependent on the Centre).

* Devolution is and was above all a Concept Furthest from Separation; but for Strengthening Union by maximum Regional self expression

* From the innumerable Statements by Bandaranaike, beginning mid 40’s as Minister for Local Government; and later basis for the ‘BC’ Pact. — C. Suriyakumaran’, Then Senior Asst, Commissioner of Local Government, Northern Region and HQRS (1945 to 1959) and Author of Official Reports and Writings. (acc. to Bandaranaike on one “one of the Best Documents he had seen… for years… was determined to give (it) prime importance in the near future”) — Ceylon Daily News (2nd July 1947)

Constructing the Peace Agenda

The Ageda

A. Devolution: Regional

* Demands/Needs*

B. Devolution: National

* Constituents Needs

C. Development: Regional /National

* Follies

* Constituents

* Processes.

* Annex (Not Included)

The B-C Pact Framework provided for both,

The North and East as a Region &

The North and East as Constituent Areas within the Region

— (A Concept that can well be updated)

Regional ‘Devolution’

While ‘Deconcentrati would be of Governance by Central Agencies in the Re

And’ Decentralization of Local Functions, by Local Bodies, in their Local Areas, managed by Local People.

Devolution would be of Central Functions( Bar’ Select’/ Agreed’) to, Autonomous Bodies, in

Agreed Regional Areas, with

Wide Agreed Functions, on

Governance for,

Administration, Finance, Law & Order, and Development — the first Three seen as Indispensable for the Fourth.

Note — The above would be characterized by,

Fiscal Devolution (ie Sharing of Resourecs as against Allocation of Resources.);

Use of all Resources as distinct from Ownership; Equal privileges in pursuit of Maximum Development.

None other than ‘Internal Self Governance’ But Nationally re-enforcing, if Perceived properly,

NB- (“‘Black Hole” — the sub-standed performances of other Provincial Councils in the Country so far, making any superior performance in the N.E. look separatist!

‘National’ Constituents for Devolution

At any time in history the extent of National Unity in any country is an inverse Co-efficient of the Extent of True Participation by the Minorities in Central Government in that country.” (From the Writer’s Publications)

Participatory Governance at the Centre, an ‘Inherent Excellence ’A pre-eminent buttressing for the Region on ‘Regional Concerns’ in National Governance’ by, agreed / established Machineries.

– Namely in Minority Vice President; Deputy Prime Minister Designated (Agreed) Portfolios;

Following which,

Principles of Centre — Region Relations Disputes settled by Consensus;

In committed Context of one Cowitry.

For the Majority, the best Guarantee against Separation;

For the Minority, surest Assurance against need for Separation]

Development for Unity

“Development without Devolution is as blind as Devolution without Development is Empty”

(From the Writer’s Publications)

The National Development Record — a “50 Year Folly”

Needed Constituents and Processes:

Radical Reversals/Shifts in,

* Local Organisation for Development (Not ‘Ngoo,’ But Cboo’]

* National Policies for Development (From ‘Products” of T’logy, to ‘Process’ of T’logy]

(From ‘Dependent’ to ‘Non-Dependent’ Development)

National Proverty the surest basis for National Dis-integration, by

– Continued Failures to solve the National Question

– Openino unwanted pathways to National Disintearation.

Totally Unnecessary, since “Development” the most surely attainable of all

(A subconscious fear that the N.E. will surge ahead of others! Making the foregoing even more a Prime Priority)

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