Another Definition for Insanity

Dear Sir/Madam,
I had the opportunity to read the letters titled "An open letter to my countrymen" by Vimukthi Jayadeva and "War was thrust on Thamils" by V. Thangavelu, published in quoted from "The Asian Tribune". I request you to publish the following document in relation to the above two documents. I thank you for creating a dialogue on this national tragedy and encourage your publication to continue this healthy dialogue to help Sri Lankans come out of this wilderness.

Thank you

Bandula Abeysinghe
Attorney at Law
Email -

1. Face of the problem

People killed by government of Sri Lanka since 1970's
Sinhalese (including Sinhalese rebels) - over 75,000
Tamils (including Tamil rebels) - over 30,000
Sinhalese rebels (and suspected rebels) - over 70000
Tamil rebels (and suspected rebels)- 18000
(According to statistics including BBC)

According to above statistics, the number of Sinhalese people killed by the government of Sri Lanka since 1970's is more than twice the number of Tamil people killed by the government during the same period. What do these statistics suggest? It shows that the Sri Lankan governments show no discrimination when it comes to killing its own people. Going by the above figures, hundreds of thousands of other injustices taking place in Sri Lanka should not be beyond one's comprehension. These numbers would further give an indication of the magnitude of financial and human resources amounting to hundreds of billions of rupees Sri Lanka has wasted in the wars against her own people. The resultant poverty, insecurity, injustices and misery is the face of the problem in Sri Lanka.

2. Cause of the problem

One may say multiple problems such as racial discrimination, poverty, political immaturity, political opportunism etc. are the causes of all the problems in Sri Lanka. However, if analyzed correctly, they are only some chronic symptoms and the root cause of all these symptoms primarily is a long established 'culture of discrimination' embedded in the society. Irrespective of whether one is a Sinhalese, Tamil or a Muslim, all ordinary citizens face grave discriminations and injustices unleashed by the system. This system comprises all government institutions including people's representatives, the police and the Judiciary. An ongoing tension is felt in the society as a result of boiling resentment, distrust and hatred created by this rooted system of discriminations and injustices. Terrorism in Sri Lanka is extreme manifestations of this tension. This situation is like a volcano that is always boiling inside, but erupting only after a certain point.

'Factory of Injustices' in Sri Lanka is owned and operated by this 'culture of discrimination' and it has different moulds for its product. It is like a packet of biscuits with different shapes. Only the shape is different. Rich against poor, one political party against the other, bureaucracy against ordinary people, one ethnic group against the other, aristocrats against the downcasts, rich against the poor and one region against another are some of the different shapes of this same product. However, manipulated by extremists, different social groups are at each others' throat without identifying the real cause. Tamil people claim that they exclusively face grave discrimination directed at them as a race. Muslim minority does not support this Tamil minority claim and ironically they claim grave discrimination from the Tamil minority. Interestingly, Sinhalese rebels and extremists, on the other hand claiming that the people face injustices as a result of capitalist policies, launched two violent rebellions aimed at establishing a Marxist regime. Aren't they all barking up the wrong trees?

3. Solution

Even the United Nations asked Sri Lankan Civil Society to fight for a better justice system in Sri Lanka in 2003. There is no question that people must fight for a just society. Since Sri Lankans have not adhered to the important principle of 'fighting fair' against the real cause, they have created more problems for themselves. Up country Tamil people are the only exception to this self destructive behaviour as they, unlike other social groups, have found remedies through a very realistic struggle. What if they also had resorted to terrorism in the upcountry?

Simple explanations could be given to convince that the injustices in Sri Lanka could easily have been remedied by "effectively" implementing the laws already in place, while amendments, modifications and introduction of some new laws should also be done through civil rights movements as seen in the USA in 1960's. There is no need to resort to self destructive terrorism as these injustices are not of the extreme proportion of Slavery or Apartheid. However, both southern and northern extremists have taken people on illusive and destructive paths by manipulating their genuine grievances.

What is primarily needed is a way out of this 'culture of discrimination', which produces injustices with different shapes such as class, racial, political, gender, religious, regional etc. In the present Sri Lankan context, establishing "true law and order", where access to justice and quality of justice are very satisfactory would only be able to put a stop to the production of injustices of this magnitude. Establishing totally independent, reliable, modern police and a judiciary is an indispensable prerequisite. One may say that even establishing law and order in Iraq or Burma would also solve their problems and so that it is easier said than done. However, the uniqueness in Sri Lanka as against Iraq or Burma is the presence of a practical possibility for establishing 'true law and order'. In other words, if Sri Lanka is in labour with the baby named 'Rule of Law', Iraq has hardly thought about conceiving.

4. Path to the solution

There are two mechanisms that could be followed to establish 'true law and order' in any country. First mechanism that is doing it through international pressure is the easier, quicker and less painful method. The second mechanism is civil society collectively fighting fair against the injustices. Though the second one is the home grown and sustainable mechanism, violent and extremist traits in Sri Lanka set by long drawn rebellions, political violence, ethnic war and misconceptions, it could be disastrous to promote this mechanism in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, due to various unique reasons, Sri Lankan Civil Society is not up to this task either. Therefore, this second mechanism is not a viable option in the present Sri Lankan context. However, this should also be slowly promoted with great care and caution for the sustainability.

Firstly, the donor countries must bear upon the government, opposition and such other relevant parties by way of attaching conditions to the aid granted to ensure that they adhere to a set course of ensuring ' true law and order'. Unlike in Iraq or Burma, this is a real possibility in Sri Lanka as ground situation is satisfactory as almost all parties are amenable to the voice of international community. Secondly, funds must be channeled to establish truly independent, modern and powerful police and a judiciary. This is the midwifery job only the international community could easily do to bring forth the said baby named 'Rule of Law'. Despite having reservations about hidden agendas of the West, civil society in Sri Lanka would gracefully welcome such an effort. That is because no matter who does it, establishing 'true law and order' is the foundation to build a just and prosperous society on our motherland. Such a society as seen in Singapore and in western countries do not leave room for ethnic or religious narrow mindedness to exploit own countrymen to be at each others' throat.