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17th October, 2004  Volume 11, Issue 14

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Focus

"Sinna Bala" and the
Tamil national struggle

In a remarkable display of courageous unity a cross section ofGreater Toronto's Tamil........

More.... 


 Giving a lesson in cheating

By Henry Holdenbottle 

Dearest Satty,

M'dear, you never fail to amaze me with your hidden talents that you whip out every now and then like a retired.....

More....

 

 

 


JVP knee deep in tank controversy


"Sinna Bala" and the Tamil national struggle

Sinha Bala lying dead in a pool of blood opposite his house in Wellawatte having been shot by an LTTE killer squad

In a remarkable display of courageous unity a cross section ofGreater Toronto's Tamil population came together recently in Scarborough to condemn the killing of Balanadarajah Aiyer on August 16 in Colombo and pay tribute to "Sinna Bala" as he was popularly known.

Representatives of the TULF, PLOTE, TELO, EPRLF, EROS, EPDP along with human rights activists, academics, journalists, lawyers, Brahmin priests and other members of civil society assembled on a Saturday evening to commemorate Sinna Bala who was gunned down brutally at Wellawatte by assassins on motorcycles. 

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj 

The event was rather significant as far as the Canadian Tamil diaspora was concerned because of three reasons.

 

Firstly, it was a rare occasion where the hopelessly divided non-LTTE sections in Toronto united for a common purpose. Secondly, it was after 15 years that a public meeting was being held in Toronto to condemn the killing of a Tamil political activist and pay homage to his memory. The last such meeting was in 1989 for TULF Leader Appapillai Amirthalingam. Thirdly, the content of many speeches dealt with issues and concepts that have never been discussed at a Tamil public meeting before.

Though the attendance was hardly in the league of gatherings organised by the LTTE most participants at this meeting were qualitatively of a different level in political consciousness. The panel of speakers while speaking ofthe life and times of Sinna Bala and his murder most foul, also ventured to address the larger issues behind the killing. Within the short period of available time the speakers approached the current crisis of killings from different perspectives.

Political assassinations

The history of political assassinations in the Tamil community, the phenomenon of labelling those with diverse political opinion as "Thurogigal" (traitors) and justifying their elimination as "Kalai eduppu" (weeding out), the rise of Tamil fascism, the brutal nature ofthe on going killing spree, the bleak future of the Tamil people, the fraudulent  results in the north-east during the last general elections, the question of "sole representative status" etc. were some of the hitherto 'forbidden' issues (Pesapporul) and concepts delved into deeply by the speakers. In a double cliche no punches were pulled or words minced.

The politically aware members of the audience - many accompanied by their spouses - were extremely appreciative of most views expressed and indicated their endorsement through intermittent outbursts of spontaneous and sustained applause. The atmosphere and mood of the meeting though highly emotive did not descend into vulgarity but retained a tone of refinement for most of the time.

There was also quite a lot of interaction and exchange of views among participants at the fellowship dinner held after the meeting at the same venue. The 'star' attraction of the gathering was septuagenarian President, Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Veerasingham Anandasangaree whose pithy observations about contemporary Tamil politics went down well with the audience.

A poignant note was struck when Mrs. Thambirajah, mother of the EPRLF's Subathiran alias Robert placed a garland around Sinna Bala's portrait in homage (Malar anjali) as the meeting commenced. There was hardly a dry eye when she began sobbing loudly, presumably thinking of her own son who was gunned down in Jaffna by the LTTE on June 15th last year. Her husband and brother too had been killed earlier.

The meeting was organised by the Coalition for Human Rights, Equality, Peace and Democracy in Sri Lanka (CHEPADS). At the meeting's conclusion a resolution was presented and approved unanimously. The resolution condemned the killing of Balanadarajah and expressed sympathies to his family. It also demanded that the culture of killing those with differing political views in Sri Lanka should end immediately. It also called upon Canada and rest of the international community to exert pressure and bring about an end to these killings.

Though several weeks have passed since his killing, the lifeand death of Sinna Bala and his role in the Tamil national struggle for equal rights is worthy of recalling even now.

Nadarajah Aiyer Balanadarajah Aiyer known popularly as Sinna Bala was brutally gunned down at Wellawatte in Colombo on August 16th. The killers riding motorcycles wearing helmets are presumed to be members of a Tiger assassination team operating in Colombo. Though attempts have been made to deflect the blame for the killing elsewhere it is indeed widely known that the LTTE is the guilty party. In a telling indictment the Tigers have been conspicuously absent in expressing sorrow or condemnation for the killing of Sinna Bala.

Tamil politics

Sinna Bala was born on June 6, 1957. He belonged to the tiny Brahmin community in Jaffna. Hailing originally from Pungudutheevu, Bala's father Nadarajah was a school teacher in Oorelu in Jaffna. Bala's paternal uncle was the well known music composer, singer and poet "Inuvil" Veeramani Iyer. It was Veeramani Aiyer who wrote and composed music for the popular devotional song rendered by T. M. Soundararajan "Katpagavalli Nin Potpathangal Pidithen."

It was Bala who observed the last rites for Veeramany Aiyer when he passed away last year in Jaffna. Though under life threat Bala braved all odds and went to Jaffna last year without any protection to do his filial duty. It was the same sense of duty and family obligation that led to his tragic demise this time.

With LTTE killer squads roaming the streets of Colombo in search of leading members of the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), most EPDP stalwarts have been taking extra safety precautions. Sinna Bala too had been staying with other EPDP members at the party office in 121 Park Road, Havelock Town. He had however gone home to 171/6, W. A. de Silva Mawatha on the 15th to discharge religious duties to his departed father and uncles on account of "Aadi Amavasai."

After sending off his daughters to school Bala was waiting outside his house for the EPDP vehicle when the assailants struck. Incidently, Bala was scheduled to go to the Swiss embassy later that day for a visa. His latest book - a critique of the LTTE in relation to the Indo-Lanka accord - was to be released shortly there. Apart from his innumerable journalistic writings Bala has also penned three books. The most famous of these was Kaani Uruthi (Land Deed), a book of short stories.

Sinna Bala was closely involved in Tamil national politics for more than three decades. Influenced initially by the pioneering Tamil militant from neighbouring Urumpirai Pon Sivakumaran Bala began actively involving himself in Tamil student politics from the age of 15. He became a member of the Tamil Maanavar Peravai in 1972. Many old timers of the Tamil militant struggle fondly recall the contribution of "Iyer" Bala as he was called then. It is said that Bala helped provide refuge, protection, shelter and food to many a young Tamil militant fleeing the clutches of policemen in Jaffna.

Later on, Bala participated in the activities centered around the progressive Tamil journal Manitham edited by Vimalathasan. Becoming increasingly left-leaning after Sivakumaran's death Bala moved away from the pro-TULF student and youth organisations. His politics became progressively revolutionary and soon Bala became one of the founding members of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS).

The student EROS later metamorphosed into the political front EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organisation). Once again Balanadarajah Aiyer was a pioneering member. He was widely known then as "Eros" Bala. Later on, when Velupillai Balakumar came into EROS he became known as EROS Bala on account of his seniority. The junior Bala was now being called "Sinna (Little) Bala" and the name struck.

Journalist

Sinna Bala was deeply involved with the publishing of Tharkeegam, a tabloid articulating the EROS point of view in the early '80s. He used the pseudonym "Ilaiyavan." He was also a political activist mobilising public opinion and interacted closely with the public instead of confining himself to the editorial office alone.

Though a Brahmin hemoved closely with people from all walks of life and displayed no caste consciousness. He even rejected vegetarianism, but reverted back after marriage. Sinna Bala has lived for long periods in the east, Mannar and India doing political work in addition to Jaffna and Colombo.

After July 1983, EROS too obtained arms training in India. Sinna Bala belonged to the original batch of trainees. Though trained in arms Sinna Bala abhorred the use of violence. He never carried a gun and close friends say that after his military training days Bala seldom touched a firearm. It was more a case of penmanship than gunmanship for him.

Though Sinna Bala was no professional journalist he was for practical purposes a full time writer. His journalism was only an extension of his politics. He was no cheap propagandist, but a man with deep convictions and unafraid to articulate those. Many would regard Sinna Bala as a genuine journalist in comparison with several other pseudo and self-styled journalists parading as free members of the fourth estate. I have the greatest respect for his writing from the days of Tharkeegam.

The withdrawal of the Indian army and the ascendancy of the LTTE saw EROS taking a momentous decision in 1990. The bulk of the EROS led by Balakumar and Para opted to throw in their lot with the LTTE. EROS was dissolved and many members joined the LTTE. Sinna Bala too followed this course of action.

Remaining in Jaffna, Bala became assistant and later deputy editor of the Tiger controlled Eelanatham newspaper. This provided him an avenue of employment. The paper however was under severe controls after the Mahattaya episode. Editorial freedom was severely curtailed. Moreover the LTTE 'rule' in Jaffna provided Sinna Bala with an insight of things to come. He realised that the Tigers were only leading the Tamil people on the road to disaster and wanted no part of it. Escaping Tiger hegemony however was no easy task.

Bala's opportunity came in 1995 when the Sri Lankan army regained Jaffna through operation Riviresa. Bala sent most of his books and papers to the Wanni to allay suspicion and delayed his own departure. He then remained in Jaffna with his family rather than moving to the Wanni. He tried to set up a Tamil paper Kaalai Kathir in Jaffna during this time. The attempt ended in failure.

Always a political animal, Bala then joined the EPRLF and later contested the Valigamam East Pradeshiya Council elections in 1998. He was elected on the EPRLF ticket. The party however split into the Suresh and Varathan factions later. A disillusioned Bala avoided both factions and virtually quit politics.

Realising Bala's 'worth' the EPDP's Douglas Devananda extended an invitation to Sinna Bala that he join his party. After some persuasion Bala accepted. He contested the parliamentary elections ofOctober 10, 2000, December 5, 2001 and April 2, 2004 on the EPDP ticket in Jaffna District. Though he did not win Bala plunged into the polls campaign with zestful enthusiasm. He also courageously faced the violence, threats and intimidation of the LTTE.

Functioning as propaganda secretary of the EPDP, Sinna Bala also found ample scope to exercise his journalistic skills. After Ramesh Atputharajah's death Bala got involved with editorial affairs of the weekly Thinamurasu. He used the pseudonym "Ambimahan." Bala also edited the EPDP organ Makkal Kural. He was also responsible for the EPDP website in Tamil.

Some weeks before Sinna Bala's death, his erstwhile colleague Balakumar now a senior LTTE leader telephoned him in Colombo. Balakumar "advised" his old friend to drop out of EPDP politics and go abroad if possible. Otherwise, Sinna Bala's life too could be endangered he cautioned. Sinna Bala refused firmly and politely.

Right to life

His fate was perhaps sealed then and there. It was only a matter of time before the Kingarar minions of Deathgod Yaman ensnared Sinna Bala's life with the Pasakkayiru lasso. That fateful day came on August 16. Sinna Bala's life was snuffed out brutally and cruelly. He leaves behind his wife Jegatheeswari and three daughters.

Sinna Bala has been interlinked with the evolution and growth of the Tamil militant nationalist movement from its pioneering days. He has a history that is equal if not more to that of LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan. Sinna Bala has to a very great extent personified the various stages and phases of the course of Tamil political struggle.

His murder is a horrible violation of his inherent right to free expression, political opinion and above all, the right to life. It is the right to life that is the most important of all because all other rights are derived from that basic right. Without life there can be no other rights.

Sadly, the Tamil community at large does not seem to realise the importance of the sanctity of life. Anecology of death prevails and is being glorified. Eminent and sincere people like Sinna Bala are being labelled "traitors" and exterminated with ease. The communityis silent even as the macabre death dance goes on and on. Unless and until the right to life is upheld and honoured the future of the Tamil people is bleak indeed.


Giving a lesson in cheating

By Henry Holdenbottle 

Dearest Satty,

M'dear, you never fail to amaze me with your hidden talents that you whip out every now and then like a retired magician at a Sunday School treat. From your own accounts you are now, and do feel welcome to correct me if I'm mistaken, a first class English trained cheater. Oops... No I mean teacher... Sorry miss!

Funny how the teachers are being constantly told to go back to primary school by you and your clan. First it was Lal Kay giving them a hurried tuition class on striking. Now it is you telling them how to do their job. A shoddy business if you ask me. But then do you? No. And the upshot? Shoddy overall bally business.

It grieves me that you are devoid of speech-writers at the Presidential office these days. Or has Mangy taken a day off? Then again your sound education has given you a knack for many things. A woman of many parts you have become. And a woman dear lady if I may venture to point out, with many large parts. And as you also keenly remind the voters, a woman who is multi tasking all the time. And to whom do you owe your gratitude? To those teachers of yore. Darling, if you did learn anything it must have been from your teachers, for God knows you don't seem to have learnt anything at home.

And multi tasking is right. Holding the mike with your left hand, tugging at an errant blouse hem with your right, talking rapidly, flashing your eyes, scolding the teachers, reprimanding the children, how can anyone expect you to bally think too. Impossible.

Considering all this, without a doubt, you write your own speeches darling, which, pardon me for my candour, are nothing more or less than shabby recommendations of yourself.

I, as I am sure, was your audience, tickled many shades of pink to be assured by you that you don't beg, steal or borrow or did you say steal, cheat or lie? These moral values you learnt at the feet of your teachers. They don't make 'em like they used to you grumbled rudely to the modern day teachers in your audience, now busily shuffling their own poor feet.

You accused them of shamming in class and raking in huge fees for tuition classes. That is not teaching that is cheating you said. In my day, teachers were dedicated human beings who stayed back after school to help students free of charge, you reminisced. This may well be true. My own dear mater, a teaching type of the old school did the same thing in her day. Only weak students took tuition you recalled. Admitting that you yourself, were compelled to do so in the all important subject of numbers. Maths. Arithmetic.

And thus was the mystery solved. Here we hone in on the problem. The mystery of the missing economic paradise. Ever and anon I would sit in my rocking chair and balk at the rising COL, crying out to my maker, Why, Why? What went wrong? Every year you would faithfully jostle out the drooping professori who was then your deputy, and bring out a bag of budgetary tricks which never quite worked. Now as minister of everything under the sun including finance, the economy is worse than ever. And the root cause of it all,  as a kid you couldn't put two and two together.

Little wonder Paradise can't balance its books. From all accounts, for you, balancing books is something you do to improve your posture. Possibly as a fat little toddler in kindergarten you were one of those tiny tots who was under the misconception you had 20 fingers and 12 toes.

Meanwhile, ever since you made these comments, my little grand nephew has been running about the house singing in that mocking way so typical of children, 'liar, liar, pants on fire.' I wonder darling, was this speech of your's aired on the box, hmm? I am well aware that your imaginary sojourn in Sorbonne has given you a taste for the exotic and that now you swear by the Khazakstan dictionary of wordiology rather than the more run-of- the-mill Oxford, Websters, Chambers or Macquarie. 'Steal, cheat and lie' in your book could mean anything from a new kind of bread to a method of mixing paint. I may as well tell you it is not a book I would want any of my off spring to read.

Nonetheless, your maths tuition teacher or for that matter your over rated education does not seem to have done you any good. Having posed a question to the children now watching you curiously with their jaws hanging out, the cunning question, 'How many countries in the world' you admonished them for not knowing the answer. You posed the same question to their teachers who were also stubbornly silent. Interpreting their silence to mean ignorance you skewed your neck around to your trusty secretary of education, the lovely Tara, who surprise, surprise was stuck for words. 'See' you smirked triumphantly, only 'I know the answer'. There are 196 countries in the world. Oops!Take it from this lansiya darling I seem to remember 191 in the United Nations, which General Assembly you only just returned from. If we then also take the Vatican and Taiwan that would make, ...tch, tch..you do the math. I know. Next time you take Mallo for his daily 40 winks to the UNGA darling, tell him instead of counting sheep to count country flags.

Ichabod m'dear, if you have learnt anything it surely should be this. When you build your own pedestal you had better make it out of very strong cement.


JVP knee deep in tank controversy

The site of the JVP's elaborate opening ceremony
of the 10,000 tanks project, the Havanpellessa tank 
in Yapahuwa left abandoned aft r the tamasha

By Mark Indika Samarasekera 

There is an old saying that even if money is being thrown in to the sea, it should be accounted for. Today, funds from the Treasury are not so easily dispensed with, but the recent turn of events indicate that for the JVP's 10,000 tanks project, state monies are being utilised outside of the standard tender and estimate procedure.

For a country whose rural economy is largely agriculture based, the importance of an extensive irrigation system cannot be overstressed. In Sri Lanka there are currently 27,000 tanks that provide the necessary water for agricultural purposes. The JVP's plan to renovate and rehabilitate 10,000 of these tanks is certainly a noble one and such a contribution will be priceless for the agricultural sector in the years to come. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs with regard to the project leaves much to be desired. The transparency of the project has in fact come under fire by no less than the Head of State, President Chandrika Kumaratunga herself.

Irregularities

To begin with, the renovation of small tanks in a specific area falls within the jurisdiction of the relevant provincial council. But in the case of the 10,000 tanks project, Irrigation Minister, Anura Kumara Dissanayake has taken the matter into his own hands, cutting the provincial councils totally out of the picture.

Secondly, the process of calling for tenders and awarding contracts to construct canals and waterways is officially the right of the farmers' committees in each area. In rural areas, it is these agricultural societies that work purely for the development of the agriculture sector without political bias and the government recognises them as legitimate bodies. However, according to Minister Dissanayake and other officials responsible for agricultural development in the country,  these farmers' societies are archaic and inefficient bodies. Therefore in place of farmers' societies, Minister Dissanayake and other officials designed the 'tank committees' instead.

Today, despite what may have become of the 10,000 tanks programme, thousands of these 'tank committees' have come into being largely comprised of members of the JVP's youth wing. Because of these actions of the JVP those making decisions about agriculture at the village level today are no longer villagers with immense farming experience but red-capped activists spouting Marxism instead. The result of these policies will no doubt become public knowledge even in urban areas in the near future. In an attempt to legitimise the 'tank committees,' moves have been made to transfer two officials from the state recognised farmers' committees to each tank committee.

Technical aspect neglected

Another area of the irrigation scheme that is being neglected is the technical aspect. The construction of a proper tank involves the correct measurements of bunds, canals and waterways lest the collection and distribution of water does not take place in the proper way. Therefore, technical reports are an important part of such renovation projects. However, none of these procedures are being followed by the JVP Minister in this instance. The argument appears to be that if the job is being done 'properly,' there is no need to follow tender and other procedures. If JVP Ministers have the gall to discard the 121 page document detailing the government tender procedure guidelines, it is surely only a matter of time till the Penal Code and constitution of the country are meted out  similar treatment.

"The tender procedure changes according to the amount of money"
- Deputy Director General, National Budget, Finance Ministry, Lalith de Silva;

"The government tender procedure is a very detailed document. The tender procedure changes according to the size of the project and the estimate standards. Usually, if the project estimate is under Rs. 100,000 tenders can be called according to the institution regulations, but if the amount exceeds Rs. 10 million it has to be approved by the cabinet of ministers. For the sum of about Rs. 2 million, tender decisions can be made at ministry level. If we are to take the 10,000 tank project, the tender procedure changes according to the size and specifications of each tank.

"Sometimes, technical committee reports become necessary. How these committees should be set up and function is also laid out in the tender procedure.

"If the tender procedure is not going to be followed at a specific point, then what happens there also is decided based on the size and money required for the project. It is difficult to answer without knowing the exact nature and size of the project."

"The farming committees have been the sacrificial lambs to get the funds passed for this project"
- Former Irrigation and Water Management Minister, Gamini Jayewickrema Perera;

"After the great kings of Sri Lanka constructed tanks and irrigation schemes in the county, it was D. S. Senanayake who breathed new life into the irrigation system with the construction of tanks like Kaudulla and Girithale. The United National Party has always had a policy of tank renovation and even when you go into villages today you can see the results of these schemes.

"Water is a life giving and precious resource. In the dry zone of this country it is nature's most precious gift. But what is happening today is that instead of understanding this, various committees are being set up in the name of irrigation to carry forward political agendas.

"A few months  ago, when I was Minister of Irrigation and I attempted to repair some of the Mahaweli machinery and erect a new tank, President Kumaratunga opposed my idea and told me not to go ahead with it without involving the provincial councils. We accepted that and even today, her stance on this matter is correct.

"These tank committees have no legal basis whatsoever. They use the farming committees which are recognised by the state to get their funds passed but then the farming committees don't have a clue as to what becomes of the money. Soon, these committees will have to answer to the law as to what became of the monies.

"Without following tender procedure, today officials are going ahead with the construction work on tanks with equipment obtained from the private sector. They don't obtain engineering or technical advice. It is important to get proper advice from experienced engineers during the renovation process. But since these people seem to know it all, they don't need specialists' input. If this continues, the people will curse them when they are left without water during the next drought.

"Whether the tender system is followed or not, those who want to steal will do it anyway" 
- Agriculture, Lands, Irrigation, Animal Products, Health and Tourism Minister, Western Provincial Council, Hector Bethmage;

"Usually tanks smaller than 200 acres have to be renovated by the provincial councils while the bigger tanks come under the jurisdiction of the central government. That is what the 13th Amendment stipulates. However, if tanks are going to be constructed the proper way, it doesn't matter whether the provincial council does it or the central government does it. As long as the people benefit from it.

"Under Minister Anura Kumara Dissanayake's 10,000 tanks project, some tanks in the Western Province are also being renovated. I have been involved with the Minister on this matter.

"There are some elements trying to make out that there is a conflict between the provincial councils and the central government about the tank project. But I don't think we need to become the pawns of that game.

"When contracts are awarded to build tanks, on some occasions tenders are called, on others they are not called. What I think is that whether tenders are called or not, those who want to steal will steal anyway. There are instances when one person sends tenders in seven or eight different names with various amounts and then is awarded one. That's how the tender system works in this country, so whether tenders are called or not, it makes no difference.

"The most important thing is not whether tenders are called or not, but that the project work continues without allegations of corruption. And I think we are proceeding well."


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