5000 People Spoke Out Against Racism in Sri Lanka

Petition pic

5,081 people that is. The petition was created by a small group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens, following the systematic harassment of minority communities around the island over the past few months. What started out with banning Halal food, rapidly developed into arson attacks on Muslim owned businesses, defacing of Mosques and attacks on Churches.

That’s not to say that the issue cropped up recently. In 2012 an extremist Buddhist group, lead by monks, stormed a Mosque in Dambulla and torched the 50 year old building. The Buddhists in the area condemned the violence against their Muslims neighbours, stating that they have co-existed peacefully over the years. The government did what they do best– they ignored it.

Just as they ignored other isolated incidents of both Mosques and Churches being attacked as well in the recent past. They went as far as calling the public delusional and having cooked up the Grease Yakka attacks.

Then again, this has been an issue since the 1950′s; possibly beyond. The problem is undoubtedly deep-rooted, and we cannot allow it to fester as it has for all these decades. It has been the impetus of the 30 year conflict, and here we are once again, repeating the mistakes of our past.

We need to speak up. We need to work towards chipping away at the racism in Sri Lanka that’s preventing us from truly progressing. No amount of expressways, wider roads, wetland parks and cobble-stone pavements (all built on borrowed money as we sink deeper and deeper in debt), will help Sri Lanka progress.

So 5081 people spoke out. They called on the government to take action against the hate-speech, hate-crimes and racism. The petition was mailed to the President a few weeks back and has reached the Presidential Secretariat.

Here’s a link to the petition in case you’d like to read through it (there’s a Sinhala and Tamil translation available as well)-

http://www.change.org/petitions/his-excellency-mahinda-rajapaksa-the-president-of-sri-lanka-take-action-to-stop-incidents-of-harassment-against-minorities?utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_false

You can check out the Facebook page too(it’s got lost of neat graphics and posters)- http://www.facebook.com/NoMoreHateInSriLanka

I do hope that all those who signed the petition will continue to speak out and fight against racism in Sri Lanka. Signing the petition is a good first step, but we need people actively working towards bringing about change.

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world-class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

OBR in Pictures

Click on an image to view slide show.

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Sunila Abeysekera on One Billion Rising

Sri Lanka needs to rise. The injustice is too deeply set– it’s time we snapped out of the apathy and made some noise.

Investigations of the Wijerama gang rape victim is against the victim. Yes, you read that right. It was reported that the police suspect she’s a sex-worker and so her claim of being raped has got to be false. Yes, that’s the logic of those who have been appointed to protect us. Where’s the justice for women? Double that with ineffective laws to protect women, and you’d see that women in Sri Lanka are not safe.

Sunila Abeysekera spoke to Beyond Borders on why Sri Lanka should join One Billion Rising.

Video- filmed and edited by Megara Tegal in Nepal. 

South Asia is Rising

What’s One Billion Rising (OBR) and why should you rise?

Kamla Bhasin, world famous feminist writer and activist, who’s leading OBR in South Asia– gave us a quick interview on the worldwide campaign.

Video- filmed and edited by Megara Tegal in Nepal.

One Billion No More

One Billion Rising has been launched in several countries, and on Sunday Sri Lanka joined the growing list.

Women in Need conducted a walk the same day that led to Galle Face where OBR Sri Lanka  was launched, with motivating speeches from inspirational women, street theater, song and dance.

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

Pic by Tehani Ariyaratne

At Galle Face for the launching of OBR Sri Lanka!

Pic by Megara Tegal

Pic by Megara Tegal

Street theatre performance about VAW

DSC_1348

Pic by Megara Tegal

The engrossed audience

Pic by Megara Tegal

Pic by Megara Tegal

 

We Are Rising

We support this and we’ll be at Galle Face for the launch of One Billion Rising in Sri Lanka.

Yes, one billion exceeds our 20 million population. And that’s what’s startling. See, the UN has discovered that 1 in 3 women become victims of gender based violence everyday. With a world population that stands at 7 billion, it equates to ONE BILLION victims each day.

One billion women and girl-children are subjected various forms of gender based violence, from catcalling to rape. So Eve Ensler, the founder of the bold plays ‘The Vagina Monologues’, decided to create a movement to raise awareness. Her plan is get one billion people– men, women and children, to protest against gender based violence leading up to 14th of February 2013.

Each country that has pledged their support of OBR has launched the campaign in their respective countries. Sri Lanka will join them on the 25th of November (this Sunday). And that’s what the flyer is about.

So join us at the launch of OBR Sri Lanka and show your support.

Sri Lanka’s Youth Plan for Sustainable Development

The Rio+20 Summit is in full swing and the Sri Lankan arm has taken its first initiative, in which a statement has been presented to the Minister of Environment. Post-war Sri Lanka certainly is in need of a system of sustainable development and at this stage the country has a fresh start in which adopting such a system is relatively trouble free; or so it should be.

The statement that encapsulates several vital areas in sustainable development was drafted by over 30 youth-led and youth-focus local organizations that are involved in environmental conservation, management, climate change, sustainable development and advocacy for environmental issues. Bringing these organizations together and orchestrating Sri Lanka’s participation in the Rio Summit, is the Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka (YGSL) that was established earlier this year (March 2012). The statement is a position paper on which future projects will be based. The paper was presented to the Ministry of Environment, as the ministry had arranged for the involvement of youth groups in the process. Nashen Gunesekera, the drafting committee chair, says it shows the enthusiasm of the government as other governments had not involved environmental conscious volunteer groups, apart from the ministry’s own.

Attaining sustainable development

A large team of local environmentally conscious youths has formulated a multipronged action plan, addressing several key areas that are intrinsic in the development of a nation. Top of the list and under the umbrella of youth policy positions, the statement mentions society’s role in sustainable development. The activists believe that equality is essential, they explained “our aspiration is equality for all, and not the luxury of the 20 per cent of the world’s people who enjoy the exploitation of 80 per cent of its resources.”

Well-being and happiness as well as right mindfulness were also highlighted as the cornerstone to sustainable development. Society being at the heart of development, even with an extraordinary physical plan, it cannot fruition sans the right mindset of the people.

The economy is another key area that needs to be addressed, and therefore, the team included environmental sustainability and poverty reduction, and a Green Economy in the statement. YGSL explains, “A Green Economy should replace the current economic order of inequity, destruction and greed. A Green Economy should be an economic system that ensures social equity, protects the ecological balance and creates economic sufficiency. The core idea of a Green Economy should be to enforce sustainability, specifically the wellbeing of all people and respecting and preserving the biodiversity of Earth’s ecosystems.

A green economy manages consumption and production in an environmentally conscious manner. The document indicated, Agenda 21 (Chapter 4.3), which is an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992) states that; “The major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries, which is a matter of grave concern, aggravating poverty and imbalances.” According to the team enabling the SCP should be the focus of any emerging international outcome. SCP is a systemic process of lifestyle and livelihood behaviours that ensures the wellbeing of all people in an equitable manner while conserving the ecology for current and future generations.

Political solutions are on the cards as well as sustainable development governance, which they said, “We understand Sustainable Development Governance should necessarily create platforms at every level for the voice of youth to be heard and to be considered within the decision making processes, for it is on the shoulders of youth the responsibility rests.”

On that note they believe it is necessary to establish an office for the ombudsperson — high commission for future generations. “We the youth representatives of Youth for a Greener Sri Lanka understand that there is a lacuna in current decision making processes and institutions of the world, especially as all of them fail to consider the long term effects of decisions made today. The proposal stated at paragraph 57 of the Zero Outcome document calling for the establishment of an Ombudsperson/High Commissioner for Future Generations is thus an opportunity to meet this short coming and by establishing such an office, we believe that both the aspirations of youth and future generations will be protected.”

How Sustainable Development Can be Achieved

The team also presented a set of recommendation that can be adopted by the Government of Sri Lanka as well as the governments in the international arena. They laid emphasis on the inclusion of the youth at all levels of decision making so the future can be shaped to suit the next generation better. The team expressed, “We wish to state by participation, youth are empowered and are given the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential hence enabling them to harness their skills required to move the world toward the paradigm shift which is necessary to achieve economic growth, social equity and environmental sustainability.”

Employment for the youth is also mandatory for a better greener future, according to the local Rio+20 Summit members. “At present there is a lack of green job initiatives and access to green skills training programmes for young people. We believe bridging the skills gap among young people through improved education and training will be a key to achieving environmental objectives and a transition to a green economy.”

Education and training  —  skills development opportunities, the opportunity for youth to volunteer to achieve sustainable development.

The President will present the paper as part of the country report at the summit. Neshan Gunesekara said, “The international community will analyze, scrutinize and criticize the paper. The point of presenting the paper at an international forum is so that other countries can take stock of what Sri Lanka has achieved over the years and adopt some of these strategies that will help them.

He added that, he personally believes that the youth of Sri Lanka is very environmentally conscious, and they have shown an initiative but what they lack, is the support of the government and other authorities, in implementing plans and taking their concerns into consideration.

Well, that’s good news for BB too. Having particular goals will help us channel our efforts in these areas and those connected to contribute to sustainable development in Sri Lanka. It should also make devising project plans easier. So three cheers to our Rio paper!

-Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist and a world class klutz. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Science, Law and Nuclear Weapons

The trouble with man-induced destruction is that ‘law’ cannot keep up with ‘science’.

Science has no morals; from animal testing to finding cures for diseases that once were a stamped passport to the after life. It has no scruples as to whether research and development or inventions are detrimental to the world. It’s all about wanting to know more, more, and even more.

And that’s where law comes in. It’s the bottle stopper, or rather the filter that controls how far science can take its immoral liberties. But there are lapses in this system. According to Judge C. G Weeramantry, former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice, and President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, just as law is able to review and determine whether the effects of the latest scientific findings or inventions are destructive and should be banned, science has vamoosed ahead and developed ten more!

Nuclear weapons and nuclear energy is one such controversial subject. As international judges review and debate on whether it should be banned, science is steadily proliferating advanced nuclear weapons. Judge Weeramantry, however, believes the debate is over. The obvious catastrophic power of nuclear warfare was seen back in August of 1945, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The destruction was unprecedented. It was inhuman, deep-rooted and its effects seeped well beyond the region.

Here are some of the effects of nuclear weapons:
  1. They cause death and destruction on an unprecented scale. Hiroshima 140,000 killed immediately and shortly after, an estimated 230,000 to date. Nagasaki 39, 000 killed immediately and 100,000 to date.
  2. They cause congenital deformities, mental retardation and genetic damage for generations.
  3. They carry the potential to cause a nuclear winter which blots out the sunlight, destroys crops globally and causes freezing cold and darkness over large areas of the earth’s surface.
  4. They damage the environment not only for the present generation but future generations as well.
  5. They contaminate and destroy the food chain.
  6. They produce multiple physical effects, inducing cancers, leukaemia, keloids and related afflictions, as well as gastro intestinal, cardiovascular and related afflictions.
  7. They continue for decades after their use to induce the health related problems mentioned above.
  8. They imperil the entire eco system.
  9. They produce a destructive electromagnetic pulse which cuts all communication lines, throws all electronic devices out of action and cause all organised life to collapse.
  10. They span a time range of thousands of years. The half-life of plutonium 239, one of its by-products, is over 20,000 years. Several of these half life periods are required before radioactivity becomes minimal.
  11. They produce social disintegration.
  12. They irreversibly damage the rights of future generations.
  13. They imperil all civilizations an threaten human survival.
  14. The vast bulk of the victims are civilians, thus violating a central principle of international humanitarian law.
  15. They cause damage to neighbouring states which are not at war with either party, thereby violating another rule of international humanitarian law.
  16. They produce psychological stress and fear syndromes which last through the victim’s lives.
  17. They wreak cultural devastation, destroying historical monuments, historical documents and works of art.

Here is an eyewitness description from the first use of the weapon in the nuclear age- one of hundred of such scenes which no doubt occurred simultaneously, and many of which have been recorded in contemporary documentation. The victims were not combatants.

“it was a horrible sight. Hundreds of injured people who were trying to escape to the hills past our house. The sight of them was almost unbearable. Their faces and hands were burnt and swollen; and great sheets of skin had peeled away from their tissues to hand down like rags on a scarecrow. They moved like a line of ants. All through the night they went past our house, but this morning they had stopped. I found them lying on both sides of the road, so thick that it was impossible to pass without stepping on them.

And they had no faces! Their eyes, noses and mouths had been burned away, and it looked like their ears had been melted off. It was hard to tell front from back. One soldier, whose feature had been destroyed and was left with his white teeth sticking out, asked me for some water I didn’t have any. (I clasped my hands and prayed for him. He didn’t say anything more.) His pleas for water must have been shi last words”.

Multiply that account a thousand fold. Hundreds and thousand more people suffered a similar fate.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two isolated incidents that occurred three days apart. Now, 60 years later, bombs that carry 70 or even 700 times the explosive power of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are available. The devastation that occurred 60 years ago magnified 700 times by just one bomb today!

Illegality of Nuclear Weapons (or the lack of it)

Humanitarian principles were recognises and outlined as far back as in 1899 when The Hague Declaration concerning Expanding Bullets banned the dum dum bullet. It was declared too cruel a weapon to be used in ‘civilized warfare’, and banished to the darker corners of laboratories; never to make a comeback. What was so deadly about the dum dum bullet? The bullet was designed to explode the moment it enters the human body­—and in doing so exacerbate the victim’s suffering, inducing a slow painful death.

The dum dum bullet was certainly barbaric. When compared to nuclear weapons, however, it’s nothing more than a paper pellet. But lo and behold! Some of the same ‘civilized states’ that voted against the dum dum bullet, maintain that nuclear weapons; despite its ghastly, mortal, and lasting effects on hundreds of thousands of people, unborn children and the ecosystem, should be legal.

Professor Weeramanthy writes, ‘the possibility of their [nuclear weapons] use is increasing by the month and time is running out for meaningful action to rid the world of this scourge’.

Nuclear bombs- will bring world peace, say civilised, responsible states

So what cards do these states play in trying to keep their blood curdling nukes? The jokers. Empty claims, that surprisingly people seem to buy. False claim uno numero- that the atomic bomb successfully ended the war with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And look, how the countries have risen like phoenixes from the nuclear ashes! These self-proclaimed ‘responsible’ states, will store an arsenal of these badies, to ensure those rogue states stay in line by threatening to unleash a diabolical weapon of mass (and I’d add interminable) destruction on them if they misbehave. Of course they stultify the edge of their argument by adding that they would never really dream of executing the threat. Empty threat or excuse? The answer is clear.

Myth buster one- If Hiroshima and Nagasaki are newborn phoenixes they are undoubtedly mutated, probably afflicted with cancer, retarded and deformed. Plutonium persists in the soil even today. The destruction will prevail.

Myth buster two- ‘Responsible states’, really? Can we honestly, trust these self-professed ‘responsible’ will not employ their weapons of mass destruction?

Myth buster three- Will these so-called rogue states, cow down and surrender when threaten with being blown with nukes? Saddam Hussein led the US on saying he had nuclear weapons. Iran and Pakistan, claim they’re going be dabbling in the proliferation of forbidden nuclear weapons. And this subsequently conceives a rather comical paradox.

Nothing good can come out of nuclear weapons. Nothing.

On the Brightside

Judges of the International Court of Justice (the World Court)—the world’s largest tribunal in international law; unanimously held that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control”.

Judge Weeramanthy stated, “this is an imperative obligation lying upon every single state. If the nuclear states do not pursue the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in good faith with a view to total disarmament they are in clear violation of their basic obligations under treaty law, under customary international law, under general principles of law and under law evidenced by judicial decisions. In Short they are in violation of their obligations as laid down unanimously by the World Court, how then can they expect non-nuclear powers to obey international law and keep away from nuclear weapons? Nor will they be able to speak to other nations with authority or credibility.

While the law is potent, more will have to be done in order to ban nuclear weapons. The absurdity of the ‘logic’ held by nuclear-armed nations as to why they should own nuclear weapons is indisputable. Everyone is aware of the magnitude of destruction caused by nuclear weapons. Even blockbuster movies; in the recently released Avengers movie, Ironman selflessly saves America from a nuclear explosion by flying through a space portal seconds before the nuke set off, as the rest of the Avengers and America watch from below with baited breath.

Movies, cartoons, books… all communicate the abominable destruction of nuclear weapons. Awareness is far from lacking. Yet, nothing is being done hit the brakes on nuclear weapon proliferation.

- Megara Tegal

Meg is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. She’s a journalist, part time TV show host, 3rd grade caricature artist, student in social sciences and she holds the world prize for klutz-iness. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own

The Dansala of Inspiration

Vesak 2012

Pic by Rushda Mohinudeen

What comes to mind when you think of Vesak? I am sure you’re reminded of observing sil, going to the temple and worshipping, the jathaka stories, the stories from life of Lord Buddha, the importance of the Dhamma etc. I am sure that thoughts of making Vesak koodu (lanterns) at home, of the lavishly lit thoran (pandols) and dansal will run on the fringe of your mind as well.

Whilst the religious activities continued throughout the weekend, where many visited the temples to observe sil or to engage in the Dhamma, at night, the country was up in lights and music. Throngs of people walked on the roads or got in to trucks to go see Vesak. To enjoy the massive thoran which depict stories from Lord Buddha’s life or to enjoy food from a dansala.

Speaking of Dansal, the only thing that comes to a Sri Lankan’s mind is food! Various kinds of food, be it a hot meal of rice and curry or ice cream. However, this year Beyond Borders gave the word dansala and its concept, a whole new meaning! Working on the lines of inspiring, Beyond Borders decided to have an ‘Inspiration Dansala’ whereby distributing quotes from the Dhammapada, to the general public making the people more aware of the meaning behind this religious celebrations.

Making of the BBites Dansala board

Joining the people on the streets of Colombo, the guys and girls from Beyond Borders gathered near the Gangarama Temple to spread the inspiration to the people. With a few hiccups at the start, the distribution of these quotes had a lovely response with some people coming behind the energetic team asking for more sticker quotes, or asking for translations!

A rather blurry pic of the BBites distributing… inspiration!

Even though our team was a little hesitant in getting this going, we felt welcomed by the response from the people. The overall experience was overwhelming!

- Bhagya Senaratne

Bhagya is a board member of Beyond Borders. She is currently reading for her MA in International Relations and she’s our mole in the government. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Time Travel

Come. Join us as we take you back in time, centuries into the past when Sri Lanka was an unexplored little island. We’ll trace back to how your ancestors got to the speck of an island that you call home– whether you’re Sinhalese, Tamil, Burgher, Moor or Malay or smurf.

Expert on the Subject, Asiff Hussein–anthropologist, linguist and journalist, will lead the discussion offering his knowledge on the subject. Feel free to ask questions and explore a bit of history .

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