Category Archives: Opinions

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

Advertisements

Day: Ten

This image is free of copyrights. Feel free to use this image to raise awareness about gender based violence.

Day Ten features a photograph by Hyshyama Hanim.

Call it what it is. Despite decades of grappling with gender based violence issues, the world still lies to itself, culture still sets up excuses, society still believes in myths around abuse, violence and discrimination of women. You and I are still trying to understand its root cause. No it is not her so-called meekness, his so-called inherent anger, her dress, his alcoholism, her behavior, his lust. It is perceived ‘power’. This fueled by patriarchal ideology, fermented in societal practice and belief. To eliminate it, is to start from the root. Call it what it is.

– Hyshyama

Watch this blog for the next 7 days. We’ll be posting a featured photograph each day till 10 December as part of WMC campaign against GBV.

For more information about this campaign click here

Hyshyama is a guest contributor. She loves ink sketching and is pretty good with a camera. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.

Guest Post- Violence against women – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

Last year, someone known to me was flickering with ebullience and oomph that she was going to get married. She was gracious enough to let my eyes run through her gifts of velvet cased jewellery and other apple polished frilly elegance. She also told me the guy was 23, fluent in his English because she wasn’t and hadn’t asked anything in terms of dowry from her. I understood, she was happy at this prospect.

Then when she handed her invitation card, I took it. Read it. And splashed a smile in order to be nice. As I was holding the card, I shrunk in fear. Was she doing the right thing? Is she going to come through and get better without any sort of academic hand to surrogate if she fell? She was only 18 after all, stopped by 8th grade but a brilliant student during those 7 years. She maybe in her magical thoughts, but what I knew was that she would only smile into her character and pat my back saying that I was thinking way too far like she had always done if I had brought these questions out to life.

A year later, something happened and her family had to move, save they ended up living at our vacant home downstairs for a few months until things had settled at their end. Dawn came and their final day to leave us breezed in. That day before, I heard a few rumpus stewing through my room from the house below. I ran a silky thought in mind it must be her parents or some relative with a business collapse. In the mean time my mum was down attending to her plants and greenery when suddenly I heard loud sobs repine through pain. “Don’t hit me, please stop”, it moaned. I hurried closer to the window and it knocked me. The husband was beating her. What the heart of the drama saddened me was her own mother couldn’t stop him. Why being the question posed by my mum later after the man had gone, the girl had said because she has opinions and ‘a big mouth’. And then more spilled out, that his parents are encouraging his beastly seemliness that he never takes her out if she wanted or not and she has never been happy with him ever since she was sprayed off to slog as a maid in her new home.
It shocked both my parents and me sharply. I wanted to run down, hold her hand and just lock her in a hug and allow a good cry on my shoulder never mind the dampness. But the same day, the family bid goodbye back to their home. I wasn’t in a position to even sit her down and ask her everything from scratch. The guilt stood by me on the nose. I thought I imagined it all.

When I had visited her months right after marriage all she did was shine with the same old zip of energy and liveliness just as she was known. She also revealed that she was trying for a baby to complete her ‘euphoria’. But coiled inside was a crestfallen, troubled, beaten soul limping her youth cast down.
I was ashamed at myself for not trying to break through the mirror she was flashing at me. But what can I say? That everything will be alright if she keeps sticking tapes of patience to the wounds infused? How many women and young girls like her take this as their daily bread? How many are swept off with promises and pledge only to later doom them inflaming the fears and mediocrity? How many silence themselves even from their own parents because they wish not to trouble their gray heads. This, I believe is one of the worst fears young women are embroiled in. The ones tangled in marriage without any education or qualification to back them up are the ones dying and trying to get a grasp of what little liberation marriage they thought once would fix them. A dish of achievement and happiness from a man at least. But no, these girls and women remain beady in their eyes with a beast in their beds waking up to head to the kitchen to chop onions so that one’s mind would ‘clear’ trying to read of as what really, made them cry.

– Gee

Gee is not a member of Beyond Borders but has shared her blog post with us in hopes of informing others about gender based violence.

Gender Based Violence

So, The WMC is having a 16 days of activism thing-> Link. which hopes to inform people about gender based violence and things. I had no idea what gender based violence in Sri Lanka is like, so I googled it. There is some violence against men, but I couldn’t uncover much about that and the whole 16 days thing seems hell-bent on women. Apparently it’s mostly violence against women, usually takes place in domestic settings and is almost evenly distributed among all areas and societies.

This is not surprising. Women get enough shit as it is, what with passive aggressive blogposts that reek of discontent with the female populace by snarky post-adolescents and the whole internet thinking they belong in kitchens. It doesn’t help that the legal system doesn’t offer much solace for many victims, and only a small percentage of cases are actually reported at all. What this means is that well, it’s up to you to do something. *cue motivational speech*

Violence, be it domestic violence, sexual harassment or mental trauma do not go unnoticed, most of the time. Just like an excessive amount of commas in a sentence.

*ba dum chingggg*

Stop treating women like they’re some other species. I keep seeing people who are all “Oh yeah I respect women, totally man.” and then start spewing stereotypes like a confederate soldier. It’s not about respecting women, for Christ’s sake, it’s about respecting your fellow human beings. They are not from Venus, and no matter what you tell yourself, you’re not from Mars. All of us crawled out of the sea together. The female of the species did not accidentally crawl out of the sea and into a prehistoric kitchen, in which they’ve been stuck ever since.

Women, don’t let anyone tell you you’re anything less than the other gender. Even the little “You know no machang, women are like that”. Women are like what? Enlighten me, dear caveman. We’re not living in some 1940′s Disney movie. There’s an infinite amount of things to get over, like parents raising their children to believe women are the fairer sex, people’s primitive instincts to assault anyone weaker than them and inane cultural influences designed to keep men in power. You have to start somewhere, I guess.

-Gerald Pereira

Jerry is a member of the steering committee of Beyond Borders. He’s a closet hard-core feminist, a tech geek and has a phobia for elephants (he will deny it vehemently though). He blogs here- ASOB,NQIM. His opinions are his own.

Silence of the Land Of Lotus Eaters

In a democracy the constitution should ideally epitomize everything that its people stand for. It is intended to be the document which protects the people from unfettered powers of its Leader while protecting the individual whether he is a political minority or a racial minority. But in a country like Sri Lanka with a unique interpretation to constitutionalism we might as well stop using the façade of democracy as our country codifies unlimited powers to an inevitable despot thus allow the “all knowing” head of the state to do as he pleases for as long as he pleases.

So we Sri Lankans do not complain and have complete faith in our noble leader to make choices for us and as many say the amendment only gives him the opportunity to seek elections if the people are unsatisfied with the leader they surely will be able to show their dissent through their vote. Sadly, in Sri Lanka the only form of the average Sri Lankans involvement in the Political process and how he is governed is reduced to just casting his vote. And as observed time and time again in any form of election in Sri Lanka, our elections have been far from “free and fair.” The election in which leading political party’s openly misuse public funds, ignore the directions of the Election commissioner will surely not be more reliable specially in a situation in which the incumbent is certain of retaining power indefinitely . The credibility of Election results will be further hindered as the new constitutional changes take away the powers of the Election commissioner of issuing guidelines to prevent the misuse of state resource while he may oppress the private media by imposing specific guidelines.

The only glimmer of hope for the de-politicization of the currently politically infested Public service Commission and other institutions was the 17th amendment which ensured a certain form of independence in the Constitutional council. However the proposed Parliamentary council will undoubtly reflect the whims and fancies of the political Party’s as it will purely consist of MP’s. This council is not empowered to make any recommendations merely to make certain ‘observations’ which the President is not inclined to abide by.

Impeachment is the only safeguard available even if the President is despised by all during his infinite reign. But this too is made next to impossible with the constitutional requirement of two third support at various stages for such a motion supported by the Supreme Court.

In a country where incidents of openly violating the Fundamental rights of an officer, publicly bashing of media personnel goes without any recourse it is highly unlikely that the an individual may seek any form of justice where his fundamental rights are violated. If the constitution does not protect the individual, does not serve as a check, or seek to preserve the separation of powers among the different arms of government, one questions the essence of the Sri Lankan constitution.

With such impending dooms apparent for anyone with an atom of a brain to realize it’s shocking that the opposition is silent on these matters. Where is the public debate that should be present before such important constitutional changes?  An unconstitutional bill may receive public outcry and will be severely criticized in a vibrant democracy if the people object to it. In Sri Lanka where judicial review of legislation is non-existent this may never happen, but its saddening to see that even as a constitutional amendment of such public importance is being rushed through we tacitly accept the “wise” decisions made by our representatives.

Is it due to public apathy, ignorance or absolute faith in the current ruling system that we the people sit and watch as the rulers of this country entrench their powers further by manipulation of the constitution, which ironically is the document of the people and not a person.

Anushka is a core group member of Beyond Borders and a lawyer in the making, currently studying in her second year of law. Her opinions are her own.

8/9/10 : The Day to Remember!

8th of September 2010 marks the new era. The end of Sri Lanka as we know it and a new beginning. An era of limitless power and political overhaul. The birth of the 18th amendment with a majority of 141 votes. 161 against a mere 20! Even the numbers don’t seem quite right next to each other!

I speak to friends with animation trying to make sense to be answered back with “I am sorry I didn’t have time to read what is in the 18th amendment!” or “I don’t do politics”.

I wake up to a protest for the 18th Amendment! I wonder whether these people even know what the 18th Amendment entails… Or be these people like in all other protests being packed in and brought to perform their duty. ( the question is rhetoric. Of course we all know the answer to this!)

I yearn to ask these protesters what they scream for, but of course I am no way near them. Surely for my better health.

In the evening there is a meagre crowd holding candles at the peaceful vigil expressing their resentment towards the Amendment. There is more police around it than those who are actually participating. I tell them that there are not many people, to be answered that it is an improvement from the previous experiences. So does that mean we are finally making sense to people??

Ever so faithful “dialog sms news” arrives on the phones of those who have subscribed announcing the result of the vote. 160 for and 20 against! People not much surprised at the outcome. They knew   it was coming. But fail to hide the bafflement at the one digit missing when contrasting the numbers.

Arrival of another sms, announcement of a mistake in the information transmitted. The guy next to me finds it amusing, adds “I am sure some more people would have jumped.” (if you are Sri Lankan you know the meaning of “jumped”. But for the enlightenment of others, it would be a reference to those politicians who change from the opposition to the governing party.)

With all his smirking, he did manage to make sense. After all it was all quite predictable.

At office I hear explosions. My thought: the war being over, where do such sounds emanate?

My boss explains “sound of celebrations”.

I nod, busy cutting paper articles on the Amendment.

I need to keep them, carefully pasted on a scrapbook.

When and if I ever live to have grandchildren, I will show the date on the articles to them and tell, “Look kids! This was the day the Sri Lankans got the best of their stupidity! The day they all marked the beginning of an end!”

Vositha is a legal researcher, law student and ardent Eco-activist working with Project Act, our environmental project. Her views are her own. The original post and more of her writing can be found here.

Answering the Revolution

Wanting to blog more is something I keep telling myself everyday like an incessantly chanted prayer. Like most things in life, I never get around to do so. Anyhow, one of the key things that prompted me to blog for Beyond Borders once more, was ‘Revolution Calling’. This indeed did arouse a considerable amount of nostalgia within me.

September 2009. Just after my A/Ls, bored to death at home after playing Travian, Empire-something and a countless number of games online. Barn Buddy was my new best friend. I cannot recall as to where, but it was during that time that I saw the BB poster claiming that they were recruiting volunteers. I did some casual research on the Organisation, I had occasionally heard the name previously though I could not place it. Just for the heck of it, I applied and they responded and I was call for an interview. Mama took me to the interview, (she didn’t mind as long as I’d be kept occupied 🙂 ) which I believe was held on Saturday (yes it was, I was going to get Sims 3 then 😀 ) and the place, the now-long-gone Infoshare which we had some trouble finding. After the interview, Mama who was waiting outside in the car told me that I had laughed too hard and too loud. Oops. Mistake number one? Little did I know after that it was only Sachith, Hanim and Shehan and that I needn’t be worried of them. LoL.

The little time I was a part of Beyond Borders, I was exposed to a great deal. And no I am not exaggerating. It was only then that I realised that there were so many things that I was unaware of. Though my awareness of my general unawareness was acknowledged, the well-informed personas that I saw in BB left me awestricken. To this date, I am astonished by the fact that they are capable of multi-tasking to its truest sense. They work, they study, they are a part of BB and at times even other organisations, they are blog-whores *wink* and they are brilliantly street smart (and occasionally book smart I suppose. Tsk-tsk).

Sad as it may sound, I was only able to watch them and not learn their multi-tasking abilities. I started working in November 2009. Initially I used to juggle BB meetings and press conferences just fine. However, as I grew more attached to my job, my editor’s dislike for youth activism increased, thereby keeping me at work for longer and not allowing me to go for meetings. Eventually, work was the only thing that existed in my world. I was hardly at home. Mama’s and my key mode of communication was sunk to e-mails, text messages, IMs and phone calls. BB was what I occasionally read through the group mail.

My work, is something I would never regret in life. However, the extent to which it engulfed me and shut me out from what’s happening around me; making me a mere observer and commentator is something I do wish that didn’t happen.

August 2010. Residing in Bangalore now, I begin to realise how much I miss BB. New projects are coming up. A new FT might be brewing somewhere in the minds of those jokers 🙂 Having joined the only NGO-like activity in University, I find it incomparable to BB.

I believe that what makes BB awesome is the fact that it is entirely youth-led and youth-run. This allows the free flow of thought from young people, which I think is restricted almost all the time, everywhere. Over here, despite the ideas been formulated by ‘young people’ unless approved by an individual who is not considered ‘young’ it is not executed. Sigh. So much for keeping the faith in ‘Tomorrow’s Leaders’.

Beyond Borders truly is a platform for young people to express their ideas. For those of whom who are passionate about something, or even for those of whom who are bored and are at home doing absolutely nothing, by all means join BB. Coming from me, an individual who was ‘properly’ a part of BB for only a few months, believe me it is truly amazing. All of a sudden you discover a dimension to you that you failed to realise that existed. You begin to explore new ideas. For the fairly ignorant sort like myself, you suddenly find yourself interested in what’s happening beneath your own safe sphere of things.

Answer the revolution. You won’t regret it.

Senashia Ekanayake is the most eccentric of the BBites and also, the most efficient when it comes to getting something done. She is currently on leave, pursuing her degree in Psychology. Her views are her own. More of Seni’s work, can be found here.

ELECTED!

From racist sentiments to power group mentalities to ethics to corruption, elected covers it all. The latest Beyond Borders Forum Theater production is finally here . ‘Elected’, revolves around a student body election and its main theme is racism. The story follows the campaigns of the two candidates, one from a minority and the other, a majority, as they work towards victory, both on the promise of improving the facilities of the university. But when the going gets tough for one, things start to get ugly and at the end of it, something’s got to give. Be there to find out!

For those who do not know about forum theater, it is a medium, where drama is used to portray critical social issues. It is also known as the ‘theater of the oppressed’ and usually ends in a bad way.  The unique feature of it is that the audience is allowed to engage in the proceedings of the play in a sensible way and make changes that improve the outcome. It promises to be entertaining and educational at the same time. Entrance is free but you will have to register at http://beyondborders.lk/ft/.

The Sacred Vote

We visited a community of Northern Displaced IDPs in Puttlam recently. This was part of our Peace and Governance initiative, an effort to improve cohesion between youth and the entity we call Governance.

We had 3 discussions in course of our visit; the first was with a group of youth, the second with a young provincial council member elected to Jaffna and the last was with a few officials and community representatives from the Community Trust Fund.

Their problems are complex and community discourse has reached a fever pitch with the war ending and the possibilities of relocating to their old homes becoming a reality.

But we found yet another issue that mainly was faced by the youth; young people are facing an inability to act upon their right to vote. Most youngsters who have left the territories before the age of being eligible to vote have not received their voting registration forms yet.

So we got together with a bunch of other young people and wrote a letter to the Elections Commissioner about it. A lot of much more useful work has been done in this regard of course by organizations like CPA and CTF. We heard that the elections commissioner was due to release a circular enabling them to vote during this election, but are yet to find out what came of it.

A casual report on our discussion with the IDP youth can be viewed here.

Revised Patriotism

In 1774 Samuel Johnson printed The Patriot; a critique of what he thought was false patriotism. He made his famous statement ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the Scoundrel’ on April 7th, 1775. This line was not about patriotism in general – but what patriotism was not. With this statement he defined ‘self confessed patriots’ and tried to carve out a niche for the true patriot who was in sight and rhetoric fast becoming obscured by the scoundrel.

If the Definition of Patriotism is ‘the love of one’s country’ and a scoundrel was someone who commits evil with deliberate intent – then the bulk of Sri Lanka is in trouble in its very core. The hallowed halls of leadership have self professed patriots who have imbibed their own version of patriotism on a people made divisive along the lines of differences.

It seems scoundrels have taken refuge in almost every sphere of Sri Lankan patriotism, and sustain themselves by using patriotism as a means to propel themselves to lay their hands on commissions from funded projects, tax collections and naked corruption.

There was a time when Sri Lanka was a country of true patriots, who by acts, deeds, examples and no mass media to propagate for them were branded as revolutionaries by a people who had genuine love for them, and not the reprobative hooligans we now have who try to encase themselves in supposed patriotism to disguise their evil schemes.

It is now obvious, ever since we gained independence in 1948 that patriotism is well and truly a place where scoundrels have found refuge. In this abode, they are refugees who have nothing else to cling on to, a group of people who have exhausted all their opportunities to serve their countrymen by using them to satisfy their own whims and fancies.

These scoundrels use patriotism to side with the patriotic fervour of the common man hoping that the common man would see their patriotism and not see the whole plethora of anti national activities they do inside this façade.

Who determines what Patriotism is today? In Sri Lanka in particular, and in the world in general.

Patriotism can be defined in almost every category of our day to day lives.  From the soldier who sincerely fights for his country to the little child whose day is spoilt when his national team loses a cricket match. They can be very little (deemed almost insignificant) deeds which reflect the patriotic philosophy emanating from within a person.

In essence they can be any one of the following, or much more –

  • Sri Lankans who have died in war or peacetime, by standing up in defence of Sri Lankan ideals and social ethics, of her liberties & peace and her people.
  • Standing up and expressing opposition when anybody (irrespective of who it may be) is subjected to injustice or discrimination.
  • The love for Sri Lanka that makes one sacrifice his/her own comforts just to make it a holistically better place to live for everyone.

Patriotism was in display when the Tsunami struck in 2004, when Sri Lanka won the Cricket world cup in 1996, when the ethnic diversity of the Sri Lankan cricket team was hailed  when they reached the finals of the 2007 world cup, and never when there is exploitation of a country’s resources (belonging to everyone) to enhance the lives of just the family, friends or near acquaintances, be it through mismanagement of economic resources, outright lies and deception, taking millions of rupees in commission from national projects, deceptive unconstitutional elections, allowing special interest groups to manipulate the infrastructure of a country and continued political practices that are blatantly unconstitutional.

Patriotism is the sound of the horn that calls ordinary people to become national heroes.

President John Kennedy is quoted as saying – “A Nation that is afraid to let its people judge
the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation afraid of its people.”

I quote below some of the salient points of ‘The Patriot’. The differences in the spellings of some words are possibly because those words were spelt that way when this was originally written.

It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief. But he sounds no alarm, when there is no enemy; he never terrifies his countrymen till he is terrified himself. The patriotism, therefore, may be justly doubted of him, who professes to be disturbed by incredibilities; who tells, that the last peace was obtained by bribing the princess of Wales; that the king is grasping at arbitrary power; and, that because the French, in the new conquests, enjoy their own laws, there is a design at court of abolishing, in England, the trial by juries.”

“The people is a very heterogeneous and confused mass of the wealthy and the poor, the wise and the foolish, the good and the bad. Before we confer on a man, who caresses the people, the title of patriot, we must examine to what part of the people he directs his notice. It is proverbially said, that he who dissembles his own character, may be known by that of his companions. If the candidate of patriotism endeavours to infuse right opinions into the higher ranks, and, by their influence, to regulate the lower; if he consorts chiefly with the wise, the temperate, the regular, and the virtuous, his love of the people may be rational and honest. But if his first or principal application be to the indigent, who are always inflammable; to the weak, who are naturally suspicious; to the ignorant, who are easily misled; and to the profligate, who have no hope but from mischief and confusion; let his love of the people be no longer boasted. No man can reasonably be thought a lover of his country, for roasting an ox, or burning a boot, or attending the meeting at Mile-end, or registering his name in the lumber troop. He may, among the drunkards, be a hearty fellow, and, among sober handicraftsmen, a freespoken gentleman; but he must have some better distinction, before he is a patriot.”

“Much less does he make a vague and indefinite promise of obeying the mandates of his constituents. He knows the prejudices of faction, and the inconstancy of the multitude. He would first inquire, how the opinion of his constituents shall be taken. Popular instructions are, commonly, the work, not of the wise and steady, but the violent and rash; meetings held for directing representatives are seldom attended but by the idle and the dissolute; and he is not without suspicion, that of his constituents, as of other numbers of men, the smaller part may often be the wiser.”

“A disputed election is now tried with the same scrupulousness and solemnity, as any other title. The candidate that has deserved well of his neighbours, may now be certain of enjoying the effect of their approbation; and the elector, who has voted honestly for known merit, may be certain, that he has not voted in vain”.

“Such was the parliament, which some of those, who are now aspiring to sit in another, have taught the rabble to consider an unlawful convention of men, worthless, venal, and prostitute, slaves of the court, and tyrants of the people”.

“ That the text of the house of commons may act upon the principles of the last, with more constancy and higher spirit, must be the wish of all who wish well to the publick; and, it is surely not too much to expect, that the nation will recover from its delusion, and unite in a general abhorrence of those, who, by deceiving the credulous with fictitious mischiefs, overbearing the weak by audacity of falsehood, by appealing to the judgment of ignorance, and flattering the vanity of meanness, by slandering honesty, and insulting dignity, have gathered round them whatever the kingdom can supply of base, and gross, and profligate; and “raised by merit to this bad eminence,” arrogate to themselves the name of patriots”.

So will we allow patriotism to be tarnished by the scoundrels that hide beneath its cloak of executive privilege? The choice is ours to make as a critical election draws closer and Sri Lankans have, perhaps the first chance in a long time, to vote for patriots in the right sense of the term, whoever that may be interpreted to be.

Patriotism should never be the last refuge of scoundrels! A scoundrel is not a patriot.

Raashid Riza

Raashid is a non active core group member of Beyond Borders; meaning he is on extended leave. He is currently a fresh faced architecture graduate working in the UK. Sometimes, he also blogs here. His opinions are his own.