Monthly Archives: May 2011

On Sinhalese Political Oratory

Sinhalese Oratory is something that has enthralled me almost if not as much as English Political Oratory. I get access to very good orations here in England, where one would understand is the place the best English is spoken. Unless you are American and you beg to differ.

In the recent past, Sinhalese Oratory has been hijacked by Mervynesque jargon and good Sinhalese orations are not always what Sri Lankans get to enjoy.

There are some brilliant Sinhalese orators still around, amongst the JVP for example but surely they do not get a platform of their own to appeal to the public. When I said JVP has good orators, I am not necessarily endorsing their substance – rather the choice of words, the delivery and the way the sentences are constructed.

This speech here by Imthiyaz Bakeer Markar delivered recently was something that caught my eye and is most certainly one of the better Sinhalese orations I have heard in a long time.

Anyone who appreciates Sinhalese oratory would do well to listen to it.

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Osama : Whose bin is really Laden.

The other day President Obama in a midnight conference told the world that Osama bin Laden is dead. However, the body apparently was buried in the sea.

Before I go on, I must say this lest any of my readers judge me. I am not ‘pro-Osama’, I do not subscribe to his take on ideological issues, I am not related to him and I am neither a fan or supporter of him or his works. Period.

But here is the issue, they claim Osama is dead but thus far there is no living evidence to support this.

Again, I am not saying he is alive, I am not saying he is dead – I am indifferent to the matter, I do not care if he is dead or alive.

The war on terror started with the sole intention of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. Then they went to Iraq. Saddam Hussein was captured, they made such a show of it. We all remember a bearded and dishevelled Saddam having a doctor inspect his teeth when he was captured. They telecast all his trials, they made every possible step to ensure that the world was convinced that Saddam, that great prize has indeed been captured.

Osama is a bigger target isn’t he ? surprising that no evidence is shown or they aren’t making a big victorious display of him like they did of Saddam.

However, one thing is certain, this is going to do wonders to Obama’s re-election bid. Something that was hitting stormy waters these past few weeks.

Another question that arises. How right are extra judicial killings ? Moral scholars and theologians and even governments in instances condemn publicly the concept of extra judicial killings. The BBC now says here “Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed by US troops on Sunday after resisting capture, the White House has said”</span>. So he was unarmed ? Could they not have trialled him in a suitable judiciary procedure ? Sentence him to death by if the court orders that.

There is no legal or moral justification whatsoever for a state to kill an unarmed man, and at point blank range according to most.

How different are we as a people if we cannot morally and righteously differentiate ourselves from the very devils we aim to fight ?

As Chris Hedges says here

“And empire finally, as Thucydides understood, is a disease. As Thucydides wrote, the tyranny that the Athenian empire imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. The disease of empire, according to Thucydides, would finally kill Athenian democracy. And the disease of empire, the disease of nationalism … these of course are mirrored in the anarchic violence of these groups, but one that locks us in a kind of frightening death spiral. So while I certainly fear al-Qaida, I know its intentions. I know how it works. I spent months of my life reconstructing every step Mohamed Atta took. While I don’t in any way minimize their danger, I despair. I despair that we as a country, as Nietzsche understood, have become the monster that we are attempting to fight.”

For those of you who celebrated his death publicly, let me tell you this – as Jeremy F. Walton, professor of Religious Studies at NYU, wrote on his blog today  –

“I do not mean to denigrate the persistent grief of the families of 9/11 victims, or, for that matter, the pain that countless Americans continue to experience when they recall or witness the indelible images of that infamous Tuesday morning. But make no mistake: last night’s celebrators, and all those whom they represent, have no comprehension of the political history, quotidian violence, and post-colonial frustration over increasing global inequities—to gesture to but a few factors—that made Osama bin Laden and his network possible. Political theorist Mahmood Mamdani, for one, has vigorously argued that a reckoning of the American role in the creation of jihadist violence during the Cold War is indispensable to understanding al-Qaeda itself. Acknowledgement of this neglected political history is even more crucial in the wake of bin Laden’s death.”

The US and its allies went to Afghanistan and then Iraq with the motive of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, and not for oil. Right ? So will they leave those lands ? we may all know the answer to that.

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Of Royal Weddings and War crimes

Last Friday was the Royal Wedding, that of Prince William and Kate Middleton of Britain. No, this is not another post about the Royal Wedding, I am sure you have had enough of it already.

Anyway, I went to Buckingham Palace with some friends on the day of the Wedding, I was not necessarily interested in the occasion, but I did go for photographic purposes. Does that qualify as having been part of the Wedding proceedings from a ‘commoner’s point of view ? yes it does, I was about 10 meters away from the balcony that the newly married couple kissed – except that they kissed in the morning and I was there with thousands of others at about six o’ clock in the evening. Still, there was a lot of pomp and pageantry, I can only imagine how it would have been in the morning.

As I said, this post is not about the Royal Wedding.

This week has been about the Royal Wedding, the blood bath in Syria, Nato attacks in Libya and the release of the UN SG Panel report on alleged War Crimes in Sri Lanka.

The War crimes allegations in Sri Lanka are serious indeed, very serious. The atrocities allegedly committed by the LTTE and the GoSL are extremely heinous and painful to fathom. Those accused if guilty must be brought to justice and penalised as deemed fit.

This post is not about war crimes in Sri Lanka either, that too has got a lot of attention.

I watched Democracy Now the other day and Johann Hari, a British Journalist who writes to the Independent was hosted on the programme.

He went on to expose such atrocious war crimes committed during the time of the British Imperial empire that it overshadows many of the war crimes that the West peeks into. (Imperial)Britain though not as nosy as the USA and with a better human rights record, has committed a significant amount of War crimes that need to be discussed if a future sans such heinous acts can even be contemplated.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lived and studied in Britain for the good part of five years now, I have never had tertiary education outside Britain, and after Sri Lanka I love Britain the most, and after Sri Lankans there are no peoples in the world I love more than the British. Some of my closest friends are British, regular readers may have read this post here. This is not an emotional rant either.

But a spade has to be called a spade.

Of war crimes and atrocities, this is true – the order and instructions for war crimes come from a negligible fraction of a population at the upper end of the political hierarchy and for this, the whole nation should not be held to account.

The British people should not be held directly accountable for the war crimes committed in their name by their leaders. This applies to any people, the people of imperial powers such as America, France, Italy, or people of developing nations such as Sri Lanka or the countries in the Middle East for that matter.

One may argue that an order for a war crime to be carried out cannot come from the top without the connivance of the people that elected them. This is also true, but the instances where a whole populace disapproves of the war crimes committed by their leaders far outnumber the instances where a whole populace approves of the war crimes committed by their leaders.

Again, there is another twist. There are instances where imperial powers committed war crimes, but importantly that has almost always been against peoples of other nations. Not to suggest that this somehow dilutes the crime. But war crimes against one’s own people is a far greater crime indeed. We have seen that in history again and again, and I fear we may not have seen the last of that phenomena.

I have posted the video above where Johann Hari very eloquently discusses war crimes committed by the British Imperial empire where millions of people died, including the British instigated famine in India in the late 1800’s where more than twenty million people died. Well worth a watch.

On that sombre note, have a great week everyone!

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Filed under politics, Sri Lanka, UK, Uncategorized