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Human rights-What Human Rights?
[ Tuesday, 05 January 2010, 09:53.04 PM | Media Hause ]
By R. M. B Senanayake

We never had human rights in the past, at least not in the sense we know it today. We probably had a better record of animal rights in our Glorious past before 1505 when foreign aggressors corrupted our ancient culture. True those other countries too had practiced similar or even worse forms of torture. But the difference is that they don’t glorify their past.

The Human Rights declaration of 1948 was signed by the members of the UN. We signed it but with what commitment. Oaths, affirmations and treaties are signed to be routinely violated. The first serious violations were in the 1980s. Remember the Black Cats. No one was punished despite the colossal scale of the murders. It is our failure on that occasion that has led to the repetition. All those who indulged in such murders must be brought to justice for there is no time limit for justice.

But Human Rights- original definition which animated HR movement centered on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny." "These ideals find their purest expression in the belief that all human beings have the elemental rights to free speech and a free press, to worship in the manner of their choice and to associate with those of like mind, to own property and to move within and across national borders, to receive equal treatment and due process under the law, and to participate in the government. The rule of law must be distinguished from the arbitrary rule of man. Nelson Mandela said: "The rule of law refers to a structural exercise of rule as opposed to the idiosyncratic will of kings and princes. Even where the latter may express itself benevolently, the former is morally& politically superior." We inherited not only the doctrines of the Buddha but also the political philosophy of Kautilya who lived before the Buddha in the time of the Emperor Chandragupta. Kautilya was the key adviser to the Indian king Chandragupta Maurya (c. 317-293 B.C.E.), who first united the Indian subcontinent in empire. Written about 300 B.C.E., Kautilya’s Arthasastra was a science of politics intended to teach a wise king how to govern. He advocated deceiving the enemy, making treaties which the king knew he would break, his doctrine of silent war or a war of assassination against an unsuspecting king, His approval of secret agents who killed enemy leaders and sowed discord among them, his view of women as weapons of war, his use of religion and superstition to bolster his troops and demoralize enemy soldiers, the spread of disinformation, and his inhumane treatment of conquered soldiers and subjects. Moral considerations did not enter the equation. Unlike political philosophers like Plato who discussed about what ought to be done rather than what is done without scruples Kautilya was an amoral adviser. But we were more influenced by the Buddha and the Dasa Panatha or the Ten Commandments was drawn up to be followed by the ruler. We must consider whether we accept Kautilya or the Buddha

We violated the rights of the Tamil people from 1956 onwards. They were foreign guests who had exceeded their stay. Never mind if Vijaya and his men were themselves intruders who practiced deception against Kuveni and her tribe who were foolish to trust them. Ever since then we as a nation have deceived and betrayed others. The British called it native cunning where the word of honour counts for nothing.

Abductions, kidnapping and extra-judicial killing – the so-called white van syndrome has engulfed us. Terrorist suspects have no human rights. The militarily and the Police have organized practice of torture, the sexual abuse, and all other abuses of men and women, clandestine incarcerations and forced disappearances, are perhaps not new in our history. In 1988 there were the Black Cats who killed after abducting. No one was brought to book. This is why the practice was repeated. If a new government is elected it should investigate who were behind them for it is never too late to mete out justice. Those lawyers who take up their cases have to be hounded out, bombed and terrorized. Terrorist suspects have no human rights. Any form of torture goes. National security is more important than their human rights.

When are the people and their representatives going to wake up and realize that the country should not be governed by lies and deceipt! Yeats bemoaned an era when the best lacked all conviction, while the worst were full of passionate intensity. The President struts and smirks. Meanwhile, the giant, timid chorus listens politely to the deafening silence of the outraged..

The peasants - that segment of society traditionally known to be foolish and naïve cheer every so-called battle victory. The middle classes and professionals through suspension of all critical faculties and indifference to the truth, defy logic and evidence by supporting any violation of human rights in the name of national security.

War is the health of the State, said Nietszche If there are no enemies, enemies must be created. The cry should be the motherland just as Hitler pointed out for there are conspiracies all round us to destroy our hard won victory or so those in power would have us believe. It automatically sets in motion throughout society these irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals who lack the larger herd sense." - Randolph Bourne (1886 -1918) Source: in War and the Intellectuals, 1964

Borrowing the line from Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore: "Things are seldom as they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream." It’s as true here in today as it was in 19th century England, and its message explains how to understand and view our affairs of state. Virtually everything we see or hear outside our own personal communications, are determined by the interests of the Government.

A Sri Lankan is someone who has sworn an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. It contains a chapter on Fundamental Rights. Right now we have citizens who don’t even understand what that document is. Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual)." (Ayn Rand)

Sometimes you look around and wonder how things could have gone so wrong so quickly. The militarily organized practice of torture, the sexual abuse, and all other abuses of men and women, clandestine incarcerations and forced disappearances, are not new in the history of the to be. We are purveyors of violence, torture abduction and killing. Death and misery are our principal weapons in the war against a section of the people, those who are not patriots but traitors. Who decides whether a person is a traitor? Wimal Weerawansa and his cohorts or the JHU and he monks? Everything is for sale here, even men’s tormented souls-at least, those who still possess them.

"The time has come to hear the truth. The truth is hard to come by because the press and the media are controlled through the exercise of terror. We pretend only the LTTE practiced terror. Most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), US civil rights leader

We are said to be eight in the order of merit for genocide. The state of our nation is in the grip of anomie – meaning ‘a lack of the usual social or ethical standards’. This word is derived from the Greek term anomos which means "lawless". It is obligatory that we ask ourselves how and why we have arrived at such a state. But who cares.

The fact of the matter is we have a government that will do what it wants to do for the next few years, "The worst is yet to come. It’s sort of like we’re essentially powerless [and] just play it out."

We are fast descending into a Dark Age that has engulfed many a civilization not only in the distant past but also in more recent times. Jane Jacobs describes a Dark Age as a ‘culture’s dead end’, where even the memory of what was lost was also lost. This phenomenon is fast engulfing all levels of society and unless it is stopped in its tracks and reversed forthwith we are indeed doomed.

We need, then, a less doctrinaire, and avowedly post-secularist, response to these developments –We need to re-affirm our commitment to a free society. Democracy is not the will of the majority as a VIP said on TV. A majority cannot decide to kill, torture or deprive the rights of a minority- be it an ethnic, religious or political minority. We need to understand the State is nothing more than a set of individuals who have got into power. We cannot abdicate our right to hold them accountable and ensure that they govern according to some moral and ethical values, for as Benjamin Franklin said they would otherwise be no different from a band off brigands. A second principle needs to inform thinking of this sort: a pragmatic readiness to understand the many different ways in which government, the laws and civil society have been impinging on our persona freedom.

[Courtesy: The Island]
Tuesday, 05 January 2010
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