You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Memory , Understanding and Education’ category.


Jaffna Library



Keynote address at the celebration of Human Rights Day in Jaffna, on December 11th 2009.   

Let me begin by thanking all of you for being present here today, and in particular the Government Agent for arranging this gathering. I am sorry too that this event takes place one day late, but I had to be in Vavuniya yesterday to celebrate the day there. That seemed particularly important, given that many discussions of Human Rights this year had centred on the situation in Vavuniya. However I am aware that in Jaffna too this issue is of particular importance, which is why I thought it desirable to get here, checking on my way on the situation of those who have now been resettled in parts of the Wanni that had suffered so much in recent years.   

Both because of what I saw, and because of the opportunity for new beginnings that has now been offered us, I thought I should address the issue of rights conceptually here, and begin by suggesting that discourse on human rights has suffered in Sri Lanka in recent years by being both too selective and too confrontational. I will explain what I mean by selective later, but first let me urge a more collaborative approach in the future to human rights, so that we can better fulfil our common aim of ensuring all rights for everyone as best possible in the future.   

Read the rest of this entry »


Mrs. P. S. M. Charles - Govt. Agent, Vavuniya


Keynote address at the celebration of Human Rights Day in Vavuniya, on December 10th 2009  

In welcoming you all here today, and thanking the Government Agent for arranging this gathering, I should explain why the Ministry decided to celebrate Human Rights Day so specially in Vavuniya this year. Our work I should note is ongoing, with this month seeing the second draft of the National Action Plan on Human Rights, and the first draft of the Bill of Rights that we commissioned from a group of independent experts in accordance with the pledge in the Mahinda Chintanaya. However, we also have a practice of some sort of special event, and this year we thought we should do this nationwide.  

 My Minister is currently at a meeting of the Human Rights Commission in Kandy, while this afternoon he will present prizes to the students who took part in our debate between the Law Faculties of Colombo and Jaffna and the Open University. In addition, several local authorities, selected on the basis of successful projects they conducted over the year with regard to mainstreaming Human Rights into development activities, will be conducting awareness programmes for students and public officials.  

Read the rest of this entry »


Jaipur - The Pink City


Text of a keynote address given at an Aide et Action Workshop, Jaipur, November 3rd 2009. 

 I am honoured to be with you here at this workshop in Jaipur, nearly forty years after I was first in this beautiful pink city. I was a schoolboy then, traveling around India on a shoestring budget, and my mind went back to the attitudes and approaches that seemed so natural then, seeing poverty and deprivation and also enjoying the marvelous hospitality of so many from all walks of life.


 I was full of egalitarian ideals then, and I remember being told by those older and wiser than I was that it would be unnatural not to be some sort of a Marxist in one’s youth, just as it would be quite unnatural to continue a Marxist twenty years later, when one had grown up. In actual fact, when the world had grown older, twenty years later, it seemed that Marxism had been proved conclusively wrong, and the thrust for equality was entirely wrong-headed, and could lead only to increasing deprivation for all. 

Read the rest of this entry »

The University of Jaffna


 The latest report of the Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights is, as with all their previous reports, a document well worth reading. The UTHR always stood steadfast against the LTTE and therefore their reports never contributed to the agenda of that organization. They deserve all respect and anything they write must be looked at in the belief that they mean well by Sri Lanka and all its citizens.    

This does not mean that everything they say is accurate. They too have to rely on information from others, and that information can be mistaken, and not necessarily deliberately. We must understand that people see things from different perspectives, and it is sometimes necessary to make allowances for these. Many of the people who spoke to UTHR could very well have seen things only from their own perspective, and it is possible that UTHR too, in interpreting and recording, also has a particular mindset that could lead to a misleading narrative.    

Read the rest of this entry »

Chanaka Amaratunga (1958 - 1996)

April 19th would have been Chanaka Amaratunga’s 52nd birthday. I was first reminded about this by ‘Groundviews’, which requested an article of commemoration. Though I believe ‘Groundviews’ is now not as partisan an entity as when it was first set up, I still wonder about the propriety of contributing to it, given my criticism of the manner in which and the purpose for which it was funded. In any case, I was not so sure that it was essential to write on what did not seem a significant anniversary.

My mind was made up however when I saw an article commemorating, on the 37th anniversary of his death, Chanaka’s great hero, Dudley Senanayake. I was struck by the use there of the quotation that Chanaka first brought to national attention, in 1982, when the infamous referendum was perpetrated upon the nation.

He referred then to what Dudley Senanayake had said a decade earlier, namely that ‘There are some things in every true democracy which no mandate can ever destroy. Even if a majority agrees, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to vote to elect your representatives at periodic and regular elections, these are features which cannot ever be abolished.’

Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2020
%d bloggers like this: