Friday, June 29, 2007

Police and the Human Rights Situation

US Customs and Border Protection. Police, but a different breed.

Yesterday while watching News First [after Swarnawahini got 'converted' I have no choice, and it's good] I saw a ridiculous statement made by the chairman of some presidential committee to investigate killings and abductions etc., etc. saying that most police officers complain that they cannot perform their duty because of the constant prodding of human rights organizations, which visit police stations to see how many people are in illegal [over-time without warrant] custody, and being tortured etc. What I think is if the police seem to think that their duty is to keep people in while they don't have enough evidence for a warrant and pick up people and torture them to get forced confessions. I was surprised that this chairman person is a retired judge. But then I got reminded that he was heading a 'Presidential Commission'. Devil's advocate.

It is widely known that although they pretend to protect the law and order, police are a prime source of human rights violations in the country regardless of what administration. It happened all the time. People have frequently died while in police custody, with the police giving faint excuses such as sudden pneumonia, heart attack, and sometimes the story of the suspect suddenly whipping out a weapon from nowhere, which was the latest thing. People do not get served by the police the way they deserve, but the police thinks that they are to push people around. In Sri Lanka, anyone visiting a police station cannot expect more than a 'dog's treatment' 99.99% of the time. That's anyone, and suspects usually get badly beaten, if they are kept overnight at the police station: the policemen just come in drunk and beat the suspects senseless to get over with their day's grudges with someone. This situation must change. That's why the human rights commission is visiting police stations and investigating the crimes being committed by the guardians of the law themselves. If the only thing the police can then say is "we can't do our duty because human rights people are walking in upon", then that has serious problem to go with it. Basically that is "keep outta our way so we can do keep people in illegal custody, torture them and accept/prompt bribes, which is mainly our duty."

I dream of a day we have a proper police force. A day when law and order really will be here. The police isn't a trusted institution here, but is generally regarded as consisting of 'thugs n thieves'. The main reason there's no law and order is the police themselves, who now blame the human rights watchers. They catch the culprits [when they can], get a bribe and let them go, be it a traffic offense or perhaps a murder, especially if someone from high above is involved. It is a bunch of constables like this who are mumbling that human rights are coming between them and their so-called 'duty' .

What does this mean? Only one thing, that the police is utterly incapable, and constantly violate human rights. They can't decide who's the culprit so they catch someone and beat him down to get a confession. Basically it. I get reminded of the posters that were all around Colombo sometime ago saying that we do not need to regard human rights when fighting terror. If we do not regard people's basic rights in an exercise to protect their very existence, then what the hell is the use of it?

Human rights are not something exotic which came into being yesterday. They are basic rights and needs of you and me, what we deserve as humans, and what we get hurt when taken away from us. We do not feel this until we get them violated on us ourselves or at least on someone close. Til then it is even easy to say that things like expelling people from their dwellings just because the police cannot pinpoint the suspects are 'unavoidable and necessary'. It was pathetic to hear such a irresponsible statement from someone like a former justice, like they doesn't know the grade of the police here.

I hope the retired judge thought more rationally when he was on the bench. If the judge also thinks that it is right to get beaten up by the police just because you were taken in, then what's the deal?

This is the big deal 'human rights' situation in Sri Lanka.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Would Paying for it Make State Universities Better?

A University

There has been a lot of controversy about private education in Sri Lanka, especially on university level. The government universities exclusively educate recipients of full-tuition state university grants. Those are selected based on the Z-score gained in the GCE A level examination. The selection has other proportion-wise subselection criteria included, but the total number of students in all 14 or so state universities in Sri Lanka do not exceed 20,000. The exact intake every year counts around 15000 maximum, leaving a large percentage of students qualified for university entrance stranded. Even in the existing university system, the level of research and graduate schools are not at all adequate and there's virtually no PhD level teaching.

But the brains, subject-wise, are good. The brightest students in the country gain entrance into engineering and medical schools every year, and most of the top and specialist students go overseas to graduate schools and then employment. Still the medical profession has a kind of prestigious feeling in the country and nowadays most students, who miss university here, go abroad to countries like Russia or India for instance, and then practice here as doctors after taking a medical council test. There's controversy and shouting here and there from time to time, but things are generally settled now.

There's constant pressure against active government sponsorship to open private universities in Sri Lanka, mainly from the leftist-based student unions in state universities. This is not understandable at all. Today it is well possible to gain a degree in subjects like IT and computer engineering from private sector, and the degrees have very high demand and reputation among employers in SL. In the above subjects, there's a very healthy competition between state and private university graduates, and state university graduates are indeed under constant pressure to come out more and more polished in workable skills, not just out-dated book knowledge. Currently quality graduates, with well-marketable skills, are produced only by medical, law and engineering schools of the state universities. Most students prefer to keep away from arts faculties. More and more students prefer not to go to physical science faculties as well. Perhaps cause it's kinda hard to find something to do with some real science involved if you come with a three year degree in physics and chemistry, but there are other concerns about currency and quality of what you get at school. The alternative is to go into some private school for a professional qualification. By now the graduates seem intelligent enough not to go on protests asking government to conjure up bigwig jobs just because they've come out of a state university.

Another thing is, state universities has to 'grow up'. They should stop from being entirely dependent on government, and start being more liberal in enrollment. Ok now don't start shouting. The government should keep the [meager amount of ] state university grants given each year constant. Perhaps this way they'd be able to increase the number of full-tuition grants in a greater rate even. When the universities are earning up something they can link up more with the industry and entities like the world bank [scary, eh?], and would be able to collect up more cash to offer a more modern and more real-word courses to students. Right now the state of the state universities is mostly 'sorry'. This might be the only way to revive them, else they can stay stuck in the rut of a few people opposing reforms. I don't know how long things can go on like this in a fast-paced world out there.

I come from a private university. I know friends from government universities and even have worked with them. One thing a majority of state university graduates have here is wrong attitude. I have seen them fail to apply a more analytical and-broad minded view to life problems. Most seem to be locked with ideas like "World Bank is evil!", "education reforms (of any kind) are evil!", "Tamils are united against Sinhalese!" and "Scandinavians are evil!". Perhaps this is the work of a few leftist people in there, but it has spread kinda evenly among the system. Perhaps it doesn't work very well on people from educated and urban backgrounds, but people who work hard and get in from rural areas with little exposure get spoiled in a bad way.

None of these are among private university students. The one I am from has around 4000+ students, and we only have one students' union, the default one the university has, and people hardly are aware of it. Most people work to help pay for their education. Others work hard to gain a scholarship and maintain it. There's absolutely zero political activity and 'ragging', and rules are rules: if you kick a youngster's butt you get in police and chucked outta school [once I heard from a state undergrad that police can't intervene in internal affairs of their uni!]. The difference is that people are paying for what they get and they know the worth of it. That's a very important thing. If, instead of completely free university, the government only paid part of it and got students into student loans or industrial placements or something to get them pay even a modest amount of their fee, they would know the worth of it. It'd help the universities to give them a better education in turn, help them behave more responsibly, have a broader perspective and as a result be more employable upon graduation. They would be able to serve the country better. What retards Sri Lanka mostly from development is the less-than perfect attitude of the citizens, whatever is being said and done. If the government could stop being selfish for power and do this one reform in education here, it would help more than any other step taken in order to shape the future of our country as a developed one.

We would have a generation with attitude. That may be the change Sri Lanka so badly needs.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Reaching for a love that seem so far..

An empty street
An empty house
A hole inside my heart
I'm all alone,
and the rooms are getting smaller

I wonder how, I wonder why
I wonder where they are
The days we had, the songs we sang together
And oh my love
I'm holding on forever
Reaching for a love that seem so far..

So I say a little prayer
And hope my dreams will take me there
Where the skies are blue
To see you once again, my love
Overseas from coast to coast
To find the place I love the most
Where the fields are green
To see you once again, my love.

I try to read
I go to work
I'm laughing with my friends
But I can't stop to keep myself from thinking

I wonder how, I wonder why
I wonder where they are
The days we had, the songs we sang together
And oh my love
I'm holding on forever
Reaching for a love that seem so far..

To hold you in my arms
To promise you my love
To tell you from the heart
You're all I'm thinking of

I'm reaching for a love that seem so far....

"My Love" is a single from Westlife's album Coast to Coast.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ape aathala moothala..

Basically mala, from Wikipedia

Yesterday I heard this song [probably by Jaya Sri] which went "Ape aathala moothala reggae aanawa boolee!" Today during the lazy afternoon I texted this to one of my expat pals out of pure witticism, and his reply made me double with laughter. He said:

"Umba ehenan Malak adinna dennathi. Apo umba.."