17 October, 2017

A Haunted Nation: The CCNH Document

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Sri Lanka: A Haunted Nation – The Social Underpinnings Of Communal Violence– Part 4

Another important contribution towards fudging the issue, whitewashing the Gov- ernment and putting much of the blame on the victims themselves, was the document issued by the Citizens’ Committee for National Harmony (CCNH). This group comprised sev- eral of Colombo’s best known intellectuals of the day including Fr. Tissa Balasuriya and Godfrey Goonetilleke (see Some Impressions of 1983, Cen- tre for Society and Religion, Dossier No. 103 of 1st November 1984). Some extracts follow:

“The violence no doubt began in reaction to the senseless and brutal killing of 13 soldiers in the North. That act itself inevitably provoked the moral indignation of the people, the Sinhala majority in particular and aroused widespread sympathy for the families who had to bear the cruel loss. But what was more tragic was that this indignation against the cruelty of terrorists had to find expression in far greater and more irrational violence against the innocent and defenceless Tamil community in the South…

“Both communities must share the blame for the processes which have inexorably taken them in the direction of violence and counter-violence… The vast majority of the Sinhalese who deplored the savage violence were rendered helpless by the almost total collapse of law and order, which enabled well- organised aggressive groups of attackers to act freely…

“Although the Government has acted with com- mendable speed in re-establishing normal conditions after the disruption and loss caused by recent events, there is still a deep sense of insecurity and widespread fear that communal violence can erupt anytime…

“The action of the Government in outlawing sepa- ratism has helped to allay the fears of the Sinhalese majority regarding the division of the country…

“It is important to note that the majority of ac- tive participants in recent acts of violence belonged to a very young age group…[and hence a need for those in authority and the religious leaders to devote more resources in teaching them sound values.]

“It was evident that there was some element of organisation and planning behind the violence, that supporters of all political parties participated in the lawless acts and that in many instances the security forces were not prompt in restoring law and order…

“The self-appraisal and reorientation of attitudes and perceptions must go hand-in-hand with a re- sponse of the Tamil community which clearly disso- ciates from the violence in the North and from the politics of separatism. There must be an explicit com- mitment to a united Sri Lanka in which the problems of a multi-racial society can find a just solution…”

It stated some truths and then blurred them to exonerate the Government. The problem was primarily identified with the violence of Tamil separatism, ‘which inevitably provoked the moral indignation’ of the Sinhalese, causing some of the young with insufficient moral or religious education to go on the loose. The lack of historical perspective is evident in that the violence seemingly recognised as more brutal, provocative and deserving of strong moral in- dignation was that of Tamil militants. This be- comes apparent in the CCNH’s tacit endorse- ment of Jayewardene’s line on the 6th Amend- ment. It was in effect singling out the Tamils for punishment by making it impossible for their representatives to remain in Parliament. There was little or no recognition of the history of state repression. The Tamils who had been beaten prostrate were being given a sermon to eschew separatism and work for a just solution within a united Sri Lanka, while the CCNH were wishy- washy on the kind of just solution they would support.

An editorial comment on the belated meet- ing on 19th August 1983 of several NGOs and religious figures, including the CCNH, which played a leading role, to discuss the crisis, ap- peared in the Island of 23rd August:

“The leaders of religious organisations and what are called the “Non-Governmental-Organisations” in the current vogue, have finally emerged from their hibernation to express horror and condemn the shame- ful and ugly events which have been sweeping the land from the night of July 24th.

“While their words of counsel can have a salu- tary effect on public attitudes and thinking at this time, we cannot however refrain from wondering how much more effective they would have been if they had spoken out earlier when the fires were raging as well as before they actually burst out. Part of the reason for the present national crisis as we have already pointed out in these columns…has been the failure of responsible sections of opinion and the intelligentsia to anticipate and target events which occurred and put forward viable proposals for a resolution of the national question…”

On the last, these leaders were generally non- commital, and the delay only because the vio- lence was not initiated from below, but rather by people from their own social circle whom they were comfortable with and went to for favours.

To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power  – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Hello there Hoole is it?

    It seems to me in all your writing you keep missing the big elephant in the room. How can the state anticipate and plan for violence when they had nothing to do with blowing up the convoy? If there ever was ‘a design’ then, it must be those who blew up the convoy isn’t it really?

    From there you need to work upstream. Who gave them training and equipment? Who gave the ideological underpinning for the violence. I dont’ see you addressing any of this really. This process would have started sometime back. You need to start there I feel.

    cheers

    • 0
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      vibhusana
      Are you for real?
      Do you know what happened.
      Are you not aware of JR’s action?
      Are you not aware that he purposely exhibited the dead soldiers to incite the pogrom?
      Look at the facts and then criticize.

      • 0
        0

        Are you not aware that he purposely exhibited the dead soldiers to incite the pogrom?

        You know you are telling pokies. I know it and so will other. You just don’t seem to “get” it do you really? Get yourself checked at a mental hospital.

    • 0
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      no sure if you were born before or after 83 but the fact is the state was inciting violence against tamils before 83,the convoy in jaffna was of course bombed by the ltte (who had been trained by indians)

      the crux of Hooles book is how the state failed to stop the violence

      why no curfew was declared
      why the looters went about with electoral lists? (electoral lists didnt fall from the sky vibushana!)
      why the army and police turned a blind eye in many places?
      why the locked up looters in n’Eliya by the UNP lady organiser was released by Gamini Dissanayake and then the looting began
      why JRJ didnt address the nation for few days and even when he did it didnt sympathise with the tamil victims

      are we clear now vibushana are still feeling confused?

      • 0
        0

        well gee peace lover.

        the state was inciting violence against tamils before 83,

        As recent as 4 years ago, the LTTE gave up peace talks, challenged the entire world to a military duel and surrounded themselves with civilians. Tamils seems to blame the govt even here for enusing violence and Tamil casualties.

        I dont know whether you are capable of honesty but clear pattern seems to emerge where Tamils seems to blame the state for everything. It seems to happen even when the violence was provoked by Tamil extremists as in the case back in 83.

        • 0
          0

          go brush up on the countries history dude,before 83 july there has been many mini incidents involving the army and thgs (the least of them being stoning the jaffna bound buses from colombo in areas such as rambewa and madawachiya)
          in case yo forgot the 1981 violence and 77 riots
          please read books/articles on recent history and thn comment

          • 0
            0

            hello peace over, was there violence circa 195x as well ? I beleive this was the first significant one. what happened here? do you know?

            • 0
              0

              if you want to know about 1956 riots read old news clippings or tarzie vittachis book for impartial clear views

              but if you want a biased version then ask someone in Lake house

              and beieve which will make you happier (since your quite adamant in defending the state,the choice is yours!)

        • 0
          0

          just to clarify we are not talking of 2009 and ltte here, but about the state incited violence of 1983 and the way the state responded to the landmine blast, if not for which the terrorist groups would have not grown to how it was nor would have sri lanka got its name sullied in the world arena

          • 0
            0

            peace lover,

            so in one corner you have the state. in the otther you have the tamil extremists with a seperatist ideology, tranined militarily who had essentially declared war on SL state.

            I am curious how you seems to miss all these other causes for violence. do you find TULF and militatnt groups who instigated the violence responsible for any of the crimes on Tamils?

            • 0
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              of course TULF ideology was wrong and instigated the youth and terrorism was the result of sinhala only policy ,riots starting from 1956 onwards together with TULFs madness
              but here we are talking of 83 riots and Govts role in it mate!

              • 0
                0

                Hello there Peacelover,

                of course TULF ideology was wrong and instigated the youth and terrorism

                Just like Hoole you discuss 83 here without bringing in attached history where Tamils played a role in the violence. Thats what makes this article unbalanced and incredible isn’t it really?

                These things cannot be analysed in iolation. With every analysis biased towards Tamil such as this I see a fair point made by the opposite camp.

                Although Tamils do not seem to grasp no-win situation for either side keep insisting on things like “genocide’ etc. Constantly trying to change the no win equation in their favour even though having no takers really isnt it?

      • 0
        0

        also “no curfew declared” etc all circumstancial isnt it really?

        Has there ever been concrete evidence to show a policy you allude to? There must have been Tamil govt servants who were close to the regime blow a few whistles? do you know any Tamil over the past 30 years presenting evidence to the fact?

        • 0
          0

          your really living in a well arent you? read the then Jaffna GA’s report on how the Govt wanted to hush up the no of people killed in jaffna by the army in retaliation to the 83 landmine ambush.
          forget tamil govt servants go have a chat with eminent public servants like Bradman Weerakoon and find it yourself!

          • 0
            0

            thats true. although there was a commision that covered violence 72-77 under Justice Sansoni. The commission found TULF culpable and Eelam call as the reason for the voilence. have you read this report?

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out]

    • 0
      0

      go back to nursery Ella ‘moda’ Kolla

    • 0
      0

      Ela “Moda” kolla, you are edited out. W.P. don’t you understand English??

  • 0
    0

    “Senseless and brutal” killings of tamils had commenced long before 1986 and the bombing of the convoy of soldiers killing 17 of them, was one of the few successful “counter-attacks” by militant tamils.

    • 0
      0

      there is nothing to gloat over it and it was 1983 not 1986,
      the LTTE were not saints they went and bumped off anyone who had a different view,so stop acting as if they were saviours!

  • 0
    0

    Mr.Hoole,

    “The violence no doubt began in reaction to the senseless and brutal killing of 13 soldiers in the North. That act itself inevitably provoked the moral indignation of the people, the Sinhala majority in particular and aroused widespread sympathy for the families who had to bear the cruel loss. But what was more tragic was that this indignation against the cruelty of terrorists had to find expression in far greater and more irrational violence against the innocent and defenceless Tamil community in the South…

    “Both communities must share the blame for the processes which have inexorably taken them in the direction of violence and counter-violence… The vast majority of the Sinhalese who deplored the savage violence were rendered helpless by the almost total collapse of law and order, which enabled well- organised aggressive groups of attackers to act freely…

    The above account is a Typical Racist Sinhalese nonsense. But thankfully what you lot say or do dosent matter any more. But sadly we have to wait for another few more months to resume Normal Life in the North. MR the Criminal is talking about Deepavali but he doesnt know the meaning ot it idiot.

    It looks like it is a straight fight between Vibushna and Peacelover with ela kolla getting into bed with them so why spoil the party. It is a family ( Sinhalese)affair

    • 0
      0

      why is ella kolla gay to get in bed with them ? ;-)
      disgusting fellow!

      • 0
        0

        Publico,

        Because ela is working Probono ( for no money). Do you understand if ask Barrister Friend if you can find one.

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