Accountability, Reconciliation and Seeking a Political Solution: Volcanic Time-Bombs along the Tectonic Fault-Lines of the Lankan State
Center of the Storm
The triple issues of accountability, reconciliation and seeking a political solution to the National Question are at the epicenter of a gathering political storm. It could be a storm that would be even more embracing, volatile and destructive than any and all the storms of war, destruction and terror that we have been put through. This time around, the stakes are that much more decisive, on an international, regional and internal scale. This is a gathering storm of irreconcilable ideological polarization and violent political contention. Redrawing the map of the world, including that of countries and nations through genocidal war is the dominant trend in world politics. Such destructive violence can lay to rest what the Land of Lanka had once been, along with its current political map.
The National Question has itself evolved following the end of the war. It is now enjoined with the issues of accountability, reconciliation and implementing a just political solution, These issues of accountability, reconciliation and seeking a just political solution to the National Question stand as three banners tied together, the contest over which shall decide our fate and our future.
Each of these issues, separately and collectively, has been hi-jacked by international powers, and all local players are being played according to its tune– on all sides of the divide. The US and its allies, through the UN, has hijacked these issues as a means to get a strategic grip on the politics of Lanka. This had become an urgent necessity to confront a rising strategic threat issuing from China over the control of the vital Indian Ocean sea-lanes and to address the shifting balance of power in the Asia /Pacific region. China has its own fangs into the lifelines of the political economy of Lanka, as does India. These international players shall play ball with all three issues, appearing to be the deliverers of universal justice. The International Tamil Diaspora – sections of it – shall also play ball. The US-led ‘Western Bloc’ will support a government and leadership that could be relied upon as trusted strategic allies and friends against its rivals. It shall either stabilize or destabilize the Lankan state and the regime by using any and all these three issues depending on how the game is played. Either the Land of Lanka shall be divided or unified, according to these interests. The Sinhala-Buddhist nation, the Tamil nation, the Moslem and Hill Country Malayaga Tamil nationality and other ethnic/religious communities all shall be played according to the needs of marauding vultures of Capital and their local agents.
In my view, the question of establishing credible accountability for alleged war crimes is an essential element in any meaningful process of reconciliation, which alone leads to implementing a just and lasting solution to the National Question. Accountability is necessary to lay the basis for legal justice and political and moral responsibility, and in ensuring non- repetition , and is the bed-rock basis for reconciliation. Reconciliation refers to the integrated process of de-militarization, return and restoration of all lands and means of livelihood, release or amnesty for all political prisoners, accountability for those disappeared and the end to all colonization. The process of reconciliation lays the basis for healing the wounds of war, building broken bridges of trust and creating a genuine process of mutual understanding and respect, paving the ground to approach a negotiated political settlement. The three issues are enjoined. The issue of accountability has become the barometer of sincerity and commitment to be demonstrated in building genuine reconciliation on the basis of truth, justice, dignity and equality, as the bed-rock basis of implementing a democratic political solution. For that very reason, these three elements taken separately and individually constitute what may be termed the tectonic fault-lines of the Lankan State, and concentrate the focal point of violent political division and contention in the country.
The Resurgence of the Neo-Fascist Agenda
In my view, any real, meaningful, concrete step taken towards solving the Tamil National Question on a democratic foundation that, by definition, recognizes the right of self-determination – in whatever form – shall be twisted and manipulated to become the spark that ignites the flames of communal carnage, genocidal terror and willful self-destruction – once again, but on an unprecedented level of vengeful ferocity. The rebellion shall be inspired, organized and led by the deposed Rajapakse dynasty, as a way of suppressing any move towards prosecution or punishment for heinous crimes they have committed. Any step towards implementing accountability on the part of the armed forces of the State shall be pitched as a wholesale capitulation to ‘Western Imperialist Powers’ and as a tragic betrayal of the ‘valiant war heroes’ who had shed their blood and lost their life and limbs for the ‘defense of the Motherland’. Once again the clarion call for the purification and resurgence of the Sinhala-Buddhist Nation as the undisputed rulers of the Motherland defended by the unitary state shall be issued more vehemently, militantly and violently than ever before- from the roof tops and temples throughout the Land. A Holy Patriotic Crusade shall be mobilized against imperialism and all its agents and imposters, against all faiths, beliefs and practices, against all alien minorities that have contaminated the nation and undermine its undisputed hegemony. The tottering financial crisis and increasing economic hardships, the broken pledges, the state of crisis and instability of the State and society, the breakdown of morality shall all be attributed to the traitors, in league with the minorities – whether national, ethnic or religious. This shall be the neo-fascist/ chauvinist-hegemonic agenda wrapped in the garb of a sacred theocratic mission mandated by the gods.
In my humble opinion, neither the Ranil/Sirisena (SR) regime backed by all its imperialist and regional powers, nor so-called civil society combined would be able to withstand the ferocity of the resurgence of the neo-fascist agenda. Not that this agenda represents a popular, majority agenda, but that it shall be imposed and enforced through the power of violent indoctrination, mass mobilization, backed by naked terror. As did the Nazis. As the debased and demented leader of the Bodu Bala Sena declared recently that there would be a replay of Aluthgama, thus openly and defiantly acknowledging ownership and responsibility for the anti-Moslem carnage at Aluthgama previously. Mahasona Brigade, Ravana Brigade and all such para-military, para-state forces are simply the robed ideological goon squads of a resurging, serpentine neo-fascist agenda. And yet not shall the SR Regime take any action to defang the venomous creatures and stem the rising tide, lest they shall also get washed away by the raging fury of the storm. The truth is that all successive regimes have promoted and pandered to this chauvinism and are guilty of sabotaging any political solution.
These developments towards anarchy and civil conflict shall play into the hands of the foreign powers. It will give reason to exercise the right to intervene directly, including militarily, invoking the right to protect (R2P). I have no faith in any of these foreign predator powers to play any positive role in solving the national question, since they are all out to advance their own strategic agendas at the expense of their rivals. Nor do I have any faith in the prevailing neo-colonial State and political system, and in any and all of the established ruling class political parties to deliver justice. They are complicit in shedding the blood of the people. They are all captive agents of foreign powers. Yet, given the perilous situation, it is of paramount importance that some middle way be designed that would be a principled step towards reaching a political solution. It is worth a try.
Wigneswaran-Champika Polarities and the Way Forward
These two polarities serve to crystallize the divide in reaching a just solution. Hon. Wigneswaran stands for the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation, to be exercised internally, within a unified State, with some acceptable form and degree of devolution of power. Hon. Champika Ranawaka, along with the entire chauvinist camp, including the UNP, SLFP, JHU and JVP and others, reject the right of self-determination, and stands for the unitary state, along with the acceptance of Sinhala-Buddhist supremacy and hegemony. He, like every other chauvinist force, plays to the fear of separatism created among the Sinhala masses. Champika and his ilk reject any demand for any form of devolution of power, and have a deep psycho-emotional echo among the Sinhala –Buddhist masses. Is there a way out of this imbroglio?
Sharing Power at the Center: A Second Chamber?
So far, the discourse has been limited to the devolution of power to the periphery, while the Center shall remain the seat of exclusive majoritarian, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist hegemony. This is a barren paradigm. I venture to suggest that the solution should be found in sharing state power at the Center, along with reasonable devolution that shall ensure equality, autonomy, security and democratic freedom to the minority nationalities. This would invoke a commitment to the State by all national minorities and serve to allay fears of separation. I suggest the formation of a Second Chamber to consist of eminent citizens who have won the trust of the people, including of the minority nationalities and religious communities. This Second Chamber shall be constitutionally empowered to review all legislation concerning the national-democratic rights of the nationalities and be able to submit any dispute to the Supreme Court. Sharing power at the Center would serve to establish equality and parity of status for all concerned and would be a step towards dismantling the prevailing chauvinist-hegemonic state and establishing a modern democratic State that would be made to honor the national-democratic aspirations of all nationalities. This is the only remaining path towards genuine national reconciliation and integration. We should strive to build a powerful popular consensus behind such a solution. The alternative is simply unthinkable.