Colombo Telegraph

Against Devolution

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka’s article Chandrika’s call for federalism in the Colombo Telegraph of September 16 is written with his customary verve and the kind of brilliance that is usually described as coruscating but unfortunately it could also read like an ill-tempered diatribe against the former President CBK, for which reason it may not be taken with all the seriousness that it merits. That would be a pity for two reasons. One is that the article addresses the most important question facing the nation today: whether the state should be unitary, federal or quasi-federal. The other is that the article brings out important data, and its arguments are sound, indeed devastating, in challenging conventional wisdom on federalism. It should be required reading for everyone who is really concerned about the future of Sri Lanka.

Some time ago I turned completely against the idea of devolution as the necessary nostrum for our ethnic ills. It is generally agreed that systems of devolution are difficult to operate if there is hostility on one or both sides and there is no sense of a common ground allowing a spirit of mutual accommodativeness. That would certainly apply if racism is a factor in the situation. For long it was assumed that at the core of our ethnic problem was Sinhalese racism and that a solution would ensue once that was surmounted. We never thought of Tamil racism as a serious factor in the problem. To my vast surprise I came to realize in the course of exchanges in the Colombo Telegraph with Tamil Islamophobic racists that Tamil racism is even worse than that of the Sinhalese. I cannot believe therefore that the way to a solution of the ethnic problem can lie through devolution on an ethnic basis. I must make a couple of clarifications before proceeding further: I believe that not the majority but only a segment of the Tamils are racist; I believe also that the Tamils, like other ethnic groups, can ameliorate or even eradicate their racism. However the crucial point is that the racism of even a minority of the members of an ethnic group can queer ethnic relations and make the smooth functioning of a devolutionary system difficult or impossible.

I have in mind a full-length article stating my conclusions about Tamil racism based on my exchanges with Islamophobic Tamil racists over a long period. Here I will deal with comments on my last article, After the attack on Ambassador Ansar, by just one of them, Backlash, who can be regarded as having a broadly representative character. He writes, “This notorious anti-Tamil to whom the LTTE and the Tamil Lankan nation are the same, is naturally against Sinhalese and Tamils coming together”. I have provided details in the past to show that I have been among the most pro-Tamil Sri Lankans, not one of which has been refuted by Backlash or others, but facts don’t matter in the least to the Tamil racists. Nor have I suggested in any way that the LTTE and the Tamils are the same or that I am against the Sinhalese and the Tamils coming together. He writes “Therefore he counsels GOSL ‘no serious dialogue is possible with them’. He is satisfied (Tamils) are impervious to reason and they are devoid f a (sic) a moral sense”. Backlash is lying blatantly in that last sentence. I referred to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s offer to send a team for discussions with the LTTE clone, the We Tamil movement, and this is what I wrote, “Probably he understands quite well that no serious dialogue is possible with a LTTE clone. I have found that out in the course of my own protracted exchanges with the Tamil Islamophobic racists. Two things have become clear: one is that they are impervious to reason and the other is that they are devoid of a moral sense”. It is clear of course that I am referring to the “Tamil Islamophobic racists” and not to the Tamils as a whole, but Backlash deliberately misinterprets me as targeting the Tamils as a whole. He himself is clearly impervious to reason and is devoid of a moral sense, an example of racism’s terrifying potential to dehumanize and bestialize – to which I referred in my article.

A further example of dehumanization and bestialization is to be found in the following, “He cannot control his wish to see every Tamil dead in the world. For here are his own words ‘extirpate from the face of the earth’. While he has a choice of many gentler words the man chooses a word that calls for the weeding out and complete destruction of a non-existent LTTE (read Tamils)”. He ends with the following sentence, typical of many of his performances in the CT columns: “What an aging deranged moron we have to share the planet with”. His total disregard of facts, which has to be expected of someone who is impervious to reason, is shown by his characterization of the LTTE as “non-existent”: he must most certainly be aware of the US Government’s report of some weeks ago on the LTTE’s continuing activities. And of course he has engaged in bare-faced lying by making it out that I have called for the extermination of all Tamils whereas I have called for the extirpation of only the LTTE and its clones. The case that I have made out for that extirpation – not physical extermination – is surely reasonable. We have a much better chance of moving towards a political solution than ever before. The LTTE that has a horrible record of having brought unparalleled disaster for the Tamil people in 2009 could want to redeem itself by aborting every attempt at a political solution in the hope of establishing Eelam somehow someday. The peace process requires that extirpation.

The reader may well wonder why I bother with someone like Backlash whom I evidently regard as a lunatic. There are several reasons one of which is that he is an ethnolunatic, not just a lunatic. The latter can be put away in an asylum and be prevented from harming others. The ethnolunatic on the other hand can be sane and whole in every way except in inter-ethnic relations and cannot be put away. He can hold high positions in business, the professions, and the State, and he can wreak havoc for the rest of humanity, as has happened pre-eminently in Sri Lanka and a few other places. The ethnolunatic should, if possible, be extirpated as soon as he is detected.

The second reason is that Backlash is almost certainly the servitor of a LTTE clone. His favorite metaphor for my writings is “verbal diarrhea”. That means that every weekend my articles throw him into a paroxysm of rage which has him screaming shxt, shxt, shxt!!! But, unless he is a peculiar sort of masochist, why should the poor man torture himself by persisting in reading me week after week, month after month, year after year, and even decade after decade – at least once he faulted me over details in an article written by me around twenty five years ago! The obviously plausible explanation is that he is the servitor of an institution, and that institution is a LTTE clone such as the We Tamil group: the latter too – by its attack on Ambassador Ansar – showed the characteristics of dehumanization and bestialization, the consequence of imperviousness to reason and absence of moral scruple.

The third reason is that Backlash has a representative capacity, not of the Tamils as a whole but of a significant segment of it. It should be noted that his attacks on me have never been faulted by any Tamil. They echo his views or similar views. Part of the explanation could be through fear that the LTTE clone behind him might murder them for daring to express dissent. Surely an exaggerated fear considering that some time ago Dr Devanesan Nesiah wrote in the Island that he agreed with ninety five percent – or was it ninety nine per cent – of what I wrote, after which he did not come to grief. It is a noteworthy fact that when I came under attack by a notorious Sinhalese racist the majority of the Sinhalese readers were in vociferous support of me: most of them were of the view that that Sinhalese racist was utter scum and that I would be degrading myself by responding to him. But most of the Tamil readers expressed enthusiastic support for that Sinhalese racist! Such details point to the fact that Backlash and the LTTE clones belong to the lunatic fringe. The problem in Sri Lanka however is that on both sides of the ethnic fence the lunatic fringe has a way of sliding into the center, and that indeed has been at the core of our ethnic tragedy for decades. I have to conclude therefore that the Tamils, even more than the Sinhalese, are totally unfit for devolution on an ethnic basis.

I hope to focus on two points in further articles on devolution. One is that the success of federalism in other countries is totally irrelevant to the problem facing us. What we have on our hands is not a purely indigenous Tamil ethnic problem but an Indo-Tamil ethnic problem in which India has been calling the shots. Consequently many of the Sinhalese have an ineradicable fear that devolution will lead ineluctably to Eelam. The Tamils have kept on compounding that fear by their idiotic insistence on their non-existent right to self-determinism that includes the right to establish Eelam. The second point is that the alternative to devolution is democracy. Almost two million Muslims in India are doing well enough without any devolution on the basis of ethnicity. Why should that model not succeed in Sri Lanka?

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