26 July, 2021

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Burmese Coup A Red Flag For Sri Lanka

By Kumar David

Prof. Kuma David

Aung San Suu Kyi bears part of the responsibility for this umpteenth coup in Burma (now also known as Myanmar). She danced with the wolves, shut her eyes to genocide of Rohingya Muslims, and was a party to an attempt to fool the people about tinsel constitutionality. It is heartless to skewer her at this moment when the military has again trampled Burma with leaden boots. But now it is not about tender feelings for the lady. It is about drawing the right lessons from these appalling events. Lesson One: The military at all times and everywhere, is a threat to public liberty unless it is firmly held on a tight leash. In the reign of Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa it has been empowered in all walks of life – public administration, over-lordship of state corporations, incompetent management of the covid pandemic, foreign affairs including leaking a UNHRC confidential Report and strutting like a peacock in the public domain. 

Lesson Two: The Burmese military is viciously racist; it is a deeply Burman institution with implacable hatred of ethnic minorities in the interior (9% Shan, 7% Karen, 4% Rakhine and 3% Mon) and genocide of Rohingya Muslims (4%) in eastern Rakine Province. Hatred of the Muslims is vicious because 90% of the country is Buddhist including majorities of all ethnic and tribal communities. About 8% are Christians, spread across many ethnic groups, who face persecution and debarred from all high appointments. Very few Burmans are Christian unlike the 5% Sinhalese Catholics-Christians in Lanka. The difference from Lanka is that the majority (70%) Burman people too have been victims of brutal military dictatorships which seized power in 1962 and trampled on all – except for the brief November 2015-January 2021 period. The Burman majority has no love for the army, unlike Lanka where the army is the poster boy of Sinhala Buddhists, Catholics and Christians.

The third parallel is appeasement. Militarism was and is a cancer in Lanka as much as in Burma and in both places political leaders bent over to appease militarised racism. No political party in this country, the SLPP and SLFP obviously, nor UNP (Ranil or Sajith versions), nor the three parties of the Dead-Left nor the JVP have dared to take a stand against majority communalism. This is not to whitewash Tamil nationalism just as much I imagine leaders of the Shan, Karen and Rakhine ethic groups are politically reactionary in the modern sense. But the point is that it was not these ethnic minorities that incited, facilitate and urged on the military just as Tamils and Muslims cannot be accused of abetting militarisation in Lanka. Lanka seems a hopeless case as Sinhala-Buddhist consciousness rhymes with militarisation. The verdict of history on Aung San Su Ki will be harsh. It will find her and her National Democratic Party (NDP) guilty of appeasement and betrayal of Burmese democracy by association. Is this going to be the story of Mahinda Rajapaksa, every SLPP and SLFP leader without exception and bogus left-sell-outs Vasudeva, Tissa and Raja Colure? Appeasement is the shortest path to the guillotine as these gentlemen will swiftly learn if there is a military takeover.

The Burmese junta has picked up lessons from Donald Trump. The stated justification is bogus allegations of “electoral fraud in the 8 November 2020 election” where the NDP took 83% of the vote and the pro-military party won a paltry 33 seats in the 476 member assembly. A communications blackout has been enforced; only a pro military TV channel is on the air. Another eerie parallel is that the dictator installed by the coup, army boss Min Aung-Hliang, was put on a US visa blacklist in 2019 just like our Army-Silva. The parallel is spooky. If a coup is attempted in Lanka will the figurehead be Nandasena or some brass who will push him side? Either way, China and Russia will back a Lankan military dictator as brazenly as Beijing and Moscow will accept Burma’s born-again military junta. Five thousand have been arrested in for protesting detention Alexey Navalny and the number of Muslims Uyghurs incarcerated in Xinjiang is said to run into hundreds of thousands. The devices of the Burmese military are not strange to either regime, and being seen as patrons of dictators has never been an embarrassment for the big powers. For fear of driving Nandasena deeper into the Chinese bosom the UNHRC may hold back from heavy pressure on Sri Lanka at the forthcoming Feb-March 2021 Sessions. That would be a big mistake; thugs don’t respond to concessions, they grab what they get and grasp for more – beware Chamberlin’s 1938 Munich sell-out. Biden is considering sanctions on the Burmese junta but calculation of the China and India factors will be central to the American equation; let’s see what happens. If the US and EU really want to they can starve out the Burmese junta just as India (or the US can starve out a Sri Lankan dictatorship. 

Ethnic reconciliation obviously is impossible under the Nandasena regime but preserving democratic spaces, pushing back the threat of army rule and sustaining a degree ethnic coexistence is the immediate task. The purpose of my column today is to alert everybody, democratic citizens who see the dangers, liberals both lily-white soft-livered and defiant, journalists, editors and appeasers, Mahinda’s opportunists in Cabinet and parliament, and the Sajiths and the Mano Ganesans, that their number will be called-up soon. Burma has raised a timely red flag, but it all depends on aggressive and firmly unified opposition of all these worthies on one rallying cry; NO TO MILITARISATION! 

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Latest comments

  • 4
    6

    After the Rapist Police Harin Fernando was threatened with a of death like a dog, which leader Pirapaharan was forced encounter, now everybody is using the King’s first name Nandasena. Until that it was unknown. There is nothing wrong pointed out by Sinhala readers or writer so far on that name. For Hindus, it is a reference to Krishna. Why King behaved like that when heard that name? I think that name first came out to public only in Ahimsa’s case in US. So name Nadasena is reminding him a lot of thing, including Lasantha’s murder, another five Tamils’ murder to put the blame on those dead Tamils and MIG import and using them for chemical & cluster bombing to kill a massive 150,000 innocents Tamils. Then this is reminding him the coming March’s UNHRC sitting. So feels his only solution is to go by the example of Rangoon army.

    • 2
      2

      Mallaiyuran
      There are typos in your comment.
      Too many zeros in numbers.
      Contact CT editor for correction.

      Soma

  • 5
    6

    The West, which claims to be the champions of human rights and democracy, are themselves violators of the tenets they preach. They drag an issue to pontificating principles only for purposes of bullying to win concessions out of other nations to fatten their own resources. The Anti-Muslim attitude of the average Western Christian is public knowledge, and the mystery surrounds as to why an exception was made by the West, to Muslims in Myanmar. I am told that the country is resource rich ad its successive rulers did not allow the West to have a free run. Prof Kum asserts that Suu Kyi mollycoddled the military and did not take a principled stand in certain humanitarian issues and her fall is attributed to the bad company she kept. I am not the least surprised to find that the politico-economic decisions of hers may have seriously clashed with those in the Uniform. So, she had to GO. In our case too there could be bloody battles in the street if we do not address issues surrounding the geo-political attractions of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

  • 6
    0

    “…this umpteenth coup in Burma”
    Burma’s umpteen appears to be far from having two digits.
    *
    The First was Ne Win’s in 1962. After that there was no coup. A nationwide uprising (the 8888 Uprising) brought down Ne Win in 1988. Call it a coup of you like, but military rule went on with a junta with Ne Win still wielding imfluence.
    “Ne Win is largely thought to have remained active behind the scenes, at least into the 1990s. In March 2002, however, he was placed under house arrest following the imprisonment of several family members who were accused of plotting a coup against the country’s military junta. Although no charges were brought against Ne Win, he remained under house arrrest until his death.” (Source: Britannica)

  • 7
    4

    The parallel is rather weak.
    Burma has been effectively under military rule since 1962.
    *
    “The military at all times and everywhere, is a threat to public liberty unless it is firmly held on a tight leash.”
    Well said. However, It has been the military that has held parliamentary politics on a tight leash in Myanmar since 1988. (Earlier it was plain military jackboot) .
    *
    I fear that the writer is getting the sequence of events and political landscape a little mixed up.
    *
    We had an attempted coup in 1962 backed by pro-Western elements. Someone got cold feet and the coup imploded. We have had rebellions by the JVP and a prolonged secessionist struggle by Tamil militants.
    *
    The effective dictatorship under executive presidential rule has been challenged by the masses. But that did not end executive presidential rule. Presidential powers were enhanced at least until 2015, and after a slight trimming are now fully restored.
    Unlike in Myanmar, we may have a creeping military take over with a fascist partnership. The mishandling of the Covid-19 problem is a setback for the process.
    Regardless of that, there is still democratic space in this country which has to be fully used by democratic forces. (I do not mean the parliamentary political parties).
    *
    Drawing lessons from Myanmar risks receiving the wrong lessons, especially owing to overemphasis of superficial similarities.

    • 0
      4

      I have been on work visit to Yangon in 2003/4 and further down south segment where it meets Thailand/Malaysia.

      I have known Burmese in Thailand and in Malaysia most are economical refugees from different part of Myanmar all the way to the North of the Country. They are hard working people exploited by all the Nations too.

      Few different people with political problems similar to ours and compounded by foreign interferences even in post colonial times….without the military is hard to keep the Nation together…they are kind of check and balance as required I think this works for the unitary state of the Nation.

      There are armed insurgency in many parts supported by foreign hands.

      Standard procedure/narratives apply from outside when it comes to Geo Political Management etc.

      I noted a hate for Rohingya from many segments of the Burmese who feel they are outsiders systematically took over their land during colonial times. This is exploited by the geo politics very well by forcing/generalising matters using UN causes many issues politically/internally where military feels they had to keep an eye on matters.

  • 13
    2

    As I’ve said before; the ones who will suffer the most from these extremist sinhala buddhists and military are the extremist buddhists who voted for them, and the silent majority who think by keeping quiet they can get some money gain from the extremists.
    .
    sri lanka is on a dangerous path and the majority especially the ’69 lakh fools’ are too selfish and stupid respectively to realize what is happening and to do anything about it.

  • 4
    3

    What is this coup talk?
    Our generals are already in power.

    Soma

    • 5
      1

      soman

      “Our generals are already in power.”

      You mean all the racists such as Wimal Sangili Karuppan Weerawansa, Udaya Gamanpilla, Chana Jayasumana, Sarath Weerasekera, ….Gevendu,
      Keheliya Rambo Rambukwella, ……?

    • 0
      1

      @Soma .(Our generals are already in power)

      Can you please refrain from making comments, that may make you think are humour and an amusement to the public , but in reality comments like that of nature can stir none existing fear in the minds of the public.

      Even could be considered as mild sedation.
      Only with good will I say this.
      cheers

  • 6
    4

    How about white flags?

    Hopefully Buddhist SL will follow Buddhist Myanmar’s lead. Democrazy failed SL. In both Myanmar and SL democrazy means racism. Military rule is very welcomed.

    • 5
      10

      @GATAM,
      pls do not compare Sri Lanka or Sri Lankans with Myanmar.
      Check the history how they treated the other races soon as they got Indipendence.

      Sri Lanka Sinhalese Buddhists were extremely accomodating .

      Sri Lankans mainly Sinhalese buddhidts will never give in to coups and the Army will never support it , its not our culture , our Army had enough opportunities if they wanted to and our leaders are not stupid like the Myanmar lesders.

      Most myanmar people are uneducated and backward not like Sri Lankan Buddhist majority, they are educated and will move to the path of progress , except the Sunnis with their Orthodox Dogmas , while The borhas and ahmedyas will remain tightly shut under their pontifs.

      While 90% of Memons except a few who have left hanafi school.and moved to.new Sunni sects , are extremely progressive and still maintain their orignal culture and very refined.

      They are the one and only Muslims among who migrated ,
      who brought in loads of wealth into Sri Lanka.

      They did not enter in boats and suitcases on their heads and made money here.

      They brought their own money and invested here and even now the memons continue to invest , contribute to our economy , very charitable and unlike some, they do not employ one particular race to decieve anyone , they have members of all races in their establishments.

      • 8
        2

        FN,

        Really? Who did the riots of 1958, 1971, 1977, 1983, 1987, 1988, 1989? Aliens? Buddhists did them all. Accept it.

        Myanmar is a step forward for SL.

        • 5
          4

          @Gatam,
          calm down , no one is denying about riots , but did you know the majority were not common Sinhalese , common sinhalese and Muslims were risking their lives hiding the victims in 83 , even I had two old women in our house and few boys I requested the mosque to take in.
          While the majority of criminals were Sinhalese thugs of A certain powerful politician of the then UNP, he had handed each group the voter’s name and address list to attack , they were fully drunk , the wines stores were emptied .There were a tiny number of thugs who were muslims , colombo tamils and even a borha ( out cast by the commumity) who ended up a drug addict later and use to go around doing odd jobs, who was personally attacking the tamils.

          As we mature,we must learn not to be bias and hold a entire community responsible for a segment of criminals, it is the samething UNP Sinhalese politicians did to tamils in 83 that opened the high for the LTTE.

          Mostly Good for nothing late Uncle and good for nothing Newphew must be held responsible , can you imagine a leader shamefully admitting he was drinking his regular brandy in his palace not knowing what to do for 4 consective days ,while being fully aware it was one of his minister who was behind it?

          • 6
            1

            Fahim Knight

            Please grow up.
            Every section of the people of this island are telling us all are good people except a few and the majority helped and protected the minority whenever they were caught in riots.

            This is bull s**t.

            Majority should have ensured riots don’t take place periodically and those who were guilty of riot related offences should have been identified and charged in the first place.

            Whom are you kidding?

  • 5
    2

    The Sri Lankan military is being trained in civilian roles so that they can eventually take over. Unlike Burma that got stunted and became a very backward nation due to long periods military rule Sri Lanka is no that easy to subjugate due to its educated middle class. However by manipulating the racism of the rural Buddhists the current lot has managed to grab power. The number one target of the current lot are the Muslims followed by the Tamils and then the Sinhalese Christians. These are backward primitive methods of running countries. No good will ever come out of them just stagnation and more sliding backwards. I am not sure of if the Chinese are involved in manipulating Burma. There is a good chance they have. Being a dictatorship the wanting to remain a dictatorship the Chinese government has no regard for democracy. If the people protest too loudly and Nandasena looses control and there is a very good chance that he will.Then there will be an eventual coup in Sri Lanka and life will get infinitely more miserable. This a lesson for the biased media of Sri Lanka as well. If you think you can go on spewing nonsense and fooling people there will come a day when your services will be no longer be needed and a future military government will simply turn you off.

  • 8
    3

    The two countries are very different.

    To be fair by them, our army has never got involved in politics, it only happened in 1962 when a few anglicized misguided officers tried a coup. By and large the Sri Lankan army is professional.

    I only hope they remain like this. Some politicians play cheap games and try to get them into politics. That is very bad.

    Appointing retired officers to various positions is a policy that should only be done very carefully. We see this a lot in Pakistan , Bangladesh and Myanmar.

    • 5
      1

      @Deepthi Silva,
      very unbiased comment , really good.
      As for employing our ex – Servicemen is something I really wellcome , rather than they living in hardships , some even work as 3wheel drivers for others and can not afford to buy their own.
      Yes I agree with you to some extent, when you have men in uniform working in public office does create a phobia among the citizens and not healthy , but to use them to crush all sort of illegal activities is very welcomed.
      Once anyone in uniform retires , they become part of the common Citizen and should not be absorbed into any uniform office unless there is a war or country is under threat , they can always be reabsorbed under volunteer force.( Not mandatory).
      But to employ these men and women who put their life on line to save the nation, not only by the government but also by the private will benefit all parties.
      I think it would be a better idea to employ the retired officers in the curent positions held by uniformed officers and send the uniform officers on a non mercy, full scale crackdown on all illegal activities.

    • 3
      1

      There is another factor too. Sri Lanka has a long history of fairly clean elections every four or five years, Myanmar has not.

      • 2
        0

        Svenson

        “Sri Lanka has a long history of fairly clean elections every four or five years, Myanmar has not”

        Clean elections!!!!
        I believe you.

    • 4
      0

      How about Israel? USA?

      • 2
        0

        @Gatam
        how about the horse and the bull ?
        why drag the whole world to duscuss our conflict?

    • 2
      2

      deepthi silva

      “To be fair by them, our army has never got involved in politics, “

      What were they doing in the North East since 1960s?
      Please listen to or read the Single Handed General Kamal Gunaratne’s statements then come back and tell us what he means by every sentence he gloriously utters.

      Please tell me why he always walks on red carpet when he is not sitting down?

  • 2
    0

    Soma, All we want is a formal and official acknowledgment of this from the government, which continues to pretend this is a democracy. We want the description ‘Democratic Socialist Republic’ to be changed to something else to reflect the true situation.

    • 2
      1

      Captain Morgan
      The man who dismantled Socialism and introduced Capitalism and an authoritarian constitution renamed the country as Democratic Socialist Republic !!!
      .
      Sri Lanka still is a good democracy. You are free to say anything, but not to do anything.

      Soma

  • 1
    0

    Pissing off India and UNHRC resolution may be used by the Govt to make Sri Lanka a military ruled country like Burma soon.

  • 3
    1

    This extract from
    “https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/2/2/analysis-why-is-myanmar-military-so-powerful”
    I trust will make us think before we theorize.
    *
    A state ‘born as a military occupation’
    The military has been the most powerful institution in Myanmar…since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948.
    General Aung San, the architect of Myanmar’s independence and the father of detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, founded the Burma National Army with help from Japan in the early 1940s. General Aung San was assassinated in 1947, but his legacy lived on in the military, and the Tatmadaw [Armed Forces] continued to enjoy strong public support in the years to come as the institution that liberated the nation from colonial oppression.
    The military enjoyed unchecked control over the country’s political scene from the very beginning. As renowned Burmese historian Thant Myint-U observes in his recent book, The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century, “The modern state of Burma was born as a military occupation.”

    • 1
      4

      So America .. France.. were liberated by Ballet Dancers but only Burma liberated by Army soldiers? How is that making Burmese Modaya or Burmese Rapist Army different from Sinhala Buddhist Modaya or Rapist Army?
      What is your point? Sinhala Buddhist Lankawe is safe and law abiding virtuous country, but not Burma Buddhists? Or as usual, you are trying to show that after reading in Encyclopedia Britannica about Myanmar, you are one step ahead to others?

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