23 October, 2017

Can We (Not) Design Post War Democracy – In Sri Lanka ?

By Suren Rāghavan –

Dr. Suren Rāghavan

Dr. Suren Rāghavan

Designing democratic developments in a post-conflict situation is ideologically, institutionally, and qualitatively, different from a post-colonial democratic construct. Reestablishing the vacuum of law and order and demilitarizing while the space for non –violent reasoning and debating towards a collective civic order will take priority. The genuine commitment of the political class to foster such environment, in which the new democratic possibilities can grow, is indispensable. No amount of international actors and their interventions can bring this condition, unless otherwise the indigenous elites are committed to democratic values. 

What is happening in Sri Lanka at this stage seems exactly this-the rulers are not interested in democracy while the international actors are coming in the form of inquiry which is interpreted as a direct invasion. More countries have seen the return of conflict due the absence of above minimum conditions in their immediate post conflict period. Lanka has spent five full years after May 2009 when she comprehensively defeated the Tamil Tigers, ending over 25 years of civil war. Yet her possibility to normalcy and democracy has been totally undermined by a political class (or family). All southern elections became mere mechanism of consolidating power than sharing them. Governance is considered an opportunity for self-glories than for the goodness of all sections of the society. Media and freedom of information are limited with a militaristic embargo. Charges of corruptions are far more serious than the times of war. In essence, the victory at war has turned to a defeat of wider democracy. Gravitational center of such situation is due to a political culture depended on the culture and values of newer political elites. 

Old Fires at New Village-(Aluthgama)

The Sinhala-Muslim ethnic carnage in Authgama confirms that Lanka is a structurally and ideologically fractured state. The question why Lanka with its most militarized apparatus and multiple security/secret services failed to detect and prevent another ethnoreligious conflict in a distance less than 100 KMs from capital Colombo can only lead to one logical conclusion. The security sector does not care or passively supports. This is not merely the security sector. In Lanka the security always, rightly and wrongly has been the obedient service tool of the ruling regimes. So then why do the rulers fear to build a democratic order in which the multiethnic society will self-foster? Instead fail to prevent deep violence between them.  In Bosnia, Burundi, Mozambique and other states we have seen recurrence of conflicts when the elites are threatened by the possibility of democracy – because democracy demands power sharing, accountability and fair play.  Then regime owners (or their appointed agents) inflate ethnoreligious sentiments leading to direct violence.

In Sri Lanka the Muslim-Buddhist clash was in the making. In my analysis of the militant Bodu Bala Sēnā.[1]  I had predicted such outcome unless the burning nature of issues are not dealt with firm and adequate satisfaction of both sides  taking the rule of law as our only guidance. At my subsequent interview (April 2014) with Venerable Galagodaaththe Gñānasāra – the firebrand leader of BBS, I discussed the issue of use of violence. To me his fears were political than socioeconomic. His learnings as a Rājakīya Panditha thera[2] were terribly dented with a deep fear of a systematic expansion of the Muslims and their fundamentalist branches. Such fears are a ripen platform for political elites in executive powers or those aiming at such. The abysmal inability to imagine a better way of politics and power imprisons these leaders in their primordial instincts. No amount of theories and analysis can provide the ethical and moral guidance needed to energize such vision. Social/Political science is limited in providing direct answers. Such crises are contextual to special setting. Solutions could come only on the strength of the indigenous cultures and their commitments to universal norms.

Beyond Binaries

The proposition that Islam is more violent than all other religions is popular.  It is equally popular in the public space that Buddhism is the most Ahiṃsā religion. Such binaries have no social scientific evidence. Instead what we have is the historical fact that all religions have used and are using violence as a discourse to promote their worldview. Perhaps the interpretation of the historical holy texts are bit disadvantageous to Islam where prophet Mohammed is narrated as a trading worrier who led at least six different wars.[3]  In Lanka, Muslims have mostly lived as a merchant community . Their political mobilization is led by economic and religious interests. And the (majority of) Sinhala Buddhists have lived side-by side to Muslim for a very long time. However, as discussed elsewhere[4] such dynamics changed primarily due to two reasons: 1) the protracted- humiliating Sinhala-Buddhist state war with the separatist Tamil Tigers until its triumph and 2) a newer (Sunni) identity politics adopted by a visible section of the Muslims.  In the post war context both these dynamics have competed to muster their powers to refill the new state order. Muslims in their religious identity – Buddhists with their cultural hegemony. Regime owners have willfully failed to regulate either one of them with rule of law and justice. Instead, such identity vote banks have deepened the binary positions and undermined the strength of democracy as well the speed it could return.

Democracy cannot be imported or implanted. It is based on a very fragile set of values and practices cross fertilizing human rights and liberty. When such possibilities are actively barred by political elites, irruption of violent conflicts is inevitable. The political horror in Lanka is that sections of the ruling are not mere observers of such developments but active supporters. The spiritual tragedy is that the Sinhala Saṅgha (or a vociferously active section of), have become the committed crusaders to advocate and activate an extreme interpretation of their role in leading Lanka’s history and future as a Buddhist state. Their vision is for a Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka. In fact one should not have any issue with that as that is majoritarian democracy. The issue becomes more complex when they desire all non-Sinhala Buddhist to live as peripheral or secondary citizenry and not equal partners of a working democracy. Such thoughts are directly oppositional to the fundamental norms of modern democracy.

Four Factors

For democracy, at least four key factors are essential.  1) a Civil Culture that genuinely desire and support democracy 2) Rational Actors (political and cultural) who dedicate to democracy 3) Independent Institutes those will uphold the legitimacy of rule of law and justice and 4) An economic plan where democracy brings sustainable development at grassroots level.  No analysis is needed to agree that in Lanka the 2nd, 3rd and the 4th factors are dismantled, disappeared and dissolved. The vision and actions of the majority political leadership (even more disappointingly their bloodline heir presumptives) do not bring any hope of a better society committed to democracy. From the Supreme Court to the local police station -the intuitional politicization is shamelessly naked and violently mocks at the ordinary citizens.  An army that fought a separatist war is converted to a lapdog position. Post–conflict economy has limited itself in construction of massive projects of harbors and airports with international loans at market rates with no use to the public or their economic progress. International casino investors are granted decades of tax relief while the taxes on basic food items have doubled or more.

Yet there is one hopeful last factor- the civic society and its common aspiration for democracy. The importance of civil society in repairing post conflict societies has been well argued. Their ability to cross the boundary of divisions to reconstruct a new society is essential. The cross ethnoreligious interaction and involvement of citizens in dialoguing and envisioning a democratic society towards a didactic exercise in forming a new social capital is paramount. There are lexicographic differences in what is named as civil society. Is it the political society or the cultural and intellectual segment? For me such terminological differences cannot erase the power to mobilize a common democratic future. Such historical waves of civil society had created many modern states from Germany to India. Looking at Lanka, and learning from Aluthgama- there cannot be any other determination but to mobilize the democratic desires of the civil society beyond it’s  politicized, ethicized and religiocide   code of conducts. For this, all forms of civil bodies from trade unions to religious societies needs to agree on a minimum common denomination for democracy. We will need to identify new popular and charismatic yet disciplined leaders who believe in consociational democracy and inspire such mobilization. Our collective failure to find any such possibility will inevitably entomb our remaining democracy. When we cannot feel the pain of the mother whose infant is brutally injured and struggling for his life in Aluthgama, when we cannot comprehend the rage in the mind of a Buddhist zealot who travels far to burn and create a carnage, then we fail one more time – in our history in our civilization. However, if we stand as a civil society committed to democracy then – as my friend Asoka Handagama had written වැලපෙමුද එකට ඉකිය ගෝරනාඩුවක් වෙන්න උන්ගේ කන් අඩි පුපුරන? සත්තකයි බුදුනුත් එයි අපි එක්ක එක පෙලට හිටගන්න.[5] The intellectual and spiritual challenge of our polity is to urgently compose such civil society agenda.

*Suren Rāghavan PhD, is a visiting professor at St Paul University – Ottawa and a Senior Research Fellow at Center for Buddhist Studies- University of Oxford. His book Buddhist Monks and the Politics of Lanka’s Civil War will be published in London August 2014. 


[1] See: Rāghavan, Suren, ‘Buddhisizing or Ethicizing the State-Do the Sinhala Saṅgha fear the Muslims in Lanka?’ Journal of Oxford Center for Buddhist Studies, Volume 4, 2013, pp 88-104    http://www.ocbs.org/ojs/index.php/jocbs/article/view/45/73

[2] An exam title won by scholar monks within the Pirivena education in Lanka

[3] See Andrar Tor, Mohammed The Man and his Faith, Routledge, London 2008

[4] Et al

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Latest comments

  • 1
    5

    It is strange that the TNA factor doesn’t get a mention, here.

    Had the Vellala CM cooperated with the Governor at least, and started working towards the Economic well being of the 300,00 ex captives, rehabilitated LTTE cadres and the non Vellala northerners , the situation today wouldn’t have been as bad as it is now.

    Instead, the Vellala CM and his handlers in fact ramped up their anti Govt campaign , a few notches up once they got the NPC..

    They thought they can push Rajapaksa all the way to get full Police and Land powers if the West and Ms Pillai come hard on him.

    It obviously had the reverse effect, with Rajapaksa winning every other PC election and heading for a total demolition of the Opposition yet again in UVA.

    As the writer rightly stated, investigations , specially foreign ones can be easily portrayed as invasions and used to the maximum advantage by the rulers.

    BBS bosses are Politicians . They will stoop to any level the same as our Opposition does.

    Does the main Opposition want reconciliation and better standards of living for the majority poor inhabitants?.

    I don’t think so…

    Muslim bashing in Srilanka by the BSs started only after the Monks went on a junket to Norway. And it is a fact.

    But Muslim bashing has been common in the West for sometime now, although they are same people who show most indignation over Aluthgama.

    • 2
      0

      Quite right Suren, DISTRACT the Sinhala Modayas with the BBS Balu Sena and attacks on minorities, DIVIDE communities and RULE is the Rajapaksa strategy.

      Miliarization of Sinhala Buddhism to legitimize concentration of power in the hands of the Jarapassa brothers is the logical outcome of this strategy.

      Civil society is highly compromised – look at Nimalka Fernando in Bed with the dead leftist Vasu the Minister of Social DISINTEGRATION and you know where it is headed, just like Ranil WIckramasinghe who like having “party leaders meetings” in the Parliament of corrupt morons (HA, Ha,Ha) to feel important, rather than talking to and educating the Sinahla moda voters on STATE TERRORISM and the need to ban BBS, arrest GAG, and have a Bill on Prevention of Hate Speach…

  • 2
    0

    Dr. Suren Rāghavan

    “Designing democratic developments in a post-conflict situation is ideologically, institutionally, and qualitatively, different from a post-colonial democratic construct. “

    The Goal of the polititians is to stay in power. They will use wahatever they can, race, kanguage, religion anfd lies to stay in power.

    Read the Lies in Silumina on sunday.

    Govt. rouses communalism to stifle ‘People’s Voice’

    JVP is doing a wonderful job of gathering people from all communities and educating them when Rajapakses are slaughtering Mslims in Aluthgama and Beruwala.
    JVP is the only peoples party in Sri Lanka and who truly working for people.

    I wish if JVP could have their own Radio station or a rented public broadcast channel to send their message throughout Sri Lanka and to the expatriate community.
    Our vote goes to JVP.

    http://www.lankatruth.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7128:govt-rouses-communalism-to-stifle-peoples-voice&catid=42:smartphones&Itemid=74

    A public rally under the theme ‘Let’s join struggle to bring victory to ‘People’s Voice’ was held in Badulla town yesterday (18th). The General Secretary of the JVP Tilvin Silva, the Member of the Central Committee Samantha Vidyaratna, Member of the Central Committee Ramalingam Chandrasekar, Member of the Central Committee and Member of Uva PC Sudath Balagalle and several others addressed the rally.

    In their speeches the speakers made a special emphasis that communal clashes should be totally stopped and steps should be taken to build national unity. They accused the government of nurturing communal and extremist groups and allowing illegal acts to be carried out by these groups. They revealed that communal riots are backed by the government to divert in other directions the anti government struggles that erupt at various places in the island opposing the anti-peoples practices of the government.

    In whatever situation the government could be made to kneel down by ‘People’s Voice’ and the best recent example is the defeat of the attempt by the government to deny the pension gratuity to state employees pointed out the speakers.

    A large crowd was present.

  • 0
    0

    Good analysis Dr S

    Muslims always went very closer with Buddists during the war even though majority of them speak. They benefitted whenever there was a calamity in the country. Sinhalese are not that modayas as they thought. They waited to finish VP and co and now the time to demolish Muslims. Tamils are the only hopes for Muslims..

    • 4
      0

      “Sinhalese are not that modayas as they thought. “

      Ha ha it dawned on you toddy??

      According to closest match of DNA there are Sihala speaking Demalas, and Tamil speaking Demalas along with the Tamil speaking Muslims from India.
      Both are modayas who are at war after 1948 and even before.
      The smarter modaya or idiot like Bush always wins because the poor modayas vote.

  • 0
    0

    Dr Suren Were you at Hemas in the 80s?

  • 1
    0

    ‘Can We (Not) Design Post War Democracy – In Sri Lanka ?’ – Blunt reply is ‘No—oooooo, No—ooo, No’.

    Catch all the Buddhist monks and put them in few ships. Then catch the politicians and put them in few more ships. Keep them away for a year or two further away near Antarctic sea. Then the civilians of all the communities can sit down and design a post war democracy.

    • 3
      0

      Perfect recipe!

      Mugabe loves sihala buddhist, nigeria loves sihala buddhist
      let the hora oru take them there for a suba anagatayak

  • 0
    0

    The title to Professor Raghavan’s article is correct as it refers to ‘Post War Democracy..’ whilst his article refers to ‘Post conflict situation’ which is wrong and it is a pity not only Raghavan but many other Academics also use these terms -of course the SL government uses it for their own advantage purposely.What we face is only a ‘Post war situation’ as none of the root causes for the conflict has been addressed and in fact the present govt.OR the Rajapakse govt. is doing all it can to exasperate it(through Orgs like BBS, militarisation and grabbing of lands and Rtd. Military Govrnors in the Northeast,its attitude towards democratically elected NPC,supporting lack of Law and Order and Rule of Law, keeping known thugs and drug dealers as Ministers to do the dirty things on its behalf) as it is essential for its existence in the absence of LTTE.

    • 3
      0

      “”as it is essential for its existence in the absence of LTTE. “”

      Ha ha – They are the nava ltte boys passa and co. giving you the same works. the ones you elected never counted for the ltte too while they ruled by the gun for the gun with the gun.

  • 0
    5

    Dr. Suren Rāghavan,

    Re “Can We (Not) Design Post War Democracy – In Sri Lanka? ”

    I believe we can IF all concerned approach it with honesty and on the principle of equality.

    This means starting with a clean slate and dispensing with aspirations of one group that subvert aspirations of the rest.

    Would you support the Exclusive Historical Tamil Homelands theory?

    If you do the answer to the question you posed is No.
    If you don’t the answer to that question is yes.

    What are your views?

    Kind Regards,
    OTC

  • 5
    0

    “”What are your views?””

    Untouchable cannibal Off the Nut Orange Sari Order fascist.

    A big middle finger to OTC
    ▂▂▂▂▂▂╭━╮▂▂▂▂▂▂▂ ▂▂▂▂▂▂┣━┫▂▂▂▂▂▂▂ ▂▂▂▂▂▂┃╭┃▂▂▂▂▂▂▂ ▂▂▂▂╭━┫┈┣━╮▂▂▂▂▂ ▂▂╭━┃╭┃╭┃╭┃━╮▂▂▂ ▂▂╲╭┃╯┃╯┃╯┃╭┃▂▂▂ ▂▂▂▏┃┈┃┈┃┈┃┈┃▂▂▂ ▂▂▂╰╮▂▂▂▂▂▂╭╯▂▂

    • 0
      4

      Ah the Septic Tank has gone berserk again Ha ha haa

      “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad”

      Kind Regards,
      OTC

      • 4
        0

        You are still drowned in your vomit keep trying but surely your death would arrive sooner than later under Goota care.

        • 0
          4

          Unless you are still in the age of buckets, you should know what a Septic Tank contains! Take care not to open your mouth too often lest you swallow too much of that stuff.

          Kind Regards,
          OTC

          • 4
            0

            You life from birth to death is in the 3rd world of slave where your fathers carried night soil- hmmm. Your are talking of swallowing because you are resident of pig nation of beggars and a paid terrorist of bbs.
            I have always lived in the first world where we understand what is sanitation, hygiene etc which you can never dream of.
            You mentioned that you are of low stock which we all agree from the way you write to your masters on this forum.

            • 0
              4

              Ha ha haa, the Septic Tank is talking about breeding when CT is littered with gutter language comments authored by Septic tank that attests to his breeding.

              You are generating a lot of gas Septic, nothing else.
              What else can you do when the brain has nothing but excreta.

              Kind Regards,
              OTC

              • 1
                0

                Turd Off The Nut.

                Which hole in the slum do you live??

                Your family has never seen or experienced the first world because your are untouchable SC/Tribe tatte motte fascist that you are entangled in the in SL style Open Loo like Goo`ta.

                • 0
                  3

                  Dear Septic,

                  Re “Which hole in the slum do you live??”

                  Oh don’t worry about where I live. My night soil ends up in the Septic Tank where you live. Ha ha haaa.

                  Kind Regards,
                  OTC

                  • 2
                    0

                    You are the classic Off the Nut- Pol Mudda Phew!!

                    You say you were the GA Jaffna- Are you dreaming of a gas chamber??

                    Across the Seas thousands of miles away here in the west we live a life devoid of scumbags that belch and fart because of their slave heritage.

                    • 0
                      2

                      Hi Septic Jadi,

                      Apparently that stuff has got in to your brain!
                      You are hallucinating.
                      Septic, that gas is poisonous.
                      Take care.

                      Kind Regards,
                      OTC

  • 0
    0

    Answer to the question is definitely not, as long as Rajapakses remain in power.

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