23 June, 2021

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Darkness At Noon On The Ethnic Front – (2)

By Izeth Hussain

 Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

I must first of all make some clarifications on the point I made in my last article that India might someday impose a Cyprus-style solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka: Indian troops invade Sri Lanka, carve out territory in the North-East for the separate state of Eelam, and hold the frontier thereafter. That process would be comparable to what happened in Cyprus: Turkish troops invaded that country, carved out territory for the Turkish Cypriots, held the frontier, and the de facto division has held for four decades.

The way we think is shaped to a substantial extent by the experiences we undergo, and very probably I would not be thinking along these lines at all if not for the fact that I went as Ambassador to Moscow in 1995. The political question that preoccupied me above all else at that time was this: how was it that so few foresaw the collapse of Soviet Communism despite all the expertise on that subject in the decades since 1945? It happened that I was in Sochi and Moscow attending a UN Conference in 1989, and I actually saw the collapse at its incipient stage. Howard Wriggings, one-time US Ambassador in Colombo and a political scientist by vocation, was also a delegate to that Conference, but he was also part of a group of Kremlinologists who were observing what was going on in Moscow. He told me they were stunned by the almost unanimity of the open denunciations of Communism by the Russians they encountered. My thinking was that the Soviet Union would go through a process of transformation similar to the one initiated in China by Deng Hsiao-ping’s economic reforms of 1979: a process of economic liberalization together with pluralism not amounting to democracy. I thought that that process would fit into the convergence theory of Raymond Aaron and others, which was much in vogue in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, but came to be forgotten later. According to that theory the Western democracies and the Communist world would come to resemble each other because the latter would find itself forced to adopt the strategies required for the progress of the industrial society. Wriggins agreed that it was time to revisit the convergence theory.

But instead of the gradualism that I expected there was an abrupt cataclysmic collapse of the Communist system, followed two years later by the voluntary dismantling of the Soviet Empire. As far as I was aware that collapse was foreseen by only two persons, one of whom was Daniel Moynihan, a former US Permanent Representative to the UN, and the other was the French political scientist Emmanuel Todd who brought to bear his expertise as a demographer to make his forecast. Actually there was a third, George Orwell, who wrote the following in his 1946 essay on James Burnham: “It is too early to say in just what way the Russian regime will destroy itself. But at any rate the Russian regime will either democratize itself, or it will perish. The huge, invincible, everlasting slave empire of which Burnham appears to dream will not be established, or, if established, will not endure, because slavery is no longer a stable basis for human society”. Orwell showed the prescience of genius, particularly in his remark that “the Russian regime will either democratize itself, or it will perish”. I have long believed that the process that led to the collapse of Soviet Communism began with the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation of 1975. It was that that led the Soviet regime to try to democratize itself. It failed to do so, and perished.

I come now to the explanation for the striking fact that despite all the expertise on Communism, its sudden collapse in the Soviet Union was foreseen only – as far as I am aware – by the two political scientists I have mentioned above, and by Orwell, an essayist/novelist who focused largely on politics. A book by two American scholars who addressed the question of that failure on the part of the experts came up with what seems to me to be at least a partly valid explanation: futurological exercises tend to extrapolate past and present trends into the future without giving sufficient weight to the possibility that what seems today to be a relatively unimportant factor could suddenly become the catalyst for abrupt cataclysmic change. For the most part, it is true, past and present trends do extend into the future, with the same sort of things going on and on. But the unexpected can suddenly erupt as in the case of the Soviet Union.

How does all that apply to the case of Sri Lanka? The political unity and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka seem to be quite secure at present, but we can’t be sure about the future. Tamil Nadu restiveness over the unsolved ethnic problem could intensify and spawn separatist movements that might come to be seen by Delhi as threatening India’s unity. In that situation the imposition of a Cyprus-style solution cannot be ruled out. We must think also of the possible repercussions if international investigations into alleged war crimes get going. Charges will be made against the President and Gotabaya R and top armed forces personnel including Sarath Fonseka. Much bitterness and hatred will be generated, and it cannot be ruled out that things could get out of hand resulting in another July ’83. That could lead to a fateful Indian intervention. I have always thought of the break-up of Sri Lanka as no more than a “remote contingency” and as something that could ensue only from “a worst-case hypothesis”. But we now have the shadow Foreign Minister of the BJP declaring “Eelam is a distinct possibility”. In a recent development there seems to be a chance that Jayalalitha might be the next Prime Minister of India, and she seems certain that under any new Government Tamil Nadu will have powerful decisive influence in New Delhi. What we can learn from the unexpected collapse of Soviet Communism and recent developments in India is that it would be unwise of us to let the ethnic imbroglio drag on indefinitely.

But unfortunately there is not the slightest prospect, at present, of our moving meaningfully towards a political solution and ethnic reconciliation, and the overwhelming sensation one has is of darkness at noon. If the threatened international investigations into alleged war crimes really get going we can expect Sri Lankan society to be rent apart. Here is what I wrote in my article The Ban Ki-moon conspiracy in the Island of May 2, 2011, that is two years and eight months ago: “ ….. any serious enquiry necessarily has to be a very protracted one, leading to charges and counter-charges and recriminations, and possibly rousing undying hatreds. All that will necessarily mean that a political solution and ethnic reconciliation will have to go into abeyance for many years. Can anyone in his right mind be really confident about the eventual outcome? It could well be a further bout of war. Does the international community, by which I mean the UN membership as a whole, really want that for Sri Lanka, a small country that is incapable of harming anyone but itself?  It would surely make better sense to go for a political solution now, and some measure of ethnic reonciliation before holding a serious enquiry”. Unfortunately, it is only since a few weeks ago that our Government has started stressing the incompatibility between on the one hand international investigations into alleged war crimes and on the other moving towards a political solution and ethnic reconciliation. But no one believes that the Government is sincere about the latter.

How do we grope our way out of this darkness? A new Government in Delhi might provide an opening. The BJP may say that “Eelam is a distinct possibility” but it won’t be in a hurry to impose Eelam on us, regarding that only as a last resort, something to be attempted only if every other option fails. Its first preference would certainly be for the full implementation of 13A. The problem about 13A at present is that the TNA wants much more than that, while the Government – contrary to all its pretences – really wants a political solution without any devolution at all. Delhi cannot exert pressure on us beyond a certain point, but it can certainly exert decisive pressure on the TNA because without the backing of Tamil Nadu and Delhi our Tamils will today be no more than a conquered people, and they will be treated like most conquered peoples have been – that is to say, like dirt. So the TNA can be made to accept 13A, but our Government will at the best accept it only in a truncated form without land and police powers.

Is there a way out? Not, it would appear, if we conceptualise a solution and ethnic reconciliation as coming about only through Constitutional changes and the setting up of certain institutions, but there could be if we think of it in terms of a process of organic growth. What I have in mind is a new version of 13A+ – that is 13A+ full democracy together with certain attitudinal changes. Devolution alone cannot satisfy the aspirations of all the Tamils because of the substantial proportion of Tamils who will be outside the North-East. Their aspirations can be met only through full democracy. Furthermore 13A, even in truncated form, cannot possibly succeed with the present Government’s quasi neo-Fascism and racism which privilege the Sinhala Buddhists over all the minorities. We need more and more and more democracy, bearing in mind the observation of the great American journalist H.L.Mencken that the cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy. However, I don’t believe that anything will ever succeed on the ethnic front without the attitudinal changes of the sort that I outlined in my last article. With those changes – and provided that we can avoid a break-up – the dawn is certain.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    International investigation is first needed to determine if genocide of Tamils was committed: It is obviously continuing.

    That is the priority now to establish justice, which can lead to true reconciliation.

    • 1
      3

      Why do you keep talking of “our government” in the royal plural all the time Mr. Hussein? The Mahinda Rajapassa regime is NOT “my government” even though I am Sri Lankan!
      You Mr. Hussein seem to play the same DIRTY double game as your despicable Muslim political leaders – Rauf Hakeem and Muzzamil for instance who are supporting the Mahinda Rajapakse DEEP STATE and military dictatorship in Sri Lanka today while white washing the regime and keeping the Sinhala and Muslim modayas IGNORANT on the true nature of “our government”!
      The fact is that international pressure has certainly put limits on the Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother’s Human Rights abuses, rape, torture, murder, land grabbing and looting of the national wealth..
      So please think again before you write more nonsense!

      • 2
        0

        Your response is gratuitously insulting.I shall reply accordingly. You are a fool.Worse, you are an ignorant fool. This is not abuse, This is sound argument based on fact and reason.
        By “our Government” I simply refer to the fact that there is a Government that rules over all of us who are Sri Lankans. That is accepted usage, and is not meant to convey approval of the Government. You should have noticed that I have been very critical of the Government in my articles. You are a fool for two reasons. You don’t understand the simple use of the word “our”, and you don’t understand my articles.
        You are an ignorant fool because you suspect me of playing the dirty double game of the despicable Muslim leaders etc etc. In fact I have been attacking Muslim politicians and leaders for decades, far more than any other Sri Lankan of any community.
        I suspect also that you are a racist fool.

  • 6
    6

    Ethnic problem exists only in the minds of racists.

    They should see a doctor and cure it.

    The country need not change for them.

    If you can’t live in SL as it is just get lost!

    • 1
      1

      Ethnic problem exists only in the minds of racists.

      Hear … Hear … !

    • 0
      0

      Fathima:

      So, are jumping on the next plane to Geneva to deliver your prophecy? Geneva is waiting for you with open arms. Possibly may recommend you for the Nobel Peace Prize and you have my support.

  • 2
    5

    Saudi has many ethnic problems but who opens their mouth? None!

    • 0
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      Fathima:

      Peace be upon Rizana Nafeek. Is her beheading because no one opens their mouths there?

  • 2
    1

    Before talking of 13A+ etc.,Why not allow the administration/governance which prvails in PCs other than NPC & EPC be allowed to happen in these two provinces?
    In these other PCs,the governors DO NOT interfere in decisions of the councils as long as they are within the constitution of sri lanka.
    If this happens,there will be harmony and progress like in the south.

    India enforcing a “Cyprus type solution” is idiotic and extremely alarmist thinking only by I Hussain.
    Why is he propagating this?

    • 2
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      I must adopt your style of dialogue because probably you won’t be able to understand any other. You are being idiotic. You say that the idea of India enforcing a Cyprus-style solution is “idiotic”. But as I have mentioned more than once in my articles H.L.de Silva took that idea seriously.So according to you HL was “idiotic”. You must have the brains of an Einstein to be able to look down on HL in that way. Or is it that it’s you who is an idiot?
      I ask that question because although you can read you seem to be unable to understand what you read. You refer to alarmist thinking “only by I. Hussain”. But I referred to the fact that last April the UNP Vice-Chairman Lakshman Kiriella raised a question in Parliament about the BJP having made a threat to “carve out” Eelam, obviously meaning a Cyprus-style solution. More recently – as I have pointed out in my article – Kiriella referred to the BJP shadow Foreign Minister stating that Eelam is a distinct possibility. So the membership of the BJP and the UNP, and doubtless countless others, take the idea of a Cyprus-style solution as a possibility. But for you it’s only I Hussain’s alarmist thinking. You can’t understand what you read. Is it that your mental faculties go into abeyance when you read any article by me? Why?
      You ask “Why is he propagating this?’. I am not propagating it, man, I have been only writing about it as a “remote contingency” and a “worst case hypothesis”.
      What really is the explanation for your display of idiocy? Is it that your mind gets choked up with hatred and rage whenever you read an article by me? And is that because you are a stinking anti-Muslim racist? Who are you anyway? Stand up and be counted like a man instead of hiding behind a cowardly anonymity.

  • 1
    0

    Cyprus-like incision is the macabre dreams of those wishing to keep Sinhala-Tamil tensions high. India has many peaceful options to work with Sri Lanka than this highly unlikely and precipitous action.

    “JJ for Indian PM” suggestion is too far-fetched. Even if the BJP gets less than 180 seats in the Lok Sabha the pre-dominantly Hindi-speaking States, that add up to the largest composition of the Lok Sabha, are likely to go for a Hindi-speaker as PM. This is the considered opinion of top Analysts in South India. I am afraid this is one more bogey to create Tamil hatred among the Sinhalese. At any rate, JJ will prefer her status in the MLA to a Rajya Sabha seat.

    Tamils from “pariah dogs” to “dirt”??? Hardly the language expected of one said to be trained in the gentle art of diplomacy. How depraved can senile minds sink to in their inability to conceal their communal prejudice?

    Pandaranayagam

    • 1
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      Pandaranayagam:

      Do you know the meaning of dreams? I urge you to read the “I have a dream” speech/message by Martin Luther King.

      Just to recall, the Tamilnadu sentiment was to steer clear of SL politics after the murder of RG. The situation has dramatically changed now. Notwithstanding any political grandstanding, ALL parties have uananimously supported and have even passed resolutions in the assembly demanding economic sanctions against the SL regime. Politics aside, this foretells the future in ways not expected the least before. This change did not happen in thin air. The brutal murder, or even genocide, of thousands of civilians and hiding them from the world screen has infuriated Tamils and other internationally.

      Mark my word, and unless the SL regime moves forward with a sincere devolution package for the Tamils, SL will end up with a Cyprus like solution. This will largely depend on the sincerity of the SL regime. The world has stopped believing the drama and lies of the regime.

      • 0
        0

        Jansee,

        The Rajapakses are playing with fire in the absence of backbone in the siblings to come out with the Carpe Diem spirit. That is because, as their top man used to tell a few of us even as late as 2006 “Sinhalese are prisoners
        of their own prejudices and are held hostage by extremists and chauvinists” But the times, as Bob Dylan was to sing, are a-changing. The once rabid Ven. Sobitha Thero now admits Tamils are entitled to self-rule and that both UNP and SLFP lead Govts since 1956 have deliberately ignored them. He says unless the issue of the Tamil Nation (my description) is not settled forthwith Eelam 5, 6, 7…. will be soon with us. As many of us wrote regularly, it is the radical monks that divided the country and it is they who will have to get a shot of good sense and save the country fastly hurtling down the ravine of political and economic ruin.

        As to dreams – yes, I have read MLK’s immortal poem.I recommend to you the ringing thoughts of Frederick Douglas on July 04 and its relevant to the Lankan scene of today.

        Pandaranayagam

        • 0
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          Pandaranayagam:

          Yes, I have read Frederick Douglas 04th of July (including the recitation by james Earl Jones) and is in my collection database. I am at a loss how a seasoned politician like MR could screw the best chance any leader in this world have. May be this is the real him but he will be sorry one day, that much I am sure.

    • 0
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      This fellow writes in his peculiar prose “Cyprus-like incision is the macabre dreams of those wishing to keep Sinhala-Tamil tensions high”. The BJP threatened to “carve out” Eelam. Was it the secret intent of the BJP to keep Sinhala-Tamil tensions high?
      Regarding my reference to the possibility that Jayalalitha might be the next Indian PM, he writes “I am afraid this is one more bogey to create Tamil hatred among the Sinhalese”. Many Indians hate the idea of Narendra Modi coming to power, and they know that Congress has no chance against the BJP. Consequently there have been moves in recent weeks to establish a credible third force, and Jayalalitha has been mentioned as possibly the next Prime Minister. Is it that those who have mentioned that possibility have the secret intent of creating anti-Tamil hatred amongst the Sinhalese?
      This fellow’s thinking really is bizarre. I wrote a straightforward article on the possibility that India might try to impose a Cyprus-style solution. But without producing any argument at all he declares that my secret intent has been to promote anti-Tamil hatred among the Sinhalese. No one else has made that charge. Furthermore he explodes into fury with the use of the words “depraved” and “senile” about me. This fellow is uniquely bizarre.
      As he cannot fault my arguments, he tries to fault my supposedly undiplomatic use of language. He is too much in a state of hatred and rage to be able to understand that the conventions and norms of diplomatic usage don’t apply outside the field of diplomacy. He refers to my use of the words “pariah dogs”. I had written that during the 1983 riots the Tamils were treated as worse than pariah dogs. I explained that I was being literal, not polemical, because from British times pariah dogs were rounded up and put to sleep, but in 1983 Tamils were burnt alive with total impunity. Most Tamils would see that as splendidly outspoken and most sympathetic to the Tamils. But this fellow would doubtless see it as covertly anti-Tamil. He even objects to my use of the term “dirt”. I had written that if not for India our conquered Tamils would be treated like dirt. No comment.
      This bizarre fellow is an anti-Muslim racist who I believe is enraged by the quality of what I write. So I will enrage him still more by informing him that the Douglas he refers to in another response should be spelt with a double “s”.

      • 0
        0

        “Conventions and norms of diplomatic usage don’t apply outside the field of diplomacy” says Izzeth Hussain who has at least 3
        fights in this page alone. What does this quarrelling ex-diplomat
        mean? Does he mean outside his former diplomatic work he can wear his sarong and walk up and down Maradana (Colombo) railing in filth. No, Mr. Hussain. A diplomat is expected to conduct himself with grace, gentle language and charm – while in office and later.
        Someone tells me you got the Moscow posting because you were hanging around with Uyangoda and Packy Sara when CBK won – and
        that found you in Moscow. Your problem could be you don’t know if you are Muslim or Burgher – identity crisis? Please write and behave better or you will get what you deserve.

        Backlash

        • 0
          0

          The response of Backlash is rubbish, beneath contempt. Why am I noticing it? Though rubbish, it’s a good sign: no one of any intellectual quality is willing to write in defense of the bizarre – and insulting – Pandaranayagam.

  • 0
    0

    Just a meaningless rubbish.

    • 0
      0

      Mallaiyuran:

      Perhaps the truth hurts.

      • 0
        0

        India is out of the picture now. This time Subramaniya Swamy can not dilute the motion at UNHRC. Now, only western world is handling the investigation issue. It is going to be very strong this time.

        Nobody can drag Inia into this again. India stayed out itself from CHOGM so that that Cameron could visit to Jaffna and lead the protest on that. India is no longer going to come there. Period.

  • 0
    0

    Indian involvement and engagement in Sri Lanka will continue, due to the TN factor. A strong Central Govt in Delhi may be able to withstand the demands to impose a solution in Sri Lanka. 13A will remain the standard for devolution acceptable to India.

    As long as the Govt maintains friendly ties with the Govt in Delhi, any attempts to Cyprotise the country will not happen. Continuous irritants and provocations due to fishing intrusions and arrests should be resolved peacefully through negotiations.

    Govt should maintain a strict non-aligned status with regard to India and China. Any perceptible shift towards China especially in the military field will bring about repercussions.

    Govt should take steps to demilitarise the North which is one of the main problems preventing devolution.

  • 2
    2

    Mr. Izzat Hussein,

    Thank you for a very good analysis of the problem in Sri Lanka.

    What happened to the egalitarian society?

    The Mahawansa Sinhala Buddhist racism and the pandering to these racists by the state has been the core problem in Sri Lanka. In Cyrpus, th events that precipitated by the Greeks were similar, and India can do the Cyprus and the Goa Solution. there is precedence for in Yugoslavia and Kosovo and many other places.

    Then the Mahanama Sinhala Buddhists can make Bodhi poojas, and pour water at the root of the Bo tree until it rots, They have contributed to the rotting of Lanka and still continues……

  • 0
    1

    Izeth, [Edited out]

  • 2
    0

    Never a Cyprus situation, Sir. For Cyprus never really had a concrete identity of its own (being throughout history, at the assault of innumerable foreign powers). Sri Lanka on the other hand has had a long legacy of Sinhala- Buddhism(with a few skirmishes with Europeans, and Elara – but nothing to change the majority Sinhala-Buddhist identity). And India would have invaded long ago with the first rise of the LTTE, although they toyed around with the idea a bit. But India always had great recognition and respect for Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lanka.

    Best then is that Sri Lanka does exactly what she is currently doing : Gathering her Forces and declaring under the auspices of the Right of the Majority : The Democratic Socialist Republic of One Lanka and One People!

    • 2
      1

      ramona:

      It need not have to be simply a Cyprus like situation. There are other ways for this to happen and if it eventually happens it will be because of the stupidity of the regime.

    • 1
      0

      Ramona – thanks for your courteous dissent. True, Sri Lanka has had a solid identity over a very long period quite unlike Cyprus. But it is also true that it has experienced a series of foreign invasions, first from South India and thereafter from the West. For most of the time there has been more than one kingdom within the single entity known as Sri Lanka.A further break-up of SL is not precluded on the basis of history.
      The case I made out was that a Cyprus-style solution was only a “remote contingency” and a worst-case hypothesis. Suddenly and unexpectedly last April the BJP made a threat to carve out Eelam, and recently the shadow Foreign Minister of the BJP has said that Eelam is a distinct possibility. So I was not being entirely fanciful.

  • 2
    3

    Great analysis by Izeth Hussain:

    It is thought provoking. As he himself points out an attitudinal change in the Sinhala society is required for a solution to the ethnic problem.

    With the Kumarodaya books continuing to prejudice the minds of Sinhalese children in their schools/religious schools, based on the racist Mahawamsa no genuine ethnic reconciliation is possible:

    How can the Sinhalese children taught that “Tamils are very nasty people” in Kumarodaya books or other teachings respond positively to Tamils, or even Muslims for that matter as most of them speak Tamil?

    • 2
      2

      I think history is repeating in the island of Ceylon: We might as well go back to 1831 when Tamil homeland was separate from the Sinhalese homeland.

      That is the historically proven stable solution.

  • 3
    1

    sinhala Buddhist will never agree federal country but they only waiting India or USA will divided sri Lanka same as Hindus..Buddhist and Hindus together try destroyed sri Lanka for put down all power of Muslims and Christian.

  • 2
    0

    Thiru,

    “I think history is repeating in the island of Ceylon: We might as well go back to 1831 when Tamil homeland was separate from the Sinhalese homeland.”

    Your homeland at that time(Or any time for that matter) did not include
    Eastern Province. Hope you are willing to accept this situation.

    • 1
      0

      Ravi Perera please read authentic history not Sinhalese distortions of it! Go see the records in Holland, or Portugal where your ancestors came from.

    • 0
      0

      Middle country also Tamils homeland.

    • 0
      1

      Ravi Perera continues to harp the Eastern Province did not come under Tamil rule or a Tamil kingdom ever – a leftover of what Lalith A included in his armoury for his own leadership challenged influenced by the writings of the late extremist Gamini Irriyagolle. What has men of Ravi P’s ilk, with this warped mindset, to say about language and Hindu culture – the very basis of the Tamil presence in the Province. Of course, since the 1940s DSS set into the motion of forced Colonisation – otherwise an attempt to force change history – that has blurred the original histrocity of the area. Now the Rajapakses, impressed as they are with the enterprise of DSS and fellow communalists, are now extending this project to the North. Champika Ranawaka, who has changed his monicker with traces of Patalipura of old India – and his pseudo-nationalist hordes are busy altering archeological evidence in the Polonnanaruwa/Anuradhapura regions where there was a wealth of Stone carvings in Tamil. As history has shown many times in many countries when politically-inclined demagogues enter the fray the soup, sooner or later, turns toxic and gets exposed.

      Kettikaran

  • 2
    1

    Thiru,

    “Ravi Perera please read authentic history not Sinhalese distortions of it!”

    Have you gone and seen the records in Holland. Are you saying the Eastern Province which in fact was created by the British was part of Tamil territory according to records in Holland.

    How dare you ask me to go to protugal. You go back to Tamil Nadu where your hadi ancestors came from and still live. You selfish people.

    • 1
      1

      Pereras are not natives of Sri Lanka, you are either a Portuguese, or you know what: B—–D.

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