13 December, 2017

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Dudley, SWRD, CBK & GD, Who Is The Prime Liberal Of Our Times?

By Vishwamithra

“Of all the varieties of virtues, liberalism is the most beloved.”  ~Aristotle

A person open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values, that is the dictionary definition of a liberal. A liberal in the context of that definition would always find opposition and vehement resistance from those who are called conservatives. A conservative, a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics, at all times resists change; he is not only averse to change, he is fundamentally in denial of progressive ideas; he, in the writer’s opinion, is a great vehicle of resistance to human development. From Siddhartha Gautama to Socrates, Aristotle and Plato to Moses and Jesus Christ defied tradition and convention at the time and revolted against deeply held beliefs and superstitions. Their very appeal to the development of human thought and its relentless progress towards perfection had a novel and refreshing dynamic which eventually created a ‘religion’ or a philosophy which in turn created an untold number of devout followers.

Dudley Senanayake

Thereafter followed the corruption and contamination of the essence of the teachings. That sorrowful saga of adulteration has propelled human society to vastly expanding frontiers. Its expansion has embraced whatever that was available for easier assimilation of superstitions and blind following. Man’s inherent dependence for salvation on mystic and abstract existences of ‘gods’ and deities further helped to bury the fundamental purities of all religions and philosophies. Popular beliefs overtook intellectual curiosities. Propagation of beliefs in unseen gods paved the way for the rejection of elementary wisdom. It is in this context of rapidly advancing forces of corruption and contamination of original thoughts and ideals, one has to analyse and dissect the modern development of liberalism which has assumed novel intellectual dimensions.

In the West, especially in the United States and Western Europe, ‘liberalism’ is defined as a modern social force that is embracing all nuanced elements of human development in the fields of permissive and ‘free’ thinking. This fresh inquiry into the development of the human mind in its modern manifestations of unhinged expressions brought us the accommodation of human behaviors which were hereto rejected as ‘ungodly’, perverted and malignant. Hence the rejection of homosexuality, transgender conducts and lesbianism. But modern societies all over the Western world have chosen to legitimize and accept such behaviors as acceptable and tolerable. But liberalism in a political context is different in that the liberals are basically tolerant of the modern manifestations of liberal expression of human development. Their intrinsic belief in ‘social justice’ as an essential part of their political empowerment of the societies they claim to serve has an unmistakable appeal to the underprivileged and suppressed class of masses.

SWRD

In that context of ‘political liberalism’, Sri Lanka has produced some leading politicians whose contributions to the development of a strong sense of ‘social justice’ and fair play. In Sri Lanka’s milieu, political liberalism is essentially based on one’s beliefs and actions on the assimilation of all communities and religions into one cohesive single community and the accommodation of the minorities and acceptance of their legitimate claims and struggle for their ‘rightful’ rights. Blind and insular adherence to the dominance of the majority and its willful suppression of a minority did not appeal to these liberal minds of the four political leaders I am writing about in today’s column.

Dudley Senanayake, S W R D Bandaranaike, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Gamini Dissanayake stand out as the only such leaders who chose to withstand the dominance of the ‘majority-thinking’ and extend quite a friendly and generous hand to the minorities in Sri Lanka and introduce structural and fundamental changes to the country’s governing system. Dudley Senanayake’s approach to the nation’s demands for social justice and his unmatched empathetic comportment qualifies him to be among this elite group of liberals in Sri Lanka. Dudley Senanayake’s engagement with the then Tamil leaders in the likes of Arunachalam Mahadeva, G G Ponnambalam, S J V Chelvanayakam, E M V Naganathan and Murugeysen Tiruchelvam was always in a very constructive fashion and he was known to be a personal friend of these Tamil giants of his era.

However, his personal relationships with Tamil leaders alone would not have sufficed to be a liberal. His engagement with the Federal Party as an equal partner in the coalition government in 1965 and the very introduction of the Dudley/Chelvanayakam Pact on the basis of devolution of powers may have brought unmitigated scorn from the Sinhalese chauvinists, yet his profound belief in equality to all communities made him a man of great honesty and human decency. Yet liberalism should not be limited to just talk and attempts to enact and legislate the necessary safeguards to the minorities. It resides in baring fruitful consequences. In that crucial story of political achievements, both Dudley Senanayake in 1965 and S W R D Bandaranaike in 1957 failed miserably.

S W R D Bandaranaike too, known to be an unadulterated liberal of the first half of the Twentieth Century, went thus far and no further. At the most crucial moment of political accommodation and granting equality to the minority communities, Bandaranaike and Dudley Senanayake pulled their punches and caved into the pressures of their respective electorates. When Bandaranaike, with all his liberal-minded, expansive political genius drafted the famous Bandaranaike/Chelva Pact (BC Pact), he never provided for the coming of the Sinhalese-Buddhist opposition to ‘liberal’ accommodations. That opposition buried the Pact and in a very expansive sense, his life too. The ‘Buddharakkhithas’ of the era were not ready for any ‘betrayal’ of ‘the land, the race and the faith’. The giant liberals of the time, Dudley Senanayake and S W R D Bandaranaike, caved into the pressures of the conservatives who dominated the mind and thought of the majority.

CBK

However, that caving-in did not classify Dudley and S W R D as non-liberals. But the lasting memory they created in the alert minds of the then Tamils was one of being let-down and betrayed. That sentiment among the Tamil leaders contributed to their personal assessment of the two Sinhalese leaders. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) too is known to be a liberal politician whose rhetorical declarations bordered on outright departure from the Sinhalese-dominant thinking at a time of military conflict between the two communities, Sinhalese and Tamils. Controversy was always part and parcel of the CBK aura and her constant conflicts with the majority community regarding the most significant national issue placed her in a precarious position. Yet she never caved in, for there was no occasion to do so. Her attempt to rebrand the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) as a political entity which is tolerant of the minority interests did not achieve the desired results. CBK is a thoroughly forgettable liberal. Her continuous skirmishes with the media personnel and lackadaisical manner in which she administered the affairs of the country overshadowed the liberal attire she chose to wear.

Gamini

Then there was Gamini Dissanayake. His deep-rooted beliefs in social justice and equality to all communities, whether on the basis of caste, creed or race, made him a politician who chose to stand alone in the midst of popular conservatives in his own party. R Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali and even J R Jayewardene were never known to be liberals. Gamini’s involvement in the drafting of the Thirteenth Amendment and its inclusion as part of the Gandhi/Jayewardene Accord is beyond dispute. Describing the ultimate liberal, Leonard Bernstein who was one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history, said that ‘a liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright infinite future’. Gamini Dissanayake fits into this description not only in the sense of conception, but more in the eventual desired results he achieved in the real practice of liberalism.

Manifestation of liberalism in a politician, the sacrifice one needs to make in order to place that liberalism in a real litmus test in the unpredictable specter of politics, is indeed rare. But a very few politicians would go that extra mile in pursuit of his or her target.  Despite the wrath of the Tamil community leaders mistakenly unleashed on Gamini Dissanayake as one of the leaders in the burning of the Jaffna library, Gamini Dissanayake easily surpasses as a supreme liberal of our time. His liberalism was not confined in a rhetorical cocoon; nor was it used as a tool to gain votes among the minority Tamils or Muslims.

Dudley Senanayake, S W R D Bandaranaike, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Gamini Dissanayake were the only recognizable liberals of our times. In a land known for its generous hospitality and broad acceptance of opposite views and opinions, it is strange that the conservative leaders of the land have prevailed in the context of elections. Their fear-centered political message has carried the day. A very few have dared to defy the norm. We should be thankful to the few. 

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com       

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    You may be holding a brief for Gamini D. In the Tamil psyche, it is etched that Gamini D had much to do with not only the burning of the Jaffna library but also with Black July. He and Lalith Athulathmudali acted in tandem. So, Tamils believe. You have to disprove that V. to carry out your brief.

    • 2
      1

      GD. never done dirty politics in his career. But CBK is the best among all.

    • 0
      0

      He does, because he worked for him [Edited out] He always has a soft spot for UNPers and in denial of the ethnic pogrom of 1983 that started the war.

  • 1
    1

    CBK scuttled the Tiger proposals for peace. The Navali Church was bombed with much casualties during her tenure. CBK is a candidate for war crimes trials. Be real V.

    • 1
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      Are you aware of pirabakaran. He vanished all tamil speaking people right. He missed the respectfully living standards .Blindly belive the war.

  • 1
    1

    While SWRD and CBK fit into the liberal mould Dudley and Gamini D will not. Gamini had a thick trace of anti-Tamilism in his politics. That is understandable, in a bizarre way of our politics. He had to face a challenge to his leadership in the Nuwara Eliya District from men like Thondaman, Snr. Where is his liberalism when he compared Tamils in the area to ticks in dogs. Not only is his name associated with the Jaffna Library crime but also in several gruesome events in N’Eliya in July ’83. His reluctant accommodation to Tamils in the 13th Amendment, arguably, was more to strengthen his political fortunes by winning India to his side in the struggle for the post-JRJ mantle of Presidentship. It is well known Athulalathmudali – the other claimant was wooing the Buddhist priesthood and Sinhala caste votes. His anti-Indian stand was clearly palpable.

    Dudley’s prejudice against Tamil leaders of his time was because he felt the FP/TULF did not stand with the UNP – without question – in the several Coalition efforts of the time. Dudley also had his own views about sensitive political developments in the Madras State then – where the clamour for a State for the Tamils was growing – lead by the DMK. He unnecessarily feared a Pan-Tamil reality in the region. It is in record when Thondaman went to see Dudley with Senator S. Nadesan QC Dudley cut the talks short with the remark there was nothing to discuss.

    Banda certainly was a liberal and wanted to be reasonable to the Tamils. He did not
    expect the political hurricane of radical Sinhala Buddhism to be that toxic and fairly well organised – until it was too late. The inexperienced CBK was here and there – and eventually nowhere.

    Kettikaran

  • 1
    1

    No matter what , there is only one way to see a prosperous and happy Sri Lanka . until all politicians and every Single Sri Lankan is willing to share the economy and give a fair share to all Citizens ,without prejudice and greed , end unfair irregular distribution of employment and state funds , stop robbing the aid and other funds which are meant to develop the country and uplift the people ,and of cause end fake Nationalism to cover racism and bigotry ,punish such who indulge in it with heavy Cash penalties ,This beautiful Island will never ever progress. I still believe only Chandrika is Cable of doing it, no matter what the writer has to say about her.

  • 4
    1

    Gamini a liberal and generally known for acceptance?

    Wonder what the Jaffna library will say to that…….if it could speak!

    It was NO mistake as Rajan Hoole has clearly proven. Gamini was responsible for its burning!

    You are an embarrassment ! Being dyed in the wool green is fine but please do not RE-WRITE history !!

  • 4
    1

    This author gets worse and worse !

    Gamini a liberal and generally known for acceptance?

    Wonder what the Jaffna library will say to that…….if it could speak!

    It was NO mistake as Rajan Hoole has clearly proven. Gamini was responsible for its burning!

    You are an embarrassment ! Being dyed in the wool green is fine but please do not RE-WRITE history !!

  • 1
    0

    Liberal is a pejorative in a large part of the USA. We are about to elect a Pedophile, Bible-bearing, gun-toting man who wants the Ten Commandments in front of Public buildings and he hates Gays like Mike Pence our other good christian VP who will become our President in 2024. Liberals are spinning out. Liberalism is dead. Ultra White Nationalism is on the rise in White Western nations primarily because of Muslim immigration and ISIS or fears of it. Note how the US Embassy in SL has had to do an 180 degree turn now? Last year Keshap was pushing quite aggressively a liberal agenda on Gay rights(not a bad thing at all to stop hating and discriminating) by posing with the Rainbow flag in Colombo,. This year they sent a low rung pencil pusher to the Gay rights and TG rights meeting in Colombo. Last years they made a big deal of the Ramadan feasts at the Embassy. Social media kept showing it all the time. This year nothing. Same with TPP; Same with Paris Climate change. I am not sure if some of things Trump does are bad; for example he stopped the Presidential overreach by Obama and Clinton with two national parks. He has stopped TPP. He threatens Tariffs. Imagine Keshap and those other Diplomats now having to spin those policies.

    Oh BTW, Malaysia with 61% Malay Muslims have an official state religion; Maldives’s constitution says only a Sunni Muslim can be their president. Why the fuck do you people have a problem with just giving Buddhism pride of place? NO ONE has ever been stopped from practicing their faith by law. Attacks have happened and so have attacks on Mosques and even Sikh Temples happened in USA. That is not because of law but because of bigotry.

    Mangy and CBK are just going over-board to show their gay agenda and hatred of Buddhist local masses because they are the chosen ones.

    Only some fanatic Born Again Christians in SL and the US type Evangelicals have a problem with the constitutional clause; not a single Hindu has a problem. And between us Hindus and Buddhists we are the majority religion of most Lankans.

  • 3
    0

    Is it true, that your mentor Gamini D was only one of the 4 Cabinet ministers who voted against or spoke out against depriving Mrs. B of her civic rights? Can you clarify this please? Thanks

  • 2
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    If we look at all the Sinhalese political leadership, none of them qualify as liberals. Almost all came from the background of few families who are very rich landlords, benefited from European occupiers and opportunistic. None of them made effort to win the resistance from the most important conservative Buddhist Maga sangha. Why? They knew well the agreements are just to convince Tamil leadership to get their power.

    • 1
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      Ouch it hurts but you utter a lot of harsh truths. When I was in school, I was constantly reminded that some of our dynastic families who had land before the British got more land and perks from the British Christian masters!! or our ancestors were allowed to keep the land as Chieftains to the Kandyan court to remain loyal. Some got knighted too. So the Brits did pick and choose and while SWRD rebelled I think he rebelled because he saw the rank hypocrisy when he went to Oxford. Even though this is 2017, I remember and agree with something said about third world leaders during the cold war. “if you study in the USA, you come back a communist, if you study in the USSR, you come back a capitalist and if you study in Britain you come back a Nationalist”. Not sure but I am seriously rethinking my position as a Darkie with an accent in the Trump-White Supremacist-Bannon USA where there is a lot of open assertion of White Supremacy. Never felt this odd for 30 years. Thanks. Yes you are talking about that generation in the 1960s where the kids went abroad to study with so many privileges when the bulk of us were not allowed to go abroad to study. They grew up in the West. For me, for example it is my students who opened my eyes to being gay and gay marriage rights in an open society in the USA; but the backlash to that was what brought out the Evangelical fanatical Christians to elect Trump. So while it was a good decision to allow gay people to marry and be happy or unhappy just like heterosexuals.Buddhism does NOT judge them or condemn homosexuality and if people are real Buddhists they need to read the scriptures.

      I may get attacked here but I have some wonderful former students who are gay and now married too in an ultra conservative state. So I had to learn about it and grow into it. Religiosity is scary. But look at the rank hypocrisy. Gay VVIPs “married” in pretend marriages and others who are heterosexual brag about sexual prowess outside marriage like Trump. <b.Aiyo Aiyo

  • 1
    0

    I was in Jaffna when the Jaffna library was torched by hoodlums from the South who were driven by the order of your ‘so called liberal’ G.D and Cyril Mathew. The scars can’t just vanish with the time and the Tamils will not easily forget those historical blunders made by the law makers (breakers). The author writes with sheer ignorance or is he another ‘liberal’ like GD?

    • 1
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      Yes you are right. No one will forget those; how can they? People who survived Nazis and Japos during WW II have not forgotten their crimes. Germans in Eastern Europe who were then subjected to the same sort of treatment by Russians, Poles and Czechs have not forgotten either. I recently watched a NetFlix documentary called “Savage Peace” and had no idea of what the Winners of WW II did to Germans. Nazi Germans raped a lot of Russian and Eastern European women and they in turn took revenge on Germans too. I think here in the US in the South, they have deep seated resentment of the North. Even the new generations hate who they call “Yankees”; that is those north of the Mason-Dixon line in the Union. Most racist southern whites hate blacks and hate northerners too. They want to insist the Civil war was about states rights and not about Slavery and some of it is partially correct too if you look at right to own slaves as an economic right. But I teach freshmen and even young kids from the south have deep seated prejudices about the northerners and blacks too. Sad. The US Embassy Facebook will not be honest about issues here. Things are getting worse now. 1983 black July was a crime against humanity.

  • 1
    0

    SWRD foresaw what was in store and signed the BC pact. Dudley had the vision to initiate the DC pact. CBK was a liberal but was held prisoner by her cabinet. She is now a born-again liberal.
    GD liberal? Rubbing shoulder with Cyril Mathew during the burning down of Jaffna Library? Became the richest Lankan of his time?
    How about the Global Liberal Dayan?

  • 1
    0

    Quite unconsciously Vishwamithra by listing Dudley at the top of the list has chosen his Prime Liberal! My choice too!
    GD? This name should never have been listed out. Most people know his political History!

  • 0
    0

    Good article

  • 0
    0

    Although mistakes were made Chandrika is the best liberal during our time as during her time the economic policies of the two main parties came to be more or less the same.Private sector lead growth and giving back the nationalized ventures are two examples. Also during her time declaring curfew for the slightest thing ended. The public life kept moving. State intervention became lesser.

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    0

    The problem of liberalism monitored by Tamil Chauvinist who support for Tamil Homeland is that shifted to “real” Liberalist? By nationalist point of view they are having their own version of Liberalism. But “Tamil Liberalism” of self-rule or Homeland that connected to Neo-Liberalism champion of USA- led Imperialism.
    What is to done for the Tamil Capitalism ? Is that Tamils are Democratic or Terrorist or Liberalist ?

    I am looking for New Hobson or John Lock give new reservation for interpretations of Tamil-Liberalism.
    The politics of Tamil Liberalism, who killed or assignation persons which who an opposed “Tamil Homeland” has been by physically wipe out of this world was that belongs what type of ISM?

    The so-called ‘Federalism’ since 1929 advocated and agitated by SWRD of Tamil decadent of origin of Tamil blood . That generation are that belongs to colonial politics. In terms of Federalism and power devolution advocated by Tamils are ill-liberalist and anti-establishment of which undermined Democratic system of governances…..Sri lanka.

    Meanwhile Tamil “liberalist” of that inside LTTE outfit are well train terrorist who has been killed range of political leaders of UNP, SLFP and leader of Indian Rajive Gandi by blessing of TNA and TULF of that ill- liberalist.
    Are they followed by democratic liberalism of that world accepts by norms of fathers of Liberalism originated in Western Civilization?

    The Rajive G….. has forced us to accepts 13th Power devolution packaged by Indian GUN-Point ….IPKF!
    Is that right of democratic by values has not been embodied into Liberalism what you talk?

  • 0
    0

    Sirisena Yatawara.

    Who is an Ill-liberalist? Is it a Liberal who fell ill?

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