6 December, 2022


Dying For Violence

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri has provided probably the best answer to various critics of the agitation campaign of the Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) of which he is the President.  His interview in the Lankadeepa of October 2, 2012, Devasiri covers much ground and puts the record straight regarding FUTA’s alleged NGO-funds-dependency as well as claims that FUTA was the pawn of political groups with agenda that had little to do with the main thrust of demands.

He has claimed that FUTA, contrary to claims made by various Government spokespersons, has no interest in overthrowing the Government.  Indeed, he was quoted in the ‘Rivira’ as being more interested in ‘changing the people’ or rather appointing ‘a new people’.

On the other hand, Devasiri is old enough, educated enough and has enough political savvy to understand that agitators don’t always control the script.  True, various attempts by politicians of various parties to make (small) capital of the political moment were effectively stymied by FUTA organizers.

There is no getting around the fact that the front seats at the end-o-march rally were occupied by politicians of a political party that held ‘privatization’ as an article of faith.  That should not take away too much gloss from what was clearly a very well organized event where political maturity prevailed over the general slip towards lumpenization that one has come to expect.

We are not talking here about demand-fairness, or the intellectual weight and moral worth of the same.  We are talking specifically about a demonstration of political position and related objections.  The claims about a ‘sinister hand’ amount to unadulterated rubbish, although one would not rule out people sniffing for possible takings of a kind more pernicious than the easily visible clinging-to-straw exercise of the UNP.  If there were, they were excluded from script-writing.  Even poor Comrade Bahu was unceremoniously hoofed out of the stage.

There was, however, a rather disconcerting ‘end note’ to the above interview.  Devasiri, when questioned ‘what next?’, ominously said, ‘If the government decides on coercion, that would be a big step; if that happens they will be discredited (emphasis ours)’.

‘Big step’?  For whom?  The FUTA struggle?  Devasiri follows that ‘conclusion’ with the equally ominous, ‘We do not know what could happen beyond that’.  Devasiri is no baby.  He lived through 88-89.  His fascination with things political is well known.  He is not only a historian but a keen student of politics as well.  He has read not only Marx, but Antonio Gramsci too.  He knows the old theories about the ideological state apparatus giving way to the coercive and under what kind of conditions.  He cannot be ‘innocent’ and ‘not-knowing’ about ‘what could happen beyond that’.

Technically he is on safe ground.  He could say ‘big’ means ‘important’ or ‘significant’, which is true.  On the other hand, as a person who is not insensitive to nuance in statement and/or silent, Devasiri would have been quick to point out (if that statement was made by a political ‘other’, for example) that the ‘big thing’ is something anticipated or even desired.

It is not very different to the Inter University Student Federation and their kind of political engagement where a ‘death’ is desired in order to keep things moving.  A couple of years ago, a key mover in that organization told me, privately, that it would be good if the government pushed them (the JVP – he made no secret of his party loyalties, although in public the IUSF vociferously claimed ‘independence’ from all political parties) into the jungle.

We would like to be generous to Devasiri, if not for anything, because it is hard under the circumstances to be generous to the Government, even if it’s certainly not an either-or situation.  We would like to think that Devasiri, knowing well the inevitable outcome of such a ‘big step’; around 60,000 dead and the system (which, as much as politicians, denies) stronger by another round; would do his best not to push things towards that tragedy.  He might even tell himself that in a way that is what can in the end keep the system going.

If we get that ‘big step’ and we get a replay of say 88-89 who gets discredited will only be of academic interest.  Historians like Devasiri will no doubt write all about it.  There will be a lot of discarded placards to clean up.  Among them a problematic but certainly appealing one-numeral slogan cum crowd-puller: 6%.

The Nation Editorial

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Government henchmen s are very frightened of losing their privileges & perks, they still want this corrupt rogue Govt to Continue without any hinder, so they could have their share of loots, so afraid of regime change.

  • 0

    don’t worry Malinda. The “big thing” would not come. Your pet-regime will be there. You will be able to make a living for many more years by spying on dissident intellectuals. You can twist their words and claim that ‘next uprising’ is coming. Are you worried about the lives that might be destroyed or the regime that might collapse. Even if an uprising were to come you can still call it “anti-Sinhala or something and get paid for it. Don’t say anything about the regime that might be planting the seeds of an uprising by ignoring important issues. If you do you will loose your job. Keep going machan, you are the kind of people this regime needs, though what the country needs might be different!

    • 0

      You hit the nail right on the head brother Amila! Atta boy!!! I have known Malinda for long enough to …

      Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy

      • 0

        It is evident that you don/t know Malinda at all

  • 0

    Malinda’s double talk on “Big Step” of Devasiri is inciting “Big Job” for him before the “big step”

  • 0

    “….Devasiri covers much ground and puts the record straight regarding FUTA’s alleged NGO-funds-dependency as well as claims that FUTA was the pawn of political groups with agenda that had little to do with the main thrust of demands….”

    This writer doesnt seem to be able to get away from childishly accusing all critics of the government “NGO funded”, “Politically motivated”, “Tiger funded” or “West funded”. Perhaps he believes that people still fall for this kind of unsubstantiated wild accusations. That people still believe that the sole intent of the West, NGOs and opposition political groups are to destroy Sri Lanka. And the thieving, murderous bunch of politicians he apologises for day-in and day-out are the saints?

  • 0

    We are being blocked help!

  • 0

    Its gota the white van goon who is militarizing Lanka to prevent regime change who is desperate for violence to legitimize his swollen defense budget and blocking our access to this website

  • 0

    “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.”

    ~Mahatma Gandhi~

    a partial list of fallen dictators:

    Muammar Gaddafi
    Hosni Mubarak
    Saddam Hussein
    Pol Pot
    Idi Amin
    Mobutu Sese Seko
    Nicolae Ceausescu
    Slobodan Milosevic
    Jean-Claude Duvalier
    Ferdinand Marcos
    Fulgencio Batista
    Antonio Salazar
    Alfredo Stroessner
    Benito Mussolini
    Adolf Hitler

    Mahinda Rajapaksa is having his time in the sun for the moment, but one day he too will fall…and there will be others. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

    • 0

      HAIL Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.


  • 0

    Futa demands could have been easily handled through discussions on the eve of the 2012 budget.First step is the acceptance that human resource development through Education should be on top of the Government agenda.Secondly,to promise a 5 year period for increasing the allocation for education beginning from 2012.Thirdly depolitisation of University administration,Fourthly admission of the demand that University lecturers are a special professional category that is on par with doctors, engineers etc.Fifthly a pay hike.Instead what this arrogant and foolish Govt does is to push them into the hands of opposition politicians by draging the issue for three months.If the Govt has the money to bid for Commonwealth games and hold the Commonwealth Heads of meeting in SL and spend on image boosting unnecessary lavish projects one cannot understand the delay in resolving this issue.

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