30 September, 2020

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Every Thing Is Debatable, Not Negotiable

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Well-intentioned commentators argue that we should ignore the latent—and even episodically manifest—secessionism in Tamil nationalist discourse and give it the benefit of the doubt. They simplistically urge the speedy holding of elections to the Northern provincial council. These commentators have turned their backs not only on the Realist tradition but also on the best of the radical tradition. They are oblivious to the Leninist injunction of the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. These concrete conditions include not merely the ‘autonomist- secessionist continuum’ that characterises Tamil nationalism but also the ‘autonomist-federalist-secessionist continuum’ observable in many other parts of the world, as part of the post-Cold war strategy and project of the Empire.

The renowned radical scholar Prof James Petras deals with the phenomenon in his well-known essay on “Separatism and Empire Building in the 21st Century”. He argues that the Empire has resurrected the old historical pattern and practice of divide and rule. Petras pays particular attention to the destruction of former Yugoslavia right up to the secession under outright Western patronage of Kosovo, the de-facto separate existence of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, and the agitation in and over Tibet. He spotlights the use of global human rights propaganda campaigns to “weaken the central government”. In any country in which the Empire building project “cannot secure a stable client regime, it resorts to financing and promoting separatist organizations and leaders using ethnic, religious and regional pretexts”.

Petras captures the incremental character of the separatist project: “…separatist movements follow a step-by-step process, beginning with calls for ‘greater autonomy’ and ‘decentralization’, essentially tactical moves to gain a local political power base, accumulate economic revenues, repress anti-separatist groups and local ethnic/religious, political minorities with ties to the central government… The attempt to forcibly usurp local resources and the ousting of local allies of the central government results in confrontations and conflict with the legitimate power of the central government. It is at this point that external (imperial) support is crucial in mobilizing the mass media to denounce repression of ‘peaceful national movements’ merely ‘exercising their right to self-determination’. Once the imperial mass media propaganda machine touches the noble rhetoric of ‘self-determination’ and ‘autonomy’, ‘decentralization’ and ‘home rule’, the great majority of US and European funded NGOs jump on board, selectively attacking the government’s effort to maintain a stable unified nation-state. In the name of ‘diversity’ and a ‘pluri-ethnic state’, the Western-bankrolled NGOs provide a moralist ideological cover to the pro-imperialist separatists. When the separatists succeed and murder and ethnically cleanse the ethnic and religious minorities linked to the former central state, the NGOs are remarkably silent or even complicit in justifying the massacres as ‘understandable over-reaction to previous repression’.”

Petras cautions against federalism, pointing out with concrete examples, that “the shift from ‘autonomy’ within a federal state to an ‘independent state’ is based on the aid channelled and administered by the imperial state to the ‘autonomous region’, thus strengthening its ‘de facto’ existence as a separate state”.

That being the larger matrix, what is the solution to the Tamil Question?  I would argue for a two stage solution.  Why so? Tamil nationalism has to downsize its false consciousness and come to its senses so as to fit safely into a devolved polity. Just as a passenger demonstrating signs of being dangerously disruptive on board a flight will not be allowed to board, no entity which shows signs of a project which seeks to ‘prove that a solution is not possible within a united Sri Lanka’ can be trusted to stay within the Constitutional limits of a provincial council in our strategic frontier, across which is a historically – and increasingly—hostile element.  This is not absurdly alarmist. Sri Lanka must never forget its experiences with the threat of UDI (‘external self determination’ invoked in the alleged absence of adequate transfer of power) by the North-East Provincial Council of Chief Minister Vardarajaperumal.

Thus, in the Sri Lankan context today, devolution cannot be open-ended: there must be closure; the ceiling and ‘final status’ must be agreed upon and guaranteed before (re) activation, especially in a hostile sub-regional neighbourhood.

Provincial level devolution (the retention of which I remain an advocate and defender of) may perhaps be best put on the backburner in the first stage, until the subjective conditions ripen. The first stage could be one of creating a new Sri Lankan society, consciousness and citizenry, based on the equality of citizenship, integration and pluralism, multiculturalism and meritocracy, and the elimination of racism and racial discrimination in all its forms. The second stage could be that of activating the existing Constitutional provisions for devolution, with mutually agreed upon modifications (such as redistribution of the concurrent list). Why a second stage if the first stage can be successful? The answer is that the project of an equal citizenship can only succeed fully in a secular state, and that seems far too radical a transformation for Sri Lanka. Thus a second stage of irreducible autonomous political space at the periphery may be necessary for a successfully re-negotiated Social — or (ethno) Political– Contract.

The solution may reside in LLRC plus 13th Amendment (not 13 Plus); but LLRC first, 13th amendment second. It would constitute a combination, but taken sequentially, not simultaneously. An interim council appointed by the President, consisting of the elected local government authorities and/or MPs representing the Northern Province, may serve as a bridging  sub-stage or transitional phase between the first and second stages.

While everything is debatable, not everything is negotiable. Some things, a few things, simply must not be negotiable. The territorial unity and integrity of the Sri Lankan state, Sri Lanka as a single indivisible country, must never be up for negotiation. Whoever we negotiate with and whatever we negotiate on, must know and understand this from the outset.  Every political community has boundaries which constitute red lines that should not be crossed.

What can be negotiated are the specific arrangements, structures and forms within a united Sri Lanka. Nothing should be treated with or entertained however, if that discourse or enterprise rejects, is ambivalent on or fails to commit unequivocally and unconditionally to the parameters of a united, single, indivisible Sri Lanka. Within a united Sri Lanka anything should be negotiable– though it may be unrealistic, given the balance of forces, including public opinion over the long term, to expect to convince Sri Lanka that the North and east should be re-merged and the state should abandon its unitary framework.

There are those who may think that such a commitment is unnecessary and that cumulative external pressure from far and near could coerce or crack the Sri Lankan state. At one level this is belied by the evidence of thirty years, which includes savage, sustained suicide terrorism and an episode of large scale external intervention—both of which Sri Lanka survived intact.

At a deeper level, even that demonstrated resilience and tensile strength are of secondary importance.  What is little understood is that at least since 1965, a significant ideological strand in Sri Lankan politics and society has envisaged a situation in which the state and ruling elite will be unable to defend the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and that this task will devolve, as it did in China, Vietnam and Latin America, on anti-systemic forces. This is fed by the sense that Tamil secessionism has historically been beneficiary and extension of external hegemonism and has an abiding affinity with Empire. This militant ideology was most prominently articulated by Rohana Wijeweera and bloodily manifested in the second Southern insurrection. That was suppressed by the System reconfiguring and re-legitimising itself by retrieving the patriotic platform from the JVP. Had Premadasa not done so, the System would have been overrun– as would be the case at any time in the future that externally induced ‘regime change’ may install a neo-comprador, capitulationist-collaborationist leadership which permits reversal of the historic victory of 2009.

When faced with a threat to or erosion of national sovereignty and territorial unity, the Sri Lankan social formation reshuffles its power elite until it arrives at a leader capable of retrieving lost ground.

There is a new factor.  Towards the end of the war there was a steely determination among those who were fighting that any external intervention to thwart victory would be resisted by kinetic force.  That manifested itself at the command level of the armed apparatus in a post-war threat projection of a hostile external environment. That threat perception that seemed grossly overwrought at the time may prove to be otherwise. While this hostility is due also to myopically lost opportunities in the war’s immediate aftermath, the Sri Lankan state is more sinned against than sinning–or is as much sinned against as sinning. The new factor recessed in the hard-drive of the Sri Lankan state means that even if the shell of regime and state are cracked someday by cumulative, coercive external pressure, there will be a convergence and re-grouping of anti-systemic and systemic forces in a project of protracted asymmetric resistance waged by a ‘people-army’ embedded ‘at the base of the nation, in the minds of the people’ (Gramsci) – the ‘deep nation’ rising to resist the spatially and arithmetically extensive forces of external encirclement.

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Latest comments

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    Dayan, Absolutely, Every Thing Is Debatable, Not Negotiable. Those who argue, like Austin

    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
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    In short:
    • If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
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      Rubert Vanderkoon

      Who the hell are you?

      Give us your reall identity for us to have real debate.

      Dont be a coward.

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    Hey, please stop spinning like a broken down record player who no one hears anymore and please don’t insult academics by calling you self and “academic”! You are a self-promoting and self-seeking spinner of out-dated leftist post-colonial rhetoric. Lets talk internal colonialism, militarization and occupation within the postcolony by the post-colonial political class TODAY for a change.
    Right now the fact is that DJ is now running scared that he will be booted out from your nice romantic diplomatic Ambassador job in Paris paid for by Lankan tax payers – just like Tamara Kunanayagam was booted out of Geneva and offered a punishment post.
    Dayan is now trying desperately to save his job and unprincipled face by towing the Sinhala nationalist line. BTW. Look who Rajapakse took to Rio – Pathala Champika of the JHU and that horrible racist ignoramus Wimal weerawansa on whom he depends to whip up the nationalist drum to stay in power as the regime crumbles from within and without!

    • 0
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      @Kalyani
      That is why he is known as Dr.The Yarn.

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      Kalyani, You sound like the younger sister of the [Edited out] singer in London MIA-ignorant or whatever [Edited out] Dayan is a First class from Peradeniya and he is an academic. Can you even imagine things like that? [Edited out] Dayan is not scared, he will have a plush job here or there, he has always spoken his mind, who is an intelligent intellectual. Tamara is still a diplomat and little minds like you take pleasure with her transfer. What a low-life you are!

      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
      http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/
      In short:
      • If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
      • Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
      • Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you’re participating. Help make this an intelligent place for discussion and it will be.

      • 0
        0

        What has really happened to this guy? After he was summoned to Colombo his writings has totally changed. He has taken a u-turn, a 180 degree shift. I know that he has to save his daily bread, but even those people who sing for their supper do not stoop to this low level.

        What intellect/scholar is he, nothing but a bootlicker doing a dobhy job for the regime washing their dirty clothes.

        Why write all this rubbish,this Anti-Tamil Rajapakshe govt. has no intention what so ever to solve the ethnic issue. They are making use of these so called “academics/intellects” who are cheap (maximun a diplomatic post) to write some rubbish to keep the people who can think engaged/busy debating with him.

  • 0
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    Hey Dayan are you desperate to score brownie points with MR and avoid a punishment post in Timbaktoo, or what?

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    Kalyani and Dunce, you obviously do not know or have chosen to ignore my on-the-record statement to an interviewer in the Sunday Lakbima that I shall neither seek nor accept an extension in my posting beyond the end of my two year term in just over six months!

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      Dayan, Please stop defending yourself, it is a powerful article you wrote. These low-lives will look for petty pleasure in street corners. Kalyani knows about you now, because she knew the existence of only Prabhakaran until the end of the war. She’s openning her eyes now and happy at seeing little things, confused at big events and people, basically she is almost in a coma.

  • 0
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    What Dayan says is absolutely correct.

    Tamils have not played any games. After the demise of the LTTE-military leadership, they have focused every thing on the same concept. That is a govt for them and only for Tamils.

    Since, some where in early 1900s, when the British Colonials were preparing to leave Sri Lanka, until the last days, Tamils tried to convince the British governor that Sinhala people discriminated them which was not accepted by the British Colonial govt, and, therefore, the only solution was a separate state. Eventually, that became a fight for a federal govt.

    Even though the Colonial govt is gone, even though the Tamil- military force is gone, Tamil politicians are trying the same thing again.

    All these accusations of land grabbing, intrusion by Tamilnadu fishermen, and the need to remove army and navy from those areas are parts of those. Tamils need the Northen govt to them very soon. that will facilitate their programs well. Once they have the govt, once the army is caged inside the barracks,once Navy is removed from bay, as police is not trained to handle subversive activities, Tamils will have every thing to themselves and they will begin smuggling. Because, even after this many things, Tamilnadu Tamils havn’t stopped sailing to Sri Lankan shores to catch fish. In that trip, they bring anything else easily.

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    Canadian – Quebec politicians were handling a similar approach. While they were doing that, they also knew that also were fooling the voters. Some how, voters understood that the popularity of the party went drastically down, and they had to do some serious restructuring at the top.

    That same thing is happening with Sri lankan Tamils too. I think, at one point, the tide will turn the other way because the govt is doing some good work.

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    Dayan

    This time you have relied on another biased pseudo-leftists to justify your arguments. According to Wikipedia Petras describes himself as a “revolutionary and anti-imperialist” activist and writer. He has called the United States the “dominant Imperial power” and has called efforts to reform human rights in China “Washington’s human rights propaganda campaign”.[7] Incidentally, Chinese themselves have admitted that they have to improve the Human Rights in China.(check with the Chinese delegation to UNESCO, if you are in doubt)

    On the other hand Norm Chomsky is well known critique of USA imperialistic intentions. But could you also call on him to support yours and Petras decrying of right to self determination of minorities and demeaning human rights as a ploy benefiting imperialists. I am sure you would love to quote Chomsky than Petras if you can find Chomsky to support your reactionary ideology.

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      Hey Buddhadasa, you obviously do not know that Chomsky was one of the most celebrated critics of NATO’s intervention in Kosovo and of the carving out of Kosovo as a so-called independent state by the West. Anyway, why not answer Petras’s points instead of tossing Chomsky into the argument?

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        Dayan,

        Let me quote Norms Chomsky in his book Hopes and Prospects published in 2010; “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a landmark in the progress of civilization. Though it is far from being implemented or even formally accepted, its influence should not be ignored.

        But for you and your Petras the use of global human rights propaganda campaigns is just to “weaken the central government” irrespective of the fact that the governments you and your gang are paid to defend shamefully violate the fundamental human rights on daily basis.

        Yes, Chomsky criticized NATO’s role in Kosovo including the failure of the NATO to massacre the Kosovan muslims by Serbian overloads. But Chomsky never rejected the Kosovans’ right to self determination.

        Please don’t try to project Chomsky as an anti humanrights person. His major criticism about USA is that US has contributed to undermine the Human Rights by not making it sufficient condition in foreign policy and allowing human rights violations in Guantanamo etc.

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        Dayan,

        Let me quote Norms Chomsky in his book Hopes and Prospects published in 2010; “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a landmark in the progress of civilization. Though it is far from being implemented or even formally accepted, its influence should not be ignored”.

        But for you and your Petras the use of global human rights propaganda campaigns is just to “weaken the central government” irrespective of the fact that the governments you and your gang are paid to defend shamefully violate the fundamental human rights on daily basis.

        Yes, Chomsky criticized NATO’s role in Kosovo including the failure of the NATO to prevent the massacre the Kosovan muslims by Serbian overloads. But Chomsky never rejected the Kosovans’ right to self determination.

        Please don’t try to project Chomsky as an anti humanrights person. His major criticism about USA is that US has contributed to undermine the Human Rights by not making it sufficient condition in foreign policy and allowing human rights violations in Guantanamo etc.

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        Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        When did you discover Chomsky?

        This is unusual for Sri Lankan war crime deniers and war mongers.

        I am not hopeful Chomsky’s writings would ever have any civilising influence on any Sri Lankans, because they are born stupid without exception.

  • 0
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    (Editor. Pl ignore the previous two messages)
    Dayan,

    Let me quote Norms Chomsky in his book Hopes and Prospects published in 2010; “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 is a landmark in the progress of civilization. Though it is far from being implemented or even formally accepted, its influence should not be ignored”.

    But for you and your Petras the use of global human rights propaganda campaigns is just to “weaken the central government” irrespective of the fact that the government you are paid to defend shamefully violate the fundamental human rights on daily basis.

    Yes, Chomsky criticized NATO’s role in Kosovo including the failure of the NATO to prevent the massacre the Bosnian muslims by Serbian overloads. But Chomsky never rejected the Kosovans’ right to self determination.

    Please don’t try to project Chomsky as an anti humanrights person. His major criticism about USA is that US has contributed to undermine the Human Rights by not making it sufficient condition in foreign policy and allowing human rights violations in Guantanamo etc

  • 0
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    In 1984 Dayan come to Jaffna to take lectures to LTTE on the politics of Separation. He also have written a document on Nicaracuvva libration struggle for LTTE. That was translated by A.J.Kanagaratne and used by LTTE as text book in their military academy. Now he is advising to the State mercenary to against the implementation of 13 plus. This is the history of Sri Lanka left.

    1n 1987 Prabakaran was alive. He rejected the Indian project together with a provincial government with North East meager. Now criticism against Prabaharan ‘s stand during Indian intervention is gathering momentum among Tamils. Prabaharan who oppose Indian intervention was already removed by Sri Lankan state. Post Prabaharan The Tamil political leadership minus Prabaharan will not going to make the same mistake again.

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      V.I.S.Jayapalan poet

      I am told that you were once an anti Indian just as the rest of the Tamils. Didn’t you welcome the alliance (marriage of convenience) between Prabaharan and Premadasa in opposing the Indians?

      When did the Tamils become wiser including yourself?

      I do not understand lot of things.

  • 0
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    In 1984 Dayan come to Jaffna to take lectures to LTTE on the politics of Separation. He also have written a document on Nicaracuvva libration struggle for LTTE. That was translated by A.J.Kanagaratne and used by LTTE as text book in their military academy. Now he is advising to the State mercenary to against the implementation of 13 plus. This is the historical path of the Sri Lanka left.

    1n 1987 Prabakaran was alive. He rejected the Indian project together with a provincial government with North East meager. Now criticism against Prabaharan ‘s stand during Indian intervention is gathering momentum among Tamils. Prabaharan who oppose Indian intervention was already removed by Sri Lankan state. Post Prabaharan The Tamil political leadership minus Prabaharan will not going to make the same mistake again.

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      This is what we call winner justice.

      GoSL instrument, in which Dayan plays an important role, dictates how a Tamil party should behave. They all would like to have parties like Pillayans, Karunas and Douglas parties.

      Where are your promises made for Tamil parties before building an anti LTTE qualition?

      We can condemn separatism if GoSL offer a proper solution.

      Land grabbing, abducting and murdering the civilians in north is daily routine.

      And this is your party and your govt. Mr DJ!

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    Tamils has the right to separate in Tamilnadu. Because, everybody knows that Tamils lived their long enough. but, Tamils don’t do that because, they know they are not capable of facing it.

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      Jimsofty

      How come Tamils has the right to separate in Tamilnadu and not in Sri Lanka?

      Do the Sinhalese have the right to Separate state in Sri Lanka (for that matter whole of the island) given that they have lived in this island only for 2,500 years?

      It is confusing.

  • 0
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    The more this man DJ opens his mouth, he exposes his ability and capability. He is nothing but an Opportunist. Just like his friend Rajeeva W. The Educated FOOLS.

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      gamini

      DJ can take many opposing positions all at the same time aimed at self promotion at the expense of ordinary people. The incredible thing about him is he is not ashamed of his writings, life, intellectual dishonesty, war mongering, his service to most brutal regimes including EPRLF, above all his extraordinary ability to forget what he had said and wrote in the past 30 years.

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        gamini,
        You appear to be correct.
        Instead of berating the TNA et al,if basic Human Rights are allowed to the tamils,the talk about so-called secessionism will soon be a thing of the past.
        As long as they are subjected to suppression and repression by the state – almost amounting to State Terrorism – there will be anger,distrust and hate.

  • 0
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    It is through debates that negotiations result to arrive at a soultion acceptable for both sides in the end. What an intellect this man is?

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    Dayan, your attention to the machinations of Western powers to ostensibly destablilize `weaker’ nation-states ignores the broader issue at hand; that irrespective of the (presumably imperialist) intentions of the messenger, they are not entirely off-target with the message. For instance, there is really no scope for me to hold up a placard outside Fort railway station, decrying the activities of the regime you serve with such aplomb, with any guarantee that my right to free expression would be protected by the state apparatuses. To ignore this truth, and to brush aside all criticism of the regime’s human rights record as imperialist, is disingenuous and dangerous. There is also a contradiction that you simply ignore, which is that these self-same imperialist states, even as they critique the regime’s human rights record, have been unequivocal in their support of a unitary Sri Lankan state. So clinging to Petras really does not make things better when viewed through the violence we face in our daily lived experiences, regardless of our ethnic or other forms of identification. The fact that their is a disconnect in your abstract theorizing and our lived experiences is also manifest in your two-stage solution to the Tamil `question’ when the regime you serve time and time again denies that a question exists in the first place.

    If, indeed, there is steely determination of those fighting to thwart what they perceive to be external force, then that is because they have been educated to consent (Gramsci) to accept the regime’s view of the world. And it appears you have been educated to consent quite well by them as well.

    • 0
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      well said

  • 0
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    Tamil question is a Racist one.

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