25 May, 2019

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Gunadasa Amarasekara’s Relevance

By Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

In an article published in The Nation last Saturday (May 2), Gunadasa Amarasekara comments on and questions the state of reconciliation today. He accuses President Maithripala Sirisena of violating the Constitution by allowing the national anthem to be sung in Tamil. He then accuses the Opposition and even the general citizenry of pleading ignorance with this.

He also extrapolates and charts the pacts signed with S. J. V. Chelvanayakam right until the P-TOMS under Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government and states that the reconciliation body she heads at present will (I think) reflect every failed separatist attempt made since independence. Badly.

Now it’s easy to insinuate. Easy to name names. Easy to allege and accuse. Substantiating allegation is another matter altogether, however. But while he doesn’t offer substance the way his detractors want him to, his article retains a certain relevancy.

Amarasekara and to a larger extent Nalin de Silva have always been called chauvinists. For years if not decades, those who criticised in-name-only peace were branded with that name. Every government-sanctioned reconciliation move was to be accepted without question. I believe Malinda Seneviratne got it right when he wrote of how we should be thankful to them for having pointed out that the LTTE had to be defeated at any cost. But I’m digressing here.

Gunadasa AmarasekaraWhat concerns me is Amarasekara’s choice of words. He titles his article “Is reconciliation relevant anymore?” At first glance it appears to be a blanket “shrugging off” of any reconciliation attempt. But that isn’t true. What he does in this article is what Professor Nalin has already told us: that the purpose of reconciliation as is understood here no longer holds sway. Why?

According to him, what the United States (and presumably the West) demands is not reconciliation but accountability. Now accountability is not reconciliation. This we know. To adopt a Sinhala saying there is a heaven-and-earth gap in-between. Reconciliation is easy. It presupposes acknowledgment and addresses grievances both real and imagined.

Accountability goes beyond this. It involves placing and accepting unconditional blame. Judging by the US’s stance on the civil war we can be sure that it wants accountability placed squarely on the government. The LTTE goes off cleanly, for the Americans at least. To Amarasekara, this may well be the first step of R2P, invoked whenever it is “felt” that a country’s sovereignty must be violated on “humanitarian” grounds, never mind how self-contradictory and ridiculous that sounds.

What makes all this relevant? John Kerry describing our 30-year war with terrorism as a war against Tamils makes it relevant. Ed Miliband’s Sinhala(-less) and Tamil New Year address makes it relevant. Perceived fears that national security is being compromised make it relevant. Much of these fears are force-fed by those who seek political gain, yes, but this hardly puts off legitimate paranoia provoked by Kerry’s and Miliband’s conduct.

I would like to believe that what Amarasekara is saying is unfounded. It is and it is not. Amaraskera seems to forget that times have changed. The political Other has become moderate. The TNA has effectively split on ideological lines, with the moderate faction gaining more substance. That is to be welcomed, no doubt. R. Sampanthan is not Amarthalingam and Sumanthiran is not Chelvanayakam. While I do have reservations with some of their politics (their preference for a united as opposed to unitary state, for instance), nothing really warrants comparison between them and their predecessors.

But while moderates may be gaining credibility this does not completely marginalise the extremists. In this regard Amarasekara’s criticism of reconciliation stands to reason. C. V. Wigneswaran’s genocide resolution is just one example. The moderates have not prevailed to the point where such conduct can be dismissed. It is this which injects relevancy into Amarasekara’s assertions, reason-driven as they are.

Not that this validates all his assertions. He considers reconciliation a bogey and largely unneeded. I refuse to believe that, particularly in light of his (presumed) agreement with Tamara Kunanayakam’s statement that the LLRC is “necessary for the island to unify our people.” But this does not de-validate everything he has written.

Neither the SLFP nor the UNP can be cleared of what Amarasekara accuses the government of sanctioning. The SLFP to him is a headless cadaver, bending before the UNP in a context where the latter seems to be embracing extremism. That is not true, but if we are to extrapolate this then even those who are “with” Mahinda Rajapaksa while having accepted ministerial portfolios are to be condemned. Then again, it is true that some of those who “supported” what extremists love to call “war crimes” are now with the UNP or with those who defected from Rajapaksa last year. Who’s to be condemned and who’s not?

The bottom line to all this is that Amarasekara’s relevancy stems not from his assertions but from how outside realities are vindicating them. Both John Kerry and Ed Miliband have added credence to them. That is worrying.

Amarasekara’s take on reconciliation troubles me, however. He doesn’t just view it with disfavour. He seems to doubt its legitimacy. He accuses its representatives of preying on imagined grievances. Like Nalin de Silva he views Tamil “aspirations” as a euphemism for separatism. Acknowledging the one, he argues, would be acknowledging the other. It’s that simple. For him at least.

As someone who has always agreed with him whatever the context, I would however respectfully disagree here. Some call reconciliation a veil for separatism. Some say it’s the be-all and end-all for ethnic harmony. I’d say that if it’s a choice between unity and separatism, I wouldn’t consider reconciliation as a cover for the latter. Cartesian “dvikotika” logic which dictates that the one is the other with no room for compromise won’t do. There’s a middle ground somewhere, I am certain.

Achieving reconciliation therefore, at least genuinely, doesn’t duplicate separatism. Conflating the one into the other may well be the biggest problem those who badmouth President Sirisena’s efforts must resolve. In this sense Amarasekara’s statement appears to be unfounded.

But I withdraw critique from here on. This isn’t because I accept what he says, but because not accepting some of his assertions doesn’t mean disagreeing with the rest. As I wrote before, outside realities continue to add credence to them. Shrugging them off just because some of his beliefs are founded on Cartesian premises would itself be an acceptance of Cartesian logic.

*Uditha Devapriya is a freelance writer who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com. His articles can be accessed at fragmenteyes.blogspot.com

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Latest comments

  • 12
    4

    This OLD MAN Gunadasa Amarasekara has been barking with Buruwansa for many years for nothing.
    I think that this old man should be taken to Psychiatric hospital for long period of treatment before his departure.

    He diligently creates his own hell before his death.

    • 4
      3

      “He accuses President Maithripala Sirisena of violating the Constitution by allowing the national anthem to be sung in Tamil. “

      Interesting.

      Para-Sinhala accuses Para-Tamils in Singing the Para-National anthem, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.

      [Edited out]

      • 3
        1

        Amarasiri, have you ever learned to tolerate other’s opinions? And do you want all of the mankind in the world to believe only what you preach? Your comments are nothing but thoughts of a rowdy hatred man who does see only 1 side – which is your favorite side that has inherited you from your parents probably – of the coin.

  • 9
    4

    This guy is a champion racist and a disgrace to the title he holds. He should be prosecuted and jailed for trying to create social unrest/divisions.

    • 0
      1

      Is agasthi the present day version of King Kekille?

  • 8
    3

    One IRRELEVANT one (Uditha Devapriya) commenting on another IRRELEVANT one Gunadasa Amarasekara, they are both best ignored.

    • 1
      1

      So, the only RELEVANCE is those who represent your school of thought Robert? Nice.

  • 3
    0

    Is agasthi the present day version of King Kekille?

  • 9
    1

    Whoever takes Gunadasa Amarasekara as a serious topic for discussion needs rehabilitation.

  • 3
    2

    RECONCILIATION? IT TAKES 2 HANDS TO CLAP.
    IT IS BUT 5 YEARS SINCE THE END OF THE WAR AND MUCH HAS BEEN DONE FROM THE ONE SIDE TOWARDS RECONCILIATION EFFORTS-i.e.,PEOPLE RESETTLED, REHABILITATED, INFRASTRUCTURE REBUILT, ELECTIONS HELD, MUCH OF MILITARY WITHDRAWN. A PRETTY GOOD RECORD FOR THE SHORT 5 YEARS!
    WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD HAS THIS HAPPENED??

    BUT ON THE OTHER THERE HAS BEEN VERY LITTLE MOVEMENT …ABD WHAT LITTLE THE GESTURES MADE TOWARDS RECONCILIATION HAVE BEEN OFFSET BY STATEMENTS OF “UNITED” and not “UNITARY”, AND ACCUSATIONS OF “GENOCIDE” BY NONE OTHER THAN THE NP CHIEF MINISTER! ALSO THREATS OF
    ICC AND GENEVA LOUD AND CLEAR IN THE BACKGROUND.
    HAS THE DEFINITION OF “GENOCIDE” CHANGED SINCE THE 300,000 PEOPLE WERE ACTUALLY RESCUED FROM THE CLUTCHES OF THE LTTE?

    YES. RECONCILIATION NEEDS 2 HANDS TO CLAP!!

  • 8
    1

    Uditha,
    Don’t waste time in quoting out and out racists like Gunadasa Amarasekara and that scientifically educated hypocritical idiot Nalin de Silva. From the subtexts of your writings and the tone of your posting you are implicitly validdating at least partially Amarasekara and Nalin de Silva- add Booruwansa to your discussion to complete it.

    Reconciliation, equal rights for all communities, equal status are a condition of existence. There is nothing to negotiate or argue on this.
    MJA

  • 4
    0

    As long as these extremists who propagate hatred have a following the minorities are doomed to be at the receiving end of violence. Fortunately there is no evidence that the masses go along with them. But it is always possible for some politician like MR to take their stand and mobilize the majority against the minorities as SWRD did in the 1950s. Those who are resorting to it will have to take notice of what is happening in the Middle East where brother Muslims are killing each other. The world is moving to a more righteous society but those who are evil will have to perish before that. those who take to the sword will perish with the sword whether they are Christians, Buddhists or Muslims and they will probably perish a the hands of their fellowmen.

  • 1
    1

    What public backing do Gunadasa and Nalin have. I remember Nalin de Silva contesting on Dinesh’s MEP for Kalutara district (where Nalin’s home base is) with the full suppoprt of Gunadasa, he hardly managed to get 1,000 votes from the entire district. Although they shout from the roof-tops, they do not have sufficient support.

  • 1
    1

    What about the gammapila holding a distorted flag

  • 0
    0

    A few civilized countries solved their ethnic problems with a referendum.
    Scotland , Quebec, and Czechoslovakia are examples. Why oh why can’t we supposedly Buddhist Sri Lankans do the same instead of indulging in pointless hair-splitting? Who cares about the difference between “unitary ” and “united”, except the likes of Nalin de Silva and Gunadasa Amarasekera?
    Isn’t it better than killing people?

  • 2
    0

    Mr. Gunadasa has forgotten that the Nantional Anthem was sung in Tamil from abut 1951 without interruption in the north (may be east too). It was stopped only after winning the war with the LTTE, not by changing any law but by word of mouth of those in power – MR and Gotabaya et al.
    Therefore MS is not changing the constitution. If Mr. Guna. cannot understand this, how can anyone accept his current thinking ability. He should retire gracefully. Before he came to life, Sri Lanka existed and after his life too Sri Lanka will exist. Pseudo Patriots who think that without them the country will disappear are vain glorious, conceited persons.

    • 0
      0

      Mr Jayaweera, because of people like you our country is still appears respectful in the eyes of many. Racists and Nationalist with narrow mind will perish disgracefully, examples are numerous. When are they going to live a life of respect and dignity. They will never create communal harmony in Sri Lanka, due to their low level thinking, we sacrificed our wealth- the brilliant youth of our country. At least must learn lesson before they depart this world.

  • 0
    0

    This champion of Jathika Chinthanaya is confused.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunadasa_Amarasekara

    He is confusing liberty and equality with reconciliation.
    Tamils living under military supervision, harassment and oppression merely wish to live as free and equal citizens like their brothers in the south.

  • 1
    0

    Gunadasa A, Nalin de S, Weerawansa, Dinesh g, Gammanpila and fellow travellers take an extremist and chauvinist stand because that is where they think the majority of the votes are. They willingly feed and encourage racialism and prejudice for their own political ends.
    From 1956 the people of the country have seen what Sinhala majoritaniasm did for our nation that was relatively prosperous and united until then. The recent proposals for Electoral Reforms was really aimed at reducing the seats of Tamil MP’s. For this purpose that arch anti-Tamil Dinesh G was made Chairman. It is well known on his own if Dinesh G competes anywhere by himself he will lose badly. He survives only in Coalitions. Dinesh’s sole view is to harm the Tamil political future. There are still liberal Tamils convinced
    living together in the background of the past is no longer possible and with men like this. So if the country is to be divided let us not blame the Tamil side. Gunadasa A and friends will have to take the credit for this.

    Backlash

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