31 October, 2020

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Guns Or Butter

By M. A. Sumanthiran

M A Sumanthiran

When it comes to public goods like the common defence and market efficiency, every State has a choice. According to the infamous analogy, in the zero-sum game of budget allocation, every State can decide whether to prioritize Guns or Butter. Guns represent the State’s ability to protect her stored capital and Butter represents her ability to generate capital. According to this simple analogy, a certain balance is clearly required as one without the other is bankrupt. Post-War societies present a unique opportunity. In a post-war society where peace has been won, Guns are (at least temporarily) obsolete. This fact provides post-war societies with an opportunity for unbridled production of ‘Butter’. Simple manifestations of this over simplified economic principle are abundant –Germany and Japan post WWII being the most obvious examples. Intervening variables certainly exist and the nomenclature ‘Post-War’ carries no written expiration date; it could dissolve at any moment for any number of reasons. But the central principle is not a prescription for a proper ratio between Guns and Butter, it is a description of the ratio’s simple uncompromising truth: a loss in one is a necessary gain in the other and vice versa. The abiding question for Sri Lanka is: how can we expect an increase in Butter if we have had no decrease in Guns?

Strange Bedfellows

The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Urban development are strange bedfellows. The former is charged with protecting the country from enemies of the state and providing for the common defence. The latter, the Ministry of Urban Development, is supposed to facilitate the re-settlement and re-building of communities of citizens. Through this reconstruction, affected communities can recover their losses and start contributing to the common goods of market efficiency and production.

The Army co-opted the Ministry of Urban Development several years ago and acts as the actualizing force for development initiatives.  But the army cannot wear these two hats at the same time. They cannot assume both roles under the boundless mandate of protection without answering a central question – are occupied territories home to enemies of the State or citizens of the State? If Tamils and Muslims are enemies of the State then the peace rhetoric is empty. The army’s goal could not be development but instead occupation, subjugation and colonization. But if Tamils and Muslims are citizens, then it is not the development side of their mandate that is misappropriated; it’s the defence side. Why do citizens need an occupying army? Why should this occupying army be tasked with regional administration and rebuilding? If the people of the North and East are full citizens then they do not require any extraordinary defence beyond that allotted to the rest of the country. The SL Army cannot exercise both defence and development roles simultaneously. If the Army is in fact operating under their Defence mandate, are we as a nation willing to fund and tolerate the whole-scale occupation of  the North and East. Are we willing, Sinhala Tamil and Muslims together, to risk a precarious peace and an un-paralleled opportunity for growth so that the Government can manufacture an enemy worthy of occupation? After almost 30 years of calamity will we now again trade Butter for Guns?

Army’s Role

As is typical of militia, the SL Army is organized. It is funded to a fault. It has the backing of the central regime. But do these facts make it uniquely equipped to tackle development in a war-torn region?

Advocates of the Army’s continued role in the North and East seem to react explosively when examples of post-war culture in the Global West are cited. While the examples of post-World War II and post Soviet block countries are pertinent, perhaps it is appropriate we compare ourselves to polities closer home who are experiencing many of the same challenges we are facing. We need not look farther than Sub-Saharan Africa to see what happens when a society starts to rely on an easily mobilized military instead of investing the time and resources necessary to develop a robust federal administration. Countries like Zimbabwe fall prey to a vicious cycle of [lack of resources – poverty – dire need – mobilization of the military – displaced labor – dependence -lack of resources – poverty and so on, and so forth]. Mobilizing the military cripples both public and private sector growth. Jobs are instead monopolized by the only available organization of manpower i.e. the military. This cycle is perpetuated when the community comes to rely on the goods and services provided by the military which leads to a lack of resources and a repetition of the cycle.

Many would point to Senegal and the Armee-Nation as a positive example of military involvement in civilian affairs. The Partners for Democratic Change characterize Armee-Nation as “Senegal’s model of civil-liberty collaboration that promotes development and security.” Interestingly the organization lists three central goals of Armee-Nation to which they strive to hold the Senegalese military accountable. The goals are to ensure that (1) “security sector agencies can contribute to the development of their country by improving civilian relations with government and civil society; (2) security forces have respectful, collaborative, and inclusive relations with the civilian population; (3) and security sector agencies are clearly subordinate to and respectful of civilian authorities and remain politically neutral.”

Armee-Nation and the unusual success Senegal enjoys relative to its neighbors illustrates that there is a bright line between effective and ineffective military involvement in post-war society. Firstly, the organization and resources of the military can only become part of a greater development and reconciliation plan if the military actively seeks to improve civilian relations with the government and civil society. The only way to accomplish this goal is by investing and developing at a Provincial level. The Central Government must empower locally elected individuals to make policies benefitting the constituency they are immediately accountable to. This model only works when a degree of autonomy is awarded, otherwise each Province remains wholly unequipped to meet its own development challenges. The SL Army can improve civilian relations with the government and civil society by allowing such a process to happen organically and without impediment. Instead of the SL Army assuming the role of local government,  it should look to transition as much responsibility as possible to justly-elected local provincial administrations.

Secondly, the SL Army must foster “respectful, collaborative and inclusive” relationships with the civilian populations they are involved with. Unfortunately, civilian relations is not a primary consideration for the SL Army. Civilians are routinely displaced from their homes demonstrating the Army’s lack of respect for private property. Many displaced civilians are caught like fish out of water separated by forcible relocation from their livelihoods with little to no means of supporting themselves or their family. The most recent land grab in Jaffna totaled approximately 6400 acres and affected several thousand Tamil people. The SL Army could not demonstrate less concern for civilian relations and this is a crucial aspect of post-war posturing.

Thirdly, the SL Army must be subordinate to civilian authorities and remain politically neutral. It was recently reported that the Jaffna Security Forces Commander Major General Mahinda Hathurusinghe and the Northern Province Major General G.A. Chandrasiri have interviewed and chosen 20 candidates for the Northern Provincial Council Election. The Army’s clear demonstration of partisanship and political posturing destroys any credibility they might have otherwise possessed as a body answerable to the whole of Sri Lanka. Their involvement in elections is not only spurious, but perhaps most tragically it completely undermines the quest for reconciliation. Is that what the Army of Sri Lanka is – an agent of a particular political party? How can lasting peace be forged on such terms with such agents purporting to provide for our common defence? The whole nation should feel marginalized and uncomfortable with the Army’s political activity.

In the end, the choice between Guns and Butter should be one left to the people of Sri Lanka. Is the South comfortable with the deployment of the vast majority of the nation’s armed forces in a time of purported peace? Is the South comfortable with the military usurping private enterprise and displacing market opportunities for Sri Lankan citizens? It is time we as Sri Lankans realize that there are only two categories of people in the eyes of the Government. There are those with her, and there is everybody else. All the resources of this nation are directed towards advancing the interests of those few in the Center while the rest of us are pushed to the fringe. The Center calls us citizens but through the machinations of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, they treat us like enemies of the state.

Post-war countries can have one of two landscapes. Either they purchase peace at immeasurable cost only to continue acting out their best impression of war, or they can use the post-war time period for growth, progress and prosperity. To date, Sri Lanka’s choice has been clear. The Military remains the minion of the State, doing the Centre’s domestic bidding without the oversight and accountability attached to an elected post. The Military hopes to win the North by forcibly subjecting them to the Center’s politics but this battle for hearts and minds cannot be won with organization and funding. This time the Military can’t create peace through force of will. This is not the partisan military’s battle. This is a battleground of ideas where victory is finding equitable and creative solutions. In this battle, peace cannot be won by dominance or imposition; it must be forged in the cauldron of the common good.

The author, M. A. Sumanthiran (B.Sc, LL.M) is a Member of Parliament through the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), a senior practicing lawyer, prominent Constitutional and Public Law expert and civil rights advocate

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Does this dude suffer from Severe Selective Amnesia?

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      The far-sighted and forward thinking know what Gotabaya Rajapake’s ENDGAME is: creating a DEEP state with a group of influential anti-democratic coalitions within the political system, composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, religious, security, judiciary, and administrative officers to enable a COUP D’ETAT for Gotabaya Rajapassa’s to take over as Lanka’s first MILITARY DICTATOR – in the name of “protecting Buddhism” from the minorities. Never mind that Sinhala Buddhism has been has distorted, perverted, MILITARIZED and destroyed by Gotabaya.

      Rajapassa is working towards a Turkey or Pakistan style DEEP STATE with the military running businesses and playing large role in the economy. This model of “development” is bad for the Military because it erodes discipline, encourages corruption, land grabbing and rent seeking among the rank and file, and amounts to mission and mandate creep. It is also bad for the economy since the state subsidizes military business and squeezes out competition.
      The notion of deep state that Gotabaya is creating, is similar to that of a “state within the state” and evident in many military dictatorships in the Mid East and Pakistan’s ISI which Gota works with. The political agenda of the deep state involves an allegiance to nationalism, corporatism, and state interests. Violence and other means of pressure have historically been employed in a largely covert manner to manipulate political and economic elites and ensure specific interests are met within the seemingly democratic framework of the political landscape.
      The outlook and behavior of the Rajapakse family and associated predominantly military and political elites who constitute the deep state, and work to uphold national interests, are shaped by an entrenched belief that the country is always “on the brink” of being DIVIDED. This is the bogey that Rajapassa promotes in the form of Balu Sena etc. Sri Lanka liberals will need to be vigilant given the levels of militarization as the ECONOMIC CRISIS bites and people mobilize against the Rajapakse regime on the streets. Big question is will China play the role of supporter of the Gotabaya dictatorship as the US does with the Egyptian military?

      • 0
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        The envisaged Coup is supported by the shipment of arms and
        ammunition held by a SL registered Security firm in international waters, in the guise of providing protection against sea-robbers,
        for convenient use here when needed,by a Director of this
        Security firm?. Retired Army Officers are running the business.

        Well, well, Guns or Butter, the decision rests on NPC results!!
        Wimal promised to go home if the Elections are held – remember?

        • 0
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          What happend to SWRD?

    • 0
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      K.A Sumanasekera

      “Does this dude suffer from Severe Selective Amnesia?”

      Is it an infectious disease caught from you?

      Please stop spreading, we urgently need a quarantine.

    • 0
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      why Leela ( K A Sumanserkera) did you give it to him hahahaahahahah

  • 0
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    From where is the DS going to get his !0% if not from Guns?

    • 0
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      Sanjay Karuna

      Doesn’t it make sense?

      More guns means less butter requirement.

  • 0
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    In the battleground of ideas, M.A. Sumanthiran represents the top tier of Sri Lanka. Thank you for posting this thought provoking piece from this great man. I always share M.A. Sumanthiran on my Facebook! I do, however, have to say that the videos of M.A. Sumanthiran in Parliament are not very good quality and I wish you would obtain better quality videos from the Parliament when you post his speeches.

    • 0
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      I concur. To get good quality videos of Hon. Sumanthiran’s speeches we have to stop ASSwar, Hitlerpaksha’s kiss-ass parliamentarian, from interrupting!

  • 0
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    Only those with first hand experience can write good comparative analyses of “Guns and Butter”.

  • 0
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    this guy should read paul moorcrafts book about the sri lankan war .He alludes to the fact that after the end of the LTTE there has not been a single incident to terrorst nature . He attributes it to the fact The Military was not disbanded but instead used in a peacetime role doing development work . In fact it is probably a master stroke by Gota . By not disbanding the Military and letting it interact with the Northen population in a positive way it is building bridges that could not have been built otherwise . Also not that the north and the vanni was always under some sort of Military govenence . This is probably the more benign form compared to what the LTTE was doing . In addition to keeping the peace in the North and helping the development it is also retraining the fighting force to be a true peace time force . the importance of which cannot be overstated . He also compares what happenned in SL to the disaster that accompanied the disbanding on the iraqui army by the US . and the Amount of trouble it created . It is never a good idea to send home a bunch war fighting veterans on a diminishing military pension . in other words this strategy actually achieved two birds with one stone .

  • 0
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    Only in a totalitarian state do the armed forces select (& surely campaign for)candidates for election – even for local bodies.
    Only in a totalitarian state do army generals displace trained career diplomats with long experiance,to top posts.
    Only in a totalitarian state does the army ‘arrest’ citizens and,without producing them in a court of law,hold them in secret camps for so-called ‘rehabilitation.
    Only in a totalitarin state do armed forces control the lives and livelihoods of citizens – with surveillance of familial/religious/business activities – to the extent of even granting “permission” to perform funeral rites for/burial of,the dead.
    Only in a totalitarian state does the army forcibly acquire lands/homes/businesses/means of livelihoods of citizens.
    Only in such a state does the army demarcate zones where citizens lived previously,as so-called ‘high security’ areas,for years,after a war is over.
    Only in a militarised state,funds allotted for the military exceed that allotted for education and health,many years after a war is over.
    In short,Mahinda Rajapakse is a Military Dictater as evidenced by all his acts of governance.
    No dissent/criticism is allowed.
    The judiciary is reduced to ‘approving’ all aspects of governance which perpetuate the ‘familial rule’ which is shielded from criticism by the army and law enforcement authorities.
    Sri Lanka has chosen “guns” to “butter”.

    • 0
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      No, Sri Lanka has chosen BUTTER, as clearly demonstrated by these few
      patriots in action:
      [Edited out]
      Please write instead of posting links – CT

  • 0
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    A more convincing presentation in so elegant a style has seldom been made on this subject as it relates to SL. With a precise definition of Butter, its primacy over Guns has been forcefully asserted.

    To empower the people in the Provinces, is to invest the concept of Devolution with greater financial resources. This year marks the 25th year since the establishment of PCs. In this long duration of time, how much has been the quantum of increase? How much incremental growth is there in 2013 for Devolution compared to Rs.50 billion increase for Defense in a single year?

    Even in pre devolution days, some of the major Departments had their decentralized District or Regional accounting units. Added to them were some more after 1988. They were then consolidated into Provincial
    units.

    A bloated appearance of finances for the Provinces is thereby given. The critical issue is how much of financial empowerment has there been to enable devolved decision making on projects or recruitment or even to change deployment between recurrent and capital, in the Provinces? Authority and purse strings are with the centre to give precedence to Guns over Butter

  • 0
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    apprently justice is a tamil that does not love Singapore .. lol

  • 0
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    Deputy wants Butter,

    But the Chief wouldn’t budge from his demand for Guns and Land.

    This is what the Chief Sambandan said in his press interview, when asked whether he will promise that their won’t be any revists to “sepatiism” after the TNA gets the North.

    “I am prepared to consult,listen and seek their advice”.And that is the Diaspora.

    Would the B T Reverand and P M Rudrakumaran advice Sambnadan to give our great majority of the inhabitant population , who happen to be poor rural Sinhala Buddhists, Butter?.

    • 0
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      LEELA you sound like you have a crush on Sambandan fellow tell us LEELA ( K A Sumansekera) are you GAY?

  • 0
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    Hay Leela (K.A.S) were you just born stupid by a freak of nature or were you trained to be stupid.

    • 0
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      Oh NO,

      This K A S LEELA, Writing for his Bread and Butter.

      like his bosses, He does not worry about poor’s bread and butter.

      • 0
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        he (LEELA alias K A Sumansekera) seems to writing for his bread and butter with the occasional slice of kraft cheese thrown in

  • 0
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    Separatists have been propounding theories such as this for something like 30 years! It is the same kind of ‘the LTTE cannot be defeated so make peace or your economy will collapse’ propaganda that was the litany of these people – of course quoting pundits from the USA and other members of the ‘international community.’ The purpose is to demoralize our citizens so that the TNA gets its way.

    Here the writer makes out that the state treats the Tamils and Muslims as ‘enemies’ whereas the reality is that the Government perceives the ‘enemies’outside the country who are waiting to pounce.

    The TNA is pushing for a pre 1983 military presence to facilitate a resurgence of militant separatism this time with a better political facade.

  • 0
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    “Intrested” you better show some interest in English if you want to contribute to CT. I don’t think you understood the article. :)

    • 0
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      Thank you Burt. But you might do well to make some effort at IQ improvement as the wider complex issues seem to be beyond your comprehension. One notes that your ‘contributions’ are mere ‘digs’ at others (ref. the ‘dig’ at Sumanasekera above).

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