By Kumar David –
One swallow does not a summer make, but then a swallow is a swallow (no pun intended). At last the PM lashed out in Parliament on 28 January; he should have done it long ago but one has to be thankful that he did take a stand. Will he keep it up? Indications are encouraging; Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero and Yoshitha Rajapaksa are cooling their backsides in the lock up (for a week or two at least), Wasim Thajudeen’s murders may soon be arrested. The national anthem was performed in Tamil at the formal Independence Day celebrations for the first time in 66 years. and the PM says he will stand by Lanka’s commitments to the UNHRC (implied, notwithstanding President Sirisena’s contortions).
Now don’t get me wrong! Neither a PM nor anyone in any country can, single-handed, rout racism or fascism. That task, dear friends, is the duty of you and me and all of us. And who is this ‘us’? Democrats, liberals, militant leftists with an ember or two still burning in their belly, working or middle-class, or dammit even true bourgeois? There is little that Ranil or his great-grandmother can do to save us from misfortune worse than hell, unless we the people stand up and fight. Protecting freedoms is incumbent on the people themselves – I guess Thomas Jefferson and other quotable guys said all this centuries ago. The more jaded, the truer!
There are two reasons why this has more than a platitudinous ring at this conjuncture; one is to do with generations of racism, bigotry, chauvinism, call it what you will, in Lanka; the second is how steadfast the military’s loyalty to constitution and supremacy of the civilian is, and how sincere its commitment to human rights. These two matters need carefully reflection.
Racism has come a circle
Racism has come a full circle in the last two and a half generations and the opportunity is now ripe to smash it once and for all. This is not 1947-48 when the upcountry Tamils were ground into the dust, nor 1958 or 1965 when spineless prime ministers reneged on the B-C and Dudly-Chelva Pacts, nor is it Emergency-58, nor 1983 nor 1987. There was also the other watershed in 2009 when Tamil separatism was wiped out and mass Sinhala psychology relaxed.
My assertion is that times have progressed and Sinhala chauvinism is not the power it was from the 1950s to the end of the civil-war. In the aftermath of war victory there was a triumphal upsurge, but this has waned; the quotidian imperative has past and what is called the more deep rooted Mahavamsa ideology has little hold on the minds of 21-st Century young people. I was pleased to hear the PM challenge the racists to bring their mobs on to the streets and promised to respond with 100 for every one they mobilised. Had NM, Colvin, Peiter or Dr SA Wicks been alive would they not have been in an anti-racist, anti-fascist united front with Ranil?
The forces that can be mobilised to crush race mobs on the streets today are far stronger than in 1958, 1965 or 1983. The PM’s hard hitting line is welcome, but this is not what I am driving at. My case is that social forces at the grassroots level have evolved. Mafia-like brigandage of the Rajapaksas has helped generate revulsion against louts in yellow robes (I will not hurt my Buddhist friends by calling them monks) who indulge in anti-Muslim or anti-Tamil obscenity “to save Sinhala-Buddhism from halal eaters, or to protect the army from imperialist orchestrated war-crimes probes”. Let me rub it in again; Sinhala chauvinism is no longer the all powerful social and political force it used to be.
The balance of forces has changed in another way as well. Ranged against chauvinism is the united anger of all the country’s minorities. Colombo based ‘Jaffna’ Tamils are somewhat cowardly, but the Muslim population is young and will not stand for insult and injury. Upcountry Tamils voted to a man against Rajapaksa and those of that community settled in the Colombo and the cities are prepared to root out chauvinism. The race-hate instigators in the SLFP’s Mahinda faction, as well as Wimal, Gamanpila, Dinesh and even, what a pity Vasu, know the cards are stacked against them and refrain from stirring up riots. It takes only one firm response to drive cowards off the streets forever.
For three generations this nation has been drenched in the gangrene of racism. An opportunity has come, that comes but rarely in the life of nations, to extinguish the pestilence. Class collaboration, socio-economic compromise and foreign meddling to a degree, are a price worth paying to exorcise this evil. We may be on the cusp of a wave, let us not miss it. I said ‘may’, but we must push if we want to make history. Push, and encourage and watch purported anti-racists in government.
Furthermore, the international climate is far different from decades ago. The age of national sovereignty is long gone, everywhere, Middle East, South East or South Asia. There will be ample support from India and the West to deal with rampaging race mobs or conspirators in the military. Beijing you will note did not shed half a tear over the demise of the Rajapaksa mafia.
The PM’s Achilles’ heel
The danger point in the event of riot and civil commotion is the military. Putting out a military that has not been thoroughly re-educated and whose officer corps may still retain Gota loyalists biding their time, is unsafe. It is tactically tricky to quickly cleanse the officer corps except in revolutionary upheavals, and re-educating the rank and file into unquestioning loyalty to the constitution, accepting the supremacy of the elected civilian government and respect for ethnic and religious pluralism, takes time. In any case with other problems on its hands I doubt if the PM and progressive sections of the government have the energy for this. This is the reason why I have several times in this column advocated mass mobilisation rather than reliance on the armed forces as the better way to remove putative race rioters from the streets.
Instigation of racial and more frequently anti-Muslim disturbances has so far been on a small scale and the police have been able to deal with them. The police force, mercifully, is not as tainted by human-rights abuses as much as the military, and fortunately its 80,000 men and women are enough to deal with individual or sporadic incidents. The force conducted itself in a way that restored public confidence during the January and August elections. A senior officer has been convicted of murder and others are facing charges for corruption; there has been spring cleaning. Nevertheless the IGP and his senior staff have their work cut out in polishing up the force for what may be difficult times ahead when ratification of the new constitution and work the UNHRC mandated inquiry begin. A decent police force and mobilisation of the democratic masses is adequate to subdue enervated chauvinists if and when they dare venture out to arson, loot or worse.
The PM and the President
Although the PM is the more influential source of power the residual powers of the President ain’t nothing. I initiated the “Single Issue” idea (abolish the Executive Presidency) and despite leaders like Sobitha Thero mobilising for it, the 20-th Amendment went only halfway. The President retains some real (not merely formal) power and in particular retains control of the armed forces. In the context of my previous paragraph about the military, clearly the compromisers blundered when they forced more clear headed constitutionalists like Jayampathy to accept it. The President can call out the troops, but when there is disorder won’t Gota, Mahinda and their ilk gamble desperately and conspire with a surviving loyalist rump to change the direction in which the guns point? The PM’s Collective Agreement a few days ago with former army commander Sarath Fonseka’s party, and the latter’s possible inclusion in Cabinet at a future date therefore make sense.
Political stability is more important than this military technicality and in post January 8 Lanka this depends on a crucial link: The rapport between Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena must be sheltered. Anything that undermines this plays into the hands of the hounds of hell salivating outside. Both are aware of the importance of the alliance, not just for themselves personally, but for the country at large. Should this government collapse at this time all hell will break loose; that I am sure is a fact that cannot be contested.
It seems that the most serious point of contention at this juncture is whether the Resolution jointly sponsored by Sri Lanka and others at the UNHRC last fall will be strictly adhered to. In some pronouncements President Sirisena seems to renege on his government’s pledges and at times the PM seems embarrassed to repudiate the President. This dilemma must be resolved but do you have a sneaking suspicion that PM and President are gaming? You play good cop, I play bad cop; Sirisena is good cop at home and bad cop to the outside world, Ranil reverses the roles. Is this by mutual agreement? I have no idea, but if that be the case maybe we can relax and Sri Lanka, as usual, will muddle through.
Or perhaps the calculation is this – who knows? It is not possible to both punish the military for war crimes and grant powers (devolution though not in name) to the Tamil provinces at the same time. The double portion may be too much for even enervated Sinhala chauvinism to stomach. So is the calculation this? Get the constitutional bit done, but let the dead bury their dead. If that’s the deal, what will the Tamils say? I don’t know; I am not in a position to speak for them.
Amarasiri / February 7, 2016
Prof. Kumar David
RE: Let’s Work With PM To Pulverise Racism
“At last the PM lashed out in Parliament on 28 January; he should have done it long ago but one has to be thankful that he did take a stand. Will he keep it up? Indications are encouraging; Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero and Yoshitha Rajapaksa are cooling their backsides in the lock up (for a week or two at least), Wasim Thajudeen’s murders may soon be arrested. The national anthem was performed in Tamil at the formal Independence Day celebrations for the first time in 66 years. and the PM says he will stand by Lanka’s commitments to the UNHRC (implied, notwithstanding President Sirisena’s contortions).”
Looks like we have some leadership at last!
Yes. Unfortunately most of these racists are so stupid, that they consider stupidity a Virtue.
The average IQ is well below 79, the IQ average for the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.
Has anybody invented a medicine, an injection for example, that can be injected so that they, the idiots, can be made have common sense , for the Good of the Land of Native Veddah Aethho?
Sengodan. M / February 7, 2016
The last para is interesting. Tamils should be more concerned about the rights of the living than seeking Justice for the dead. So, if there has to be a compromise such compromise should be in favour of realising more and meaningful devolution to the provinces.
Emil van der Poorten / February 7, 2016
Another very thought-provoking analysis from my friend, Kumar (If he will accept praise from a “social democrat!”)
We have a veritable herd of elephants in the room – the “security” forces – and the question that I have is whether they will look at what the new regime has, at least, promised their parents, friends and relations in rural Sri Lanka in the matter of justice and fairness or whether they will act in the narrowest of their own self-interests and support a putsch by the likes of Gotabhaya Rajapakse who can dangle the carrot of continued militarization delivering employment (and pay) that was, up to their enlistment, beyond their wildest dreams. And make no mistake, as the wheels of justice seem to grind so slowly but surely, that man, his family and his cohorts are going, increasingly, to see little option but a violent overthrow of the government to save their very skins.
Vibhushana / February 7, 2016
The Tamils in India have decimated their fishing grounds with bottom trawling. Now that they have mismanaged the resource they are poaching in Ceylon.
Now, the correct solution is Tamil Nadu politicians reign in these Tamils.
For some strange reason the Tamils and their politicians encroach but also blame Sri Lanka for not allowing them to encroach.
If this did not happen it would hard to describe what Tamils in Sri Lanka are doing.
The Tamils have encroached into Ceylon, chased away original Sinhala inhabitants of North and the East. The launched a military campaign to impose a Tamil state by force. When that fail, blame the Sinhala people for “war crimes”!
Tamils appear to suffer from some kind of a weird psychological problem that we cannot solve. The problems you have is because you are foreign and do not fit culturally well in Ceylon. Just go to your corner of the world and leave Ceylon to exist in peace.
Burning Issue / February 7, 2016
Vibhushana the imbecile,
You endeavoured to concoct stories and created dodgy websites to show that the Tamils only settled in the north and east during 18th and 19th centuries. You have been comprehensively proved wrong; you ran away with your tail between your legs! Now you appear here uttering complete nonsense. What is the matter with you? Why don’t you grow up for goodness sake. You do not need to suffer from chronic insecurity; let me remind you one simple fact that is the Sinhala Buddhists are the majority in Sri Lanka. Let’s not worry about as to how that happened but you undoubtedly belong to the majority and your condition is unfathomable and distructive!
Emil van der Poorten / February 8, 2016
“My corner of the world” is SRI LANKA and no racist bigot like you is going to be able to do anything about it. You and your bigoted, Hitler-following buddies, can, of course, try to resort to that man’s “final solution.” Trust me when I say that, even then, you are NOT going to succeed.
I know where my “Sinha Le” comes from. I trust you can say the same from the cowardly, racist cover of your pseudonym.
JJ / February 7, 2016
Interesting perspective, Kumar, and an entirely plausible scenario – the ‘good cop, bad cop’ one!
However, Sirisena’s words (reneging on his pronouncements to the international community with contrary ones at home) and actions (nepotist, as an example) leave some doubt as to his integrity and honor.
However, what we do have is some hope that the disasters under the Rajapakses will soon be in the past and hopefully, never to return. And for that, we must be thankful!
Spring Koha / February 7, 2016
We should all support this clarion call to eradicate racism from our society.
Forget our idealogical differences, racism remains the number one cancer in our society and it will take the efforts of every decent man and woman to eradicate it. We have all come across it in some form in our daily lives; at work, at play, in the market place, and specially in political fora. Do not ignore, shrug your shoulders, or make light of it. Each one of us should as best as best as we can make known our distaste for this evil that will keep us divided, and ultimately destroy our national peace, unity and well-being.
Let us not wait until it is too late.
Pena Kiyanna / February 7, 2016
“There are two reasons why …racism, bigotry, chauvinism, call it what you will, in Lanka;”.
yes we know about one for sure – skit bags like you!
What is the other?
Sirisena Yatawara / February 7, 2016
Kumar David has cover up Tamil chauvinist political ideology by as reputation of Trotskyist line of politics in his past-LSSP political label.
Actually he is for partition of Island for Tamil Rough State by supporting Federalism as well as Right of self-determination by misinterpreting Lenin theory of Imperialism the last stage of capitalism..
There is no uncertainties Tamil separatism by and large of that difference between MS and UNP-Ranil W….Both are in same platform that created by US and UK agenda by and large.
Back by TNA and LTTE Diasporas of proxies of USA, UK and Norway global agenda in Indian Ocean. David is part and parcel of that global-programmed and for their hegemony of West in our region, as well as for the Tamil aspiration of Eealm puppet Regime in Sri lanka.
Their roots goes to Tamil Eealm politics had being advocated by TNA TULF and Federal Party since 1949 are the Traitor of Sovereignty of People and Democracy of an Island by the founded leader of SJV Chalvnagaem. Kumar David is very very closed that politics is not be surprised by so-called renegade ‘leftist’ in South.
Well, balance thinking tank has concluded that politics vision of Kumar David can see and judge that he is belongs the same school of thoughts of Eealm and separatism being promoted.
The blood is thicker than water.
Don Stanley / February 7, 2016
Excellent one, as ever KD. Many Thanks!
Seems that there is a propitious 3 way balance of power in Lanka at this time – MY3-Ranil- MR faction. MY3 and Ranil alliance will hold as long as Mahinda Jarapassa keeps making power plays! Ranil and MY3 need each other to counter MR.
Yes indeed, let us cease the wave and re-educate and de-racialize society and polity. All Sri Lanka’s institutions, not just the military, need to be de-racialized, de-politicized and re-educated to promote HONESTY and MERITOCRACY and gender-equity.
The Universities are hot beds of mediocrity, sexism and racism which keep out highly qualified minorities and women (woe to you if you are a minority and a woman). who are English speaking because the mediocre Sinhala swabasha faculty do not want to have to compete with and be shown up by highly qualified Tamils.
Sri Lanka needs a pro-active policy for MULTICULTURALISM and affirmative action to advance minorities and WOMEN. Sri Lanka has a highly educated female work force but they remain at home because of the RACISM and SEXISM they face in the workplace.
Chandra / February 7, 2016
Lament of an intellectually bankrupt ‘Marxist’.
K.A Sumanasekera / February 7, 2016
Don’t know about Racism, Batalnada PM is surely pulverising the Buddha Sassana and the non Malwattu Buddhist Monks.
Abiththaya who was converted to a Judas with Singapore Dollars is now the Powder Monkey.
Is he pointing another Monk to Bataland’a Yahapalana Police?.
lal / February 7, 2016
Always refreshing to read contributions from Prof KD. However, idealism on KD’s part may be a little optimistic. I agree with the writer that there has been a noticeable positive change among the populace towards race and, tolerance of diversity. There have been instances in the past when Tamils came forward to protect Sinhalese and Sinhalese came forward to protect Tamils during race riots. Although there is more awareness and shift towards peaceful co-existence there is doubt that populace at large will take risks to protect possible victims in the event of riots lead by gangs of murderous thugs. What is most positive now is that the police force is better equipped materially and mentality to be professional and hopefully non communal. There is is also a public expectation that law and order be maintained. KD’s faith in RW/MS will be tested soon, when it is time to introduce the new constitution and UNHCR dictated probes. Will RW/MS implement them fully as expected by the west, NGOs and India and, will they allow the public the freedom to protest against should they wish to?
n.ethirveerasingam / February 8, 2016
Kumar David said,
“It is not possible to both punish the military for war crimes and grant powers (devolution though not in name) to the Tamil provinces at the same time. The double portion may be too much for even enervated Sinhala chauvinism to stomach. So is the calculation this? Get the constitutional bit done, but let the dead bury their dead.”
Even one of the portion you mention will not be tolerated by the majority of the Sinhala voters – Chauvinist or otherwise. You don’t have to be a Tamil to predict that. Emil Van der Pooten has pointed it out clearly and bluntly in his comment. But it wont come to that.
The reality is that there wont be any prosecution of war crimes or crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka. By September there will be plans for prosecution outside Sri Lanka. The current government will be left off the hook. If the accused are convicted, they will force a new election and return to power. The State will become more insular. Economic Embargo will follow and the country will return to the early Seventies and chaos. India will be watching for an opportune time to step in. When will we ever learn?
Emil van der Poorten / February 8, 2016
I’m afraid that logic (and Sri Lankan and world history) suggest that you are absolutely correct in your prophecy of doom and gloom!
Burning Issue / February 8, 2016
I think that SL is prepared to deal with human rights issue but not the war crimes issue. I think that, there are enough evidences exist to prosecute military personnel for rape, mutilation and sexual violation; Trinco 5 etc. But the war crimes will be a thorny issue i.e. issues such as killing of Balachandran, white flag saga, killing of Colonel Ramesh can be dealt with easily but the no-fire zones and killing fields will be contentious from the Sinhala point of view.
ramona therese fernando / February 9, 2016
Very smug indeed, Mr. David (prof)!…..suggesting all kinds of treachery towards our beloved Motherland. From the outdoing of our National Sovereignty, to an Indian army invasion, to the rousing up our impressionable youth – Mr. David, you are salivating in anticipation aren’t you?!!! But it won’t work. Our Sinhala Buddhist Masses are too sincere.
scrt / February 9, 2016
PM should let go of those superstitious beliefs but work with inner confidence to lead. he should let go of last years bazaar jargon envisions(jan 9) and authentically lead to make this country a unique place.
Hamlet / February 10, 2016
“The national anthem was performed in Tamil at the formal Independence Day celebrations for the first time in 66 years. and the PM says he will stand by Lanka’s commitments to the UNHRC”
Unfortunately, in the photograph above, the General Secretary of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, Champika Ranawake, seems to be pointing the PM in a different Direction!