24 November, 2020

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LLRC:There has been no equivalent from Tamils

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Whatever one may think of the LLRC and NORAD reports, it is incontrovertible that two of the three major players in the last stage of the Sri Lankan conflict have undertaken and undergone a preliminary audit of sorts—the Sri Lankan state and the Norwegians– while the third (and the second in importance) has not, and not even thought to. There has been no equivalent from within the Tamil civil society or the ‘Tamil nationalist movement’.

While they continue to raise what each side may feel are legitimate issues and grievances in the soft polemics and manoeuvring between the TNA and the Government over their dialogue and participation in the Parliamentary Select Committee, the TNA’s increasing strident rejection of the LLRC report is altogether another matter of a different order. Distressingly, it permits the discrediting of more moderate and legitimate issues and concerns that the TNA may be raising.  Thus the TNA’s ‘rejectionism’ may work to permit the rejection of the TNA as peace partner. Most sadly it forestalls the possibility of a pro-reform coalition of a cross-ethnic, cross-party character, which can support the implementation of the LLRC ‘framework’ (as the report terms it). That framework is a minimum programme for the reconstruction of Sri Lankan consciousness and citizenship along the lines of civic republican nationhood. It is also, arguably, the Sri Lankan reading most congruent with what we may term the Asian reformist or Asian Realist perspective of the Lankan situation.

The TNA has seen the LLRC report’s (alleged) negatives as outweighing the positives. What is particularly noteworthy and lamentable is that regards the absence in the LLRC Report of a call for independent accountability hearings into the last stage of the war and the corporate conduct of the Lankan armed forces (as distinct from inquiries into episodes of excess and criminality) as a lapse that outweighs the Report’s acknowledgement of Tamil grievances, the identification of policy measures that gave rise to them, and the need to redress those grievances fairly (as contained in the segments on ‘Grievances of the Tamil Community’ ‘The Historical Background relating to Majority-Minority relationships in Sri Lanka’ and ‘The Different Phases in the Narrative of Tamil Grievances’).

Thus the TNA’s ‘rejectionism’ may work to permit the rejection of the TNA as peace partner. Most sadly it forestalls the possibility of a pro-reform coalition of a cross-ethnic, cross-party character, which can support the implementation of the LLRC ‘framework’

Thus, for the TNA today, the issue of broad-gauge accountability is of a higher priority than the long standing, deep-rooted socio-political grievances of the Tamils. I venture to suggest that had Appapillai Amirthalingam and/or Neelan Tiruchelvam been alive, they would not have rejected but would have constructively engaged with and leveraged the LLRC report.

I wish there were a more delicately diplomatic way of putting this but there isn’t. The call for an international investigation into the last stages of the war by anyone –such the bulk of the Tamil Diaspora, Tamil civil society and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)–who did not and still does not condemn the LTTE’s crimes and atrocities, internal executions and secret prisons, child soldiers and fratricidal murders, terrorism and totalitarianism, is as if most of German society did not criticise the Nazis and Auschwitz even after WW 2 ended, and called instead for an international inquiry into the fire-bombing of Dresden by the Allies!

No such inquiry will be countenanced by any Sri Lankan administration, nor would any Asian administration cooperate with any similar inquiry in their cases. Indeed the advocates of such an inquiry would be hard put to name a single administration anywhere in the world, including in the West, which has or would agree to a similar venture, in the matter of their own wars and armed forces.

Sri Lanka remaining quintessentially a democracy in an increasingly democratic world, it is the untrammelled right of any political party or individual to reject the LLRC report’s conclusion that individual instances of probable crimes and human rights violations should be independently investigated but that there was no evidence of systemic, systematic traducing of international humanitarian law. However, any political party that does so must also balance the exigencies of external or parochial constituency pressure with the larger de-legitimisation that results from crossing such a thick red line, not only of national security and core strategic interest, but of the broad and basic social consensus.

The issue of an international mechanism on accountability for the last stages of the war is the dividing line that defines the mainstream from the fringe, and in a more existential sense, the inner from the outer. It constitutes the perimeter of the polity.

While it is perfectly legitimate to call for such an inquiry, it would be far more correct and realistic to emulate the example of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who represents that institution which has been the most successful in history in the matter of combining the universal with the particular, the global with the national. His Eminence having just provided an example of ‘soft power’ as countervailing force, has pointed to the unfinished tasks of building a durable peace, welcomed the LLRC Report and its potential, and urged its expeditious and determined implementation.

The authentically concerned liberal or progressive reformer, whose motivation is the opening or widening of space and pushing forward of process, rather than of denunciatory posturing, extends a qualified support to the LLRC findings and recommendations, urging a compressed, time bound action plan and monitoring, rather than damning it out of hand and calling instead for an international inquiry.

Those who adopt a rejectionist stance towards the LLRC Report run the risk of reducing their political capital as serious i.e. responsible, moderate peace partners. They also risk the heightening of perception or misperception of themselves as an agency of external, non-Sri Lankan interests in a Cold war against the country. What this activates is a ‘push factor’, which functions contrary to the ‘pull factor’ which must necessarily prevail if political dialogue, ethnic reconciliation and nation-building are to succeed.

What lies at the heart of the difficult dialogue between the TNA and the GoSL? It is a problem within the ‘collective unconscious’ (as Carl Jung would have it) of the two undergirding communities. The Sinhalese for their part must recognise that at least from the 1980s, the ethnic question has been externalised (as repeatedly pointed out at the time by Mervyn de Silva in the Lanka Guardian), and that in the globalised 21st century, which is an Information Age, insisting on the ‘purely internal’ is pure delusion. Similarly, the Tamils must realise that there is a contradiction between on the one hand, their legitimate desire to be treated as equal citizens with an irreducible minimum of political and cultural space, and on the other, to be negotiated with as if they were representatives of another/their own country or a nation recognised by the world community.

It is impossible to urge on the one hand, equal treatment as Sri Lankan citizens, and moderate autonomy as a socio-culturally and historically distinct community calling for a reform of the Sri Lankan state and its policies so as to permit such incorporation, and on the other hand to regard oneself as a proto-state in equal relationship to the Sri Lankan state which is a legitimate political unit in the interstate system.

The Tamils may regard themselves as a nation (hence ‘Tamil National Alliance’) but this is unshared and unlikely to be shared. It is by no means recognised as such within the international community. The Tamils are not even recognised as a non-sovereign nation under foreign/alien/external annexation and occupation. The TNA does not represent a separate polity or political unit equal to the Sri Lankan state. It represents a political sub-unit, a sub-polity, a periphery or a unit which is striving to engage with – and must certainly be engaged by –the much larger part so as to constitute and cohere into a better, more equitable, open and capacious whole.

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Latest comments

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    Perhaps Mr Jayatilleka can draft one response on behalf of the Tamils and put in what is that that DJ wants them to say.He could at least give some pointer to their representatives …

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    So, DJ, do you have any specific proposal to Tamils? How they can do this? do you suggest them to appoint their own TRC or facts finding mechanism and come with their recombinations?

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    HE. Ambassador Dr. Dayan, you blame us!! we were/are the victims of this bloody war as well as discrimination , you ask us do that?? what kind of hippocratic are you?

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    So what Mr. Jayatillake says in effect is that the Sri Lankan state does not represent the Tamils. Confirmation of what was always suspected straight from a sycophant of the present regime.

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      This perception is correct. The north is ruled my a military regime, not by elected officials.The military’s writ pervades every aspect of society which is rigidly cotrolled. Any protest invites dire consequences.
      The military governer is building an expensive palce for himself by diverting funds from other sectors needed by society for its welfare and survival.
      http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34741

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    All these readers have asked more or less the same thing, so here is my reply. That section or those sections of the Tamil community which does not feel itself to be represnted by the LLRC or the Sri Lankan state, must surely undertake its/their own extensive audit, with the same degree of self-critical reflection as the Norwegian and LLRC reports display. They must also come up with their own recommendations, as the LLRC has.

    I strongly urge that the best educated, credentialed and knowledgeable members of Tamil civil society be asked to undertake such an audit. I would think that Prof Ratnajeevan Hoole would be the best to head such an exercise. Others could include P Rajanayagam, S Chandrahasan, Ahilan Kadirgamar, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Nirmala Rajasingham, DBS Jeyaraj and Mutukrishna Sarvanandan among others.

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    Tamil political aspirations have been expressed throughout the history by repeated electoral manifestations and when it failed by military means. Such expressions may have taken a wider even extreme forms, but quintessentially a demand for cultural, social and political self-rule. Since I am not an Eelamist, I imagine the summation of such demand will be a minimum model of Indian style regional/ethno semi-federalism (or whatever term one wants to use) that aims and empowers regional rule.

    This is not difficult or too demanding on the Sinhala polity as the 13th amendment is already at least 20 years old and embedded. Here again, it is the second tier of Sinhala political class which enjoys all benefits from the Provincial Council system. Present Ma. Ra. regime like every previous rule ( except for the 1995/6 proposals) does not have the political magnanimity or democratic vision to usher such minimum facility. Instead it is hell bent on reversing the 13th amendment, militarising the North-east, recentralizing absolute executive power.

    Just give me one step that this regime has voluntarily taken to consolidate minority politics and share power with the centre even after bloody victory?

    Honourable ambassador, author, lecturer, Dr Dayan Jayatilleka’s position is one that is well expressed in the Sinhala saying
    නොකෙරන වෙදකමට කොහොන්දුරු තෙල් හත් පතකුත් තව ටිකකුත් ඕනය

    Sinhala elitist (and now the under class) ethnic hegemony over the island, her politics and resources will not be reduced or changed unless an internal /external systemic factor forces them to do so.

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      Dayan Jayatileke (Son of Mervyn De Silva) is on e of the biggest con artist in Sri Lanka.

      His head is also totally swollen/

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        are u a doctor man? check your head whether it is there or not. may be like Duminda Silva’s.

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    I am at a loss to understand this abuse being heaped on DJ.In my view his recent writings are extremely well-thought, out, progressive and responsible ones, and above, all practical ones.It is irresponsible — and indeed vindictive — to bring up his earlier writings etc to malign him.And what has his parentage got to do with his writings.I ask?Mervyn de Silva was one of the most astute and well-informed poiltical journalist this country has ever had and DJ is following in his footsteps very nicely.DJ’s analysis of the LLRC commission — published elsewhere– is a masterful and well infiormed and his suggestions are indeed very practical ones.
    His suggestion that the Tamils undertake a self-examination and self-criticism (in the Maoist
    manner?!) is a reasonable one but it seems to me hardly necessay.Events have shown that the eelam theory is not only intellectually indefensible but above all impractical.Further,events have also shown that a gueriila war undertaken by an outnumbered minority against an organiized state will sooner or later be defeated.The state has essentially unlimited resources in manpower and money power — not to speak of ideological power –to carry on a war because the state continues whereas a gueriila movement will exhaust its manpower and money-power sooner or later.I am sure this has dawned on the Tamils and one can see this in the recent writings of some Tamil intellectuals and some actions by the poiltical leadership. Of course some members of the Tamil diasporo are too hysterical and indeed somewhat demented to realize this but I think it is time for Sri Lanks community to discount them and get on with the business of constructing a just and egalitarian social order,Such orders are not found ready made but are the results of active and systematic work and now that the war is over the island community — both the Sinhalese community and the Tamil one — has a unique opportunity to rise above tribalist loyalties and move ahead.Discount the past injustices and impractical programs and move on .
    DJ, among all the political commentatoirs in the island has the best ideas on how to do this…

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