13 December, 2017

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Movement For Democracy Overwhelms Sri Lanka

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. Absolutely true and Sri Lankans know it. It is also said that “Threat of revolt is the final guarantee of all freedom”. This too is a proven truism. Both together make a potent amalgam. It may show its strength in Sri Lanka in a short while, the same way it did in 1994. From where comes a renewed momentum? From a convergence of wholesome factors.

Whittling Down of Freedom

For over three decades all Sri Lankans to the last citizen have been chafing against restraints and yearning for liberty. The mayhem and bloodletting of July 1983 gave plausible cover to successive governments for creeping limitations on personal freedoms. From individual to collective was but a few paces away and imperceptible was the advance. The first to feel the rigour were the minorities; ethnic and linguistic. The majority was not much away not to get engulfed. The years 1989-1990 saw the country aflame and drastic reductions in personal freedom encompassed the whole nation. A lingering war pushed the whole of society to the limits of tolerance and yet they put up with loss of rights with hopes of freedom to follow. The end of the war in 2009 suggested a new dawn, of hope and promise. But this was not to be.

Receding Dawn

To Churchill the sun never sets in the British Empire. To percipient citizens the sun cannot  rise in benighted Sri Lanka. Mis-governance for nine years shrouded the country in a cloak of darkness. The first few years of increasing controls were said to be necessary to contain separatism. No streak of light was allowed to peer through. Acquiescence of even the more vigorous activists of rights was enlisted either with consent or by coercion. Those resisting were eliminated fascist fashion. Lasantha Wicrematunge the editor of Sunday Leader was done to death to remove a thorn and to deter resistance. Undeterred the journalist community rose in stubborn opposition. A successor to Lasantha, Frederica Jansz, among the boldest of journalists was hounded out till she found a safe arbour in a western democracy. Weapons used were impunity and immunity found only in the war chest of authority. It’s a chest where executive, judicial and legislative powers remain fused. It is this apparatus which the people now seek to throw overboard.

The incumbent President prated in 2009 that ‘terrorism’ was defeated. Terrorism is a term used ad libitum to befuddle humanity. It was employed against social upheavals and also to counter minority assertions. Keeping the Tamils in thrall for long was and is the primary agenda. The UNHRC never to be diddled, is forging its unrelenting cuffs nonetheless.

Darkness at Noon

Since May 2009 the citizens are caught up in ever enveloping darkness. In every country that had been at war, the end of war signified the advent of peace. Consolidating the process implied reversal of policies of war time relevance and executing programmes of societal importance.

sri-lanka-protests 1-colombotelegraph - CopyAn end to war is sought to eliminate death and destruction. The size of the military expanded to make a killing machine more deadly is scaled down when the necessity goes off. Very importantly financial resources are saved and channeled to give a different life to the people. In Sri Lanka the whole citizenry had suffered deprivations for a quarter century and more. Their expectations of a breather were legitimately insistent. Impoverished sectors of education, health and agriculture looked for revitalization. Only an aching sense of denial and dejection are visited on them and are writ upon the nation’s face. Highways, ports and Colombo metropolis apart, no other prospect pleaseth. A few faint rays cannot dispel the darkness. A receding dawn that withheld the light has now cast a pall of gloom even at mid-noon.

A nation’s sagacity is seen in the way it subserves the present to benefit the future. Austerity today for prosperity tomorrow. Pare off the military to rational numbers and curtail the wartime high in expenditure of Rs 150 billion in 2009 to around Rs 100 billion or so. Instead annual increases maintained a steady tempo to reach around Rs 225 billion for fiscal 2015.  Education languishes with an allocation of about Rs 80  billion in 2009 increasing to around Rs 100 billion   for 2015. Impoverishment of the Health sector is equally woeful. Is there rationality or sense or sensibility in such apportionments?

The days of direct democracy are millennia past. Today in the rule of the demos (people) is there even an attempt to reach for their pulse? Definitely no. Bread and circus for the Romans. Lesser the bread more the circus (night races) for Sri Lankans. To interdict this harrowing descent and to reconnect the people and their representatives to the governance process is what the emerging movement sets out to do.

Debacles – Domestic and Foreign

Successive governments perhaps conscious of their incapacity to weld a nation, pursued divisive policies from day one of independence. Where programmes failed, pogroms followed. They have produced disastrous consequences. The legislated jettisoning of Indian Tamils has left the community poorer by a million when their natural increases are reckoned. Burghers were cajoled to emigrate in lakhs, their merited contribution notwithstanding. Muslims and Malays to emigrate in large numbers do not have to wait for long if the current regime continues. When the world’s diaspora counts 3% of their numbers in parent countries, Tamils are at 30%. For this feat, the state never abjured violence against them. Tamils know it best because they have felt the heat most for 58 years from 1956. The Sinhalese are not far behind with their diaspora at more than 5 lakhs. All emigrants with their natural increases are estimated at not less than 2.5 million, a colossal 11% share of the nation’s population.

Middle East and Allied Employment

What is designated as foreign employment with locations in the Middle East and elsewhere is low end for semi-skilled, unskilled and some skilled personnel. Trained employees are not too many. Per capita earning is poor but remittance is sizable on account of numbers which exceed 2 million. They are female or male head of the family who leave behind 3 members on average for the sake of this employment. The social impact of this employment is that life in 2million homes is affected for 8 million persons. The government so inept as not to be able to create employment opportunities, is guilty of this default.

In a similar fashion 100,000 Tamil refugees are yet in Tamil Nadu, with no means provided for their return, rehabilitation and reintegration with the social environment from which they were plucked away. Failing to do this even five and a half years after the end of the war is just dereliction of duty.

Where has the diaspora gone to for permanent residence as places of choice? To western democracies like Canada and US, to advanced countries in Europe and to Australia and New Zealand. They have been received as productive assets and the young as trainable resources. Sri Lanka has had the best of relations with these countries where democratic values flourished and scope for self-development is great. The current regime in Sri Lanka however seeks to veer from them and to dance attendance on two of the centrally planned economies of the UN Security Council, China and Russia. Trade relations are advisedly weighted in their favour for their veto value in the UN particularly with an impending stricture at the UNHRC.  Are the people’s views ever solicited through their representatives? Does the Fourth Estate have its views heard? When did the country last have an independent, fearless and impassioned discussion or debate? Why is democracy perverted so ridiculously? The answer is simple. To make the people voiceless so that Familial Rule can prevail without demur.

Why should familial rule persist? Not for reasons of patriotism. Neither is it for people’s redemption. It is not without foundation that the air is rife with talk of unprecedented corruption. The people see no transparency in any of the country’s transactions. When estimates are quoted in astronomical terms, the casualty is credibility. Corruption it is said is not confined to domestic projects or issues. It had made its foray into foreign affairs years back. The movement for democracy gets much of its traction and impetus from this reeking corruption.

Revulsion to the Regime

The birth of the regime in 2005 did not have much glamour. There were no comets seen. The aura of legitimacy was far too thin. Tamils who had a tilting weight refrained under duress, for reasons well known now. Odium of a dubious implant surrounded the new one. Yet the war victory of 2009 erased everything that looked odious. In 2010 they endorsed their benefactor. But the populace that turned opiates did not become addicts in perpetuity. Under attack by loss of freedom and economic pressure, they got rid of their hangover. Now with the fullest awareness of realities, their revulsion to the regime is complete. They are with the front of opponents.

There is a further default of a moral dimension which has alienated the citizenry both well learned and less educated. It has been offensive to their ethical sense. Not once but several times the government and personally the President have violated several pledges given with an air of solemnity to international institutions like the UN, UNHRC, to Heads of governments and to persons of eminence. Dishonouring promises to surrendering militants, the international community will not pardon or forget. So are pledges to the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council which were met in cavalier fashion. The President showed his lack of rectitude and the polity has lost its respect for the office and the occupant.

Democracy

Where the will of the people prevails in a very real sense, dovetails into the process of governance and manifests in elevating their quality of life, people value democracy and live or die for it. In the absence of the essence, the voice of the people is muffled or stilled, the citizens are made into non-persons, the shell is traded for substance and the eyes of the world are covered with layers of wool. To put up with this inane order of things, the people are in no mood to be always accommodative or interminably docile. They are now converging into a single force, determined not to digress, waver or dither but to go purposefully, directing their energies to reinstate democratic values and way of life, acceptable by several of the political formations, ethnic entities and of religious persuasions.

To move forward politically, sections in Sri Lanka that matter are educated enough. Over time their influence has seeped pervasively country wide. A lesson from history has been that a society in ferment ends up in an upheaval. Arab Spring in domino style is a classic case in point; besides the states, for a vast region. Failure at evolutionary formulations is the stuff that makes for turmoil as in Egypt and Syria. Sri Lanka has failed since 2009, to capture the peace dividend. A single familial monolith interposing between the state and the citizen has usurped power, monopolized authority, placed the levers of policy under the thumb of that monolith, deflected governance in unsavoury ways and derailed democracy. The polity that has   revived from the trauma is now set to change course.

Erosion of People’s Power

How has this family set about its business? In 2005, it correctly identified the prospective winner, selected the game changer at the Presidential election, employed means most foul to entice it and secured all levers of state power into a single hand. Having done so, the monopolist President retained the lion’s share and assigned the balance, diligently and selectively to three of his siblings who were and are on a tight leash. Defence, the coercive apparatus and the backbone of the state is with one brother, the economy with another and the legislature under the surveillance of the third. The impeachment (of the President) episode of 1991, drove home the Speaker’s unchallengeable discretionary power to accept or reject an Impeachment Motion. The President’s brother as Speaker is precisely to forestall even the placement of an Impeachment motion in the legislature. The President sits atop this familial tripod the way Hitler had Hess, Goebbels and Goering in his iron hand. The legislature and the Judiciary are reduced to a nullity, there is no separation of powers, democracy turned into a caricature and the people are made nondescripts. Against this ghastly spectre the voters are consolidating their mighty power – Franchise, for a convulsive push.

False Facades

Among the fundamentals to fortify democracy are, Periodic Free Elections. In Sri Lanka in the last nine years, they have been aplenty and more than periodic; Presidential, General and Provincial. The operative word is FREE. Was any election free since the Incumbent President was first elected in November 2005? None. Keen students of the political scene, vigilant observers of the election process and analysts of results have noted them quite perceptively. The litany is long to describe all the misdemeanours.

Preparatory to manipulation has been to make the media – Press, TV and Broadcasting – state oriented in whatever they disseminate. Writing or speaking anything not favourable to the victory of the ruling caucus was seditious. Media personnel as avant garde of resistance bore the brunt of reprisals. Those who dared not to submit or to yield to rewards, fled in numbers to foreign climes in pursuit of their commitment to fight on. When the print media closed, electronic media opened for them. It is the oppressor who is now getting oppressed.

Thiruvalluvar’s advice to a ruler “Even if you entail the wrath of the soldier, do not incur the displeasure of the writer”.

Armed marauders protected by the Police and supported by the forces struck down opposition and Challenge. Individuals with independent views considered harmful to electoral success suffered heavy personal injuries and near destruction of their institutions or their property. Well documented evidence is endless. Intimidation of voters and preventing access to polling booths are too common and so well known to merit mention. After piling up all the misdeeds, victory is announced for government candidates. To have credibility, unwinnable opposition enclaves are allowed some space. Such deeds have concealed the death pangs of democracy. Yet seething anger, simmering discontent and surging opposition are making known their strength unmistakably.

Challenge Ahead

Keeping the date of the election close to his chest, the President is keeping the opposition guessing. If one can go by reports, time available is very short. Yet conclusion can be reached on the name of the common candidate. The monitoring mechanism for local and international personnel to work together should be in place early and monitoring should commence at least 6 weeks ahead of voting. Monitoring should not be a 2 day sham. The most intensive monitoring should be closing of poll, to counting of ballot and announcement of results.

Looking at the support for a new order that is snowballing, stakes will be very high for the outcome. International institutions should paralyze any hand intent upon mischief.

*The writer was Advisor to the President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

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  • 4
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    Democracy flourishes best when those who who would practice it also practice respect and trust with each other. That is the first hurdle in our Sri Lanka of today. For too many years we have let accursed politicians practice accusation, suspicion, distrust and violence in order to achieve their evil goals. The welcome advent of peace has done nothing to change the suspicion and distrust that continues to be fomented by those entrusted with our futures in this blessed land. There is much to be said of that old adage; those who win wars are not best relied on to build the peace. The road to proper democracy in our island will be long and winding with many a false turning. But we who take it must not be deterred at the many setbacks on the way.

    • 2
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      Ranil Wickramasinghe is the biggest democracy spoiler. More than half of the democracy deficit is because there is NO OPPOSITION LEADER and Ranil is dependent on Jarapassa to be DICTATOR of the UNP.

      Sinhala Modayas deserve what they get!

  • 6
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    The writer forgot to mention 7.5% economic growth, best social indicators in South Asia (literacy, hdi, per capita income, life ecpectancy), irradication of terrorism … … I am gerally very pleased with the way things are going and so are most Sri Lankans. There is room to improve, eg too many politicians, and too many misbehaving politicos adult delinquent offspring. By abolishing PCs and bringing the country under strong Unitary System we can reduce political inefficiencies.

    • 6
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      Sri Lanka has a history of frequent bloodshed throughout its independence in the hands of Buddhist Fundamentalism, not necessarily due to ethnicity. In 1958, SWRD Banda sponsored the first act of blood bath in the Colombo streets. In 1970s Banda’s wife ignited the plug against thousands of Sinhalese and rivers in the south carried the blood of those poor Sinhalese youth. In 1977, JRJ rewind the ethnic wire and thousands shed their blood in the streets and again in 1983 the rivers of whole nation flooded with the bloods of Tamils. In, 1989 again Premadasa took the blood from over 60,000 Sinhalese. Again Chandirka used her uncle to remove the blood of Tamils in 1995. In 2009 Mahinda used all his effort to suck the blood of over 100,000. The question is now when is going to be next bloodshed and who is going to get their chance? There is no doubt that it will happen soon But who is going to get? Is it Sinhalese? Is it Tamils? or Is it Muslims?

      • 0
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        True. A democratic failure we are. Just voters and not citizens, relieved that it’s the other bugger who is getting slaughtered.

        Our 2500 year old history. Shah!

        As AKD said, the current lot, wears sil garb, visits the temple and carry on the mayhem.

        Religions have this funny idea of resetting the compass, to white wash our sins and then carry on sinning again.

      • 1
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        Ajith,
        You have not given sufficient credit to racist politicians of Jaffna for starting the bloodletting. The likes of Chelva, Ponna, Sunda have been at the forefront of provocations, enticing Tamils to kill Sinhalese long before independence. They were the pioneers of racism in Sri Lanka and got the ball rolling. When you play the blame game, give due credit to Tamil Racists; the architechts of political violence in Sri Lanka.

        • 2
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          lal loo

          “The likes of Chelva, Ponna, Sunda have been at the forefront of provocations, enticing Tamils to kill Sinhalese long before independence.”

          Here is something you don’t want to know, even if you read it the content is no use to you:

          He won the admiration, affection of all

          Excerpts from an address made by President J. R. Jayewardene on the life and work of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, delivered under the auspices of the Vivekananda society. The address is published in the book ‘Relived Memories.’

          By his contribution to the national life, he helped to revive the spirits of the Sinhala people, particularly in their religion, language and in self-government.

          Sir Ponnambalm RamanathanPonnambalam Ramanathan (later Sir, KC, CMG), was one who dominated the legal and public life of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) during the last two decades of the 19th Century, and the first two decades of the 20th Century. In the words of the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon, the Rt. Hon. D.S. Senanayake, “He was one of the greatest Ceylonese of all time.”

          I will deal with his life as a lawyer at the unofficial Bar from 1873 to 1892 for 19 years, and as Solicitor-General from then to 1905 for 13 years, when he retired; and then as a public man during its first phase as a nominated member of the Legislative Council from 1879 – 1892 for 13 years; and in its second phase as an elected member from 1911 to his death in 1930, for 19 years.

          Ramanathan was born on the 16th April 1851 at Sea Street, Colombo, a fashionable residential area then. His public life began in 1897 at the young age of 28, when he was appointed to the Legislative Council to take the place of his uncle, Sir Muthucumaraswamy. Members of his family had been appointed to the Legislative Council from its inception in 1833.

          His grandfather, Gate-Mudaliyar Arumugampillai Coomaraswamy was the first, from 1833 to 1846, his granduncle Edirimanasinghe took his place from 1846 – 1861,being succeeded by Sir Muthucumaraswamy, from 1862 -1879. The famous scholar Anandacumaraswamy was Raman’s first cousin .

          He was educated at Royal College and passed his Law Examination in 1873.

          Tributes are paid to his legal talents by his contemporaries and are available for those who read articles on his life, and references to him in the Courts in which he practiced. They all speak of his unique powers of speech in the English language, for he was termed by many Englishmen as one of the finest English speakers in any part ot the world.

          As an Elected Legislator

          His finest hour was when he was called back from retirement to contest the All lsland Educated Ceylonese Seat in 1911. This was the first occasion on which an elected seat was given to the native citizens of Ceylon. One member was to be elected to the Legislative Council from all the Ceylonese educated in English, living in the Island. Ramanathan who now lived in India was invited to contest the seat by a large number of inhabitants of the Island. My father and his elder brother Hector Jayewardene went to India and persuaded him to come to Ceylon and contest, and promised to support him. Hector Jayewardene who was then Ceylon’ s most popular public speaker and politician, campaigned for him throughout the Island and won a magnificent victory for him on December 13th, 1911 against Dr. Marcus Fernando, a Sinhalese, his opponent.

          Being elected to the Legislative Council, gave him an opportunity to stand up for the Sinhalese, who were harassed, bullied and even murdered during the riots of 1915, by the British of the day and his colleagues. He acted and spoke fearlessly, and won the affection and admiration of all, particularly the Sinhalese.

          1915 Riots and “Martial Law”

          During and soon after the riots which took place in June 1915, the Government declared Martial Law and the shootings and atrocities committed and the fines imposed, found Ramanathan as the champion of the down-trodden Sinhalese people, speaking alone in the Legislative Council. He condemned the imposition of Martial Law. He said that though riots were taking place frequently in India, Martial Law was not declared, and the riots were suppressed by the police and the military under the normal laws. For several weeks he kept on his agitation and spoke on behalf of those who were arrested, and those who were fined drastic sums which they could not possibly pay, individually or collectively. He raised question after question on behalf of individuals and organizations about complaints of executions, arrests and enormous fines, without legal sanction. The Governor tried to suppress him from the Chair and in a reply to him in the Legislative Council in August l915, he said, “I have to perform my duty and private friendship has nothing to do with public duty.”

          In his book “Riots and Martial Law in Ceylon in 1915”, published in England in 1916, he gives a clear and bold description of what happened. His speeches are printed here, with summaries of the 120 petitions presented in the Legislative Council complaining of the acts of injustice and oppression done by the Government.

          The Ceylon National Congress and After

          He was now 65 years of age but he continued his work and helped to form the Ceylon National Congress in 1918. His brother Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam became the first president. In 1921, when the enlarged Legislative Council with several elected members was conceded to Ceylon, his brother and he and the Tamil members of the Congress were disappointed because of the nomination of James Peiris (later Sir) to the Western Province seat in place of Arunachalam. Unfortunately, this issue was never resolved and Ramanathan and Arunachalam and many Tamils left the Congress in 1921. They sought unsuccessfully to chart a political course of their own for Ceylon. They failed in this and Ramanathan ceased to be the “Hero of the Nation”, as he was named, for courageous services he rendered earlier to the people of his motherland, in their hour of need. The Tamils did not join a national movement till they joined the United National Party (UNP) under Mr. D.S. Senanayake in 1944 after the death of these two brothers.

          Ramanathan however spoke on behalf of my father, who contested the Colombo North seat in the new enlarged Legislative Council in the General Election which took place in 1924, unsuccessfully.

          If one assesses his life of service from 1879 when at the age of 28 he was first nominated to the Legislative Council, until his death in 1930 he served 32 Years as a Legislator, 13 years as a Nominated Member, and 19 years, an elected member for and during these years he placed before himself the ideal of service to his people; those who were oppressed by poverty, by injustice and were discriminated against. He did not inquire of the race, religion or caste of the victim. He feared not his opponent, be he white Governor or a uniformed official, acting under Martial Law. In the first period of his life as a Nominated Legislator, he set the example to the whole Empire of one who exposed the ills of British rule where injustices occurred in the Colonies. .

          In his very first debate, he opposed certain clauses in the law to prevent coffee-stealing. Coffee was then the main export, and not tea or rubber. He said many clauses are oppressive to the people of the country, especially the Kandyan peasantry in the upcountry districts. To his last breath he said he would resist injustice and oppression. The Bill was modified and its fangs drawn out as a result of this bold and brilliant maiden speech of Ramanathan. There are many other national issues on which he spoke and raised for the first time. His name and fame spread throughout the land until he joined the public service as Solicitor-General in 1892. His fame was yet to reach its height and that too twenty five years later. Books have been written and can still be written on Ramanathan’s contribution to the history of our country and its people during the period of Martial Law in 1915 and its aftermath. The tributes paid to his work by Sinhalese leaders, especially Buddhists, by associations and the press representing these very people, show the gratitude they felt for saving a people, possibly from destruction. Empire builders have done that before in various parts of the world. The Red Indians of North America, the Aztics of Mexico and the Incas of South Africa, the Aborigines of Australia, were the victims of Imperialism.

          The British rulers treated the Sinhalese and those who were Buddhists no differently. The Sinhalese to them were little better than savages and Buddhism was a pagan form of worship. The leaders were arrested, locked up, and some shot without trial.

          Apart from what happened during the 1915 Riots, Ramanathan during the first phase of his life in the later part of the l9th Century, and the early 20th Century, by his contributions then to our national life, helped to revive the spirits of the Sinhala people, particularly in their religion, language, education and in self-government. The tributes paid to him by Colonel Henry S. Olcott, who also made him Joint Treasurer to collect funds for the furtherance of Buddhist education, who agitated along with him to make Wesak Day a National Holiday, and also to safeguard Buddhist temporalities, made him one of the early pioneers of Sinhala Renaissance. He was even called the Tamil who was the foster-parent of the Sinhalese.

          No one can disagree with the tributes paid to his life and work by D.B. Jayatilleke, D.S. Senanayake and other Sinhalese leaders.

          “At the setting of the Sun and in the morning, we will remember him.”.

          http://sundaytimes.lk/980201/plus10.html

    • 1
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      The version of ‘democracy’ demanded by the Tamil political leadership has been one man one vote, except that the Tamil vote counts as nine.

  • 6
    5

    “Movement For Democracy Overwhelms Sri Lanka” really?

    Please, we have had enough of majoritarian racist ‘democrazy’ for 66 years.

    Is that not enough of democracy for you?

    The Sinhalese society doesn’t understand what democracy entails, and see what has happened by Britain trusting it on them?

    See the chaotic situation in the Middle East caused by experiments in democracy. If people don’t understand, don’t like the concept of democracy, or not mature for it, it will not do any good.

    Don’t be fools, come on, become wiser, we need a better form of government – may be a UN protectorate.

  • 5
    3

    “Muslims and Malays to emigrate in large numbers do not have to wait for long if the current regime continues.”
    No Sir, never. A Muslim will never migrate to another Muslim country, but they certainly will grab the opportunity to move into a Western democracy. Given the option a Palestinian will always choose USA as against Saudi Arabia.

    • 2
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      But then they pretend to be ‘good’ Muslims by demanding that Sharia be imposed on the majority. I shall refrain from mentioning other utterly things that have happened in the UK.

      • 0
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        vulgar

      • 3
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        Ram

        If you don’t have the mental capacity for a relevant comment, should you make a stupid one? Why should thoughtful commenters be made to feel that a particular reader is not worthy to comprehend and still less to comment?

  • 0
    1

    “It is this apparatus which the people now seek to throw overboard.”

    I get a feeling that Mr. Sivathasan may have spoken a little too early. I wish that I am proved wrong.

  • 3
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    Terrorism is a term used ad libitum to befuddle humanity.

    ugh Tell that to the innocent civilians women and children ! and there will be no Arab Spring in Sri Lanka

    Cheers

    Abhaya

  • 1
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    Mr Sivathasan had commenced his article with two? truisms

    “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”

    “Threat of revolt is the final guarantee of all freedom”.

    I am sure that the first one is true, but not the second one.

    I don’t know where he picked it up!

    But the right to revolt is a fundamental right recognized by many constitutions including the Constitution of the United States of America.

    For obvious reasons I very much like to stick to the first one- “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”

    How this could be practiced?

    It is possible only by members of a vibrant, democratic powerful civil society.

    Sri Lanka never had a powerful Civil Society built up from the grass roots like the movement of Jeyaprahash Narayanan that mobilized people during indira Gandhi’s Emergency and restored democracy in India.

    If it is possible in India why not in Sri Lanka. Be optimistic.

    have faith in people!

    Common candidate with a single issue is a mirage.

    It will never galvanize people to do higher things.

    It is a non starter.

    Finally the common candidate will take people for a ride. like what Chandrica and Mahinda did.

    There is no short cut to eternal vigilance!

    Only a peoples movement under selfless leadership is the way out!

  • 4
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    Sri Lanka was a feudal state whether it was in the North, Central or South. From the Thirties Britain wove a veil of democracy and in 1948 laid it on the feudal core. DS’s Ministers trotted around the world with the well brocaded veil. The Banadaranaikes sent the veil to the Dhobies. Jeyawardenas patched it up and sent it cleaners often to wash away the dirt. It has now become tattered under the Rajapaksas who are not interested in patching it up or cleaning it. In fact they revel in the veil’s porousness. Now the veil is porous and are exhibited for all to see the feudal core.

    The Buddhist priests, China, Russia and the Middle East love the core and the disintegrating veil. The Western Democracies pretend the veil is still intact, though not clean, and trying their best to spruce it up and make it opaque hoping that in time the core will rot away.

  • 1
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    There is a great swell of opposition against the current regime. But what is unfortunate is that opposition is divided and this division is the only hope for Mahinda’s victory!

    Let us hope that ultimately a horse sense will prevail among the masses so that they will wisely cast their votes to find an end to this regime!

    Sengodan. M

  • 1
    0

    Eloquent article. But I wonder if replacing the current regime with another is the cure-all for the problems that plague the island.

    As recent history has shown, and most commentators seem to agree, our politicians have been a corrupt bunch even from the beginning of the democratic state of Sri Lanka. They have sought to gain political power (and the financial benefits that goes with that power) by using wedge-issues to polarize one community against others. Politicians from all sides have used this strategy and a recent poll quoted by Dr. RN confirms such polarization currently as well. A convenient wedge-issue has been race and ethnicity, not just in Sri Lanka but in many (and I dare say) most democratic states.

    However in our case, the utter callousness and lack of foresight of those racist politicians, have left the country in a pathetic state, regardless of relatively high social indicators such as longevity, education etc. are for inhabitants of this island. The group that has so far suffered the most are the Tamils, especially those from the Wanni. So no wonder 30% are domiciled overseas. While for most of them and their descendants the quality of life has increased upon leaving the island, those left behind still have to live in fear of a resurgence of racial violence.

    What is the moral obligation of our politicians (from all ethnic/religious and socio-economic groups) for preventing racial violence? Anyone who’s studied ethnic riots (they can happen anywhere from Ferguson, Missouri in the US, to Stockholm, Sweden to Colombo, Sri Lanka), knows that a pre-cursor to such racial violence is polarization of the society along racial/ethnic lines and the long-term discontent of one or more groups which view the others as being privileged, while they themselves are marginalized.

    Whether such assessments are factually correct or not does not seem to matter to most rioters, especially after their vulnerable minds have been filled with utter garbage, justifying their violence. Those responsible for the anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim riots are good examples. But this type of violence in Sri Lanka has not been reserved against the minorities only. The same tactics of inciting violence have been used by the LTTE and other para-militaries against Muslims and the Sinhalese, as have the Muslims against other Muslims. So there’s plenty of blame to go around and no one is completely innocent.

    War robs people of their innocence. No one is left with clean hands. Some of course are much bloodier than others. War also destroys identity. That’s what ISIS is trying to do the Yazidis and other non-Sunnis. In Sri Lanka the main victims of loss of authentic identity have been the Tamils.

    Sometime ago, Dr. Hoole had an intimate article on CT that documented some of his losses. Reading that article, I could understand that many others in the dispora are grieving their losses, despite the gains in the material aspects of their lives. While all Sri Lankan disapora can identify with his sense of loss, the Tamils in particular have lost much of their identity as a result of the 30-year war. Those living in western countries have offspring who don’t speak any language other than English and/or a European language. Most practice a culture that is valuable and cherished, but yet is different from what their parent grew up with. Thus their children and grand children will never feel the same affinity to the Sri Lankan Tamil (or Eelam Tamil or Jaffna Tamil – whatever you refer to it as) as they did. That is a tremendous loss.

    Loss is a motivator. Some strive to reconnect, others to invent new traditions or cultures to supplant what’s lost. The European Jews, who by and large founded the modern state of Israel are a good example. Even when they do successfully go back and re-establish a state, it still is not the same as what they knew or imagined it to be. The lessons learnt while learning to escape persecution, toughens one’s heart, closing it off from the “oppressor”.

    Such a heart is fertile grounds for fundamentalist thinking. The current state of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is but one example of how the oppressed can become the oppressor. During the JVP insurrection of the eighties the oppressed poor southern Sinhalese became oppressors, to the point of irrationality. They lost many a sympathizer to their cause, due to the sheer brutality of their response to oppression by the state. I think a similar phenomenon occurred against the LTTE, at least among a segment of the Tamils, as documented by the writer using the pseudonym Niromi de Soyza.

    Violence does beget violence, as many of our faiths inform us. And thus cessation of violence has to come about non-violently. In order for such cessation to happens, we need enlightened, motivated leaders who can gauge the long-term consequences of their actions. We need a support team who’s blessed with objectivity, compassion and open minds and hearts. We need disciplined individuals who do not cater to the whims of whatever happens to be the current ideology, but rather look out for the security of the future. Sri Lanka cannot survive in to the future as one country, unless we have leaders and workers who have disciplined minds and open hearts. Those that seek to hoard the spoils of economic growth today would be left in shambles tomorrow, if history is any indicator of what’s to come. Sharing the land and her resources with all who strive to improve it should be their mantra.

    Do we have anyone who can liberate those amongst us who are paralyzed by fear, loss and frustration?

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      Nimal

      For any reader it is easy to appreciate that your thoughts are high and they spring from the depths of truth. Well written and with a sense of anguish.

      Instituting a new regime is only the first step for a new order of things and to set it moving. Transformation will take ages. Upon the clock of history, a generation is but a minute.

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    Nimal, It is easy to identify ourselves with your thought process.

    Some of the generalisations, such as,

    * Utter callousness and lack of foresight of racist politicians, have left the country in a pathetic state,

    * LTTE lost many a sympathizer to their cause, due to the sheer brutality of their response to oppression by the state,

    * Violence does beget violence, as many of our faiths inform us. And thus cessation of violence has to come about non-violently,

    * Tamils is the group that has so far suffered the most, especially those from the Wanni,

    are not difficult to agree with.

    However, some such as,

    * Ethnic riots can happen anywhere,

    * Inciting violence have been used by the LTTE,

    are difficult to second.

    Ethnic riots of SL fall into a different category, altogether. There was always an element of State instigation, facilitation and connivance.

    LTTE used violence. It was their primary weapon. Yet, LTTE did not instigate Tamils to resort to violence. Tamils never took to violence.

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    Where was this S. Sivathasan when the Tamil people were undergoing so many harship and difficulties.

    In fact, he was holding very high positions in all governments, pleasing his/her masters, utter nothing about his people.

    Today he preching a lot which has no value at all.

    Let him give lecture to a blank wall.

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      Hussain

      If you are so vacuous as to know nothing about persons you malign, why do you splash your gibberish in this forum?

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    So long as Tamils demand POLITICAL autonomy under the shadow of Tamilnadu with 70 million and 20 miles away our country will never be any different. But Tamils will never stop asking for political autonamy; so our country will never never be any different. Live your life as it comes.

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