25 October, 2020

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NPC: Prudence Prevails For Now

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

Finally, a pragmatic perception, however episodic, of reality– and a prudent policy move results. With President Rajapaksa’s decision to announce the holding of the election to the Northern Provincial Council after almost a quarter of a century (taken together with the re-arrest of the suspects in the murder of the Trinco 5), Sri Lanka seems about to take a significant step in the right direction; the next logical step forward – deferred imprudently for four years– after the victory over separatist terrorism in May 2009.

While conventional wisdom has it that the imminence of the Commonwealth summit and the signalling from India are the main factors behind the President’s decision, my own explanation is that this ignores the President’s important visits to Japan and China, two Asian powers and traditional friends of Sri Lanka, and the assessment of Sri Lanka’s overall economic and strategic-diplomatic situation that Mahinda Rajapaksa, the experienced and shrewdly pragmatic political animal that he is, would have made subsequent to those visits.

Crucial to that assessment would have been the international factor; the issue of devolution and the Northern provincial council seen in its international dimension. President Rajapaksa bought as much time as he could for those in his camp who wished to consolidate in the ground in the North in a political vacuum. He seems aware that time and space are running out, that the risk of non-implementation would be prohibitive; that Sri Lanka would lack the economic and diplomatic capacity for the siege that would result not only from the unilateral redrawing of an inherited, uneven bilateral agreement but also the non-fulfilment of post-war international commitments far more freely entered into, coming as it did after the Sri Lankan military victory at the apogee of the achievement of the Sri Lankan state.

President Rajapaksa knows as the hawks in his camp do not, that the economic consequences of a Cold war with the neighbour and the larger world community would prise open as nothing else would, the politico-electoral space for a Hassan Rowhani or Nawaz Sharif option.

More optimistically, he could also be weighing the possibilities of different role, profile and pathway for both Sri Lanka and himself, with the assumption of the Commonwealth chairpersonship.

The process of the holding of the election is fraught, though. A battle is raging at the heart of the state. It is a battle over the Northern provincial council elections, the continued existence of the 13th amendment (certainly in its present form), and relations between Sri Lanka and the world (especially India), but taken as a totality it is nothing less than a battle over the future direction and destination of post-war Sri Lanka.

The target of all strategy, says Sun Tzu, is the mind of the opposing commander. However, those waging the battle against the holding of the Northern provincial council election are targeting not the opposing commander, but the mind of the commander-in chief, President Rajapaksa. There is a contest of political wills, and an arm-wrestling match has been underway to sway the President’s decision to hold the election in September 2013.

It is against this backdrop that we must locate trends in the state media. The state-run media are the mirror or sensor of trends and shifting power balances in the state itself. The preponderant ideology in and of the state media enable us to trace the pathways and production hubs of that ideology while indicating the networks that traverse the state apparatuses. Consider then a recent article by Mr HLD Mahindapala, prominent and prolix ideologue of the Sinhala supremacist expatriate network. He has a well deserved reputation for telling it as he sees it. While this may not always be the same as telling it like it is, this time his perception and the politico-ideological actuality coincide. He writes in the penultimate segment of his most recent polemic as follows:

The issue facing the nation — and, of course, the President — is whether to perpetuate the illegally imposed injustice on the nation or not. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has given the courageous lead in rejecting the 13th Amendment in toto…There isn’t a single vestige in the Indo-Lanka Agreement, whether in its origins, its imposition or in its legacy, that makes it a benign or acceptable formula for all the peoples Sri Lanka to come together. It is an Indian solution to an Indian problem. It is divisive, corrosive and destructive. It has never been nor will it ever be the solution. The time has come to jump out of the box and re-imagine a new future. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has taken the first step decisive step in redrawing the road map to the future.” (‘Marxists are like Indians’, Daily News, July 5th 2013)

So, for HLD Mahindapala and his co-thinkers, while there is an issue facing the nation and the President, the lead is being given on this all-important political question by Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. What is more striking is his assertion that “Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has taken the first step decisive step in redrawing the road map to the future.”

Thus the lead is being given and what is more, the first step towards redrawing the roadmap to the future is being taken not by the elected executive President, a politician with four decades experience, but by a highly placed unelected official, however competent in his field of experience and expertise, namely military affairs and their management. If “the road map to the future is being redrawn”, the question arises, who drew the original roadmap to the future which is being re-drawn by the highly competent official? Furthermore, from where and when did the mandate derive by which any unelected official can take the lead on a political and diplomatic question and go further to re-draw the roadmap to the future?

What, in Mr Mahindapala’s rendition is that lead that has been taken? It is “rejecting the 13th amendment in toto”. Nowhere has the country’s elected President and Commander-in chief rejected the 13th amendment in toto. He has just demonstrated conspicuously that he entertains a rather different view, perhaps not out of conviction but an accurate perception of larger realities, including the economic. An important facet of that economic reality is best glimpsed in the recent news story ‘Japan Overtakes China as Largest Lender to Lanka’ (Daily Mirror, July 5, 2013).

The Mahindapala rendition is given some credibility by the latest interview ( Daily Mirror, July 4, 2013) given by the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, in which devolution is rejected, there seems to be an preference for the national ethnic ratios to be reflected in the Northern province, the BBS is but a reaction to over-assertion by minorities, criminals are to be treated as terrorists, and the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is pretty much said to be none of our neighbour’s concern. The following quotes from the interview provide a microcosm of the perspective and paradigm:

“…It is nothing but true and correct that in the North and East there must be the same percentage of the majority community. When 78% of this country comprises Sinhalese how does such a vast landmass in the North become 98% Tamil. Isn’t this unnatural? This was forced. Natural growth was prevented.”

“…No I don’t believe in devolution because of the above points I mentioned. If devolution is for administrative purposes that is of course legitimate. But if one thinks that devolution would provide an answer to the national problem that is something that I don’t agree with…I think that’s [the complete repealing of the 13th amendment] the way forward…”

“This again I see as a reaction to some of the claims and things done by the minorities. We shouldn’t let these things come out. Remember the majority community is 78% but if some 8% or 10% of the community tries to bring various issues all the time it creates a suspicion among the majority community. It creates insecurity within the majority community and obviously there will be sections reacting to that. This is what happened…” (‘I Deplore Any Form of Extremism’, Daily Mirror July 4, 2013)

Mr Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s interview constitutes a useful discourse in that it is possible to discern the socio-political map of Sri Lanka after it has been ‘re-drawn’ (as HLD Mahindapala puts it).

What this ideology corresponds to is the dangerous phenomenon identified by the late Fred Halliday, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at the London School of Economics and research professor at the Barcelona Institute of International Studies. He defined it as ‘The Miscalculations of Small Nations’. His case studies included Georgia and more classically Cyprus and he explores “the self-inflating nationalist ideology…with its heady mix of vanity, presumption and miscalculation…miscalculations about the capabilities of one’s own forces and the reactions of others”. (‘Political Journeys’ 2011, p 241-247)

Since the emphasis in Sri Lanka is on the rejection of the foreign and the celebration of the national, and since a touch of retroactive intellectual nepotism will not be frowned upon, the volume ‘Crisis Commentaries: Selected Political Writings of Mervyn de Silva’, which contains his attempts to educate National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali on the abiding geopolitical realities that should disabuse us of the notion that we can emulate Israel in our treatment of the Tamils of the North.

Mervyn remarks “…It was the presence of Tamil Nadu, the south Indian state, which forced us to broaden the discussion and our perspective…if the arrival of a 60,000 strong Indian peace keeping force did nothing else, it certainly did compel us to widen the range of inquiry further…a regional perspective is inescapable given the sub-continental cultural matrix and history. At a time when national borders are vanishing, the borders in our own minds need to be erased in the interest of serious inquiry and discussion”. (‘Crisis Commentaries’, 2001: P. 170)The hubris of having defeated the LTTE must not delude us into thinking that we won a war against the source of the Indo-Lanka Accord. We must recognise the limits of our victory. We must also recognise the limits of our power. We must understand that however excellent our armed forces are and in whatever way we seek to configure their presence in the North, while attempting to re-configure the North itself, in a worst case scenario, which is not purely imaginary but is an extrapolation of our 1987 experience, we cannot ensure supplies of ammunition, fuel and food, for our island which is highly vulnerable to naval embargo and a no-fly zone. I would also recommend that the militant Sinhala ultranationalists read the famous ‘Melian Dialogue’ in Thucydides’ ‘History of the Peloponnesian Wars’. It is the exchange between the leaders of the small, strategically placed island of Melos and the Athenian envoys who made them an offer they shouldn’t have refused but did, with disastrous consequences. That exchange is regarded as paradigmatic by the Realist school in politics, history and international affairs.

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Latest comments

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    Let the game begins…… MaRa vs. GoRa.

    :-)

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      MaRa, GoRa…. whaich one is the best hora? Maybe BaRa??

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        BaRa, arguably yes in [Edited out]

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          Today’s DM carried the news that the suspects of the murder of the five students in Trinco and the opening of the investigations to the murder of the seventeen Aid Workers have commenced. This is only a red herring for the NPC elections. After the elections everything will be swept under the carpet once again.

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    GORA is exceeding his mandated powers. Wonder if GORA will do a Morsi to save the nation. However he may be constrained by the Tamil and Indian factor. It would open the door for direct Indian intervention.

    History of Sri Lanka is repleat with such subterfuge. Familial rule based on kinship and religous alliances is a cocktail for disaster. SWRDB’s life was extinguished by a religous fanatic. Religous fanatics need no reason or rationale for their actions. The dangers of such a situation are well known.

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    Well said, Dyan though one could understand your grouse with Gota. One could only hope that Gota is not just another face of Mahinda and that the latter has the capacity to think broadly in the larger and long term interests of the country as you seem to think.

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    Dear Dayan Jayatilleka,

    A wise Englishman said once: “I will walk 200 miles to my worst enemy if I can learn something from him.”

    This article reminds me of that when I read about the ‘Melian Dialogue’ in Thucydides’ ‘History of the Peloponnesian Wars’, you mentioned, in the Wikipedia a few minutes ago.

    All politically concerned Sinhalese and Tamils must read the‘Melian Dialogue’ and the results of what happened to the people of Melos.

    Though I don’t agree with your views in general, I agree with the view expressed in this article.

    Thiru

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    Will wisdom follow the newly scripted prudence? Is the prudence dictated by the circumstances, a temporary return of sanity? Will insanity return after the Commonwealth summit in November? Have the Rottweilers been kennelled again?
    Now that MR has been inside mosque and uttered profound words of wisdom, will the BBS and its ilk, retreat to their dens? What happens to Gotabaya Rajapakse’s recently enunciated theories? is the government ready to implement the PC system as intended both in law and spirit? How will deal with the current crisis in the Eastern PC?

    There are yet many more questions than answers.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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      Please, have you not learn anything from the past? whether you and I like it or not the 13A will be killed (except in name ) ! Gota’s pronouncements will be implemented !

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        Dev,you are mistaken in thinking that Dr.Narendran is pro 13th amendment.he has always considered it a useless piece of legislation for the tamils,whereas i always thought it was a step in the right direction.We have had many arguments on that some time ago.His contention was that power sharing arrangements at the center for the tamils was better that peripheral devolution arrangemnets.My contention was that we had those and since independence we were shown how power sharing can be switched on and switched off like a light bulb by the sinhalese politicians and we are wasting time here doing the same experiments expecting a different result which einstein termed as the definition of insanity.My contention was that we should try something different such as devolution which India has succesfully done for the past 60 years weaving throug the thread of devolution more than 25 different thnic and linguistic groups into one country.It is a pity that the vociferous racist elemnts among the sinhalese did not allow the banda-chelva pact or the dudley-chelva pact to go through.If they had done it probably we would have become a taiwan by now and without separation now on the table for the international community to consider as the permanent solution.These racists have not still learnt the lesson because once a modaya always a modaya they say due to the paasing of the genes and are now at it again to sabotage even the lowest possible basic level devolution because they don’t want the country to go in that direction and one day enable the tamils to live in dignity and self respect.They always will want the minorities to get the message loud and clear that they can live here only as well behaved guests.If this mob wins the day the minorities will have no choice but to ask for a divorce and once a majority of the minorities still living in the country want it then divorce and the subsequent settlement of the assets between the two parties become inevitable with international help,not military means ,but east timor style referendum.

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      “When we bring in a Bill we wouldn’t normally retract. We will go back only if the people wanted us to go back. There are examples when we have done so on people’s will”, he(Basil Rajapakse) told reporters when asked about India’s concerns (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/notwithstanding-indian-concerns-sri-lanka-may-go-ahead-with-dilution-of-13th-amendment/1138727/0)

      Here we go around the mulberry bush again, even faster than many would have expected!

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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    “Finally, a pragmatic perception, however episodic, of reality– and a prudent policy move results. With President Rajapaksa’s decision to announce the holding of the election to the Northern Provincial Council after almost a quarter of a century (taken together with the re-arrest of the suspects in the murder of the Trinco 5), Sri Lanka seems about to take a significant step in the right direction; the next logical step forward – deferred imprudently for four years– after the victory over separatist terrorism in May 2009. (Dr. Dayan Jayathillake)

    Add to this the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to include 53 more recommendations in the Sri Lanka Action Plan for HRC. But the vital recommendations are yet to be implemented; Eg. Right to Access Information.

    The script for Local Action Plan, agreed between Sri Lanka and India is yet to be published. Dr. DJ may be able comment on possible “amendments” to Indo-Lanka Accord agreed by BR and Salman Kurshid. The reasonable conclusion is that after CHOGM 2013, there could be a “referendum” as suggested by JHU on Friday 5th July 2013. The APC can decide on the issues that should be placed before the people in the “referendum”. Commissioner of Elections will have an up hill task to ensure that the “referendum” is conducted carefully in order to prevent the violation of rights of voters that occurred during the infamous “Laampu-Kalagedi” (lamp-Pot) referendum. “Unity in diversity” of UPFA and “Unity in diversity” preached by TNA and other interest groups will come to light during the campaign period. People who are more knowledgeable than they were in 1980s will be able to understand the “double game tactics” of opportunist “politicians” and to decide wisely.

    All is well that ends well.

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    Gota is only a civil servant, he is not an elected politician. He has no right to give opinions on any matter other than provide advice to this minister. Just because he is the brother of the President he has no right to give any opinion other than advice to his minister. Its time the opposition parliamentarians call him for an inquiry to the Parliament.

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      Lankan

      “Gota is only a civil servant”

      Very uncivil servant indeed.

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    DJ appears to be jubilant with his “Devolution” remedy and hopes that
    the CW Mtg. will go ahead etc. The IC/UN pleased. No, Gota has the full hold on the matter of NPC elections. He has indicated it.

    It is my imagination that the Election will be “upset” using his Forces
    so much so that their E.C. will have it cancelled after a time on this
    complaint alone. Therefore the NPC Election will be re-fixed after the
    CW Mtg.. Q.E.D! India will flex its muscles as an under-hand action
    was put into play.

    India will demand the removal of Gota from his post, on account of
    the failure to conduct the NPC before the CW Mtg. as they were
    taken for a ride as usual. This may give MR to make that change if
    the Forces do not take sides. However the Dynasty must be saved.

    MR will display that he has the backing of his Voters, BBS etc despite whatever all those in the Opposition may clamour. THIS IS THE GAME.
    Food for thought……

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    Punchinilame

    Your food is well prepared for easy digestion, but lacks in a certain spice – judicial action.

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      Judicial action is a forgone conclusion – the Mohan flavour: the
      cheapest ingredient to add!

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    MR will have the elections in the North, the outcome of which we can
    predict. People will be prevented from voting by the ever present Army, there will be vote rigging, there will be thuggery.

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    This government has mastered the art of deceiving the citizens of the country and it has been trying to fool India America European countries, South Africa and the UN mainly with regard to devolution of power, democracy, press freedom and human rights.The government will continue this until India and the rest decide to take decisive actions.

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      Punchisingho,

      You are correct.

      “The government will continue this until India and the rest decide to take decisive actions”

      This is precisely what happened with India in 1987.
      The same thing happened with Saddam Hussein in 1990.

      However, the Core Problem, in Sri Lanka is still there. Sinhala Buddhist Racism, aided and abetted by the Monks, courtesy of Monk Mahanama Myths from 6th century.

      So, decisive actions need to be mufti-pronged including exposing these Myths and challenging these myths.

      1. Challenge the Myth that Vijaya’s grandfather was a lion. Ask the Myth believers to prove it. This Myth is even on the Flag!

      2. Ask the Myth believers to prove the Myth that on the day Vijaya landed, Buddha attained Nibbana.

      3. Ask the Myth believers to prove the Myth that on the Buddha visited Lanka 10 times.

      4. Ask the Myth believers to prove the Myth that the Island was designated as a Sinhala Buddhist Island. By Whom? Veddah, Yakka, Naga, Raksha etc.

      5. Ask the Myth believers to prove the Myth that the Buddha visited Lanka 10 times.

      6. Ask the Myth believers to prove the Myth that the Buddha was Born in Lanka.

      7. Ask the Buddhist to prove that Nirvana, Nibbana, Rebirth, Sansara, etc. are true, and provide factual data, that is or can b independently verified.

      8. Just like Martin Luther’s 95 theses, these need to be printed and distributed and nailed to Temples, for all to respond and rebut.

      9. Bali, Indonesia, 94% Hindu is peaceful.

      10. Lanka, 70%, Buddhists with Ming-King axis is violent.

      11. It is Buddhism that is the curse of Lanka, not Sinhala.

      12. If you substitute Buddhism with Hinduism or Jainism it would have been peaceful.

      13. Buddha’s parents were Hindu.

      DeJa Vu….

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        amarasiri is just showing his stupidity.
        biggest myth that you may love to believe is the ‘god’

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    The other side of the story is, if Tamilnadu is important for the Indian Central govt, Sri Lankan govt also has a good tool to handle Indian central govt.

    Sri Lankan govt should use it.

    See how Israel survives inside the former Palastine and in the middle of so many Muslims countries. Israel has only EIGHT MILLION people. they are also mostly brought from other countries.

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      Israel will survive foremost locally as it is most democratic in its
      governance.

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        PunchiNilame:

        Israel does not have any problem from the Palastinians living in there (simply, we don’t know whether they are living or not). Palstinians are living outside Israel are giving problems. Palastinians are arabs too.

        It is India. Tamils are living both in India and in Sri Lanka. but, on behalf of Sri Lankan Tamil Church, India and LTTE wants different conditions.

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      The reason Israel has no problem is the support from USA nothing else

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    If Sri Lanka govts handles India always in the defensive mode, that will never work. It has to be both and has to select the right time in order to be friend and the trouble maker. Beauce, India never treated Sri Lanka that way. It always scuttled any atmepts by Sri Lanka to stand up on it’s own.

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    Out of 100 million Tamils only 65 million are in Tamil nadu, Three million are in Sri Lanjka and the rest 32 million are in other countries. India, LTTE and the Church are fine with those Tamils.

    Why should not the three million Sri Lankan Tamils should not be a part of the 32 million tamils ?

    They don’t like Tamilnadu. that is not a question.

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      JimSofty

      “Why should not the three million Sri Lankan Tamils should not be a part of the 32 million tamils?”

      Of course they want to be part of the 32 millions, hence they demand a separate state in Sri Lanka.

      The Bihari population is about 103 millions excluding its diaspora and the Bihari diaspora population is more than 5 million excluding Sri Lanka.

      Why should not the 18 million Sri Lankan Sinhala/Buddhists be a part of the 108 million Biharis?

      The Sinhala/Buddhists also genetically part of Tamilnadu Tamils whose population is about 72 millions. Why should not the 18 million Sri Lankan Sinhala/Buddhists be a part of the 72 million Tamils of Tamilnadu?

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      Jim softly’s points to ponder

      “Why should not the three million Sri Lankan Tamils should not be a part of the 32 million tamils ?”
      —–

      They were not treated by the the majority communities in those countries,the way they were treated here by the sinhalese after independence.Did you not know you reap what you sow.Due to that treatment the tamils rolled out a separatism ball and that ball has rolled on for a certain distance.Now the sinhalese or even the tamils themselves cannot roll the ball back because it will be too difficult.

      Only thing you can do is to stop the ball from rolling further onto its destination.Since the end of the war it has been rolling further away because you have lost valuable time in reconciliation.

      If you continue with your racism,in your lifetime you will see the north separating.Your children will see the east separating into another country because when you lose the nort you have lost the vital palk strait through which men and materials could be ferried to help the east also separate one day.

      Think of the consequences of your actions my dear.Did you not know that the basic law in physics is for every action there is a reaction.

      If you look around you at what has happened in the world previously and what is happening now you will realise that the law of physics applies to the human interrelationships too.

      Reconciliation when it is done only after you are forced to do it because you are on the edge of separation will be too late.It will be like bolting the barn door after the horse has bolted.

      Another important factor you have to consider is that the tamils from the north have had their own jaffna kingdom for 400 years until colonial rule dismantled it,unlike the other 32 million tamils all over the world that you are comparing them with.So the international community will have to accede to their request to bring back the staus quo to back to what it was before colonialism.After all that was the whole purpose in dismanling colonialism,to give back the natives the freedom they once had.So you the sinhalese have to convince the northern tamils the benefits that they would derive by being part of srilanka instead of a separate state.India did that succesfully with tamilnadu and the tamils there can see the great benefits to them by being a part of india.Today for example tamilnadu has become the motor industry hub of india.people ther don’t want secession,though they were clamouring for it at one time.You have to use a different startegy than force now to convince the tamils here too that it will be greatly benficial to be part of one country.The days you can use fear and intimidation to try to hammer the tamils into submission with your traditional thuggery tactics are long over and even the muslims are not going to be intimidated or scared of you with your bodu balu sena antics.You people are living in a world of your own judging others by your own standards of cowardice and others will become meek and submissive once they are confronted with thuggery.

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        REmember, for Thirty years, you guys terrorized Sri Lanka and the whole world cheered for you.

        Finally, what happened ?

        Who did not say that LTTE would lose ?

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          jimsoftly,remember riots of 56,58,77,81 and 83.Who started first?

          Now the bodhagaya in bihar has been attacked.Who started first using the bodu balu sena?

          Keep on with your thuggery and have a good whinge when the victims start to retaliate.Do you think violence is a one way street only.

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    Dayan Jayathilake is writing to prove his convictions.

    The only thing, he proves very well is that Sri Lanka desperately needs political – buddhism. That is very much to protect Sinhala buddhist civilization. Because, all these things are because of Laid-back nature of Sinhala buddhists. See, how Israel could have survived if they buddhists or even if Albert Einstein was the Executive president of Israel.

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    Just after the war, some people believed that Sri Lanka should have it’s own weapon manufacturing industry.

    Now, I think that should be a big YES. think, If Pakistan did not have the Nuclear weapons would Pakistan exist now ?

    See, how technologically developed Israel is. American weaponry is no use to Israel. Israel has developed that they need and that they can.

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      JimSofty

      “Just after the war, some people believed that Sri Lanka should have it’s own weapon manufacturing industry.”

      Of course it should. Mervyn, his sons, Duminda, …. should be granted licenses, and subsidise their industries for their patriotism.

      “Now, I think that should be a big YES. think, If Pakistan did not have the Nuclear weapons would Pakistan exist now ? “

      It is a good idea. Didn’t Pakistan exist before 1999 without nuclear weapons?

      Sri Lanka must possess nuclear weapons to protect itself from itself.

      I think India, Pakistan, China, Israel and other countries should supply at least one each.

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      Jim softly chintanaya

      “See, how technologically developed Israel is. American weaponry is no use to Israel. Israel has developed that they need and that they can.”


      but how do we transplant jewish brains into the sinhalese?

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        shankar

        “but how do we transplant jewish brains into the sinhalese?”

        With US, European and other technology.

        However, you are rest assured there would be no change.

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        Remember, how LTTE pushed us for Thirty long years.

        Who survived ?

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          survived,at what cost?If you consider thirty as long years,then what do you think of the next 300?Very very long?

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    This is a marathon.

    Along the way cetain tactical decisions have to be made for preservation.

    However, patriotic forces need to ensure the maintenance of the strategic direction. The current task is to continue to awaken the mases and build unified patriotic mass movement (no violence is required for this purpose).

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