25 June, 2021

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Our 3 D Dilemma

By Duleep de Chickera

Bishop Duleep de Chickera

Since the end of the civil war in May 2009, there has been an unprecedented emphasis on what is popularly known as development. The most visible signs of this type of development are the improvement to roads and bridges, the construction of harbours and airports, the building of big hotels and resorts, and the cleaning up and landscaping of our cities.

At least two arguments support this understanding of development. They are both connected with the war. It is claimed to be our best chance of catching up with the rest of the world after the set back of decades of war. And it is argued to be an act of justice for those deprived of development and who have waited so patiently for so long because of the war. An extension of the justice argument spills over into reconciliation. If we are now able to give our unstinted attention to development, this means that we have been set free from conflict and are able to benefit together from this shift.

This article addresses the impact of development on the civilian victims of War (CVW) of the previous acute war zones in the North and East and its wider consequences on justice, devolution and reconciliation. It ends by offering a model of leadership.

Development and reconciliation

Good governance in any post, civil-war situation, will see the return to normalcy of CVW as its highest priority. Since the war in our own country caused unimaginable devastation to human lives and the infra-structure, a serious and speedy programme of rehabilitation was expected as the right way forward. This programme would have had to include housing and the basic amenities as well as the restoration of livelihoods and health and educational facilities for the CVW, as a first step. Being equal citizens of the country, CVW would have to be treated with respect through this process. In practice such respect would demonstrate sorrow for all they had been through and an eagerness to help them restore their broken lives with dignity.

Consequently any programme of national development that ran parallel with rehabilitation would be expected to include the CVW. While experts and investments would certainly have to be brought in from elsewhere, the human resources and contribution of the CVW would also require recognition. Equipping the CVW with micro credit capital and organisational skills so that they too would become part of the process of national development and own and benefit from it directly would have laid an excellent foundation in our journey towards national reconciliation.

Fresh wounds

Sadly what happened was very different. The rehabilitation of CVW was sluggish and is still incomplete. In comparison the development of the infrastructure, growth of business enterprises and the consolidation of security systems received priority and efficient attention. Through this thrust the presence and needs of the CVW were simply bypassed.

Those least affected by the war, benefiting economically after the war, whether individuals or corporates; while the CVW struggled to return to a secure, dignified and self- supportive life style in their own villages, was, in the words of a student “the infliction of a second wound before the first had healed”.

These wounds widened the gap between the powerful and the vulnerable. To many this was a sign that the war was not over. It had simply changed its face. Just like it was under the LTTE and just like what it was during the civil war, those in the wrong place due to no fault of theirs’ were discovering that their sufferings seemed never to end. Exclusive development was seen as another oppressive measure.

In such a situation when a section of the population reaps the benefits of development under easier and welcoming conditions and the CVW wrestle with the quest for basic human need, the space for reconciliation shrinks. For if reconciliation is to take place in any human circumstance it has to take place amongst those with equal dignity and equal opportunity.

Development trumps democracy

The danger in this type of exclusive development continuing unchecked and unquestioned is that it is likely to spread to the more sensitive area of governance. The ability to bypass the needs and dignity of the most vulnerable in the development agenda could be taken as a signal to bypass the right to devolved governance of the regions.

It is in the light of this trend that the energy behind the Divi Neguma Bill and the mounting pressure to abolish the Provincial Councils, need to be understood. They are both attempts by the central government to neutralise whatever economic and political power conferred by the constitution, still remains with the periphery; and to complete the overall control of the centre.

Ironically the underperformance of the current Provincial Councils, heavily manipulated by the centre, serves as a reminder that the best chance of social justice for the economically and politically vulnerable depends on a more substantial system of devolution. The current style of centre dominated politics has lost the ability to do justice and serve the people. The recurrent and growing unrest in all spheres of national life testify to this lack and demand sensitive attention.

Justice through devolution

Consequently the option is not to abolish the existing system of devolution but to redesign it. The division of responsibility between centre and region within a united and sovereign nation is a matter for political consensus and our best minds on constitutional law. But lessons learnt over our painful past will require the entrenchment of a firm principle in the constitution. This is that power devolved to the regions will have to be done in such a way that change and amendments will require the consent of both the centre and periphery. In addition constitutional provision and safeguards will be necessary to prevent policies at the centre as well as the region from excluding and wounding the poorest and most vulnerable.

Devolution must however not be romanticised. It will have its own power struggles and set-backs and will require strong checks and balances if it is to serve the people. In-spite of this it is still our best chance of doing justice by all so that reconciliation will become real.

Difficult democratic options

What has been said so far can be put differently. Development alone and however purposeful, can never be an option for democratic governance. The two can and must go hand in hand all the time. If exclusive development takes a lead especially in a post war situation, democratic governance, and with it the chances of justice and reconciliation will gradually erode.

The call for good governance calls for a national review. From the people’s perspective good governance is about striving to do the right thing all the time. From the politician’s perspective governance is about staying in power. But the two, good governance and staying in power are not exclusive; they are possible at the same time. Discovering this delicate balance has everything to do with the style of leadership of those who govern.

Leader as servant

Christ offered the world a new model of leadership. He preferred to call those in authority servants whose primary priority it is to ensure the betterment of those under their care. The essence of this teaching is conveyed in a memorable instance when the Guru, washed the feet of his disciples.

To touch the weary feet of those in your care with refreshing water is to demonstrate three commitments. Since feet indicate the context in which a person is placed; there is a commitment to respect the identity of the other. Since feet carry the burdens of the body; there is a commitment to liberate the other from hardship and oppression. And since feet enables mobility; there is a commitment to prevent the other from being marginalised or left behind and to accompany the other into the future.

Respect, support and accompaniment in relation to those they care for are to be the qualities of the leader as servant. But for this to happen, the leader as servant must be willing to stoop. Ironically it is when one stoops to touch the feet that one’s ear is drawn closer to the others lips. Stooping brings the added bonus of hearing the other.

Staying with the right thing

Those in positions of political authority especially, are called to stoop to respect, support, accompany and hear those in their care, especially the most vulnerable. This can be done directly, as the LLRC Commissioners did when they heard first-hand the stories of the CVW, or through representatives, which is a helpful side to party politics. But what those who govern nations should never do is to allow political disagreement with the stance and behaviour of other political parties to obstruct the legitimate welfare and rights of all those under their care.

It is this perspective mostly, that ensures good governance; and where there is good governance servant leaders do not have to worry about how they can stay in power. They simply have to strive to keep doing the right thing.

With Peace and Blessings to all.

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Latest comments

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    Good governance is not possible without ensuring the independence of the judiciary. So the current efforts to pass the Divineguma Bill by impeaching the CJ and subverting the process of law and constitution cannot be justified.

    What the government could do is to publish the Divineguma act and open it for public discussion. It could appoint a constitutional committee to look into all aspects of the act and then attempt to pass it with all suitable modifications and with the braod consensus of the opposition and public.

    Also we observe attempts to do away with PC’s and the 13A. Why this sudden move. We spent millions on a PC election only a few weeks back. Such major changes cannot be made by a few officials like the DS or OPA making statements to the press. These have to be discussed at length and finalised only after broad consensus is obtained. What is the problem with holding PC elections in the North? Why is the govt delaying this in an unreasonable manner? Why this step motherly treatment for a segment of our population?

    This Govt thinks they can do anything they want and turn the country upside down by using the 2/3rd majority in parliment. It is too base and simplistic in its approach to the important issues of governance and constitution. Maybe this simply reflects the character and thinking of the people at the top.

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      Quite right! And many thanks Rev. for this important intervention.

      It needs to be clear however, that Rajapakse’s brand of development is very superficial and really a form of looting of the country;s resources. Real development which is about human resource, talent and skills development, and building strong and transparent institutions that uphold norms of good governance does not exist.
      Indeed, development has happened in Sri Lanka DESPITE, and NOT because of Rajapakse and his corrupt and uneducated brother – the LA petrol pump man who claims to be Minister of Economic Development but has not got a basic degree and wants to turn poverty reduction into a political circus and his private empire and slush fund for cronies and goons under the rhetoric of DiviNeguama for which the CJ is today being impeached!
      Development is happening because Sri Lankans are voting with their feet and fleeing the country in search of better jobs in foreign lands and Rajapassa has not generated any quality jobs in the country. The poor of Lanka who work as maids and labourers overseas send back their hard earned money to support their families and this is where the appearance of development comes from.
      Rajapakse on the other hand is merely looting Lanka and stashing the funds in Swiss bank accounts – hence the crashing rupee and loss of purchasing power which the common man has to bear. It is a very superficial analysis indeed to say that Rajapakse has got economic development right. In fact, the reverse is true they are screwing up the economy and governance by their corruption and greed. Look at that clown Cabraal at the Cenral Bank and the Susil Premajayantha who is responsible for massive corruption at the Petroleum Corporation – these a the people who should be impeached.

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    “Christ offered the world a new model of leadership. He preferred to call those in authority servants whose primary priority it is to ensure the betterment of those under their care. The essence of this teaching is conveyed in a memorable instance when the Guru, washed the feet of his disciples.”

    This is what happens in Sri Lanka. Click the link and look at the picture. :)
    http://www.lankatruth.com/english/images/stories/demo/politics/opposition/UPFA/marvin-worship.jpg

    …in comparison, this is how down to earth Obama is when he fist bumps a white house custodian. Click link to see picture. :)
    http://s3-ak.buzzfed.com/static/imagebuzz/web04/2011/3/14/22/obama-fist-bumps-a-white-house-custodian-29908-1300156824-111.jpg

    Obama knows he is a servant of the people who has a time limit on how long he can be president. On the other hand Mahinda thinks he is a king and most idiotic Sri Lankan’s treat him like one.

  • 0
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    Reason can dream what dreams cannot reason!
    4D- Description, Development, Dynamics and Determinants

    We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a featherbed. Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. In every country and every age, the priest had been hostile to Liberty. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

    Happily Agnostic
    happy sunday;)

    • 0
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      When I die, I hope to go to Heaven, whatever the Hell that is.

      Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.;)

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    Rt Rev (Rtd.) Duleep de Chickera – you must first practice what you preach!! if you have no idea please go back to the basic teachings of Jesus Christ.

    • 0
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      Perhaps you have misunderstood those basic teachings, Malkanthi.

    • 0
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      Gautama in his language (Rajas lost for ever) said
      “If you have nothing to say don’t say it.”

  • 0
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    MALKANTHI CAN YOU BE A LITTLE MORE SPECIFIC ? BY WRITING ONE SENTENCE WHICH IS AS AMBIGUOUS AS YOUR NAME DOES NOT HELP IN A DISCUSSION.

    • 0
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      If you meditate on following scripture, wisdom will teach you the answer.
      “You can identify them by their fruits, that is, by the way they act.”
      “after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like”
      “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”

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        “Wisdom” lies not in the fruit but at the “very roots” of thetree.

        It is easier to get rid of the desire for money than the desire for fame – both humbugs of wisdom.

        Wisdom and courage are the same for courage is born of an understanding of life; one who completely understands life is always brave.

        Mechanism of human progress and historical change

        Reality + Dreams = A Heart Ache (usually called Idealism)
        Dreams – Humour = Fanaticism
        Dreams + Humour = Fantasy
        Reality + Dreams + Humour = Wisdom

        Smile and the world smiles with you.

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          Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it. Wisdom is, in fact, the practical side of moral goodness. As such, it is found in its fulness only in God. He alone is naturally and entirely and invariable wise.
          It is God the source of wisdom.

          “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ”.(Colossians 2:8)

          God says;

          8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9; Job 28:12-28; Jeremiah 51:15-17).

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          Malkanthi:
          Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

          Reason is not automatic. Seeing is 50% then when you touch its 75% and when you taste it you know if it’s plain tea or whisky 100%.

          God… a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive.

          There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.

          You dont know Old Latin to try and interpret the words of the Bible- there are 76 versions around Go back to father and he will teach you because I am no priest but a commoner.

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    The people had to struggle and make ends meet during the war because they were told that they had to tighten their belts to get rid of terrorism. Now people continue to suffer and watch prices of essentials escalate all to maintain a despot and his family. But who will come to their aid. Wonder why the Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith is so silent. Maybe he has finally begun to understand the Bible which he should be living by rather than supporting the current regime of dictators.

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      Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think.
      In a democracy when there is no money either it goes to war or prints.
      Both Hitler and Roosevelt both printed money and what happened?

      In Sri Lanka there is an inherent problem from birth –
      decidedly undecided leaders.

      Sri Lanka does not want a Marshall Plan after war like battered Europe or Japan because it is victorious (only seeming) Which the good Bishop is suggesting.The “sincerity and love” of economy is the root of all virtue- George Bernard Shaw

      The rich don’t pay taxes anywhere in the world for the COL to go down.

  • 0
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    MALKANTHI IN YOUR FIRST COMMENT YOU TOLD THE GOOD BISHOP TO “PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH”. IN MY UNDERSTANDING OF THAT STATEMENT IT MEANS THAT HE WAS SAYING ONE THING AND DOING SOMETHING ELSE. IN YOUR FURTHER STATEMENTS, YOU ARE JUST RAMBLING ON ABOUT GOD AND WHAT GOOD IS IT TO CLAIM TO HAVE FAITH AND NO DEEDS ETC. I STILL FAIL TO SEE HOW YOUR ORIGINAL STATEMENT, THAT THE REV IS NOT PRACTISING WHAT HE IS PREACHING IS ANSWERED BY YOUR QUOTING SCRIPTURE AND RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES. WHERE IS IT THAT HE IS NOT PACTISING WHAT HE IS PREACHING? IF YOU CANT ESTABLISH THAT, THEN, YOU MUST BE CAREFUL IN WHAT YOU SAY, FOR HE WAS THE HEAD OF A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY, AND A VERY GOOD ONE AT THAT; THE ONLY ONE WITH SOME GUTS.

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