14 December, 2019

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Presidential Election Sharpens Ethnic Divide

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The remarkable feature of the voting pattern on 16 November was that 60 to 65% of Sinhalese, hence one can conjecture about 75% of Sinhala Buddhists, voted for Gotabaya Rajapaksa – a bigger share of SB voted than SWRD in 1956 or JR in 1977. In Tamil and Muslim districts, he polled less than 10%. Tamils and Muslims did not really vote for another Sinhalese, Sajith Premadasa; they have hardly heard of him. It was as overwhelming Tamil and Muslim vote against Gota, as overwhelming the Sinhala Buddhist vote rallied to him. If there were a way of knowing how Tamils and Muslims in the South voted, I think less than 10% opted for Gota. I am not debating whether the Tamil grouse that Gota caused the death of thousands of Tamil civilians is true. Nor am not I asking whether Muslim fears that Gota’s slogan of a national security state is intended to paint the community as terrorists, is correct. No, I am not asking these questions. I am saying something much simpler; that the overwhelming majority of Tamils and Muslims think these are true and that is how they voted. The vast majority of Sinhala-Buddhists, in contrast, wanted a strong and determined leader of their own genre and that is how they voted.

Like it or not (and I don’t like it) these are the facts and we must not bury our heads in the sand and pretend reality can be wished away. I guess everybody knows all this and its implications which are bad. Neither Tamils nor Muslims would like to live under a government, de facto, of another community from which they feel excluded. Another civil-war is not an option after the failure of the last one. This time it will be truculence, non-cooperation and political dissent. As time passes skirmishes of protest are possible which will be put down harshly. Economic policy, class dichotomy and liberalism will concede centre-stage to nativism and nationalism. Sri Lanka is again entering a phase in which the communal issue, this time three-dimensional (Sinhala-Tamil-Muslim) will be the hegemonic dialogue.

French philosopher Althusser used a catchy term. He said society may be “overdetermined” by some factor; that’s what I mean when I say the communal issue will become hegemonic again. Ideology has a material existence, he argued, because “an ideology exists in an apparatus and its practices” (quote from Lenin). Ideology manifests itself through actions, the role of the state etc, which are “inserted into practices” (Lenin again). So that’s the story; in the next period communalism will be the determining factor in politics, state and society. Pretty lousy, but no point denying reality.

My last point is what can be done about it. Gota can do nothing to bring about reconciliation given the nature of the forces standing behind him. To cure a national ailment people must change their minds. This is slow, takes decades. There could be remissions of the disease; aren’t we now back to the mindset of 1956 and 1983 again? The University of Chicago has done an annual survey for 47 years (1972-today) on society’s attitudes to abortion, gay rights, state support for underprivileged groups and whether certain political views should be banned. It found steady progress over time. Good you will say. But hang on! On dividing the sample into age groups (those born before 1928; between 1928 and the war; those born in the two decades after the war – baby boomers; those born 1965-80, the millennials, and so on) they made a surprising discovery. The views within each stratum hardly shifted over the years. What was happening was that more and more of the oldies were dying off while the number of people in consecutive samples belonging to newer generations was increasing. The truth then, is not that people learn and progress in their views; no, people are pretty stuck in their mindsets and exceptions are few. It’s just that the composition of the sample was changing with younger ones increasing in number and oldies dying off. Therefore, the average changed and social opinion seemed to evolve though individual opinion hardly did. (For a summary of the Chicago studies and graphs see Economist of 2-8 November 2019, page 81)

The depressing lesson is that few people change their views on fundamentals in their lifetime – religion, communalism, socialism, marriage. Most stick to their opinions till they conk. Looks like we need to await the arrival of the great reaper before we can do much about entrenched communalism.

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Latest comments

  • 18
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    Mr. Kumar David,
    /
    What happened to your earlier predictions of 2nd preference and all…

    • 8
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      S. C. Pasqual,
      The answer to your question lies in the Chicago university study he himself is referring to. His problem is the generational gap by which the the holders of ideology of his generation are dying off!

    • 4
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      Well said. Both, KD and Jehan the pimp for the US can never admit they’re wrong. Also the bloviated DJ will now lose his Ambassador job.

      The Australian SJ will have to eat Kangaroo poop. Well said Pasqual.

    • 5
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      The world United to defeat Hitler and it won’t be long before the same happens to our Hitler…

      • 2
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        Hey Ano,
        Which ‘world’ are u talking about? the ‘underworld’?

    • 4
      2

      KD is this “racism” narrative that you, like USAID and EU funded Colombo NGOs, and the fake Human rights touting western media play, a sort of sour grapes that your US puppet was defeated – both Bondscam Ranil and Sajith ?

      Let us hope that Gota will have a proper inquiry and reveal the TRUTH about the REAL RACISTS who staged the Easter Sunday Carnage- the Foreign Black Hands behind the Easter Sunday carnage – the true RACISTS and RELIGIOUS conflict spreaders.
      After all we know that Al Bagdadi and ISIS are and were funded, owned and operated by the same US govt. (with its partners in crime Saudi and Israel), which sprout Fake Human Rights while weaponizing religion and looting the wealth of the countries of the Global South with the EU that steals loads of fish from impoverished Indian Ocean communities and then claims to offer GSP plus trade concession for Sri Lankan fisheries exports.
      The real racists are the US and its partners which are weaponizing religion in Asia to try to block the rise of Asia which led by the No. 1 Global Superpower, China, leads the world today, which US-EU and NATO are second rate back water regions now.

  • 19
    5

    The Donkey has been replaced by the Goat. As simple as that!

  • 2
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    Unp has to face the reality that is unp is very small party when comparing with huge single party slfp of Mahinda as a single party slfp of Mahinda holding 6.3 million block votes of sinbese and they can wjn 16 districts in srilanka with their block vote base with huge margin. What other hand unp this party is very small and holding only 2.4 million sinhala votes. But unp does not know this reality. Or there are small group of media people fooling unp , for example after the defeat of local polls one gentleman wrote in this CT that there is 10% of unp boycotters in this election when voters turn out was 83%. This gentle man tried to satisfy his mind by provide wrong statement. There is another gentleman recently wrote a article in CT stated sajith can win gampaha ,Kalutara and matale where unp does not have 25% vote base in this districts. In this district as past records if slfp put a pol pitha with blue color slfp of Mahinda can win. This type of wrong statements mislead the innocent sajith. He thought this statements are true. What unp have to realize is the unp is a very small party when comparing a huge party like slfp. So if any one feel to do the anti slfp politicts in srilanka the small parties like unp , JVP and all tamil Muslim parties have to come under common alliance. With out minority party votes unp hard to get 25% as party in future. Gentleman please stop fooling unp again and again let them to realize the truth.

    • 1
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      analyst – UNP is not a small party, Ranil shrank it. Sajith was mislead by MY3’s initial desire to contest in the PE. So Mahinda’s fixed votes + SLFP + Gota’s campaign = SLPP this time.

  • 1
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    It is often said that Ceylon was better off under the British. The minorities especially hark back to 1948 as the point when all their troubles began. But everything has not been completely bad since that year.
    Look at Life Expectancy. In 1950 just two years after British rule ended it was 50 years. Today it is 77. The much hated Sinhala Buddhist Governments did that. Think about it.
    https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/LKA/sri-lanka/life-expectancy

  • 2
    2

    The worst Head of State/Govt.voted in by the Sri Lankan people ever. Only God can save them.A very good paper by Kumar.Bensen

  • 4
    4

    Prof. Kumar David

    “Presidential election sharpens ethnic divide”‘

    Nonsense

    How dare you say it’s only Sinhala Buddhists voted for Gota when ethnic identity isn’t mentioned in the ballot paper?

    Please don’t create anti-social concepts based on assumptions.

    It’s understood that minority communities were encouraged by their community leaders & the UNPers to vote for Sajith in a context where Sajith was far from victory.

    What they wanted was to make Sajith winner through a 2nd counting & have him in their grip to get impossible things done.

    Now they’re worried & frustrated over Gota’s clear victory.

    Learn to respect democracy, respect peoples’ decision.

  • 4
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    It is a very good thing that the Sinhalese people are united and not divided. a superb achievement. Of course this is something really great that we have achieved this unity and I hope that we will continue to be united. It does not mean that we dislike anyone of other communities but certainly a good thing that all sinhalese can speak in one voice. It is not just the Buddhists but also catholics and protestants who opted to vote for gotabaya R.

    • 0
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      The Tamils and Tamil Muslims unitedly voted for Sajith, not because of love for him. A choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is difficult to extricate oneself from the tentacles of the devil but you may be lucky to swim ashore from the sea and live another day, hoping for a better future.

  • 2
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    What happened to Gota’s Wife and Children? Are they going to be Sri Lankans from now on?

    • 1
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      Hamlet,
      I saw Gota’s wife voting at the same polling station like Gota. Are you still trying to pretend you are a fool.
      (I know you r not).

  • 3
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    It is hilarious to find the same spin and stories, year after year given by our Sorry Lankans. They tend to package the same old stale arrack in new bottles and then give a trendy new name with lot of promotional pitch , for sales. The same people with an all too powerful position then, were at the helm for almost a decade, out of which half of it , with no war to fight and no clown/crook like MS to deal on daily basis .What ever miracle people are trying to sell never happened then. All we saw was more of economic plunge, increase in foreign debts, influence of foreign countries, international inquiries, breakdown in international relationships, white elephants for photo op and increase in crime and corruption. Now the roles have changed but people are expecting (promising) miracles.

  • 1
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    Nature will punish the country as happened in Dec 2004 if Dharma. the preaching of Buddha in a Buddhist country fails to prevail. The new ruler can’t use his military power and experience aginst Nature’s action As a Buddhist he should realize i.t if not he is not a true Buddhist He had the experience of living many tears in the US where racial discrimination exists between white and colored people His Sri Lankan citizenship is a question mark? His wife and son are not eligible to vote in Sri Lanka and hence what singhala atriotism is he talking about

    • 0
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      Pon Kulendiren

      Who punished the thousands of Tamil died in Dec 2004.

  • 4
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    You and Jehan P the tool of the American embassy are utterly contemptible. Your arrogant pronouncements were all wrong. Now you want to cast your negativity because Eelam racist Tamils failed to get their deals via Sajith

  • 2
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    Very few comments?Are CT readers in shock?Things will be fine in SL.

  • 1
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    Prediction is what it is. It is a hunch for what will happen if a condition gets fulfilled. There are so many such predictions by famous astrologers who make or break governments, advise politicians to make wrong decisions, betting on wrong horse, etc., etc., so the same goes for all. Have some simpity, don’t gore the fallen man.

  • 1
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    BTW, I wonder if all this talk of the vast majority of Sinhala Buddhists voting for Gota because they “wanted a strong and determined leader of their own genre” is something of an over-statement. There are other significant reasons for Gota over-polling Sajith. One major factor, which has not been commented on, is how very, very unpopular the Sirisena/Wickremasinghe (S/W) government had become. The votes for Gota/ against Sajith also reflect the people’s expression of disgust with the S/W administration.

    • 0
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      Fred
      People have decided in 2015 itself, to defeat Maithri’s and Ranil’s Yahapalanaya at this election.
      Even if UNP has fielded Maha Brahma as their Presidential candidate, he would be defeated.
      Some people like Basil and those who call themselves as Gotabhaya’s campaigners now try to take the credit of Gotabhaya’s victory.
      Gotabhaya’s campaign had nothing to do with the victory actually.
      If asked from people, I don’t think anybody would even remember what Gotabhaya’s promises to the poor.
      Sinhalese didn’t bother about election promises. Their only aim was to defeat Yahapalanaya.

  • 0
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    Every body is in hurry .wait until the new care taker government and appointment of 15 cabinet of ministers.there are three group who will fight out for 15 position.no one original SLPP MPS.no 2 i also ran group like WIMAL AND GONPULLE.third group THE SLFP suckers like SB,DILAN,RAMPUKPOTHA. once the parliament is dissolved there will be a big fight among this group for NOMINATIONS AND NATIONAL LIST.GOTHPAYA WILL HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME TO PLEASE EVERY BODY.already guys are fighting for GOVERNER POSITIONS.GOTHAPAYA WILL FACE A SITUATION LIKE HITHA KONDA GANI AMADAMA BADA.

  • 2
    4

    Tamil & Muslims vote is against Gota………….Then, how come Tamil / Muslim vote was for Fonseka in 2010.
    Something must be radically wrong in the mind set of the Muslims and tamils??????

  • 3
    2

    First act of the new President is going to be violation of the Constitution. This is how its going to happen. In the Parliament Mahinda is going to be appointed as the PM. Mahinda is now a member of SLPP which did not contest the election. Making Mahinda the leader of a party which did not contest the last general election is a violation of the constitution. The new President is going to violate the constitution, how can he expect the civilians to respect the constitution. Family rule on the way.

  • 2
    2

    SC Pasqual the pucha squealer,
    There is a Gotler position opening up for you. i think you will be ideal as a gotta soopuwa. I assume the duties to be similar to that of the A J Ranasinghe “seruppu soopuwa” during the former R Premadasa era. Go to the Abayarama temple and ask the prelate their to put a good word and a “lick” on your behalf. If lucky, Gotler or the Mara-yukka may have a “soopu” job for you.

  • 1
    2

    Unless there are a miracle and a complete turn around in this man’s attitude, Sri Lanka will sink further and further into the abyss. They will be busy building more whited elements of cosmetic importance and insignificant legislations like poya and pre poya crap. So I say with a big sigh, that we’ll wait and see how the cookie crumbles. We all know he can get his fleet of white vans out at any time and the first sign of dissent.

  • 2
    1

    KD look beyond. This result is time tabled and executed by mossad through MM . The disbanding of BBS shows the links. Gota is a puppet and appear to have a free hand while the objectives of the higher powers are achieved. So much for the wisdom of Buddhism.

  • 0
    1

    If there is any deal with America, we have to wait and see if the King will honor it or direct the country towards any enhanced democratic principles. It appears West will not be able to start a dialogue with the Royal Family without enforcing some economic sanctions. What happened so far is only burying back the democracy, it was submerging. So far all appointments are to the biggest rowdies and Murderers in the Island only. We yet have to see a neat political figure getting any job. By putting back Old King on the newly created powerful PM seat, 18A has been reinstated. Moda UNPyers, instead of keeping enhanced authority PM position for another one year, by their fear of Ranil may implement the proposed devolution, they pricked their eyes with their own fingers. This is not anything different from New King cut the branch he was sitting during the LG election.

  • 1
    1

    The article is rather spurious. Of course the majority of people will vote for a “strong and determined leader.” This phenomenon is not unique to “Sinhala-Buddhism.” The Tamil diaspora sponsored a megalomaniac for 30 odd years to wage guerilla war on a democratically elected government. The response was as predicted: “the death of thousands of Tamil civilians.” Gotabaya actually saved the lives of thousands of more Tamil civilians by bringing a quick end to the war. If the LTTE had surrendered with white flags, things could have been more peaceful. That is not what happened, they kept fighting, using civilians as shields to buy time and get the West to intervene. Regarding communalism, the answer to that is rapid economic development.

  • 0
    0

    Dr. KD,

    Even the younger generation of Sinhalese seem to have voted for GR in large numbers, so I am not sure the generational change seen in the Chicago study is relevant to the Sri Lankan south.

    Moreover, the traditional left-right split between the SLFP and UNP has been blurred over the past few decades, with the SLFP/SLPP adopting capitalist economic policies and Premadasa proposing freebies. That has made it easier for tribal allegiances to come to the fore.

    The Easter Sunday attacks were used to justify an exclusive national security focus, but the people who do so will realize soon enough that an excessive emphasis on ‘security’ will result in an unproductive overhead. When a high percentage of GDP is focused on national security, there will be little left to improve people’s lives. The previous iteration of the garrison state resulted in massive debts to China.

    When coupled with the inevitable corruption of the family and its hangers-on, many supporters will feel left out. It will create the conditions for another ‘anyone but them’ movement.

  • 2
    2

    “Ignorant Citizens elect Ignorant Leaders – it’s as simple as that”
    *
    George Carlin
    *
    79 IQ Sri Lankans have the Government they deserve! Enjoy!

  • 1
    1

    Not just in shock!
    astonished
    astounded
    stunned
    surprised
    startled
    and flabbergasted.
    1. What happened to the 2nd count?
    2. Where is Sarath Fonseka?
    3. Sajith wants to spend the rest of his life with leopards (luckily not with tigers)!
    4. Ranil is back in his Opposition leader’s seat. Let grandpa Smbandan take that position until the United National Party gets united. You all know that he is presently living in the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition with MR’s approval.
    5. TNA is ready to talk to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa without any preconditions (What happened to their 13 conditions)?
    6. This election confirms the fact that the majority people of any country have a limited capacity to remain silent, when they are pushed and kept being pushed against without any logical reasoning.
    7. It will take some time for many CT writers and their comment writers to digest this fact. That’s anyways the truth; the ground reality in current Sri Lanka.

  • 0
    4

    All who do NOT know Prof Kumar David will think that the {“Presidential Election Sharpens Ethnic Divide”}
    Know Ye Kumar David. The original ‘Us & Them’ was ‘Sinhala speakers & Tamil speakers’ became language/religion-divide and NOW the in-version is ‘BBS & Others’. The mission of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is to create a Sinhala-Buddhist SL.
    MR family floated SLPP. GR is a Patron of BBS.
    .
    You are disgustingly disgusting Kumar David.

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