7 June, 2023


Solidarity, Sovereignty And Democracy

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

Under certain circumstances, it would have been good news that the main democratic opposition, the UNP and the main Tamil parliamentary party the TNA, together with a sprinkling of leftist groups, are to be partners in a renewed effort at Opposition unity. In the current and foreseeable circumstances however, that is good news only for the incumbent administration and its propagandists. Such an alliance today would be electorally radioactive. It will impact negatively on the opposition’s already imperilled performance at the upcoming provincial level elections.

As a general rule, an alliance of the UNP with the Tamil nationalist parties has been deleterious for both. The so-called Dudley-Chelvanayagam pact had a negative impact electorally and caused, as a by-product, divisions within the UNP administration. The more distressing consequence was that faced with a UNP-FP bloc, the Opposition incorporated chauvinism into its populism, and when it went on to win the election, that admixture fuelled policy, from standardisation to the ’72 Constitution.

One reason is of course, plain racism– if so, it can and must be combated; certainly not pandered to. However, that is not the sole factor involved. It must be recognised that, with a few notable exceptions, the UNP is generally not trusted as sufficiently patriotic by the electorate, and is perceived as a pro-Western and minoritarian party. The image of minoritarianism is enhanced by any alliance with a pronouncedly nationalist Tamil party.

There have of course been important exceptions. DS Senanayake led a multiethnic coalition. He could easily afford to, as he was trusted in the Sinhala heartland and his Tamil partner the ACTC was a moderate integrationist formation. Strikingly, JR Jayewardene swept to 5/6ths majority in parliament, with the CWC leader Mr Thondaman by his side. The Tamil nationalist TULF was not part of that coalition and the trade union chief Mr Thondaman was the very model of strong campaigner for integration not on the basis of supplication but of equality of rights.

Today’s UNP already suffers electorally by being led by someone whose personal appeal makes Mitt Romney seem as magnetic as Bill Clinton. He is also perceived by the electorate as the Grand Appeaser of the Tigers. Meanwhile the TNA swings between the staunchly liberal democratic (the legal activism of its MPs during the impeachment motion must be applauded) and the strident call for international accountability inquiries into the conduct of the armed forces. We may debate the validity of such a call, but what is relevant here is that it is outside the parameters of the national and the patriotic; arguably outside the boundaries of the Sri Lankan political community itself.

Gen Sarath Fonseka was electorally wounded by embracing a political suicide bomb, in the form of his meeting with and endorsement by a TNA widely perceived as fellow-travellers of the Tigers, irrespective of the fact that he could not have won that election even if it had been supervised by UN blue helmets, running against Mahinda Rajapaksa immediately after the war.

These two factors make a UNP-TNA alliance an electoral marriage made in hell. Either the TNA has to abandon its strident call on alleged war crimes and drop the radical Tamil nationalists from its ranks or its interaction with the mainline Opposition has to be limited to single issue united actions. Even so, the optics may just not be right. Thus the single issue convergences should be left to individual MPs such as the courageous and charming Mr Sumanthiran.

With foes like a Ranil-TNA alliance (and a sprinkling of anti-war activists such as Wickremabahu), President Rajapaksa does not need friends.

The same goes for the factor of international pressure. What Sri Lanka needs is international solidarity, not international interventionism. International solidarity stops where national sovereignty starts. International solidarity reaches out to people, to citizens, and respects the nation; interventionism targets states and breaks up nations.

The Age of Reason’s founding document of people’s sovereignty and individual rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789), affirms in its third article that “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation”.

There was a valid, invaluable campaign of solidarity for the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt and a disastrous campaign of interventionism in Kosovo, Iraq and Libya.

If anyone thinks that  solidarity and sovereignty, or to put it another way, strong manifestations of solidarity and strong opposition to interventionism,  are incompatible they should study the politics, diplomacy and ideology of Lula’s and Dilma Roussef’s Brazil, which accords high value to peoples’ solidarity just as to national sovereignty, and stands opposed to ‘liberal humanitarian’ interventionism. This is truest of course, of the stance of the progressive Latin American nations that form ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative. It is Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, a vocal defender of sovereignty, who also gave shelter to Julian Assange, a crusader for transparency in government and the people’s right to information.

Whatever external pressure there is must be ‘smart pressure’ and not dumb pressure as there has been until now. The problem with the international factor is that it has been in the main, responsive to the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu, which is understandable given the electoral arithmetic. However, it is a radically reverse arithmetic that prevails in Sri Lanka. Thus international pressure so far has gone up against the sentiments of the vast majority on the island, which is where the change has to be. Neither regime behaviour nor the regime itself can be changed by international pressure which runs completely contrary to the deeply felt sentiments of the vast majority of the citizenry.

As in the case of newly emergent or re-emergent democracies from Portugal, through Latin America to the Philippines and the former Soviet zone, any real change must carry along with it, the military. After a vastly popular military victory, a large army drawn from rural areas in an electorate dominated by rural voters is more significant than is most other socio-political contexts. If any Sri Lankan opposition strategist, democracy activist or policy-planner in the West thinks that the armed forces are going to shift so as to enable a level playing field or guarantee a change, as long as a transfer of power will be to a coalition that countenances a call for war crimes investigations and therefore may bring one in its wake, then these cosmopolitan liberals and democrats are smoking some substance that is highly hallucinogenic.

That is why democratic opinion (be it in the party political or civil society spaces, be it Sinhala or Tamil) and international players (be they states or global civil society) have a choice to make, between the project of re-democratisation and that of accountability. It has taken 30 years for Guatemala’s Gen Rios Montt to be brought to justice. It has taken 40 for the equivalents in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and now, Bangladesh. As for conflict resolution and transformation, the Sinn Fein/IRA has not mounted a global campaign for the prosecution of those responsible for the Bloody Sunday massacre or the callous disregard that resulted in the deaths of Bobby Sands and the hunger strikers. Democratic re-opening and conflict transformation would have been impossible had accountability—especially international accountability–been on the agenda during the long, complex transitions.

No seriously consequential solidarity campaign can accommodate calls for international inquiries on accountability as well as calls for re-democratization. The accountability slogan can split or shrink any coalition for democratization, in Sri Lanka as well as among Lankans throughout the world. International accountability can be a suicide bomb under the democracy movement. The accountability drive can sink the democracy agenda.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    I dont think TNA is asking for a seperate nation. At least elections should be held in the north and limited devolution according to 13A. Flogging the TNA is like flogging a dead horse. There is nothing to be gained by it for the tamils or the nation. It is the govt who rejected international supervision at the elections.

    • 0

      Don’t waste your time to comment on this guy. The social French found him to be a power thirsty ultra-Sinhala megalomaniac with blood in his hands in the clothes of sheep like VP so his shortened stay at Paris. He is so desperate and a disgrace to the educated Lankans.

      • 0

        Well said W!

      • 0


        “educated Lankans”.


        Both are mutually exclusive, both don’t mix.

  • 0

    1. There should be no 13-A. It should be abolished. Instead people must be empowered at GSN level with language-blind admin units.

    2. With statements like “Any fool can fight wars if there is money,” Toppigala is a jungle of no value, going to Madavachchiya instead of Kilinochchi, UNP can never win against MahindaR or Gotabhaya.

    3. Getting TNA, Mano Ganeshan, Wickramabahu as partners is an added disaster for UNP hopes. It is a dead party.

    4. Sarath F ruined his chances as a political force because he became an agent of Robert Blake.

    5. Because of mismanagement now going on with MR Admin a third party candidate has a chance since it will divide votes into three.
    But who is that candidate who can resurrect the Ven. Gangodavila Soma effect?

    • 0

      Where on earth did YOU emerge from? Even by the standards of “political punditry” in the …….. of the world (Sri Lanka) you are exceptional in the matter of your stupidity!

    • 0

      C. Wijeyawickrema says:

      “There should be no 13-A. It should be abolished. Instead people must be empowered at GSN level with language-blind admin units.”

      I say abolish the constitution which will render 13 A worthless.

      Abolish the state which will render constitution invalid.

      Deport all Tamils and Sinhalese back to their ancestral homeland India then there won’t be a need for a state.

      It is simple as that.

  • 0

    Dayan says:

    “Neither regime behaviour nor the regime itself can be changed by international pressure which runs completely contrary to the deeply felt sentiments of the vast majority of the citizenry.”

    Though, there is one more option available to whoever this international is, its known as “regime change”.

    Dayan is in the good books of India and other countries. There is good chance of him becoming the head of next regime. Dayan can rely on the support of his buddy Douglas who was with the state from the days of Premadasa to the present one. Also Douglas was with EPRLF like his buddy Dayan.

  • 0

    It’s an unimaginable disgrace that this author has no independent critical reviewer who can guard against ending up writing garbled disconnected pieces. Within the last few weeks, how many, I have lost count and on what topics – regime change, geo politics and what not.

    In this one, his quote from sovereignty, is from 1789, and even member countries of UN security council have softened its practical approach to sovereignty, way beyond this outdated idea. This is the same writer who lectured us that even US uses soft power while commanding such military and other direct power at its disposal.

    Yet, if ask ourselves why US and other countries use soft power,instead of just swallowing his observations it becomes clear, in this age, soft power is a very very effective tool to undermine this stock concepts of sovereignty and nation state rights and privileges, which has origins in treaties in 17th century Germany.

    And here he also cautions us,
    “….that the armed forces are going to shift so as to enable a level playing field or guarantee a change, as long as a transfer of power will be to a coalition that countenances a call for war crimes investigations and therefore may bring one in its wake, then these cosmopolitan liberals and democrats are smoking some substance that is highly hallucinogenic.”

    This points out:
    all his claims of victory in 2009 at UNHRC was while knowingly hiding the loads of skeletons in the cupboard of SL state ( and military), as he continues to stand against accountability.

    and as evident in the last para, international accountability has casually been equaled to domestic accountability.

    and our military that quietly swallowed a huge purge, at its moment of glory – 2010 – is a monolith, and the military brass will stand up against any accountability exercise.

    When one considers, what is happening in 2nd largest military in NATO, Turkey, where the military has been playing a huge role since end of Ottoman empire, and still see over 500 high ranking officers brought to justice and in jail, it’s such a pity we have to see CT space is filled up with writings that are not sound, and can be attributed to attention seeking disorder.

    When will this writer kindly give us some respite, that we can live without his pearls of wisdom, as we have done until last January? Please, I have nothing personal against the individual, but when they come out with monotonous regularity, making hollow exhortations, it’s difficult to ignore.

    [Edited out]

    • 0

      It’s unfortunate that you had to make the drastic step of editing out a line my comment, for not following your guidelines. While apologising to the author and to curators, I would like to assure you that to avoid similar occurrences I will stop from commenting on CT writings.

      All the very best in all your efforts.

  • 0

    My opinion is Dayan Jayathilake is suggesting ideas to suit his UN level of political knowledge and his leftist views.

    UN is a highly dysfunctional organization and it works only for a few countries.

    Any thing that happens in sri Lanka should be appealing to lay people who are not interested in any of these rubbish.

    • 0

      “UN is a highly dysfunctional organization and it works only for a few countries”

      Would tend to disagree. UN is a HIGHY functional organization that works VERY EFFECTIVELY to guard the interests of the FEW COUNTRIES WHOSE INTERESTS IT WAS CREATED to serve. It has successfully penetrated every country on earth to do it’s dirty work and legitimize wars of aggression and r@pe of third world countries for its masters. It is a prostitute organization wearing the cloak of virginity and people can’t help but worship it everywhere and sign on its “agreements” that lead to their own slaughter, both economic and otherwise….

  • 0

    Many believe Sarath F would have won with the UNP-TNA support despite congenital Sinhala anti-Tamilism. That is probably what happened except for the usual dishonesty in impersonation, violence, bribery, stolen ballot boxes and an EC – far from the culture of honourable men like the late Felix Dias-Abeysinghe. Even Chandrananda de Silva. The latter named made themselves available 24 hours of the day to duty and did not take irresponsible nocturnal flights.

    The communal virus probably did not affect JRJs fortunes in 1977 because he stuck to a different strategy than Dudley’s in 1965 when the FP/TULF were visible coalition partners. I believe the political-savvy Thonda joined later (1978?) as a Cabinet Minister. It is, thereafter, the media went after Thonda in its usual anti-Tamil tirade. Today’s Sinhala electorate has matured and may not object to the TNA being coalition partners. That may be because the JVP – one of the usual main rabble-rousers – is now trying to pitch its tent in the North – Wimal W’ hysterionics notwithstanding. It can be argued, in a sense, the inherently racial Southern Electorate is now reaching a certain degree of political plurality – or if you will, maturity.


  • 0

    Dear Dr Dayan Jaytilaka….solidarity, Soveregenity and democracy
    there are two type of sovergenity ‘Imperial Sovergenity’ and nation ‘captalist soveregnity’
    1 ‘Imperial Sovergenity thrives on the proliferating contradiction corruption gives rise to,it stability by its instabilties,by its impurities and admixture. It is calmed by the panic and anxieties it continually engenders.Corruption names the perpetual process of alteration and metamorphosis,the anti-foundational foundation,the deontological mode of being.’ said by (Michale Hardt & Antonio Negri of Empire)..’from the place of modern sovereignity to the non-place of Empire,from crisis to corruption.’
    2 Capitalist Soveregenity..’Each of the modern paradigms of soveregnity indeed support capital’s operation for a specific hisotrical peroid,but at the same time they pose obstacles to capital’s development that eventually have to overcome.This evolving relationship is perhaps the central problematic to be confronted by theory of the capitalist state…’Michel and Negri-Empire.
    In political term of democracy of
    social forces of civil society will no longer serves as the suffcient point of negotiation between capital and soveregenity.
    The imperial move of political characterized undermine sri lanka’s democratic mechanism divid solidarity among people of relevent nation,which opearte along differant models of operational system of network in intrenationally.Such movement of democratic network is internationl oprate in a way is a completely de-territiorlized nation unity and sovergenity of Sri lanka, after end of war 2009 may.

  • 0


    I read in recent Sinhala news paper ( Lanka) that
    the cost of maintaining the Ministerial Cabal( The MPS and the co-horts) is 5.39 Billion Rs. whereas the annual budgetary allocation for Agriculture is 5.29 Billion Rs.

    I am reading the diaries of Leonard Wolf ( Hambanthota GA during British Rule). I can see the lean mean Administrative body that ran this country really did the smooth running of the Government not becoming a burden to the Country.

    What we need is the same.
    Instead of the President we shall call him the Governor General and every 10yrs the Country can vote for the right person.
    The individuals who would fit for the post should have impeccable track record of Professionalism( like ex Army Chief, Ex Chief Judge, Ex Governor of the Central Bank( for sure None of the current Holders of these positions will be suitable !!!!)).
    So the small country like ours has been run very smoothly , just society with rule of law and very minimal burden to the general public in the past!!!( exactly 65yrs ago).

    Let us forget about westminister style democracy and the socialist ( hypocrisy again)!!!

    Let us get back to basics.

    The Governor General ( appointed by the Popular Vote of the Citizenry)
    Term of Governor 10yrs.
    The Government Civil Service will be more than enough to run the country.
    We can basically dust up the English (CSS – Ceylon Sivil Service Act)
    The three forces will maintain the Law and order.
    All three major languages be maintained in all media on equal basis.
    Anybody can live anywhere of the country with equal right.
    All the ills of current society and the demise of peace and harmony is due to the Vulgar Politics !!!! and the Political power corrupts.
    So let us put and end to it.
    Food for thought.
    Should I say ‘Thinking outside the Box!!!)


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