24 September, 2018

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Sri Lanka: Coercion For Political Realism

By Ayesha Siddiqa –

Ayesha Siddiqa

The young Sri Lankan man in the audience did not like it as the former editor of a renowned newspaper The Sunday Leader’s Frederica Jansz spoke about her persecution at the hands of the dictatorial and authoritarian Rajapakse regime. The occasion was a seminar organised by a Sri Lankan professor at the University of Pittsburgh to discuss the issue of militarism and humanitarianism in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The editor had to flee her country within a few days to avoid being killed as she was directly threatened by the secretory to the ministry of defence , who is the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and of meeting the same fate as her predecessor,Lasantha Wickrematunge, who was gunned down in 2009. In Jansz’s case, she was directly threatened by the defence minister; the transcript of the conversation was released as she left the country. The Sunday Leader was doing stories about the government’s human rights atrocities vis-a-vis the Tamils, such as the regime’s violation of an agreement made with the international community to allow peaceful surrender of the LTTE political leadership. They were butchered to death as they came out of hiding waving white flags.

Notwithstanding the achievement of having won a war, the government in Colombo must not be allowed to expand a sociopolitical system that had 30 years ago, divided the society into two: Sinhala south and Tamil north. Historically, the Sinhala leadership has not demonstrated tolerance, resulting in repeated mass carnages. As if the killing of 60,000 Sinhala youth in the south of the country during the 1980s for their involvement in socialism was not enough, the Sinhala leadership made policies that started ethnic strife in the island-state. In fact, what essentially was a class conflict was turned into an ethnic problem with Colombo introducing policies such as Sinhala, as the only national language, to replace both Tamil and English.

Having won the war against the Tamil Tigers and managing to kill the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in 2009, it was expected of the government that it would reach out to the estranged Tamil population. Instead, the regime engaged in greater atrocities and encouraged the Sinhala ruling elite (that include the religious faction that is the Buddhist monks) to engage in high-handedness against other ethnic groups, including the Muslims who had served the state in the war against Tamils. In fact, one of the reasons (if not the only) for Colombo’s victory was that Prabhakaran could not dominate the north due to the presence of Muslims in the northeast.

Colombo’s overall behaviour is questionable, such as dominating all state institutions, including the Supreme Court, whose chief justice was impeached in November 2012 and replaced by a close adviser of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Moreover, the president has turned the state into a family affair with key institutions dominated by his family and friends.

With reference to the ongoing tension between the Buddhist clergy and the Muslims, this is gradually brewing and could turn nasty as in Myanmar’s case. Sadly, the international community watches silently, with people talking about global Islamic jihadists setting base in the island-state. Such developments could bring further support for Colombo without anyone looking at the real causes of the conflict. The Canadian government should be thanked for being the only one to have refused to send its prime minister to the Commonwealth Convention to be held in Sri Lanka this year, on the basis of human rights violations. The international community is too busy watching and worrying about Colombo cosying up to China. While Pakistan looks away as it played a role in helping Rajapaksa win the war, Delhi’s objections regarding Colombo are tactical and based on the politics of Tamil Nadu rather than a larger policy. The Indian hawks are more concerned about China than the human factor. This is humanity being sacrificed for a misconstrued concept of political realism.

Beijing itself is not one of those states, which would really object to human rights violations. Recently, it got into an agreement with Colombo for its fishing trawlers to fish in Sri Lankan waters flying the host state’s flag. The Sri Lankan Army, which is a tool of atrocity, is being slowly corporatised through encouraging its commercial ventures such as selling fish in the local market. The only problem for this venture for soldiers’ welfare is that it is eating into the livelihood of local fishermen, who can no longer compete with the low prices offered by the army salesmen.

However, for a certain type of Sri Lankan (Sinhala, in particular) diaspora, they would rather not hear the dissident voice as it makes them uncomfortable, especially in the West. The argument in the seminar that day was that let foreigners visit Sri Lanka and see things for themselves. The problem is that with all the voices being quieted, as is mentioned earlier, would foreigners get to see anything other than clean roads? Obviously, the Sri Lankan urban middle class, like that of any other state in South Asia, would like to see their country turned into Singapore and all dissent shoved in some dark hole where no one can see it. Perhaps, this is the curse of the age of media, where dissent becomes an eyesore and so, needs to be curbed in order to avoid embarrassing certain people.

A question worth asking those opposing dissent abroad is that why would people express reservations to the system of their countries if there was enough space to do so at home? Some states, like Sri Lanka, use hard coercion and so Frederica Jansz did not have a chance to speak at home or defend herself in Colombo without the fear of getting killed. Other states use soft coercion, which means leaving very little space for dissenters through encouraging a narrative that would naturally make dissent look like anti-nationalism. In both cases, society incurs a huge cost, which it eventually will have to pay — the cost of human liberty and survival. At the end, the state and its partners eliminate one after the other.

*The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc. version of this article is first appeared in The Express Tribune. 

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    Lessons for SL from Israel.

    The Israeli cabinet has backed a bill that requires any peace deal with the Palestinians to be put to a referendum.

    “Any agreement which may be reached in negotiations will be put to a referendum,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office as quoted by AFP. “It is important that on such historic decisions every citizen should vote directly on an issue deciding the country’s future.

    The referendum bill is seen as a goodwill gesture to right-wing members of the government who might oppose concessions Israel could have to make within the peace process negotiations – including giving up land.

    Netanyahu has said that he is firmly supportive of the idea of a referendum.

    Peace with our neighbors requires peace among ourselves, and the way to ensure this is through a referendum,” the PM stated.”

    How true!

    Peace with our neighbors requires peace among ourselves, and the way to ensure this is through a referendum,” the PM stated.”

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      The corrupt and criminal Rajapakse regime is following the Pakistan Military Business model and using Buddhist nationalism to gain legitimacy for its militarization project. The Lanka defense secretary in particular is following the Pakistan ISI’s mode of operation where Islamist movements are used to legitimize militarization, by patronizing the Bodu bala Sena and other Buddhist nationalist groups to attack minorities..
      At the same time the Rajapakse regime has been busy cultivating the Pakistan military establishment and learning from it how to create a DEEP STATE – or State within a state – a military dictatorship with a FACADE OF DEMOCRACY. This kills 2 birds with one stone – the Rajapassa regime can also give India the finger!

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      MULLI:

      How true:

      Peace with our neighbors requires peace among ourselves, and the way to ensure this is through a referendum,” the PM stated.”

      How untrue:

      Your above observation is a World away from the situation in Sri Lanka for the following reasons.

      1) Peace with fellow citizens requires recognition of their rights and respect for their feelings and needs. But it is on the record that all these have been violated by the Majority since independence.
      2) When it comes to the question of Tamil Issue you lot speak with one voice and are at peace with yourself so there is no need referendum as it is a forgone conclusion. So why waste money and effort.

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    “They were butchered to death as they came out of hiding waving white flags.”

    was this idiot there ?

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      are you there to denie?

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        Pasel, come out with the evidence and facts to back your allegations, not comic book style Channel 4 documentaries. They are clever in producing them and of course HRW and AI is there to write the fables. What were these ‘do gooders’ doing during 20/30 years of brutal LTTE terrorism?

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    The functioning Sri Lankan press fully understand the lines that must not be crossed in order to operate in the present climate. Those who do not understand this pragmatic requirement will be subject to ‘correction’. Lasantha didn’t/wouldn’t run and paid the ultimate price. Frederica did run, like many others, and she and they live to tell the tale. However, the GOSL doesn’t lose too much sleep over what critics bleat about in overseas locations; it all gets filed under imperial/colonial conspiracies and gets discounted by the all important electorate who are now firmly convinced that foreigners have their knives out for the GOSL and the Sinhalese. When foreigners visit, we have honey-tongued Keheliya holding the fort and bamboozling them in his diplomatic sing-song of obfuscation. As for the Sri Lankan Diaspora – both the Sinhalese and Tamil factions – they are only a curious spectacle to the foreigners who have an interest in our affairs. The battles that matter to the GOSL are fought in the cities and towns in Sri Lanka.
    Seriously, the GOSL won the war against the LTTE and restored long overdue peace in the country. However the harder task is the cleaning of the national stables; restoring law and order and justice, purging the police of its putrefying elements, eliminating bribery and corruption and taming the virulent forces of rampant nationalism and impunity. The goodwill that accrued to the President for defeating the forces of terror is enough to last him at least a couple of elections. One day he and his ministers will have to deliver on these running sores; who will dare write the next episode of this gripping story? Frederica?

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      Spring Chicken,

      Having read your account one thing is clear and that you are a Government Stooge and your view about the need for civilised standards and decency will never change. Your masters are Thugs and I have checked this with locals from that area and they have confirmed this.
      The following shows you in true light and where sympathies lie:
      The functioning Sri Lankan press fully understand the lines that must not be crossed in order to operate in the present climate. Those who do not understand this pragmatic requirement will be subject to ‘correction’. Lasantha didn’t/wouldn’t run and paid the ultimate price.

      With the news this morning of further atrocities being unearthed apparently committed by people in power one can understand the nature of your society and mentality and the following will confirm why.

      Sinhabahu or (“Lion-arms”), was the son of a Vanga princess and a lion. He killed his father and became king of Vanga. His son Vijaya would emigrate to Lanka and become the progenitor of the Sinhala people.

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    Fredrica Janz’s Investigative journalism was to criticizing people and the issues.

    Lasantha wickramathunga used his power and contacts for the detriment of Sri Lanka.

    ” In fact, what essentially was a class conflict was turned into an ethnic problem with Colombo introducing policies such as Sinhala, as the only national language, to replace both Tamil and English. “

    Sri Lanka is the only country in which minorities can not use the majority language for communication. Tamils can talk every language in the world and Tamils who migrated to Other countries even after 1983 are well conversant with their newly naturalized country’s majority language. Sri Lankan Tamils refusing to talk SINAHALA – WHY THAT IS NOT CONSIDERED AS DISCRIMINATION AGAINST SINHALA COMMUNITY AND MARGINALIZATION OF SINHALA COMMUNITY BY THE REGIONAL MAJORITY TAMILS ?

    There so many bankrupt journalists who write crap. Is it for their survival ? You look like one.

    JIHADISTS OR WAHABIS OR SALFISTS are in trouble all over the world including in their own territory. They are a nuisance to the world.

    You should know in your heart, Sri Lanka should hang onto obsolate and useless organizations like COMMONWEALTH as Sri Lanka is a small island in the world map. Other than that, Would a country like China hang on to this kind of associations ?

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    If this ‘talk about global Islamic jihadists setting base in the island-state’ is true this proves my theory, the Muslims in Sri Lanka who are in favor of it do not consider themselves a part of the Sri Lankan community. And if these so called ‘global Islamic Jihadists’ do set up base here in Sri Lanka, please remember there are many of us who will fight them.

    I think it’s about time The Defense Ministry begins an island wide search into this talk about ‘global Islamic jihadists setting base in the island state.’ They should first begin checking every neighborhood where there have been reports of Muslims disrupting the peace and causing problems to residents.

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      Oh my god. First start on a false assumption. then act as if it is true. Based on this go out and propound theories to vilify Muslims.

      Brilliant. Racism at its best. Are you guys so blinded that you don’t see the futility of this exercise? And are you so full of your theories that you fail to realize how incredulous all this sounds?

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    How many children were butchered on their way to school in land mine attacks by “them” and how many civilians died in the Central Bank and Celinco attacks, How many child novice monks were killed using machetes in the pollonaruwa district ?

    I white flag forgives all those things ????

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      Don Quixote, so you justify the blatant killings of those who surrendered with white flags, despite whatever alleged atrocities they may have committed, without giving them a fair trial and in contravention of Geneva Conventions. Even Hitler had not done that to many prisoners of war.

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        The LTTE wave a white flag. The only reason for them to do something like that is to get a suicide bomber close enough to do damage. GIve us a break. They had a long time to bow out gracefully and enter politics, like the ex LTTE of the East. No one should fool themselves about something as meaningless as a white flag to these monsters.

        The press is very free, there are all kinds of crazy idiots calling themselves journalist that freely print their garbage. Its those without enough sense or knowledge of boundaries that get themselves into trouble. With freedom of the press come the proper use of it, not to incite and spread lies.

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        …what ever alleged atrocities..” there is nothing alleged about what the LTTE did. Give us a break. The whole world knows exactly what they did, and how they are trying to cover it up disguising themselves overseas as citizens for peace in the name of Tamil in Sri Lanka. I’m not buying it.

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        Sammy, the Geneva conventions apply to human beings serving a legitimate armed force of a nation not to moron LTTE suicide bombing murderous terrorists. Persons blowing up other persons with full knowledge of the crime they are committing are not human.

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          Sinhala Lanka Peiris,

          You Moron go and read the Geneva Conventions that apply to the conduct of the bloody Barbaric Soldiers of your country and the Thuggish Leader who are ruling the country.
          Don’t comment on something if you don’t know it and make a fool of yourself

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    All young sinhala buddhist men AND women worship the president and the government and support all that they are doing.

  • 0
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    The young Sri Lankan man did not like to hear Frederica exposing the corrupt and criminal Rajapaksa brothers’ activities to the outside world.

    Must be a shameless Sinhala Buddhist Rajapaksa worshipper.

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