By Kumar David–
The present constitution must be repealed and replaced by a new instrument founded on democratic principles; the state must be transformed, secularism enshrined and minority rights guaranteed. Nothing less can be the left’s foundational position, notwithstanding tactical compromises that may need to be made along the way for temporary alliances. The goal of the democratic revolution is bourgeois democracy and a unified nation state: that is, guaranteeing democratic rights and freedoms, anchoring the division of power between the legislative, executive and judicial, making the repressive apparatus of the state (military and police) subservient to the public interest, guaranteeing the rights of minorities, and unifying the national market.
Unless and until we are well on the way along this road Lanka cannot be said to be a democratic nation in any serious sense. We have made progress in consolidating a national market but on all the other counts Lanka has slid back since independence from the British Raj in 1948. India, despite hideous shortcomings, is ahead in fulfilling these democratic tasks. All Lankan governments have been opponents of democracy but none has been as brazen, open and repressive as the Mahinda Rajapaksa UPFA regime. The LSSP, CP and DLFP leaderships are deeply and inextricably woven into this fabric, hence this call for a left programme is not addressed to them; that would be a waste of time.
This letter is the fifth and final in my offerings towards drafting a programme for the left, but it keeps the door open for bold liberals and democrats. Previous letters dealt with an overview, economic policy, industry, and the rural sector, foreign investment and services.
The nature of the state
My first letter said that the central or ‘over determining’ issue now was the state, by which I meant not only that it was the seat of corruption and abuse of power, or that it was the source of the breakdown of law and order. The central thought was that the regime-state nexus will in the future become the agent of a politico-military dictatorship. I am perfectly serious; I see today’s militarization, abduction, repression and brazenness leading to an explicit power grab when this government is obliged to relinquishing power due to, say, an electoral defeat. Have no doubts, at such a time this regime will make an unconstitutional attempt to obstruct the transfer of power; vide the stratagems of Egypt’s desperate military notwithstanding the revolution.
Let us not be blind and foolish; military dictatorship in Egypt, Syria, yesterday’s Burma, and military coups and takeovers all across Africa, are not exceptions but the new normal. Everywhere, including Lanka, attempts at dictatorship can be beaten back only by preparing the people to resist and creating the requisite public consciousness – a task for the left – and also by internationalising the issue.
I must hurry on for reasons of space; my editor is generous but not munificent! The “What Constitution” question has been much discussed and my summary needs be no more than a few lines. Out goes the executive presidency, the privileged place of Buddhism and Sinhala (the left’s constitutional objectives are secularism and pluralism); out go provisions inclining towards the Public Security Act and draconian laws; out go the 6th amendment and the 18-th amendment’s appointment powers (presidential elections are irrelevant if the executive presidency is abolished); and out goes a cowed and supine higher judiciary.
In comes protection of fundamental rights and group and minority rights; in comes prohibition of detention without charges beyond a very short period. In comes devolution of power and administration to the Tamil and Muslim in their areas of domicile – and to the Singhalese of course. A second chamber giving minorities a chance to block majoritarian constitutional excesses is desirable. I am open to discussion on the unit of devolution (except that minority units must be sufficiently large to exert power) since experience with Provincial Councils has been so negative; a corrupt, self-seeking, extra layer.
The national question
The left holds that the state in Lanka is Sinhala-Buddhist (SB). The reasons are plain and don’t need repetition. In keywords: hegemonic SB ideology, alienation of minorities from governance, military occupation of Tamil homelands, mono-ethnic military, rape and violence with political impunity, and so on. The left must engage itself in a duel to the death with SB chauvinism; this is self-evident and repetition bores me. I now go further, and say, a left programme must not limit itself to devolution but recognise the right of the Tamils to self-determination as per their free choice; but few will have the gall to join me.
I now turn to the duty of the left to combat narrow Tamil nationalism. I have blown myself hoarse denouncing Sinhala chauvinism, but the left must also countenance the blinkers of Tamil nationalism. The liberation of the Tamil people also means their liberation from illusions. To be truly free the Tamil mind must break with the preposterous outrage of residual loyalty to Prabakaran and the LTTE. One of Lanka’s left leaders and his party have fallen under the spell of venerating the LTTE as though it were an expiation of Sinhala guilt. Such is not Marxism; it impedes liberation of the Tamils from their own opium.
The left has excoriated degenerate and reactionary Sinhala-Buddhist ideology, but it must also call a Tamil spade a spade. It must tell the Tamil people what really the LTTE was. Yes the LTTE fought and died to overcome the oppression of Tamils; but it had a dark side to it. The LTTE was an agent of terrorism against Tamil political leaders, thinkers and ordinary people; it was an agent of terrorism against Sinhalese civilians and leaders. The excuse that state terrorism was a great deal worse is entirely true, but this plea cuts no ice in the political and intellectual armoury of “liberation” movements.
The LTTE ethnic cleansed the Muslims and earned itself their undying hatred. It was asinine not to grasp fortune by the fetlock and take the NE provincial administration in 1987. If it had, Tamils may now be more comfortable. Did that thick-set person of little articulation from a small peninsula in a tin-pot island, hallucinate that he could murder the prospective prime minister of a powerful neighbouring country, and along this road lead his people to a shackled liberation? (Pardon the oxymoron but it is entirely appropriate). These blunders apart the supreme failing of the LTTE was ideological. It subordinated the political to the military and there lay the inevitability of its obliteration. But what else can one expect from a petty-bourgeois outfit ignorant of Marxism?
The emotional and intellectual energy of the Tamil people must be freed from fantasy if they are to achieve liberation from oppression by the Sinhala-Buddhist state. It is the duty of the left to tell the truth about state power to the Sinhala people; it is also incumbent on the left to do some straight talking with the Tamils.
American Lanka Lover / July 14, 2012
An interesting hybrid of pragmatic realism and anachronistic thought (ie that “Marxism” remains viable in the 21st century.
SB arrogance, dogma and myopia is both a huge impediment to national reconciliation and is yet another example of how the “opiate of the masses” is just as dangerous as any drug. But SL is far from secular; in fact a recent study found it the third most religious country (after Egypt and Bangladesh) on Earth.The religious countries are best with intractable problems, the secular ones are at the pinnacle of human development.
Looking at the list the inescapable conclusion is that without a wall of separation between politics and religion, no state can really prosper.
VP and the LTTE were visionaries in one respect (and one respect only): the rejection of ALL religion (including Hinduiism, the religion of 99% of their members).
As long as SL retains its character of tribalism, it will remain just above African nations in development. India sets a HORRIBLE example in that regard as its politics is also based on tribalism. Ditto the Maldives and Bangladesh. Pakistan too. Basically South Asia is an intractable mess politically speaking.
Thanga / July 14, 2012
The learned Professor should know that Prabhakaran and LTTE were the creation of Sinhala racism. Prabhakaran was left with no choice but to choose the military path to counter state terrorism against the Thamil people. His mission is to secure liberation of the Thamil people from the hegemonic rule of the majority Sinhalese. There were excesses committed by Prabhakaran but they are not “terrorist” acts. They are war crimes. Terrorism is defined as mindless violence against the state for unknown/unspecified political objectives/aspirations. Bin Laden and his Al Qaida fits into this definition. To be more explicit, the difference between terrorism and liberation movement is mass support. LTTE and Prabhakaran enjoyed majority support of the Thamil people. There is no doubt on that score. This is what Hillary Clinton had said on her presidential campaign in 2007 quote “I believe that terrorism is a tool that has been used throughout history to achieve certain objectives. Some have been ideological, others territorial. There is personality driven terrorist objectives. The bottom line is that you cannot lump all terrorists together. And I think we’ve got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raison d’être of terrorists (sources Asian Tribune 2007 November). We can educate the Thamil people regarding excess committed by the LTTE, but we cannot write Prabhakaran and the LTTE off the psyche of the Thamil people or history. He will remain a Hero who fought and lost a war against a ruthless and powerful enemy. As for ethnic cleansing the LTTE apologised for their senseless indiscretion. But to be charitable the LTTE took that drastic action to avenge the killing of hundreds of Tamils in Muslim border villages by Muslims. At that time the Muslim Home Guard were butchering the Thamil people with impunity. If this is ethnic cleansing what do you call the expulsion of a total of 13,288 Tamil families living in 42 villages for generations including Kokkulai Grama Sevakar Division (1516 Tamil families), Kokku –Thoduvai Grama Sevakar Division (3306 Thamil families), Vavunia North Grama Sevakar Division (1342 Thamil families), Other Divisions of Mullaitivu District including Naiyaru and Kumulamunai ( 2011 Tamil families) were asked to vacate their homes and farmlands within 48 hours on pain of eviction by force in case of default. This threat was issued by the army over the public address system.
Simultaneously land given to 14 Tamil entrepreneurs, including Kent Farm and Dollar Farm, on 99 years lease was also cancelled and taken over by the government. Settlements in the Weli Oya began in 1984 as a dry zone farmer colony under the land Commission, but it was later acquired by the Maha Weli Economic Agency in 1988 and declared as the Maha Weli ‘L’ zone.
The Sinhalese army did translate its threat and used force as promised. Thousands of Thamil villagers, some of them Hill country Thamil refugees victims of earlier Sinhalese violence in 1983, were driven out or they on their own fled in terror. Some were murdered by the army. One night alone 29 Tamil villagers were killed at Othiyamalai, a hamlet situated north of the Weli Oya colony.
Due to systematic state aided Sinhala colonization the Thamils have been ethnically cleansed of their lands and reduced to a minority in the East. Currently the flood gates of Sinhala colonization , militarization and Budhistization have been opened up in the North. The North is occupied by an occupation army numbering over 30,000 not withstanding the denial by Major Mahinda Hathurusinghe in regard to the actual number. And look who are the Governors/Government Agents/Secretaries serving in the North? All are retd. Sinhalese army/navy commanders!
The learned Prof. makes the fundamental mistake of comparing the acts of Oppressor with the acts of the Oppressed. The victims and victimizer are not on the same plane!
American Lanka Lover / July 15, 2012
The above is a paradigm of the continued excellence of the LTTE propaganda arm. Very well written with reference to certain events and statics to add a veneer of fact. The dream of Ealam lives on, make no mistake. Ealam war 6 and 7 and 8 and so on ad inifinitum until final victory is the strategy. The current “peace” is just a rebuilding period after the devastating setbacks of 2009.
This is why Hilary and the IC must wake up and smell the roses. They are so brainwashed by the videos produced by LTTE’s British division (Channel 4) they have lost all perspective and forgotten that the LTTE was banned by US, EU etc as a terrorist organization. Not any liberation movement, but a terror group plain and simple.
And it is true, as noted above, that the majority of the Tamils do continue to unapologetically endorse the LTTE tactics. This is why the so called “civilian” casualties in the no fire zones were not innocents. Even the non combatants were part of the logistics and support infrastructure of the LTTE. So despite all the kvetching about why the IC doesn’t seem to care about their plight, it is precisely because they, like the Palestinians, have terror and war in their DNA. These sons of Shiva only know war. So now, having lost the war, all the crying about mistreatment by the Sinhalese victors falls on deaf ears.
But the Tamil people HAVE been mislead and brainwashed by their so called leaders. No one disputes that LTTE used the Tamil people it ostensibly represented as human shields. VP and the other cowards tried to hide among the so called civilians, and of course he expected to be whisked out of the country on an Indian submarine or helicopter in May 2009, while the cadres fought to last woman and child. This is the “honor” of LTTE leadership.
Gota is absolutely correct that complacency is a huge danger as the terrorists are not completely exterminated. The nest must be destroyed too or the cubs will grow into a new generation of tigers. Any drawdown of SLA numbers in the occupied Vanni and Jaffna Peninsula would be premature and ill advised. And the USA needs to send some Predator drones to Katunayake so that the next Vellupillai or Balanchadran can be removed more expeditiously.
Amarnath P. / July 15, 2012
FOUNDATION OF REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKAN IS SOLID,CANNOT CHANGE ACCORDING TAIML MINORITY,SO-CALLED DEMAND OF HOMELAND OF MYTH OF SVJ OR INDO-SRI LANKA ACCORD IN 1987 JRJ-RAJIVA G.FORCE AGGREMNT.
REPUBLIC CONSTITUAL WAS BASE OF NATIONL UNITY AND DEVERSITY AND BALLOT-ORINTED -DEMOCARCY FOUNDATION OF MODERN SRI LANKA’N POLITICAL CULTURE. HISTORY OF OUR VALUES ARE BASE ON WESTREN DEMOCRACY SYSTEM.
The ex-Soviet Union or Pepole’s Rupublic Of China are not guiding PRINCIPLE.Our country nationl politics, PATRTIES BASE ON TWO PARTY SYSTEM DEMOCRACY.SLFP WIN IN POWER.THEN UNP WILL REPLACE POWER AND Goverance.We cannot accmomdated out of so-called uncertain power blocks undermine REPUBLIC STATE OF SRI LANKA.
ANTI-ESATBLISHEMENT OF TAMIL TERRORIST outfits, PROPOOSAL WILL BE ULTIMILNLY SPLIT OUR SAMLL NATION INTO TWO.
Indian- of Tamil Nadu several occasion had been undermine, our Natioanl Soveriginity and terrorial and Independance ,in supporting Tamil Terroist Armed gangs,since 1972.
Until there is NOT clear TAMIL NATIONAL PARTY COME INTO BEING IS NOT PRATICAL not possible TO CHANGE ON GOING REPUBLIC CONSTITUNAL OF SRI LANKAN.
TAMILS AS MINIORITY NATION IN SRI LANKA HAS BADLY DAMAGE MAJORITY COMMUNITY CIVILIZATION FALS ALLIGATION IN REPUBLICE OF SRI LANKA.
Still TNA and tamil disaporas tamil NGO actvities and prominent persons having sinsiter propangada and agiagtion againt Our Democratci Republic of Sri Lankan.
.A.Mendis / July 15, 2012
Dr Kumar David…bourgeois-democractic revolution in neo-colonial countries and nation are DIFFERANT NATURE of Western Europen And USA.
The colinial RULE OF 438 years OUR people of all nationalites of ISLANDS had been SUFFERED from plundering and explotaion by west.
There are major many unsettle NATIONL problems and issues remain in our society, since 1948.Tamil miniority issue is one of that.
The result of Coloninal patten of bourgeois-refoms are in economy politics and social of our structure still reamin,in backwarness and poverty of all nationalites of Sri Lankan.Since I aggreed with National TASK democratic are far lgging behind.
Unfinished and incompleted BOURGEOIS-DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION cannot or no intention to end task under the LEADERSHIP of Nationl Bourgeios.
This where Dr Kumar David differance will arise Between Trostakism and Lenisim:Troskisim won’t accpect BOURGESIOS REVOLUTION AND ITS TASK IS ONE STAGE OF BEFORE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION.
Revolutionaty task of DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION under the bourgesios class did NOT want to completed by own leadeship;that what happen in Russia 1917 April Revolution,insuch SITUATION OF TURNING POINT HISTORY, LENIN PUT FORWARTED APRIL THESES TO LEAD BOURGESIOS REVOLUTION AND ITS INCOMPLETED TASK, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF SOVIETS.
Bourgeoisie leadership will never completd democrtaic task of its revolution.It will apply our island as well.
Velu Balendran / July 16, 2012
Marxism is a wonderful theory, but wars and the threat of war are what have shaped the landscape of the world since time immemorial – a fact well understood by VP. And so the war Sri Lanka has set in place the peace of the victor for the foreseeable future where Tamils can only ask, or more correctly, beg for their rights and grievances to be addressed, to no avail, once again.
The minds of Tamils brought up in the traditions of puranaanooru (where a mother on hearing the death of her young son rushes to the battlefield and feels exceedingly elated after finding that he died bravely with arrows to his chest) are fired up by VP’s exploits. So much so a vast number of Tamils from many parts of the world including Tamil Nadu think, arguably, that VP is the greatest Tamil leader of all times. For, unlike other leaders VP did not beg others for his birthright and threatened those who didn’t respect the rights of Tamils.
For a fleeting moment in history, he along with his Maaveerar made Tamils rule themselves with a civil administration, a police and judiciary – guarded by an army, a navy and an air force – a feat highly unlikely to be repeated in our lifetime. These heroes are permanently etched in the hearts of these Tamils….and who can fault them? VP’s name will survive for millennia, cheered by Tamils and booed by Sinhalese.
But the LTTE made several cardinal mistakes highlighted by the prof here and lost their moral high ground. They did not embrace their intelligentsia and they shunned accountability. The worshipers of VP ironically know that too. There lies the problem with VP. But the Tamils should not have second thoughts on purging the LTTE tag from future discourse for the abysmal misery they brought upon the Tamil people.
Donald J Gnanakone / July 16, 2012
Thanga wrote ” He will remain a Hero who fought and lost a war against a ruthless and powerful enemy.”
Very true. Some say he lost the battle due to chemical weapons, cluster and phosphorus bombs, and did not have the stomach to watch 100,000 Tamil civilians get tortured, raped and killed. They were concerned of the 300,000 Tamil civilians they undertook to protect, and their safety depended on the battle coming to an end one way or the other.
The international community and India, refused to protect civilians, and this was LTTE’s miscalculation.
3 and a half years later Sri Lanka is paying for it’s war crimes slowly but surely. No point wasting our time with this Tamil Kumar David who seem to be having a serious complex about the Tamil freedom struggle sitting in Colombo.
Subramaniam Masilamany / July 16, 2012
There are greater natural forces at work in South Asia. The rise of the Dravidians is unstoppable. If you come to the west you will see the confluence of Tamils, Europeans and Chinese. That is very powerful alliance. Tamils are marrying Jews, Germans, English, Americans, Italians and now Chinese and Clumsy Indians etc.
Economically and sociologically Tamils are forming an powerful alliance with rest of the world. This force will transform Asia forever. The lazy minded indians and the oxidative degeneration of brain cells due to clumsy Indian food will be replaced making India a power centre again.Singhalese in Sri Lanka are a tiny minority, never worry about them. They are already being marginalized and made tourism operators. The west took the Tamils and they are using them very well. They own and operate some of the modern businesses and they will soon become bankers.Therefore no one should worry about the fate of Tamils, we are rising again away from the nuisance and interruption by the criminalised Singhalese If I am racist so be it. I will be stupid if I am not a racist. In the face of relentless aggravation of the mislead singhalese I will be stupid if I am not racist. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gothabaya are the tip of the ice berg of a criminalised Singhalese Society. There are deeper sociological defects among the Singhalese.
Gordon Richens / July 16, 2012
Gnanakone wrote: “They were concerned of the 300,000 Tamil civilians they undertook to protect, and their safety depended on the battle coming to an end one way or the other.
The international community and India, refused to protect civilians, and this was LTTE’s miscalculation.”
The LTTE’s miscalculation was to allow United Nations personnel access to LTTE-controlled areas during the final months. As reported by U.N. observers on Feb. 17, 2009:
“The LTTE continues to actively prevent people leaving, and reports indicate that a growing number of people trying to leave have been shot and sometimes killed…In addition, 15 UN staff and 75 of their dependents, 75 of whom are women and children, remain in the same area, having also been prevented from leaving by the LTTE.”
The world new that the LTTE were using the lives of fellow Tamils to protect their own hides and quietly resolved to allow the Sri Lankan Army to rid the country of the scourge that was Prabhakaran and his senior LTTE command.