By Charitha Herath –
The discussion of the town has changed overnight. High hopes (rather high talks) of the proposed constitutional change by the so-called yahapalana government have been thrown to the back seat. The sophisticated lives of Colombo elites seem to have changed back to the zero level of square and the members of the clubs might have started finding a guy like Premadasa or Rajapaksa to manage the filed. (As always the way that it happened, upper stage elitists of our society would not put their buddy to engage in a mess like this and would try to find a guy from the non-elite political domain). All these things are to happen (or rather are happening) due to the barbaric act of terrorism by the ISIS driven Sri Lankan group of terrorist who belonged to the Thawhid Jammal. I like to make some observations on the new situation and on the new ‘political space’ yet to be created since the 21st of April 2019.
First of all, what I like to discuss as a keyword is ‘terrorism’. Unfortunately we are going to be engaging with it in coming days, weeks, months or sometime years!
Though it was said that the last set of artilleries of the Eelam war were fired on 9 of May 2009 at the coastal strip of the Pudumathan in Mulathiv District, I think that the Easter Sunday attack might turn us into the same route that we have come across as a country. The modern meaning of the concept of terrorism, as the Key Words for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary defines, has double functions, one as the meaning of ‘use violence explosive force against an existing state’ and the other as ‘part of a military struggle for national liberation’. Since the new form of terrorism which emerged in 1980’s as a result of the ‘failure of Arab Nationalism which claimed its authority not from a political but from divine authority’. “This new form of terrorism”, is according to the key words, who’s “appearance of the divine was one of the conditions of emergence of the suicide bomber”.
The second point that I would like to address in here is that the nature of developments of the Sri Lankan practices of terrorism.
As many of us know, the first experience of terrorism that we had in Sri Lanka was related with JVP insurrections in 1971 and in 1989. I called it as the terrorism 1.0. The second phrase of terrorism in our land was brought in by the Tamil militants from 1983 onwards which ended in 2009. I called that as the terrorism 2.0. The third phrase of the terrorism that we are heading to engage with started with the Easter Sunday attack, which I called as the terrorism 3.0.
Secondly, I could differentiate these three different practices of terrorism on three conceptual bases. It is correct to argue that the JVP led two insurrections (terrorism 1.0) emerged due to economic + societal disparities where the Tamil militant driven attacks took place due to the ethno + societal disparities. It is interesting to note that the terrorism, which has emerged from the Easter Sunday attacks (which I call as the terrorism 3.0), is based neither on Economic reason NOR on ethnic reasons, but on the divine reason! As the key words suggests, “Its authority not from a political but from divine”.
As the third point I would like to bring in a very interesting historical memory on the matter and to see how we could re-conceptualize the new form of terrorism. In 1983, after the anti-communal crisis took place in Colombo (with the help of the then UNP government), Social Anthropologist the late Newton Gunasinghe argued that the politics of this country would change from the point of anti-Tamil activities that emerged in July 1983. He conceptualized that the first phrase of the post-colonial political process which was called as Class-Politics would be over in 1983 and the second phase of the process will emerge. Following the theoretical interpretation of a French Marxist, Louis Aulthusser, Dr Gunasinghe argued that the ethnic politics will ‘over-determine’ the society in this new phase and the politics based on leftist movements will move into a marginal ground. Though we don’t have Newton Gunasinghe today to access the assumption that he made, the political process of the country moved in the same way as he anticipated. It was shown to us that the ethno nationalistic politics made into the central stage of the country in the last three decades.
The way I look at the gravity of this new terrorist attack that emerged on Easter Sunday, I think that a new phase has begun to influence into the country’s politics. That new phase would definitely over determine (as Newton suggested in 1983) the ethno nationalistic political platform and would take us to a new space of ‘anti-terrorist political domain’ which might have uncontrollable engagements of internationalized partners.