29 September, 2020

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The Discontents Of A Racist Peace

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Why is it that the Sinhalese, ‘the lion race’ find themselves confronted till death do them part, by ‘the tigers’. – SJ Tambiah (Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy)

Quite apart from sense, sensibility, intelligence and decency, there is a factual reason why Sri Lanka should not continue to celebrate the victory over the LTTE.

The long Eelam War was not a war between two sovereign states. It was not a war fought against a foreign enemy. The long Eelam War was essentially a civil war, a war in which all combatants, including Vellupillai Pirapaharan, were Lankan citizens. The war’s victors were Lankans; its vanquished were Lankans; its victims were Lankans; its survivors are Lankans.

Mahinda Gota ElleSo commemorate, yes. It is necessary to remember. But not celebrate. It is bad politics to keep on celebrating victory in a civil war, year after year. It prevents the closing of old wounds, creates new wounds and impedes the body-politic from healing and becoming whole.

Yet this simple basic fact is still incomprehensible to the regime. Commenting on Canada’s decision to boycott the ‘Victory celebration’ Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya “pointed out that Canada joined annual Allied victory celebrations over Nazism”[i]. The Second World War was precisely that – a World War. It was a war between two blocs of sovereign states and not a war within a sovereign state. The Soviet, American, French and British people who celebrated the defeat of Nazism were not faced with the task of building a common national future with the German people, in the same country.

The regime’s continuous (and logically befuddling) inability to comprehend the difference between a war against a foreign enemy and a civil war is rooted in the ‘Hosts and Guests’ concept of Lanka.

According to Mahawamsa, Lanka is the sole refuge of pristine Buddhism; (Sinhala) Buddhists are its exclusive owners. Everyone else, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, and Sinhala-Christians are not co-owners but eternal guests, the descendents of occupiers and traders. They are not true Lankans, but aliens and potential enemies.

In this Mahawamsa worldview the Eelam War ceases to be a civil war and becomes a war against an alien enemy.

The ‘Hosts and Guests’ concept helped create the language issue (‘Sinhala Only’ was premised on the perception of Tamil as a foreign language), the ethnic problem and the long Eelam War. There is also a direct correlation between this concept and the way Tamils continue to be treated, post-war. The incarceration of around 300,000 of civilian Tamils in open prison camps (not during the war, but post-war, after the LTTE was annihilated), the de facto military occupation of the North and parts of the East, the attempts to change Northern and Eastern demographics and the refusal to implement the 13th Amendment make sense if the ‘enemy’ is perceived not as fellow citizens who must be won over but as aliens who must be kept down.

In 2005, Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism in search of a suitable political project and the Rajapaksas in need of a suitable ideology encountered and merged. Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism became the guiding ideology of the Familial State. The lunatic-fringe found a home in the corridors of power.

The Fourth Eelam War was a Mahawamsa War fought with modern technology. The twin myths of Buddhist-holy land and Sinless War[ii] were used to inspire the Sinhala-Buddhist soldiery. Such a religio-racial war could not have led to a national peace, especially with the war-makers in charge of peace-building. Vellupillai Pirpaharan could have created a Tiger/Tamil Eelam but never a democratic, pluralist and socialist Eelam.

Five years after 2009, the country continues to meander from crisis to unnecessary crisis. Tamils have not been reconciled and Muslims and Christian are being alienated. The military is being politicised and civil society militarised. Apart from the foreign-funded glitzy (and often unproductive) infrastructure projects, the only development strategy is turning the island into a haven for the global rich (in actuality Chinese and Middle Eastern rich). The ordinary needs of ordinary people, such as affordable essentials, decent educational, health and transportation facilities and safety from crime, are being neglected. The rule of law is replaced with the law of the rulers. Sri Lanka is more isolated internationally than she has been since 1987; her unhealthy dependence on China has placed her in a position which may be perceived as ‘anti-Indian’ by Delhi’s new ‘insular and distrustful’[iii] ruler. An extractive and oppressive familial state is being created from within the bowels of an imperfect democracy.

The Mahawamsa myths provide the sword, the shield and the rationale for this monstrous transformation.

Psychotic Politics    

In Mahawamsa, Prince Gemunu, when asked by his mother about his foetal sleeping position, replies: “Over there beyond the Ganga are the Damilas, here on this side is the Gotha-ocean, how can I lie with outstretched arms?”[iv]

This early exposition of ‘Lebensraum’ together with the myths of Consecration and Sinless war form the fundamentals of the Sinhala-Buddhist version of the ‘Clash of Civilisations’. According to this rendering, Lankan history is the history of the struggle between pristine Buddhism’s sole refuge and the invading/encroaching ‘Hindu, Christian and Islamic worlds’. And under Rajapaksa rule, this psychotic worldview informs and shapes ‘nation/peace-building’.

How can there be a lasting peace or a Lankan nation, if the guiding ideology of the state sees an enemy in every non-Sinhala-Buddhist? Imagine the harm which can be done when this perception is diffused through the ideological state apparatuses to the coming generations and becomes rooted as the new commonsense.

Our school-system, marred by de facto segregation, is structurally incapable of creating Lankans. Many schools are ethnically/religiously uniform; as jealous preserves of a single community they reinforce our primordial identities. Consequently, many children spend their formative years without any association with their ethnically/religiously different compatriots. Most of them would carry their ignorance and its offspring, prejudice, into adulthood. The teaching of history as a Sinhala-Buddhist narrative has wiped out the role played by non-Buddhists in building and protecting this island and its civilisation[v]. Monorail religious education has prevented Lankans from understanding the basics of each other’s faiths.

How can a Lankan identity be built in such an ignorant and prejudiced social-soil? How can a Lankan unity be created without a Lankan identity? Can a country be kept together by the force of arms alone? Can a genuine reconciliation be achieved without a measured understanding of the war, including its political genesis? Can peace be built in a pluralist country by alternating mind-numbing fear with triumphalistic sabre-rattling (of ‘the enemy is everywhere and we will defeat the enemy every time’ sort)?

The mounting ethno-religious discontents in the South are paralleled by increasing socio-economic problems in the North. For instance, five years after winning the war, more children are dropping out of Northern schools. “Most of the dropouts are from poor families who find it difficult to make ends meet as humanitarian assistance dries up…. The situation is being aggravated by an acute lack of job opportunities and rising cost of living.” [vi]

A new generation of war-scarred, uneducated, unemployed and unemployable youth is not a recipe for peace or development. With such a legacy, only the blind can celebrate victory.



[ii] Sourced in the Mahawamsa theology which states that unbelievers are of a lower order than even beasts and killing them is not a sin.

[iv] Mahawamsa p164

[v] The hidden facts include the non-Sinhala origins of such celebrated monarchs as Nissankamalla and Kirti Sri Rajaisngha, the role played by Muslims in resisting European invasions and the contribution made by non-Buddhist Sinhalese to the struggle for independence. The list is long and requires a separate article, at least.

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Latest comments

  • 15
    3

    The Rajapaksas have every reason to celebrate because it was a personal triumph for them. GR and MR used the ruthless commander SF to eliminate the LTTE and then imprison him. The Rajapaksas did all these for selfish reasons, to be at the helm for ever until they die. They are so callus. They have no love for the country. By eliminating the LTTE, the Rajapaksas pretend that they are the saviours of the country. They celebrate the war victory because they are so happy. They celebrate the war victory to remind the people once a year because they are scared that the people will forget one day and abandon the Rajapaksas as the people have not gained anything from the so called war victory .

    • 1
      2

      yeah right. Tell your story to konde Bandapu Cheenas.

      • 0
        0

        Kalani

        “yeah right. Tell your story to konde Bandapu Cheenas.”

        That is why he is telling you the story. Do you sport a konde?

  • 5
    11

    The barking lunatic is at it again with misinformation.

    The long Eelam War was not a war between two sovereign states. It was not a war fought against a foreign enemy.

    Tamils were trained and armed in India. Tamil nationalism is a Pan national problem that India and Ceylon have grappled with time to time. Its a pan Tamil national problem Sri Lanka having to continually face. If it was a local issue Modi and Tamil nadu would not be factored into any analysis concerning SL.

    The regime’s continuous (and logically befuddling) inability to comprehend the difference between a war against a foreign enemy and a civil war is rooted in the ‘Hosts and Guests’ concept of Lanka.

    Tamil nationalists declare an intention to secede in Parliament in 1948. “Why should’nt the Tamils have the right to secede from Ceylon” was a question written in the Hansard. Among other factors Pakistan/India partition seemed to be the inspiration. Nowhere was Mahavamsa blamed.

    The ‘Hosts and Guests’ concept helped create the language issue (‘Sinhala Only’ was premised on the perception of Tamil as a foreign language)

    The language act of 1956 was Sinhala in Sinhala areas with reasonable use of Tamil in majority Tamil areas. “Sinhala Only” was only a cannard used by Tamil nationalists.

    Tamils do not need a grievance to declare independence. Although manufacturing lies about Sinhala was needed to make a case with the voters. The constant and habitual demonsing of Sinhala people begins after declaring a willingness to become independent,

    • 0
      2

      Some people are so stupid that no amount of explanation could make them grasp the difference between a civil war and a war with a foreign power.

    • 2
      1

      Vibhushana:
      Anything from Sri Lanka’s preeminent political commentator never fails to bring out the village idiots such as yourself who think that quoting extensively from her and then pretending to critique that information constitutes “intelligence!”
      I don’t suppose there is a rock big enough for you and your kin to crawl back under, unless it is MR’s satakaya!

      • 0
        1

        Was it the pre-eminent political commentator who brought us the ‘news’ that Prabhakaran had escaped to the Mullaitivu jungles and would continue his struggles for decades to come ?

  • 2
    2

    Dear Ms Tisaranee Gunasekara,

    Even when the British became our colonial masters Sri Lanka had 85% forest cover. The Forest was King’s property and hence became the property of the British Crown.

    Crown property increased to over 90% with the take over of Lands with the Draconian Waste Lands Act and other related Acts and Laws.

    Private lands therefore accounted for less than 10% of Lanka. Most of these were land grants to temples and private individuals.

    Thus around 90% of Sri Lanka consisted of Public Land during British times.

    Today even the sea up to 200 miles from the coast is part of the exclusive economic zone of Lanka.

    All these vast resources are the property of the Sri Lankan public and should bring EQUAL benefit to all her citizens, irrespective of Ethnicity, Religiosity, Class and Creed.

    I strongly believe that it is an unalienable birth right of Sri Lankan Citizenship.

    What has the Mahavamsa and Buddhism got to do with the different claims of the different ethnicities to unequal ownership of Public Resources?

    Is it not the avarice and greed that has been the root cause of strife?

    Kind Regards,
    OTC

  • 9
    3

    Victory Sinhala Buddhist supremacy over Tamils celebrations today!

    Each dog has its day: Sinhala dogs have their day today with the bones of the tens of of thousands of innocent Tamils massacred by their racist state;

    Tamils will have their day when the war criminals and genocidiares are punished and jailed, and Tamils set free.

  • 5
    1

    Celebrating the victory over LTTE is definitely is not right, as TG points out it’s the death of citizens of this country the SLG is celebrating.

    Like most things this government do this celebration too is only going to antagonize not only the Tamils but also the other communities, while the SLG celebrate with fan fair they prevented Tamils from commemorating death of their loved ones a clear sign of oppression.

    What about the mothers/fathers/children who lost loves ones in other part of the country, are they also joining the celebrations ?

    The government is clearly feeling the heat. The failed economic policies, mounting debt, sky rocketing COL, spending on massive projects where ROI is negligible with minimum job creation, the tide is turning.
    The elections are around the corner SLG is in desperate search for the ‘X’ factor to con the masses (which is done quite easily).

    All the schemes which are getting orchestrated are geared towards this goal.

    Army spokesman’s statement for Canada’s non participation is absurd to say the least. This also shows how SLG’s way of thinking every damn thing is fed towards local consumption.

    This could have been much more inclusive affair if we commemorate and reflect on massive loss of lives we suffered due to the conflict spanning over 30 years with religious ceremonies one in South the other in the North & East. It could have been even more prudent if we included loss of lives due to other conflicts in south as well to commemorate all loss of lives due to conflicts since independence.
    That would really attract huge amount of positives not only from all communities in Sri Lanka but from world over.

    I wish SL masses will take cue from Indian voters.

  • 1
    0

    It is very very necessary to celebrate the victory over the Tamils. For that is the only way to get all the votes of the Buddhist modayas. Don’t blame the Jarapaksa Family. Blame the moda Buddhist. Blame car permit sellers of Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters.[Edited out]

    • 1
      1

      Sinhala fools never understood why Tamils slit the throat of an animal or hanging on hooks to please the god. Showering the lingam of some god with milk to get pregnant. That job is partially outsourced now Jaffna Sri Lankan forces for a milk tea.

    • 1
      0

      navin, [Edited out]

    • 1
      0

      navin, [Edited out]

  • 4
    1

    The photograph depicts Aiya and Malli feeling the pulse on the switch leading to the electric chair!

  • 1
    0

    I disagree with you on this position that victory in a civil war must not be celebrated. I think it is VERY NECESSARY for TAMILS to celebrate the defeat of the LTTE which held them captive to its fascism for so many years. Only a DEMOCRATIC political government can help them to do this because a DEMOCRATIC government will hold everything until The Tamil people enjoy every right that any other citizen enjoys – including the right to study in Sinhalese Medium – and the Tamil community is assisted to catch up with the developmental process within the island.

    The victims of the LTTE including those who were forcefully conscripted should be mourned. The surviving fighters of the LTTE must be educated at state expense and allowed to find employment. Those who wish to join the armed forces must be absorbed and trained and afforded higher education.

    The war arose because of political mistakes chief amongst which is the ongoing attempt to build a sinhala buddhist state. This mistake must be acknowledged and abandoned and the minorities must be apologized to and COMPENSATED for having been marginalized. They must be invited to join in the effort to build a new inclusive democratic and cosmopolitan – yes COSMOPOLITAN – state.

    All those who wish to contribute to the designing and building of this DEMOCRATIC and COSMOPOLITAN state must be allowed to make their submissions and the best of these thinkers must be invited to form a constituent assembly to decide on the design of the new state. International experts can be invited to comment. We can do the job. Since the government does not seem to be interested the opposition will have to give the lead. Why do Ranil and Chandrika hesitate? I would like to know why. Why does Mangala the great not come forward to lead this initiative? I would like tom know.

    ONLY a DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT CAN DO THIS NOT A FASCIST ONE.

    • 0
      0

      crazyoldmansl:
      If, as you say, “ONLY a DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT CAN DO THIS NOT A FASCIST ONE” why do you continue to defend the current SL regime as you do in a back-handed way?

  • 0
    2

    ‘According to Mahawamsa, Lanka is the sole refuge of pristine Buddhism; (Sinhala) Buddhists are its exclusive owners. Everyone else, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, and Sinhala-Christians are not co-owners but eternal guests, the descendents of occupiers and traders. They are not true Lankans, but aliens and potential enemies’. ETERNAL GUESTS? HOW ABOUT THE ETERNAL GUESTS OF VEDDAHS?

  • 0
    2

    Do people like G.L. Peiris, Dayan Jayatilleke and Rajiva Wijesinghe read articles written by Tisaranee Gunasekera, Dharisha Bastians and Kishali Pinto Jayawardene?

  • 3
    0

    The ground reality in the North today.

    According to a priest of the Catholic Church and dozens of others I know, Over 15,000 Tamil children and teenagers are on heroin and cocaine. These figures go up at a rate. They buy drugs from the money they receive from relatives overseas. Cousins, uncles, neighbors sexually harass girls as young as 13 – 14. Some are raped by their own relatives. Children don’t want to study, or listen to parents. Robberies, murder, husbands killing their wives, wives having affairs with others at a rate are so common over here. Most people have gone crazy.

    Child solders struggling to be normal but can’t live a normal life. Tamils live among Sinhalese in the south is safe. Soon the remaining population will either move to south or move overseas (if they can).
    While our so call brothers and sisters live in 1st world luxury busy collecting money to revive LTTE, the root cause of all this. We were told that the struggle was all about self determination. In realty it is nothing but self destruction. I know because I live there.

  • 2
    0

    This writer must be so ugly she never attach her picture with any of her write-up.

  • 2
    0

    Mechanic, I have no idea if she is ugly or not, but I know that she leads a good life style. I mean she gets paid very well for her easy writing. Just like Jehan Perera and Kumar.

    • 1
      0

      [Edited out]

  • 0
    1

    How come we never celebrate the state’s victory over the JVP?

    • 1
      0

      Hameed

      “How come we never celebrate the state’s victory over the JVP?”

      Well it is a good question.

  • 0
    0

    Those who call this fighting with LTTE a “civil” war equate the Tamils to LTTE.

    For thirty years I argued with my Sinhala friends that we must refrain from identifying Tamils with LTTE. That was until NPC elections after which I had to reconcile myself with the fact.

    • 0
      1

      Tamils are not the LTTE, BUT the LTTE is Tamil. Never deny hope to the non-LTTE Tamils who wish to live amongst us as equals, and nothing more.

      • 0
        1

        ‘Tamils who wish to live amongst us as equals, and nothing more”
        I would die for them.

  • 0
    0

    ‘Sourced in the Mahawamsa theology which states that unbelievers are of a lower order than even beasts and killing them is not a sin’.

    The above quote appears in the footnotes of TG’s article and is given as a reference. Could the writer please cite chapter and verse?

    Hameed

  • 0
    0

    I sent this article to my contacts with just one word, “Superb”. Among the responses was one from Rohini in Mumbai which read “She is always superb”. Keep writing Tissaranee.

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