19 September, 2020

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The Election Result And The Intelligentsia 

By Dayan Jayatilleka 

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

This is a note on an aspect of the election. The Sri Lankan intelligentsia belongs to roughly two categories. One is the camp which regards itself as the “jathika” or nationalist intelligentsia, is more exactly defined as the Sinhala nationalist intelligentsia and is probably most precisely defined as the Sinhala-Buddhist ultranationalist intelligentsia. 

The other camp is broadly definable as the pluralist democratic intelligentsia, which includes the liberal-cosmopolitan intelligentsia and the left-liberal intelligentsia.

The election result is a total victory for the “Jathika” or Sinhala ultranationalist intelligentsia. 

It is also a humiliating defeat for the liberal democratic intelligentsia.

This latter intelligentsia supported either the UNP or the JVP/NPP and sometimes converged or overlapped. Few, very few, deigned to support the SJB. 

The result shows that the UNP has been wiped out. The answer to the question “what happened to the UNP?’ is very simple: Ranil. Ranil happened to the UNP. For a quarter century. 

The point is, how come the intelligentsia went along with him? How come the relatively more educated and sophisticated could not see what a disaster he was?  

The JVP/NPP has edged the UNP into fourth place and claimed the number three spot. That would be a significant achievement if the bar had not been so abysmally low, with the UNP having committed hara-kiri. The JVP has managed to clear the 5% cutoff in very few places, and will consequently have very few seats. Bearing in mind that it was far more handsomely represented in parliament in the first decade of the 21st century, the current election results are hardly an impressive improvement. They are a steep drop.

In short, the UNP has been wiped out and the JVP has been almost wiped out in terms of seats. Thus, the two parties supported by the overwhelming percentage of the pluralist-democratic intelligentsia have proved a conspicuous failure. 

That tells you something about this camp of the intelligentsia. 

Meanwhile the party that the liberal intelligentsia turned up its nose at, led by the man it shunned, has established a near monopoly of the Oppositional space, barring the ITAK. 

That tells you something more about the neoliberal and left-liberal currents of the cosmopolitan intelligentsia.     

Perhaps the most striking datum is that in Colombo city (not the district), the metropolis with the most advanced consciousness and pluralist composition, neither the UNP nor the JVP survived, but the SJB swept through, defeating the mighty Pohottuwa.

This means that it is not merely a question of the ‘backward’ provinces rejecting the choices of the liberal intelligentsia. It is that the advanced city, in which such an intelligentsia usually is most at home, utterly rejected its choices and reciprocally, the intelligentsia not only failed to feel the pulse of the country at large, but even the cosmopolitan city.  

That leaves five choices. 

The liberal intelligentsia can defect to the ultranationalist camp. 

Or it can dream about a revival of the dead UNP. 

Or it can hang around the JVP which at this moment may not even get into double digits in terms of seats, or even improve on its tally in the last parliament. 

Or it can join Mangala’s new forum, which will be a prolongation and compounding of its errors, because Mangala’s neoliberal ideology from the CBK days (‘Sudu Nelum’) through the Ranil years (Geneva 2015, an over-emphasis and overly high profile for the LGBTIQ cause) mightily contributed to the Sinhala-Buddhist backlash which has now swept the hustings. 

The fifth option is a collective self-examination and rectification of its stance. 

It must ask itself how it pushed the policies over the past quarter century– CBK’s package, the Norwegian exercise (which John Hume publicly predicted was doomed to fail), the CFA, the non-unitary new constitution—contributed to the Sinhala backlash and how the intelligentsia brushed aside this manifest danger.   

Self-examination should also involve an assimilation of the lessons of the US Democrats, who have junked Hillary Clintonian neoliberalism while also choosing not to repeat the experience of UK Labor by opting for the Left and has instead settled on a progressive democratic center.   

The fifth option also crucially involves recognition and embrace by the intelligentsia of the SJB as the only democratic resistance with a mass base of any significant sort—and Sajith Premadasa as the only viable leadership alternative.

To shift to a more conceptual note, the intelligentsia must recognize that only a social-democratic reformist program can save Sri Lanka, and in the global South, the only feasible form of social democracy is a progressive, pluralist populism fused with a moderate nationalism.  

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Latest comments

  • 7
    12

    Good let the Chingkallams suffer. Sumanthiran will be the downfall of the TNA and the Thamizh. Too arrogant , thinks he knows everything and constantly wanting to please the Chingkallams and Thullkans. Did not do anything to the Thamizh. Large scale illegal settlement of Chingkallams and Thullkans in the north and east , infighting amongst Thamizh parties, will also reduce the number of Thamizh MPS. Look at the Vanni and Trincomallee Chingkalla votes have increased and Thamizh votes declined. In Batticaloa and Amparai, Infighting amongst Thamizh parties and no Thamizh got elected from Amparai and Thamizh MPs reduced in Ballticaloa . Chingkallams and Thullkans benefitted

    • 1
      4

      There were no sour grapes in Pygmalian.

      • 4
        4

        No just wilted flowers Eliza. Racist Chingkallams like you now dancing with joy will soon wilt

    • 1
      6

      The quicker the “thamizh” goes from Sri Lanka the better for the country. Also, its Sinhalese not chingallakam, you sound like you are having a stroke.

      • 8
        3

        Jayasuriya a very common name in Kerala ( Thamizh Chera Nadu) . The quicker you get back to Kerala the better and also the quicker the rest of the Chingkallams get back to their original homelands Thamizh Nadu for most and Odisha for the rest , the better. They can say Hi to the imagined lion in forests of Odisha. It is Chingkallam the original word , Sinhala is the Prakrit or Pali corruption of the original Thamizh word Chingkallam. No lions involved

      • 7
        1

        Jayasuriya

        “The quicker the “thamizh” goes from Sri Lanka the better for the country.”

        I agree.
        When they go they must take their brethren the Sinhala/Buddhist converts with them.
        Sooner the better.
        When are you leaving?
        How did Sirima/Shastri agreement miss you?

    • 1
      0

      CT
      Do you tolerate such obnoxious racism?

  • 2
    0

    This article in the Social Affairs Journal may be useful to understand the intelligentsia in the global south

    INTELLECTUALS AND THE GLOBAL SOUTH
    Raewyn Connell*

    https://www.socialaffairsjournal.com/images/Journal_Downloads/Archives/2018_Fall/1_Raewyn_Connell_SAJ1_9_.pdf?type=file

    This paper proposes a way of thinking about intellectuals that highlights intellectual labour, considers intellectuals as a workforce, and emphasises perspectives from the global South.

    The mainstream global economy of knowledge is outlined and alternative knowledge
    formations in the postcolonial world are identified. Principal groupings of intellectuals in the colonized and postcolonial world are indicated, and the new possibilities opened by Southern perspectives, especially in the Social Sciences, are explored.

  • 7
    2

    SLPP has promised many things to Sinhala Buddhist voters Let us wait and see how the government will face the deteriorating economy after COVID 19 and the tourist industry. Will the Tamil party’s support SLPP to get a two-third majority to Kill democracy. It is a big question It id high time R Sampanthan Ranilretire from politics I am much disappointed with the performance of JVP The Sri Lankans are not still tuned towards leftists thinking

    • 6
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      we aren’t against leftist thinking but, what we are against is the things that come in the disguise of leftist thinking such as setting terrorists free, giving them compensation, letting the tamils have an eelam and the muslims a separate country and I have my suspicions that’s why many tamils want us to be “leftist” thinkers.

      • 9
        1

        J
        “Many Tamils” wanting you (whoever the “us” are) to be ‘leftist’ thinkers?
        Name a few please. I need some healthy company.

      • 7
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        Jayasuriya

        “I have my suspicions that’s why many tamils want us to be “leftist” thinkers.”

        I am not sure what the Tamils want you to be but I would have liked you left this island along with your Tamil brethren.

    • 3
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      Kuviyam ,

      Promising and breaking promise is , do you think a brand new
      culture to us ? Life is full of funny lies and catch them pants down
      in the paradise ! The one expert who knows this best is none other
      than Mahinda ! They know to lie not only from all open holes but
      also from every single cell of the body ! The oxygen that is carried
      in their system is more filled with lies than oxygen , one needs to
      know this , if not what happens is what is happening to the JVP !
      Yes , Ranil and Sambanthan must go home without delay ! And
      also remember that the large majority of the present younger
      generation is four times older than Ranil and Sambanthan with all
      those palm gadgets in their hands !

  • 9
    5

    SCP, you can keep the tissue, you may need it in future. I already had said that SLPP will win and most probably get the 2/3, if not MR told us “how he will create it the parliament”. I really do not see any such impact with this landslide. The life of minorities will continue the same if not worse, it is not that they were any better before. But life of a Lankan in general will change due to the economic crisis. When the directions come from China you may need those tissues buddy. I predicted the same months ago here in CT. Who would have thought Tik Tok will shut down this fast. With most of the international countries now realizing a real threat from China it is you who will be depending on them (alone), just like Pakistan (did not have a choice). Why jump the gun, lets wait for few months. As long intelligentsia is concerned I feel Satchi was most accurate among all in predicting the result given Lankan mind set, Otherwise how can Duminda, Karuna,and Pillayan get re-elected. This is not new , this is the trend seen from the time of independence.

    • 2
      1

      “When the directions come from China you may need those tissues buddy.”
      Are you sure about that? (I do not mean the tissues part of it.)
      There are already signs that Washington will call the shots, at least with the big boss.
      I suppose all will be fine as long as it is not China.

  • 8
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    SCP, Thanks buddy, for actually making me laugh. You reminded me of school days where we kids offer such comments, “do you need a tissue”. Funny Boy.

    • 0
      0

      The “Are sure about that?” on your assumption of where instructions will come from certainly would not have brought a trace of a smile to your face.
      *
      Do you still call people nicknames like a school kid? There are a few hereabouts who do that when they have nothing worth saying.

  • 10
    22

    LTTE wiped out by bullets and UNP Wiped out by ballots with the help of Gotabaya. His next mission is wiping out Terrorists Oriented TNA and Extremists Muslims Parties, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (Hakim’s Party) and All Ceylon Muslim Party (Richard Badurdeen’s Party) Long live Sinhalese Aryans Nation Heladiva (Sri Lanka)

    • 11
      1

      N. Perera

      “LTTE wiped out by bullets”

      What are you talking about?
      For your information LTTE was wiped out by V Prabaharan with humongous support from Hindia and other countries.

      Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt
      – Maurice Switzer, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, …………..

      • 3
        0

        Did you just call N perera a fool? LOL

        • 0
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          Burt

          “Did you just call N perera a fool? LOL”

          Did I?

  • 6
    0

    I am not sure how this paper relates to the present. There is only a handful of the so called intelligentsia ( I cannot give exact numbers but probably less than 2%) in the entire vote bank ( franchise holders) and that group is only a vital few against a trivial many of the total vote bank of this country. However, the voice of the vital few is hardly heard by the trivial many, and thus the trivial many go their merry way, which has been the case in the past, and seemed to have continued in the Aug 2020 gen election.

    Whilst I hate to discriminate between levels of intellect, most of the Sri Lankan community have a sub-seventy IQ level of and it correlates directly to their power of decision making.

    It begs the question as to whether the vital few have/s created an enough of an impact on the trivial many. I shall end here since attempting a response to the above needs a good look-back @ your your (and me) reflection in the mirror.

    Cheers, and embrace for impact!

    • 11
      1

      Well, that’s one man, one vote for you. All we can hope for is that GR will keep his brother in check and deliver on his promises.

    • 6
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      A true intellectual today has to be able to articulate the situation of Lanka and its people in the context of regional and global changes on one hand and being a dependent country(affected by coloniality, imperialism, elitism etc). Main threats to survival -whether they come from externally or internally. The country has lost its soul due to the colonisation initially(and fighting between kingdoms before), and mismanagement after the independence. People are focused on material gain for daily survival -though there is a significant creative reading public(I mean novels, poems, drama etc in the vernacular). With the election concluded hierarchical control of society (along with all that comes with it)will accelerate and unfortunately that will not be much democratic. Lets hope for the best without being too pessimistic. In the Sri Lankan context, I have observed the way the term ‘intellectuals’ is used.Basically it is used to describe those from the universities who support one or another political party… These people are actually academics more than intellectuals with no sense of history, anti colonial movement, de-colonial imagination. What Lanka needs is an intellectual movement for re-defining its character. in the post colonial world.

    • 7
      0

      DharshanaW

      “I am not sure how this paper relates to the present.”

      As usual his typing never relates to the past, present nor future.
      Treat this as another of his Job application.

  • 6
    3

    Dear Dayan

    Can we have an organised way of observing what each and every elected will be doing from day one…be it at the Parliament or in their surgeries please…their attendance to local needs from North to South and East to West.

    How can we do this using the new technologies available…milestones/progress reports/projects/fundings/their personal activities in serving the people irrespective of party politics. Can you commentators contribute something as specially if they live in SL in the respective elcotrates number of people got employed due to MP taking the matter to the departments/infrastructure..roads/hospitals/schools labs and other National function needs..fisheries/agriculture diversity/nets/boats/protection of the sea resouces/fact checkers/the team that manages the MP’s affairs comparing the manifesto pledges vs deliverables etc please.

    We can not have anymore let up in what we say and not deliver??

  • 4
    2

    National function needs..fisheries/agriculture diversity/nets/boats/protection of the sea resouces/fact checkers/the team that manages the MP’s affairs comparing the manifesto pledges vs deliverables etc please.
    We can not have anymore let up in what we say and not deliver??
    Do we have people/journalist and analysts who can regularly without politics write articles on Departments/Functions/how each and every networking the Nation and the institutions etc?? I am not talking about bond scams but daily Governance and the update on the elected specially up North in the war affected areas.

  • 5
    0

    h

  • 1
    1

    SJ, there is nothing came from US. I can see you keep talking the same until Rajapaksas are done (when ever that is ) Good Luck. Even if Trump is not there Rajapaksas will be there to keep company with you.

    • 0
      0

      “there is nothing came from US”
      Should you not consult (1) an English teacher and (2) people who have seen how the US Embassy in Colombo has been crudely pushing MCC.

  • 3
    1

    SJ, you must be one of those Intelligentsia , DJ mentioned. You cannot get a grip on your own politics of 70 years but, trying to be an expert in U.S.A politics. For a change can you say something about the verdict delivered by intelligentsia , which includes you and DJ.

    • 1
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      Please see second half of earlier rersponse.

      • 0
        0

        That comment seems missing.
        Never mind.
        Being a common sense observer, I claim no intellectual prowess; and am not as glossy as “Did-I-not-say-so” folks to pass verdicts on people or polls.

  • 2
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

    For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 3
    0

    SJ, I just spoke to a Chinese friend of mine who says China is celebrating the Rajapaksas 2/3 majority just as July 1 st 19997, when Hong Kong was handed over to China. But people from HK are not celebrating with such enthusiasm. No fire works for obvious reasons but lot of chest thumping, high fives and victory laps among CCP politburo.

    • 1
      0

      Is it so?
      Any images of fireworks?

    • 3
      0

      The chinese may feel that srilanken tribal leaders are back to power and they can do the same as they did to Angola.

      No doubt with the loads of more huge loans from brutal China will make srilanka no second to Angola or the like minded country.
      :
      My sadness is people knewn the huge mistake done by Rajapakshes with Hambantota and Mattala nevertheless to trust them ? Either people are subhumans or they are even stupidier than just appeared to be.

      • 1
        1

        What did the Chinese do to Angola please?

      • 0
        0

        leelagemalli ,

        Just to share with you some thoughts about ‘China’ involvement
        in other countries , especially the third world and in particular
        Africa . One crucial thing I came to know was that China does not
        get involved in their local politics and almost all Africans appreciate
        this . This means , unless invited or demanded , China does not offer
        its money to anyone !

  • 1
    2

    By the way I also read your sarcasm on “China had a hand —– will anyone come out with the truth with what happened”, but it is you who replace U.S.A and still make such stupid allegations here in CT.

    • 2
      0

      I know that humor is not your forte. Can you think of a not-so-stupid way of responding to that laughable comment?
      The second half of your sentence is baffling. How can I of all people replace U.S.A.?

  • 0
    0

    Greetngs Dayan,

    You conclude your latest piece with the suggestion that ‘the intelligentsia must recognize that only a social-democratic reformist program can save Sri Lanka, and in the global South, the only feasible form of social democracy is a progressive, pluralist populism fused with a moderate nationalism.’

    Hardly. As is readily evident from the US to the UK, Brazil to India, populism, and in particular nationalist populism is precisely one of, if not the greatest political threat confronting democracies today. And while some form of appeal to patriotism (pace Orwell) as opposed to nationalism is certainly important in an increasingly globalized, identity-driven world, there’s precious little evidence of moderate anything in relation to either notion in either the new Lankan government or its chief opponents in the SJB. Depressingly,, both sides spent the election campaign engaged in the customary, futile exercise of seeking to outbid each Other in the Sinhala-Buddhist-nationalist stakes. The details of this are as well known to you as anyone, so it’s a little surprising to see your quickfire electoral analysis apparently glossing over this recurring – possibly even foundational – feature of post independence politics in the country.

    In this context, getting to a progressive, pluralist anything in Sri Lanka requires both vision and leadership.

  • 0
    0

    It would be hard to find a space to fit in terms like ” Intelligentsia” to any part of
    our social fabric , to describe the prevailing political climates that wipes out
    any standard situations in more civilised democracies in the world in a similar
    situation. We may build play grounds but how do we select players , the same
    way as in the developed society ? To vote in the U K , you don’t need to prove
    photo identity , all you got to do is , tell your name and address ! You don’t even
    have to carry the polling card, and the card itself says it is not necessary ! Is that
    the way we treat our citizens in our country ? “You are such a fraud until election
    is over” ! Not only carry all documents , come back home with a packet of bleach
    to wash off the ink on your thumb ! Have you ever thought of it Dayan ? This is
    just one example. So , what I want to say is , simply because we have learnt how
    certain ideologies function , that does not mean they can be applied to all situations
    around the world ! We are slipping away from standard check and balance of the
    real world ! We are no more in line with any of the standard world norms !
    Rajapakshas are walking the countrymen into dark tribal stone ages until the
    resources pumped in by external sources through various commercial and non
    commercial projects are exhausted and that is the bitter truth !

  • 1
    0

    I’d like to know whether a huge number of ballots were spoilt, by writing “NOTA” on them.
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/None_of_the_above
    .
    This was advocated by the man in this video:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVwSFhpPhAg&list=UU58y6NhWQ_IkAUJdYqtmtQg&index=3
    .
    I, Panini Edirisinhe, have made the following observations:

    “This is clearly not just a stooge, but an employee of the Rajapaksas, speaking now, close to the elections in such a way as to stop floating votes from going to either the SJB (Telephone) or the JVP Grouping (compass, also referred to as the “clock” by those not familiar with what only sailors used to know).

    “This guy won the confidence of the young (mostly from poor families) a few months ago. He actually had one talk in which he said, “let’s speak in Sinhala” – said in Sinhalese, obviously. Now can you see how he uses quite a bit of English to impress his gaping audience?

    Hats off to the guy, though. He did succeed in his mission, although I concede that the Rajapaksa would have won without these dirty tricks. In his talk on the 6th, he said that he was speaking before Election Results were released. Shhh! – quite an actor!

    • 0
      0

      The videos began many months ago. I’m grateful to the warm-hearted “leelagemalli” for having posted them feeling that they were programmes aimed at showing up the corruption of most of the Members of Parliament, many of them from the government side.
      .
      So persuasive was he that even I was taken in. And then, a week before the elections he unveiled his villainy. He wanted his audience (who by now consisted almost exclusively of anti-SLPP youth) to deliberately spoilt their votes. I sensed his game, and warned readers in comments.
      .
      Unfortunately I did not email those whom I ought to have; those cleverer and more adept at politics than me.
      .
      Please study the videos starting with the earlier ones which must have got many young people hooked.

  • 0
    0

    SJ, Mr.. KNOW IT ALL, you the person who claimed to have more knowledge in Medicine in relation to Covid, than doctors and others in the medical field. In the same manner you make random allegations about U.S, which any migrant including Lankans know is not true.When ever people contradict, you start playing ” the victim” role, nitpick, try to teach a Language which is foreign to both,( you had the same discussion on English with Dr. GS) and claim yours as humor. There is no need for intelligentsia to predict Lankan politics and its future. I go by own experience and do not claim any punditry or expertise but give my opinion on the matter (wishing to be wrong). Where as you have no such opinion of your own but keep nitpicking others. I too read Mr. Elaventhan last article,who you claimed to be the true leader. He pretty much blamed anyone and everyone from GG, SJV to the current ones, where as you start from Ramanathan, without offering any substance, alternatives answers or solutions.

  • 0
    0

    SJ aka Mr. KNOW IT ALL,I do not claim any expertise in any field including my own profession. The reason I state “I said so ” is because any layman can predict the course of Lankan leaders, governments and the mentality of voting public. I go by my own personal experience and what my mom has shared with me living in Lanka for 95 years.When I see self claimed experts, pundits , in depth analyst giving all kind of twist and turn which is so obvious to a layman like me, is what I mean by “I said so”. If the election result was any different I would have been the first to come back stating “I was wrong” with such relief. It is surprising how intelligentsia could not see which was so obvious even before 2019 including death of UNP/SLFP, come back of Rajapaksas, betrayal of MS , post Easter repercussions —etc.

  • 0
    0

    Here is what I think the future for Lanka will be 1) There will be more of international/worldwide pressure due to Chinese dependency than from Geneva.2) Regardless Economy will meltdown.3) The discontent of our citizenry will be suppressed with the help of military administration. 4) what ever may be the amendment, Rajapaksas are here to stay 5) minorities will be pushed from worse to ugly state 6) The Muslims will fight back , the way they know best 7) Tamils have exhausted all their options and left at international mercy.8) As I had mentioned “DEMOCRAZY” is now history. Hope I am wrong with all my predictions. Mr. KNOW it ALL, if any may come true , I will claim again “I said so”, because its obvious to me. As doctors we are taught to look at problems by getting detailed history, identifying signs/symptoms, use knowledge to make a working diagnosis, then treat knowing the expected prognosis. The patient may be in denial and have difference of opinions,denial, which dose not change the course or prognosis.( a good doctor may wish to be wrong with dire prognosis, not the diagnosis)

  • 0
    0

    Mr. Know it all aka SJ, I will wait for your response, if any, to further comment. Be smart ( I believe many here in CT are smarter and knowledgeable than me) but not at the expense of making other look fool.

  • 1
    0

    ” two parties supported by the overwhelming percentage of the pluralist-democratic intelligentsia”.
    agree that JVP is included in that but to bring in the UNP is sad. Ranil was as never an intellectual as such only had a stream of luck for 43 years. Fortune in the stars may be, because there is nothing he really achieved even when in power.

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