17 August, 2019

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The Fallacy Of Independence & Hypocrisy Of The Independence Day!

By Mohamed Harees

Lukman Harees

The Declaration of Independence is among the most profoundly interpreted and fiercely discussed topics in modern history. Although Independence remains a sacred and an emotive concept, it still remains a poorly understood one to numerous people. When the UN was founded in 1945, some 750 million people, nearly a third of the world’s population, lived in Territories that were dependent on colonial Powers. Today, fewer than 2 million people live under colonial rule in the 17 remaining non-self-governing territories. The wave of decolonization, which changed the face of the planet, was born with the UN and represents the world body’s first great success. Since the creation of the United Nations, 80 former colonies have gained their independence. As a result of decolonization many countries became independent and joined the UN.

In the case of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), after colonial rulers Portuguese and the Dutch left, the British came to control coastal Sri Lanka in an era when the internal politics of the Kandyan Kingdom were in a state of crisis, due to the growing rift between the native aristocracy and the Nayakkars. The British signed the Kandyan Convention in 1815, with the Kandyan disawes (the powerful nobility in charge of running the provinces) which made Kandy a protectorate, preserving its system of government and customs.  Consequent to a breakthrough for the path back to self-determination, with the appointment of British socialist Sidney Webb as the British Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs, there was the establishment of the Donoughmore Commission, which effected a new constitution for Sri Lanka in 1931. The constitution aimed to address the unique multi-cultural challenges Ceylon then faced. Ceylon also had universal suffrage before even the UK and the USA. 

Moving further on, by 1947 the new Soulbury Constitution came into effect, with general Elections being held, and DS Senanayake was appointed the first Prime Minister. Sri Lanka gained independence within the British Commonwealth on the 4th of February, 1948. Gaining freedom was the joint effort of all communities, all of whom subscribed to the idea of an independent Ceylon, on the basis of equal rights to all and not on a majoritarian platform.  Then, Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972, finally becoming ‘fully independent’ and severing all constitutional links with the United Kingdom, including the shared monarch and the authority of the Privy council. This 1972, incidentally withdrew the Section 29 clause in the Soulbury constitution which granted some safeguards for minority rights. 

This Independence Day  on the 4th February has since been  commemorated for the last 70 years with a national but politicized event in Colombo and many religious events marking the day.  But, apart of this day being a national holiday, to what extent has this D day being a day of reflection for Sri Lankans across communities, as the country commemorates the 71st year of Independence from British colonial rule.? Has it been of any good for  the people of Sri Lanka yearning for an inclusive and socially just country where all of them can live and reap its’ fruits of progress as equal citizens after this so-called Independence? After all,  political leaders of all communities practically chipped in, to make it a reality.

Sometime back, when an African friend was asked: “When do you celebrate your Independence Day?”, he, without hesitation or bitterness, said: “We don’t celebrate our Independence Day… it is meaningless”. Although  I then found it difficult to digest his answer, I however tried to reflect on  the Independence fallacy focusing my attention to Sri Lanka. Ceylon Independence Day is depicted as a milestone separating two periods: the colonial era of oppression and impoverishment AND the independence era of freedom and ‘our brand of progress’. Further, through subtle and not so subtle indoctrination, Independence day also became indivisibly connected with the way we think about ourselves so much so that our own concept of our Lankan –ness can only be understood only in relation to colonialism, the struggle against colonialism and eventual independence. Thus, our identity became inextricably linked to our Independence. 

After seven decades of Independence, we have come to see Independence as an essential marker of  our Lankan-ness. To our utter disappointment, even after 71 years, independence did not however bring socio-political freedom or economic progress; only disaster  after disaster in these areas. There is a poignant lament expressed by writers and analysts about the collapse of  the vision of equality and prosperity which inspired the Independence struggle. But no one has questioned the validity of the Independence Day and exposed its’ cultural, political and psychological underpinnings and associations as false. Yet, this falsehood has been maintained year after year over the Post- Independence period in our history. 

Every Independence Day, national and local political leaders in the tongue in the cheek fashion engage in national events and other symbolic functions as the nation get suffocated by its’ own un-doings. We hoist and wave our national flags while the very lofty ideals like equality, justice and fair-play symbolized in them are being blatantly desecrated. As the national leaders hasten to stress their resolve and their commitment to national reconciliation and Lankan-ness, the governments of the day  have been violating them with impunity using racism as a tool to achieve power. They have been allowing extremist groups to roam the streets freely to engage in the infamous 1983 Anti Tamil pogrom, Aluthgama and Digana anti-Muslim communal violence. They were certainly being shameful episodes in our Post Independent history. As our leaders talk of social justice and stress on the need to eliminate poverty and inequality, the equality gap has been widening as never before while the corrupt top has been squandering millions of public money to fatten their nests. Rule of law has become ineffective with some are more equal than others. 

S.J. Thambiah, in his lucidly written book, “Sri Lanka–Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy”, says: A Small Island of many people, whose political machinery is running down in an environment of increasing fragmentation and factionalism. The hopes of yesterday…have (thus) become fast evaporating fantasies’. Thus, even as many colonised nations in our neighbourhood showing sure signs of advancement, Sri Lanka sadly has been lagging behind . No doubt, for many Sri Lankans, the brand of politics which replaced the colonisers has been far worse, which makes many Sri Lankan to question the very concept of Independence thrust on them. They believe that many Brown Saahibs with Western mentality replaced the colonisers after independence. Today, as the social media exposed, even the national flags which the people proudly wave, are made in China. The reality is that Sri Lanka is not yet independent to stand on its’ own , being compelled to  work particularly to Western and now to Chinese agenda and interests ,which nations have taken undue advantage from the vulnerability of this strategically important Island nation and its’ corrupt self-conceited rulers. 

Sadly, after just over seven decades, it has been most unfortunate that all the people of Sri Lanka are yet to feel  the inclusiveness and enjoyment of the various freedoms and rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution – particularly the right to being treated as equal citizens and freedom from want. For most part of our history, the people have been living in fear and insecurity specially those belonging to numerically lesser communities. The country, today thus remains deeply divided along communal lines, chronically corrupt official machinery, economically inefficient, heavily debt laden ( substantially debt laden to the Chinese), with leaders displaying political ‘clownism’, and country being subjected to international ridicule due to its’ swerving foreign policies. The national leaders who ruled Post- Independence Sri Lanka has not acted as national leaders. From SWRD’s lop sided Sinhala only policy, JRJ’s authoritarian rule,  MR’s family led corrupt and racist based regime to Sirisena’s utter inept and clownish Presidency followed by Yahapalana fallacy, Sri Lanka has been a sad victim of short termism and opportunism. Minority parties too have not have had the benefit of  pragmatic and far sighted leaders.  

Peter Kloos in ‘Democracy, Civil War and the Demise of the Trias Politica in Sri Lanka’ aptly wrote  “the introduction of the majoritarian model of democracy rule in Sri Lanka chosen already during the late-colonial period paved the way for political forms that were undemocratic in the moral sense of the term. In the end this led to violent opposition – and to dismantling of democracy…. The democratic process as a way of handling conflict failed and government rigidity led to violent opposition. The government answered in kind and in the ensuing life-and-death struggle began to manipulate both legislation and the judiciary, presumably to create greater freedom to fight its enemies. By doing so it contributed to further escalation of violence. Far-reaching decisions regarding the political process are based on political expediency rather than on fundamental discussions of democratic rule”.  

We should not confuse, motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress. Yes! As we hasten to commemorate another anniversary of our Independence from the British masters, it is true enough that some material development is visibly seen in many fields and areas. But, as a nation 71 years after gaining Independence, we have failed in no uncertain terms to build our nation and progress in qualitative terms – to build a sense of common identity and a sense of unity. Majoritarian attitudes in statecraft, inability to accept the multi-cultural, multi-lingual reality of our nation and lack of political commitment in creating ‘Sri-Lankan-ness’ in our people have thus paved the way to the continuance of an environment of increasing fragmentation and factionalism since Independence. 

Many broken promises given by political parties of all hues to resolve the national question, and their hypocrisy and corrupt outlook have been part of the process of degeneration of the political culture and today the political leadership of all communities have lost their credibility in the eyes of people. Democracy despite its’ widely acclaimed merits, has been a failure too. Still, there is no sign in the horizon that people are all much wiser now by the experience as not to repeat those historic blunders. Still , people are prepared to place their future in the hands of the same old political corrupts and clowns who had ruined the prospects of an inclusive and prosperous Sri Lanka. Still, those donning the saffron robes are calling the shots along the corridors of power. 

Little can we achieve if we harp on narrow petty communal issues overlooking national imperatives, especially when we are in the process of formulating a new constitution. Little can we achieve if the rotten corrupt political culture is not changed. Little can we achieve if the people of this country do not support the civic minded forces which challenge the status quo and attempt to expose the fallacy of the idea of nationalism and the corrupt culture. Mere hoisting flags and singing anthems as well as listening to the  hypocritical talk of those at the top on the Independence Day alone and then moving on will not solve the real problems people face in the contemporary Sri Lanka. 

Moreover, little will we achieve if we do not give up colonial mentality – the belief that the cultural values of the colonizer are inherently superior to one’s own Acclaimed Afro-Caribbean writer and philosopher Frantz Fanon wrote; “Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land and from our minds as well”. Fanon’s advice is informed by his understanding that far long after independence, many previously colonised nations remain chained by the same chains that colonised them. There is thus a need to rediscover our most intimate selves and rid ourselves of mental attitudes and complexes and habits that colonization trapped us in for centuries.

When then can the people of Sri Lanka expect a regime that governs not in reaction to the past but in preparation for the future and see the seeds of a new possibility, of a world that is neither colonial nor postcolonial? Not until the people and the intellectuals in particular stand up and speak up demanding decisive social changes in society and force the hands of leaders to have the sense to build an inclusive nation founded on the bed rock of national reconciliation. Still, those who seek to promote the vision that Sri Lanka belongs to all who have made it their home are under attack by hawks on either side of the ethnic divide. Dialogue and discussion, not bloodshed and destruction, will prove to be final arbiters of our destinies. The current situation is depressing but there is certainly a light at the end of the dark tunnel. Sri Lanka needs to be re-structured and re-invented for its inevitable tryst with destiny.  Otherwise the challenging task of building a new nation will still be unfinished business even  a century after Independence. 

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    The people and the country got the independence from the white men but became slaves to our own brown men, yet to get independence from them, and it’s going to be a huge struggle to get independence from the this slavery.

    • 3
      3

      Still, it is better to be slaves of brown en rather than being slaves of uncivilised, meet eating, fornicating pale skins.

      You might want to go to a country like England, Australia, Canada or America and continue to be a slave. Not us.

  • 3
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    Sirisena, the traitor who did the unconstitutional, illegal and undermocratic coup should be in jail and not supposed to hoist the national flag.

  • 0
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    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

  • 0
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    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

  • 5
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    It is yet another ” BLACK DAY ” for all Lankans. Even after 70 years, Lankans are not independent from the clutches of dirty criminal politicians. Senanayakas, Bandaranayakas, RW/JRJ and then Rajapaksas. And now we have MS, to add. Could some one please tell me , during which period did we achieve independence.

    • 3
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      We are applauding President Sirisena’s speech today because he summed up the history well. All leaders named by Chow (dog) have served the nation well.

      We now have to complete the unfinished business Mrs B and Hector Kobbekaduwa started, – taking our land back from Lansi squatters.

  • 5
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    DS Senanayake is the captain of the industry of Communal-ism in Srilanka. I say ‘industry’ because it is the only single industry which is carried on as a ‘relay torch’ by all the Sinhala political parties from the time of our so called independence. They will not allow the Torch to be douched, but ensure that enough fuel is added to keep the glow of the torch. Of course there is competition as to which party will add more fuel so that they can burn the cordiality, if at all, it exists between races.
    I am not sure what contribution DS made to ‘obtain’ independence. I am inclined to believe that the stream of independence over flowed from India. The so called fighters for independence in Srilanka lived on reflected glory from India and claimed that they were responsible for our independence.
    The father of the nation did not want to be even a step father for the Tamils, in that he saw it that Up-country Tamils were deprived of their voting rights, Tamil areas colonized with with Sinhala thugs commencing from Galoya and successfully drove wedge between Muslim Tamils and the other Tamils of different religions. All though he fell from the horse and died he so to it it his mantle of subtle Communal politics is carried on by his successors with ‘vigor and vitality, with no end in sight.

    • 3
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      Anaga,
      “Tamil areas colonized with with Sinhala thugs commencing from Galoya”
      ————————
      Native Sinhalayo do not have to colonize their own country. It is like saying English people colonized England. Dravidian invaders from Hindusthan colonized the land where Sinhala people lived and developed the agricultural economy by constructing a massive irrigation system.
      ————–
      In 1930s, British Rulers renovated few irrigation systems in the North and tried to settle Demalu but Demalu refused to come because they were scared of malaria. Then land was offered to Sinhalayo. They took the challenge and went there. Many people died of malaria but they did not give up. So what you call Sinhala thugs colonizing Tamil land is sheer BS! Tamil land is in Tamil Nadu not in Sinhale.

  • 5
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    Lukman Harees
    “Sadly, after just over seven decades, it has been most unfortunate that all the people of Sri Lanka are yet to feel the inclusiveness and enjoyment of the various freedoms and rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution – particularly the right to being treated as equal citizens and freedom from want.”
    ————————
    Tell us “What is it that the Sinhalayo are enjoying that the other communities are not enjoying because they are not Sinhala?’.
    I asked this question several times in this forum but so far there was no proper response. Those who responded tried to evade by saying ‘Sinhala Modayas cannot understand the problems of minorities’. What a BS response?
    ————————————-
    As a matter of fact, it is Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo who are the native people in this country that do not have equal status with Demalu who are the descendants of slaves brought by colonial parasites. Demalu can buy land in any place in the country but Sinhalayo cannot buy land in Yapanaya because of some stupid thing called ‘Thesawalamai’ which has been brought to this country by Malabaris. At the moment, Vellar Demalu who own about 80% of land in Yapanaya use this to ensure that land in Yapanaya do not go to the hands of other communities or even to the hands of low caste Demala people. If this Vellar Demalu get Land Rights Sinhalayo will never ever be able to buy a piece of land in the Northern Province. Therefore, Sinhalayo should unite and defeat Sumanthiram’s effort to get the new constitution with Federal features passed in the Parliament.

  • 3
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    Why Vellar Demalu are dying to get Land and Police powers to their hand? The answer is ‘to keep the low caste Demala people oppressed.’
    ————————-
    Vellar Demalu are agricultural laborers in Hindusthan. Parangi brought some of them to Yapanaya as slaves to work in plantations. But majority of slaves brought to this country belonged to Shudra caste and therefore Vellars behaved as they belong to higher caste.
    During British rule, Vellars licked the a*s of Whites and acquired a higher status by entering into Government service. By the time British left, Vellars were land owners and even now own about 80% of the land in Yapanaya and use a customary law called ‘Thesawalamai’ which has been brought to this country by Malabaris to keep land under their control denying low caste Demala people to own land. But due to social change that has taken place due to free education given by the Government after independence and money flowing from low caste Demala people who emigrated as economic asylum seekers to the West, the superior status held by Vellars is under threat. If they get Land Powers along with Police Powers, Vellars will be able to oppress the low caste people and maintain their superior status. It is for this reason, the low caste people in the North told the sub-committee on power devolution not to give Land and Police Powers to NPC. But according to the draft constitution, Land and Police Powers will be vested with PCs. What is the point in consulting people, if their voice is not taken into consideration? Nearly 70% of Demala people in the North belong to low castes. For the attention of people who ba*k about human rights in this country.

    • 4
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      We all know that you are the Eagle Eye aka Mahindapala the well known racist , now living in Australia , thanks to his Tamil wife’s relatives. Thanks goodness your stupid moronic anti Tamil articles now are not published in this forum . Old senile creature why don’t you do something nice in your old age and earn some merit , instead of constantly posting your anti Tamil venom everywhere. Confine it to Lanka Lies where it will be appreciated by other anti Tamil morons like you. Hates Tamils but is married to one and thanks to his Tamil wife’s relatives , now enjoying a nice life in Australia but still posting hatred and venom against all Tamils( which includes his wife , her relatives who sponsored him to Australia and his half Tamil children) . Mad man

      • 1
        2

        Rohan,

        Are the Tamils only one who have the license to be racist? Eagle Eye is not being a racist here, he has an argument here. Why do you attack him at personal level? As a third person reading it, I see that he is right. Please clarify your side.

  • 1
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    Blaming others for the tragedy is not fair enough.

    .Should not we, the people take over and put the rascals in prisons and recover the stolen wealth and create a new constitution with checks and balances to safeguards the people from tyranny and move the country towards peace and prosperity. .

    The politicians and lawyers whoever it may be should not be allowed to dictate terms and perpetuate their personal agenda.

  • 1
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    Rohan, Thanks for letting the cat out of the bag. No wonder this senile eagle has squinted/skewed eyes and cannot even see what is in front. I also find mostly men (less among women) who are married to a different religion/race are the worst bigots. Relationships are supposedly built after getting over these barriers (race/religion) What is more surprising is how their partners knowingly put up with these intolerant creatures. This is the height of hypocrisy, and giving any value to them is on us.

  • 1
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    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

  • 2
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    Lukman Harees, the fact of the matter is that no sooner we said goodbye to our last colonial masters, our Sri Lankan leaders at the time set their their eyes on the main prize. WE who united to pressure the colonial master to leave, then divided. Devious politicians like SWRD (and JR and others too) started to play to the gallery. SWRD was the great divider. How ironical that the scion of a family who thrived on serving the great white master was now ready to bite back – at our expense. SWRD’s first bastard child was the Pancha Maha Balawegaya. Then came the still born ‘Sinhala Only’. The third was May 1958. For all his efforts, the ungrateful Somarama (he of the saffron robe) ended the dream. Every government since then has taken us on a downward spiral of division. Alienating our minority communities, looting the country treasury, nepotism, cronyism, the list goes on. Even ending the fighting with a final massacre of innocents has not brought a solution. The show goes on.
    Through it all we have persisted, year after year, ‘celebrating’ independence instead of moving on. But we were too busy in our divisions.
    The best we can do now – better later than never – is kick out the February 4th tamasha, and instead let us choose to celebrate a National Day on another day of our choosing. Highlighting all the good things that should bring us together. and keep us together. Let the armed forces retire to their barracks. Here under bright sun and blue skies, the last thing we need is people in uniform parading weapons of destruction, giving us a display of ‘my thing is bigger than yours’. How so very yesterday!
    Both our President, and our Prime Minister were born in a free Sri Lanka, and the same goes for an overwhelming majority of the electorate. It is ours to forge a new Sri Lanka. Let us get rid of the continuous whingeing about the colonial bullshit.

  • 1
    1

    There was a time between 1948 and 1972 when Sri Lankans enjoyed all freedoms, thanks to the efforts of our forefathers. However, there are segments of the present day politicians who have made a mockery of the terms ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ to suit their selfish ends. The need of the hour are truly democratic young leaders to steer our country out of doom.

  • 0
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    Brilliant and even- handed article, mostly objective in its stance. The following bears quoting:

    “Fanon’s advice is informed by his understanding that far long after independence, many previously colonised nations remain chained by the same chains that colonised them.”

    When the British relinquished their hold on what they had no right to take in the first place, they left the country divided, with the demographics and professional and administrative services lopsided. The mad swing of pendulum politics sought to redress the situation, over correcting at each instance.

    Give a nation a suppressed majority ruled by a priviledged foreign leaning minority and you will have battles until the dust settles.

    The fallacy of independance was no better illustrated by the 1989 Indian invasion of Sri Lanka and its continued interference in our affairs, something which people are afraid to even speak of, at least the Minorities, because it reveals their unpatriotic leanings. As long as non-alingment is a fallacy, so will independance.

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