The Long Arc Of Nandikadal

Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Opinion |
 

By Sanjana Hattotuwa - 

Sanjana

Sanjana Hattotuwa

Recent events in Tamil Nadu demonstrate the risk inherent in what most suggest is the Rajapaksa regime’s LLRC gambit – to drag on a process of enfeebled accountability and reductive reconciliation until the sections of the international community interested in independent, international investigations into allegations of war crimes lose interest, shift focus or both. A little time coupled with support from the Beijing consensus, they believe, would clear them of their deeds.

Activists Beyond Borders by Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink was published 14 years ago, long before the telegenics of recent social and political upheaval in the MENA countries. It is referenced in a new publication by the United States Institute of Peace on how new media (Internet communications, web based social media and mobile content), though it may not immediately change the dynamics on the ground within a country, may actually shore up longer term support for political reform and indeed, regime change, from outside. As New Media and Conflict after the Arab Spring by USIP flags, Keck and Sikkink argue that “boomerang effects,” in which activists in one country can create political momentum in another country to put pressure on their own home government, may make it more costly for the leadership of the country under duress to violently suppress protests

For example, it’s very unlikely that though the Rajapaksa regime shot and killed an FTZ worker during the suppression of violent protests last year – and adroitly navigated the resulting public outcry – it will use live ammunition against a protest march by FUTA. The movement has, quite remarkably, quickly embraced web based social media. FUTA’s Facebook Group Page has, at the time of writing, nearly 11,000 members. Any physical harm against FUTA will be documented, discussed and disseminated, in addition to and independent of mainstream media, opening a world of grief within the country and from beyond that the government will not be able to control, contain or easily censor.

Conscious of the shrinking space to kill, abduct, maim, threaten and censor – as it did with wanton excess and completely impunity during war time – the regime will embrace more overtly conciliatory tactics, buying and biding time with domestic and international critics. The greater negotiation here will not be between the regime and activists, but between key individuals within the regime, who need each other to survive, but will oppose each other’s responses to post-war Sri Lanka’s growing public discourse. This regime on regime contest will be interesting. From memes to cartoons, tweets to blogs, video to websites, op-eds to documentaries, Facebook groups to new books, there are new damned spots that can’t be easily washed away, much as the regime would like to. Thus far, the government’s responses are liberal servings from the Authoritarianism 1.0 recipe book. Censor, block and rekindle ancient laws to stifle free expression. Abduct and torture a few, surveil many more.

Yet this is not stopping the dissent.

This presents an opportunity, but not for facile regime change in the near term. There are growing opportunities for the strategic weakening of the regime’s stranglehold of the public imagination. These must be seized. USIP’s report suggests very clearly that new media is absolutely no guarantee of any immediate or sustained political and systemic change. This puts paid to what for example the UNP loudly proclaimed, in 2011, would be the inevitable trickle down of social activism from Tahrir Square to Lipton Circus. What is does imply is that not unlike the reported travel of our Foreign Minister to London over the FCO’s new travel warnings on Sri Lanka, the more the regime tries to suppress inconvenient narratives, the more the international community will be reminded of its deeds – the inescapable paradox of a regime seeking to erase inconvenient domestic narratives, yet only succeeding in bringing into sharp focus what it has erased, internationally. There’s no winning this war through the Nandikadal rulebook. This is a new information domain, what Julian Assange has called an age of radical transparency, where you cannot hide what you’ve done to erase and censor, even if the targets of censorship were successfully shut down or forcibly shut up.

The corrosive impact and illogic of Tamil Nadu’s imprudent politicians warrants no repetition. Yet it’s a humbling reminder to our government that it simply can’t control how the world sees and remembers Sri Lanka, no matter how much Conde Nast features our more cosmopolitan side.

There is no forgetting the inconvenient, and Nandikadal’s boomerang, thrown early 2009, will return.

Sajanana’s blog ; http://sanjanah.wordpress.com/

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10 Responses to The Long Arc Of Nandikadal

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    An intelligent commentary as always, though radically incomplete: ‘radical transparency’ works both ways, and images of events in Tamil Nadu certainly seem to have made an impression on voter choice in the NCP, Sabaragamuwa, Ampara and Seruwila…

    Dr Dayan Jayatilleka
    September 9, 2012 at 11:53 am
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      Dayan Jayatilleka comments: “events in Tamil Nadu certainly seem to have made an impression on voter choice in the NCP, Sabaragamuwa, Ampara and Seruwila…” How so? Your comment is boringly incomplete. There is no forgetting the inconvenient, and Nandikadal’s boomerang, thrown early 2009, will return. Do you agree with the above conclusion?

      Native Vedda
      September 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm
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    No judicial inquiries,postmortem reports and/or indictments yet on a)the death of the canadian tamil man who went to kilinochi to reclaim and refurbish his business property and found that the army had sold it to Cargills,protested to the local army commander, and the same evening was axed to death by masked men in full view of villagers, and, b)the death of a prisoner in vavuniya jail, who died in custody,apparently beaten to death ( and another in coma after beating). The burial of the first by relatives was sought to be prevented by police as “a matter of ‘national escurity’. These were ‘peacetime’ crimes which are yet to be judicially inquired into. Impunity yet survives.

    Sam
    September 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm
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    Hi Dayan, Thanks and completely agree. This was flagged by more intelligent voices in the #lka and #srilanka twittersphere long before today’s results (hashtags – and no, it’s not narcotic). I thought you would have brought up the more obvious counterpoint, which I also take on board – that archived data from 2009 and before also implicates so many in the Tamil diaspora, who continue to support the LTTE, and were directly supporting the organisation. The data is definitely out there. So is the choice to search, and act. And just sometimes, data leaks and shit happens. Sanjana

    Sanjana Hattotuwa
    September 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm
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    sanjana hattotuwa ………….. This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

    dicky Bird
    September 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm
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      Hi dicky Bird, I am sure you wanted to comment as usual in support of the SL family regime but you must have used indecent language not acceptable to CT and your comment was remuved. Soory for you.

      Mahesh
      September 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm
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    IS DICKY BIRD ANOTHER THUG BELONGING TO MERVYN & MALAKA CLAN?.

    Desilva
    September 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm
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      Dicky Bird is Max Silva’s shadow.

      gamini
      September 11, 2012 at 4:15 am
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    Dr.Dayan The Non Aligned Movement (NAM) has taken up the removal of Ms Tamara Kunanayakam as Chairperson of the UN Working Group on the Right to Development with the Sri Lanka mission in Geneva.

    Srilankan
    September 9, 2012 at 11:21 pm
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    The pioneering role of Sanjana in introducing and popularizing the use the social media in exposing the crimes of the Srilankan regime has to be appreciated. This is what the oil and finance minister of Libya’s transitional (revolutionary)government had to say on the power of social media on the Libyan Revolution-”The technology we have today has invaded the social structure of these countries, and in the process has delivered more information, has delivered the ability to see what the outside world has been engaged in. And on the importance of changing the Ant-American feelings of the Libyan population he is spot on- “Only a year ago, America was the great Satan in Tripoli. And now you walk in as an American — Sen. (John) McCain came, he was embraced with open arms, people want to see him. And I thought, this is really remarkable, you can really build on this. Rebuilding Libya is a big enterprise, and I hope America will be in the forefront on this endeavor.” At the same time, the social media in the wrong hands could be dangerous. What could have been the consequences if the Srilankan pilgrims in those buses started twitting and posting on their Facebook pages on the spot about how they felt at the time and the Srilankan regime decides to simultaneously broadcast these postings on the national TV in order to whip up Sinhala nationalism ? The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan led by US has grave concerns about the Taliban’s use of social media. Taliban is known be using social media for recruitment, to provide information, including false and misleading “disinformation,” to audiences both domestically and internationally. It is reported that the NATO and U.S. forces are struggling to wage effective information-warfare campaigns against the Taliban because they have lost it’s war on social media platforms to Taliban.

    Loka Viplavaya
    September 10, 2012 at 5:56 am
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