26 October, 2020

Blog

The Minority Conundrum

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“In other countries who (sic) are successful, they were successful because immediately one person he takes the decisions. In Sri Lanka, the main problem is that that is not there, more decisions have to be centralized” –Basil Rajapaksa (Sydney Morning Herald – 19.11.2012)

In his review of Hannah K, Costa Gavras’s movie on the human consequences of Palestinian dispossession, Edward Said points out that the American mass-culture has accepted “the notion that whereas there may be a Palestine question and even Palestinians, neither has much positive human value attached to it”[i]. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, the existence of a Tamil community is accepted, as an unavoidable statistic, but the validity of a Tamil problem, at a political or a human level, is totally negated.

The ‘commonsense’ of the Rajapaksa era reduced the Northern crisis to a terrorist problem which ‘ended’ with the annihilation of the LTTE. The Tamils may share some economic and social woes with other Lankans, but even these non-political problems are rapidly evaporating thanks to the regime’s accelerated ‘development-drive’. The only potential snake in this happy Eden is the possibility of a Tiger resurgence, for which the military is ready, in situ.

In this context, any reference to a Tamil problem from a political or a human angle becomes axiomatically equated with Tigerism, terrorism and separatism. This renders objectionable not just a political solution to the ethnic problem but also such normal human impulses as mourning the death of a loved one. Thus the near hysterical reaction to Navi Pillay’s request to pay a floral tribute to all the dead of the Eelam War (the only war-dead considered ‘worthy’ of being commemorated are the members of the military, Sinhala civilians, and some anti-Tiger Tamils).

Thus also the venomous reaction to the prospect of a TNA-led Northern PC (with a Chief Minister of Justice Wigneswaran’s calibre).

At the 2013 Defence Seminar, Prof. Rohan Gunaratne castigated the TNA ‘as an Avatar of the LTTE’ and the ‘latest reincarnation of the LTTE’ and opined that its new manifesto indicates that the TNA is ‘moving towards a separatist ideology’, again[ii]. He followed this with a far deadlier diatribe, in an interview with a local TV channel: “The TNA’s extremist phase has begun; its manifesto is just like the TULF’s Vaddukkodai resolution. But then Amirtalingam’s wife said that they can have a comfortable sleep only after they have consumed Sinhalese flesh. Today the TNA says that they are sons of Prabhakaran. Statements made by TNA will once again create issues in the country”. He concluded this ‘analysis’ by proposing that “the government should enact a law banning all Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese racial political parties”[iii].

The TNA’s manifesto can be faulted on a number of counts, such as its pusillanimous dealing with the ‘Muslim issue’, or its ignoring of caste, class and gender problems faced by Tamils. But to equate the 2013 TNA Manifesto with the Vadukkodai resolution is pure nonsense. (Prof. Gunaratne’s repetition of a calumnious ‘accusation’, which was a key component of the Sinhala-racist repertoire in the deadly 1980’s, is indicative of his own racism rather than of the Tamil/TNA condition).

Prof. Gunaratne’s comments could have been ignored as intemperate gibberish of no political moment, had it not been for Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s equally objectionable remarks about Tamil and Muslim extremism and Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rant that he will never permit separatism: “What Prabhakaran could not do none of today’s ones will ever be able to do”[iv].

Are these mere seasonal outpourings, aimed at hoodwinking the Sinhala electorate? Or do they indicate a far more insidious plan, to criminalise Tamil and Muslim politics in the name of anti-racism?

Racism is Anti-racism

The Rajapaksas have a ‘minority problem’.

The minorities have a record of voting against the Rajapaksas, starting with the Presidential Election of 2005. Since Tamils and Muslims are less susceptible to the ‘Rajapaksa-magic’, they are more likely to resist various aspects of Rajapaksa rule – which can become a national-catalyst, advertently or inadvertently.

De-empowering Tamils and Muslims, politically and electorally seems to be the Rajapaksa way of handling their minority conundrum.

In his formal address to the Parliament to announce the end of the war, President Rajapaksa decreed the de-existence of minorities: “We have removed the word ‘minorities’ from our vocabulary three years ago. No longer are there Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays or any other minorities. There are only two peoples in this country. One is the people that love this country. The other comprises the small groups that have no love for the land of their birth.” This Orwellian assertion was accompanied by an attempt to ban political parties with a racial/religious identity. The Rajapaksas planned to enact a law empowering the Elections Commissioner to “de-recognise” political parties that bear the “name of a religion or race”, if these parties do not re-register themselves under a different name within a year. The law was to be presented to parliament in September 2009.

Had that discriminatory piece of legislation been adopted, all independent political activity by the minorities would have been rendered illegal. Most Sinhala-Buddhist extremist parties would have been unaffected by this law as these parties have names which do not directly refer to an ethnic/religious group. There is no need to for them to do so; the axiomatic identification of country, nation and people with the majority community, which is a basic premise of Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacism, enables these parties to use innocuous euphemisms to cover their real ethno-religious agendae. Unlike the minorities they can advocate Sinhala-Buddhist interests under guise of promoting Lankan patriotism

Is the regime planning a similar shenanigan, as a way to legally undermine a TNA-led Northern PC?

Rajapaksa rule is characterised by extreme accumulation of power by a single family. The Ruling Siblings desire to see the end of the 13th Amendment for the very reason they did away with the 17th Amendment and launched an Impeachment travesty.

Separation of powers is dead. The only remaining legal/constitutional obstacle to the Rajapaksa juggernaut is devolution. The Rajapaksas would prefer to combat devolution on the nationalist-terrain. Once the 13th Amendment – or parts of it – is equated with separatism, the regime will be able to garb its battle against devolution in anti-separatism and anti-(Tamil) racism. Such a disguise can prevent the Sinhalese from realising that the 13th Amendment is the last remaining obstacle in the Rajapaksa road to dynastic-despotism.

Take for example the issue of land. If land-powers are taken away from the provincial councils, the regime will be able to confiscate private lands at will. The minorities need land power to stymie the regime’s plan to change the demographics of the North and the East (a laIsrael) and to ensure some sort of basic security for themselves.

But keeping land powers out of Rajapaksa hands is important for the Sinhalese as well. The Rajapaksas failed to pass the ‘Sacred Areas Act’, which would have given them absolute control over every inch of private land everywhere in Sri Lanka[v], because of the 13th Amendment.

Reducing the political space permitted to the minorities in the name of anti-separatism and promoting sectarianism under the guise of anti-racism is the Rajapaksa way.


[i] (italics in the original) http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/articles/article0111206.html. The full movie is available on the You Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ulx0CbiwLeI

[v] The Clause 4 of the Act empowered the Minister of Buddha Sasana to takeover ‘any area of land’ in ‘any municipal area, an urban development area or any trunk road development area’ defined as a ‘Protection area’, a ‘Conservation area’, an ‘Architectural’ area or a ‘Historic Area’. Clause 5 empowered the Minister to define any land as a ‘Sacred Area’ and take it over. In November 2011, in response to a petition by the CPA, a Supreme Court bench headed by CJ Shirani Bandaranayake ruled that as land is a devolved subject, the Act needs the approval of all provincial councils. And the Eastern PC refused to approve it, prompting the Rajapaksas to withdraw it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Yet another hard-hitting, accurate and brilliant analysis of the (Rajapassa hegemonist) status quo and the ruling junta’s intentions
    Thank you, madam.
    Sinhala modayas better wake up to the fact that once the minorities are done away with it will be their turn. The Free Trade Zone, fishermen and Weliveriya killings are just the beginning. Bigger and better killing to come.

  • 0
    0

    /* The Rajapaksas have a ‘minority problem’.

    The minorities have a record of voting against the Rajapaksas, starting with the Presidential Election of 2005. Since Tamils and Muslims are less susceptible to the ‘Rajapaksa-magic’, they are more likely to resist various aspects of Rajapaksa rule – which can become a national-catalyst, advertently or inadvertently. */

    correct.
    That is why Rajapakse’s had created the buddhist senas to go after minorities muslim, catholics and make them as villains to get buddhist votes. The aim is 2 fold.

    1. remove JHU hold on buddhist votes segment since JHU had become a used force for UPFA.

    2. there 70% pure buddhists votes and Rajapakses can win any election if 51% of them vote UPFA.

  • 0
    0

    Who is getting hoodwinked? it’s not the Tamils or the Muslims which leaves out the majority community. This government was voted by the majority. Well it was good they did got rid of the LTTE issue. But have they utilized the opportunity provided to us as a nation to the betterment of whole nation ? far from it. They are indulged in nepotism. If the SLG was smart the TNA will not be having such rhetoric.

    Are we so blind to let this regime plunder us from all possible routes? will the majority community vote intelligently putting aside petty differences to send a clear message to current ruling lot. No they did not do it during last elections. I hope we will do it next time around collectively.

  • 0
    0

    Thanks for this enlightening thought process. It is true and factual of what this regime is upto, due to its own the inferiority complex mind set. They know very well the minorities, even if combined cannot do much to dent their vote bank, and can only be useful to prop up a coalition. Instead of looking at all the positive ways to win their hearts and minds, they shift into negative gear to push them further away, and hope to win the hustings purely only on majority vote, which ploy is bound to fail miserably. The majority themselves are split on many levels of political affiliations. This is the narrow minded thinking that this clan has deployed, in its desperation to stay in power by hook or by crook, at the expense of the minority. This is what makes Sobitha Thyero’s constitutional reform more meaningful and worth implementing.

  • 0
    0

    Most Sri Lankans (Educated as well as the uneducated) vote for their ethnicity rather than take into account the pros and cons of the election manifesto. Unfortunately, the manifesto dupes the masses into believing that the right policies will be in place and later to find this is not the case once they were elected. Decisions should be based on facts rather than one person; who has a vested interest to promote only his family not the country as one.

  • 0
    0

    Canadian Dollars were a major portion of the Prabakaran budget for thirty years.

    And the same Dollars are going to be the major component of the Fighting Fund of the LTTE proxy Sambandan’s TNA with Sambandan’s recent secret Pact with the TGTE Canada Sector.

    TNA Election Manifesto and the Vellala CM candidate’s recent utteranaces clearly point to a ” Fight” under the guise of ” Rights” with the Govt over exclusive Police Powers and Free Hold Titles for land to a bunch of Tamils who were hand picked by the El Supremo Mr Prabakaran, acted as their Parliamentary delegation.

    With or without Professor Goonaratna, the great majority of the inhabitant population who are living in peace now understand this situation.

    And they wish that they don’t have to go through the same as what was dished out to them by Mr Sambandan’s God Son.

    These inhabitants will demand that the Govt take what ever measures that are available to them to protect the inhabitants from any insurrections whether these are Sinhala , Muslim or Tamil.

    BTW,

    It is sad that this A1 HR protector Ms T refers to people like Tiruchelvam and Kadiragarmar as “just a few anti Tiger Tamils”.

  • 0
    0

    Sexual minority?

  • 0
    0

    The RajaPox family has a dynasty problem aka how their family can rule SL forever and ever.
    A majority of the Sinhala Buddhists have a xenophobia problem aka how to keep SL permanently a Sinhala Buddhist country where the minorities will be seen and not heard similar to what happened in South Africa under apartheid.
    The RajaPox family is trying to win over the moderate and fair minded Sinhala voters by projecting a threat to rata, jaathiya and aagama from the minority religions and international forces by using extremist groups like BBS, Sinhala Ravaya and Ravana Balaya. So far they have hoodwinked many Sinhalese…all that is left is to win over as many Sinhalese who vote for the UNP to their fold.
    Whether they can reach this goal through their proxies and rigged elections is to be seen…a lot is riding on how gullible the majority is…their decision on whom they vote for in a future presidential and general election can make or break this country.

  • 0
    0

    The strategy, if one can call it a strategy, followed by Rajapakse is based on the Chinese doctrine of Control by manipulation of the media and use of brutal force to bring fear in to the lives of the civilians. The present Sri Lankan regime does not have the simple courtesy of following through the promises they have given to international bodies and countries. Even the signed agreements with foreign countries, after signing the agreements are interpreted in various ways contrary to what President has outwardly spoken in international forums. This smoke and mirror strategy is typical Chinese strategy as the Sri Lankan government, especially Gotha is being advised by the Chinese.

  • 0
    0

    Where does these Values that TG explains exist, USA, UK, AUSTRALIA, EUROPE ?

    In all those societies every ethnic group is assimilated into one culture.

    Why Sri Lanka has to do different ?

  • 0
    0

    Tisaranee Gunasekara –

    Thanks for a good analysis.

    1. “In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, the existence of a Tamil community is accepted, as an unavoidable statistic, but the validity of a Tamil problem, at a political or a human level, is totally negated.”

    This was there for a long time, pre-1956, and the Rajapaksa are riding along like his precessors.

    2. “The ‘commonsense’ of the Rajapaksa era reduced the Northern crisis to a terrorist problem which ‘ended’ with the annihilation of the LTTE. The Tamils may share some economic and social woes with other Lankans, but even these non-political problems are rapidly evaporating thanks to the regime’s accelerated ‘development-drive’. The only potential snake in this happy Eden is the possibility of a Tiger resurgence, for which the military is ready, in situ.”

  • 0
    0

    Agree with Tisaranee Gunasekera on most points, but I can’t help disagreeing on some. We should not have ethnic and religion based political parties. People will always have differences of race and religion which they themselves must adjust to and accommodate. The government on the other hand must act likewise without ethnic and religious bias. Legislation must be such that no one is discriminated.

    The merging of the executive, legislature, and the judiciary, with centralized decision making by the President has led to a situation where it is the President’s own biases that prevail. Mahinda Rajapaksa is far from perfect. His decisions are very ordinary and most times quite foolish. That is the problem we have. Either he must change or he must resign.

    What we also tend to forget is that there is now a fourth arm that partakes in governance, that is the military. Once made powerful, the military cannot be subjugated by the executive unlike the legislature and the judiciary. It is therefore Rajapaksa’s poor governance and lack of vision leading to this dangerous situation that will cause this country to risk ruination.

    As for the TNA manifesto it surprised me with its slant towards race and self determination with nary a word on reconciliation. It definitely reminded me of Amirthalingam, Sivasithamparam, and the TULF. History is most definitely repeating itself. Why has the new leadership not moved out of the old mindset? The Tamil leadership too appear to suffer the malaise of their Sinhala counterparts. Racists all. We Sri Lankans certainly deserve the unhappy future we are charting and the TNA too will have to share the blame for the suffering to come.

    For some of us moderates a clear path to a happy united country is but a single step away. Yet the government and the TNA chose to wallow in unhappiness and strife. Is it time to move out of Sri Lanka seeking greener pastures?

  • 0
    0

    ‘Prof’ Rohan Gunaratne is an ‘academic’ for hire. He has got caught conning many times.

  • 0
    0

    If anybody reads ‘Prof’ Rohan Gunaratne’s book on the JVP they will notice the difference in language which suggests more than two writers have contributed in ‘manufacturing’ the book

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.