By TU Senan –
Leave aside the problem of countering the ‘bad publicity’ created by Navi Pillay, the main problem now for the so-called ‘thinkers’ attached to the Sri Lankan government is about how to handle the northern election. Electoral violence needs to be justified. Most importantly the government needs to prepare for a TNA-led province and to tackle the possibility of protest and discontent among the youth that is emerging under the shadow of this change.
For this Dayan Jayatilleka has a solution. To combat the future, travel in a time machine to battle the past as though it’s the presence… It may sound like science fiction but Dayan is not new to political fictions. Look at the way he takes on the TNA’s election Manifesto.
The manifesto will have serious ‘consequences’, he warns, then goes on to describe parts of it as ‘morally repugnant’ and a ‘lie’. This may sound like a typical Dayanist attack, but there is more. We are amused to know none of these attacks were made about new points in the TNA manifesto for the northern provincial elections 2013. All the points in this manifesto he is going on about were also made in the TNA’s 2010 manifesto – in fact almost the entire manifesto is modelled on the 2001 version!
While the memories of those slaughtered by his government in 2009 are still burning in our minds as though it happened yesterday, and the four years that have passed make no difference to those who suffer, that’s not the kind of time lapse that the ex-minister for youth affairs in the north east is suffering from. His suffering is to do with the spectre of the LTTE. After claiming in 2009 that the LTTE was dead and buried, it has been a custom since then for the government and their cronies to summons its ghost to attack and possibly bury the living who dare to oppose them.
If any electoral disorder takes place in the coming days, the TNA will simply be accused of provoking it. Through this and through the spectre of the LTTE, the government will try to continue its military control in the northern region. Look at the stark warning Dayan delivers. He argues that a ‘confrontation with Colombo’ is more certain and will ‘perhaps prove more consequential’ and lead to a ‘strategic politico-military lockdown’.
This should not be taken lightly. This ‘future vision’ is also shared by Rohan Gunarathna, close ally of the regime and so-called ‘world expert’ in terrorism. He called the manifesto an ‘avatar of the LTTE’ at the defence seminar which was organised by the Sri Lanka army.
Dayan claims that the TNA is susceptible to the ‘pro-Tiger’ sentiments of sections of the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu population or to such sentiments within its own ranks or support base’. However, despite the repeated efforts made by almost all the organisations in the Tamil Diaspora to distance themselves from the old methods of the LTTE, and calling for war crimes investigation of both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, the Diaspora continues to face vilification as supporters of a ‘banned’ organisation.
That’s not new, but look at the way the TNA’s support base is also targeted now. The moment TNA gather the storm under their feet, the spectre of LTTE will be used to crack down on them. That’s the summary of Dayan’s message.
There is no political criticism in Dayan’s article except a little lecture on ‘sovereignty’. It is ‘not shared’ he tells us, but vested in all citizens as a ‘whole’ – with further insistence on the ‘whole’. But he fail to explain how it’s ‘vested’. From the time of the French revolution to the recent Arab Spring, people have shown how they differentiate the ‘sovereignty’ of the state with that of their own. We could further debate this with learned Dr Dayan Jayatilleka if he wishes to debate. But one thing is crystal clear – the Sri Lankan state’s aspirations are not shared by the people as a ‘whole’. All those oppressed by the current regime do not share Dayan’s cosy living standards and, therefore, motivation. This is why his attempted time travel fails to threaten us.
But we must also note here the one key aspect of the TNA’s manifesto which Dayan conveniently ignores. This manifesto makes a special effort to appeal to the Muslim population, unlike the passing references in the past. This is significant – at the time Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is picking out the Muslim population for attack. While welcoming the TNA’s effort, we would also argue that it’s not enough. The TNA should also demand that adequate compensation be given to all Muslims displaced and victimised.
Furthermore the TNA should come out against the rising caste discrimination in the north and east – another division that the government wishes to exploit. And of course it should support the Sinhala working class’s struggles against this regime. A number of emerging campaigns in the south have been brutally put down by the regime – this must be opposed by the TNA.
Their manifesto could have even gone further in appealing to the poor Sinhala soldiers based in the north and east to quit this government. Enough funds should be made available for those solders to return home, with jobs provided and to lead a decent life without intimidation, restriction and threat of further conscription to the army.
But of course we cannot expect such revolutionary tactics from the TNA for the foreseeable future. In fact Dayan’s and the likes of him needn’t fear a serious threat from that particular quarter. Sadly, when it comes to providing an economic alternative or perspective, there is not much difference between the SLFP, the UNP or the TNA.
*TU Senan, Writer and activist based in UK. Author of the book ‘history of resistance’ and regular contributor to various Tamil magazines. Also an international coordinator of Tamil Solidarity campaign.