14 April, 2024


The Suffocating Grasp Of An Emergent Dictatorship: FUTA And The Survival Of Democratic Dissent

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

“Where they burn books, they will afterwards burn people” – Heinrich Heine (German Poet 1821)

The madness fanned by Gobles and fired by Nazi student organisations, reached a frenzied climax on the night of 10 May 1933 when the nation’s great libraries were stripped of radical, socialist, pacifist, culturally alien and Jewish books, and piled on bonfires, lit as Germany careened to censorship, culture control and eventually the most naked of all Twentieth Century dictatorships. No nation that permits the state to crush its knowledge workers can long survive. The FUTA strike is no longer about academic salaries, long ago it morphed beyond that, it is no longer about securing a fair deal in education for the nation’s children, that Rubicon has also been crossed. What are at issue in Sri Lanka are the last two surviving outposts of democracy. Can the independence of the judiciary and the academic right to dissent survive, or will they perish. It’s no longer about whether you agree with the 6% or not, it’s about shackles of a more menacing nature. Dear god, not even Hitler made Martin Borman, leader of the brown-shirted fascist SA street thugs, the minister of higher education!

If the FUTA strike is crushed it will resemble the crushing blow that JR inflicted on the working class and independent political activity in July 1980. I do not want to over dramatise, it is only in retrospect that we can make secure historical judgements, but it is possible that this is one of the final chances the nation will get to throw back the executive power of an authoritarian menace. The state is primed for the offensive, but public opinion, the working class and trade unions, and the educated classes and left opinion are half asleep, but fortunately, also half awake.

The FUTA strike is no longer about FUTA, it’s about you and I and what we do to bring to a halt the caravan of state as it rumbles on to total control of public life. Total is totalitarian; totalitarianism is the natural culmination of the authoritarian state. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so authoritarianism abhors all things it cannot subdue. It moved heaven and earth, and cash and threats, to abort a Muslim-Tamil power centre rising outside and beyond its control in the Eastern Province– and Muslim leaders, as habituated for decades, betrayed their community for the umpteenth time. It will not permit an elected provincial council in the North unless international pressure compels it to; it will muzzle the judiciary and harness the police.

The forcing out of Frederica Jansz from Editorship with the instruction that “The first family was not to be criticised in the pages of the Sunday Leader”, and the role of Executive Power in arranging for the purchase of the newspaper, is further evidence, if needed, that dictators abhor dissent and the Rajapakse Regime will pound alternative foci of power or influence. That is the nature of dictators because just as the nature of democracy is to muddle through diversity and wallow in dissent, the necessary condition for the survival of autocracy is the opposite. A house of cards tumbles if one is moved.

The 6% demand is justified

If the call for 6% GDP allocation for education had remained a FUTA slogan bereft of public support it would have fallen away, instead it has been taken up by society, so let us stop referring to it as a FUTA slogan and call it a public demand, a demand by many sections of society. I have heard it described as a bargaining position which we the public are advancing for tactical purposes and will compromise in the bargaining process. Without attempting to tie anybody’s hand in negotiations that are inevitable in the next period, I do insist that 6% is not a bargaining chip; it is a sound and serious proposal. In any case, while I thank FUTA for introducing and popularising the matter, but it now belongs to us the public, as it must be, if it is to have legitimacy. How we prosecute the matter after the FUTA strike is over is also a matter in the public domain.

At an excellent presentation supported by a mass of empirical material Professor Dileepa Witharana, on behalf of FUTA, at gathering at the Town Hall on 19 September, claimed that about 60 countries allocate 5% or more of GDP for education. These countries do not belong to any particular category by stage of development or region; they include high, middle, low and very low income countries, they are to be found in several continents. There is recognition across the board that human development is the key to all development. There is an understanding that human development incorporates both nurturing more aware, imaginative and cultured humans, as well as human resources development in the narrower sense of imbuing young people with skills that contribute to national development. The pity is that in Lanka the state, and to a degree sections of society, have lost sight of both objectives.

Problems stick out on every side. Village schools are starved of resources; students learn little, run around and sometimes run amok. No rural schools can prepare candidates for admission to university engineering and medical faculties, and only 10% nationally, all in urban areas, are able to do so. School teachers have lost respect in their communities and schools are shells were students sit out a part of the day in preparation for ubiquitous tuition classes were the real learning is done. The less said about English, Science and IT teaching in rural schools the better since there is nothing to say; it’s a Torricellian vacuum. English language competence even among young people coming out of the so called elite Colombo schools is putrid since none can escape the pervasive social ethos whose tone is set by blithering idiots ranting about Greek-Judeo-Christian culture allegedly polluting science and breeding the evils of internationalism and plurality.

Three graphs are reproduced here from the FUTA presentation to drive home several points. Figure 1 shows the amount spent by the government on education as a percentage of GDP from 1980 to 2010. Even during UNP times (these are UGC statistics) it was well above 2.8%, but a steep decline set in with Chandrika and plummeted after Mahinda Rajapakse assumed the presidency. Far from being people friendly this regime is hostile to public welfare. Figure 2 shows that universities have been hard hit during the Rajapakse period; this government has starved the universities and driven them to the wall. Now it is ready to privatise university education. No wonder students and teachers cannot stand it any longer.

The third illustration compares Lanka with 16 countries, including Bangladesh,Nepal,Pakistan and India all of whose per capita GDP is less than ours. Lanka comes out abysmal rock bottom. Yes we are the wonder of Asia! Believe it or Not!

Reform will not stop at education

Substantial enhancements to the education budget and reform of education practices to deliver a more meaningful outcome cannot and will not stop at education. The overflow will reach public health, public works, transport, energy and the media sectors, and then the issue will not be about 20% of the government budget, but all 100% of it. According to the budget allocations for 2012, the top five ministries in order of funding are Finance and Planning (47%), Defence & Urban Planning (10.5%), Ports & Highways (6.6%), Public Administration (6.3%) and Local Government & Provincial Councils (5.9%).

About 40% of the 47% swallowed by the Finance Ministry is for debt servicing. Conditions are worsening as the government is getting deeper into debt by the day; it is into the business of acquiring more debt to service unsustainable existing debt. This is aggravated as the regime runs amok with vast and wasteful white-elephant show case grandiosities. In the circumstances not only is the government unwilling to improve provision of public goods like health, education, transport and energy, it is also readying to crush dissent since that is the only way it can forestall capitulating on its right-wing economic policy framework. The government is in a dilemma, the regime cannot back out in the face of public demands for substantially enhanced education funding without shattering its economic programme. This very knowledge places FUTA too on the horns of a dilemma.

UPFA mouthpiece and MP, Rajiva Wijesinha, lauds the militarization of education in Pakistan and commends the same practice to us (Island, 25 September). The slip is showing! The second biggest item in the budget lays bare the nature of the regime; three years after the end of the war, militarization suffocates the Tamils and intimidates all dissent, the university sector, thanks to the boldness of intellectuals and the volatility of students, is a pesky irritant inviting suffocation by the regime. Thanks to the momentum it is gaining and the public and trade union support it is winning FUTA has the potential to trigger a mass movement. It is difficult to predict how things will turn out in the next two or three weeks but the public’s responsibility is unambiguous. If we want our democratic rights it is we who have to stand up for it; it is not a subcontract we can pass on to FUTA.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0

    “Where they burn books, they will afterwards burn people” – Heinrich Heine (German Poet 1821)

    Where have you been living these 30 years Kumar David?

    Gamini Dissanayake (Naveen’s father) burnt the Jaffna Library in 1981 together with Cyril Mathew. The Mahaweli was supposed to be diverted to the Northern and Eastern Province. But it was not, except a few colonized areas in the East. Even now the Mahaweli waters flows into the sea during the rainy season, in Trincomalee and Vaharai area and not useful to the Tamil farmers..

    Now Parakrama Samudera has gone dry.

    Burning books and burning Tamils started in 1958 riots and more in 1983 riots where on “Kotiya Ennawa Day” (That Friday) two of my best friends were burnt alive in Pettah.. (Rich Pettah businessman) in broad daylight in the street.

    In their memory I printed 5,000 Tee Shirts in NYK, in July 1983 out of MY MONEY and not any gifts from any one, which states”

    I still have a few tee shirts remaining and will publish the photo in the website some time soon..

    So this is not a phenomenon that is new or strange to the Sinhala Buddhist governments burning books and Tamils. In 2009 they used chemical weapons to Kill and used Chinese incinerators to burn the rotting flesh and bones, to prevent discovery of mass graves of 100,000 Tamil civilians…

    We knew about the satellite images way back in April 2009, although Malinda S is writing about it now after the Ground View article. US embassy in Colombo had the photos then although many argued that there was between 30-60,000 Tamil civilians stuck in Mullivaikkal and therefore permitted the Red Cross very limited food, water and medicine to starve them and kill them of starvation for months.

    Also the Rajapakses and Fonsekas thought that they need not answer for the missing Tamils.. Lo and behold there was 310,000 emerged even after 100,000 Tamil civilians were murdered.

    Bishop Rajappu informed the Silva Commission that 146,000 Tamils have died or gone missing.. Those were his numbers and not mine, and he is maliciously and viciously attacked from Australia to Antarctica by Sinhala Racist, Chauvinist and Jingoist as LTTE supporter and sympathizer.

    When Tamils speak up for their own kith and kin from 1983 riots, they are immediately labeled LTTE sympathizers and supporters, and now conveniently The LTTE RUMP.. Even when anyone writes a Prayer or a Poem, they are attacked and labeled a LTTE rump.

    These are Tamil issues and not LTTE issues now, since the LTTE has been non existent for 40 months….

    • 0

      Great piece, excellent analysis, Dr. Kumar David keep it coming! And FUTA keep up the good work – the people are with you and the people united will never be defeated!
      At this time FUTA needs to broaden its
      1) demands
      2) social base by reaching out to distinguished university alumnai like Kumar Sangakkara and asking for their support to save education.
      FUTA must also articulate the demand that all educated Sri Lankans have at this time –
      1. GOOD GOVERNANCE AND DEVELOPMENT POLICY CHANGE. Unfortunately, the University Economists have been abysmally silent on the wrong economic development policy path taken by the Rajapassa regime, and need to do a better job on this by generating public debate on the corrupt Rajapakse economic development policies which are indebting and impoverishing the middle class to subsidize the rich..

      2. FUTA needs to develop an EDUCATION WHITE PAPER on up grading Higher education. The economist and social scientist must work together while they can during strike to formulate a comprehensive WHITE PAPER on how an increase in budget would be utilized to better facilities and infrastructure for research, students etc.

      3. End to militarization, state criminality and military capital expenditure cut back and diverted to education sector.

      • 0

        Erm I don’t think Kumar Sangakkara even graduated from law faculty since he took off to play cricket. It would help to have him on board (undoubtedly) but the Sangakkara law gradate myth – is well just a myth.

  • 0

    Donald, Gamini Dissanayake was a good friend of mine. I have heard of this story of the accusation of burning the Jaffna library. Was it that Cyril Mathew who did it or was GD also responsible? Please enlighten with the correct picture. If he has been aware or involved, he should be rightly condemned like JR trying to hide the massacre of the Tamils at Welikada, which was kept as a secret for a long time. Gamini Dissanayake whom I knew as Lionel earlier was a genteel person. He never made money personally but engaging others in the Mahaweli gave opportunity to many to come up in life. His financial strength was this group of Business men. He received compensation to most of his lands at Kotmale being acquired for the Mahaweli. The last was, he bought a house at Alfred House Gardens. Since his Ministry handled a volume of money surpassing all budgets from Independence to that time and many were jealous of him for having completed the Mahaweli Projects successfully before time, when there was so much adverse publicity to the whole project for telescoping to five years what was to take thirty years. The Apple Orchard story in Australia was a fabrication by Lalith Athulathmudali. This was revealed to me by none other than GD himself. Besides I questioned many who floated the story, as to why GD should invest in an Apple Orchard, compared to the return for the investment. Had it been an oil well, at least people could have doubted. Further the house he lived in at Colpetty was no match for a man accused as the Richest in Asia, as there were better Mansions in and around Colombo. As for his sons Navin and Mayantha, I am sad to say, they are utter dissapointments and are no patch of GD.

  • 0

    Dear Freaking Donald,

    We are eagerly waiting to see your T Shirt Pics !!! Lol… I was wondering was it T Shirt & Vetti or was it T Shirt & Ambude you were wearing in NYK ?

    So now you admit no evidence for 100K deaths as you claimed before, Hilarious tho now you blame China for that…

    BTW how is your BP these days ???

  • 0

    Great piece. Really enlightening stuff.

  • 0

    Real facts of explanatins , Dr. Kumar Pl comment you views.

  • 0

    Can anyone clarify what proportion of the money allocated to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development for 2013, is for Urban Development?
    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0

    The Regime has resisted and will keep at it until a stage when they
    will excuse themselves and agree to the rewqired 6% with a hidden
    agenda. Once the matter is settled on the surface, the Agenda of
    a Dictator will be put in place stage by stage.
    Under no circumstances the Regime will fall – they know how to buy the
    Village Sinhala Voter and how to manipulate the Election Machinery,
    into which the UN nor US/India will have a say. The final word lies
    with HE and his 2/3rd Majority which Memebership has been bought-
    over and well entrenched until the next elections – if that will
    ever take place.
    An Emergency will be delclared and Colombo will be quitened – the
    majorirty being Tamils/Muslims. Students will be dealt with
    through their parents and the might of rowdiness all over Sri Lanka,
    backed by MOD. Media News will be curtailed. The end of the tunnel
    to the Sinhala masses is visible. Others have alread seen it.

  • 0


  • 0

    Punchinilame could be correct
    Unless we deal the same way the rogue regime adopts we are all cowards.

  • 0

    One more question I have to ask is what proportion of the Defence Ministry budget is spent on the Police?

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0

    Professor you were part of the regime who brought 1972 Constitution that took away teh provisions that gave some sort of relief to the Tamils or anyone who oppressed by way of appeal Privy Council. Now you you think UN/IC should intervene. I still remember the day when Colvin and Jayaweera addressed the Engineering Students Union. Colvin said that Federal party and JVP can not dictate when we and how we should bring a new consititution while Jayaweera spoke against the politizisation of the Bureaucracy you said we need people who can implement our policies. For which Jayaweera said ‘figure out whether the people you appointed are beleivers of your policy or the shrewd people who knew who will come to power in the next election’. Your government of 1970-77 was responsible for creating an environment in which executive powers could abused with impunity.
    If it was not changed in 1970, Gothabhaya could not have become the secretary of defence. Your party which cried ‘One nation two states two nation one state’ – by the way they were first to talk about separate state not TULF in 1978 – forgot about it and laid the foundation for creating a totalitarian state. No point crying from HongKong. If you are physically fit, come and join with Bhagu to compensate for the mistakes you were part of

    • 0

      Yes! Raja … KD should hurry and join his former comrade from whereever … Time is running out … Sky, yes , whole thing coming down …
      By the way, Bhagu has a empty seat in the three wheeler which is about to leave to Hydpark rally .. This is the rally everyone of your ilk waiting for .. It would definitely give the one nation and two states … KD should never miss this historic event . .. Isn’t that Raja?

  • 0

    @Dr. Rajasingam…
    Here is the information you had requested and is authentic from the Sinhalese in Parliament itself. lol




    Prior to the Rajapakses being installed in power by the Tigers, after the secret deals in 2005, the MOD budget was only about 57 Billion without any supplementary estimates being approved…
    Of course there was NO War from December 2001, nor was there stockpiling of the war machinery, including illegal/banned weapons.

    Now they are in a quandary what to do with the huge land mines stock and other weaponry.. They cannot use it on FUTA…. lol.

    This is why a Full, Independent, International investigations is necessary for TRUTH, and ACCOUNTABILITY, where not only the Rajapakses, but the Fonsekas should be forced to cough up with the Truth, including the White Flag incident…. Too much has been left to speculation and blatant denials, with the cooperation of Dirty ………… Journalist, who also have received the benefit of Blood Money, and begun to enjoy it….

    • 0

      Donald, judging by what has been revealed so far, all of you have been taken for a good ride? The majority Sinhalse masses who are the asses are blissfully ignorant of what had really taken place and are highly euphoric about the defeat of the LTTE and the death of VP, hailing MR as a War Victor. What can not be sold to the people anywhere for that matter, when societies are briming with the naive. No wonder, Machiavelli realised this in the 16th Century it self.

  • 0

    @Gamini.. You might be a friend of LIONEL, I agree.
    Which year and years were they?

    Let Senguuttavan who was in Sri Lankan during the Hey days of Gamini and the UNP respond to your public question for details of Corruption of a UNP Minister who was killed trying to be Sri Lanka’s President than for the UNP. As you know, he left the UNP with Lalith to form the DUNF, sometime after the impeachment effort failed in 1990 or 1991…

    If Gamini was not a corrupt UNP Minister, may I ask who were the UNP ministers who were corrupt?

    Yes, Gamini was very much responsible for the 1981 burning of the Jaffna Library together with Cyril Mathew and SP Carlye Dias FYI,. There is no If’s and Butts.

    Who were the Ministers who were responsible in organizing and executing the 1983 riots… In my opinion and information Cyril Mathew was not beven #5, although all the Tamils liked to hate/blame him, and it was convenient for JR’s UNP to blame him.

    Over to SENGUTTAVAN…

    I cannot spend too much on the blogging and all kinds of useless, and provoking articles these journalist and others write as experts. I am trying to focus on many other things while racist-chauvinist- jingoist come out of the wood work to make personal attacks with MALICIOUS AND VICIOUS LIES, all the time.

    • 0

      Donald, knowing Gamini as I do he is not the person who would have instigated or supported to burn the Library. He knows the value of Books, Infact he housed GG Ponnambalam Junior at the height of ’83 troubles in his house. Cyril Mathew is certainly capable of getting the Forces to do any menial job. The only thing is GD being present in Jaffna during that period it is difficult to avoid blame. As for the Ministers in the UNP then, who were corrupt and who were not, as I mentioned earlier Gamini does not come anywhere near present level of corruption. I believe the corrupt then were MH Mohamed, Wijeypala Mendis, Ronnie De Mel, Cyril Mathew, R. Premadasa and crowd.The non corrupt were J.R.Jayawardene, Gamini Jayasuriya, John Amaratunge, Gamini Dissanayake, Ranjan Wijeratne, Ranil Wickremasinghe and crowd.

  • 0

    access to post repeatedly denied…

    • 0

      This is an excellent political analysis. It is of little help however in confronting the national culture that has been nurtured and carefully tended for as long as I can remember. We are taught to worship authority regardless of our ethnicities or class backgrounds and today all but a very small minority celebrates the ascendancy of authoritarianism of a most fundamental type.

      In such a context, what will inspire people to move towards democracy? Higher Salaries? Perhaps. I do not know.

      But I can speak for myself and what I have to say is that right now, political theories and analyses aside, the human species is faced with imminent self destruction unless it is able to engage and effectively respond to the following:

      1. Rapid Resource Depletion (RRD)
      2. Pollution and Global Climate Change (P&GCC)
      3. Global Monetary Collapse (GMC)
      4. The Growth Model of Development (GMD)

      To successfully engage and effectively respond to these developments an atmosphere of transparency and TOLERANCE is vital. The growing awareness of these serious threats that face us as a species is the only force I see that may out of sheer necessity muster the will to sweep away all authoritarian structures.

      It is my hope that this change initiative initiated by FUTA may become part of this force for survival.

  • 0

    @Gamini,You are wrong.
    Gamini Dissanayake was responsible for the burning of the library and complicity with the 83′ riots. Remember, this was pre planned, and whom did you think did the planning? Only Cyril Mathew?
    Gamini D also assisted Chandrahassan and his family, while his house was burnt, unlike Gajan P who must have been a teenager at Royal… That does not make him Not Guilty of the 83 riots and completely and conveniently put the blame on Cyril Mathew.. Now you also want to believe that Lalith Athulathmudali was also not corrupt and nor involved in the 83 riots.

    FYI his private secretary was living at my place, after he was sacked being friendly with Vijay Kumaratunge, Ossie Abeygunasekera and Chandrika.
    Gamini had the dubious distinction of being the one of the most corrupt ministers… You have mentioned a few ministers, but what you have to understand is the ministries had very limited budgets, including M H Mohamed, who was the Minister of Labor, which was involved in petty corruption but involved many people.

    One has to look at who had huge budgets and where big purchases and tenders were involved.. Such as the Mahaweli, Shipping, Ports, Trade, Defense, (Nationald Security, Aviation,) Finance (everything), etc.

    Ranjan Wijeratne was Chairman of Fertilizer Cooperation, and later was Permanent Secretary… It was only very much later he became Minister of National Security after Lalith AthulathMudali, and did not last too long. But he did a good job in torturing and murdering Sinhala Terrorist, including JVP leaders after they were captured. Rohana Wijeweera was tortured mercilessly before he was killed and cremated immediately.

    I did business in Colombo on a daily basis 1977-1983 and was very well connected including Gamini, was a good friend of mine until he burnt the Jaffna Library. That is the time we parted company. I knew what went on with whom during that period. Some Ministers/MP’s provided help/protection to my family/business after the riots too. That did not absolve anyone from being culpable, and doing F…….k ALL during the riots…

    So just do not get carried away with these ministers on corruption or the 83 riots. Senguttavan is aware of most of what I am talking about..He was in Colombo….

    Here is some stories on Chemical weapons some Morons were questioning me about. http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=35617

    There is much more evidence, that was presented as early as March/April 2009.
    Ananthapuram killings was one of them. Take a look at the photographs, of the victims which was available around at that time… There were no wounds. !!!!!
    On a single fighter….

  • 0

    JR was not corrupt, but allowed his daughter in law(EX), (Charmaine Vanderkoon-Jayawardene-Mendis of Delmedge/Mackwoods fame) and Air Lanka, as well as many others to make tons of money. There were others also allowed to make money…

    Yes, Ranil was one Minister who was not corrupt, and Gamini Jayasuriya…
    Prima Mills or Prema Mills one of the most corrupt and stupid deals ever in Sri Lanka’s history.

    Now they are a investigating the other big corrupt deal SAGT/John Keels of the Queen Elizabeth Quay, Gift from SLPA..
    It is in the Financial Times and with CT. lol…
    This will become another litigation in Supreme Court…
    Wait and see… And another book… (Probably 1-2 years)…Work in progress.

    @Gamini. You should read the 12 Books on recent Bribery, corruption and privatization scandals by Nihal Sri Amerasekera… Mostly from 1992- 2005.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.