22 October, 2020

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The Way Forward

By Kath Noble

Kath Noble

For the first time in a long while, I feel hopeful about the future of Sri Lanka. Everybody accepts that the main challenge at this juncture is reconciliation – uniting the country in spirit now that it has finally been united in body. And despite the many appalling failures of the Government – together with the complete inability of the Opposition to make any impact whatsoever on even absolutely mundane issues – there is suddenly reason to feel positive.

The Northern Provincial Council election is going ahead.

It is of course a reflection of the dismal state of post-war Sri Lanka that this very basic democratic requirement should be considered an achievement. Still, after months of frenzied campaigning by Sinhalese extremists, the fact that candidates are being nominated and preparations made is a huge relief.

Denying residents of the North the right to elect their representatives as people living elsewhere in the country do as a matter of course would have given the Tamil separatist project a tremendous boost.

This is no doubt what parties like the JHU want, since there would be no point to their existence if Sri Lankans could get along. Udaya Gammanpila somehow managed to keep a straight face while announcing that the JHU is boycotting the Northern Provincial Council election, as if there were any practical difference between contesting and not contesting when nobody in the North is going to vote for them. If Sri Lanka were to become a genuinely inclusive society, there would have to be a lot more such theoretical boycotts by the JHU.

Even more important than the poll itself are the personalities emerging, in particular Justice C.V. Wigneswaran and Daya Master.

The Government is yet to declare its Chief Ministerial candidate, but the hype in recent weeks has all been about Daya Master rather than Douglas Devananda. If it were planning on fielding Douglas Devananda, the Government could and should have given him the key role in its Uthuru Wasanthaya development programme from the beginning – he might have had some kind of a chance that way. Instead, the President chose to forget EPDP’s contribution to the defeat of the LTTE and put his brother in charge. The future of the Rajapaksas – or more charitably that of the SLFP – was considered more important.

Although this would appear to be tough luck for Douglas Devananda, he really only has himself to blame. He should have distanced himself from the Government long ago, at least to the extent that the SLMC has done by contesting elections alone.

I think that it would be no bad thing for Daya Master to lead the UPFA campaign. Anyway, his participation on the Government side puts an end to the old divide of Sri Lanka’s ‘War on Terror’. This is different to the experience in the East with Pillayan and Karuna, since they broke away from the LTTE and helped the Government to finish the war. Daya Master, KP and Thamilini, who are all now said to back the UPFA, were part of the LTTE until the final showdown.

Given the destructive nature of the ‘patriots versus traitors’ discourse in Sri Lanka, having the LTTE’s senior leaders represent the Government is very healthy. Fingers crossed that when the UPFA declares its list of candidates this week these characters all figure prominently.

Last week’s announcement by the TNA of Justice C.V. Wigneswaran as its Chief Ministerial candidate was already great news.

Finally, the party has understood the need to make a break with the past, nominating somebody with no connections – or even a vague hint of sympathy – with the LTTE.

My fear with regard to the Northern Provincial Council election – other than the distinct possibility of it never taking place – was that the TNA would be pushed by the Government’s desire to make devolution as meaningless as possible to do exactly what people who oppose the 13th Amendment suspect is their real objective and use the platform to push for separation. The more difficult the Government makes it for elected representatives to implement their plans – by failing to sanction funds, blocking initiatives via the Governor and so on – the less involved they will be in governance and the less stake they will have in reconciliation and building a Sri Lankan identity.

Obviously the answer is for the Government to behave sensibly, but we know from experience that it usually doesn’t.

We also know that Tamils will regard interference with the functioning of the administration in Jaffna as discrimination, even if it is actually motivated by a general eagerness to centralise. In the circumstances, I wouldn’t blame them.

Justice C.V. Wigneswaran clearly can’t solve all of these problems by himself, but his nomination is an indication that the TNA wants to at least try to find a way to work with the Government.

I wrote a piece after last year’s election to the Eastern Provincial Council looking forward to the prospect of an administration run by the TNA in the North, on the basis that the Government has become far too comfortable in power. Thanks to the ongoing woes of the UNP – which is yet to grasp the very simple concept that image matters in politics – the Government doesn’t need to bother about what people think of its actions. It runs the country exactly as it pleases, controlling all of the elected bodies and enjoying a special majority in Parliament.

The SLMC’s decision to go into a coalition with the UPFA in the East enabled the Government to keep believing that it could rule unchallenged forever, although it may be rethinking that assumption now that its members are refusing to participate in sittings in protest at what they describe as the high-handedness of the Chief Minister and the Governor.

In the North, there will be absolutely no space for doubt.

That will also be very healthy – authoritarianism isn’t good for anybody.

It is much too soon to say whether these encouraging developments will translate into lasting change, and there are plenty of reasons to suspect otherwise. The impeachment of the Chief Justice demonstrated that anything can happen in post-war Sri Lanka – the Government is ready to go to any lengths to get its way and the Opposition won’t really bother to object. Still, given all the country has been through in recent months, I feel that even the slightest indication of progress must be welcomed enthusiastically.

*Kath Noble’s column may be accessed online at http://kathnoble.wordpress.com/. She may be contacted at kathnoble99@gmail.com

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    I hate to break this to ya’ll but SL is NOT i repeat NOT moving forward, how can they when we have our country run by the current government
    a lot of people and I do mean a LOT say the current government are comparable to Nazi Germany.
    First of all look at our president the man is a part of ethnic cleansing and the death of Lasantha Wickrematunge.
    President Mahinda’s brother is known as a sociopath who carried out all the murdurs.
    He is an extremely bad person so how can a country move forward with bad humans running the country.
    Its hopeless

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      Hey chill out and cheer up! Every cloud has a sliver lining as Kath seems to say here..

      The Tamils will yet save their fellow Sri Lankans – particularly, Sinhalaya Modayas from themselves (SInhalaya Modayas) and their political leaders and the Deep State that Gota the Goon is currently instituting in order to become Lanka’s first military dictator..

      Why do you think Lanka needs so many military ties with Pakistan, Uganda, China etc. now that war with LTTE is finished and four years on reconciliation is the need of the hour?!

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        Right on dude, Gota the goon is visiting the Ugandan Dictator Museveni at this time to discuss and exchange ideas on how to dismantle democracy and consolidate dictatorship…

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        This Kath Noble was among those defending the Rajapaksas at their very worst at one time. Now she has changed, along with Dayan and the other crowd. Now its too late, you know.

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    Dear readers,

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Grand Pere of Propaganda said so lucidly more than 200 years ago:

    “Those who control a people’s opinion control its actions”

    This is exactly what most of the modern day writers and journalists are doing for a living, not painstakingly done investigative journalism.

    Do your own investigations, even if you can’t, please don’t buy it from opinion peddlers!

    Keep your mind open.

    Thiru

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    By selecting Daya Master UPFA continuing it’s tradition of getting thugs, terrorists, rapists as leaders of UPFA.

    I pity Douglas and his clan for being used and thrown away like this.

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      The next military Dictator-in-Waiting is Nande Master (GOATa)??

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    Cathy reckons it is “Patriots vs Traitors”.

    According to Vellala Wiggy’s interview , 150,000 votes are from Wellawatta.

    They can’t be traitors for sure. Can they?.

    Jaffna accounts for the majority of the balance 600,000.

    That is why the Indian Bookmakers perhaps will be giving only 5 to 4 for a TNA win.

    Daya Master has to depend totally on his people the ex Captives who lived with him for 30 years.

    Is this the lot Ms Cathy reckons are the Traitors?.

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      Don’t ask questions. Please state the answers.

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    In recent times someone had tried to put this writer on a ‘high pedestal’ calling her an Oxford trained mathematician. We do not understand the relevance of that description of that commenter to the Sri Lanka situation. Whatever that may be she seems to have joined the bandwagon of reconciliation calling people frenzied Sinhala extremists while we do not know anyone who fit the description lest she elaborate. She is ignorant of the circumstances that delayed the holding of PC elections in the North. The Tamil separatist project she refers to has never stood for reason and her perceived ‘boost’ has no meaning.

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    “Given the destructive nature of the ‘patriots versus traitors’ discourse in Sri Lanka, having the LTTE’s senior leaders represent the Government is very healthy”

    I do not agree with above observation. There are two things. 1) Former members don’t have any choice other than UPFA. Other thing is Jaffna people will not be influenced by former LTTE cadres. I believe that Govt made a foolish decision by selecting Daya Master.

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    This is another vapid step in this woman’s attempt to make the transition from Rajapassa apologist to something resembling objectivity in journalism, all in a false attempt at even-handedness.

    Since most who have known her from the past will not buy this “transition” it should be lumped with the rest of those who are trying to “reform” their thinking for public consumption: Rajiva, Dayan, Malinda etc. The only one missing is the Editor in Chief of the Daily Noise, Rajpal Abeynayake. At least he could have livened things up by provoking a slap from someone who was fed up with his obnoxious abuse!

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      Can’t agree with you more, aney…! Its only stupid sri lankans who will fall for this crap. These are the characters who gave all the propaganda support to the Rajas. And now they preach! What a lark!

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      Change, Fazeela? What change? ‘Reform their thinking’ Aney Apochchi? What reform?

      here below are extracts from a piece that appeared in HIMAL before the liberation of Mullaitivu, and contained prognoses, a policy perspective and prescriptions. It is sought to be reproduced so the reading public may recall the stances adopted before the war had been won, while very much a representative of the state in a front-line diplomatic post. A comparison could be made with my post-war and current stances. The strategic continuities would be clear.

      HIMAL Cover

      “The next phase February 2009
      By Dayan Jayatilleka

      This is a time to take stock. Due to all the wrong turns that Sri Lanka has taken, and the right ones it did not, at and since our Independence six decades ago, the country has now spent a quarter century commemorating that event in conditions of a separatist civil war. This period of Sri Lanka’s history may now be about to end. The main achievement of 2008 was the shift in the balance of forces between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the maintenance of a posture of strategic offensive by the Sri Lankan armed forces. Veteran New York Times editorialist-turned-scholar Barbara Crossette, writing on 6 January 2009 in the progressive US weekly The Nation, described the LTTE as “pioneers of the suicide bomber and the cyanide capsule, and the most totalitarian and lethal guerrilla organization in contemporary Asia.”

      Indeed, we are winning a ground war against a ferocious insurgent foe that fields large human formations and is armed with heavy artillery, fast boats and light aircraft…

      …Two non-military yet strategic tasks thus face Sri Lanka in 2009. First, the political prevention of the sustenance or resurfacing of ethnic separatism and support for the Tigers through so-called peaceful political means. This requires stringent anti-separatist legislation along the lines of those that exist in India, Turkey and Spain. Second, a variety of elections – parliamentary, provincial and local authority – need to be held in the liberated areas. The aim here is to throw up a moderate democratic Tamil representation with which the Sri Lankan government can negotiate a final settlement of ethnic grievances, the outlines of which are already being chalked out by the All Party Representative Committee, the APRC.

      The real challenge of 2009, then, is politico-military. First, the liberation of Mullaitivu needs to be accomplished in such a decisive and comprehensive manner as to pre-empt, to the maximum degree possible, the survival of the LTTE as a guerrilla/terror force. Second, simultaneously there has to be a redrawing of the Sri Lankan social contract in a manner so enlightened and reformist that the Tamil people feel included as fully fledged citizens, enjoying equal rights and genuine provincial autonomy. 2009 must be the year of the full and final liberation and reunification of Sri Lankan territory; and upon that reunified territory, the beginning of the construction of a truly Sri Lankan identity, an authentically Sri Lankan nation.

      Victory is on the horizon, but there are pitfalls. There will be pressures to delay, dilute or divert the final offensive and its objectives. There will be calls for ceasefires, negotiations and non-military, political solutions. Some of these will emanate from those external forces who do not wish to see strong states in the Third World, especially those led by nationalist leaders. In most parts of the world, these external forces and their successors have, over decades and even centuries, encouraged divisions and patronised this or that particularistic group, in order to prevent the consolidation of strong nation states. This is, has been and will continue to be the strategy of global hegemony, at times operating through regional subsystems. There is almost no violent conflict today – from Palestine to Zimbabwe, from Afghanistan to Kashmir – whose origins cannot be traced to colonial policy, the divisive stratagems of de-colonisation and the successor Cold War policy of imperial hegemony, or a combination thereof.
      The neocolonial forces do not wish to see the defeat of Tamil separatism in either its armed or unarmed form. They wish Tamil separatist extremism to survive even in residual form, so it can be reactivated and used as an instrument at any given time. Our fight against separatist terror is part of the larger struggle for the defence of our own path, our independence, political sovereignty and right of self-determination. The struggle against fragmentation through separatism is part of the struggle for the consolidation of what Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have conceptualised for their country as ‘sovereign democracy’. It is a struggle against the installation of an anti-national puppet administration, which would cede the sovereignty of the state to outside players and even partition the state for private profit.

      Prabhakaran has been placed on the strategic defensive just as certain global political changes are taking place, which he has been eagerly awaiting. Anita Pratap, the Indian journalist closest to the rebel leader, pointed out in a speech several months ago that Prabhakaran was awaiting two international developments to take place in 2009: first, a new administration in the USA; and second, elections (hopefully, in his view, leading to a new administration) in India. It is most likely that Prabhakaran has miscalculated and grossly overestimated the impact of both of these political developments. However, it is a challenge before the Sri Lankan state to eliminate his military capacity before these political changes can begin to work in his favour.

      Sri Lanka can win the war and lose the peace by one of two errors. The first would be to permit the separatist project to continue to function, for separatist political agencies to function unchecked. We could thus peacefully jeopardise that which the armed forces have won on the battlefield. This could generate a seriously destabilising nationalist-populist backlash. The equal and opposite error would be a lack of generosity, flexibility, enlightenment and wisdom, due to which we fail to expeditiously remove the discrimination, frustration and alienation felt by the Tamil minority. That would cause the reactivation, one way or another, of the Tamil separatist struggle. Either outcome would betray the gains of military victory, and would continue to torment the people of Sri Lanka.

      ~ Dayan Jayatilleka is Sri Lanka´s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. The views expressed in his piece are his own.”

      No reform in that thinking mate.

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        Dayan J:
        Don’t you EVER tire of self-congratulatory prose?

        Going in circles and spending paragraphs where a sentence would suffice hardly needs description. You might impress some of the Rajapassa camp followers with your ersatz erudition, but anyone looking for substance in your endless outpourings can only arrive at one conclusion and that is “Pomposity, thy name is Dayan!”

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          I agree with you, he writes as if is all-knowing God of War from the Temple of the Oracle: gospel!

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        Dayan just because a journo say something it cannot be true. You know how the game is played now. It is not a game of quotations. It is game of power played in a arena of selfishness arrogance and stupidity. For few it is an intellectual exercise for others it is a matter of life. Play on D Play.

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        Dear Dayan,

        “Our fight against separatist terror is part of the larger struggle for the defence of our own path, our independence, political sovereignty and right of self-determination” – could you please tell us more about this ****self determination*****?

        Thanks

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          What he determines is Self Determination, I am wrong? Great intellectual – we are all bloody fools!

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        hey dr dayan, pls stop quoting yourself. its really nauseating. try and acknowldge the contribution that you made to creating this Frankenstein Rajapaksa monster and cry mea culpa. PLEASE. AT LEAST NOW.

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        Dayan,

        You seem be the final judge for Sri Lankan political matters.

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    Kath, One thought your contact address was The Island,upali/.

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    Hopeful? Future? Sri Lanka? All in one sentence?

    Kathy, methinks yer slip is showing.

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      Hopeful future for paid writers as this mess goes on for ever.

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    This is a very incisive and elucidating analysis by Kath Noble. Two very important decisions have coalesced that ‘sticks in the throat’ of the unbending Tamil Diaspora and the minority of Sinhala supremacists – the decision of Mahinda Rajapakse to give notice of provincial elections for the NPC on 28th September and the ‘master stroke’ played by Sampanthan to nominate Justice Wigneswaran as the TNA’s Chief Minister candidate for the NPC.

    These two seismic events will open the dialogue that is necessary to alleviate the need to reach a common understanding of the aspirations of the two major ethnic communities in Sri Lanka for the benefit of all the inhabitants of this resplendent isle.

    Justice Wigneswaran is one of the cognoscente who is fully aware of the political workings of the Government, having been an establishment figure all through his professional life and has an advantage that many in the TNA lack.

    He is no Eleamist and hence will work within the Sri Lankan constitutional framework much to the chagrin of the Diaspora separatists. The minority of Sinhala supremacists will also find it difficult to ‘trade political blows’ with such an important erudite figure who fully understands their mindset with unassuming alacrity. By his appeal to Tamil Nadu and India to let Sri Lankans solve their own problems he has literally ‘taken the wind out of the sails’ of the supremacist Sinhala minority and ‘plunged a dagger deep into the very heart’ of the Diaspora separatists who have been egging India for a more interventionist role in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

    This is a ‘win-win’ opportunity for both Mahinda Rajapakse and Sampanthan alike, that if successfully managed will be fruitful for all the people who inhabit this island nation. The detractors of Sri Lanka judging by the comments in these columns have already cast doubts on these events currently unfolding. Little do they realise that the future of Tamils, Sinhalese, Moors, Malays, Burghers and all the other smaller minorities in Sri Lanka are so intrinsically interwoven politically, culturally and socially that to ignore this seminal aspect would be playing right into the hands of the Diaspora separatists and the minority of Sinhala supremacists alike.

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      OK, I see you are taking a near middle path.

      Suppose the ethnic problem is happily solved. Then what happens to the lawlessness and the dictatorship through elections, which are deeply entrenched?

      Do you think the Sinhala Buddhist majority will yield to reason for accommodating the Tamil nation in the North-East? Or, they will prefer to keep the dictatorial Thuuda Gemunu in power? I bet they will opt for the latter.

      Time will tell, let’s wait and see!

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