By Dayan Jayatilleka –
If a woman files a formal complaint or publicly accuses a man of repeated conjugal rape, attempted murder and the serial killing of her children over the years, it is hardly likely that she plans to reconcile with him and remain within the marriage. On the contrary it is a sure sign that she is intent on leaving him and wants the authorities to intervene.
If the charges are untrue, then we would conclude that the woman is wittingly maligning the husband and causing damage to his image and harm to his standing in society, to the maximum extent possible.
So it is with an elected body which passes a resolution claiming “historic and recent genocide”. That is not a step taken by any group that wishes to say within a single sovereign state or envisages itself doing so. It is a step on a roadmap to political exit from the state.
To those like my critic and friend Sarath de Alwis who not merely see nothing wrong with Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran’s political behavior and indeed admire him (‘Justice Wigneswaran-Smarter Than The Smart Patriot’), I would commend the opening paragraph of the Editorial of the respected newspaper The Hindu, which summarizes the recent ‘Genocide’ resolution of the Northern Provincial Council and its implications, thus:
‘The Tamil question has been brought centre-stage with the elected council of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province passing a resolution accusing successive governments in Colombo of carrying out genocide against the minority community over six decades. Moved by Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran in the Provincial Council, the resolution demands that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights investigate “historical” and “recent” instances of genocide and submit its report at the session of the Human Rights Council next month. It also asks the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. Thirdly, it asks courts in countries with universal jurisdiction over the alleged events and perpetrators, “including but not limited to the United States”, to prosecute the crimes. The resolution roundly rejects any domestic investigations.’ (‘Playing Poker in Sri Lanka’, Editorial, The Hindu, Feb 13, 2015).
Mr. de Alwis remonstrates that I have not debated him directly and have not engaged with the points he has made, including the one in which he invokes Immanuel Kant. I plead guilty. Many of Mr. de Alwis’ points are speculative ones about my motivation, evolution etc. while the rest are intellectual digressions. A reply to those would mean venturing into autobiography and the history of ideas. In the words of a movie hero addressing a leading lady, which were often quoted with a chuckle by his former editor and mentor -and my father- Mervyn de Silva, “I have both the ability and the inclination, but sad to say, not the time”.
Though the product is assembled from planks of my political and polemical platforms of over twenty years, my urging of a Smart Patriotism centered on a New Nationalism takes place in the context of ‘a clear and present danger’ to the Sri Lankan state, the project of a Sri Lankan nation and the Sinhala community. Dumb patriotism and the old nationalism have lost; have been beaten, and inevitably, perhaps deservedly so. I have already practiced with success, most conspicuously in Geneva, the Smart Patriotism and New Nationalism that I preach. It has passed the test of competition in the global arena. It is by no means an ethnic chauvinism and I regard a great exemplar of smart patriotism to have been the late Lakshman Kadirgamar. (As for nationalism, readers might recollect that Mr. Kadirgamar thought better of Wimal Weerawansa than of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s CFA, and appeared on the same platform as the former at the Town Hall grounds, addressing an audience in Sinhala, against the Wickremesinghe government).
I refuse to be diverted by my intellectual ego, from the task of warning the nation and fulfilling my duty to my country and the state. Thus I shall not play Mr. de Alwis’ game.
I am not enough of an egoist and far too much of a political scientist, not to connect the dots of what’s happening and discern the bigger picture.
- Step One: As a definitive election analysis by experts proves, Mahinda Rajapaksa gets 58% of the vote of the Sinhalese who comprise 74% of the country’s populace, and only 13% of the vote of the minorities, and loses. Maithripala Sirisena gets 41% of the vote of the Sinhalese and 85% of the vote of the minorities and wins. (‘Deconstructing the Sri Lanka Presidential Election 2015 through Data Analysis’, Dr. Ranjiva Munasinghe and Ruwanthi de Silva, Daily FT, Friday Feb 13, 2015.
This stark, structural asymmetry of both voting pattern and domestic geopolitics would not matter except that quite a high percentage of one of the minorities concerned is represented by the Northern Provincial Council which just accused the Sri Lankan state of “historical and recent genocide”, which means that their commitment to Sri Lanka is dubious; questionable. Thus President Maithripala Sirisena’s victory is owed mainly to votes from areas and communities that are quasi-separatist; ambivalent about their commitment to Sri Lanka and have their feet in two places: Sri Lanka and the once and future Tamil Eelam.
- Step Two: The President appoints as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of the UNP, who promptly appoints a Cabinet which is almost totally UNP. Thus a person and a party which have neither won a national election nor demonstrated that they enjoy the confidence of the majority of the House, forms the government. This is unprecedented in a democracy.
- Step Three: A signature appointment by the new Government is that of the Governor of the Central Bank. The post is given to someone who is not a citizen of Sri Lanka (not a dual citizen) and has been for thirty years, right up until his appointment, a top executive of foreign private banks.
- Step Four: The unelected government and an ex-president push a draft of Constitutional reform which will overturn the executive Presidency and replace it with a parliamentary/Prime Ministerial Government, in which the President has to act ALWAYS on the advice of the Prime Minister and can be removed by a two thirds majority of the parliament—which is easily obtainable courtesy funding from the next Raj Rajaratnam who comes down the pike.
“…These provisions suggest that the government wants to revert to the parliamentary system of governance, which existed in Sri Lanka until 1978…The constitutional changes proposed will transform the president into a ceremonial head…Another noteworthy aspect is the proposed mode of removal of the president from office. According to the present proposals, it will require only a no-confidence motion approved in the national legislature with a two-thirds majority to remove the president. The current constitutional requirement of impeachment will be removed…The very essence of the proposal does not suggest that executive presidency will stay. …The spirit of the present proposal does not suggest that removal of the impeachment provisions is a problem because the executive presidency will not be retained.”
Thus the roadmap and agenda is the weakening of the Sri Lankn state and the dismantling of a strong center. When the presidency is weakened there will emerge a multiplicity of power centers, which when added to the provincial councils, will result in a pluri-centric, weak and centrifugal state. The base and mainstay of the Sri Lankan state, the majority Sinhala community, would have been subject to fissiparation, atomization. They would be divided, so as to be easier to rule. They are already being lobotomized and turned from a proud, successful and martial nation of the last decade, into nation of selfish consumers, individual citizens and spectators.
- Step Five: When the North makes its inevitable push, in line with its strategy of incremental separatism, the Presidency would have been deliberately, consciously enfeebled while a parliamentary government and cabinet resting on Northern political support, will be unable to successfully resist that effort, besides which an economy whose commanding heights are dominated by non-national elements (including the pro-secessionist Diaspora) and whose direction is dependent upon the Western institutions (we’ve already gone to the IMF), will be unable to withstand its impact.
While the usual coalition of Sri Lankan liberal and pseudo-left “rootless cosmopolitans” would doubtless denounce my scenario as Sinhala nationalist hysteria or delirium, I wish to draw the readers’ attention to the following paragraphs, not from a Sri Lankan ‘Smart Patriot’ or pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa Sinhala ‘New Nationalist’ but from a well-known Marxist intellectual of Greek-American roots who was close to the Latin American revolutionary Left from the days of President Salvador Allende’s Chile. James Petras, one of my old professors from my Fulbright days at the State University of New York, spelled out the script for Western endorsed secession in the Third World societies in this manner:
“…separatist movements follow a step-by-step process, beginning with calls for ‘greater autonomy’ and ‘decentralization’, essentially tactical moves to gain a local political power base, accumulate economic revenues, repress anti-separatist groups and local ethnic/religious, political minorities with ties to the central government… The attempt to forcibly usurp local resources and the ousting of local allies of the central government results in confrontations and conflict with the legitimate power of the central government. It is at this point that external (imperial) support is crucial in mobilizing the mass media to denounce repression of ‘peaceful national movements’ merely ‘exercising their right to self-determination’. Once the imperial mass media propaganda machine touches the noble rhetoric of ‘self-determination’ and ‘autonomy’, ‘decentralization’ and ‘home rule’, the great majority of US and European funded NGOs jump on board, selectively attacking the government’s effort to maintain a stable unified nation-state. In the name of ‘diversity’ and a ‘pluri-ethnic state’, the Western-bankrolled NGOs provide a moralist ideological cover to the pro-imperialist separatists.’
Petras goes on in the same text to caution against federalism, pointing out with concrete examples, that “the shift from ‘autonomy’ within a federal state to an ‘independent state’ is based on the aid channeled and administered by the imperial state to the ‘autonomous region’, thus strengthening its ‘de facto’ existence as a separate state”. (Petras James, June 2008, Separatism and Empire Building in the 21st Century, Centre for Research on Globalization, available here )
We in Sri Lanka are now living under a minority government in two senses: a government that does not have a majority of votes or seats in parliament and a President who did not secure the confidence of a majority of voters of the majority community, but won with an overwhelming majority of minority votes.
Anomalous in a democracy, it is turning out to be a government of the (social) minorities, for the (social) minorities, and by the (social) minorities.
Sri Lankan society today is divisible not only between those who regard Mahinda Rajapaksa as a hero and those who regard him a villain, but also between those who regard Mahinda Rajapaksa a villain and Chief Minister Wigneswaran quite an acceptable fellow. Clearly Mr. Sarath de Alwis is not merely in the latter category, but in a sub-category which cheers Chief Minister Wigneswaran while jeering Mahinda Rajapaksa. He is not unique in this. There are those who regard a possible Mahinda Rajapaksa comeback or revival of his political influence as a greater danger than anything that Chief Minister Wigneswaran is liable to do. They would regard an SLFP or a new nationalist formation which is pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa as a greater threat than a restive Northern Provincial Council. I am manifestly not of that category and am proud about it.
I readily admit that though I have the abiding satisfaction of having seen the defeat of the LTTE and Prabhakaran and having fought in the “ battle of ideas” against that fascist enemy, the side I supported at the recent election—Mahinda Rajapaksa and the patriotic camp–lost, and worse still, the side I opposed in 2001-2003, Ranil Wickremesinghe’s CFA-UNP, has won. Moreover, the causes I have opposed from 1994 seem to be winning or about to win—CBK’s “Constitutional Revolution” abolishing the executive presidency, and her federalizing “package”. The outstanding contemporary Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek entitled one of his anthologies of essays, ‘In Defence of Lost Causes’. Simply because a cause has been or is lost, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t and isn’t worth fighting for, or indeed that it will not win in the future.
As Fidel Castro pointed out in a speech in December 1986 marking the 30th anniversary of the landing of the Granma on Cuba’s shores and the founding of the Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), winning or losing is no criteria of being politically, historically and morally in the right. He pointed out that the revolutionaries, including Che Guevara could have been wiped out during the Granma landing itself but this wouldn’t have proved them wrong any more than it would have proved their pro-US reactionary enemy right. Fidel concluded that any true revolutionary must have a bit of Don Quixote in him; must have a little craziness.