26 September, 2018

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Understanding The Radical Right Surge In Sri Lanka 

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Wijeweera, my old foe, would have read the writing on the wall, sounded the alarm and mobilized publicly and massively, but the JVP and FSP are silent—except for an isolated remark each by KD Lal Kantha and Duminda Navagamuwa. Adopting an ostrich posture, these two parties appear foredoomed. The only Left resistance to what is on the horizon, comes from a lone hero, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, and his is increasingly a voice in the wilderness and a rearguard action. 

For their part, far from functioning as “thought leaders”, the cosmopolitan civil society liberals are pathetic. When one expected a hundred liberal voices to sign a petition denouncing the “Hitler/military rule” reference, they signed up to denounce my nomination as ambassador to Russia instead! This NGO underworld is the least credible and most discredited element in our society.

For an antidote to the toxicity, or at least a balancing factor which can countervail and contain at least to some extent, the Far Right surge, one will have to look elsewhere, politically. I shall suggest what that direction that might be, in the course of this article.

It is not the case, as a senior professor pontificated recently, that the national election on the horizon (in a year and a quarter) may see a choice between a “weak democracy” and a “hard authoritarianism”, but rather, what kind of “hard authoritarianism” it is likely to be and why. This is not hair-splitting. Between one variety of hard authoritarianism and another, lies not a distinction, but a world of difference. South East Asia experienced “hard authoritarianism” through decades of its modern history, as did Sri Lanka in the decade of the 1980s, with 60,000 workers sacked, a fraudulent and coercive referendum which postponed the parliamentary elections and shut down the peaceful parliamentary path of change. Is that our post-2019 prospect?

The “hard authoritarianism” label omits a very important concept and factor, which we have known about since the ancient Greeks, namely that of ethos. It is the factor of ethos that determines the most relevant distinction between regime types and indeed, regimes. In a revised, updated version, French political thought draws attention to the factor of mentalité, meaning ‘mentality’.

Western political scientists, with whom I would decidedly disagree in favor of a more universal political science with an Eurasian emphasis, would unhesitating describe Putin’s Russia, Xi Jin Ping’s China and probably Erdogan’s Turkey as ‘hard authoritarian’. Be that as it may, there would be a qualitative difference between Putin’s Russia (and Russia’s Putin) and a Sinhala Alt-Right regime—so different as to make nonsense of a common classification.

However one may define the Russian and Chinese models, their dominant ethos is composed of the troika of Rationality, Realism and Statism. Evidence and example is provided by the state structure and constitutional models of both Russia and China, which provide for regional autonomy for ethnic nationalities and minorities. Given the discourse of the Hitler controversy, the solidarity for Rev. Gnanasaara, and the acute antipathy to ethnic power-sharing, a Sri Lankan Alt-Right regime will not be governed by Realism and rationality. 

The “hard authoritarianism” label is blind to a key question of political sociology: the social element or combination of social elements driving the ideology and consciousness of the Sinhala Alt-Right bloc. The key factor is the role of the clergy/ex-military interface, the dominant ideology, mentality and dynamics within the clergy, and its dominance within the Alt-Right bloc as well as its seepage into the fringes and flanks of the Opposition.

A “hard authoritarianism” with a left wing, conventional rightwing or centrist ideology operates within the larger spheres of Reason and Realism, and is therefore a very different animal from a hard authoritarianism governed by an Alt Right ideology and mentality. In many cases the Alt-Right is a religious right, as we know from the case of the rise of Evangelism on the Republican Right and its morphing with the Tea Party Movement, and now the hybrid, Christian Evangelical Zionism. 

What is rising in Sri Lanka is just such a religious Alt-Right, with the distinctive markers that define its core constituency and its social consciousness. That constituency and collective consciousness are very different from the populist base of Mahinda Rajapaksa and the JO, but is piggy-backing on it. That constituency and consciousness are also very different from the UNP constituency of the Jayewardene regime throughout its “hard authoritarian” decade.

Neoliberal economics and the SLFP’s abdication of the role of the centrist opposition, opened a vacuum which is being filled by the confluence of four streams of social and ideological opinion: 

(1) The hawkish ex-military brass infuse a deep-state ideology of a National Security State. 

(2) The Sinhala expatriates, attracted by the rise of the Alt-Right in their Western societies of domicile, transmit this ideology through newly established networks (e.g. GSLF) into Sri Lankan politics. 

(3) Business, managerial, professional and academic counter-elites play the patriotic Sinhala-Buddhist card to advocate a model which would bring them preferential advantage. 

(4) The Buddhist clergy displays a greatly enhanced assertiveness and seeks a political veto, while within the clergy, the initiative has shifted to the most militant elements and caucuses. 

It is the specific nature, ideology and consciousness of the ethno-religious Alt-Right in Sri Lanka that will determine the ethos of any regime it propels into office and dominates ideologically. That Alt-Right social consciousness will crucially shape the agenda of the government. The political behavior and social policies of such an administration will be of such hegemonistic unilateralism, social and cultural dominance and prescription of the private, as we have never experienced.      

It is important not to overlook the determining (or ‘over-determining’) effect any of the three following factors and most decidedly of a fusion of all three: 

a) The character and consciousness of the core constituency of a political leader, movement and regime 

b) The role of organized religion and the clergy in society and 

c) The character of civil-military relations. 

A political leadership whose core constituency is the religious Alt–Right and the most hawkish ex-military element; a growing religiosity in society and a growing dominance of the most obscurantist militant current within the clergy; a tectonic shift in civil–military relations in the direction of dominance by the latter, when put together, will constitute a regime that can only be superficially captured by the description “hard authoritarian” and whose theocratic-militarist character will make far deeper inroads into cultural and personal freedom and private space than in almost any contemporary authoritarian regime, however ‘hard’. 

There will be no ‘modernization/democracy’ trade-off. There can be no economic modernization without social modernity as the guiding ideology, and there can be no social modernization without a modern social consciousness, none of which can be achieved through a regime dominated by a social ideology and collective consciousness of an archaic nature. The embryonic, emerging Sri Lankan scenario is of a regime type approximating that of Pakistan under Zia ul Haq, with its alliance between the military and the militant mullahs, as well as that of Myanmar, with its axis of the military, the militant monks and Wirathu’s ‘weaponised’ ethno-Buddhism. Ours will be a darker dispensation than mere “hard authoritarianism”. It will be far more ‘totalitarian’ than ‘authoritarian’: a Reich.

The landmark Viyath Maga event at the Shangri-La hotel opened with the image in the very first slide, with showed Gotabhaya Rajapaksa with only one other person in the frame, leaning over the shoulder of the seated GR. That was Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara (Retd.), a notorious hawk, aggressively anti-13A agitator and Sinhala-Buddhist ultra-nationalist, rejected by the Sinhala voters of Digamadulla in the Eastern province in favor of the non-racist progressive from the JO, Wimalaweera Dissanayake (who, it was revealed in Parliament, criticized Weerasekara’s demagoguery in Ampara during the local government election campaign). The Viyath Maga extravaganza’s opening photo-image is emblematic, revelatory and symbolic of a project. The narrative it illustrates is clear. 

Weerasekara is an “expert” for the Alt-Right, on foreign policy of all things—a subject on which he neither has education nor experience. Meanwhile a top ideologue/ex-bureaucrat of Alt-Right has posted on FB (a post which was removed after my criticism) a video of Netanyahu bragging on scientific agriculture, (a speech which omitted to mention that much of the land was grabbed from Palestinian farmers) with the comment “this is the type of country we should be” and pronouncing on the kind of leadership we should have. 

This was a week after the Argentinian football team refused to play Israel, and Israel had 120 countries voting against it at the UN General Assembly for the “excessive use of force”. I raised the question as to whether “the type of country we should be” is an Occupying power which shoots unarmed civilian demonstrators in the head. The Netanyahu post was removed from the FB but was still being circulated by a leading convener of the “Iconic Group” which is the Alt-Right policy think tank.     

One can imagine how unarmed restiveness in South and North will be handled if these pro-Netanyahu types are in power. Sri Lanka will forfeit moral capital, lose its soft power and be a sitting duck for prosecutions and unilateral sanctions. 

Never in the history of Sri Lankan politics has there been so openly rightwing an authoritarian an ideological disposition. And never in the history of the anti-UNP Opposition since 1947 has such aggressive rightwing ideas and role models been openly propagated. 

Nazism triumphed because the anti-fascist vote was divided in 1933. The local Alt-Right (with its ‘National Socialist’ allies and nativist neo-Nazi inflections) will triumph if (a) it captures the candidacy and (b) its electoral opponent is a neoliberal-elitist cosmopolitan rather than a youthful Populist patriot and pluralist-democrat with an inherited vote-base, who can claw back the Sinhala vote.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    Whats up DJ, you start your article giving hypothetical credit to Wijeweera, the metaphorical younger brother of Pol Pot, and the most Fascist Sinhala man born in our lifetime.
    Vasu is great for a chuckle and even for a street fight, but you know he is off the charts, and he can never bring votes to anybody out side of his own constituency. So Dr D let us forget this alt right nonsense, Mahinda aiya will make sure the little brother will not play war games or bust unions, not that I think the little brother will.
    What you are trying will only strengthen the Yahapalas for another term, so give it a rest mate.

    • 5
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      wannihami

      “you start your article giving hypothetical credit to Wijeweera, the metaphorical younger brother of Pol Pot,”

      You mean another brother of the Rajapaksa clan?

      “and the most Fascist Sinhala man born in our lifetime.”

      Alright, you may not like Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera does it mean you have to undermine/insult Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa by elevating Rohana being the most Fascist Sinhala man?

      The place of foremost Fascist/Nazi is reserved for Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa even the clergy recognised the Hitler among the people.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 12
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    Good Analysis Dayan. The bottom line is this is not a country where you want to bring up your kids as its void of a rational mindset. Tribalism dominates despite the efforts of a few good men. Something we have all been aware of for a very long time. Those 200,000 Burghers chased out to Australia as “Karapoththas” and the million Tamils chased out to the West are the blessed ones and their children will thrive in those societies, while the Sinhale lot will be chasing scrap off the Chinese table in their 3 wheelers while the affluent ones will go abroad for their degrees and return after learning nothing. Jayaweewa!!!!!

    • 8
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      Dushy Ranetunge

      You missed an important section of the population which was being deported to India mostly against their will, by mid 1984 the number had grown to 445,588 (Sri Lanka in the Modern Age A History by Nira Wickremasinghe 2014) .

      Remember this was one reason as to why the Hindians decided to intervene and successfully stopped the expatriation through Indo-Lanka accord. Hindia used LTTE and sundries …… to force JR to accept remaining stateless people.

      Double whammy.

    • 4
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      Dushy Ran’e’tunga, If you are one of those 200000 Karapoththas and million Tamils, please stay there. We can do without unpatriotic foreign agents like you. Do not use Sinhala names to undermine our country.

    • 0
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      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 4
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    Don’t worry Dayan,
    Dr Jayamapathy and and his Committees must have studied all those Theories, Isms, Extremes, Minorities, Idiologies specially the white ones, Ethos and even Demosthenes …
    What matters is what Dhammika Perera, the Billionnaire Business man in Colombo said the other day.
    Colombo citizens will have an income of USD 12.500 per annum by 2021.
    And the Colombo Population is only 5% of the Total.
    And we will be called a High Income Nation.
    How cool..
    Now what amazes me is where Did Dhammika get these figure.
    To have this Income every one of that 5% which is say 1.2 Million souls mus be on LKR 170,000 .a month.
    I don’t think any of my mates and neighbors in our Apartment Block earn that sort of Dosh.
    And certainly not the hundreds and hundreds of Muslims and even Tamils who live in those little houses. Politically not correct to say shanties…
    Not many Sinhalese are there, except the ones along the Canal.
    I am sure Dhammika must have got his figures right.
    Nigela Lawson is giving Cooking Demos at Cinnamon Gardens.
    With Cocktails to go along while watching ..
    I don’t think. Lalkatha, Prince Anura or that Bus Owner who alway sits next to Uyangoda and Rev Amila understand what is here.
    Does Vasu read English?….

    • 3
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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      Some years ago you too claimed Dr Mahinda Rajapaksa had already made this island a middle income country.
      How did you work that out. Perhaps

      Total income of the clan
      ____________________
      Population of Colombo

    • 0
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      I think the Central Bank said, Sri lanka;s minimum of cost of living is RS 4500 or some where there. That is per month, I suppose and tht is aboutUS $ 360 per year. So who is earning the balance of this US $ 2500 per year or $ 4000 year. All to cheat Stupid voters.

  • 5
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    “Understanding The Radical Right Surge In Sri Lanka…really ….. “is there a “Radical Right Surge” in Sri Lanka…the masses going radical right…..?
    or is Dayan trying to promote the Hitler Gota?…sorry is it Chamal?….. oh no…. it’s Basil…..may be not it’s Namal stupid! …..so where is Mahinda!!!!

  • 4
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    Ok….we know that the alt-right theocratic-militarist authoritarianism can never a good thing. But did the guy actually promote….”the state structure and constitutional models of both Russia and China, which provide for regional autonomy for ethnic nationalities and minorities?”
    *
    The only Sinhala who has some potential towards a socialistic, Buddhistic and traditionalist society is for the 2/3’res partition. All is lost.

  • 4
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    There is nothing difficult to understand here.

    In reality, what you call the ‘surge of the Radical Right’ is the re-emergence of the Sinhala Buddhist majority of this country. They were kept under their thumb by the Portuguese, Dutch and British Jews and their post colonial agent Jews of the evil empire (US) for the last 500 years and now the people are beginning to see the reality. Though you may not like it for reasons of religiosity (Catholicds can never be free) it is an unstoppable return to normality.

    It is the minorities ‘created’ by these colonisers (Burghers, mixed bloods, Indian Tamils and Marakkalas) who are making noise against this return to normalcy, with the help of religious converts to political Christianity (not true Christianity). They rely on external forces like the UN and the Western funded NGOs (who have changed brands to Civil Society Organisations lately).

    When we read names like Gamini Viyangoda, Janaranjana, Ratnapriya, Pakiyasothy, Wijesuriya and sundry, we hear the noises of international forces who dislike this rise of the Sinhala Buddhist majority because they revive Theravada Buddhism that is naturally against Jewish capitalism.

    But we are a democracy and the majority will get back to rule, with minorities given due place.
    So don’t call them names, sit and observe.

    • 3
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      You should learn to read and write again , before becoming a social reader or any sort of reader and posting your garbage here.

      • 5
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        Though I see little point in entering in to debate with pigs Little or big, I just wish to point out that burgher (Jewish) view of our history, like yours, is not important to us. That is the whole point. Enjoy the swill.

    • 4
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      Social Reader
      I think Dr. Dayan now realized the dangers of Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism. Not a single rational sinhalese is going to listen to your lies and fundamentalist blood thirsty mentality. Do you know Mahinda relied on two US citizens (still US citizens), Western countries, China, and India’s assistance to bring the civil war for an end after several promises. You should know this nation is completely depend on Foregin countries (Do you know China is not a part of Srilanka?) including China. Otherwise you will be in the jungle fighting with Lions and Elephants for your food.

      • 4
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        Labels like radicalism and fundamentalism are being used by the various minority groups who have been exploiting our country, its people and resources.

        US ‘assistance’ to stop the war will be remmbered by anyone with the name Robert O. Blake who tried to screw us at the very last minutes of the war by trying to get Prbhakan released to a ‘third country’. If we succumbed to that pressure, we will be facing a P armed and trained by the US whose clear objective isto divide this country to weaken Sinhala Buddhist civilisation. We have proven through history that we have n’t relied on foreigners for anything. That is why they invaded to steal our resources.

        By the way, don’t steal Sinhala names like Ajith, use something like Bemil, Cemil, Demil, Emil or Femil..

        • 5
          4

          Social reader,

          Firstly, you are not social reader. You are an Alt-right fundamentalist. Ajith is not Sinhala name. You ignorant people like think that names like Ajith, Perera, Solomon, Percy, Dias, Ranil are Sinhalese name? You still believe that you born to a Lion? What a ignorant fool you are? Are you not ashamed of having Dutch and Portugese name? Are you not ashamed of having US citizen as ministers?

        • 0
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          You seem to be knowing your ‘alphabets’ well! Alphabets by themselves have no meaning, except for A and I.
          *
          BTW, What do you mean by, ‘weaken Sinhala Buddhist civilisation’? Is there anything called strong civilisation?

  • 4
    1

    “A political leadership whose core constituency is the religious Alt–Right and the most hawkish ex-military element; a growing religiosity in society and a growing dominance of the most obscurantist militant current within the clergy; a tectonic shift in civil–military relations in the direction of dominance by the latter,”
    Dr. DJ’s paragraph is as good an analysis as any of the current situation. But being D.J, he is quite likely to change his opinion next week.
    In any case, given the above scenario in a time of peace, I think the only solution is a complete change in education. Religion MUST be removed from the school curriculum. Students must not be forced to spend hours memorizing useless mumbo-jumbo. Has the deference shown to religion post-independence produced a better society? Certainly not. Brainwashing of children by ignorant clergy has produced a generation that thinks Hitler was some kind of visionary.
    It will take another generation to fix this. But we must start NOW. Who will bell the cat? And avoid getting shot?
    “One can imagine how unarmed restiveness in South and North will be handled if these pro-Netanyahu types are in power.”
    These types were very much in power pre-2015.
    So is this a tacit admission that the “restiveness” in the North was handled in a less than “Humanitarian” manner?

    • 2
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      “But being D.J, he is quite likely to change his opinion next week.”

      I was thinking the same thing …….. and concerned about his mental-health ……….we should drag him to a shrink ………. or to keep with traditions ……… to a Kattandiya for a Thovil ……… :))

  • 4
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    Dayan you want to make a mountain out of a molehill….
    you want to equate a monk calling Goat to be like Hitler as a Radical Right surge!

  • 3
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    Dayan Jayatilleka starts with ~ “Wijeweera, my old foe…….”. We knew that Dayan is an establishment man. You abandoned the Tamil liberation EPRLF to join the establishment. The establishment come and go but you been there forever.
    You describe Vasudeva Nanayakkara as a ‘left-hero’. Was this to suggest you are one too?
    Then you talk about some NGOs opposing your nomination as Ambassador to Russia. Still dreaming? GoSL has not said one word!
    .
    Dayan uses his own inventions “The Radical Right Surge In Sri Lanka”, Sinhala Alt-Right. He inserts subliminally “Another Pogrom”.
    Dayan the SLPP trumpeted the language/religion-divide. This is unaltered SWRD B slogan. This will blow away the corruption/nepotism/impunity stigma. Do you approve this trend.
    You have some criticisms regarding Gota. How long will this change of heart last?

    • 0
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      We should be satisfied with the political state we now have. Politics cannot solve all problems-nor can Economics.Social problems require social solutions which stem from the national ideology we have. We now have liberal democracy which is the ideal political set up. But there are intractable economic and social problems we need to solve to ensure social peace.. These require economic and social solutions based on modern ideology ushering in economic and social equality and non-discrimination in a politically neutral humanist State. The UNP has provided it but its continuance is uncertain since the masses are not committed to such a liberal democracy but only to popular democracy where they also expect a government to provide them with free lunches. This is where our democracy is likely to fail.

  • 6
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    Friends! Pardon me!!

    It is idiotic to read what “Dr. Dayan Jayatilike” writes and engaging in debate on the excretions of Dayan!!

    • 1
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      yes we should all collectively “pee on it” that debate it

  • 1
    3

    Most people who accuse DJ of changing his opinion frequently do not realise that it is not DJ who has changed the opinion but they themselves. As I understand DJ is standing on a middle ground in Lankan politics. He is saying both Ultra tribal Tamil nationalism and Sinhala nationalism are dangerous and not suitable to the country. Many would agree with it. But many have the inability to identify Tamil nationalist and sinhala nationalism currents in the country. That is why they label Tamil nationalists like TNA as moderate which is nothing but a huge political error and label populist Mahinda Rajapaksa as a nationalist.
    As Dayan says Mahinda is not a leader who are in extreme positions. Mahinda is in the middle ground and the best we have at the moment. So Dayan rightfully support Mahinda. Dayan expected a Mahinda like leadership from Gota. But after seeing Sarath Weerasekara and the Sinhala nationalist camp surrounding Gota, Dayan is sounding the alarm bells saying things are not going in the correct direction. Dayan’s fear may be unfounded. But Dayan stands true to his beliefs and stands in the middle ground.
    It is no wonder Dayan criticises the like of Ranil and Managala who are nothing but servants of the imperial west who sacrifice every national assets of Lanka and betray Lanka’s national interests. We can see that with our own eyes and DJ’s criticism about RW is mostly correct. As Dayan stands for autonomy for Tamil populated northern provinces, he supports 13A which is again understandable. So he is naturally worried about people who are against 13A surrounding Gota. This is what is happening. I think DJ is one of the best political commentators SL has ever had.

  • 0
    0

    OVer the Yearss DJ has cheered every p[olitical philosophy and JRagon available in the world. IT looks he do esnot have specific attitude and it is all ambitiousness and success driven and he changes every thing in order to suit his needs. I remember in his first articles he was promoting FSP. Now he is negative about it. wijeweere was a stupid killer. But he had some conscience and attitude which he said this is the way to go. Unfortunately, DJ doe snot believe that way. He changes every time almost evefy few articles. No where in the world, the TYPICAL POLITCL SYSTEM ( I don’t think it will ever come to reality) exists that yoy talk. Because, I Say it is the THOPPI PIRATI style. You change it as your needs change.

  • 0
    0

    I think what DJ must do, Exacty that is what Ranil wickrmasinghe must do too, a self reflection of your own inside. They both are doing their best to hit the target and miss it. They do not understand it is your inside that ruin you and need to change then it will work out.

  • 1
    0

    Sach, are you really Dayan Jayathillaka writing as Sach?
    Budu Ammo ! Jagath

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