18 October, 2019

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Wigneswaran’s ‘Two Nations’ & The State’s Two Blunders

By Dayan Jayatilleka – 

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Chief Minister Wigneswaran has just made, or made explicit, a basic political claim which escalates the political conflict and places or retains Sri Lankan Tamil politics on a road to a dead end. Meanwhile, the state authorities have made two wrong moves in recent weeks, both of which stem from a single error, and will have negative repercussions for some years to come.

The Sri Lankan authorities have cracked down on what it claims is a plot to revive LTTE activity. If the story is true, then a crackdown is certainly warranted if it is conducted in a manner that does not alienate the Tamil people further and thereby help the LTTE in its planned activities. In short, an intelligence-led covert surgical operation is the instrument to use rather than an overt and heavy security blanket which disrupts the progress made by the state in providing a relatively normal life for the people of the area.

One must be pardoned though for wondering whether the overt and widespread nature of the crackdown is inspired by the Israeli doctrine in the Occupied Territories, namely that of periodic roundups to stay on top of the populace, keeping it off balance.

A related problem is the arrest of Jeyakumari, followed by Ruki Fernando and Fr Praveen. The LTTE operative Gobi is a strange fellow, seeking shelter in the house of a prominent activist who is almost certain to be under surveillance.  Even assuming this to be true, the Prevention of Terrorism Act is intended for hard targets, not for the likes of Ruki and Fr Praveen, not to mention Azath Sallay, Kumar Gunaratnam, Lalith and Kugan, and very probably Prageeth Eknaligoda.

It is the inability to distinguish adequately between hard and soft targets that has placed the Sri Lankan state in the crosshairs of an international probe.

Even if the confusion between hard and soft targets was understandable in the fog of war, it is crassly counterproductive in peacetime, not least because it undermines credibility and legitimacy. In a situation in which the Sri Lankan authorities are under international scrutiny and will be subject to an UN-mandated inquiry, this clumsiness is almost suicidal, and enhances the Tamil ultranationalist narrative of persecution and victimhood.

The latest move of the authorities has been to proscribe as foreign terrorist organizations, a number of networks embedded within the Tamil Diaspora. Many of them are indeed terrorist (LTTE) affiliated and deserve to be proscribed. The others are diaphanously veiled secessionists— the GTF Charter calls for a “self-governing Tamil Eelam”, as distinct from an autonomous Northern Province or North-East region. However, not every secessionist is a terrorist and unless the state can credibly show a link between the GTF, BTF and the LTTE or an offshoot bent on violence, the former can be proscribed under anti-secessionist legislation but not as foreign terrorist organizations. To brand non-terrorist secessionists as terrorists risks an erosion of legitimacy internationally which lets real terrorists get away (since crying “Tiger, Tiger” has the same result as crying “wolf, wolf”).

Now for the flip side. Chief Minister Wigneswaran has made an important speech in Colombo, on the occasion of the commemoration of leading (and much liked and respected) LSSP personality Bernard Soyza. The Chief Minister strives to make a fundamental point. He says quite rightly that there is an important distinction between state and nation, and that the Sri Lankan crisis stems from the refusal to recognize that the Tamils of Sri Lanka are a nation. He reassures us that the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka is fully committed to a single Sri Lankan state.

This statement has several things wrong with it, but I must preface my critique with the admission that I had argued much the same point about Tamil nationhood in a series of articles in the Lanka Guardian in 1979 (under the pseudonym ‘Chintaka’) which resulted in an interesting polemic with Prof Kumar David. In my defence I must clarify that I was an undergraduate in my very early twenties— and a dogmatic adherent of the scripture according to Lenin. It was also before the war really broke out.

After 30 years of a brutal civil war, let us hear the ‘lessons learnt’ by the most learned and moderate member of the TNA and the indispensable Chief Minister of the Northern Province:

“…To me it is a question that deals with the Nations in Sri Lanka- the question that has arisen on account of the non-recognition of Nations in Sri Lanka.

The Tamil speaking people of the North and East of Sri Lanka are a Nation without a State…

…The Tamil Speaking Peoples of Sri Lanka constitute a Nation from an objective standpoint and consider themselves to constitute a Nation.

…The National Question has arisen on account of our inability to understand the reality of the existence of two nations, or two states as Dr. de Silva said, in this fair Island of ours…

…All these actions stem from the failure or refusal to recognise the existence of two nations. Violence emerged as a response to the persistent and pernicious refusal to recognise the existence of distinct nations.  However, the violence took the form of espousing the formation of distinct States.  This led to a violent and brutal war that ravaged this country and particularly and overwhelmingly, the Tamils.

How then should we answer the National Question?  The short answer is by the simple recognition of the existence of distinct nations… 

…After certain so called procedural shortcomings the Northern and Eastern Provinces were divided by the Supreme Court. No steps have been taken so far politically to rejoin the Provinces in terms of the 13th Amendment….

In summary let me say that the National Question arises from the refusal to accept the presence of distinct Nations in Sri Lanka. A solution could be worked out only if the majority community is prepared to accept this fact. All recent activities on the part of the Government are geared to deny the existence of such a reality…The Tamils have unequivocally committed themselves to the State of Sri Lanka.”

(‘Brother Bernard and the National Question’, Justice C.V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister, Northern Province  Speech delivered at Bernard Soysa Centenary Commemoration Meeting at Tamil Sangam Hall, 57th lane, Colombo, Colombo Telegraph, March 31, 2014)

The problem with the Chief Minister’s assertion is that the ‘Sri Lankan Tamils’ are slightly under 4% of the island’s population, while the Sinhalese are roughly 74%. (The CIA World Factbook, a source with which the TNA can surely have no problem, says the Sri Lankan Tamils are 3.9%). There would be chaos if every country were to accord the status of nationhood to every ethnic group which is 4% and above, not least because the status of nationhood brings with it the claim of the inalienable right of self determination up to and including political independence. Though a kindly and generous soul like Mr Wigneswaran swears eternal fealty to a single Sri Lankan state and his more radical and younger colleagues would be willing to reassure us that they only wish to assert the right of internal self-determination at the moment, the recognition of two nations on this small island is not a risk that most Sri Lankans would take.  This is especially so when the good Chief Minister himself says, in a political Freudian slip, that “The Tamil speaking people of the North and East of Sri Lanka are a Nation without a State.”

Which country in Asia, especially South Asia, would take such a risk?

There is also the question of logic or the absence thereof. If an ethnic group which accounts for 4% (or just under) of the populace, is defined as a nation, just how small does an ethnic group have to be, to be recognised as a national minority or minority nationality? Are there no such entities as minorities, in the Chief Minister’s scheme of things?

Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s “two nations” theory is the same concept that underlay the British-inspired partition of India and Pakistan.

The dangerous upshot is that it lends credence to the cautioning of the defence hawks that there is a latent secessionism or a secessionist project by incrementalism, aimed at establishing a state for “a nation without a state”. Therefore, say the hawks, devolution should be denied or delayed.

Perhaps still more negative is the other consequence of Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s thesis. By classifying the Tamils of Sri Lanka as a nation without a state rather than a minority without autonomy or equal rights, he deflects the achievable goal of minority rights, devolution of power and anti-discrimination, pre-empts a civil rights movement and locks the Sinhala and Tamil communities into the protracted zero-sum game of a struggle over nationhood — an eternal tribal conflict— on this small island.

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Latest comments

  • 14
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    Dayan your entire article hinges on these words.”Sri Lankan Tamils are slightly under 4%”
    Since this is untrue,your article is worthless.

    • 10
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      Dayan

      Please check the 2012 Sri Lanka census. The Sri Lankan Tamils are 11.2% of the total population. Where did you get the 4% number? You seem be losing it.

      • 3
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        [Edited out] Daya,

        You have to have to take away the 75,000 Tamil civilians killed by the Sri Lankan Security Forces in May 2009 at Mullivaikkal in the Mullaitivu District, then the total Tamil population will be 3.9%

      • 0
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        He is right. SL Tamilians are only around 4%.

        Govt. cooked up numbers to avoid facing genocide. Computer jilmart.

        If it is not 4%, let’s make it 4%.

    • 0
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      WHEN ONE CONSIDERS THAT EVEN THE GOI (LARGE GROUP) HAVE VAST DRAVIDIAN INPUT, BE IT FROM VIJAYA’S SECOND PANDYAN MARRIAGE OR THE RECENT TAMIL INPUT IN COLONIZATION/DEFORESTATION OF THE CENTRAL HILLS (Buddhism Betrayed?: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka
      By Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah, p 152-3) A TAMIL NATION IS A DIFFICULT CONCEPT TO ACCEPT IN ISOLATION.

      ACCEPATABLE ONLY THROUGH A HEALTY ACCEPTANCE OF HILLS, PLAINS AND COASTAL (TOURIST INDUSTRY), LINGUISTIC AND RELIGIOUS MULTYCUTURALISM.

      they are all people and deserve to be loved.

  • 12
    1

    Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka,

    First of all could you clarify the percentage figurs of Tamil population in Sri Lanka in comparison to what Dr.Laksiri Fernando say.

    Second, you hit the nail when you say…….”One must be pardoned though for wondering whether the overt and widespread nature of the crackdown is inspired by the Israeli doctrine in the Occupied Territories, namely that of periodic roundups to stay on top of the populace, keeping it off balance”.

    Yes you are exactly correct. It is Gota who gets advise from Mossad as well as Israel intellegence service as to how to subdue Tamils and use similar tactics Israel use on Palestines, to supress Nothern Tamils and other groups who fight Rajapakses for their rights and justice.

    Also Gnanasara’s racist BBS is part of this operation.

    But eventually Gota is going to fail due to not getting help from the International community, who helped him to win the LTTE war.

    Also UNHRC resolutions will start biting Sri Lanka pretty soon, and they will effect our whole economy.

    Already British Foreign Secretary William Hague, and UN SG sending first warnings to Pres.Rajapakses.

    http://colombogazette.com/2014/04/01/un-chief-says-accountability-is-key/

    Rajapakses fighting with USA, UK and EU is similar to “Harakiri”.
    MR could take the whole Sri Lanka down a Precipee overnight.

    This is not the time to talk about Tamil Nation or Muslim Nation or Sinhala Nation.

    All these Wigneswaran’s Tamil Nation business came to light only after MR slept on LLRC for four years since winning the war, doing nothing and also doing other crazy Hambanthota Comedy tricks to fool International community. Now he got trapped in his own Bait.

    Today MR escalate the Tamil issue by proscribing 15 Tamil organizations as LTTE fronts.

    http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/29147

    These will further isolate Sri Lanka and aggravate the situation.

    Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka,

    If you are intelligent enough, you could guess where MR and Gota taking our country now.

    Therefore it is your duty as well as Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike, all opposition parties, all clergy and all other Sri Lankan patriots to unite and stop crazy Rajapakses taking Sri Lanka further on a districtive path, and further burdening the people after a 30 year war.

    Rajapakses are not finding a sollution to the Tamil problem, but further escalating them. They are the Problem and not the solution for our country.

    THEY HAVE ALREADY BANKRUPT OUR COUNTRY.

    THEREFORE IT IS TIME TO STOP THEM BEHAVING CRAZY, AND STOP THEM NOW.

    Please let me have your views.

    • 8
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      Jayantha ,

      “Therefore it is your duty as well as Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike, all opposition parties, all clergy and all other Sri Lankan patriots to unite and stop crazy Rajapakses taking Sri Lanka further on a districtive path, and further burdening the people after a 30 year war.”

      remember DJ’s theory ,

      1)I,ME and myself come first
      2)endless support for his chosen leader

      before you request any thing from DJ , please check above two conditions are met , if not answer is very simple , it is a resounding NO .

      will CBK listen to any of his BS theories ? instead of listening to DJ’s BS , CBK will remind him how she silenced “Satana” editor .

      • 1
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        Jayantha wanted the bandit queen back in the saddle. It is clear that bugger’s aim is to turn back our achievements so far after the end of war just like neo-cons.

        Jayantha should read Victor Ivon’s famous book to remind himself of Chandrika’s greed, theft, waste and mismanagement. Pitty, bugger doesn’t know how her thug and goon bodyguard Baddegane Sanjive killed Satana editor Rohana Kumara. He doesn’t know that Chandrika extended then army commander Kottegoda’s term to prevent SF get the top post.

        Chandrika got the UDA (Man-gala was in charge then) to spent over a billion rupees (todays value over 3 billion) of taxpayers money to design a new presidential palace and just to drive piles while the country was going through the most difficult times. It was minus growth to be exact. Those piles are visible from walkways at Thalawathugoda end of Diyawanna Oya even today. The project had to stop for some reason. But what a waste.

        Now read a bit of her greed: Towards the end of her rule, Chandrika got her cabinet to approve a two acre plot adjacent or in the parliamentary reserve itself to build her private residence in lieu of her pension. It was cancelled when MR came to power.

        Except thawalam by awalams, name just one big project Chandrika had completed during all that 11 years of her rule. I remember, her southern development authority chairman Engineer named Gunaratna had published an artist paintingof an airport with private airplanes etc in daily papers in 1996. But she couldn’t make it real. But she did many a corrupt deals alright like that golf course which again never saw the daylight. How could she, she couldn’t even do the vital roads and bridges of her own electorate leave out her Gampaha district. Basil had to come and do it from zero.

        Imagine what the banditto woman would do if she is elected to office again.

        This bugger claims the country is bankrupt. Refer to CIA factbook on Sri Lanka and learn the truth before I come with facts.

    • 7
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      I think you are serious with today´s problems. So do I. But how many of the population feel so is the question. Taking DJ as a known example, his intention has been solely focused on personal gains. His all efforts to get posted to represent the country in UNHRC session ended up in vain. As good Srilal pointed very clear.. his has been ” mama thamai pora”. I am the one to know everytihng. Know-charactor but chamelian features. Anyway, none of his efforts brought him close to the bunch thugs in power. Now the current – plan B is to struggle in finding enough customers to buy his new book. We also understand that the guy should have proper income even if he could have savings.
      It is purposeless to ask him to work on any wayouts from the current abysmal states: He has clearly criticised CBK, RW and Rev. Sobitha Thero, even questioning why CBK dared to meet up with Oppposition but not the govt. As it was the case with Ekanligoda´s missing just made clear with blatant lies, GOVT just speculated of welcome CBK´s invitation for a discussion, but nothing was read about the issue since then. All in all, the current govt is very abusive as anybody could even guess what degree they have been doing.

      • 4
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        Both Sri Lal and Sun,

        Yes at this moment I have to agree with both of you.

        I THINK DR.DAYAN MADE A COMPLETE “U TURN” IN HIS WRITING AFTER HE MET PRES.RAJAPAKSE FEW DAYS PRIOR TO UNHRC RESOLUTION.

        I DON’T KNOW HOW AND WHY, BUT I SEE A SHARP CONTRAST IN HIS WRITING SOON AFTER HE MET PRES.RAJAPAKSE AT TEMPLE TREES, AND I HOPE AND PRAY THAT IT IS NOT DUE TO A FREE LAPTOP OR A DUTY FREE CAR…….OR MR’S USING HIS MAGIC WAND ON HIM. REMEMBER RANIL W. HAVING BLACK COFFEE AT TEMPLE TREES……..AND JOURNALISTS GETTING FREE LAPTOPS AND DUTY FREE CAR LOANS.

        ONLY DR.DAYAN KNOWS……

        Here’s few articles Dr.Dayan wRote just before he met MR.

        In his CT article “Sri Lanka In Geneva: Frozen In Fixed Positions”
        March 19, 2014 hewrites following…… |

        “…The United States and many other friends of Sri Lanka supported the government in its fight. In 2009, the military succeeded in crushing the Tigers. But the government, after winning the war, has not been able to manage the peace or rebuild Sri Lanka’s democratic traditions………”

        But soon after he met President and known UNHRC defeat, his friends changed to only those voted in favour of Sri Lanka. USA, UK,EU who helped Sri Lanka all these years to crush LTTE were kicked out.

        Dr.Dayan’s CT newsletter “Under Siege: Sri Lanka In Geneva”, March 11, 2014, hewrites following…….

        “Thus Sri Lanka is in a far worse situation internationally than almost all states, especially democratic ones, which have won a war against a ruthless non-state actor because the community that sustained that non-state actor through all its fascistic depredations is far more significant than the communities which sustained just as ruthless or even far less ruthless non-state actors in other conflict situations”.

        In his article……..”Arresting Performance: Shelling Sri Lanka’s Zone In Geneva” March 17, 2014…he writes following.

        “A crackdown in the North won’t deter dissent. It never did and never will. The decision of then Perm Secretary of Defence and External Affairs, the Sinhala-Buddhist hawk NQ Dias, to send Major Richard Udugama to the North to disperse a peaceful Satyagraha in 1961, which the latter did by cracking heads with rifle butts, didn’t dissuade Tamil nationalism. Nor did the arrest and detention a decade later, of youth who hoisted black flags to protest the 1972 Constitution. Ask Mavai Senathirajah or Vardarajahperumal, who were jailed for several years for that non-violent protest. A policy of zero tolerance of dissent in the North will only catalyse civic protest which, if met coercively by the State, will trigger a huge Tamil Nadu response, which in turn will bring India down on our heads”.

        Therefore we see his difference in opinion after he met Pres.Rajapakse in Temple Trees.

        WE DON’T MIND DR.DAYAN MEETING ANYBODY ANYWHERE, BUT WE NEED TO KNOW HIS CLEAR CUT OPINION ON ANY GIVEN MATTER ON ARGUMENTATIVE MANNER, TO JUSTIFY HIS OPINION………WHICH IS AT THE MOMENT IT IS NOT.
        THAT’S WHY WE AS READERS OF YOUR NEWS LETTERS ARE CONFUSED.

        There is also a dangerous news coming out that BBS Gnanasara is forming a Million man FORCE. Here’s the news web……

        http://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/172-opinion/45256-we-have-not-attacked-any-religious-place.html

        DM. questions……Q You have said a force of 1 million is going to be formed. For whom is that?
        More than a million. Our programme is “Awake, through the vision of Dampal!” So far we have recruited them.

        Q My question is, for whom is that?
        It is we who decided the King in 2016. It is a silent journey. Merely praying to the “Triple Gem” will not do. We should safeguard the Buddhists geographically and regionally. If Mahinda Rajapaksa is sincerely committed to this cause we willhelp him. But still these are ‘plaster’ solutions only.

        Who is funding BBS WITH 630 MILLION RUPEES to form a million man force is the million Dollar question. MR/GOTA has already opened Pandora Box.

        We are still waiting Dr.Dayan’s clariffications on Tamil population figures. He has to answer them before he writes his next News Letters.

        Dr.Dayan we are waiting to hear from you.

        • 2
          0

          Jayantha ,

          you seem to be a novice to DJ’s writing , it is not that DJ has changed his stance this time after meeting MR , it has always been the same , if you have time , try to read some of his articles on Transcurrent , you will see what i’m talking about , there was an article which he has written to sunday- leader news paper with regards to 18 th amendment , read those articles if you want see his consistency .

          PS: most of his theories don’t seem to be working either , i.e India’s influence over SL , 2009 Temporary illusive victory , Premadasa and his Junior , MR’s strategies et al.

          • 2
            0

            Srilal,

            Thanks Srilal. Hope Dr.Dayan will clear our doubts. Hope Dr.Dayan will not become another Malinda or Jayantha Danapala.

            Since late, we do not see much news letters from Friday Forum eather.

            https://www.colombotelegraph.com/?s=Friday+forum&x=12&y=0

            Surprise.

            • 2
              0

              He has never responded to any of the querries raised by us here.

              He is very like – unique to him and his theories but nobody seems to be interested in any of his.

        • 1
          0

          Please dont take him serious, stop calling him ” Dr. Dayan”. We need to respect academics that really deserve the respect and dignity. For me, DJ is a just one another crying for his posts.

          I should have been very wrong to read his articles in the past. I thought today´s diplomats should respect former experienced ones. But DJ´s hypocracies have almost reached, even going beyond all bearing. He has dug his own pit. Today, his has come down to the level of Mervin the vermin who deserve no repsect but curses specially from the people in Kelaniya area where he looted through arbitory money extortion issues.

  • 2
    0

    Here is what Gota said earlier, not sure what he is saying now.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeHlCpKVvUU

  • 4
    0

    “This is especially so when the good Chief Minister himself says, in a political Freudian slip, that “The Tamil speaking people of the North and East of Sri Lanka are a Nation without a State.””

    This is no Freudian slip. It is a statement of fact. The Tamil nation in Tamil Nadu is not a nation state but a state within the Indian union. Just as mush as India and Pakistan are British creations so was the British Raj. The British created an India out of a collection of princely states. The British left it to the Congress and the Muslim league to create the successor nation states. The Ceylon National Congress recognized the existence of a Tamil people.

    • 1
      1

      It is more appropriate if Wiggie said “The Tamil are a Nation without a State.”

  • 0
    0

    Taking issue with some of the debatable points in DJ’s article many of the commentators here are missing the importantant and sensible concluding words:

    Perhaps still more negative is the other consequence of Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s thesis. By classifying the Tamils of Sri Lanka as a nation without a state rather than a minority without autonomy or equal rights, he deflects the achievable goal of minority rights, devolution of power and anti-discrimination, pre-empts a civil rights movement and locks the Sinhala and Tamil communities into the protracted zero-sum game of a struggle over nationhood — an eternal tribal conflict— on this small island.

  • 0
    1

    Tamils are doomed.

  • 0
    2

    Tamils are stateless people.

    FDPs.

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