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Lessons For Sri Lanka: Pakistani Voters Snub Religious Extremists

I want to be the rainbow 
From the inside out
To show all my colours
Colours that define me
Colours that make me whole
But it’s so hard
For I wear many masks
The truth sets me free 

Miriam WandiaKaloki – from her poem  ‘Masks’ in Human Rights and Culture  (AHRC) Vol 4 Issue 13

Pakistan went to the polls a couple of weeks ago. Though the full results are still not known, it is clear that Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League has won sufficient National Assembly seats to be able to form a stable government in Islamabad. His party will also be able to form a government in Punjab Province. The incumbent Pakistan People’s Party dominated by the late Benazir Bhutto’s family was badly beaten at the election to the National Assembly but will continue to rule the Province of Sindh.  Pakistan’s cricket legend Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice (PTI) took control of Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa (former North West Frontier Province) and had an improved result from previous National Assembly e3lection. In the fourth Province of Balochistan, a regional party seems likely to control the majority of seats. Significantly, to ensure a fairer poll, the Election Commission conducted the National Assembly and all the Provincial Assembly polls on the same day.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa waves during a photo opportunity with high-ranking military officials after unveiling a monument for fallen Sri Lankan soldiers in the town of Puthukkudiriruppu

Mr. President, victory over whom?

What was noteworthy about this election was that it was the first time since Independence in 1948, that an elected government was allowed to complete its term in office. In all previous instances, no elected government was allowed to complete its term of office. It was always interrupted by a military coup. So 2013 will be momentous in Pakistan’s political history in that one elected government is about to be inaugurated in office to succeed another following a democratic election, Nawaz Sharif who seems set to take over as Prime Minister was earlier removed from office 1n 1999 in a military coup led by General  Musharaff. Ironically. in 2013 when Nawaz Shariff is installed as Prime Minister, Musharaff will be serving his time in jail, following a Supreme Court order delivered before Nawaz Sharif’s election.

This is the third time Sharif is to serve office in Pakistan as Prime Minister. David Blair and Rob Crilly writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph have stated that Sharif’s first term between 1990 and 1993 ended in ignominy when he was sacked for corruption; he was a steel magnate tainted by many allegations of dodgy dealings. During his second term, between 1997 and 1999, he re-wrote the Constitution, made laws making it obligatory for MPs to vote for the party line, and sent mobs to threaten the Supreme Court Judges. Along the way, he armed the Taliban in Afghanistan, gave Pakistan the nuclear bomb, and blundered into an undeclared war with India – the Kargil affair in 1999 when he sent Pakistani troops deep into Indian-held territory. But he was not able to rein in the powerful Army who sent him off to Saudi Arabia. The Press described his government at that time as ‘one of the most inept in Pakistan’s history’.

Time can change political  leaders

But time changes men and women and also popular sentiment about their political lesders. Most Pakistan voters felt that during his decade long absence from the Pakistani political scene, Sharif had matured a lot and is now committed to ‘managing the economy and pursuing political reconciliation both domestically and in external relations. The Dawn, one of Pakistan’s leading daily newspapers wrote that Sharif’s election was a hugely important moment in Pakistani history. Sharif fought a campaign ‘to be proud of’. Though relentlessly attacked from all sides, he ‘resolutely kept his focus on what needs to be done to solve grave national issues’, the dire economy, crippling power shortages and endemic tax evasion. Most Pakistan voters seem to have believed him to be sincere. Though he had courted the Taliban in his previous terms, the voters thought he was best poised to tackle the Taliban. He has plans to start immediate talks with ‘all sides’, including the Army and the Taliban to end the violence. He is also keen to mend fences with India with whom there has been no durable peace since partition in 1947. He has already invited India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his swearing-in as Prime Minister. He probably knows that political reconciliation at home and with the neighbours will not be easy. While attempting reconciliation, he will have to be constantly looking over his shoulders at both the powerful Army as well as at the equally powerful insurgent Taliban movement. But he is now politically more mature to handle this.

The election that Sharif brought Sharif to power was not without controversy. The Taliban engaged in widespread violence and intimidation and did not allow all the candidates to campaign freely. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan however seemed to have been spared the wrath of the Taliban and seemed to have been allowed to attend and address election rallies. Not so lucky was the Pakistan People’s Party. Bilawal Bhutto Zardar, the young son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, the current Chairman of the PPP, had to confine himself to speaking through video messages from his exile in Dubai. Imran Khan has referred to intimidation of many of his supporters that prevented them from going to the polling booths to exercise their franchise. Most of the acts of violence and intimidation were by the religious extremists, including the Taliban. But the Pakistani voter defied these extremists to go to the polling both. The turn-out at this election was over 60%, the highest ever in Pakistan’s turbulent electoral history. Imran Khan has said that his party intends to challenge the poll results because of the widespread intimidation. But it unlikely, given the record turn-out of voters, the margins of victory and the regional trend in voting which resulted in victories for all parties at the provincial assembly elections, that there was massive intimidation and/or vote-rigging  Sharif has told Imran Khan to show the ‘sportsman’s spirit’ by accepting the results!

Imran Khan himself is now recovering in hospital from a fracture in his spine caused by a fall from an election platform a few days before the election. There was, of course, no suggestion, that the fall was caused by any act of sabotage. But one of Imrqn Khan’s leading supporters was shot dead two days after the election in what was clearly a political assassination. Kahn has accused one of the parties of religious extremism as being responsible for this killing. The problem with Pakistan is that it was founded on the basis of religion. Mohamed Ali Jinnah, their independence leader, who initially stoked the flames of communalism, died soon after independence from British rule. Had he lived, he may have been able to contain religious extremism as he was by nature a liberal though ambitious politician. Pakistan, unlike India, did not have outstanding liberal visionaries like Gandhi, Nehru, Rajagopalachari, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Humayun Kabir to direct the energies of a post-independence people in the path of religious and linguistic harmony.

Lessons for Sri Lanka

The first transition from one democratically elected government to another in Pakistan’s political history has lessons for Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court of Pakistan played an important role in clipping the wings of the powerful Army when the Army asserted themselves to interfere with democratic governance. The Supreme Court was also held he powerful President accountable for maintaining the rule of law. Pakistan is a partially failed state with the economy in a crisis state. There are twenty-hour black-outs which deal a crippling blow to industry. Tax evasion is a huge problem with the middle and working classes having to bear the brunt of falling resources for development work. The Army had enjoyed too much power that it tended to interfere in civilian affairs with disastrous results. Violence has reached levels when even Test playing cricketing countries avoid Pakistan as a venue for their matches. Corruption is becoming endemic. These problems, which the new Sharif government is now required to tackle. will require a change in the culture  of a people. They have for over sixty years been plagued by military coups and corrupt politicians. It will need enormous courage and a singular vision on the part of the Nawaz Sharif government to change all this. Having been away from the political scene for over a decade, he comes in as a new broom with the vision and the  capacity to bring about the changes that are necessary, despite his previous government being considered inept. Only time will tell if he can deliver. He was elected because the voter believed that he could do so, that he had shed his previous image as another run-of the mill Pakistani politician,

The problems the Pakistani people now face are common to the problems that we in Sri Lanka have to contend with. As in Pakistan, they have been caused primarily by corrupt and inept politicians, who used religious and linguistic extremists and/or used the language of extremism to cover up their own corruptness and ineptness. There are increasing signs that the voters in Sri Lanka are increasingly losing patience with those promote religious, linguistic or ethnic hatred. Two weeks ago, the government observed ‘Victory Day’, an annual event to celebrate the crushing of the northern insurgency. They were bypassing the LLRC recommendation that instead of this display of triumphalism, National Day 4th February include a separate event to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the conflict and to commit ourselves to peaceful future. The government appointed LLRC also wanted the practice of singing the National Anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil, to the same melody, to be continued and supported. These two eminently suitable and easily implementable recommendations have been, obviously deliberately, ignored.

Dr Rajasingham Narendran, who can hardly be accused, even remotely, of being an LTTE fellow traveler, and who is regularly quoted by the state media, has written a detailed critique of the triumphalist speech of President Mahinda Rajapakse at the recent ‘Victory Day’ speech. One hopes that the Island will be bold enough to publish the full critique. But this column wishes to quote a few samples from it. Words in bold are from Rajapakse’s speech:

“Today we have the fourth opportunity to celebrate with dignity the great victory of our Motherland.”

Mr. President, victory over whom?   I raise this question in terms of the word ‘Conquered’ used in a war memorial in Mullaitivu.  Was it a victory over the LTTE or the Tamils?  Motherland!  Whose?  I did not see any opposition figures in the podium?  There were also no representatives of the Tamils, who were liberated by the armed forces, on the podium. I also did not see any Hindu priests, Christian padres or Muslim Moulavis on the podium, except for a handful of Buddhist monks.  The absence of Sarath Fonseka, the man who led the army from the front, at this function and his name and role not being even mentioned were glaring omissions that portrayed the smallness this great country is being reduced to.

Further, the language in the inscription on the war memorial at which flowers were laid was only in Sinhalese. Why?  What does this imply in terms of the word ‘Motherland’ used by you? Is Tamil not the language of the ‘Other’ children of ‘Mother Lanka’?   Why were these inscriptions not also in Tamil- an official language and English- a link language? What is the message this government is conveying?

“We know that those who had ceasefire agreements that betrayed the country to the Tigers are making every effort to make us forget the heroism of this nation.”

This is a very unfair and inaccurate statement.  It is the last ceasefire agreement signed with Norwegian mediation that exposed the LTTE for what it was to the Tamils and helped weaken it from within.  It was an important prelude to what the last war achieved.

“Similarly, this era should go down in history as one that carried out a major transformation to prevent the occurrence of war again.”

What sort of major transformation?  Are increased militarization and surveillance the only answers? Should not the political needs, concerns and fears of the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims be addressed in a more Statesman-like manner? Isn’t it important to remember that each one of us is a child of Mother Lanka and the weaker in political terms, need special care from your government, which at the moment is in charge of affairs here.”

Why were warnings against commemorating the war-dead among the Tamils, issued by the military and not the police?  Why has not the government organized official events to commemorate all the  riot/war / insurgency dead in this country?  If the government can publicly celebrate victory, why can’t the Tamils publicly commemorate the innocent victims of war?

Why should  almost 7000 acres of land that was commandeered for reasons of war  25 years back from their owners, be not returned to the rightful owners, four years after the war ended?  What is the moral justification for acquiring these lands?  Will this help with reconciliation or win the hearts and minds of the Tamils?  How will these acquisitions prevent the recurrence of war?   Do you understand that the Tamils will not want a war in their midst for the next thousand years?   You have to know what the Tamils think, better and trust their good sense. They have learned more lessons the hard way than you and your government have learned.

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A Religious Police For The Rajapaksas

“The BBS will take immediate steps to form a ‘Cane Force’ against those who act in a manner insulting to Buddhism during the Wesak season”. –Rev. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero (Lankadeepa – 17.5.2013) 

mahinda-f-colombotelegraph

Pro-democracy demonstrators protesting against the flawed Iranian Presidential Election of 2009 feared one enemy above all other – the Basij,Iran’s religious police. As the ‘Protectors’ of the values deemed valuable by Iran’s ruling Ayatollahs, Basij is generally occupied with breaking-up parties, destroying satellite dishes, lashing bloggers and attacking women considered ‘improperly attired’. But Basij is far more than a bunch of zealots with a penchant for violence and sadism; it is also an indispensable weapon in the arsenal of Iran’s rulers, a cudgel to be used against political opponents (including dissident Ayatollahs). Basij played a brutally effective role in defeating the 2009 pro-democracy movement. The next Presidential election is scheduled for June 2013 and Basij is busy cracking down on Tehran’s coffee shops, the political-oases of Iranian intellectuals/dissidents.

Mutaween – the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Protection of Vice – is Saudi Arabia’s Basij. Its members also roam the streets searching for offenders, ranging from women ‘violating’ the dress-code and fans of Western music/films/TV shows to non-related males and females who interact with each other. In two emblematic cases, Mutaween arrested a 70 year old woman for having two unrelated men in her house (they were delivering bread; she got 70 lashes) and prevented fire fighters from rescuing female students from a burning school (15 girls died). Mutaween is also indispensable in buttressing the power of the Saudi ruling family. It cracks down on critics/dissidents; its leader recently warned that twitter users – one of the very few platforms available to the regime’s opponents in this über-despotic land – are eternally damned.

Now the Bodu Bala Sena wants to give Sri Lanka and its ruling clan their very own Sinhala-Buddhist religious police.

At a recent press conference, Ven. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero announced that the BBS plans to form a ‘Cane Force’ (Weval Balakaya) to ensure ‘proper conduct’ during the Wesak season: “The monks of Bodu Bala Sena will go from village to village carrying canes to control/punish those people who are acting indecently”[i].

It is the BBS’s intake on the Buddha’s final exhortation to monks, to travel far and wide, for the wellbeing of the masses.

Religious fanatics cause damage other religions; but their most irreparable harm is reserved for their own faith. The likes of Taliban, Saudi Wahabis and Iran’s Ayatollahs cause far more harm to the reputation of Islam with their inanely brutal conduct than all the anti-Islamic propaganda of all ages. The Inquisition and the Witch-Hunts are still bywords for violent intolerance and persecution; the midget-descendents of those Christian fanatics still oppose the teaching of evolution in schools and demand the death penalty for homosexuals. Hindu fanatics who defend such repressive practices as casteism and Jewish zealots who demand a country segregated along not just Jewish-Palestinian but also gender-lines are the worst detractors of their own faiths.

If anything would be more damaging to Buddhism than Myanmar’s rampaging monks, it will be Sri Lanka’s BBS types, on the warpath against not just the ‘religious-other’ but also against fellow Buddhists who refuse to accept ludicrously fanatical fatwas.

When Martin Wickremesinghe’s Bava Tharanaya was published in the 1970’s, a vocal-minority of monks and lay people wanted it banned (probably without reading it) as an insult to the Gautama Buddha and Buddhism. Today, the BBS would burn the book, attack the bookshops and pronounce Martin Wickremesinghe to be a traitor in the pay of foreign conspirators.

The BBS’s ruffianly conduct towards a group of Buddhist monks protesting outside its headquarters is a warning of what Lankan Buddhists – including monks – can expect in a country in thrall to fanatics. Apart from a dress-code, a code-of-conduct, an Index of Banned books/movies/plays and a socio-cultural inquisition, the BBS-types might develop their own version of Buddhism, including what monks should sermonise on and which politics are kosher.

Fanaticism is often inane.  During the annual Cultural Festival in Riyadh this April, Mutaween arrested and deported three male delegates from the United Arab Emirates for being ‘too good looking’! Take the artificial ho-ha about a storm named ‘Mahasen’; a BBS-type organisation stormed the Meteorological Department, demanded an immediate name-change and announced that the naming was a foreign conspiracy. This asinine conduct could have been dismissed as an antic of attention-seeking fanatics, expect that President Rajapaksa mentioned ‘the naming-of-the-storm-Mahasen issue’ in his Victory Day Speech, as proof of an anti-Lankan conspiracy.

That was silly; it was also indicative of the symbiotic relationship between the Rajapaksas and the Sinhala-Buddhist lunatic-fringe.

BBS: From Halal to the 13th Amendment

From warring against Muslims and policing Sinhala-Buddhists the BBS has waded into purely political-waters, by declaring war against the 13th Amendment.

The Rajapaksas excel at using cat’s paws. That is how they de-merged the North and the East, checkmated the IIGEP and impeached the Chief Justice (not a single Rajapaksa signed the impeachment motion).

The Siblings need a way out of the Northern PC poll. A postponement might compel Indiato put its weight behind Canada’s call to boycott the HambantotaCommonwealth. Delhihas already warned against denuding the 13th Amendment.

The Rajapaksas can hold a relatively free and fair election and allow the TNA to form a council (reserving the option of dissolving it later), but this option may not suit the Siblings’ maximalist-palate. An election suffused with violence and malpractices might ignite Tamilnadu and compel Delhi to sabotage the Hambantota Commonwealth.

So, why not get Sinhala-Buddhist maximalist organisations to launch a campaign against the Northern PC poll; and to file a case in the Supreme Court asking for a postponement? Then the Rajapaksas can escape retribution by telling Delhi that the Judiciary postponed the election. (Who can doubt Mohan Peiris’ willingness to give any order the Rajapaksas order him to give?)

The BBS, given its willingness to descend to levels even Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka are a tad reluctant to – can play a ignobly pre-eminent role in such a campaign. Since it is not a UPFA member, the Rajapaksas can disclaim all responsibility; they can have their cake and eat it.

Just as economic neo-liberalism seeks to make the world more like what it was under pre-socialist capitalism in terms of relations of production, religious-fanaticism seeks a return to pre-Enlightenment (European-Christian) values/morals. Fanatics of all religions are not just viscerally opposed to the progressive, secular and libertarian currents which led to and resulted from European Enlightenment. They are also completely antagonistic to the tolerant ethos which characterised many a non-European civilisation/ruler from the Ottoman and Mogul Empires,Baghdad and Syrian Caliphates and Al Andalus to India’s Ashoka, ancient Greece,Persia and Mesopotamia.

Historically, the religion-politics nexus played a negative role, tearing countries apart, flattening everything progressive in its path, cultivating intolerance and obscurantism and dragging societies to places they never intended to go initially.

Saudi Arabiais the perfect example of what can happen to a country, even in our own time, when a ruling clan combine religion with politics to perpetuate itself in power.

Let us beware. 


[i] Lankadeepa – 17.5.2013

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Make All Men and women Component Of War Commemoration

Jehan Perera – colombo telegraph

Jehan Perera

The government’s decision to celebrate May 19 as a day of victory and the country’s second Independence is another one of its actions that has polarised the Sri Lankan people.  Whether by accident or design, it is ironic that through its continuing actions the government that reunified the territory of the country should also be the one that fosters the divisions between the people.  I was in Mannar on that day that marked a watershed in the modern history of the country, and saw that the Sri Lankan people were divided in their attitudes.  There was no collective remembrance of loss, but a reinforcement of the separation that has overshadowed the post-Independence era.

While the government was celebrating with military march pasts and air and sea shows in Colombo, in Mannar there was real action that was reminiscent of what happened during the war.  A group of people who had gathered to commemorate those who died in the last battle, were prevented from doing so by armed military personnel and police with guns pointing.  It is reported that 15 of them were arrested and only released on bail late at night.   Earlier the state media had reported that such commemorative meetings were illegal and warned anyone commemorating the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was liable to be arrested.

However, the Tamil political parties in the opposition said they staged the remembrance for those who died in the final battle.  This was where the top LTTE leadership were killed.  In this charged context, the decision of the Catholic Church in Mannar to commemorate all victims of the war was pragmatic.  Whenever Tamils have tried to commemorate the death of their loved ones, the government has taken steps to prevent this.  The military in particular is sensitive to commemorations of the LTTE being held in the guise of commemorating the civilians who lost their lives.  However, the reality is that the two groups of LTTE and civilians were often mixed.  Especially in the last days  of the war, the LTTE forcibly recruited  children, some as young as 12, and this included the children of Mannar.

Contrasting Realities

Mannar is the only one of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts that has a Catholic majority.  With its unique cultural attributes, it is a celebration of the country’s cultural and religious diversity which must not be made into a weakness when it is a strength.  Unlike the Tamil political parties who had called on the people to commemorate the war dead amongst the Tamil population, the Bishop of Mannar requested the clergy in the area to commemorate all victims of the war, and not just those who were Tamil.  By implication, this would have included those of all three ethnic groups, the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, and also the fighting personnel on the two sides, the government and LTTE. It is a testament to the strength of Sri Lanka’s diversity, that it was a minority group that decided to commemorate all who lost their lives as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the President.

This year’s victory celebration by the government was focused on the valour of the armed forces and the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE. President Mahinda Rajapakse viewed the military parade and pledged that there will be no room for those who tried to divide the country. He said, “We will not allow a single inch of the land that you won by the sacrifice of your life to be taken away.”  The past fortnight saw a build up in the mass media to remind the people of those days of blood and bombs and how it all has ended.  The contrast with the peaceful situation of the present will continue to bring in the votes of a grateful nation.

But the unfortunate reality is that the support of the Sinhalese majority for the war victory and the government’s celebrations has not been matched by any kind of equivalent support from the Tamil minority.  They too have been beneficiaries of the peaceful situation that has followed the end of the war.  They are now safe from the ravages of child recruitment and terror tactics that the LTTE brought to bear upon them.  But they also wish to mourn their loved ones who are no more with them, to find out what happened to them, and also to regain their dream of enjoying equal rights in which they also have the right to decide.  These are all matters on which the government appointed LLRC has made recommendations on but are not being followed by the government.

Way Forward

Four years after the war’s end the political solution that the leaders of government promised during the time of the war has yet to materialize.  The LTTE has been replaced by the Sri Lankan military who govern them in conjunction with the civilian administration. The Northern Province, where the first gunshots of the war were fired and where the last of the rebel fighters fell, has still to enjoy the right of elected provincial governance even to as limited an extent as the other eight provinces do.   A government ally has filed action in the Supreme Court calling on it to abolish the system of devolution of power for the entire country.  In this context, there is increasing skepticism whether the promised Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year will actually take place.

The civil war ended in 2009 but four years later the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation and to heal the wounds of war.  At the present time it also appears that Sri Lanka is moving backwards, and not forwards, in terms of securing the Rule of Law.  The impeachment of the Chief Justice process eroded the rule of law and usurped the pre-eminence of the Supreme Court in its role of interpreting the constitution.  This has impacted negatively on the rule of law and by extension the protection of human rights and political accountability.  There is also the rise of inter-religious tensions fanned by government allies.   A new dimension of inter-communal unrest is the rise of Buddhist extremism that has targeted the Muslim community and taken on an open and frontal confrontational approach.

Sri Lanka could have been a very different country today.  There is a need to recognize that although the civil war ended in 2009 the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation through an inclusive process of political negotiations and a sincere effort to heal the wounds of war.  If the recommendations of the LLRC appointed by the President had been followed, the government could have changed course last year.  Government leaders would have ceased to further engage in ethnic triumphalism and instead focused on commemorating all victims who lost their lives in the senseless conflict.  They could have utilized the occasion of May 19 to resolve that never again would such bloodletting be permitted to take place.  This would have been a commemoration that all Sri Lankans, respecting multi ethnicity, equal rights, and the safety and dignity of all, could have taken part in as a united Sri Lankan nation.

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Launching Of The North East Provincial Council

S.Sivathasan

S.Sivathasan

Prelude

The election of R. Premadasa as President of Sri Lanka was needed to give life to the North East Provincial Council (NEPC), and to get it moving. No sooner was he elected President, Varadaraja Perumal, the Chief Minister in waiting known as on HE  R. Premadasa the newly elected President. What is happening in the NEPC? inquired the President. Sir, absolutely nothing is moving and to make the Council perform, I do not have officers. When the President gave kinetic energy to the Council ‘Premadasa Style’, it got started quickly and changed to top gear.

The Launch

The sequence of events was as follows. On 19th November was the NEPC election. On 30th November Lieutenant Basic Nalin Seneviratne was appointed Governor. On 19th December was the Presidential election. The CM’s meeting was about 23rd December 1988. By this time the CM had only two officials. Dr.Wigneswaran, Secretary to the CM and Mr. V.N. Sivarajah, Chief Secretary (CS).  Finances offered to the Council had been nil. Take any officer you want from the Public Service and the letter of release will stick to, was his directive. An allocation of Rs. five million was also made for spending inside a week and it was spent usefully. With these two choices the Council got going and established the Secretariat in Trincomalee.

Taking off was a challenge. At the outset several have been reluctant to join the NEPC. It was Wigneswaran’s notion and was endorsed by the CM, that to be Chief Secretary, the senior most officer in the SLAS alone can command the allegiance of the officialdom. He approached the most senior but he declined. He then requested the subsequent, he also declined. The third Mr. Sivarajah accepted. The option was excellent. In addition to varied encounter he was senior even to really a handful of Secretaries in central Ministries. His cast of mind was nicely suited for the challenges ahead. The news inspired self-assurance among other public servants to join the NEPC.

The Board of Ministers comprised five &#8211 three Tamils, one particular Sinhalese and one particular Muslim. In view of the merger of two Provinces, ten Ministries have been allowed with every one handling two portfolios. The identical quantity of Secretaries was also allowed. Selections were created on seniority and merit and letters have been issued from the NEPC Secretariat. 4 of us received letters in Jaffna about 1st January 1989. IPKF helicopter took us to Trincomalee. A handful of far more Secretaries joined us in close succession to compose the complete complement of ten.

Starting

Till permanent accommodation was arranged in two months, most of us stayed with each other in the Irrigation Department circuit bungalow. For the CS, the day dawned at three.30 am and with his humming of thevarams (Hindu religious songs ) we had been up at four. From four.30 to 6 am discussions and writing and then all at office between 7 and 7.30. All were in a single huge area of the CM. A single conference table served the table demands for all. In a few weeks the secretariat was furnished and well equipped. For most senior officers the day ended at six or six.30 and not later simply because of the curfew at 7pm. With time and power fruitfully spent, a vertical takeoff was attainable.

The initial duty of the Secretaries was to set up the departments, staff them and to equip them. All these were completed from scratch from Head of Division downwards. After the Council got stabilised obtaining the employees from established departments became effortless. Trincomalee ceased to be a bogey and the EPRLF government became respectable. It drew the consideration of Colombo and earned the respect of those in North East.

For all the good results, the leadership of the Chief Minister buttressed by the invaluable contribution of Mr. Sivarajah and sagacity of Dr. Wigneswaran mattered. The CM had a knack for taking swift and pragmatic decisions. His mind was not weighed down by any ideological baggage. Nor was it assailed by doubts or diffidence. In the NE he navigated in hostile waters given that Tigers had been on the prowl. Merged NEPC was twice the size of the other ones. He wanted to demonstrate that granted the chance Tamils could administer. Creating a success of it was a passion and he produced it so.

As the offices got streamlined, priority shifted to improvement effort. It had to be placed on a certain footing with a sound policy frame. Policy surely had to take its bearings from national parameters, though considerably leeway was offered for Provincial initiative. The approach of devolution itself demanded dialogue for expanding the scope and to quicken speed.

Central Ministers

The first Central Minister to invite the CM and the relevant officials to the Ministry on his own initiative was Hon. S. Thondaman. This was in early January. I was present considering that I handled the subject of Livestock Development. The fullest authority to make this subject efficient was devolved by the Minister. At an in residence meeting in the Ministry, when an officer expressed fears at the extent of devolution the Minister quipped “nobody will go to courts on that score”. All through my tenure, I had maximum support from the Ministry and proactive cooperation from the parent Department. The Division of Agriculture as well was amongst the earliest to devolve with authority, finances and staff. The character of the Director Dr. Irwin, created a difference given that he had a very good grasp of devolution. Ministers also visited Trincomallee and had discussions with CM, Ministers and officials. Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe had the twin subjects of Education as effectively as Youth Affairs and came far more often.

Since I was Secretary for the subject of Agriculture in the Province, I attended quarterly conferences at the national level in Colombo chaired by Hon. Lalith Athulathmudali, Central Minister of Agriculture. He extended his fullest cooperation for the devolution approach. Our initiatives coupled to his pragmatic approaches created for good results. The Secretary Mr. MDD Pieris, a blessing for the Minister was a blessing for us as well. He was amongst the most stand out and his choices in our support have been proactive and bold.

Governor

The 1st Governor of NEPC was Lt. Gen. Nalin Seneviratne. He held workplace for the full term from Nov. 1988 to Nov. 1993. He was exemplary. He was 1 amongst the initial batch of six multi ethnic selectees, to proceed to Sandhurst in 1952. Selections have been created by a Board chaired by Sir Kandiah Vaithianathan the then Secretary Defence. As soon as the Governor told me that this was the way Vaithianathan strove to keep an ethnic balance. He retired from the army as its Commander.

He assumed office with the benefit of experience, but dispensed with his command antecedents. He had the most exact conception of a Constitutional Head of the Province yielding the fullest space to the elected Council, the Chief Minister, the Board of Ministers and officials. He entertained no thought of deflecting or overriding devolved authority with Central directive or control. With all the personnel he had a warm rapport. In Parallel he maintained a delicate balance with the Centre. Provincial governance moved smoothly on.

Institutions

In addition to Ministries and Departments, two critical institutions had been created: the Provincial Public Service Commission and the Auditor General’s Division. Each had been manned by competent personnel who did credit to those institutions. For new appointments which were numerous, in various grades, procedures have been laid down and selections created accordingly. Full documentation was produced and appointments were duly authorized by the PPSC. Adherence to propriety insulated all appointees from any future issue. In all this the Chief Secretary brought his mature expertise to bear. With higher stress function it was tempting for some of us to neglect them.

Till April New Year, governance was smooth sailing. Circumstances demanded it. President was sworn in on twond January 1989. General elections have been scheduled for February. What ever the spread of the IPKF, the militants produced their presence felt in the North East. Turmoil in the South seemed challenging to include. The economy was in the doldrums. The President’s concern was to consolidate his position. Perhaps cordiality with India seemed advisable and it was extended to the CM and the Provincial government.

Spending budget 1990

In the latter component of 1989, the budgetary workout was initiated by the Ministry of Finance of NEPC, with a Budget Call supplying realistic parameters. The Draft Estimates ready by individual Ministries had been additional reviewed with the Ministry Secretary by a committee of three Secretaries prior to getting sent to the Provincial Treasury. The ‘Printed Estimates’ brought out soon after laborious work and submitted with the Budget Speech was an impressive 300 web page volume in Programme Spending budget format. It was to the credit of the Secretary Finance Mr.S. Dharmalingam who was both SLAS and an Accountant. In a number of approaches the NEPC demonstrated that it had come into its personal with consummate ability.

Turn of the Tide

A handful of days preceding New Year an explosion close to the Trinco clock tower &#8211 constantly a sensitive area –  signalled a break down in relations among the Centre and the Province. For the powers that be at Trinco and probably with IPKF intelligence, particular surmises were possible. For all the cordiality and aid some quid pro quo or reciprocity was anticipated by Colombo politically. It was not forthcoming from the CM who had his Provincial constituency and interests to safeguard and foster. He stood steadfast. The breakdown did not hinder the perform programme that was set in motion. Nonetheless the talks that the government had with the LTTE and the expanding rapport between the two, had their inevitable influence in the Province. This was from mid-1989 onwards.

Adverse Events

The next significant occasion to have significant political consequences was the Basic Election in India in November 1989. The Congress and Rajiv Gandhi had been defeated and VP Singh was elected Prime Minister. The latter’s compulsion was to correct a incorrect. The decision to invade wastaken with no circumspection. A wasteful war with heavy casualties to India, was getting prosecuted due to miscalculation of enemy strength. These elements had been compounded by the hostility of Premadasa Government. The changed political equation was unfavourable to the NE Provincial government. This was completely realized after the CM’s meeting with the PM in early January 1990.

On his return he called all the Secretaries and apprised us of the adverse turn in political situations. He told us quite candidly that his mission had failed. “IF I say I can give you protection it is a lie. Therefore you have to safeguard yourselves. Photo copiers and typewriters we can get, but Secretaries (ie like you) we cannot get. So you have to remain safe”. He added “By 15th March the Provincial Council will wither away. By the 15th June war will break out between the government and the LTTE”. On the dot each happened. This was not advance expertise of a diabolical plot. It was intuitive political judgment. The Secretaries getting targets had been constrained to move out soon after mid-February.

Unilateral Declaration of Independence

UDI is critical business and a matter of life and death. Even right after thirty years of a non-violent mass movement Nehru did not declare a UDI. Pirapakaran did not situation a declaration even after 26 years of violent struggle. Varadaraja Perumal’s declaration was treated as issued with levity. It was a respectable smoke screen, as a prelude to flight. On February fourth evening 1957, the writer was present at a public meeting of the Tamil Congress, in the premises of the Jaffna Town Hall. G.G. Ponnambalam the leader announced “On this day the fourth of February 1957, I Declare an Independent TAMIL NAD”. This was significantly less than in levity. ‘Tamil Nad’ was delivered with perfect anglicized accent and impeccable intonation. In India it was Madras State then and Thamil Eelam had not come into vogue in Ceylon.

Following an unremitting independence struggle, a rebel group that has grown over time and is potent sufficient to defend territory, considers such a declaration. Preceding it is also severe preparation for recognition. None of it occurred ahead of this UDI. What is surprising is, it is commented upon to this day. It is also said that President Premadasa reacting angrily to UDI dissolved the Council. Following decapitation was it essential? No doubt a death certificate was necessary. In March 1990, The Provincial Council presided over its own liquidation. Regrettably enough we were witness to its premature finish.  Mr. Sivarajah lamented quoting the words of Bharathi – “Paathi thinkintra pothilae thaddi parippaan”. Hardly had I eaten half, than he snatched it away.

(This report is a tribute to the late Mr.V.N.Sivarajah whose services had been unparalleled. It was a persistent request of his to place on record, our perform and achievement in the NEPC and in the Ministries.)

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Sri Lanka: On The Question Of Nationalism

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Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Nationalism has been the main guiding ideology of many of the countries in the world in modern times, and even before, whether we like it or not. If nationalism could be replaced completely by liberalism or socialism, or by a combination of both, the world would be a better place to live. But that is not the reality as at present. Both liberalism and socialism have often capitulated to nationalism, and worst of all to ethno nationalism. This is the case in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. But this is not to give up hopes. Sri Lanka or the world at large still has a chance, if civic nationalism could be strengthened and forged without neglecting ethnic identities and equal rights of ethnic communities.

What I mean by civic nationalism is that kind of nationalism which could unite all or greater majority of the citizens of a polity irrespective of ‘race,’ ethnicity, religion or any other such distinction. Any other such distinction can be language, caste or even gender. For this to happen there should be an enlightened creed or policy, enunciated by a strong multiethnic leadership, a party or a movement.

Ethno nationalism in contrast is that nationalism which divides people on racial, ethnic, religious or language lines and invariably strengthens caste or gender discrimination, depending on the country of concern. Most often ethno-nationalism is the product of primordial instincts and affiliations.

Origins of Distinction

The distinction between civic nationalism and ethno nationalism was first made by Hans Kohn in 1940 when he wrote The Idea of Nationalism. One reason to make that distinction was the experience in Germany under Fascism. Kohn was of Jewish origin who had to flee Germany facing ethno nationalist violence and atrocities. As we all know, the German variety of ethno nationalism led to the Second World War that cost more than 15 million human lives and many other disasters.

The emergence of the two types of nationalism was also observed vaguely by Ernest Renan as far back as 1882 when he wrote Qu’est –ce qu’une Nation? (What is a Nation?). The reason again was the distinction between nationalism in France and Germany.

The French Revolution of 1789 is considered to be the mother of modern nationalism.

I use the adjective ‘modern’ to allow the possibility of the existence of some proto types of nationalism in the pre-modern times in the West or the East. However, the phenomenon that we call modern nationalism could hardly exist in pre-modern conditions. An ideology like modern nationalism was not necessary or possible.

The ideology of modern nationalism is supposed to have a ‘vision.’ That vision is to make the national unit and the political unit congruent. The controversy and the conflict, however, have always been on the definition of the national unit (or the nation) and the political unit. In the case of some countries, the achievement of the congruence appeared smooth and easy, but not in all the cases.

Civic nationalism has proved to be quite useful in achieving the vision of national unity (if not congruence) in many countries that have advanced economically, socially and politically. The natural advantage of being socially homogeneous is obviously rare in countries. Only around a dozen of countries might claim for the qualification today. These include the countries like Finland, Norway, Denmark, two Koreas, perhaps Japan and a few of Arabic or Latin American countries. Yet many of them are internally diverse or becoming increasingly multi-ethnic due to increased migration.

When the French Revolution declared the ‘nation to be the base of political sovereignty,’ the idea was to enunciate civic nationalism. The nation was conceived to be the people of all sorts including various minorities. The base of that kind of nationalism or civic nationalism was considered to be ‘the rights of man and the citizen.’ This is equivalent to the conception of today’s human rights. Whatever the distortions that Franceen countered after the revolution, the origins of civic nationalism could be traced to that revolution. It was the same by and large in Britain where civic nationalism prevailed over ethno nationalism.

In contrast, the origin of ethno nationalism was mainly Germany. The two thinkers who advocated ethno nationalism at the onset of the 19th century were Johann Fichte and Johann Herder. According to them, ‘people are eternally divided into nations.’ The ‘proof of this division is the language.’ The meaning that they gave to nation is equivalent to race or ethnicity. The nation is a collectivity. It is like the body. Nationalism is its sole. ‘A state based on ethnicity is the embodiment of both the body and the sole.’ This may sound rational and logical at first glance, but in practice or in essence it is insane and foolish.

While ethno nationalism is an organic theory, civic nationalism is not. Civic nationalism has only a functional or utility value. One is emotional and the other is rational. While ethno nationalism is exclusive, civic nationalism is not. Civic nationalism is inclusive of diversity, pluralism and democracy. While the contrast between the two types of nationalism is considerable, in social reality they may exist side by side in real world conditions. The issue is what the dominant trait in a particular country or society is and what the guiding principles of nationalism are.

Relevance to Sri Lanka

One may question the relevance of the distinction between civic nationalism and ethno nationalism to Sri Lanka. Another may go even further and reject the relevance of foreign or ‘Western notions’ at all to Sri Lanka. Whatever may be the reservations,Sri Lanka’s present predicament is related to these two notions directly and indirectly.

This does not mean that Sri Lanka acquired these two notions one from France or Britain and the other from Germany.France and Germanyare only two examples where these two notions appeared in distinct forms in the Western hemisphere. That is also not completely correct. While civic nationalism was predominant in France, there is evidence of ethno nationalism appearing intermittently undermining civic nationalism at times. This was the case in Germany as well. Before Hitler came to power, there were attempts at forging nationalism on civic grounds under the Weimar Republic(1918-1933). Social Democracy was the main ideology that facilitated civic nationalism in Germany at that time. NM Perera wrote his doctoral thesis on that republic and even appreciated civic nationalism behind its constitution.

The emergence of nationalism is related to modern socio-economic changes. In the process of modernization and nation building or one may say in the course of capitalist development, many countries both in the West and the East have zigzagged between civic nationalism and ethno nationalism.Sri Lanka is no exception. But the question is for how long Sri Lanka could afford to go along in this tortuous path with instability and uncertainty. In the case of Sri Lanka, it is not just a question of instability or uncertainty. Ethno nationalism on both sides has led to nearly 25 years of internal war with at least over 100,000 direct deaths, not to speak much of the other disasters like displacement and human misery.

In the development of national feelings or nationalism, it is somewhat natural for different communities in a multi-ethnic society to first focus on one’s own community in religious, ethnic or language grounds. Therefore, the appearance of religious revivalist movements amongst the Buddhists, the Hindus or the Muslims towards the beginning of the 20th century was quite natural, inevitable or even healthy. This was more so given the colonial circumstances.

One of the main vehicles of nationalism is the media – the print media in the context of the past. One predicament of the print media, however, is the language barrier. According to Benedict Anderson, ‘nation is an imagined community.’ This does not mean that nation is a fiction. But ‘nation’ is formed in a process of imagination or conceptualization. The print media plays a decisive role in this process and most often promotes ethno nationalism instead of civic nationalism. This may be understandable at the beginning. There was nothing particularly wrong in the publication of Sinhala Jathiya on the one side of the fence, and Hindu Organ on the other side of the same, at the beginning of the nationalist movement in the country.

Likewise, the formation of the Tamil Maha Sabhas or the Sinhala Maha Sabhas was understandable in the interim. But the failure of the Ceylon National Congress to be an overarching national organization could not be easily forgiven. At the beginning of the nationalist movement in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, there were a plethora of organizations based not only on ethnicity and religion but also on caste and region. All must have been inevitable given the context. But the failure was to forge a national organization similar to the Indian National Congress (INC) which could unite people and direct the country for independence. Even in India there were failings on the part of the INC.

There is nothing wrong in ordinary people having ethnic feelings in a multi-cultural society. But at least the leaders should be able to transcend them. Otherwise they are not proper leaders. The building of civic nationalism does not mean the eradication or suppression of all ethnic or religious affiliation or feelings. It means the transcending parochial or narrow ethnic or religious feelings for the greater good of all communities. Civic nationalism does recognize the importance of ethnic identity of the majority or the minorities, but on an equal basis. But there is no possibility of recognizing one or one against the other.

Sri Lanka has been lucky to achieve independence in one piece in 1948. This also shows the existence of some form of civic nationalism towards independence. The failure of the country, however, was its inability to continue and strengthen this path and the blame should go to the main two political parties, the SLFP and the UNP. Hans Kohn has opted to give an explanation on why ethno nationalism predominates over civic nationalism, if it does. His explanation is on class or economic lines linking the strength of civic nationalism to the existence of a strong bourgeoisie or a business class, and in contrast ethno nationalism to a weak bourgeoisie. This may have some relevance even in the case of Sri Lanka.

But in Sri Lanka one may find many other additional reasons such as the pre-modern social influences, distortions in the democratic system or the ‘dark side of it,’ or divide and rule policy of colonialism, to mention only a few. There is no question that the country also faced a vortex of problems at independence, some deriving from the colonial heritage. The issues of citizenship, official language, further decolonization and the need of an endogenous constitution were some of them. In addition was the question of how to divide the ‘small cake’ that we inherited.

While all these could have been resolved on civic nationalist lines strengthening unity, mutual understanding, equity and fair play, the leaders unfortunately opted to utilize ethno nationalism and its partial criteria to device public policy in post-independence Sri Lanka.

The blame should go not only to the parties of the majority community but also to the parties of the minority communities. There was considerable reluctance on the part of the Tamil leaders to cooperate on national policy and take mutual responsibility on national issues. Rights were claimed but there was no proper readiness to take responsibility. This was the predicament of ethno nationalism.

Some Conclusions

There is no meaning of arguing who started ethno nationalism first or who should be blamed most. There is no possibility to say one type of ethno nationalism is better than the other. All types of ethno nationalism are detrimental to national or human progress. The only exception can be the fact that numerically minority communities do have disadvantages than a majority community in general because of the numbers and political power. This has to be recognized.

The question, however, is how to forge civic nationalism in the future while recognizing ethnic identities and their separate interests which are not detrimental to national unity. There is no possibility of de-ethnicising people whether they belong to the majority community or minority communities. There is no need for that either.

Civic nationalism is the overarching glue for national unity of any country. Civic nationalism is compatible with internationalism or other civic nationalisms. Civic nationalism cannot be forged instantly, but some of the main elements are already in existence in our society. Many of them are available in (1) all four religious teachings (2) principles of liberalism and socialism and (3) discourse of human rights and responsibilities.

This may appear civic nationalism to be eclectic, but the issue is to select the necessary principles from a host of practically available sources. The most important might be to forge possible unity, solidarity and cooperation among the leaders of all communities to stand above ethno nationalism and to seek solutions on the lines and in strengthening civic nationalism. This is equally important to our discussions on restructuring of the state or constitution on the lines of devolution or federalism.

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Feasible Part Of The Senior Sri Lankans In Resurrecting Democracy And Justice

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Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Seniors in different societies play different roles. Some years back when I first came across the name (Japan) Silver Volunteers (JSV), I wondered which ‘Silva’ had founded that organization in Japan. No, I was mistaken hearing the indistinct pronunciation. It was not Silva but Silver to mean, in our parlance, ‘grey haired’ generation. These JSV people even go overseas for voluntary work and had come to Sri Lanka as well. This generation in Japan exceeds 20 per cent of the population. In Sri Lanka this group is reaching 10 per cent, to mean the generation of over 60s.

What I am trying to say does not necessarily depend on the size of the group, but their experience, knowledge and unique capacity as seniors. In Australia, National Seniors Australia is a large non-profit making organization working for the welfare and recreation of the seniors. I am not even thinking of that kind of an organization. In Belgium, some seniors are running a hidden-camera TV comedy called ‘Benidorm Bastards’ which is of course humorous and also critical of hypocrisy in society. During the Vietnam War some seniors in the US took to the streets and protested alongside the young against that despicable war. In recent times, again the American seniors are voicing their protest against the insufficient Medicare system among other issues.

There were few senior citizens’ organizations in Sri Lanka few years back but except for one or two, others were not involved in social or political issues. Seniors today are also a sector most hit by the current inflation, financial scams, electricity rate hike without any direct concessions given on the part of the government, unlike in many other countries under similar circumstances. They are a sector most neglected.

However, more than the role of such organizations or such issues, what I am proposing here is a role for the seniors who were prominent in public life in the past, either in the public or the private sector as administrators, professionals, academics or even politicians, in defending the country’s diminishing international profile by fighting against violence, corruption and communalism and standing for democracy and justice. This would be a great service for defending the country’s deteriorating democracy, human rights and justice and fairness to all individuals and communities. If someone asks me if I am referring to the elite, yes, I am referring to them without neglecting some of the seniors coming from the working class or the trade union movement.

Seniors undoubtedly can play a major role in resurrecting democracy and on the issues of justice. They were born before or just after the independence (1948) in an atmosphere of much hope and promise for the country’s progress and development. They have experienced the best traditions of this country either in liberal or left politics within all communities; the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims. They entertained differences of opinion, at times heated ones, and knew how to resolve them through dialogue and negotiations. They have had much exposure to the international trends during the Vietnam War, the student’s movements in the 1960s, the collapse of communism and debates on colonialism or the non-aligned movement. Their views by and large are not tainted by narrow East West conflict, nationalism or completely self-centred ethnic or religious interests while conscious about justice in all these issues and areas. They are not narrow nationalist but may be enlightened patriots. They are in essence an enlightened generation although at times had to serve the country or different regimes almost suppressing their genuine views or true conscience some being public servants or judicial officers.

At retirement and without other obligations, they are now free from most of these encumbrances except what they choose voluntarily. In essence they are free. They also may be largely free from family obligations or worries on financial matters except perhaps on health. This is their strength. They can be brave. They can be quite a ‘nuisance’ to a tyrannical regime which is the case in Sri Lanka today. Becoming at least a ‘nuisance’ is a profound non-violent method of struggle.

I have seen some of them writing to this forum as well as to others on public issues of national importance expressing their genuine and frank opinions. Although they have not expressed the same opinion, they have aired their opposition to the three main scourges of this country; violence, corruption and communalism. There are other issues that they have touched upon such as inter-communal justice or injustice. Some of these senior writers are: Rajasingham Narendran, RMB Senanayake, Latheef Farook, Savitri Goonesekere, Jayantha Dhanapala, Austin Fernando, S Sivathasan, CV Wigneswaran, SL Gunasekera, Chandra Jayaratne, Lal Wijenayake and Charitha Ratwatte to mention a few but not in a particular order. I have mentioned their names without their titles. There are others who have always been vocal like Basil Fernando or Jehan Perera perhaps among the seniors, and others who are young that I don’t intend to mention.

My main concern however would be about many others who could make a definitive contribution if they express their views or determination. They should organize. I beg to mention few names with their indulgence. Some of these are Bradman Weerakoon, Seelan Kadirgamar, Kumari Jayawardena, Laksiri Jayasuriya, Godfrey Gunatilleke, Kusumsiri Balapatabendi, Ranjith Amerasinghe, Lloyd Fernando, Chandrasena Maliyadda and KHJ Wijayadasa. I mention KHJ Wijayadasa with some gratification as he was one of my teachers who taught briefly at St Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, but first inspired me to learn beyond a textbook. They and many others particularly from the Tamil and Muslim communities could play an important role in collectively inspiring the younger generations to fight for democracy and social justice and particularly against corruption, violence and communalism in society. I should also mention another name and that is former President Chandrika Kumaratunga whose contribution to a collective of seniors would be immensely useful.

I have also noticed many commentators to this forum in pseudonyms but appear to be seniors judging from the rapid ‘intrusions’ that they make. I am not referring to the few ‘regime defenders’ but to others who can come in their real names as much as possible and make a collective contribution. Alter all seniors have nothing much to lose, except perhaps their ‘self-inflicted chains.’ I am not proposing anything adventurous but to become an ‘intellectual nuisance’ to the regime and its acolytes. They all do not need to write, but they can get together and write petitions or statements and perhaps gather and mark their protests on issues relevant to democracy and human rights or holding a placard or poster. They can become a bigger nuisance that way. The government would not dare to do anything to the respected seniors, hopefully.

The strength of the seniors is also shown by the LLRC Report. If not for their vast experience, empathy for genuine human grievances, enlightened and democratic values the Report could not have received the national and international acclamation. Those commission members are an example for the others. Seniors should refuse any service to this brutal and tyrannical regime. Even if they have any ‘duty to perform’ it should be in the independent spirit like demonstrated by the LLRC. This regime should be starved of all intellectual support from the academia, public servants or professionals. It should be starved to extinction.

Let me finish this article with this story. People of Geneva every year celebrate a festival called L’Escalade in mid-December. It is about a victory over the invasion of the army of Savoy to subjugate Geneva in 1602. There are many versions to the story or the festival. It is popularly said however that when the hostile army invaded the city, the seniors first asked the youth to withdraw to the jungle for safety. When the troops entered the city they were happy because only the seniors were to be seen with women. Then they started celebrating the victory. Women in the meanwhile were cooking a large cauldron of soup. The seniors created nuisance by cracking jokes and ridiculing the troops. With the help of the seniors, the women then poured boiling soup over the celebrating troops. They were confused and disoriented. Then the city youth came and chased away the invaders. There were no soldiers in Geneva, but free men and women. This shows the power of the seniors and of course women which I forgot to specially mention in the article being a man perhaps.

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The Azad Salley Affair

Dayan Jayatilleka &#8211 Colombo Telegraph

Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

If Azad Salley is a terrorist in the producing, a terrorist who has to be pre-empted by recourse to detention below the Prevention of Terrorism Act, or a promoter of fanatical, fundamentalist ethno-religious hatred, he comes with the strangest of profiles.

Far from becoming born into and raised in anything like a backward, fundamentalist, religiously fanatical background, his father was a Communist (as comrade DEW Gunasekara could confirm) who later became a Maoist (or ‘Marxist-Leninist’). ‘Communist Salley’ as he was recognized, didn’t appear to have an ethno-religious bone in his physique.

Azad’s father wasn’t only a communist, he was a journalist and he wasn’t a journalist for a Saudi fundamentalist Wahhabi newssheet. He was a long time employee of Reuters. I was introduced to the slim, be-spectacled ‘Communist Salley’ by Mervyn de Silva, my father, at the tele-printer at the Reuters office.

My father had also introduced me to George Rajapaksa, his classmate and Cabinet Minister of the Sirimavo Bandaranaike administration, at the latter’s residence down Flower Road. George Rajapaksa was of course the uncle of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers.

It is a tale so redolent of Sri Lanka’s ironic, typically absurdist trajectory and travails, that the son of one particular of these (leftwing) personalities introduced to me by my father, has been detained beneath the administration of the nephew of one more albeit far better known (progressive) personality, doubtless by yet another nephew of that personality.

When Azad and I ran into every other, it was at former Mayor Sirisena Cooray’s property. Azad was a vibrant, jocular, spirited young UNP politician who attended every single Premadasa commemoration that I was at (the last being 1999). We lost track of each and every other since, but I was not surprised that he had joined Mahinda Rajapaksa. I was even much less shocked to hear that he had debated the BBS spokesperson on television in Sinhala, and from what I gathered, got the much better of the polemical exchange.

Of course Azad is one thing of a firebrand, just as Mahinda Rajapaksa, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Dinesh Gunawardena and Mavai Senadirajah were at the exact same age (and stage of their politics). His rhetoric was definitely no more militant than that of Cabinet Ministers Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka.

Azad did punch back rhetorically when Islamophobia was lately unleashed in our public domain. He was a spirited young man and may have felt compelled to speak out by the conspicuous silence and pusillanimity of much more established Muslim politicians. By no means has the absence of Ashraff been felt far more acutely. Salley may possibly also have spotted a political opening. Because when is that a crime?

If Azad had to be arrested for incitement, what of the far much more explicitly hostile, antagonistic and hateful speech at public rallies and street agitations by allegedly Buddhist organisations, all of which have gone international on YouTube? Who is investigating the leaflets bearing violent , threatening graphics of swords and leaping swordsmen, and which advertise events explicitly as ‘rebellions’ or ‘uprisings’?

Surely, even-handedness needs a crackdown on fundamentalist incitement of a majoritarian assortment, just as on those emanating from minority sources? In the absence of such balance, even-handedness and organic justice, what does the arrest of Azad Salley and the circumstances of his detention make this government and far more importantly the Sri Lankan state look like in the eyes of the globe?

Was Azad arrested because he dared to speak back, to debate? Is it that he was an uppity nigger who needed to be taught a lesson an articulate and upfront young Muslim who had to be locked up as an instance to the minorities and as a sacrifice at the altar of Sinhala supremacism a sop to a Sinhala Cerberus?

If I were a human rights activist or diplomat campaigning in Geneva on Sri Lanka, the arrest of Azad Salley would make my day. Conversely, if I were nonetheless the Sri Lankan Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, I would face an acute diplomatic and moral-ethical difficulty.

Of the 13 member states that voted for us in Geneva this year, 7 were from the OIC. It was the Muslim (perhaps I should say ‘halal’) Bala Sena that saved Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese and the Sinhalese Buddhists from a humiliating defeat in Geneva this time. We would have been down to six votes with no that assistance fewer than the votes obtained by Syria at the UNHRC, and even Libya prior to the intervention. Whilst it voted in our favour, the OIC has also created a demarche in Jeddah about anti-Muslim coercion and threats in Sri Lanka, even though the OIC Ambassadors based in Colombo have met the President. How will the OIC vote go in March 2014?

So, here, in the meanwhile, is Salley, a mainstream politician, a former Deputy Mayor of Colombo, a man whose photograph with President Rajapaksa shows excellent mutual cordiality and warmth, who has been detained beneath the Prevention of Terrorism Act, without a single weapon or bullet found anywhere near him or a solitary act of violence becoming related with him.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act is meant precisely for what it says: the prevention precisely of terrorism. Was Azad Salley a founder, leader, member, supporter or sympathizer of an armed terrorist group? There are no unarmed terrorist groups, it have to be stated. If they are unarmed, they are not or not yet, terrorist. Was he verifiably planning to organize one particular? If so which, when and where?

Has any act of violence resulted from something that Azad Salley has stated or done? If so which, what, when and where?

If any offense has been committed by Salley, why has it not been placed in the public domain? Why is it shrouded in secrecy? Why has Salley not been charged beneath the standard laws of the land? Why has he not been granted unfettered access to counsel, family and visitors?

If this is the therapy meted out in peacetime to an unarmed electoral politician, what might have happened in Welikada? What should have occurred in wartime to numerous other people? What may possibly be taking place now, outdoors of Colombo, in the former conflict zones, to Tamils?

These are the questions that would logically happen to any person and could be legitimately raised in Geneva and elsewhere.

Let us assume that Azad Salley produced some imprudent, even intemperate remarks to a publication and even an audience of activists, in Chennai. The periodical in query, Junior Vikatan, it have to be noted, is edited by Cho Ramaswamy, a courageous lonely crusader against the Tigers considering that the 1980s. Neither he nor the journal can be remotely characterised as subversive or secessionist. Something can be lost in translation even though.

No matter. What ever Azad may possibly have said, it could have been countered by correct revelation in the mass media, and subsequent critique and open debate. An notion, nevertheless erroneous or indefensible, have to and can only be countered by one more concept, not by arrest and detention for 90 days. That is if you are committed to standard democratic values and practices though.

If nonetheless, a government or a state chooses to use the strongest legislation in its armoury to punish the expression or exchange of suggestions, even so erroneous, that government or state runs the risk of revealing itself or obtaining itself depicted by critics, as undemocratic and authoritarian. As a result it is the repressive action of the regime rather than anything that Azad Salley might have stated that brings discredit to Sri Lanka and offers ammunition to those who seek international investigation.

Does the detention of Azad Salley assist avoid terrorism or does it contribute to the opposite outcome of radicalisation?

The answer to that query lies in our knowledge as a society. In 1972, a couple of dozen young Tamils were detained due to the fact they had hoisted black flags in protest against the promulgation of the Republication Constitution, ignoring the written entreaties of the Tamil parliamentary political leadership headed by SJV Chelvanayakam. These young males had not engaged in any violent activities. They were held in detention for 5 years.

At the time of their arrest there was no armed movement in Jaffna. By the time of their release in 1977, the Tigers had commenced armed operations, whilst the EROS/GUES had been formed in London and obtained weapons coaching in Lebanon. Those in doubt may possibly check with Karuna, KP, Suresh, Siddarthan and Douglas.

It was certainly not these in detention who initiated this armed movement, since they couldn’t even though behind bars. Nonetheless, their quite presence behind bars for non-violent activism mightily strengthened the argument of these shadowy figures like the teenaged Velupillai Prabhakaran, that there was no space for and no point in something but armed actions.

As a result, the detention by the state of unarmed political activists in no way acted as a deterrent to armed violence and terrorism, but truly radicalized the tactics and later the strategy itself of the politics of the Tamil minority.

What is the signal that Azad’s therapy sends out to the disaffected youth and the shadowy groups that may possibly exist in the Eastern province? As with Tamils, so also probably with Muslims, but is that the insidious intent?

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A Rejoinder To Hoole: Tamil Hinduism And Arumuka Navalar

I respond to the three opinion pieces of Samuel Ratnajeevan Herbert Hoole namely (i) “Arumuka Navalar: Fake Images and Histories” published in the Colombo Telegraph on March 30, 2013; (ii) “The Jaffna Version of the Tamil Bible: By Peter Percival or Arumuka Navalar” published in the Colombo Telegraph on April 5, 2013; and (iii) “Heritage Histories: What They Are and How They Operate Through Jaffna” published in the Colombo Telegraph on April 6, 2013.

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Mr. Hoole asserts that Arumuka Navalar was built up by “ill-educated” “Tamil Saivite extremists” and that everything about Navalar was “fake” be it “his portrait, caste and name, and perhaps religion..”. He alleges that Navalar, a “high school dropout”, had ‘tiny ears and a big forehead on a huge head, thin hands and legs, strong facial hair, and huge body without any strength”. Hoole explains that Navalar was unable ‘to complete high school after 6 years in Tamil school and 13 years under Percival”. He adds that Navalar had a multitude of names each spelt differently and that he was but an “unpaid” “menial assistant” to the missionary Percival!

Hoole similarly claims that the Tamils “were Buddhist and Jain before Saivism took root after the seventh century AD”. He adds that 8,000 Jains who refused to convert to Saivite Hinduism were impaled in the 7th century. He asserts “that many Hindu temples today were once Buddhist and Jain”, agreeing with a Sinhala Buddhist nationalism that is eager to plant Buddha statues in places of old Hindu worship in Sri Lanka. He ends by asserting that “Christians live in fear – living oppressed and as the the oppressed’.

I will be brief as I respond. In the interests of brevity, I will focus on just two subjects i.e. (i) the roots of Tamil Hindu tradition prior to the period of Jain and Buddhist literary influence; and (ii) Arumuka Navalar. Hoole needs to verify his information. His is a highly selective and wishful narrative with numerous errors. Little of what Hoole says is credible. Its time to set the record straight in the interests of a more nuanced interpretation.

Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism in early Tamil history

If one were to appraise the religious character of early Tamil society, one will need to refer to the earliest specimens of Tamil literature that exist today i.e. the Sangam-era work. The Sangam works consist of two literary compendia namely the Ettutogai or Eight Anthologies and the Pattu Paatu or 10 songs. Both are dated to between the 1st and 3rd centuries of the Common Era (CE). It is also important to cite the earliest Tamil grammar in existence today i.e the Tol-kaapiyam. The latter text is usually dated to the early centuries CE. There is an academic debate on the internal consistency and date of the Tol-kaapiyam.

The Sangam compendia I refer to excludes the 18 later works or the Pathinen-keezh-kannaku nool which subsumes the Silapadikaram, the Manimekalai, the Tirukural and other later texts. Those are post-Sangam works.

If one were to explore the Sangam-era, one finds a bardic tradition interspersed with references to the veneration of the Hindu gods Seyon or Murukan, Maayon or Vishnu, Venthan or Indra, Korravai or Durga and Varuna. These were the patron deities of the Tamil land. Seyon or Murukan was the benefactor of the hill tribes while Venthan or Indra was the God of Rain and the protector of the fertile agricultural tracts. Varuna, the God of the Sea, was the guardian of the maritime tracts and all those whose livelihood depended on the sea. Korravai or Durga was the patron of the fierce tribes of the arid tracts. Maayon or Vishnu, also known as the lotus-eyed or Taamarai Kannanaar, protected the herdsmen. The Sangam literature refers to the mighty womb of Korravai that gave birth to Seyyon. There are allusions to the three-eyed God, Siva.

There are references to the Brahmins who tended the sacred fire and studied the four Vedas or Naan Marai. Several Brahmins contributed to the corpus of early Sangam literature. This included Kapilar, Uruttira-kannanaar, Nakeerar, Paalai Kauthamanaar and Perum Kausikanaar to mention just a few. There were several others. Several of the Chera, Chola and Pandya monarchs performed the Vedic sacrifice as documented in the Sangam corpus. The practice of suttee existed. This inheritance is what we today call Tamil Hinduism. The literary allusions to the Jains and Buddhists were far fewer in the Sangam-era.

The pottery and stone inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi dated to the decades before the dawn of the common era offer insights as well. The potsherd inscriptions linked to a megalithic culture contain references to Murukan while the few early rock inscriptions document individual donations to itinerant Jain monks.

The more copious literary record that has survived to date reflects a Hindu folk idiom linked to the rural populace, chieftains and the priesthood while the rock inscriptions suggest individual traders sponsoring Jainism. Buddhism in that early era was numerically less significant. Hoole’s point that Hinduism influenced the Tamil land only in the 7th century is therefore false.

Buddhism emerged in a significant manner in the Tamil land with the later Kalabhras. The Kalabhra dynasty had invaded and ruled Tamil Nadu between the 4th and the 6th centuries CE. Inscriptional and literary evidence indicates that the Chola, Chera and Pandya kings were ruthlessly suppressed. The Kalabhras patronized Buddhism and used Prakrit. Buddhism remained an urban phenomenon. Most Tamil Buddhist monks of this period chose to write in Pali, not Tamil. This included Buddhadatta Thera from Uragapura (Uraiyur) and Dhammapala Thera from Tambarattha (Tirunelveli) who traveled to Sri Lanka to translate the proto-Sinhalese language commentaries into Pali. The celebrated Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosha lived for a while in Madhura-sutta-pattana (Madurai) en route to Sri Lanka to study the proto-Sinhalese texts. Hoole’s contention that Sinhalese literature is a 9th century phenomenon linked to the suppression of Buddhism in the Tamil land is therefore flawed!

The Buddhist zeal of the Kalabhras triggered a home-grown Saivite and Vaishnava revival in the 6th century. This in turn saw the eclipse of Pali scholarship in the Tamil land and a renewed pride in the Tamil language.

Buddhism however continued in urban Tamil Nadu until the 14th century. The Culavamsa describes Sinhalese kings inviting Tamil monks from South India to visit Sri Lanka between the 12th and 14th centuries CE. The Tamil grammar, the Vira-choliyam, was authored by a Buddhist in the heyday of Chola rule in the 10th century CE. The Saivite Hindu Cholas sponsored this Buddhist author. Meanwhile, the Jain center of Sittanavaasal continued to flourish between the 7th and 9th centuries. Saivite Hinduism did not annihilate Buddhism or of Jainism in 7th century Tamil Nadu as Hoole writes. The Buddhist presence in Tamil Nadu ended with the establishment of the Madurai Sultanate in the early 14th century. Tamil Jainism continues to exist to this day.

Hoole highlights the alleged impalement of 8,000 Jains in 7th century Tamil Nadu and cites Nambi Aandaar Nambi, an early medieval Saivite scholar, in support of his claim. This was a literary allusion with no independent evidence. The Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas ruled in neighboring Karnataka. Several of the near contemporary Chalukya and Rashtrakuta monarchs, not to mention the Pallava kings in Tamil Nadu were Jain. There is no corroborating Jain literary or inscriptional evidence of any such impalement. The inquisition was a Christian instrument of persecution, not Hindu.

Hoole is likewise dishonest in selectively quoting Nilakanta Sasti’s History of South India to extrapolate that Buddhist and Jain temples were converted into Hindu places of worship ignoring the extensive evidence provided by Professor Sastri on the Brahmanic and Vaishnava presence in the earliest period of Tamil history.

In conclusion, what we now designate as Hinduism was pre-eminent in the earliest years of recorded Tamil history. The Jains did extensively contribute to Tamil literature at a subsequent date. To argue that we were Jains and Buddhists before we became Hindu is simply incorrect.

Arumuka Navalar

Let me now turn to the subject of Arumuka Navalar. Whether Navalar had any input in the translation of the Bible into Tamil, how he looked, how he spelt his Tamil name in English in a era where such spelling had not been standardized and where births and marriages were unregistered, what caste he belonged to and whether his father was baptized is irrelevant to his legacy as a pioneer who recognized the importance of the media, print technology and western education to the dissemination of Tamil Hindu learning.

Mr. Hoole has had a 15 to 20 year track record of attacking Hinduism and individuals linked to the Hindu revival in Sri Lanka. I had rebutted an earlier article of his dated May 14, 2010 where he had attacked Arumuka Navalar and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan. “In Defense of the Sri Lankan Hindu of Yesteryear: Arumuka Navalar and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan” was published in the Sri Lanka Guardian on May 20, 2010 and in the HaindavaKeralam and LankaWeb. What I stated there still holds. Let me repeat what I said there rather than reinvent the wheel.

One needs to revert to primary sources if one is to accurately describe Arumuka Navalar. Navalar lived between 1822 and 1877 CE. His works include the ‘Prabandha Thirattu’, ‘Saiva Thooshana Parihaaram’, ‘the Prohibition of Killing’, and his classic deconstruction of the Bible. These texts help one to understand him better.

One discovers herein an astonishing man who grasped the imperative to establish Hindu primary and secondary schools in the 19th century, modernize and broadbase Hindu education, use simple Tamil prose to disseminate Saivite Hindu doctrine and leverage the printing press to republish the Tamil classics and Saivite Hindu scripture. Navalar made it a point to study Christianity to more effectively combat the white missionary enterprise. Navalar worked in Jaffna and Tamil Nadu. He established schools in Jaffna and in South India of which the Saiva Prakasa Vidyalayam was the first. Arumuka Navalar’s emphasis on a modern Hindu education in Sri Lanka was the prelude to the later Hindu Board of Education in Sri Lanka.

He was the first person to avail of the modern printing press to publish rare Tamil classics in the mid-1800s anticipating the subsequent seminal work of U.V. Swaminatha Iyer and the other Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu stalwart C.W. Thamotherampillai.Navalar established a printing press in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu. The one in Jaffna was called the Vidyanubalana Yantra Sala. Professor Dennis Hudson of the State University of New York has chronicled Navalar’s use of the printing press on both sides of the Palk Straits in the 19th century. Navalar published 97 Tamil language documents. He published rare works of Tamil grammar, literature, liturgy and religion that were previously unavailable in print. For instance, the first ever Sangam text that saw the light of print was the Tiru-murukaatru-padai of the Pattu Paatu. Navalar brought this out in 1851.

Noted Czech scholar of Tamil, Kamil Zvelebil, demonstrated that Navalar was the first author to use modern Tamil prose in a manner understandable to the layperson. Professor Meenakshisundaram echoed this view when he reiterated that Navalar was the first to use simplified and unadorned lay Tamil. He had adopted a highly effective and unadorned preaching style borrowed from the missionaries that consisted of five steps to quote Hoole i.e. (i) preface; (ii) exposition; (iii) doctrinal analysis; (iv) applying the interpretation; and (v) conclusion. So yes, Navalar made stellar contributions to Hinduism, the Tamil language, Tamil prose and Sri Lankan Tamil identity.

The Hindu revival preceded the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka by a full generation. As Bishop Kulendran of the Church of South India in Jaffna conceded, it was Navalar’s Saivite Hindu revival that stemmed the conversions to Christianity in northern Sri Lanka in the 19th century. It was Navalar likewise who first articulated in modern times that the Sri Lankan Tamil identity was parallel to and not the same as the South Indian Tamil identity.

Navalar, like almost all in the mid-1800s, suffered from caste prejudice. The 1800s was an unenlightened age where the Christian missionaries in India and Ceylon exemplified a deep religious bigotry, the Sri Lankan Tamils exemplified a hateful caste prejudice while the Europeans were busy enslaving or exterminating the Black population in America, Australia and South Africa often in the name of Christianity. Navalar can not be absolved on the issue of caste. This said, a critical interpretation of history forces one to acknowledge his other accomplishments.

Bibliography

(i) K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Oxford University Press, 1955;
(ii) V.R. Ramachandra Dikshitar, Studies in Tamil Language and History, University of Madras, 1936;
(iii) Vaiyapuri Pillai, History of Tamil Language and Literature, Chennai, 1956;
(iv) George Hart, The poems of ancient Tamil, their milieu and their Sanskrit counterparts, 1975 (University of California, Berkeley);
(v) Takanobu Takahashi, Tamil love poetry and poetics, 1995;
(vi) Kamil Zvelebil, The Smile of Murukan on Tamil literature of South India, 1973; and
(vi) V.S. Rajam, A comparative study of two ancient Indian grammatical traditions: The Tolkapiyam compared with Sanskrit Rk-pratisakhya, Taittriya-pratisakhya, Apisal siksa, and the Astadhyayi, University of Pennsylvania, 1981.

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‘Marshall Plan’ And Sri Lanka

S.Sivathasan

S.Sivathasan

What a war devastated nation needs most is resource for rebuilding. What Sri Lanka lacked most was the requisite capital. When local resources cannot be fully mobilized recourse is necessary for infusion from abroad. Both strategies have been employed by the present regime. No doubt adding to debt, but permitting of first world expenditure  in a third world economy. Public debt of Rs. 2.222 trillion in 2005 has risen to Rs.6.000 trillion in 2012. Year on year increase alone was Rs. 867 billion in 2012. The GDP which grew by Rs. 1.038 trillion in the same year, has the resilience to accommodate this debt.

What the people are peeved about is the uneven spread smacking even of profligacy. What the Tamils cry for is equity in distribution to make amends for past misfortunes. In desperation, they direct their sights to foreign countries and institutions for their initiative and assistance. What they can look forward to from the government is proactive response. Their   experience of the Tokyo Pledge of 2003 for Sri Lanka and of Marshall Plan of 1947 for Europe is particularly comforting.

Marshall Plan

What is most striking about the Marshall Plan (MP) is the speed with which initiatives were taken for the economic  reconstruction  of Europe after the War.  It was considered a prelude to political stability. Both placed together were seen to ensure the health of Europe and as importantly, the economic  well-being and growth of the United States. The pace is a contrast to the failure of the Sri Lankan Government even four years after the end of the war. There is not even a thought of it. Launching  of  a redevelopment programme to get over war devastation was perhaps wished for. As culpable in this lapse are Tamils, failing to press forth the concept of a ‘Marshall Plan’ as an effort at redemption.  The idea of political solution now with reconstruction to follow will be realized in the Greek kalens.

The MP was enormous in scope and vast in geographical spread. The amount US spent in three years 1948 to 1951 was$ 12.7 billion. To get the perspective clear, it may be observed that the GDP of US in 1948 was $ 258 billion. In comparison the GDP of 2012 was $ 15.65 trillion. The beneficiaries of MP in Europe were 16 states of which, UK, France, W.Germany, Italy and Netherlands received nearly three-fourths. All five are among the top in the world in state GDP as well as per capita. Timely aid was as important as the volume disbursed. Grants to all 16 countries composed 90% and the balance was loans.

Benefits of the MP did not come easily to the recipient countries. The plan may be said to have originated with Marshall’s speech at Harvard in June 1947. The US was to assist in normalizing economic health in the world. No political stability or peace was assured otherwise. This was the germ of his thinking which was elaborated on. There were however reservations, criticism and even opposition.   From conception to delivery to the affected, the path was tortuous. Some had illusions of relegating Germany to a ‘pastoral state’. Statesmanship overwhelmed such ideas. Realization eventually prevailed that when Germany’s industrial capacity remained idle, Europe’s economic recovery can only get delayed. Germany’s economic recovery was deemed central to Europe’s progress. Pragmatism was more compelling than antagonism.

Other Aid

In passing, reference must be made to US grants and loans in Europe amounting to $ 14 billion outside MP. This was between 1945-1947. Britain alone received $ 3.75 billion. Post war Asia too received sizeable aid. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Phillipines were principal beneficiaries. In the period 1945 to 1953, grants and loans given by America to the world totaled $ 44.3 billion. This was a huge amount and it had a tremendous impact  on the recovery of Europe not to mention the countries of Asia.

Inner Vitality

There is something very significant to be observed however.  Six major powers fully involved in the war, both allied and axis, are now among the topmost economic power houses. Five of them barring US – Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and France – had experienced severe destruction. With a little moistening the seeds have sprouted. There was hardly a spell when they remained dormant. Their inner vitality and entrepreneurial spirit explain. Perhaps their elan vital pushed them to the top even before the war. What is noteworthy is that physical destruction did not cause despondency, but infused a new vigour. Even before the MP went into implementation, they had launched their recovery programmes with their own resources.  This is not to discount the very important part that MP played in providing the initial spurt and then maintaining the momentum. Timeliness was of the essence.

Sri Lanka

Lending a helping hand to lift a prostrate people is all what the concept of ‘Marshall Plan’ is invoked here for. The parallel ceases thereafter. The five nations were able to do so since the nation building process was completed decades earlier. They moved ahead single mindedly as a single polity. The situation in Sri Lanka is distinctly different. The Tamils fought and lost. What they lost in war they cannot gain in peace. If what they want is equality, it is only inequality that we will give. This is the official attitude of the government. Reducing the North East to a ‘pastoral state’ will take the country nowhere.

“Come and see” is the oft thrown challenge. Having seen two there is no appetite for more. The no. of industries in the country is 4,816 in 2012. In the Northern Province-NP- it is 11. The no. grew by 470 in the last 4 years island wide. In the NP it grew by 6. The GDP of the Province is 3.68% of the nation’s. What is seen is enough.

The initiative of the donor community is necessary for a wholesome change. A country cannot prosper when a segment is impoverished. Russia spurned US aid and mulcted East Germany almost to the tune of MP aid. Unified Germany’s mission was to bring East and West to a level of parity. Same ethnicity one would say. If for the benefit of reconciliation and unity ethnicity blindness is called for, embracing it may be compulsive to all.

Tokyo Pledge

The Tokyo Pledge of 2003 drawn up with a magnitude of $ 4.5 billion is a little bit of a Marshall Plan. With a tenth implemented and nine-tenth remaining, it is a viable entry point to resume the redevelopment programme.  The Needs Assessment Report of 3,400 pages encompassing the North East and the adjoining Provinces is appropriate for an immediate beginning. The Report has identified projects. As funding becomes available, they are picked up, detailed estimates are worked out and projects are implemented. Even as this segment gets under implementation, a Needs Assessment survey can be carried out for the subsequent period up to 2009. Mid – course revisions are practicable.

Future

A future of promise should firstly enable those in governance to see the sentiments of all citizens in objective light. Those thrown aside have to be facilitated to come back to mainstream economic life. Local and foreign resources have to be mobilized and utilized for this purpose.

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Preparing For Northern Elections And Winning Hearts And Minds

Jehan Perera – colombo telegraph

Jehan Perera

The A9 highway that bisects the Northern Province and leads to its capital of Jaffna would be the best advertisement for the government in its election campaign to win the provincial council elections scheduled to be held in September. The dramatic improvement in the highway and the network of roads that connect to it have enhanced the quality of life to all who make use of them, be they the businessman or landless labourer, northerner or southerner.  But the A9 highway, which was once called the highway of death on account of the thousands of lives it consumed during the war, also shows why the government cannot win those forthcoming elections unless there is a change of course.

The huge military checkpoint at Omanthai, which was once the border between government and LTTE-controlled territories in the north, still stands like an ageing dinosaur. All vehicles traversing the road at this point have to stop to be checked.  At the best it means getting out of one’s vehicle and giving one’s identity card and vehicle number to be written down in a register.  But sometimes it can mean having one’s bags poked and opened for inspection.  Passengers in private vehicles are usually spared the hassle of getting down to be checked, but those travelling by bus have to disembark and line up to be checked. This war-time practice serves as a reminder of the war and the division of the country.

A police officer who flagged down our vehicle and requested a short ride was present when this exercise took place.  He explained that the roots, or is it seeds, of militancy still remained in the people of the North and needed to be guaded against.  The visible surveillance serves as a reminder to them that the government is watching and it is better to keep out of trouble.  Viewed from the other side the visible presence of the military in the North is a constant reminder to the people that they are mistrusted and being treated differently.  It also sends a harsh message that the North is still not fully integrated with the rest of the country, remains a potential threat, and hence it is under a state of military occupation, even if largely benign.

Military Presence

The large military presence in the Northern and Eastern provinces, even after the war, has been a source of grievance to the people living in those parts. The issue of the military presence has re-emerged in full force due to the government’s decision to acquire over 6000 acres of prime land in the Jaffna peninsula to set up a regional military headquarters.  It is reported that as many as 25 Grama Niladari divisions (which means more than 25 villages) will be affected.  Thousands of people will be affected, with an estimated 29,000 still in camps for the displaced.  The military has said that this land is being acquired under relevant law, and this is done in other parts of the country also.  But given the large territory and population that will be affected, and the lack of transparency in military affairs, it has also given rise to fears of army-sponsored Sinhalese settlements in the North.

It is noteworthy that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission has recommended the de-militarisation of the north and the full restoration of civilian administration.  The two resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and again in 2013 call upon the government to implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC.  The LLRC was very specific on this issue, especially in regard to land issues, which is at the heart of people’s sense of belonging and security.  The LLRC said that many people who were displaced in the war had lost their title deeds and other documents proving their ownership or rights to use the land.  It recommended an expert and civil administration to restore to the people what had been theirs.  It also said that land policy should not be used to effect artificial changes in demography and the ethnic composition of the population.

The refusal of the military authorities to permit the Leader of the Opposition and a delegation of opposition parliamentarians from entering the area to see the situation for themselves is bound to send an adverse message to the Tamil people and to the international community about the ground realities in the north.  It highlights the lack of transparency that accompanies military affairs, which is why the military is unsuited to engage in civilian affairs. Unfortunately the indications of a shift in government policy towards the demilitarization of the north are bleak at the present time.  The government has recently added a second compulsory checkpoint in the North in addition to the one at Omanthai.  This is one at Elephant Pass at the entry/exit point of the Jaffna peninsula.  This latest checkpoint was announced a few days ago in the context of the sudden upsurge of politically motivated violence in the North which saw events organized by opposition parties broken up allegedly by security personnel in civilian attire.

Government Concern

The acts of violence that have started taking place against opposition activities in the North, as occurred with the Uthayan newspaper and TNA meetings, can be a harbinger of things to come.  The government’s determination to win the Northern Provincial elections reflects the government’s concern that it will pave the way to political and international challenges with the establishment of an opposition Tamil-led administration with a democratic mandate.  So far the government’s chief response to its local and international critics has been that it is the sole elected authority in the country entitled to speak on behalf of all the people.  Every time it wins an election it reminds its detractors that whatever they may say, it has the democratic sanction of the people.  An opposition and Tamil led provincial administration in the North would have a corresponding legitimacy to speak on behalf of the people who elected it.

Already two constituent parties of the government have expressed their opposition to these elections being held.   The All Ceylon Muslim League headed by Minister Rishard Bathiuddin has objected to the elections being held until all war-displaced Muslims are resettled in the Northern Province.  The National Freedom Front headed by Minister Wimal Weerawansa has stated that these elections can lead to an outcome that is detrimental to the country’s unity.  He has also said that the system of provincial councils should be scrapped and replaced by district councils.  Interestingly, President Rajapaksa himself articulated this vision of district-based devolution several years ago until local and international pressure caused him to withdraw from this position.  It is possible that views such as these are being floated to justify a postponement of the elections.

However, too much is at stake for the government to now seek to either abolish the provincial council system or postpone the promised September elections.  The President’s promise to hold the elections by September this year is noted in too many international documents, such as the joint communiqué signed by the Prime Minister of Japan and President Rajapaksa following his visit in March to Japan, and also in the UN Human Rights resolution on Sri Lanka which was also passed by a large majority of countries in March this year.  With the provincial elections to be held in September, there is still time for the government to make the shift that would make it more attractive to the northern voters.  De-militarisation of the North would come as the first priority accompanied by the resettlement of displaced people in their own lands.

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