By H. L. D. Mahindapala –
The post-independent period is a unique segment of Sri Lankan history exactly where everything that ought to have occurred, occurred without having breaking up the democratic foundations of the nation which is a exceptional achievement. In the main, the nation faced (1) two left-wing rebellions, (two) 1 Right-wing coup led by the Westernized elite. (three) a 33-year-old north-south conflict which began in 1976 with Tamil leadership passing the Vadukoddai Resolution, (4) paralyzing strikes by the Marxists who were planning to ride into energy on the back of workers, (5) sporadic ethnic riots, (6) roller-coaster financial rides, (7) student unrest in the universities, (8) periodic adjustments of governments at the state and regional government levels, (9) constitutional adjustments leaping from parliamentary kind of government to presidential, (10) foreign diplomatic and military incursions, Indian in distinct, (11) the influence imported ideological waves that swept influential sections of the intelligentsia and (12) the all round transition from semi-feudal, semi-capitalists, semi-colonial phase to a modern day nation, comprehensive with globe conquering cricket group and a competent military machine that rose from a ceremonial army to meet the greatest internal threats to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
Of all the major events two peaks stand out as the highest. The first took location in 1956 and the second in 2009. Both have been lasting defining moments for the nation. Both were grass root forces. Each have been to regain the lost/threatened heritage of the nation. The “Silent Revolution of 1956” was to reclaim and reinforce the historical roots of the nation – a common phenomenon that rose in rebellion against centuries of colonialism in all post-colonial nations. The “The Triumph of 2009”, although violent, was to regain and defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the national heritage which were threatened by neighborhood and foreign anti-national forces.
Both dates are interconnected. What was won peacefully and silently in “1956” was threatened from the day it was born by the Westernized Sinhala and Tamil elite. The militarized and violent antithetical forces opposing “1956” came up from the Northern political elite. In 1976 the entire Tamil elite decided to opt out of the democratic mainstream and take the gun to reverse the historical gains of “1956”. It can be argued that “2009” rescued from “1956” fading into oblivion.
The Vadukoddai War, endorsed in the Vadukoddai Resolution (1976) officially, was conceived as a method of the ruling Vellahla elite to ride on the backs of the Tamil youth to ride into power. But it backfired on the fathers of the Vadukoddai Resolution. When they legitimized the Vadukoddai violence, power slipped out of the Vellahla elite for the initial time since they rose to rule Jaffna from feudal instances, and fell into the hands of the lower-castes and the rebellious youth who turned their guns 1st on the high class fathers of the Vadukoddai Resolution. The classic Saivite Vellahla fascism was replaced by the political fascism of Prabhakaran. For some time, the 1-man rule of Tamil fascism seemed unassailable and seemed poised to win by defeating the Sri Lankan forces. But winning the “unwinnable war“ changed the political landscape by eliminating Tamil fascism and restoring democracy from coast to coast. The “Triumph of 2009” not only reinforced the historic achievements of “1956” but also stands out as the second decisive and defining moment in post-independent history that saved the Tamils – and the nation — from the a single-man dictatorship fascist Prabhakaranism. .
*Picture by way of Marithripala Sirisena’s Facebook page
Historically speaking, “2009” is the logical and inevitable corollary to “1956”. Both reveal the inner dynamics of the invincible grass root forces that will rise, again and once again, to defend its historical heritage. The greatness of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, who was far superior to the theoretically stunted Marxists, was in recognizing the aspirations of the grass-root individuals who have been gasping for oxygen in an oppressive and suffocating colonial atmosphere. Each as a Christian and a scholar of Western classics Bandaranaike was steeped in the greatest of Occidental culture and its roots. Of the Westernized ruling elite of the day he alone felt the pulse of the individuals, leaving the Right and the Left stranded in their ideological deserts. His intellectual rejection of the Western ideologies made him the most perceptive and far-seeing prophet of his time. The Left was buried as well deep in the dying Western theories of Marxism. The Right was too addicted to the colonial traditions which they inherited and perpetuated with hardly any structural adjustments to address the increasing expectations of one of the most politically alert electorates of S. Asia. .
Like all iconic revolutionaries of the colonial and post-colonial era Bandaranaike believed in the superiority of the indigenous culture which he was bent on reviving and reinforcing as a prime political want of the time. Although the Right and the Left had been emphasizing material and bread-and-butter troubles he focused on the cultural aspirations which proved to be stronger than bread. As in most of the post-colonial nation there was nearly a xenophobic rejection of something that came from the West. But Bandaranaike stood in the middle attempting to build bridges amongst the two. He knew he was in an age of transition drifting in between two worlds, one particular dead (colonial) and the other (national) struggling to be born. (Mathew Arnold). If the Western models have been to be incorporated into the neighborhood culture it was to be absorbed with suitable adjustments to local situations. The model for this trend was set, for instance, by Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe, the major light of the Anglican Church. He introduced oil lamps as an alternative of candles in Churches. Like in Buddhist temples, he insisted that devotees getting into the Church must leave their shoes at the entrance. He even introduced a tinge of yellow into the cincture that was tied round middle of the cassock.
Blending each cultures without offending any person in certain was the intended middle path selected by Bandaranaike. He not only gave Sinhala Only but Tamil also. This, nevertheless did not go down effectively with the Anglicized ruling elite of all communities who earned their crust via English. At the exact same time, he was conscious of the require to adopt the overarching principle of getting superior to the White Man just to be his equal. That was his motto at Oxford. He wasn’t going to be overawed by the dominant culture of the colonial masters. When he dropped the Western garb and donned the national costume he wasn’t putting on a “kapati koat” like contemporary day politicos. He pioneered the national dress and expressed his contempt for the Western garb by declaring boldly that you put on the coat and trousers only when you go for dog shows.
The intellectual subtleties and nuances that changed the colonial culture and reinforced the people-based culture was either prostituted or neglected by these who succeeded him, employing his name, which includes his third-rate progeny. We can dismiss his daughter who qualified more in imbibing French wine than in political science at Sorbonne. So let’s take the case of President Maithripala Sirisena’s metamorphosis soon after 1st official pay a visit to to London. Soon after he returned residence he has been projecting the image of a born-again evangelist for the West, distancing himself from his initial Marxist days and the current al-lay, val-lay and pal-lay common man from the Polonnaruwa paddy fields. In his address to the SLFP Organizers meeting he was glorifying his check out to Buckingham Palace where the Queen amazed him by shaking his hand with no wearing a glove. The fact that she provided her ungloved hand to him and his wife, Jayanthi, was marketed by him as a mark of particular respect conferred on him by the Queen. Great old Bandaranaike would have taken it in his stride, becoming familiar the Western culture and the Queen’s antecedents greater than the Queen. But not Sirisena, the boy from al-lay, val-lay and pal-lay from Polonnaruwa. It was like gama-yata magic,
Sirisena also announced with some pride that David Cameron walked out of his official residence to get him on the macadamized entrance to No: ten, Downing Street, with a hand shake and to escort him personally into the inner sanctum of the Prime Minister’s residence. Shaking the ungloved hand of the Queen, which enabled him to touch the skin of the Queen, and David Cameron coming out to greet him outside No: ten Downing Street, were reported to the SLFPers as important achievements of his check out to UK. In gloating more than these experiences there is much more than a touch of the naivety of a very first-timer being overawed by the big names in massive locations.
His report to the SLFPers was meant to impress the party large wigs that his first trip to the West was a triumph of his personal diplomacy abroad and that he is no longer the backward rustic from the paddy fields of Polonnaruwa. Shaking the ungloved hands of the Queen was placed just before the SLFP audience as an additional instance of his breaking the international deadlock that has bedeviled post-war relations with the West.
He also claimed credit for acquiring the West to postpone the scheduled presentation of the UN report on Sri Lanka to UNHRC in March. He said that the planet was divided more than Sri Lanka and his initiatives had united the world. He mentioned that the activity now is to unite. “And it is I who did it,” he announced, exuding a touch of personal glory.
There is some symbolism attached to the Queen offering a gloved and the ungloved hand. The Queen who shakes the hands of tens of thousands yearly, wears gloves partly for hygienic causes and partly for decorum. Her royal wave, for instance, is constantly gloved. She provides her ungloved and gloved hand to thousands and there is practically nothing particular in Mr. and Mrs. Sirisena shaking it ungloved, even though Sirisena gave the impression that it was a privileged concession granted to him and his wife.
All that is properly and good. Sri Lankans ought to share the cordiality that greeted him at Buckingham Palace and No: 10 Downing Street. In Sirisena’s Marxist days, nonetheless, his political guru, Shanmugathasan, would have hooted with belly laughs if he heard that a single of his cadres was ecstatic about the Queen shaking hands, gloved or ungloved. There is no doubt that he would have looked at it disdainfully and dismissively as the hand of a blood-stained imperialist who was heading the global killing machine of UK. But it’s different now. Those days the craze was to pose with Mao Tse Tung. Now the erstwhile radicals take wonderful pride in shaking the ungloved hands of the Queen. Boy, O, boy! How roaring radicals change into pet mice overnight!
The cosmetics at Buckingham Palace and at No:ten Downing Street can be dismissed as much ado about practically nothing. Even prior to Sirisena went to London the West knew that he was there point man in Sri Lanka. They were merely buttering him up to show their appreciation of the shift in foreign policy from the East to the West. It does not price them significantly to shakes hands cordially with their new client state. Clearly, Sirisena has not grasped the hidden meaning of the Queen and David Cameron going out of their way to be added courteous. It could either mean that they were patting President Sirisena on the back for doing the job of overthrowing their bête noir of the West in a bloodless coup. Or it could imply that they are satisfied with the return of a prodigal colonial boy to his old colonial masters. It could also mean that they are glad to welcome one more dependable client state to partner in the Western agenda.
On his return home, the President spoke glowingly of the lovey-dovey affair at Buckingham Palace which, soon after all, is only glove deep. He implied that he had opened up a new era of friendly relationship with UK soon after Mahinda Rajapakse rejected David Milliband’s intrusive intervention to cease the war in 2009. Milliband, working on behalf of the Tamil lobby in UK, was merely attempting to reassert the lost colonial powers by forcing ex-colonial nations to fall in line with their neo-colonial political agenda. That failed. So is it surprising that UK is overjoyed at Sri Lanka returning to the neo-colonial royalty on genuflecting knees?
But, as they say, there is no such factor as a totally free lunch or a handshake. The query, consequently, is how significantly is that handshake going to expense the nation? There is a price tag to be paid. What is the value that the nation is expected to spend in return for the thrill of touching the skin of the Queen? For instance, will it modify the pro-Tamil political stance of David Cameron who is funded heavily by the Tamil Diaspora? When he pressed the hand of Sirisena was he batting for Sri Lanka or for the Tamil Diaspora?
Sirisena’s speech to the SLFPers raised the 4 political sources that matter to him specifically which reflects his new mind set. 1st, he described the Indian Prime Minister Modi who had asked him what he thinks of his experiences following sitting in the Presidential chair for just two months. Oddly sufficient, he skips answering the question, leaving the audience to wonder whether or not he answered the question at all or whether he wants to hold it a secret. Second, he reflects on the Queen’s ungloved handshake in rather ecstatic terms. Third, he gives a glowing account of his meeting David Cameron, the man who hated Sri Lanka below Mahinda Rajapakse. And fourth, he claims that for the 1st time in the history of Sri Lankan politics all the Tamil parties sat with him when he went to Jaffna. All this was wrapped in his general theme of providing into the demands of the TNA. Sirisena appears to have acquired a lot more courage and inspiration following his return from UK to accommodate the demands of the North.
There are two meanings to this constellation of political forces: 1. it is this quartet that brought him into power and he plans to keep it going for his benefit two. it marks the starting of the reversal of history developed in the post-Nandikadal period. Repeatedly he emphasized, most vociferously, the need to give into the 13+ demands — a common lead to with the quartet that helped him to win. Earlier it was the Wickremesinghe-led UNP that was going all out to accommodate the North. Now the leader of the SLFP too has joined the bandwagon. Is this the which means of the “national government” : giving into the extremist demands of the North with hypocritical JHU and JVP tagging along with Wickremesinghe?
Does this herald the starting of the drift to the dissolution of the state in the guise of constitutional reforms? Or has Wickremesinghe outwitted Sirisena and taken the SLFP below his wing, as the head of the elusive “national government”, to break up the nation? Is this the finish of Bandaranaike’s SLFP, with his daughter, joining hands with Wickremesinghe, to sell the nation down the river? And is the new wave of Mahinda Rajapakse which started in Nugegoda the logical political counter to save “1956” and “2009”? Whichever way you appear at it, the combination of the four forces pointed out above – the Queen, David Cameron, Narendra Modi and the Tamil parties in the Diaspora and Jaffna — is a significant threat to the nation.