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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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Cargo Trends

Sri Lanka port handles record four million containers
Dec 21, 2010 (LBO) – Colombo port volumes hit a new record of 4 million containers Tuesday supported by powerful development in both transshipment and import-export cargo, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) stated in a statement.

The quantity of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers handled by the port is up 20 % so far this year from a year ago.
It is also up 11 percent compared with the total of 3.68 million TEUs accomplished in 2008, the highest-ever functionality by the port ahead of recession hit worldwide trade.

SLPA managing director Nihal Keppetipola mentioned efficiency improvements and removal of safety restrictions with the end of a war had helped boost cargo volumes and reinforce Colombo’s status as south Asia’s hub port.

The number of import-export containers handed by Colombo is up 25 percent this year compared with final year even though transshipment cargo has improved by 18 percent, the SLPA said.

The state-run Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) handling its highest-ever monthly volume of 201,217 TEUs in August this year.

Keppetipola said a new computerised terminal operating program at the JCT costing 800 million rupees helped integrate all terminal operation and strategy and optimize speedy movement of containers amongst the gate and the quay.

This decreased dwell instances for containers and turnaround occasions for vessels, Keppetipola said.

A satellite-based communication system was also added to monitor container stacking

&#8220Last year we reopened the northern entrance, which had been closed for ten years due to safety motives, to facilitate smoother maritime transportation and to enhance productivity in the port,: he stated.

“This move put an finish to the navigation restrictions that have brought on congestion at the port causing delays in cargo handling and turn-about instances of vessels.”

Sri Lanka’s 30-year ethnic war ended in May possibly 2009, resulting in the withdrawal of war danger insurance surcharges and accelerating financial development.
The JCT has handled 2.1 million TEUs this year with the remaining 1.9 million TEUs handled by the privately-owned South Asia Gateway Terminals in which Sri Lankan conglomerate John Keells Holdings has a 42 % stake.

Keppetipola said the combined work of the state-run and privately-owned terminals was essential to Sri Lanka’s drive to turn out to be a major centre of shipping, trade and logistics in the region.

He said it was “an excellent test case of public-private partnership arrangements in the port management region.”
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UN SG Panel – LLRC will adhere to Warrant

In the event of the government facilitating UN Secretary General’s Panel to visit Sri Lanka, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) will hear such representations on the basis of its Warrant and the usual procedures followed for such hearings, the LLRC said in a statement.

Following is the statement:

UN SG’s Panel

There have been some inquiries from the national media regarding a visit to Sri Lanka by the UN Secretary General’s Panel. Any decision to facilitate the UN SG’s Panel to visit Sri Lanka lies entirely with the Government of Sri Lanka. If a decision is made to permit such a visit the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) will hear such representations on the basis of its Warrant and the usual procedures followed for such hearings
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Foreign Affairs

The Electricity Tariffs, Populism And Smarter Consumption: Some Reflections

pradeep Jeganatan Colombo Telegraph

Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan

In midst of the noise of populist political posturing on the electricity tariff increase, there has also been, as always, a considerable amount substantial discussion on the issue. While a number of OpEds have been edifying, and of our legislators, Harsha de Silva‘s lone, yet richly informed analytical voice has been most stimulating, I do feel there is an aspect of the matter that has still not drawn attention. In the paragraphs below, I will attempt to delineate this.

I will not go over all the numbers here, yet suffice to say that simply throwing out percentages of the increase does not paint a worthwhile picture. For example telling us that a 30 unit consumer’s bill will rise, 52% is a great, factually correct but misleading headline – that may allow the reader to miss, the fact that for nearly half the electrified households in Sri Lanka (0-30), this increase will amount to Rs. 75/=. Consider at this point that a loaf of bread is 60/=, a packet of milk powder 400/=, and the cost of mobile telecommunication perhaps 400/=, to say nothing of other utilities. Tub thumping about a 75/= increase of one utility is neither here nor there. On the other hand, electricity subsidies, unlike many others are beautiful and elegant since they are not easily transferable to an affluent consumer. Comparing this to the old style ration books, which were, and the new style car permits that are, would clinch the case. In any event this small increase comes in at some thing like Rs. 575 million, which again given the CEB short fall of nearly 60 Billion, is neither here nor there.

The brunt of the increase in rupee terms is borne by the lower-middle band 90-180 consumers. A 150 unit household will see its bill rise, from 2850/= to 4515/=. That’s not just 58%, its also Rs. 1,670/= or so. A 180 unit household will see its bill go up to 5130/= an increase of only 33% and rupee addition of 1275/= ( Yes, the rate of increase decreases with consumption. All figures have been rounded off, and are rough).

That’s a lot.  For a family of four, in the urban service sector, living on some thing like 40,000/= a month, spending some thing like 12% of its income on one utility is a heavy burden, given others like cooking gas, water and telecommunications. Transportation while not a household utility is another thicken slice of the families budget.

So what should be done? Indeed one can agitate for a reduction; but unless this cost is recovered, those very households will see price inflation in other segments of their monthly basket of goods.

Promoting energy efficiency is the other way to go. Indeed if we are to accept and live with the form capitalism we have, it seems rather contrary to suggest as some do that the answer is to discourage consumption. That may be one model of using resources, but its silly to impose it in electricity consumption and promote it in other areas.

For example are we to have a sliding scale of pricing for personal miles flown each year? In this model, if you’ve flown 10,000 miles this year your next ticket would be twice the price of your old one. On the contrary, airlines encourage frequent fliers, by giving them perks. At the bottom of this system of capitalism – which is flawed but still viable – is the idea that flying becomes more energy efficient each year. So its not that you fly less. You fly more, at lower energy cost.

Returning to the lower-middle band of 90-180 customers of the CEB, we can make the same kind of argument, which a false, child like populism is masking. What does that mean? Well, we only speak of light blubs when we speak of energy efficiency. Since lighting is so basic, it seems safely populist to speak of moving from incandescent lighting to CFL or LED lighting. Yet is it unclear, if these well known new technologies are supported by duty waivers.

But once we leave lighting behind we will find that a household in the 90-120 band has both a refrigerator and a television. 40% of Sri Lankan households have a fridge, 80% a TV. But in the lower-middle band I speak of ownership of these appliances has to be pretty universal. It stands to reason; or else where would the units go? What is the average energy efficiency of these appliances as used in the lower middle band? I am not sure any one knows – but we can guess estimate that the turnover cycle among this consumer is long – unlike with the affluent who may turn over their appliances every 3-5 years. Older appliances are far more inefficient than new ones.

Let us look at some numbers. Switching from a 17” CRT TV to a 15” LCD TV (which has the equivalent viewing area), will save 13+ units a month, if daily viewing is set at an avarage 8 hours a day. With a refrigerator, switching from a 8 CF model that’s 20-10 years old to a fresh model, will save more than 50 units a month.

Lets say a savings of 59 units a month. Our 150 unit household is down to 91, and their bill is back down to, 2,225/= or from 4,500/=. A reduction of huge proportions. Our 180 unit household is down to 121 in this simple calculation (the reductions could be higher if the TV and/or fridge was bigger); and their bill is now 3,500 down from 5130. (If 60 units were used as the savings, the drop would even larger, but perhaps misleading, because of the quantum jump at the pricing bands).

No doubt its not that simple; new appliances do have a considerable capital cost. Yet, there is little doubt that home appliance chains sell new low end TVs and fridges by the truck load; the question is how does a consumer learn about her choices?

Shouldn’t we be rating household appliances on an efficiency scale? Shouldn’t such rating be regulated, just as the ingredient listing on a can of fish or packet of sausages is regulated? Shouldn’t there be huge duty concessions for the highest energy band? Shouldn’t consumers be told at the point of purchase, this model will cost you so much a month to run, the other one more?

We don’t seem to doing any of this. At the very top end of things, several retailers advertize energy efficient air conditions. But even they do not actually tell us what the power consumption of the model is. If you walk into one of the large home appliances chains in Sri Lanka  – there are three big ones – and ask casually or other wise (I’ve tried both) – what the power consumption of the reverent appliance is, you will find that the sales staff are clueless. In fact, when recently at the service center to pick up an appliance, I asked the technician in front of me, at the testing table, what was the power consumption of a LCD TV he was testing. He looked blank. I rephrased the question a number of ways; he looked about the back of the TV and said, ’220.’ Yes he did. He was pointing to a white sticker that said, the appliance was rated for 220-240 A/C. For the uninitiated, the rated voltage of an appliance has nothing to do with its power consumption; if a trained repairmen is as clueless as a sales person on these matters, I am very much afraid the consumer may be quite lost. We really need to do better.

My numbers are rough, and I am skeptical, to say the least, about the great project of consumer capitalism. But that’s where we are. Populist protests mask this because consumer capitalism seems dirty, and unworthy of street protests. I think we need to grow up, and for the time being at least, simply consume  smarter.

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A Steep Upsurge in Enterprise for Commercial Banks

Commercial Banks in Sri Lanka have registered an upsurge in business in the recent months. In the month of October alone these banks have provided new loans amounting to Rs. 50 Billion, which registers a 20% increase over the same period last year.
Loans from foreign exchange banking units have increased by Rs. 5.2 billion to Rs. 156.3 billion.

However, loans to the government from the banking system, including the central bank, have fallen steeply by Rs. 36.6 billion to Rs. 565.5 billion as the government repaid credit following a billion dollar sovereign debt sale.

Credit from the Central Bank to government has also fallen by Rs. 15 billion to Rs. 85 billion.

Last year, loans to private business contracted as the government ran a deficit of around 10% of gross domestic product and banks bought risk free Treasury bills instead of lending to risky private business. Financial sources said that following a balance of payments crisis in 2008 and 2009, banks curtailed credit and were facing rising bad loans. Central bank data indicates that bad loans were now falling appreciably.

With many incentives and concessions given to the private sector in the new budget potential for banks to increase businesses, especially their lending portfolios have increased and business analysts comment that banks have every possibility of getting further strengthened in the future months.(niz).

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Foreign Affairs

Why Commonwealth SG Sharma Need to Show Leadership On Sri Lanka

Callum Macrae

Callum Macrae

This is a crucial moment in the ongoing campaign for truth and justice in Sri Lanka.

Tomorrow, Friday 26th April, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will collect in London.  There they will go over developing calls for the next meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) to be taken away from Sri Lanka.  CHOGM is scheduled to be held in Colombo in November this year.

The concept that CHOGM should be hosted by a regime accused of such serious war crimes is abhorrent to most people who believe and hope the Commonwealth ought to be a force for great – a neighborhood of nations functioning towards human rights and justice.

That the Sri Lankan government would then become the chair of the Commonwealth for the subsequent two years is even a lot more disturbing.  A regime embroiled in an increasingly desperate and dishonest campaign to delay and deny the serious evidence of war crimes &#8211 and the growing international determination to call them to account – is in no position to defend the core values of the Commonwealth.

At this critical time for the Commonwealth attention will focus increasingly on the function of the Commonwealth Secretary Basic, Kamalesh Sharma.

Several will be looking to him to give the type of leadership which can strengthen the Commonwealth’s part in encouraging human rights, justice and an end to impunity.

He can make certain that this issue is confronted. Indeed many would argue he has a clear duty to do that.  If the Commonwealth drifts blindly into enabling itself to be headed by a regime accused of such appalling war crimes and crimes against humanity it would be catastrophic.  But I see no signs so far that Mr Sharma has any intention whatsoever of acting to prevent that taking place.  I hope I am wrong.

There is a curious Commonwealth process which offers for the Secretary Basic to exercising his “good offices” to resolve this sort of scenario ahead of severe action is taken.  It is suggested that a two month period be permitted for that.  Mr Sharma has been formally working out his “good offices” for significantly far more than two months now.  And in that time items in Sri Lanka have got worse, not far better.  Repression of Tamils in the north has enhanced.  Tamil newspapers have been violently attacked.  A journalist from the Sunday Leader – whose founding editor was assassinated four years ago – has also been shot.

Now violently ultra-nationalist groups led by intense Buddhist monks  &#8211 tacitly endorsed by the President’s brother, the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa &#8211 have launched attacks on minority Muslims.  The country’s judiciary is in crisis following the politically motivated impeachment of the country’s Chief Justice.

Sri Lanka is quickly sinking into a despotic morass – it is increasingly seen as a pariah state.

On Friday Secretary-Common Kamalesh Sharma will report on the question of Sri Lanka’s hosting of CHOGM to the members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) committee.

He owes it not just to the future of the Commonwealth, but also to its values of truth and justice – to ensure that CMAG discusses taking CHOGM away from Sri Lanka.

On the webpage of the commonwealth…

http://www.thecommonwealth.org/subnewsarchive/191183/231999/ask_sharma/

&#8230we – the citizens of the commonwealth – are invited to place a comment or a query to Mr Sharma, by sending a message, with ‘Ask Sharma’ in the subject line, to this address:

[email protected] 

I recommend that as a lot of of us as achievable do that over the next 24 hours. Let’s make certain that today we ask him – politely and respectfully – what he intends to do about Sri Lanka and CHOGM.   And if he believes that a regime accused of such terrible war crimes – and probably to be embroiled ever far more seriously in such allegations more than the next two years – is truly match to lead the Commonwealth.

The calls from around the world are growing.  Final week 900 Commonwealth lawyers meeting in South Africa named for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth due to its breaches of the rule of law and of the independence of the judiciary, as well as the gross harassment of members of the legal profession.

That contact has now been endorsed by the Law Society of South Africa and echoed by the International Bar Association.

The tide is turning – the calls for justice increasing.  The Commonwealth need to not be left behind.

*Callum Macrae &#8211  director, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.”

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‘Long War, Cold Peace’ – The Unfinished Story Of An Unfinished Conflict

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

Dayan Jayatilleka’s Long War, Cold Peace – Conflict and Crisis in Sri Lanka’ appears at a moment in history when Sri Lanka stands at a crossroads.The war is over but there is yet a crisis of reconciliation and a crisis of state to be resolved, and so a stable peace still eludes us. These are the issues that Jayatilleka primarily worries about in his new book. It runs into several sections and sub sections on the historical record of how we came to be where we are.

The first aspect of the crisis of reconciliation is located, as it has been by many others, in the need to forge an overarching national identity that includes all communities. A less obvious aspect of the crisis that the author identifies is what he calls “the crisis of post war consciousness and discourse.”

“Those who call for a just peace refuse to admit that it was a just war and therefore face a crisis of domestic legitimacy. Those who maintain that it was a just war fail to call for a just peace, a peace with justice for the Tamil community.

Long-War-Cold-Peace

The Tamils for their part have failed to make a clean break from their recent past of support or sympathy for secessionism and terrorism.There is no post war discourse which combines a strong position in defence of the war with a strong drive for a sustainable peace on a new basis of a fairly redrawn ethnic compact. This is the crisis of post war consciousness and discourse.”

It is in this important area that the book makes its main contribution — one of its objectives, by the author’s own admission in the preface, being to provoke the debate and discussion that is needed. ‘Long war, cold peace’goes headlong into the narrative without detaining the reader with the niceties of a foreword or intro written by some other scholar etc. If the book comes across as having been produced in a hurry, it is because it was.

The author and publisher (Vijitha Yapa) were keen to “send the manuscript to the press in time for the March 2013 session of the UN Human Rights Council and the discussion on the event.”

The book combines documentary, analysis and opinion (at times all rolled into one) drawing on the author’s multifaceted experience as a political scientist, academic and diplomat. He was also briefly a minister of the ill-fated North East Provincial Council (NEPC) formed in 1988 under EPRLF’s Varadharajah Perumal. Chapter three(‘Conflict and Negotiations’) that deals with the formation of the NEPC and the reasons for its failure is one of the book’s most detailed and nuanced sections. This is no doubt owing to the author’s degree of proximity to and involvement in the events chronicled.

Starting from the genesis of Tamil separatist violence this section traces the trajectory of the Eelam Left, the shifting balance of power between its constituents, the LTTE’s rise to pre eminence,the bloody serial massacres tha teliminated its rivals, the Indo Lanka Peace Accord of July 1987, the developments leading up to the outbreak of war between the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the LTTE in Oct 1987, the formation of the NEPC and the factors leading to its eventual collapse.

The seemingly intractable interplay of forces at different levels – inter-state as well as intra-state, is made comprehensible,aided by reference to the “unchronicled and undocumented processes that were going on at that time.”

‘Long war, cold peace’ does not pretend to be a complete historical account of the war, and its narrative does not proceed in a straight line. While it deals withthe important landmark events and issues(the Eelam wars, July 1983, the Indo Lanka Accord, the Ceasefire Agreement, the P-TOMs, the military victory over the Tigers, post war politics, the international dimension) the book’s interest lies more in the author’s analytical approach and ability to place things in perspective.

There is an ethical dimension to the discussion that runs through it like a sub text, and this is where the book’s appeal would lie for those with a philosophical turn of mind. The author’s encyclopedic familiarity with political theory,conflict situations and armed struggles elsewhere in the world allows him to make comparisons at every point (Columbia’s FARC, Central America’s FMLN and URNG, the MNLF in the Philippines, SPLA in Southern Sudan, the PLO and the IRA).This constant cross-referencing helps the reader to understand the particularities of Sri Lanka’s crisis and its manifestations. It also helps to separate criticisms that are valid from those that are not.

In the latter part of the book that deals with the international dimension, Jayatilleka refers to the ongoing discourse on war crimes and says “the assertion that the endgame that actually took place needs to be investigated as a war crime” is baseless.The reasons he gives, briefly are, firstly, the Tigers were a fascist force that had to be decimated. Secondly the Sri Lankan forces had to operate according to a tightening timetable not of their own choosing. Thirdly at no time were civilians wittingly targeted as a matter of policy, nor were they boxed in and deprived of an exit by the state.
In no way does this argument amount to a dismissal of human rights as “a Western invention or booby trap.” Though there are constant attempts to use human rights to undermine national sovereignty, Jayatilleka pleads that the answer is not to shun human rights but to protect them ourselves.

It is imperative to realise that the international pressures “are a symptom and byproduct of something that has gone wrong in our external relations and our ability to communicate with the world.” The only real antidote against these pressures he argues is to have “strong, credible, NATIONAL institutions and mechanisms.”The author offers pointers as to how, in his opinion, the crisis of reconciliation can be resolved. Central to that project is his belief in the 13th Amendment and the urgent need for devolution of power.

If this book has an ‘unfinished’ feel to it, this is probably not unrelated to the fact that the conflict itself remains ‘unfinished’. Having been rushed to press, the manuscript’s main weakness is an element of repetition, duly apologised for in a note by the author. Some sections have been drawn from his previous publications. This creates a certain unevenness in the text, as the reader has to constantly shift gear so to speak, adjusting to varying levels of intensity of analysis and slightly different stylistic approaches adopted in different sections.

However, consistency of philosophical approach is maintained throughout and this gives the work a binding coherence.’Long war, cold peace’ may be a bumpy ride, but worth it for the reader who, at the end of the journey,will arrive at a better understanding of the most urgent issues of our time.

*This article is first appeared in Sunday Times Sri Lanka

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Let’s Not Do This: A Wee Note To Dr Jayatileka And Mr Seneviratne

An excellent piece in the New York Times today talks about ‘Monks Gone Bad’, describing a corrupt and violent Sangha that uses hate speech and abuse against minorities and is helmed by leaders who resemble fatuous politicians and not the ‘birds of the wing’ that the Buddha wanted his mendicant followers to be. I am not here to point out the contradictions between Buddhism as taught and Buddhism as practiced, the ingloriousness of Buddhist praxis nowadays is evident for all to see. I just wanted to point out that at every instance in that article where I saw Myanmar, I could have easily inserted Sri Lanka. For every instance where I read about 969 in the news, I can insert ‘Bodu Bala Sena’. About the only words that do not require replacing are ‘anti-Muslim’, ‘minority’ and ‘hate’.

IMG_8368.CR2

As we all know, the police, together with the Bodu Bala Sena soon disbursed the vigil, arresting some, manhandling others, and collecting the names and pictures of most of the attendees.

The Bodu Bala Sena and its kindred run amok in Sri Lanka, like bullies in a school playground, and with not much more in the way of finesse. They hurl offensive invective towards religious minorities, and their words have resulted in quite a few violent incidents against Muslims ,and at least one against Christians, re-opening wounds in the country that are still struggling to heal after the 30 year war. They seem to operate in a space where Sri Lanka has not just lost so many lives, its economic development, and so much of its natural beauty to a long, long war. In order, perhaps, to call their attention to this, a peaceful vigil was held outside the headquarters of the Bodu Bala Sena. As we all know, the police, together with the Bodu Bala Sena soon disbursed the vigil, arresting some, manhandling others, and collecting the names and pictures of most of the attendees. Not only this, the Facebook page of the Bodu Bala Sena decided to ‘name and shame’ these attendees, causing their supporters to enact the most disgraceful bout of name-calling, verbal harassment and racist trolling that I have ever seen on social media.

One of the ‘points of order’ from the Bodu Bala Sena, its supporters and some of the media who covered the incident, was that the legitimacy of the vigil was in question because the attendees did not represent the Buddhist population, that many Muslims, Christians and Hindus were present. On Facebook, attendees are called out as ‘demalek’ ‘muslimayek’ ‘jathiyak nathe’. Indeed, an attendee tweeted that he overheard someone saying that the vigil was convened due to a ‘conspiracy of Muslims and Catholics’. So much for a critical understanding of religious history- perhaps the speaker would be better served from devoting his time to education rather than racist troublemaking! To each his own, however.
It is altogether more worrying thing that this misrepresentation of the attendees was not only picked up by the media, but that it was also the feature of an article by Malinda Seneviratne, writing in the Colombo Telegraph. The good gentleman, from his considerable experience, no doubt, is able to discern a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist, and therefore writes an entirely unnecessary article that serves only to distance himself from standing with those who attended the vigil. In response, Dr Dayan Jayatileka – who is experiencing some changes to his tune- quite rightly pointed out the flaws in Mr Seneviratne’s argument, but did it in a manner that entirely calls attention to his own accomplishments and ‘stake’ in the manner. The riposte from Mr Seneviratne was then, to accuse the good Doctor of ‘throwing his CV’ at him. I ask you, gentlemen, is this really the response to what is happening in Sri Lanka? The actions of the Bodu Bala Sena, and the complicity of the government in them are grotesque enough without the debate being reduced to puerile attacks on each other’s logic.

If you have a voice that can be heard and that has gravitas, and you both have the great privilege of this, why not turn it more fully toward more constructive dialogue? Why not ask that the rights of those who attended the vigil be defended? Countless women- because the body of the woman is so carelessly mangled in these cases- are facing vile, misogynistic abuse via Facebook from the supporters of the Bodu Bala Sena. These men direct all their perverted, violent fantasies at these girls who really do not have much in the way of legal succour. After all, the AG has instructed victims of social media attack to file complaints with the police. Yes, the very same police who put the kybosh in the vigil. Why not direct more energy into rousing the non-English speaking Buddhists to speak out against the Bodu Bala Sena with less articles in places like the Telegraph which are read by the diaspora and the English speakers? Yes, the handicap at the vigil was that there were many who attended who were ‘English speaking’- but that does not make them any less Sri Lankan, any less Buddhist, any less angry, or any less valid in their protesting attacks on minorities. Give out your voice in solidarity with each other, with those who will question the validity of the Bodu Bala Sena, and in solidarity with what must be a better tomorrow.

*Anupama Ranawana is a wishful academic and a practicing activist. She can be reached for comment via Twitter @MsAMR25

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General

Lessons from President Premadasa for Sri Lanka’s existing leadership

There are many lessons from the rule of President Premadasa that will help to avoid repetition of making the same mistakes if properly adhered to. The quality of governance has deteriorated over the years and it is unlikely to change unless the present culture of governance carried down by successive governments and politicians does not change. Let all politicians remember that all governments have ended up falling short of people’s expectations because they have removed themselves away from the people trusting in only their henchmen of advisors and no sooner governments moves away from the masses it becomes the beginning of the end.
The culture to depend on the underworld and goon squads have passed down from one government to the other resulting in unnecessary bloodshed and a spate of criminal activity that has brought the country into disrepute over the years. Until such time this trend to depend on thugs ceases to be we are unlikely to bring any semblance of good governance to Sri Lanka since the law of the country needs to apply to all equally and officials implementing laws should not have to bow their heads down to lowlife gangsters who thinks they can brandish a weapon and people have to worship them.
Sri Lanka’s mobsters
Gangster rule and good squads started with the UNP and its legacy has continued unabated. The Wikipedia has a separate of Sri Lankan mobsters starting out with Gonawala Sunil involved in a spate of activities including rape of a 14 year old girl for which he was given a presidential pardon by then President J R Jayawardena and ended up obtaining an all-island justice of peace and bodyguard to Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe then Minister of Education. Need we say more about the culture that was being slowly created. Then came Sothi Upali said to be a close ally of Sirisena C, then Minister of Housing under President Premadasa. Sri Lanka’s police had to address Sothththi Upali as “Sir”. Taking over from Soththi Upali was his arch rival Chintaka Amarasinghe who is said to have been aligned to the People’s Alliance. His brother Dhammika Amarasinghe is said to have had a hand in over 50 murders and countless bank robberies and as is always the case when their notoriety gets too linked to their patrons they end up being gunned down to conceal that links. Then comes Kalu Ajith who killed Chintaka Amarasinghe and was killed by Chintaka’s brother Dhammika. Next to enter is Kaduwela Wasantha who after a decade of terror was gunned down by another rival Karate Dhammika. We will all remember Baddegane Sanjeewa who was a police sergeant for President Kumaratunga. The other notorious underworld figures with fascinating names are Moratu Saman, Thoppi Chaminda,, Nawala Nihal, Kalu Ajit, Vambotta, Olcott, Thel Bala, Kimbulaela Guna, Dematagoda Kamal, Colum, Anamalu Imtiaz, Potta Naufer, Neluwa Priyantha, Kudu Lal and the latest to enter Julampitiye Amare.
The Good and Bad of Premadasa
If no human is perfect then no leader is perfect either. In the case of a President there are certainly good times and bad times though no leader can make the entire population happy with the decisions taken.
It is good to wonder how much of the legacy Premadasa had to deal with was of his own making. If we recall the late 1980s and early 1990s it is nothing but bloodshed and gruesome killings with a country torched from North to South. It was Ranjan Wijeratne who took on the task of eliminating the JVP which gave a sigh of relief to the people of the South though many innocent Sinhala youth perished as a result. No human rights organizations cried foul play not even the local NGO bandwagons or their mouthpieces.
It was J R Jayawardena who introduced neo-liberal economy to Sri Lanka which Premadasa continued while also carrying out his own program of bringing the villages to a reasonable level and managed to transform the UNP often described as the party of relatives into what he termed a people oriented party. He deregulated trade, financial services and privatization, he created massive zones of small industries giving employment to women in rural villages through garments, shoes, toys and revived tourism. He had started well over 15,000 small industry-based projects all over the island.
What no leader has been able to match was Premadasa’s passion for precision and his attention given to details. He work up at 4a.m. did his yoga, read the newspapers and would even call his staff and ask for updates and no one could say “later”! – he was behind every project personally monitoring and supervising them and never forgot a single project he started. During Premadasa’s presidency not a single Government office was spared unannounced visits and all offices were clean and staff always on alert not knowing when the President might walk in. After Premadasa, the Government offices have cared little to continue those good practices and most offices function in a don’t care attitude.
Where did Premadasa go wrong. Coming from humble beginnings and working his way up the political ladder it was natural that he would suffer internal complexities which were manipulated by the people he kept around him as his inner circle. However those economic advisors did not want to make real Premadasa’s vision of making the poor richer and instead the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and people started to develop hate for the man they hoped would change their future.
The lessons
A leader is brought down by his advisors and it is no different in the case of President Premadasa which reiterates the need for the present leadership to be wary of those they solicit advice from. It was the rumors the tales and lies fed into the ears of President Premadasa that turned an iconic figure into a demon distancing him from parliamentary colleagues, sane advice by surrounding him with henchmen who turned Premadasa into a dictator killing off all opposition. In a country as small as Sri Lanka once sealed as a dictator it is difficult to remove that name from people’s minds. The poster mania started with the UNP and there was never an empty wall without a picture of Premadasa, the culture of news reflecting only politicians and their daily openings is another factor that has been carried down by successive governments over the years. Street smart, Premadasa definitely was but it takes far more to lead in a world where leaders are led by greater leaders. It is for this reason that leaders need to have intellectuals who love the nation and its sovereignty advising them and certainly not intellectuals ready to hand over the nation to foreigners.
While we cannot forget the manner that President Premadasa stood up against India demanding that the IPKF pack their bags and leave forthwith was overshadowed by the manner he lavished arms to the LTTE which killed countless innocent civilians and troops. We will not forget the lives of 500 innocent policemen who had to give up their arms on instructions of the Premadasa Government and watch each comrade being shot by the LTTE. It is said that President Premadasa had even threatened India that he would abrogate the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement and we wonder why he did not. The public have had enough of threats made to only please the public. It is now time for action.
Premadasa’s tenure of leadership was certainly marked with highs and lows and the manner that people celebrated his death with crackers and fireworks does not project any of the good he did during his 5 years in office as President. It does convey perfectly to all future leaders that people forget the good and will judge only on the bad and this is a lesson that needs to be remembered and not ignored. Leaders who accept this fact with a don’t care attitude are in for greater shocks.
Premadasa led a country in one of the most violent phases of Sri Lanka’s history. His advisors manipulated his paranoia, his weaknesses were tapped turning him into a man hated by the masses. He compared himself with great Dutugemunu and his closest confidant became the second most powerful man in the country but a man whose connections to LTTE terrorism remains to be investigated to understand how terrorism was created in Sri Lanka and why it remains a threat to this day with his connections to the Tamil Nadu “Eelam factor”.
It is often the advisors that build up animosities amongst politicians creating political rivalries. We all remember the animosities that prevailed between Premadasa, Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake and their advisors will know how they played one against the other.
We may also like to remember President Premadasa’s plead of innocence “You can assassinate me…but don’t assassinate my character…” claiming he had nothing to do in the murder of Athulathmudali.
The view of most during Premadasa’s rule was that “you cannot rule a country by killing its people” though he chased out the Indian’s he did nothing about the Provincial Council system and judged the PCs as a means of generating a political base which is the same situation unfolding currently.
We are well aware that regime change is a top priority in the political scene prevalent in Sri Lanka. The strikes, the protests are all part of the ploys being used to test the type of change to be further manipulated. These are all testers before the real plan is set into motion and is meant to test how a government is able to handle situations. Governments do not help the situation by playing footsy with governance by setting different rules of laws to favored people and the malpractices building up over the years end up creating a mass of people unhappy with the type of governance not helped in the least by media which is often anti-government projecting situations far worse than what they are.
Devolving powers is not the answer
It is therefore upto the Government to face the situation realistically without functioning in a state of denial. No regime change operators will touch a country that has its masses behind its Government. This is why attempts are afoot to make the Government and the leadership to be projected as dictatorial and unsuited to lead. The reaction is not to make the situation worse but to take measures to address these properly.
What is evident is that advisors have managed to make Sri Lanka’s leadership think that by devolving powers the war crimes probe will be swept under the carpet. This is nothing but a carrot being dangled to get the President to agree to devolution. Agreeing to devolution is to destroy the sovereignty and unitary status of Sri Lanka and it is a quicker exit for the President from power and will leave him forgotten in history as a man who defeated terrorism but destroyed the nation – and it will be nothing he can ever be proud of. Therefore, it is good for the President to start to move closer to the people for they would never allow the country to ever fall into pieces for any peace that external forces are promising. In a country that has summers and springs we do not need further springs! 
by Shenali Waduge

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Constructing An Anti-Islamic Bridge To America

“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear” – Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays)

The malignant police response to the peaceful vigil organised by the Facebook group, ‘Buddhists Questioning Bodu Bala Sena’ proved one fact beyond doubt – the BBS is a protected species, protected by the Rajapaksas. According to video footage, the police acted as if they were the private army of the BBS, threatening and harassing the participants of the vigil. Clearly the police were under orders to display a zero-tolerance towards these non-violent protestors – just as they were under orders to employ a laissez-faire demeanour towards the mob attacking Fashion Bug.

The BBS will be above the law, so long as it does the Rajapaksas’ work.

The toxic conduct of the BBS can ignite an anti-Muslim Black July, jeopardise Colombo’s relations with the Islamic world and inflict a new war on Sri Lanka. Given these deadly potentialities, the order to protect and facilitate the BBS (and its offshoots) would have had to come from the very top. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa might be the Godfather of the BBS, but he could not have extended consistent patronage to an organisation trying to incite a Buddhist-Muslim conflict without the approval of his brother, the President.

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According to video footage, the police acted as if they were the private army of the BBS

Ethnic overdetermination died with the Tiger. The Siblings need a new (ethno-religious) overdetermination to prevent their Sinhala base from focusing on socio-economic issues (such as the electricity hike which will have a punitive impact on the poor/middle classes while shielding the rich). Fear of an ‘Islamic threat’ can reduce the Sinhala masses into a state of infantile compliance and make them respond to iniquitous economic-shocks with resignation rather than anger.

What about the possible loss of Islamic support, internationally? Perhaps the question should be approached from a different angle. The Rajapaksas need Islamic support because they are having problems with the West on democracy/human rights/accountability issues. If the West discards these concerns and welcomes the Rajapaksas into its fold,Colombowould not need Islamic allies.

Then there is the Magnitsky Act.

Last week, the Obama Administration imposed a travel-cum-asset ban on 12 Russian officials accused of rights violations under the Magnitsky Act. The EU plans to enact its own Magnitsky Act. Imposing generalised sanctions on a country for the crimes of its leaders amounts to collective punishment; it is unjust and ineffective – because the costs are borne not by the leaders but by the people. Laws such as the Magnitsky Act can localise punitive measures to miscreant-leaders/officials and ensure that ordinary people do not have to pay for the sins of their rulers.

Both Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa are US citizens. They cannot but have properties and bank accounts in their adopted country. When President Rajapaksa needs medical help, his preferred option is the US, not China or Russia. The mere thought of the Magnitsky Act being applied against Lankan leaders/officials would thus be a nightmare for all three Siblings. Such a development may take years, but the Rajapaksas would want to take preventive measures early on, given what is at stake for them personally.

The Rajapaksas do not want to become Asian Chavezes. If there is an international model they might want to emulate it is of those Third World despots who were/are welcome in the West, despite innumerable tyrannical deeds.

How to build bridges to the West without abandoning the despotic measures necessary to maintain familial rule – that would be the Rajapaksa Gordian Knot.

One method is image-laundering. Since the Rajapaksa diplomatic and propaganda apparatuses are not up to the task of creating an Orwellian counter-reality, the job is being outsourced to Two American lobbying firms: the Majority Group and the Thompson Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG had only one reported client in 2012; its annual reported income was a measly US$ 80,000[i];Sri Lanka will pay this nonentity US$ 66,600 per month! The Majority Group seems so tiny that it does not have to disclose its lobbying details (firms with an annual income less than US$ 10,000 are exempt);Sri Lanka will pay this firm US$ 50,000 per month!

The urgent Rajapaksa need to mend fences with Washington might also explain another curious development: the BBS’s sudden American visit.

The BBS’s interest in sprucing-up its image is understandable. But why commence that image-remaking effort in theUS, a country with a Christian-majority, the home base of Evangelical churches the BBS loves to hate?

The BBS in America

The Rajapaksas continue to target their opponents/critics; the Uthayan paper was attacked, again, and the Sirisa TV was threatened, again. They have no intention of implementing the democratising recommendations of their own LLRC. They seem to be intent on either postponing the Northern provincial election or winning it by force.

They want to do all this without jeopardising the Commonwealth Summit. And they must escape the Magnitsky Act.

During the Cold War decades, the adoption of neo-liberal economics and anti-left politics sufficed for anyThird Worlddespot to become the darling of the West. Currently, a country which is anti-democratic can win Western favour only if it is seen as a target of ‘Islamic terrorism’.

Immediately after the horrendous Bostonbombing, a website notorious for rightwing insanities carried an article[ii] which blamed an Iran-Al Qaeda combine and mentioned Sri Lanka as a conduit state. According to the article’s unnamed source, Iran’s Quds Forces are collaborating with “Hezbollah and elements of al-Qaida with links to individuals in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He said that under Quds Force guidance, Hezbollah recruited Sunni terrorists allied with al-Qaida factions in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh who then entered the US for terrorist activities”[iii].

Given the schisms within Islam (which cause far more murderous violence than anti-Americanism), a nexus between the Shia Iran/Hezbollah and the Sunni Al Qaeda is as impossible as Mahayanism being welcomed inSri Lankaby the BBS. But this is the sort of insane conspiracy theory which is beloved by fanatics of every religion.

And such myths are used to justify the targeting of ethnic/religious/racial ‘Other’ as the anti-Semites did with the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ hoax.

One can easily imagine a meeting of minds between the purveyors of such delusions in the US and their saffron-robed Lankan counterparts.

The Obama administration does not subscribe to the myth of an anti-Islam civilisational conflict, but a future Republican administration (fortunately an unlikely possibility) might. Islamophobia is a powerful politico-ideological current within the Republican Party. Republican Islamophobes believe that “Islamic Sharia Law is creeping into American courts; the Department of Justice has come under the sway of the Muslim Brotherhood; and the President’s engagement ring includes secret writing that indicates Muslim loyalties…. in August delegates at the Republican National Convention voted to include a plank in their platform affirming their opposition to Sharia law” (Mother Jones – 3.1.2013). The Republican Party therefore would be far more receptive to Rajapaksa overtures, if the Siblings can portray themselves as warriors battling the ‘Islamic Threat’.

Is this the message the BBS is expected to convey to the Republican right, at the grassroots level, during its American sojourn?[iv]


[i] http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmsum.php?id=D000057582&year=2012

[ii] The author of the article is Reza Kahlili, a self proclaimed CIA spy who in 2010 claimed that Iran “will attack Israel, European capitals, and the Persian Gulf region at the same time, then they will hide in a bunker (until a religious prophesy is fulfilled)…and kill the rest of the non-believers” (Washhington Post – 7.12.2010).Iran manifestly did not.

[iii] http://www.wnd.com/2013/04/u-s-was-warned-of-terror-attacks/ The World Net Daily is an ultra-right website infamous for its promotion of such delusions as the ‘Birther story’.

[iv] The BBS monks may have been deployed at least once previously on an unofficial diplomatic mission. Sometime in 2011, Rev. Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero led a delegation to Norway. According to the CEO of the BBS, a purpose of the visit was to meet some of the hardline Tamil Diaspora groups. Why should Rev. Gnanasara et al, who relentlessly attack Tamil moderates, go all the way to Norway to meet pro-Tiger Tamils?

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