03 January 2012

Accountability, reconciliation and community

There are two words that certain people are fascinated with: accountability and reconciliation.  They are so fixated - possible out of a bad dose of ‘Sour Grapes’, exacerbated with undisguised hatred – that they conflate the two or, in the very least, consider the former as part of latter.  Interestingly their venomous discharges are marked by a conspicuous reluctance to indulge in self-reflection.  Neither do they take issue with many crimes of omission and commission on the part of the LTTE, their backers and themselves. 
Kumar David, a man who unabashedly wished for a terrorist victory over the Government Security Forces, for example, feels duty-bound to treat Tiger-claim as fact.  As a result he has to treat any objection to exaggerated claims and unsubstantiated allegation as ‘defence of the indefensible’.  He was referring to my objections to wild claims made by Channel 4 and a motley bunch of intellectually dishonest operators calling themselves ‘International Crisis Group’ in a recent article in the Sunday Island.  I always knew that Kumar doesn’t have a leg to stand on; this piece demonstrated that he is visually handicapped too. He was commenting on a panel discussion in New York (which I participated in via Skype) and proved that he hadn’t been watching or listening.  Poor man. 
Kumar David is one of those eternally displaced Marxists, searching for relevance-straw to cling to, so desperate that he sees saviour in terrorists of all hue and tag, so rabidly anti Sinhala and anti-Buddhist that he will break bread with anyone and everyone who is wont to cast similar slur.  And he will say that it is the ‘correct position for a Marxist to take’.  I pity him. 
What is more important in this business (yes, bucks are involved) of calling for reconciliation and accountability is the deliberate ‘absenting’ of the Tamil offender, i.e. those who killed, maimed, abducted, destroyed, exploded bombs and offered moral and material support to these acts by glorifying, providing money, safe-houses and character-laundry services etc., and remaining silent. 
Dayan Jayatilleka (‘TNA and LLRC’ in ‘The Island’ of December 28, 2011) provides an excellent analysis of this strange footnoting or indeed non-noting.  It’s worth a long quote: ‘The call for an international investigation into the last stages of the war by anyone —such the bulk of the Tamil Diaspora, Tamil civil society and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA)—who did not and still does not condemn the LTTE’s crimes and atrocities, internal executions and secret prisons, child soldiers and fratricidal murders, terrorism and totalitarianism, is as if most of German society did not criticise the Nazis and Auschwitz even after WW 2 ended, and called instead for an international inquiry into the fire-bombing of Dresden by the Allies!’
The TNA, hampered by internal quarrels, appears to be seeking unifying gel in doing what their former task-master, Velupillai Prabhakaran did: play the spoiler.  They are threatening to scuttle discussions if ‘land’ and ‘police’ are not tabled, so to speak.  First of all, a non-territorial problem cannot have a territory-based solution and asking for control over a third of the island and half the coast for less than 6% of the population borders on the insane.  Good for third-rate politicking, nothing else.  More importantly, as Dayan points out, boo-hooing about the inadequacies of the LLRC won’t bring tears to many eyes because the TNA has consistently refused to engage in a self-audit of its own.   

Dayan has a proposal: ‘I strongly urge that the best educated, credentialed and knowledgeable members of Tamil civil society be asked to undertake such an audit. I would think that Prof Ratnajeevan Hoole would be the best to head such an exercise. Others could include P Rajanayagam, S Chandrahasan, Ahilan Kadirgamar, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Nirmala Rajasingham, DBS Jeyaraj and Mutukrishna Sarvanandan among others.’
If the likes of Saravanamuttu are considered ‘educated, credentialed and knowledgeable’, then the Tamil community is poor indeed, given that man’s penchant for number-fudging, issue-dodging and hobnobbing with men and women with questionable integrity, especially with respect to what the LTTE did and did not do.  I do not share Dayan Jayatilleke’s admiration for Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Church (his religious/ecclesiastical preferences are clearly implied in a reference to both in the same article), but he does have a point. 
We are not going anywhere with the kinds of reconciliation that the West wants us to have if ANY OF THE MANY PARTIES are not ready to engage in self-reflection of the kind Dayan proposes, at least on the lines of the LLRC.  Except for nauseating tokenism about the LTTE having been guilty of violence, the Tamil community has been largely mum about its own culpability. Many cheered, many looked the other way and many were direct or indirect lackeys.  The TNA is yet to come clean on its reprehensible mouth-piece role when the Tigers were riding high.  This is where the TNA’s democracy-need falls flat.  If the TNA cannot reconcile with itself and its crimes of omission and commission, it does not have the moral right to demand anything from anyone, least of all accountability and reconciliation.

The TNA has called for ‘peaceful protests’ demanding devolution along with land and police rights.  I suppose this would boost its political fortunes among certain sections of the Tamil community, but it would make more difficult any reconciliation for the simple reason that it would be silly for anyone to ‘reconcile’ with communalists, especially those whose arguments are not supported by history, geography and demography.  Worse still is that it postpones and distracts from the larger and more important exercise of discussing and reaching agreement on constitutional amendments to correct citizenship anomalies and strengthen democracy. 
A key word left out of the discussion has been pointed out by ‘Gara Yaka’ who writes the YAKHANDA column: community.  You can’t have accountability and reconciliation without community.  This constitution and this economic system rebel against the collective.  Talking rot, like David does, celebrating that which is hardly worthy of celebration (like Dayan does) and wearing pout to further personal political agenda cannot help either. 

[Published in 'The Nation', January 1, 2012]
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14 comments:

beautiful sunshine said...
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Malinda Seneviratne said...

they don't....so relax...

beautiful sunshine said...
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Malinda Seneviratne said...

sure. and i can tell you a lot about a lot of anti-sinhala, anti-buddhist people and what their geographical, ideological and political addresses are. :)

beautiful sunshine said...
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beautiful sunshine said...
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Malinda Seneviratne said...

that's YOUR interpretation. i did not conflate. since you wanted to give some unsolicited advice, i thought i'd give some too. the multi-religious-multi-ethnic stuff, frankly, is boring. it's old and makes no sense since there are no mono-ethnic, mono-religious states anywhere in the world any more. but if you want to talk ownership, then you got to talk about who and who and who did what and what and what, who and who and who destroyed what and what and what. when non-buddhists, non-sinhalese don't want to talk that history, it is pretty suspicious. as for influence and influential...hardly!

beautiful sunshine said...
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Malinda Seneviratne said...

never said it didn't belong to any citizen. it was YOU who brought up this sinhala-buddhist stuff. if you have a hang up about not being a buddhist or a sinhalese that's your problem; so too if you have a problem about sinhalese and buddhists. but if you want to indulge in one-ethnicity:one-vote and one-religion:one-vote kind of rhetoric, that's obfuscation that is thick with the modus operandi of anti-sinhala, anti-buddhist oprators. wear the hat if you like.

beautiful sunshine said...
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Malinda Seneviratne said...

you got a wild imagination if you think you can touch non-existent sore-sports. and absurdity of argument...that's your view. uththarath naththam, mata nam hithanne kata uththara nehe kiyalai. you too...have a nice day. :)

beautiful sunshine said...
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Anonymous said...

"... the deliberate ‘absenting’ of the Tamil offender ..."

The phrase "both sides" IS extensively used these days, so it's not literally "absenting".

There is only one side left however, except the likes of Karuna, KP, Pillayan and Adele Balasingham. The first three in that list are no longer beloved by the LTTE sympathizers, rather they would love to see the trio punished. Therefore, "find the culprits from both sides" is effective almost entirely towards those in the SL government and armed forces.

I think articles like this should highlight these points a bit more:

1. Waiting until demise of LTTE to bring this whole "accountability" issue up.

2. Ineffectiveness of the seemingly neutral phrase "both sides"

3. The lack of calls for accountability during when the LTTE was alive when "both sides" did exist to be punished, especially by those who endorsed the CFA and advocated a "forgive and forget" approach for reconciliation.

Anonymous said...

The author very clearly articulates the irrelevance of devolving land/police powers as "non-territorial problem cannot have a territory-based solution".

There is, however, another important point which I think is is less highlighted these days.

The word "Tamil", along with "Sinhala", is loosely used to mean ethnicity, culture and language, hence the confusion, deliberate in this context.

Problems that are faced only by "Tamils" are mostly to do with the language, like having to get something done at a police station in a predominantly Sinhala spoken area. But the same problems are present not only for the Muslims who speak only Tamil language, but also for those who know only English.

So it is a language problem which is wrongly portrayed as an ethnic problem, simply because "Tamil" is a language as well as an ethnic label.

Also, "Tamil problems" can indeed be territorial if they live predominantly in a particular geography, like Tamil Nadu in India where such problems exclusively affect Tamil Nadu. Therefore I think it is important to highlight that a majority of ethnic Tamils live outside North and East, which makes any power devolution based on North-East-Tamil argument irrelevant, and that those problems are indeed non-territorial.

Thanks for the nicely written articles!