09 December 2016

The management of insecurities

Dayan Jayatilleka has made some pertinent points regarding conflict resolution and the seemingly vexed issue of Tamil grievances/aspirations and relief sought in an article titled ‘Constitution-making and the North-South political cycle’.  

I have an issue withe the term ‘North-South’ so let me first get it out of the way.  It is a ‘break’ that has been used frequently enough to give it legitimate political currency.  Erroneous, however.  It has come to the point of ‘goes without saying’ which automatically assumes ‘came without saying’ and therefore pushed deliberately.  What does ‘North’ taken for and what is ‘South’?  They have acquired proxy status for Tamil and Sinhala respectively and imply, following the geographical reference, a land that is divided by a line moving from West to East where the ‘North’ is of (and a legitimate claim of) Tamils and the South of the Sinhalese.  

A geographical '50-50’ by way of the easy fracture 'North-South' is a gross distortion of historical and demographic realities.  Language, needless to say, is not innocent.  

With that out of the way, let’s consider the implications of Dayan’s more serious and more legitimate contentions.    

“Even today, there is no Tamil progressive or moderate tendency in or outside Sri Lanka that is willing to denounce the LTTE, Prabhakaran and Tamil Eelam openly.   Tamil politics has remained self-referential and pan-Tamil in character. Tamil nationalism is psychologically separatist even when it isn’t politically separatist.”

The above claim is followed by an expression of disappointment regarding the lack of interest on the part of Tamil politicians to forge a bloc with ‘Southern’ progressives.

Theoretically, a Tamil chauvinist or even nationalist retort could take the following form: ‘Sinhala politics has remained self-referential in character. Sinhala nationalism is psychologically unitary-fixated even when it talks devolution.”  It follows that a Tamil version of Dayan’s lament regarding ‘Progressives’ is also possible, although that would still leave us without an answer to the question ‘What is progressive?’  

Even if we were to put aside the strong objections based on history, geography, demography and doability to the Tamil separatist project and all devolution proposals that do not take issue with current political boundaries for their arbitrariness, their implicit subversion of separatist claims, the very existence of positions as detailed above gives credence to Dayan’s claims about things intractable and therefore the necessity of ‘management’.  

This is why I am in agreement with the first part of Dayan’s vision expressed as follows: ‘Sri Lanka could (should?) draw up a New Social Contract in which national minorities are integrated on the basis of equal citizenship and non-discrimination while assured of a reasonable sufficiency of autonomy through the devolution of power within a Unitary State.’  The reservations about the second part (regarding devolution) is principally on the issue of boundaries and economic logic of the same.  As mentioned above and as stated by President Maithripala Sirisena the current boundaries upon which the separatist map has been crafted, with quite some stretching on the Western coast were arbitrarily drawn by the British.  Secondly, given the reality that close to half the Tamil population live outside the so-called ‘Traditional Homelands’, devolution cannot assume to resolve any ‘Tamil issue’ in and of itself.  

Power-devolution is theoretically a democratizing proposition, but in Sri Lanka’s context, given the intractabilities mentioned above, it is a non-starter or, as the 13th Amendment proved, guaranteed to trigger bloodbaths and generate further complications, primarily because the foundational logic is flawed and therefore the edifice is necessarily weak.  

A different kind of devolution might make sense, for example one where the entire provincial boundaries are re-drawn in a way that makes sense in terms of geographical realities and takes into account current resource anomalies among the existing provinces, but again that’s not even an element that anyone is willing to entertain, leave alone discuss.  

This brings us back to ‘integration on the basis of equal citizenship and non-discrimination’.  That is a tough cat-belling, so to speak, but right now it’s the only logical starting point.  It would be about guarantees.  It would have to take into account the issue of religion and the ‘special place for Buddhism’.  Not easy since histories count, historicities count and these things have eminent toy-value for extremists and real, on-the-ground relevance.  

For example, would the removal of the tokenist privileging of Buddhism in the Constitution accompany an erasure of customary laws that are relevant to Islam and those relevant to Tamils who can cite the Thesawalami Laws?  Would we discuss the pruning of customary ‘Buddhist holidays’ from four to three (the sathara poya to pun-poya) and the privileging of Christian holidays (Sundays — 52 of them)?  

It is not easy, but it is a discussion that has to take place simply because resolution is for the most part about managing and balancing insecurities, whether or not they are legitimate.  That’s where the audit must begin and not with rhetoric.  And that’s exactly what has not happened.  This is why solutions (like the 13th) fail(ed).  The true dimensions, in other words, of all the relevant issues have been ignored.  There are no mechanisms proposed to ascertain these.  Small wonder that the entire reconciliation exercise is floundering.  In the absence or rather the improbability of magnanimity by all (and not some) the players in the story. 

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer.  Email: malindasenevi@gmail.com.  Twitter: malindasene


Ananda Ariyarathne said...

It looks more like an opportunity for some 'Legal Eagles' to show their prowess in Constitution related matters.We citizens are taken for granted as some fool. It is pathetic to note that those self appointed saviours of people do not know how, we Sri Lankans came to this level.

What they are trying to do is not to find answers to what the people need exactly. Is it only because of the weaknesses in the constitution, the Tamil people were made to suffer ? Was it really the Sinhalese people who harassed Tamil people ?

Tamil separatism was tried in India, as far back as 1920s. Their aspiration was justifiable as during that time, they wanted to do that in the very same land where the Grate Tamil Civilisation started.Tamil Nadu had all the qualifications for that.

Sri Lanka was an Island for over at least fifteen thousand years before now.The people who populated Sri Lankan Island came in long before, it became an island.( It was with the melting of the Ice caps' in the last Ice Age, when the sea level rose, Adam's Bridge got submerged.

It is true that there are Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka, who were influenced by the Tamil Culture.It was due to invasions from time to time.They are the same people who became the base for Sinhala people.Biologically same people, now divided by a language and a Culture but the same people.There is no problem for both cultures to exists here.

The so-called saviours should have looked for ways to stabilise that by enacting Laws to protect that harmonious living. Not by creating 'Divisions'. The 'division' itself shows that it is separation.In order to look more honourable they have resorted to show that even the other regions get the same treatment.It is a case of giving bridges where there no rivers to cross.

This is a solution wanted by others who want to carve out an area which can become the ideal place to start a country.There is nothing wrong any people having their own country. But why not in Tamil Nadu where the Great Civilisation started and flourished.Why export it to another country.What Sri Lanka needs will be very strong Laws to prevent Hate Mongering.Now, what rights do not the Tamil people have compared to what Sinhalese have ? A Tamil can buy land start business in any part of the island. Can a Sinhalese do that ?So, actually, the Tamil people have more rights. as it is.If all the people have guaranteed peace and access to justice and have open opportunities, what else do we need.Learn from the mistakes.

The intensions are very clear.For Sinhalese people, it is a commitment to have conciliatory efforts.For Tamils( Not the Tamil people) the crooked schemers who have commandeered the Tamil people, it is division.

How can there be reconciliation in an environment, where such discriminatory and dishonest action can be seen ? It is big farce.

The only person who can save this Nation from disaster is H.E.The President himself. he must know his strength and exercise it in a fair manner. People did not like Mahinda Administration.If the President can think about what kind of dangers are there in this kind of of a reckless experiment, he should ensure that the right kinds of measures are ensured so that, the plans of the International Tamil Schemers a re trying to do to our country.Let there be equality in all spheres.Let there be laws to prevent any kind of Extremism. Let there be a fair Police Department to prevent crime. All those will ensure Rule of Law. It is not a case of counting votes.It is a case of wisdom that cannot be pulled back if missed.

Well this is not such a topic we can cover in a sentence or few sentences.