29 September 2022

Fruit forbidden to liberals


One of the most thorny problems for self-styled liberals in Sri Lanka is that they use the liberal label as though it’s some kind of impenetrable shield, hiding behind which they take on specific enemies in accordance with preferred outcomes. Scratch them and you find some grotesque creatures.

You would find colonial remnants, elitists who anything said or written in any language other than English has to be inferior, religious zealots rabidly anti-Buddhist, ardent lovers of much discredited neoliberal economic policies and echoers of Washington-speak who swear by Reuters, BBC, AP etc. They would swoon if Julie Chung said ‘hi machang’ and probably lamented the death of Elizabeth, a woman who benefited from and was the unmistakable symbol of genocide, ethnic cleansing and outright plunder. Then of course there are the wannabes with chips on their shoulders who mimic Colombots, Candlelight Ladies, Funded Voices, Rent-a-Protest Agitators in the mistaken belief it will get them automatic citizenship in Kolombia.  

The positions taken (or not taken) on a wide range of issues mark them and indeed question their liberal credentials. Nothing dissolves the liberal shield, however, as the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.

The Committee for Muslim Law Reforms (CMLR) has proposed that the polygamy law applicable to Muslim be retained albeit with minor adjustments but nevertheless reaffirming inequality before the law and celebrating the subjugation of Muslim women. That’s a double whammy for liberals. We’ll get to that soon.
CMLR Chairman Shabry Haleemdeen is reported to have said, ‘We are deliberating on polygamy since it is a sensitive issue for the Muslim community, for the reason that it is derived from the Quran. It is a religious tenet and people take it very seriously.’

Now, if you really want to take the Quran seriously and use the sensitivity caveat, all manner of atrocities against non-believers would have to be sanctioned (the same with certain tenets of the Bible of course).

Haleemdeen makes much of allowing brides to sign the marriage registration form. Cheers! Well, trivial, really. Let’s get to the more serious stuff. Haleemdeen’s apologies are hilarious. Apparently permission from a ‘Conciliator’ would have to be obtained when a Muslim man wishes to marry again (and again). If the MMDA remains with CMLR recommendations incorporated, some researcher studying patriarchy, discrimination etc., is likely to exclaim, ‘all conciliators happen to be men, oh wow!’ That’s going by how these ‘sensitive issues of the Muslim community’ have played out over time. Let’s put that aside.

The conciliator, Haleemdeen says, ‘will have to mainly consider the equal treatment of the wives, financially, physically, and mentally.’ I suppose financial issues could, in part, be sorted with assets being legally divided between the first and second wives. However, the principle of equality would be wrecked if the man takes a third or fourth wife. In any case, how on earth can anyone ensure ‘equal physical and mental treatment’ of all wives prior to the second or subsequent marriage? The CMLR also insists, ‘the person who is proposing to marry again should have sufficient financial means to support all their wives and children.’ Polygamy for the rich, then? 

Haleemdeen says that a Muslim man wanting a second marriage should have a compelling reason, for example, if the first wife has a terminal illness or an incurable disease or cannot perform in bed (who judges that, though?). Let’s flip it. What if a Muslim man is impotent? What if a Muslim man is terminally ill or has some incurable disease? Why shouldn’t the same principle be applied? What does Haleemdeen and the CMLR have to say? What do liberals have to say? What do feminists have to say? Why aren’t they going for Haleemdeen’s jugular? Why aren’t they launching a protest? #CMLRgetlost, anyone? Haleemdeen hasn’t uttered a word about divorce. That's also interesting given that the MMDA renders the bride vulnerable vis-a-vis the bridegroom from Day One.
It boils down to a couple of things. First, men from one community enjoys polygamy while men of other communities end up in jail for the same act. Secondly, it is sexist. Liberals who just cannot stand Article 9 of the Constitution (never mind its negation by Articles 10 and 14) and rant and rave about separating religion from the state, are silent on all this. Why?

Haleemdeen is a sham artist, one has to conclude. The CMLR is a sham show. Liberals who are silent on the MMDA and the CMLR recommendations are ostriches and need to wave a banner with the following legend, ‘#I-left. And shut up thereafter.

Enough. Consider the following. On February 19, 2020, i.e. days before Parliament was dissolved and probably in full cognizance of impending General Elections, a report was released by ‘The Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security,’ appointed following the Easter Sunday attacks almost a year before.

This report contained recommendations on the following areas: 1. Education, 2. Banning face coverings which hinder identification, 3. National Defence Policy, 4. Amending the Immigration and Emigration Law in line with new developments, national and international, 5. Electronic, print and social media, 6. Amending the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Law, 7. Empowering Muslim civil society, 8. Empowerment and legalization of the NGO Secretariat, 9. Amendment of the Wakf Act, 10. Suspension of registration of political parties on ethnic and religious basis, 11. Issuing birth certificates with Sri Lankan Identity Number, 12. Establishment of a ministry of religious affairs that combines all religions, 13. Building and maintaining Dhamma schools and religious centers to ensure inter-religious cohabitation, and 14. Halal certification process.

Now this is as comprehensive a report as we’ve seen on a number of key and interrelated issues. The most important recommendations are related to Muslim marriages and divorces that require amendment of Acts Nos. l3 of l951, 31 of 1954, 22 of 1955, 1 of 1965, 5 of 1965, 32 of 1969,  and Law No. 41 of 1975. These correct the horrendous gender inequalities in that community with respect to marriages and divorce.  

But why even bother amending the MMDA, my liberal friends? Shouldn’t the principle of equality supersede customary law? Indeed, shouldn’t you be pushing for the repeal of all such parochial pieces of legislation? But they nothing but Religious Freedom Nazis who have a bone to pick with certain religions (but not their own) and/or whose faiths have no history or numbers of the faithful of any significance (which is why, ‘equality of the ‘one-religion, one-vote’ kind is advocated even though in countries where THOSE religious communities are the majority, such generosity is hardly seen). That’s their problem. It’s a quintessential Sri Lankan ‘liberal’ dilemma. A disease and a curse, one might add.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance columnist who can be reached at malindadocs@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com

Constants: tired, boring, obnoxious and laudable

Sri Lanka is a resilient nation. That’s almost a given. A constant. All talk of peace, human rights, democracy, good governance, reparations  and other such goodies emanating from Washington, London and other empiric capitals are disingenuous and laughable. Constant. Meddling, self-righteous and downright obnoxious North American and European diplomats: well, almost par for the course, with the US and UK specimens ensuring an above average score on such attributes.

Sessions of the UNHRC. The USA and others in the global thugs club bad-mouthing Sri Lanka while Russia and China lauding the restraint shown in dealing with brigands, highway robbers, arsonist and murderers operating under the, yes, legitimate banner of agitation. Yes, the kind of restraint that the USA never exercised when dealing with protests and not just the Capitol Hill theatrics of Trumpites. Constants, all.

And India! The country that reneged on the very agreement her leaders penned and stuffed down a pliant, unimaginative and clueless J R Jayewardene demanded that Sri Lanka implement in full the illegal 13th Amendment. This is what the Indian delegate told the UNHRC: ‘India seeks full implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, delegation of powers to Provincial Councils and holding of Provincial Council elections at the earliest.’ No one, not even the diehard federalists and separatists either operating as pawns of India and the rogue nations of North America and Western Europe or are downright communalists have uttered one word calling for PC elections. Not a word about democracy being challenged by elections not being held. And yet, India wants Sri Lanka to inhabit India’s version of Sri Lankan reality. Constant.

To nutshell-capture, North America, Western Europe and India closed ranks against Sri Lanka while Russia and China, despite being snubbed no end by leaders without backbone defended Sri Lanka resolutely. Constants.   

We could add to that Colombots, Candle-light Ladies, Rent-a-Protest Agitators, Funded Voices and other Kolombian sects. They’ll cheer most things that carry a Western/White token. They’ll wax eloquent about colonial rule, praising ‘accomplishments’ such as  roads and railways, never mind that these were the yield of taxes paid and labor provided by Sri Lankans. They mourn the death of a woman who was the beneficiary and symbol of genocide and plunder. Constant.

So why bother talking about such things, one may ask. Well, certain things need to be reiterated and placed on record simply because we can forget to remember history. Simply because we can be fooled by sweet-talk. Simply because true citizenship requires us to observe, understand, share and agitate, one way or another.   

A single example would do, actually. A two syllable name, actually. China. Now we know that China, a country which along with Japan owns US and Western European debt, is the No 1 target for Washington’s spin doctors. In fact US foreign policy in 2022 seems to be framed by a desperate need to vilify that country. So it should not come as a surprise that an outfit outrageously named Freedom House (it is primarily funded by USAID and the US State Department!) has ‘found’ that ‘Pro-Beijing influencers have increased their activities in the social media space—particularly their outreach to younger Sri Lankans—and new agreements with elites, including in the think tank space, have shaped conversations in the media.’

This is not outrageous, it is hilarious.  When have US influencers ever held back their activities, in social and mainstream media? Washington, directly (through the Embassy) and indirectly through the latest avatar of the CIA, the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has its proverbial fingers thick in the Sri Lankan media space. Verite Research and Advocata, if they are honest, can do some insightful research on the subject.

When have US influencers ever neglected younger Sri Lankans (and young people in other countries similarly targeted)? Just the other day Julie Chang, now quite adept at putting her feet in her mouth, confusing ‘danger’ with ‘dangerous’ when tweeting about peacocks, was bragging about young people in the strangely named ‘American Corner Matara.’ What Canada, Central America and South America would have to say about pernicious appropriation of the proper noun ‘America’ we do not know, but while it is bullish to mark territory in that manner, it is not the case that US influencers have limited operations to getting a foothold in the Southern Province. They are as thick as thieves with think tanks, politicians, so-called civil society organizations and media personnel, especially outfits and individuals who believe they are at the epicenter of social change in Sri Lanka. Social change, mind you, is but an easy proxy for ‘change sought by US paymasters.’

Freedom House (sic) is upset by China’s alleged close ties with elites. I suppose they believe the US gives local elites a wide berth. They whine about ‘aggressive diplomatic push on social media.’  Maybe they’ve not heard of Julie Chang and the local foot soldiers hired to do US propaganda. They are also worried about China Radio International reaching out to Sri Lankan audiences in Sinhala. Well, all it means is that the Chinese, if not less vile than the USA, are way smarter. Anyway, it is not that the US has no footprint in Sinhala media or no social  media operatives either engaged in China-bashing or genuflecting before Uncle Sam. In Sinhala.  

There’s more of course, but it’s all about the US being annoyed that China has cut in on their action. George Carlin, the US comedian once said that wars are mostly about white people killing brown people and the only reason that white nations fought Hitler (a white man who killed white people) was that he had cut in on their action. Same same.

And when Samantha Power, currently attached to USAID, says ‘USA wants countries to be independent, she’s being comic beyond belief. How many countries does the USA have military bases in, Samantha? How many countries have the USA invaded over the last two centuries, or let’s say the last two decades? How many proxy wars has the USA funded? How many terrorists has the US supplied arms to, do you know? How many elections in how many countries has the USA interfered in? How about arm-twisting in multilateral agencies? How about the operations of the CIA and more recently, the NED? And you want countries to be independent? Well, lady, it’s simple. Just leave the room.

All this, pretty consistent with the way the world has been for decades. One difference. The USA is jittery. Now that’s a good sign, not just for Sri Lanka but the entire world. And India, if it wants to do better than the USA, would do well to learn. Things pass. Regimes change. Thugs are ousted. World powers of other eras have been brought to their feet. Such things happen.

Sri Lanka is resilient. That's a constant that's not boring. It gives us hope.

[Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be contacted at malindadocs@gmail.com]

02 September 2022

The uncommon touch at ‘The Commons’



On the face of it the name of the small, cosy and friendly restaurant on Ernest De Silva Mawatha, Colombo 7, sounds pretentious. ‘The Commons’ after all refers to ‘land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.’ The restaurant is not common property. The onus, one would think, is on the owners to ensure ‘belonging.’

That’s about good service, mostly.

Now I’ve not bothered about the labels for I’ve dabbled enough in the advertising industry to know what’s what and what’s not. I’m old enough to focus on substance and leave it at that.  For example, Sooriya Village, formerly a restaurant which was ‘surrounded’ by a practice studio, recording studio, bookshop, hangout place for anyone in any of the arts and a location for interviews, weddings, book launches etc., was not a ‘village.’ There was sun but not always, and anyway shade was what I preferred. There was warmth and like any village, there was a sense of belonging amidst multiple ways of differentiation.

The Commons. That’s what this is about. I’ve been here hundreds of times, literally. Sometimes I’ve ordered a coffee, sometimes food. Sometimes it’s been, much like Sooriya Village, an office of sorts. People meet me here. I ask them to come. Most days though, I just sit somewhere and write. Always received with a smile. No questions asked, except if I wanted some water. Indeed, sometimes, the water is served even without the question.

You could put it all down to familiarity and general Sri Lankan hospitality. After all, I’ve not surveyed others who sit here and hardly ever order anything.

This morning, Thursday January 14, in a Covid-19 encumbered world, I realized that it was not just about familiarity. Here’s my story.

I walked in. My way was partially blocked by what I thought was a television crew.

‘Are you shooting a film?’ That’s what I asked.

‘No, it’s a shoot,’ I was told.

So I went to the open space at the back of the restaurant, sat down as I often did, opened my laptop and started to type.

The ‘crew’ moved to where I was. A camera on a tripod and a photographer. A young man was seated at the table. A young woman appeared to be arranging things. Food was served to a nicely laid table. I realized they were photographing the food.

'Are you going to shoot the entire menu?’ I asked.

They smiled and affirmed it was so.

‘He won’t be able to eat all the food — you might as well give me some!’ I said in jest.

They shot. I wrote. A few minutes later, the owner, the legendary Harpo, arrived. He saw me and greeted me with that inimitable smile of his, brought his hands together a la Covid-19-induced greeting protocols and said ‘hi.’

I responded and repeated my observation: ‘if they are going to photograph the entire menu, you could distribute the food among all of us.’

In jest. Didn’t think twice about it. Went back to my work.

Fifteen minutes later, Prasanna, one of the waiters, came up to me with a platter of wraps. Cheesy eggs and bacon tortilla wraps with some dip that I couldn’t identify. Prasanna didn’t know that I didn’t eat meat. There was a hint of dismay in his eyes so I said ‘I will remove the bacon and eat the rest.’ I avoid eggs too, but I indulged. Great stuff. Lunch, for me. On the house.

I didn’t need that to feel at home. I’ve always felt at home. I don’t own ‘The Commons’ but I was always convinced I belonged here or rather that it belongs to me. Everyone, from the security guards Kingsley and Sudakaran, to the waiters (the long-standing ones and the students doing internships or side-jobs), the managers and Harpo himself never once said or did anything to make me doubt this.

I don’t recall having seen Pravin Jayasundere, a student at Law College who has been doing photo-shoots on the side for a few months now, and Rajeev Coltan, the ‘model,’ at ‘The Commons.’ I don’t know what they feel or how they’ll ‘see’ this place if they became visitors as regular as I have become. I don’t know if they’ll secure common ownership, so to speak. I don’t know if they’ll feel as ‘belonged.’

I can’t speak for others. This is my place, and I don’t mind others owning it, Harpo included. It’s common property in the middle of a high-end residential area of Colombo. Pretty uncommon.

01 September 2022

Julie Chung and fire hoses of falsehoods

US Ambassador Julie Chung was spot on. A few days ago, she pointed out, correctly, that ‘fake news - and fake tweets - are a real problem.’ She urged one and all, ‘don’t be misled.’ This particular tweet, apparently, was a response of sorts to ‘fake tweets mimicking [her] account’ which ‘have been spreading on social media.’

Indeed, I’ve seen some ‘Julie Chung tweets’ which, at first glance, aren’t exactly out of sync with the tone and substance of Her Excellency’s utterances — they are as hilarious, condescending and ill-informed — which perhaps, if we take her word for it, are fake. In these dismal times some light humour is not misplaced of course. Satire, as she knows, is legit. It’s good that she has alerted the general public who could be, in her words, misled. The lady, however, might want to review her overall operational thrust in Sri Lankan affairs, tweets and other statements included. Just to be sure that clever mimickers cannot make an already pathetic public image even worse.

But. She got it right. Fake news (and news) and indeed fake anything can be a real problem. The rise of social media, for all the communicative benefits, has its own pitfalls, especially considering that those who run the platforms are not politically neutral and those who use it can get away with murder. Ms Chung should know, after all, her government, through the National Endowment of Democracy (NED) and other lovely-sounding-but-nefarious outfits have been funding all kinds of people and organizations with dubious histories for several years now. Sri Lanka had her fill of fake-news/tweets traceable to such people, consequently, especially during the aragalaya.

[Interestingly, those who seem to be even more upset than Chung about her being parodied in social media (yes, those fake tweets she refers to) uttered not a word of objection about deliberate efforts to mislead people. Maybe, for them, and by extension, Chung, such activity was never a problem but in fact a solution to a problem they were taxing their brains over. Yes, one is reminded of sauces, geese and ganders.]

But. She got it right. Fake anything is a problem. And it’s not something that started happening just the other day. Any half-way decent study into the antecedents of what is supposed to be the origins of European (or white) civilisation would yield rich, sophisticated and thriving black culture, science and social organisation. Jesus Christ was not a blond haired, blue-eyed white man. He was black (Source: the Bible, no less). He was not born on December 25th either. A lot of Christian symbols and iconography are borrowed from what are called pagan religions.

But. She got it right. It’s not just a long ago thing, but something that’s evident in remembered, recorded and verified history. It’s evident in a not-long-ago, in the yesterday and today of human affairs, political and otherwise, not excluding the machinations of the corporate sector and self-styled aragalists.

Joe Biden, her President, put it well: ‘There is no subject off-limits to this fire hose of falsehoods.  Everything from human rights and environmental policy to assassinations and civilian-killing bombing campaigns are fair targets.’ Of course he was targeting Russia, but when it comes to firehoses and falsehoods the USA would be tough to beat. Chung and Biden ought to know.

Way back in 2010, Thomas L Carson wrote an essay titled ‘Lying and Deception about Questions of War and Peace: Case Studies,’ in which he documented ‘political leaders and public figures [who] told lies or engaged in deception as a pretext for fighting wars.’ Chung would find references to William Randolph Hearst, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney. Obviously hardly an exhaustive list of liars. Fake news (no tweets back then) was not a problem for the USA even then. Remember Woodrow Wilson coming to power refusing to enter the way but in six months doing just that?

According to John R. MacArthur (Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War) George Bush (Snr) went about it professionally. The public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, among other things, arranged for a 15-year old Kuwaiti girl named Nayirah to testify before Congress prior to a key vote. She claimed, MacArthur recounts, ‘that she had volunteered at the al-Addan hospital. She had said, ‘While I was there I saw the Iraqi soldiers coming into the hospital with guns and going into the room where 15 babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.’

Turned out that ‘it turned out that the witness was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., and human rights organizations found no evidence that anything like what she described had actually happened.’ Fake news. No problem for the USA.

We all know about non-existent weapons of mass destruction as pretext to invade Iraq. There’s the bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant. Then the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Exhaustive enumeration would force me to exceed the prescribed word-count for this piece.

The USA has a long history of interfering in other countries, beginning with the Ottoman colony Tripolitania in 1805 to the more recent examples of Ugly Americanism in Libya, Syria and Ukraine. Yes, another word-count exceeding exercise.  Maybe Chung wants her name somewhere in this long and disgusting history, we don’t know.  What is relevant is that in these machinations too, fake-news played a role, A plaint media did its part, one might add.    

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently expressed surprise that anyone could doubt the US military’s claims when it came to civilian casualties. Oh well! Sums it up doesn’t it? Not only are their damned lies but perhaps uttered so often that the utterers believe it all to be truth beyond a shadow of doubt. Julie Chung, on the other hand, got one thing right. She knows that fake news/tweets are a problem. Maybe she’s more enlightened than Jen Psaki — she doesn’t believe the fake news manufactured by her country but uses it anyway.

So. Retire moral posturing, already, Ms Chung and just encourage the laughs, huh? 

[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.]

25 August 2022

Beware the NEDdas!


In Sri Lanka’s political lexicon there are two terms that have obtained a lot of play over the past 8 years or so: Toyyas and Bayyas. Bayyas are sometimes taken to be Rajapaksa loyalists but the truth of that identity goes beyond that family and could be best understood as a contradistinction of Toyyas. Toyyas are certainly anti-Rakapaksa but that’s not all they are.

They are anti-Rajapaksa because they believe the Rajapaksas represent Bayyas. Toyyas would suffer any and all violations that the Rajapaksas are accused of if they were committed by those they believe represent the Toyya community, let’s say. That’s those who can be called Kolombians, candle-light ladies, Colombots, rent-a-protest NGO personalities, funded-voices etc.

They typically are anglicized, speak English and can hardly cobble together five Sinhala or Tamil words into a coherent sentence, are often virulently anti-Buddhist and are somehow ashamed of their Sinhala or Tamil ancestry. In short, the kalu-suddhas. The Uncle Toms, if you want a term that the likes of US Ambassador Julie Chung would understand.

Then we have the Wannabe Toyyas,. Most of them believe that adopting Toyya lifestyles, parroting Toyya political preferences and chorusing Toyya antipathies would give them Toyya membership. They were in for a rude shock when the aragalaya imploded — the Toyyas all but branded them as Bayyas, riffraff and rabble, refusing membership and putting quite some distance between themselves and these clearly confused individuals.

Bayyas are no saints either. Most of them know they will be denied Toyya membership. Some (a few) are happy with who they are and are not interested in membership while the politics of others are defined by undisguised envy of the Toyya community.  

The aragalaya brought to fore another class of people, small in numbers but certainly effective, at least in terms of delivering the deliverables for which their bosses reward them one way or another: the NEDdas, which is derived from ‘National Endowment for Democracy.’ It has not entered the political lexicon, but it ought to, considering the fact that Neddas were in the thick of things over the past few months or rather were thrust into the thick of things after careful and long preparation over several years.

Before we get to NEDdas, we need to get to NED and to do that we need to understand the machinations of the US government and relevant agents.

Whenever the USA proposes democracy or gets teary about human rights countries that are the intended beneficiary of largesse need to worry. This is not because democracy is a bad thing; it is not. It is not because human rights need not be upheld; they need to be. It is all about what these terms portend when uttered by the USA.  

As is abundantly clear to any serious student of the USA and as has been pithily argued by Noam Chomsky in ‘What Uncle Sam really wants,’ Washington doesn’t give two hoots about democracy, human rights, peace or other such lofty ideals. Washington has supported and still supports military juntas, theocracies, monarchies, dictatorships and other forms of totalitarian regimes marked by intolerance, violent crushing of dissent and blatant violation of human rights. Not surprising considering the absolute mockery of democracy and human rights in the USA itself, from back in the day to this very moment.

The terms have currency only when Washington has to deal with regimes or leaders not willing to play comply with US diktat. The USA still does the guns-in-booty-out number but where this is not possible, other means have to be employed. If countries need to be destabilized to get rid of unfriendly leaders or governments and if naked force is not an option for whatever reason subterfuge becomes the default Plan B. The CIA moves in. The CIA has got such a bad reputation, though, that US subterfuge needed a different name, a different lexicon and people wearing different clothes, especially after Congress forbade the agency to organize coup d'etat to secure markets. That’s when the White House and National Security Council moved in to get around the problem. That's how the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was set up. 

The four key subsidiaries of NED (National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute, American Center for International Labor Solidarity and the Center for International Private Enterprise), gives it wide operative space and the requisite vocabulary yielding a civilizational veneer that can entrap the gullible (we are being kind here). It’s founder, Alan Weinstein wasn’t that cute — he called it the Second CIA way back in 1991.

So Washington funds NED, NED creates programs and outsources it to local NGOs in targeted countries who are tasked to make create molehills, turn them into mountains, create or precipitate the creation of objective preconditions where none exist or exploit such that do exist to manufacture and nurture popular dissent. Typically, the envisaged end, despite rhetoric about system-change, is replacement of a government or leader refusing to play ball with Washington by a leadership that is amenable to the advancement of US strategic interests.

Today, it is well known that the NED helped disintegrate the Soviet Union and was in the thick of political changes (not system change) in Georgia, Serbia, Ukraine and the uprisings dubbed ‘Arab Spring’ but which produced an endless and terrifying winter, paradoxically, in the Middle East. Venezuela knows of NED involvement.  It’s not hard to find which countries the NED has funded, which kinds of regimes were targeted and which supported and their relevant loyalties or otherwise to the USA. It is easy to see whether NED-supported groups and governments were or exemplify purported NED-values. 

NED is convenient. The name itself disarms the ignorant and gullible. Those in the know, are clearly beneficiaries as organizations or individuals and as such are willing pawns in Washington’s designs can claim, as some have, ‘No, we never got US funds.’ Indeed, one such individual who would have people believe he is in or is ‘the epicenter of the aragalaya’ (one wonders what other ‘epicenterists’ would have to say to this claim), when confronted with evidence of involvement with NED, backtracked and tried the age-old diversionary tactic — ‘Alright, yes, but what’s wrong with things like voter-education, eh?’ Others could ask, ‘what’s wrong with democracy, human rights etc.?’  A simple counter-question would suffice to floor them all: ‘to what end, really, brother?’

First, the condescension is insufferable. The assumption is that Sri Lankan voters are ignorant and need democracy-tuition. Second, there’s a pernicious twisting of all norms of democracy; constitution and popular will as expressed through the ballot are brushed aside in favour of manufactured and exaggerated popular dissent followed by tacit withdrawal of support for agitation the moment the preferred political outcome is obtained. Third, typically, the track records of the agents roped in make dismal reading.  It is easy after all to identify reasonably intelligent people with chips on their shoulders (which usually has nothing to do with ideological or political bent but about some simmering element of self-doubt or bruised egos) and cultivate them to be deployed at the right time. Yes, the NEDdas.

Now the NEDdas could say (and they have) ‘it doesn’t matter who gives money as long as the job is done.’ Well, that’s an end-justifies-the-means argument. Regardless, if anyone doesn’t care about what this ‘job’ is all about, has no clue and doesn’t care about history and the ways in which NED has operated and for what kind of goals, then such people aren’t really serious about system-change. They, in fact, are doing a job. Hatchet job, one might say.

It’s all about the Golden Rule — he who owns the gold, makes the rules. I wouldn’t call people innocent or naive for not taking the trouble to find out what’s what; I call them irresponsible and dangerous. They charter agitation to waters into which the bad ship ‘US Interests’ can sail in without obstacle. They don’t give a hoot about Sri Lanka. The only Sri Lankans they do care about are themselves. 

NEDdas are easily identified. One could check the organizations that NED funds, for starters. One could check NEDda positions (what they promote, who they condemn — countries included) and compare with NED ‘prerogatives.’ If NEDdas don’t care whether or not money is channeled by or through murderers, sackers of cities and other thugs, then of course they are seriously value-challenged. Should be noted.  

NEDdas. They need watching. Especially by all the hundreds and thousands who with pureness of heart and idealistic fervour about forging a different kind of nation with truly representative and democratic institutions and processes have their all to the aragalaya. There will be hundreds and thousands of other who will walk this path. They too will have their dreams blown up in their faces by NEDdas of the future. It need not be that way. Gotta keep NEDdas at bay though.

This article was first published in the Daily Mirror (August 25, 2022)
[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director, Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.’]

19 August 2022

Political geographies: imagined and real

In his ‘The Ballad of East and West’ Rudyard Kipling put the issue of political geographies in a nutshell.

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat

Literally, yes, where one ends the other starts and apart from that common boundary there can be no overlap. On the other hand, it all depends on who gets to draw the lines and how. Where does East begin? Can such a question prompt an unequivocal answer? For decades the Berlin Wall served as a proxy for an East-West boundary. It was a line that was essentially determined by political and ideological preferences. Strictly speaking any line from the North Pole to the South could separate East from West. Whichever way you want to slice the global cake, you could, theoretically, affirm Kipling’s thesis. Or at least its first part, above.

Well, the East did meet the West around the year 1990. Well, the West marched eastward, quite in violation of the verbal agreement between Gorbachev and Reagan — NATO expanded and is not done yet. No wonder Putin is peeved, but that’s another story.  What’s important is Kipling’s qualifier:

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!

He alludes to interaction and even cross-fertilisation; thesis encountering antithesis and yielding synthesis. And this has nothing to do with geography but everything to do with political geographies which include the play of power in multiple territories including that of ideology. That cake can be cut many ways. We had, for example, a longitudinal slicing: North vs South best articulated by the liberation desire embedded in the geographical reimagining proposed by Ernesto Che Guevara, the Tricontinental. A SOUTHERN Tricontinental, really, with South Asia, Africa and South America closing ranks against a northern predator. A PROLETARIAN Southern Tricontinental, to be more accurate, for ideology and power associated with class obviously cut through this particularly imagined border.  

Geographies are always in flux, even those that yield professional work for cartographers. The maps of the United States and Europe have had to be redrawn many times over the past two centuries, India didn’t have a map until the European hordes arrived, Pakistan was territorially diminished, the sun set on the British Empire and so on.

Such transformations are relevant in a world of nations and nationalisms. And yet, we live in a clubbed world. Nations come together for reasons of expediency — common enemies, security-related imperatives, ideological agreement etc. We have blocs. The soviets, for example. NATO. G7. ASEAN. EU. SAARC. Not all things and interests are contained within boundaries; one cannot build walls around certain factors.

Sure there are clubs with open membership such as the UN, but then again even in such organizations and their satellite entities, other clubs with restrictions on membership operate as one and in opposition to the general membership. They are not flat, these seemingly all-encompassing bodies. Scratch the avowed egalitarian surface and you find tribalism and the continuous affirmation of power-truths. Example? UNHRC, the North America - EU bloc and pernicious browbeating of Sri Lanka. If you want to talk about overarching processes then interject the word ‘capital’ and the entire edifice starts to look like a circus.

But let’s get less abstract for now. Let’s pose some questions. Is Australia in the West or East, is it an island in the North or South? Is India in South Asia or is it for all intents and purposes the local bullyboy or the global bullyboy? Will India remain ideologically and politically in the laps of North America, Europe and all the sick-man nations therein well into the future? Will that recently-named country, relatively speaking, recognise it true potential need not stop at servitude in a century where the balance of power has shifted dramatically East (or West, depending on how you want your world map drawn) or to be precise away from North America and Europe? Is it only about territory? Isn’t there a possibility of one tyrannical bloc replacing another in these tectonic shifts of economic and political sway?

Roy Sawh, the eloquent Hyde Park orator spoke to the issue of mis-cartography decades ago:  ‘Hong Kong, so close to China and so far away from Britain is a British colony; Northern Ireland, so close to Southern Ireland is part of Britain; the Falkland Islands, so close to Argentina and so far away from Britain, is part of Britain; England, so close to Europe and so far away from America is another state of the United States.’

What’s valid for the world is valid for nations too. There are countries within countries, claims within claims and nations that await independence from tyrannies geographical and otherwise; nations that need to be emancipated from tyrannical temporalities and preferences dictated by notions of ‘the right now.’

In these nations reside nationalists who, strangely, have more things common with nationalists resident in other nations geographically far removed. If there are clubs and blocs for tyrants and if members-limited cartels exist to arm-twist, subjugate and extract, then there can be solidarities between peoples empowered by the resolve not to inhabit versions of their realities scripted by oppressors of all kinds.  

Sound optimistic and utopian? Perhaps. Shouldn’t stop nations and nationalists therein to cut through the deceit of description and the subterfuge of political cartographers. The ballad that describes the relevant heroics and unpacks political geographies, I'm sure, will not be written by a Kipling but someone with true epistemic privilege.

[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.]

04 August 2022

China and India: friendship and 'friendship'


India is reported to have ‘raised concerns at the highest levels’ over Sri Lanka’s decision to allow the Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5 to dock at the Hambantota Port. Yuan Wang 5 is said to be a ship engaged in marine scientific research, but benign though that sounds, it is also one of China’s latest generation space-tracking vessels, capable of monitoring satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches. Intelligence for the military, then, and as such certainly part of China’s defence hardware complement. It is legitimate for India to be concerned.

However, even if one were to call it a warship, it’s not the first Chinese vessel of its kind to dock in a Sri Lankan port.  In December 2010 the Chinese missile destroyer, Lanzhou, was locked at the Colombo Port for five days. On that occasion also, India expressed concerns. In 2017, a hydrographic survey ship belonging to the Chinese Navy, Gi Jiguang (Hull 83) was in Colombo for a four-day goodwill visit. This too may have upset India.  Another Chinese Naval vessel, Qian Weichang, also dedicated to hydrographic surveys, spent a few days in the Port a year later.

In November 2014, a Chinese submarine (Changzheng-2) and a warship (Chang Xing Dao) docked at the Colombo Port, seven weeks after another Chinese submarine, described as a long-range deployment patrol, had also called at the same port ahead of a visit to South Asia by Chinese President Xi Jinping. India probably raised concerns on that occasion too. However, the then Navy Spokesman Kosala Warnakulasuriya dismissed all ‘concerns’ thus: ‘This is nothing unusual. Since 2010, 230 warships have called at Colombo port from various countries on goodwill visits and for refuelling and crew refreshment.’

Yes, it’s not just China that’s leaving footprints in Sri Lankan waters and ports. This is routine stuff for the US Navy, for example. In October 2017, no less than six ships of the USA’s Carrier Strike Group (the USS Nimitz, the cruiser USS Princeton, and destroyers USS Howard, USS Shoup, USS Pinckney, and USS Kidd) docked in Sri Lanka. In December 2018, USS Rushmore of the US Navy arrived and in the following year we had USS Spruance and USNS Millinocket arriving at the Hambantota Port to take part in annual naval exercises. A few months ago, i.e. in March 2022, theUSS Fitzgerald, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer of the United States Navy, docked at the Trincomalee Port. We don’t know if India was aware or was concerned and if concerned showed this much anxiety.

Still, there’s nothing wrong in India being concerned. China, after all, isn’t India’s best friend. The US is certainly a better buddy, although relations have somewhat frayed after India didn’t bow down to pressure from Washington to side with NATO over the Ukraine situation following the Russian invasion. Perhaps in time to come, as the centre of global political and economic gravity shifts to Asia, India would find an objecting tongue if US destroyers, submarines and whatnot docked in any of Sri Lanka’s ports. For now, nothing. For now, China is India’s pet bugbear. Well, the pet bugbear of the USA too or rather a close second to Russia — US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is an in-your-face giving of the finger to Beijing, nothing less. That’s another story for another day.

For now, it’s all about India and China as far as Sri Lanka is concerned — the shameless politicking of US Ambassador Julie Chung, a Ms Busybody if ever there was one, notwithstanding.  

What do we make of it all, though? Well, Sri Lanka, today, is not in the happiest of places, politically or economically. Sri Lankan leaders have appealed to the world for assistance. India and China, in particular, have pledged support. That’s the problem. Sri Lanka, given the current policy regime (which is one that for decades has pooh-poohed the country's resources and in particular the strength of the people), needs India as well as China. Sri Lanka cannot afford to rub either country the wrong way.  

Now, if one were to be clinical about it and assume that a) the world is flat, b) all countries have equal say and sway, c) friendship rhetoric is not frill that covers self-interest and insidious design, and d) the powerful, although eminently able, aren’t willing to twist arms, the we can just brush off concerns as being irrelevant, irresponsible and quite out of order. We could go with ‘Sri Lanka is a sovereign country, we are friends to one and all blah, blah and many more blahs,’ but that’s not the happy world we live in.

So we need to be cute. Or rather, the government needs to have diplomatic finesse. Simply, it’s not a ‘China or India’ kind of proposition. It’s imperative that relevant authorities are open, frank and transparent with all parties. There will be sabre-rattling. There will be assurances. India knows that a Chinese warship or whatever vessel it may be docking in Sri Lanka is hardly a defensible reason to invade the island. India can of course withdraw support to Sri Lanka as it navigates an unprecedented economic crisis. Sri Lanka cannot say ‘that’s not fair.’

Of course that would fly in the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ foreign policy. The frills would come off and the truth would emerge: ‘India first and foremost, neighbourhood first only in a predatory sense.’ Not that it would bother India. Thugs aren’t really worried about being perceived as such when they have a free hand.  

India is worried about the Chinese footprint in the island, especially the Hambantota Port which has been leased to China for 99 years (in a dodgy, ill-advised and carelessly worded document) for ‘commercial activity.’ Well, Sri Lanka should worry about the Chinese footprint too, one could argue. On the other hand, we’ve known that the Indian footprint was made among other ways by the jackboot of the Indian army. We know that Rajiv Gandhi, when the Indo-Lanka Accord was signed, bragged that it was the beginning of the Bhutanization of Sri Lanka. We know that top military persons considered it a victory that Sri Lanka had agreed to name Trincomalee as the capital of the merged Northern and Eastern Province.

And we know other things about China. China’s friendship is long and staunch on many counts, going back to the Rubber-Rice Pact and even before that. China did not fund, arm and train terrorists, create a problem and offer to sort it out and fail miserably. China did not undertake to disarm terrorists and fail to do so or despite not keeping to its side of the bargain insist that Sri Lanka implement to the last letter a constitutional amendment thrust down Sri Lanka’s throat at gun-point, almost. China has consistently and solidly defended Sri Lanka at the UN, especially the UNHRC and the UN Security Council. India, on the other hand, never stood up for her neighbour, choosing at best to abstain during key votes, sponsored by the USA or her allies. China has been a veritable guarantor of Sri Lanka’s security; India has actively subverted Sri Lanka’s security.

Ideally, geopolitics would evolve into an Asian Compact (as opposed to the QUAD) where India and China stand together against the world’s biggest bully, the US-led bloc which includes NATO members. Ideally, those who talk of friendship would not impose conditions on support. Ideally, Sri Lanka would excavate herself from the current predicament by placing greater faith on her resources and people, living within means, setting up development banks, banking on cooperatives and cooperation, and thereby fixing the balance of payment crisis, weaning herself from dollar dependency, and stumping the import mafia that has brought Sri Lanka to where it is now.

We do not live in such a world. Yet. And so, it’s time for the diplomats. Time for diplospeak. However, at no point should even those who have to dialogue harbour illusions about what’s what and who is who. Goes for India, China and anyone else, including Sri Lankans who in collusion with any such powers or on their own steam sow the seeds of misery on the citizenry.


[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.]

03 August 2022

අරගලයේ දේශපාලන ඉතිරිය


"ස්වයං විවේශනය, දුෂ්ටත්වයේ හරය තෙක් දිවෙන දරුණු, නොමසුරු, අනුකම්පා විරහිත විවේචනය නිර්ධන පාන්තික ව්‍යාපාරයක ජීවය සහ හුස්ම පොද වේ" -- රෝසා ලක්සන්බ(ර්)ග්

අරගලය අවසන් වුනා කියල සමහරු කියනවා. අරගල ඉවර වෙන්නෙත් නෑ ඉවර කරන්නත් බෑ කියල තවත් අය කියනවා. කෙසේ වෙතත් 'අරගලය' නමින් හැඳින් වූ දේශපාලන ක්‍රියාවලිය එක්තරා ආකාරයක නිමාවකට ඇවිල්ලයි තියෙන්නේ. අරගලය මැරුණා නැත්තම් මැරුවා කියල කියනවා නෙවෙයි. ඒ නිසා මෙතන ඉදිරිපත් කරන්නේ පශ්චාත් මරණ පරීක්ෂණයක් නෙවෙයි.

අරගලයේ සක්‍රීය වූ අය වගේම දුර ඈත සිට බලාපොරොත්තු පිරුණු දෑසින් අරගලය දෙස බලා සිටි අයද, අරගලය, එහි ප්‍රකාශිත අරමුණු සහ අරගලකරුවන් අතර සිටි ඇතැම් චරිත පිලිබඳව සැකසහිතව සියල්ල නිරීක්ෂණය කළ අයද යොමු විය යුතු බොහෝ කාරණා ඉතුරු වෙලා තියෙන බව කියන්න පුළුවන්. අරගලයට නැවතීමේ තිතක් කෙසේ වෙතත් කොමාවක් වැටිලා තියෙන මේ මොහොතේ ඒ සියලු දේ විමසීමට අවකාශයක් නිර්මාණය වෙලයි තියෙන්නේ. තම තමන්ගෙන්ම සහ එකිනෙකාගෙන් ඇසිය හැකි ප්‍රශ්න තියෙනවා. ඒවාට උත්තර සෙවීම වටිනවා කියලයි මට හිතෙන්නේ.

ඇමරිකානු තානාපති ජූලි චුං ගේ භූමිකාව කුමක්ද? චුං ගේ ට්විටර් සටහන් කියෙව්වාද? ඒවා හරහා ඇමරිකාව මොකාටද එන්නේ කියලා හිතුවද? කාදිනල්තුමාගේ භූමිකාව කුමක්ද? කතෝලික පල්ලිය සහ අරගලය අතර සම්බන්ධය මොන වගේද? අරමුණු මොනවාද? ජාත්‍යන්තර මූල්‍ය අරමුදල වන්දනාමාන කරමින් එහි පිහිට පතපියව් කියලා කට්ටිය කියද්දී උග්‍ර වාමවාදීන් මුනිවත රැක්කේ ඇයි. එයාලගේ වාමවාදය නැවත නැවතත් ප්‍රශ්න කළ යුතුයි නේද? අරගල ගැන ටියුෂන් දුන්න අප්පච්චිලාගේ, අම්මිලාගේ, ඇන්ටිලාගේ, අංකල්ලාගේ දේශපාලන ඉතිහාසය ගැන හොයල බැලුවේ නැති එක ගැන අරගලයේ දරුවෝ පසුතැවිලි වෙනවද? නීතිඥ සංගමය ගේමක්ද ගැහුවේ? විගණනය ඉල්ලන අයට නීතිඥ සංගමයේ සියලුම සාමාජිකයින් විගණනය කළ යුතුයි නේද කියල හිතුනද? 'අදේශපාලනික' කියන වචනයේ තේරුම දැනගෙන හිටියද? දැන් දන්නවද?

ව්‍යවස්ථා සංශෝධන අවශ්‍යයි කියල ආදී හප්පලා කෑ ගහපු අය අඩුම තරමින් 17වන සංශෝධනය සිට 20 දක්වා කියවලා තියෙනවද? ඒ ඒ සංශෝධන සම්මත කරගත්ත දේශපාලන වටපිටාව මොකද්ද කියල හෙව්වද? ඒ ඒ සංශෝධන කාගේ හරි වාසියක් සඳහාද නැත්තම් දේශපාලන විරුද්ධවාදීන් දඩයම් කිරීමේ චේතනාවෙන් සම්මත කරගත්තද? විධායක ජනාධිපති ක්‍රමය එපා කියන අය 13වන සංශෝධනය ගැන දන්නවද? සාලිය පීරිස්ගේ පරස්පර ප්‍රකාශ ගැන නීතිඥ සංගමයේ සාමාජිකයින් නිහඬ ඇයි?

පන්ති-රහිත අරගලයට 'පන්තිය' කඩා වැදුනේ මොන මොහොතේදීද? අරගලයට සහාය දැක්වූ ධනවත් ඇන්ටිලා අංකල්ලා (ඒ කියන්නේ මාමලා නැන්දලා නොවන වැඩිහිටියෝ) මෙච්චර කාලයක් අසීමිත වාසි ලබාගත්තේ සිස්ටම් එකට පිං සිද්ධ වෙන්න නෙවෙයිද? ජූලි 9දාට පසුව රියල්-ටෝයියෝ (ටොයි සමාජයට සැලියුට් දාන ටොයි සමාජයේ සාමාජිකතත්වය ලබාගැනීම ජීවිතයේ එකම අරමුණ සේ සළකන) වෙන්ඩ-ටොයියන්ව  බයියන් ගානටම දමමින් පිළිකුල් කරන්නේ ඇයි? ඇත්තටම අරගලයට ලොකු සල්ලි ආවේ කොහෙන්ද? කාගෙන්ද? කුමක් සඳහාද? අරගලය ඉදිරියට තල්ලු කරන්නත් ඉතා පරිස්සමින් සිස්ටම්-චේන්ජ් අල කරන්නත් කටයුතු කළ සෑම පුද්ගලයෙකුටම පාහේ, සෑම සංවිධානයකටම පාහේ ඍජුව හෝ වක්‍රව ඇමරිකාවේ රජය හෝ රජයට විවිධ සංවිධානවලින් මුදල් නැත්තම් කුමන හෝ උපකාර ලැබීම අහම්බයක්ද? #චුන්-නෝනා-ගෝහොම්, #NGOකාක්කෝගෝහෝම්, #IMFඑපා, #MalcolmGoToConfession: මේ වගේ සටන් පාඨ කාටවත් කල්පනා නොවුනේ ඇයි?  

ආරක්ෂක අංශ වළ සාමාජිකයින්ට 'අට පාස්' කියා සමච්චල් කරන අය මාටින් වික්‍රමසිංහ අට පාස්ද කියල තමන්ගෙන් අහන්නේ කවද්ද? උපාධිධාරීන්ගේ සසර ගමන අට පාස් අයට වඩා කෙටිද?  

අරගල කරද්දී මේ වගේ ප්‍රශ්න මතු වෙන්න ඇති. උත්තර හොයන්නත් ඇති. උත්තර සෙවීම පසුවට තබා අරගලයම උත්තර සපයයි කියල හිතන්නත් ඇති. ඒත් සියල්ල සිදුවුනාට පස්සේ ප්‍රශ්න එහෙමමයි. උත්තර හොයන්නේ නැත්තම් සර්වසුභාවාදය සර්වඅසුභාවාදයට පෙරළෙන්න පුළුවන්. එහෙම අනතුරක් නැත්තේ නෑ. 

උත්තර හොයන්නේ නැත්තම් වැඩියෙන්ම සතුටු වෙන්නේ සිස්ටම් එක. 

01 August 2022

අරගල, විප්ලව සහ දේශපාලනයේ අවලස්සන යටිපැත්ත



ජනතා නැගිටීමක්, උද්ඝෝෂණයක්, රටක දේශපාලන නායකත්වයට අභියෝග කරන දේශපාලන ක්‍රියාවලියක්, දේශපාලන පෙරළියක් -- මේ හැම එකක්ම අරගලයක් කියල කියන්න පුළුවන්. විප්ලවයක් කියල කියන්න බෑ. සමහර අරගල විප්ලව බවට පරිවර්තනය වෙන්න පුළුවන්. කොන්දේසි තියෙනවා. පහුගිය මාස කිහිපය හරහා ලංකාවේ සිදුවුණා නැත්තම් සිදු කරන ලද අරගලය විප්ලවයක් බවට පෙරලුනේ නැහැ. ඒක 'අරගලයක්' නෙවෙයි, ඇත්තටම. එතන තිබුනේ අරගල. බහු වචනින්.

අරගලයට අදාල විවිධ ප්‍රකාශන සහ ක්‍රියාකාරකම් දිහා බලනකොට බරපතල කාරණා ගැන පොදු එකඟතාවක් තිබුනේ නෑ. මතවාදී කරුණු ගැන වගේම අරමුණු පිළිබඳවත් පොදු අවබෝධයක්, එකඟතාවක් තිබුනේ නෑ. ක්‍රමය වෙනස් කිරීම ගැන යම් යම් පුද්ගලයින් සහ සංවිධාන කතා කළත් අරගලයේ මහා පොදු සාධකයේ ඒ කිසි දෙයක් අඩංගු වුනේ නෑ. විවිධත්වයක් තිබුනා -- ආගම්, ජාති, කුල සහ පංති නොසලකපු, ඒ ඒ විවිධත්වයන් වලට ඉඩක් දෙන, අඩු වැඩි වශයෙන් ගරු කරපු  විවිධත්වයක් තිබුන. උග්‍ර වාමවාදීන් සිට ධනවාදයම ඉල්ලන, ධනවාදය වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින ධනේශ්වරය දක්වා මතවාදීමය පරාසයේ විවිධ තැන් වල ස්ථානගත වූ අය සහ සංවිධාන අරගලකරුවන් අතර සක්‍රීයව හිටියා. මේ සියලු විවිධත්වයන් එක ධජයක් යටට එකතු කරන්න වුනේ සහ එකතු වුනේ ඇත්තටම කුඩාම පොදු සාධකයකට. පුද්ගල කේන්ද්‍ර සාධකයක්. ගෝටා ගෙදර යැවීම.

ගෝටා ගියා. අරගලකරුවන් වගේම අරගලයත් ගෙදර ගියා. සිස්ටම් එක එහෙමම තියෙනවා. එහෙම වුනේ ඇයි? වී ඩෝන්ට් නෝ වයි ද, වී නෝ වයි ද?  
රුසියාවේ වුනේ විප්ලවයක්. ප්‍රධාන තේමාව/අරමුණ #සාර්මරමු නෙවෙයි; ඉල්ලුවේ ඉඩම්, සාමය සහ පාන්. සාර් සහ සාර්ගේ පවුල ඝාතනය කළා, ඇත්ත. ඒත් සාර් පාලනය සහ ඒ හා බැඳුන වැඩවසම් ක්‍රමය අවසන් කිරීම තමයි අරමුණ වුනේ. අවසන් කළා. සාමය ලැබුනා. ඉඩම් ලබා ගන්න නැත්තම් ඉඩම් පොදු අයිතියට පවරා ගන්න කාලයක් ගියා. ඒ සඳහා ලේ වන්දියක් ගෙවීමටත් සිද්ධ වුනා. ආහාර ප්‍රශ්නය විසඳුනේ පරක්කු වෙලා. ඒත් සිස්ටම් එක චේන්ජ් වුනා.

ප්‍රංශයේ 'අරගලකරුවන්' #ලුවීමරමු කියල කියන්න ඇති. ඒත් ප්‍රධාන තේමාව/අරමුණ වුනේ නිදහස, සමානාත්මතාවය සහ සහෝදරත්වය. ලුවී ඇතුළු ප්‍රංශ රජ පවුල ඝාතනය කළා, ඇත්ත. ඒත් ප්‍රංශයේ රාජාණ්ඩුක්‍රමය අවසන් වුනා. වැඩවසම් නිෂ්පාදන මාදිලියෙන් ධනවාදී ක්‍රමයක් වෙත ප්‍රංශය ගමන් කරන්න පටන් ගත්තා. සමානාත්මතාවය සහ සහෝදරත්වය කෙසේ වෙතත් සිස්ටම් එක චේන්ජ් වුනා.    

රුසියාව, ප්‍රංශය, වගේම විප්ලව සිද්ධ වුන කියුබාව සහ වියෙට්නාමය වගේ රටවල විප්ලවවාදීන්ට නැත්තම් අඩුම තරමේ ඒ අරගල වල නායකයින්ට පුළුල් දැක්මක් තිබුනා. ඒ වගේම දේශපාලන සහ සටන් ක්‍රියාමාර්ග සංවිධානාත්මක ව්‍යුහයක් මතයි පදනම් වුනේ. බල ව්‍යුහය බිඳ දමන්නත්, පාලක පාර්ශව පළවා හරින්නත් පුළුවන් වුනේ ඒ නිසයි. විකල්ප සමාජ ආර්ථික දේශපාලන ව්‍යුහයන් ගොඩ නගන්න පුළුවන් වුනෙත් ඒ නිසයි.  

ප්‍රංශයේ, රුසියාවේ එහෙම වුනත් ලංකාවේ එහෙම වුනේ නෑ.  ලංකාවේ කරන්නේ විප්ලවයක් කියලත් සිද්ධ වුනේ විප්ලවයක් කියලත් සමහරු කිව්වත් හිතුවත්, එහෙම දෙයක් වෙලා නැති බව දැන්වත් අවබෝධ වෙන්න ඕන. ලොකු අකුරින් අරගලය පුරාවටම ලියවිලා තිබුනේ #gotagohome. පසුව චූටිම චූටි ෆොන්ට් සයිස් එකකින් #ranilgohome කියල වෙනස් වුනා තමයි. ඒත් කෝ අර බරපතල සිස්ටම් චේන්ජ් එක? දිනාගත්ත 'වෙනස' හරහා ඉඩම්, සාමය සහ ආහාර ලැබෙන ලකුණක් නැහැ. නිදහස, සමානාත්මතාවය සහ සහෝදරත්වය ලැබෙන ලකුණක් නැහැ. අඩුම තරමින් අරගල භූමියේ දක්නට ලැබුණු  නිදහස,සමානාත්මතාවය සහ සහෝදරත්වය අරගලකරුවන් අතරේ දැන් නැහැ. ඒ සියල්ල පුද්ගල කේන්ද්‍ර සටන් පාඨයකටම ලඝු වූ 'අරගලයක' තාර්කික අවසානය ලෙස හේදිලාම ගියා.  

මෙහෙම වුනේ ඇයි? අරගලය පුරාවට ආර්ථික අගහිඟකම් ගැන සටන් පාඨ තිබුනත්, සමස්ථ ආර්ථික අර්බුදය පුද්ගලයෙකුට නැත්නම් පවුලකට නැත්තම් පක්ෂයකට ලඝු කළා මිස අර්බුදයේ සංකීර්ණ සහ පුළුල් දේශපාලන ආර්ථික මූලයන් හොයන්න උත්සාහයක් තිබුනේ නෑ. ක්‍රමයක අවුල් පුද්ගලයෙකුට බැර කිරීම පහසුයි, තාවකාලික (සහ අවසානයේ සිල්ලර) ජයග්‍රහණයන් අත්පත් කරගන්න ප්‍රමාණවත් වුනා. එච්චරයි.

අරගලයට නැත්තම් අරගලකරුවන්ට හෝ නායකයින් කියලා හිතාගත්ත අයට අර්බුදය සහ අර්බුදයට අදාළ දීර්ග ඉතිහාසය සහ අර්බුදය නිර්මාණය වෙන සමස්ථ දේශපාලන ආර්ථිකය කියව ගන්න බැරිවුනා. ඒ ඇයි? අරගලකරුවන් සහ අරගලය ගැන විශ්වාසය තැබූ අය හමුවේ ඒ ප්‍රශ්නය ඉතුරු වෙලා තියෙනවා. එවැනි කියවීමක් වෙත යන්න අවශ්‍ය දැනුම නැති  නිසාද? වුවමනාවක් නැති නිසාද? ඒවා ගැන හොයන්න ගියොත් ලැබෙන උත්තර අනුව අරගලයට චිය(ර්)ස් දාපු දෙස් විදෙස් විද්වතුන්, හිතවතුන්, ගමන් සගයින් සහ මූල්‍යමය ආධාර සැපයු පරිත්‍යාගශීලී සිල්වත්තු උරණ වෙන්න ඉඩ තියෙන නිසාද?

එතකොට අරගලයේ සැබෑ පාර්ශවකරුවන් කවුද? කා සඳහාද කා වෙනුවෙන්ද අරගල කෙරුවෙ? උත්තරය: ජනතාව. ඒත් ජනතාවමද? ජනතාව කියන්නේ කාටද? මේවත් හොයන්න ඕන. 

අරගලයේ නිතරම කියවුනේ ජනතාව ගැනයි. ජන දුක, ජනතා අභිලාෂයන් ගැනයි. හැම තක්කඩි දේශපාලනඥයා වගේම අවසන් විග්‍රහයේදී අරගලයත් අරගලයේ ඊනියා නායකයිනුත් 'ජනතාව' කියන වචනය ගසා කෑව, තම තමන්ගේ පුද්ගල ඉල්ලක්ක සඳහා 'ජනතාව' දඩමීමා කරගත්තා. ඒ විතරක් නෙවෙයි, ජනතා නාමයෙන් පුද්ගලයින්ට එලව එළවා පහර දුන්නා, ගෙවල් ගිනි තිබ්බා, පුද්ගලයින්ට මරණ තර්ජන නිකුත් කළා, මැරුවා, පොදු දේපළ වලට හානි කළා, මංකොල්ල කෑවා. අරගලයට චියර්ස් දාපු අය එක්කෝ මේවා අනුමත කෙරුවා නැත්තම් නිහඬ අනුමැතිය දුන්නා.

අවසානයේ ඒ හැම දෙයක්ම අරගලයට පාරාවළල්ලක් වුනාට පස්සේ කිව්වේ 'බලයේ ඉන්න අරයයි මෙයයි අරක කෙරුව මේක කෙරුව, ඒවා ගැන කතා කරන්නේ නැතුව අරගලකරුවන්ගේ වැරදි හොයන්න එපා' කියලයි. ඒකෙ අත්තක් තියෙනවා. ඒත් අරයගෙයි මෙයාගෙයි අර වැරැද්දයි මේ වැරැද්දයි පෙන්වල දුන්න, ඒවාට විරුද්ධව කටයුතු කළ අරගලකරුවෝ හිටියේ නැද්ද? ඒ අයට අරගලයේ තක්කඩිකම් හෙලා දකින්න සදාචාර අයිතියක් තියෙනවා නේද? සමස්තයක් හැටියට නිහඬව හිටියා නේද? හොරකමේ, තක්කඩිකමේ ප්‍රමාණයන් තියෙනවා තමයි. ඒත් හොරකම හොරකමමයි. තක්කඩිකම තක්කඩිකමමයි.         

එසේනම් 'අරගලය' නැත්නම් පහුගිය මාස කිහිපය තුල ගෝල් ෆේස් කේන්ද්‍ර කරගෙන ක්‍රියාත්මක කළ 'අරගල' තේරුම් ගන්නේ කොහොමද? සර්ව අසුභවාදී වෙන්න අවශ්‍ය නැහැ.  විවිධ අගහිඟකම් හේතුවෙන් සමාජයේ විවිධ ක්ෂේත්‍ර තුල සහ සියලු සමාජ ස්ථර හරහා කණස්සල්ල, බිය සහ කෝපය ගොඩ නැගී ඒ සියලු වේදනා උද්ඝෝෂණ බවට පරිවර්ථනය වුනා. නේකවිධ කෛරාටිකයින්ට සහ පටු අරමුණු ඇති පුද්ගලයින්ට, සංවිධාන වලට සහ ඇතැම් රටවල් වලට රඟන්න වේදිකාවක් නිර්මාණය වුනේ එහෙමයි. සමහරු අරගල භූමියේ කොටස් තමන්ගේ ව්‍යාපෘති වලට නතු කරගත්තා. සමහරු තිරයෙන් පිටිපස සිට තම කාර්යයන් වල යෙදුනා. සමහරු විසිල් ගැහුවා, තක්කඩිකම් සාධාරණය කෙරුව. උද්දාමයට පත්ව තම තමන්ගේ වෘත්තීමය සදාචාරයන විශ්‍රාම යවපු අයද මේ අතර හිටියා. ඒ සියලු දෙනා ප්‍රීතියෙන් මෝහනය වූ නිසා තම තමන්ගේ රෙදි ගලවගත්තා. සමාජ මාධ්‍යයේ සටහන් වල ස්ක්‍රීන් ෂොට් නැතුව නොවේ.     

ඒ කෙසේ වෙතත්, අරගලය තුල පුටු මාරුවලට එහා ගිය, ව්‍යුහයන් වෙනස් කිරීමේ අභිලාෂයන් තිබුන සහ ගෝටා ගෙදර යැවීම ඒ දිගු ගමනේ අනිවාර්ය සහ පළමු පියවට පමණක් බව අවබෝධ කරගත් පිරිස් හිටියා. තවමත් ඒ පුළුල් අරගලය සහ අරමුණු වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටින සහ නැවතුන තැන සිට නැවත ක්‍රියාත්මක වීමේ අවශ්‍යතාවය හඳුනාගෙන ඒවෙනුවෙන් කරයුතු කරන බොහෝ අය ඉන්නවා. තමන් ඉත්තෝ බවට පත් වෙයි කියල එයාලා හීනෙකින් වත් හිතුවේ නැතුව ඇති. එහෙම නැත්තම් ඉත්තෝ වීම වළක්වන්න බැරි දෙයක්, පතන සමාජ විපර්යාසය වෙනුවෙන් ගෙවිය යුතු මිලක් කියලා හිතන්න ඇති. අරගලය පාවා දෙන්න සුදානම් අය ඉන්න බවත් එයාල හඳුනාගන්නේ කෙසේද කියලත් එවැනි බාධක ජයග්‍රහණය කරන්නේ කොහොමද කියලත් එවන් අරගලකරුවන් මේ ක්‍රියාවලිය තුල ඉගෙන ගන්න ඇති.  

විශේෂයෙන්ම  නිශ්චිත සහ පුළුල් සමාජ, ආර්ථික දේශපාලන දැක්මකින් තොර අසංවිධිත දේශපාලන ක්‍රියාවලි අවසන් වන්නේ සිස්ටම් චේන්ජ් එකකට මෙහා බවත්, ආ මග ඇත්තටම කෙටි බවත්, යායුතු මග එහෙමම ඉතුරුව ඇති බවත්, සිස්ටම් එක හිතුවට වඩා දෘඩ බවත්, විප්ලවය ඔය විදිහට කළ නොහැකි බවත් ඒ එඩිතර, අධිෂ්ටානශීලී, නිර්මාණශීලී ආදරණීය මිනිසුන් මේ වන විට අවබෝධ කරගෙන ඇති බව මම විශ්වාස කරනවා. රටේ හෙට දවස ගැන බලාපොරොත්තු තියාගන්න නම් මෙය විශ්වාස කළ යුතුමයි.  ආදරයට ඉඩක් ඉතුරු වෙන්නෙත් එහෙමමයි. අරගලය විප්ලවයක් දක්වා විකාශනය වෙන්න පුළුවන්. කොන්දේසි තියෙනවා. පාඩම් ඉගෙන ගැනීම ඉන් එකක්. පාඩම් ඉගෙනගනිමි සිටිනවා කියල හිතන්න මම ආසයි.

රැවටිලි එමටයි. රවට්ටන අය බොහෝයි. රැවටුනා වෙන්න පුළුවන්. යා යුතු මග යා යුතුමයි. යා නොයුතු මාර්ග 'යා යුතු මගමයි' කියල නම් කරත් කෙළවර වන්නේ ඉදිරියක් නැති තැන්වලයි. අරගලය නැවතිලා තියෙන්නේ එවැනි තැනකයි. ෆේක් අරගලකරුවන්ට ඒකෙ අවුලක් නැති වුනත්, සැබෑ විප්ලවවාදියාට එතැනින් නැවත ගමන පටන් ගන්න පුළුවන්. අර රුසියාවේ, චීනයේ, ප්‍රංශයේ, කියුබාවේ, වියෙට්නාමයේ සහ ඇතැම් යුග වල ලංකාවේ වුනා වගේ. 

අරගල, විප්ලව සහ දේශපාලයේ අවලස්සන යටිපැත්ත එන්සෝ ට්‍රැවර්සෝ ලියූ 'විප්ලවය: බුද්ධිමය ඉතිහාසයක්' (‘Revolution: an intellectual history’) නම් කෘතියේ විශිෂ්ට ලෙස විස්තර කරනවා.

'අරගලයක අරමුණ දේශපාලන  තන්ත්‍රයක් බිඳ දැමීම නොවේ; ඇත්තටම අරමුණ එහි නියෝජිතයින් වෙනස් කිරීමක්. අරගලකරුවන් සාමාන්‍යයෙන් ඉලක්ක කරන්නේ පුද්ගලයින් මිස පන්තීන්, ආයනත හෝ බලය නොවේ. එබැවින් ඔවුන්ගේ ක්ෂිතිජයන් පටු වේ, ආයු කාලයද කෙටි වේ. ඒවා ස්ථානික විය හැකි භූමියකට යම් නිශ්චිත අවකාශයකට සීමා වේ. විප්ලව මීට වෙනස්. බලාපොරොත්තු නිර්මාණය වන්නේ මතවාදයන් සහ යෝතෝපියානු ප්‍රක්ෂේපන ඔස්සේය. ඒවා ක්‍රියාවට නංවන්නේ ජකොබියානුවන් හෝ බෝල්ෂෙවික්වරුන් වැනි දේශපාලන ව්‍යාපෘති හා බැඳී බලවේගයන් වේ. ඔවුහු පවතින සමාජ දේශපාලන ව්‍යුහයන් වෙනස් කිරීම සඳහා සවිඥානිකව කැප වෙති. කෙටියෙන්, ඔවුන් ප්‍රකාශයට පත් කරන්නේ දැවැන්ත සහ ඇතැම් විට විශ්වීය අභිලාෂයන් ය.'

ට්‍රැවර්සෝ ලංකාවේ 'අරගලය' පුර්වාපේක්ෂා කෙරුවා වගේ. නේද?

28 July 2022

Ambassador Chung and xeroxable change


Aragalaya. Translatable as revolt, uprising, protest, agitation, struggle or even insurrection. Aragalaya is singular, but considering statements and actions it was certainly not marked by concert, ideological agreement, unity of purpose etc. Eclecticism was the signature of the rumbling. There was mumbling, nothing more, about system-change, but a revolution it certainly was not. So, aragalaya: singular; aragala: plural. The latter is the better descriptive. And perhaps it is exactly this eclectic and disjointed character that forced the agitators to dilute whatever revolutionary fervour there may have been to a project that targeted an individual and once that ouster was obtained shift focus to another individual.

Let’s elaborate if only to dismiss those who still harbour illusions about what transpired over the past three months was about system-change, revolution or a political shift of tectonic proportion.

History teaches lessons. The Russian Revolution was about land, peace and bread. It wasn’t #Czar-out. Land and peace were obtained; bread took a while. The Czar was assassinated, sure, but in a political sense it was incidental. The Czar was not replaced some Royal heir. Tsarist rule came to an end. In France, it was ‘liberty, equality and fraternity,’ and not #Louis-out.  Capitalism is anti-equality and one might argue anti-liberty and anti-fraternity, but the French ended the monarchical system. Louis was assassinated. Again, incidental. A Royal heir didn’t succeed him.

In China, the slogan of the Communist Party was ‘Serve the people,’ admittedly a different tune to those played in Russia and France. In any event the Chinese weren’t maniacally invested in  banishing Chiang Kai-shek. The target was the Kuomintang and what it represented, and the overall relations of production. Chiang Kai-shek fled. The Communists did stumble and worse in serving the people, but all things considered all Chinese received what was previously the luxury of a few.

In all three cases, like in any revolution such as what took place in Cuba and Vietnam for example, the movements were marked by a clear vision about what kind of political and economic system should replace the one being challenged and organisational cohesion which enabled implementation.

In Sri Lanka, over the past three months, it was different. In Sri Lanka, we had #gohomegota and in a smaller font size and in normal text as opposed to bold and italicised, #gohomeranil, only, the latter was made impossible along the way for Ranil Wickremsinghe’s house was torched. Talk, if any, of land, peace and bread, of liberty, equality and fraternity, got drowned in the individual-focused slogans, As for serving the people, well, the agitators weren’t short on rhetoric. Indeed, as is often the case, all of it (and we need to include, sadly, the destruction of public property, stifling of expression-freedom, arson, theft, thuggery and murder as part of the ‘all’) was done ‘in the name of the people.’ At the end of the day, it was ‘same-old, same-old.’

Enzo Traverso, I am told, put it much better in the book ‘Revolution: an intellectual history’: ‘The aim of revolt is not to put down a political regime; it is rather to change its representatives; usually their targets are individuals, not classes or institutions, nor power itself. This is why they have a limited horizon and a short duration: they can be endemic, but are always territorially circumscribed. Revolutions, on the contrary, raise hopes supported by ideologies and utopian projections; they are frequently carried out by forces that embody political projects, like the Jacobins or the Bolsheviks. They consciously wish to change the social and political order. In short, they express great, sometimes universal ambitions.’

So what was it all about then? Let us not be unforgiving. There was serious anxiety, fear and anger regarding multiple depravations. Fertile ground, then, for all manner of agent provocateurs and there were veritable legions in operation. Some on the ground, some behind the scenes, some cheering on (only to go silent after, perhaps, true objective was achieved) and some in the giddiness of it all compromising professional ethics and tripping gaily over their own contradictions. Names can be named, if necessary, for screen-shots of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts have been filed. Meticulously, I might add.

Regardless, there were and still are idealists who wanted more than name-change, who genuinely believed that this was a necessary first step in the long march to meaningful social transformation. Maybe they didn’t expect to play pawn, maybe they believe(d) that it was a price they may have to pay, maybe they will learn and become smart enough distinguish enemy from friend and outwit the small-minded and pernicious as well as those who saw a larger picture and preferred outcomes that they, the genuine agitators, never believed was part of this whole exercise.

US Ambassador Julie Chung’s tweets are hilarious but seriously they could feed several doctoral dissertations on international political economy. It is no secret that the US backed several vocal outfits and individuals who backed the aragalaya (and who have since been more cautious in their missives). She was jubilant when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned. She’s reproached the government for evicting protestors from Galle Face, but in guarded tones.

Check the language. On the 9th of May she used the word ‘condemn’ and on the 22nd of July, merely expressed ‘concern’. Earlier it was ‘violence’ and later ‘actions.’ Perhaps all the social media  ‘activists’ (who would like people to believe they wanted real change and weren’t just being willing pawns of US interests) could do some content analysis of her tweets. She was and is, after all, the point person in Colombo for US interests and knows which individuals and which organizations were and are funded by US organizations dedicated to pushing Washington’s agenda forward around the world, for example the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The attacks (actions/violence) happened. No argument there. The magnitude of course, as claimed/tweeted, is debatable, but violence there was. There is of course a difference between attacking those who are engaged in peaceful protest and taking action against those violating the law. All things considered and especially comparing with the way the USA has treated peaceful protestors (outright brutality including murder, Chung would know), it could have been much worse. But here’s something for the lady to chew on: President Biden recently tweeted, ‘Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think inciting a mob that attacks a police officer is “respect for the law.” You can’t be pro-insurrection and [at the same time be] pro-cop or pro-democracy or ‘pro-American.’

Inciting a mob. There were mobs among the idealists, there were arsonists, looters, murderers and paddlers of virulent ideologies that were square-in-the-middle of racism, intolerance and such. Chung knew. Chung knows. Chung didn’t tweet a sweet ‘no, no, not like that!’  

And we have Derek Grossman a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation (established in 1948 in California with the purpose of military planning, research, and decision development, has 1,950 employees from 50 different countries), gloating thus: ‘China’s window of opportunity to one day control Sri Lanka probably just closed.’ Is he saying 'our window of opportunity just got opened that much more'? Would Chung nod in agreement?

Well, when CIA agents cheer a protest, the conscientious protestors should  say something to the effect of,‘we don’t need your endorsement; you are part of the problem, part of the system.’ Didn’t see any of that though.

All this is in a land called ‘bound to happen’ and that inevitability has everything to do with the key flaws of the aragalaya outlined above and the inability of those who truly wanted change to rise to the challenge of taking on and defeating the enemy within, so to speak, even as they targeted symbols and not the system they represented.

Lessons for the future, hopefully.


ජනසතු අරගලය ජනතාකරණයට ලක් වුනාද?

The Aragalaya: A Postscript

ව්‍යවස්ථා සංශෝධන මාෆියාව/මේනියාව

 Vee da (වීද) hoo da (හූද) people?

When the centre cannot hold...

Recipes for co-opting and subverting #peoplepower


The international community, the opposition and 'the people'

The 'ada davase mahanakama'


Personalities and systems

The 'aragalists' and the challenge of re-mapping Sri Lanka

Tomorrow, tomorrow and so forth...

A season of (il)legitimacies 

The brink and beyond

Spontaneity and its discontents 

ලෙයට ලෙය වෙනුවට ආලය

පුද්ගල චරිත මතුවේ, නිර්පාක්ෂික හැව ගැලැවේ, අරගලය ඉදිරියටම....

The BASL Proposals: A review

[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.]

21 July 2022

ජනසතු අරගලය ජනතාකරණයට ලක් වුනාද?

ජනතා අරගලයක් අලුතින් ජනසතු කරන්න ඕනේ නෑ.  තිබ්බේ අරගලයක් නෙවෙයි, අරගලයන්. බහුවචනයෙන් තමයි කතා කරන්න වෙන්නේ. එක් එක් අරගල වල එක එක ජන කොටස්. සමපාත වුන තැනුත් තිබුනා. නොවුන තැනුත් තිබුනා. වඩා නිවැරදිව කිව්වොත් කවුරු කවුරුත් 'අරගලයක්' තුල හිටියා, ඉන්නවා සහ තමන් තේරුම් ගත්ත කුමන හෝ අරගලයක් සමග අනන්‍ය වුනා, අනන්‍ය වෙලා ඉන්නවා. 'ජනතාකරණය' කියන්නේ වෙනම දෙයක්. පුද්ගලීකරණය වෙනුවට රණසිංහ ප්‍රේමදාස භාවිතා කරපු සුරතල් ආදේශයක්.
ජනතාව. ජනතා අයිතිය. ජනසතු වීම. ජනතා හඬ සහ ජනහඬ නියෝජනය කිරීම. ඊනියා ජනතා නියෝජිතයින්ට ජනතාව නියෝජනය කිරීමේ වරම් ලබා ගැනීම හෝ ලබාදීම ට අදාළ ක්‍රමවේදය. මේ සියලු දේවල් ආදරයේ අරගලයට අදාළ වෙනවා. අරගලය කාගේද? අරගලයට අයිතිකරුවන් ඉන්නවනම් ඒ අයිතිය ලැබුනේ කොහොමද, අයිතිය පැවරුවේ කවුද සහ කොහොමද? හැම ප්‍රශ්නෙටම 'ඇයි බං මහජනතාවනේ!' වගේ උත්තර හරියන්නේ නෑ.  

සිදුවුනේ මොකද්ද, සිදු වෙමින් පවතින්නේ මොනවද, ඉදිරියේ සිදු විය හැකි දේවල් මොනවාද විමසන කොට අරගලයේ ජනසතු-අගය වගේමා ජනතාකරණ අනතුර ගැනද කතා කරන්න සිද්ද වෙනවා.
සංවිධාන ව්‍යුහයක් නැති, පුළුල් දේශපාලන වැඩසටහනක් නැති ජනතා නැගිටීම් අනිවාර්යයෙන්ම අනන්‍යතාවය වගේම නියෝජන වලංගුභාවය පිලිබඳ අර්බුදයන් වෙත ගමන් කරනවා.  අරගලය අයිති කාටද? අරගලයට අයිති කවුද? අයිතිකාරයින් ඉන්නවානම් එයාලට අයිතිය පැවරුවේ කවුද, කොහොමද? සංවිධාන ව්‍යුහයක් නැති, පුළුල් දේශපාලන වැඩසටහනක් නැති ජනතා නැගිටීම් සාමාන්‍යයෙන් දේශපාලන අරමුණු ඇති, සංවිධාන ශක්තියක් ඇති පාර්ශවයන් තමන්ගේ අණසකට නතු කරගන්නවා. එහෙම නැත්තම් අරගල වල දේශපාලන වාසිය තමන් වෙතට හරවගන්න වැඩි හැකියාවක් ඇත්තේ දේශපාල අරමුණු ඇති, සංවිධාන ශක්තියක් ඇති කණ්ඩායම් වලටයි.

ආදරයේ අරගලය ඉවර වුනාද, ඉවර නැත්තම් අරගලයේ හෙට දවස කෙබඳුද යනාදී ප්‍රශ්න පැත්තකට දාමු මොහොතකට.  හෙට මොනවා වෙයි ද කියල කියන්න බෑ. අද අරගලයේ වාසි නෙලාගන්නේ විපක්ෂයේ දේශපාලන චරිත සහ පක්ෂ. අද ව්‍යවස්ථා සංශෝධන කතා නැත. අද #අරගලයgohome ට්‍රෙන්ඩ් කරන්න දඟලන අරගලකරුවන් මතු වෙමින් පවතිනවා. එයාල විශ්‍රාමික අරගලකරුවන්ද නැත්තම් ෆේක් අරගලකරුවන්ද නැත්තම් සැබෑ අරගලකරුවන් ගොනාට අන්දපු තක්කඩිද කියල ඉදිරියට තීන්දු කරන්න පුළුවන් වෙයි.

නමුත් අරගල වලට එකතු වෙන හැමෝම අවසානයන් ගැන මොනතරම් කතා කළත් අවසානය මොනවගේද, එය වෙත යන්නේ කොහොමද යනාදිය ගැන දන්නේ නෑ. දැන ගන්න විදිහකුත් නෑ. එයින් අරගල අර්ථ විරහිත වෙන්නේ නෑ. අරගල වල ස්වභාවය එයයි. අරගල විකාශනය වන ආකාරය, වේගය සහ දිශාව කලින්ම තීන්දු කරන්න බෑ. දිගහැරෙන ආකාරය, වේගය, දිශාව තීන්දු වෙන්නේ අරගලයේ ගතිකත්වයෙන්. මොන විදිහට දිග හැරුණත් අවසානයේ අරගලයේ අයිතිකරුවන් කවුද කියන ප්‍රශ්නය ඉතුරු වෙනවා.         

ජයග්‍රහණයකට පියවරු මවුවරු දහස් ගණනක්, පරාජය අවජාතකයි. සදාතනික සත්‍යයයක් කියන්න පුළුවන්. ඒත් ඉතින් ජයග්‍රහණය සහ පරාජය අර්ථකථනය කරගන්න විදිහ අනුව තමයි පීතෘත්වය, මාතෘත්වය සහ අවජාතකකම් මනින්න වෙන්නේ. අරගලය ඉදිරියට යද්දී කොඩි වැනුනා, ජය ගී ගැයුනා. අරගලය බ්රේක් වෙද්දී, අරගලයේ කොඩි කොහේ හරි හිටපු අය අතට ගත්තට පස්සේ, තනු වෙනස් වෙන්න පටන් ගත්තා. කොඩි හැකිලුනා. මේ සියලු දේ සිද්ද වෙද්දී, අරාජිකත්වයම ඉල්ලපු, අරාජිකත්වයටම අත වනපු, හිංසනය විහින්සනය දක්වා දක්කපු ඇතැම් අයට අරගලය දැන් තිත්ත වෙලා වගෙයි. තිත්ත වෙලාම නෙවෙයි. සටන් පාඨ වෙනස් වෙලා. ගෝටාගෝහෝම් කතා දැන් වැඩක් නැහැ. මයිනාගෝහෝම් කතා ඉවරයි. සිස්ටම්-චේන්ජ් හාන්සි වෙලා.

දැන් ඇහෙන්නේ වෙන කතා. දැන් ඇති. අපි ඕවට නෑ. අරගලයගෝහෝම්. අපට අවශ්‍ය වුනේ මේ වගේ අරගලයක් නෙවෙයි. අපි එකතු වුන අරගලය නෙවෙයි මේක. ඇහෙන්නේ ඒ වගේ කතා. මරපිය, මැරියන්, ගිනි තියපන්, හොඳ වැඩේ ඕකුන්ට, අන්න අරූ අතන, අන්න අරූ left, අනන් අරුත් left, වගේ දේවල් සමාජ මාධ්‍යයේ පොස්ට් කරපු අය නැත්තම් ඒ වගේ පොස්ට් වලට ලයික්-ෂෙයාර් දාපු අය නැත්තම් මේවා නොදැක්කා වගේ හිටපු අය එක පාරටම අරගලයෙන් අත හෝදගන්න ට්‍රෙන්ඩ් එකක් පේනවා.  ඒ අයගෙන් සැලකිය යුතු පිරිසක් ඇන්ටිලා, අංකල්ලා, මචංලා නෙවෙයි. auntyලා uncleලා, broලා. එයාල සහ එයාලගේ mumලා, dadලා, grandpaලා සහ grandmaලා ඒ කාලේ ඉඳල ඡන්දේ දුන්නේ කාටද කියල හොයන්න වටිනවා. ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍ර වුරෝධී හැම පාලකයාටම එරෙහි වුනාද, හොරකමට සහ හොරුන්ට එරෙහිව හැමදාම හඬක් නැගුවද, පාලකයෝ ගත්ත හැම මෝඩ ප්‍රතිපත්තිමය තීන්දුවකටම එරෙහි වුනාද, ඒ තීන්දු කෝචෝක් කළාද කියලත් හොයන්න වටිනවා. සිස්ටම්-චේන්ජ් ගැන කතා කරපු නමුත් දැන් ඒ ගැන මුනිවත රකින අය සිස්ටම් කියල අදහස් කරන්නේ මොකද්ද කියල හොයන්න වටිනවා. පැවති සහ පවතින සිස්ටම් එකෙන් තමන්ට වාසි ලැබුනද, ලැබිය හැකි වාසි ප්‍රතික්ෂේප කෙරුවද කියලත් හොයන්න වටිනවා. අරගලය සමග අනන්‍ය වුන හැමෝම මේවා හොයනාවානම් හොඳයි. අරගල බෝට්ටුවට අන්තිමට ගොඩ වුනේ කවුද, බෝට්ටුව මොන පැත්තටද ගමන් කෙරුවේ සහ ගමන් කරන්නේ වගේ දේවල් වඩා පැහැදිළි වෙයි එතකොට.    

මේ සියලු දේවල් ඕනෑම අරගලයක සුලබව දකින්න තියෙනවා. වඩා සීරියස් ප්‍රශ්නක් ඉතුරු වෙනවා. ඇත්තටම එහෙම ප්‍රශ්නයක් තියෙනවා කියල මුල ඉඳලම පැහැදිලි වුනාට අරගලයේ බහුතරයක් ඒක පිළිගන්න කැමති වුනේ නෑ. අරගලය කාගේද කියන එකට පහසු උත්තරයක් නෑ. ඒත් අරගලය වෙනුවෙන් කතා කරන අයට එසේ අරගලය නියෝජනය කරන්න වරමක් දුන්නේ කවුද කියන ප්‍රශ්නයට නම් සරල උත්තරයක් තියෙනවා: එහෙම සියලු දෙනාගේ නැත්තම් අඩුම තරමින් අරගලයේ සියලු පාර්ශවකරුවන්ගෙන් බහුතරයක කැමැත්තක් කාටවත් ලැබිලා නැත. ජනතා අරගලයක් නම්, 'ජනතාව' කියන්නේ කවුද, ඒ කියන 'ජනතාව' ජන වරමක් කාට හරි දුන්නද, ඒ ජනමතය මොකද්ද කියලා තීන්දු කරන ක්‍රමයක් තිබුනද යනාදී ප්‍රශ්න වලට උත්තර නෑ. ඒ වෙනුවට එක එක කණ්ඩායම්, ජන වරම සමස්ත 'ජනතාව' තම තමන් වෙත පවරාගත් පිරිස් හඳුනගන්න පුළුවන්.

මෙහි වැදගත්ම කාරණය වන්නේ ඒ විදිහට, අත්තනෝමතික විදිහට, තම තමන්ම අරගල-ඔටුණු දාගත්ත අය ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදය, ජන වරම සහ ජනතා පරමාධිපත්‍යය ගැන රටටම ටියුෂන් දෙන්න හදන එකයි.

මාතෘකාව සලකා බලමු. "අරගලය ජනසතු කළාද සහ ජනතාකරණයට ලක් වුනාද?" ජනතා අරගලයක් අලුතින් ජනසතු කරන්න ඕනේ නෑ.  ආදරයේ අරගලයේ ජනතාව දස දහස් ගණනින් හිටියා. දස දහස් ගණනින් කෙසේ වෙතත් අරගලය තුල තවමත් ඉන්නවා. වඩා නිවැරදිව කිව්වොත් කවුරු කවුරුත් 'අරගලයක්' තුල හිටියා, ඉන්නවා සහ තමන් තේරුම් ගත්ත කුමන හෝ අරගලයක් සමග අනන්‍ය වුනා, අනන්‍ය වෙලා ඉන්නවා. 'ජනතාකරණය' කියන්නේ වෙනම දෙයක්. පුද්ගලීකරණය වෙනුවට රණසිංහ ප්‍රේමදාස භාවිතා කරපු සුරතල් ආදේශයක්.

මෙහෙම කියන්න පුළුවන්. සම්පුර්ණයෙන් ජනසතු වූ අරගල නෑ, ඒකෙ අවුලකුත් නෑ. අරගලය ජනතාකරණය වෙමින් පවතිනවා. ඒක අවුල්.  


The Aragalaya: A Postscript

ව්‍යවස්ථා සංශෝධන මාෆියාව/මේනියාව

 Vee da (වීද) hoo da (හූද) people?

When the centre cannot hold...

Recipes for co-opting and subverting #peoplepower


The international community, the opposition and 'the people'

The 'ada davase mahanakama'


Personalities and systems

The 'aragalists' and the challenge of re-mapping Sri Lanka

Tomorrow, tomorrow and so forth...

A season of (il)legitimacies 

The brink and beyond

Spontaneity and its discontents 

ලෙයට ලෙය වෙනුවට ආලය

පුද්ගල චරිත මතුවේ, නිර්පාක්ෂික හැව ගැලැවේ, අරගලය ඉදිරියටම....

The BASL Proposals: A review

[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.]

The Aragalaya: a postscript


Ranil Wickremesinghe is no longer president in an acting capacity. He is the president, period. Did someone say ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry?’ I am pretty sure someone did. Did someone say, ’who wudda thunk?’ Well, if two or three years ago, if anyone suggested that in July 2023 Ranil Wickremesinghe would be the president of this country, there would have been laughter and tears, if at all, would have been of mirth.

But get this: he is legit. Yes, he barely got into Parliament. Yes, his party returned just a single member and this only through the National List. And yet, as per constitutional provisions, he was legitimately elected President. Interestingly, his ascension is similar to that of his uncle, J R Jayewardene in 1978. There was no Presidential Election in 1978. The newly elected United National Party, with JR as Prime Minister enacted a new constitution with a provision for Parliament to elect a president with executive powers. It was only in 1982 that JR actually faced a presidential election; one which was fraught with allegations of widespread malpractice over and above the fact that his government stripped Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the individual with the best chance of defeating him, of her civil rights.

2022 is a different kind of year/situation. Wickremesinghe was appointed Prime Minister by the  politically beleaguered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Wickremesinghe’s legitimacy came into question. That was in May. Today, he is the president as per the majority will of Parliament. Today, however, there are still people questioning his legitimacy on account of his party’s and the number of votes garnered at the last General Election. However, until such time an election is held, parliamentary or presidential, there’s no other mechanism to test the legitimacy of the illegitimacy-claims.

How did we get to this, some vociferous ‘Aragalists’ are asking themselves and anyone willing to listen. Interestingly, that question betrays a curious and all things considered irresponsible understanding of political processes, including provisions for change enshrined in the constitution. Let’s elaborate.

If ‘single-minded’ was what the Aragalaya was about then it was apparent in one thing alone: the slogan “#gotagohome.” Aragalists, for the most part, pooh-poohed those who asked ‘and afterwards, what/who?’ First things first, they said. In other words, they deliberately back-shelved the question pertaining to post-Gotabaya Sri Lanka.

As it might have been expected, the protest lost must vim and vigour the moment the demanded outcome materialised. Some even posed, first cautiously and later quite vigorously, that the aragalaya (in other words, the aragalists) should go home. It looks like some were happy to take home a consolation prize while for others it was THE prize, i.e. evicting the Rajapaksas from the political stage. In all this, one thing is startlingly conspicuous by its very absence: zero effort to address the systemic flaws that pushed Sri Lanka over the brink, flaws that were deliberately created, sustained and made worse over almost half a century. So it was just a power game, nothing more, nothing less.

At the end of the day, Ranil Wickremesinghe has become the de facto leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna or, as someone might say, he has skillfully taken over that party. How he deals with the SLPP and how he performs as president is of course left to be seen, but that’s for later. Right now, his detractors within and without parliament (and these probably include many who supported Gotabaya Rajapaksa) are left to rue what may have been. How they regroup, re-imagine Sri Lanka and re-think strategy, is also left to be seen.

These turn of events have produced many questions. First and foremost, while there’s no denying the widespread displeasure and anger at the previous government (opposition which congealed naturally into an anti-Gotabaya riot of sorts or rather a ‘bread-riot’ wrapped in the #gotagohome streamer), it also provided fertile ground for all manner of political racketeers. They were essentially peddling their wares at Galle Face. Some had axes to grind. Some were far more devious, far better organised and focused. It has come to light that the US Embassy was thick in its involvement, funding directly and indirectly media outfits, 'research' institutes, think-tanks, NGOs, activists and social media operatives, many with pretty sick histories. Twitter feeds, instagram and Facebook posts leave trails. Makes for interesting reading. More will be known soon.

However, it is left to be seen whether such movers and shakers thought beyond #gotagohome. Is Ranil Wickremesinghe the desired ‘outcome’? It’s hard to tell. The aragalists, after all, began targeting Wickremesinghe the moment he was appointed as Prime Minister. The US Ambassador, perhaps covering all bases, exposed the JVP leader to endless vilification from left circles with endorsement that stopped just short of cuddles and kisses. She however tweeted that Wickremesinghe’s appointment as premier was a necessary first step. The JVP, after pooh-poohing the aragalaya in early April, attempting to hijack it later on by saying it needed a head (essentially ridiculing aragalists for being airheads, at best), later claiming outright ownership and on Wednesday putting forward Anura Kumara Dissanayake as presidential candidate and losing, now stands in opposition to the new government. Friends inside and friends outside. Happy times, certainly.

Reality check all around, though. The aragalaya is now positioned to shed the instigators with shady agenda who were living in the pockets of foreign governments, religious organizations and such. The nationalists have got rid of the Rajapaksa dead weight that had in effect crippled them. The Kolombians have distanced themselves from wannabe Kolombians. Wannabe Kolombians have been rudely awakened to the fact that in the face of Kolombians they are just another set of rowdies whose only redeeming feature was that at a particular moment in history they stood against their longtime nemesis, the Rajapaksas.

So, is this some kind of postscript for the aragalaya? Not necessarily. It didn’t start with any talk of bringing Ranil Wickremesinghe to power and it need not end with him becoming president. Time is long. Battles are lost but this doesn’t mean wars will also be lost. Betrayals are part of the story. Disappointments are to be expected. Falling short is not a crime. Some people, mostly youth, with exemplary idealism, courage, determination and innovative rush, decided to fight. It is unfair to ridicule them for not having emerged victorious. The aragalaya, some say gleefully, is dead. Some aragala, i.e. in the plural, did die, some would wounded, some retired hurt and some just quit. There’s another aragalaya that still breathes. Sobered, perhaps. That’s a good thing.  

[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.]