What we can expect in Sri Lanka in 2008

It is impossible to prophesise political developments in Sri Lanka with any degree of accuracy. For starters, there is little that is logical about party politics and nothing that is principled. From the pathological condition of politicking for short-term and personal gain to random acts of terrorism and responses that change individual and communal fortunes overnight, Sri Lanka’s incredibly frustrating socio-political developments bedevils easy explanation or projections into the future.

Some aspects of what we will see in 2008 are, however, blatantly obvious from developments the year before. For starters, the UNP will continue its downward spiral into monumental irrelevance. Without any real vision, a significant lack of appeal amongst Southern voters, no meaningful alternatives to the socio-economic policies and military strategies of the government and shackled by a marked lack of political imagination, the UNP is even today a tragic party struggling to come to grips with its rapid and significant demise. The mercurial Leader of the Opposition will increasingly find himself alienated by a polity and society no longer able to appreciate debates on the finer points of governance based on erudite arguments, that is his forte. Though for the sake of populist optics the party will attempt half-heartedly to come up with political rhetoric aimed at appealing to the exceptionally strong vote base of the SLFP, it will fail in this regard. It is a party unable, in a sustained manner, to capture and galvanise public frustration with the Government, which is not insignificant and will certainly grow over 2008. In place of any significant impact locally, we will see the party appeal more and more to the International Community to support measures to expose the Government’s failings. This strategy will also fail. Like Putin’s Russia, Sri Lanka is no more governed by those who really give a damn for the opinions and recommendations of the International Community, or more accurately, has realigned itself under the guise of a new multi-partial foreign policy to regimes and states who are disinterested in linking developmental aid flows to human rights and good governance. More fundamentally, the International Community’s strategy of qualified support for the peace process with its conditionalities on aid no longer holds the LTTE, the State or any paramilitary group in check. Ergo, the UNP’s perceived partiality towards the International Community and to the US and Norway in particular will further alienate it in the South. Lacking therefore in a strong domestic, regional and international anchor, the party will meander from one rally to another all the time threatening to bring down the government but unable to cobble together support even within its own ranks to do so.

What of the JVP and JHU? I submit that we will hear even less of the JHU in 2008 than we did in 2007 as there is no longer any need for them to exist as a distinct political entity. They are self-effacing in positions unparalleled influence and authority within the Rajapakse administration. In fact, greater media exposure for them and their actions could actually vitiate their power. For example, Champika Ranawaka’s avowed environmental concerns will actually translate into policies that will see significant demographic changes in the East and in cleared areas in the North, but will simply fail to register in State owned media as essentially colonial. The JHU’s rabid intolerance of meaningful power sharing beyond the 13th Amendment, that it associates with the dissolution of and a grave threat to its ideal of a Sinhala Buddhist State, will find ready expression in the policies of the Rajapakse administration that will in no way accept recommendations by the APRC that are aligned to the federal idea. It will continue to set assert that only the JHU are true patriots and take pains to set themselves apart from what they consider and will publicly express as the essentially unprincipled political opportunism of the JVP. For its part, the JVP will continue to cantankerously and venomously attack the government’s record of corruption, fiscal policies and war efforts. Fundamentally however, the last thing it wants to do is to topple the government. As I noted in an article on the JVP I wrote in 2007, The JVP’s essential intolerance of dissent and plural opinion, both within its party and in polity and society writ large, is one that the Rajapakse administration has adopted and promoted in the SLFP, and how! Today, the JVP itself can only define itself in opposition to a mirror image of itself – the government’s ethnic majoritarianism by the self-proclaimed children of ’56 significantly challenges and vitiates the JVP’s own fire brand Sinhala nationalist propaganda. Much as they will publicly deride the government, they will be even more dependent on it for their own political survival in 2008.

Above all, Mahinda Rajapaksa will be unshakable in 2008. The 60th year of our independence will be his year, his way, his time. A few salient points from the Peace Confidence Index (PCI) poll conducted in November 2007 by the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) makes for interesting reading in this regard.

• A majority of the Sinhala community (48.5%) feel that the war can be ended and peace restored in Sri Lanka only by the government defeating the LTTE. In the other three communities, (Tamil- 62.3%, Up Country Tamil- 96.7%, Muslim- 85.2%) the option chosen was to stop the war and conduct peace negotiations.
• The survey also asked the respondents to rate their level of satisfaction with regards to the action taken by various institutions to protect human rights. 61.7% of the Sinhala community expressed satisfaction with the way the government has protected their rights. A majority of the Tamil (62.7%) and Up Country Tamil (60%) thought the contrary.
• A majority of the Sinhala community (60.5%) agree to bear the rising cost of living for the sake of the government’s war against the LTTE. 90.7% of the Tamil community, 90.4% of the Up Country Tamil community and 71.1% of the Muslim community disagree.
• While a majority of 67% of the Sinhalese approve of the government increasing their defence spending, majorities in the other three communities (Tamil-72%, Up country Tamil-77.2%, Muslim-50.4%) disapprove.
• When asked whether they were aware of the report published by the Committee on Public Enterprise, majorities in all four communities (Sinhala- 60.4%, Tamil- 61.4%, Up Country Tamil- 87.9%, and Muslim- 67.2%) were unaware of this report.
• A majority of 84.4% of the Sinhalese expressed satisfaction the President’s handling of law and order. 66.6% of Tamils and 75% of Up country Tamils expressed their dissatisfaction.
• A majority of the Sinhala community (57.1%) stated that they are very satisfied with the President’s handling of the war. However, 65.4% of the Tamil community and 70.4% of the Up Country Tamil community said that they were very dissatisfied.

These are clear markers of a deeply polarized, ethnically divided society. On many counts related to public perception of governance, war and peace, the Tamil community inhabit a country that is the polar opposite to that of the Sinhalese community. However, the Rajapakse administration does not and will not care about the reconciliation of communal differences – fundamentally, it is a Government of and for the Sinhala South. Its message will be simple, resonant and powerful – help us defeat terrorism by supporting us. It will, violently if necessary, seek to erase all competing and counter-narratives. It is a message that will stick with its Southern support base because it will be communicated in simple, easy to understand Sinhalese. Interestingly, the same message(s) will be communicated through bombastic English and polemics by those manning the Forward Defense Lines (FDLs) of diplomacy here and abroad, as so aptly articulated by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleke in a recent article of his. In this sense, the Government’s local and international propaganda will rival in 2008, for the first time, the best that the LTTE has been able to muster.

The Rajapakse administration’s strength rooted in its significant public legitimacy will exacerbate problems for most NGOs and international agencies based in Sri Lanka working on peacebuilding, human rights, humanitarian issues and good governance in particular. These organizations will articulate problems and speak in a language that the Sinhala, Southern voter will have even less patience for than in 2007. This is a marker of the success of this Government’s significant and dare I say admirable strategy to control the public discourse and critical thinking by overt and hidden means and the total control of State media, to the extent that the average voter in the South is no longer even remotely aware of or able to imagine the very real problems associated with the Rajapakse regime. It matches the LTTE’s brainwashing in its scope and ferocity. Senior leadership of pro-democracy NGOs will face ever increasing hate speech by those in power and their local and international apparatchiks. Field workers of local and international human rights and humanitarian organizations in particular will suffer the brunt of physical attacks, including outright murder and torture with total impunity. Further, organizations working on media freedom and the freedom of expression will find themselves painted as agents of foreign government’s with no real legitimacy in Sri Lanka. The Administration will become more rabid and parochial in its definition of what is local, authentic, Sinhala and Sri Lankan and essentially kosher in civil society initiatives. Anything and anyone that falls outside these self-styled definitions will be dealt with extreme prejudice.

It goes without saying that the LTTE, kindly put, will not have it easy in 2008. Clearly, they are militarily weakened as never before. They have considerably lost face, lost ground and lost their moral high ground locally and internationally. Their international image is battered and bruised. Their ardent hope that the International Community’s support will swing their way in light of the incredible and incipient racism of the Rajapakse administration was also terribly unfounded in 2007. This will not change in 2008. There is a palpable sense of imminent victory in the South against the LTTE, fuelled in large part by a sophisticated government propaganda machine that has generated a large measure of support, amongst a broad base of voters in the South for the government’s war against the LTTE. If the argument is made that liberal democracy is terrorism’s greatest ally because is constitutionally circumscribes what a government and State can do in response to terror attacks, the Rajapakse administration really has demonstrated how the complete and open sacrifice of fundamental rights and liberties can position it as more than a capable force to counter the threat of LTTE’s terrorism. In other words, the LTTE has never before fought itself. It now finds itself in a position where everything that it does will and can be matched by a Government untethered to notions of civility, mechanisms of constitutional governance or a regime of human rights. “If the choice is between public safety and public freedoms, I do not hesitate to say that public safety will always win.” said Malaysian PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Admad Badawi, in his speech at the Khazanah Global Lecture in Putrajaya, Malaysia on 10th December 2007. Clearly, our President would agree. “We have recorded unprecedented military gains and they, no doubt, will pave the way for a political solution,” the President said at a recent public meeting in the South, who went on to say that “there is no point in talking about a political solution without militarily crushing terrorism.”

In 2008, all civil society does, say and thinks will be defined and measured against the rubric of his government’s war against terror. It is a war that in will not just sacrifice all constitutionally enshrined democratic principles and values including the 17th Amendment, but in doing so, will see media freedom and the freedom of expression deteriorate significantly, Right to Information legislation seen as a threat to the war efforts and accordingly dismissed and the APRC’s recommendations shafted aside as untimely and inappropriate. Debt will grow, inflation will rise, tourism will fail to pick up in light of unstoppable terror attacks in commercial hubs and civilian targets by the LTTE, paramilitary groups or by elements within the Government itself, the East will continue to be the playground of the TMVP, our Foreign Policy will become even more farcical and we will, in sum, continue seemingly inexorably towards a country akin to that of present day Zimbabwe. As noted by political commentator Victor Ivan earlier this year, “in spite of all the allegations — corruption, large scale human rights violations, unprecedented nepotism and rising cost of living — the President will remain in office until the end of his term. This pattern cannot be altered except by a crisis caused by a complete collapse of the political system, and certainly not by political manoeuvring by the opposition.”

The point is quite simply that in 2008 the Government will cease to care about the niceties of democracy. If its kid gloves came off in 2007, its boxing gloves will come on in 2008 and we in civil society and NGOs keen to see the restoration of democracy in Sri Lanka will be soundly pummelled.

In our 60th year of independence, we may well defeat the LTTE. However, our war against terror would have only just begun.

This article written for Montage, published by Counterpoint. To get in touch with or to subscribe to Montage, please email montagesrilanka [at] gmail.com

  • sham

    super analysis…
    also good to note that the CPA survey shows that majority of Sinhalese is for the mother of all wars. it would be interesting to see what the numbers that the CPA has used as the total citizens of tamil and muslim origin, hence to get a % number of total sri lankans for a military solution.

    also, i hope that the defence ministry comes up with some legislaton like the “officical secrets Act” during the WW2, which churchill used to his use well.

    in 2008, hopefully the people in sri lanka will learn that majority whether rightly or wrongly is what matters and that minority in any thing means that you are second to some one.

    and hopefully we will see a UNP based on meritocrasy , where a leader who losses a lot realises his problems and starts grooming a another politician from deep south for a eventual 2012 presidential bid.

  • http://www.cpalanka.org groundviews

    The Peace Confidence Index (PCI) November 2007 poll that I’ve quoted can be accessed from http://www.cpalanka.org/research_papers/PCI_November_2007_REPORT.pdf. The document includes details of the polling methodology used.

  • http://nowebsiteyet Nimal Hewanila

    nice and very negative analyse.but I am wondering how many of you really working to find solution.most people in sri lanak like to writte and talk but none of them doesn’t want to work change the system becasue it very much effecticve and you also has to change.but of them doesn’t want to change but want to see others to change.

  • Plain Truth

    Dear Sanjana

    I read some of what you wrote and quote a sentence below from your post.

    “In our 60th year of independence, we may well defeat the LTTE. However, our war against terror would have only just begun.”

    The excuse to terrorize people by the current administration is LTTE and the war. If LTTE is defeated or weakened militarily, I am hopeful the degree of ethnic polarization will be diminished. Sri Lanka will be more open for the international arena since investors will have the confidence to come in. With that, opportunities will come in and people will create reasons to get together and celebrate differences than fighting with each other.

    The nation is waiting to flourish without war clouds.

  • cyberviews

    The only silver lining to yet another gloomy forecast is the quote from the Victor Ivan article“in spite of all the allegations — corruption, large scale human rights violations, unprecedented nepotism and rising cost of living — the President will remain in office until the end of his term. This pattern cannot be altered except by a crisis caused by a complete collapse of the political system, and certainly not by political manoeuvring by the opposition.” The Mervyn Silva episode augurs well for the future!

    Would also like to have seen how the interantional factor will play out in this excellent painting of the political landscape for 2008 that has been presented as inevitable.

  • Veedhur

    Mano Ganesan, the only parliamentarian (in addition to Wijedasa Rajapakse) who was crusading against state terrorism is repored to be fleeing from the country due to threats of assassination. A great way to start the New Year!

    Plain truth, it is not only LTTE violence which is the problem, the majoritarian sinhala budhist ideology which refuses to ‘celebrate difference’ but asks for special treatment and privileges is a bigger problem and predates LTTE. LTTE is not an excuse it is the product of this ideology and it shows no signs of accommodating others as equals! let alone be magnanimous as befitting a majority community

  • Veedhur

    Hi in my previous posting it should read “….the only parliamentarian (in addition to Wijedasa Rajapakse) who has shown to have some back bone and who was crusading against state terrorism….”

    sorry for the confusion

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Hi Sanjana,

    Thanks for the left handed compliment. Er, by the way, its ” multi-polar” not “multipartial”…and it should be ‘uninterested’, not ‘disinterested’. The latter means without any hope of gain, or, less bombastically, without any angles.

    Anyway, a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Dayan

  • punitham

    Sanjana, are you safe in Colombo?

  • http://www.cpalanka.org groundviews

    Hi Dayan,

    Had a hunch you’ll comment on this one and thanks. Multi-polar indeed! Must hasten to learn this new argot of FDL diplomacy that you are coining apace.

    And it was a mere observation, not compliment. Aptly in the sense of appropriate or suitable in the circumstances. When I do want to compliment you, I’ll come out and say it with my right hand. Promise.

    Take care and all the best for ’08.

    Sanjana

    P.S. How does one get your book in SL?

  • http://www.cpalanka.org groundviews

    Punitham,

    I guess so. Who knows? Why do you ask?

    SH

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Sanjana,

    My book will have to be mail ordered, i fear. Any Amazon would do, though as Google would show its widely available … WH Smith, Barnes & Noble etc. Vijitha Yapa should be able to get it for you, but so could any pal coming in from London. The paperback has a neat cover illustration, but the hardback is sleeker.

    Hope you saw the Dylan movie by Todd Haynes: ” I’m Not There”.

    best,
    Dayan

  • Plain Truth

    Dear Veedhur
    Since you are making a statement, I have to respond.

    A nation can’t afford to have a violent group. It is the duty of the citizen of the nation to reject violence coherently. When you say “majoritarian sinhala budhist ideology” it is a personal opinion without much merit. Please correct my position if you have credible studies.
    Would you please elaborate what you mean by Buddhist ideology?
    Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country and they can ask for special privileges just like minorities can ask their own homeland. The problem is if Buddhists ask to suppress other religions and I don’t think it is the case here. Beside, how can you put LTTE and Buddhists on the same page since it is LTTE with arms, considered a terrorist by many nations and not the Buddhists.
    If you forget the constitution for a moment, haven’t Buddhist embraced other religions for centuries? Buddhists have invited Hindus into the temple and worship Hindu Gods side by side with Tamils. Christians/Catholics have been living side by side very peacefully with Buddhists (with the exception of violence due to unethical conversions). It is very easy to find excuses to justify or defend LTTE actions by pointing certain issues related to the majority.
    If LTTE did not start the war, we would have resolved lot of issues related to minority concerns over last few decades. There are lot of people in Sri Lanka who are ready to forget racial difference and find a common solution. LTTE actions have created animosity between ethnic groups and Sri Lankans have started supporting bad governments just to get rid of them.
    If you feel my response a personal insult for you, please let me know and my email is truthplain at gmail dot com.

    Cheers

  • V

    Excellent article! Though, after the Mervyn Silva incident, I am filled with hope–on two accounts. First, the brutality that we Sinhala have merrily applauded when directed at the Tamil community has now been turned on us by the very people we celebrated (Api Wenuwen Api). We had to get a taste of our own medicine to understand why public freedom and human rights is holy ground that must not be compromised ever. Second, the staff at Rupavahini, brown-nosing government lackeys though they are, proved that there is a line that cannot be crossed. Push the public beyond that line and they will push back. So let’s hope MR pushes us hard in 2008. It may be his undoing.

  • Veedhur

    Hi plain truth, no insult at all.

    Just to be clear, in the same way as LTTE not equal to Tamils, Sinhala Buddhist Ideologues not equal to Sinhala Budhists. Tamils and Sinhalese and for that matter Christians and Muslims and Jews and Afrikaaners and Biharis can and do get along fine.

    Unfortunately the LTTE on the one side and the Sinhala-Buddhists Ideologists on the other side seem to have an ‘exclusivist’ idea of the this Island. They drive and determine the affairs of the state and the Tamils and Sinhala Buddhists have to bear the brunt. The forecast for the year 2008 is that they will have even more of a say!

    The Sinhala-Buddhist ideologists I refer to are only a small proportion (and by the way they do not let ‘Buddhism as Budha preached’ get in their way!) but have historically been influential in stalling any accommodating solution to the Tamils – be it BC or DC or PC or anything of that sort. Currently the JHU, strands of JVP and sections of the Sangha fall into this category.

    The larger population though is culpable only as far as they let this minority determine the direction of the country at every turn and to date has prevented a meaningful solution to be presented to the Tamils. The Tamils though cannot be accused with a similar crime because, I don’t think they have any democratic space beyond the gun-point diktats of the LTTE.

    My contention is that LTTE was a product of the exclusivist approach. Solution therefore lies in tackling both forms of extremism.

    Gamini Viyangoda’s article must be interesting reading…

  • cyberviews

    Plain Truth says “Beside, how can you put LTTE and Buddhists on the same page since it is LTTE with arms, considered a terrorist by many nations and not the Buddhists.”

    Now a little bit of imaginative sociological analyis will reveal that in the conflict ridden North and East almost 99% of the pilots in the SLAF dropping bombs, almost 99% of the Navy navigating the seas in armed Dvoras are Buddhists, almost 99 % of the Army, Police and STF carrying AK 47s or manning the MBRLs are Buddhists.

    Buddhists like Plain Truth can’t see this plain truth because of the smoke screen of legitimacy attributed to the actions of the airmen, sailors, soldiers and policemen, on the grounds of defending the sovereignity of the state. No questions are asked about whether the state has been constituted to meet the legitimate aspirations of its minorities. Foregone, simplified, chauvinistic conclusions like “Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country” reflect the absence of enlightened thinking, required by the very Buddhist doctrine that Plian Truth professes,

  • suntzu

    Sri Lanka rebel chief could be dead in 6 months-army – Sun Dec 30, 2007 6:28am EST

    http://www.reuters.com/article/featuredCrisis/idUSCOL341081

    My question is, what happens if Prabahakaran lives as long as Fidel Castro? America and the CIA have tried many times through out the years to kill Castro! But he is still alive (barely) and kicking!

    ps: what happens if the armed forces haven’t defeated the LTTE by the end of December 2008? Also Plain Truth…Sri Lanka is NOT a Buddhist country! Sri Lanka is a country with a ‘Majority of Buddhists’! Don’t forget that there are Hindus, muslims (who profess Islam) and Christians also living in Sri Lanka!

    Sri Lanka can only become a Buddhist country if 100% of the population is Buddhist!

  • Plain Truth

    Dear cyberview:

    First, you are describing the National army. Tell me how many civilian Buddhists carry weapons? Here you are forgetting the Christian and Muslim Sri Lankan composition in the armed forces stating they are 1%. Please back up with credible statistics show it is the case since I would like to know that.

    What is America with respect to religion? It is a Christian nation. Telling Sri Lanka a Buddhist country is not derogatory for minorities since over 70% of SLns are Buddhist. It is a general description. It is not a chauvinistic conclusion. If Buddhists say the rest to get out (I know very few say that now), then it becomes a chauvinistic issue.

    I think the nation is ready for addressing the aspirations of all Sri Lankans when there is no distraction from the war. The conflict resolution will never happen naturally when there is a severe crisis.

    I have a feeling that the term “Buddhism” often associated with the SL conflict to sell the Tamil side of the story effectively to the western ears. If you get to know a real Buddhist, you will discover a friend for the life.

    Cheers

  • Sam

    “Now a little bit of imaginative sociological analyis will reveal that in the conflict ridden North and East almost 99% of the pilots in the SLAF dropping bombs, almost 99% of the Navy navigating the seas in armed Dvoras are Buddhists, almost 99 % of the Army, Police and STF carrying AK 47s or manning the MBRLs are Buddhists. ”

    Do you have any sources for your outlandish claim? Or did you just pull these “stats” out of the sky?

  • http://deleted Sam

    “Also Plain Truth…Sri Lanka is NOT a Buddhist country! Sri Lanka is a country with a ‘Majority of Buddhists’! Don’t forget that there are Hindus, muslims (who profess Islam) and Christians also living in Sri Lanka! ”

    Sri Lanka is considered a Buddhist country by the world at large, just like Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia are considered Buddhist countries and India and Nepal Hindu countries and Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh Muslim countries. The constitution of Sri Lanka also accords Buddhism foremost position and it is the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana. All the population in a country does not have to adhere to a particular religion inorder for it to be called a country of that religion. Even the best journalists use the term “Muslim countries” when referring to the countries where the majority of the population is Muslim.

    By making a hullabaloo about Buddhism you’re only making the Sinhalese Buddhist majority become more defensive and suspicious of minority agendas. It’s only going to hurt the minority cause. The Sinhalese will never comprimise on Buddhism, they haven’t for the past 2500 years.

  • Plain Truth

    Dear suntzu,

    “Also Plain Truth…Sri Lanka is NOT a Buddhist country! Sri Lanka is a country with a ‘Majority of Buddhists’! Don’t forget that there are Hindus, muslims (who profess Islam) and Christians also living in Sri Lanka!

    Sri Lanka can only become a Buddhist country if 100% of the population is Buddhist! ”

    Your point is well taken. My definition is a loose one like saying bread is made out of flour without talking about the fat/salt.water/etc. What is the point of view of a minority about England or USA as far as the religion is concerned? Aren’t they Christian countries for them? That’s all.

  • Plain Truth

    Dear Sam

    You win the Plain Truth award for the day :)

    “By making a hullabaloo about Buddhism you’re only making the Sinhalese Buddhist majority become more defensive and suspicious of minority agendas. It’s only going to hurt the minority cause. The Sinhalese will never compromise on Buddhism, they haven’t for the past 2500 years.”

    This is the plain truth. If the minority can accept that, conflict resolution is easy.
    The reality is … it is tough to change a whopping majority just because their numbers are huge.

    Of cause if one is over ambitious, has the lobbying money and NGO’s ears,
    you get the feeling that you can change the majority behavior.

  • suntzu

    Dear Plain Truth… today is the 31st of Dcember 2007 SMT (14:10) (Sri Lankan Mean Time)…have a wonderful New Year!

    ps: Sanjana… Plain Truth has not heard about Voltaire…who said ‘I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!’….sanjana I prefered MOJU…but thats no more…i like what your doing…Esto pe petua (Be thou forever)

  • RMK

    Thanks for a good overview. The forces that drive Sri Lanka’s politics, and their unpredictability, do make for a frightening scenario for 2008. I wonder what circumstances could stimulate change. It’s difficult to envisage, but even so there’s still a feeling as if things can shift in many directions.

    The Presidency, as you outline, is in a strong position through its hegemonic control over identity rhetoric, perception, and debate. Its major fault-line would be the cost of living, and corruption. Those are facts that are impacting on everyone, including government-supporting voters. (Unfortunately human rights violations and breakdown of law and order are less pressing, because they’re not affecting the majority of vote-bank supporters directly.)

    What might happen if the fault-line splits, the economy becomes even worse, and corruption more blatant? Will that change the political alignment? If it takes place, it will be in a different way from the early part of this decade. But how?

    You’re right, the JVP has been trumped by the government taking on its agenda, and are staring at the mirror image of themselves writ large (nice metaphor). However they do still have a strong stand against corruption, probably the most consistent of all the high-profile parties. Perhaps they’ll be able to build on this if the fault-lines start to show. If they can, they could become a stronger and more autonomous political presence once again. If they can’t, maybe it will indicate how much their position and their votes are tied to identity issues, rather than policy and program. Such a failure would show their limitations as an organization, and perhaps would be no surprise.

    It’s hard to imagine disgust with corruption leading to more support for the UNP, or anything else, apart from near-total simultaneous failure on both the military and economic fronts. In spite of decades in opposition, the leadership there still seems to believe power is their right, and are simply waiting for it to fall into their hands, rather than trying to win it (or, heaven forbid, earn it).

    Is the JHU really finished and irrelevant? Maybe it depends on how they are defining their agenda. They certainly need to safeguard a parliamentary presence. But their activities through the Ministry of the Environment are interesting. Declaration of land reserves that appear pro-Sinhala, or at least are interpreted that way on the ground; the Green Tax proposed in the budget; even the Ministry’s apparent role in Karuna’s diplomatic visa, point to a clever insertion into and use of the machinery of government. It may be that the JHU is happy with maintaining their role as an ideological vanguard within the government, and with their ability to use administrative facilities to forward their agendas. So long as they can maintain some kind of effective parliamentary presence, even a reduced one in the future, they may not need strong popular support that differentiates them from the current regime. If they can build up enough patronage networks through government machinery over the next few years, maybe they will be able to sustain that. So perhaps JHU personal and political agendas are nicely served by the status quo, without the long-term difficulties that confront the JVP. What do others think?

    The LTTE is stuck, it seems. They may come back from apparent big defeats with dramatic and damaging attacks, as has happened before. But on the face of it, they are suffering from decades of operations that put their political strategy only at the service of military goals. In some ways, it feels like they have maintained politics only at the level of tactics. Post-9/11, that has cut the ground from under them internationally, for a range of reasons. No-one will cut them any slack now that larger governments are ramping up the ‘war on terror’ rhetoric for their own reasons. Simply on the level of ideology and convenience, it makes no sense for Washington or the UK to provide any kind of wriggle-room for the LTTE now, notwithstanding Tamil diaspora influence in a few electorates. It’s extremely naïve of the Wanni to hope otherwise.

    Previous actions taken purely on a military basis have taken away their possibility to develop new strategies, with the classic one still remaining the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. How much more room would they have to move now, if they hadn’t taken that decision?

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  • Sam

    “What is the point of view of a minority about England or USA as far as the religion is concerned? Aren’t they Christian countries for them? That’s all. ”

    Plain truth, a little known fact:

    Only an Anglican can become the head of state of England. Thus, not only are non-Christians (Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims) barred from that position, so are Christians that belong to other denominations such as Catholics. Besides that, only Christian holy days are officially celebrated and provided with national holidays. So yes, I would say that England is a Christian country — a Christian country that officially discriminates not only against Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, but also non-Anglican Christians.

    And yet, according to some, apparently Sri Lanka is not up to the great “British Standard” :)

  • Peri

    I am a Tamil of Sri Lankan origin and totally agree that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country with other relgious communities also inhabiting the island. Terrorism of any sort is dangerous and action should be taken and supported by all communities to defeat terrorism. In my view majority of Tamils are against LTTE and their violent actions against innocent civilians. They terrorise the helpless Tamils in the north and east, and murder any Tamil leader opposing them.
    It is a great pity that the government has not made any attempt to win the hearts and minds of the peace loving majority Tamils.

    In UK the governments approach in fighting Islamist terrorist was to make sure that the Muslim community are not alienated. As the results show arrests are intelligent lead often with information given by the Muslim community. The recent arbitrary arrests of many Tamils in Colombo will only drive even the most resonable and moderate Tamils into the hands of extremists, exactly what the LTTE wants.

    The real losers are the future generation of Sinhalese and other communities. There will never be victors in this conflict, there are enough examples from history of other nations. If we were to apply the majority argument globaly, Sri Lanka is a very small island and economically a dependent country. We have already lost a great deal in economic progress compared to our neighbours.
    I hope and pray that Sinhalese leaders with vision will emerge in 2008,otherwise soon it will be Sinhalese fighting Sinhalese like what is happening in Pakistan.

    You can fool some people some time but not all people all the time.

  • Sham

    wow sam, thats a bloody good fact…

    and they have the guts to say we discrimnate…………………….
    some one should write a piece here comparing our handling of minorities with such issues in the west

  • Veedhur

    Out of ignorance, Isn’t the head of state of England the Queen?