Critiquing the President’s victory speech: Evidence of a majoritarian mindset?

Authors note: The following is the text of a talk before a forum on minority rights organized by the CPA in July. It should, ideally, have been edited for publication. But, given the recent death threat against CPA Director, Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, is offered here as a gesture of solidarity. Saravanamuttu is one of Sri Lanka’s most consistent, courageous, anti-racist voices. I am not surprised that the mass-murdering, corrupt, militaristic, totalitarian-inclined government of the Rajapakses would want to silence him.

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My brief today is specific: to reflect on a provocative statement in the president’s victory speech after the military defeat of the LTTE. The speech as a whole, given its occasion and its content, demands serious consideration, debate. Its implications are grave, for the minorities, for those who require ethnic equality as a grounding principle of a fair and enabling polity, and for those who believe in debate and disagreement as another imperative of such a polity. My remarks will address these questions, in the course of a reading of the speech, which is offered to this gathering by a literary critic and a Sri Lankan citizen. A citizen marked, not incidentally, as Muslim, a minority.

Given my relative lack of facility with Sinhala, the language in which the speech was delivered before parliament, my quotations are from the English translation available on the President’s official website. I will first address the implications of the speech, as I see them, for the minorities, for ethnic equality; and then turn to the question of disagreement.

Early in the speech, most of which denounces the LTTE and praises the armed forces, the president asserts that he does “not accept a military solution as the final solution.” This is to be welcomed. But the questions arise: what would be the contours of the alternative, what he calls a “political solution”? What would be its basis, or ground? Put differently, what is the problem that requires a solution?

The speech addresses these questions. The president is firmly, categorically, one could even say irrevocably, committed to a unitary state. Any form of devolution which would alter the unitary status of the constitution is off the table. As for the problem, in his opinion, the Tamils have been “denied the right to life…freedom…[and] development.” Others might hold, I certainly would, that the Tamils have been systematically oppressed by Sinhala majoritarianism, at least since the pan-Sinhala Board of Ministers of 1936. But the president doesn’t go that far. The Tamils have been denied some rights. Significantly enough, no agent is identified, named, of such denial. We are left to wonder whether the agent is the Sinhala majoritarian state, only the LTTE, or both.

The president’s silence on this question is telling. For, if the problem is Sinhala majoritarianism, the solution, to be effective, must address it. Must involve a reconstitution of the state on non-majoritarian grounds. Whereas granting Tamil rights need not involve such reconstitution. If the problem is just the LTTE, of course, it has already been solved. But that is not the president’s position.

Here, then, is that provocative statement: “We have removed the word minorities from our vocabulary three years ago. No longer are the Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays and any others minorities.”

One reason this statement could be considered provocative is because, to those who hold that minorities have, or should be legally and constitutionally recognized as having, certain rights as a group, the president could be understood as effectively denying such rights. Given the brutal record of this government, against the Muslims as well as Tamils, this is a credible fear. Especially since the president did not say, in a significant omission, that he has also removed the word “majority” from his vocabulary. Which begs the question: are we to believe that the Sinhalese, the majority, will continue to dominate the country, politically and otherwise? Only, now, with a terminological difference, calling the Tamils etc something else? Is the speech, in other words, subtly, but effectively, majoritarian?

Of course, another reading of the statement is possible – one that a literary critic like myself would be sympathetic to. For, inherent in the term minority is the word minor – which means lesser, unimportant, even insignificant, inconsequential. To a deconstructive literary critic, these senses of the word are concatenated, tightly connected, inextricable. Minority always means both a smaller group, numerically, and a lesser one, consequentially. You cannot use it in the first sense without implying the other, even if you don’t intend to. Language is not something an individual controls, but is social, which we all inherit. Words have histories; they are implicated with politics and society.

Recognizing this, political science has produced at least one alternative to majoritarianism – consociationalism. Taking ethnicity, not just citizenship, as the ground of a plural polity, it seeks to constitute such polities through institutionalizing a combination of group and individual rights. I do not uncritically endorse such an alternative to our unitary constitution; consociationalism has its own difficulties. But, along with federalism, consociationalism should, I submit, be an approach we at least debate. It forms, for instance, the ground of the Northern Ireland agreement. There are also other alternatives to majoritarianism, outside political science, including that which could be called taking turns, which I don’t have the time to discuss fully today.

These alternatives are ground on the belief that to be considered minor, lesser, is profoundly disabling, demeaning, unacceptable. The notion of minority rights, deeply problematic. For, if one calls a group a minority, it is doomed, always, by definition, to be unequal to the majority, to require protection. To always be the object, never a subject, of the polity. From such a perspective, ethnically plural polities, to be fair and equal, must be constituted outside the logic of number. Outside the terminology of major and minor. Rather, all the constituent groups of such a polity must be seen as equal subjects.

From such a perspective, the president’s statement suggests that Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers, etc are no less important to him and his government than Sinhalese, the majority. That all Sri Lankan citizens are truly equal. If this is the case, the statement is not just to be welcomed, but applauded. But for this to be effectively the case, the president, and government, would have to be against not just the term minority, but the politics of majoritarianism.

The question before us, then, is how does one read this statement? Is it opposed to majoritarianism? One time-honored method of reading is to figure out the author’s intention; to ask, what did the president intend? But, in order to do so, one would have to get inside his head – a feat that deconstruction considers impossible. A second method would be to read the statement against the actions of the government. For instance, to ask, is such a statement consistent with a government that, not too long ago, ordered hundreds of Tamils visiting Colombo and its environs from the north expelled? Is such a statement consistent with forcibly confining some three hundred thousand Tamils, almost all of whom have not taken up arms against the government, who are charged with no crime, in internment camps in the Vanni, our own Guantanamo, only larger? Are these Tamils free? What about the northern Muslims? Are they free to go back to their homes in Jaffna, Mannar and elsewhere? Are they equal citizens of Sri Lanka?

If one answers such questions in the negative, one is led, inevitably, to call the president’s statement hypocritical. I do not choose to do so not because I consider Rajapakse incapable of hypocrisy, but because facts are unstable, slippery things. Their meaning can always be contested.

Rather, being a literary critic, I prefer to continue reading the speech. It might give us some clues. The passage immediately following the one cited above goes thus: “There are only two peoples in this country. One is the people that love this country. The other comprises the small groups that have no love for the land of their birth. Those who do not love the country are now a lesser group.”

A couple of points are worthy of note about this passage. The first is its binary, absolutist logic: it divides the country, definitively, into “only” two groups – those who love the country and those who don’t. There is no middle ground. The president doesn’t call the latter traitors; but it is not, I submit, far-fetched to note such an implication. After all, the word for a lover of country is patriot; its antonym, traitor. These two words have a long history, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. For instance, you will no doubt recall that another warrior president, of the country in which I live most of the year, the United States. George W. Bush, famously said, during his self-proclaimed “war on terror,” that U.S. citizens were either with him, or against him. There was no middle ground. To argue for a political response to Islamic extremism, as many of us did publicly at the time, was to be complicitous with terror.

The second point is that the president calls those who, in his opinion, don’t love the country, small, lesser. They are not termed minorities; but are, effectively, minoritized, delegitimized. Which raises, to my mind, further questions: does one have to love a country just because one happens to be born in it? What, in the first place, does it mean to love a country? Must one uncritically endorse its government?

Let’s keep reading; the speech will give us clues: “This small group questions as to whose victory this is. Our answer is that this is not a victory by President Mahinda Rajapaksa alone. The people are gathering around the National Flag…this victory belongs to the people so lined up behind the National Flag.”

To this logic, those who love the country wouldn’t hesitate to stand behind its flag. But let’s take a closer look at the flag. To state the obvious, it’s dominated by an armed lion. As the report of the National Flag Committee of the 1950s reminds us, the lion is meant to represent the Sinhalese. The two stripes beside it, the minorities. Now the president may have dropped the word minority from his vocabulary but, I submit, since the two stripes, individually and together, occupy a smaller space on the flag than that given the lion, our flag effectively minoritizes those groups, represents them as lesser. Unlike, for instance, the Indian flag, where the saffron and green stripes are of equal dimensions.

In such a reading, I submit, to stand behind, or beside, our flag is to endorse Sinhala majoritarian dominance. If all Sri Lankan groups are indeed equal in this country today, surely this should be manifest in our flag? If the president holds that there are no minorities in Sri Lanka, shouldn’t he, by his own logic, be committed to changing the flag to reflect such a position? How can one credibly ask the minorities, or anybody committed to ethnic equality, to stand behind such a flag, one that represents, reinforces, if symbolically, the subordination of these same minorities? Could those who refuse to salute the flag for this reason amount to nothing more, or less, than traitors?

Can one love this country – or any country, for that matter – but disapprove of its flag? Can one love this country and oppose, not the Sinhalese, a people, but Sinhala majoritarianism, a politics?

The president’s speech suggests otherwise. In arguing for “a solution of our very own, of our own nation,” the speech also outlines the grounds of “a solution acceptable to all sections of the people”: “I believe that the solution…[from] we who respect the qualities of Mettha (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Muditha (Rejoicing in others’ joy) and Upeksha (Equanimity), based on the philosophy of Buddhism…can bring both relief and an example to the world. Similarly, I seek the support of all political parties for that solution.”

The president, one should note, does not call for ideas or proposals towards a solution. He is not interested in consulting different shades of opinion, letting there be debate, disagreement. His position is firm: a solution to the problem of the minorities shall be based, grounded, on the philosophy of Buddhism, the religion of the majority. All political parties, and by extension all citizens, are merely asked to support, to assent, to this. This is, I submit, a strange, troubling view of politics – which, by definition, involves more than one party. But, in this understanding, one party alone can propose a solution.

Would this make those who disagree traitors, since there are only two kinds of Sri Lankans today?

I do not know what the president would say in response, but his brother, the Secretary of Defense, is on record, with the BBC earlier this year, equating dissent with treason. Unequivocally, definitively, absolutely. Without any middle ground. The occasion was questioning about the murder of my friend and former colleague, Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Lasantha, as we know, spent much of his professional life critiquing the government – whether it was led by Chandrika Kumaratunga, Ranil Wickremasinghe or Mahinda Rajapaksa. I did not agree with all his criticisms, some of which were undeniably petty. But it was, I submit, an act of love. He wanted this country to be a more enabling, livable, democratic, non-corrupt, ethnically fair and equal place. He welcomed disagreement with his own positions. Lasantha’s writing demonstrates that one can, indeed that one must, critique that which one loves. Uncritical love is called worship.

Now the president is not his brother; but the posters all over the country, if nothing else, signify the closeness of their bond. They stand beside each other, symbolically and otherwise. They are inextricable. Consequently, I cannot but read the president’s speech as a subtle but effective expression of Sinhala majoritarianism. This, by itself, is a legitimate political position. However, the president presents it as not open to question, debate, disagreement. Given the lack of such a commitment, given the absolutist division of the country into two shades of opinion, one of which is delegitimized, given the implicit equation of the latter with treachery, the speech emerges, chillingly, as a warning to those who might dissent. It suggests that there is only one way to love this country. That would manifest itself in waving our majoritarian flag and uncritically endorsing a majoritarian government.

I love Sri Lanka, but am opposed to majoritarianism. So, for what it’s worth, I disagree.

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Qadri Ismail is associate professor of English at the University of Minnesota. He has also been a journalist in Sri Lanka.

  • Jamal

    A Muslim in the United States lecturing us about minority rights. I don’t know whether to laugh or to laugh harder. Let us know when you get lynched mate.

  • Atheist

    Hello Qadri,

    I would’ve liked this speech more if the President had said: “No longer are there Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays AND Sinhalese. There are only Sri-Lankans”.

    You see how many tacky Buddhist temples, tacky Muslim mosques, and not to forget garish Kovils and Churches are cropping up everywhere in Sri-Lanka. Why should people have to be subjected to such intrusive early morning, midday and late night noises coming from these religious play pens? How can people get any rest with these loudspeakers constantly blaring in their faces? These are some of the things the President should look into. Some like to call this religious tolerance, but I think it’s just a bunch of baloney. We all know that baloney is no longer good for our health.

    The President has only identified two divisions: “There are only two peoples in this country. One is the people that love this country. The other comprises the small groups that have no love for the land of their birth. Those who do not love the country are now a lesser group”. Are you kidding Mr. President? You forgot all about the unjust division between the rich and poor, eh? Although I don’t believe in any Lord, I will still say it: “Lord have mercy”, no one seems to be addressing this division.

    Neither the government nor the people who criticise the government seem to address poverty. Perhaps these two groups have never been in close contact with “one meal per day” people. The poverty stricken people have become the victims of everyone: the government, the terrorists and a bunch of slick Ricks trying to squeeze a buck out of their misery.

    We can see how the Sri-Lankan nouveau riche is appropriating the poor man’s (and woman’s) arts and crafts – while looking down on the very people they steal from – and decorating their houses and various joints about town. Oh, our Dumbara Rata paduru and Embekke masks are now beautifying the homes of the very people who laugh at the traditions of the Other. The poor have been forced to sell their ancient doors and window carvings for a pittance in order to survive. Their cherished possessions are now bringing authenticity to the galleries of the artsy-fartsy types keen on impressing westerners. By the way, this is not a jab at Lionel Wendt or Geoffrey Bawa. They are no ‘artsy-fartsies'; they are simply genuine guys!

    If one decides to write a novel on the Dumbara Rata women, it will surely be placed in the ‘post-colonial’ writing section of the libraries in the English speaking West.

    No more baloney!

  • university lecturer

    Atheist, I totally agree with you specially with your first statement. If he had said “there are no longer muslims, tamils, burghers, malays and sinhalese” it would have been more acceptable. Instead, he assumed that all sinhalese are automatically those “who love their country” (whatever that may mean). People who love their country are not necessarily people who want to die for their country or kill others for it. People who love their country could be those who want to LIVE for it and do what they can, work honestly, help others etc. But his statement was a black and white one, and who cares about the grey areas.

  • Idealist?

    Doesn’t love for anyone mean that you want the best for them, even if it means pointing out things that can be improved and being constructively critical? Why wouldn’t this apply to love for one’s country?

    Also, the colours of the Indian flag stand for principles and not communities (even though it might have been originally that way, it is not what is taught in schools today): saffron for sacrifice/renunciation, white for peace and truth, green for faith and our relation to the soil and the Ashoka Chakra in the middle for truth or Dharma.

    Thank you for the article!

  • Justice

    In a TV interview to IBN-CNN (Indian news channel- program- Walk the Talk )MR had said that he has Tamil relatives through marriage and he can’t treat them different.I want to give him the benefit of doubt.I hope some one close to presidency read these criticisms and improve upon their oratory and speech writing skills.
    If one takes it in this context it doesn’t sound that bad.But the speech writer should have thought these matters through as this probably was the speech of his life time.
    Jamal,
    US. despite it’s recent bungling has a history that it corrects itself.No other nation would have elected a non white varied background president soon after Georg W.Bush except for US.
    By the way google search” E Pluribus Unum” you will find some interesting reading about American flag and its values since 1776.Since we touched upon country flag.
    Her is a link.
    http://www.greatseal.com/mottoes/unum.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/NoEalamInSL NoEalamInSL

    We condemn threats against Dr. Pakiasothy. The freedom of expression and rights of democracy should be safe guarded and protected by Sri Lanka government. All types of violations and intimidation should be ceased with immediate effect. Mahinda Rajapakse governement should bring all perpetrators to justice. Sri Lanka name should not let tarnish by false allegations by anti-Sri Lanka organizations.

  • http://N/A SLFireBall

    In my view the president was correct when he categorized the two types of people in Sri Lanka as people loving the mother land and people who doesn’t. it is a pity that the author Qadri Ismail, apparently related to Sri lankan Muslim community where some members support Pakistan cricket team instead of the local team even consiting members of their own community find this statement pity. before criticizingly the president and people who had made ultimate sacrifice for the country as least think who to be Sri Lankan.

  • Mawm

    QUadri Ismail’s analysis of the president’s speech follows a predictable trajectory visible in his decades long academic and journalistic engagement with identity politics in Sri Lanka. It also follows the contours of a postcolonial ideological critique of what Ismail feels is a fundamentally unavoidable inscription of numerical instrumentality in representative democracy — most extensively elaborated in his 2005 publication *Abiding by Sri Lanka*. However, one wonders if there was really a need for a literary-critical (Isamil terms it deconstructive) reading of the speech to tease out its majoritarian implications. One also wonders if this critique of representative democracy is simply a jaded postcolonial rejection of all that is considered to be the destructive legacy of the Enlightenment (Eurocentric of course) disseminated across the globe by the practices of colonial governmentality. For Ismail (like David Scott) seems to have joined the ranks of those in search of a post-secular world–which increasingly appears to be some kind of chimerical utopia where we can forget all the nightmares the Enlightenment bequeathed on humanity. But more on this later, let’s turn to the president’s speech first.

    A sensitive listener (or reader) would have been immediately struck by the incongruity of the statement that the end of war meant the end of minority-majority distinctions. How could socially and politically inscribed and institutionalised differences simply disappear because a terrorist outfit was defeated? Similarly the troubling implications of the president’s new classification of Sri Lankan’s into patriots and non-patriots (which as Ismail rightly points out is simply a gloss for traitor) are pretty self evident. After all who decides who is a patriot or a traitor?

    The “literary” unpacking of the speech gives a kind of quasi-mystical privilege to literary criticism, suggesting (as Ismail’s book does) that literary reading can result in insights that other forms of academic or disciplinary inquiry cannot generate. A bit of tough one to swallow, I submit.

    The critique of representative democracy by reducing it to the instrumentality of numbers too is misleading and flawed. Sri Lanka might be an example of how representative democracy has failed to realize a pluralistic society but surely that doesn’t warrant the dismissal of democracy in its entirety?

    The very geographical and conceptual/ideological space from which Ismail speaks (or writes), America, is an example of how representative democracy, however flawed, is arguably the best political realization of pluralism we have in the contemporary world. What Sri Lanka needs right now is not a utopian conceptualization of a post-democratic socio-political order but the implementation of concrete political initiatives like the 13th Amendment. This is not the time to re-invent the wheel. It is a time to work within the political structures already available and achieve something practically attainable.

    To imagine, conceptualize or debate about better, more emancipatory political and social frameworks is necessary but if it is simply to prove a “postcolonial” point, one has to question how much such a critique “abides” by Sri Lanka. However it was heartening to see Ismail noting that consociationalism needs to be debated as an option — which one might expect Ismail to dismiss as being too pragmatic.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Mawm and Atheist are two of the best intellectual voices I have encountered in quite a while. I hope I get to shake their hands sometime, and make their acquaintance, though I have no idea who they might be.

    With a few hours more for a plane to catch, they make me think that things might not be that bad and the place quite that desolate in terms of civility.

  • Susan Goon

    Mr Ismail,
    You call the democratically elected government of Sri Lanka ‘mass-murdering, corrupt, militaristic, totalitarian-inclined government of the Rajapakses’. If that is the wish of the people who voted, what can you or your kind do about it? We now know that the LTTE used its extortion money not only to buy arms but also the support of diplomats, academics and officials all over the world. Could it be that you are one of them? You should worry – KP might spill the beans on you and your ilk!

  • undergroundviews

    I applaud Noealaminsl for condemning death threats – even when they are suspected by many of coming from pro government sources.

    As he says, “the freedom of expression and rights of democracy should be safeguarded and protected by Sri Lanka government. All types of violations and intimidation should be ceased with immediate effect. Mahinda Rajapakse government should bring all perpetrators to justice.”

    Absolutely right! I’m glad he is on the side of democracy and free speech in this case.

    But Mr Rajapakse’s government doesn’t seem to have done so well against the killers of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the editor of the Sunday Leader – in spite of fine words at the time. The CID have been kept out of the investigation, the autopsy results seem to have gone… somewhere… and Reporters Without Borders are stating that the Sri Lankan authorities are blocking the investigation.

    I’m not sure why Noealaminsl thinks the government and security forces (who refused protection to the late editor) will be any more vigorous in defence of
    Dr. Pakiasothy.

    But the last sentence stumped me: “It’s not clear why Sri Lanka name should not let tarnish by false allegations by anti-Sri Lanka organizations.”

    Just because an allegation makes the government look bad does not make it false. Unless you believe that the entire cabinet are utterly incorruptible, and have never had their hand in the till.

    And just because someone makes allegations against the government does not make them traitors, or anti-Sri Lanka. A true patriot would want to see the country improve – and sometimes friends have to say things that are not easy to hear.

  • Humanist

    Thank you, Qadri, for that careful deconstruction of the presidential victory speeach.  I agree with you that the term “minorities” in Sinhalese, usually translated as “sulu jathin” carries with it the derogatory connotation of “minor” as being “inconseqential”. So if you read it in that vein, I’m sure most of us would be glad to know that there are no more inconsequential groups in the country. The alternative term “ethnic groups” also does not sound quite right in Sinhalese translation. However, as you rightly point out, the contours of the rest of the speech do not provide any hope that there is any transition out of the majoritarian mindset. And in the new dichotomy (not so new, since it has been expressed before by other members of the government as well) provided, most of us thinking individuals sadly fall under the “traitor” category -  afeter all, we have always been “inconsequential” people for those with a majoritarian worldview.Unpacking presidential speeches is not a useless past time. However, as Mawm points out we need to be practical at this point to find spaces to move this debate into a concrete direction. And I agree that the 13th Amendment is the minimum that we can find a consensus for right now. We also need to be supporting peace-building and other educational initiatves that will hopefully change tha majoritarian mindset.

  • Humanist

    And for the dreamers among us with more “emancipatory political and social frameworks”, how about working towards getting rid of the lion with the sword (and its mirror image, the tiger with the guns) and the stripes for all the inconsequential groups in the country and replace it with some birds, blue skies and ocean, and all the colours of the rainbow?

    I much prefer birds to lions and tigers!

  • Humanist

    Also in light of the fact, that lions and tigers happen to be extinct on the island today, but we still have some 400 odd species of birds…so they definitely deserve a place in a flag that we might be asked to rally around…

  • punitham

    A sword on a NATIONAL flag?
    Strange.
    Give an animal a sword?
    Much stranger.
    Animals are not so cruel as man.
    Man has been cruel enough to make an animal LOOK cruel.

  • Susan Goon

    You aethists and humanists are engaged in a diabolical conspiracy funded by the West to destroy Sri Lanka. Now you want to change the lion on our flag? If you dare even discuss the subject, I assure you that the true Sinhala Buddhists will send all of you underground. You can then publish Undergroundviews, with that Lasantha Wicks fellow as your chief editor.

  • undergroundview

    @susie goon:

    Atheists and humanists is it? Makes a change from a Hindu Tamil conspiracy, or a western Christain one, I suppose. Not that it’s any more likely, or much of an improvement.

    What is it about true followers of the teachings of the Buddha that requires them to kill people “If [they]dare even discuss the subject [of a flag]”? Has the flag been promoted? Is there now a fifth noble truth? Or is it just the ninth spoke of a new ninefold path?

    Or it that not a religious Buddhist teaching but a racial Sinhalese one? In which case you’re being very uncomplimentary about the majority community. Sinhalese people can’t ALL be so intolerant and dimwitted, surely?

  • Humanist

    Now this is the problem with people like Susan Goon – if you belong to the humane and rational “minority”, they start shouting “western conspiracy”. If you have seen my other posts on this site, you would know that I was critical of the unwise strategy pursued by western european and north american countries toward Sri Lanka during the tail end of the military battle and commended Dayan Jayatilleke and Rajiva Wijesinha for the work they did at the UN. However, that does not mean that I condone the suffering that is being inflicted on 280,000 refugees now because the government seems to be incapable of being more rational, efficient or humane. The lion flag is just a symbol that was created by a previous generation of human beings and if we think it is not appropriate any longer we have the possbility of changing it – at least, the people with some imagination.

    I’ve gone through life trying to find the middle ground by following a “do no harm” principle to the best of my abilities and am not particularly worried about the “false” Sinhalese (in my humble opinion) who are trying to send people like us underground.

  • smoulderingjin

    Susie Goon,
    Firstly, you appear to have not picked up the “tongue in cheek” tone that accompanied the comment by Humanist regarding the flag. Your loss really, as many of us found the comment humourous.

    What the comment, despite its light tone suggested, was that neither the Tiger nor the Lion had a superior claim to the land, but that they both stood equal! What the comment, very rightly suggests is that all races stand equal in this country.

    However, what your reaction revealed is not just the racial prejudice you have, but also the appalling nature of a certain sector of the SInhalese.

    Let me rephrase your statement – “if anyone dares to suggest a variation regarding the flag of the nation, the true Sinhala buddhists will kill you”. Not too different from the concept of those who are not with us are against us. Not too different from the bigoted racist murderous mobs that generated the 1983 blood bath and destruction of thousands of Tamil lives and homes.

    It is not only disgraceful but appalling, that you as a Buddhist, speak that way. As Undergroundviews has pointed out, this is the baffling aspect of this nation. The fact that Sinhalese Buddhists have absolutely no qualms about murder and violence.

    Where, may I ask are your Buddhist principles of compassion, kindness, and goodness to all beings. Towards even creatures such as the lowly ant. The Buddha you claim to emulate is disgraced by your speech and attitudes. If I am not mistaken, your kind of murderous attitude is what the Buddha wanted to turn away from when he left to seek the path to enlightenment.

  • smoulderingjin

    Qadri – thank you for the article. It was useful to have a close analysis that put flesh to some of the vague uneasiness that some of us may have had.

    Mawm
    I believe that there is a need for “a literary-critical” reading. Such a reading provides insights and raises questions that may have slipped by unnoticed. The term “deconstructive” is appropriate, for such a reading “de constructs” or unpacks it for us. While you may have found the excercise pointless, having done such a reading yourself, it does not mean that there aren’t others on this forum who would engage with such a reading.

    Qadri’s analysis rightly picks up many salient features of the speech that may have been unnoticed by many of us as average readers: the “unsaid” elements of the speech – such as the absence of a statement regarding there being no majorities; the visual connections that exist outside of the speech – such as the billboards; the implications of certain statements – such as the “lesser group”; the realities – such as the Sri Lankan flag – that clash with the “sentiments” expressed by the President!

    A deconstructive reading is useful – and I found it immensely so. I found its discussion on the majoritarian implications and democracy significant. I am not sure where there is
    “a jaded postcolonial rejection of all that is considered to be the destructive legacy of the Enlightenment (Eurocentric of course) disseminated across the globe by the practices of colonial governmentality.”???

    Neither am I very sure why Qadri is categorised as joining the ranks of those “in search of a post-secular world–which increasingly appears to be some kind of chimerical utopia where we can forget all the nightmares the Enlightenment bequeathed on humanity.”

    I agree that there may be several insights into the president’s speech from various academic disciplines. I do not think that this is an issue here. Qadri quite rightly and clearly qualifies his article, and presents it as a perspective of a “literary critic”, a “Sri Lankan citizen … marked, not incidentally, as Muslim, a minority.” One can take no offence or fault with that definition and the subsequent perspective offered. It is certainly far more upfront, than many other writers on the forum.

  • Susan Goon

    See how the assorted lackeys of the west have sprung to its defence! The times have changed since the Buddha lived and preached, and today new challenges must be countered with stronger action. Some of us believe that the end justifies the means and that is precisely what Emperor Ashoka epitomized: he is remembered today for preserving and promoting Buddhism, and not for how he eliminated the assorted enemies of the state and faith. To overcome today’s formidable challenges of Western hegemony and Christian conspiracies, we have to resort to the Ashoka doctrine which is what Mahinda has done. It is a fine historical coincidence that Mahinda was also the son of Ashoka. Yes, we will spill blood if we have to, and send some of you underground, in the greater cause of Sinhala Buddhist independence. This is Holy War, and it has only just begun.

  • The People

    Susan Goon: you have chosen your name wisely. Are you for real? It seems to me that you are some kind of parody, and that you are being ironic here. If not, I feel really sorry for you, because, even though “times have changed since the Buddha” as a Buddhist myself, I am sure that the law of karma-vipaaka has not changed. Your evil thoughts which go against all the Buddha’s teachings will have consequences, if not in this life, then in the next. Holy War? You crack me up :) hahahaha

  • undergroundview

    @susan

    So it seems the west has lackeys… If only the Buddha has someone worthy of defending his ideals.

  • smoulderingjin

    Susan B…that was truly Pathetic and shameful!

    If that is your mode of engagement with discussion – threat of murder and bloodbaths – I can only pity you.

    Do you, by any chance, emulate the Rajapakse clan, who hold their green cards in one hand, while waving the national flag with the other and sprouting nationalist virtue. Do any of your family members currently reap benefits of education and citizenship from the “West” that you find so abhorrent?

    You miss the richness of life in your insular myopic world view where only one colour can exist – that of “true Buddhist SInhalism” – the nations own home bred racism.

  • Hari Narendran

    Atheist,

    While agreeing with your take on the poor man – rich man divide, the artsy-fartsy types arent the only onea deserving of your opprobrium. Let us not forget the conduct of our so called leaders, self-proclaimed ‘Sons of the Soil’, who have shamelessly lined their pockets with commissions and siphoned money that should truly be going toward improving the condition of the poor. Those that have reduced our education system to what it is today, while sending their children abroad to study. The fundamental problem of the country since independence has been that of a very venal political class across all parites, more concerned with rhetoric and creating divisions than building a cohesive, prosperous nation. And we as voters bear much of the blame.

  • undergroundview

    So, Susan, in your squalid little war for “sinhala buddhist independence”, what do you want to be independent from? What are you trying to escape?

    You, with your western name, and your western technology – have you ever thought what life would be like for you without any of those evils? Have you ever used western medicine? Have you ever travelled in western vehicles? Do you have a western mobile phone? Do you use the internet? Have you, heaven forbid, been exposed to the moral-sapping evils of air conditioning?

    Or is consistency just another western dogma that you reject while you, and those like you, embrace the poisonous fire of hatred and destructive urges, ignorance and delusion, and greed and desire?

    Tell me this. When you surround the country with metaphorical barbed wire, to repel dangerous ideas, and ward off troubling thought – when you have built a prison of ideas around the IDP’s prison camps – who will be less free? Which side of the barbed wire will be inside the prison?

    Will there even be an outside?

  • Atheist

    To Susan Goon:

    Your persona is miserably failing. Once again, you are guilty of over doing it. You have taken your persona to such a frenzied level that even a thug going around killing people will be ashamed to associate himself/herself with the likes of you Beelzebub Klan.

    So now we know the deranged mentality of people shedding crocodile tears over press freedom, Lasantha Wickramatunge, IDP camps and the terrible racial riots between 1958 and 1983. Your dialogue with yourself – intended to mislead us into believing that this is a legitimate debate between two people – is utterly juvenile to say the least.

    Anybody with an iota of intelligence can detect what your plan is all about. Perhaps, you Beelzebub Klan parades around in yellow robes denouncing other religious groups one day while the next day you adorn the garb of a Christian priest or nun, and another time you pretend to be an Imam or a swami. Your whole life revolves around pitting people against one another. You may be dreaming of another violent attack on innocent civilians; but, I hate to disappoint you: people are not that stupid anymore. The Beelzebub Klan is representative of the tragedy that befalls those who have been repressed their entire lives. Repressed individuals are often the ones who participate in violence. You Beelzebub Klan need immediate help!

    Even at this dire moment you have your eye on the gold teeth of the dying man than getting him a drop of water. Members of your Klan have no empathy for the IDP’s; on the contrary, you are more interested in creating communal riots.

    Get a real job you parasites!

  • Humanist

    I am also beginning to think that Susan Goon is is a parody (she is obviously an insult to the Buddhist philosophy) although my first impression was that she was a jathika chintanaya spokesperson. It is a strange way to engage in this thread though, considering that this is not the banyan tree reporters…

  • http://r2padvocate.blogspot.com Agnos

    Susan Goon may be a guy parodying Susantha Goonetilleke. and in real life may be the polar opposite.

  • Buddhist_Critic

    I have a pretty good suspicion that Susan Goon is Susantha Goonetilake. His writing blew his cover off.

    Those who do not know of him can Google him or can get a glimpse of his personality from

    http://www.dailynews.lk/2006/01/27/fea03.htm

    The form of Buddhism promoted by Susan Goon is no different than the Whabhism form of Islam found in Saudi Arabia.

  • Talking Head

    Buddhist_Critics says :”I have a pretty good suspicion that Susan Goon is Susantha Goonetilake”.

    Wild conjectures! Defamation! I love it!
    Hey, man, cut me a deal too. I am the master of slander.

  • Atheist

    Humanist

    If you want know more about these liars, please read “A Note on Father”. It’s obvious that the author has praised his own article under different pen-names. These are the same people crying over IDPS, Lasantha Wikramatunge etc. Their sinister schemes reveal them to be more crafty and dangerous than the Champika Ranawaka crowd or MP Mervin de Silva.

    Don’t get dupped by crooks who cry for press freedom and simultaneously marginalize the voices of people who stand for a united Sri-Lanka.

    Take Care!

  • Atheist

    Agnos & Buddhist_ Critic:

    It is obvious that you two sit next to one another at work or that the two of you are the one and the same. What’s wrong with you Beelzebub Klan people? You men and women are beyond the pale with no hope in hell of returning to innocence.

    The thing is that the devil always underestimates people, and in the ends wallows in his/her own muck!

    Adios!

  • smoulderingjin

    It is quite baffling as to why people on the forum resort to mud slinging and bile instead of engaging with the issues that are discussed. What is it that propels some of you to indulge in personal insults and attack instead of trying to engage with others?!

    We have a right to differ, a right to hold our opinion, and above all in a democracy we have the right and freedom to engage in discussion regarding the policies and future of this land. Unless of course this nation is no longer a democracy.

    This kind of infantile and pointles invective is as sad. reflection on the paucity of people’s spirit and humanity, and is a reflection of who they are more than anything else.

  • In Your Face

    Smoulderingjin,

    Everyone has the right to free speech. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

  • http://r2padvocate.blogspot.com Agnos

    Atheist,

    You must be hallucinating and writing nonsense here. Take some rest, lady.

    I have nothing to do with Buddhist_Critic. Though he/she may be right, I think it is a parody because normally a self-respecting person would not make his last name ‘goon.’

    As for substantive comments, what Ismail says is too obvious; the current SL regime is criminal and pure evil (See the latest Channel 4 Video of war crimes by the SLA) and that fact needs no comment from me.

  • Atheist

    Agnos,

    Agnos says: “Susan Goon may be a guy parodying Susantha Goonetilleke. and in real life may be the polar opposite”.

    So, who is the “polar opposite” person you seem to know? I am not interested in Susantha Goonetilleke. Does he talk about the Mahawamsa? I think you and your little friends are obsessed with the Mahawamsa and fairy tales. For me, the Mahawamsa and the Bible are just stories intended to fool and rile up dingbats like you!

    No one pays the slightest attention to channel 4. However, people like you and the JHU are its primary victims. Gee, you can’t survive without each other now, can you? You guys mutually reinforce a false picture of Sri-Lanka as a deeply divided nation. But, ordinary Sri-Lankans know better to ignore you clowns and get on with their real lives.

    I will leave you and your JHU brothers to hallucinate in your mutual make-believe world!

    P.S. Don’t for once imagine that your brand of hallucinations come anywhere near Woodstock.

  • smoulderingjin

    In your Face – I beg to differ. I do not have a problem with either the heat of the moment nor with passionate decent disagreement on a forum.

    What I find silly and unproductive is the pointless bile that people seem to inflict around that says nothing but is just personal, rude or some kind of hate speech.

    A forum is a place for debate and discussion! Not for throwing out bile in all directions.

  • Heshan

    I am not sure what “united” means… given the very real phenomenon of the brain-drain and the lack of any rising middle-class in SL, “united” in my mind seems to be a cheap overture to the economically down-trodden Southern Sinhalese polity, whereby they cheerily wave the “Lion-Flag” and castigate the ancient Dravidian enemy. The modern notion of “unity” as per a democracy, encompasses plurality, secularism, multi-culturalism, and a fierce respect for civil liberties. Flag-waving tends to be limited to sports matches and a few holidays. Clearly, in Sri Lanka, where “terrorist” phobia and Tamil xenophobia is the custom, that concept has been suppressed. In light of which, Rajapakse’s contention of “no minorities” can be interpreted as a spontaneous pre-meditated outburst that actually reflects popular public perception in the South. But let us have no doubts: the perception is based on insecurity and it necessarily encompasses rigid economic stratrifications. Why have the critics been silenced you asked… it is because of the element of insecurity. Those who can see beyond the nationalist hype pose a very real danger to the junta at the top; because in a different set of circumstances, they can set off the ticking time bomb that is part of the skewed economic divisions. If the UPFA is treading carefully where devolution is concerned, it is because the JVP still retains one finger on that time bomb. The question is, will it tread lightly forever… or will it be a matter of time before the “internal” critics are silenced, albeit in a more subtle way than the ancient (external) Tamil enemy was. Let us wait and see.

  • In Your Face

    Smolderinjin,

    Hate speech and bile? Good God, that is what you people have been throwing around for years. Put the boomerang away if you don’t have the strenth to deal with it flung back in your face!

  • In Your Face

    Heshan,

    Go find yourself a non flag waving paradise somewhere far, far away. It won’t be inhabited by the human variety.

    The terrorists have been defeated, remember? Their cheering squad is soon to go out of commission, and, unfortunately many in the squad are turning to bad poetry. Can’t we ever get any rest?

  • Heshan

    It is interesting to speculate why the Buddha never spoke of terrorists and heroes. A terrorist would be one who saw violence as a means to an end, whereas a hero extolls the vices of ego-worship and self-veneration. Besides, those who engage in hero-worship do so out of personal insecurity or simply blind obediance.

    On a personal note, I find it interesting that these constructs work well in disciplines like politics, but fail altogether in those fields where the outcome is borne out through sheer reason and logic.. In other words, I am yet to hear anyone call Newton or Gauss a “hero” – even though their achievements have shaped civilization in ways far more profound than any silly khaki-clad general leading an army of semi-literate beasts to slaughter 30,000 civilians…

  • President Bean

    Heshan…I know that ‘In Your Face’ will hate this as well…but here goes…

    A Total Waste!

    During the war,
    he thought of victory,
    of glory to be gained
    and medals to be won,
    to kill the enemy
    and capture their towns,
    to bomb them into submission
    and save country, race and religion.

    During the war,
    he had no time for blue skies
    and walks in the park
    with the woman he loved,
    because the enemy had to be killed
    and their towns had to be captured
    to save country, race and religion.

    Now the war is over
    and nobody knows who won or lost!
    He can’t see blue skies,
    because he lost both his eyes!
    He can’t take a walk in the park,
    because he lost both his legs!
    The woman he loved has married someone else!
    What a total waste of,
    two eyes and two legs!

    His country is in fragments!
    His race is a farce!
    His religion which is actually a philosophy,
    is not practiced as it should be!
    If it had, he would have learnt that,
    Hatred ceases not by hatred, but by love!
    That is the eternal truth!

  • rajivmw

    And which “army of semi-literate beasts” might you be referring to Heshan? Could it be the US army by any chance? The one that has kept you free to spout your bigoted invectives against your erstwhile countrymen? Oh no sorry that can’t be. They slaughtered 140,000 civilians. In one day.

  • rajivmw

    President Bean,

    If you really must write these love poems to Heshan, might I suggest you strike up a private correspondence?

    To be honest, I’m not sure that even he would appreciate this trite ramble about the wasted life of an LTTE fighter.

    Wait. It IS about an LTTE fighter isn’t it? That’s the only way it makes any kind of sense…

    And just out of curiosity, I wonder if you could tell me why this religion you refer to is not a religion at all, but merely a ‘philosphy’. Sounds most peculiar.

  • In Your Face

    President Bean,

    You are revealing your personal ife story to us through a pretend poem. Why should I be upset? I feel sorry for you.

  • Heshan

    Actually rajivm, your “patriotic” strategy of assuming the universal case for every sin of the SLA and GOSL fails in this regards. Most of those in the US Army join up as a way to pay for college. Instead of going back to the mud hut, paddy field, and 2 oxen, these ex soldiers, after a minimum of five years service, get a free ride to the university, lasting five years (all tuition paid plus a stipend for living expenses).

  • President Bean

    In Your Face…thanks for your concern. I did not know you were Clairvoyant! If there were more Clairvoyant people like you around, you’ll could all go to the ‘Welfare Concentration Camps’ find out what the 2,80,000 plus Tamils are thinking by using you’re Clairvoyant powers. Then you can weed out all the LTTE chaps and chapies and let the rest go back to their homes no? Sooo simple.

  • In Your Face

    President Bean,

    Thanks, but I don’t want to be “clairvoyant” when it comes to you. Can you imagine how scary that would be? Entering the Devil’s workshop is not my idea of fun.

  • Jehiel Iscariot

    Agnos,

    Agnos, you said: “the current SL regime is criminal and pure evil (See the latest Channel 4 Video of war crimes by the SLA) and that fact needs no comment from me”.

    When will the next episode be airing? Who will be the next person to get a death threat?

  • Leon

    Sorry for the late arrival but fascinated by the discussion of the putative identity of Susan Goon (who has gone oddly quiet since this part of the thread started). JR famously said the only thing he couldn’t do is turn a man into a woman. The only thing Qadri’s deconstructive hocus pocus can’t do is provoke a “parody” of Susantha. Why? Because Susantha long since crossed over into the nether world of extreme self-parody, leaving all would-be satirists slack-jawed in amazement. The man is a phenomenon, the Murali of the lunatic fringe, the kind of thinker who gives rabid ultra-nationalists a bad name – there should be a special category for him in the Guinness Book of Political Records

  • smoulderingjin

    Leon – that is pure genius! …”the Murali of the lunatic fringe” dwelling in the “nether world of extreme self parody”!

    I suspect the “no minorities” of Rajapakse’s declaration serves a dual purpose; it enshrines him in the minds of the majority of a man devoid of racist prejudice and enthrones him as a true benevolent Buddhist monarch with loving kindness emanating like sunshine from his bones.

    The paradox of all this is that many of us know that the trumpeted verse is precisely what Qadri Ismail demonstrates it to be. It is also diabolic because while presenting a “beautiful” thought, it conceals the person who has established a kleptocratic, autocratic, despotic and murderous regime!

    But then if the nation wants to believe words babbled in the heat of a parade, and shut out the evidence that trumpets itself across the Sri Lankan skies, that is the more pitiable thing. We can all laugh at a clown declaring himself to be a prince, but we can only weep when a murdering despotic monarch declares himself to be a kindly and benevolent democratic leader.