Colombo, Elections, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Mindless emotionalism and absence of thinking in Tamil politics

With “Sinhala hegemony” in its most dramatic form, the advancing Sri Lankan armed forces, closing in, Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism could not convince the Tamil Nadu voter of its cause and case, then surely it is imperative that that cause and case be identified as fatally flawed?

If India with its 70 million Tamils could not be budged from its stance of low key but decisive support for the Sri Lankan state, surely there is no chance of leveraging any strategically significant Western support for Tamil nationalism, given that the main Asian partner of the USA is India?

Given that MG Ramachandran was alive and one of the causative factors of the Indo-Lanka accord with its resultant the 13th amendment, it is safe to conclude that with him gone, Sri Lanka’s Tamils cannot extract anything better from Colombo?

These are but three, fairly obvious yet vitally important issues –constituting samples–in the fundamental re-consideration that should have been underway in Tamil politics at least since May 19th 2009. Yet that reconsideration has not happened, which brings me to observe, intentionally provocatively, that there is no thinking in Tamil politics and there is instead, a mindless emotionalism.

Of course I do not mean that there is no thinking among Tamils as a community, still less that Tamils cannot think! Nor am I complaining that there is an absence of systematic ideas and ideologies in Tamil politics. That’s hardly a priority and could be a blessing. What I do mean is that there is no thinking through, in the sense of serious exercise of the faculties of intelligence and analysis, in Tamil politics. It may be said that the same is true if not truer of Sinhala politics, but then again, the Sinhalese need it less, thanks to demographic advantages and factor endowments, with the proof of the pudding being in the eating: the Tamil community is in far worse shape than the Sinhalese.

The absence of thinking is best evidenced in the refusal to accept reality and in the unreality of the attitudes and aims that manifest themselves in Tamil politics. This is true of the past as it is today.  Examine the call for “balanced representation” or what is commonly referred to as fifty: fifty. How could anyone, including the British colonial power, accept a demand for reverse discrimination, wherein the combined minorities would have more representation than their numbers warranted, when it could not be demonstrated that the said minorities had suffered from a history of deprivation which is the sole justification for affirmative action?

Then let us take the refusal to accept anything less than the permanent merger of the Northern and eastern provinces as they are currently constituted, thereby ruling out either re-demarcation or referendum. This obduracy stymied a settlement in 1986 with Indian mediation. It made for an Accord with an Achilles heel, the merger subject to a referendum – while the opposition to a referendum opened up the giant loophole which the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Sarath N Silva, currently a supporter of the joint Opposition’s Presidential candidate, drove a cart and horses through, effecting a de-merger. The ridiculousness of the Tamil stand is best evidenced by the fact that the Good Friday agreement, which does NOT grant the Northern Irish Catholics the merger with the South they always wanted, is subject to interlocking referenda, including in the UK as a whole. Will any Tamil politician risk referenda in the Eastern province and all-island on the issue of the Northeast merger?

The LTTE and the TNA’s refusal to accept any version of President Kumaratunga’s quasi-federal political package and the Tigers boycott of the April 2003 Tokyo conference, just to mention two instances, betrayed a total absence of lucidity. The Diaspora’s decision to demonstrate under the Tiger flag in 2009, achieving visibility and nothing else, or rather, only a negative visibility which helped the GOSL case, contrasted with the diversity in the anti-Gaza War demonstrations world-wide, which achieved the severance of DPL ties between several Latin American nations and Israel. Most ludicrous was the strong sense among Tamils that India should intervene to stop Sri Lanka’s military operations and save the self-same Prabhakaran who had not even sought forgiveness for the murder of a former Prime minister of India who was the son of an illustrious Prime Minister and the grandson of an iconic world figure. As the kids say: “HELL-LO?!” Obviously the Tamil polity, especially in the Diaspora, just wasn’t thinking. That’s not because of a lack of brains but because fanaticism scrambles or aborts rational thought processes. It must be observed though, that we know since Wilhelm Reich, that it takes a certain kind of collective mind, of collective psyche, to be so susceptible to fanaticism for so long and in the face of such overwhelming evidence. Collective Tamil delusion is so strong that it has not been definitively punctured by the conclusive defeat at Nandikadal, which decorated war veteran John Kerry’s Report rightly observes, was “one of the few instances in modern history in which a terrorist group had been defeated militarily.

Most pertinent to the future of Sri Lanka’s Tamils and that of the island as a whole is the prism of delusion through which most – but not all – Tamils seem to regard the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. The TULF rejected the 13th amendment. The EPRLF took office in the Northeast provincial council in late 1988, having stated that it didn’t suffice and pledging to re-open negotiations. What was not understood was the plain truth that was being written in blood on Southern streets, namely that there was a huge upsurge of social opinion against the amendment which also barely squeaked past the Supreme Court. Nothing more was possible, not only because of the confines of the Jayewardene Constitution but because of public opposition. The 13th amendment was as good as it could get and the South was in a state of civil war over it, with the finest of Sinhala progressives, Vijaya Kumaratunga having lost his life in its defense. With almost no exceptions, the Tamils didn’t get it. What they should have done was to support the Indian state in the effort to implement the 13th amendment, in a sustained triangular partnership with the Sri Lankan state and whichever the elected government in Colombo; not embarrass and delegitimize by attempting to force the pace, calling itself a “provincial government” instead of a “provincial council” or “provincial administration”. The upshot of this adventurism was the dissolution of the Provincial council. In later years the de-merger took place, while the North has no functioning provincial administration to this day.

What the Tamil polity needs to realize are the following facts:

  1. The 1978 Constitution of JR Jayewardene came into being when public opinion was far less ethnocentric than it is today. It is therefore far more modern and pluralist than any Constitution that is likely to be produced currently.
  2. The 13th amendment was the maximum that resulted when the balance of forces was far more favorable to the Tamils than it is today:(i) July 83 had generated considerable legitimacy for the Tamil cause, (ii) Rajiv Gandhi had not been murdered by the main Tamil organization, (iii) India was more actively supportive of and sympathetic to the Tamil cause than it is today, (iv) there was a strongly pro-devolution progressive movement and supportive left-liberal intelligentsia in the South, and (v) the Tamil armed struggle had not been militarily crushed.
  3. As the abject failure of external attempts to stop the war short of the decimation of the Tigers reveals, there is no factor or combination of factors that can compensate for and over-ride the balance of forces that prevails today, a balance which does not make for qualitatively more autonomy. Nothing can remotely compare with 70,000 Indian troops on Sri Lankan soil, and the 13th amendment was the best they could extract/push through.
  4. It is highly probable that the current, postwar, post-military victory balance of forces could make for the rollback of reforms inscribed on the statute books during an earlier period. There are powerful chauvinist forces calling for such roll back, while those calling for the preservation or extension of autonomy are decidedly weaker than they were in 1987-8.
  5. Any reopening of the question to the extent that it requires a plebiscitary process could doom the system of provincial autonomy, sweeping it away as the changed mood in Sinhala society, manifested in the higher judiciary, did the “merger”.

What would be the consequences then, of the refusal by mainstream Tamil nationalism, to refuse to accept the 13th amendment and strive to work it? “Compassion fatigue” for one: as the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations report demonstrates, a new ratio of strategic self-interest to human rights and humanitarian concerns will, in a multi-polar Asian environment, increasingly determine international policy towards Sri Lanka, especially post election.

There is a far more deleterious prospect, stemming from a grim reality: the realists (EPDP, PLOT, EPRLF, and EROS) within the Tamil political space are a minority, unlike in the case of the Palestinians, where the moderate Fatah dominated PLO heads the Palestinian Authority. In the Irish case too, it is the realist Sinn Fein rather than the fanatical IRA splinters that carried the day. Thus it would have been inexcusable for the UK Government to plead that it had no peace partner, and it is inexcusable for the Israelis to do so. In the Sri Lankan case though, if the South feels that realists like Devananda and Siddharthan have been marginalized and that Tamil politics hasn’t given up its maximalist mindset, then there would emerge a consensus that there is no viable Tamil partner with whom to build a durable, inclusionary peace. In turn, this would leave room for unilateralism.

That could please the Tamil extremists especially in the Diaspora who have absorbed a Zionist “next year in Tamil Eelam” attitude. This is a mindset of “the worse it gets the better it is”, because “the world will see the reality and grant us Tamil Eelam someday”. This is the same kind of atrocious miscalculation that has characterized Tamil politics from “balanced representation” to the ISGA. This thinking is unhistorical in the extreme. The Balfour declaration was possible because British colonialism controlled the relevant area in the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. Jewish migration would not have been possible in a sovereign Arab state with exclusive territorial control by its armed forces. The flood gates were opened, and there was international legitimacy for the setting up of a Jewish state after the Holocaust. None of these conditions obtain or are likely to. Sri Lanka is in Asia. The closest approximation—if one can be contrived for the sake of argument–of the trauma suffered by the Jews in Germany was in July 1983, and the Accord and the 13th amendment resulted. It doesn’t get any better than that. Therefore, the best counsel anyone can give the Tamil polity is “13th amendment: Use it or lose it!”

Marx defined ‘ideology’ as ‘false consciousness’ in which “man and his circumstances appear upside down, as if in a camera obscura”. Except for a clutch of Tamil leftists linked to the Sinhala progressive stream and interacting with the state, the Tamils have seen themselves, the Sinhalese and their objective circumstances upside down as if in a camera obscura, therefore almost permanently formulating erroneous strategies and tactics. If the Sri Lankan tragedy is a tale of contending “false consciousnesses” of two constituent collectivities, the record of results and achievement shows that in relation to objective circumstances there is no “false consciousness” at work in this drama quite as false as the collective Tamil consciousness. ”.   Nowhere is a Truth Commission more imperative than within the Tamil community itself!

What then should the Tamils do? Roll over and play dead?  Nope. They should shift modes and models, and take as example the smartest, most realistic and successful of the island’s Tamil politicians, S. Thondaman. A proud, upright leader who took no nonsense from any Sinhalese and was never trifled with by strong Presidents such as Jayewardene, Premadasa and Kumaratunga (all of whom treated him with respect), he managed to take his people out of the depths of disenfranchisement without losing a single life. He knew how to get the better of and the best out of the Sinhalese, not bring out the worst!

  • very well argued. as a practical case, TNA must now whole heartedly support Sarath Fonseka. He and the Opposition alliance have gone far out of the way to appease the Tamils. Spurning their alliance is undesirable.

    And by supporting Fonseka, there is no danger of antagonizing the Sinhala majoritarian parties. Many small Tamil parties are already supporting Rajapaksa. TNA supporting Fonseka will be legitimate.

  • sapper

    Nicely written!
    at this context conscious tamil politics should support UPFA who would be the only party capable of settling those grievances of tamils with the support of south.
    SF and his friends are only based on hatred. not on da political will

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    They should either pick a likely winner and back him, or they should split up and support both candidates, so they have investment in and leverage with both camps.

  • Do the Sinhalese or Tamils lack political thinking? It is the Sinhalese. Look at the mess they have created for the past 60 years and deterioration of human standards.

    Politicos and the Buddhist monks lack foresight needed, let alone thinking!!!!

    Welcome to a dream world.

  • Ravi

    DJ, most realistic and successful of the island’s Tamil politicians, S. Thondaman could not have asked Home role so you were not scared and respected him. The case in north and east is whatever we ask is too much in the eyes of a majority, which feel like a minority because of Tamil Nadu in India. As you show lot of interest in International politics, I recommend you to study the Scotland’s Home rule history even though I think you you should look for examples closer to home.

  • jansee

    The Tamil diaspora had the long and short of it all. Supporting the LTTE became a taboo and gave reason(s) for western powers, including India to mete the punishment on the Tamils collectively. Arguing that LTTE was the only saviour to protect the Tamils became hollow after the fall of the East. Even if that was not enough, even after the fall of Killinochi, the Tamils diaspora were even waving the LTTE flags as if someone from heaven was going to descend to listen to their woes. When Bush started his anti-terrorism campaign, it was nail-in-the-coffin for LTTE.

    Not that I am choosing a hindsight benefit to chide the LTTE. It simply was not able see the “game”. Its single-minded track of only focusing on a military option and then causing carnage on innocent lives had foretold a misery – one that struck a score of 100% against and none for it. At the end of the day the Tamils came out bruised and battered and consigned to the levels of a race without voice, no matter how hard you shouted. If there is some noise in Washington or in the European capitals, it is not out of concern for the Tamils per se – but more of contempt for the Sri Lanka regime.

    It is a tall order to recoup the efforts as almost everything has to be built from the “ashes”. The whip is not going to crack on SL regime just because Tamils are demanding it. Even during those critical hours when the regime blatantly bombed the Tamils to shreds, the US nor the EU did not send their planes to defend as they did in Bornia and Kurds. It was crystal clear that statements after statements emanating from the power centres were nothing more than to placate Tamil voter sentiments at home.

    Rubbing salt on bloodied wounds – what more can that be when the UN Humanitarian Council patted on SL for its decimation of 20,000 Tamils. Every known rights organisations voiced serious concerns. HRW, AI all pointed their fingers at a politically motivated UNHRC but SL received a unsurprisingly a majority to defeat any attempt to put it in the dock.

    All kind of dramatics was staged in Tamilnadu. Dayan argues for the wrong reasons based on the diminished support from the Tamils of India for SL Tamils for their cause. The politicians, at least the most of them, did not even have their pulse on the reduced heart-beat of the SL Tamils even to start with. With their own political problems at home and even with widespread rumours that Amza had bought over key people in Tamilnadu, then it should have dawned that Tamilnadu is not going to come to the rescue anymore. My take is that even if MGR is alive today, based on current Tamilnadu politics, he too would have remained mute. What more, with a Chief Minister aligned to the National Congress Party headed by a widow of a former PM allegedly murdered by the LTTE, what else could be a clear signal to change mode.

    If even after all this, the Tamils are not seeing or do not want to see, then a pathetic call for votes in international cities would not by any measure place the freedom plaque on a silver platter. Even in these times of despair, the Tamils need to think, think the way of Chanakya – call it a game if you like. Dayan may be a political scientist and believes that the incessant demand for a homeland has frittered away the chances for a better deal and that the Tamils ought to scale down their demands. He has cited various points and parts in history to reinforce this claim. He is right and wrong. There cannot be any argument that the Tamils have frittered away their rights. Let me make it a bit more clearer. As and when the LTTE decimated civilians and people of dissent, then the thousands in the world capitals, the diaspora should have demonstrated vehemently. No, their stand was an eye for an eye. While putting the brakes on the LTTE for their recalcitrant attitudes, the stakes on the misdeeds by SL would have stood a better chance of scrutiny and India, the main culprit behind all this could have been branded a bluff. At the end of the day, it came to who was more recalcitrant than the other. Let me ask also something. What sort of a country would Tamils have if it was achieved with decimating someone would could not see-to-eye, never mind even if he is a Tamil?

    Dayan, as all Sinhalese in his category, would like the Tamils to believe that there would be nothing more than what the 13th Amendment could give. Even that piece of garbage has been consigned to the cold storage and the Tamils would be day-dreaming if they hope that there would be full implemetation of even this piece of of garbage.

    So, what is the choice for the Tamils during the forth-coming election? If they can get all the idps to register to enable them to vote, then choose a Tamil candidate to contest. Choose by consensus. If any Tamil politician says he would like the Tamils to have a better life, he should also know what it means if the two top South candidates become locked in a tight race.Then at the second stage we can see how much better can we fare. The talk of that MR would heap the world on the Tamils’ feet is nothing more than bullshit. Who can forget how he unceremoniously locked up the Tamils in the camps. Now I come to the second option. If indeed the idps cannot be registered on time for them to vote, then throw the full voting force in favour of Sarath Fonseka. Show that Mahinda Rajapakse can and should be defeated and that happened because of the voting power of the Tamils. None of the Tamils the world over could change history if they go by a narrow-minded approach full of emotion, only to extend the foothold of the Southern politicians on the Tamils. A lot has been lost. It would do a world of good if our brethren in SL are given sound advice to dump MR at all costs. Then what, Well, isn’t politics a game of wait-and-see? The diaspora’s strategy should be refurbished and in that strategy there should be no blood associated. Remember, we are living in a borderless world in an era of IT. Something magnificient has not been considered or done thus far. Once we go along that path and wait for the SL regime to make mistakes, which if what history has shown us, and there would be plenty, then the game will play itself out. Otherwise, you can count on another ten centuries and the Tamils would be nowhere near in their dreams in achieving their homeland.

  • geopolitics

    it all sounds good, but overlooked one variable, which is the geopolitics. geopolitics is not static. Not many people are aware of China’s future vision in the south asia, but China has many instance made clear it would like to see India broken up in to 30 different states. We just need to let the dust settle for couple of years, so for now what the Tamils have to do is, wait. And do some groundwork while waiting.

  • Burning_Issue

    It must be said that VP through his intransigent approach severely damaged the Tamils’ legitimate political aspirations. Dayan Jayatilleka pointed out at various junctures, the Tamils could have settled for substantially more than what is possible now. This assertion could have been put to test, if VP had allowed a political process; that wasn’t to be!

    There is no support for Tamil Nationalism in the western quarters; ok, is there any support for Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism?

    Mr. Jayatilleka has asked the Tamils not to be emotional and embrace the 13th amendment. It is pretty easy for a Sinhala to say that especially one who defended the post-war triumphalism in the South, and one who is not overly critical of Sinhala Buddhist Hegemony; of course, it is very easy to point the finger at the perceived weakened Tamils!

    On the contrary, I do not think that, the Tamil course has weakened to the extent some would like to make out. What has been defeated is that, the VP’s ideology that he stood and fought for at enormous consequences, but not the Tamils’ political aspirations. In fact, it is now far more internationalized than before – the world is watching the Sinhala regime for a promised political reconciliation. The LTTE in defeat is causing far more damage to the MR regime than when they were active! The war crime cloud hangs ever so closely around fuelled by some Western Press and Sinhala/Tamil voices.

    It is laughable that Mr. Jayatilleka has not even mentioned about the APRC; is he as weak as the Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinists? According to the Chairmen of APRC, a solution has been deliberated and it is now ready for perusal and why not Mr. Jayatilleka talk about this? It is by it’s virtue a representative consensus based proposal – why no mention of that in his erudite article? Is it because, anything more than bare minimum of the 13th amendment will be detrimental to the Sinhala Buddhist Hegemony?

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Dayan J,

    An analysis of surgical precision.

    I hope this will make the moderate Tamil intelligentsia sit up and take note.

    I hope they would use the frame work that exist today and use the Judiciary to cement its implementation.

  • No Frames

    Nicely written Dayan.

    Tamils should support one of the candidates. Both of them failing to get 50% and the election running in to a second leg would mean extra problems and slowing of resettlement.

  • samuelj

    A very realistic argument without any place for a just solution. There are many realists among tamils as Dayan has pointed out. Fantic support of violence (by a section) has put the Tamils in the current un-bargainable position.
    A question to dayan; “What is the place of Justice in this line of thinking?”

  • AJ Perera


    Your fundamental premise is that the Tamil voters and politicians have done themselves harm, and would have been better off had they chosen to follow the majority path, picking up the crumbs of the well-off majority; that the Tamils should realize they stand to lose even more by challenging the authority of the majority and so should now resign to playing the second fiddle, or perhaps the third, or even the fourth.

    In my opinion this is your third or fourth attempt within a week or so to try to coax (misguide) the Tamils to follow your choice – vote for MR! This time, however, your strategy is to scare and shame the Tamils into doing so.

    (Since this same article that appeared in another thread invoked challenges on various grounds, some calling your bluff with detailed specifics and others seeing your motive for what it is — positioning yourself for a plum job in the a MR-Repeat Government– I would like to restrict my discussion to your basic premise.)

    Are the Tamils truly worse-off, and conversely, the Sinhalese better-off, as a result of the last 50 years of Sri Lankan history designed essentially, if not singlehandedly, by the Sinhala politicians and voters?

    Of course the Tamils trapped within the clutches of the chauvinist political leadership are truly in a pickle right now. That indeed is tragic, and I doubt their future will be any different under either MR or SF. If you look at the regressive path the Tamils were forced into from 1950’s to 2009 – hundreds killed in the 50’s and 60’s, thousands in the 70’s and 80’s, and tens of thousands in the 90’s and the current decade — and extrapolate it, with or without LTTE, the Tamils would in all probability have been no better-off than they are now. However, thanks to LTTE and the Sinhala voters/politicians, nearly a third of the Sri Lankan Tamils have had the opportunity to establish themselves in far more prosperous lands than Sri Lanka can ever dream of becoming. And these Tamils form the single, second-largest economically and politically active and strongest Diaspora spread far and wide across the globe. They are, to a very large extent, united in their fury of the mother land, which they would have enormously loved and cherished, if only the circumstances were different.

    On the other hand, what was the progress over the last fifty years for Sri Lanka and for the Sinhalese, almost all stuck in their homeland. Yes, certainly, some Sinhalese have had enormous fortune and are truly in the lap of luxury: it is presently the turn of the Rajapaksa’s; it was B’Naike’s turn before that, and Premadasa’s prior to that. But what has happened to the majority of Sinhalese and the country as a whole? (A related question I suppose is what will be the status of the Rajapaksa sibling’s should MR lose elections in January – could they truly risk living in Sri Lanka? Let me not digress, however)

    From being the envy of Singapore in the 50’s we are economically worse off than Bangladesh now; we are being characterized as pariahs on civil liberties and similar social indicators; education system and healthcare are in shambles. While our administration couldn’t mange to administer this tiny islet of Sri Lanka and dragged it down to utter chaos, our giant neighbours have been able to consolidate and guide their economies to consistent unprecedented prosperity. Do the Sinhala politicians and voters have a responsibility in this?

    Any responsible country would consider its population as the most highly valued resource. In our greed, we have chased away or donated a large segment of Tamil population to the West where they managed to prove their worth within a matter of a decade or so. The single largest donor by far after Tsunami was a Tamil. Our largest foreign exchange earning came from exporting mothers, sisters and daughters as maids to the Middle East for tuppence (and now to Chennai for even less) and servicing the cheap-Euro tourists in our beach-huts. It was laughable that the last election was won on a promise to find 50,000 (or was it 500,000) foreign employment, essentially coolie-jobs in far-east Asia, arranged for a handsome “agency fee” for the Royal family.

    Our best of friends are China, Iran, and Libya. We are playing China, India, Pakistan and the US, one against the other – you truly think it is a healthy, progressive path for our long-term stability and prosperity?

    You think the onus is on the Tamil voters and politicians to help us set the correct course for the future of Sri Lanka? Isn’t it the responsibility of the Sinhala voters not to be swayed by the demagoguery that caused the fiasco in the first place that has dragged the country down the abyss since 1956 even as the rest of the neighbourhood prospered? Can you name one other country that has lost as much ground as Sri Lanka on economic, political, social or any sensible indicators within the last fifty years? And, your analytical conclusion is that Tamil politicians and voters are the handicapped thinkers? I think a political scientist worth his salt should be able to see beyond his nose!

  • President Bean


  • Ravi

    DJ, don’t you think the south has only two solutions, either withdrawing the SinHALA army from Tamil home land or conquering it. Inevitably there are consequences in both cases. My recommendation is first make friends and then withdraw.

    Most realistic and successful of the island’s Tamil politicians, S. Thondaman could not have asked Home role so you were not scared and respected him. The case in north and east is whatever we ask is too much in the eyes of a majority, which feel like a minority because of Tamil Nadu in India. As you show lot of interest in International politics, I recommend you to study the Scotland’s Home rule history even though I think you you should look for examples closer to home.

  • wijayapala

    Dear jansee,

    What sort of a country would Tamils have if it was achieved with decimating someone would could not see-to-eye, never mind even if he is a Tamil?
    “Not that I am choosing a hindsight benefit to chide the LTTE.

    Better late than never. One of the positive aspects of the SLA victory is that former LTTE supporters are now talking about referenda, transnational govts, and all sorts of other nonviolent methods that they would never have uttered a year ago.

    Dayan, as all Sinhalese in his category, would like the Tamils to believe that there would be nothing more than what the 13th Amendment could give. Even that piece of garbage has been consigned to the cold storage and the Tamils would be day-dreaming if they hope that there would be full implemetation of even this piece of of garbage.

    90% of Sinhalese agree that the 13th Amendment is a piece of garbage and wholly disagree with Dayan. They would be overjoyed if it could be scrapped and SL reverted back to the preexisting unitary state where there were no useless provincial councils to waste everybody’s time.

  • wijayapala

    Hi Ravi,

    My recommendation is first make friends and then withdraw.

    I agree. How do we make friends?

  • Lanka Encounters the Third Kind


    Give it up! ‘Elam’ was just a ship in the night.

    AJ Perera,

    It’s over! Get with the program, and let smart people with the knowhow do the work in Sri-Lanka.

  • Undaya

    DJ thinks that Tamils are mindless .And want to advise them. If he has a mind of his own, he would have advised himself on so many issues that is destroying the entire political system of his country. Has he any ideas that can solve any of them?
    He tried to advise the present regime. It dismissed him instead. Still he thinks that the same regime is one of the alternatives, for the people, including Tamils.
    DJ is always silent about corruption. Is that silence or mindlessness? How can a corrupt system solve anybody’s problems. What does 13 Amendment mean, within such a corrupt system.

    If DJ has mind he should use it advise himself and his own community, about solving country’s problems.
    Since neither of the two leading candidates in this election is likely to listen him, why should he be advising others about them?

  • Ravi

    Hi Wijayapala,

    I am not a political expert and I wasn’t in the field for last 25 year, only you and the people live there know better, to make friends there should be devolution solution package drawn and implemented by a brave leader. If this is a borderless world why are you worried about a “nool wali” imaginary border. Furthermore nobody wants to be a Douglas, Karuna or anti India, anti regional and anti western Tamil leader anymore. What I think is putting a welcoming banner on the border with wording, for example, “telugana welcoming you” can’t be a rocket science.

    In this way you can create a friendly Tamil popular leader. This is only my humble opinion. If I am doing anything back to the country, at the moment, I can only go by the structures available to me.

  • Muruges

    DJ – A Singhalese with considerable credentials as a political analyst, the propagandist and PR man for MR with selective memory, explains that the Tamil population and their leaders from 1948 and before are mindless and continue to be so for not accepting reality, the power of the numerical majority Singhalese and their largess.

    Well under the UN rules, an Ethno, Lingual, Cultural Entity is a Nation and an Ethno, Lingual, Cultural and Territorial Entity is a Nation State.

    Therefore under the UN rules, Tamils form a Nation State. Tamils were a majority in the North and East upto about 1960, but mass colonization during the last 60 years has changed the demography and I am also told that the history books in schools have been re-written during the last 40 years. In the North, the Tamils still remain a majority, in-spite of the Bo saplings and foot high Dagobas with a lonely yellow robed monk/person manning every junction, under the protection of the army. I refuse to insult the Buddhist Clergy by callintg them Buddhist Monks as these yellow robed persons are nothing but uneducated thugs.

    I also read somewhere that the TNA is supporting SF. It is a well-known fact that unseating a sitting president, any where in the world, is difficult. So why is the TNA taking the risk of facing the wrath of the returned president?

    As a mindless Tamil, without any direct knowledge, information or even minor contacts, I express my thinking.

    Post 9/11, under the Idiot Bush’s ‘ with us or against us’ umbrella, most rulers attempted to crush all legitimate and illegitimate opposition. CBK and RW, used strategy aided by Western and Indian Democracies to subdue the Tiger. MR, on the other hand, used cunning and deception, flirting with India but sleeping with China and Pakistan, leaving India on the Murunga tree, on his way to Ruthlessly crush the LTTE.

    Caught with the pants down, the West tried to cut MR to size by bringing a Human Right resolution in Geneva, only to be out maneuvered to a humiliating defeat. Me think, the West’s memory is long, it will bide its time. Should SF win, he will take care of the MR clan in typical SL fashion. If MR wins, the War-Crime sword will be hanging over his head, Gothabaya with Diplomatic Immunity as a Deligate to the UN has already tasted one hour of questioning by the US Immigration, MR’s travels will be restricted to China, Pakistan and Libiya as a Head of State.

    The West and India must be wanting SF to succeed. Tamils may tip the balance.

    But unfortunately nothing is going to change, leadership change is no change. Until an educated Singhalese population vote in Ethical Leaders and demand better governance, SL is doomed to spiral down as a corrupt, lawless country, kept in poverty by ruthless men and women looting the national coffers.

  • Dias

    The notion that the Sinhalese need less critical thinking than the Tamils presupposes that actions resulting from well thought out ideas are more helpful to the Tamils than the Sinhalese – and therefore, this is such ‘thinking’ is primarily the job of Tamil leaders, and only secondarily that of the Sinhalese leaders. It is this same kind of careless thinking that got the nation into trouble in the 50’s robbing several generations theirs freedoms and advancement. Ideas are neither Tamil nor Sinhalese, they are universal and have the desired effect, good or bad, on the entire nation. Contrary to the author’s blaming on Tamils, it’s the majority’s Sinhalese polity that must shoulder the responsibility of ‘thinking’ out solutions and pro-actively advance these to the benefit of all the people. Seven months after the conclusion of the war, nothing of the sort has happened. Instead we are in déjà vu facing 50’s like elections between two marauding lions – so much for rationalism vs. emotionalism. Where are the equivalents of JFK’s, RFK’s and LBJ’s – the majority statesmen who spoke for and vigorously advanced the dignity and rights of minorities in America? A prominent member of Sri Lankan’s majority community, DJKa should consider adopting the ways of the likes of an American xFK and take-upon the task of expediting solutions to the ethnic strife – by first, openly critiquing the unjust nature of the hegemonic system. If the Tamil leaders, as the author correctly deduces, are being emotional and mind-less, Sinhalese leaders are being selfish and care-less – as they have always been about the interests of minority citizens. That in a nutshell is the national problem. What the nation badly need are Sinhalese intellectuals and leaders such as Dr. Jayatilleke to become aggressively just on behalf of the minorities – and the first step in that is not to blame Tamil leadership but to openly criticize the faults of the hegemonic system. This is not happening, and the national problem continues. Merry Xmas!

  • Atheist

    To Murugase, the one who left Sri Lanka “long before Prabha was even born”:

    What do you mean by “educated” Sinhalese people? What is education to you anyway? I really would like it if you could enlighten us on education as you have been going on about this topic for the last little while.

    To me, one’s writing skills are also indicative of one’s education. I am not referring to grammar alone. Poor grammatical skills can be excused in circumstances where the writer displays a genuine knowledge of the subject along with the authenticity of expression. However, the overuse of buzzwords and clichés point to a lack of critical thinking skills. Things put haphazardly, furthermore, only makes the reader question the writer’s knowledge of the subject matter. On a second thought, this is just probably something those of us who attended “2nd and 3rd rate schools” were taught. It could be that in having lived in the West for so long, and with a “1st rate” education, you are acquainted with the more modern and academic style of writing that bewilders the poorly educated like us.

    A belated Feliz Navidad to you!

  • AJ Perera

    Well said Muruges,

    Charting the future course of Sri Lanka, whether on the path of continued attrition or a reversal to regain some legitimate democracy and prosperity lies with the Sinhalese, not the Tamils, or the West, or India, or even China. Sinhala masses cannot do it by themselves — it is the responsibility of the Sinhala intellectuals, humanitarians, truer religious leaders and an independent media to help open the eyes of the Masses rather than protecting the politicians for the near-term Thamashas.

  • Muruges

    Atheist, a person who believes God does not exist, a Know It All. should know All. That education is not book learning alone.

    Knowledge of Grammer and appropriate word usage are needed for effective communication, identical impartation and understanding and not ‘ Kohathe yanna? Mulle Poll ‘

    Education will usually equip one to understand right from wrong, ability to listen and think of the other point of view, even if you do not agree and be able to differentiate Justice from Injustice.

    Also as Injustice tends to be a simple matter in the unprincipled, dehumanizing exercise of power, wielded by the state or an army of occupation – against those who have none.

    Usually complications arise, arguments starts, when the powerless start to fight back.

    As for products of first rate schools, education is not only book learning, many did badly in this field, but gentlemanly behaviour in class as well as the field and to continue as adults.

    During my time in Ceylon, the future leaders of the Army was mostly, if not only, picked from Royal, St. Thomas and St. Joseph colleges and sent to Sandhurst for training. There must have been a good reason for this.

    AJ Thank you.

    Some get it, some don’t.

  • Muruges

    Oh Yes, sorry, I was hasty in my response to Atheist..

    An educated population, example:-

    When the British people found out the atrocities committed in their name on the Indian civilians, internal pressure accelerated the granting of independence.

    Years of discrimination in the American South got nowhere until the White people in the bus saw the unfairness of kicking out a 9 month pregnant Black woman (Rosa Parks) off the bus for not relinquishing her seat for a young white. This single act gave oxygen to Martin Luther Kings emancipation movement.

    The British people and the American Whites recognized right from wrong and falls within the category of an educated population.

    Quite unlike the Majority of Singhalese, individually a very nice person, collectively looses reason, being led by Thugs.

    That is why all democracies have separation of powers and do not let Religion interfere with the affairs of State.

  • Atheist

    To Muruges, the one who left Sri-Lanka “long before Prabha was even born”:

    I suppose your belief in a God also makes you a “know it all”. The term “atheist” seems to have unsettled you big time. By the way, no need to get prejudiced over the pen-name “Atheist”; it is not an indication that I am a Buddhist.

    In my comment on Dec.20 under “National Referendum and the aspirations of a Diaspora”, this is what I said:
    “So, you are a Colombo man, eh? Even then, to the likes of you, there seem to be only two “first class” schools in Colombo: The Royal and St. Thomas’, Mt. Lavinia. Are you trying to tell us that you are a “gentleman” product of one of these schools? If so, didn’t they teach you anything about self-respect? Don’t “first class” schools teach one to maintain one’s decorum even in the midst of adversity?”

    You are simply paraphrasing my comment back to me. Don’t think that adding one more school to the list will make your comment original. I find it amazing that, in having left Sri-Lanka more than five decades ago, you still remember phrases like: “Kohathe yanna? Mulle Poll”. I suppose you didn’t leave Sri-Lanka as a kid, but as a grown person. You do the math, and get back to me.

    As far as I know, the concept of “gentlemen” was stressed in a certain school in Kandy, and deeply inculcated into the kids. Those true village gentlemen, who never left the country, could read, write and speak in better English than you can ever dream of. Plus, those villagers taught their children that racism and any form of bigotry is simply unacceptable.

    A true gentleman would never look down on his fellow countrymen.

    What were you taught in your “first rate” school? Perhaps you attended Sheridan’s School of Scandal.

  • wijayapala

    When the British people found out the atrocities committed in their name on the Indian civilians, internal pressure accelerated the granting of independence.

    Actually the main factor was the UK being broke at the end of WWII and unable to hold onto its empire. Sympathy had precious little to do with it.

    The British were able to let go because their colonial holdings were in distant shores. Quite a different situation in Sri Lanka where the NE is in the same island.

  • wijayapala

    Hi Ravi,

    to make friends there should be devolution solution package drawn and implemented by a brave leader.

    Who should this leader be? Sinhala or Tamil?

  • Ravi

    An Islander who can deliver, has a mother tonge but also has a vision for the Island. In the case of India it was, to name a few, Gandy and Neru.

  • Muruges

    Royal and St. Thomas are two examples you stated. My belief included St. Joseph, St. Peters and Trinity. There was another school in Galle, I cannot remember the name. But Royal and St. Thomas’ as examples of institutions that had, whether you agree or not, rightfully earned the respect as the better institution of learning, particularly in the period of reference that was within my familiarity. There could have been many other schools that would have qualified at par or better and I have no intention of excluding them.

    Nevertheless, in the context of elected leaders within the country in the six decades since independence, statistics would show that Royal and St. Thomas provided the lion’s share of elected leaders and ST. Joseph and Trinity, the selected military leaders. I am sure you would agree that such a share was not an accident. My point was that a sensible recognition of the need for education in our political system would be of tremendous help in keeping the obvious and debilitating trends such as, for instance, riff-Raff’s, village thugs, hoodlums, etc. getting Ministerial and Diplomatic positions, based solely on political loyalty.

    I cannot remember any of the former leaders being accused of corruption and I doubt very much any military man would have shot a person carrying a white flag either. As it is not so now, I stand by this conviction about the role of education.

    The fact that my grading of schools raised your ire is possibly more of an indication of deeply buried complex – so to reiterate, I concede there were and are, possibly many other institutions of exemplary learning that merit similar recognition.

    On the other hand, I also believe, that under the politicization and corruption that started with SWRD’s short-sighted National Language Policy( since reversed several decades later) many of the educational institutions in the country, that could have very well progressed were unfortunately sent back on reverse gear.

    I do hope you had the good fortune to be in the former, rather than the latter

  • Atheist


    First, I didn’t attend any of the schools you mentioned as they are all boys’ schools. I am not surprised you didn’t get the village gentlemen and the Kandy school. If you know about Trinity, you would’ve caught the drift.

    You said, “The fact that my grading of schools raised your ire is possibly more of an indication of deeply buried complex …”

    I am sorry to say that you have got it wrong again. The “deeply buried complex” is evident in those who give undue praise to certain schools in order to deflect attention from their own perceived “lowly” class background. If the cap fits, put it on!

    So Muruges, what were you doing in the UK, USA or Canada since you left Ceylon “long before Prabha was even born”? Didn’t you ever leave your mansion, at least, every now and then, to mingle with the locals?

    Muruges, I’d like to see how you fair in Harlem, and say what you just announced on GV: “Years of discrimination in the American South got nowhere until the White people in the bus saw the unfairness of kicking out a 9 month pregnant Black woman (Rosa Parks) off the bus for not relinquishing her seat for a young white. This single act gave oxygen to Martin Luther Kings emancipation movement.”

    Perhaps the good people of Harlem will be tolerant, and think: “Holy Moses, a Black guy has gone totally nuts”! I suggest you get out the Snoop Dogg act fast, before they call in the paramedics.

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Muruges,

    You are trying to rob credit from fearless civil rights activists in the USA by your post on December 27, 2009 @ 4:11 am

    The Fundamental Rights of the coloured people were won in the Supreme Court of USA and not due to magnanimity and the liberal mindset of the Whites. It was possible because the Coloured People in America possessed Fearless and Forthright people who were prepared to literally take the Bull by the Horns whatever the consequences.

    The US Supreme Court judgement delivered in May 1954 on the Class action filed in February of 1951 by Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka made segregated schools illegal. This order overturned a previous order made in 1896 by the Supreme Court that allowed a “Segregated but Equal policy”. Mr Brown was a welder by profession who had the guts to challenge the system and enroll his daughter Linda in a WHITE ONLY school “Sumner Elementary”.

    The initial steps were taken by McKinley Burnette in 1948 which culminated in the above ruling.

    This is what Mr. Brown’s youngest daughter Cheryl says
    What the Brown decision did was it broke the silence. It made the country start talking about racism and segregation and discrimination and second-class citizenship and all of those things. Because if you look at Brown and everything that came after– the Civil Rights Act ten years later in 1964; the voting rights act one year later; even before that, after the Montgomery bus boycott, the Supreme Court decision that ended the practice of segregation, you know, in transportation– all of those things emanate from the Brown decision.

    Why do you utter this type of gross misrepresentation which I quote below from your post?

    You state, “Years of discrimination in the American South got nowhere until the White people in the bus saw the unfairness of kicking out a 9 month pregnant Black woman (Rosa Parks) off the bus for not relinquishing her seat for a young white. This single act gave oxygen to Martin Luther Kings emancipation movement.

    Are you trying to say that the White people in Montgomery suddenly became magnanimous on seeing Rosa Parks being being arrested? Then why did the bus boycott last 381 days until the Supreme Court declared segregation in Public Transport illegal?

    According to you American coloured people gained equal rights due to the magnanimity of the Whites? The coloureds did not have to fight eh? It was not magnanimity of the Whites as you try to project; it was shear determination of the Coloured people of America.

    I sure hope that the Tamils have amongst them, people like Brown and the many others that preceded and came after Brown, who are capable of taking on the Govt of SL in the Sri Lankan Courts to expedite the ‘ENFORCEMENT’ of the rights that they already posses enshrined in the Constitution as ‘Fundamental Rights’ which is the “Primary Law’ of SL.

    In my humble opinion, this is the best way forward for the Tamils.

    Of course they will have to give up their false claim for an “Exclusive Traditional Homeland” as that is not recognised in the Constitution

    The question is, are the Tamils, up to the challenge?

  • Muruges

    Dear Atheist

    I guess we are back with your ‘Kohatha Yanne – Mulle Poll’ response.

    To reiterate, there are two points I wanted to make with regard to the subject in the article, – a greater regard to education in our political system would promote a more civilised public administration, and that there are some schools that have proved successful, even if only by the preponderance of leaders they have produced. That is no different from recognizing the Ivy Leagues in the US for the disproportionately larger Nobel Laureates they have helped mold – but that does in no-way deny that several other institutions have produced Nobel Winners as well.

    Now, If you want to challenge that education has no role in public admin: or that the schools I mentioned did not produce the majority of the better leaders, I think we have something to discuss. On the other hand, if you are hallucinating that I am sitting here pummeling my head on the wall, wondering who you are or what school you attended, you truly have another thing coming.

    Let me be explicit, I did not ‘Get’ who you are or where you came from only because I truly do not ‘Care.’ If your intention is to play coy and that is the way you get your thrills, I suggest that you look in your neighbourhood for someone in your age and wits to play Hide-go-Seek, perhaps.

    As for the Harlem comment, I concede – there is no challenge, my familiarity with Harlem or for that matter, Maradana, Kehelwatte or Panchicawatte most certainly will not come anywhere close to yours, even by miles.

    From your screams, it is obvious that I did indeed hit spot on with my ‘complex’ comment, I guess it did hurt.

    Well, it was supposed to!

  • Atheist

    To Muruges,

    You seem awfully hung up on your “Kohatha Yanne – Mulle Poll”. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is your new campaign slogan!

    As for the correlation between elite schools and the production of “better leaders”, I think you should discuss this with the “nukiller man” himself – George Bush. Character building starts at home, where right education instils self-awareness and a deeper understanding of our shared human identity. I believe children brought up in such homes grow up to value all life – regardless of race, gender and social class/caste.

    Who I am is not relevant here, as there are many other women, coming from the same village background, who share my views. Most of us brought up in village gentlemen’s homes are not going to distance ourselves from Harlem, Maradana, Kehelwatte and Panchicawatte as we are confident of our social background. So, what, may I ask, is your urgency to distance yourself from people coming from the above mentioned places?

    Speaking of education, I think a person well versed in the Harlem Renaissance, and in Jazz music would’ve reacted much differently. As you claim to have “left Sri-Lanka long before even Prabha was born”, this immense oversight on your part leads me to believe you are clueless about American history and culture. It is, indeed, shocking to know that what people in Sri-Lanka talk about and listen to is alien to a “westerner” like you.

    As for ‘Snoop Dogg’, even a ninety year old man or woman in America would have come across this artist in some shape or form. It’s not an age related issue. You should know America better than any of us as you left Sri-Lanka “long before Prabha was even born”.

    If your sole intention was to “hurt” my feelings, then, I am afraid you never got yourself a real education. Besides, how can you hurt my feelings when people like us have no qualms wining and dining with people from Harlem, Maradana, Kehelwatte, Panchicawatte – and Cinnamon Gardens.

    In looking down on people, you can never fool me into thinking you are from an educated background!

    Jayawewa to people of Harlem, Maradana, Kehelwatte and Panchicawatte! You go!

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Dear Muruges,

    I really do not want to enter this controversy about schools and education, but your superior antecedents should have told you that in the UN system, the Tamils are NOT recognised as a nation. As for a nation state as you claim, you’ve first gotta have a state to be a nation state. As the UN’s expert Asbjorn Eide , a respected liberal, sympathetic to the Tamil cause, has made clear, according to UN rules, the Tamils are a national minority, therefore not entitled to national self determination and independent state hood. If you don’t believe me, check with Rohan Edrisinghe.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Dear AJ Perera,

    I AM indeed about to accept a plum post…but it has nothing remotely to do with MR or the state. It is in a think tank attached to a respected university overseas. and that’s after having taken my name voluntarily OFF the short list of the visiting Hubert Humphrey Chair of international relations at a US university. So, whatever I am saying has nothing to do with GOSL. The coinicidence of my line with what columnists Gwynne Dyer and Padraig Colman ( Le Monde Diplaomatique) have said about Sri lanka should tell you something…unless you think they work for MR!

  • Dayan Jayatilleka

    Wijepala is right. Most Sinhalese would probably prefer to scrap the 13th amendment and revert to a centralised unitary state and perhaps a first past the post electoral system. That’s why i have urged the Tamils to settle for the implementation within a compressed time frame, of 13.

    Ravi, if the choice before the Sinhalese is a simple one of withdraw the army or conquer the land, they’ll opt for the latter: conquest. It can be done. My choice is a third option: stay but reconfigure, redeploy, draw down somewhat; function in alliance with local leaders. That’s the Chechen option.

  • Dayan Jayatilleka


    Your line of waiting assumes that no facts will be created on the ground in the meantime. Remember that the absolute and relative numbers opf tamils in SL are declining.

    Burning Issue,

    I have no problem with something resonably beyond 13, which is why i publicly supported CBK’s Aug 2000 draft const. But that’s irrelevant now. The reason i didn’t mention the APRC is that implemntation would need to get past the Supreme Court ( which will face a sarath Silva petition) and a national referendum. If you go down that road the history of tamil politics will look even more than ever before like a whole season of the Born Loser cartoon strip.

  • AJ Perera

    Dear Dyan,

    No body grudges you a plum job – you got educated for that purpose. It is how you use your education for the job that matters, as I believe I have pointed to you in a few previous responses that you conveniently chose to ignore. As many have rightly pointed out, it is the biased way you present your view as formal analysis, using your credentials as cover, that raises doubts on your sincerity, and hence the conclusion that you are merely pursuing self interest, no matter what it costs the country. You have not objectively substantiated, but only merely proclaimed such as it is the fault of the mindless Tamils why the country has denied them equal rights, MR is the undeniably the better choice for all, and that continuity is better than change. Your implication that the politics of the past six decades have hurt the Tamils more than the Sinhalese is also incorrect – a massive segment of the Sinhalese have been pauperized while the Sinhala politicians continue to plunder the country’s resources. A valuable Tamil and Sinhala educated population has been lost for good. A significant share of Sinhala wives and mothers are cleaning toilets in the Middle East and now in Chennai rather than looking after their own families. The country that once proudly sent professional doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers, now export only uneducated labour. Surprisingly, somehow, your Political Science expertise allows you to turn a complete blind eye to this political fiasco of six decades, while beating the drums for MR.

    In fact your gloat in announcing this appointment, while ignoring all other relevant issues, seems to vindicate our concerns. Now we wonder, first, what you may have done to get this appointment, and second, now that this adds further to your credentials, whether you that will aggravate or subdue your actions in pursuit of self-interest, undermining the confidence people place on you based on the credentials. Good luck.