Writing against the RSF/JDS appeal to boycott the Galle Literary Festival

[Editors note: We were sent this personal letter from Sunila Abeysekara addressed to a leading signatory of the RSF/JDS appeal to boycott the Galle Literary Festival. She kindly agreed to publish it on Groundviews for a wider appreciation. As noted in our response to the RSF/JDS appeal, Sunila is an outspoken and award winning human rights activist. Amongst a number of other awards recognising her work, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presented Sunila with a UN Human Rights Award in 1999. See a video interview with Sunila conducted by Groundviews for Human Rights Day in 2009 here.]

Dear Cheran,

I am writing to you after seeing your signature on the petition circulated by the JDS (Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka) and RSF (Reporters without Borders) calling for a boycott of the Galle Literary Festival. I was really sorry to see your signature there.

As you know I have dedicated the past thirty years of my life to defend human rights and media freedom in Sri Lanka, and continue to live and work in this country. The past years have been very difficult ones, especially as we face continuing attacks and intimidation from both state and non-state forces in the aftermath of the war and in the absence of any credible process of political negotiation with the Tamil community, let alone any process of reconciliation or healing.

2011 is the first year which I agreed to play an active role in the Galle Literary Festival, although I had attended random sessions in the past. I did so because I felt that the festival was one of the very few spaces available to us to engage in a broad discussion and dialogue regarding art and culture and contemporary social issues in Sri Lanka in general, with a group of internationally known and published creative writers, and through this, bring to their attention the real situation of the country, including the situation confronting cultural workers and activists and media persons.

While I accept that you have every right to your opinion, and to the expression of that opinion, and while I think that as many organizations as possible around the world should continue to call for respect for human rights in Sri Lanka, it is hard for me to accept the argument that by coming to Sri Lanka, the writers who have been invited for the GLF will ‘give legitimacy to the Sri Lankan government’s suppression of free speech’. In fact, calling for a boycott of the GLF constitutes an act of silencing that I find totally unacceptable.

In my opinion, the GLF creates spaces for moderates and liberals from all communities in Sri Lanka who are interested in the arts and culture to come together with colleagues from around the world to talk, to share and to enjoy each other’s company and accomplishments. In an environment in which there is so much silencing going on, the presence of key figures from the international literary world acts as a catalyst for us, opening up relatively ‘safe’ spaces for literary and political exploration and debate and allows Sri Lankan writers and artistes to learn from other experiences.

I wish that colleagues of the JDS and RSF, who know me well, and who work together with us on defending human rights and media freedom issues, had spoken to me, and others involved with the GLF 2011, before making their statement. It would have given us all an opportunity to be more strategic about how we could use the opportunities afforded by the GLF to draw attention to our common concerns regarding human rights and media freedom in Sri Lanka. It is extremely disappointing to find those who defend media freedom in Sri Lanka playing a role in depriving us of an opportunity to express ourselves and our desire for a democratic and peaceful environment in which to live and work, with a broader community from outside the country.

Regards,

Sunila

  • Anapayan

    Interpreting the call for boycott of the GLF as an attempt to silence the writers would be the most unkind interpretation of all.

    Is there any particular reason why this letter was not addressed to other signatories of the GLF boycott call.

    A superficial glance of the GLF 2011 programme schedule will reveal that GLF is well ‘embedded’with tourism promotioon and less of “creates spaces for moderates and liberals from all communities in Sri Lanka”.

    Hence the petitioners say, “a conference that does not in any way push for greater freedom of expression inside that country”.

    On the other hand Sunila’s point of view is understandable that events like GLF can create dialogues and help to sustain whatever the remaining part of free speech in Sri Lanka.

    Perhaps surfacing of this petition could have been avoided by the GLF organizers by distancing from state institutions and giving importance to the state of free speech in Sri Lanka in GLF proceedings.

  • Post DJBS Scenario

    Sunila is a wonderful person whose work I greatly admire.

    If I had known she was DIRECTLY involved in the festival I would not have signed the petition even though I very strongly feel the SL govt must be held accountable —and this accountability needs go far beyond mere words. Yes! Imagine accountability beyond words!

    I fear if people like Sunila aren’t supported in their work ( and I think she argues that this is an extension of it), we will lose a key ally that will help us end the ethnic conflict and transform the country for the betterment of all its peoples.

    The ultra Singhalese nationalists err….i mean the SL govt, is trying to stop the work of people like Sunila.

    This issue is muddied by useful idiots and state sponsorship.

    But let us not help restrict the space for the few brave people like Sunila who are in the arena.

    I almost forgot

    One last thing to avoid confusion

    I’d bet the OVERWHELMING majority of the literary attendees don’t give a [damn] about what is happening to the people in the country.

    • wijayapala

      Hi Post DJBS Scenario

      If I had known she was DIRECTLY involved in the festival I would not have signed the petition

      So you are saying that you signed the petition not out of any sense of principle, but simply because you did not know that someone you like is involved in the festival?

      If Rudramoorthy Cheran can get his name off the petition, you can too. If Arundhati does not listen to your appeal, I’ll be happy to sign a petition to get your name removed!

      I fear if people like Sunila aren’t supported in their work…we will lose a key ally that will help us end the ethnic conflict and transform the country for the betterment of all its peoples.

      Wow, when you word it like that you make it sound like Arundhati, Chomsky, Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai are committing some grave crime!

      I’d bet the OVERWHELMING majority of the literary attendees don’t give a [damn] about what is happening to the people in the country.

      Do the people in the country give a **** about what is happening to the people in the country?

    • SD

      Dear Post DBSJ,

      RE: “If I had known she was DIRECTLY involved in the festival I would not have signed the petition even though I very strongly feel the SL govt must be held accountable”

      But with applause for you honesty and no offence to you, that’s precisely the problem isn’t it? Those who have signed this petition and otherwise indulged in this generally misguided fury, clearly have no understanding of who the local actors are and what they represent. It also amply explains why the local populace find the lofty pronouncements of those passing judgement from above to be – well – irrelevant.

      As the saying goes: Furious activity is no substitute for understanding. And what we’ve seen from these people throughout is precisely that – a lot of indignation, and little or no understanding of how things in Sri Lanka actually work! That’s why they can’t achieve anything here, and why others tire of their shrill, pointless, cacophonous pontification.

      Better that they clue themselves in no? Why not board a jet plane and mingle with the locals – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, up-country, down-south, up-north, upper class, middle class, the village vibe etc. etc. Suspend judgement and listen for a change?

      • Belle

        SD,
        And what will we find if we board a plane and mingle with the locals? That, hey, tyranny is not really as bad as it’s cracked up to be? That it may even be fun getting abducted and killed after you’ve spent your life expressing in all truthfulness what you see happening around you, as happened to Lasantha and Prageeth? Will we then clue in to all the myriad complexities of the ethnic issue in your country and become just as paralysed as you folks, able only to criticise others’ action but unable to take any of your own?

  • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

    Revealingly, R. Cheran’s name no longer appears as a signatory to the RSF/JDS appeal at http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-galle-literary-festival-appeal-19-01-2011,39355.html. He was however one of the first signatories to the facile appeal, http://sundaytimes.lk/latest/4154-arundhati-roy-signs-petition-to-boycott-galle-literary-festival.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    The least one can say for the attendees of this conference ( many of whose views I tend to disagree with) is that they won’t be posturing from diasporic anonymity, as do many of the critics writing into GV in tacit sympathy with the boycott call!

  • TT

    US government has applauded the Galle Literary Festival.

    The boycotting crowd is fast losing support and appeal. Boycotting media, arts, etc. is not the way to overcome hurdles in freedom of expression. It is pandering into it. Remember it is not just the government that can curtail freedom of expression. Individuals and groups can also do that. Many made the festival an opportunity to express themselves. Don’t restrict their freedom of expression. RSF/JDF are certainly not the guardian angels of freedom of expression in SL. Most Sri Lankans don’t even know them! For most Sri Lankans there is no problem expressing themselves.

    • kumudu

      it looks like Cheran’s name still appears at the bottom of statement here

      http://en.rsf.org/sri-lanka-galle-literary-festival-appeal-19-01-2011,39355.html.

      We ask you in the great tradition of solidarity that binds writers together everywhere, to stand with your brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka who are not allowed to speak out. We ask that by your actions you send a clear message that, unless and until the disappearance of Prageeth is investigated and there is a real improvement in the climate for free expression in Sri Lanka, you cannot celebrate writing and the arts in Galle.

      Signatories

      Noam Chomsky
      Arundathi Roy
      Ken Loach
      Antony Loewenstein
      Tariq Ali
      Dave Rampton
      R. Cheran

  • Prasad

    This is sheer stupidity and a huge strategic blunder by RSF/JDS. Perhaps this is what the SL government (GOSL) needed them to do. The GLF could have been used as a platform to slam the government and expose their behaviour to the world. I don’t think tourism promotion activities will hinder that; in fact the presence of highly reputed people criticising GOSL could have been spread effectively by presence of international delegates. I cannot understand what RSF intend to achieve by boycotting this; the GOSL can effectively portray this now as an act of LTTE sympathisers and even get ready to counteract any adverse comments. What would have happened if these people attended the GLF and then suddenly started criticizing the GOSL out of the blue? This would have made the government dumbfounded.

  • SK

    Whats all the fuss everyone..

    This is what Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha says….

    http://www.dailynews.lk/2011/01/25/fea01.asp

    “I had also been sent the robust critique of that call on Groundviews, a media outlet that exemplifies the freedom the media in Sri Lanka enjoys.”

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Perhaps the underlying issue in all of this is whether or not the Diaspora activists should take their cue from those on the ground; which is the tail and which the dog? This is valid for the TNA and the Tamil diaspora too.

  • Ruchira

    RSF and JDS stand condemned for their childish, ignorant attempt at trying to ‘get back’ at the Sri Lankan government by attacking the GLF. I always knew the JDS were a bunch of morons, but it’s absolutely shameful that RSF was dragged into this. They’ve just cut their legitimacy down at the knees. This is as dumb as Amnesty International’s failed attempt at trying to get at the SL government by targeting the Sri Lankan cricket team.

  • Post DJBS Scenario

    W,

    I signed the petition b/c SL needs to be held accountable and this is one mechanism for doing so. Soft diplomacy does not work with SL as groups like HRW may now be finally realizing.

    However, I rescinded my support because at one point Sunila made an appeal to those in the diaspora to help her work and she clearly feels this festival is important, so I yield to her judgement even though I don’t completely agree with it.

    ———-

    SD,

    Misguided fury is not the issue at all. Many in the I/C and the diaspora understand the ground situation very well and know the local actors. I deliberately seek out disconfirming evidence when I analysis a situation and I found it in Sunila’s recent letter.

    The current regime and its ultra Singhala nationalists base are too strong at the moment. Civil society groups, local HR groups, and opposition parties cannot mount an effectively challenge to the violence directed at the Tamil people, media, and other groups without help from friends outside of SL.

    RSF & JDS are friends of the SL people. Not the enemy. Their GFL appeal is for the benefit of local populace.

    Link to article “JDS explains stand on GLF Appeal”

    http://www.jdslanka.org/2011/01/jds-explains-their-stand-on-glf-appeal.html

    Lastly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the literati are turned off the festival now that HR and the targeting of journalists are an issue front and centre.

    ———-

    DJ,

    You are shameless but I applaud your ability to manipulate the Singhalese people. The Wikileaks on Douglas Devananda esp. was unfortunate ;(

  • Amarnath Sunderagama

    Wow!!! IF Sunila Abeysekera alone could turn the whole GLF round to a positive dialogue on Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict, wonder why she didn’t throw her self in to do so, all these 30 years ? This is all rubbish. These are elite Colombo activists with their own high flying culture, who should turn round and see where and how they miserably failed, having spent billions of dollars for “peace and a negotiated solution”, while having high fun. They were not able to hold a fig leaf to the Sinhala political movement that took over this society and left us where we are, now trying to see how the Rajapaksas can be tamed.

    This GLF and Sunila Abeysekera will not impact in any way to create any dialogue in society on reconciliation, ethnic conflict or any issue that plagues SL. Those events are all jet set stuff, far above the affected people. It has been so over the past 04 years. A very elite, rootless and fashionable event for those in Colombo to have fun. None of those who participate would ever take democratic and human rights issues of this country, beyond the GLF venue and their closeted Colombo life, for sure.

    GLF would continue the same way this year too and Sunila Abeyssekera would also join this time as an ornament for GLF organisers to market themselves and their event as an “inclusive” event. Not in Sri Lanka, but outside, to the world. In Sri Lanka, people are bogged down with their own coconuts, brinjals, eggs and with camels and buffaloes yet to come.

    SO, let the GLF go on their “merry go round”, Cheran signing or not.
    S. Amarnath

    • Not-A-Rajapaksa

      Amarnath Sunderagama is “dead-on.” Those of us who self-censor and continue to do so out of fear of our lives know all about the elites who move in the intellectual circles that permit their views, flitting in and out of literary gatherings such as Boyle’s GLF. That the man who is considered the USA’s pre-eminent intellectual – Noam Chomsky -has previously gone on record in condemnation of the LTTE is something that none of those criticising him on this occasion has spoken to. Interesting. Perhaps these present “respectable” face, inclusive of PdDs such as Dayan Jayatilleke and Rajiva Wijesinha of a racist government without precedent in Sri Lanka.

  • Observer

    This boycot by the RSF/JDS was not that misguided. They precisely knew what they wanted to achieve. That is for these literary figures to not go to Sri Lanka and make their own judgement as to what the conditions in the country really are. They are just afraid that it aint gonna tow the propaganda line they throw out. Imagine had these people actually gone to Sri Lanka and talked to the people there and decided, hey this is not a bad place as some people are crying out to be. That’s not gonna help their program/agenda is it? None the less I’m glad that it has backfired on their silly faces!

    As we all know now militant diaspora’s current strategic approach for their ultimate goal ellam, is to isolate, apply pressure through propaganda, break will through sanctions, destabilise and intervene in sri lanka. This was part of the isolate/sanction components that was very poorly executed. Shame the genuine human rights activists got sandwiched in between and even alienated.

    End of the day truly inquisitive, curious minds such as the people who tend to attend these festivals cannot be chained through fad boycots. If they are then hmmm…. you know why. Hopefully it’s ignorance.

  • Mango

    Antony Loewenstein, a self-proclaimed “independent freelance journalist, author and blogger”, and a the self-appointed moral arbiter who supported the GLF boycotts says :
    “The Tamil struggle for justice and self-determination is a cause that should be supported by all citizens of good faith. Like the disenfranchised Palestinians, Tamil stories should resonate around the world.”

    Antony also says “well done” in support of Eelamish boycott of Sri Lankan garments in the UK. How this boycott is supposed to improve the economic well-being of the poorest segments of SL society, whilst simultaneously punishing the SL govt., Antony doesn’t address.

    http://tinyurl.com/6lfvr2a

    With friends like these, the ‘liberal cause’ in SL doesn’t need any enemies.

  • TT

    Interesting find by Mango.

    So it is yet another episode in the Sri Lanka verses Tamil Elam contest/battle/struggle.

    All these secret Tamil Elam supporters work hard to contine the divide than try to reconcile. Sadly they are unaware that they will be the losers. Or rather, their position as losers since May 18, 2009 will not change. Tamil Elamists need reconciliation much more than the Sri Lankan camp. Pro-SLs only need to continue as it is.

    • Mango

      @TT: If you read the rest of Loewenstein’s outpourings you’ll see he really, really hates SL and what was done to crush the LTTE. I guess if you’d invested your every waking moment into fluffing for Tamil homeland and the rest of the irredentist ideology, the very, very imperfect post-War situation in SL must be unbearable.

      Typically he doesn’t offer any solutions other than standard ‘boycott & war crimes’ drivel. I also don’t see the pressure from diaspora LTTE activists ceasing, any time soon; simply because they’ll never ever have to live with the consequences of the course of action they propose for others, living in SL.

      • TT

        Mango,

        A really sad situation.

        Manipulating others to do one’s dirty work. However, looks like Tamils in north SL will fall for these antics because the Diaspora has a conduit in SL – TNA. TNA is going to win the election this March and they will take the Diaspora view to the grassroots level. They will also win the northern PC election scheduled for this year.

        Then the SL-TE battle comes back to home.

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        What makes you think that the TNA will represent the diaspora viewpoint? I think they will represent the interests of their constituency — the local Tamils. I think the GoSL should now back the TNA to the hilt, and allow them to be the conduit for reconstruction and political power in the NE. The TNA is the only entity that can bridge the divide between the GoSL, the NE Tamils, and the dispora, as well as be internationally recognised. Devanayagam, Pilliyan, etc can’t do that. The best way to beat the separatists in the diaspora is to show them that everything they are grumbling about is being achieved without them.

      • TT

        DB,

        What makes you think that the TNA will represent the diaspora viewpoint?

        That is what they have been saying, doing and promoting. From their party name to actions they support the creation of the Tamil Nation. Recently some of them met TGTE representatives. TamilNet the LTTE mouthpiece is in top gear supporting the TNA and its agenda. A sure sign of TNA Diaspora strong connections. Now TNA activists are beating race drums in the north ahead of the LG polls. Somehow race promoting parties always won in the north since 1947 and I don’t see it changing.

        Agree with the rest of your comments. TNA is best positioned to do good things but have always opted out. Still they follow a highly racially prejudiced, divisive and anti-SL agenda. They have all the right to do so with democracy but it doesn’t do any good.

        A word about the Diaspora. The Tamil Diaspora is made up of brothers, sisters, cousins and other blood relatives of North-East Tamils. They are inseperable.

        TNA’s complete inability and unwillingness to work with Muslim and Sinhala majority political parties is another big drawback.

        It is a very sad situation. TNA has made it very clear they will always be part of the problem and not the solution. Government got to look for alternative approaches to bringing lasting peace to north.

        e.g. Ethnic integration by changing the ethnic composition of the north.

        Whatever the disagreements, critisicms and allegations, it worked in the east. We get more cooperative and development oriented political forces in the east than the north.

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        “That is what they have been saying, doing and promoting. From their party name to actions they support the creation of the Tamil Nation.”

        Well, that’s as true for the main parties as well — the SLFP and the UNP — which have always played race politics as well, and in fact it was these actions by the main parties that created the environment for Tamil militancy. And what about the EPDP and other Tamil militant groups that are allied with the GoSL? Eelam is part of their name too, but how come that’s OK?

        “Now TNA activists are beating race drums in the north ahead of the LG polls. Somehow race promoting parties always won in the north since 1947 and I don’t see it changing.”

        What race drums are you talking about? The TNA’s constituency is Tamil, so why shouldn’t they address Tamil concerns? Do you think any Sinhalese are going to vote for the TNA? Similarly, the smaller southern parties like the JHU, JVP, and NFF are only talking about Sinhalese concerns. You can’t expect the minority representatives to miraculously move away from race politics when the majority representatives are not.

        “A word about the Diaspora. The Tamil Diaspora is made up of brothers, sisters, cousins and other blood relatives of North-East Tamils. They are inseperable.”

        This is a broad generalisation. For instance, I have Tamil relatives in the diaspora, and they have no longer any connections to the NE. There are many in the diaspora who no longer have any real connection to the NE, beyond historical ties. The voice of the diaspora is in fact a small vocal bunch, and that voice isn’t necessarily the same as that of the NE Tamils.

        “TNA’s complete inability and unwillingness to work with Muslim and Sinhala majority political parties is another big drawback.”

        I think it’s just as important for the Sinhalese and Muslims to work with the TNA, instead of waiting for them to make the first move. The GoSL needs to empower the TNA by actively implementing a political solution.

        “It is a very sad situation. TNA has made it very clear they will always be part of the problem and not the solution. Government got to look for alternative approaches to bringing lasting peace to north.”

        On one hand you say that you agree with what I say, but then say the above, which is quite contrary to what I’m saying. The GoSL has to work with the TNA, because they’re the most credible and representative political party amongst the Tamils. There is no alternative approach. Devananda, Pilliyan, Karuna, etc, are stopgap measures; people who don’t have wide support from the Tamils, nor any real credibility with India and the international community. Looking for parties who will just nod their heads to the Sinhalese is pointless. Tamils need to have strong and trustworthy political leaders, people who’s hands are not stained by terrorism, and only the TNA can provide this.

        “e.g. Ethnic integration by changing the ethnic composition of the north.Whatever the disagreements, critisicms and allegations, it worked in the east. We get more cooperative and development oriented political forces in the east than the north.”

        You cannot solve the Tamil needs by taking away what little power they have — ie the power to vote in their own leaders. In the long-term SL needs to move away from race politics, but simply changing the demographic of the NE will not do that; it will simply disenfranchise the Tamils further. I understand the Sinhalese fear that a North with a strong Tamil leadership might ask for a plebiscite on secession, but you cannot prevent that by taking away their power. The answer is to make sure that there is no reason for them to secede; and that can only be achieved by ensuring that strong, credible, and moderate Tamil politicians are allowed to run the north and be a conduit for the Tamil rights that are so badly needed. With their own leaders in place, and with their people treated as equal citizens, there will be no need for the Tamils to secede.

      • TT

        DB,

        1. Race politics

        Race politics by UNP, SLFP, JVP is very rare today. In contrast TNA ALWAYS plays the race card. Apart from that TNA does not do anything!

        2. Single race concerns

        Yes, JHU and NFF have been only concerned about a single race but they are part of multi ethnic coalitions! TNA refrains from getting into such coalitions. And TNA is a big party capable of winning in a LG division, district and a PC.

        3. The Tamil Diaspora is made up of brothers, sisters, cousins and other blood relatives of North-East Tamils.

        This is the case almost always. The few disconnected people are actually not into politics. However, the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora is TOTALLY disconnected from ground realities. I agree. but still they are closer relatives of NE Tamils than others.

        4. The GoSL has to work with the TNA, because they’re the most credible and representative political party amongst the Tamils.

        Its not because of Tamils but because of people in the north (and parts of east) that the government has to work with a credible party from those areas. Tamil has little to do with it.

        But TNA has been very uncooperative always. Even when Ranil was the PM, TNA refused to work with him. Its not the TNA; all its predecessors were like that. 1965-1970 was a small execption but that too was a very difficult marriage which collapsed. Then ACTC and ITAK (2 race based parties) were competing against each other. That made them reach to the major parties to outdo the other. Today there is no such healthy competition.

        5. “Tamils need to have strong and trustworthy political leaders, people who’s hands are not stained by terrorism, and only the TNA can provide this.”

        Now that is stretching the truth a bit too far. Is it not? Not just Tamils, people in the north, whatever their race is.

        6. “You cannot solve the Tamil needs by taking away what little power they have — ie the power to vote in their own leaders. In the long-term SL needs to move away from race politics, but simply changing the demographic of the NE will not do that; it will simply disenfranchise the Tamils further.”

        Disenfranchise? Absolutely no! Taking away the little power Tamils have? Absolutely not!

        SL has moved away from race politics; the north hasn’t. Tamil Nadu, India hasn’t. As long as there are no significant Sinhala and Muslim population in the north, race politics will continue there.

        East has given up race politics to a great extent. Although race politics is dominant in the north, it is not so in the east. Thanks to a multi ethnic community. This is the only solution.

        It is not about Tamils or Sinhalese. It is about people in the north, etc. no matter what ethnicity they belong to. If TNA, ACTC, ITAK, TULF or any other “T” (Tamil) party remain dominant, every partnership with the people in the north will be through these “Tamil” and other (Sinhala-Muslim-Tamil coalitions) coalitions. Do you see how it maintains the division? That is a sure receipe to continue to racial divide. The best way to move away from race politics (your phrase with which I agree) is not to empower racial political parties. The more you empower them, the stronger race politcs become.

        Sinhalese rejected Sinhala Urumaya, Sinhala Boomipura party and Muslims have forced SLMC to join multiethnic parties. Why can’t the Tamil do same? Why can’t the voters compel their TNA leaders to shed Tamil homeland/Tamil only aspirations/Tamil only grievances and join multi ethnic coalitions?

        CWC, UPF are also Tamil parties without the race element in their name and demands. They always cooperate with multi ethnic parties. Why can’t the TNA?

        I don’t see this happening and that is sad. Empowering TNA is a sure way to continue race politics.

        My suggestion is to change the ethnic composition of the north. That will result in multi ethnic political parties. They will have no choice than to work together with people of all races. If they don’t, the electoral process will wipe them out. Then “TNA” will stop making Tamil-only demands. Only then can major political parties cooperate with them.

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        “Race politics by UNP, SLFP, JVP is very rare today. In contrast TNA ALWAYS plays the race card. Apart from that TNA does not do anything!”

        This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single utterance and policy of the GoSL is connected to what is best for the Sinhalese Buddhists; if that isn’t race politics, what is? The JVP isn’t saying very much today anyway, and is basically a nonentity, but when it was helping the UPFA coalition and MR to power, it was totally based on a platform of race politics. Its offshoot, the NFF is still doing the same. The UNP may not be playing race politics today, and that is perhaps why it can’t seem to get back into power. Nevertheless, it is the racist policies of JRJ that contributed to the ethnic conflict. As for the TNA, can you point to any particular attempts at race politics? And I mean specific ones, not just generalisations.

        “Yes, JHU and NFF have been only concerned about a single race but they are part of multi ethnic coalitions! TNA refrains from getting into such coalitions. And TNA is a big party capable of winning in a LG division, district and a PC.”

        You have answered your own question. The NFF and JHU are basically little puppies today, mostly because they have no intelligent policies, and need to remain in a coalition to have any power. However, it was the JHU and the NFF/JVP that helped MR to power via race politics. In contrast, the TNA, in your own words, is a big party that doesn’t need to be in a coalition to win power in the north. If they were contesting in the south, they would need to, because as I said before, no Sinhalese will vote for the TNA. Do you know why? Because the southern parties provide the policies that the Sinhalese like; in other words race-based policies or race politics.

        “This is the case almost always. The few disconnected people are actually not into politics.”

        Come off it, TT. The majority of the diaspora doesn’t give a damn about politics. They are happy to live their own lives in their adoptive countries, earn a living, put their children through uni, and get on. I have many relatives and friends amongst the diaspora, so take my word on that.

        “However, the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora is TOTALLY disconnected from ground realities.”

        But you just said that they’re all related to people in the NE. If they are, how can they be disconnected? The fact is, the vocal pro-separatist voice in the diaspora doesn’t come from having suffering relatives in the NE, but from being more interested in separatist-based politics than reality.

        “Its not because of Tamils but because of people in the north (and parts of east) that the government has to work with a credible party from those areas. Tamil has little to do with it.”

        Well, the Tamils are the majority in the north and the largest ethnic group in the east, and since no ethnic group anywhere in SL votes outside its community (in general), and since the ethnic conflict is about Tamil grievances created by the Sinhalese, I don’t think it’s possible to ignore the fact that the elephant in the room is the Tamil. Pretending that it’s a multicultural demographic in the north is just downright blinkered.

        “But TNA has been very uncooperative always. Even when Ranil was the PM, TNA refused to work with him.”

        At the time the TNA was controlled by the Tigers; that is not the case today. In fact, the NE Tamils would have voted for Ranil if VP hadn’t boycotted the presidential elections.

        “all its predecessors were like that. 1965-1970 was a small execption but that too was a very difficult marriage which collapsed. Then ACTC and ITAK (2 race based parties) were competing against each other. That made them reach to the major parties to outdo the other. Today there is no such healthy competition.”

        The collapse was due to the Sinhalese habit of breaking its promises to the Tamils; both SWRD and Dudley did that, trashing treaties that they had signed because of Sinhalese agitation. These continued betrayals have made the Tamils — populace and politicians — mistrust the Sinhalese. This mistrust will continue to make the Tamils feel that they will only lose out if they enter into coalitions or agreements with the Sinhalese. That is why the GoSL needs to win them over by backing the TNA and allowing them to govern in the north. This is not the time for competition; it is the time for stability and trust.

        “Now that is stretching the truth a bit too far. Is it not? Not just Tamils, people in the north, whatever their race is.”

        Of course. But the majority in the north are Tamils. We are not talking about federalism here, but provincial devolution along the 13th Amendment. The Sinhalese and Muslim minorities in the NE don’t need to fear. Just as the GoSL must win the Tamils trust, the TNA must show by its actions that the minority Muslims and Sinhalese in the NE can trust them. But the fact is, as I said before, that the ethnic conflict is between the Sinhalese and Tamils primarily, and to overcome this the Tamil issues must be addressed.

        “SL has moved away from race politics; the north hasn’t.”

        What nonsense! Politics in SL is all about race. The only reason that politics in the south isn’t overtly race-related (in the mind of the Sinhalese, at least) is because Tamil identity has been centralised in the NE; outside of it they are basically a nonentity, and so the southern (read Sinhalese) parties can carry on as if they don’t exist. Southern politics is Sinhalese politics, but now that the TNA represents Tamil politics, you call it race politics. It’s an absurd notion.

        “East has given up race politics to a great extent. Although race politics is dominant in the north, it is not so in the east. Thanks to a multi ethnic community. This is the only solution.”

        To some extent you’re right. But changing a demographic is only in the benefit of the Sinhalese. Do you think the Tamils agree with this? You think a dilution of Tamil representation is the answer because you’re a Sinhalese, and a dilution of Tamil representation results in an increase in Sinhalese representation, because as a majority the Sinhalese will retain representation in the south while increasing it in the north. It is this tactic that contributed to Tamil mistrust of the Sinhalese and an increase in ethnic tension.

        You cannot go from race politics to non-race politics in one step when there is an ethnic conflict in the middle of it. There has to be a gradual process; and that process is to allow the Tamils to govern themselves until they realise that it doesn’t matter which race governs. You cannot suppress people forever. It’s all very well to say there are no Tamils and Muslims and Sinhalese, but thirty years of war has been fought for just those reasons. You can’t wipe it out with a snap of your fingers.

        The Sinhalese must realise that there is no chance of secession if they play with open cards. For a democratic secession, there must first be a merging of the northern and eastern provinces, since it’s impractical for the north to secede on its own. A merging of these provinces will not happen, because the non-Tamils in the east will vote against it. Without the east, even if the north wins a plebiscite (which it won’t if the Sinhalese show the Tamils the advantages of staying), it’s unlikely they could survive as a separate state.

        “If TNA, ACTC, ITAK, TULF or any other “T” (Tamil) party remain dominant, every partnership with the people in the north will be through these “Tamil” and other (Sinhala-Muslim-Tamil coalitions) coalitions. Do you see how it maintains the division?”

        The divide is maintained by the Sinhalese. Why else is it necessary for the Muslims to have their own parties in the south if as you say there’s no race politics in the south? The point is that the minorities don’t feel sufficiently represented in the main parties, and therefore fall back on their own parties. It’s upto the Sinhalese to prove that this is unnecessary.

        “Sinhalese rejected Sinhala Urumaya, Sinhala Boomipura party and Muslims have forced SLMC to join multiethnic parties.”

        Then why is the JHU a part of the government if it has been rejected? The SLMC, JVP, JHU, etc aren’t part of the coalition because they want to share power; they are there because they want a share of power that they wouldn’t have alone. With time there will be more Tamil parties other than the TNA and we will see coalitions; heck, you might even see that very soon, but you have to start the process.

        “Why can’t the voters compel their TNA leaders to shed Tamil homeland/Tamil only aspirations/Tamil only grievances and join multi ethnic coalitions?”

        There is no call for a Tamil only homeland by the TNA. And Tamils will shed the call for an addressing of Tamil aspirations and grievances when those aspirations and grievances are addressed.

        “CWC, UPF are also Tamil parties without the race element in their name and demands. They always cooperate with multi ethnic parties. Why can’t the TNA?”

        I’ve already explained to you that you yourself have answered your own question; these small parties don’t have enough of a constituent base to survive alone in a unitary state, even though they could in a federal system. The TNA can survive on its own, and it’ll be smaller parties like the EPDP, Pilliyan’s gang, and the Muslim parties that will have to seek a coalition with the TNA to gain power. If the GoSL wants the TNA to ally with the UPFA, it must make them a worthwhile offer.

        “I don’t see this happening and that is sad. Empowering TNA is a sure way to continue race politics.”

        What is actually sad is that you cannot see that your attempts to break down Tamil representation is in fact the main cause for race politics.

        “My suggestion is to change the ethnic composition of the north. That will result in multi ethnic political parties. They will have no choice than to work together with people of all races.”

        I thought you were against disenfranchisement of the Tamils? taking away people’s choice cannot further the cause of democracy, which is based on choice.

  • Mango

    TT: I have to also admit that the GoSL (wittingly or unwittingly, and I guess the former) keeps the Diaspora Eelamists’ campaigns alive by their regular, self-defeating stunts like the National Anthem debacle.

    Where’s the intelligence, cunning and long-term thinking from Colombo?

    • TT

      Yes.

      All this happens in the background of overwhelming support for race politics in the north. This strange thing happened since 1947 at every election. These parties are only concerned about Tamil homelands/grievences/aspirations, etc. This way we cannot move forward.

      No matter what good is done, on the election day people in the north always vote for race politics. This is strange to SL but not to Tamil Nadu. Like SL’s north, Tamil Nadu is the only Indian state where race politics always win over national (multi-ethnic) politics.

      This delicate behaviour has to be understood by our politicians. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done to change it. Unless it is changed there is no real cooperation or inclusivenss.

  • Michael Dee

    “how we could use the opportunities afforded by the GLF to draw attention to our common concerns regarding human rights and media freedom in Sri Lanka.”

    I would love to hear how this can be done if it can and for starters it would be nice to know just what these common concerns – if any – are, and I would like to see if and how the GLF can contribute towards addressing them.

    Right now from out here this GLF looks like a Tamasha that will help give the world the impression that all is well in the land of miracles and that the literati are having the time of their life to the extent that they are able to invite their buddies from all the world over for a grand bash and glorious ego massage by the beach in paradise.

    Have fun on the beach – a nice way indeed to remember what has been done to so many in such gruesome ways. A lovely strategy no doubt and one that will be appreciated by those responsible for the carnage. A few National awards – Desha this and Desha that will be in order for the organizers I am sure.

    As for this celebrity who studies tails that wags dogs would he like to see the tails that constitute the interests of the ruling cabals who have seized control of the nation states wag the fate of the human species?

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      You can’t force people to care by holding them to ransom. If the GLF isn’t taking an active part in fighting for media freedom or whatever, no one can force them to. Everyone has the right to their own agenda. If that is so, are you going to boycott Christmas and cricket and fashion shows and everything else? All you’re doing is alienating the very people who might be sympathetic towards you.

      And FYI the GLF has been in existence for five years, right throughout the war; it isn’t something that just popped up with the end of the war to give the impression everything’s fine in SL — though compared to the last two decades it certainly is. This boycott has basically failed, hasn’t it? Not one author has boycotted the GLF, nor has this boycott got any real adverse media coverage against the GoSL. All you’ve done is piss off a few people who were on your side before. Congratulations.

    • TT

      In their attempt to isolate SL, they isolated themselves!

      The world doesn’t mope around, dwell in the past, soak in hatred, boycott everything under the sun. IT MOVES FORWARD.

      Don’t think just because a certain group of people refuse to move forward, the world will come to a standstill.

      The proverbial cat closes its eyes when drinking milk (secretly). It thinks when it closes the eyes, the entire world closes eyes! (A Tamil proverb)

      Just because a group of pathetic souls dwell in the past, doesn’t mean the others would do same. We move forward and leave you in you little isolated corner.

      SL moves forward and the world moves forward while Tamil Elam is still at the banks of Nanthikadal.

      No disrespect but this is what is happening. Isn’t it?

  • Michael Dee

    I really do not see how people who get pissed off for being told to engage in actions aimed at highlighting the murdering of journalists, can ever be sympathetic towards those who do not like people who use murder as a form of governance or condone its use as such.

    I am also not clear what the war or whatever happened at Nanthikkadal has to do with this. This has to do with the way journalists have been treated and it looks like there are going to be many at the GLF who want to just forget whats happening here ( as though it is something that happened in the dim distant past rather than the ongoing horror that it is )and not only just move on but make a right royal song and dance about doing so as as well.

    So move on is the name of the game. No matter how many of us are murdered, disappeared, tortured…move on we are told by those who “were on our side before”. Before what? Before we were murdered of course,and once we are dead the rest are told to move on and make way for the fun on the beach to proceed.

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      “I really do not see how people who get pissed off for being told to engage in actions aimed at highlighting the murdering of journalists, can ever be sympathetic towards those who do not like people who use murder as a form of governance or condone its use as such.”

      Well, first of all, most people in SL don’t believe that the government uses murder as a form of governance. Second, can you explain to me how you can force people — via harassment and blackmail — to empathise with your cause? Holding hostages doesn’t work.

      “This has to do with the way journalists have been treated and it looks like there are going to be many at the GLF who want to just forget whats happening here”

      Clearly you don’t know much about the GLF. It has very little to do with journalists and journalism. The festival is about literature — the pieces of great English writing and the people who write them. Most journalists who go there are covering the event or pretending that they write literature. They themselves have little to do with organising the GLF. Which is why I said you might as well boycott the Gay & Lesbian Kite Flying Parade for what it’ll do.

      “So move on is the name of the game. No matter how many of us are murdered, disappeared, tortured…move on we are told by those who “were on our side before”. Before what? Before we were murdered of course,and once we are dead the rest are told to move on and make way for the fun on the beach to proceed.”

      Oh don’t be such a drama queen. No one’s murdered you. My point is, if you believe in a cause, be effective about fighting for it. This boycott has failed miserably both in getting anyone to stay away or getting any real publicity. We told you it’d fail because it was mis-aimed, and we were right.

  • wijayapala

    TT

    I agree with you that TNA is stained with its association with the LTTE, but the unfortunate truth is that they were elected fair and square by the NE electorate. That means the TNA is the most legitimate political party that the govt can negotiate with. Also I disagree that TNA is the party of the diaspora. You are forgetting Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam’s extremist party that lost the election, despite its closer links with the diaspora.

    Perhaps it is too early to expect a “political solution.” We may need to wait for a new generation that did not have to suffer through the war.

    Race politics by UNP, SLFP, JVP is very rare today.

    But given that Sinhalese are the majority, it is very dangerous when they use race politics, more dangerous than the Tamil parties. SLFP most recently engaged in race politics by dropping Tamil from national anthem.

    My suggestion is to change the ethnic composition of the north.

    You still have not explained how you will do this. Sinhala people do not want to live in the arid north where there are no opportunities.

    • yapa

      Dear wijayapala;

      “Sinhala people do not want to live in the arid north where there are no opportunities.”

      Do you mean to say Sinhalese are a more sophisticated higher class of people than Tamils, where they cannot live in a place where Tamils love to live?

      What made you come to that general conclusion about 15 million Sinhalese without consulting them. I think you know some Sinhalese chased away from north by the LTTE long ago went back to north on their own consent, just after the armed conflict was over.

      I can remember once Belle was giving a “friendly advice” to Sinhalese to confine to the fertile lands of the south leaving those useless arid lands to Tamils.

      Are you also advocating to share the lands of the country, the way Panikkiya (a low caste man) and Gamarala (a village elite) shared the front and back sides of the cow? The elite to feed the cow as he owns the front and Panikkiya to collect milk and cow dung as he owns the dirty side of the animal?

      Providing ropes also should be done by the “elite Sinhalese Gamarala” you think, dear wijayapala?

      Thanks!

    • TT

      Wijayapala,

      I’m very happy there aren’t Sinhala racist parties as there are Tamil racist parties. It will be horror even to imagine a All Ceylon Sinhala Congress, Lankan Sinhala Kingdom Party, Sinhala United Liberation Front, Sinhala National Alliance, etc. winning most votes of the Sinhalese.

      We have not seen that and hope will not see. If that happens then Sinhala racism will equal Tamil racism in politics.

      But I have to agree TNA will be elected fairly in the north. Yes. This is the problem. No point denying it. And no point in wishful thinking hoping against hope that TNA or any Tamil race based political party would ever cooperate with non-Tamils. That will NEVER happen.

      “Sinhala people do not want to live in the arid north where there are no opportunities”

      A complete lie (no offence. Only the statement is a lie).

      1. There were 25,000+ Sinhalese in Jaffna district in 1971. If their natural grwoth and internal migration were allowed, they would be more than that today. They were FORCIBLY EVICTED. It was not their will to leave.

      2. Jaffna and Vanni are NOT arid. But Hambantota is! If you don’t beleive me, please look at the climatic map of SL.

      3. Sinhalese were living and working in Pulmodai, Kent and Dollar farms, very remote parts of Mannar, Vavuniya and Mulaitivu districts even after 1983. Most of them were killed by Tamil armed and unarmed groups.

      4. Even during the war new Sinhala settlements came up in areas infested with terrorist activity.

      e.g. Welioya

      Did the arid conditions, terror, climate, etc. chase them?

      Not an inch!

      They held their ground. Why? Were they chest beating patriots that you see on the road? No! They were economically better off. Otherwise they would be beggars. They were not willing to end up like the 25,000+ Sinhalese chased away from Jaffna. They joined CDF and fought for their land and won.

      5. Jaffna has much better schools, communication network, banking network, fisheries and related industries, enromous potential for the beef industry, enormous potential for direct and indirect agricultural work, huge shipping, import/export and related industries, retail trade, mining, cement, etc. manufacturing, calcium carbonate related industries, defence related industries, supplying to SLDF permanant camps, etc. These are more than enough for Sinhalese to go and settle there.

      6. Areas outside the NE are very crowded. 90% of people live in 65% of land. 90% depend on 35% of coastline. This is not sustainable. The land and related problems are going to skyrocket. Then there is only one option.

      For people who can live in Hambantota, the north is an oasis!. For people whose capital city was in the dry zone for 1,800 years or more in the known 2,600 year history, going back to the dry zone is like coming home!

      7. We spend $1.7 billion every year on defence. This investment must be recovered. The only additional resources we have are the 15,000 square kilometres we won by war and the adjoining coastline. That must be exploited to finance the defence spend over the years. Otherwise the war victory does not make any economic sense. And most Sri Lankans will not have a peace dividend.

      8. Empowering TNA is a sure way to deny most Sri Lankans a share of the peace dividend due to their ethnicity! TNA strongly views the north and east as Tamil homelands and even at the last election gave BS numbers of “Sinhala colonisation”. The beauty of it is racism in politics can only survive as long as an area remain arid of multi ethnicity. The moment multi ethnicity reaches an area, racism runs away like darkness in the morning! :)

    • TT

      “I can remember once Belle was giving a “friendly advice” to Sinhalese to confine to the fertile lands of the south leaving those useless arid lands to Tamils.

      Are you also advocating to share the lands of the country, the way Panikkiya (a low caste man) and Gamarala (a village elite) shared the front and back sides of the cow? The elite to feed the cow as he owns the front and Panikkiya to collect milk and cow dung as he owns the dirty side of the animal?”

      Nice analogy! LOL!

      If I were the Gamarala I would take the cow to the beef stall. The rope is tied to the front side and the knife hits the neck which is also in the front side!

  • Michael Dee

    “Well, first of all, most people in SL don’t believe that the government uses murder as a form of governance”.

    I suppose those at the GLF do not but with those on the receiving end things are different.

    “Second, can you explain to me how you can force people — via harassment and blackmail — to empathize with your cause?”

    Protesting killings of journalists is not some fancy “cause”. It is a matter of law and personal security which are deteriorating by the day. I do not know of what it is that you are referring to as harassment and blackmail and would appreciate being enlightened on the matter.

    English literature I always thought, embodied the values of the culture from which it arises and as such I have always thought that those who create English literature live by the values that they portray and that their work helps to spread these values and consolidate their impact on social processes which is what makes it possible for the gay and lesbians to have their kite flying parades without being murdered like journalists are in the land of miracles. Authors of English literature do not have to be harassed or blackmailed into espousing these values and defending them. Perhaps things have changed and literature has become something that one gets right for publication and has nothing to do with ones values or the way one sees the world and everything to do with meeting the marketing criteria of publishers.

    I have not been murdered yet and as I pointed out before, protesting the murder of journalists is not a “cause” anymore than the principle that a suspect is deemed innocent until proved guilty is a “cause”.

    I am sure that the majority of those involved with the GLF share your opinion that this is “drama”. Yes indeed it is drama for those who do not value human life and who would therefore like those who are murdered to go out without a word of protest. You do their murderers much good and I am sure you will find yourself welcome amongst them.

    • TT

      No journalist died since the death of Prabakaran!

      Its more than a coincidence. Either the forces under the LTTE leader killed journos, the forces fighting him killed them or both. Whatever the reason it has completely stopped.

      From regular jounralist deaths to no deaths, there is a DEFINITE improvement.

      If we are after a sort of media freedom that tolerates seperatism, well most SLs don’t see it’s benefits and hence is not needed.

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      Ha ha Michael, what melodrama! You still however are unable to answer my question on how the boycotting of an event that has no influence over the GoSL can be effective in furthering media rights; especially given that attempting to cripple the GLF is itself a curtailment of the rights of those appearing there to their own freedom of speech; as well as the fact that the boycott itself was a miserable failure. All the authors came and more tickets were sold than before. You cannot get a room anywhere in Hikkaduwa, Galle, or Unawatuna this weekend.
      I never said your cause was fancy, but media freedom is a cause nevertheless. FYI many of the urban English-speaking westernised elite that runs the GLF and attends it also believe in that cause; if you don’t believe that I’m afraid you’re out of touch with the people in whom you’re trying to affect change. That’s a recipe for failure.
      Literature is under no obligation to reflect any values, either positive or cultural, though they often do. If what y
      ou say is true, which values and culture did Nabakov reflect when he wrote about a paedophile in Lolita? Literature’s only obligation is to express; unlike journalism. Your failure to grasp this is reflected in the failure of the boycott.
      The GLF has every right to exist free of the harassment by the boycott and the threat that unless they behave as you wish they will not be allowed to function. You can’t hold people to ransom because they don’t embrace your cause as fully as you would wish. All that does is turn people against you as militant groups all over the world have learned to their cost. I have long pointed out that foreign-based groups are strengthening the GoSL by polarising debate and driving those in the centre — the moderates — into the Rajapakse camp. But you guys are too pigheaded to see it. 
      Personally I think the JFD needed to cause some noise at this moment — perhaps to be eligible for funding — and when to the RSF with this hair-brained scheme. 
      Perhaps you should ask yourself why there is so little support for the JFD, or indeed media freedom, amongst the general population. Perhaps it is because of these stupid ideas and general lack of insight into what the people of SL want.

  • Gowri

    “English literature I always thought, embodied the values of the culture from which it arises and as such I have always thought that those who create English literature live by the values that they portray and that their work helps to spread these values and consolidate their impact on social processes…”

    English Literature, like all great literature, questions tradition – exposing hypocrisy and social pretentions. Literature tries to discover the compulsions hiding beneath our social masks.

    What you talk about is convention. This is the preoccupation of someone who has failed to understand (English)Literature.

    • Michael Dee

      I suppose you are correct. The convention on human rights and freedom of expression.

      • Gowri

        “The convention on human rights and freedom of expression”.

        Really? Where is this convention going to be held?

    • TT

      Sadly, some of those who question tradition are preoccupied with their own old outdated theories.

      e.g. Tamil homeland, Tamil grievences, Tamil aspirations

      All these are outdated in the post-Nanthikadal era.

      Today its about Sri Lankans’ common homeland, Sri Lankans common grievences and Sri Lankans national aspirations. No point dividing the same thing alone racial/ethnic lines. That’s medievel.

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        Unfortunately, TT, Tamil grievances and aspirations didn’t disappear with VP’s death. I have explained this to you in great detail above, but instead of responding to that, you prefer to repeat your own mantra. Unless people like you gain an interest in what the Tamils are asking for instead of just focusing on what is best for you Sinhalese, the problem will not go away.

      • TT

        DB,

        Why ONLY Tamil grievences? What about the others? They too have grievences.

        What I’m saying is address grievences of everyone not just Tamils using a human approach, instead of a race based approach.

        We can NEVER solve this problem by viewing it from the race point of view. Unfortunately you are engrossed in this race point of view which will not take you/us anywhere. This is what all northern politicians since 1947 did (look at problems from the racist point of view) and it didn’t take us anywhere.

        We have to shed that old and outdated nonsense and start looking at human problems without the race glass.

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        Because Tamil grievances are a specific problem (one that we have fought a thirty-year war over) and needs to be addressed specifically. All specific problems need specific solutions, not some vague generalisation that denies that the problem even exists. If other Sri Lankans have grievances, they must be addressed too, in a specific manner. The Tamil problems were created by Sinhalese race politics, so now declaring pompously that there shouldn’t be race issues is a bit stupid. Solve the problem you have created and then we can put it behind us and go one to non-race politics.

        You still avoid accepting that Sinhalese politicians have been (and still are) engaging in race politics, and keep pointing the finger at the Tamils. This is what achieves nothing.

      • TT

        DB,

        If you compare racism in Sinhala politics and Tamil politics, the latter is way ahead.

        1. Look at the party names
        Sinhalese vote for multi ethnic parties like United National Party, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, etc. whereas Tamils in the north vote for Tamil race based parties.

        e.g. TAMIL national alliance, TAMIL united liberation front, illankai TAMIL arsu kachchi, all ceylon TAMIL congress.

        So what you say don’t add up.

        2. Look at what they always talk about

        TAMIL homelands, TAMIL grievences, TAMIL aspirations, TAMIL right of self determination, TAMIL nationality, TAMIL sovereignty, etc.

        Is that not racism at its worst?

        3. Tamil race politics PRECEDED Sinhala race politics.

        Race based politics emerged in 1921 when Tamil National League was formed.

        First registered race based political party was all ceylon TAMIL congress (1944)

        Second race based party was illankai TAMIL arasu kachchi (1949).

        At every election (except 1994) tamil race based parties won in the north.
        1947, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1977, 1989, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2010

        As you can see Tamil race politics was northerners’ prefered choice (1947) even before independance (1948)!

        So your cause and effect theory is faulty. The cause must precede effect, isn’t it?

        You accept all Sri Lankans have problems. Since they affect 100% of the popualtion, why not resolve those in priority? That will put everyone in a better footing to address further problems.

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        TT, I have addressed all of this already. Why don’t you respond to my points instead of repeating yours?

  • justitia

    Interesting discussion.
    I agree mostly with the views expressed by David Blacker.

  • Humanist

    Great responses and a good question, Gowri!!

  • Amarnath Sunderagama

    OK friends,
    the GLF is over today. SO, having participated, what has Ms. Abeysekera given you and done for Sri Lanka ? Her claim that the type of HR activists who have sacrificed their lives like her, should have the space to engage and interact with moderate Tamils, has it happened ? What was the interaction and on what ? Nothing in the media on any of such interactions. No one knows about such interactions and dialogue. May be GV would carry her presentation for “reconciliation” in SL and may be some interview.

    Who ever moderate Tamil(s) Sunila Abeysekekera would or may have met at the GLF, could have been easily met in Colombo any day any time. And for a better discussion at that. The GLF was not necessary for such Sinhala and Tamil engagements and interactions within this country.

    The whole argument by Sunila Abeysekera and the line that GV took is now proved completely wrong and that they adopt, not by chance or accident, but with good understanding of what they do and would gain. All what they want is this subject of HR to stay within their authority. Their campaign is not what challenges the government’s violation, but one that give them personal credit and international acceptance. That is what they did all these 30 years. They won awards, but the people slipped into missery every day to live in an ever aggravating situation. None they did or claimed they did, ever had any worth while impact on this society. They don’t even bother to look back and see what has happened to the people.

    It was the same with the GLF. End of the day, Sunila Abeysekera had a good picnic with literature and limelight for her and the mainstream English media gave the publicity this government wanted and needed. Check today’s Lakbima English news paper front page photo and its caption. It was, what the RSF/JDS said that has finally come right. Sri Lanka turned out for the outside world as a place where free speech, free association and freedom of expression is so generously available and a beautiful island for tourists to enjoy.

    But from tomorrow, with the GLF over and those who had the fun gone, what is there for the Sri Lankans ?
    Thanks, Amarnath

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      Still under the delusion that a literature festival is about journalism?

      Until SL journalists start to worry less about their own rights and more about those of the people, no one’s gonna give a damn about you.

      So tomorrow with the boycott over, what have you guys achieved? All you did was get publicity for an event that previously most people had never heard of, and make yourselves look like inept buLlies.

  • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

    I wonder what David, Dr.Dayarn and others have to say about the attack and burning of the news website LankaeNews? WHO was responsible? ALIENS? International Conspirators? The LTTE? The Diaspora?

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      Well, whoever it was, it wasn’t the Galle Lit.

    • TT

      Boycott didn’t work. So what is the next way to convince the world that there is no media freedom in the country?

      Somewhat to similar to the liberation struggle. Boycot of elections, peaceful satyagrahas, etc. didn’t work and then they graduated to using violence to bring the world attention to the liberation struggle.

      Same actors, same strategy.

      At 2 am in the early morning! If state sponsored, it would be at 2 pm, not 2 am!

  • Heshan

    WHO was responsible? ALIENS? International Conspirators? The LTTE? The Diaspora?

    This is the predictable response:

    “It has surely occurred in all Western countries, on the order of 10^10 times. Besides, the Catholic Inquisition, slavery, the Holocaust and genocide in Iraq are far worse atrocities. So why should this incident be investigated, just because some Western-backed liberals are in favor of it? Let them go and investigate the above atrocities first.”

    You’ve probably realized by now, Bean, that the dim-witted are like a broken record.

  • MC

    “During a lunchtime session at the Galle Literary Festival, one isolated-looking teenager sat among the audience.

    He watched for a while before getting up and joining his mother standing at the back.

    They were the 16-year-old son and the wife of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a journalist-come-cartoonist missing since 24 January 2010.

    They visited the annual festival to lobby its participants on his plight – a plight which has inspired some to call for a festival boycott and provoked a debate in Sri Lanka.

    The family gave out more leaflets at the festival’s cafe before returning to Colombo.

    “I’m not 100% satisfied with our trip to Galle as I expected to speak to the whole crowd, at least for five minutes,” Sandhya Eknaligoda told the BBC.

    She didn’t get the chance to do that, but managed to give out some leaflets.” – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12316737

    Well, Mr.Blacker, no doubt that this was done by Galle Lit Fest for sure. Got any brilliant comments, left in your sack? Don’t come out with the same old “it’s just a literary festival” crap.

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      Well, MC, since I’m not an organiser of the GLF, I’ve no idea why Mrs Eknaligoda didn’t get the chance to address the audience. I’m sure if she had requested them to allow her to do so at, for instance, the public area where everyone hangs out between events, they’d have allowed her. On the other hand, given that those speaking on behalf of her husband have attempted to hold the GLF to ransom and threaten them into supporting their cause, you can’t blame them if they felt less inclined to allow by reason what failed by force.

      You sound as puzzled as the current pro-Tiger diaspora is about why the GoSL still isn’t eager to grant them Eelam now that the Tigers have been defeated.

      • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

        Dear David you have put your foot in your mouth once again. You say, “Well, MC, since I’m not an organiser of the GLF, I’ve no idea why Mrs Eknaligoda didn’t get the chance to address the audience. I’m sure if she had requested them to allow her to do so at, for instance, the public area where everyone hangs out between events, they’d have allowed her.”

        If you were not an organiser, HOW IN GOD’S NAME would you know that if she had requested them, they would have let her speak???
        And also David right thinking non racist people along with the pro-tiger and non pro-tiger Diaspora are wondering WHY after all this time the Government of Rajapaksa isn’t willing to devolve power according to what was stated in the 13th amendment?

        ps: David, don’t you feel embarrassed to keep defending the Government of Rajapaksa and the armed forces day in and day out knowing full well that they are not angels? We know that you are well read etc. BUT it’s quite amusing to see you and Dr. Da yarn trying to defend anything and everything of the Government of Rajapaksa and armed forces…ha…ha…when I asked you if you thought it was ALIENS? International Conspirators? The LTTE? Or the Diaspora? Who was responsible for the burning down of lankaenews you come up with a funny answer that it was not Selvadurai and the other organisers of the Galle Lit Festival?

        Once again… if you were not an organiser, HOW IN GOD’S NAME would you know that it was not the organisers of the Galle Lit Festival, but some other sycophants who burnt down lankaenews?

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        The Duncester: “If you were not an organiser, HOW IN GOD’S NAME would you know that if she had requested them, they would have let her speak???”

        Because, Mr Dunce, I have been involved both as a panelist and as an attendee at every single GLF since its inception, and I have worked closely with the organisers for two consecutive years to create their advertising campaigns. They are very intelligent and nice people, and would have been quite ready to accommodate Mrs Eknaligoda. However, as I said before, even the nicest of people don’t take kindly to bullies. Do you know whether Mrs Eknaligoda approached the GLF to be included in their programme?

        “And also David right thinking non racist people along with the pro-tiger and non pro-tiger Diaspora are wondering WHY after all this time the Government of Rajapaksa isn’t willing to devolve power according to what was stated in the 13th amendment?”

        First of all, what has this got to do with the GLF? I didn’t know the latter were responsible for implementing the 13th Amendment. Secondly, the devolution detailed in the 13th is in the process of being implemented right now via local government elections. PC elections will follow eventually. This has already been done in the east.

        “ps: David, don’t you feel embarrassed to keep defending the Government of Rajapaksa and the armed forces day in and day out knowing full well that they are not angels?”

        Dear Dunce, there are no angels in government anywhere on this earth; but the GoSL is a democratically elected administration, and whatever the Armed Forces are, they are not the barbarians that we defeated in the north. Aren’t you, dear Dunce, ashamed of yourself for condoning the bullying of people unconnected to the GoSL because you don’t have the ability to touch the big boys in the GoSL?

        “when I asked you if you thought it was ALIENS? International Conspirators? The LTTE? Or the Diaspora? Who was responsible for the burning down of lankaenews you come up with a funny answer that it was not Selvadurai and the other organisers of the Galle Lit Festival?”

        Ask a silly question, you get a silly answer. Since the boycott is against the GLF, how is the burning down of Lanka e-news relevant to this discussion? Don’t you feel a bit of a Dunce for asking the question?

        “if you were not an organiser, HOW IN GOD’S NAME would you know that it was not the organisers of the Galle Lit Festival, but some other sycophants who burnt down lankaenews?”

        Are you accusing the GLF of burning down Lanka e-news?

  • Humanist

    I suppose RSF/JDS do not care that ill-conceived and myopic actions result in destructive consequences. Another bunch of critical Sri Lankan journalists on the street. I guess the RSF/JDS types are sleeping in peace in their comfortable beds in Paris or wherever.

  • Humanist

    Why doesn’t MC shed some light on the agenda of the people who are using the Ekneligodas for their ulterior motives. First, they tell everyone to boycott the festival. Then they get the Ekneligodas to go and distribute pamphlets at a festival they told eveyone to boycott. Why should the galle literary fest accomodate anyone who asked people to boycott it in the first place? Doesn’t seem logical to me.

  • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

    @ David
    British-American historian, Bernard Lewis has cited the Greek philosopher Aristotle who, in his discussion of slavery, stated that while Greeks are free by nature, ‘barbarians’ (non-Greeks) are slaves by nature, in that it is in their nature to be more willing to submit to despotic government. Though Aristotle does not specify any particular races, he argues that people from outside Greece are more prone to the burden of slavery than those from Ancient Greece.
    Dear David, you say…” and whatever the Armed Forces are, they are not the barbarians that we defeated in the north.” Well even you cannot dispute the fact that the ‘Barbarian’ LTTE were also of Tamil ethnicity. And as the Tamils are non-Sinhalese and have come from South India, do you like Mr. Aristotle believe that it should be in their nature (Tamils) to be willingly submit to the majority and it’s despotic government?

    Also, do you and the present “Government” (for want of a better name) believe that because journalists like Lasantha, Eknaligoda and many others (pronounced MTV/MBC, Siyatha TV, Sunday Leader press, Lankaenews etc.) do not toe the “Government” line, they too are barbarians and need to be ‘Permanently Rehabilitated’ like Lasantha and like Eknaligoda made to vanish into thin air by Aliens/International Conspirators?

    When Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky , Al Jazeera, etc criticize the West our idiots shout JAYA WAY WAA! But when they criticize ‘Idiot Islands’ human wrongs record they are called ‘International Conspirators’ and ‘Traitors.’ (Pronounced Xenophobes).

    And finally, you say “Are you accusing the GLF of burning down Lanka e-news?” Well David anything is possible in ‘The Land Like No Other.’ A land where anything and everything is blamed on ‘International Conspirators,’ a land where yesterdays hero is today’s zero, a land where today’s enemy is a friend tomorrow, a land where retired terrorist are granted ParleyMutt posts and General’s who won the war are incarcerated, a land where good becomes bad and bad becomes good and the list goes on and on just like in George Orwells “1984.”
    I’ll leave you with a quote from 1984.

    “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party (pronounced Family Dictatorship) imposed—if all records told the same tale (pronounced State Media)—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”
    - George Orwell, 1984

    Have a nice day.

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      Dear Mr Dunce, I don’t consider the Tiger leadership barbarians because they didn’t toe the GoSL line. Forcing little children to run through minefields and fight tanks, and sending young women to blow themselves up might have more to do with it.

      Out of curiosity, how do you manage to pronounce traitor as “xenophobe”? :D

      And finally, I think anyone who believes that Geoffrey Dobbs and Shyam Selvadurai burned down Lanka e-News should spend less time on Aristotle and Orwell and more time on questioning their own sanity.

  • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/ Mango

    Antony Loewenstein (who was ‘honoured’ to participate in the GLF boycott) Loves Free Speech – except at Sri Lankan literary festivals.

    “Free speech is a delicate beast that must be constantly nurtured and defended. Our society can handle robust engagement on a host of issues. Some will offend Jews. Some will offend Muslims. Some won’t offend anybody. Hurt feelings shouldn’t be a crime.”

    http://www.yourdemocracy.net.au/drupal/node/8013#comment-10250

    So in AL’s opinion, only Western society is capable of safely handling free speech. Sri Lankans obviously haven’t yet reached that exalted stage of development.

    • Gowri

      Could it be that Antony Loewenstein is afraid of getting his feelings “hurt”?  Perhaps his conveniently constructed “good” vs. “evil” paradigm will take a major nosedive once he arrives in Sri-Lanka, and starts mingling with the ordinary people who are hospitable, generous and ultimately decent.   Is he ready to handle this?

      • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/antony-loewenstein-–-master-of-doublethink/ Mango

        Cheran,

        I’ve listed Loewenstein’s hypocrisy and doublethink again, but His Royal Highness won’t respond to commoners like me :)

        GoSL must be thanking their lucky stars that RSF and JDF have supporters like him. Mind you, with his qualities, there’s one place in SL, he’ll feel instantly at home – in Parliament.

        http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/antony-loewenstein-–-master-of-doublethink/