In an interview Professor Rajiva Wijesinha gave The Sunday Leader concerning government responses to international pressure, he remarks that “people believe what they want to believe”. Wijesinha’s ironically astute observation sheds light on why government responses to war crimes allegations during the final stage of the Eelam War are not being rallied against locally. Leaving aside the lack of press freedom, the fear psychosis and the problem of discontent (over 16 Sri Lankans commit suicide daily), the desire to simply ‘move past’ a nerve-wracking 30 years of war is strong. At this point it is no surprise that internal criticism of the government response to war crimes allegations is yet weak. While the government strongly condemns what it deems the rhetoric, propaganda and bias of Western media, it is in turn a useful exercise to see what kind of political rhetoric is intrinsic to the official government response, and what kind of moral and political commitments are implicit in that rhetoric.


“It was I think Aristotle who said that the roots of injustice lay in comparing like things with unlike things, and unlike things with like things” – Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary-General of the Sri Lankan Government Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP).  [1]

Ironically, in a recent article entitled “Death Eaters and the return of Dark Lords of Terror”[2], Wijesinha compares characters from JK Rowling’s fictional Harry Potter (the popular fantasy novel about teenage wizards and witches) to international activists and the Tamil Diaspora. He draws superficial comparisons between the LTTE and Voldermort, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Dolores Umbridge, and the speechwriter Alan Keenan and a magical snake. Essentially, Rajiva Wijesinha asks the reader to infer the inherent “wickedness” of such international organizations and political activists on the basis of this comparison. All the while, Wijesinha condemns Western media for being ‘sensationalist’ and ‘dramatic’. Although the UN and Western media are certainly not without flaw, the kind of rhetorical gesture that parallels them to popular fantasy fiction is nothing if not itself sensationalist and dramatic.

The aforementioned article is only one example of the explicit sensationalism and lack of professionalism in government rhetoric. According to President Council Jayantha Guantileke the UN commissioned Darusman Report is based on “the Law of the Jungle”; according to an article featured on the homepage of the Defense Ministry website, Amnesty and HRW are “shameless people [that] will continue their effort until they see bloodshed in Sri Lanka” [3]; and according to other absurd articles UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has been described as having “penchant for sari parties, [an] all-girls-together approach that is no substitute for proper diplomacy”  and belonging to a regime of “monstrous women” while David Miliband acts with “evil cynicism”[4].

The means used in government rhetoric to discredit media organizations often come across as petty and irrelevant –ultimately what do “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” presenter Jon Snow’s choice in ties and socks have to do with the legitimacy of war crime allegations in Sri Lanka?  (Daily Mirror, 23 July) Ridiculing and mocking media institutions undermines much of the genuine information that these institutions seek to disseminate. For those individuals whose doubts and grievances with the government are serious, for those who have lost homes and the lives of loved ones, rhetoric by government representatives that is belittling and sardonic comes across as indifferent and unforgivably derisive.

“Either with us or Against us”

Before the Eelam War reached its close, Gotabaya Rajapakse made clear his stance on terrorism: “I have only two groups, you know. That is the people who wants to fight terrorism or the terrorists” (BBC Hardtalk).[5] Much of the undertone of postwar rhetoric implicitly contains the hard-line ‘either with us or against us’ ideology, where either one is with the ‘good guys’ (Harry Potter and his friends) or working for the ‘bad guys’ (Voldermort’s gang). While it might be possible to hash together some kind of justification for this rhetoric during the war effort, with respect to the postwar attempt at reconciliation, it can only be detrimental.

Postwar, the Pick-a-Side ideology is dangerous because it depicts situations as polarized and forces apolitical or neutral individuals to pick and then justify one side over another. In current postwar debate, for example, Sri Lankans swayed by this kind of rhetoric are asked to choose between ‘the West’ and ‘Sri Lanka’. If they chose Sri Lanka they are bound to justify all the moves of their side, wholesale, instead of making independent objective decisions concerning individual policies. Moreover the Pick-a-Side ideology produces the feeling that one is betraying one’s country when simply disagreeing or considering facts objectively. The ideology manipulates individual loyalty at a subconscious level; if you are not part of Team Sri Lanka you are an enemy or terrorist. When asked about General Fonseka’s wish to testify before an independent council, for example, Gotabaya responded without hesitation: “We will hang him if he do that. How can he tell that? That’s a treason, how can he betray the country? He’s a liar, he’s lying, isn’t that a treason?” (Interview by Stephen Sackur, BBC Hardtalk)

The Eelam War was fought on the grounds that a functioning democracy is superior to the fascist dictatorship that the LTTE very clearly represented.  In order for democracy to be effectively realized postwar, however, it is important that individual citizens be able to argue, dissent and question government policies and actions, without being or feeling marginalized as traitors. If indeed the Eelam War was fought to secure the possibility of democracy over fascism, then it was fought for the right of every Sri Lankan to argue, disagree and ask questions.

Identity Politics

In the final stages of the Eelam War, approximately 300,000 Tamil civilians found themselves trapped in the Vanni region between LTTE militants and the Sri Lankan army. Extreme conditions, both emotionally and physically. The circumstances certainly qualify as likely to induce post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that comes to significantly determine victim identity. While many of us can claim to identify with being ‘Sri Lankan’, how many of us can identify with being involuntarily caught in direct crossfire between two warring factions?

It is indeed laudable that former captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team Kumar Sangakkara can identify with Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims and Burghers simultaneously. But given the nature and variety of human experience it is naïve and reductive to believe that one Sri Lankan can imagine the identity-forming experiences of another. As demonstrated by the wide assortment of identity-related articles available on Groundviews, different individuals will find resonance with different levels and forms of collective identity. Ultimately, identity is deeply personal. When it appears in the context of national reconciliation – president Rajapakse believes that “people of all communities should shed their communal identities”[6] to better rebuild the nation – the issue of identity is necessarily political.

One Groundviews writer, for instance, makes the related point that adopting the label  “Sri Lankan” to the exclusion of more specific labels (e.g. Tamil, Muslim, Sinhala) can cause individuals to overlook the unique problems faced by those particular communities, and instead shift attention to issues that are wider in scope and less urgent. [7] Emphasizing that identity discourse is often politically motivated, it is important to pay attention to certain postwar identities that are being extolled for overtly political purposes.


“This is not about petty party politics…it is about our sovereignty, our integrity and the sacrifices made by our heroic security forces” – Minister of Power and Energy, Patali Ranawaka [8]

A large component of government rhetoric centers on the noble assertion of the ‘right to sovereignty’. Remarks such as, “we are not here to keep the British electorate happy” (Wijesinha)[9], “we will not tolerate an infringement of our sovereignty” [10](MP Keheliya Rambukwella) or Mahinda Rajapakse’s self-acclaimed duty to “unite the nation, protect the sovereignty”[11] illustrate how strongly the language of sovereignty resounds in government rhetoric. Unfortunately, the word is often extrapolated as just grounds for denying postwar requests and demands from the very communities most severely affected by the war. On his website, for instance, President Rajapaksa reportedly says that demands from a political party representing Tamils in the North and the East were rejected because they were “detrimental to the country’s sovereignty.”[12]

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Sovereignty, though its meanings have varied across history, also has a core meaning, supreme authority within a territory.”[13] The extensive use of the notion of sovereignty no doubt reflects a justifiably bitter attitude towards Sri Lanka’s long history of colonization. However, uncritical reliance on the notion of sovereignty also masks fundamental truths about our country and its relation to the international community.

That Sri Lanka is somehow economically or politically autonomous and independent from all other nations is a myth. Nations today are certainly sovereign in the sense that they are free to maintain militaries and evolve distinct cultures and traditions. But while the idea of a Sri Lanka that is completely independent and sovereign is uplifting and empowering, no modern state that participates within the global capitalist economy can be considered entirely sovereign. The Sri Lankan economy, and therefore Sri Lankan politics, depends vitally on international trade (e.g. the global recession had its impact on the local tea and tourism industries) and international politics (in the form of trade sanctions, tax exemptions, humanitarian aid, etc.). Developments in other nations can be the difference between political stability and economic unrest in the domestic sphere. In this respect, the very idea of sovereignty is a misnomer.

Despite its continued trumpeting of Sri Lanka’s ‘sovereignty’ in public discourse, the government is well aware of her dependence on other nations. According to a report by the The Sunday Times, a US resolution to cut aid to Sri Lanka now awaits further discussion before becoming law.[14] In addition, another report points out that the Sri Lankan government has paid a British PR firm about 3 million sterling pounds (Rs. 545,880,000) a year to try to boost the country’s post-war image. [15] In the meantime, government officials continue to use the flatulent and misleading notion of sovereignty (tied of course to the ‘integrity’ of our people), in responding to the Darusman report and war crimes allegations.

Sri Lanka’s “propaganda counter offensive based on true facts” (Ranawaka) imagines Sri Lanka’s Sovereignty as under threat of attack by the EU, the US and the UN and envisions her in a cold war of sorts. In opposition to an independent war crimes investigation, Minister Ranawaka contends that “Western powers such as the US, UK and a few other countries in the EU will try to use the document to defame our country and bring war crimes charges… We have to have a propaganda counter offensive based on true facts.” Indeed, Ranawaka goes as far as describing pressure from nations and international organizations that regularly provided Sri Lanka with humanitarian aid as an “international conspiracy funded by the LTTE rump” (Daily News, July 20) [16]

War Crimes Allegations

Worse than isolating Sri Lanka from its former allies, the propaganda offensive that the government has launched might be increasing ethnic tensions. The flat-out denial of war crimes, the refusal to conduct internationally approved investigations, and the refusal to confront the legitimate anxieties of concerned communities can only increase anger amongst those individuals who genuinely believe war crimes were committed.

“It’s just not possible to carry out an identification parade on nearly 100,000 people” responds Rajiva Wijesinha as to why the Sri Lankan government cannot apprehend Sri Lankan soldiers whose faces are clearly visible in the Channel Four Documentary. Wijesinha goes on to argue that he needs an exact date and time for the incident, before he can begin investigations. He also claims that the images in the documentary were ‘doctored’ merely because the orders of some segments were reversed; a response, he seems to believe, sufficient to delegitimize the content of the segments.

Here is another attempt to discredit the Channel Four Video, an excerpt from a speech given by Major General Shavendra Silva:

“The main actress of this film is a girlHer sister described what happened to her – She had left Sri Lanka in 2003, and came to UK, got married, a very brief marriage, she is supposed to be very um – on her own – never listen to others, that is how her sister herself talks about her”[17]

Is the narrator Ms Vani Kumar marital state of any relevance to war crime allegations? No. Does a divorce, or short marriage, make an individual more likely to be lying? No. In Aristotle ‘s Art of Rhetoric, (and many other treatments of political rhetoric since then) we learn that establishing or denouncing speaker ‘character’ is an extremely powerful rhetorical strategy. While perhaps rhetorically appealing to some, Shavendra Silva’s poor analysis still contains no objective evidence that war crimes did not happen.

Rhetorical Strategy in Historical Context

If the government response is this hypocritical and poorly formulated, why aren’t Sri Lankans rallying against it? The explanation of why the government response to war crimes allegations is so readily accepted might lie in our country’s history as a colonized feudal state. A feudal caste system is an economic-political-social system in which society is stratified into different castes that determine an individual’s social and economic function. Different conventions of discourse govern argument in societies with different political economic systems. In caste systems, origin and authority carry a lot of weight, (the caste you are born into more or less determines your future) and so it is not surprising that the forms of reasoning privileged in such systems credit authority and source of information rather than the information or argument itself. In such a system, the repute or ‘authority’ of government officials lends to the acceptability of the government response.  In such a system, Vanni Kumar’s marital state, character, motive and intent would determine the value of her story. This is why, when repudiating Vanni Kumar’s narrative, Shavendra Silva believes it is enough to say she is a bad daughter and a bad member of her family.

During colonization, Sri Lanka’s feudal system was modernized in letter, but the ideological transformations necessary to peacefully and successfully sustain this form of governance did not take place. A feudal form of reasoning still dominates government rhetoric – arguments by the Tamil Diasporas are often automatically discredited, for example, because the source is attributed with malicious intents. The UN’s political motives and interests, or Channel Four’s financial motives and interests are given larger weight when discrediting or disproving the Channel Four Video, than actual video or argument content.

In liberal democracies that evolved organically out of the French and British Revolutions, different conventions of reasoning have come to be privileged. Questions about the source of claims are less important than the actual justifications for the claim, the evidence or the consequences of the claim. Since all individuals are thought to be equally capable of rational thought and objectivity, it does not matter nearly as much who is making an argument or with what intent, as long as the argument itself is logically sound.


If the UN commissioned Darusman Report is credible, over the last few days of the Eelam War certain government representatives committed crimes far more heinous than those atrocities that occurred during Black July. While all government officials have a vested interest in maintaining political power, government officials guilty of war crimes will have a vested interest in opposing independent inquiry into war crimes. Reflecting those vested interests, the current rhetoric of the Sri Lankan government is based on exaggerated claims of sovereignty, and poorly formulated or irrelevant argument. Arguments that dismiss allegations on the basis of source (‘West’ or the ‘Tamil Diaspora’) are not convincing. Arguments that depict internal or world affairs as polarized are highly deceitful. With respect to the seriousness of the allegations made, much government propaganda is insensitive, mocking and derisive.

Sri Lanka is no longer an autonomous and self-sustaining feudal monarchy and in today’s world Sri Lanka is no longer absolutely sovereign. The government has a moral responsibility to prove its claims that war crimes did not happen, and as a member of the global economy, the Sri Lankan government has a political responsibility to its citizens to represent itself as accountable.

There are many who cannot and will not be able to simply ‘move on’ from the trauma suffered during the final stages of the Eelam War. While it is widely understood that the LTTE were a ruthless terrorist outfit, if the government was involved in committing war crimes, then Sri Lankans of all ethnicity need to know that legal action will hold the guilty accountable. Because no nation can be properly rebuilt on a foundation of doubt and suspicion, the government needs to prove that its attitude towards reconciliation is genuine. Allegations have been made that need to be taken seriously and disproved systematically and impartially. Instead of uniting Sri Lanka, hard-line retrogressive government rhetoric might give Sri Lankans who want to believe in an irreconcilable Sri Lanka the ammunition to continue believing.


[2] Daily Mirror, 23 July –

[3] Daily News, July 18 –





[8] Daily News, July 20 -










  • Civilised Citizen

    Beautiful! A very well analysed and written article on the reality of Sinhala-budhist psyche.
    If Sri Lanka are to progress as a civilised nation of the world community in the 21st century, it needs to undergo the ideological transformation. No amount of the denial ranting by the government is going to convince anyone (even our own citizens) that it is a civilised society, but quite the opposite.
    Was encourage that some prominent citizens have recently come out openly to support a move towards democratic principles. All decent Sri Lankans should now get in behind this call and drag the country back to the civilised world.

    • Citizen BAK

      Dear Civilized Citizen,
      Thank you for your comment! I hope you did not conclude that my article was tied to “the reality of the Sinhala-Buddhist psyche”. I really do not believe at all that the flaws of government representatives reflect the flaws of a “Sinhala-Buddhist” ideology. You are right in that we should encourage the ideological transformations necessary for establishing democracy postwar – in such systems “individual” identity and “individual” self-determination are empowering and liberating ideals, and these ideals often transcend in importance the notions of patriotism and sovereignty or the desire to forge a singular national identity…

  • silva

    Thank you Citizen BAK.

    Let’s call a spade a spade and not ”Sri Lankan”, ”patriot”, ”sovereignty”, …….

    After WW2, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, ….. all agreed to accept the UN Charter as the distillate of their religious philosophies.

    Let us not the watery border insulate the head and the heart.

  • A little long winded, but nevertheless insightful, try and keep it short so as not to lose the attention span. Thanks

  • Shiva

    Now the whole world is well-known of the senseless International Community and others who were barking about the LTTE but keeping silent on the state terrorism, war crimes and human rights abuses of the Rajapakse regime.

    The LTTE was fully aware of the Sinhala Apartheid mentality and its leaders who will never provide the Tamils an equal opportunity or treat them equally as well as they use state terrorism against the innocent Tamils. At the end this is what has taken place and two years after the ending the war most Western countries who did not do anything to save innocent Tamil lives but bombing Libya and talking about Syria at the UN Security Council.

    Shame on the Western leaders that they boast but failed although evidences of Sri Lanka state war crimes were aired by the Channel 4 TV in the UK.

    The UNP Leadership is spineless and from his comments one must know that Ranil too playing the racial card to come to power. Ranil has failed to demand for an independent international war crimes investigation that shows that the UNP is a party of the Sinhala and not a party of the Sri Lankans.

    Tamil Diaspora are thankful to the support from Ms. Jeyalalithaa who is the global leader of the Tamils and will go down in history as the Goddess who saved Hindu Tamils. The movement in Tamil Nadu is getting momentum day by day and this will change as a real force in the future.

    Indian Congress regime has damaged its reputation all over the world for the collaboration of war crimes against Tamils and also voting against the Human Rights and War crimes investigation at the UN Human rights council in Geneva.

    Progressive Sinhala people are voiceless and The Sunday Leader is excellent to provide their independent and objective views. Unless an intervention like Serbia invasion by the US to bring the Milosevic to the ICC, Rajapakse regime will continue with its war crimes and ethnic cleansing due to the support from the Congress led Indian regime.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Shiva

      Tamil Diaspora are thankful to the support from Ms. Jeyalalithaa who is the global leader of the Tamils and will go down in history as the Goddess who saved Hindu Tamils.

      Are you suggesting that she excluded Christian Tamils?

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Yep, you’ve got that one right Citizen Bak: it isn’t the Channel 4’s lurid charges of baby killing, it isn’t the tendentious Darusman report and its WMD-esque charges ( read David Blacker’s critique on this website), it isn’t the Tiger flags in Trafalgar Square and the Trocadero, it isn’t the DMK -AIDMK boycott of visiting Sri Lankan parliamentarians, it isn’t Suresh Premachandran’s claim that the TNA’s electoral victory was an endorsement of the need for an ‘international inquiry into war crimes allegations'( contrast this with Ahilan Kadirgamar’s brilliant analysis in the Sunday Island), that pose the threat of enhanced divisiveness, but…Prof Rajiva Wijesinha’s response!

    More seriously, aren’t you guys all evading the main issue? And that is, if the Government’s patriotism /nationalism are divisive, the challenge is to come up with a more moderate and inclusive patriotism which can defend national and popular sovereignty, not throw the baby of sovereignty ( or patriotism) out with the bathwater of excessively martial or narrow nationalism.

    • DrThisDrThatHeSaysSheSays

      Dear Mr. Jayatilleka,

      I am trying my best to understand your response in a charitable way, but unfortunately I find in it little that is constructive. The psychological process that takes place when many people read such articles is as follows: (1) who side is the author on?; (2) my side? – applaud; (3) the other side? – take a sarcastic/belittling/angry tone. I believe it would benefit this forum if people read the articles in the spirit of one whoe believes one still has things to learn in this world. (This goes for all commentators.) If I you did indeed read the article in a spirit of open-mindedness and a let-us-learn-from-one-another point of view, then I invite you to state your response to the author more clearly, and I promise to consider your response fairly.

      A vital part of the author’s point that you seem to have missed, I’m afraid, and which is perhaps so obvious he felt it could be left implicit, is that the GOVERNMENT of this country has a moral responsibility to not to divide this country by means of its rhetoric (not to mention policy and action), which the author has amply demonstrated is the case. All the actors you cite are NOT members of the government, and do not make any claim to morally and politically represent all the citizens of this country. This is why it is a much greater cause for concern when the government is rhetorically divisive than when external individuals and institutions are such. (Incidentally, a similar kind of mistake is made by people who respond to GOSL war crimes allegations by saying: But look at all the things the LTTE did! This response is inadequate because the Government purports to represent its citizens, to have their concerns at heart, whereas the LTTE never represented even a portion of this country’s population (despite what they might have said).

      Finally, when you write that we must “come up with a more moderate and inclusive patriotism which can defend national and popular sovereignty, not throw the baby of sovereignty ( or patriotism) out with the bathwater of excessively martial or narrow nationalism,” you are very clearly using exactly the kind of divisive rhetoric that the author has taken the pains to critically discuss. (Read “patriotism” as “those who believe in the Sri Lanka’s sovereignity.) Perhaps if you had if you had read the article with a spirit of open-mindedness, you might have been aware of this transgression.

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        So your notion of patriotism is one that does not entail a belief in (Sri Lanka’s) national sovereignty? Congratulations on an original contribution to political thought! :))

      • Kate

        Dear Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka,

        Your call for a “moderate and inclusive patriotism which can defend national and popular sovereignty” joins the long ranks of rhetoric whereby dissent and justice is silenced for the cause of “unity.” Have you ever heard the phrase, “no justice, no peace”? These words could not be more useful in this circumstance. Until the government recognizes the injustices that it has wreaked on its people, until those perpetrators are brought to justice, there can be no reconciliation. Denial of the wrongs done by the government to a group of its people will only exacerbate existing divisions. Only when ALL people feel that the government represents them will a truly national patriotism be possible.

    • Pol Ba Moona

      Mr Jayatilleka,

      “moderate and inclusive patriotism which can defend national and popular sovereignty,”

      What exactly are you calling for? Have you not heard of the maxim that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel?

      The rhetoric of patriotism has been used as a smokescreen to hide more important issues: justice, the rule of law and freedom of expression. These are the foundations of liberty, which as far as the individual citizen is concerned is far more important.

      Sovereignty? Pah, what Humbug.

    • sr

      Dr Jayatilleka and Prof Wijesinha

      Will you please look at the education of our future citizens:

      I. Education in Sri Lanka has been inculcating in the ethnic majority hatred for the ethnic minorities and for war:

      1.A compulsory programme for university entrants has been recently introduced at very short notice and it has alarmed the public and the teachers:
      Friday Forum deeply concerned about leadership training outside university system, 10 June 2011: ‘’The curriculum of the training programme obtained by the Friday Forum after some effort reveals extremely problematic aspects. …. On the whole the curriculum seems to discourage tolerance for viewpoint difference, and sensitivities for the pluralism and diversity of our country.”


      Why education matters for global security, Irina Bokova(Director General, UNESCO) 1 March 2011: ‘’ Education must rise on the agenda of peace building. We know the wrong type of education can fuel conflict. The use of education systems to foster hatred has contributed to the underlying causes of conflicts, from Rwanda to Sri Lanka, but also in Guatemala and Sudan.’’

      3. A school honouring ex-soldiers in Vesak(the most important Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka) with student dancers in combat dress depicting guns and Vesak cards with roses on guns:

      The Changing face of Wesak in Colombo and Militarizing Sri Lanka, 15 May 2009 –

      4. Respect for Diversity in Educational Publication – The Sri Lankan Experience, Ariya Wickrema, National Consultant Educational Publications Departmen and Peter Colenso, EducationSpecialist, World Bank, Colombo, 2003: ‘’…. The Government dominates the educational publications sector in Sri Lanka …. the textbooks encourage children to develop “apartheid attitudes” ….. Tamils are portrayed as “aggressors”; forces of the Tamil kings are “mercenaries’ , whereas forces of the Sinhala kings are “soldiers” …. War is shown as patriotic while peace is portrayed as cowardice.’’

      5.The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict: Towards a Peacebuilding Education for Children – Kenneth D Bush and Diana Saltarelli(2000) – published by Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF:
      ”Ethnic intolerance makes it appearance in the classroom in many ways…… Textbooks have often been shown to contain negative ethnic stereotypes….. A review of the textbooks used in the segregated schools of Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 1980s, for example, found Sinhalese textbooks scattered with images of Tamils as the historical enemies of the Sinhalese, while celebrating ethnic heroes who had vanquished Tamils in ethnic wars. Ignoring historical fact, these textbooks tended to portray Sinhalese Buddhists as the only true Sri Lankans, with Tamils, Muslims and Christians as non- indigenous and extraneous to Sri Lankan history. This version of national history according to one commentator, has been deeply divisive in the context of the wider state.”

      6. Reggie Siriwardene, a well-respected Sinhalese writer, in a well-­documented analysis of the effects of school textbooks on ethnic relations in Sri Lanka(1984):

      “Millions of school children are taught, in the name of social studies, through text-books published by the state, the myths of divergent racial origins which will help to divide the Sinhalese and Tamils for more generations to come… What this lesson does is to evoke the child’s memories of being frightened by his parents with threats of the mysterious and fearful `billo’ to identify these bogeymen as Tamil agents, and thus to enlist the deep-seated irrational fears of early childhood for the purpose of creating apprehension and hatred of Tamils.”

      7. In the 1950s and 1960s Tamil and Sinhalese scholars vehemently protested this but the Education Department that produces the textbooks dismissed their concern.

      II. Education for Peace is suggested by eminent Sinhalese but ignored by the government:

      Why Sirimavo refused to visit Jaffna after 1964 cyclone By Neville Jayaweera, 18 January 2009:

      ”…. Building a consciousness of nationhood is not a responsibility that can be left to politicians and constitutional lawyers. …. It is pre-eminently an educational task, to be initiated at the level of our schools. ….”

      Justice C. G. Weeramantry tells LLRC, 29 November 2010:
      ” Peace education is an imperative at this stage of our national history ….”

  • Velu Balendran

    After relentless negative rhetoric by leading politicians does anyone think reconciliation is possible, with this lot in power? Regime change is the logical starting point. But that is not on the cards as the LG election results in the south prove decisively. Unfortunately, we are moving into a binary Sri Lanka, inviting unwanted attention. (I think the ominous script written out for SL is already in play).

    • silva

      Emergency ’58 – The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots(1958), *Tarzi Vittachi:

      …. The GalOya race-killings of 1956 and the ugly episode of Little Rock in 1957 should have warned us that the Fifth Horseman took no notice of time, place, literacy or standard of living.
      ….What he said was: ‘Gentlemen, if any of you have an idea that this was a spontaneous outburst of communalism, you can disabuse your minds of it. This is the work of a Master Mind who has been at the back of people who have planned this carefully and knew exactly what they were doing. It was a time – bomb set about· two years ago which has now exploded.”
      …. The terror and the hate that the people of Ceylon experienced in May and June 1958 were the outcome of that fundamental error. What are we left with? A nation in ruins, some grim lessons which we cannot afford to forget and momentous question: Have the Sinhalese and the Tamils reached the parting of the ways?”

      A second cycle is beginning – the majority of the majority ethniccity are not willing to share the ”sovereignty” – TNA is asking for what SJVC asked.

  • The truth tells anyhing as it is without any bias. The truth is the truth and a lie is a lie and the two do not coexist because they have clear boundaries.

    One cannot lie the truth. He can only lie against it. There is nothing called a “truthful lie”.

    Even when lies rampage in any situation, the truth will raise its head and say “here I am”.

    The “factual analysis report” released by the Ministry of Defence lacks truth and facts for the following reasons;

    a) A photograph taken by a person or satelite cannot lie. Therefore, channel 4 presentation cannot be untrue.

    b) There was “Eelam war” for the independence of Tamil Eelam and not a “terrorist war” as the GOSL says. There was state terror matched by LTTE terror is the fact.

    c) During the war the GOSL repeatedly said that there were only about 5000 LTTE combatants. How could they rehabilitate 11,000 ex LTTE combatants inspite of many deaths?

    Sri Lanka(SL) was a graveyard for Sinhala Political lies but it appears that they have started pulling out bags of lies from the pit of hell to decieve the world.

  • Shiva

    Thanks for the excellent analysis.

    Prof. Rajiva Wijesingha is an agent of the alleged war criminal Rajapakse regime and he has to defend whatever means to deny for an international independent war crimes investigation.

    When Sarath Fonseka said that he will face an independent war crimes tribunal, everyone has seen the anger of alleged war criminal Gotabhaya Rajapakse. This clearly shows the guilty mindset of Gotabhaya.

    The Rajapakse regime may be enjoying temporary happiness of defeating the LTTE. The Tamils’ struggle for freedom and equality has taken another phase and the Tamil Diaspora is working hard on it with the support of the Tamil leaders in Tamil Nadu, Malaysia, Singapore and other progressive leaders all over the world including few Sinhalese leaders.

    Sinhalese leaders have proved the world on their mentality towards the minority communities.

    The backlash in Tamil Nadu is yet to start and the Congress regime in Delhi is getting the heat from their own Tamil Nadu leaders including Thangabalu is calling for an International war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka. DMK Karunanithi has come to senses after the heavy defeat and calling for same.

    Jeyalalithaa is scoring well with a protest against the visiting Sri Lankan delegation, calling for economic sanctions against Sri Lanka, paying monthly dole money to the Eelam Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu and she is winning the hearts of the Tamil Diaspora that will secure 100% win in the next federal elections in Tamil Nadu.

    “Taking Tea with Torturers” written by a famous Canadian Osgoode Law School Professor Craig Scott provides few leaders’ cozy relationship with the alleged Rajapakse regime delays the full scale war crimes investigation. Now the Tamil Diaspora is proactively delivering what is required to the International leaders to clearly understand the Tamils state including a copy of the DVD of Channel 4 broadcasts and important articles written by independent analysts.

    Early action by the International community may save human lives as the Rajapakse regime continues with its menace and brutality against all Sri Lankans.

  • Ray

    There’s only one identity, and that’s Sinhala Buddhist.
    The government wants to build more buddhist temples in the North/East and believes in colonizing Tamil land with Sinhala settlers.
    In the future, there will be no Tamils, Muslims or burgers in the country. All will have to become Sinhala Srilankans.

    • luxmy


      Bitterly/disgustingly true.

      If Buddhists put their Buddhism in their hearts, Sri Lanka will be heaven.
      But as they are trying to put it in as much concrete(cement+sand)as possible, we’re being pushed further and further into the hell.

      There is no change in the horizon.

    • Shiva

      It is a wishful thinking of the Sinhala nationalists.

      The successive Sinhala leaders made a mockery and failed to practice democratic values such as Rule of Law, R2P, Equality and fair Justice to all and respect all religions and languages.

      They forgot to understand that three or four times of Tamils just living across Palk Traits, just watching the Sinhala racism, thuggary and war crimes. The politics can change at anytime and the Sinhala must not forget the Indian Air force planes over Jaffna and the IPKF was in Tamil areas.

      The way that the Sinhala rulers continue with the barbaric state terrorism may end up that there won’t be a Sinhala state on earth as they have failed miserably rule a nation with Law and order!

    • luxmy

      Political thought:
      Sixty per cent without IDs in Kilinochchi, 18 July 2011
      Construction work of Kilinochchi international sport complex begins today. 20 July 2011

    • Shiva

      Please listen to the clip in the middle of the article – An interview, experiences and eye witness evidences of the Journalists from Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

      If Western Journalists are targeted, attacked and robbed by the White Can thugs of the Sri Lankan regime, just imagine the plight of the Tamils and the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka.

      Rajapakse regime is a [Edited out.] regime of the 21st century!

    • Shiva

      Thanks for the article and the comments.

      Successive Sinhala Buddhist leaders have failed to govern Sri Lanka since independence and politicians have played the racial card and chauvinistic policies to win elections.

      The Sinhalese Leaderships have simply destroyed the nation, continue to spend large percentage of GDP to the armed forces, committed war crimes, no Rule of Law, No Fair Justice, no transparency, No independent journalism and media and this regime cannot hear or fear about NGOs and UN.

      Tamils’ success story is evident in Singapore where Tamil is an official language and several Tamils are senior ministers of the Singapore government. Hon. Lee Kwan Yee, the first prime minister of Singapore has branded Mahinda Rajapakse as a Sinhala Nationalist who never understands and also said that the Tamils will never give up their struggle as he has decades of experience with the Tamils including the Late S Rajaratnam, former deputy of Lee Kwan Yee.

      LTTE is history and the Tamil struggle has taken another phase – Tamil struggle for freedom, human rights, rule of law, equality, justice, R2P, transparency has moved to global capitals from the East to the West including at the premises of the British Parliament. The first Transnational Government of the Tamils has been elected and gaining momentum among Western Leaders.

      It is good that the Rajapakse regime continues to deny free and unrestricted access to journalists, media, NGOs, Human rights groups and diplomats to the Tamil areas and continue to defy the International community. No one can expect fairness from the Sinhala leaders and their agents including from Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka. Alleged war criminals are posted at the UN and as High Commissioners in many nations.

      No one cares about patriotism or nationalism and everyone wants to live in peace, harmony with democratic values, human rights, freedom, Rule of law, R2P, equality, fair justice and free movement.

      Only an international War Crimes and Human Rights investigation by an independent body, end of culture of impunity, bring the criminal to justice and deliver justice to the victims. If the Sri Lankan regime fails to allow an international independent war crimes investigation, the International community must take firm action similar to that took in Serbia or the current attack in Libya to end the authoritarian state and bring democracy and peace to the people of Sri Lanka.

    • Shiva

      Dayan Jayatilleka must understand that the criminals who were involved in the crimes against the Sri Lankans in Chennai are neither supported by the State or Police.

      The issue in Sri Lanka is that the state is involved in mass murders of minority Tamils, human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, abuse of power, use the Law enforcing authorities to commit state terrorism and the culture of impunity.

  • DrThisDrThatHeSaysSheSays

    No. In line with most definitions of “patriotism” I believe that patriots are people who endorse all the varieties of sovereignty distinguished above by the author – cultural, military, economic, political, etc. But in line with the author’s rejection of the notions of the economic and political autonomy of nations, by implication I reject the notion of patriotism. Which is to say, I believe patriots are uncritical and ignorant fools.

    This is in fact not an entirely new contribution to political thought. You may be aware of Samuel Johnson’s famous dictum, that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

    On the subject of one-liners, I look forward to your response, though I will let it alone since you seem so eager to have the last word.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Folks, save yourselves some wasted decades and lots of heartache.

    Here’s the writing on the wall.

    Any organism mutates according to the new threat/challenge or dies. So it is with the Sri Lankans, the vast majority of whom are Sinhalese. They’ve not gone anyplace for millennia and are unlikely to now.

    So, there are two ways this can go. There are only two serious projects and trajectories.

    Either a patriotism can be fashioned which defends the historic gains of the war and protects Sri Lanka’s sovereignty by being smarter than that patriotism which is dominant. Such a patriotism will position itself BETWEEN that of RW-CBK ( rejected as too wimpish by the majority of the majority, and didn’t measure up to the tasks of the time) and that of the incumbent regime. So, it would be TOUGHER-MINDED than RW-CBK, but more TENDER-MINDED than at present.

    I believe that is what Kalana Senaratne and David Blacker, to name two, have been writing about on this website. It also seems to be the stance of the Reformists in the main, democratic Opposition.

    That’s Scenario 1 and Option 1.

    If that is resisted and fails, or simply doesn’t come about, then there’s Scenario 2 and Option 2.

    This is a patriotism that is smarter but also harder and TOUGHER-MINDED than what exists today. It is a patriotism that is not BETWEEN RW-CBK and MR, but BEYOND the present dispensation. Think Malaysia.

    If you think I’m way off the mark, you folk haven’t been checking the front pages of your Colombo newspapers or the cover stories of the city’s corporate magazines! There is an emergent new discourse or mutation of discourse for all to see, except those whose misplaced arrogance blinds them.

    • Pol Baa Moona

      Mr Jayatilleka,

      rather interesting that you should mention Malaysia, a Freudian slip perhaps?

      Malaysia has some very racist laws on its books, far worse than anything in Sri Lanka, are you telling us that we are heading this way? A rather disturbing thought, but a possibility some have raised.

      The Malaysian governments treatment of its opponents including Anwar Ibrahim is also most instructive.

      As for Malaysia’s economic policies, these have adequate but not particularly good. Given Malaysia’s resources they should have performed far better than they have.

      With Sri Lanka’s limited resources and a policies commonly seen on the African continent – large infrastructure projects funded by debt, we can only hope we don’t end up like Nigeria or countless other nations ruined by misgovernance.

    • Citizen BAK

      Dr. Jayatilleka,
      In this article I have shown how government rhetoric is divisive and exclusivist. One of the alternative forms of rhetoric that you suggest is one that is “harder and TOUGHER-MINDED” than what exists today. You claim that this is the “writing on the wall”, and that those of us who refuse to see are “arrogant”.

      My article is not just about Rajiva Wijesinghe. It is about how you, him and other government officials are using language that is increasing ethnic tensions. I do not see how a “harder and TOUGHER-MINDED” (read more divisive) form of rhetoric can reduce ethnic tensions. There are those of us, Sinhalese, Muslim, Burgher and Tamil, who refuse to bow down to your rhetorical, and indeed cultural, chauvinism.

      You suggest that I read some Colombo magazines and newspapers; in return I suggest you reread my article – There are more than two voices in this country, and there are more than two ways to be Sri Lankan. At this point it is not about finding a way to be “smarter about patriotism”, it is about encouraging policies and an ideological transformation that supports individual self-determination.

      I ask Sri Lankans of all ethnicity, especially Sinhalese Buddhists, to objectively criticize the government, and form their own independent opinions. Do not be afraid to express views that diverge from what is mainstream. Do not be swayed by those who tell you, how to be Sri Lankan.

  • Tamil Victim

    Srilanka state terrorism will never accept an unpartial, open, UN monitered, and genuene investication, and Rajapaksas have blood in their hands themself.

  • Patriotism isn’t about doing what your government tells you to do. It’s about telling your government to do what’s right for your country

    Just a thought

    • Pol Ba Moona

      Thilina Rajapakse, that is a good way of looking at it, from the point of view of the citizen.

  • luxmy

    More wasted decades and lots of heartache in store:

    The TRUTH has been becoming truer and deeper exponentially:

    CEYLON : A DIVIDED NATION, B H Farmer(1963):”The truth, though unpalatable may be to some, is simply that nobody unacceptable to the present Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism has any chance of constitutional power in contemporary Ceylon.”

    Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Ideology: Implications for Politics and Conflict resolution in Sri Lanka, East-West Centre Policy Studies 40, Neil De Votta(2007): ‘’International human rights monitors must be stationed in Sri Lanka to ensure minorities are protected’’.
    Issues and problems facing people of Northern and Eastern provinces – by M.A. Sumanthiran MP addresses the parliament, 10 July 2011
    ”Every activity that takes place in the North and East first requires approval by the Presidential Task Force and the military.”

  • Priya Barnes

    Sensible piece of journalism and interesting arguments…

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Is this potentially more or less divisive than Rajiva’s rhetoric which you guys hate so much?

    DM Mirror

    Sri Lankan pilgrims attacked in Chennai Thursday, 04 August 2011 01:19
    By Yohan Perera

    84 Sri Lankan pilgrims had come under attack in Chennai yesterday by goons describing themselves as ‘black tigers,’ family
    members of the Sri Lankans said.

    The Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in Chennai had transferred the pilgrims to a hotel in a safe area.

    Three of the 84 had been injured.

    A relative of one of the victims told Daily Mirror that a team from the Deputy High Commission had transferred the pilgrims to another hotel to ensure their safety. According to this relative the attackers had ordered the staff of the former hotel to send the victims away before 8.00 am today.

    Chandrika, the wife of one of the victims, told Daily Mirror that the Sri Lankan pilgrims had come under attack while they were shopping. Her husband had told her that the attackers had been staging a protest against Sri Lanka as they passed by.

    The protesters had recognised the pilgrims as Sri Lankans and gone up and assaulted them and grabbed their bags and set fire to them.

    The Deputy High Commission had assured the victims that they would be sent back to Sri Lanka safely on Friday. The victims who are from Elpitiya had left for India on July 17 on a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya and were scheduled to return on August 5.

    • Burning_Issue

      It is despicable news and should be condemned by all. Hopefully, the Indian police will apprehend and prosecute the individuals involved.

      By the way, would like to see your reply to Citizen BAK.

    • Pol Baa Moona

      To me it is a symptom of the deepening divide between the communities. If the war is over and everybody is happy, why does this happen?

      I think the point of this article is that the Government rhetoric of “with us” or “against us” is deepening the rift.

    • Citizen BAK

      What you have just described is indeed sad. However, it is only another example of escalating ethnic tensions and increasing frustration with the Sri Lankan government.

      When individuals are unable to see political or legal solutions to pressing issues (war crimes qualify) and are frustrated with repeated attempts to nonviolently garner attention to their cause, they often resort to violence. My point here should not surprise you; there are far too many examples in Sri Lanka’s own history.

      There is nothing inherently “wicked”, “evil” or “violent” about either the Sinhalese or the Tamil people. But on feeling oppressed (marginalized, ignored, ridiculed) and frustrated with attempts to express their indignation, even those who were formerly apolitical or neutral will resort to violence. If the government plans to prevent future acts of terrorism and stop ethnic violence, it must function at an intellectual and ideological level to win the hearts and minds of ALL people…(read: take war crimes allegations seriously, stop denying objective evidence).

      Your example actually strengthens my original argument…that unless there is a change in the government approach, in part reflected by government rhetoric and propaganda, we can all expect to see a more divided Sri Lanka.

    • Citizen BAK

      Also Dayan,

      “A vital part of the author’s point that you seem to have missed, I’m afraid, and which is perhaps so obvious he felt it could be left implicit, is that the GOVERNMENT of this country has a moral responsibility to not to divide this country by means of its rhetoric (not to mention policy and action), which the author has amply demonstrated is the case. All the actors you cite are NOT members of the government, and do not make any claim to morally and politically represent all the citizens of this country. This is why it is a much greater cause for concern when the government is rhetorically divisive than when external individuals and institutions are such”

      It really is very tiring to have to keep repeating the same points/comments, but you just aren’t responding to any of the arguments being made, are you? Please, try to keep up.

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Citizen Bak, the flip side of the coin is that Government has a legitimacy which many of its critics do not: it is elected, and therefore has, as its main responsibility, the protection of the independence, territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of the country– which is why it was elected, and what its mandate primarily consists of. That, it is doing.

      • Citizen BAK

        How is it that we practice “independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty”, when Gamini Peiris (Ministry of External affairs) unabashedly announces “there are three things the country needs most – investment, trade and tourism” ??? Far from absolute sovereignty and independence, each of these activities exhibits Sri Lanka’s utter DEPENDENCE on other nations and international entities!

        I have already showed how these notions of absolute “independence” and “sovereignty” no longer hold strong in our global capitalist economy, and that this exaggerated duty/mandate of the government is therefore nothing more than a deceitful rhetorical tactic.

        The government was not elected to protect some grand notion of “sovereignty” or “independence” it was elected to protect its people. The government that purports to “unite” us is instead dividing us internally, resulting in escalating postwar violence that further corroborates my point.

        We are not fooled. If the government does not maintain standards of accountability, then it loses the very legitimacy it gained by virtue of being elected.

      • Pol Baa Moona

        Mr Jayatilaka how can you say I have no legitimacy while the government has? I am a taxpayer and a citizen, I have every right to be critical of the government.

        Perhaps your reasoning that all critics are automatically terrorists/LTTE members? This of course seems to be the official line, with no criticism being tolerated.

        Whose independence is the government protecting? Not those of its citizens, who see their liberty eroded almost on a daily basis. Of course they are protecting the interests of the rulers and their henchmen, but not, as far as anyone can discern, those of its citizens.

  • Dear GV Editor

    There is a lot of hype on ‘Patriotism’ on GV, and I felt that some erudite scholars seem to inculcate their personal views as ‘the accepted norm on patriotism’. I found a good reading about patriotism which I thought was worth sharing. I would appreciate if you could publish this article from the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences on Patriotism for the benefit of GV subscribers.

    Thilina Rajapakse

    G. Schochet, Patriotism, In: Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, Editor(s)-in-Chief, International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Pergamon, Oxford, 2001, Pages 11116-11118


    Patriotism, more emotional than rational in its appeal, appears to be more at home in the conceptual world of Republicanism. While not necessarily irrational or unthinking, traditional patriotism cannot comprehend the complex and heterogeneous modern state at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is argued that civic education may be a better way to encourage the tolerance and forbearance needed by modern states and their members than the exclusionary, ugly nationalism that often has patriotism as its partner.

    ‘Patriotism’ is about political allegiance (and, of course, loyalty), commitment, and dedication. In briefest compass, it means love of one’s country or nation and is one of the oldest political virtues. It is rather more emotional than rational in its appeal and demands recognition of what is presumptively a pre-existing duty to that political order or state. One of the best exemplars of patriotism is Stephen Decatur’s well-known toast in 1816:
    ‘Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right, but our country, right or wrong.’
    To which John Quincy Adams replied:
    ‘My toast would be, may our country always be successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right.’
    Patriotism depends upon an often unarticulated principle that is the political counterpart to the ‘blood is thicker than water’ adage, which reminds people that they should prefer their families before all others. Patriotism is a natural consequence of political membership or citizenship, and it is not clear where—other than membership itself—the duties of patriotism originate or what justifies them other than that membership, for patriotism is not voluntarily assumed as general political obligations are presumed to be. To deny or renounce patriotism or to act contrary to what its proponents deem appropriate is to be disloyal.

    There is a Burkean quality to patriotism, both because it projects an almost organic, trans-historical unity among the member of a state, nation, or people such that each individual is inseparable from the past and because it looks to that past and to the achievements of one’s political ancestors rather than to one’s own accomplishments as sources of pride and holds up those achievements as standards by which the successes of the present are to be measured. In this respect, patriotism can be nurturing as well as oppressive, for it defines and constitutes the political member and, in the process, restricts that member’s range of permissible options.

    Patriotism is rarely invoked but is in times of stress or trouble. The call for patriots or acts of patriotism is issued when a sacrifice for the presumed good of the people or their state is needed, usually because that good is perceived to be in jeopardy or under attack. In the period since World War II, those attacks have most often been alleged to come from inside a system, from people who in an earlier day would have been labeled ‘traitors’ but are now more conventionally called ‘disloyal’ and even ‘outsiders.’ During World War II, in Europe, according to the OED, a patriot was a ‘loyal inhabitant of a country overrun by the enemy, especially a member of a resistance movement.’ But for nearly 150 years prior to that, also according to the OED, because the mantle of the patriot had been assumed by persons who were deemed not entitled to it, the term itself was somewhat discredited. Dr Johnson, amplifying his dictum that ‘patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,’ noted that the word was used ‘ironically for a factious disturber of the government.’

    Etymologically, ‘patriotism’ springs from the Greek, via Latin, for father and father land, (????? ???, from ? ???o? of one’s fathers, ???? ?, one’s fatherland; late Latin patriota, fellow-countryman [OED]), suggesting political membership based on kinship as well as an implicit reliance on family-like bonds to hold a state together. And in the Latinate tongues of Europe, various cognates of patria mean ‘fatherland’ or native country. Native too, as well as nation to which it is conceptually and etymologically related, suggests kinship, but these resonances have long since been buried by linguistic evolution. Their value today is primarily as reminders of the emergence of the political order from tribal, familial associations. ‘Fatherland’ is more obviously familial, and its roots are Germanic rather than Latinate. (Interestingly, German has adopted the Latinate forms der Patriot and der Patriotismus even though it has its own words, der Vaterlandsfreund, literally, friend of the fatherland, and die Vaterlandliebe, love of the fatherland.) But patriotism has never had this familial resonance in English, which explains why the term has an air of contentiousness and alarm about it when invoked in English and why its English-speaking history has been checkered. In that largely individualist and voluntarist world, political duty, at least since the seventeenth century, has been viewed as a consequence of intentional commitment and a subject for reason and judgment. In those terms, patriotism has often seemed like an alien concept.

    Patriotism is more at home in the conceptual world of republicanism. The republican tradition has always looked upon the state as a closely-knit and relatively homogenous association. Patriotism calls upon the members of this association, when appropriate, to put aside whatever divides them and to rally in support of what they share, a practice that is integral to the communitarian predilections of republican society but stands in need of justification from the perspective of individualism. The call for patriotism—for people to be patriotic, for those who are already patriotic to come forth in the spirit of the patria—is an appeal to the emotions, no less than love in its ordinary sense is an invocation of affect rather than reason. And like the affections that bind friends and family members, patriotism works by reminding those at whom it is directed of their ties and of their non-voluntary relationships to other people. Thomas Paine’s ‘sunshine patriot’ is a play on the better known ‘fair weather friend,’ both demeaning of the self-styled supporter who is unwilling to be inconvenienced.

    Patriotism is rooted in emotions rather than reason and has to do with feelings of commitment and loyalty to one’s nation or state and pride in its history and accomplishments. While it is not necessarily irrational or even unthinking, patriotism does pose as the supreme call on one’s commitments, the one that trumps or overrides others with which it may compete.

    With the revival of classical republican thinking in English-language political discourse, toward the latter part of the twentieth century, patriotism made an almost grudging return. Republicanism values ‘community’ and ‘civic virtue’ with which it seeks to supplant individualism, self-willed obligation, and institutional legitimacy. Further sources of the renewed appeal to patriotism are the collapse of Eastern European communism and the ensuing struggles for national identity and ‘liberation.’ These linked patriotism to ethnic and religious nationalism (which are akin to those flourishing in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and on the Indian Subcontinent). Even earlier, the worker and student protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s—especially in France, Germany, the UK, and the USA—and the American civil rights movement were all surrounded by claims of ‘disloyalty,’ and illegitimacy, which resulted in quests for the proper bearers of the mantel of patriotism. Finally, in the USA, the period of the Cold War was marked by zealous attacks on disloyal ‘communist sympathizers,’ often in the name of patriotism.

    In the West, contemporary proponents of patriotism attempt to harmonize it with the Enlightenment value of ‘cosmopolitanism’ and struggle to separate it from the virulent nationalism with which it is too easily associated and which it often resembles. These efforts seem destined to fail, for patriotism is particularistic, not universal. It tells people that what they have in common is what deeply and importantly unites them and makes them a nation or a ‘people.’ This unity overrides their differences. There is, in consequence, a tendency to homogenize those differences into a political blandness that could render society uninteresting and potentially stagnant. Far worse than that, however, patriotism in this homogenizing form prepares the way for the insistence that a greater, underlying good assigns places in the social order. Because of the fundamental sameness of all members, there are no remediations for deprivations. Those who are not sufficiently ‘the same’ are outsiders who can and should be excluded.

    The modern state at the beginning of the twenty-first century is increasingly complex and heterogenous in ways that traditional patriotism cannot comprehend. Moreover, individual states cannot reject that heterogeneity and continue to exist in a world of international political and economic exchange. States today inevitably function in a world that is at odds with their claims of internal uniformity. That internal coherence—where it is more of an ideal than a fact—often leads to oppression. There are few states that do not have internal ‘minority’ peoples who dissent or are excluded from the presumed consensus that undergirds patriotism. While this is not to say that internal political loyalty and cultural and social diversity are incompatible, the responses of the advocates of patriotism to the circumstances that call forth their pleas are antagonistic to cultural variety. One of the hallmarks of modern politics is tolerance and forbearance by states and their members. But tolerance, by its nature, undermines both the spirit and the practice of patriotism. It is far easier—and in many respects more desirable—to give loyalty to those who are regarded as like one’s self, which is among the principal reasons that the habits of obedience that patriotism fosters and on which it depends are usually rooted in the family. To bestow that same deference on an ‘alien’ authority or on one that appears to uphold a different set of values from one’s own is often difficult and can require acts of will and judgment that are antithetical to the non-rational, emotional bases of patriotism.

    At the same time, however, so long as there are territorial nations, there will be reasons for inculcating loyalty to them; nations necessarily require their members to make sacrifices from time to time, and it is certainly preferable that these sacrifices—these fulfillments of civic duties and responsibilities—be made willingly if not voluntarily and in the belief that they are justified. Individual members must have grounds for accepting the propriety of actions undertaken by and/or in the names of their states; they must feel some dedication and loyalty to their states. The inculcation of those feelings through the process generally known as ‘civic education’ must be done in ways that preserve the forbearance that toleration requires and do not give rise to the exclusionary and destructively ugly nationalism that often has patriotism as its partner.

    G. Schochet, Patriotism, In: Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, Editor(s)-in-Chief, International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Pergamon, Oxford, 2001, Pages 11116-11118

    M Canovan, Patriotism is not enough, British Journal of Political Science 30 (2000), pp. 413–432. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus |Cited By in Scopus (17)
    M G Dietz, Patriotism. In: T Ball, J Farr and R L Hansen, Editors, Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK (1989), pp. 177–193.
    M C Nussbaum, Patriotism and cosmopolitanism. In: J Cohen, Editor, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, Beacon Books, Boston, MA (1996), pp. 1–16.
    R Rorty, The unpatriotic academic. In: R Rorty, Editor, Philosophy and Social Hope, Penguin Books, New York (1999), pp. 252–254 Reprinted from theNew York Times, 13 February 1994.
    J H Schaar, The case for patriotism, American Review 17 (1973), pp. 59–99 (May).
    In: J C Wahlke, Editor, Loyalty in a Democratic State, D C Heath, Boston, MA (1952).
    M Viroli, For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism a. Nationalism, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK (1995).

  • Wanderer

    Pick-a-side ideology is practised by both sides in a way to profit from the majority. And it’s bitter to accept, we are practising it as well/ manipulated through this.

    If Media becomes neutral, and people are allowed to practise freedom of opinion then the democracy is achieved.

  • Concerned Muslim

    The Sri Lankan government “exploits” patriotism to realize its own political agenda: forging a post war reconciliation effort through uniting Sri Lanka under such pretenses of “patriotism” is an effective way of diverting away from accountability and fundamental injustice. And, in this respect, the GOSL plays its ‘patriotism-card’ well: A recent article that I came across exemplifies this through the example of a mother asking her son “If you love me, you would do thus-and-so,” meaning “If you don’t do this, you don’t love me.” Extending this to the idea of patriotism, stages a moral dichotomy, and of course one which thrusts upon de facto nationalism.

    Carl Schurz, 13th US Secretary of the Interior, in a speech delivered at the Anti-Imperialistic Conference in Chicago, Illinois, October 17, 1899:
    “I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’”

    Further, Dr. Jayatilleka, I present a third option, one that is NOT defeatist or proclaims a last-resolve mentality, since I believe that both your above-mentioned scenarios are limited in their scope to sustain a long lasting, genuine peace:
    A Sri Lanka that recognizes the worth of each and every Sri Lankan, and more importantly seeks to hold responsible, those who don’t, starting with the government.
    ….Maybe some ‘bathwater’ to erase that ‘writing on the wall’?

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Dear Concerned Muslim,

      If you think the government is so bad, change it by voting against it! After all, the voters of the North did so, showing it can be done, even with a heavy army presence!

      • zz

        It’s difficult to change the government – a lot of journalists are no more here and those who are here are scared to tell the truth and if the truth isn’t told, there cannot be change.
        Because the govt feared changes among the informed, it quickly hatched the ”leadership course” for university entrants to stop the young graduates from ”changing”.
        Unless the majority decide to adopt the eight Buddhist precepts in their real lives and stop casting them in concrete, the TNA can’t do anything even if it gets 100% of the votes in the North. To make sure that not supporting the government means annihilation of the Tamils, a lot of things are happening – refer the media.

      • Pol Baa Moona

        Not so easy to vote against the government Mr Jayetilaka.

        If I may take you back to the past two presidential elections the government effectively disenfranchised the North/East; in 2005 in cahoots with LTTE “boycott” and the last time around by sowing enough terror (with EPDP) to ensure low turnouts.

        They now intend to make this process easier by cutting down the number of seats in the N/E. In the South heavy state support for the incumbents, intimidation of opposition plus a smaller amount of ballot box stuffing should see them through.

        The level of intimidation/fraud will have to grow as the level of popularity fades, hence the need for the jerrymandering. Do not be surprised if this also happens in the Central province.

  • zz

    ” its main responsibility, the protection of the independence, territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of the country..” ??

    BAK, thank you for:
    ”The government was not elected to protect some grand notion of “sovereignty” or “independence” it was elected to protect its people. The government that purports to “unite” us is instead dividing us internally, resulting in escalating postwar violence.”

    We may put it in another way:
    ALL must have their basic rights. That is the bottomline. If some people think that some others are not entitled for those rights for decades, integrity, independence, sovereignty and unity become questionable.

    If you go to the playground of a primary school, you’ll find more logic and reason(before they get poisoned by secondary education) than in some of the comments on these pages.

  • Shiva

    Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka does not understand that there is no democracy in Sri Lanka to change the alleged criminal Rajapakse regime.

    This regime does not practice democratic values, do not follow international norms and precedents, do not respect huamn rights, rule of law, R2P and continues with criminal activities including intimidating, robbing, attacking and murdering people and journalists including the foreigners – listen to the Radio Netherlands Worldside interview.

    Dr. Dayan is an agent of the Rajapakse regime and will never understand – see the fate of Lasantha Wicrematunge, Sarath Fonseka and now the President phoned and threatened the Chairman of the Sunday Leader newspaper.

    The International Community has delayed taking a firm action and closely watching the Indian Congress regimes’ movements as the indian Congress regime has collaborated with the Sri Lankan regime in committing war crimes in Sri Lanka. In fact the International Community must investigate the Indian Congress leaders on the war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.

    It is very positive that the Tamil freedom struggle has moved to Tamil Nadu and global capitals and democratic forces will help the Tamils to find their destiny to live in peace and harmony.

    • yapa

      Dear Shiva;

      “It is very positive that the Tamil freedom struggle has moved to Tamil Nadu and global capitals and democratic forces will help the Tamils to find their destiny to live in peace and harmony.”

      We are glad that the Tamil freedom struggle has moved to Tamil Nadu and global capitals. You have chosen the right place(s) to set up your homeland(s). Tamil Nadu is the ideal place with over 60 million Tamils who is concerned about your welfare attacking Sri Lankan pilgrims. On the other hand that is the place where your roots lie.

      You have a right in Britain and Netherlands too as they are the fore-fathers of this problem, bringing an unnecessary issue to ease their problem in this country. When Sinhalese refused to work as labourers under colonials in their own lands grabbed by them, they(colonials) imported this unnecessary problem to this country as “chief labour”. They have an obligation to see to your problems.

      You are correct saying and making it happen. You have chosen the correct places for your much anticipated destiny.



      • yapa

        correction …..,

        “chief labour”, should be corrected as “cheap labour”


  • Wanderer

    Political parties are there to represent the ideas of the local civilians in a democratic land. If the parties are only presenting their party leaders interests, whom shall we vote for???

  • Ward

    After WW2 most people around the world have realised their mistakes and formed the UN and Charter. It has opened up the minds around the world. But barbaric people who keep oppressing the others keep ranting about pre-UN period and colonisers. Man has been evolving. Decent Sinhalese told LLRC we should worry about what we have been doing since independence when we have the power to rule and stop blaming the colonisers;

  • Dayalan

    Dear Dr, Dayan,

    This entire dialogue is very vital, and I hope you stay engaged in it.
    I represent the majority of Sri Lankans, who are non-intellect, working class men and women, who understand life in it’s simplest form. I admire the knowledge of people like you, Citizen BAK and others.

    Please see below my (simple) understanding of the three commonly used words in this dialogue.

    A. PATRIOT – person devoted to and ready to defend his or her country
    B. NATIONALIST – patriotic feeling, policy
    C. SOVERIGN – self governing
    (Courtesy Oxford dictionary)
    If you call the Sri Lankna soldier and all who supported and encouraged and finally hailed him as a patriot ( = person ready to defend his of her country….), then the same could be said of Thamil Chelvam, Pottu Amman, and Prabhakaran, the only difference was their defintion of “country was different”. SO PATRIOTISM IS NOT THE ISSUE HERE. THE ISSUE IS THE “UNIT” OR “ENTITY” WHAT ALL SRI LANKANS CALL “COUNTRY” This MUST BE DEALT WITH. So what BAK and others are saying is the GOSL is calling people like me and others who want this issue discussed as UN-PATRIOTIC. Is this fair Sir, Please answer in LAYMENS LANGUAGE.

    So, some day if all Sri Lankans have no problem on WHAT IS MY COUNTRY ?
    Then we will be nationalist in a positive way !? (if that is possible…)

    C. SOVEREIGN – self governing
    Was not Prabhakaran and others also concerned about self governing, I believe they were trying to define their county first, and self govern. The problem again was their definition of the “Country”.

    MY POINT IS …… All of us, and most importantly, learned and well read people such as You, Dr. Dayan, Citizen Bak and others SHOULD WORK ON DEFINING WHAT SORT OF ENTITY SRI LANKA SHOULD BE. What I mean is what should be the political arrangement …, Unitary, Federal, what ever. and this must be done objectively, DEVOID OF ANY ROMANTIC NOTION OF “MY COUNTRY” SHOULD BE THIS,THAT OR THE OTHER.
    I do hope i made some sense to all you readers, and hope for some response, specially from DR. DAYAN.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Dear Thilina Rajapaksa and Dayalan,

      I regard your points as constructive and valuable indeed.

      May I just remind you that Fidel Castro, who is no narrow nationalist, and the most internationalist figure in the world today, coined the slogan “Patria O Muerte! Venceremos!” which means “Fatherland or Death! We shall triumph!”

      This was followed by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas whose slogan was
      “Patria Libre O Morir!” which means “Free Fatherland or Death!”

      It is in this precise sense that I use and recommend patriotism, and regard myself as a patriot.

      You must also consider, Dayalan, why the Cubans an Ncaraguans voted with Sri Lanka , and never once sympathised with the Tigers or regarded them as patriotic.

      That is because secession, separatism, is regarded as dismemberment of a sovereign country and as opposed to patriotism.

      This is also why they supported evo Morales against secessionism in Bolivia, under the guise of federalism and regional autonomy.

      My idea of my country, sri Lanka, is a strong, centralised but not over centralised state — a unitary state in which the provincial autonomy provisions of our Constitution are fully implemented. I also wish to see strong anti-discrimination legislation and a strong anti-discrimination authority.

      I stand for the same vision that Judge Weeramantry, Kumar Sangakkara, Kalana Senaratna, David Blacker, Indi Samarajiva and Godfrey Gunatileke do, to name just a diverse few known to GV readers.

      • Shiva

        Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka must understand that India has lobbied other nations to support Sri Lanka as they were in trouble if there is an independent international war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka.

        Please read the following report:

        The Sinhala has to know that they never ruled Tamil nations prior to independence by the British in 1948 and it also due to the mistake that the then Tamil leaders have trusted the Sinhala nationalists and did not ask for a separate land for the Tamils like Mohd Jinna demnded for the Muslims.

        The Sinhala leaders have proved the world that they are inhuman, barbaric, Apartheid minded and hooligans. The Great Leader of Singapore Hon. Lee Kwan Yew has said that the Tamils will continue with their struggle until achieved. This is from his experience of the Tamils who jointly helped build Singapore.

        Time will write “EElam” on the Wall as the struggle has moved to Global capitals and to Tamil Nadu. When the corrupt Congress Sonia Maino regime is voted out of power in the next general election, things will change and the Tamils will show the Sinhala who they are!

      • Pol Baa Moona

        Noble words Mr Jayatileka.

        I am happy to see these sentiments and I am also glad that you no longer seem to be promoting Douglas Devananda, who you previously hailed as the messiah of the Tamil people (being suitably patriotic etc).

        Pls see link below:

        His conduct seems to have the sanction of the authorities and may herald things to come elsewhere.

      • Dayalan

        Thank you Dr. Dayan,

        I have no great problems with your statement given below.

        “My idea of my country, sri Lanka, is a strong, centralised but not over centralised state — a unitary state in which the provincial autonomy provisions of our Constitution are fully implemented. I also wish to see strong anti-discrimination legislation and a strong anti-discrimination authority.”

        So to move forward, what can you Doctor, and we. do to ensure that:

        a. provincial autonomy provisions of our Constitution are fully
        b. strong anti-discrimination legislation are in place
        c. and a strong anti-discrimination authority is established.”

        If there is something we can do at grassroots,or at any other level/forum let’s do it.

        Doctor, a another question I wish to pose to you. Is n’t it true that Sri Lanka was made a unitary state by the Colonial rulers, the British & the Dutch. Of course there were 5 or 6 brief periods when the whole cuntry was brought under one flag (I stand to be corrected ).

        I think if we are to be a Unitary state, which is the IDEAL, a great effort has to be made by all stake holders, which I am afraid does not look possible due the present stand of the GOSL. If we go back to pre 1505 scenario, I don’t think we would see a Unitary arrangement, It would probably be strong autonomous administrative units, built and thriving on the extremely diverse cultures of this land. I consider Sri Lanka diverse in it’s culture as it is in it’s bio-diversity. A cultural-diversity hot spot, (if you like), in the world.

        This is precisely, why a unitary arrangement becomes a very difficult,but possible, with lot’s of trust cultivated between the various players.
        Over to you.

  • Citizen BAK


    I have already shared my views on the “unitary” state. To prevent further ethnic tensions SRI LANKAN TAMIL COMMUNITIES THAT SUFFERED DURING THE WAR, especially its traumatizing last stages, NEED TO BE REDRESSED!

    If you are truly patriotic (and have all of our fellow countrymen’s best interests at heart) and wish for a unitary state (devoid of ethnic tensions) then you must agree that an unbiased international war crimes investigation is what is needed.

    This is the request of the TNA representing those Tamil communities in Sri Lanka…

    One of the claims of this article is that your newfound patriotism (read “fatherland or death”, “free fatherland or death”) – Sri Lanka against the World – is just a tactic to prevent an international investigation.

    Please remember that an investigation would denounce ONLY those individuals found guilty. An investigation against those suspect individuals is NOT an investigation against the whole country.

    An independent war crimes investigation would be in the best long term interests of a peaceful unitary state. Therefore, patriots should support it.

    • Burning_Issue

      Citizen BAK,

      “Please remember that an investigation would denounce ONLY those individuals found guilty. An investigation against those suspect individuals is NOT an investigation against the whole country.”

      “An independent war crimes investigation would be in the best long term interests of a peaceful unitary state. Therefore, patriots should support it.”

      I 100% agree with your above statements. An investigation would not only establish the facts but also would send a strong message of intent on the part of GOSL that it is serious about reconciliation.

      I would like to know your views to the following:

      1. Pushing for War Crimes Investigation does not help in the quest of reconciliation
      2. The MR regime is here to stay for a long while; since it is directly implicated in the War Crimes, is it realistic to expect that it participates in an investigation that would most definitely deem it as guilty?
      3. If the Sinhala public were to come to know about the true stories of the war crimes, how would it react? Since, MR is the modern day Duttagaimunu, how can he suddenly become a war criminal?
      4. Under these circumstances, would an investigation that finds some government officials and military guilty of war crimes, pave the way for a true reconciliation?
      5. I as a Tamil can tell you that, it would certainly make much easier for the Tamils to close chapters and move on, but how would it impact the Sinhala?

      • wijayapala

        Dear Burning_Issue

        3. If the Sinhala public were to come to know about the true stories of the war crimes, how would it react?

        Do you know the true stories of the war crimes?

        A better question would be “how would the Sinhala public react if an ‘independent’ investigation began with the premise that Sri Lanka is guilty and has to prove its own innocence?”

      • Citizen BAK

        @ Wijayapala: you are right to assert that one cannot simply assume that war crimes were committed… The UN Panel report was not a conclusive investigation, but its results provide sufficient evidence to warrant an international investigation. Either way, the premise would not be “Sri Lanka is guilty” only that specific government officials MIGHT be guilty… An investigation would not detract from the valor and bravery of Sri Lankan soldiers as a whole. An unbiased investigation might even show that there were no war crimes committed, and that certain International and Tamil communities have been misled. However, a flat out refusal to allow an unbiased international investigation to be conducted will only breed more suspicion and hatred. This is why it is vital that all Sri Lankans work together to voice that an investigation be conducted.

  • Citizen BAK

    The Government strategy with respect to reconciliation centers on denying war crimes allegations and asking individuals to “forget” the past and move on…Forgetting and denying is as atrocious to me as the original deaths of those civilians in Mullaitivu…Bystanders are complicit in the second murder of those innocent civilians if their memories are allowed to be destroyed. If war crimes did occur, then silence is an unforgivable offense and implies that the perpetrators have succeeded.

    Even if government officials like MR and the defense secretary are granted amnesty (immunity from prosecution) I believe it is of utmost importance for ordinary Sri Lankans (especially Sinhala Buddhists) to push for neutral and unbiased war crimes investigations not only because it departs from forgetting and doing nothing, but because it respects the many lives lost as being valuable and treats the legitimate grievances of those who have suffered as valid. Most importantly, it is a way of restoring equal dignity to those individuals who have lost homes and family members.

    Ultimately it is not up to the government to say how the affected communities should recover, forgive or reconcile but it is up to the victims themselves. These communities are asking for an international investigation, according to TNA MP Suresh Premachandran.

    Many nations have been party to neutral international investigations WITHOUT LOSING SOVEREIGNTY. Brazil named the names of those implicated in human rights violations and is still a sovereign nation. Czechoslovakia screened and removed officials involved in its old regime and is still a sovereign nation. Germany prosecuted border guards and is still a sovereign nation. Argentina prosecuted 500 members of its military junta without losing sovereignty.

    The MR regime’s refusal to participate in investigations is certainly suspicious…if it has nothing to hide, why prevent an investigation? MR is not a modern day Duttaigamunu, he is just a man. His glorification as such, sheds more light on Sri Lanka’s feudal ideological tendencies rather than MR’s own invincibility. If flaws in MR’s administration are brought to light, I do believe opinions could change…

    I believe that an investigation, where results can be trusted by all parties to be accurate, will pave the way for a better reconciliation. Even if it does not bring about legal justice, it will end the harsh propaganda war that we see today and help both ethnicities to understand what really happened. How the Sinhalese and Tamil communities react will depend on the results of the investigation, but it is my opinion that having a common and shared interpretation of the final stages of the war will bring the two communities together.