Ending the Exile and Back to Roots: Fears, Challenges and Hopes

[Editors note: The author was married to Dr. Rajini Thiranagama (née Rajasingham), a Tamil human rights activist and feminist murdered in 1989 by the LTTE. She was one of the founding members of the University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna, which during the war, published some of the most hard hitting critiques and exposes of Government as well as LTTE atrocities and human rights violations. Since 2009, Dayapala Thiranagama's insightful articles to Groundviews have been amongst the site's most read and shared.]

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Politics can be relatively fair in the breathing spaces of history; at its critical turning points there is no other rule possible than the old one, that the end justifies the means” (Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon, London, 1940, Page 81).

On 27  December 1989 I arrived in Heathrow along with my two young daughters, aged 9 and 11 years. At  the Immigration Desk the  Officer asked me how long we intended  to stay.I replied ‘a couple of weeks’. My youngest daughter still hanging on to my hand and whispered  to me ‘Thaththa, don’t tell lies we are not going back to Sri Lanka’.  She  of course  was telling the truth. Now after more than two decades I had to return to  Sri Lanka alone, leaving them behind.

There were two main  reasons that made ending my  exile possible: the achievement of my personal  commitment to  my  children which was  to ensure that they were independent,  and the change in Sri Lanka’s political climate, which is the focus of this account.

By the end of 1989  when we fled Sri Lanka we left behind a country gripped by  seemingly insoluble political contradictions. They seemed to require a comprehensive military defeat  of one party over  the other for  the  resolution  of the crisis. The JVP was fighting   the Sri Lankan state which had sought India’s help and the LTTE  had taken on the mighty IPKF(Indian Peace Keeping Force). The JVP had  begun a ‘patriotic war’ accusing  that the Sri Lankan State of  capitulating   to Indian imperialism.They demanded that the people patriotically oppose the  devolution of any power to Tamils  just  as the UPFA at present defines its patriotism in order   to deny the possibility of granting of democratic rights to the    Tamil speaking people.  At the time the JVP had  begun  assassinating all those who supported the devolution of power to Tamils. Their targets  included  the activists and the leaders of the Left parties and groups,  as they were in the forefront of  the campaign in support of the 13th Amendment, which allowed  for the devolution of power. The JVP  had become  cruel  and ruthless killers of  other political activists in the name of ‘patriotism’ and appeared  to be   knocking on the door of the state power.

I had joined the Vikalpa Kandayama (Alternative Group) and later organised the Movement for Socialism and Democracy uniting all the left groups ,democrats and some  prominent individuals in trade unions.The state also responded with equal cruelty and ruthlessness to the JVP rebellion. There were death squads acting with impunity  and  the roadsides in certain areas became open graves.  The LTTE was not any different from the JVP and they  also assassinated all those who were critical of them. With these murders there were personal sufferings within families  who experienced irreplaceable losses.

Rajani Thiranagama, my wife who was  brutally  gunned down by the Tamil Tigers  merely  because she was a vocal critic of their human rights violations. This was despite the fact that she had  given medical treatment to  leading LTTE cadres at the  very inception of their organisation. Her  assassination  was symbolic of  both the Tamil Tigers’ fascist nature as well as the  bleak future  that    the so called ‘Tamil liberation’ would have brought about in the North and East, if they were not  comprehensively defeated.

Rajani was brutally killed on 21 September 1989. My children lost their most stable primary carer who was their  great  source of love , stability and hope. Despite the fact that I took the full responsibility for their upbringing after her death, I feel that I could not replace fully the love and support  they should have had from their mother. Like them, thousands of children in Sri Lanka  have suffered the loss of their parents leaving them experiencing  a legacy of pain and vulnerability that  has continued long after the war   has finished.

When Rajani was assassinated I had to assure my children that I would be there for them.But unfortunately I could not carry out this  responsibility whilst being in Sri Lanka and having  an  underground  or semi -underground life . Sri Lanka had become very unsafe, as there was not  even  the  slightest regard for human life. All the parties who  fought their armed opponents threw away almost all  internationally accepted  norms  of warfare and when they had  audacity to kill their  unarmed critics or civilians they  also threw away unhesitatingly  all the civilised norms of  resolving  human  and political conflicts. The victims of the armed violence never had a chance to comprehend  or to know the specific charges against them  at the time when the gunman or the suicide  bomber appeared before them. Like many others, Rajani never knew the specific charges against her.  She only knew that the Tigers did not tolerate dissenting  views  and that  these  would be punishable by  death.

By 1989  the Sri Lankan state was in  grave danger of being defeated by the armed  groups  led by the Sinhala extremist JVP. It survived. In all three armed struggles , two of them led by the JVP in 1971 and 1987-89 and the Eelam war  led by the LTTE, the challengers to the state and parliamentary democracy has been  comprehensively defeated by the Sri Lankan state. It is ironic that that the defeat of the reactionary,violent and fascist forces of the JVP and the LTTE has been won at an unbearable cost for Sri Lankan society and its parliamentary democracy. The survival of the state in this fashion has posed difficult questions as well as presenting an opportunity to reform  the Sri Lankan  state political structures.

The  absence of   a commitment  from the current government to meet the democratic aspirations of all our communities and  the  lack of political will  for democratic reforms  appears to be the  main challenge facing Sri Lanka  at present. The massive loss of human life,legacy of the war,its effect on ordinary civilians and the imprint it has left on political activity has reshaped our future.Understanding and addressing what is felt on an individual level as a deep personal loss and what is felt by us collectively as a tragedy is fundamental to the creation of a different   country  and a different  politics,where such events cannot happen again.

President Rajapaksa enjoys a solid political support among the  Sinhalese rural masses, which hither to  no other political leader has been able to  command . His popularity is unassailable and the  recent  local election results show that it is not going to be any easier now  for  his political opponents. This    popularity is undoubtedly  due  to  the political leadership  he was able to provide  in defeating the LTTE separatism. This  will  continue to have  huge political significance in the country for generations to come.  Without the Rajapaksha brothers  at helm of the state power it would not have been  possible to defeat the Tamil Tigers. Whether we would like it or not as long as the West  pursues   the war crime allegations  against the state, Rajapaksa’s popularity is bound to increase,    solidifying  the  support that President Rajapaksa already enjoys. This popularity  is also the main  obstacle for the possibility of ethnic inclusiveness. As long as the TNA continues to apply pressure  through India and West to gain a political solution to the issue of the democratic rights of the Tamils ,it will be seen as political interference in the internal affairs of  Sri Lanka and  thus a largely a  counter productive effort.

There is also an element of this when foreign funded NGO’s campaign for the rights of Tamil people. However, the NGO’s are making a valuable contribution in defending democratic rights, a role which political parties in the opposition are unable to play with credibility as their political lines have been similar to that of the parties in the UPFA.The JVP’s anti-devolutionary violent  political history against the Tamil democratic rights is a case in point.

It is unlikely that the government will be able to dismantle  Sri Lanka’s  parliamentary democracy as some critics would like to suggest but there should not be any complacency in this regard. When the tentacles of family interests spread through state institutions giving up power will not be an easy option.The most difficult situation is that the opposition is meek and feeble and the government would like to have  a free ride at the expense of the political rights of the people. If the government is planning to   dismantle parliamentary  democracy,  it will be the greatest political blunder and the folly of the capitalist class in this country .

A divided opposition  hugely disadvantages ordinary  people.They are in disarray precisely at the time when there is an urgent need for a common political programme to protect basic democratic  and  political rights. Each opposition party is also deeply  divided  within themselves on the issue of political leadership  and/or  political ideology and strategy. The UNP and the JVP are undergoing the most serious and catastrophic  splits  within  their own parties  by weakening their capacity to oppose the government and to change the balance of forces in their favour. The  UPFA political hegemony  appears unbreakable despite  their  shortcomings.    The  government is also  using every possible corrupt incentives  to lure the opposition figures to their side. As long as the opposition is unable to mount a credible and mass base democratic   political challenge to the government, the possibility of  launching a successful  battle  to win for greater  democratic rights  is  still long way off. This has meant that the government have felt able to get away with any anti-democratic act or legislation.In Gramscian  terms this is the ‘effective reality’  at present in the country . Gramsci further sees the need for any political   opposition to ‘transcend beyond’ this ‘effective reality’ and alter the balance of forces in their favour.

The  Mulleriawa incident  exposes  the  continuing thuggish and criminal  behaviour of  some of the government politicians . It is also  a warning that what they are capable of doing to their own  they will feel able to do double fold to those who aim to challenge  them democratically. These are legitimate and genuine issues that need  to be  addressed  by both the opposition and the government. If they fail at this juncture, they will not be forgiven  nor  forgotten by the people. In the deep fault-line of our politics the effect of the breakdown of civil society and political culture can be still felt.The forces of violence ,the climate of fear  and the suffocation of democratic voices that took centre stage in our politics have not yet been defeated despite the end of the war.

I returned to my village, Happawana-Harumalgoda West in Habaraduwa to reside . I had last left as a young man  in 1967 to attend the university. All my memories in growing up here  were of   the poverty and destitution of this village, matched only by   the generosity of its people  when I had difficulties  with the security forces. Growing up in this village made me conscious of  the path of the personal sacrifices  that have to be made   to achieve social justice,political rights  and fairness  for all ethnic communities in our country. The legacy of this village lies deep within my political history and identity. In 1971  the villagers  protected me from the CID and police   as they encamped this village to apprehend me.When I was acquitted  in my trail in1975  they took me home in a huge procession  that filled a two-mile long stretch from the Pilana junction  of  Deniyaya-Akuressa Road to my house.

In Sri Lanka, the journeys we make , both politically and physically are often defined by great  losses.This two mile long route runs through the village that  connects it to  the George Ratnayake Mawatha, which was named after  my comrade and friend George Ratnayake  who was brutally assassinated by  the  JVP in  August 1989. He was the finest human being this village has ever produced. His loss is  felt deeply not least by me.Without him my village is a lonelier place. George was a trade unionist and a Central committee member of the Communist Party . He  stood for the provincial council election  and won in 1989. He was killed by the JVP because he openly supported the devolution of  power to the Tamils. His assassination  stands  a testimony to the brutality of the JVP and their  racist politics of  Sinhalese supremacy. This village  will never forget this heinous crime. The JVP  had  sent  a group of   faceless assassins from outside that day. The day the village buried their finest human being they also defied all the funeral restrictions imposed by the JVP.

This village has changed  since I left it  and will  continue to change at  increasing  speed. It no longer bears the hallmark of destitution and abject  poverty I witnessed as a child. It no longer exists in the same intensity. Both male and female  wage labour has increased here. This I hope  will influence its future political direction and enable it to continue making a political contribution to win and preserve democracy.

In Sri Lanka in  general the politics in the  countryside where  the electoral bulwark of Sinhala Buddhist supremacy reigns supreme  will be pivotal in the coming years of  re-drawing electoral battle grounds. This is partly  due the UPFA regime shifting the political emphasis to its village  based  support  structures and has undertaken infrastructural development hither to unseen in rural areas.Sri Lanka will not be able to resolve its thorny issue of   nationhood unless rural communities support an electoral victory that would resolve the issue of the devolution of power to to the Tamil community.

During these turbulent years of violent politics, the personal losses including having to leave my own country have made a lasting impact on my life.Those  comrades and friends who knew me closely  including my wife Rajani who fell victims to the LTTE, the JVP and  the security forces would have expected  in their last moments that I would continue their  struggle for social justice and democracy. But  I could not evade my personal responsibility towards my children at the time.  Rajani , my  comrades and friends knew  very well the mortal danger that would pose  to any individual in Sri Lankan politics. But they never hesitated. These  murderous  non -state actors eager to justify these crimes  in the name of ‘revolution’ or ‘national liberation’. They have made no  apology for these murders.The  security forces have  not shown any accountability.They have acted with impunity in the name  of ‘democracy’ and ‘national sovereignty’.

It is great to return home.

However, Sri Lanka as a nation has not ended its own political exile even after  wining the separatist war. Unless Sri Lanka  resolves its critical issue of ethnic inclusiveness, she will be in political exile. There will be a day, the masses of this country will drag her out of  this and make us a proud nation where all ethnic communities will enjoy democracy and freedom.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    “Whether we would like it or not as long as the West pursues the war crime allegations against the state, Rajapaksa’s popularity is bound to increase, solidifying the support that President Rajapaksa already enjoys. This popularity is also the main obstacle for the possibility of ethnic inclusiveness”. – How does one promote ethnic inclusiveness without talking about the past (which Dayapala also recognises as important) ? So do we forget the past for the sake of ethnic inclusiveness? Can we build ethnic inclusivity on such falsehood?

    “As long as the TNA continues to apply pressure through India and West to gain a political solution to the issue of the democratic rights of the Tamils ,it will be seen as political interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and thus a largely a counter productive effort”. – This has been said many a time before. Dayapala can do better by suggesting ways by which we could locally apply pressure. What would he suggest the Tamils do to convince the Sinhala Budhdhist polity that their grievances are genuine and demands legitimate? Where does one start? Can Dayapala please suggest a programme of action, please?

    • Dayapala Thiranagama

      Aachcharya
      The past is very important.I agree with you that it is not possible to build ethnic inclusiveness on falsehood or without talking about the past. But in politics you need to make a serious look at the options available.There are two options in my view:
      Option 1: Taking up the accountability issue now and go with the West pursuing the war crime allegations.
      Option 2:Negotiating with the government and get the international support for this.
      There is no third option or a middle path here as that would lead to a collision course. Option 1 will also lead to the same result.You cannot afford to go for this after a massive military defeat.There is no local active mass movement to give you the support necessary for such an action.The government is politically very stable in the country. In politics you need to learn how to retreat.But I know that the Tamil nationalists will be comfortable with the Option 1 rather than the Option 2.They would consider taking up the Option 2 as national humiliation.Taking up the Option 2 is not falsehood or humiliation but ability to retreat. It also offers some way forward for a resolution.Tamil Diaspora will love to go for the Option 1.

      You are asking me to provide a plan of action.I do not think that you expect me to write a political programme for the TNA.The TNA need to do a lot of home work.Their history is the history of the infamous alliance with the LTTE . Remember, they were very quite when the LTTE assassinated the prominent Tamils including my wife for their dissenting views.They need to apologise these families for keeping quite when the LTTE murdered their family members. They have not done this so far. It is the duty of any civilised political party that is sensitive to human feelings and sufferings. Unless they make verifiable reforms and changes to their political line and ideology,there is a question of trust and I do not trust them. It is not possible to say whether they have given up their separatist political views or will become victims of another armed movement in the future. They will have to show that they have given up the ideology and politics of the LTTE. I do not think that they have done enough to convince this.Tamil nationalism will have rethink about their political tactics and strategy.
      It is the duty of the Sinhalese progressive forces to work with the
      Sinhalese to convince them about the plight of the Tamil community and their democratic rights.Parties like TNA should facilitate this process even taking up the issues of democratic rights of the Sinhalese.Their politics has contributed to isolate themselves from the Sinhalese polity and they lost their political credibility when they became the proxy of the LTTE. I would like to remind here that the Southern progressive forces had worked hard for decades to convince the Sinhalese polity that Tamil demands were legitimate but the when the LTTE started killing innocent civilians the whole thing collapsed and they could not continue with this work. The TNA have to work hard to get out of the ultra- nationalist politics and offer us some hopes. It is going to be a long and difficult and painful process.

      I do not know who you are but I appreciate your comments.It is also important that one recognises the painful sentiments expressed in this article if one cannot condemns the senseless killings by the LTTE.

      • K.Thirukumaran

        Dayapala Thiranagama,

        It appears in conflict ‘resolution’ situations, everyone takes liberty in picking and choosing a point in history as the harbinger.

        It is true the situation today Tamils’ are in pertains to the dastardly killings of LTTE and its aftermath, but its the duty of the significantly large majority community and its winning leader since May 2009 to make bold moves to address the situation. And the ‘progressive’ voices should ensure this happens and not pin blame elsewhere.

        Why not take a step back to the period Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam mentions in his comment.

        “The late Shri Rajagopalachchari, the First Governor General of India, had stated that:

        “Most private wrongs are done within family walls, and most public wrongs within the borders of States. If world opinion is to consider state frontiers sacrosanct then there will be no chance for world progress as a whole; tyranny would have received a world charter.’
        (From SJV Chelvanayagam, “Meomorandum from the Tamils of Ceylon to all delegates attending the 20th Commonwealth Conference in Sri Lanka, 1st September 1974.”)

        During the early part of 1974 too Tamils were killed in Jaffna during celebration of the Research, culture and heritage of Tamil language.

        Even more two decades back, the disfranchisement Act of 1948 would have brought catastrophic consequences in the lives of many families.

        And not to mention the pogroms. I have friends whose families and lives were never put back in place as they were, particularly after July 1983. Are the lives of individuals in these circumstances not so important as they are mere statistics?

        I believe Sri Lanka governments were ‘politically very stable’ during those times as well. In fact was there ever a time when Sri Lanka govts were/are ‘politically NOT very stable’?

        So why then sight the LTTE and its killings plus asking TNA to apologize for the commencement of addressing the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka today?

        This is not in support of LTTE or TNA; but please keep in mind members of TNA itself have been killed by both LTTE and others. Plus today’s TNA consist of members who were not part of the LTTE alliance prior to 2009.

        It all points out to unwillingness of the leaders of majority and their fiddling with the populations’ ‘minority complex’, that continues to allow peacetime and wartime policies to uproot and evict Tamils from Sri Lanka or to make the remaining population weak in many aspects.

        This is not to say the genuine voices in Sri Lanka majority community do not exist. Thankfully they may not have encountered catastrophic or tragic personal encounters to become ‘well known’, but these are the true ‘progressive’ voices.

        One such voice is that of Shiral Lakthilaka.

        http://vimeo.com/8713666 (Interview with Shiral Lakthilaka)

        Then again recently the current UNP leader is ensuring such voices do not gain prominence in Sri Lanka. There lies the quagmire, where apologies and change of heart have to come from with courage and willingness.

        Dayapala Thiranagama, yours disappoint on several fronts as well.

      • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

        Dear Mr Thiranagama,
        I am grateful for your response. I pen the following as some of my initial thoughts regarding your response:

        1. You agree with me that if we attempt to build a future on falsehood it will be pointless but also seem to suggest that we have no options with regard to accountability that will not lead to a collison course. You suggest to me that in politics that you have to retreat at times – I suppose you mean we have to ‘compromise’ at times – but I need to be told what I am compromising for. If we are compromising for the sake of a ‘future’ that is built on flasehood then such a ‘future’ obiously will not last long. Hence my saying that I am not sure what I am being asked to compromise for. Your article – the part which shares your personal painful predicaments and sentiments – is a testament that the past should not be forgotten and needs to be spoken of. I wont let anyone suggest to you that in the interest of a higher goal that you should stop talking about it. As for option 2 – you say “Negotiate with the government and get the international support for this”. But did you not say in your article that TNA is not going to get anywhere if the West and India are seen to be pressurising the Government into yielding? Leaving this contradiction aside, what in your understanding have the Tamils got after 18 rounds of talks with the Government? TNA hasn’t been even able to secure a list of names of surrendees leave alone anything significant regarding political power.

        2. It is indeed strange that you suggest that the Government and southern politcal parties should not be pressurized to account for the past (because it is counter-productive) but that there is no way out unless TNA does this. This is indeed very strange logic. I do however think that everyone of us – not just the Government, LTTE and the TNA, but all of us – our organisations and us individually have to critically think about our past vis a vis what happened in the last 30-40 years. I think that an environement needs to evolve for us to take a critical look at the LTTE. The continuing oppressive climate within which the Tamils currently live just makes it impossible for us to start a critical conversation about the LTTE. You seem to entertain contempt for Tamil nationalism. I think Tamil Nationalist politics can be done differently, but I wont discredit Tamil nationalist mode of politics for reasons that I have mentioned here: http://groundviews.org/2011/07/27/back-to-basics-the-need-for-an-honest-conversation-about-%E2%80%98sri-lankanness%E2%80%99-and-%E2%80%98sri-lankan-identity%E2%80%99/

        3. You say “I would like to remind here that the Southern progressive forces had worked hard for decades to convince the Sinhalese polity that Tamil demands were legitimate but the when the LTTE started killing innocent civilians the whole thing collapsed and they could not continue with this work”. May I respectfully submit, that your statement is a very simplistic act in blame-casting that has no rationale basis whatsoever. It’s a huge statement in generalisation to blame the LTTE for the failure of the Sinhala progressive forces. I have critiqued this politics of anti-LTTEism here: http://groundviews.org/2011/02/28/moving-tamil-dissent-politics-beyond-anti-ltteism/ If LTTE is to blame what were the Sinhala progressives forces doing for 30+ years before the LTTE came into existence? Please don’t take this to mean that I am blame-casting the other way around. I am not. I am saying lets acknowledge that things are and were much more complex.

        4. I don’t know what you mean by TNA still being ultra nationalistic and following the idealogy of the LTTE. (That’s verbatim what the President also says about the TNA by the way. I dont mean to compare the two of you at all, just in case i am misunderstood for doing so) In fact some of us in the Tamil civil society have criticised the TNA for giving up on our political fundamentals. See http://groundviews.org/2011/12/15/a-public-memo-to-members-of-parliament-representing-the-tamil-national-alliance-from-the-tamil-civil-society/ Given your political credentials I am sure you have nothing against Tamils claiming to be a nation and demanding self-determination (words which the TNA doesn’t want to use because they think the South and the International Community don’t like them.) I actually think that we shouldn’t disguise what the political aspirations of Tamils are when we seek to explain and take on board the Sinhala progressives. As explained in the memo I think what we are asking for is not necessarily a separate state but for a political recognition of our collective expression as a nation having the right to self determination within a united Sri Lanka. As has been demonstrated in the works of many anthropologists like Prof H.L. Seneviratne this will be a difficult task given that the idea of a one-nation (unitary) state lies deeply rooted with the desire to retain and protect Sinhala Budhdhism. (The LTTE cant be blamed for this right? – they are actually the necessary dialectical fall out of ultra-Sinhala Budhdhist politics).

        5. And finally Mr Thiranagama I am sorry that I did not acknowledge the painful sentiments expressed in your article. It definitely was not intentional. I live in Jaffna, was born and bred here. I can’t claim to understand your sentiments in their entirety. No one can actually. Pain and sorrow are both personal and collective. Others can only try to understand them – those who have undergone similar pain will understand them better. I am again sorry that I didn’t express this openly. Welcome back to Sri Lanka and we will be glad to see you in Jaffna when you have the time.

      • Travelling Academic

        Aachcharya,

        >
        > I think that an environement needs to evolve for us to take a
        > critical look at the LTTE.
        >

        I disagree. The Tamil leadership has to explicitly disown the acts of barbarism committed in my name (without my consent) — on “my” people and others. That should be immediate and unconditional. It should not politely wait with that amusing “after you” courtesy that is seen among Brits waiting at a lift.

        I think the reason such critical examination is not forthcoming is continued belief in those evil means — of shooting anyone with a different view. On Christmas day, just N clicks away from my facebook wall (and N-1 clicks from yours) I read a comment on what a jolly good idea it was to hunt down and get rid of traitors one by one — in reference to the TULF.

        The current Tamil leadership, if it cannot even take Thiranagama on its side, what chance has it got in persuading Rajapakse of anything?

      • kadphises

        If the Sinhalese expect the Tamils to forget the past the Sinhalese too should be prepared to forget the history of the TNA’s closeness to the LTTE.
        There is much demonising of the TNA today based on their past. But if one considers the present, they are the elected representatives of the Tamil people (With apoligies to Wijeyapala who thinks otherwise). Also, they are not involved in violence (except as its victims). And that should be sufficient to treat them as serious negotiating parners.
        If the TNA can then openly declare what they are asking for in terms of devolutio, and if these demands pass the tests of fairness, equality and implementability I think there will be support from progressive Sinhalese. If Aacharya doubts this I would ask him to look at the recent developments within the JVP where much of the membership has aligned itself with a Tamil with supposedly pro devolution views. But as with the TNA, the JVP too is very sketchy on the details of what they propose as the best, most fair and equitable solution.
        To my mind, Nationalism is the main obstacle to a settlement. Both Sinhala and Tamil nationalisms are narrow minded and selfish. They desire to secure more resources and power for their own people and deny it to the other community. If either side is prepared to grant to the other community everything it demands for itself, there is an obvious solution that stares us in the face.
        To get each other to acknowledge the innocent people they slaughtered before seriously discussing devolution is just another time wasting tactic. Lets just acknowledge that both sides did it and that both sides did it because they were agrieved and thought there was no other way, and that the end always justified the means. We cant bring back the dead. But if we can make some big compromises now, we settle the matter once and for all so it does not happen again.

      • http://www.hotmail.co.uk cyril

        3rd Option = 1st Option + 2nd Option

    • kadphises

      Aacharya,

      The TNA will do itself a favour if it could come out in the open and state what principles of Tamil Nationalism (if ever) they are prepared to compromise on. Are they prepared to settle for anything short of Fiscal, Police and Land powers for Tamils within a merged North and East within their British defined borders?

      We know the problems with Sinhalese nationalism. But can the TNA distance itself from the Tamil equivalent that demands a state with four times as much land per capita as they are prepared to yield to the Sinhalese?

      Accountablility is good. It would be nice to see the back of the Rajapakses. But in the absence of any credible opposition, or an inspirational leadership contender, have you considered the implications of trying to get them over to the Hague with threats and sanctions so they can be locked away for good?

  • Thrishantha

    Rajini and Dayapala’s story and their determined struggle is perhaps the most well documented human experience in the conflict (No more tears sister, the broken Palmyra, etc.). If one reads “Buddhism betrayed” along with their personal story, one can see that it is very dangerous to misunderstand what an anagarika life means. In fact, in my first meditation retreat at Amaravathi monastery, I was a bit scared to see two White clad two Anagarikas sitting on either side of the meditation master monk. I thought they would start the retreat by asking “Who in this assembly says Sinhalaya, marakkalaya, thambiya, hambaya, demala, sudda, kalla are equal? Those who say yes, leave please!”. But to my amazement, they fostered the opposite by saying “Sakkayaditti (personality view) is the first fetter we have to get rid of” in the process of entering the stream. The whole goal of Buddhism was made very clear – to see that everything is transient and thus there is nothing to cling onto as a source of unconditioned happiness. Perhaps, it is time to request the Guardians of Buddhism in Sri Lanka to build or renovate monasteries for people to truly practice Buddhism than wasting time inculcating insecurity and capitalizing on those sentiments to do their tribalistic politics. The result of the hard work of these tribalistic anagarikas over the last few decades is to make sure that Buddhism is confined to Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, whereas it has been open to any ethnic background elsewhere.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Thrishantha

      I thought they would start the retreat by asking “Who in this assembly says Sinhalaya, marakkalaya, thambiya, hambaya, demala, sudda, kalla are equal? Those who say yes, leave please!”

      What made you think that?

      • Thrishantha

        Memory of another anagarika in Sri Lanka.

      • wijayapala

        Who?

  • R.M. B Senanayake

    I am afraid the cause of the Tamils will never meet the sympathy of the Sinhalese. The Sinhalese are steeped in the myth that this country belongs only to Sinhala Buddhists. This stems from the mythical belief that this is the country of the Buddha and it is this myth that Buddhist monks uphold. It is similar to the view among the Jews that the land of Israel will be restored to them by God and that God will protect them. This myth will first have to be disproved in history before the Tamils can get justice and fairplay. The question is whether this myth will be disproved by the esablishment of a Tamil Eelaam or some other historical forces such as a civil war among the Sinhaese where democracy will triumph through bloodshed.

    • yapa

      Sinhalese are a wonderfully progressive set of people. They always write against their own wrongs. They always support Tamil ideology more than than Tamils. They never were partial towards their ethnic community. They are self critical. They are not patient of their own wrongs (especially against Tamils). They vigilantly identify and vehemently oppose unjustifiable moves by them against Tamils.

      I think R.M. B Senanayake is one such Sinhalese among many. We hail such Sinhalese.

      Thanks!

      • Ravi Seneviratne

        Certainly, I agree with you.

      • Lanka liar

        “Sinhalease are more progressive than than Tamils.”But their memory is short. Kadirgamar, Karuna K.P are all Sinhalease because their name starts with K.

    • wijayapala

      Dear RMB,

      The Sinhalese are steeped in the myth that this country belongs only to Sinhala Buddhists. This stems from the mythical belief that this is the country of the Buddha and it is this myth that Buddhist monks uphold.

      Could you tell us another country in South Asia where Buddhism is practiced to a significant degree?

      Also, as a Christian could you share with us the role of the European colonial missionaries in suppressing Buddhism in Sri Lanka and thus creating a xenophobic mindset among the monks?

      • anbu

        wijeyapala

        Could you tell us another country in South Asia where Buddhism is practiced to a significant degree?

        BHUTAN- it ethnically cleansed its Hindu population recently so it can be a pure Buddhist state.
        Thats at one tip of SOuth Asian and Sri lanka at another tip

      • Jaliya

        welcome home brother ………….

      • MAH

        Well said! I have yet to hear any positive statements from any Tamil religious leader about coming together. They are afraid of the TNA?

      • kusum

        ”Could you tell us another country in South Asia where Buddhism is practiced to a significant degree?”::::

        http://www.lakbimanews.lk/portal/news/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1057:llrc-on-its-final-lap&catid=40:news&Itemid=64
        LLRC on its final lap, 3 April 2011:
        The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) members met the Chief Incumbents of the Malwathu and Asgiri Chapters last week to seek guidance before preparing the final report scheduled to be presented by May 15.

        http://religionviolenceandpeace.blogspot.com/2010/10/buddhism-excuse-of-nationalism-and.html
        Buddhism: an Excuse of Nationalism and Justifier of Violence in the Case of Sri Lanka, Dachuan Zhu

        Buddha’s Savage Peace, September 2009, ROBERT D. KAPLAN: ‘’President Rajapaksa came to Kandy a few days later, on May 23, to receive the blessings of the chief Buddhist monks at the Temple of the Tooth for winning the war. He expressed no apologies or remorse for the victims of the war, and he promised the monks, “Our motherland will never be divided [again].” He told them that there were only two types of Sri Lankans, those who love the motherland and those who don’t. Because he conceives of the motherland as primarily Buddhist, his words carried too little magnanimity’’ – http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/buddha-8217-s-savage-peace/7620/

        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’’.

        ‘’ Chandra R. de Silva implies that Buddhist monastic opposition to a non-unitary state has contributed to the conflict. He appreciates the reasons for this, but pleads for a system of monastic education that would expose monks to other religions and cultures. …. one of the most complex and intractable conflicts in the world’’, Dr Elizabeth Harris(Liverpool Hope University), Review(2007) of Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka(2006)

        Belief, Ethnicity, and Nationalism By David Little(1995), Senior Scholar, Special Initiative on Religion, Ethics, and Human Rights , United States Institute of Peace:
        ‘’What is most menacing about the type of religious and ethnic nationalism that has appeared in Sri Lanka is precisely its more or less systematic incompatibility with the right of non-discrimination. The eminent Sri Lankan historian, K.M. de Silva has pointed out that the Sinhala Buddhist revivalists had no time for such norms.”

        CEYLON : A DIVIDED NATION, B H Farmer(1963):
        ‘’…Since those saddening days of 1958 Ceylon has had its share of trouble…..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.”

      • wijayapala

        Dear anbu

        BHUTAN- it ethnically cleansed its Hindu population recently so it can be a pure Buddhist state.
        Thats at one tip of SOuth Asian and Sri lanka at another tip

        So you are saying that all the other places in between those tips, such as Tamil Nadu, had “ethnically cleansed” their Buddhist population?

  • http://www.hotmail.co.uk cyril

    It was the Indian pressure, or rather intervention which brought about the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord under which the 13th Amendment was promulgated as a solution to Tamil separatist demand. The 13th amendment is yet to be fully implemented. The apartheid system in South Africa broke down partly because of anti-apartheid campaign in the West and the consequent political isolation that the apartheid regime suffered within the international community.

    In globalised world where national sovereignties are increasingly being challenged and diasporic community groups could play a role in lobbying their hosts in the West and also sustaining and influencing local politics back in home countries it would be not only unrealistic but also suicidal for the TNA just to talk with the GOSL without the active backing of India and the West.

    For example, the LLRC would not have come about if not for the continued pressure brought about by the combined effort of the human rights lobby in the West. This is the ‘effective reality’ at the global level which the Sri Lankan State has to come to terms with and the people, particularly the Sinhala rural masses will have to comprehend in aspiring to identify with universal values and norms

  • Nagalingam Ethirveerasingam

    Mr. Dayapala Thiranagama,
    Thank you for sharing your sorrow and your concerns. Rajini’s father was my mathematics teacher in 1950. I met him again in 1994 at Jaffna College and expressed my sympathies for his loss. It is only in 1994 that I read Rajini’s writings and listened to her friends at the Univ of Jaffna about her work and fearless protest against all those who abused other people’s rights.

    In this day and age, Sri Lanka nor any other country can say that no other countries should interfere in its domestic affairs. A country that violates HR and political rights of its ethnic groups, for whatever reasons, cannot hide behind the cloak of sovereignty and democracy.

    The late Shri Rajagopalachchari, the First Governor General of India, had stated that: “Most private wrongs are done within family walls, and most public wrongs within the borders of States. If world opinion is to consider state frontiers sacrosanct then there will be no chance for world progress as a whole; tyranny would have received a world charter.’
    (From SJV Chelvanayagam, “Meomorandum from the Tamils of Ceylon to all delegates attending the 20th Commonwealth Conference in Sri Lanka, 1st September 1974.”)

  • Ken

    Dayapala Thiranagama ,

    Wishing you a successful new year for you and your kids.

    Yes. Rajini acca would be happy to read this article..

    … Unless Sri Lanka resolves its critical issue of ethnic inclusiveness, she will be in political exile. There will be a day, the masses of this country will drag her out of this and make us a proud nation where all ethnic communities will enjoy democracy and freedom.

    Thanks for the valuable piece…Dayapala Iya..

    • raj

      What is ‘ethnic inclusiveness’ that is not there. What do the ‘tamils’ not have and others have. Please tell us.

      • DessertFox

        the purpose of ‘ethnic inclusiveness’ is to ensure that the members of a minority enjoy the same civic rights as members of the majority; above all that they are secure in their cultural reproduction on terms that are equal to those of majority and, at the same time, that they have equal access to the ‘material’ and ‘symbolic’ goods of the state….

      • Burning_Issue

        Please read the LLRC recommendations. It is really pathetic that one asks such questions even after a body that was set up by MR published the minority issues in Sri Lanka. I would question whether the LLRC has gone far enough on this issue. E.g. Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinism has not been touched!

      • Ward

        ”What is ‘ethnic inclusiveness’ that is not there. What do the ‘tamils’ not have and others have.”

        Please ask the President and the Prime Minister:

        1. “If I make any devolutionary concessions to the Tamils, 13A Plus, Minus, Divided or Subtracted, it will be curtains for me.” The government’s parliamentary group met the evening before the esteemed visitors arrived and decided; ‘’Let’s tell them the truth straight from the shoulder and upfront; let’s tell them. if we do it we are dead meat” – Sri Lanka: Indian Delegates go Home Empty Handed, Kumar David, 15 June 2011 – http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers46/paper4558.html

        2. http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2009/3/41098_space.html

        If not satisfied:
        3. http://groundviews.org/2009/02/08/rajapaksrized-chauvinism-in-flowery-prose-sri-lankan-diplomat%E2%80%99s-outright-humiliation-of-sri-lankan-tamils/
        Ethirveerasingam: I like to share conversations I had with Lalith Athulathmudali and Ranil Wickremasinghe 12 years later.
        On Feb 4th 1985,…. Finally I asked him why not his party with more than two-thirds of majority in parliament propose a federal constitution. He said that SLFP will oppose it. I said that as they have only 7 or 8 MPs their vote will not make any difference, especially with the TULF and CWC votes to add to the UNP. He said proposing a federal constitution, “Will be political suicide.” My older brother later said that, a majority of the UNP MPs will not support, let alone the majority Sinhala voters.
        On May 13, 1997, after an hour of discussion I asked him why not the UNP propose a federal consittuion. He said: “We are a political party. Like any other political party, we will not do anything that will not get us into power, nor would we do anything when we are in power to lose power.”

  • Steve

    I believe, Sri Lanka should be part of India like Tibet is controlled by China. Then We need two separate state Tamil Elam and Sinhala nation. It is the only way, it can be resolved all the issues.
    All came from India and India may consider to control, Sri Lanka

    • Okrda

      Steve

      You seems to be dreaming. Try to stand on your own feet man.

    • Lanka liar

      Very good solution. And a possible solution. If India dreams of it the Tamils will make that dream come true. Dreams just come and dreams do come true. Sri Lanka is doing every thing possible so that India will start dreaming. Good on you Sri Lanka you need a change.

  • Akkini

    Dear Comrade, Thanks for your informations and sharing your sorrows with us.Our friend Rajani was murdered by the fascist LTTE or Tamil Tigers and our comrade George Ratnayake was murdered by the other fascist JVP or People Liberation Front.But,These two reactionary forces must be totally erased from the political scene of the country .Not only that, the pro-LTTE forces like TNA or Tamil National Alliance also totally defeated by the Srilankan people in the near future.But it is totally depend on the ethnic solution which is implemented by the present Government.

  • anbu

    I support you as a husband to seek justice
    I support your children to seek justice for their mum
    I support her family to seek justice for their sister

    But I have one quandry. The manner in which you have made Rajani’s issue the sole demarkater to anlyze the problem in Sri Lanka.

    My grand mother is also the same
    She wants justice from the state for killing her husband.
    My Aunt also wants the same: justice from the goverment for killing my maama(uncle) – her husband.
    But we do not have the Human rights inteligensia to make our cause the way you have made your cause.

    As mentioned earlier we all want to seek justice for our families. But despite the killing of my grand father and Uncle I have tried to see beyond our immediate killers to get a wholesome picure of the situation.We havent transformed our personnal vendetta to speak to the world under the guise of human rights.

    Now that the LTTE is gone I am sure you think it is safe for you to return home. What a privilege. Unfortunately we dont have that.
    Rajani was a brave and remarkable woman. But it is sad to see some sections of her family take her killing as a sole arbitrator of justice in Sri Lanka whilst of course paying lip service to the cruelty of the governement.
    I believe Rajani would not have made her own issue so paramout to dictate the internatinal politiking on SL.

    • Paasam

      Anbu,

      You say that you are able to see beyond the injustices done to your grandfather and uncle. That’s good. I appreciate it. Can you please tell us more about your political vision? I mean you might have a response to the government, the ltte and the ethnic problem in the country. And your response is not colored by the death of your grandfather and mama. I am interested in knowing more about that response. I would like you to say what u think about the government, ltte and ethnic problem.

      Can you provide an example to prove your point that Rajani family uses her death as the sole demarkater to analyse the problem in Sri Lanka?

      You also say that Rajani’s family paid lip service to the cruelty of the government. Can you please share us with some examples of the kind of lip service you are talking about? Can you also say in concrete terms what they should have done instead of paying lip service?

      Groundviews may be liberal enough to let you make unsubstantiated claims, but as a reader of Groundviews I would like you to explain your views and

  • kumudini

    Can someone please explain to me what the grievances of the Tamils are.? I have been tying to find the answer to this for years. Are thes “grievances ” only confineD to the Tamils in SL . There are villages like Paidiyathalwa, a typical sinhala village in SL where some schools did not have proper drinking water. The students of this school had to travel miles to obtain drinking water . I know of an organisation where this was provided to this particular school at a cost of Rs 25,000 a couple of years ago. In contrast there is no such problem in Jaffna where the facilities are exceptional . Please do enlighten me what these grievances are as i would really love to find out .

    • aratai

      kumudini,

      I agree with your point that Sinhalese face the same issues as Tamils, but not the language issue.

      I am from Colombo and I speak, read, write all three languages. Language was not an issue for me and therefore I never saw an ethnic issue in Srilanka until 1983 anti-tamil riots.

      Even though we are all Srilankans, there are millions of people who cannot speak to each other because they don’t speak others’ language.

      If these people face this language issue on a daily basis, they are going to see this as a major issue.

      Making Sinhala and Tamil as official languages is good, but implementing is not that easy. Do you think you can make all 20 million to speak Sinhala and Tamil?

      Today, majority of people living in North and East are Tamil speaking people and they prefer doing things in Tamil.

      Such as:
      If they go to a police station, they would like to report in Tamil so they know what they signing.
      If they go to a government office or bank, they would like to fill forms in Tamil so they don’t make mistakes.
      If they receive any official letters, they would like them to be in Tamil so they don’t have to run around looking for a translator.

      If you can fix these issues and make economic development in the area, most of the problems are solved.

      Next issue is Sinhala speaking military and police dealing with Tamil speaking population.
      There is a difference between an elder brother disciplining his younger brother and a neighbour disciplining neighbour’s child.
      Hope you understand this.

      These are the issues north and east people faces on a day to day basis.

    • kusum

      Kumudini

      One of numerous, similar submissions:

      Jayantha Dhanapala’s submission to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission(LLRC), August 2010: ‘’The lessons we have to learn go back to the past – certainly from the time that we had responsibility for our own governance on 4 February 1948 . Each and every Government which held office from 1948 till the present bear culpability for the failure to achieve good governance, national unity and a framework of peace, stability and economic development in which all ethnic, religious and other groups could live in security and equality. Our inability to manage our own internal affairs has led to foreign intervention but more seriously has led to the taking of arms by a desperate group of our citizens. we need to rectify this bad governance. We have already missed several opportunities in the past. We need to have State reform; we need to have rule of law established; we need to ensure non discrimination amongst our citizens; we need to have devolution of power and a tolerance of dissent and a strengthening of democratic institutions.’’ (Dhanapala is a Sinhalese and was formerly UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament)

      • Lanka liar

        SOrry Kumudini we are not discussing about the water problem. It has been raining and all water problem got solved.

    • kusum

      Kumudini

      Learning from Japan to build a culture of peace, National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, 14 November 2011: ”When the war ended in May 2009, it was the worst that was over, but the ethnic conflict that spans more than five decades is not yet over. …However, instead of promoting political reform that addresses the roots of the conflict and provides for post-war de-militarisation, the government has been more focused on national security through military strength ….Positive peace is where there is reconciliation, a change of heart, and a change of political structures that gave rise to war….Sri Lanka needs reconciliation between the government and Tamil people. We are in danger of failing to resolve the root causes of our war and recreating conflict once again.”

      Some of the main root causes will be addressed by the LLRC recommendations when they are implemented

    • Lanka liar

      KUmuthini
      Ok I will try my best. The whole world, UN, EU, India, USA, UK China,Iran, Myanmar , all political parties, religious organaizizations , people, Mervin, Karuna, Pillaiyan, every body want a solution to this problem. You seems to not know what the problem is. I think you are far behind in this game. It is normal it happens to many people. It is sometimes called blackout . Try some Vitamin D. For some people it has worked. Good luck.

    • rita

      Kumudini

      See the difference between the ways the Tamils and the Sinhalese are treated by the government:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEes9C-TB00
      9 May 2010, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited Kilinochchi and unveiled a war memorial, which was dedicated to the capture of the strategically placed Kilinochchi town by the Armed forces last January.
      (please take some time to view the function – I feel like being in Kandy and not Kilinochchi – the water(luxury for an average person in the North) for the grass !!)

      http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/05/feeling_of_deterioration_in_ja.html
      Feeling of Deterioration in Jaffna Must Be Reversed Without Delay, Jehan Perera, Chairman, National Peace Council, 10 May 2010: ‘’… there have been reports of a deterioration of conditions in the Jaffna peninsula, including threats, extortions, kidnappings and killings. The government needs to take responsibility for any concerns about crime since the Police is presently a central government function.”

      http://www.groundviews.org/2010/06/18/celebrating-war-victory-and-banning-commemoration-of-dead-civilians-this-is-%e2%80%9chome-grown-indigenous%e2%80%9d-reconciliation-and-freedom-in-sri-lanka/#more-3587
      Celebrating war victory and banning commemoration of dead civilians: this is “home grown & indigenous” reconciliation and freedom in Sri Lanka? Ruki, 18 June: ‘’… A Catholic priest in Jaffna told me that he had got several threatening calls asking him to cancel a religious event he had organized in Jaffna to commemorate civilians killed in the war. … In Vanni, an army officer had told a villager that he will shoot a parish priest and drag him behind his jeep, because he (the priest) was organizing prayer services for those killed in the war. Another priest was prevented from celebrating a holy mass to pray for those killed in the war on 19th May in the Vanni.’’

      http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/06/vanni_northern_sri_lanka_where.html
      Vanni, northern Sri Lanka, where war has never ended, 1 June 2010:
      ”The area is still actually in the hands of the military, which allowed the return of the population but force them to live in absolute poverty. The military blocks any attempts to improve their lives, but does not stop abuse and violence. … On most roads inside the Vanni, whether on the A9 or interior roads, I felt as if we were traveling within a military camp. Military camps and check posts were along all the roads. In Pooneryn, the main road literally ran through a newly built Army camp. In several other places including the A9 road, army camps occupied the main tarred road and we as civilians were forced to take a roundabout route, on muddy dusty makeshift pathways. In the more bushy and jungle areas, sign boards on the roadside indicated military camps inside the jungles. Soldiers were everywhere with uniforms and with weapons…. In view of the massive needs of the population for basic services and infrastructure, and the very weak civil administration and reluctance of the government to allow NGOs access to help those in need, people are compelled to depend on the military for even basic services like water…. Permission has been rejected for counselling, capacity building and empowerment activities”

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

    @kumudini

    Why don’t you travel to the North and East and see for yourself what sort of grievances these ungrateful Tamils who should be proud to be living in a paradise island have? :D

    ps. don’t forget to take a translator with you, and on your drive up to the North you could browse through a copy of the LLRC report. :D

    • kumudini

      I was under the impression that tamil is an official language in SL along with Sinhala. Is this not so ?. David Cameron the Uk Pm recently said that UK is a Christian country , we have to accept that which is a fact . Similiarly , SL is a Buddhist country and we have to accept the fact The problems arise only when certain people are in denial .The LLRC is a report to shut up the international community which they have succesfully achieved .

      • silva

        Tamil has been an ”official language” for about 2-30 years but the thing it has not been implemented according to LLRC submissions by civil servants and an article here a few months ago. Just as the Thirteenth Amendment.

  • vasanthan

    What about Isaipriya, Krishanti, Koneswary and other such Eelam Tamil women? Or do we cry only for Sri Lankan Tamil women a la Rajani?

  • Janus

    If every word Mr. Thiranagama says is true and there is no reason to believe that it is not, he was (past tense intended) a Sinhalese (it matters here) left wing activist married a Tamil (again, it matters) left wing activist who at some point became at least a LTTE sympathizer (assumption here is that medical treatment of fallen LTTE rebels is beyond on pure humanitarian grounds, although my assumption maybe erroneous) who later fallen into the wrong side of Prabhakaran’s ledger and paid the ultimate price for that sin. It was not clear from the writing that Dayapala was in anyone’s hit list (namely: JVP, LTTE or Premadasa & Company or any other group active during that dark period of Sri Lanka’s history) but I assume he was and hence the self-exile.

    Two decades and some change later numerous Sri Lankans (Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims etc.) are dead (those who took up arms as well as innocent by standers – euphemistic “collateral damages”), thousands of orphans and widows are shattered around the globe, thousands and thousands are still in detention camps – literally and metaphorically – and I am sure dreaming for the day they too can say “it’s great to be home.” Mr. Thiranagama is back home, minus his two daughters whom, according to him, are “independent.” He is “hopeful,” “fearful,” and facing “challenges,” and seeking some answers.

    Mr. Thiranagam is not the only one seeking answers. Just see anbu’s comment above. Actually anbu has some questions for Mr. Thiranagama. As anbu correctly identifies it, Rajini’s case is a “high profile” case. This is in no way to undermine the brutality of that senseless killing and the misery Mr. Thiranagama and their children went through, but to say that not every voice carries the same level of decibels and the dead silence of the voiceless is louder than the vociferous few. For instance, how many fathers or mothers who lost their spouses can show up at Heathrow and can claim their children independent after two decades? Where are the children of parents still rounded up in detention camps? Just assume for a minute that Mr. Thiranagama happened to be a Tamil (the reason I said Tamil/Sinhala matters in the beginning of this writing), could he come home? We very well know the answer but the question: why not, remains.

    Moreover, why only JVP, LTTE, UPFA, TNA should come clean? I don’t know anything about the groups Mr. Thiranagama was associated in the past, but what about them? Was the “Vikalpa Kandayama” promoting violence means to a justifiable end as Mr. Thiranagama seems to be subscribing to the notion that end justifies the means? Did they kill anyone? Did they promote killing anyone? Did they promote an “armed struggle?” Did they collect weapons? Was their actions made any children orphan and forced them to exile? If yes, is the answer to even one of the above questions, Mr. Thiranagama also owes answers. Perhaps that’s what he meant when he put “challenges” in the heading.

    The road that begins to just and tolerant Sri Lanka begins when folks like anbu above feels that he or she can go home too.

  • sumathy

    Anbu,

    I am Sivamohan Sumathy, one of Rajani Thiranagama’s sisters.
    I live and work in Sri Lanka and have done so for the last 25 years, barring a six year stint in the USA, where I was doing my graduate studies.

    As one of the members of Rajani’s family, which has come under your scrutiny and critique in the above comment, I would like to respond to it. But I would like to do it with a ‘real’ person. The charges you make are despite the kind of casting slurs like tone, rather serious. And I would like to respond to it, not to rebut what you say, but to engage in a discussion on the matter. But for me discussions of such a serious political nature have to carry some measure of mutual trust between the parties. I have no idea who you are or what your engagement with the political or the political unconscious of Sri Lanka/Sinhala/Tamil/Muslim is. I’d very gladly engage in a dialogue with you and others on this site, if you would also demonstrate some kind of trust in me and the other people by saying who you are ‘really.”
    Who you are ‘really’ can be a contentious issue. But here, at this moment, for me who stands before you as Sivamohan Sumathy, a name that is publicly recognized by the Sri Lankan state, other states, the LTTE and the general public at large, I think you should do the ‘decent’ thing and reveal who you are as a public figure. In simpler words, your public identity and name. Then I may be able to respond to your comment with sincerity and openness.

  • Rohini

    Kumudini,

    From your question, I can only say that you are not well educated on the subject. Read up on 1948, 1977, 1983, 2009. They are not just because fetching of water. If you cant read then get yourself an education first. I am sure MR will not like your comment on LLRC report. Do you think 40,000 in 2009 and much more lost their lives just over some minor difficulty as fetching water and tamil not being an official language. You do not have any common sense either.

    • kumudini

      To Rohini who is overloaded with common sense, intellegience to solve the world’s problems .

      The crux of the matter is there are problems with the language issue and severe economic problems all over the world . The tamils have over blown this problem to the rest of the world to the extent that some were comparing their problems to the apartheid in South Africa. The problems exists for the poor in SL not only confined to the Tamils .

      why I pointed out about the drinking water problem in paidiyathalawa is that most people are not aware of the problems that the poor vbillages in SL face , to basic commodoties like drinking water in this day and age . Who has spoken up for these people . They have been marginalised and forgotten , Get over it . go and help the poor people in Sl rather than make pundit comments .

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Janus

    I do not subscribe to the notion that end justifies the means.It seems that you are unable to understand the subtlety of the quotation from Darkness at Noon.Both the JVP and the LTTE murdered their unarmed critics and took away their right life in the name of ‘revolution’ or ‘national liberation’.The Sri Lankan state was not any different from them.It was them who subscribed to the notion, not me.

    However,you seek a lot of answers from me but wish to hide behind your pseudonym.
    If you need answers please read the following articles written by me.

    http/www.uthr.org/Rajani/new
    http//www.uthr.org/Rajani/keep memories
    http://www.srilankanguardian.org/end of the road for the armed struggle in Sri Lanka

    You also need to watch Rajani’s documentary

    http://www.pbs.org/pov/nomoretears

    Thanks

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Dear Traveling Academic

    You should have read the line before and after the one that you quoted from mine. If you have had you would have realised that your comment was unnecessary.

    Many thanks for reading again – this time in the context within which it has been said.

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Aachacharya,

    In response to what you said here. I will deal with your response point by point.

    1.You state that you need to be told what you are compromising for.You know very well that after the unexpected military defeat of the LTTE your position is much weaker than before. As I have stated in my last response you have no local democratic mass movement that would strengthen your bargaining power. Internationally you have lost a lot of friends including India because of the LTTE’s destructive and senseless politics over the years , after the assassination of Rajive Gandhi. India’s ability to influence the Sri Lankan government is not that effective as before due to the fact that Sri Lanka has somewhat moved away from the sphere of Indian influence, as China is coming closer to Sri Lanka. It is also important to point out that the TNA as the proxy of the LTTE has lost their political credibility to negotiate with the government.The government is stronger at present and the opposition has lost their capacity to take up the issues of importance . They are getting weaker day by day.Your only asset is a divided Tamil diaspora. No major political parties or the opposition in the South are talking about the devolution of power to the Tamil community as they have their own internal problems.Regionally and and locally the balance of forces are not in your favour. In such a situation, what are you compromising for? You should know nothing much you can ask for. In political terms you are being treated like a defeated army.It is said that defeated armies learn well. One should quite consciously must take into account the situation and make a compromise for what is on offer.Try to improve it. That can make a beginning. In my view it is a legitimate compromise given the weaker position you are in.When there is a consensus with the Sri Lankan government then you should seek appropriate international support to formalise it.This is what I meant when I suggested to get the international support.You say that after 18 rounds of negotiations you have not got anywhere, the TNA has not been able to secure a list of surrendees. This is in, my view a sensitive issue as it has implications for the issue of accountability.I do not say that you shod not ask for it. If you continue to quarrel over this, I do not think the negotiations can get off the ground. In politics, when you make compromises you are not forced to forget the past but it is the beginning of talking about the past.Nearly three decades of the armed struggle along the lines of narrow -nationalism that virtually isolated the Tamil community from the rest of the country and the world and it has its impact on the Tamil political thinking which goes against any compromise and sensible politics for a better tomorrow.That is how I see it.

    2. I still think that the TNA should start dissociating themselves from the LTTE politics and their past because that will help the Tamil community as well as the Southern polity to convince that they are humane,sensible and are willing to live in a united country and there is no hidden agenda. This should be part of their contribution to the accountability process.If they cannot do this they should let other sensible people to lead the Tamil community.If you want to pressurise the government on the issue of accountability you are adopting the Option1 as stated in my previous response.Again the issue is your inability to make compromises.

    3.You say that there is still not the right time to critically look at the LTTE.You think that the environment needs to evolve for this.The LTTE started going off the rail many years ago before they were finally defeated more than two years ago.Then perhaps you all thought that they would survive.Then you could not look at them critically.After more than two years of their defeat still you do not think there is a right kind of environment for this.What a hopeless and pathetic political argument!The LTTE and their sympathisers must fearlessly and honestly admit their mistakes and try to rectify them.That is the hallmark of the honest political organisation.This is why after 18 rounds of talks you have not got any where with the government.If you critically look at the LTTE, without delay, that will create a better environment to move forward rather than waiting for it. I would like to state that the LTTE also contributed to the prevailing oppressive environment, as they held these territories before they were finally defeated. I have contempt for any narrow nationalism not just narrow Tamil Nationalism because of my internationalist position in politics. But I fully support their true national aspirations based on freedom and democracy.you say that I should not blame the LTTE for the failure of the progressive forces in the South.Do not forget that during the entire war years more than two decades, the LTTE targeted innocent Sinhalese civilians in broader areas.We had a plan work with these Sinhalese and make them aware of the legitimacy of Tamil grievances. But the LTTE’s slaughter of the civilians did not help it at all.I all know that the old Left failed in relation to the national question.But there were new Left groups and NGO’s like MIRJ had done magnificent work at grass root level. All these collapsed due to the unrelenting killings of civilians by the LTTE. The LTTE had contempt for the Southern progressive forces and did not think that they needed any support from them.That was the crux of the matter.This ideology is still appears to be dominant and perhaps that is why you would like absolve them from any blame.

    4. You claim that the TNA has given up some of the fundamentals.This is because the international community and the South do not like these fundamentals.So they have something to hide.If this is the situation how can they negotiate with the government? How can you trust them?Are they genuine and honest in pursuing their own political line ?It appears that you need a new political leadership who are honest,open,sensible and straightforward in their dealings with the government and the Tamil community.

    5.Finally, thank you for acknowledging the painful sentiments in my article.Thank you for inviting me to Jaffna.I do not wish to expose your cover but I thought that people who would like to maintain pseudonymous existence on any site should not make such open invitations!Probably you have already got another pseudonym now.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Aacharya

      I think Tamil Nationalist politics can be done differently, but I wont discredit Tamil nationalist mode of politics for reasons that I have mentioned here

      In “Back to Basics,” you didn’t go to great lengths to explain what is so wonderful about ethnonationalism beyond quoting the leader of the Scottish National Party, and even he was not very forthcoming. It is unfortunate that you chose an example that does not translate well to Sri Lanka; Scotland was a preexisting kingdom before the UK was established, and all Britons agree where its boundaries are. This level of consensus hardly exists in Sri Lanka, even within the same constructed ethnic groups, which goes a long way to explain why ethnonationalism of all shades must necessarily have a violently hegemonic nature. The LTTE went around killing Tamils because it could not conceive of other means to achieve unity.

      If we are limiting the discussion strictly to Tamil nationalism, I have yet to come across a decent survey of that phenomenon (KNO Dharmadasa’s 1993 book on Sinhala nationalism was pretty good, except for his last chapter on postindependence history which blew chunks). If anything, M. Gunasingam’s attempt was far more revealing of the contradictions and inconsistencies of Tamil nationalism than its merits. You could add a great deal to the discussion if you could provide us an analysis of the origins of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism.

      In fact some of us in the Tamil civil society have criticised the TNA for giving up on our political fundamentals.

      As I suggested in that thread, who is “us?” How representative of the Tamil community was the list of signatories, when only twenty of the names come from places outside Jaffna? When I think of “civil society,” the first thing that comes to mind is the Colombo NGOs that are accountable only to the foreign governments that fund them. So what is “Tamil civil society?”

    • wijayapala

      Dear Dayapala Thiranagama,

      It is good to see you again on GV. There is much that I want to say, but I have no time. For now, I just have one question:

      This village has changed since I left it and will continue to change at increasing speed. It no longer bears the hallmark of destitution and abject poverty I witnessed as a child. It no longer exists in the same intensity. Both male and female wage labour has increased here.

      How did your village overcome poverty during 20 years of civil war, when the various left and right wing governments over the previous decades accomplished nothing? What do the people say? I ask because I have heard the same about many Sinhala villages, but have not come across any good explanation.

    • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

      1. Your first point Mr Thiranagama in short says ‘we’ have lost (I am indeed surprised by your use of the us v them language) and that the Tamils have to take what has been given. I am baffled that you can say:

      “It is said that defeated armies learn well. One should quite consciously must take into account the situation and make a compromise for what is on offer. Try to improve it. That can make a beginning. In my view it is a legitimate compromise given the weaker position you are in.”

      You seem to confirm that the defeat of the LTTE should be taken as a defeat of the Tamils and their cause. You even suggest that we should not even keep out of talks until a list of surendees is published. This is truly very unfortunate. The Government needs the talks to ward of international pressure and I think TNA should use the talks to find solutions to the day to day sufferings of the Tamil people. I am not going to take this space to debate geo-politics. But I think it is both wrong to over-estimate and under-estimate the geo political interests of international actors on Sri Lanka.

      2. In your response in paragraph 3 you say “After more than two years of their defeat still you do not think there is a right kind of environment for this. What a hopeless and pathetic political argument!”. It is not hopeless and pathetic as your argument in paragraph 1 to which I have responded above.

      All I was saying was that the continued oppression against the Tamil people does not create the space for a critical discussion about the LTTE. The LTTE was born out of the oppression of the Sinhala Budhdhist nationalist polity. Until the cause for the birth and origin of the LTTE dies away no critical discussion of the LTTE will be possible. Practically speaking it will be very difficult to initiate a proper on-the-ground conversation.

      And as I said in my first response it is indeed highly ironical that you can say this while arguing that we shouldn’t push too much on the accountability front when it comes to the Government and the Sinhala South!! You argue that I have to understand the sensitivities associated with pushing for even having a list of surendees published by the Government and that I shouldn’t be adamant about this.
      I have not absolved the LTTE from any blame by saying this. In my previous writings I have acknowledged the need to critically look at the past. But this can’t come via mere issuing of statements. The need is for a bottom-up national conversation. And I have in the past been open in acknowledging what was wrong about the LTTE (when they themselves were around) Hence, pardon me for saying this, I am in no mood to take lectures from anyone on this.

      3. In my earlier post I asked the question as to what the Sinhala progressives were doing 30+ years before the advent of the LTTE and also two years after the end of the war where these Sinhala progressives are. You seem not be able to answer that. I did not absolve the LTTE from any blame. I only said lets not paint a completely black and white picture.

      You say, “Do not forget that during the entire war years more than two decades, the LTTE targeted innocent Sinhalese civilians in broader areas. We had a plan work with these Sinhalese and make them aware of the legitimacy of Tamil grievances. But the LTTE’s slaughter of the civilians did not help it at all. I all know that the old Left failed in relation to the national question. But there were new Left groups and NGO’s like MIRJ had done magnificent work at grass root level.”.

      I am still not convinced by your causal analysis but all right. Pray tell me where are the Sinhala progressives now?

      4. Aachcharya is no cover. The face behind the veil (the pseudonym) is very well known (See for example: http://groundviews.org/2011/07/27/back-to-basics-the-need-for-an-honest-conversation-about-%E2%80%98sri-lankanness%E2%80%99-and-%E2%80%98sri-lankan-identity%E2%80%99/) And I have no other pseudonym. I have shown respect in my engagement with you. Am I to be blamed for thinking that you would be decent enough to return the favour?

  • Nimal

    Kumudini,

    By reading your comments and responses I assume you as a young energetic lady, ready to help people and get involved in public issues. I am not sure whether you were at Padiyatalawa under any project to help the villagers or not. For some NGO’s this is a discovery. .

    I served in many parts of the country and have seen all these problems. This situation has greatly improved please read what Thiranagama has written about his village after several years. Do you remember, how Premadasa’s drilled water well project has relved many thosands drinking water problem in dry zone. Physical infrastructure is changing rapidly and Padiyatalwa is not a new discovery.

    The ethnic problem is not having water or not having water or a thing that some can can discve over niught.

    Before asking the question, which Nalin Silva and Gunadasa Amarasekara used to ask I suggest you to read more about it and of course, reading some comments to this article seriously you may get better understanding about it with not much effort.

    I do not have to repeat it as other comments have already advised you to improve your political consciousness.I encourage you to read more and you can be a valuable contributor to this publication.

    Don’t get trapped into deffensive argument simply to save your face.

    • kumudini

      to Nihal.

      these are the projects we are responsible for .

      Bio farm located in the remote village of Siyabalawewa in Padaviya.
      Community project for 120 tsunani fanilies at koholankala in Hambantota.
      Aid for a blood donation collection centre in the ampara district
      IT education to a remote village school in kotmale Area .

      We do not attach dodgy NGO labels but work behind the scenes to improve the lives of the poor people . These are some of the projects and there are too many to be included here. This is a reply to Nihal who has queried whether I have visited Padiyathalwa, and advised me to improve my standard of education !.

  • wijayapala

    Mr Thirukumaran

    I believe Sri Lanka governments were ‘politically very stable’ during those times as well. In fact was there ever a time when Sri Lanka govts were/are ‘politically NOT very stable’?

    Did you miss the part where Dayapala quite clearly stated:

    Sri Lanka had become very unsafe, as there was not even the slightest regard for human life. All the parties who fought their armed opponents threw away almost all internationally accepted norms of warfare and when they had audacity to kill their unarmed critics or civilians they also threw away unhesitatingly all the civilised norms of resolving human and political conflicts…By 1989 the Sri Lankan state was in grave danger of being defeated by the armed groups led by the Sinhala extremist JVP.

    Why else do you think he left Sri Lanka with his two young daughters??????

  • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

    For a Sinhala translation of this article, please visit http://vikalpa.org/?p=8833 (courtesy Vikalpa)

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Wijayapala

    “How did your village overcome poverty during 20 years of civil war, when the various left and right wing governments over the previous decades accomplished nothing? What do the people say? I ask because I have heard the same about many Sinhala villages, but have not come across any good explanation”.

    I am pleased that you asked this question.

    My village has overcome poverty mainly for two reasons.
    (1)Full use of free education and
    (2)Access to free health care since Independence..These are two crucial life chances we received as children and young people.At the end of the 1960′s we started receiving remarkable results.A few us went to university and that set an ambitious example.By the 1970′s a lot families had sent their children to university.They were able take their families out of poverty when they started earning.

    There are other factors.This was a poor farming village before.Some these families had to support a higher number of children but farming was not enough to feed them.They suffered but were able to overcome their poverty and destitution to a significant degree by becoming wage labourers.Those who could not make it to university went to cities for jobs and brought back steady income for their families.The third generation of men and women work today in tourism,Koggala free Trade Zone and there is a a well known local shoe factory which provides stable employment for a large number of people.There are also public sector workers including school teachers.There is no visible unemployment. Significant number of men and women have joined armed forces. Still there is a very steady trend in pursuing higher education.That is why I stated in my article that this village will continue to change at increasing speed.
    Behind all these, I wish to point out another strong factor.

    I have also observed that there is a strong bond between the parents and their children that has helped to achieve a significant social and educational development in children and young people.In other villages in Sri Lanka there can be other positive local factors in getting out of poverty. I am not aware whether any one has undertaken some research studies to establish similar patterns.

    The basic foundation for social development was present in the early 1960′s and that trend has continued throughout slowly but steadily.This is now irreversible.The two mile long road that runs across my village was a muddy road with large potholes when we were children but it was carpeted two weeks ago.

    Hope I answered your questions.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Dayapala

      Thank you for your response. It seems that you are refuting my belief that all of the pre-war governments were totally incompetent and did nothing to help the poor people. Instead you are saying that the governments’ policies helped the people but it took decades for the effects to take place.

      The implications of your observations are quite clear- that with regard to the current problems in the northeast, there will be no quick solutions and that reconciliation will take a very long time. Is this what you are also thinking?

      • Agnos

        There is something that Dayapala said that caught my attention: “Significant number of men and women have joined armed forces.”

        Is it possible that the prosperity of such Sinhalese villages is based on the huge defense expenditure in recent years? If so, can that be sustained?

  • Janus

    Mr. Thiranagama:

    First of all, bear with my ignorance for not understanding the “subtlety” of your quotation, as I am not as erudite as you are and not well versed with Koestler or Gramsci (another name you dropped in your writing). I am sure they are able to shed a lot of light to what has happened in Sri Lanka and how we can fix our future. Sorry for the misunderstanding and I take your explanation of the quote. However, this is what happen when people just stick quotations out of context. Pea-brains like me read something else of them. Just for the curiosity, how much weight would have you lost in your writing had you not used that quote? Just curious.

    Second, you seems to have trouble with not knowing who I am, correct? Interesting. From the little I know pseudonyms have a very sacred place in journalism. People use pseudonyms for various reasons. They may be afraid to reveal their identity for fear. They may be protecting their affiliations. They may be protecting their livelihoods. They may think that what they say would be tainted if their identities were revealed. Or they may simple don’t want the limelight. There maybe more reasons and no reasonable journalist would say that any of these reasons would invalidates what a person has to say.

    Let’s see. Suppose I put the by-line as, say, Tikiribandara Wanigaratne, would that be suffice for you to answer? How about if I signed as: Rasapathy Arumugam? Would that have prompted you to respond? As you can see, neither would have given any more identity of me than Janus (actually, there is some subtlety to Janus, if you will), unless you would like to know my demographic and psychographic information along with my past and present political affiliations. I think you are looking for the latter so you know my “line.” Also, as the names reveals ethnic identities, Wanigaratne, and Arumugam would have had an impact on how to respond and no reasonable person will doubt that.

    I took the pain for this long explanation since this is a cancer in Sri Lanka. We want to know all about who writes so we can put the correct reading glass when we read them.

    Let’s try to shoot some radiation to this cancer so we can look at what a person has to say than who said it. (This is in no way to suggest all writings should be anonymous. For example, what you have written has little value without your by-line). Let’s look at the merits of the ideas and carry out a dialogue irrespective of who said it.

    Finally, Mr. Thiranagama, I didn’t expect you to respond and my questions were rhetorical. You could have certainly addressed the issues I raised with an open mind if they would improve our understanding of the nightmare we all went through – and still living in. However, by choosing not answer them and saying it loudly, YOU DID answer them. How illuminating!

  • Travelling Academic

    Dear Aachcharya,

    Yes – I am guilty of taking your sentence out of context. That was because my stance on this is absolute. To me, whatever the context is, it is important to acknowledge that much evil was committed in my name (and without my consent), so that an honest discussion can take place within the Tamil community as to what exactly is it that we want, and how exactly do we intend achieving this, in a climate in which we don’t seem to have any friends.

    Indeed, I am fully aware of the state of oppression Tamils live under; I have travelled to Jaffna twice recently and know precisely how its population is made to feel like being inmates of an open prison. I have seen the humiliation the Tamil population is put through on a day to day basis. I am aware Vanni is even worse.

    But none of that should stop us, Tamils, from taking a critical look at the path that brought us here. And such a critical look will first acknowledge the errors made / evils committed in our names. I worry when I meet fellow Tamils who continue to believe that all that evil was justified because something worse was done to us, or somebody else started it first. Their belief is not helpful in breaking the present deadlock and progressing towards giving our people a slightly better life they deserve.

    Hence my comment, and I repeat: if the present Tamil leadership cannot even get Thiranagama on our side, what chance does it have of persuading Rajapakse of anything?

    • wijayapala

      Travelling Academic,

      if the present Tamil leadership cannot even get Thiranagama on our side, what chance does it have of persuading Rajapakse of anything?

      Here I would respectfully disagree- it would be impossible to convince MR of anything because he has no interest in changing anything. The status quo is entirely to his advantage. Personally I feel that Tamil anger against him is justified, given the crass, insensitive manner in how he denied any civilian deaths.

      The key mistake that Aacharya and his/her fellow travellers are making is their assumption that MR can be ousted from power without the support of the Sinhala majority. You are entirely correct that the first step is to sway Tamil-friendly people like Mr Thiranagama. But as you pointed out, it would be impossible to enlist any Sinhalese (outside the deranged Brian Senewiratne variety) without explicitly disowning the LTTE. They will also need some kind of common vision for the future that will work for the Sinhalese, which as Mr Thiranagama argued will involve compromise.

      I would be the last to urge them to negotiate with MR himself, but if they have no interest in reaching out to the Sinhala community writ large then it is difficult to sympathise with their failure to achieve anything.

      • Agnos

        Wijayapala,

        Mr. Anandasangaree did precisely what you are suggesting. What did he get in return from Sinhalese society at large, Tamil-friendly or otherwise?

        I don’t think Aacharya and others (for instance those who signed the civil society statement about TNA being adrift) are making the assumption that ” MR can be ousted from power without the support of the Sinhala majority.” Rather, they are restating what they consider as their principled positions, regardless of what the Southern polity is willing to give.

      • wijayapala

        Agnos

        Mr. Anandasangaree did precisely what you are suggesting. What did he get in return from Sinhalese society at large, Tamil-friendly or otherwise?

        Unfortunately he was virtually alone in making his appeals. If he had won the 2010 elections instead of the TNA, he would have been in a stronger position to articulate Tamil concerns.

        Rather, they are restating what they consider as their principled positions, regardless of what the Southern polity is willing to give.

        Why not state the principled position that the LTTE was a curse on the Tamils and that the separatist war accomplished nothing for them? It is this sort of statement that can help begin the process of reconciliation.

    • Travelling Academic

      Agnos,

      > they are restating what they consider as their principled
      > positions, regardless of what the Southern polity is willing
      > to give.

      What exactly is the point in stating such a principled position, if (a) there is no chance of negotiating it out of the Sinhala polity, (b) has no support from India, (c) the process by which we chose to achieve this in the recent past has no sympathy from western countries, and (d) this position itself probably has not much support from Tamils, many of whom cannot express their views without fear of being tied to the lamp post, called traitors and shot?

      Please see my first comment in this thread – declaring someone as traitor and shooting him/her is *still* seen as perfectly acceptable to some in our community. So much so that they are willing to share such thoughts on a facebook wall!

      All I am saying is we should have the courage to distance ourselves from such evils, and open the space for a more honest debate within the Tamil community. Would you not agree?

      • Agnos

        TA,

        Of course, I would agree with that. There will always be sections of our people who are not mature, emotionally and intellectually, and react the way you describe, and such things need to be condemned. There is also no question that Tamils need to acknowledge the evils of the LTTE and chart a new path away from that.

        But I think the basic point of Aachcharya is that people should not lump Tamil nationalism with the way LTTE arrogated to itself that mantle; that Tamil nationalism in itself is a perfectly legitimate reaction to the conditions in Sri Lanka. That in a situation where the regime that claims to be democratically elected is itself evil, with its continuing abductions and murders, it is hard for the victimized population to focus on the LTTE’s evils and disregard the “resistance” factor.

        A request to disown the LTTE is perfectly fine if it comes from within Tamil society or progressives from other ethnic groups who have taken principled positions and consistently stood up for justice. But it is obscene and only adds insult to injury if it comes from those who support the current regime despite all its evils, those who whitewash its crimes, and those who are consumed by triumphalism.

      • Travelling Academic

        Agnos,

        >
        > There is also no question that Tamils need to acknowledge
        > the evils of the LTTE and chart a new path away from that.
        >
        Very good — we are agreed, thank you. Can I stretch this line a bit more please? When you say:
        >
        > A request to disown the LTTE is perfectly fine if it
        > comes from within Tamil society or progressives from
        > other ethnic groups who have taken principled positions
        >
        I don’t understansd why this need to be made conditional on the messenger? If it is good for us Tamils to disown the LTTE, let us just go ahead and do it and move forward; why argue over who has the right sort of CV to make the call? And just because the wrong person also happens to recommend the right thing, should we not do it?

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Wijayapala
    They did nothing to help the poor people.The countryside was badly hit.The JVP’s 71 insurrection attracted unemployed youths in the South from rural areas where the poverty and destitution was rampant.Even after the insurrection there was no poverty alleviation programme to improve the living conditions of these areas. I am afraid there will be no quick solutions, and it can take decades to witness some change. Another drawback here is the effects of the destructive Eelam war that ended only a couple of years ago.The South did not go through such a destructive and prolonged armed conflict.The North East is already about three decades behind at present when you make a start.

    Agnos is making a comment on the sustainability of the prosperity based on the huge defence expenditure.The huge defence expenditure is a burden on the Sri Lankan economy but these villages benefit from that.The dependents of soldiers who died in action receive their salaries and it is a regular and stable income.Given the Sri Lankan political developments at present,it does not appear that the government is planning to scale down the armed forces.

    • wijayapala

      Dayapala

      They did nothing to help the poor people.

      I am now confused. Did you not credit 1) free education and 2) free healthcare as two factors behind the upliftment of your village?

      • Dayapala Thiranagama

        Wijayapala
        Free health and free education are state policies.They are universally available ,everybody has access to it. But the respective governments have not implemented any specific programmes to alleviate poverty.That is my point.

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Aachcharya
    Thank you for your response.
    1.You are surprised by my use of the us v them language.It was not intentional.I am sorry if I hurt you. However,when I said “you” have lost ,what I meant was the political line the Tamil nationalist have been pursuing even after the military defeat of the LTTE.I do not associate with it.It is not my political line. Hence the use of us and them language.
    You say that I seem to confirm that the defeat of the LTTE should be taken as a defeat of the Tamils and their cause . You disagree with me.I welcome your optimism. However, the LTTE was, as they claimed it , the sole representative of the Tamils and Prabaharan was their national leader. On this basis the LTTE annihilated all the militant groups and the TULF leadership and others who were holding dissenting views.They never spared any one who would be a potential activist or would be a possible challenger to their politics.When the LTTE went down at Vellaimullaivikkal, they also took away the possibility of any revival of the Tamil nationalist political line for a generation.That is my assessment.If the Tamil political line was not defeated with the defeat of the LTTE, you need to tell the reader what this line is and how different it is from the previous political lines of other parties or more precisely, the LTTE political line. This is a good opportunity for you to debate that political line.I also would like to know the place of Muslims in your politics as they were forcibly evicted by the LTTE from Jaffna.

    You say that you do not wish to discuss geo-politics in relation to the Tamils at this point.But you say that it is both wrong to over -estimate and under-estimate the geo-political interests of international actors on Sri Lanka. How do you back up your statement? It is really significant for you to have a reasonably precise assessment. Prabaharan and the LTTE leadership had to pay a heavy price for their incorrect assessment. They thought that India or the West would come to their rescue but that did not happen.They paid the ultimate price for their ignorance. Even the aftermath of the war you know very well how significant is some of the international actors when you deal with the government.

    I still think that you should not keep out of talks, even if you do not get a list of surendees. That is because you should not keep the government off the hook.They would like it in that way.They would say in the South that how adamant the TNA are and how unwilling they are to engage with the government. It is also important to learn from the IRA and the British government how they kept the discussion going for years. As I explained in my previous reply, the history is not on your side.You also need to keep the pressure on the government but you need to assess how far it would work.

    2.You still do not think there is a space for critical discussion about the LTTE.This is what you say

    All I was saying was that the continued oppression against the Tamil people does not create the space for a critical discussion about the LTTE. The LTTE was born out of the oppression of the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist polity. Until the cause for the birth and origin of the LTTE dies away no critical discussion of the LTTE will be possible. Practically speaking it will be very difficult to initiate a proper on-the-ground conversation. 

    If you wait for the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist polity to die away for a critical discussion of the LTTE, your critical discussion will not take place in this generation. It will never take place.In that case it will not even happen in hundred years. The Sinhala Buddhist nationalist polity will not die away and will remain for thousands and thousands of years.Practically speaking, your critical discussion will not happen. Your excuses are farcical. You become an apologist for the LTTE and their politics. If you are unable to condemn the LTTE’s gruesome murders of those Tamil victims who merely had dissenting views, if you are unable to condemn the annihilation of other militant groups and their unarmed followers and the TULF leadership, the slaughter of innocent civilians in boarder areas and in the South, the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Jaffna , forcible recruitment of children into the LTTE army and the assassination of Rajeev Gandhi, what hopes are there to guarantee that these barbaric acts will not be repeated again in the Tamil community? Many of these are crimes against humanity and you need to take a very clear stand on these issues.You do not have to wait any longer for this. If one cannot undertake this criticism of the LTTE , for God’s sake, one should do not get involved in Tamil politics.You need to tell the Tamil community as well as the Sinhalese community what you think about the atrocities committed by the LTTE.
    You say that you do not need to take lectures on this.And you also say that you criticised them when they were around. I do not intend to lecture on this to you.But I need to say this much.If you criticised the LTTE , when they were around, perhaps you would have been the only person, they have spared.
    You also claim that the LTTE was born out of the oppression of the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist polity. This argument is in correct.The direct result of the Sinhala Buddhist polity is the growth of Tamil consciousness as a nation, and the national oppression becoming a fact of life since Independence in the North and East,up country and other areas in the South.When the Tamils were attacked, it was quite justifiably that the Tamil Nationalist feelings went high and they wanted the TULF to sort out things with the Sinhalese government.But there was no strong leadership.The LTTE was born out of the erroneous assessment of the TULF and the LTTE that the political space for state reforms were closed.It was still opened but there were feelings of disappointment everywhere, that was no reason for an armed struggle.The TULF had run out of ideas.The second reason for the LTTE’s birth was there was Prabaharan who had contempt for political and legal work and believed that the armed struggle was the only way out.

    3.You have real difficulty in acknowledging what the Left has done to improve the understanding of the Tamil grievances in the South.I concede that the old Left has failed in this.But there was a time that they were the guiding light when the when the Sinhala Only Act was passed in parliament.We still study what they have done and where they failed in their endeavour in order to lean lessons.That legacy is very important for us to move forward.You are unable to accept that the slaughter of innocent civilians did not make any impact on the work we had undertaken in the South.Basically you do not trust that the progressive forces in the South have any role to play in defeating the Tamil national oppression. It appears that your brand of Tamil nationalism has contempt for progressives forces in the South.This also became part of the LTTE politics and ideology.In fact the TULF was more home with the UNP than the so called Left wing governments in the South.
    You want to know where the progressives forces are now.

    You would know some of the progressives in the North were assassinated by the LTTE.Remember,comrade Annamalai who was gunned down by the LTTE because he was a member of the NSSP of Wichramabahu Karunaratne.Wickramabahu still supports the Tamils Right to Self -Determination despite this senseless murder.They also assassinated the Communist Party members in the North.There are other groups and individual in the South who would take a similar stand on the National Question.But I accept that we need to start from scratch.

    4. If Aachacharya is not your cover I apologise to you for my erroneous understanding.

  • Agnos

    TA,

    The truth is most people were privately very critical of the LTTE even before the final Vanni war. If you read the UTHR-J reports, they point to the fact that even people within the LTTE, those like V.Balakumar, had begun to dissent. It was the fear of strengthening the hands of racist regimes that prevented people from very publicly voicing their criticism of the LTTE–apart from fear of the LTTE itself.

    So from my perspective, for many, the call to “disown” does not make sense because they did not “own” it in the first place. Except for a small number of progressives, others making such calls are simply chauvinists or propagandists who remain oblivious of the enormity of the atrocities they themselves had heaped upon the Tamil people.

    Within that small minority of Tamils who do continue to see the LTTE as good, it will take time for their views to change. When some form of justice is done for the war crimes and continuing atrocities by the regime, when there is rule of law, you will be in a position to convince them. Until then, their assertion that there is no way the Southern polity will ever do justice to Tamils, that it is impossible to make peace with the South, will continue to have some validity.

    Anyway, I have no intention of visiting SL anytime soon, and I have increasingly little contact with people on the ground. Since you seem to be visiting there at least once a year, you are in a better position to talk to people on the ground about it. Sorry I don’t have more time on my hand to continue this discussion.

    • wijayapala

      Agnos,

      It was the fear of strengthening the hands of racist regimes that prevented people from very publicly voicing their criticism of the LTTE

      Is it also possible that fear of strengthening the hands of separatists and LTTE supporters is preventing Sinhala people from publicly voicing their criticism of the Rajapakshas?

  • Travelling Academic

    Agnos,

    Well, well,… it is disappointing you don’t want to continue the discussion, ducking out when asked a direct question which is a natural extension to a point you agreed with me about. Let me also sign off by saying that I find shortage of time to be an amusing reason, given the detective work you did in the past to unmask authors behind pseudonyms by analysing their styles of writing!! Bye.

    • Agnos

      TA,

      On your direct question –

      >>And just because the wrong person also happens to recommend the right thing, should we not do it?” >>

      It is a matter of how to react to that “wrong person”—I have no problem with acknowledging the evils done by the LTTE, and asking fellow Tamils to do the same publicly, but if the wrong person tells me that I should do it, I would still react by saying, “What credibility—standing, morality– do you have, Mr. Liar/Mass Murderer/Abductor/Rapist, to ask me to do it?”

      You should see the reaction of the TNA, or people like Aachcharya, in that context. I don’t think they would be reluctant to do what you are asking them to do, but they may do it only at the right venue, to the right audience.

      Also, you are assuming incorrectly that it takes me time to identify people by their writing styles. It doesn’t take me any time to ask, for instance, “what do Accuratus Numeratus, Vikram A. Thithan and Sivapuranam Thevaram have in common?”

      OK, Bye for now.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Dayapala,

    I have a little more time to write. I want to congratulate you for successfully raising two daughters to adulthood and independence. Also I want to point out that at the time of this writing, your article is still the most viewed according to the statistics, even though few people have commented (more people have commented on the Clouds of Deception article, which has 2,000 less views than your article despite being published 5 days earlier). This shows that you have a large audience, although they may be silent.

    You have given us an analysis of the current situation of Sri Lanka, but you have not shared your plans. I have a few observations to add to your comparison of 1989 and today, namely that the country is even more ethnically polarised *today* than it was back then, or at any other time in Sri Lankan history. In 2010 elections, UPFA won a full 60% of the vote, most probably with minimal minority support. Some Sinhala nationalists have referred to this Mahinda phenomenon as the “second revolution,” the first being SWRD in 1956. In 1956 elections, the MEP won only 40% of the vote on the Sinhala Only platform, even after the Upcountry Tamils had been disenfranchised.

    I am giving this comparison to show the unprecedented extent of Sinhala “unity” that exists today. This false unity is dangerous not only because it estranges the Sinhalese from the other communities, but because it conceals the differences within the Sinhala community. The only thing that all Sinhala people had in common- rich, poor, urban, rural, Buddhist, Catholic etc.- had been the fear and loathing of the LTTE. Because this new “Sinhala bloc” that never existed historically is essentially the product of the LTTE and its overseas supporters, it can never have a positive impact on the country as a whole. A more wholesome division of politics would be left vs right, with individuals of each community arraying themselves on each side according to their socioeconomic interests. Yet as you pointed out, the left (JVP, Old Left) and right (UNP) are in disarray.

    Sir, I asked you about the changes in your village because it is time to conduct a reassessment of the socioeconomic situation in the country. I am fairly certain, although I have no evidence, that other rural areas have not been as lucky as your village. My own origins are from Sabaragamuwa and I have seen many changes over the past two decades. But what about other places? I visited Mahiyangana a few years ago, and I was astonished how little Uva Province had changed. It was almost like being in India, except that everything was written in Sinhala, and it was surreal to contrast the modern earthworks constructed through the Mahaweli Project to the surrounding poverty (JRJ’s “gift”). I have not seen Hambantota but I suspect it is the same with the construction of the new port.

    It also may be worth examining the new JVP dissident faction, which claims to have Tamil support. This may be wishful thinking, but you do not need explanation of the potential if the lumpen sections of the Sinhala and Tamil communities can find common cause. It is true that JVP has a racist past, but I suspect the most racist elements joined the govt with Wimal.

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Wijayapala

    Thank you for the acknowledgement.

    You state that my article has attracted less comments than the Clouds of Deception, despite having a larger audience. Thank you for pointing out that but I do not wish to make any comments on their silence in relation to my article. If they would like to keep their silence, I need to respect it at this point.

    You would like me to share my plans. I would like to get involved in educational and awareness work in the South, in order to convince the Sinhalese Buddhist polity about the Tamil grievances.This is a major challenge at this point, in our politics. If we can achieve some degree of success during our life time, that will be a worthy investment. But in politics, nothing can be taken for granted.

    I agree with you that the country is ethnically more polarised today than in 1989. But there are also positive factors which would be conducive to the resolution of the ethnic problem. The JVP led Sinhala Buddhist violent opposition to the devolution of power is no longer there today. The LTTE’s comprehensive military defeat has taken off the possibility of a separate state from the political equation.The international opinion is more in line with a negotiated political settlement to devolve power. However,the Sinhala leadership needs to be courages and bold in devolving power. But the new Sinhala block has a negative impact on any negotiated political settlement, no one can deny this.Unless the opposition gets its act together the Sinhala block will remain strong in the foreseeable future. At any rate, the Rajapakas political influence will have a strong impact for a longtime unless they do political blunders, and their electoral appeal will receive a strong backing from the Sinhala polity.They will be more popular and effective than the Bandaranayake family.The Sinhala block has politically obliterated the class divisions at present but when the economic hardships are on the rise these divisions will re- surface.

    My village has had a distinct advantage in combating poverty.I know other areas did not have the same kind of success.In my previous reply I suggested that we need to do some research to identify what works in some areas.

    The JVP dissident faction claims that some of the ex-LTTE cadres have joined them.We need to see how things will evolve in the future.You say that the JVP has a racist past and would like to believe that most racist elements in the JVP joined the government with Wimal.

    The JVP both the Somawansa and the dissident factions have wowed that they still accept Wijeweera’s Indian Expansionism as a guide to the National Question in Sri Lanka. As long as they accept that as a guide, they will be against any devolution of power to the Tamils, and they have a politically very unhealthy analysis about the Up country Tamils.That was the reason , they started killing the Left activists between 1987-89 who supported the devolution of power to the Tamils. For them the devolution of power to Tamils is part of Indian Imperialism that has to be defeated at any cost. They believe that the Socialist Revolution will resolve the National Question and this means until such times the Tamil community needs to live without democracy and freedom!Thus, they reduce democracy and political freedom to economics. If they oppose the devolution of power now, just imagine what will happen when the ‘Socialist Revolution’ is victorious.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Dayapala

      Thank you for sharing your plans. I support the general idea of educating Sinhalese on the Tamils and why the Tamils feel alienated. Your experiences living in Jaffna will help a great deal in explaining how they are not very different from us. You are in a good position to dispel popular misconceptions of the Tamils, which are a lot.

      Having said that, I do not see how you will convince Sinhala people on the merits of devolution. The 20+ year experience with the useless Provincial Councils has left a sour taste, and there will be celebrations if the 13th Amendment is repealed. Also the dim-witted Colombo NGOs have been spreading stories that the Tamils will start killing people again if they do not get devolution (such as found in Leela Isaac’s recent article). If there was any chance that the Sinhalese would support devolution, then the current “Sinhala bloc” would actually be a good thing because Mahinda has the parliamentary supermajority to amend the Constitution.

      As I am an opponent of devolution myself, I do not see how courage and boldness will push the leadership to devolve power (unless it is the ignorant and naive version of courage), and since it will never work even if implemented on paper the Tamils’ frustration will only harden. I am somewhat surprised that you support devolution; I thought that only the Colombo pseudo-intellectual elite, who never travel to the countryside and certainly are uninterested in how devolution would affect the average person, support devolution after a single “research” vacation to Switzerland or Canada. Even among the Tamils, devolution historically was an enterprise of the middle-classes and not for the lumpen sections who voted Communist. Conservative elements in Latin American countries often used devolution to entrench themselves, given the leftists’ tendency to gain greater influence within the central government.

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Wijayapala
    The 13th Amendment is the best available at present.There is no other option . I disagree that it has left a sour taste . That is not the experience in the South. You think there will be celebrations, if the 13th Amendment is repealed.Probably the JVP will celebrate as the they were the violent opponents to it when it was first introduced. But they have worked with Provincial Councils for more than 20 years.

    In my view, the decentralization of power is likely to succeed in Sri Lanka, given its ethnic diversity.It has worked well for India and we should follow their example.

    I also think the Sinhalese leadership needs courage and boldness in taking decisions in relation to the resolution of our ethnic crisis. You seem to suggest that unless they have ‘ignorant and naïve version of courage’ such attributes will not work. Both SWRD and Dudley dithered and abrogated their pacts with the Federal Party in the face of mounting opposition by the Sinhala Buddhist forces . Probably their boldness and courage was not ignorant and naïve version of courage. Then, we need to find leaders who have ‘ignorant and naïve version of courage’.Those are the people who will be able to make history.

    • Nuwan

      Dear Dayapala:

      I believe you are correct on the issue of the 13th amendment–look at this report here. According to the report, almost all the communities in Sri Lanka feel that the 13th amendment is a good way to distribute power among all groups in Sri Lanka:

      http://ices.lk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/20111207_PSRP_Booklet.pdf

      • wijayapala

        Nuwan, thanks for sharing the survey. It seems that the respondents not only feel that the Provincial Councils ensure fair access to resources, but that they are a waste of resources too! This is why I don’t believe in surveys!

    • wijayapala

      Dear Dayapala

      The 13th Amendment is the best available at present.There is no other option

      Option to do what? How many Tamils aside from Mr Devananda support the 13th Amendment? What does the TNA as the elected leaders of the Tamils have to say about 13th Amendment?

      I disagree that it has left a sour taste . That is not the experience in the South.

      Could you share anything that the Provincial Councils have done for the people?

      It has worked well for India and we should follow their example.

      Why should Sri Lanka ape what India, a country where the average state is two or three times the size of the entire island, is doing? Did “decentralisation” stop war from breaking out in Punjab, Kashmir, or NE India?

      To play devil’s advocate, why not follow the example of China which is also ethnically diverse but is a unitary state?

      Both SWRD and Dudley dithered and abrogated their pacts with the Federal Party in the face of mounting opposition by the Sinhala Buddhist forces

      And what would the “Sinhala Buddhist forces” have done if SWRD or Dudley had not “dithered?” Would these forces have jumped for joy and celebrated the pacts with ITAK?

      You are a follower of politics; isn’t politics the art of the possible?

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Nuwan

    Thank you.
    Dayan’s article, ‘Problem and Solution:Parameters of Possibility’ on GV is based on this report.

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Wijayapala

    Thank you for pointing out to me that politics is the art of the possible.That is why I would like to argue that the TNA should accept the 13th Amendment and move on.The TNA as the elected leaders of the Tamils would like to get much more than the 13th Amendment but the local and regional of forces are not in their favour.You should tell the TNA , not me, that politics is the art of the possible, because they do not seem to understand the situation.

    You would like me to share anything that the Provincial Councils have done for the people.The Provincial Councils have given a political structure for the people to express their democratic wishes and aspirations.It is a boost to local democracy. Apart from such political advantages, some Provincial Councils have undertaken various projects such as irrigation,road development,sanitation projects for school children and welfare initiatives for the elderly and the disabled people.

    The ICES study, Seeking Space for State Reforms shows what Provincial Council have done for the people.
    “With the exception of the Up-country Tamils who seem to have a negative
    perspective on the usefulness of Provincial Councils, the other communities
    all agreed that they enabled people to have fair access to resources (81%), give all
    communities a voice at the provincial level(80%) and could resolve the problems
    faced by the minority community(73.5%)” (page 24).I think this answers your question.

    In order to discredit the sharing of power with the centre , you have focused on some Indian states where decentralization has not worked as expected.
    I agree that in some places in India, decentralization has not worked, that does not mean we should not learn from them and apply the successes they have achieved in others to our own situations.

    Both SWRD and Dudley should have been bold and courages in honouring their agreements with the Federal Party. What they did was inexcusable. At least, SWRD could have got the support of the old Left and managed the political opposition.

    • Nuwan

      Dear Dayapala:

      Since you have experienced life in Jaffna and was also married to a Tamil woman, I am guessing that you have more insight into the political aspirations of the Tamil community, particulary the northern one, than I do. Do you believe that the full implementation of the 13th ammendment plus package–apparently, just this week, Rajapakse promised that he would be implementing it to its fullest extent–would solve the majority of grievances held by the minority communities? Do you think that it if it was implemented fully, it would help tone down some of the LTTE elements in the diaspora(I know the LTTE is gone and no longer a treath,however, the LTTE’s popularity is still in full force,based on the popularity of the Heroes Day Celebrations in the west)?

  • Burning_Issue

    Dear Nuwan,

    I am a Tamil from Jaffna. I have never supported separatism but have been acutely conscious about the security of the Tamils; never contributed to the LTTE in any means but felt their utter demise would send the Tamil mind set into a prism of insecurity and total helplessness. The total demise of the LTTE is certainly good for the country as a whole only if the forward moment is centred on equality and fairness. Two years on from the end of hostilities, I do not see any evidences of equality and fairness; why one needs any agreement to show such noble courses?

    Let’s face it, as soon as the hostilities have ended, even before dust has settled, Buddha statues have been appearing among the devastated areas. The people are under constant humiliation with military overseeing the civil matters. The women are being harassed on a daily basis. Most importantly, the demography of the North and East is being dramatically artificially altered with exclusive Sinhala settlements. Most of the state aids are allegedly being given to the Sinhala settlements. Of course MR has promised the full implementation of the 13th amendment; but not yet, as GR said, once the North and East have become multicultural on par with Colombo, the 13th Amendments will be implemented! In another words, the power will still rest with the majority community! Do you see Fairness and Equality in the treatment of the Tamils in Sri Lanka? If you were a member of the Diaspora Tamils, how would you feel?

    • Nuwan

      Dear Burning Issue:

      I’m sorry if my statement came off the wrong way–I did not mean to imply that all of the Tamil diaspora are Tiger supporters or anything like that. I just wanted to know if the 13th amendment would actually solve the grievances the minorities have. In my view, federalism would be the best option for the minorities, but of course, that’s not happening for a few decades. I know that the Tamil-speaking people in Sri Lanka have suffered far too much, and I was hoping Dayapala could provide insight to the implications of the 13th amendment+ package on the well being of our minorities. Even the majority of Sinhalese people are in favor of the provincial councils and the majority Sinhalese do believe that the Tamils have been treated unfairly. That’s based on a recent study that was published(that was an article on groundviews and that I posted here earlier, nonetheless). Based on this, I am hoping the country heads in a new direction. I can completely empathize with your fear and apprehension(although I have many SL Tamil friends, I don’t think I can ever say I know what it’s like to be a Tamil in Sri Lanka).

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Nuwan
    It will be very difficult to say whether the13th Amendment would meet the national aspirations of the Tamil community, even it is implemented. It will be a very good start in meeting the aspirations of the people in the North and East. Even it is fully implemented, the Diaspora Tamils will not be silent.The truth is that the LTTE was comprehensively defeated only militarily in May 2009 and it was a setback for them.But they are not ideologically and politically defeated. The TNA’s refusal to condemn the LTTE’s barbarity is an indication that the LTEE is ideologically and politically alive.The LTTE brand of Tamil nationalism generates very powerful nationalist passions and that would fuel the struggle for separation in coming years. The Sinhalese leadership should learn not only how to win the war but win the Tamil community politically. Will they ever learn? You can see the comments made by Burning Issue and their deep frustrations. They feel that they are unfairly treated and humiliated. As long as they feel that they are unfairly treated and humiliated, will you expect them to be passive observers of what is happening to their community?

    • Nuwan

      Dear Dayapala:

      Thanks for the response–however, I think maybe you have misunderstood what I was saying. My comment was not directed towards ALL of the diaspora–only to the section of the diaspora, whether large or small, that is still stuck on separatism and the Tigers. If you read my response to Burning Issue, maybe you will get a better idea of what I meant. I want the diaspora to feel peace one day and feel like they can trust the Sinhalese people and the Sri Lankan government. By the way, have you been to the north-east recently, Dayapala? If so, is there anything you can say about how things are proceeding there?

    • wijayapala

      Dear Dayapala

      You should tell the TNA , not me, that politics is the art of the possible, because they do not seem to understand the situation.

      Dayan J has made the same argument along the lines that politically speaking, the Tamils are insane and have no connection with reality. I beg to differ, and would go as far as to suggest that it may be you and other Sinhala enthusiasts of 13A (since there are no Tamil supporters) who do not understand.

      The TNA does not support 13A because it does not seek a resolution to the “ethnic conflict” that is not on its terms. TNA understands that if it accepts 13A, with all its inherent flaws, then it will also have to accept responsibility for whatever lapses in governance that would occur in a TNA-controlled Provincial Council. The TNA would then lack the ability to criticise 13A at that point, having accepted it. On the other hand, the TNA has absolutely nothing to lose by opposing 13A and maintaining a confrontational stance.

      You and Dayan now might have ideas that TNA is being selfish and inconsiderate of well-being of Tamils, OR they are plain stupid. The truth, I think, is that the leaders of the TNA very well understand that devolution will never work and specifically will never be able to deliver anything for the Tamils. Not only TNA but the pre-war TULF and ITAK understood this as well. There is no other explanation why they demanded things that they knew the Sinhala people would never agree to.

      I am not trying to suggest that TNA has some grand conspiracy in mind or that TNA never makes mistakes (far from it, there was no greater mistake than supporting the LTTE). I am simply suggesting that TNA is not as dumb as you and Dayan believe it is.

      I recommend reading Burning_Issue’s post here. See how he talks about “insecurity” and “helplessness” first. Then he discusses “humiliation.” Those are the key most important issues that we (Sinhalese) have to address. The demand for devolution is merely a symptom or signal of these conditions, and you and Dayan are addressing only the symptom not the disease itself.

      The Provincial Councils have given a political structure for the people to express their democratic wishes and aspirations.

      Then how come the people are not calling for the full implementation of 13A in the South?

      The ICES study, Seeking Space for State Reforms shows what Provincial Council have done for the people.

      The study also shows that most people believe that the Provincial Councils are a waste of resources and was imposed by India. You and Nuwan appear to have missed those inconvenient details.

      The contradictory results of the ICES study expose its poor research design. For political issues it is simply bad survey methodology to ask yes and no questions, because politics is not about yes and no but rather about making choices and priorities. For example, what if the study had asked the question, “Which political candidate would you vote for, all other of their positions being the same: the one who supports 1) repealing 13A and eliminating the Provincial Councils, 2) keeping the status quo, 3) fully implementing 13A and empowering the Councils or 4) replacing 13A with a more far-reaching system of devolution?”

      I agree that in some places in India, decentralization has not worked, that does not mean we should not learn from them and apply the successes they have achieved in others to our own situations.

      What have you learned? Why does decentralisation work in some parts of India but not others?

      At least, SWRD could have got the support of the old Left and managed the political opposition.

      Only obliquely have you answered my point- SWRD and Dudley cannot be blamed for tearing up their respective pacts with Chelva because they had no way of ensuring the longevity of those agreements. They would have lost the next election (or lost parliamentary confidence) and the new government would have abrogated them. The “inexcusable” crime they committed was not tearing up the pacts but rather signing them **without adequate popular support**. SWRD and Dudley were typical leaders of that time, totally and hopelessly disconnected with their electorates.

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Nuwan
    I do not think I have misunderstood your question. In my opinion, some section of the Tamil Diaspora will take the Tamil separatist project forward,irrespective any negotiated settlement in the future. This section of the Tamil Diaspora will never trust the Sinhalese people and the Sri Lankan government.

    I have not been to the North and East since 1989.

  • Dayapala Thiranagama

    Dear Wijayapala

    You are now coming out to defend and justify the TNA for not accepting the 13th Amendment.You argue that the TNA does not want to seek a resolution,that is not ‘on its terms’. The TNA was the proxy of the LTTE and the partners of crime before the LTTE was comprehensively defeated in May 2009.Then,how realistic is it to seek a resolution on its own terms? This stance is politically unrealistic and irresponsible as,it goes against any effort towards the consolidation of peace in the North and East following the most brutal war Sri Lanka has ever experienced.I believe that the TNA should take the Tamil community through that experience and make them aware the merits as wells as the ‘flaws’ 13th Amendment .That should be seen as a political lesson to train the Tamil community for the future struggle for democracy.

    You say that with all its inherent flaws, the TNA does not want to accept the 13th Amendment.This argument is inadequate to explain why the TNA does not want to accept the 13th Amendment. In my view, the TNA finds it difficult to disengage from its past,their association with the LTTE and its barbaric acts of violence against the Tamils and they are still languishing in the politics and ideology of the LTTE, not knowing how to come out.Their brand of narrow Tamil nationalism is not helping them how to negotiate and compromise with the Sri Lankan government. Secondly,they never expected that the LTTE would be militarily annihilated and are annoyed that the LTTE has also left the whole mess for them to sort out.They are politically incapable of doing it. Thirdly,they find it difficult to work with the security forces who mercilessly terminated the LTTE leadership. Fourthly, all Tamil parties,the FD,the TUF , the TULF and the TNA itself have been historically very good on promises but short on delivery.They made promises to the the Tamil community for electoral gains without explaining how difficult it would be to deal with the Sinhala Buddhist polity.You have also touched on this point.The TNA suffers from the same historical difficulty and knows that how difficult it is to negotiate and win concessions when there is no military outfit for them to increase their bargaining capacity with the government.It is easier for them to be on the collision course with the government in keeping with their historical tradition. Fifthly,they may be buying time for the Tamil Diaspora to work on the accountability issue or calculating the the possibility of another military outfit to emerge in the North and East.In view of the TNA has not explicitly and unequivocally dissociated with the LTTE’s criminal past and condemn them, this suspicion cannot be ruled out entirely.You are at pains in explaining the “truth” behind the TNA’s behaviour and the truth you have presented to the reader is not the only reason for their behaviour.

    You say that the ‘TNA has no grand conspiracy in mind’ but I do not know how close you are to the TNA to give us such assurances on their behalf.It is credible that you say that the TNA made a mistake in supporting the LTTE. The TNA must tell the Tamil community that they were wrong to support the LTTE.We all know the TNA was formed, in the first place, in order to support the LTTE and their political existence has been closely associated with the LTTE military campaign.You say that the TNA is not dump as Dayan and I believe they are. I cannot answer for `Dayan. I do not think they are dump,far from it. They are trying to be very clever after witnessing the crimes against humanity by their political partner, the LTTE. What do you call them,If a politically party observes and supports the barbaric acts of a military outfit and still does not understand that it was wrong to be silent ?They have a political responsibility to explain what they did and did not do at the time .They owe an apology to the Tamil community. Until that happens the political gullibility of the TNA cannot be ruled out and they will be easily persuaded by another military outfit.That is a real danger.

    You have made reference to the comments made by Burning Issue about the feelings of insecurity,helplessness and humiliation as key issues and have accused Dayan and me that we are addressing only the symptom not the disease itself.You must ask Dayan for his answer.In my view,we need to start addressing these issues but until the TNA accepts 13th Amendment and make things work these issues will not be resolved .As you suggest that the TNA has absolutely nothing to loose by opposing the 13th Amendment and maintaining a confrontational stance.Probably they will maintain a confrontational stance which they know how to do well at the expense of the well being of the Tamil community throughout their history ,until a regime change in the South.Unfortunately,there will not be a regime change here. Given the political stability of the UPFA, if any one is expecting that it will be only a dream. And their electoral base is as strong as ever.The political opposition to the UPFA is disintegrating day by day.

    You would like to know as to why the people are not calling for the full implementation of the 13th A in the South. Probably they may be feeling what has been already implemented is adequate for the expression of their wishes and aspirations.

    Since the ICES study has demolished your untested hypothesis that decentralisation does not work, you find fault with their research design.You have a right to criticise but congratulate them for doing the study before criticising it as it ads something valuable to our existing knowledge. I think you should offer your expertise to change their research design.You say that Nuwan and I have missed the inconvenient details.They are not inconvenient at all because they give opportunity to learn and move on. We need to realise that no system is perfect.I wanted to show the reader the overwhelming positive results of the Provincial Councils and how it would work well in the North and East on that basis .There should be remedial actions to resolve the issues that you brand as ‘inconvenient details’.

    You would like to know why decentralisation has worked in some parts of India but not others. You also would like to know what I have learnt.India has successfully accommodated ethnically and culturally different sub communities within the Hindu -Muslim nation and so far they have worked well.India had to deal with a number of secessionist movements since Independence but has been able to keep them within the union by defeating those movements. The decentralisation of power to Jammu and Kashmir has not worked but so far their secessionist movement has not been successful enough to break away from India.There is a very good study titled ‘Sustainable Peace, power and Democracy after civil wars by Philip G Roeder and Donald Rothchild(ed.) and you also will find a lot of details in the study that support your argument. Tamil Nadu is a very good example of decentralisation of power to ethnic communities in India.We need to learn from these successes.
    ISWRD and Dudley did not have adequate popular support but they should have shown leadership and face the country as real national leaders .They were not politically bold enough to do that.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Dayapala

      Before I continue I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and responding to mine. There aren’t many others here who are interested in these topics. I have noticed that whenever I start talking about the details of devolution, the Tamil contributors here disappear leaving only the Sinhalese. That helps give me the impression that the Tamils are not really interested in devolution.

      I think our primary difference is that I distinguish between what is right and what is possible in politics; the right thing to do may not be politically possible. You believe that the TNA should adopt 13A because it is the right thing to do with regard to reconciliation; I believe that the TNA is rejecting 13A because it will never survive as a political entity if it accepts 13A. Similarly, SWRD and Dudley would never have been able to survive politically if they did not tear up the pact with Chelva (although, I would emphasise that it was totally wrong, both ethically and politically, for them to make an agreement with Chelva that they could not honor).

      That is why I am more interested in focussing on the people and communities, and not the political parties that represent them.

      In my view, the TNA finds it difficult to disengage from its past,their association with the LTTE and its barbaric acts of violence against the Tamils and they are still languishing in the politics and ideology of the LTTE, not knowing how to come out.

      I mostly agree with what you say about the TNA, but there is a very important distinction from the LTTE that you left out: the TNA received the largest part of the Tamil vote, which for better or for worse makes the TNA their representative. Therefore, to say that the TNA has found it difficult to disengage from its past is not very different from saying that the Tamils as a polity have been unable to disengage from their past. There is no other reason why more Tamils support the TNA compared to those who voted for Anandasangaree, the moderate who had the best chance to push for reconciliation. It is impossible to separate the Tamils from the TNA (although the TNA certainly is not their “sole representative”).

      You say that the ‘TNA has no grand conspiracy in mind’ but I do not know how close you are to the TNA to give us such assurances on their behalf.

      Given that I am Sinhala, I am not close to the TNA at all. Do you believe that the TNA has a grand conspiracy?

      They have a political responsibility to explain what they did and did not do at the time .They owe an apology to the Tamil community.

      Why should the TNA apologise to the very people who vote for it?

      Until that happens the political gullibility of the TNA cannot be ruled out and they will be easily persuaded by another military outfit.That is a real danger.

      If the TNA/Tamils have “political gullibility” as you claim, then why trust them with devolution at all? Dayapala, if you have such negative feelings toward the TNA, how would you feel about the TNA being put in charge of Northern/Eastern Provincial Councils? Suresh Premachandran as Chief Minister?

      In my view,we need to start addressing these issues but until the TNA accepts 13th Amendment and make things work these issues will not be resolved.

      Why does TNA have to accept 13A before these issues will be resolved?

      You would like to know as to why the people are not calling for the full implementation of the 13th A in the South. Probably they may be feeling what has been already implemented is adequate for the expression of their wishes and aspirations.

      But how can 13A represent the wishes and aspirations of the people when the ICES study showed that 68.6 percent of the total respondents, including 64 percent of the SL Tamils and 66.5 percent of the Muslims, believed that the Provincials Councils were imposed on the country?

      Since the ICES study has demolished your untested hypothesis that decentralisation does not work,

      The ICES study showed that 77 percent of the total respondents, including 65 percent of the SL Tamils and 72 percent of the Muslims, believe that the Provincial Councils are **a waste of resources**. Therefore the ICES study supports my hypothesis that decentralisation in Sri Lanka does not work.

      The decentralisation of power to Jammu and Kashmir has not worked but so far their secessionist movement has not been successful enough to break away from India.

      That is because the Indian security forces are powerful. We can also argue that Tamil secessionist movement failed as a result of Sri Lankan security forces becoming powerful, not because of devolution.

      There is a very good study titled ‘Sustainable Peace, power and Democracy after civil wars by Philip G Roeder and Donald Rothchild(ed.) and you also will find a lot of details in the study that support your argument.

      Thank you for sharing that study with me, but if it supports my argument then why do you bring it up?