Photo courtesy Today

There are scarier things, worse things, than Black July ’83. Aluthgama signaled the possibility of such things.

The sequence of events, the lethal violence, the horror of Aluthgama were reminiscent of July ’83 –and to go by Tarzie Vittachchi’s Emergency ’58, the anti-Tamil riots of that year. That is the element of dark continuity, which we must never forget in our haste to define the present as the worst of times. But there is also the element of discontinuity which makes Aluthgama potentially far more dangerous.

If we are to fight this phenomenon successfully, it is necessary to correctly identify the beast. So far it has been misidentified as the scarier mask of the ruling clan, the dark avatar of Sinhala Buddhism or the instrument of neoliberal capitalism. It may be all of these or some of these, but these are not the most important or dangerous aspects of its present-day manifestation, the BBS, and the Aluthgama outbreak.

What is most significant about Aluthgama was the speech by the BBS’ Galagodaatte Gnanasara, the main demagogue but not the main strategist of that formation (the latter role is played by the far senior figure of Ven Kirame Wimalajothi). A careful listening tells me that the BBS project aims at nothing less than state power itself. The discourse signals nothing less than the intention to dictate to the state itself and in that sense, to capture the state. The BBS demagogue claims ownership of the state and the right order how it must behave. The claim of ownership is of course, not personal. Nor is it organizational i.e. limited to the BBS. The claim is not that circumscribed. The claim of ownership of the state is made in ethno religious terms, that of Sinhala Buddhism. That however, is a disguise. The real claim is that a definite social stratum is the legitimate owner of the state and should therefore be able to prescribe the state’s policy and practice. The aim and claim is to direct the state. The stratum on behalf of which the BBS stakes this claim is the Sinhala Buddhist clergy.

This is new. It may be the case that the Rajapaksas (singular or plural) extended patronage to the BBS. It might even be that certain elements of the state apparatuses thought to do with the BBS what Pakistan’s ISI did in the 1990s with and for the Taliban. In some senses we have been here before, and Galagodaatte Gnanasara is the new Elle Gunawansa while Kirama Wimalajothi is the new Madihe Pannaseeha. Whatever the provenance and patronage though, the phenomenon has metastasized.

In Aluthgama we witnessed a dangerous replay of July ‘83 in the sense that there was a situation of dual power. Who controls the situation: the state apparatuses or the Sinhala Buddhist ‘street’? However, the BBS posed a further question in Aluthgama: who controls the state itself and its direction; its actions? The legitimate state authorities or the monks? Even more serious was the contestation of legitimacy itself: who is more legitimate, the elected civilian power or the monkhood?

What the BBS aims to do is to control the State. This is a qualitative escalation from the decades-long role of the hawkish Buddhist clergy of being a lobby, pressure group and spoiler (Sinhala only in ’55-’56, the BC Pact ‘57, the APC proposals and Annexure ’84). Galagodaatte Gnanasara’s speech signals the new objective of laying claim to control of the State and indeed the new self-image of being such a controlling force or a contender for State power (as distinct from electoral office). Gnanasara directly addresses and appeals to the armed forces and police over the heads of the constitutional political power. He warns the political power by reminding it that the armed forces and police are Sinhala.

The strategy is simple: the sociological (ethno-linguistic, ethno-religious) composition of the state apparatus is sought to be used to leverage the state to act not merely in the interests of a leading role for the Sinhala Buddhists, but a more explicit role which ranges from outright domination up to (or down to) exclusive monopoly of power, economic presence and existential space. The BBS discourse is not merely one of Sinhala Buddhist rulership but of a model of society and politics most charitably described as apartheid but more accurately described as enslavement –with its accompaniment, existential dread and terror.

The agency of control of the state—the aspirant directors of the state—are the Buddhist monks, of which the BBS is the vanguard.

The three dead Muslims, killed it would seem by gunshots in a drive-by indicate that a new phenomenon, an armed militia may be in play. This Ku Klux Klan doesn’t even have to wear sheets and hoods! Of course, the BBS project is to transform the armed forces and police themselves into militias of the Sinhala Buddhist monkhood.

Can the project succeed? It is six decades or more since the rot set in; six decades or more in which this has been incubating. The ideology and consciousness showed heightened levels of toxicity with the rhetoric (beamed live on national TV) at the funeral of Rev Soma. The egg is now beginning to hatch and the monster is showing the top of its scaly head. The monster is not simply that of racism, religious chauvinism, neoliberal capitalism, neo-imperialist conspiracy or Rajapaksaism. It is (as I described it a year ago) ethno-religious fascism and its project is the installation of a social and political order that is theocratic fascism. It is the fascist character that makes it lay claim to the state.

This is way beyond a tactic to gain marginal electoral advantage on the part of the Rajapaksas. The derisive references to President Rajapaksa in Galagodaatte Gnansara’s Aluthgama ‘discourse’ were utterly significant. A social shift has taken place in this country and the BBS hopes to translate it into a power shift. Aluthgama was a testing ground. The BBS’ strategy is a coalition of the Three Ms: Monks, Mobs and Military. Plan A would be rule by these three forces, under the dominance of the monks: theocratic fascism. Plan B would be the installation of military rule backed by the Buddhist clergy: a Sinhala Buddhist coup and junta. Plan C may be a Manchurian Candidate scenario: the installation as the country’s leader of a personality who can be counted on to approximate Plan A. The triggering of anti-Muslim but also anti-minority rioting throughout the country, a military ouster of the Northern PC, a replay of the assassination of SWRD Bandaranaike by a monk in 1959, a situation of chaos and anarchy, may all be part of the plan to seize power or install its preferred ruler.

How to beat back the BBS? It is pointless debating the merits of one or another strategy. It is far more realistic to activate or encourage resistance from as many points as possible. The basis can be a clash of interests with the BBS or a clash of values. A purely values-based or ideas-based resistance to the BBS, though necessary and laudable, would be insufficiently broad and deep. An interest-based strategy is far more likely to succeed though it is not necessary that everyone subscribe to such a platform. After Gnanasara’s speech and the violence in Aluthgama, there is a clear conflict of interest between the ruler(s) and the BBS, which presents itself as a contender for the role of who should direct the state and whom the State apparatus should obey. There is always a contradiction between the Boss and whoever wants to be, thinks he is or should be the boss. The Rajapaksas are a status quoist power; the BBS is a radically revisionist force. The former also have a far greater resonance among the populace at large.

Leon Trotsky famously said that in the struggle against fascism he would be willing to unite with the Devil’s grandmother. While all political parties and rulers (most certainly including the Rajapaksas) have contributed directly or indirectly to the problem and are thereby part of it, they are also potentially part of the solution. Having been enablers of the BBS, the Rajapaksas are objectively the most readily available potential counterweight and counterbalance to the BBS and cannot realistically be ignored. However a Realist strategy of counterbalancing by existing power centers is not the only legitimate one. A broad Left front of which the JVP is the leading and main force (while drawing in the FSP, the IUSF et al) is another track of what must surely be a multi-track strategy against fascism.

The officer corps of the Sri Lankan military, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the corporate sector, the trade unions, the student unions, the professionals, the political parties, the media, the intelligentsia, the international system (including Sri Lanka’s friends) should all be made aware of how destructive the BBS project is to their interests and should be motivated to oppose and defeat it. The most effective weapons to stop the March of the BBS are an intelligent patriotism, a reasoned appeal to Sinhala interests and a more authentic, generously inclusive and pluralist Buddhism.

  • Fitzpatrick

    Not one word of direct criticism [edited out] ! How pathetic ! He is the executive president, who vanquished the LTTE.
    Is Dayan claiming that he and the armed forces are unable to put down the BBS? No it is not that it is that they won’t ! Stop beating about the bush dear boy and let’s call a spade a spade !

  • alex f

    DJ again finding a good excuse for the international community to ‘support’ the Rajapakse’s. His simple argument is that the alternative is worse. Well there are many means to support Sri Lanka. In the 1970s, India send two ships packed with troops to aid Sri Lanka against a latent JVP revolution. Wouldn’t that be the rational and normal solution to state under threat from theocratic fascists? Funny, that DJ, despite his vast knowledge of Sri Lankan history, has forgotten that. Perhaps, Sri Lanka needs the Indian Navy off its coast and a US aircraft carrier in the region to get the fascists back in their box?

    • Dev

      Last week Dayan argued that the president was powerful enough to go against his hawkish ministers and brother and hold the Northern provincial council election since he is so wonderful and so powerful but suddenly he needs the help of (as Dayan puts it)

      The officer corps of the Sri Lankan military, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the corporate sector, the trade unions, the student unions, the professionals, the political parties, the media, the intelligentsia, the international system (including Sri Lanka’s friends)

      Last week Dayan said that the opposition was a rudderless ship and this week he wants them to help?
      Its all very contradictory !

    • Sharanga Ratnayake

      Isn’t it really unlikely that this would happen? How likely is that the Obama administration would put an aircraft carrier in the region, against the will of India and China, to protect Muslims? And even if they did, what are they going to do with it? Blow up Colombo? Doesn’t seem like a good solution to fight a cancer.

      • alex f

        Well it depends how much the cancer spreads doesn’t it. DJ is claiming that the BBS is the new force and that some of the all-Sinhala security forces are loyal to it. The implications of this is his call to rally the opposition verges on absurd (something he knows based on his recent articles). However, in the past India has intervened in Sri Lanka (twice if you include the 1970s deployment of troops to Colombo harbour). If the theocratic fascists indeed do control the police, then there is no alternative but an external intervention. If the fascist do not, then the state simply needs to arrest a few hundred monks and throw them in jail for a long time. Given Sri Lanka’s history, intervention isn’t unlikely, as it has happened before (twice).

        • David Blacker

          the case for external intervention (militarily, or otherwise) must be based on an analysis of, and not simply a glance at, history. the intervention by India in 1971 was on the appeal of Sirimavo and her government; it wasn’t a forced entry. the 1987 intervention was part of the Indo-Lanka Accord and (while the latter was strong-armed on us) the Indian military wasn’t opposed and in fact (to the chagrin of many Sri Lankans) the SL military and government mostly cooperated with India.

          even at the pinnacle of violence and bloodshed during the last year of the war, there was no external intervention, in spite of all the Tigers and their supporters in the Tamil diaspora begging for it. even with the full weight of the present day Tamil nationalist lobbying, there has been no intervention in support of the NE Tamils. why should there be a forced intervention now over this? while the recent pogrom against the Muslims in Aluthgama and other areas, as well as the recent persecution they have suffered is terrible, it is a tiny matter in comparison to things like Syria and Iraq and Nigeria for the Americans. as for India, do you really think Modi is going to intervene on behalf of the Muslims?

          rather than trying to spur people into action against racism by pointing to the gonibillas of war and foreign intervention (both of which have very little credence), the Sinhalese Buddhist majority with the Sangha and the Opposition must stand up and say “stop!” for the simple reason that what the BBS with the support of elements in the GoSL is doing is just wrong. even if there is no likelihood whatsoever of war or invasion it must be stopped because such persecution and racism is wrong. it is the only argument against this; the moral argument.

          • alex f

            David, I have made this point before and will make it again. This modus operandi of attacking Tamils with impunity is part of Sri Lanka’s culture and heritage, long before the emergence of the LTTE. The only reason I advocate intervention is because the idea of some form of internal reform based on the ‘moral argument’ seems fanciful and naive. Happy to see it happen, but in the mean time I support the international actors who are much more likely to impose a reformatory agenda. And no, their actions are not impeding Sri Lankan reform – Sri Lanka had plenty of time after the war to show it could accommodate Tamils and all it did was attack and oppress.

          • David Blacker

            the point is there will be no foreign intervention on this any more than there has been on the NE. so rather than waiting for a Messiah/apocalypse to deliver/destroy us, we must be our own Messiahs and stop what is going on. you can advocate whatever you like, and there’s nothing wrong with your advocation per se, but you have to realize that what you’re advocating for is a pipe dream.

            it is also not going to solve the long-term problem of inherent racism on all sides in SL. we have to change our moral compass, and no external intervention is going to do that.

          • alex f

            Well David we can agree on the need to change the moral compass in Sri Lanka. This concept of its ‘all sides’ doesn’t really wash. In times of peace there have only been Sinhala pogroms against Tamils – so its not ‘all sides’ its not communal violence – its a virulent, theocratic fascist ideology that has wider support than you may wish to acknowledge.
            As for the intervention, well its already happening. A soft intervention is well underway, which is a very good thing. You have stated a truism in that the Sri Lankan state needs to find it’s ‘moral compass’ – which in practical terms means at a minimum ending impunity and restoring law and order. What you haven’t done and neither has DJ or any other non-interventionist, is explain the path to locating that compass which has eluded Sri Lanka since independence.
            Intervention is the rest of the world giving Sri Lanka a hand finding that ‘moral compass’. On a positive note nice to see a protest against the BBS and the Rajapakses yday.

          • David Blacker

            The racism most certainly is on all sides. The reasons the minorities are being persecuted is because they are numerically weaker. When the Tamils were the majority in Jaffna they persecuted the Tamils and drove them out. Sinhalese racism is the current threat because they have the ability to act on that racism. When the Tamils had the ability they acted on it. Buddhist facism, Tamil nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, German nazism all come out of the bed of racism; not the other way around. Racism just needs a justification and a flag to rally beneath.

            I did not say that the state needs to find its moral compass. I said Sri Lanka needs to. The state is merely the manifestation of the people. In “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” it’s explained how pointless it is to tear down a factory because the system that created it will only recreate it. It is the system of xenophobia that has created the factories of Buddhist fascism, Tamil nationalism, etc. An external intervention will not change that system.

            If you want to calm your fears with dreams of the Messiah, go ahead. You’re in good company with the Tamil nationalists. They too are waiting for a Messiah.

          • David Blacker

            Sorry that should read “when the Tamils were the majority in jaffna they persecuted the Muslims. . .”

          • alex f

            Thanks for the clarification – I had already assumed that is what you meant. I had crafted my statement quite carefully as I am well aware of the LTTE’s fascist act of ethnic cleansing of the Muslims which was very shameful and those who did should be brought to justice.

            As I said before, in times of peace in Sri Lanka there has only been one sort of theocratic fascism and that is the Buddhist Sinhala type – so its not ‘communal’ its not ‘all’ its just the Sinhala Buddhists. The events in Aluthgama wasn’t a ‘communal riot’ it was an act of ethnic cleansing and targeted violence, watched by a mono-ethnic police and sanctioned by an hardline ethnic government.

            What you fail to do, as do all the non-interventionists, is explain how to unravel this theocratic fascist state that is Sri Lanka? DJ fails to explain this too. In fact the JHU recently said that the ‘Sinhala people would rather jettison the Rajapakse’s than endure UN sanctions – again putting a big hole in DJ’s argument that the international action on Sri Lanka is counter-productive .. actually it seems to be working.

            To address your factory analogy – the ‘factory’ that is Sri Lanka is a chauvinist lawless state for thats what the majority Sinhalese accept and a lot seem to endorse. Its a shame that the anti-BBS rally yday was so tiny compared to the mobs who turn up with the BBS. You asked this very question yourself in an article last year, and the response to fixing Sri Lanka lies in the answer.

            I note on your past comments, you hadn’t anticipated the current UN investigations. Whilst they are no Messiahs, as many outside Sri Lanka had anticipated the UN investigation is taking place, and that is in fact a form of intervention, and it is already working. The good news is Sri Lanka is on the road to being fixed, but contrary to what DJ and you think, it won’t be from within: it will be from a continuation of the externally driven reform and intervention.

          • David Blacker

            Alex, the ethnic cleansing of the Jaffna Muslims wasn’t simply an act of the Tigers any more than the Holocaust was simply an act of the Nazis. both were either tacitly or openly supported by the Tamil and German populations, just as the BBS violence is by the Buddhists — and even some Muslims and Christians. which refers back to my earlier point that these extremist groups are just the pus-filled tip of the pimple; there is a large unseen boil beneath the surface which is the latent racism in those respective communities.

            you are incorrect that outside of the violence that was enacted by warring parties in the last 30 years, the only ethnic violence of a physical nature that was unleashed was by the Sinhalese/Buddhists. IMO the ethnic cleansing of the Jaffna Muslims was not part of a warring action; it was in fact an exact mirroring of Black July ’83. in the latter instance, the Sinhalese targeted the Tamils in unfair retaliation for a legitimate military action carried out by the Tigers. in driving out the Jaffna Muslims, the Tigers were retaliating against a perceived act by the Muslims, ie their alleged support for the GoSL against the separatists. similarly every single anti-Tamil pogrom by the Sinhalese was in retaliation for a real or perceived political slight. the BBS phenomenon is the first real purely racist violence.

            but let’s set that aside for the moment and for argument’s sake say that you are partially correct that the majority of ethnic violence carried out has been by the Sinhalese/Buddhists. however, to conclude that this is an indication that racism sits only within that community is a tenuous suggestion at best. there are many other reasons why this might have happened other than the Sinhalese/Buddhists being the only racists. the most glaring and obvious one is the numerical imbalance that i have pointed out to you already. it is clearly impossible for the Tamils, Muslims, or other minorities to physically attack the Sinhalese when they are so totally outnumbered. nowhere in the world has it happened. the fact that when the Tamils had a local majority over the Muslims they carried out a similarly racist act as the Sinhalese points to a similar level of racism. another obvious reason is the lack of organization and leadership within the minorities to plan and carry out the pogroms that the Sinhalese have; and yes, having the GoSL on your side is more or less all you need. again, when the Tamils had that sort of organization and leadership — the Tigers — they persecuted the Muslims.

            so the inability to carry out a physical act cannot be taken to indicate a lack of will to do so.

            i’m not sure how you conclude that i’m a non-interventionist. i am certainly against certain forms of intervention, particularly military ones. i have also questioned some of the goals of intervention and opposed intervention because i disagree with the goals. in this discussion however i have mostly questioned your belief in the possibility of military intervention (which is what DJ is mostly warning us of). an atheist isn’t anti-God; he is questioning the existence of gods.

            i really wish i had a silver bullet that would unravel this racist system that we are facing; but i don’t, and i suspect neither DJ nor anyone else has one, including you and your Messiah of Intervention. people have to eventually figure it out for themselves. transformation of that kind takes a long time, and perhaps never happens fully. it certainly won’t happen via external pressure. look at Afghanistan; everyone thought they were a poor oppressed people under the iron sandal of the fundamentalist Taliban, and that as soon as they got a dose of western freedom and democracy all would be well. but it’s not. to all appearances it looks like they actually prefer a fundamentalist Islamic state. look at Europe; how long did it take for the anti-Semitism that gave us the crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust to disappear? has it really disappeared in fact? i’m not sure it has; it’s just that they have learned to stop acting on that racism. and perhaps that’s the best that we can hope for in SL, that we’ll just go back to quietly calling each other Thambiya and Lanciya under our breaths and refusing to let our children marry their children instead of trying to kill each other. i mean that quiet racism has existed so well beneath the surface that you don’t even think it’s there!

            I’m not sure the JHU is right about the Sinhalese preferring to kick out the Rajapakses rather than face sanctions. it all depends on what the sanctions actually are. sanctions and airstrikes worked on Serbia, but not on Iraq, in spite of the fact that the Iraqi ones were far harsher. Sri Lankans — and particularly Sinhalese — are nothing if they are not pigheaded stubborn, and even after crippling defeats at the hands of the Tigers at the end of the ’90s, turned on Ranil W and the UNP when he tried to negotiate beyond a point. even if the sanctions beat the Sinhalese into submission and they opt to chuck out MR & Co, do you think that’ll suddenly make them all huggy-kissy with the Muslims and Tamils? i sort of doubt it. eventually it’ll all ooze up into another pimple.

            i’m glad you got my point on the factory vs system theory. the reason most of the Sinhalese aren’t showing up for the anti-BBS rallies is because they aren’t exactly anti-BBS in their feelings. so until that system of racism is dealt with, the chauvinist racist factory will simply be rebuilt. it’s already been done several times.

            i’m not sure which of my comments you are referring to when you say i hadn’t anticipated the current UN investigations. i haven’t been commenting so much of late so perhaps you’re referring to comments from some time ago. over the last year, the GoSL’s growing inability or unwillingness to engage with the increasing allegations and set up an effective defense — in spite of all the odds being in their favour, and a limitless supply of ammunition available from think tanks like the Marga Institute — had indeed made me anticipate eventual UN investigation. it could so easily have been averted, and i previously expected that they would do so. did i anticipate that the GoSl would be this stupid? no. but to reiterate, i believe DJ is referring to military intervention.

            if by “fixed”, you mean a sticking plaster over the pimple, sure, external pressure will fix it in no time. we all thought the Tamil separatist rebellion had “fixed” the problem too, and that the Sinhalese would never be racist again. surprise, surprise.

          • alex f

            Re Racism: well we can agree that the majority of violence in Sri Lanka has been by the Sinhala Buddhists since independence. I go further to point out that in the period other than between 1985 and 2009, all violence has been by the Sinhala Buddhists. In the intervening period of 1985 to 2009, there were never any ‘riots’ in LTTE held areas, just actions by the LTTE, an unelected body, albeit with significant support. By contrast the Sinhala majority consistently elect parties based on how hardline they are. Finally, whilst 30 years of conflict may result in latent ‘racism’ between the ethnic groups, only Sinhala Buddhism is buttressed by the powerful theocratic base of the monks, who have influenced Sri Lankan politics since independence.
            Thus, my view (as it seems is that of a number of authors in Sri Lanka) is that the main problem in Sri Lanka is SInhala Buddhist chauvinism. Kalana’s article may be a place to jump to and pick this up.
            Of course the final point I will make, is that the Tamil Diaspora is in fact extremely liberal. They may advocate a separate state, but that is largely because they do not feel that Tamils in Sri Lanka should settle for another period of suppression which will be inevitably brought about by the ‘majoritarian’ solutions promoted by non-interventionists. Tamil Diaspora, likely don’t envisage a ‘mono-ethnic’ Tamil state, as its not the nature of the states in which they live. But they likely reject a state that has supremacist ideas embedded in the constitution, e.g. Buddhism as the foremost place …
            Re: Interventions – yes there are successful and failed interventions. I think the Yugoslave intervention was successful because of the ‘Balkanisation’, i.e. each group got its own nation state and the process of engagement could then take place with that nation state, resulting in both Croatia and Serbia handing over war criminals and then getting on the EU accession track. By contrast the US policy on Iraq was to try and avoid ‘Balkanisation’ and so your ‘factory’ vs ‘system’ issue arises – I.e. Maliki won’t run a liberal govt and share power. To me this makes it clearer that the only way to address the ‘Sinhala Buddhist Chauvinism’ in Sri Lanka is ‘Balkanisation’, as the system can’t be fixed – it needs restructuring.
            Re JHU on sanctions vs Rajapakses – totally agree – kicking out Rajapakse’s alone won’t work. That is obvious as the UNP is already sounding as racist as Rajapakse because they (UNP) know what they need to get votes. So going back to ‘Balkanisation’ – i.e. restructuring the system will likely be the only long term solution.
            Re: Interventionist: yes I was referring to blogs sometime back. I see what you are saying now. Where I disagree is that Rajapakse’s were in trouble the moment the committed the mass crimes / genocide – from that point on under the new liberal world order and international law they were always on a collision course. They could have extended their tenure by working with the IC but perhaps they calculated that the current route of encouraging extremism and hoping it scares the IC off is a better solution.

          • David Blacker

            Alex, i think you’re losing track of why we first started discussing ant-Tamil pogroms vs the anti-Muslim ethnic cleansing. i used both of examples of how a majority ethnic group targeted a minority. you can argue as much as you like about the physical nature of the action and the Tigers’ militant nature as opposed to the GoSL’s elected status, but that is just nitpicking. if indeed the GoSL was culpable in Black July (this is by no means certain; it is far more likely that it was in fact powerful elements within the GoSL acting unofficially), the use of “riots” or pogroms was simply the need to distance themselves as a legitimate government from such a criminal act by creating what seemed like a spontaneous outburst. on the other hand, the Tigers who had been openly slaughtering people with no apology via acts of criminal terrorism, had no need for such a shield. it’s also a bit trite to say that the Tigers are somehow less culpable for what they did because they were not elected by the people. they were supported by the majority of the NE population just as the GoSL was elected by the majority of the Sinhalese. both communities are equally guilty or innocent of those two acts. if you say the GoSL was responsible for Black July and the other pogroms that is exactly the same as saying the Tigers were responsible for the ethnic cleansing. which then brings me back to my original point about both the GoSL and the Tigers being manifestations of their communities; racist communities.

            so to reiterate, SL’s problem is racism. in the south it is currently manifesting itself in Buddhist chauvinism; in the NE it manifested itself in Tamil separatism/nationalism. the Tigers have been destroyed, but Tamil nationalism hasn’t. the reason the minorities have historically got the shitty end of the stick is simply numbers. when the numbers were reversed, the smaller minorities got that end of the stick.

            Sinhalese racism is buttressed by religion, yes, the monks. but religion isn’t the cause of the racism. the latter goes far deeper and simply looks for a flag to rally behind. post-independence Sinhalese chauvinism wasn’t really religion-based; it was language-based. Buddhist monks don’t really see themselves as religious priests so much as ethnic ones. Sinhalese racism requires Buddhism because it is something to unite behind for a people who are in fact looking for an identity. the Tamils already had that identity and didn’t require a religious flag. their racism is buttressed by other things, like their roots in the NE, which is why the Sinhalese are so keen to remove the soil around those roots. for Muslims, their racism is based in Islam — we all accept that you can’t marry a Muslim except in exceptional circumstances, so why is it that we don’t see that as racism? for the Burghers the racism is again not religious, but it is still there.

            you are still pointing to aspects of Sinhalese racism (the factory) instead of seeing the actual racism (the system) which spreads across all ethnic groups.

            there is no real evidence of the Tamil diaspora (even if there were such a monolithic entity) being liberal. there are liberal elements and conservative ones. whenever the discussion of Tamil leadership comes up, there is the inevitable Vellala and other caste-based arguments which point to a lack liberal sentiments.

            Balkanization didn’t happen in Yugoslavia as a result of intervention; it was already happening after Tito’s death. intervention was necessary to stop the massacres. again, the racism and atrocities were perpetrated by both sides; it was just that the Serbs had the numbers and the guns, nothing more. the handing over of war criminals was post-Balkanization, ie after the fragmentation had happened.

            and no, the sanctions on Iraq after its withdrawal from Kuwait certainly were not to prevent Balkanization or fragmentation as you suggest. it was to ensure Iraq stopped its aggression against its neighbours and conformed to international law.

            again, none of this has anything to do with the discussion beyond the point that intervention isn’t the silver bullet you imagine it to be. nor is Balkanization. historically, whenever nations have been fragmented by external intervention it has eventually led to war — North and South Vietnam, North and South Korea, India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, most of Africa and the Middle East. for a long-term solution the solution must come from within. if you enforce it on people they just bide their time and go back to their own ways. you are still unable to distinguish the factory from the system which is why you are still busy tearing down factories.

            in your last paragraph you are simply trying to tie something you believe in the present back to a preconceived point in history. you believe the Rajapakses are in trouble; you also believe that they committed genocide; therefore voila you believe they are in trouble because they committed genocide. it is a fallacy.

            i have already explained to you via the Saddam Hussein story that the clash with the UN doesn’t necessarily mean guilt, yet you still keep going back to the “they are clashing with the IC so they must have committed crimes” theory just as people said “Saddam won’t let the inspectors in so he must have WMDs”. it is a very uninformed and simplistic way o look at things.

            you are also assuming that they are encouraging extremism in order to scare the UN off; but how do you know this is the plan? what if they actually believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese?

          • alex f

            Well some interesting responses that I will try and address. I see you have read Kalana’s recent piece and commented on it. Suffice to say I agree with its views on Chauvinism in Sinhala Buddhist society.
            The position that ‘we are all racists in Sri Lanka’ doesn’t wash. It is much like the GoSL’s present line that it was a ‘communal riot’ in Aluthgama and all sides were to blame. Whilst I agree all people have the potential to be racist and act in a racist manner, in Sri Lanka one group more than others has behave in this manner consistently and violently since Independence and continue to do so today post war.
            The racism is abundantly obvious in the behaviour, the violence and the mono-ethnic make up of virtually all aspects of the state. The argument that ‘racism is a Sri Lanka wide problem’ is an obvious attempt to cloud the issue and it is unhelpful as it doesn’t help progress the conversation.
            Your example of ‘marrying a muslim’ is absurd and came straight out of one of the more outspokenly chauvinist GoSL ministers this week. There is no Muslim law against marrying a Muslim, it is their individual choice.
            There is plenty of evidence of a liberal Tamil Diaspora, as in each and every speech there isn’t the racism that one reads in political speeches in Sri Lanka by the major parties. The speeches in Sri Lanka are laced with Sinhala Buddhist supremacist ideas, such as ‘minorities being guests’ and ‘all communities are to blame’ in MRs recent gem.
            The point on Balkanisation is simple. The break up into nation state aided the healing process and liberal reform agenda. In Iraq that break up didn’t occur and so now we are back to square one, but this time with a Shia regime rather than a Sunni regime.
            Re internal solutions: many of the cases you site are unresolved. North – South Vietnam wasn’t an ethnic conflict it was the cold war – much like East and West Germany being split. If there is no external intervention in Sri Lanka it could take generations (perhaps three or more), or perhaps never before the Sinhala Buddhist society becomes enlightened enough to jettison their chauvinist theocratic ideas. If that is the outcome you prefer, well that is quite interesting.
            Some solutions can be forced. East Timor and Kosovo are examples of such enforcement. It is up to the Sinhala polity to choose a liberal united Sri Lanka or an illiberal and split one.
            The Rajapakses commanded an army that now has growing volumes of evidence of war crimes. Many did not want those crimes investigated externally, but having failed to carry out credible investigations internally, there is now a UN investigation.
            It is possible that you are right and all the witness statements are untrue and all the photos are in fact fake. Now that there is an investigation we will find out.
            As for the genocide I will address that further down, but in brief the Tamil genocide is now an increasingly well studies and documented issue, with substantial evidence that supports the fact that a genocide is taking place in Sri Lanka.
            As to your last question it is a valid one. Its hard to tell. Gothabaya may just be getting high on his own supply and genuinely believes the Chauvinist line. Overall, I think that all their calculations now are based on staying out of jail, and judging by DJ’s views, one strategy is to be seen as the ‘strong man who can keep a lid on things’.

          • David Blacker

            this is getting tedious, Alex. you just don’t seem to be understanding my point, and saying something “doesn’t wash” just because you don’t agree with it is absurd. the fact that you think i am saying the same thing as the GoSL when i say that we are all racists is laughable. the GoSL is NOT saying what i am saying. nowhere near. let me give this one last shot, therefore to at least get my point across to you so that you can understand it before agreeing, disagreeing, or trying to counter it.

            what happened in Aluthgama is a criminal act, and the Buddhist extremists are responsible for instigating it and carrying it out. the Muslims are not. OK, now does that sound like what the GoSL is saying? clearly not.

            racism per se is not a criminal act. do you understand that? if i feel that you come from an inferior race than i do, that is not a criminal act and i cannot be prosecuted for it. one cannot have criminal thoughts. with me so far? it is when one acts on those thoughts that it possibly, though not necessarily, becomes a criminal act, as in Aluthgama, July ’83, Jaffna, Dachau, etc. now only the act is criminal, but the thoughts are still immoral. it’s like coveting one’s neighbour’s camel or whatever is immoral, but only stealing it is criminal.

            so my point, again, is that it is mostly the Sinhalese Buddhists who are acting on these feelings. are they acting on these feelings because only they have racist feelings? patently not. it is just that they are the only people who have the ability to do so. when the Tamils had the ability, they too did so.

            so if you understand that, you will understand that no external intervention can change those feelings. intervention can enforce the law which prevents the criminal acts that come out of racist feelings, but they will not and cannot prevent the racist feelings that spur the criminal acts. so you are only tackling the factory, not the system.

            so you are being very short-sighted when you merely see the criminal act (the factory) and think that that’s what has to be dealt with.

            i don’t think i can put this across any more simply than that; i have used the factory vs system analogy, i’ve used the pimple or iceberg example; and if you still don’t get it i’m afraid i’ll have to leave it there.

            i’ll ignore your ad hominem attempts to attribute motives to my argument, beyond saying that it’s rather petty and perhaps sheds light on your own motives more than it does mine.

            i can’t help it if chauvinists use some of the same arguments i am using, but that doesn’t invalidate the argument anymore than Gandassara (or whatever his name is) pointing to the law of gravity invalidates gravity. there most certainly is an Islamic law forbidding intermarriage just as there is in Judaism and Christianity. it is there in all three of the Abrahamic religions; i suggest you look it up. the refusal to marry outside one’s faith is also a form of racism, though admittedly one of the more harmless ones unless one is part of such an attempt.

            we’ll have to agree to disagree on the so-called liberalism of the diaspora. i have seen personal exchanges from the leadership of the political diaspora right here on this blog which is rife with racism, sexism, casteism, and every other ism you can throw in. just because they keep racist rhetoric out of their political speeches doesn’t make them liberal. i suspect you just want them to be liberal to fit into your own political thinking. i see that tendency in most of your arguments where you look for a convenient fit instead of coming to a realistic conclusion.

            it’s also quite amusing that you believe Balkanization is the silver bullet. it worked in Yugoslavia because that country had been recently — and forcibly — united under Tito. Balkanization might on the surface be a short term measure in SL vis a vis the Tamils, but do tell me how it will help the Muslims. in Iraq, you have already attributed all the problems to a lack of Balkanization and are now looking for ways to establish that theory. why not look for the actual problem because i assure you it isn’t a lack of Balkanization! Iraq’s existence itself is attributable to Balkanization back when the nation was created out of Arabia post-WW1 by the British. you really need to look a bit further back in history than the last few years!

            of course the Cold War was the catelyst in many divisions, but my point is that dividing up countries isn’t the solution. you focus just on Korea and Vietnam because they are easily defended under your Cold War theory but completely ignore Israel and palestine which most certainly are ethnic conflicts. there is also the example of South Africa, which was solved with no Balkanization. so for every example of a successful Balkanization there is an example of an alternate model, or an example of its failure. this isn’t a discussion on the merits of Balkanization is it? try and focus on the core discussion here, Alex. you bring in theories, i point out that those theories haven’t always worked elsewhere, you then try to explain why they didn’t, and we keep moving further away from the original debate. of course there are many reasons why Balkanization has failed elsewhere, and what those reasons are is immaterial. the point is that Balkanization isn’t necessarily the solution here or anywhere and history establishes that. what you need to establish is how it will work here, not why it has failed elsewhere.

            yes, it can take generations, and that’s how long it took in the US, UK and western Europe, which is why i told you right at the outset that there are no shortcuts. sticking plasters can only do so much. it’s too early to know whether Kosovo or East Timor will work out long term, which is why you need to look further back in history for examples such as Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan.

            your argument is as absurd as simply outright acceptance or dismissal of federalism. it is not a one size fits all product.

            you also keep using disputed theories as fact. Alex, there is NO EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES ON A GENOCIDAL SCALE. none. not one frame of film or kilobyte of video of a single crime against a civilian by an SL soldier; never mind the scale required to prove genocide. the only reason it has been accepted by the UN is not because of evidence but because the allegations haven’t been engaged with or opposed by the GoSL beyond rhetoric. i have already explained this so can we move on? the photos you suggest could be fake DO NOT EXIST. i challenge you to show me a single photograph of an SL soldier killing, maiming, or abusing a civilian during the 2009 period.

            as for the Rajapakse going to jail, they are pretty much assured they never will as long as they are in government.

          • alex f

            We can agree that this is getting tedious. I will try not to write an essay as we are where we are.
            Re Racism: the problem with racism in Sri Lanka is its institutional nature. I.e. it doesnt matter if individuals (whilst not preferable) are racist but it is a problem when the state is institutionally racist. So a Muslim can be racist and attack a Monk and a few thousand Buddhists can run riot and burn down and kill muslims. The problem is that the state won’t arrest the Buddhists or try them, and worse they are immediately released. That is a racist state – institutionally (police, judiciary, army and government) and to the core. And the Buddhist stake-holders in a majoritarian system seem determined not to change that state of affairs and in fact have made it progressivelt worse since independence.
            Re resonance with chauvinists: regrettably your position and the regime’s are not far apart. Both seem against intervention (although you suggest you are open to changing your mind), both deny the institutional nature of racism, both seem to deny the scale of violence against Tamils during peace times and during the conflict.
            Re genocide: the panel at the people tribunal seems and independent and eminent group of persons and their conclusions were quite resounding on Genocide. They included experts on international law and on genocide. They have produced the most credible report on the issue to date.
            Re Balkanisation: it may work or perhaps it won’t work for Sri Lanka, but at least I am endeavouring to propose a solution, something that neither DJ nor his non-interventionist supports are trying to do. The idea that the fascist state can internally reform itself is quite naive. The only question is whether that naivety is buttressed by a cynical agenda, as it clearly is in the case of Dayan J is the only question.

          • David Blacker

            but the state is a manifestation of the people, Alex. the state did not drop down from heaven. it was created by an electorate that is racist. the Tigers were similarly a manifestation of the NE Tamils who created a constitution — the Vaddukoddai Resolution — that was just as mono-ethnic and racist as the Sinhalese one.

            the state, and its government, the BBS, the Tigers, are the factories created by the system of racism within the people. you cannot reform or tear down any of those — especially not externally — unless you first deal with the system. i will leave it there for now since we are both just repeating our arguments and not making any headway. i do hope you will eventually grasp the factory/system theory before you attempt to argue against it.

          • David Blacker

            with regard to Balkanization, you are now saying that there’s a fifty-fifty chance that it might work so let’s try it. that’s not good enough a reason to fragment my country, sorry, just because you want a quick fix.

          • alex f

            David, I think there is just one point I need to understand better. You say the ‘long term solution must come from within’, however you say you are not against ‘soft interventions, but just military interventions’. So does that mean you are satisfied with the present course of the IC? I.e. various political and economic sticks and carrots to encourage reform? If Sri Lanka took a turn for the worse and the BBS and military do become a fascist force / govt, then would you still not advocate a military intervention? What I am trying to get at is a proposed solution from you to the problems facing the country?

          • David Blacker

            again, you seem to require yes/no black/white responses and decisions. i am not for or against any sort of intervention per se. i am in general opposed to the principle of external intervention in SL, but i am willing to be convinced of its usefulness. so far i have not seen any convincing arguments, and so far the external interventions post-war haven’t done anything useful, have they?

            if the Muslims continue to be attacked with impunity and the GoSL refuses to take action, i would understand a Muslim nation intervening on their behalf, yes. if you ask me a specific question i can explain my opinion on it, but not in general terms.

          • alex f

            External intervention led directly to the NPC elections to start. The action to halt the riots coincided with international outrage, and so I would not be surprised if it influenced the regime. The soft intervention is the only real pressure from the left on the regime.
            In any case, fortunately we do not need to convince you of the need for intervention. Judging by previous blogs on the need for an investigation, you were staunchly against that too, but clearly world opinion is in a significantly different place. As I said before the burden of proof to you require seems to the sort of conclusive proof that is only available after an investigation, but you deny the need for such investigation without the proof. It is exactly the circular logic the regime used in Geneva to block international action.

          • David Blacker

            i didn’t say that external pressure has no effect. Indian intervention created the 13th Amendment for example. my point is i don’t see anything useful happening from external pressure beyond expediting certain things that were anyway on the cards. for instance no amount of pressure has been able to bring forth an articulated political plan for the NE. as soon as the pressure is removed the motivations change as they have on 13A. i think there’s a difference between international outrage and external intervention, don’t you? there’s a lot of international outrage over Guantanamo Bay, but no external intervention. try and stay focused on what your argument is.

            if you had in fact read what i had said in previous years — including what was published by Marga (not me alone) — what i was against was an external criminal investigation which had the objective of prosecuting someone for a crime. i wasn’t against an investigation itself, and i believe the GoSL should have established a credible investigation mechanism to establish whether a crime had been in fact committed. world opinion is in a significantly different place because the GoSL has shown itself uninterested in engaging with the allegations and dealing with them, so the continuously repeated mantra of the allegations have now become de facto reality in spite of there being no evidence whatsoever. your claim as fact that rape was used as a weapon of war is a good example of repeating a lie until it is accepted as fact. the steadily and randomly increasing civilian casualty figures are another. what’s the latest fantasy — 140, 000? it started at 40k — itself a figure with no real basis in reality — and has been adjusted upwards without any new evidence coming to light.

            the evidence i ask for doesn’t require an investigation; one needs proof — or at least strong suspicion — that a crime has been committed before one sets out to investigate and gather evidence of a culprit. right now, there is no evidence of a crime having been committed, but you are insistent that one has occurred and needs to be investigated.

          • Fitzpatrick

            Can you show proof?

            If your proof is the LTTE chasing out the Muslims, the you say


            That means you say the Tamils have been defeated (which is what the Sinhala
            supremacists claim).

            The TNA has apologized to the muslims for the crime that LTTE committed.

            Now I await your proof !

          • alex f

            Broadly, I understand David’s point. Racism isn’t a concept that is limited to one group of people. But I think the correct application of the point is that there are extremists who hijack societies around the world. The RSS and Christian fundamentalists crackpots would like to have more control of the states they are in – fortunately they don’t. We of course know of the Taliban, ISIS and the Nazis. Unfortunately for Sri Lanka and Burma, a nexus between extremist Buddhism and the state have been in operation since independence and it is only recently that it is receiving international attention.
            Of course Sri Lanka doesn’t have any gas chambers but Aluthgama does look much like Kristallnacht. Of course if the number of civilians killed in 2009 is at the higher estimates then it would look like an mono-ethnic army / govt did intentionally murder large numbers of people of another ethnicity and so the genocide argument gets more and more credible.
            The result of such a nexus (i.e. of extremists with the state) is that it convinces a large number of people to take part and support it (like DJ probably some form of misplaced patriotism). Like extremism elsewhere it is on the international community’s agenda and going to get addressed, and that process of intervention (albeit presently soft) to address Buddhist extremism is taking place.

          • David Blacker

            a thoroughly implemented external investigation will reveal that the Tamil civilian deaths in the NE in 2008/9 are at the lower end of the estimate and that there was no genocide or other crimes against humanity. the fact that the GoSL has refused to cooperate with the investigation will ensure that the Tamil nationalists are able to eventually claim that the investigation wasn’t thorough and thereby dismiss the UN findings as inaccurate. now that SL has lost the battle against UN investigation, it would be better for the GoSL to cooperate fully and thereby make the eventual findings credible. but for the regime, it isn’t so much the findings that are the problem so much as the humiliation that comes with a loss of sovereignty. plus there could be other skeletons in the cupboard which, while not in the realms of genocide, might well be fatal in the electorate.

            in his his book Honor: a History, James Bowman describes how Saddam Hussein refused to allow UN inspectors into Iraq in spite of the fact that he had no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever. all he had to do was let them in, let them prove he was innocent, and carry on. but Saddam would have been humiliated in the Arab world if he had knuckled under to the UN, George W Bush, and the Great Satan. he was the Strongman of the Arab World, the Boss of Baghdad, the Hammer of the Persians; he would have been dishonoured completely he believed. so he lost his country and eventually his life because he wouldn’t back down, even though he was innocent of possessing WMDs. it’s much the same with MR. he sees himself as the Saviour of Sri Lanka, the Lion that defeated the Tiger, the Greatest Lankan Leader Since Dutugemunu. saviours and lions don’t let foreigners walk into their homes and go through their almirahs.

          • alex f

            Long list to respond to – but let me start here. Firstly, I am not sure your responses to some of the other bloggers on this site are appropriate. I think it would be fair to say one should try to play the ball, not the man. Ultimately it is for the site to moderate, but I am a little surprised that some of the insults have been allowed. I think there are many other sites where this bar is much lower and bloggers can insult other bloggers as much as they would like.
            Re Genocide: I think there is a long history in Sri Lanka of genocidal acts done by various GoSL. Acquisition of land, a number of pogroms, impunity for crimes against Tamils and institutionalised rape and torture. The crimes of 2009 are simply the tip of the iceberg. Further, even Dayan concedes that it is likely much of the evidence is not ‘fake’ as the GoSL claims it is, and so at the very least they are prima facie evidence of war crimes, and as for the investigation, I suppose we will need to wait and see.
            Re Sovereignty, pride and nationalism: it is tautology that nationalist leaders have nationalist pride. That isn’t an impediment to intervention (soft or hard). Fortunately for the Tamils (christians, hindus and muslims), we live in a broadly liberal era, where (i) concepts like international law are being applied and pursued and (ii) as a result many of the ‘strongmen’, oppressive, genocidal tyrants of yesteryear are falling one by one. The issue in Iraq is again ‘factory’ and ‘system’ – the Maliki govt doesn’t want to share power, and so again a 3 state solution is most likely to bring peace to the region, although ideally that solution would have been agreed with the Sunni leadership before ISIS came along.

          • David Blacker

            i have responded only to one other person on this thread, and frankly i have very little patience with people who expect me to engage with their rhetoric. i am sure there are many others willing to humour Fitz in this manner and they’re welcome to do so. i am not interested, and hopefully he’s taken the hint by now.

            my reference to genocide was with regard to the current UN investigation which is primarily focused on 2009. i have done a lot of research into this subject, some of which has been published by the Marga Institute as well as the Sunday Leader newspaper, and this research has convinced me that there was no genocide in 2009. i don’t think acquisition of land comes under the classification of genocide although it can be a factor in ethnic cleansing, though not necessarily. the pogroms can be termed to be genocidal, and perhaps incumbent governments of the time can be held culpable, but given that most of those leaders are now dead, i don’t really see any investigation being carried out. there is certainly institutionalized torture, but again that isn’t genocide. there seems to be a lot of charges of rape post-2009, particularly recently, but whether that is institutionalized or not remains to be seen. if the rape is simply another form of torture, it is unlikely to contribute to the genocide charges the way it did in the former Yugoslavia where it was used as an instrument of impregnation of another ethnic group in an attempt to physically change them.

            I have not seen DJ make a claim that the evidence isn’t faked, so perhaps you could provide a link to that; however, i must point out that even if the supposed evidence so far displayed is authentic, it is not evidence of genocide or other crimes against humanity during the closing stages of the war. certainly there were war crimes, as there have been in every war and always will be. there has been no evidence so far of the military actually killing or abusing civilians on a scale that would indicate crimes against humanity — no photos, film, or reliable eyewitness statements. whatever of the latter exists simply shows death in the course of regular war. everything else is simply extrapolation based on disputed statistics.

            national sovereignty most certainly is a legitimate argument against external intervention. i didn’t say it is an invulnerable argument, but it is a legitimate one; and to overcome it there must be exceptional circumstances. but my example of Saddam Hussein in reference to Mahinda Rajapakse was to make the point that resistance to intervention (which you call nationalism, though it isn’t that) is certainly a legitimate resistance and not necessarily indicative of guilt. in the case of Saddam he was clearly not guilty of possessing WMDs.

            you are naive in the extreme if you think these so-called strongmen are falling because they are oppressive or tyrannical. the only significant ones to have fallen — Qaddafi and Mubarak — were simply impediments to US national interests. the US have now installed a tyrant of their own in Cairo after ousting Mubarak’s democratically elected replacement. they did the same thing in Ukraine. Assad is still firmly in power and the US will have to ally with him and Iran now if they wish to tackle the ISIS. the Malaki government isn’t under threat because it refuses to share power but because it is absolutely corrupt and the only reason it was installed by the US is because it isn’t Al Qaeda or an Islamic government.

          • alex f

            As I said earlier the study of the Tamil Genocide is now taking place in a number of different arenas. You may be familiar with the People’s Tribunal’s verdict on this already.


            Rape clearly should be distinguished from torture, particularly when targeted at a particular community, attacking its mothers and social structures. The accusations of institutionalised rape are also being studied. The UK recently held a convention on the use of rape as a weapon of war. Unsurprisingly Sri Lanka declined the invitation and refused to ratify the proposed protocol to address the issue.

            The impunity for sexual crimes in Sri Lanka is well documented. The 113 Sri Lankan peacekeepers turfed out of Haiti for running a pedophile ring have yet to be investigated.

            HRW and AI and already published on the issue. In any case, the investigations are now taking place, so I suppose we will watch this space.

            Re DJ: in one of his articles he said they were ‘unlikely to be fake’ – send him an e-mail it would be easier than searching through his articles as he has been quite busy publishing recently.

            Re: falling regimes. There are clearly multiple forces at work. US interests being one but the other which Sri Lankan regime fails to understand is the global liberal order, which include NGOs, big corporations and aid agencies. And there is serious aspect of US policy which promotes this liberal order, thankfully.

          • David Blacker

            i am sorry, Fitz, but my intellect is incapable of carrying out simultaneous discussions at the two far ends of the IQ spectrum, so you will forgive me if i just focus on Alex for now. remind me of your questions at a later date when i am more easily entertained.

          • David Blacker

            your question has been dealt with in my response to Alex.

    • Rasika M

      alex f; I don’t think it takes very much to figure out that the alternative ‘is’ worse..! So, you want things to go SO out of hand, that the Indians have to send in ships to take control of the situation…?! nice!

      • alex f

        Thanks for the response David and Rasika. I will try and address both your points. There seems to be malevolent undertones to Dayan’s and indeed the SInhala establishments response to demands for accountability and justice and other urgently needed reforms. They essentially threaten violence on Tamils of all religions. I.e. unleash more pogroms, which Sri Lanka has a long history of. Further, and of course correlated, is that Sri Lanka also has a long history of impunity for those who perpetrate violence against Tamils.
        The UN has admitted its failures to act and implement the Right 2 Protect doctrine. The lack of action during the 2009 massacres is a case study in itself and is likely also propagating the international action in the aftermath.
        Whilst, no one wants things to get worse in Sri Lanka, it is exactly what Rajapakse, Dayan and all the Sinhala nationalist camp keep threatening – i.e. leave us a lone or we will attack more Tamils.
        DJ is trying to sever the line of command with his article, arguing that the Regime has no power, but that is clearly not true as subsequent rallies were halted and permission denied (after a global outcry and the addition of these crimes in Aluthgama to the Rajapkse charge sheet).
        So in response to David, it is precisely because Sri Lanka is so small that it may become a test case for R2P. And in response to Rasika, things are already way beyond out of hand. Impunity is rife, the state seems to be sponsoring it, and the violence and attacks on Tamils are escalating. It has crossed the intervention stage already, but currently the international actors are using soft tools (investigations, aid deals, etc). Should this go to the next stage as Dayan suggests it can (again should be read as a threat given that the Rajapakses clearly can reign it in at will), then the international intervention could / will escalate too. R2P is in the early stages, but Sri Lanka is also in the focus with respect to its application. No one wants it to get worse, but it is getting worse because thats the nature of the regime and the opposition is (a) toothless and (b) has to be more hardline than the regime to get any of the very large Sinhala nationalist / hardline vote. QED Sri Lanka will only reform to being a normal lawful state post international intervention, be it soft or hard.

        • David Blacker

          firstly, i don’t think DJ has said anything about attacking more Tamils as you have claimed. secondly, if SL was to be a test bed for R2P, the NE is a far more credible cause. do you really think the Marines are going to land over four dead Muslims (terrible as that is)? be realistic.

          when you remove the moral imperative from the equation, the debate becomes simply one of causes and prevention of opposing causes. if the reason to stop persecuting minorities is the fear of foreign invasion, war, economic collapse, etc, you will have to eventually accept presentations of evidence on how all of the above can be prevented. and once that evidence is compelling you will have no argument to oppose it. that is why the only argument can and must be the moral one.

          • alex f

            Well we can agree the Marines aren’t landing for 4 dead muslims, but as I said above intervention is already happening albeit a soft one via investigations, trade and other tools. DJ commonly has a malevolent undertone in his writing warning of worse than the Rajapakses if the IC continues its policies. Well as the regime showed this week they can stop the BBS rallies, and they can use the security forces for good, if they chose to. So DJ is wrong that the BBS can’t be controlled by the regime – once again in Sri Lanka it is a matter of political will. The ‘moral issue’ is a good place to head but the question in Sri Lanka is how do you propose Sri Lanka gets there? DJ so far has swung between opposition bashing for being so weak to urging an internal solution based on that same opposition that can take on the Regime? These are not paths to ‘morality’ that sound viable. I think the Tamils would much rather rely on the international intervention, albeit presently soft, to adjust Sri Lanka’s moral compass. Interestingly you published an article in the Colombo Telegraph last year asking why the silent majority let the extremists carry on and not step in – I would be interested any answers you have arrived at on the issue in the interim for it will certainly be a step toward defining a path to finding Sri Lanka’s moral compass.

          • David Blacker

            You seem to be mixing up what DJ is saying with what I am. I never said that the GoSL can’t control the BBS. Quite the opposite. It is precisely because they believe they can control the BBS that they have an answer to the accusation that this conflict will become war. War is not the problem. Intervention is not the problem (certainly not for anyone other than the regime). The immorality of racism is the problem.

          • alex f

            Sure – racism is immoral – all agreed, no disagreement. If you are saying that the GoSL can control the BBS then you disagree with DJ and agree with me. So again no disagreement. Also means that DJ’s argument that the international community needs to support the ‘status quo’ is flawed.
            So how do you stop the racism? Through education and laws against race hate – which the state controls. How do you change the state control of education and law? Regime change. Can it be done internally? I think no, DJ says yes (i.e. no need for external intervention soft or hard). Those who think it can be done internally have never explained how.

          • David Blacker

            my response to you has somehow disappeared. if it doesn’t reappear i’ll have to try and remember what i said.

          • David Blacker

            ok, it’s reappeared.

          • Fitzpatrick

            In the mean time… BBC reports that a 89 year old Auschwitz guard has been arrested in the USA at the request of Germany. I wonder if many years from now we will read a similar headline…of course he was simply a guard “obeying orders” right? Will that argument work for diplomats?

  • Nashy G

    I am a Buddhist from Sri Lanka. Why are these monks spewing hate when they should be focusing on the Dharma? They are using the robes to push political thoughts and racism towards Muslims. This is not the role of monk. Disgusting.

    • Santhan

      Why are these monks spewing hate? Asks Nashy G.
      The answer is that is the Buddhist way of life in SL from historical times.
      The Sinhala buddists tolerated and enjoyed it.
      Be it 1897 when Swami Vivekananda’s visit, 1915 Muslim/Sinhala riots.

      1958, 1977, 1983 Anti Tamil pogroms etc etc…..

      But this time, thanks to the Internet/Twitter/Facebook the rotten nastiness of the SL variety “sinhala buddihsm” seem to be too much for the sinhala buddists.
      From historical times it was same but the times have changed no they cry and say disgusting and all the BS!

  • Ethnic-based fascism using Buddhism as social connector without any religious or ethical attachments to Buddha

  • Fitzpatrick

    Could Cyril Mathew have done what he did in 1983 without the knowledge of J.R.Jayawardene?

    Could Gotabaya and BBS done what they did in 2014 without the knowledge of the president?

    Come come Dayan, stop playing with words !

  • Kamal

    ITs a shame. BBS must be internationally banned and the main culprits including the Lunatic Monk be put behind bars. Cps have caught only the flies.

  • Justice & Fairplay

    Despite his well known political bias, Dayan’s above is a masterly analysis of the situation. Even his worst critic must give him due credit for that.
    However, he and other analysts should identifiy the beasts and then push for their “putting away” for a long while, so that normalcy reigns over our land once again. This must be done from every platform they occupy.
    DJ’s avowed lack of confidence – almost personal in nature – in the Leader of the opposition does blind him unfortunately, in seeing that man’s virtue.
    The time has come for DJ to shed his blinkers and lead the way in calling for a political change, because clearly, there is a real need for it, right here and now. A new political order based on common sense, decency and the Rule of the Law and its implementation is indeed the crying need.

  • This Purpose of the incident perhaps was to Plant the Seed for Potential Supporters.

    There is more to the protest than what we have experienced and seen. Coming to think of it this way, just like most of us are united to ‘Fight Racism’, there would have been a group that would have started to support the BBS after the incident.

    The Armed Forces, the Police, the Mob and All of Sri-Lankans have been watching this. This act of the BBS was more to PASS a Message to the more SILENT supporters of their belief. BY all means their message has been clearly and loudly conveyed to the entire country.

    If the Government does take this lightly, by Choice they are allowing to be RUN OVER. Power can be retained or lost at this point.

  • amargunatilleke

    Galagodaatte Gnanasara,is boxing on with obvious backing of some powerful person or persons. But who would call the bluff and take him on? [Edited out] and the mob would run in 7 directions. It is the job of Police to do this. The armed forces need not have been called if the police did their job when trouble started brewing on Poson Poya day and then on the Friday after that etc. Who gave BBS the permission to hold a public rally and then to march through Dharga town?

  • alex f

    Good piece by Charles Haviland on the pogrom. It also contradicts DJ’s view that the BBS is independent of the Rajapakse regime.

  • AL

    A frightening article Dayan, and an important one. I was shocked to hear the negative references to MR in Gnanasara’s speech, and he also said the Sinhala have no leader. I always assumed the BBS was a proxy for the ruling clan, a way to steal the hyper-right-wing electorate away from the JHU. So this was new, as you’ve pointed out. But they can’t operate with the impunity they have without state support, or rather someone with major influence in the state. Your Plan C seems likely given Gnanasara’s speech. So who will be the candidate? I tend to read most of what you write, and you’ve often suggested that the defence secretary is/will be making a political foray soon. Is he the candidate? Is he operating independent of MR (the moderate elder brother compared to him).

    I remember the JVP insurrection in the eighties well. What stood out for me was that the state lost control of the police and army for a while. The JVP had sympathisers and plants within the forces and police, to render them ineffective and sometimes to you use them. Is this happening again with the BBS or is the state directing the forces and police to help them?

    Side note: in the past you suggested that the JVP of the eighties and the LTTE could only be overcome if their leaders, Wijeweera and Prabhakaran, were removed. Is there a similar person in the BBS?

    • alex f

      Well AL, there are different interpretations to the facts, and DJ has chosen one that supports his non-interventionist / ‘status quo’ shielding agenda.
      What was interesting this week was a statement by the JHU saying that they didn’t believe the people would suffer sanctions to protect the Rajapakses.
      It is more than likely that the Sinhala Buddhist nationalists have worked out which way the wind is blowing. They will of course always push their Chauvinist ideals, but they have worked out / think that the Rajapakses are now excess baggage and that the people, given the alternatives of economic hardships or keeping the Rajapakses in power, will jettison Mahinda and his family.
      What is notable is how hardline the UNP sound – their speeches aren’t exactly about liberalism and equality, if anything they sound more hardline.
      This is essentially, the international intervention working its magic. As in Serbia, the people will eventually hand over their war criminals to the international community.
      DJ is like the proverbial Ostrich. The internationally led intrusion is happening (something DJ can’t handle) and he is interpreting the facts on the ground to suit his non-interventionist stance, when actually it looks like international policy is working like a charm.
      The bit that is unclear is what the international community does when the opposition come in and form a nexus with the Buddhist nationalists?

  • Jayantha

    Hi, just getting to grips with this and wish to bring another facet in to the argument, hitherto unaddressed by many since it is distasteful.

    DJ is as eloquent as ever but eloquence adds nothing towards a solution except a list of lofty wishes for good behaviour by all factions/stakeholders.

    Last year, a friend from Anuradhapura visiting with me in Colombo made the shocking observation that to win an election in Anuradhapura all one had to do was thrash the Muslims.

    While it did sound callous and insensitive, the salient extract from his comment is that the general Sinhala population in Anuradhapura harboured animosity towards Muslims.

    I don’t believe this insensitivity is confined to Anuradhapura and for all practical purposes is available to anyone to inflame and incite spontaneously and/or deliberately in any part of the country.

    What is the solution, you ask?

    Assuming a majority of the people are insensitive to the plight of Muslims, any appeal to end racism not only rings hollow but is hopeless if the idea is to convert actual racists.

    You would probably have more people joining if the offer was to create some sort of beneficiary bank to acquire and equitably share the wealth and property of Muslims, once they are removed.

    You can be sure everyone who joins in will not want their own property damaged before it is acquired!

    Now, in comparison, the BBS is flaunting impractical rhetoric, while the SBB ( Sinhala Beneficiary Bank) is offering real property.

    More importantly you would have identified the actual racists. The threat of naming and shaming them is now a viable means of keeping them under control.

    Moreover, it could be rumoured that the government is behind it and that the BBS is not going to share anything with the people. It would ring true since they are already destroying Muslim property! Now the populace will rise to defend Muslims.

  • alex f

    Quite fortunately for DJ.

    • David Blacker

      fortunately for civilization as well. if we treat diplomats like soldiers, where is the argument for diplomacy against war?

      • alex f

        Well, not entirely right. Diplomats who give diplomatic cover, whilst their governments commit war crimes are culpable. DJ seems to have done just that. He may not have known of course, but given who much the world did know at the time it would be hard to believe. Further, the defence that its their job to ‘lie’ doesn’t stand.

        • David Blacker

          well, under that logic one would have to charge farmers who grew rice for soldiers committing war crimes because without the rice they’d have starved and not committed war crimes. this discussion is increasingly becoming farce.

          • alex f

            not sure it follows – a knowing advocate / defender of war crimes / genocide is the same degree of crime as for example an inciter of violence – in many countries incitement to violence is a crime, but of course Gnanasara won’t be arrested in Sri Lanka because he is Buddhist Sinhalese, but Tissanayagam and Asad Sally would of course be arrested as they are not.

          • David Blacker

            you’ve already suggested that DJ may not have known of alleged crimes. i notice you backtracking on that in order to salvage your argument.

  • alex f

    More from the Sri Lanka Guardian.

    9 killed including an infant. Explains Gota’s role in the riots too. Again doesn’t support DJ’s article above of an ‘independent BBS’. Gnanasara got an STF security detail to protect him through the riots ….

    All the evidence suggests that DJ will go to any lengths to argue for non-intervention, including raising malevolent scare stories, like a powerful and uncontrollable BBS.

  • Fitzpatrick

    So so true, it certainly have come home and poor ‘political scientists’ don’t know what hit them ! Wish they were wiser in 2009 !

  • David Blacker

    i am awaiting your ability to read English

    • Fitzpatrick

      when one is unable to counter the arguments, one resorts to insults.
      I for one am enjoying the way the regime you and Dayan praised to the high heavens has turned out !

      • David Blacker

        when one is unable (or unwilling) to comprehend the answers given, one pretends not to have got a response. i am glad you’re enjoying this fantasy praise you say i have made, but please run along and play now like a good boy while i talk to Uncle Alex. i’ll explain it all to you in simpler language you can understand when i have time.

  • alex f

    Sure we can let DJ explain himself, however at present it seems he is basically positioning Rajapakse left of the extreme-right and saying to the IC if you get rid of him there is worse to come. To me this is just one more sign that the whole system needs to be restructured and if necessary Balkanised.

    Re: liberal heroes – I am touched but I think that Sri Lanka has many more notable liberal heroes already. Jude Lal Fernando and CM Wigneswaran are all very liberal individuals. One must recall even Dayan hailing the selection of Wigneswaran as the TNA reaching out. He is a Colombo Tamil whose kids are inter-married – its not like the Tamils aren’t engaging. Further, as a point I made earlier is that the Tamil Diaspora is in fact very liberal. And not liberal in the Rajiva Wijesinha sense – I.e. liberal but some how finds himself in cohorts with Chauvinists.

    The issue in Sri Lanka is that there is no space for the Liberal. I attach an interesting link below – it is about the US supreme court’s actions to suppress Black rights:

    The reason this is interesting is that it is hard to imagine Martin Luther King being successful in that environment. Sri Lanka today reminds me of that savage era of American history. I.e. impunity rife, racism from the supreme court down – i.e. there is no liberal space. There are plenty of liberals to help Sri Lanka, its just that they can’t do anything with the regime and the BBS.

    • David Blacker

      i think i’ve already dealt with these points further up the thread. i am however intrigued by your need to make sure that certain actions are made within a defined liberal framework, or at least within a framework that can be labelled as liberal. reminds me of DJ’s need to define the Tigers as fascist before he could build a political argument against them.

      it’s a bit like waiting to discover if Mahatma Gandhi was a Christian before deciding if he was a good man.

      • alex f

        Haha – interesting analogy. I have to admit I like the liberal frame-work as it is the idealogy of compromise that accommodates and is open, however it is uncompromising where it matters – the rights of people. My point above is that the individuals you highlight had a liberal space to work with (albeit relative). There isn’t a lack of liberals amongst Sri Lanka’s nations, there is a lack of space for them to work out a solution.

        • David Blacker

          unfortunately, most of your comments on world history makes it clear you have very little understanding of liberalism.

  • alex f

    Agreed. The CT is not the place we should be heading.

  • David Blacker

    i suggest you follow your own advice and avoid being edited out.

    • alex f

      Three words … Pot kettle black

      • David Blacker


  • alex f

    Re Peoples Tribunel – the panel seemed pretty distinguished to me. Experts on international law, genocide, human rights – quite a spectrum. If you can provide a more credible and independent study I would be interested to see it.
    Re: rape protocol – the US isn’t under the microscope for credible allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Also there are a number of other independent reports on this. Like the regime you seem to be intent on dismissing the evidence a little too readily.
    Re: the distinction between child abuse and statutory rape applies to minors on minors. Unless you are suggesting the Sri Lanka soldiers were as young as seven (like their victims) its child abuse. The fact that the whole unit was at it suggests its a pedophile ring. Again a little to ready do defend the indefensible, for someone who otherwise seems quite rational.
    Re DJ: no time sorry – you know him pretty well so please e-mail. I know what i read. If I am wrong and DJ things the evidence is fake then he is in the same camp as those jokers in the regime. Its a lose, lose.
    Re International order: again I don’t agree with your conclusions. The vehicles of the liberal order promote long term changes that are broadly good for humanity. Yes US (or Nato) interests at times take priority, but it is that process which lifts humanity. The best example was winning the Cold War. The battle lifted all of Eastern Europe out of communist poverty and on the road to EU accession and wealth. Is the US a global power with interests – absolutely! Are the liberal order and ideals it (US and the West) promotes the key to making humanity safer and better off – yes. The Arab block is on the path to change and having ‘strongmen suppressing their people’ was not a viable long term solution. The Arab spring is in its early days, but in 10 years like the communist block it is likely that this path had to be trodden to come out the other side. That is something for Sri Lanka to consider too – ‘strong man regime’ or a prosperous future.

  • alex f

    Btw just looked up the Marga Institute. Its a Sri Lanka based, almost entirely Sinhala think tank. I am not surprised they published your papers on the non-‘genocide’ of Tamils. I am a little surprised by how easily you dismiss the People’s Tribunal given its constitution of its panel – genuine global experts on their field.

    • David Blacker

      so for all your claimed liberalism you are unable to look beyond narrow ethnic confines to dismiss the Marga Institute as “Sinhala”? similarly i question your worship of the People’s Tribunal when you’re so ready to dismiss international legal experts who actually sit participate in international war crimes investigations who have contributed to the Marga Publications.

  • maithree ..

    Why is it that the muslim youth who blocked the path of a Buddhist monk returning from a sermon on Poya day and assaulted him that sparked violence in Dharga Town not arrested. Why is it that damage done to sinhala residents in the area not reported? This was a result of Police inaction. The Bodu Bala Sena was not involved in this initially and only came to the scene as the police didn’t take any action. The above pic this site has posted is not from Aluthgama and is misleading. It is unfair to mislead people for certain individuals personal or political gain.