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Terror, Performance and Anxieties of Our Times: Reading Rustom Bharucha and Reliving Terror

(Terror and Performance by Rustom Bharucha (2014). Tulika Books, New Delhi; ISBN 978-93-82381-37-2; pp. xvi; 250. INR 695.00 Approaching terror When I started reading Rustom Bharucha’s latest book, Terror and Performance, it immediately became an intensely personal and gripping engagement.  It was difficult to read in a single attempt as the mind kept wandering from […]

“We the People”: Reflections on Governance and Civic Engagement in Sri Lanka

Deshamanya Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda 17th Memorial Oration August 1, 2014, Sri Lanka Foundation It would not be an exaggeration to say that I was deeply humbled by the invitation to deliver the 17th Deshamanya Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda Memorial Oration. At the outset, let me thank the members of the Nandadasa Kodagoda Memorial Trust for the honor […]

Where In-fighting generates Fervour & Power: ISIS Today, LTTE yesterday

Image courtesy NBC News “Division and in-fighting will sap and weaken any organisation or ideological current.” This formulation (mine) may seem a common-sense dictum. Let me challenge this notion with another dictum: “fratricidal militant fission sparks dedication, skill and organisational power.” The recent, explosive expansion in Syria and Iraq of Sunni militants under the banner […]

Proud Inheritors or Petty Contractors? Understanding the BBS phenomenon in Sri Lankan politics

Photo by Thyagi Ruwanpathirana The speech delivered by Ven. Galaboda-atté Gnanasara at a public meeting in the Aluthgama on 14 June 2014 is broadly considered as the primary cause that triggered the subsequent rampage and violence in that area. Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), the organisation of which Ven. Gnanasara is the Secretary General, is squarely accused […]

OVERCOMING THE POST-WAR MALAISE: WHY SRI LANKA NEEDS A REFORM MINISTRY AND WHAT IT SHOULD DO

The High Priests of Liberal Conservatism: Edmund Burke and D.S. Senanayake are the paradigms of thought and action for the Reform Ministry  [Photo credit: The Empire Youth Annual, 1952] “For centuries the Sinhalese and the Tamils have lived together in peace and amity. We have been governed by their kings and they by ours … […]

PLATO’S CAVE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN: ELITE FAILURE IN SRI LANKA

Photo by EPA/M.A.PUSHPA KUMARA courtesy LA Times “…one cannot expect an individual or a book to change reality but only to interpret it and to indicate a line of action. Machiavelli had no thought or intention of changing reality; he only wanted to show concretely how the concrete historical forces ought to have acted to change […]

The National Question: All about State Power

Photograph courtesy PACT S.J.V. Chelvanayakam Memorial Oration, 26 April 2014 I am thankful to the S.J.V. Chelvanayakam Commemoration Committee for inviting me to deliver this memorial oration on the occasion of the 37th death anniversary of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, Q.C., a revered leader of the Sri Lankan Tamils. I am told that I am only the […]

Women and Children: The Cutting Edge of International Law

Photo by UN/Myriam Asmani, via World Education Blog The Grotius Lecture 2014[1] PREFACE Sometime at the end of 2011, while I was still the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, I met an ambassador from an Asian country just before a United Nations Security Council meeting on children […]

Freedom and bondage: Lankans, then and now

Introduction There is a need to question the adequacy and suitability of current conceptions of both ‘human rights’ and ‘secularism’ to meet the challenges of unbridled majoritarianism, which seems perfectly at home within the institutions and procedures of the modern Sri Lankan state. In the first part of this article I propose an alternative vision […]

“The law, this violent thing”: Dissident memory and democratic futures

Image courtesy Lanka Standard Full text of the address by Dr. Vasuki Nesiah, Associate Professor of Practice, New York University, at the 14th Neelan Tiruchelvam memorial lecture on 28 July 2013 at the BMICH. Excerpts published in Ceylon Today. ### In 1999, the year Neelan was assassinated, I was a graduate student in the United […]

Colonizing Childhood and Zionist Pedagogy: Interview With Prof. Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, peace educator and activist and co-laureate along with late Prof. Izzat Gazzawi of the 2001 Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and the Freedom of Speech awarded by the European parliament. Peled-Elhanan has translated Albert Memmi‘s Le Racisme (1982) and Marguerite […]

A Missing Person in Sri Lanka: Heartfelt Issues & Ground Realities

Image courtesy Salon / AP Photo by Eranga Jayawardena When I was in Sri Lanka from mid-April to early June 2009 I was on holiday with my wife and not able to pursue investigations in any depth. In contrast my sojourn in May-June 2010 focused on a range of studies and travels. One gem of […]

Mixed Messages and Bland Oversimplification in President Rajapaksa’s Independence Day Speech

In a significant act of outreach the Independence Day ceremonies were held in Trincomalee, a provincial city with a pronounced ethnic mix; while President Rajapaksa presented one part of his message in Tamil, repeating what he had said earlier (in English?) and then reiterating the same points in Sinhala. In keeping with the occasion and […]

Parama Weera: What it takes, and what it means

Image credit Ishara S.Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images via The Baltimore Sun The eyes stared expressionlessly back at me from the fifteen small pictures, some clear, and some blurred; reflections that only hinted at the men behind those eyes. But sharp or soft, they all looked so innocuous, so devoid of any indication of what they had once […]

Operation Liberation: 25 years on

The commanders of “Operation Liberation” commonly known as “Vadamarachchi Operation”. From left to right: Lt Col. Vipul Boteju, Lt Col. Sarath Jayawardane, Col. Wijaya Wimalaratne, Brig. Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Maj Gotabaya Rajapakse [1987, Jaffna] Image courtesy Defence.lk Twenty five years ago, on May 26th 1987, the Sri Lankan military forces launched ‘Operation Liberation’, which, at […]