Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

An alternative grid map of political opinion serving the best interests of Sri Lanka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke has analyzed various possible political views on Sri Lanka and suggests a grid map of Sri Lankan political opinion. His intention is to evaluate these opinions and show which opinion is best in serving the interests of Sri Lanka today. He has pointed out eight different opinions but trickled them down to six groups (A-F), giving priorities to the factors such as protecting the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, devolution efforts and military/war mentality. All eight groups are indicated as A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H (not in his order) in the “Grid of Opinion…” illustrated below together with other possible couple of groups which I believe important.

Taking into consideration the factors such as ‘the character and proven track record of the Tigers’, ‘the nature of the UNP leadership’ and ‘the character of the Lankan crisis, chiefly a crisis of armed secessionism’ he concludes that “the interests of the country are best served by the anti-Tiger, pro-war, pro-military, pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa, pro-Gvt. position and camp” (group A).

It may be realistic and sensible to argue that “sustainable security and peace require the support of India; that sustainable prosperity requires the support of the world community; that no element of the world community supports an anti-devolution position and all of them urge reasonable devolution upon Sri Lanka, the future of the country is best served by the pro-devolution stand, to the extent that it is the sole viable stand”. And it is also persuasive that “the majority of the country’s citizenry are anti-Tiger, pro-President Rajapaksa”. It is also acceptable that anti-government stance will not help at this point as he suggested.

But it is not convincingly justified why the pro-devolution cause cannot be productively served from anti-military standpoint. In fact it is contradictory to promote devolution of power while endorsing pro-war military mentality which can easily be misinterpreted as a military solution.

The grid of such political views is depicted in the diagram below. There, we could see certain other possible viewpoints as well (lightly shaded);

A Grid of Opinions on Devolution of Powers, Tigers, Government and War

Grid Map

(Gvt. – Government, UTHR-University Teachers for Human Rights, SLDF- Sri Lanka Democratic Forum)

The view points representing the dark shaded four positions in the above grid are not pragmatic as one cannot be pro-Tiger while being pro-MR. But the light shaded two views (All-anti but pro-Gvt. & All-Anti), which were not considered by Dayan, are significant as many ordinary people generally do not prefer any kind of war (even with Tigers), I believe. The majority of such people may belong to pro-devolution category (G & E) but there could be certain elements of this group of community who are anti-devolution while being anti-war. This anti-devolution, anti-war group represents people and their family members, close relatives and friends, who are fighting in the war front or living in border villages/war effected areas. They could be pro-Gvt/MR or anti-Gvt/. But they are against the war because the lives of theirs and their loved ones are at risk amidst the war. They are worried. Some of those are against devolution of powers mainly because of the influence of racist propaganda, Sinhala or Tamil.

I have heard many Tamil voices in the Diaspora just asking “what’s wrong with Ealam?” They are desperate on a separate Tamil Ealam in Sri Lanka. They belong to the group (H); anti-Gvt/MR, anti-war, pro-Tiger and Ealamists or federalists. They are similar to the Sinhalese day-dreamers such as JHU, NFF (B) & JVP (D) etc. who believe that the interests of the country are best served with pro-military, anti-devolution stand. The pro-Tiger elements unleash hatred against Sinhala Buddhists and try to project Sinhala Buddhists as a religious cult and complain about “genocide” of Tamils by “Buddhists” instead of spreading loving kindness to all living beings as they are supposed to.

Need of the day
The need of the day is basically twofold; peace and prosperity. To achieve peace, given their track record, many believe that the LTTE is an obstacle. So the Sri Lankan military forces are doing their job and the necessary political leadership too is provided. At this crucial juncture, joining this military campaign is not the need of the day, especially when the government has vowed to end the war soon and is planning to implement a political solution beyond the 13th amendment. The Government has proposed material devolution of powers to the minority Tamils living in the North and East provinces of Sri Lanka. But the more gruesome piece of racism would be that, once the LTTE is defeated and when the time comes for implementation of such devolution of powers, the anti-devolution elements would get their turn and play havoc by rallying masses against it, as they did in the past. Therefore, the need of the day is to prepare the mentality of the masses in Sri Lanka (and outside) to resist such racist provocation. Indoctrinating pro-war military mentality is a serious impediment to the pro-devolution campaign.

Regarding the world view on Sri Lanka, the need of the day is to defeat anti-Sri Lankan propaganda that projects Sri Lankans, especially the Sinhala Buddhists, as war-oriented, blood thirst beasts. The need of the day is that, to project Sri Lankans internationally as peace loving; that Sri Lankas’ primary goal is not waging the war but working towards peace. The voices of Tamils in the groups A, C, G and E are huge, great and helpful in defeating the LTTE for peaceful political solution. The world views on that issue are already positive and pro-Tiger voices, which were previously sponsored by certain so called peace-loving States, are faint now (credit goes to H.E. Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleke as well for that matter for his contribution in placing Sri Lanka above the Tiger sympathizers in the international forums).

Therefore, it is essential and more sensible to promote the ideology that profess the interests of Sri Lanka are served best by the positions and forces that are anti-Tiger, pro-Govt, pro-devolution without making any connection to military/ pro-war ideology which is counter productive as “waging war” is the very picture the pro-Tiger elements want to paint internationally against Sri Lanka. Therefore, broadly, the interests of the country may be best served by taking anti-war, pro-Government and pro-devolution stand within Sri Lanka in implementing a political solution and, outside Sri Lanka, in lobbying the support of the international community to accomplish sustainable prosperity for which we have a long way to go.