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

Looking at the grid of SL political opinion as a continuum

I have read An alternative grid map of political opinion serving the best interests of Sri Lanka posted by C A Saliya on March 18, 2009 in the Groundviews in response to Dayan Jayatilleka’s The grid map of political opinion in Sri Lanka appearing in FEDERALiDEA on March 10, 2009.

Saliya opines,

“It 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.”

Much as I agree with Saliya’s viewpoint, it has to be pointed out that it loses its relevance at this stage when the military initiative is supposed to be nearing its end. His view was certainly in point before the military moved in and it may have produced more sustainable and less destructive results if it was acted upon with vision on both sides at that stage. But now that the horse has fled, why think of closing the stable? At this stage the reflection is only of academic interest.

This consideration focuses attention on the adequacy of the grid itself. Both grids are centered on the present moment in time. If they are analyzed as a continuum, conclusions reached by both writers may not be valid for all times. Validity of a conclusion depends on the environment at the time of analysis as the following examination of Jayatilale’s grid would indicate:

(A) Pro-Tiger, anti-war, anti-MR/Govt, pro-devolution/federalism
(UNP leadership, ‘peace’ NGOs, INGOs)

Judging from their public statements the UNP leadership does not appear to be Pro-Tiger or anti-war now. That position was tenable only in the scenario of their peace initiative. Are the anti-war responses of the ‘peace’ NGOs, INGOs based on partiality for any party to the conflict? Could their supposed pro-Tiger attitude be a product of emotion or a response to the changing balance of power? Could not their anti-war response be universal and a part of their value system? Besides is it safe to surmise that they are all anti-war after the LTTE’s consistent resistance to their peace initiatives?

(B) Anti-Tiger, anti-war, anti-Govt/MR, pro devolution/federalism
(UTHR-type, CBK sympathizers)

Would they be anti-Tiger, if the latter responded favouably to their overtures? Are these groups still anti-war or could they have changed with time like the UNP? Would they be anti-Govt/MR if the Government was more democratic and less corrupt?

(C) Anti-Tiger, pro-war, anti-Govt/MR, pro-devolution/federalism
(UNP base, TULF)

Is not the anti-Tiger, pro-war stance a development of the failure to come to terms with the LTTE? Would not the Tigers have been more accommodating if they visualized a possible military defeat? Is the TULF anti-Govt. at the moment?

(D) Anti-Tiger, pro-war, anti-Govt/MR, anti-devolution (JVP)
JVP’s anti-Tiger response is a development over the years. They became anti-Govt after their recent break up with the powers that be They were very much with the Government during the last Presidential Election.

(E) Anti-Tiger, pro-war, pro-Govt/MR, pro-devolution
(SLFP, CPSL, EPDP, Karuna)

These again are responses that developed over time due to the failure to settle internal disputes or the break up of the traditional left values.

(F) Anti-Tiger, pro-war, pro-Govt/MR, anti-devolution

This is perhaps the most consistent stance in the grid. Even here the pro-Govt. attitude may break up if the Government resorts to a pro-devolution stand.

I have made these observations to show that the attitude of the parties concerned is time and situation bound and inter-dependent. We have come to the present predicament because the solutions available at different stages of time were not taken advantage of for personal reasons or due to a lack of vision.

Of course present action must necessarily be based on present demands. Sophistication of the Grid as a continuum may help each concerned party to see where they missed the bus and learn a lesson for the future. The contradiction in trying “to promote devolution of power while endorsing pro-war military mentality” is an inevitable result of failing to devolve power at an earlier stage in the continuum.