Colombo, Diaspora, Foreign Relations, International Relations, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War


“A social group dominates antagonistic groups, which it tends to “liquidate“ or to subjugate perhaps even by armed force; it leads kindred and allied groups.“ “ Gramsci

The Wiki leaks mega “dump“ is an international relations s analyst“s dream. It is also great fun, don“t you think? Consider this: if leaking diplomatic cables and stuff pertaining to past events evokes a howl of condemnation from the metropolis for giving comfort to enemies of western states, and endangering national security and personnel, how can Sri Lanka be faulted for preventing real time coverage of the war, and especially its concluding stages? Furthermore, if the Wiki Leaks exposures are quite so heinous and damaging, why pressurise Sri Lanka to hold an independent international inquiry into the war? Won“t that compromise national security and affect the lives of military personnel? Or is it that some lives and secrets are far more important than Sri Lankan ones?

The massive WikiLeaks detonation took place in the wake of a significant conjunction of events for Sri Lanka. That was the celebration of Mahaveera day by the Diaspora Tamils and the visit to Jaffna by India“s Foreign Minister SM Krishna. Remember Mahaveera day, when Prabhakaran had his torchlight parades, and Sri Lanka“s state television, Rupavahini, uplinked his speech to the BBC and European stations in accordance with an arrangement entered into when Wasantharajah was made chairman of Rupavahini by President Kumaratunga? That self-abasement of the Sri Lankan state and humiliation of the Sri Lankan citizenry took place in the Chandrika-Ranil days. This partnership hoped to win the 2005 Presidential elections and share power with the LTTE through the PTOMS. I am glad I supported presidential candidate Mahinda on television in a close fought election which decided the history of our country and its peoples.“ Had he not won, Mahaveera day would still be addressed by Prabhakaran, uplinked by Rupavahini and telecast by MTV!

When one recalls how Mahaveera day was celebrated in Sri Lanka, how can anyone with an iota of patriotism avoid the feeling that in the single most important respect Sri Lanka as a state, a country, is much better off today than then; that those were the worst of times and that these are comparatively better?

Little wonder then that Mahinda Rajapakse is enjoying a “hegemonic moment“. Both his critics and courtiers would do well not to confuse this“ “limited hegemony“ with “structural tyranny“ ignoring as they do the“ basic Gramscian distinction between “hegemony“ and “domination“ and conflating the one with the other.

Of course Mahaveera day was celebrated this time too, and the locations of that celebration tell us a great deal. They were the concentrations of the Tamil Diaspora in the west. This then is the true “traditional homeland“ of Tamil Eelamist sentiment.“ Worse, they openly commemorated terrorists and assassins who died in the cause of dismembering and disintegrating Sri Lanka. Maybe we should celebrate too: after all, those terrorists are dead and that is a cause for satisfaction. As far as I am concerned, these folk can celebrate it for the next generations to come and I wish them luck establishing a separate Tamil state on the soil of those countries where they reside and demonstrate, because they sure ain“t gonna get one anywhere in Asia, still less on the soil of our island.

More significant is the truth that came to light. While the Mahaveera conclave took place in the UK and Tiger flags were openly waved at Heathrow, neighbouring India has once again stated in its domestic legal hearings that the LTTE remains a real threat to its own security and that the danger of reactivation is real. If India has a perception of threat from the LTTE, how can anyone argue that Sri Lanka does not?“ The threat to Sri Lanka comes secondarily from Tiger elements which may regroup in South India and primarily from the Tamil Eelam project, with its terrorist, violent and non-violent variants (as disclosed by authoritative columnists Sathiyamoorthy and DBS Jeyaraj) embedded in the Tamil Diaspora in the West.

The role of the Diaspora generates and is compounded by the stance of certain elements in Western states. As the WikiLeaks reports indicate, a former colonial metropolis canvassed the case against Sri Lanka, while its closest partner, a superpower, seems to have taken an inordinate interest in possible UN moves on Sri Lanka. To counter the threat located in the West, Sri Lanka must be able to leverage the entirety of Asia.“ To consider India “The Enemy“ or an enemy (“the greatest enemy…a horrible enemy“) as some Sinhalese publicists and ideologues do, is to gouge deeply into that support, discarding more than half of it. This is all the more imbecilic since India is one of the few states that have recently re-designated the LTTE and the possibility of its reactivation as a threat to itself.

Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna“s visit to Jaffna coincided with the Mahaveera madness in the West. The message was clear: Prabhakaran and the Tigers are gone, baby, gone; the Sri Lankan and Indian states are not, and are very much present.“ That wasn“t the only signal to the Tamil people.“ Mr. Krishna“s revised schedule did not permit a separate meeting with the TNA, despite attempts in some quarters to build up the TNA as the main if not sole legitimate interlocutor with both the Sri Lankan and Indian governments.“ The TNA MPs were present on the platform in Jaffna but as the photographic evidence shows, they had to take second place to Minister Douglas Devananda, the elected Tamil leader who stands at the intersection of the Sri Lankan and Indian initiatives for the Tamil people. There may be those preferred by Colombo and others by Delhi, but he is trusted by both Colombo and Delhi. The space he occupies cannot be bypassed and he cannot be dislodged from it.

Tamil public opinion has to choose between the West-based Diaspora and India, while the TNA has to choose between Diaspora-driven dogmatic rhetoric and the parameters of the evolving Indo-Lankan equation.

While India, China “and indeed Brazil, have the size, scale and ‘factor endowments’ that make their material achievement impossible for much smaller economies to replicate, it is pathetic that“ an agoraphobic allergy to secularism, federalism, devolution and an open society have made some neoconservative Sri Lankan ideologues convert to anti-Indianism while animus towards Mahinda Rajapakse (unshared by the bulk of Sri Lankan public opinion) has made some “at the opposite end of the spectrum go beyond pointing out the unfeasibility and undesirability of“ mimicking China, to“ condemning China as a source of inspiration for much that is wrong in contemporary Sri Lanka and denounce the Chinese economic model and developmental miracle.

The UNP used to be different: Presidential candidate Premadasa’s winning manifesto plus programme, ‘A New Vision, A New Deal’ was drafted by him (together with Susil Siriwardana) in a Hong Kong hotel following his tour of China and the inspiration he received from observing Deng Hsiao Peng’s economic model.

Contrast the ludicrous nonsense written and uttered against China in Sri Lankan press and websites with the views expressed in the New York Times (November 11th, 2010) by Kishore Mahbubani, one of Asia’s most respected diplomats, intellectuals and Dean of the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, ranked one of the top ten policy think tanks in the world:

“The largest poverty-reduction exercise in human history was achieved by the Chinese government. When Deng Xiaoping launched his famous reforms in 1978, over 800 million people lived in absolute poverty. Today, fewer than 200 million do. Over 600 million were lifted out of absolute poverty.”

He followed this up with words that should be instructive for many Sri Lankan opinion makers:

“…In the Western political imagination, the march to progress is made by steadily weakening the state and enlarging individual freedom. In the Chinese political experience, the weakening of the Chinese state has inevitably led to chaos and enormous personal suffering. There can be no doubt that the past 30 years since Deng“s reforms began have been the best 30 years that the Chinese have experienced since the Opium War of 1842. One reason for this is that the Chinese government managed to find the right balance between opening up society and maintaining order“and that in a country of 1.3 billion people…Most Chinese believe that the Western agenda is to unleash the same chaos in China as it did with instant democracy in Russia.”

In a recent speech at a conference in Singapore, he concluded with an important point:

“… The man that did more good than anyone was Deng Xiaoping…Will he ever get a Nobel Peace Prize? Never. Because of the western world view that the prize must be given to dissidents in Asia…Deng Xiaoping saved 600 million people and he will never get a Nobel Peace Prize. That’s why it is important to step outside the western world view.”

Now that may be advice from a reawakened Asia which those of the Sri Lankan intelligentsia and commentariat held in supine thrall to the Western neoliberal “civil society“ worldview, would do well to consider.