“We all remember the horrors of the past, the violence of three decades and the anti-democratic governments. Compare that situation to today. Civil society groups are flowering and members are key advisors in governmental task forces and decision making.”
- US Ambassador Athul Keshap, ‘US Air Force strengthens historic American ties with Jaffna’, Daily Mirror, Aug 15th 2016
Affable Ambassador Athul Keshap has confused “liberal” with “democratic” or Sri Lanka with some of America’s best friends. Even during three decades of war, this country always had elected democratic, albeit intermittently illiberal, governments -- unlike some of the best buddies of the US, then and now. The US ambassador’s statement does not once mention (suicide bombing) terrorism, leave alone secessionism. Terrorism and not “governments” was the most “anti-democratic” phenomenon we faced for thirty years, while it was successive elected governments that protected the fundamentals of a functioning democracy.
Today we’ve graduated from Ambassador Keshap’s “anti-democratic governments” to “anti-democratic Oppositions”. The TNA with a third of the seats of the joint opposition, is seated as the parliamentary opposition while the JVP is the Chief Whip. This disenfranchisement of the Southern opposition which has more seats than the TNA and the JVP combined, and exceeds the number of SLFPers in the ‘National government’, only serves to erode the legitimacy of the political order.
We now have (1) A political system that is de-centred; devoid of a middle ground and a shock absorber, in that it lacks the centrist SLFP as opposition (2) A political structure rendered less stable by the abolition of the two-party system and (3) A game de-legitimized by a numerically much smaller party being accorded the official oppositional space. The Government is legitimate—having more seats--but the official Opposition is not. A legitimate government cannot be replaced by extra-parliamentary means but insofar as the Opposition is illegitimate, so too to some degree is the political status quo, and such a warped, illegitimate status quo can be legitimately contested and replaced by exceptional, even extra-parliamentary, non-violent means.
With Colombo’s partial pivot to Beijing and China retrieving (some would say enhancing) its economic space in Sri Lanka, Washington and Delhi won’t be taking any chances. They’ll entrench themselves permanently in the North and East, enhancing their footprint in an ethnic enclave (e.g. Kosovo/Kurdistan). Influenced by the Tamil Diaspora, voices in Washington, Delhi and Tel Aviv have argued for decades that the Sinhala South will always be politically volatile and will never be a permanent client state, while for historical and cultural reasons, the Tamils of the North and East by contrast have demonstrated a vocation for Western client status and satellite-hood.
Thus we shall see enhanced Indo-US economic and military ties with and infrastructure in our sensitive Northeastern periphery. There will be great pressure to re-merge and constitutionally federalize the North and East, de-linking it from the South and more easily looping it with Tamil Nadu. The UNP-SLFP-TNA bloc will effect this tectonic shift through the ‘Third Republican Constitution’. Our North and East will be managed by a Washington-Delhi-Chennai trident, and less and less by Colombo.
Even the proposed economic (counter) reform measures have perverse ethno-economic implications if not intentions. The sell-off of State-owned enterprises and the rollback of the 1972/75 Land Reforms to facilitate foreign ownership will economically debilitate the Sri Lankan State while creating a large alien i.e. non-citizen (including Tamil Nadu) landowning class, uprooting and dispossessing the majority of the citizenry in a replay of the Waste Lands Ordinance and the opening up of the plantations.
This island is far too small for vast tracts of arable land to be sold to non-Sri Lankans or controlled by Provincial Councils. The majority will be turned into a ‘proletarian nation’ in what was once its own land, which its soldiers fought and died for and won back. Foreigners will own and occupy a vast economic space while the majority becomes a minority shareholder. The collective economic destiny of the majority will be in the hands of hostile or unsympathetic outsiders. Future generations of the majority will sink to the subaltern status they occupied under colonialism while the minority elites will be restored to their colonial status. The last peaceful option for resistance the South will have will be the courts and a referendum. The aggressive ‘accountability’ invasion through special laws, Special Courts and a Special Counsel’s office is intended to paralyze, confuse and divert the war-winning Sri Lankan armed forces so that the State can be subverted and dismantled by means of a Constitutional Cold War.
Belatedly, former deputy editor of the Times (London), Louis Heron’s famous silent query, “why is this bastard lying to me?” adopted by many top journalists when interviewing politicians, is a necessary question whenever a Sri Lankan politician denies knowledge about the proposed land and undersea bridge linking Tamil Nadu with Talaimannar, first announced by Indian Minister of Roadways, Nitin Gadkari, in the Lok Sabha. ‘There is a strong possibility of a land bridge being built linking Sri Lanka and India (Tamil Nadu), Minister of Public Enterprises Development Kabir Hashim said addressing the 12th World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia yesterday. He added there had been discussions at the highest political levels on implementing the project. “We had a plan to build a bridge and there is a good possibility that it will be built. Discussions have been held at the highest levels regarding this,” he said.’ (‘SL-TN land bridge most likely’, Rathindra Kuruwita Ceylon Today,Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016, my italics, DJ)
In a similarly outrageous absurdity, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that “…former attorney-general Shiva Pasupathy, a former legal adviser to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, is now preparing to advise the Sri Lankan Government on its constitutional changes.” (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-12/a-dream-of-reconciliation-for-sri-lanka/7669774) This is a man who has not expressed regret over his support for the secessionist terrorist LTTE, having earlier risen to the top of the Sri Lankan administrative structure. Logically he will strive to facilitate his secessionist aims through a loosely federal, actually con-federal Constitutional model.
After the official SLFP’s and UNP’s September Conventions, their shift (in tandem) rightward to national nihilism and State-dismantling could be so undeniable and complete, that an independent political formation, a new Independence movement -- modelled on the Suriyamal Movement -- becomes an imperative to fight the referendum and related battles, armed with a clear political will and strong, experienced, national leadership.The endgame is Election Year 2020. The UNP leadership talks of “five more years” when there are only four. If the Govt. tries to stretch it to five, petitioners could flood the Supreme Court.
‘Ageist’ dismissals of the Mahinda Rajapaksa electoral option are meaningless. He will turn 71 this year. Juan Peron was 78 years old when he made his second comeback and was elected Argentina’s leader in 1973. Brazil’s Lula da Silva is slightly older than Mahinda and he hopes to run for the Presidency once again (having served two terms before Dilma). Raul Castro was 75 years old when he became President of Cuba a decade ago.
The Sri Lankan citizenry must bear in mind that the decisive existential battle will be the Referendum on the Constitution. It is the sovereign unitary state that brought about or sustained all our exceptional successes, from the retention of democracy and social welfare, to the retrieval of our independence, rapid post-tsunami recovery, the decisive defeat of terrorism, the reunification of our territory and rapid postwar reconstruction and growth rates -- all in a historically hostile geopolitical (sub-regional) setting. This makes Sri Lanka a rare success story in the Global South and even on the planet. The Referendum on the Constitution will be the Stalingrad of the sovereign unitary state.