The double R Reconciliation and Rhetoric

30 June 2017 12:00 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • If Yahapalana Government is serious about reconciliation, the first decision should be to work towards a new social ideology in the Sinhala South 
  • Why ‘reconciliation’ is just another fraud under this Yahapalana Government  

“Today, words like ‘progress’ and ‘development’ have become interchangeable with economic ‘reforms’, ‘deregulation’ and ‘privatisation’. ‘Freedom’ has come to mean ‘choice’…… This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the tsars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalise their detractors, deprive them of a language in which to voice their critique and dismiss them as being ‘anti-progress’, ‘anti-development’, ‘anti-reform’ and of course ‘anti-national’-negativists of the worst sort.” [Arundhati Roy – Outlook India / 3 July, 2009]


“This theft of language” as Roy says, has marred the necessity of working towards an inclusive society that would empathise with the “other” and respect the “other” as equals in society. It has changed politics of the ‘secular’ into politics of the ‘market’. Politics of the secular is what campaigns and works towards bridging gaps in society. 


Of erasing discriminations on religious and ethnic differences. Flattening disparities between luxuries of the super rich and the scarcities of the utterly poor.


Politics of the ‘market’ is its polar opposite. It works on extracting ‘profits’ but is termed as ‘earning’ profits. There is no ‘ceiling on profits’ so earned. Yes, profits are ‘earned’ and employees/investors have to keep earning profits for ‘economic growth’. 


Words do matter in this economy. Endless earning of profits is given the term “development”. But profits don’t increase ‘income and wealth’ of the 12 million people in the labour force. Wage is no lucky collateral with improvement and increase of profits. ‘Development’ therefore is not for the poor and the marginalised in these neo liberal economies.


One may argue that the secular aspect of ‘democracy with social justice’ can be built into market economies. 


There are more words and phrases coined to argue that it is possible. Chandrika Kumaratunga promised a “human face” while Dr. Harsha de Silva spoke about a “social market” economy. 
Theoretically they ‘sound’ utopian. In practical life, they remain no different to any other exploitative free market. These fence-less market economies do not allow for ‘human faces’ or ‘social marketing’ with social justice. 


In market economies without fences that allow encroachers to dig in profits as they wish, two things go hand in hand. Income and wealth disparity followed by racial and religious polarising.


This is confirmed in the largest ‘representative democracy’ in the world, in India. It is also confirmed in the land of the ‘warlord’, the US. 


It is also so, in the land of the ‘fallen’ sun, the UK. So it is in the now Balkanised ‘Soviet’ of Stalinist Russia. They come in different forms, different colours and in different scales and shapes.  In Modi’s land of saffron rule, it is bleeding and violent with ‘Hindutva’ gangsterism. In Trump’s United States, it is ‘White’ dominance with a ‘Mexican wall’. In May’s United Kingdom that was, it is ‘autonomy’ for Scots. In Putin’s toughened up Russia, it is Chechen annexation. In all instances, it comes with increasing profits and increasing economic disparity.


Landing on Sri Lankan soil, this fenceless market economy had done what it does there in the neighbouring land.  It is creating a new rich urban middle class. Increasing numbers in Colombo and suburbs with an increasing capacity for spending defines ‘growth’ in terms of Gross Domestic and Gross National Product. 


Along with that come the ‘Saffron troupers’. They’ve been patronised by all Governments to date. Led by the UNP Minister of Industries and Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya boss Cyril Mathew, the 1983 July Tamil pogrom, ploughed the field for a savage war, intervened by Indian interests.


The almost 30-year long war that eventually disconnected the Tamil North with the Sinhala South, was as cruel and inhuman as in Kashmir.


The bifurcated valley with its own cultural identity where India has its military boots justified by a social mind set hung on Hindu nationalism. That in turn defines patriotism and national security in India allowing for extremely repressive laws justified within the largest democracy that India is.


No different to India, Sri Lanka too has traversed a path of Sinhala supremacy. The war against Tamil separatism was waged on the hyped Sinhala mind-set that tolerated arbitrary arrests, torture, abductions, disappearances and extra judicial killings.  They were in the name of national security, patriotism, anti terrorism and a “Unitary” State. 


The list that includes Sivaram, Keith Noyahr, Poddala Jayantha, Upali Tennakoon, Lasantha Wickramatunge among many others from the North as well as the dead and the missing counted in thousands on both sides of the barricade during 30 years of war is all about that supremacist dominant Sinhala mind set.


Conclusion of the war has not made Sinhala supremacist thinking, redundant, if that was meant only to fight the separatist war. Nine years after the war, it is still being nurtured with mainstream political patronage. 


It is this same mainstream politics, corrupt as it is that stands for ‘development’ via free market economy, increasing disparity of income and wealth sharing in society. It is within this exploitative free market we experience the post war re-emergence of violent Sinhala Buddhist groups roaming free under this “Yahapalana” Government. It is within this Sinhala supremacist social thinking, law enforcement becomes flexible for Sinhala Buddhist extremism.


It is also within this Sinhala Buddhist extremist ideology, patronised by this “Yahapalana” leadership as well, that “Reconciliation” is bandied about for international consumption. 


Reconciliation is thus given a deformed meaning in its application on the ground.  It is about guided tour packages from South to North and North to South for social activists, journalists, for schoolchildren and teachers. 


It is about inter-religious conferences for clergy and funding isolated cultural events. It is now about blood donation by Buddhist monks in Jaffna hospital. It is also about infrastructure construction decided and designed in Colombo-all, within the Sinhala supremacist thinking.


This reconciliation therefore doesn’t include land issues and military occupation of private land in the North, release of Tamil detainees, answers for missing persons and strengthening of provincial governing structures as a political necessity. 


Reconciliation is what Sinhala South decides for the war affected North and East. This reconciliation therefore does not infringe on and does not attempt to change how the Sinhala South decides politics and is not about “de-polarising” society. If this Yahapalana Government is serious about reconciliation, the first decision should be to work towards a new social ideology in the Sinhala South that would be inclusive and would effectively de-polarise society. 


Create a Sinhala mind-set that would allow for a new secular culture. It begins with the unavoidable political campaigning in challenging the violent Sinhala Buddhist extremism. 


It would take issues like redesigning school curricula to remove ethno-religious ‘pollutants’ carried through decades of Sinhala dominance. 


Redesign curricula to allow rational thinking for ‘social unity’ and leave all religions outside the school curriculum as private and personal interests.


Economies with fenceless markets don’t allow for all that. Political parties are funded and Governments are elected to continue creating economic space for ‘ceiling less’ profits with kickbacks for decision making. 


That demands social distraction to keep the majority from taking up economic issues as political deciders. That therefore needs the Sinhala supremacist campaign as the distractor. Given political validity, it is the key mobilising factor of the Sinhala society.


Yet, with the ending of the war and with it the LTTE, “Tamil Separatism” is too small a bogey to mobilise the Sinhala society. 


Instead now the vogue is to project a Muslim bogey. With Islamic fundamentalism projected internationally as a “potentially dreadful” enemy of humanity, the once US funded Taliban leading to Al Qaeda and now to ISIS, Islamic fundamentalism and its possible expansion in Sri Lanka has become the new bogey in hyping Sinhala supremacy.


For the Yahapalana Government with its breakneck speed in further de-fencing the economy to create larger and larger space for increasing profits with mega kick backs, it is not possible for this government to live without a new bogey. 


It needs to keep the Sinhala society tied outside economics. It also needs to keep the Sinhala majority as a large voting block that would not demand social justice in their economic life. 


This Yahapalana Government therefore has to cater to the Sinhala supremacist ideology, no different to Modi and his Hindutva steam-rolling. 


It is therefore not about tolerating BBS and others, but about keeping them alive in mainstream Sinhala politics.


It therefore needs no more than the “half a bottle full” logic to know reconciliation is just another fraud under this Yahapalana Government. 


No government that panders to ethno-religious social psyche can mix reconciliation with its majoritarianism. That is more the rule than the norm, and Yahapalanaya remains true to that. 
Reconciliation thus remains another word to play with, like 
“transitional justice”. 

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  • robert croos Friday, 30 June 2017 01:53 AM

    Very rarely a sensible article is seen in your news paper.Best wishes and my gratitude for the writer, Kusal Perera


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