POLITICAL ETHNOCIDE, STATE SUICIDE?
(Courtesy of The Daily Mirror)
By Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka
How is it that the much-celebrated peace agreement heralding national reconciliation in Colombia between its FARC guerrillas and Columbia’s President Dos Santos just signed in Havana in the presence of President Raul Castro, ending over half a century of civil war, opts under the rubric of Transitional Justice for restorative justice over punitive justice, contains an arrangement for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with a provision for amnesty or light/non-prison sentences such as ‘community service with restricted residency’ for guerrillas and soldiers (despite evidence of drug trafficking, large scale kidnappings, massacres and atrocities) but has no provisions whatsoever for new laws and an Office of the Special Prosecutor to investigate the war and the military— while post-war reconciliation in Sri Lanka, in which the protracted armed conflict did not culminate with the terrorist militia agreeing to a negotiated settlement with the decommissioning of its weapons but in an outright military victory for the democratic State, eschews the painless option of a general amnesty and is deemed to necessitate not only a Truth and Reconciliation Commission but an Office of the Special Prosecutor and Special Laws aimed precisely at punitive justice?
Why are we in Sri Lanka even talking about Transitional Justice? The Colombian peace agreement reflects the right use of the concept of transitional justice. It represents a transition from war to peace by means of a mediated negotiated settlement. Transition implies an evolutionary, gradual, peaceful, non-zero sum outcome. The opposite of “transition” is “rupture”. Victory/defeat in war is the ultimate zero sum game and is not an example of evolution! Where in the world, apart from Sri Lanka, has a constitutionally legitimate army which won a war outright, been subject to Transitional justice and a punitive special prosecutorial process?
In Northern Ireland, the Sinn Fein/IRA and the British State signed the Good Friday agreement in which there was no punitive accountability arrangement. It has proved successful. Some tepidly Sri Lankan liberal cosmopolitans (including expats) then said that international law and norms have moved on. Well, the allegedly outdated ‘Good Friday’ perspective now reappears in Colombia, ignoring the supposedly new rigorous accountability norms.
Imagine if after the defeat of Nazism, the Nuremberg trials were not only of the Nazi fascist ringleaders but also of the Allied leaders who signed off on Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This didn’t happen and could not have happened, horrendous as those tragedies and crimes were, because that is not how History works. Sri Lanka’s submissively pro-western ruling elite is attempting to bend History and override its indelible verdict which lies far deeper in the collective consciousness than any ephemeral, episodic electoral outcome.
If the provisions of the peace accord in Colombia which brings peace after 52 years and has triggered widespread public celebrations, are to be submitted to a national referendum for approval, why isn’t the implementation of the domestically contentious Geneva resolution being submitted to a national referendum in Sri Lanka?
Why not declare a general amnesty for all combatants, military and LTTE, and look to the future, instead of repeating the fatal error of Eurydice and look back?
The US-Britain-UNP strategy is the restoration and reconstruction on the Island of the pre-1951 neo-colonial model, regarded as a golden era of the Westernized socially privileged. This was the model which existed before SWRD Bandaranaike and DA Rajapaksa ruptured with the UNP sixty-five years ago and formed the SLFP, thereby creating the two-party system and empowering the Sinhala subaltern classes by levelling the playing field and establishing a competitive political marketplace in which elite factions had to bid for the votes of the Sinhala masses.
The present UNP-SLFP bloc is either intended to weaken the political clout of the Sinhala majority on the island because the latter no longer has two powerful parties trying to outbid each other for the Sinhala vote. The Sinhala voter is being deprived of a democratic choice and is sought to be presented with a monopolistic market with only one option and path; the pro-West, centre-right UNP-SLFP alliance.
The strategic project to politically marginalize and dis-empower the Sinhalese in the only place on the planet in which they constitute a majority, is such that the JO with 51 MPs is deprived of the Leadership of the Opposition, while that space is accorded to the erstwhile fellow-travellers of the Tigers, the TNA, with 16. Southern political power is sought to be frozen out; the collective Southern voice silenced.
This political ethnocide is paralleled by economic ethnocide. When state owned enterprises are sold off, it could be another Raj Rajaratnam who ends up owning them. Meanwhile the well-known CEO of a top bank resigned because the staff union discovered that sixty per cent of recruitment was from a minority.
The endgame is constitutional ethnocide. The Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan state are sought to be weakened by means of irreversible geopolitical and geo-strategic dis-aggregation. The elimination of the unitary definition or its residual retention only as nomenclature but not as content, will empower and enlarge the North by re-merger with the East and enhanced economic power including over arable land and its commercial disposal.
We’ve all heard of young Prince Dutugemunu’s traumatic fear of being hemmed in. What faces us is a far worse fate. The constitutionally enlarged, empowered North will be permanent merged with Tamil Nadu and India by means of the Hanuman Bridge and undersea tunnel, thus creating a geographically contiguous Greater North, under which the Island’s South and the Sinhalese will lie contained, crippled and crushed for eternity.
The granting of considerably more power to the Provincial Councils and Chief Ministers will shatter any sense of Sinhala nationhood and foster instead a divisive, parochial provincialism. Raising a unitary standing army will be more difficult than before, let alone waging a war of self-defense and reunification as we did in our lifetime. As in the case of former Yugoslavia, an army in an ethno-federal system (by any other name) is likely to split up along provincial lines.
Question Five: Why is this happening to us? How is this Kafkaesque scenario even possible? In a grand strategic symmetry, the island’s North has always identified itself with and been allied vertically with the Greater North, i.e. India and the Global North, while the island’s South has always sought counterbalance with a solid identification and horizontal alliance with the Greater South, i.e. the Global South plus Eurasia (China and Russia). Today, the ruling elite has abandoned any identification or alliance with the Global South and Eurasia. Thus the majority community located in the Island’s South, has been cut off from its global support base, its natural allies and friends, and its geopolitical hinterland.
The Sinhalese are to be punished and demilitarized, and the country turned into a de-facto protectorate of the UN-US-Britain, for the crime of having vanquished Tamil separatist terrorism which ravaged our land for decades. Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the combat commanders and military intelligence operators are being targeted and will be punished for having eliminated the Great Hero (‘Mahaveera’) of the Tamils, the monstrous fascist Velupillai Prabhakaran. The Sinhalese and their patriotic leaders are being made an example of, for their defiance in defending their country, ignoring Western attempts to abort the victory and save the Tamil Tiger leadership.
The penalty the West seeks to impose is to take our country away from us and give it over to the same reliably submissive and servile social strata that managed our society for imperialism during the long night of colonial and neo-colonial hegemony and humiliation. But I’ll be damned if I passively let my country be taken away from me, without struggle, without resistance.