The road from Nandikadal: A NEW REVIVALISM
By Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka
The TNA-Tamil Diaspora-UNP project is a frail, minimalist State with a weak centre
Would India have allowed Ban Ki moon to travel to Kashmir and have a political dialogue with strident Kashmiri nationalists?
The Sri Lankan Government permitted and facilitated a meeting between the UNSG with the Northern Provincial Council and its Chief Minister. Every parent knows that you do not reward bad behaviour with a gift. Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran presented the infamous Genocide Resolution to the Northern Provincial Council and then handed it over to a visiting senior UN political official. He was rewarded for that move with the kind of meeting that no Sovereign State arranges between the UN Secretary General and the Chief Minister of a restive border province, in which a truculent separatist psyche is far from dead.
The TNA’s Sampanthan told the UNSG that he expected the emerging Constitution to provide a political solution to the Tamils, based on the right of self-determination. The SL Government has signalled that a certain province, its elected council and Chief Minister can have political relations with the United Nations. This feeds dangerous delusions of independent statehood.
The outgoing UNSG called for a reduction of the military presence in the North. Such a remark is way outside his mandate, but there was no one from the Government to gently point that out. He went off script and bracketed Sri Lanka with Rwanda and Bosnia in his speech in Colombo, and there was no contradiction or objection from the Government of Sri Lanka.
These awful trends will crystallise in the new Constitution. The TNA insists that the new Constitution reflects the “multi-national” character of Sri Lanka. There is a huge difference between the recognition of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural, i.e. pluralist character of Sri Lanka, as the Indo-Lanka Accord and the ensuing 13th Amendment rightly did, and recognition of an alleged “multi-national” character of Sri Lanka. India does not define itself as multi-national because it has suffered the results of the “two nation theory”—bloody partition.
“Multi-national” allows communities in Sri Lanka to call for the recognition of the right of national self-determination, initially prefaced with the adjective “internal”.
This will result, down the road, in a call for a referendum in the North (Or the North and East) on federalism or an even an independent State itself.
The demographic reality of an island on which almost two-thirds of the population belong to one ethno-lingual community, renders it impossible to classify as multinational–which implies communities of roughly comparable size.
The Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and Malays of this island are variously national minorities or minority nationalities. If the Tamils are/need/want a nation, that be way over in Tamil Nadu, India, baby.
The TNA eschews the term ‘unitary’, and pushes for a system in which the ‘centre’ i.e. the Sri Lankan State is limited to keeping the island together by wielding only those powers, which relate to managing the country’s interaction with the rest of the world, while all other powers are devolved to “regions” (e.g. a re-merged North and East).
The Tamil people already have an arrangement of this sort -in Tamil Nadu. There is no logic by which an ethnic community, which is one and a half million strong in two strategically sensitive border regions of a small island, should enjoy the same quasi-federal powers that eighty million Tamils enjoy in Tamil Nadu.
The TNA urges “shared sovereignty” among the “peoples” of Sri Lanka, while our Republic rightly regards sovereignty as indivisible and flowing from the Sri Lankan people as a whole, not “peoples” (ethnic communities).
The island of Sri Lanka has only one neighbour and that’s to its North. The North of Sri Lanka with a
million Tamils is only 18 miles away from Tamil Nadu, which has 80 million ethnic Tamils.
The Southern two thirds of Sri Lanka has no neighbours, no co-ethnics, no adjacent co-religionists, and no speakers of the same language. The geopolitical realities faced by the Sinhalese, including their exceptional collective situation and consequently exceptional vulnerability, require a strong State with a strong centre i.e. precisely a Unitary State.
The TNA-Tamil Diaspora-UNP project is a frail, minimalist State with a weak centre.
But just when you think it’s all going south—in this case, north – something good and important happens. A man or woman stands up and strides forward. A book appears. Society rallies. The retreat stops, the fight-back starts.
Can a book save a nation? World history says yes. The most important book on Sri Lankan matters authored by a Sri Lankan and published here or abroad in my lifetime of reading, appeared on September 6th. It was as a pair: a Sinhala original (The author has a gift of verbal and literary expression in Sinhala) and an English language version, which reads easily and arrestingly. The launch was one of the most impressive, indelibly memorable and emotive events that I have attended in a lifetime of attending public events. It may turn out to be a true social “tipping point”, where the tide of public opinion turned.
I refer to Major General Kamal Gunaratne’s Road to Nandikadal (The Sinhala original is Ranamaga Ossey Nandikadal),and the event was the book-launch at Ananda College with an overflow crowd of well-dressed invitees constituting the elite of the generation that fought and won the Long War in the military and non-military (Political, administrative, diplomatic, ideological and legal) battlefields.
This patriotic elite has been overthrown and replaced by the puppet elite, the elite of the unworthy, the collaborator elite, the ‘ancien regime’ of appeasers and cowards (With the exception of Field Marshal Fonseka). As Gen. Gunaratne unflinchingly testifies:
“During his lifetime, Prabhakaran had the power and capability to get almost all the leaders of Sri Lanka, such as Presidents J.R. Jayewardene, R. Premadasa, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with the exception of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to kneel before him…Each of these the times, the Army was shackled and embarrassed in society which hurt us deeply. During the peace process initiated by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, it was no different and perhaps the worst.”(Road to Nandikadal, Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, Pp. 8, 463).
This is the book of our time, the true history of our times, a text to be treasured. A harrowingly authentic first person narrative, it is also a Great Chronicle.
With this literary long-range artillery, Major General Kamal Gunaratne has recaptured the most valuable strategic real estate: the moral high ground.
Road to Nandikadal should be in every Sri Lankan home and in the possession of every Lankan family here and overseas. Every library—municipal or school—should have copies. It should be a prize book at school prize-givings and a birthday gift. The author should be invited to speak at schools and civic associations. Anyone who wants the truth of our times to be known and transmitted down the generations and across borders, must buy, read and gift this book.
Ananda College was the product of the patriotic Buddhist revival under colonialism, while this massive tome is a chronicle of the cycles within the great cycle of the fall, revival and rise of the nation. Naow the cycle is being repeated.
The assembly of the organic yet modern elite at the event, the re-invocation of heritage and tapping of the well-springs of patriotic discourse; the solidarity that Ananda College showed Gen. Gunaratne, whose book launch was shunned by the State institutions, which are disowning the war and the warriors; the example shown by this solitary soldier in exchanging his T-56 for a computer keyboard and taking the fight to the enemy in the “war of ideas” instead of surrendering to a silent retirement, may mark a new revivalism of the nation’s sagging spirit in these warped, wretched times of self-abasement and disgrace.