Feature Article

Relay race for genocide sanctified as ‘Good Governance’ by USA: Jude Lal

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 09 September 2015, 00:01 GMT]
The SLFP/UPFA, UNP, JHU and the JVP have all claimed their share in the genocidal ‘military victory’ against the Tamils. The Sinhala liberal intelligentsia describes the trend as a ‘relay race’, where each Sinhala political leader had taken turns in contributing to the victory, says Professor Jude Lal of Trinity College, Dublin, in an interview to TamilNet on Tuesday. “There is an inherent racism within the so-called project of good governance, which is based on a victor’s mentality. The agenda of the ‘good governance’ did not arise from the Sinhala society. It was part of the US-sponsored UN resolution and a facade to cover up crimes committed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state,” the exiled Sinhala academic says adding that the political power of the ‘Sinhala Supremacist State’ is at its peak at the moment.

Dr. Jude Lal Fernando
Dr. Jude Lal Fernando
“The Tamils need to be politically cautious more than ever before that the so-called good governance is not only aimed at covering up crimes committed against the Tamil people, but also designed to consolidate the unitary state with the support of the Tamils who are victims of this state.”

The political power that the Tamil people historically exercised through their struggle should continuously be revitalised without getting bogged down in electoral politics, which is the backbone of the Sinhala supremacist state.

* * *


On the US-sponsored resolution, Jude Lal said

“It is this resolution that reduces the inherent brutality of the Sri Lankan state into an issue of breaking down of rule of law. In this rule of law, the state is protected and there is no space for charging the state with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The US-sponsored UN-resolution protects the Sri Lankan state and absolved its brutality against the Tamil people, and now it has been given the name good governance.”

The so-called pro-democracy movement aims to establish a state without corruption and bring it under the rule of law, meaning good governance. But this movement never acknowledges the inherent brutality of the very foundations of the state, which, in its essence, is genocidal against the Tamils, says Jude Lal, reiterating that the core of the anti-democratic character in fact lies in the Sinhala supremacist unitary state structure.

“There is no genuine democratic revival in Sri Lanka. There is no true civil society in Sri Lanka. Morally and politically, the Sinhala society is in a dark abyss and there are no signs of return and it is trying to pull the Tamils towards the same abyss,” he says.

“What exists in Sri Lanka is a civil society that is highly colonised by the Sinhala supremacist state,” he adds.

* * *


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his recent visit, tried to apply lessons of the Irish Peace Process to the island.

“The situation in the island is not like in Northern Ireland where there is at least a basic form of power sharing mechanism where both parties can exercise political power.”

“The most fundamental principle as well as the reason behind the relatively successful Irish Peace Process was the parity of esteem established between the Unionists and the Republicans.”

“It is Blair and Bush who grossly violated that principle when it came to the political negotiations between the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE,” reminded the exiled Sinhala academic in his interview to TamilNet.

* * *


Full text of the first part of the interview follows:

TamilNet: What is your response to the claim by the new Sri Lankan regime that their policy of ‘good governance’ has created democratic space for the Tamils who can now exercise ‘equal rights’ and join with the Sinhalese to work for the betterment of the island?

Dr Jude Lal: The Tamils have never been able to exercise equal rights under the Sri Lankan unitary state, which is a Sinhala supremacist state.

Professor Jude Lal
Professor Jude Lal Fernando
In fact, the political power of the Sinhala supremacist state is at its peak at the moment.

The political relationship between the two national formations in the island has been dramatically altered after the Sri Lankan state’s military victory over the LTTE.

The parity that existed at the time of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement and Peace Process was deliberately destroyed.

Yes, the Sinhalese and Tamils could have worked together as equals under the parity of esteem that was established in 2002 by sharing sovereignty.

But after 2009, it is a victor’s peace that has been imposed on a subjugated people. How can the victor and the vanquished join hands to work together?

This situation is not like in Northern Ireland where there is at least a basic form of power sharing mechanism where both parties can exercise political power.

Tony Blair, in his recent visit to Sri Lanka, tried to apply lessons of the Irish Peace Process to Sri Lanka.

The most fundamental principle as well as the reason behind the relatively successful Irish Peace Process was the parity of esteem established between the Unionists and the Republicans.

It is Blair and Bush who grossly violated that principle when it came to the political negotiations between the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE.

The LTTE was banned by the EU when the Blair-led government was holding the EU Chair creating conditions for a blood bath. The US excluded the LTTE from the preparatory meeting that was held in Washington prior to the Tokyo Donor Conference in 2003.

The situation in Sri Lanka is not like in South Africa, where the white supremacist state was dismantled. It was only after this that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was made possible.

On the contrary, the Sinhala dominated regime has been strengthened more than ever before in Sri Lanka, where reconciliation is used as a façade to cover up truth about mass atrocities.

The situation is neither similar to Kosovo nor South Sudan where independent states were formed with the backing of some of the Western powers, not out of genuine concern for the victims, but purely for geo-strategic reasons.

The entire rationale of good governance in Sri Lanka which claims to give equal rights to Tamils is based on a victor’s mentality; a collective Sinhala supremacist mentality that justifies the killing of thousands of Tamils in the name of the unitary state.

If I state very simply the so called good governance is a facade to cover up crimes committed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state; the historical crimes of discrimination, oppression, repression, pogroms etc., as well as the mass atrocities committed in the last phase of the war and the on-going massive structural changes in the Tamil homeland.

TamilNet: So you mean to say that there is no democratic revival at all in Sri Lanka?

Jude Lal:
Let us carefully look at the political content and the aim of over 100 civil society groups who have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the new regime.

According to them this understanding is unique and unprecedented in Sri Lankan politics.

This so-called pro-democracy movement aims to establish a state without corruption and bring it under the rule of law, meaning good governance. But they never acknowledge the inherent brutality of the very foundations of the state, which are discriminatory, oppressive and repressive against the Tamils.

The Sri Lankan state in its essence is genocidal against the Tamils.

For the so-called pro-democracy movement the state is corrupt. Therefore it has to be reformed through change of regime, but it is not genocidal. Therefore, the state need not be transformed.

According to some of them, if they critique the genocidal character of the state, they will not be able to get the support of the Sinhala society against the corrupt Rajapaksa lobby. Therefore, not critiquing the state structure is a tactic of the so-called pro-democracy movement.

If this is the tactic, what is the overall strategy?

Such an excuse is not only begging the question, but also morally indefensible. It was not a century ago, but a few years ago that we saw the most heinous crimes that the state is capable of committing against the Tamil people. Without uttering a single word about this brutality can we talk about a democratic revival?

The core of the anti-democratic character of the state lies in the Sinhala supremacist unitary state structure.

Almost all the undemocratic Acts and Directives of the Sri Lankan state were passed and implemented to protect this state by suppressing the Tamils. The Sinhalese in the name of their state overwhelmingly supported emergency Laws, Prevention of Terrorism Act, Censorship and many other repressive measures.

There is one crucial factor that the so-called pro-democracy movement does not want to recognise. That is, it is these very same anti-Tamil and repressive laws that were used against the Sinhalese themselves by their state. These were used in repressing the 1987-89 uprising, university students, workers, farmers, fishermen and women, journalists and opposition leaders.

In times of war, whenever the Sinhala working classes considered industrial actions, these were labelled as moves aiding the LTTE. Any voice of dissent in the Sinhala south could be labelled so. The Rajapaksa regime used this tactic to the maximum.

Despite all these the Sinhalese have continued to tolerate and justify these repressive measures against themselves as these are mainly meant to destroy the Tamil struggle.

Such justifications increased, particularly, after the JVP entered into Parliamentary politics since the mid 1990s.

One revealing factor is that there is no urge or a political demand within the Sinhala society even to establish a mechanism to probe into the massacre of over 60,000 Sinhalese in the 1987-89 period by the Sri Lankan state. This is a crime against humanity, but this crime was deliberately covered by the JVP itself, as exposing it would destabilise the state, which was waging a genocidal war against the Tamils. It will not be uncovered now, as it will undermine the military victory of the Sri Lankan state and its security forces over the LTTE.

This is why I say that there is no genuine democratic revival in Sri Lanka. There is no true civil society in Sri Lanka. Morally and politically, the Sinhala society is in a dark abyss and there are no signs of return and it is trying to pull the Tamils towards the same abyss.

There may be right thinking Sinhala individuals, but they are totally silent. There is no Sinhala collective social and political force whatsoever that can expose the inherent brutality of the State. Those who were there have been forced into exile, even now.

Look at Argentina where there were over 30,000 people killed by the dictatorship in 1976-83. There is a vibrant civil society and a political movement for democracy, which is active even today.

In Chile, during the dictatorship in 1973-90, over 3000 people were killed and 200,000 were forced into exile. The Chilean civil society is one of the most active one’s today, which upholds a broader vision and an agenda for human rights.

In Guatemala, for the civil society and people’s movements establishing rule of law means preventing and punishing genocide against the Mayan people, which is unimaginable for the Sinhala society even to think about.

One would argue that Sri Lanka is a different context.

Yes, indeed, it is a different case. What is the difference?

What exists in Sri Lanka is a civil society that is highly colonised by the Sinhala supremacist state. This is the hard cold truth about the civil society and good governance in Sri Lanka. Without exposing, naming and confronting the inherent brutality of the Sinhala supremacist unitary state, we cannot talk about a democratic revival.

I must say that there is an inherent racism within the so-called project of good governance.

In fact, the so-called democratic space brought about by the new regime, for example, freedom of speech, is only for the Sinhalese, not for the Tamils.

In this democratic space, Sinhalese can now publicly talk about the immorality of the individual politicians in relation to drug smuggling, trading of ethanol, corruption, fraud and cronyism, but at the same time glorify and sacralise the brutality of the state against the Tamil people.

All the Sinhalese, who condemn the Rajapaksa regime for being corrupt, also publicly acknowledge and praise his leadership in the military victory.

What is the collective Sinhala logic here?

You cannot steal from the Sinhalese, but you can, not only steal, but also plunder, rape, liquidate and massacre the Tamils. Expose and defeat those who steal from the Sinhalese, but never do so to those who massacred Tamils.

The Rajapaksa regime was accused of stealing from the Sinhalese, but not from the Tamil people.

The new political culture that is being spoken of and promised can be summarised as follows: A Sinhala politician cannot be corrupt, but has to be racist or Sinhala supremacist. This is how Sinhala Buddhism is being constructed by its ideologues. This is the essence of good governance.

Ironically, most of the rogues are back in the Sri Lankan Parliament under good governance because the Sinhala constituency elected them.

However, this is not the major issue. The main issue is that this is a Sinhala democratic space, which is needed to consolidate the military victory and the unitary state.

The most illusionary aspect of this Sinhala democratic space is that it appears to extend a conciliatory hand towards the Tamils while continuously threatening and subjugating them.

The Tamils have been pressurised to change their way of thinking, forget their dead, their land, their culture because there is good governance.

A false hope has been generated that the Tamils can work with the government. The agenda is to push the Tamils to abandon their collective political aspirations as well the collective memory of genocide. This is a war by other means, an on-going genocide.

Good governance is not only aimed at covering up crimes committed against the Tamil people, but also designed to consolidate the unitary state with the support of the Tamils who are victims of this state. The Tamils need to be politically cautious more than ever before.

In fact, the agenda of the good governance did not arise from the Sinhala society. It was part of the US-sponsored UN resolution.

It is this resolution that reduces the inherent brutality of the Sri Lankan state into an issue of breaking down of rule of law. In this rule of law, the state is protected and there is no space for charging the state with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The US-sponsored UN-resolution protects the Sri Lankan state and absolved its brutality against the Tamil people, and now it has been given the name good governance.

TamilNet: But some argue that there is a Sinhala unity government now and that the TNA occupies the Leadership of the Opposition and this could be favourable for the Tamil struggle?

Jude Lal: As you know well, historically speaking, the Sinhala elite has always being united against the collective political aspirations of the Tamils. This is not new.

Under the new regime this unity has been explicitly organised in the Parliament.

Even in the case of the division within the Sinhala ruling elite surrounding the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement and the Peace Process, Ranil Wickremesinghe-led UNF’s position was more pragmatic than principled. Given the pressing military and economic realities, he had no option other than agreeing to negotiate with the LTTE.

When we look at the racist and militaristic campaign that emerged with the electoral victory of the UPFA in 2005, it is clear that the entire Sinhala constituency, not only its elite-led political parties, but also its lower and middle social classes led by the JVP and JHU, wholeheartedly supported the war against the Tamil people.

Why did the Sinhala polity and constituency apparently get divided within a several years after the military victory?

Rajapaksa began to claim the whole glory of the military victory without giving due credit to the others in the Sinhala society, including some of his own party members. This created some divisions within the Sinhala society as everyone in the Sinhala society want a share in the military victory.

The SLFP/UPFA claimed that they led the war. The JHU proclaimed it is they who gave the ideological power to the state. The JVP said that it is they, who told the regime that the heavy weapons can be used and the UNP claimed that it is they who laid the international safety net against the LTTE in preparing the ground for war.

All these parties were connected to the security forces of the Sri Lankan state and they continually eulogised the soldiers and the Sinhala masses, who contributed to the military victory. So the Sinhala unity against the Tamils has always been there.

If you observe television debates before the recently completed election campaign, in all most all of these, one could see a battle to share the glories of the military victory.

For example, in one of the debates the UNP’s candidate for Colombo District, Rosy Senanayaka, acknowledged the contribution that Rajapaksa made to the defeat of the LTTE, but at the same time pointed out how Ranil Wickremesighe through the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement and Peace Process boosted the economy and linked with the international community to devise the defeat of the LTTE.

Referring to the military victory, she said that it is like a relay race where each Sinhala political leader has taken turns in contributing to the victory. This is the truth coming from the horse’s mouth. She uses exactly the right term. Yes, it is a relay race, but against the Tamil people.

Rosy represents the Sinhala liberal intelligentsia, who speaks on behalf of women’s and children’s rights, but at the same time, she not only justifies the military victory but also praises the Sinhala political leadership, who ran the relay race for such a victory.

Even the liberal intelligentsia is on the side of Sinhala supremacist politics. This is Sinhala unity. In fact, this so-called democratic space is needed to share the gains of the military victory amongst the Sinhalese.

Now, power has been shared between different stakeholders within the Sinhala polity and the TNA has been brought into the system through the Leadership of the Opposition. Bear in mind the TNA has to present the whole Opposition including the JVP, the NFF, which is the breakaway group of the JVP and the breakaway group of the JHU, who are diametrically opposed to the Tamil political aspirations.

It is the Tamil men and women who faced a genocidal war who voted for the TNA, but now it has to represent not only the victims of war, but also the warmongers.

What does this mean politically? It means an unprecedented containment of Tamil collective political aspirations. If this setting, whatever the TNA promises to the Tamil people will not be materialised, but become only rhetorical.

Let us not forget that this is not the first time that the Tamils occupied the Opposition Leadership.

While Amirthalingam was the Opposition Leader from 1977-83 what did the Tamil encounter? The 1977 pogroms, Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1979, the 1981 pogrom and the burning the Jaffna Library, and the largest ever pogrom in 1983. The climax of this period was the kicking out of TULF from the Parliament in August 1983 by the Sri Lankan state.

After 30 years of a genocidal war that massacred hundreds of thousands of Tamils they have been again given the Opposition Leadership. They can now sing the Sinhala national anthem in Tamil. These gestures have been coded as good governance.

Dr. Jude Lal Fernando
Does this make things better? Yes, indeed, it does, but not for the Tamils, but for the Sinhala supremacist state. This is why I said that the Tamils have to be extremely cautious, more than ever before.

The TNA’s role as the Opposition gives the genocidal State a decent look as being democratic whilst the Tamil collective political resistance is being gradually destroyed.

Does the TNA leadership have the moral strength and political vision at least to follow Thanthai Chelva’s satyagraha model? Does it have a political programme to mobilise the Tamil people outside the parameters laid down by the Sri Lankan Parliament? There need to be a critical mass that should continually work to promote the spirit of freedom in the Tamil liberation struggle. Otherwise, we are going in circles furthering oppression of the Tamil people until their territory is structurally transformed into a Sinhala land whilst the TNA is in Parliament.

The political power that the Tamil people historically exercised through their struggle should continuously be revitalised without getting bogged down in electoral politics, which is the backbone of the Sinhala supremacist state.

[The second part of the interview to be continued on Thursday]


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