On the 3rd September 2019, I invited a selected body of individuals to review and comment on the article in the ISLAND newspaper of 3rd September presented by a cluster of eminent intellectuals with the headline “Presidential Elections And The Peoples’ Options” – an item that has also been reproduced in Thuppahi too with a different title.
These invitees are busy people and one could not expect responses from all of them. However, I received two critical evaluations from Rajiva Wijesinha and Vinod Moonesinghe; while Rajeewa Jayaweera has penned an appraisal in his regular column in the Island. Gerald Peiris indicated that his close friendship over many years with some of the key personnel precluded any engagement; but he presented comments on the Forum’s evaluation of the JVP on the foundations provided by a long history of engagement with the JVP as well as more recent exchanges with some of its personnel.
On the 7th September I sent a gentle reminder to the personnel approached in the first round – encouraging them to pen their thoughts. Today the 10/11th September, I present the RESPONSES sent to me more or less immediately by Wijesinha, Moonesinghe and Peiris. I will be allowing another week for the others to respond
From Michael Roberts as Editor, Thuppahi, 3 September 2019:
If so moved, I invite you to comment in a considered and even documented manner on the thrusts conveyed in the article Presidential Elections and The Peoples’ Options” which I have presented with a different title.
If you do so it will be a new thread within THUPPAHI
COMMENT from Rajiva Wijesinha, 4 September 2019 (with emphasis added by Thuppahi)
Thanks, I fear I find the Friday Forum appallingly biased and selective, based on their failure to understand the need the country had of getting rid of the LTTE; and their obeisance to the Western narrative of the war. I prefer to avoid them now, and in fact I suspect few take them seriously, Rajiva
COMMENT from Vinod Moonesinghe, 4 September 2019
These critics advise us not to allow amnesia to cloud our judgements; but appear to suffer from selective amnesia themselves.
The Batalanda Commission recommended that Ranil Wickramasinghe should be brought before the courts, although this was never done. He was also part of the cabinets that broke the 1980 general strike with violence, that carried out the 1977 and 1983 pogroms and the slaughter of prisoners in the Welikada prison in 1983, that presided over the slaughter of 60,000 young people, including Richard Zoysa and Wijedasa Liyanarachchi, in 1987-90, that privatised popular assets — leading to the complete destruction of the Thulhiriya textile manufacturing complex and the Werahera Workshops — and dismantled public transport, as well as destroying the nascent industrial base of this country. He presided over the cabinet that privatised, illegally the port bunkering services and the Insurance corporation, and that destroyed Sathosa.
Quite apart from the fact that, while they refer to a “new form of colonisation recently experienced in Africa and South America” — apparently a dig at China’s Belt and Road programme — they forget to mention the burning issue of loss of sovereignty to the USA through the MCC agreements, and the revised ACSA and SOFA agreements. Nor do they refer to the current government’s pro-colonialist attitude in voting in international fora in support of Zionism on the Jerusalem issue and abstaining over the vote on Mauritius’ legitimate claim on the Chagos Archipelago — notwithstanding the fact that Sri Lanka initiated the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace proposal, and had demanded the removal of the Chagos military base.
Perhaps even more importantly, the authors of this document ignore completely the need to decolonise Sri Lanka, to create a modern nation. This entails modernising and de-colonising our economic base. We possess a subsistence agriculture sector which, despite the Paddy Lands Act and the limited Land Reform Act, is still mired in debt peonage and low productivity. We possess a plantation sector anchored in methods imported from the slave plantations of the West Indies, and which is also mired in low productivity. We possess a tiny manufacturing base, dependent on imported inputs of materials and machinery, and almost totally dependent on the export market. The economy is run for the benefit of the rentier class, dependent on trade and financial services. The economy survives because of the remittances of workers (most of them domestic servants) overseas, both for its internal development and to pay for the imports which enable the rentier class to make money.
Without modernising the economy, this country cannot overcome the colonial hangover of ethnic disunity and build a nation. The authors of this document, coming as they do from highly educated backgrounds, cannot be ignorant of this need. The fact that they do in fact ignore this overarching necessity, calls into question their motives.
Restrained Comment from Gerald Peiris, 9 September 2019
Why, I wonder, hasve Savitri et al been so gentle in her comments on the JVP candidate Anura Kumara Dissanayake? Her only worry about that clown aspiring to become President appears to be a slight doubt about his capacity to handle economic affairs and foreign policy. Look, I have had quite a bit of personal contact with the JVP leadership at a series of discussions we had (at their invitation to obtain advice from me and 3 others whom they said they could trust) when they were a part of the Rajapaksa regime. So, I feel it necessary for everyone to know that the JVP leadership is still committed to an “extra-parliamentary” strategy of capturing state power, that they still regard Rohana Wijeweera as a martyr murdered by the capitalists, and they still hold a ‘Heroes Day’ to commemorate the many thousands of their “comrades” in their attempt to “liberate” Sri Lanka. There are a few among them who are quite talented — for instance, Handunetti and Bimal Ratnayake — but the others can only repeat just the type of thing that Savitri and her collective has presented.
AN EDITORIAL NOTE: The personnel who were invited to comment on the assessment provided by the Friday Forum are probably quite busy people. However, to indicate that i approached a wide spectrum, let me name the indivIduals who have not been able to send any comments: Frances Bulathsinghala; Mario Gomes; Lakshman Gunasekere; Victor Ivan; Tamara Kunanayakam; Lasanda Kurukulasuriya; Neville Ladduwahetty; Hassina Leelarathna; SWr de Samarasinghe; and Jayadeva Uyangoda