Addressing Jehan Perera’s Recent Piece on Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

Lakshman Gunasekara …. with highlighting and a cartoon imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi

What ‘re-conciliation’ ??

Jehan Perera, a very good friend and long-time colleague, at least uses the term “re-conciliation” which was intelligently adopted by the Mahinda regime at the end of the military phase of the ethnic conflict (with a resounding defeat for the LTTE). That regime conveniently picked up that word from among local liberal activists who had begun using it — taking it from South African post-Apartheid peace-building parlance.

Personally, I have long rejected the use of that term in the Lankan context because it is conceptually incompatible with political reality here [in Sri Lanka]. As I have long argued in my writings, in order to be “re-conciled,” there first has to have been a conciliation to be broken. In Sri Lanka, there was never a conciliation between the Sinhala-speaking and Thamil-speaking communities from the very onset of post-colonial freedom (in the late 1940s). The Lankan post-colonial state began without that inter-community conciliation. So, why should we waste time with ‘re-conciliation’? The GoSL does (intelligently) waste time on this word because it beautifully covers up the reality of ethnic oppression and inter-ethnic conflict as a permanent feature of our flawed post-colonial state. Liberal activists like Jehan, who have no option but to work within existing discourses and mechanisms already in place and being promoted by the main actors, correctly use the term ‘re-conciliation’ as a minimum advocacy lever – i.e. holding the government (whoever is in power, UNP or SLFP/PP) to its own adopted policy formulae.  In that sense, I consider Jehan as our most successful inter-ethnic peace and stability advocate (in any language – his writings are constantly translated) and deserving domestic and international recognition for his – not risk-free – endeavours.

As myself and many other far more distinguished Marxian analysts have pointed out, the Lankan political community and State is still in the making. Our Constitution remains a document that should be stored in the Periodicals Section of any archive or library or bookstore.  So, these back-and-forth arguments over ‘reconciliation’ are meaningless to me and many others. And as Marxians, secessionism and ethnic self-determination struggles are things that are eminently conceivable as possibilities and rights, although most Marxians have not fully supported the Thamil Eelam secessionist political struggle and advise separatist activists against it (but they should have the right to advocate secessionism). My dear friend Jehan knows my views. Our political-ideological bond and friendship is strong because we are both on the side of the need for long-overdue inter-ethnic justice and equality (just as much we are united in our activism for democracy).

As regards the long term solution for the crisis in our State, I look to the same solution I seek for Palestine currently under Occupation by a genocidal Zionist State :- what is needed is a single state (in Palestine as well as in Sri Lanka) that ensures absolute equality for all people born on the land – gender, ethnic, religious and caste etc (and, finally class as well, but that is even longer term). In that sense, the flawed Sri Lankan State is far more democratic than the racist, European neo-colonial Zionist entity in Palestine. Even at the height of our 45-year-long internal war (starting with the Duraiappah assassination in ’75), Colombo did not cut off electricity or water supplies or attempt to starve out the population in the embattled areas – as is done for decades in Gaza and the West Bank. And the externally displaced Lankan Thamils now in the Diaspora, including in Thamil Nadu, have their ‘Right of Return’ any time and many thousands have exercised it. I personally know many Thamils who yearn to return but voluntarily desist because of the continuing sporadic racist violence and institutionalised discrimination and bias. Nevertheless, even if not yet cruelly ‘Apartheid’ as Zionism has become, the Sri Lankan State is ridiculously flawed and ridden with inconsistencies due to being at the mercy and control of utterly racist, ethno-supremacist elements as well as nepotistic authoritarian (and stupidly superstitious) forces.

If there is to be any hope of inter-ethnic conciliation and socio-political stability in our beloved Hela/Eela, my proposed single SL State has to be a secular, multi-religious, multi-philosophy political community. Its unified nationhood will have to be nurtured culturally with a definitively inclusive ‘history’ that is based on social scientific analysis (archaeology, rationally appreciated narratives, et cetera) rather than deriving primarily from mytho-pathology.

Lakshman F. B. Gunasekara presents as “Journalist / Communications Consultant ” …and, If I may say so, “a seasoned one”.


Filed under accountability, authoritarian regimes, centre-periphery relations, chauvinism, communal relations, constitutional amendments, democratic measures, economic processes, education, electoral structures, ethnicity, governance, historical interpretation, legal issues, patriotism, politIcal discourse, power politics, power sharing, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, tolerance, unusual people, world events & processes

4 responses to “Addressing Jehan Perera’s Recent Piece on Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

  1. David Wei

    There is only one multi religious multi racial state in he middle east and that is Israel. It has Jewish, Bahai, Christian and Muslim MPs. To refer to it as genocidal displays a very high level of ignorance. The UN, with Russian and US backing, partitioned the old Palestine mandate into a Jewish country and a Palestinian country. Jordan, in the war of 1948, took over the land set aside for Palestinians.
    If the writer had spent time in Israel, (and I am not Jewish) he wouldnt talk about countries he knows nothing about.

  2. Fair Dinkum

    David Wei view of the Middle East is wrong.

    The facts are as follows:

    • Jordan was created by Britain in 1921 – 27 years before Palestine reverted to Israel. It was not conceived as Palestinian land and is not Palestinian land today. Only Israel thinks this way, but it has no moral basis to do so.

    • In 1946, Britain gave Jordan its independence, In November 1947, the UN voted to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states with the West Bank being allocated to a new Palestine. However, this partition plan was not accepted by the Palestinian Arabs.

    • Israel was proclaimed in 1948. This led neighbouring Arab countries to invade Palestine. Jordan seized the West Bank (the territory that had been allotted to a new Palestine state) – which is just a tiny slice of territory. But in 1967, Israel took control of the West Bank, and today, it controls about 45% of the West Bank – with the remaining territory under the control of the Palestinian authority. There is no part of Jordan today that can be considered as Palestinian land under the terms of the UN 1947 partition plan.

    • It is wrong to say Israel is the only multi-racial, multi religious country in the Middle East. All Middle Eastern countries have a mixture of racial and religious groups. For instance, Lebanon has roughly 70% Muslims and 30% Christians (including Greek Orthodox, Melkite, Armenian and Protestant). Kuwait has a mixture of Muslims, Christian, Hindu, Parsi and others. Jordan has Muslims and Christians. We could go on like this.

    If Wei had spent time in the Middle East or studied the history of the region, he wouldn’t talk about things he knows nothing about. He doesn’t seem to know much about Sri Lanka either.

  3. Lakshman Gunasekara

    Am indebted to Fair Dinkum for taking on the bulk of the task of responding to Wei’s seemingly knee-jerk reaction to my labelling of Israel. Wei acknowledges that there are many ethnicities/religions in the population of Occupied Palestine including the Zionist Euro-Jewish colony of Israel. In fact, greater Palestine and much of the Mediterranean Levant was multi ethnic and multi cultural long before the Western-backed colonisation by European and Euro-descent Jews. In fact, I wonder whether Wei has ever asked any of the non-Jewish minorities in ‘Israel’ he so meticulously names if they consider themselves to be equal citizens as the Euro-Jews. Long before the new constitutional amendments made the ‘Jews’ the primary citizens and the State itself became Jewish theocratic, the non-Jewish minorities were complaining of the discriminations they suffer. Even the non-Euro Jews too have cause to complain. In terms of numbers, the Palestinian Christians are currently the most ‘threatened’ minority. Right-wing Jewish and Christian Conservative NGOs in the United States have, for decades, been arranging the migration of Palestinian Christians into the US. The genocidal systematic expatriation of Palestinian Christians is facilitated by the Zionist State.

    What that State is doing to the original Palestinian inhabitants of Palestine is another horrifying story. Given its ‘liberal democratic’ trappings mixed with a meticulous social-military counter insurgency administration, the bizarre nature of this European colonial remnant is dramatically parallel to Nazi Germany. Hitler’s philosopher Alfred Rosenberg would have been stunned by the irony! I use the term ‘genocide’ in accordance with the UN definition.

  4. Fair Dinkum

    Last night (5/9), there was a fascinating documentary on SBS on T. E. Lawrence which showed how British Imperialist attempts in 1921 (largely through the then Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill) to carve up the Middle East into nations that were totally incongruous to the ethnic and racial make up of the region, that has caused major problems throughout the region ever since. In fact, we could say the nations of the Middle East are an Imperialist construction. Lawrence was deeply unhappy about that development and had a very different vision for the Middle East that was better suited to those living there.

Leave a Reply