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”.