All posts by Ahilan Kadirgamar

The Draft Labour Code on Social Security-Workers’ Concerns: Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan


In March this year, the Ministry for Labour and Employment unveiled the third of its series of Labour Codes aimed at simplifying and rationalizing the labour laws. The Draft Labour Code on Social Security has been placed in the public domain and comments and suggestions have been invited in respect of its provisions. The Draft Code is ambitious in scope and amalgamates the provisions of 15 central labour laws relating to social security. Continue reading The Draft Labour Code on Social Security-Workers’ Concerns: Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan

Seven Years After the End of Sri Lanka’s Civil War: Mahendran Thiruvarangan


When the civil war came to an end in May 2009 I was still a final year undergraduate at the University of Peradeniya. Peradeniya was miles away from the war zone. The only venues that supplied us with details about the happenings in the war theatre were the television channels stationed in the South, self-censoring the civilian casualties incurred and feeding to the Sinhala nationalist jubilation of the times. And on the other side were websites like Tamilnet and Puthinam run by parties sympathetic to the LTTE releasing carefully filtered out reports singularly focusing on the deaths of civilians caused by the military leaving no trace about how the top leadership of the LTTE was recruiting children and adults, despite knowing so well they had already lost the battle or how the civilians who were trying to flee the war zone were shot down by the militants.

One had to work around these competing narratives to get at least a partial sense of the nature of the violence that the people ensnared in the No Fire Zone were exposed to. Some of us had friends whose relatives had been in the LTTE-controlled areas. When the guns breathed their last in Mullivaikal, some of them had already moved to hospitals and camps in Trincomalee and Vavuniya with their loved ones injured during the war. It was from these wounded men and women and their families that the harrowing experiences of the thousands of people inside the narrow battlefield trickled down to us in May 2009. The South erupted into celebrations when the re-unification of the island was announced via the media. As the former president in his televised address from Parliament was busy instructing the people of the country to annul the notions of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ from their political discourses, fire crackers celebrating the military victory started to deafen the ears of those of us who were seated under the senate building of the University of Peradeniya—Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims and Malays—pondering in groups what was awaiting us and the country in the days and years to come. Continue reading Seven Years After the End of Sri Lanka’s Civil War: Mahendran Thiruvarangan

Jayadeva Uyangoda on Ambedkar’s Legacy

Text of the talk delivered on April 22, 2016 at the Indian Cultural Centre, Colombo on the occasion of B. R. Ambedkar Commemoration.

Ambedkar’s Legacy: Critique of Religion, Quest for Social Justice and the Paradox of Constitutionalism

Jayadeva Uyangoda, Senior professor of Political Science, University of Colombo


May I begin my talk this evening by thanking His Excellency Y. K. Sinha the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo for inviting me to deliver this lecture on B. R. Ambedkar? This event is part of a series of celebrations in connection with the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, which fell on the 14th of April. I am afraid my talk may not celebrate great Ambedkar’s memory and legacy as such. It will only present some disjointed and hurriedly constructed thoughts about the life and legacy of this great son of South Asia.

Ambedkar’s name is well known in Sri Lanka. In Sinhalese society, the popular culture of which I am somewhat familiar with, Ambedkar is known as the leader of India’s Harijan communities. The word dalit is not in much use in Sinhalese society. The Gandhian neologism of harijan is better known. Ambedkar is respected as the Harijan leader who embraced Buddhism along with several thousands of his followers. Sinhalese Buddhists are particularly sympathetic to Ambedkar and his social reform movement. For them, Ambedkar’s project constituted a critique and a rejection of Hinduism. This is despite the fact that Buddhism has historically and in terms of elite as well as popular practices been closely interwoven with Hinduism. Quite independent of Ambedkar, Sri Lankan Buddhists have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards Hinduism and Hindu traditions as well. It is almost like their ambivalence towards India in general, as some of their intellectuals and professionals seem to be inclined to demonstrate these days. Continue reading Jayadeva Uyangoda on Ambedkar’s Legacy

Sri Lankan Academics and Activists Condemn Vicious Campaign Against Nivedita Menon


We, the undersigned, wish to express our shock and indignation at the vicious right wing media campaign conducted over the past few days against well-known feminist scholar and Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Nivedita Menon. This media campaign mischievously decontextualizes her lecture at the public teach-in programme in JNU with the use of selective clips and inflammatory commentary. The television channel Zee has led the main campaign by branding Professor Menon as ‘anti-national’ and instigating viewers to take action. Such branding is tantamount to a television channel acting as both judge and jury, and directly placing an individual’s rights and safety under threat. Continue reading Sri Lankan Academics and Activists Condemn Vicious Campaign Against Nivedita Menon

Debt, Counselling and the Production of Neoliberal Subjects

financialfactsoflifeHousehold debt has plagued the North and East since the war ended in Sri Lanka. Activists and journalists have long highlighted the consequences of predatory credit and the devastating indebtedness faced by the war-torn people; from rural indebtedness, to debt accrued from the Indian Housing grants to the debt trap with lease hire purchasing.

More than such writings, the crisis on the ground, with increasing rates of suicide and attempted suicide, half built houses and protests by people have awoken donors and policy makers to the crisis of indebtedness. The Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) was commissioned to study debt accrued with donor-funded housing schemes, and more recently by the Swiss Development Cooperation to evaluate their financial counselling initiative, which aimed to alleviate house-building related debt. Continue reading Debt, Counselling and the Production of Neoliberal Subjects

Principal Anandarajan and the Legacies of a Long and Pointless War: Luther Uthayakumaran


A lot has happened since the early 1980’s, when I first got to know Anandarajan. Nearly thirty-five years later, it seems a different world. A way of life has died between then and now. It is through these multiple layers of life and memories that I remember that evening. It was nearly dusk when the news spread through Jaffna ‘Principal Anandarajan shot dead” and then the other three words followed in a hushed tone, like a reluctant trailer, ‘….. by the boys’.

AnandarajanI first met Anandarajan when I was fourteen years old, a few weeks before I was to join St John’s. Anandarajan was introduced to me at a family function, as my would-be principal. The first thing I noticed about him was the total lack of aloofness. His response was ‘I say, I was a classmate of your mother at St John’s, and she was the only girl in the class whom I was scared of’ (which my mother vehemently denied!). In the years that followed I came to know Anandarajan more closely, first as a teacher, and then as a close family friend. In those days at St John’s the first year Advanced Level classes occupied the open sheds opposite the Vice-Principal’s house, and everyday from my classroom I would see Anandarajan walk purposefully across the school grounds from his residence to the principal’s office. If it was a Monday, I would see him again a few minutes later, wearing a black academic-gown walking up the stage of Peto Hall to chair the assembly. I used to enjoy those Monday morning assemblies, as they provided a welcome reprieve from the stress of cramming for exams. Anandarajan would invite interesting speakers to address us, from Hindu mystics to those who spoke on more earthy topics such as pollution and war in the Middle East. Ironically for many of us in those days, war was something that happened only in distant places. If there were no outside speakers Anandarajan would address the assembly himself. It was on one such occasions that I learnt a value that I have cherished ever since then. It is in Anandarajan’s own words: “Always defend yourself. Never let anyone accuse you falsely – not anyone – not even me. If you let that happen, part of the blame is yours”. Continue reading Principal Anandarajan and the Legacies of a Long and Pointless War: Luther Uthayakumaran

Elections, Politics and Tamil Nationalism: Hopeless Impasse and Strivings of the People

This article co-written by SWASTHIKA ARULINGAM AND AHILAN KADIRGAMAR was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Samakalam, a Tamil monthly magazine on contemporary affairs. A group of us have been writing a column every month titled ‘Dissent and Debate’. Samakalam is a unique effort to interpret the debates in the national press in Sri Lanka to the Tamil speaking audience and in turn also engage the rest of the country on debates in the North and East through a few articles in English.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has swept the 2015 parliamentary elections in its Tamil constituencies. This victory further consolidates the power of the TNA and particularly the Federal Party (ITAK). However, this is also the weakness of Tamil nationalist politics. Historically, Tamil politics dominated by the Federal Party has done little other than win elections. Politics should be much more, building alliances with other political forces and mobilising society and finding solutions to people’s social, economic and political problems. Tamil nationalist politics neither seems to have the capacity to govern as with the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) nor does it seem to have a vision to recover Tamil society out of the post-war crisis in the North and East. This article addresses the future of Tamil politics given this problematic political trajectory. Continue reading Elections, Politics and Tamil Nationalism: Hopeless Impasse and Strivings of the People