All posts by Ahilan Kadirgamar

The Tragedy of Politics in Sri Lanka

I am posting below an article that I wrote with Cenan Pirani.  The shorter version of this article is in Combat Law. The longer version below delves into the history of left politics in Sri Lanka and attempts at a political solution.  Another article by me reflecting some of these concerns and raising questions of solidarity titled ‘The Challenges of Solidarity’ was published in Red Pepper.

The Tragedy of Politics in Sri Lanka

By AHILAN KADIRGAMAR and CENAN PIRANI

In the last few months, the Sri Lankan security forces have managed to ruthlessly push the LTTE into a 40 square km strip of land in the North of the island, and along with the LTTE leadership and its cadres, a sizable civilian population, anywhere from seventy thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand, have also been cordoned off in this area.  As the security forces continue their offensives purporting to rid Sri Lanka of the LTTE, they also claim the lives of these civilians daily. Continue reading The Tragedy of Politics in Sri Lanka

Who Is Responsible For The Slaughter Of Civilians In The Vanni?: Rohini Hensman

guest post by ROHINI HENSMAN

With the military defeat of the LTTE imminent, the terrible plight of civilians in the Vanni has attracted worldwide concern and sympathy, and rightly so. While the circumstances are completely different, the civilian death toll in the Vanni over the past few months (over 2700) is already triple the number of civilians killed in the Gaza massacre of December-January, and is still mounting. The thousands who suffer serious injuries are further victimised by the delay or lack of medical attention, which means, for example, that injuries to limbs which could have been saved with prompt treatment, instead result in gangrene and amputations. Even those who have not lost lives, limbs or loved ones, have lost their homes and livelihoods, and live in appalling conditions which could well claim more lives through disease or even starvation.

Meanwhile, the LTTE and Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) trade charges, each accusing the other of being responsible for the slaughter. What truth is there in their respective allegations? Continue reading Who Is Responsible For The Slaughter Of Civilians In The Vanni?: Rohini Hensman

Interview with Ragavan on Tamil Militancy (Early Years)

As the Tamil community in Lanka is at the crossroads with twenty five years of war nearing an end with the increasing marginalization of the LTTE, I would like to do a series of interviews on the social, economic and political conditions that led to the emergence of armed politics and militarization of the Tamil community.  Returning to those years in the seventies and early eighties then is an attempt to also think about ways forward out of the militarized and armed politics of the last few decades.  I intend to do a series of interviews to capture that important political period for Lankan Tamils.  This important shift in Lankan politics and the decades of war that followed it did irreparable damage to the Lankan Tamil community and all the peoples of Lanka.

I begin with an interview of Ragavan, a founding member of the LTTE, who left the movement in 1984 and has since moved to London where he lives in exile.  In this first interview, Ragavan speaks about his background and early years of militancy.

This is an interview by Ahilan Kadirgamar of Ragavan at his London home on 25 January 2009. Continue reading Interview with Ragavan on Tamil Militancy (Early Years)

Jayampathy Wickramaratne on Political Solution in Sri Lanka

I am posting a longer version of an interview with Jayampathy Wickramaratne.  The February 2009 issue of Himal Southasian, a special issue on Sri Lanka, has a shorter version of this interview.  At a time when there is much concern about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe there have also been increasing voices calling for a political solution.  On the history of displacement and humanitarian concerns with the twenty-fire year war in Sri Lanka, I recommend Rajan Hoole’s article in Himal.  This interview with Jayampathy Wickramaratne might engage those interested in past attempts at a political solution as well as the problems with the 13th Amendment (which came out of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 and is currently being talked about both in Sri Lanka and India).

Ahilan Kadirgamar talked to Jayampathy Wickramaratne, who is President’s Counsel, a constitutional lawyer, a former senior advisor for the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, and a member of the team that drafted the 2000 Constitution Bill.  Wickramartane was a member of the panel of experts to assist the All Party Representative Committee and signatory to the “Majority Report” (December 2006) that proposed extensive restructuring of the state, with extensive devolution and power sharing at the centre.   Wickramaratne is a politburo member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party. Continue reading Jayampathy Wickramaratne on Political Solution in Sri Lanka

Let Us Not Forget – South Asia Solidarity Initiative

Statement by the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) at ‘After Mumbai, Which Way Forward? A Public Dialogue’, City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, December 15th, 2008. Co-sponsored by The Center for Place, Culture and Politics, The Brecht Forum and SALAAM Theatre.

Let Us Not Forget

Like many in South Asia, we watched with anguish as nearly 180 people of different castes, classes, religions and nationalities lost their lives in the events in Mumbai that unfolded over several days. We mourn their loss in this large tragedy and condemn the perpetration of such terrible violence. We also express solidarity with those intrepid groups and individuals who have tirelessly sought to build deep-roots of social, political, economic and cultural understanding for peace and justice in South Asia.  At this moment, we call for reflection on recent histories of South Asia and the world.  Hence lessons may be drawn, collective action contemplated and spaces of hope created from the debris of despondency. Continue reading Let Us Not Forget – South Asia Solidarity Initiative

The Battle of Mumbai

Guest post by BALMURLI NATRAJAN, a member of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI)

The Battle of Mumbai did not begin on November 26, 2008. There was no clear beginning, regardless of what somnambulists who have just woken up, or saber-rattlers who have been sharpening their tools for a while, pronounce. Like all modern wars, it burst into public view over the internet, unannounced and in full-swing. Continue reading The Battle of Mumbai

Mumbai, the Hindu Right, and the Problem with Sonal Shah

Guest post by SVATI P. SHAH

Like so many millions of others, I was glued to the news for days during the Mumbai attacks.  In the aftermath of the terrible human tragedy that reverberates from those long hours, I share the universal concern about the political context for these attacks, a context that is about to change as the governments of India and the U.S. each undergo another major governmental transition. In his response to the attacks, President-Elect Barack Obama said that militants based in South Asia represent the biggest threat to the United States. As we well know by now, South Asia is about to become a foreign policy priority for the Unites States like never before, and this should give us pause. Continue reading Mumbai, the Hindu Right, and the Problem with Sonal Shah

Mr Friedman’s Demagoguery

Guest post by SAADIA TOOR and BALMURLI NATARAJAN of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI)

A response to his op-ed piece in The New York Times, December 3, 2008.

Among Mr. Friedman’s long list of talents seems to be the ability to directly access the minds of dead people.  After all, how else could he know that the real attackers in the Mumbai shootings shared the same set of intentions and motivations as the fictional characters he creates who murder an imam and his wife purely for being Sunni?  Maybe his short sojourns in South Asia through airports and the plush suites of the Marriot and the Taj Mahal Hotel do not allow him to imagine any other kind of Muslim than a unidimensional protestor of xenophobic cartoon images (produced, distributed and hotly defended, incidentally, by the enlightened West).  Maybe this talent comes from the same well of wisdom that made him the biggest promoter of the “innovative genius” of Wall Street bankers not too long ago, a position that he now has some trouble justifying, except by calling them “stupid”.  Or just maybe, he has simply made it a habit to promote views and policies that have no basis in fact and do not stand up to the slightest scrutiny.  After all, those are the perks that come with a regular column in a major newspaper and a guaranteed readership just waiting for one to provide the ‘expert’ fuel to their fire.  Continue reading Mr Friedman’s Demagoguery

Terror and the Political Space of Southasia

A year ago in hearing of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto my heart sank as I thought our region was at boiling point.  Over the last week as I heard news of the brutal attacks in Mumbai my heart sinks further as I mourn not only for Mumbai but for our region.

I want to begin with Southasia, borrowing from Himal SouthasianHimal claims it wants to “restore some of the historical unity of our common living space – without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”.  I want to go further and not only hope for the eventual withering away of those nation states, but also consider the political space of not only Southasian history but of the Southasian present.  And in thinking about Southasia, I can not avoid considering South Asia, as defined by the nation states and their relationship, particularly in the form of SAARC.  And when I remember the last two SAARC Summits in 2007 and 2008, I recall a silence and an emphasis.  Silence on political processes and emphasis on terrorism.  Why the latter and not the former, even from the nation state perspective, both would be important within nation states and between nation states. Continue reading Terror and the Political Space of Southasia

Sadanand Menon: Who speaks on behalf of Lanka’s Tamils?

[I am posting below an article by Sadanand Menon on Lanka’s Tamils and recent political developments in India.  Sadanand Menon’s solidarity for Lankan Tamils also reflects the principled and committed journalism that is so much need for and on Lanka. The suffering of people living in the Vanni in northern Sri Lanka is of utmost concern at the moment. Their humanitarian needs have to be met and that requires international concern and support. However, just as the Norwegian Peace Process silenced the politics and presence of the Muslims and Up-Country Tamils (Tamils of Indian Origin) in the interest of simplifying the problem in Sri Lanka as one between Sinhalese and Tamils, the current wave of concern in Tamil Nadu at a time of war should not further entrench the ethnicisation of the conflict.  Solidarity from India should be for all the oppressed peoples of Lanka, and should not become an opportunistic game for Tamil chauvinism.  This is where conflating the Tamils with the LTTE (the self proclaimed sole-representatives of the Tamils) continues to have a disastrous impact.  The ruling regime in Sri Lanka has given Sinhala Buddhist nationalism centre stage and marginalized the political process to address the grievances and aspirations of all the minority communities (Lankan Tamils, Muslims and Up-Country Tamils).  As Sadanand Menon says support for a “genuinely democratic political process”, should be the basis for solidarity. – Ahilan Kadirgamar]

Sadanand Menon: Who speaks on behalf of Lanka’s Tamils?

 

The LTTE, by all accounts, seems to have been lassoed. The dreaded militant outfit fighting for an independent Tamil state within Sri Lanka, is said to be engaged in a last ditch battle from its encircled base in the Vanni region in Jaffna. The Lankan army claims to be a couple of kilometres short of the LTTE’s administrative headquarters in Kilinochchi. Continue reading Sadanand Menon: Who speaks on behalf of Lanka’s Tamils?