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
Lasantha Wickrematunge, the courageous editor of Sunday Leader, a weekly newspaper from Sri Lanka, was recently assasinated by the Sri Lankan state. Relentless in exposing corruption and human rights abuses, he was fully aware of the price he would have to pay. In a stunning editorial that he appears to have written for publication in the event of precisely such an eventuality, and which was published after his death, he directly accuses the government of killing him:
“It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.”
His words of farewell are defiant:
“If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.”
Meanwhile, in Nepal, the premises of Himal media were attacked by people identified as Maoist activists. Today the ‘bourgeois’ media, tomorrow – dissenting Left voices…?
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 Southasian. Himal 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
[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?
Any discussion of Sri Lanka at the moment can not avoid discussion of the war. And at the heart of discussions on the war in Sri Lanka, is the question of what will come after the war, at least after an end to the war in its conventional mode with defeats faced by the LTTE on the battlefield. It is indeed important to grasp that the current state of anxiety is not only about the war but also what will come after the war. From the London based Economist to Tamil activists in and outside Sri Lanka, this has become the central question. I write this article as a dissenting Tamil activist and as a member of that diverse set of Tamil activists both inside and outside Sri Lanka, who chose to stand independent of the LTTE, but whose politics nevertheless at the moment is dispersed from the Left to the Right, across a whole range of issues from class, nationalism, caste to gender. In thinking about the outcomes after the war, just as we could not predict the direction of the war prior to its resumption, we can not predict the outcomes after the war, which are part of the dynamic of war; it drastically changes the political landscape. But we nevertheless take positions on the war; on either side or against the war. And those positions are explicitly political, they are underpinned by a politics, whether they are pro-war or, as has been less commonly acknowledged that of anti-war. Indeed, an anti-war position itself can be arrived at from different political positions, from a pacifist stand to that of political expediency depending on the military fortunes of one actor or another. It is such politics of war that I intend to explore here in relation to the dynamics of nationalisms and militarization in Sri Lanka.
Continue reading Nationalisms, Militarization and the Politics of War in Sri Lanka: Ahilan Kadirgamar
[This guest post is by AHILAN KADIRGAMAR who is an activist with the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum. He has written about the international dimension of the conflict and peace process in Sri Lanka and worked on human rights concerns related to the conflict. His current interests include the political economy of state-society relations and attempts at state reform in Sri Lanka.]
I have been travelling between cities, from Kathmandu to Delhi to Calcutta and down south to Madras. Visiting friends, but also trying to understand peoples’ perceptions of Sri Lanka in a time of war. I give talks here and there, but many more meetings over tea and dinner. There is an older tradition of solidarity, but now I am thinking again of the meaning of Southasian solidarity.
In Calcutta, on an activist’s book shelf, I find a book signed and gifted to her in the mid-eighties by Para, my friend from Berlin who passed away last year. Kumaraswamy Pararajasingham, a Marxist and human rights activist in Lanka in his early years, was a pillar of Tamil dissent over the last two decades of exile in Germany. An old Marxist in Calcutta, asks me about Hector Abhayawardhana, the theoretician of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party Continue reading Ahilan Kadirgamar on Southasian Solidarity and Questions of State and Land