Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why nations must remember

"A tombstone is a memory made concrete. Human memory is the ladder on which a country and a people advance. We must remember not only the good things, but also the bad, the bright spots but also the darkness. The authorities in a totalitarian system strive to conceal their faults, and extol their merits, gloss over their errors and forcibly eradicate all memory of man-made calamity, darkness and evil. For that reason, the Chinese are prone to historical amnesia imposed by those in power. I erect this tombstone so that people will remember and henceforth, renounce man-made calamity, darkness and evil."

Yang Jisheng, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962

I have just started reading this book, the first Chinese account of Mao's Great Leap Forward. As a member of the Communist Party and a long standing journalist with China's Xinhua news agency he has used his position to collect materials from restricted archives detailing the famine.

Banned in China, the book was published in Hong Kong and has gone through eight editions in its original two-volume Chinese version. This translation is an adapted version of the two-volume Chinese original.

I also think there is a message here that all Sri Lankan's need to reflect on. We have been fed a diet of propaganda over the last decade that has seeped into the subconscious. We need stop and reflect, to start thinking again.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy - Beyond Genocide

Radhika Coomaraswamy has written an excellent piece that should be read and digested by all Tamils, particularly the politicians and the diaspora.

Unfortunately this has been misunderstood by many. Even more thoughtful commentors such as Charles Sarvan  still view the argument from an academic or legal perspective- the very thing that Miss Coomaraswamy argues against.

What is necessary is an assessment of the real ground situation in Sri Lanka, what is happening and what may practically be expected to happen. 

There is a new Government in Sri Lanka which has started to take some positive steps towards Tamil issues. They may be small, but remember that they have only been in office for about 50 days and that they are a rather shakey coalition who are under attack by extremists and elements of the former regime.

The resolution passed by the Northern Proncial Council and similar pressure tactics can be used to by the extremists to undermine and overthrow the new Government.

The recapture of the Sri Lankan state by the extremists will lead to an immediate crackdown on all liberals and harsh repression of all minorities. The extremists are smarting from defeat which they are blaming squarely on the minorities.

If they ever come back to office they will extract a painful vengence from those who helped eject them-particularly the Tamils but also the Muslims and the liberal Sinalese who were associated with this Government.

A return of the extremists will mean:
1. No movement whatsover on any war crimes or any other inquiry. Sri lanka will go the way of Zimbabwe or North Korea rather than submit to an international inquiry.
2. Further suppression to eliminate any future threats, real or imaginary, from the Tamils and minorities .
3. Vengence - which will be coupled with (2) above, in order to extract punishment for ejecting them from office. This can take many different forms, you can let your imagination run on this.

Overall things will be infinitely worse for all Tamils and all minorities.

Why then are they doing stupid things that can see the ejection of a more moderate Government?

In whose interests is this? For the diaspora Tamils, living overseas it may make seem like a fine opportunity to strike. For the Tamils living in Sri Lanka it will be a disaster.

In trying to redeem the dead, they condemn the living.

Remember that it was Prabhakaran who elected MR To power in 2005, by preventing Tamils from voting. The moderates were ejected and extremists installed because it seemed like a good strategy. What a brilliant idea that was.

We saw how that ended up. Ten years later they want to follow the same strategy? Have they learned nothing, absolutely nothing from history?

The new Government has signaled good intent and taken steps in the right direction. They have shown willingness to engage so by all means engage, but don't rock the boat. Give them some space to manoeuvre.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rethinking logic: The mysterious world of Dayan Jayetilleka

Dayan Jayetilleka, erstwhile diplomat and academic has lately been engaged penning paeans to the former regime. This has drawn in criticism from a number of sources which he has responded to.

In his latest response he is tying himself in knots trying to find reasons to discredit his critics. His arguments are fundamentally flawed but he cleverly throws together unrelated facts to draw empathy from Mahinda's supporters while confusing others.

Let's try to look at what his has said here.

He claims that none of his critics wrote a full length article against either the LTTE or Wjieweera and attempts to claim the moral high ground on the basis that he did. Of what relevance is this?

If his critics were supporters of the LTTE then their opposition to MR may be viewed as mere carping by supporters of a defeated foe. Is this the case? Does the fact that none wrote against the LTTE immediately turn them into supporters of the movement? Even if they were supporters of the LTTE, does that fact automatically invalidate any arguments being raised now?

It does not, but this seems to be his reasoning.

Going on in the same vein, a piece espousing the military defeat of the LTTE, in support of the military or opposing Western attempts to stop the war by the critics of DJ would absolve them of their sins. Naturally, DJ having done both claims the high ground.

Is this valid? Why should the military solution be the foregone conclusion, the only solution? In the final months it may have appeared to be so, but could the war have ended earlier with a similar final outcome if a surrender had been arranged? This is only speculation but until we realise the full cost we are not in a position to weigh the balance.

DJ however, firm in his convictions and blind in his belief has all the answers on justice, legality and morality.

He confesses that power and the state must be placed above rights and Governance. That to my mind is the essence of fascism and its cousin communism as espoused by DJ's models from Mao to Stalin and his latter day reincarnation Putin, whose centralisation of power in Russia has come for much praise from DJ.

Stalin and Mao, strong, charismatic leaders are appealing subjects for study by students in distant lands. For the unfortunate populace who perished by the millions under these monsters things were not quite so appealing and we'd rather not have our own Big Chief back, thank you very much.

Notions of power and sovereignty are important only to rulers, what matters to their subjects is justice and governance.