Rajiva Wijesinha in Wide-Ranging Q and A with Ferdinando on Present & Past Politics

Shamindra Ferdinando, in the Island, July 21 and 28 July 2015

Today, the electorate is at a crossroad with twice-president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, launching a new movement to form a government, at the Aug 17 parliamentary polls. A confident Rajapaksa launched his parliamentary polls campaign at Anuradhapura where he vowed to overcome the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combination. The pledge was made at the largest ever gathering in the historic city, where Rajapaksa recalled ancient kings had defeated foreign invaders. The war-winning leader alleged that the present Yahapalana government had destroyed, within six months, what his administration had achieved since the conclusion of the war in May, 2009. The former President asked what would have happened if the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration had continued for five years. Since the change of government, in January consequent to Rajapaksa’s defeat, some of those, who had switched their allegiance to the then common presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena deserted the new administration. Having joined Yahapalana project, late last November, Liberal Party Leader and State Education, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, quit the administration in March. The UPFA included Prof. Wijesinha, in its National List submitted to the Elections Secretariat on July 13, hence making him a key element in Rajapaksa’s team.

RAJIVA in Ferdi

Full text of an interview with Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

(Q) What led you to join the Maithripala-Wickremesinghe combination last November?

(A) I felt the last government had run out of steam, and was no longer acting in accordance with its manifesto. There was far less consultation than earlier, and the government seemed to support individuals who were acting in a silly manner while essential problems were not being addressed. The behaviour of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) worried me, as did the assault on the then Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner, in the UK, Chris Nonis, while we seemed to have lost the confidence of India, as was exemplified by it voting against us at the UN in 2012 and 2013. And then when India did not vote for the resolution against us in 2014, we failed to re-establish the sort of understanding that had held us in good stead in 2009. Continue reading

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In Praise of Neelan’s Voice of Moderation at Moments of Political Extremism

Michael Roberts, courtesy of Colombo Telegraph where the title is slightly different and where Vibhushana has indulged in an assassin’s sniper-shot-in-words that is of the same order as the actions of those Sinhalese extremists who tried to deface the epitaph for Neelan in 2012 at the location of his murder — in effect underlining my concluding note (though that is not Vibhushana’s intent)

NEElan paiing defaced=GV Pic in 2012, courtesy of Groundviews

Neelan Tiruchelvam was a friend and fellow-researcher with whom I had interacted for many years. Late in 1986 towards the end of my long sabbatical research spell in Sri Lanka when my interests were focused on the data that eventually became the book People Inbetween (1989, Sarvodaya Book Publishing), Neelan approached me and asked me to participate in a conference of South Asian scholars scheduled for the Maldives. He wanted me to present a reflective paper on what was widely referred to as “the riots of 1915” or marakkala kolahālaya, an atrocious moment when Sinhalese people attacked the local Muslims residing in the south-western quadrant of the island.

The Maldives!! Oo la-la!! As an avid snorkeler, for me this was a dreamtime invitation.

However, it also meant work. Continue reading

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Victory in War and Defeat in Peace: Politics and Economics of Post-Conflict Sri Lanka

Prema-chandra Athukorala & Sisira Jayasuriya, ……Forthcoming in Asian Economic Papers, 14(3), 2015 … and also available elsewhere.

Abstract: This paper examines causes and implications of Sri Lanka’s political regime shift in February 2015, which has been widely hailed a victory for democracy, against the backdrop of the country’s political and economic development in the post-independence era. The regime shift vividly demonstrates that voters, given the chance, turn against leaders they perceive to be corrupt, nepotistic or needlessly divisive, even if they deliver handsome growth figures; there are limits to gaining political legitimacy in a multi-ethnic state simply by creating cleavages between majority and minority communities. For the first time, the minority communities in Sri Lanka appear to have felt themselves part of, and potentially an important influence on, the national political scene. It is, however, difficult at this stage to predict whether the regime change would usher in an era of ethnic harmony and robust economic growth. One hope is that war-weariness and discontents with the previous regime seem to have led to a greater willingness to accommodate diverse perspectives and demands within the political system.


  1. Introduction

Sri Lanka is one of the most heavily researched of the developing countries. It has repeatedly gained attention among scholars as a laboratory for studying issues central to the debates on socio-political and economic transformation in countries that gained independence from colonialism. In the 1960s and 1970s Sri Lanka attracted attention as an illustrative case in the debate on the growth-equity trade-off and the untoward consequences of prolonged adherence to a state-led import substitution development strategy. From the late 1970s it became an important case study for the analysis of the impact of economic liberalization and structural adjustment. Following the eruption of the ethnic conflict in the early 1980s there was a new focus on Sri Lanka as a test case for studying various facets of the interplay of government policies and social harmony in a multi-ethnic nation. It provided a fertile ground for studies of the art of unconventional warfare, of internationalized conflict resolution and peace-making in protracted ethnic conflicts, and finally for studies of how military means can be effectively used to defeat armed separatist movements. With the stunning change in the political regime at the presidential election held on 8 January 2015, Sri Lanka now provides the international research community with an opportunity to undertake illustrative case studies of a range of issues relating to political transitions and regime change, post-conflict economic management and governance in a multi-ethnic country. Continue reading

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Remembering Neelan via David Miller in Q and A on Pluralism and Devolution Issues

Darshanie Ratnawalli, in Q and A with David Miller, courtesy of The Sunday Island, 25 July 2015, where the title is “Sri Lanka must find its own form of pluralism” …. http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=128888

 NEELAN  DAVID MILLER--www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk for more info on Professor Miller, see end of Q and A

Dr. David Miller, Professor of Political Theory, Nuffield College Oxford gave the 16th Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial lecture this year titled Democracy in plural societies. Problems and Solutions”. Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam was gunned down by the LTTE on 29th July, 1999. He was co-architect of the GL-Neelan devolution Package under the aegis of the then Executive President Chandrika Bandaranaike, which sought to replace the unitary state of Sri Lanka with a union of regions. It enshrined the post-colonial claim that the Sri Lankan Tamil community was a distinct and separate Nation. It came into conflict with the overriding claim that although centuries of historical processes had placed concentrations of Tamil speaking peoples in the eastern littoral, Jaffna Peninsula and the Northern Wanni, they were minority communities settling in the inalienable and sovereign habitats of Lanka and did not constitute a separate Nation.

Predictably the Package was abandoned. But the issues still remain in the Lankan ideologisphere, an ideal playing field for a political theorist like Professor Miller.

Q- Have you done research on Sri Lanka? Does your work touch on specific case studies?

No I am certainly not an expert on Sri Lanka. In preparation for coming, I did read a little bit about it. But my field is political philosophy and I study problems of democracy and nationalism generally. Not about a particular country.

Q- What is a plural society?

I mean by that a society divided into sections, it might be, on the basis of ethnicity, religion or nationality- where it is hard for people to move across the divisions- and they are always going to be part of their own community. It’s not a fluid society where people usually move across these boundaries. Continue reading

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The Forgotten Muslim IDPs in Sri Lanka

Naalir Jamaldeen, in the Sunday Observer,, 25 July 2015

The Resettlement of Northern Muslim IDPs still remains unresolved. Many factors were attributed for the present status. Several challenges have hindered their resettlement. There was no substantial plan from the Government for their resettlement, a significant part of the land that belonged to Northern Muslims were taken away by the LTTE and given to Tamils during the conflict period and the housing assistance given to the displaced was inefficient, Northern Province Majlish Shoora President S.H.M. Mubarak Moulavi told the Sunday Observer.

The Northern Muslims have the right to come and live in the places from where they have been displaced. Increase in population may also be a cause which hindered their resettlement.muslim IDPS 11


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Kishali, Narada and Darshanie on Political Issues in Lanka TODAY

I. Kishali Pinto Jayawardene: Measuring the Maturity of the Sri Lankan Electorate,”  from Sunday Times, 25 July 20 

KISHALIIf Sri Lanka’s political and legal history since independence demonstrates one fact, it is the fundamental dishonesty of those whom we elect to serve us. Even the rare exceptions to this rule have failed to emulate an Ambedkar, a Gandhi or a Nehru whose visions and dreams lifted Indian society from its depths and fashioned an inimitable national spirit which carried that country through decades of communal turmoil. This has been our singular loss.

Lofty sentiments and ugly realities: Insisting on a rights discourse when drafting salient paragraphs of India’s Constitution for instance, Dr Ambedkar warned that ‘for a successful revolution, it is not enough that there is discontent.’ As this bespectacled advocate of the underprivileged observed, there needs to be a profound conviction of precisely what changes we seek, what rights we demand from politicians and collective determination to ensure their outcome. India has done relatively well in that regard. Not so, Sri Lanka. Continue reading

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Targeting Lanka by Playing Ball with Tamil Extremism: 2008-14

Michael Roberts, courtesy of Groundviews, where the title is slightly different. The original essay was presented at the 9th International Convention of Asian Scholars held in Adelaide from 5-9th July 2015 and was therefore designed as a 15-minute presentation. Hyperlinks, maps, citations and bibliographical references have been inserted in this version, while pictorial illustrations, with the exception of Fig 1,  are in a supplementary appendix. Footnotes have been kept to a minimum.

 The emergence and sharpening of Tamil nationalism from the 1940s to the 1980s is a complex tale which cannot be easily summarized in a few strokes. It is a tale of Sinhala extremism at one pole and Tamil extremism at the other pole feeding off each other. At the same time, the divisions within each extreme (that is, the existence of several competing parties with chauvinist positions) disabled steps towards moderation. Moreover, this major strand of political contestation – the Sinhala/Tamil divide — was complicated by strands of Leftist and Naxalite thinking that encouraged both Sinhalese and Tamil youth to move towards revolutionary struggle.

The growth of a number of Tamil militant groups in the 1970s and 1980s was facilitated by (a) the proximity of India, (b) the support of Tamil politicians, smugglers and fishermen in Tamilnadu and (c) the support of the central government in Delhi from July 1983 – so that most of the militant groups were able to sustain military training camps in India from late 1983 to 1987

03= no 17--VP_+_five_at_Camp-Ponnamma_2Fig. 1. LTTE commanders at their training camp in Sirimalai, northern India —Pic from Rohan Gunaratna, 1997

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