Category Archives: social justice

Jane Russell on Sri Lankan Political History in Debate with Kumarasingham’s Readings

From London the historian and scholar  Jane Russell has entered an extensive set of comments on Harshan Kumarasingham’s Heidelberg essay of 2013 –reprinted in Thuppahi in 2014. Given its length and Russell’s background (see below) it deserves wider exposure in the hope that debate will be promoted. I am therefore deleting its original location and posting it as a separate item.

 Russell  Kumarasingham

  1. HARSHAN kUMARASINGHAM”s “The Deceptive Tranquillity surrounding Sri Lankan Independence: ‘The Jewel of the East yet has its Flaws’,”  is an interesting paper with which I broadly agree, despite a tendency by the author to sacrifice judgement in favour of rhetoric. However, Dr. Harshan Kumarasingham has gone for the elegant historical narrative rather than seeking to explore and analyse some of the more nuanced, underlying factors that may help to understand the spiralling of Ceylon, cited by the British as ‘ the Premier Crown Colony” at independence in 1947, into Sri Lanka, characterised by the west at the turn of the 21st century as a terrorist-riven semi-failed state. I hope the following will help to redress this.

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Filed under communal relations, economic processes, education policy, governance, historical interpretation, Indian Ocean politics, island economy, language policies, Left politics, life stories, LTTE, nationalism, politIcal discourse, power politics, power sharing, prabhakaran, reconciliation, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, social justice, sri lankan society, teaching profession, the imaginary and the real, world events & processes

Glossing over the Atrocities

Sanjana Hattotuwa,  courtesy of The Island, 20 May 2017, where the title is “Eight years hence” ... followed by Jehan Perera

These violent delights have violent ends,

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,

Which, as they kiss, consume. Shakespeare

 CTF report being handed in 

There are 71 mentions of ‘Army’ in the 491-page final report of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF), released earlier this year. One paragraph is worth flagging in full. “The Army representatives also stated that although they had achieved the Government’s objective under its political direction and in difficult and challenging circumstances, they felt a lack of solidarity and support at present. They stated their support for a truth-seeking process and if there is any evidence of criminal activity, for the prosecution of the guilty. Given that as far as they were concerned, no criminal activity had been undertaken, they saw no need for amnesty either. Whilst they insisted that civilians were not deliberately targeted and that a policy of zero-civilian casualties was followed, they conceded the possibility of civilian deaths on account of civilians being caught in the crossfire. They also denied that sexual violence was used as a weapon of war. The Air Force reiterated that no crimes were committed and no illegal weapons used.”

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When Violence is inscribed into Everyday Politics in Lanka

Gananath Obeyesekere, a reprint of his 1984 article “The Institutionalization of Political Violence,” from James Manor (ed.)  Sri Lanka in Change and Crisis (Ed. James Manor, 1984 …   courtesy of  Kathika Sanvāda Mandapaya .. where it is presented in two Parts

In Colombo on 26 July Air Lanka, the country’s only airline, put out its usual television advertisement, ‘Visit Sri Lanka: A Taste of Paradise’. This commercial, with pictures of brand new hotels with expanses of beach and ocean and tables overflowing with lobsters and tropical fruits, routinely appears, but on this occasion the advertisement was not in the best taste. The paradise isle was in flames, the houses and business establishments of the minority Tamil community were being systematically burnt and looted by well-organized mobs belonging largely to the lumpen proletariats of the cities and small towns of Sri Lanka. The brutality was unbelievable: homes and shops were set alight, cars were doused with petrol and lit, sometimes with the occupants inside; some people were hacked to death, others burnt alive. Thirty-five political prisoners were killed by irate regulars in the country’s maximum security prison. The next day, 17 more were slaughtered in the same manner. There was a total breakdown of law and order in the nation that had been touted by foreign governments as the model of stability, the apogee of free enterprise. A few days and the illusion was shattered: the house of cards had crumbled.

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The Forgotten People: Malaiyaha Tamils of the Plantations and Hill-Country

Meera Srinivasan, from The Hindu, 18 May 2017, where the title runs The long journey of a forgotten people”

“Sri Lanka’s hill-country Tamils want to be seen as rightful citizens, not passive beneficiaries”

 Estate workers in late 19th century

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public rally on May 12 with Sri Lanka’s hill-country Tamils, on the second day of his two-day visit to the country, was a success, if you went by conventional markers such as the crowd he drew or the cheers that arose from it. But its real outcome is rather limited compared to the wide-ranging needs of the historically neglected community. That an estimated 35,000 people from in and around the central highlands converged on the small town of Norwood – many walking over 5 km since buses clogged the narrow roads — partly reflects the affinity the Tamils feel for India, from where their ancestors moved to Sri Lanka about 200 years ago. Moreover, hill-country politicians put in their might to mobilise workers, campaigning widely across the tea estates that employ a fourth of the over one million-strong community.

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A Jesuit Servant of the People –Two Affirmative Voices applaud Fr. Paul Caspersz, s.j.

.ONE. Rajan Philips: Celebrating the life of a Jesuit Socialist: Fr Paul Caspersz, SJ (1925-2017)”

 “My legs have carried me for 90 years. Now they have earned their well-deserved rest”, he would tell his visitors at the Jesuit House in Akkara Panaha, Negombo, where he spent the last years of his life confined to his bed and a wheel chair. Now his entire mortal coil has earned its rest.

Fr. Paul Caspersz, a priest of the order of the Society of Jesus for 65 years, died last Wednesday at the age of 92. His funeral was in Kandy, where he lived for over 40 years, and he was laid to rest at the Lewella Jesuit cemetery. It was difficult to see Fr Paul unable to walk, although he was otherwise his usual self. Tall and handsome, he was well proportioned in physical appearance. He was equally well adjusted in his character and in his bearing. He was inspired as a teenager to become a Jesuit and to go to Oxford as a Jesuit “after reading a page or two about Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits in the context of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation”, in the unlikeliest of sources ‘A History of England’ by T.F. Tout. He accomplished both and remained true to his faith, his celibate life, and the fierce commitment of Jesuits to the first cause that inspired them. Fr. Paul was much more. Continue reading

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Filed under economic processes, historical interpretation, life stories, performance, religiosity, self-reflexivity, social justice, sri lankan society, unusual people

Vijaya Vidyasagara, An Ecumenical Christian Socialist in Bygone Times

Devanesan Nesiah,  reviewing Memoirs of a Christian and a Socialist 

 This fascinating autobiography of Vijaya Vidyasagara edited by Skantha Kumar and Marshal Fernando and published by the Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue is excellent reading. Priced at Rs. 500/- and covering 300 pages this book is a very good buy for any reader interested in Sri Lankan society and politics. Having known Vijaya and associated with him and the Christian Workers Fellowship (CWF) for over half a century, I found the book difficult to put down. I read it from cover to cover within a few days. Vijaya was also the founder editor of the Christian Worker, an excellent quarterly, now defunct.

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Manmade Garbage Landslide at Meethotamulla: A World First?

Iromi Perera and Vijay Nagaraj, in http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/52489 where the title runs “Meethotamulla: The tragedy of the poor victimised in the name of development”

On the afternoon of 14 April tonnes of garbage at Meethotamulla, one of the biggest dumping sites just outside Colombo, came crashing down destroying scores of homes. At the time of writing, the death toll was reportedly 26 but was expected to rise. There have been serious allegations made by the affected community that rescue efforts did not even begin in earnest till very late into the night owing to a lack of direction and the failure of authorities. According to Nuwan Bopage, a lawyer representing residents of Meethotamulla, people were left using shovels to get to those buried. “During that whole time we could hear the dying breath of those buried under the garbage,” he said at a media conference the next day.

Meethotamulla Rahula Vidyalaya

Behind the tragedy is a litany of broken promises—including an assurance by the Prime Minister himself in 2015 of solving the problem within six months—and protests being met with tear gas or batons. A group of residents from Meethotamulla approached the Supreme Court in 2014 seeking to stop the dumping of garbage.
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Filed under economic processes, environmental degradation, landscape wondrous, life stories, power politics, self-reflexivity, social justice, sri lankan society, welfare & philanthophy, working class conditions, world events & processes