There are two clear, unequivocal statements that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has made to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans with respect to ‘political solution’. First, that the ‘solution’ he envisages will necessarily be ‘home grown’. Secondly, he advised all leaders of political parties in the ruling coalition to refrain from addressing the issue; in particular he asked them not to talk about the 13th Amendment.
Being the Executive President, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, being a man who enjoys unprecedented popularity, I believe one has to take serious note of these statements.
Dayan Jayatilleka is not talking ‘home grown’ these days. Perhaps it is because he is not (officially) a politician, but only a (key) diplomat that he enjoys the privileges that the President has denied party leaders of the coalition that he leads.
He has written much about my position regarding the 13th Amendment, responding to my comments in multiple publications with much use of the ‘copy and paste’ facility available in Microsoft Word. His latest (‘Politics and History’ in The Island of July 13, 2009) is a response to my article in the Sunday Island of the previous day ‘History is a cake you cannot have and eat at the same time’.
Reading it, I am reminded of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are adept at jumping from one verse in the bible to another when queried, exiting context at will. So too, Dayan. He alleges that the traditions of all dead generations weigh like a nightmare on my brain, following Marx’s observation in the 18th Brumaire. Then he alludes to Lenin, as though history never mattered to Vladimir Ilyich. He talks as though what came before can be ditched in favour of ‘the fierce urgency of now’ (as per Martin Luther King and Barack Obama), ignoring that history informed the prerogatives pertaining to ‘The Now’ in both cases. Most seriously, he accuses me of a fixation with history (a crime, in his current ‘here-and-now’ mode of operation, I suppose), but favours a piece of legislation which assets not a fixation with history but a pathological fixation with myth.
He inserts an interesting quote, attributed to a former Israeli Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin “the extremist ideologues of every community make historical and archaeological claims for territory that derive from when their respective community was at the zenith of its power, which is of course hardly the whole story. If such claims were to the basis of political solutions and settlements the planet’s surface would have to expand at least several times.” Fine. In our case, we have Dayan pandering to one ideology’ which had hardly any historical or archaeological claim for territory.
According to Dayan, my ‘solution’, that of moving towards integration through full equality of citizenship, is impractical. Well, in that case, is he saying that the President is not committed to ‘full equality of citizenship’, that he (Mahinda Rajapaksa) is perhaps incapable and uninterested in ‘full equality of citizenship’? I wonder!
Dayan is absolutely correct when he says that we can’t afford to lose the peace after having won the war. His is a recipe for losing the peace because it is a celebration of inefficiency, it is a salute to everything antithetical to ‘home grown’ and it panders to a mindset that fanatically trashes the interests of the majority community.
The 13th Amendment does not have ‘nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism’ as Dayan asserts. It was a product of and a document celebrated and defended by Marxist-Leninists, their ideological hang-ups about ‘self-determination’ and their historical antipathy to the Sinhala Buddhists of this country.
A nation, at its moment of triumph must go for the optimal solution and hence my thesis on equality of citizenship. The LTTE was the most powerful expression of Tamil racism and Eelamist mythology (which is the foundation and spur for the 13th Amendment). The people of this country, especially the Sinhala Buddhist (if not for anything else by the sheer majority of numbers) suffered the most at the hands of the LTTE, and suffered the most to defeat it.
If ‘magnanimity’ is sought from this ‘victor’ (as some have sought to portray this victory, albeit in a bitter tone of voice), then the most generous ‘give’ would be ‘equality of citizenship’. I believe President Mahinda Rajapaksa has the sway to obtain this from the majority community and obtain agreement from all minorities. Asking the majority, instead, to concede the notion of ‘exclusive traditional homelands’ (unsupported and unsupportable by any history or historian) is asking it to lose the peace.
Those who are following my exchange with Dayan Jayatilleka may believe it is nothing more than an ideological debate, but let there be no mistake about this: Dayan is less interested in a chit-chat with me than he is in projecting a position (a ‘Government’ position, for he’s after all our Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva) to the international community. Dayan Jayatilleka is, in unequivocal terms, painting President Mahinda Rajapaksa into a corner called ‘The Thirteenth Amendment’. The President as well as the general public would do well to take note.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.