Visakha Kumari Jayawardene. The Rise of the Labour Movement in
Ceylon. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1972. Pp. 382.
University of California, San Diego
“The naive-Marxist view of the proletariat infuses the book in another way. The proletarians are the good guys, the British and the conservative Ceylonese elite (the ruling class) the bad guys: a cops-and-robbers approach to history. This leads to a somewhat uncritical attitude toward sources: views of the “good” radicals are presented as if they were facts. Also, this attitude toward the proletariat leads the author to contradictory, almost ludicrous and morally dubious, situations. For example, she gives an excellent account of the riots between the Sinhalese and Muslims in 1915. She says that, in the villages, these riots had a communal and religious character, though rooted in the economic dominance of the Muslim merchants in rural Ceylon. In the city, however, the rioters “had hardly any religious motives”; the riots were economic, directed against unscrupulous merchants. It is hard for the author to concede that proletarians could be as bigoted and chauvinistic as other species of Homo sapiens.”
In Sri Lanka, neoliberal think tanks are profoundly influencing the policy changes and far- reaching reforms underway, including drafting of the new Constitution.
I will focus on the two most visible – the Institute for Policy Studies and Advocata Institute – in order to expose the devious and deceitful ways in which MPS is implementing its Agenda in Sri Lanka, and how it has penetrated the centre of Sri Lankan State power and is determining government policy, masquerading under the guise of impartiality.
( Text of the Public Lecture delivered at the Panel Discussion On Dynamic Interrelationships among Economic Policy, International Relations And National Sovereignty Organised by Sri Lanka Association for Political Economy (SLAPE) together with the Departments of Economics and International Relations, and the Economics Students Association (ESA) of the University of Colombo. The panel discussion was moderated by Prof. W. D. Lakshman, Vice Chancellor, SANASA Campus and Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Colombo. 06 June 2018 ) Continue reading SRI LANKAN SOVEREIGNTY, NON NEGOTIABLE! – by Tamara Kunanayakam →
“This is certainly not the case: most middle-class people, as well as ordinary villagers whom I know have a strong Sinhalese – Buddhist identity, But they did not engage in violence against Tamils and were for the most part shocked by the brutality and suddenness of these events. It is true that some connived in acts of violence, but others gave Tamil refugees shelter in their homes at great personal risk. They were not without a profound ambivalence, but this was not a mass movement of the Sinhalese people against the Tamils. If this were so, one would have to give up any hope for the future not just of the Tamils, who could flee to the north and east of the island or to South India, but for the Buddhists entrapped in their own violence. What a fate for a nation subscribing to a religion of non-violence!”
An inquiry into the killings is expedited and all state forces brought under democratic forms of governance. As an initial step towards the latter, a process of demilitarization in the north and the east carried out speedily and effectively. Such a process should fall within a broader process of demilitarization in the rest of the country and include the dismantling of all surveillance teams that had sprung up during the war, such as TID and other agencies.
This essay by Gananath obeyesekere that appeared in Sri Lanka in Change and Crisis(Ed.James Manor, 1984) is a close investigation into post 1977 political realities, the implications of which have much to do with present impasse that Sri Lankan society seems to be in.
Gananath obeyesekere, the greatest anthropologist produced by Sri Lanka was born at Meegama in Darga Town in Kalutara. His father D.D.Obeyesekere, as he once remarked a cosmopolitan figure at that time in his life, was a lecturer in the Institute of Indigenous Medicine in Sri lanka. And he was also an adherent of Anagarika Dharmapala. Gananath obeyesekere received his B.A. in English with a first class honours in 1955 at the University of Ceylon in Peradeniya. He recalled later about his higher education as to how he came to refuse the suggestion offered by his professor to join the English department, at that time the prestigious department in the university and also automatic scholarships to London and Oxford because of his sneaking anti-colonialism despite the fact that left-wing leaders of Sri Lanka went to London or Oxford, or Cambridge. He obtained his M.A and PhD in University of Washington. Gananath Obeyesekere is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. Before his appointment to Princeton, Obeyesekere held teaching positions at the University of Ceylon, the University of Washington, the University of California, San Diego. His books include Land Tenure in Village Ceylon, Medusa’s Hair, The Cult of the Goddess Pattini, Buddhism Transformed (coauthor), the Work of Culture, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Myth-making in the Pacific, Imagining Karma, Cannibal Talk, Karma and Rebirth and The Awakened Ones. He was also engaged in collecting and publishing rare historical manuscripts in Sri Lanka, which challenge the orthodoxies dominant in history. Among his numerous academic awards is the Thomas Huxley medal, which is given by the Royal Anthropological Institute and is listed as “the highest honor at the disposal of the Institute”. Obeyesekere has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Suntory-Toyota Fellow (STICERD) at the London School of Economics. His book on Captain Cook won the Louis Gottschalk Prize in 1993, awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.
( The following article was originally published in The Island on 8th and 9th of February 2005 under the name Citizen-Ordinary. The article was written in response to the proposals made by the then Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe inviting public discussion on what should be the ‘podu yahapatha’ or the common good of Sri Lanka. The gist of the proposals was that our common good should be based on democracy and the market economy. The issues raised in this article as to whether we want to accept the market as the guiding principle of our collective life are more relevant today when Ranil Wickremesinghe is the Prime Minister of the country and is at the helm implementing market driven reforms in the economy. The original article is republished here sans only the specific references to the then political context.)
The market as a legitimate part of the economy has also come to stay even though the manner in which the dominance of it was forced upon us in the post-1977 period has wreaked havoc on the Sri Lankan society, the unfolding of the serious ramifications of which will take a long time to come, as shown by one of its prime examples, the privatized public transport, experienced by the ordinary folk who travel around by bus. The real issue about the market is not whether it can be considered a legitimate partner in the national economy, but whether we want to accept the market as the guiding principle of our collective life. Continue reading The common good, market economy and politics By Kumudu Kusum Kumara→
Ahilan Kadirgamar expressed his views on “Constitution: For Whom ?” at the public discussion organized by ‘Citizens’ Council’ held on 22 June 2016 at CSR auditorium.
He said that the peoples’ participation in public representation process towards constitutional reforms could be seen as an important form of democratic engagement against experts making constitution. As far as democracy is concerned it is about creating a kind common sense among people with the progressive view of the changes that they seek, he argued. Continue reading ව්යවස්ථාව කාටද ?/Constitution : For Whom ?- අහිලන් කදිර්ගාමර්/Ahilan Kadirgamar→
The lack of female representation in the Sri Lankan legislature has been of great concern for over a decade. This concern has lead to some theorizing and attempts at practical solutions to the problem. Among these has been the suggestion of a reservation for a quota for women in the electoral process in every political party. Women have also been encouraged to apply for candidacy on the electoral lists of political parties they support. These attempts have not met with success. It has been the experience of activists that leaders of political parties at all levels are reluctant to include women in their electoral lists. Unsurprisingly, all leaders at all levels of all the political parties in Sri Lanka today are male. On the other hand, only a very few women have come forward seeking nomination. It is also a fact that very few of the women who gained nomination were elected by the people. In the 21st century Sri Lanka, women’s involvement in politics is in inverse proportion to the awareness and discourse on the need for the inclusion of women and gender-related issues in the political agenda. The present study attempts to explain this paradox. Continue reading Women in Politics in Sri Lanka: the Left Movement – Pulsara Liyanage→
“In the context of student politics, ragging would have been used as a means of “getting to know” the freshers and thereby recruiting them to political groups. It is with the entry of the JVP into student politics in the late ‘60s that ragging and student violence takes the pernicious form that the Sri Lankan universities have experienced since then.In 1970s Sri Lankan universities turned out to be strongholds of the JVP, signalling the end of an era dominated by mainstream left politics. The JVP led Samajavadi Shishya Peramuna (SSP) dominated university student politics since 1970s and violence associated with their radical politics has affected the universities negatively. The JVP led SSP used ragging as a means of recruiting cadres to its student movement and then to the party.”