Category Archives: politics

The Origins and Institutionalisation Of Political Violence (Part 2)- Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere

“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!”

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. The concluding part continues here. Continue reading The Origins and Institutionalisation Of Political Violence (Part 2)- Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere

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killing two young men on a motorbike for the reason of speeding is indication of militarization – University Teachers

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.

We as University teachers are shocked at the wanton killing of two university students by the Police in Jaffna last week. While condemning the act in no uncertain terms, we are also perplexed by the fact that members of the police, who have been endowed with the task of maintaining peace and look to the safety of the people, could arbitrarily assume powers of authority that go far beyond their function. Obviously, something is very wrong with how we in this society understand governance and power. Continue reading killing two young men on a motorbike for the reason of speeding is indication of militarization – University Teachers

The Origins and Institutionalisation Of Political Violence (Part 1)- Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere

GANANATH OBEYESEKERE
GANANATH OBEYESEKERE

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.

Continue reading The Origins and Institutionalisation Of Political Violence (Part 1)- Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere

The common good, market economy and politics By Kumudu Kusum Kumara

( 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

ව්‍යවස්ථාව කාටද ?/Constitution : For Whom ?- අහිලන් කදිර්ගාමර්/Ahilan Kadirgamar

” ව්‍යවස්ථාව කාටද?” යන මැයෙන් ජුනි 22 දින පුරවැසි සභාව සංවිධානය කොට සාමයික කේන්ද්‍රයේ ශ්‍රවණාගාරයේ පැවති මහජන සාකච්ඡාවේදී අහිලන් කදිර්ගාමර් ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදය සම්බන්ධයෙන් අවධානය යොමු කරන ලද කරුණක් වූයේ ව්‍යවස්ථාව පිළිබඳ මහජන අදහස් විමසීමේ කමිටුව හමුවේ මෙසේ ජනතාව අදහස් ඉදිරිපත් කිරීම විශේෂඥයන් විසින් ව්‍යවස්ථාව සකස් කළ යුතුය යන කරුණට එරෙහිව යන සුභවාදී දෙයක් බවත් ව්‍යවස්ථාව හෝ ආර්ථිකය සම්බන්ධ දේ විශේෂඥයන්ට බාරදීම ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍ර විරෝධී දෙයක් බවත් ය. මේ සම්බන්ධයෙන් වැදගත් කරුණක් වන්නේ මහජනතාවගේ පැත්තෙන් පොදුජන විඥාණය නොහොත් පොදු අවබෝධයක් ගොඩ නැගීම බවත් ඉතිහාසයේ යම් යම් දේ සම්බන්ධයෙන් එසේ වී ඇති බව ඔහු වැඩිදුරටත් පෙන්වා දුන්නේය.ඔහු දැක්වූ අදහස්වලට මෙහිදී වැඩි දුරටත් සවන් දිය හැක.

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

Women in Politics in Sri Lanka: the Left Movement – Pulsara Liyanage

Pulsara Liyanage
Dr. Pulsara Liyanage

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

Ragging, Student Violence, & University Academics: A Brief Note – Kumudu Kusum Kumara

“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.”

Continue reading Ragging, Student Violence, & University Academics: A Brief Note – Kumudu Kusum Kumara

Ahilan on ‘Sri Lanka and the Global Economy’/ශ්‍රී ලංකාව හා ගෝලීය ආර්ථිකය ගැන අහිලන්

Ahilan Kadirgamar on Left Discourse -‘Sri Lanka and the Global Economy: ECTA, FDI and other options organized by Socialist Study Circle, held on Friday, 11 March 2016 at the Sama Samaja Piyasa

සමාජවාදී අධ්‍ය්යන කවයේ සංවිධානයෙන් පසුගිය මාර්තු 11 දින සම සමාජ පියසේ දී වමේ කතිකාව: ශ්‍රී ලංකාව හා ගෝලීය ආර්ථිකය:ඊසීටීඒ,විදේශ ආයෝජන හා අනෙකුත් විකල්ප යන මැයෙන් අහිලන් කදිර්ගාමර් (දේශපාලන ආර්ථික විද්‍යාඥ ) දැක්වූ අදහස් රමිඳු පෙරේරා විසින් එසැණින් කරන ලද එහි සිංහල පරිවර්තනය ද සහිතව පලවේ.

On The Politics of Memory and a Critique of Transitional Justice – Ahilan Kadirgamar

Ahilan Kadirgamar on The Politics of Memory and a Critique of Transitional Justice at the seminar held on On Wednesday 3rd June 2015 at the Department of Political Science and Public Policy University of Colombo

Ahilan Kadirgamar is a PhD candidate at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) and a member of the Collective for Economic Democratization in Sri Lanka.

People should have the “Right and Space for Participation” in Constitution Making

The parliament will establish a Committee of Parliament on 09 January, according to the Order Book No.01 issued on 21 December, 2015 that will consist of members of parliament and will be called the “Constitutional Assembly”. Purpose of this Constitutional Assembly is spelled out as [quote] deliberating and seeking the views and advice of the People, on a new Constitution for Sri Lanka, and preparing a draft of a Constitution Bill for the consideration of Parliament in the exercise of its powers under Article 75 of the Constitution.[unquote]

It is very clear therefore, this drafting process restricts the participation of “People” to seeking “views and advice” only. For such purpose, the PM Wickramasinghe has already appointed a 24 member committee of known and unknown persons. Leaving aside their capability and credibility in engaging “people”, they are only mandated to collect views, suggestions and proposals from people and or groups and organisations. They are given a period of 03 months to collect such from the people. This 24 member committee will collate what they collect and perhaps recommend content for a new Constitution. With their political affiliations and credibility in question, there is no guarantee they will be independent and steer clear of this government’s preferences in the draft of a Constitutional Bill. There ends the participation of the “People” in making a new Constitution for Sri Lanka.

That extremely narrow and poor exercise in having “People” for drafting the Constitution, is nevertheless hyped as “public consultation” which is not. The actual making of the draft of a Constitution Bill that will go before parliament will be the work of miniature legislators in parliament. They are men and women in this present parliament who have not proved any competency, any commitment in making law for the “People”, though elected by the people. Drafting of the 19 Amendment and its content that includes the constituting of the Constitutional Council proves how power greedy and mediocre these parliamentarians are.

Sri Lanka and its people cannot afford such “politician made disasters” any more. A Constitution that needs to be made, should be one that would be valid and effective for many decades to come without constant tinkering. That Constitution therefore has to be made by the “People” through long and serious deliberations within society. Not in parliament, debated by men and women who don’t have proven capacity and social commitment for such serious work of intellect.
While making of a Constitution has to have a pre conceived set of principles and a social philosophy, it has to be a very democratic, participatory process open to society and discussed in layman’s language. In South Africa, it took 02 whole years and drafts were distributed freely in 11 languages that included tribal dialects too. Purpose was to have maximum participation in making the Constitution that Cyril Ramaphosa who chaired the process claimed, was made by 40 million people. In Kenya, people wanted a Constitutional Review to avoid past mistakes and excesses that led to political instability and poor social and economic performance. Their new Constitution adopted in August 2010 went through many reform processes, parallel reviews and structured people’s participation and is termed a “people driven” Constitution that includes a citizens “Bill of Rights”. People’s participation was guaranteed through officially established “Constituency Constitutional Forums” almost equivalent to “Electoral Constitutional Forums” if we are to borrow that concept. There are enough and more such people centred processes in many countries if we wish to draw experience from. Internationally it is now an accepted principle in Constitution making that it is “People who make their own Constitution”. This is not what is being planned here and it would not be a Constitution for the People, by the People. This would be drafted within a highly centralised process inside parliament. The Referendum would only ask the people to vote “yes” or “no” for a Constitution written and adopted in a parliament that has no competency for such exercise.

We wish to stress here, there is no urgency to finish off making a new Constitution in 06 months as proposed. We therefore appeal for a “People driven” process that will have a long and adequate period for discussions and debates in all 03 languages within provincial councils, local government bodies, political parties in and outside parliament, trade unions, professional associations, trade chambers, social and community groups and organisations with the right to propose changes and add new aspirations to the proposed draft before the parliament sits to discuss the draft of the Constitution Bill.

Signatories ;

Neville Ananda Attorney at law
Sujeewa Dahanayake Attorney at Law
Muditha Karunamuni Social activist
Kusal Perera Journalist
Anton Marcus Trade union leader
Srinath Perera Attorney at law
Contacts –
Neville Ananda Attorney at law – 0777876811
Sujeewa Dahanayake Attorney at Law – 0777324062