MARCH 23, 2017 EST, USA
 
 
VOL. 17, NO. 351
 

INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION & THE INTELLIGENTSIA
DR DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
july 27
 
 

When Julien Benda wrote of the treason of the intellectuals, he didn’t know the half of it.

“With both warring parties disregarding the right to life, only international intervention can save the citizens of Sri Lanka”. Before I tell you who purportedly said this, let me tell you where it came from. The Institute at which I am has, as most such outfits, a magazine rack containing the latest periodicals. My eye chanced upon a thick A 4 sized publication called The Little Magazine, Volume v11, Issues 3& 4, a special issue on Security.

Flipping it open to the contents page I noticed many topics of interest including one on Sri Lanka. The Editors had summarised each essay, and the one on Sri Lanka bore the summary that I have opened this article with. Now, I am a fair-minded chap or would like to think of myself as one, and it occurred to me that the Editor’s summary may be a distortion of what the writer said, so I turned to the essay itself and this is what I found:

“The largest share of the responsibility for this erosion of the rule of law and the culture of impunity lies with the Sri Lankan government...The LTTE’s military strategies and tactics have also contributed to the worsening human security crisis in Sri Lanka”. (p78)

Here is the telling conclusion of the essay: “How can this unfolding human security crisis be addressed in Sri Lanka? The best solution is for the government and the LTTE to return to the ceasefire, resume political dialogue and then work out a sustainable political solution. But that option does not seem to be among the priorities of either party. There is no room for other domestic forces or international actors to persuade or force the warring parties to give up their unilateral military agendas. That constitutes the real difficulty in alleviating the human security crisis”. (My emphasis- DJ)

The conclusion contains the writer’s important policy prescription: “Given all the limitations, a minimalist yet reasonable course of action available to international actors would be to put diplomatic and other pressures on both sides to refrain from war escalation. For such a containment or de-escalation option to work effectively there should be a concerted attempt by the major regional and international actors to design a common strategy for conflict management in Sri Lanka. The US, the EU, Japan, India, Pakistan, China and Russia should be co-partners in such a new international engagement in Sri Lanka. Among regional actors, India, Pakistan, China and Japan have a crucial role to play in a new phase of peace-building through de-escalation”. (p78).

The writer is described as a “political scientist and constitutional expert” is further described as “among Sri lanka’s most influential commentators on ethnic conflict and human rights”. Though one may not guess it from that description, it is Prof J. Uyangoda, who is referred to. He is Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Head, Department of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Colombo.

It is fairly obvious that this article was written when the existentially decisive final war was on.

Several things leap out at the reader. Firstly, in the matter of impunity and the erosion of the rule of law, the Sri Lankan Government is held to be the main offender with the LTTE as a secondary one; an ‘also ran’ and that too only because of their “military strategy and tactics”, (not politics or ideology). This about an armed militia described as the closest to the European fascist movements of the 1930s, by renowned expert Walter Laqueur, as led by ‘the Pol Pot of South Asia’ by Pulitzer Prize winning John F Burns, and more recently, as ‘textbook fascist’ by The Economist. We are talking about the movement that blew away top-notch Tamil intellectuals like Neelan Tiruchelvam, Kethesh Loganathan and Rajani Tiranagama. On the other hand, the government, however authoritarian, is an elected one, which cannot quite bury an independent judiciary and parliamentary dissent.

Secondly, the author’s best case scenario (‘best solution”) is manifestly not the military defeat of the LTTE; not the victory of the armed forces of the democratic Sri Lankan state. Not even a military defeat paralleled or followed by the implementation of a political solution to the Tamil question, as the anti-Tiger Tamil organisations and indeed India, the world’s most populous secular democracy, pushed for. Nope, the best solution is a ceasefire and negotiations. This, as if it had never been tried by successive Sri Lankan and one Indian leader, most of who were murdered by the Tigers for their pains; and as if the CFA experience had not been gone through.

Thirdly, the solution proposed is an international intervention aimed at ‘conflict management’ through DE-ESCALATION, i.e. the de-escalation of the Sri Lankan military campaign. I say this because the Sri Lankan campaign was de-escalating the LTTE’s violence rather decisively and conclusively!

Fourthly, the writer clearly wished to prevent the military defeat of the LTTE and advocated international intervention for that purpose. He urges “diplomatic and other pressures” on both sides. In other words, he wanted non-diplomatic/extra diplomatic pressures brought to bear on the Sri Lankn state at a time that it was fighting to finish off the LTTE. What “other pressures” are there apart from diplomatic ones? Obviously economic and military pressures!

At a time that the international community was divided between those who were trying to de-escalate the conflict and in effect save the Tigers, and those in our regionNTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION & THE INTELLIGENTSIA

DR DAYAN JAYATILLEKA

When Julien Benda wrote of the treason of the intellectuals, he didn’t know the half of it.

“With both warring parties disregarding the right to life, only international intervention can save the citizens of Sri Lanka”. Before I tell you who purportedly said this, let me tell you where it came from. The Institute at which I am has, as most such outfits, a magazine rack containing the latest periodicals. My eye chanced upon a thick A 4 sized publication called The Little Magazine, Volume v11, Issues 3& 4, a special issue on Security.

Flipping it open to the contents page I noticed many topics of interest including one on Sri Lanka. The Editors had summarised each essay, and the one on Sri Lanka bore the summary that I have opened this article with. Now, I am a fair-minded chap or would like to think of myself as one, and it occurred to me that the Editor’s summary may be a distortion of what the writer said, so I turned to the essay itself and this is what I found:

“The largest share of the responsibility for this erosion of the rule of law and the culture of impunity lies with the Sri Lankan government...The LTTE’s military strategies and tactics have also contributed to the worsening human security crisis in Sri Lanka”. (p78)

Here is the telling conclusion of the essay: “How can this unfolding human security crisis be addressed in Sri Lanka? The best solution is for the government and the LTTE to return to the ceasefire, resume political dialogue and then work out a sustainable political solution. But that option does not seem to be among the priorities of either party. There is no room for other domestic forces or international actors to persuade or force the warring parties to give up their unilateral military agendas. That constitutes the real difficulty in alleviating the human security crisis”. (My emphasis- DJ)

The conclusion contains the writer’s important policy prescription: “Given all the limitations, a minimalist yet reasonable course of action available to international actors would be to put diplomatic and other pressures on both sides to refrain from war escalation. For such a containment or de-escalation option to work effectively there should be a concerted attempt by the major regional and international actors to design a common strategy for conflict management in Sri Lanka. The US, the EU, Japan, India, Pakistan, China and Russia should be co-partners in such a new international engagement in Sri Lanka. Among regional actors, India, Pakistan, China and Japan have a crucial role to play in a new phase of peace-building through de-escalation”. (p78).

The writer is described as a “political scientist and constitutional expert” is further described as “among Sri lanka’s most influential commentators on ethnic conflict and human rights”. Though one may not guess it from that description, it is Prof J. Uyangoda, who is referred to. He is Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Head, Department of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Colombo.

It is fairly obvious that this article was written when the existentially decisive final war was on.

Several things leap out at the reader. Firstly, in the matter of impunity and the erosion of the rule of law, the Sri Lankan Government is held to be the main offender with the LTTE as a secondary one; an ‘also ran’ and that too only because of their “military strategy and tactics”, (not politics or ideology). This about an armed militia described as the closest to the European fascist movements of the 1930s, by renowned expert Walter Laqueur, as led by ‘the Pol Pot of South Asia’ by Pulitzer Prize winning John F Burns, and more recently, as ‘textbook fascist’ by The Economist. We are talking about the movement that blew away top-notch Tamil intellectuals like Neelan Tiruchelvam, Kethesh Loganathan and Rajani Tiranagama. On the other hand, the government, however authoritarian, is an elected one, which cannot quite bury an independent judiciary and parliamentary dissent.

Secondly, the author’s best case scenario (‘best solution”) is manifestly not the military defeat of the LTTE; not the victory of the armed forces of the democratic Sri Lankan state. Not even a military defeat paralleled or followed by the implementation of a political solution to the Tamil question, as the anti-Tiger Tamil organisations and indeed India, the world’s most populous secular democracy, pushed for. Nope, the best solution is a ceasefire and negotiations. This, as if it had never been tried by successive Sri Lankan and one Indian leader, most of who were murdered by the Tigers for their pains; and as if the CFA experience had not been gone through.

Thirdly, the solution proposed is an international intervention aimed at ‘conflict management’ through DE-ESCALATION, i.e. the de-escalation of the Sri Lankan military campaign. I say this because the Sri Lankan campaign was de-escalating the LTTE’s violence rather decisively and conclusively!

Fourthly, the writer clearly wished to prevent the military defeat of the LTTE and advocated international intervention for that purpose. He urges “diplomatic and other pressures” on both sides. In other words, he wanted non-diplomatic/extra diplomatic pressures brought to bear on the Sri Lankn state at a time that it was fighting to finish off the LTTE. What “other pressures” are there apart from diplomatic ones? Obviously economic and military pressures!

At a time that the international community was divided between those who were trying to de-escalate the conflict and in effect save the Tigers, and those in our region and Eurasia, who were supportive of the legitimate Sri Lankan state’s campaign to eradicate secessionist terrorism within its recognised borders, this writer argued for a united international front, not in support of the Sri Lankan state albeit with a component of advocacy of devolution, but precisely and explicitly to de-escalate the armed drive, and return to the ‘peace’ track, not with the elected Tamil representatives, but with a Tiger salvaged from destruction!

The article I have quoted from here is no isolated example. Before me is a volume titled South Asia: Societies in Political and Economic Transition, published in 2010, i.e. this year. It contains a chapter by the same academic who wrote the earlier mentioned article. The chapter is titled Politics of Sri Lanka: 2007-2008. In it, the writer opines that “Therefore, the LTTE’s military strategic aim seems to focus on preventing the Sri Lankn state from obtaining a military victory, eventually leading to a military and political stalemate. In the LTTE’s thinking, a strategic stalemate would also create new conditions for the international community to intervene in Sri Lanka’s conflict. The LTTE seems to envisage that international intervention in such a scenario would be a prelude to acknowledging a new political reality as well”. (p251).

Now what is blindingly obvious is that the LTTE’s thinking as identified by Uyangoda in this chapter is the same as Uyangoda’s policy recommendation in his journal article. The LTTE’s politico-military strategy is ‘international intervention’ which would in turn permit recognition of a new political reality, says Uyangoda. And what does Uyangoda himself appeal for, but ‘international intervention’ to secure ‘de-escalation’, ‘conflict management’ and ‘peace building’. There is a congruency and overlap between the positions of Uyangoda, and what he knows or depicts as the LTTE’s position and thinking!

These comic conceptualisations and analytical atrocities hold no surprises for me as a political scientist. What I find shocking are the values, the ethics and morality reflected in this stand. The affiliations and the networks advertised here are tarred with the same brush of treacherous appeasement of fascism and terrorism.

This is deeply symptomatic of the ethical collapse of the secular progressive intelligentsia, at a time when the history of their country and the needs of the people required them to stand up and be counted. The contrast could not be greater between Sri Lanka’s liberal-radical intellectuals and the committed or ‘engaged’ intelligentsia of the 1930s and ’40s who abandoned their earlier pacifism and stood at the helm of the anti-fascist and (before and after WWII) the anti-imperialist causes of their day, in the West and in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In contemporary Sri Lanka we had instead a neo-comprador intelligentsia which appeased fascism to the very end (as this essay shows).

It is this moral, ethical and intellectual vacuum that was filled by the Sinhala fundamentalists and fanatics. The citizenry will accept any intellectual or ideologue that will stand with them on existential issues of the defence of the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country. They appreciate anyone who militantly champions the cause of a war to finally liberate the country of an abiding threat of large scale terrorism which consumed tens of thousands including the country’s most promising leaders. This is how the Sinhala ultranationalist and extremists, who were ideologically so marginalised in the 1990s under Premadasa, became the dominant ideological force of today. Lenin once said that “anarchism is the price the working class movement pays for the sin of opportunism”. Similarly, the anarchism of the southern Sinhala hard-line agitators is the price that our society pays for the opportunism of the southern liberal intellectuals. If the modernist or postmodernist secular, pluralist intellectuals wish to know who is responsible for the hegemony of irrationality today, they need only look in a mirror. and Eurasia, who were supportive of the legitimate Sri Lankan state’s campaign to eradicate secessionist terrorism within its recognised borders, this writer argued for a united international front, not in support of the Sri Lankan state albeit with a component of advocacy of devolution, but precisely and explicitly to de-escalate the armed drive, and return to the ‘peace’ track, not with the elected Tamil representatives, but with a Tiger salvaged from destruction!

The article I have quoted from here is no isolated example. Before me is a volume titled South Asia: Societies in Political and Economic Transition, published in 2010, i.e. this year. It contains a chapter by the same academic who wrote the earlier mentioned article. The chapter is titled Politics of Sri Lanka: 2007-2008. In it, the writer opines that “Therefore, the LTTE’s military strategic aim seems to focus on preventing the Sri Lankn state from obtaining a military victory, eventually leading to a military and political stalemate. In the LTTE’s thinking, a strategic stalemate would also create new conditions for the international community to intervene in Sri Lanka’s conflict. The LTTE seems to envisage that international intervention in such a scenario would be a prelude to acknowledging a new political reality as well”. (p251).

Now what is blindingly obvious is that the LTTE’s thinking as identified by Uyangoda in this chapter is the same as Uyangoda’s policy recommendation in his journal article. The LTTE’s politico-military strategy is ‘international intervention’ which would in turn permit recognition of a new political reality, says Uyangoda. And what does Uyangoda himself appeal for, but ‘international intervention’ to secure ‘de-escalation’, ‘conflict management’ and ‘peace building’. There is a congruency and overlap between the positions of Uyangoda, and what he knows or depicts as the LTTE’s position and thinking!

These comic conceptualisations and analytical atrocities hold no surprises for me as a political scientist. What I find shocking are the values, the ethics and morality reflected in this stand. The affiliations and the networks advertised here are tarred with the same brush of treacherous appeasement of fascism and terrorism.

This is deeply symptomatic of the ethical collapse of the secular progressive intelligentsia, at a time when the history of their country and the needs of the people required them to stand up and be counted. The contrast could not be greater between Sri Lanka’s liberal-radical intellectuals and the committed or ‘engaged’ intelligentsia of the 1930s and ’40s who abandoned their earlier pacifism and stood at the helm of the anti-fascist and (before and after WWII) the anti-imperialist causes of their day, in the West and in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In contemporary Sri Lanka we had instead a neo-comprador intelligentsia which appeased fascism to the very end (as this essay shows).

It is this moral, ethical and intellectual vacuum that was filled by the Sinhala fundamentalists and fanatics. The citizenry will accept any intellectual or ideologue that will stand with them on existential issues of the defence of the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country. They appreciate anyone who militantly champions the cause of a war to finally liberate the country of an abiding threat of large scale terrorism which consumed tens of thousands including the country’s most promising leaders. This is how the Sinhala ultranationalist and extremists, who were ideologically so marginalised in the 1990s under Premadasa, became the dominant ideological force of today. Lenin once said that “anarchism is the price the working class movement pays for the sin of opportunism”. Similarly, the anarchism of the southern Sinhala hard-line agitators is the price that our society pays for the opportunism of the southern liberal intellectuals. If the modernist or postmodernist secular, pluralist intellectuals wish to know who is responsible for the hegemony of irrationality today, they need only look in a mirror.


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