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Have we crossed a watershed? Reflections on the transformation of the LTTE’s military organisation - Categories of left misconception

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Have we crossed a watershed? Reflections on the transformation of the LTTE’s military organisation
Categories of left misconception
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Categories of left misconception

Forget the formal left ensconced in government; the less said of its self-serving obfuscations the better. There is however another category of upright radicals, both left inclined and liberal, which nevertheless suffers from two strange mental blocks. First, having eviscerated the regime for its anti-democratic and anti-human rights record and having flayed Sinhala chauvinism with an eloquence that is beyond the likes of me, with what flourish do these worthies conclude? What is their punch line? The President "must do such and such" they say; the regime must make "such and such constitutional changes, grant devolution, do away with the unitary state" they insist; and so on, they preach their catechism to the state.

I don’t get it. Aren’t they asking this regime to do precisely that which by its very nature it cannot? Aren’t they calling upon the regime to be exactly what it is not? Don’t they see the oxymoronic plight of their pleadings? If it is only a rhetorical device, still, public discourse has long passed that stage. Better pick up some version of Oakum’s Razor, sharpen the mind, and get down to the intellectual grind of thinking things through.

The second point is that these worthies nearly one and all – soft-left and liberals, except, that is, the ‘hard-left’ – lambaste the LTTE as an abomination that must be eradicated. There are two versions; blessed redemption will come to the Tamils thereafter, or let’s eradicate it in parallel with granting concessions "to win the Tamils away from the LTTE" (a favourite line and motive). I will repeat in just one sentence something I have said before ad nauseam; I couldn’t care less if the LTTE is roasted in pluperfect purgatory after the Tamils have won federalism or some similar dispensation, but if it is destroyed prior to that, it will be curtains for the Tamils – or to borrow indomitable Doric de Souza’s inimitable idiom, "they will get bugger-all after that".

Distressing examples of left stupefaction also come from two people who have earned reputations for their steadfastness on democratic and minority rights issues. Since they are personal friends I will name them; they will not deny me the right to public dissent. Victor Ivan calls for the destruction of the LTTE because he thinks Tamils will breathe more freely once this jackboot is lifted; he also believes that horrors of 1983 were in part the fruits of Tamil nationalism. I have replied to him in two previous Sunday Island pieces, but the coup de grace came from Kumar Rupesinghe who alluded, pithily, to "Victor Ivan’s somersaults". There is no need to add to these three words.

The second much respected person who has got himself rather befuddled is Jayadeva Uyangoda. In the October 25 issue of India’s Economic and Political Weekly, in an otherwise refreshing article that bears some affinity to my Indo-Lanka integration thesis, he says:

"I now know that ethnic majoritarianism is not necessarily coercive. It has a strong element of consent of the minorities, or at least their political leaders. Majoritarianism is completed when the political representatives of the minorities accept, with happiness and even in intense competition with each other, the condition of inequality. They do so in exchange of other benefits which are usually couched in the respectable language of development assistance to our community."

Of course it is clear what kind of minority political organisms Uyangoda has in mind; the Sangarees, Douglases, Pillayans and Karunas. The total following of the former can be packed into one three wheeler, mostly Sinhalese; the latter three have one armed battalion apiece, squatting behind SLAF guard-posts. Uyangoda knows better than I do that these are not Tamil nationalists in any sense of the word; does Vidkun Quisling impress him as an example of the Norwegian resistance movement relishing the Nazi embrace with intense happiness? He claims that he arrived at this profundity after deep thought; some gear is slipping!

I can only conjecture that these various mental blocks arise because the complexities of modern nationalisms and civil wars are not easy to fit into received models, sociological or old-world Marxist. It is time to think sui generis and be theoretically uncompromising on fundamentals, but Victor Ivan, Jayadeva Uyangoda in this instance, and many good people on the left, and among liberal democrats, are not finding the ugly world of ethnic civil-war intellectually pliable or theoretically easy to digest.

~  The Island ~


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