Polity is the English language Journal of the SSA. The editors of this issue of Polity are Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda and D...
POLITY Vol. 6 No. 1 & 2 (DOUBLE ISSUE)
ON THE TERMINATION OF THE STATE OF EMERGENCY
LEFT PARTIES OF UPFA FOR DEVOLUTION
Sandun A. Jayasekera SRI LANKAN BUDDHISM: MAHINDIAN HYBRID OF PRE-BUDDHIST
M.M.J. Marasinghe FTZ WORKERS AND POLITICS OF SOCIAL PROTECTION
Janaka Jan aka Biy Biyanw anwila ila AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL WHO WOULD BE REFORMERS
S. Handy Perinbanayagam SUMITRA PERIES, SRI LANKAN FILMMAKER
Vilasnee Tampoe-Hautin PROTEST LIKE A WISCONSINITE
Judy Waters Pasqualge THIS WALK CAN TALK TOO
Srila Roy PEASANT REVOLTS IN DUTCH AND BRITISH PERIODS
Nimal Sanderatne TAKING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT SERIOUSLY
Sharon Bell POVERTY OF WRITERS
Usvatte-aratchi IN MEMORIAM
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POLITICAL REFORM AFTER WAR
ri Lanka’s political debate on the ethnic questions seems to continue with no consensus among political forces as to the nature of the post-civil war state. It appears that history is repeating itself, with old prejudices, mistrust and ideologies reemerging and shaping how ethnic elites approach the questions of political reform. Two key ideas seem to frame the terms of the debate. The UPFA government and the TNA are the protagonists of these ideas that have shaped two contending perspectives.According to the government’s understanding, Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict no longer exists. With the military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, the ‘terrorism’ problem has been resolved. The task now is to focus on economic and infrastructure development in the North and East. The government’s strategy for nation-building in the post-war context is to give priority to economic integration of the North with the rest of the country. The TNA, in contrast, gives primacy to the politics of the ethnic conflict. It wants the government to recognize the centrality of political demands of Tamils for regional autonomy. Expanding the existing devolution framework through giving more powers to provincial councils – as envisaged in the formula called ‘Thirteenth Amendment plus’ – is the core demand of the TNA. In recent months, there have been talks between the UPFA government and the TNA to arrive at a compromise on the question of how Sri Lanka’s post-civil war political trajectory should be mapped out. Not surprisingly, talks have not produced any positive outcome. As repeatedly happened in past negotiations, too, the two
sides have only discovered in talks how sharp and perhaps unbridgeable their differences are. The government is also under continuing international pressure to work out a political settlement in cooperation with the TNA. India, the USA and the EU countries are the source of this international pressure. Issues of accountability and investigations into human rights and humanitarian issues occurred during the last months of the war is also another key area of continuing international concern. The government’s initial strategy of ignoring this largely Western pressure seems to have exhausted its efficacy. Although the West may be getting increasingly preoccupied with Libya and Syria, Sri Lanka may not disappear from its agenda of concerns. The prudent option for the UPFA government is to work on the reform front through stages. The withdrawal of the Emergency is, to use a cliché, a step in the right direction. The government would of course be ill-advised if it tries to bring through the backdoor into normal law some of the emergency provisions. Eventual relaxation relaxati on and withdrawal withdrawa l of the PTA PTA would also help the government to restore democratic normalcy in the country country.. Balancing democracy and national security may be a difficult challenge. Yet, the credibility of the government will largely depend on its capacity and willingness for democratic normalization in the post-civil war transition to peace. It is in this context that the question of political reform assumes greater salience. Past experience shows that the incapacity of regimes to reform the state has led to a
continuing crisis of the state, ultimately leading to the separatist civil war. There were excuses before and during durin g the war not to reform the Sri Lankan state to address minority political demands. If new excuses are produced in the absence of the LTTE and the civil war threat to the state, it is likely that history will repeat itself in that sphere as well, in some new forms.
Vol. 6 No. 1 & 2 May-August 2011 Edi tor s Jayadeva Uyangoda Kumari Jayawardena Executi ve Editor and Executive Circulation Manager Rasika Chandrasekera Editor ial Assis tant Chandrika Widanapathirana
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ON THE TERMINATION OF THE STATE OF EMERGENCY Statement Sta tement by the Centre for Policy Alternatives Alternatives
he Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) welcomes the announcement made by the President to Parliament on 25th August 2011 that the government will not be seeking an extension to the state of emergency when it lapses by operation of law in September. Since the end of the war in 2009, the need for an expeditious termination of the state of emergency has been a key concern of civil society. For a generation of Sri Lankans, the state of emergency has been the norm rather than the exception, and this has had a debilitating impact on democracy, governance and the enjoyment of freedom.
powers that we have experienced in the last four decades. The present procedural and substantive framework of emergency powers is set out in Chapter XVIII of the Constitution and in the Public Security Ordinance. This framework fails to meet contemporary international standards and fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law in a number of respects. These include: the undefined nature of a state of emergency; the lack of legally established preconditions for a declaration of an emergency; the preclusion of judicial review over several aspects of emergency decision-making and executive action; the absence of statutory substantive controls such as proportionality on the exercise of emergency powers (including Emergency Regulations which override all law except the constitution); the weaknesses of the procedure for extension of a state of emergency and the general failure of parliamentary and judicial oversight; and the weaknesses of the constitutional bill of rights which allow restrictions on fundamental rights without adequate safeguards consistent with democratic standards. All these specific deficiencies in relation to the legal regime of emergency powers need also to be understood in the broader context of the present constitution and culture of governance, in which the executive presidency is given a constitutional pre-eminence at the cost of the separation of powers and checks and balances. Successive parliamentary oppositions have also failed to exercise their role of scrutiny and accountability, and this has contributed to the erosion of the regulatory framework.
It is pertinent to recall here the deeper political problems that resulted in extra-institutional and armed challenges to the authority of the state since the 1970s, which in turn necessitated the use of these powers for protracted periods. Terrorism and other violent methods, while wholly whol ly deplorable, need to be understood in the context of their causes, and in post-war Sri Lanka we are yet to overcome the political challenges of securing peace, unity and diversity through a more equitable sharing of power and through a consolidation of democracy under the rule of law. We are firmly of the view that without addressing these underlying issues relating directly to the democratic legitimacy of the state, conflicts necessitating the reintroduction of states of emergency are likely to arise again. The positive aspects of the termination of the state of emergency therefore need to be viewed against a broader historical, political and constitutional context, and of particular importance in this regard is the urgent need for a new post-war constitutional settlement sett lement that can ensure that the causes of past conflict are not reproduced in the future. We call upon the government to approach this fundamental challenge with sincerity, magnanimity and seriousness of purpose, and with a more tolerant appreciation of Sri Lanka’ Lanka’ss plural society than has characterized its efforts in this regard so far.
In addition, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), which has been an instrument of repression ever since it was enacted, continues to be in force. It not only fails to meet even basic standards of procedural protection for the individual in relation to criminal responsibility through its provisions on extended detention and admissibility of evidence, but also empowers restrictions on a wide number of other democratic liberties including the freedom of expression. It has been empirically established establis hed that the PTA directly facilitates torture t orture and other abusive practices in Sri Lanka. The PTA has no place in a democratic democrati c society, and CPA CPA reiterates the call for its repeal and replacement with legislation that balances anti-
The relaxation of the state of emergency is also an opportunit y to revisit the serious deficiencies of the constitutional and legal framework in relation to emergency and anti-terrorism 3
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CPA also notes that the CPA th e President’s parliamentary statement did not include details about the alternative arrangements arrangements that are contemplated by the government in relation to the matters hitherto regulated by Emergency Regulations, which will lapse together with the state of emergency. These include the detention of alleged LTTE ‘surrendees’, the framework for their rehabilitation, aspects of high security zones still in existence, and other matters. In view of the implications for post-war reconciliation of many of these matters, it is imperative that the measures the government intends taking are made public. More generally, we would also call upon the government to adopt a transparent and consultative approach to any legislation it may bring in relation to national security and terrorism in the future.
terrorism powers with democratic freedoms more consistently with established standards, including our own constitutional values. The continuation in force of the state of emergency for extended periods of time during the past four decades, as well as conflict conditions necessitating extensive recourse to the PTA and Emergency Emergency Regulations, have had a pervasive influence on the practices and culture of governance in Sri Lanka. It is not only the executive, but also Parliament, the courts, and indeed society as a whole, that have become accustomed to being governed under extraordinary powers, and without legal restraints that are central to constitutional democracy. Notwithstanding the welcome relaxation of the state of emergency, therefore, the reversion of our cultu re of government to a more democratic mode will require continued commitment. Unfortunately, however, recent actions of the government such as the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the post-war expansion of the role of the military and defence establishment into civilian life and civil administration, especially in the North and East, give rise to serious concerns and belie the rhetoric of the President’s statement to Parliament.
While welcoming the long overdue termination of the state of emergency, therefore, CPA would strongly reiterate the critical need for continued commitment on the part of the government to legal and constitutional reforms that are imperative if, in addition to the government’s priorities of economic development, democracy, peace, order and good government are to form the basis of Sri Lanka’s post-war future.
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LEFT PARTIES OF UPFA FOR DEVOLUTION Sandun A. Jayasekera Jayasekera
he combined Socialist Alliance (SA) yesterday strongly supported the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) as a means of finding a lasting solution to the North-East conflict and said sai d the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) report could be used as a launching pad to start talks.
The minister warned that extremists both in the government and the opposition may attempt to disrupt the functioning of the PSC and added that administrative, financial and political power must be devolved to the grassroots level using the ‘Gam Saba’ as the base. He said the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has received an overwhelming mandate from the Tamil-speaking people and should participate in PSC discussions with an open mind now that it was not a proxy of the LTTE.
Lanka Sama Samaja Party leader and senior minister Tissa Vitharana told a media conference that it was sad to see some members of the government and the opposition having a misconception that development alone could resolve the longstanding ethnic conflict.
Communist Party General Secretary and senior minister D.E.W. Gunasekara said President Mahinda Rajapaksa had gone on record saying he would accept whatever recommendations suggested by the PSC and as such the devolving of police and land powers would not be a stumbling block to the PSC.
“They think an ethnic conflict does not exist in post war Sri Lanka and the problems of Tamil-speaking people, can be resolved by constructing a road or a culvert,” the minister said. He said no country could achieve sustainable development without peace and harmony among the people and where Sri Lanka was concerned peace and harmony among all ethnic groups would come only through genuine power devolution. “The Tamil Tamil people must be convinced co nvinced that they are part and parcel of good governance,” the minister said.
“It is extremely dangerous, a suppression of reality and antiprogressive if anyone thinks that the war is over and there is no ethnic problem and development can bring solutions to all national problems,” the minister said. “Economic development is extremely vital but it will not fulfill the aspirations of ethnic communities. All left parties from the 50s kept saying that the grievances of minorities have to be addressed and the ‘Sinhala only’ on ly’ Act will bring disaster disast er to the country."
He said the alliance expected to talk to the constituent parties of the government and the opposition about the PSC and urged them to take part in the PSC. “Especially the United National Party (UNP) has a big role to play in this exercise. All parties must take part in the PSC discussions and they can leave if they feel it is a futile endeavour,” he added.
Courtesy Daily Mirror, Tuesday,, 23 August 2011 Mirror, Tuesday
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SRI LANKAN BUDDHISM: MAHINDIAN HYBRID OF PRE-BUDDHIST RELIGION M.M.J. Marasinghe
ccording to accepted historical records Buddhism was officially introduced into Sri Lanka during the reign of King Devanam Piyatissa, in the third century B.C. It was brought by the Buddhist mission headed by the Venerable Thera Mahinda. It may also be noted here that the Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka was one of several such missions sent to different parts of the then known world by the Emperor Asoka, after the conclusion of the third Buddhist Council held at Pataliputra under the guidance of the Venerable Venerable Thera Moggaliputta Tissa.
logical and systematic presentation of the canonical knowledge on spiritual training. It is pleasant to note that this spiritual tradition is being kept alive even today by the (ranya sen) anas and the meditation centres which have been established throughout the Island, though to cater to small numbers. The second are those who were followers of the pre-Buddhist tribal religions and were content with the type of ritual-based religion to which they were used. It is to cater to these that the Venerable Venerable Mahinda sought to bring a sapling of the Bodhi tree and also got down relics of the Buddha which were enshrined in the stupas erected for the purpose.
The Buddhism which was thus introduced to Sri Lanka was the Buddhism of the Pali canon, canon , which has been accepted as the most authentic of the records of the teachings of the Buddha. The Pali tradition of Buddhism, whi ch was brought down as an oral tradition like many other textual traditions of Indian religions, was committed to writing in the first century B.C. at the Aloka Vihara in Matale during the reign of King Valagambahu and has been available in textual form ever since.
It is difficult to understand und erstand why the Venerable Thera Mahinda introduced ritual practices to Sri Lankan Buddhists when such practices did not form part of the Pali canonical texts, the teachings of which his tradition claimed it adhered to. It is not difficult to find the answer to this question if we take a close look at the massive religio-ritualistic syncretism which was taking place in and around the border regions of the Mauryan empire in India at the time. Such understanding becomes important and highly relevant because it was able to bring about a complete change in the traditional Brahmanic religion and in its claim of Aryanness. With the stability of the central political machinery of the Mauryan Empire, there were no more powerful enough tribes who could be considered a threat to the central state. This, in other words, meant that the thousands of smaller tribal groups who lived scattered in the border areas of the massive empire were under no threat from the central state either, unlike the smaller tribes of the Buddha’s day who were under threat from the Kosalan or the Magadhan empires. Although the tribal lands across the border regions of the empire were not in demand for the further expansion of the central state, the peace and lack of suspicion which ensued assisted the peaceful integration of the tribal peoples with the major community living adjacent to their lands. But, though political power or force was not used, nor needed, the expansion of the borders of the central state continued unhindered through peaceful
In spite of the fact that the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition has maintained that its tradition of Buddhism is that of the Pali canon, it is becoming increasingly difficult to accept this insistence because of the gross deviations from the canonical expectations in the Ritual religion. A clarification is needed here. It is clear from historical records that from the very first few days of the introduction of Buddh ism to Sri Lanka, its teachings had received the attention of two sets of people. One was those who had grasped the importance of the teachings of Buddhism and made a bold decision to attain the emancipation taught by it. According to historical records, there were large numbers of such followers and the political authorities of the period had made adequate provision to cater to their needs at the monastic centres. It is these followers of the path who kept the light burning on Buddhist spiritual training. The extent of the impact which this commitment had on the religious environment of the day can, I think, be gauged from the devotion of the famous Buddhist commentator’s epoch-making work Visuddhimagga to a 6
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means, bringing with it massive transformati ons, as we shall see.
position of chief god of the th e Aryan pantheon remarks, "Indra had won the battle, but Siva won the war”(Wheeler, Five Thousand Years of Pakistan,33).
It was pioneered by the Brahmin priest who by this ti me had considerably declined from his sixth century B.C. prestigious social position. According to Kosambi, “The Brahmins gradually penetrated whatever tribes and guild castes remained; a process that continues to this day. This meant the worship of new gods, including Krishna who had driven Indra out of the Panjab plains before Alexander’s invasion. But the exclusive nature of tribal ritual and tribal cults was modified, the tribal deities being equated to standard Brahmin gods, or new Brahmin scriptures written for making unassimilable gods respectable. With these new deities or fresh identifications came new rituals as well and special dates of the lunar calendar for particular observances. New places of pilgrimage were also introduced, with suitable myths to make them respectable, though they could only h ave been savage, pre-Brahmin cult-spots.The Mahabharata, Ramayana, and especially the Puranas are full of such material. The mechanism of the assimilation is particularly interesting. Not only Krishna, but the Buddha himself and some totemic deities including incl uding the primeval Fish, Tortoise and the Boar were made into incarnations of Vishnu-Narayana. The monkey-faced Hanuman, so popular with the cultivators as to be a peculiar god of the peasantry with an independent cult of his own, becomes the faithful companion -servant of Rama, another incarnation of Vishnu. Vishnu-Narayana Vishnu-Narayana uses the great earth-bearing Cobra as his canopied bed to sleep upon the waters; at the same time, the same cobra is Siva’s garland and a weapon of Ganesha. The elephant-headed Ganesha is son to Siva or rather of Siva’s wife. Siva himself is lord of the goblins and demons, of whom many like the cacodemon Vetala Vetala are again independent independen t and highly primitive primit ive gods, still in popular, village worship. Siva’s bull Nandi was worshipped in the south Indian Neolithic age without any human or divine master to ride him; he appears independently independ ently on innumerable seals of the Indus culture...”(D.D. Kosambi, Culture and Civilization of Ancient India,168f.).
The Aryans were patriarchs and they had only male gods in their pantheon, while the non-Aryan indigenous Indians were matriarchs who worshipped female deities. Therefore, another important change which Brahmanism adopted during this phase of religious syncretism was the acceptance of the marriage of male and female deities. While the marriage of the male and female deities implies the recognition of marriage as a social institution in society, so ciety, here these marriages imply the intermixing of two or more hitherto hi therto separate tribes while these at the same time gained membersh ip of the main society. Thus, the marriage of Siva and Parvathi implied the coming together of the former worshippers of Siva with the worshippers of Parvathi while both groups at the same time became members of the Mauryan state, but retaining their separate traditions in endogamy and commensality to t o a certain extent. These new gods of the Mauryan religio-ritualistic syncretism, though conceived of as having the shape and form of human beings, were given as many heads and hands as were required to bear or hold the totemic symbols of the tribes they represented. As a result, Siva is depicted as having several heads and as many hands as were required to represent the tribes which gathered round his leadership. Therefore, the increase in the number of the implements borne or held by Siva, Vishnu or by any other god or goddess indicated the number as well as the identities of the tribes which were thus mixed with the larger society. It must be noted that the principal factor which was made use of by the Brahmin priesthood to bring together the people of the tribe and the people of the main society was the accommodation given to the ancestral worship of the tribe(s). This contributed in large measure to the peaceful integrati on of the tribal peoples with the people of the principal society who were themselves god worshippers. What was required was only a redesigning of the tribal worship to make it acceptable to the principal society or a redesigning of the worship of the principal society to make it acceptable to the tribal peoples. A perusal of what really happened shows that the process has worked both ways, as the principal god who surfaced as the chief god after the integration was an unAryan indigenous god who came to be accepted by the principal society. At the same time he combined in himself the forms of worship of all the tribes which were brought together. The main point however is that the process d id not
One very important outcome of this religio-ritualistic syncretism was the emergence of Siva and Vishnu into Brahmin acceptance. It must be noted here that none of these two gods is found mentioned either in the Brahmanic or the Buddhist literature prior to the time of the Mauryan empire. Of these two, not only does Siva enter the Brahmanic pantheon, he becomes its chief god which is a remarkable promotion for a non-Aryan god under the hands of the Brahmins who were very proud of their Aryanness. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, commenting on Siva’s ascension to the 7
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cause any problems because both or all parties to the process were god worshippers or those who were recently elevated thereto and as a result there was no conceptual conflict.
thought his visit to Lumbini important enough to be marked by erecting a commemorative pillar. p illar. It can also be deduced that the Buddhists had accepted by this time, the worship of the Bodhi tree as Asoka honoured Venerable Mahinda’s request for a sapling sapli ng of the Bodhi tree t ree at Buddhagaya. Asoka is reported to have erected stupas throughout his empire enshrining the relics he obtained by opening the stupa erected by the Koliyas of Ramagrama enshrining their share of the Buddha’s relics. This shows that relic worship too had been adopted by the Buddhists by this time.
It seems that the religio-ritualistic syncretism which resulted in breaking down the isolation of the tribes of the forestlands adjacent to the borders of the empire did influence the entire social structure as it resulted in the adoption of new gods, new forms of worship and new rites to be performed for these gods. These gods could only have been those who were elevated into the rank of the gods recently, or were those who were the totems of the tribe, now transformed into divine rank like Siva’s bull Nandi. At the social level this swelling of the former Brahmanic pantheon meant the amalgamation of innumerable small as well as big tribal communities with the accounted population of the central political State.
There is an interesting legend regarding the relics of the Ramagrama stupa. When King Dutugemunu wanted relics of the Buddha to be enshrined in the Ruwanweliseya, the thera Sonuttara was sent to the Nagaloka which according to later Buddhist cosmology was under the ocean bed. The Sri Lankan legend further records a beautiful story to say how the relics reached the Nagaloka. The stupa in Ramagrama was washed away by a flood and the casket of relics was washed away by the flood waters to the sea whereupon it was recovered by the Naga king. On the ground facts which apparently were not available to the weavers of the legend show that in spite of the fact that a very heavy flood would have been needed to wash away the stupa as Ramagrama is located to be in the foothills, both Ajatasatthu and Asoka found it intact,(D.D.Kosambi, Myth and reality, l06f.;M.M.J. Marasinghe, Gods in Buddhism,116).
It is relevant to ask how this sweeping wave of reforms affected the other religions in India, as Brahmanism was not the only religion which prevailed prevail ed in India at the time. Let us take the case of Buddhism. Unfortunately, Unfortu nately, there are no written records of what really happened to Buddhism at the social and religious level, though we have some records of divisions among the members of the Order of disciples on matters of doctrine. The more important matters relating to how the Buddhists were affected by the reforms which swept over Hinduism have not been written upon or been taken up for discussion or debate in any Buddhist forum as the Councils of the period. But it can be gathered that by the time Emperor Asoka was converted to Buddhism, the Buddhists seem to have accepted rituals and rites as essential components of the practice of the religion, in spite of the fact that rit ual and rites are totally absent from the texts of the Pali canon.
While rites and rituals thus seem to have been adopted by the Buddhists or for the Buddhists, it is not clear whether such adoptions had been made only after ensuring that they did not go counter to the teachings of the Pali canonical texts. The total absence of any discussion or debate on the uses and relevance of rites and ritual to the practi ce of Buddhism goes to show that it had not attracted the attention of the authorities of the Sasana and this, with disastrous results for the important contribution that the proper presentation of Buddhism should have been capable of making to the present society.
Here, a clarification has to be made regarding the use of the term ‘Pali Canon’. It refers to the texts t exts of the four Pali Nikayas which belong to the earliest part of the Pali canon. The famous commentator Buddhaghosa too has accepted that the texts of the fifth Nikaya are post-canonical but his view seems to have been overruled, apparently by the Mahavihara sector. the differences, it must be noted are ideological because the later texts support practices which are either absent from the early texts or more importantly go counter t o the cardinal teachings of the Buddha.
According to the Theravada conception, the Buddha was the human teacher who attained the highest spiritual attainment capable only by man and devoted his entire life to the propagation of his teaching. Therefore, he is revered as the great human teacher. His disciples and other followers of his day did not worship him, but followed his teaching and won liberation liberatio n or lived as contented members of their society. Today we worship him with all items of offering given to
Now going back to our discussion, that the Buddhists at the time had accepted the worship of sacred places and pilgrimages to such places as part of the practice of their religion is confirmed by the fact that Emperor Asoka had
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conversion of ancestor and cultic deity worshippers into nontheistic Buddhism, ancestor and deity worship was made part of the new Sri Lankan version of Buddhism by giving these beliefs prominent placements in its ritual structure.
other gods and pray to him, thus making him an object of prayer and offering, thereby going against his very teaching that there are no gods or other beings who are capable of accepting sacrifice, offering or of responding to prayer or supplication. Thus, it is clear how the Buddha has been degraded to the level of a tribal or other god and is made capable of helping man upon request. The more serious matter for concern is how such practices have continued without hindrance to the present day.
As these changes seem to have been effected during the very early days of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, it is quite likely that the Venerable Thera himself authored these adoptions. The very important question which this raises is whether in fact the Venerable Thera or any other(s) did possess the authority to do so. According to the Four Great Authorities (cattaro mahpadesa) promulgated by the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Dagha Nikaya,it is quite clear thast no individual Thera or a group of Theras whether small or big has the authority to introduce changes to the practices of the religion or to the interpretations of the teachings, without their being tested as to their conformity to the teachings of the Pali canonical texts–these meaning the texts of the four Nikayas. The fact that both ancestor worship and deity worship go directly against the teachings of the Pali canonical texts shows that the Four Guidelines have been totally disregarded by the Venerable Thera.
Another form of ritual worship which draws our attention is the worship of the Bodhi tree. The Buddhists venerate the Bodhi as the tree under the shelter of which the Buddha attained Buddhahood. When the Bodhi was planted in the Mahameghavana park at Anuradhapura it came to be worshipped with great fervor by the people who were up to that time worshippers of trees like the Banyan and the Palmyra. What really happened was that they brought all their items of worship of the former tree and worshipped the new tree with perhaps the same ritual. While the Banyan and the Palmyra trees were worshipped because they were believed to be the habitats of certain spirits, the Bodhi tree is believed to this day to be the habitat of good spirits who are prayed to in addition to invoking the th e healing and other powers of the Bodhi. If you visit the Sri Mahabodhi at Anuradhapura, Anuradhapura, you cannot fail to brush against the large number of Kapuwas who are engaged in a lucrative sale of charms and make blessings for a fee.
Despite the above very clear promulgations by the Buddha made during the last three months before his parinibbana, it seems that both the political authorities and the members of the Order have introduced rites and ritual practices into Buddhism with disastrous results to the purity of the tradition. We have already noted how the great human teacher had been degraded by the Sri Lankan Buddhists by making him sit surrounded by vast arrays of offerings usually made to the gods in primitive and other theistic religions. According to our historical records, it was King Sena lll who introduced the offering of food and garments to statues of the Buddha (Geiger, Culavamsa, 175). Another instance of unauthorized introduction of ritual is the starting of the ritual called “Bodhipuja“by a monk called Ariyadeva, which became a ritual of high popular demand.
Another important form of worship which existed at the time of the introduction of Buddhism was the worship of individual gods who possessed personal cults of their own. It is recorded that Venerable Mahinda spent a few months in Vedisagiri, the home town of his mother which was close to the border regions of the empire which were at the time witnessing the religio-ritualistic and cultural syncretism which we described above, after he was selected to lead the Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka. The knowledge he would have gained from this exposure seems to have been used to win over the tribal tree worshippers and god worshippers to Buddhism by providin g them with convenient entry points to gain admission to the new religion. But what really happened was that the expected transformation never occurred. Not only has it become clear that the pre-Buddhist Sri Lankans stubbornly persisted practicing their pre-Buddhist tree and god worship under the protection of the new religion, they have desecrated the purity of the Theravada tradition by bringing in superstition and lenience on theism both of which were clearly and emphatically rejected by the Buddha. Instead of the
There are those who argue that as most ritual, in the forms that they are used in religious practice today, caters to the religious needs of the uneducated ordinary masses, who call and believe themselves to be Buddhists but in actual make up and practice are still primitive ancestor and deity worshippers, to keep them in the fold. It must be emphatically stated here that it is a crime to leave them at their th eir level without any attempt to educate them and establish them on the correct path of progress to spiritual spiritu al maturity. But, if the Buddha too did what our pundits did and are persisting in doing purely
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because they do not want to part with their superstitions, he would have left Culapanthaka to go back to lay life without finding for him the technology to mature him to his liberation. It is this technology that must mus t be applied, not reveling in the quagmire of primitive superstition as these innocents have been left for long enough in their almost un redeemable state. Thus, the need of the hour is not the indiscriminate promotion promotion of the present day superstition and god worship infected tribal religion calling it Buddhism of the Pali canon, but at least establishment of a mechanism to bring back the purity of Buddhism, if it is to face the multiple challenges of the new world, as the stranglehold which the present day powers, both religious and political, have on it, will lead it to its demis e
fairly soon. The authority, according to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya, empowered to take decisions on what is in keeping with the teaching of the Buddha or not is the Dhamma itself as recorded in the Pali canonical texts, and not in the post-canonical texts. It is quite clearly stated that any new practice or interpretation of the teaching must be tested as to its validity against the teachings contained therein, before either acceptance or rejection. The hybrid version of the Sri Lankan Buddhism of today has to be thoroughly cleaned and purified if it is to be Buddhism, lest some country in the Western world will soon become the centre of pure Buddhism and we be labelled as holders on to a primitive form of the religion which it has become today. (Courtesy, The Island , 6th July 2011)
Former Professor and Head, Department Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies; Vice Vice Chancellor, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka
Karthigesu Sivathamby Professor Karthigesu Sivathamby who passed away recently, was one of the early members of the Social Scientists’ Association, which was formed in 1977 with G.V.S. de Silva as the t he first Chairperson. Professor Sivathamby was then working at the newly formed University of Jaffna and frequently came to Colombo to participate in SSA seminars and other activities. In the first issue of the SSA’s journal Social Science Review (Sept. 1979), he published an important critique of the educational and socio-religious activities of Arumuka Navalar (1822-79) entitled “Hindu Reaction to Christian Proselyt ization and Westernization in 19th century Sri Lanka.” In December 1979, the SSA organized a seminar on “Nationality Problems in Sri Lanka” which was pathbreaking as Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim intellectuals discussed and analysed the social, economic and ideological roots of the ethnic conflict, especially highlighting the myths and misintepretatons of both Sinhala and Tamil nationalism. He organized a similar conference of the 1979 seminar in Jaffna, but the deteriorating deterioratin g political situation made it difficult to hold. Professor Sivathamby’ Sivathamby’ss paper “Social Composition Composition of the Tamils of Sri Lanka” later lat er published in the SSA book Ethnicity Ethnicity and Social Change (1984), dealt with the various segments of Tamil society and the development of a “Tamil consciousness”. With a background in Left-wing scholarship, Sivathamby’s pioneering contributions were an important input into the on-going controversies on nationalism. In spite of all the hazards of the conflict, Sivathamby continued to come to Colombo and associate with the scholarly community. He remained i ntellectually productive despite poor health and the vagaries of politics in i n Sri Lankan Tamil society. The SSA deeply mourns his loss, and condoles condoles with his wife and daughters.
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FTZ WORKERS AND POLITICS OF SOCIAL PROTECTION Janaka Biyanwila
he worker struggles in the main Katunayake FTZ against the proposed pension reforms and the violent response by the state highlight the potential and necessity to develop a global sense of local labour struggles. The FTZ worker struggles illustrate how market-driven “social protection” strategies of global financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF IMF,, are mobilizing the insecurities of workers, created by flexible labour markets to further global accumulation. The spread of markets into the non-market sphere of social provisioning relates to the privatization and the financialization of social protection, which involves processes of dispossession. Linking pension struggles as politics of social protection protection is aimed at at revealing and transforming market-driven”social protection” as well as “development” strategies that reproduce processes of dispossession within households and communities. On May 30, 2011, the police responded violently towards a peaceful worker protest killing one worker and injuring more than 270. Rather than an isolated incident, this violence highlights the repressive despotic modes of local governance overlap with global networks of production. Locating the FTZ worker struggles against the pension reforms in a global context is significant, since most of the discussion around the t he May 2011 protests made the role of global financial institutions invisible. Partly, Partly, this relates to state attempts to assert its political sovereignty from external global pressures, particularly particularly given the accusations of war crimes crimes contained in the April 2011 UN report (on Accountability with Respect to Final Stages of Sri Lanka Conflict). In confronting internal pressures from below, the state presented itself as a paternalistic benevolent entity offering social protection to workers in their old age. This foregrounding of the benevolent state is central for maintaining imperial structures by concealing the vital role the World World Bank plays in privatizing pension systems in the global South.
context relates to a unique American informal empire, where the American state incorporates its capitalist rivals, while coordinating and policing the spread of capitalist markets globally (Panitch and Gindin, 2009). The present imperial order depends on self-governing “sovereign” states with specific forms of nationalism or national community that are committed to capitalist markets. Rather than imperialism imperialism ending with decolonization, decolonization, what emerges is an informal imperial order, a structured cooperation between the global and national ruling classes, with multilateral as well as unilateral tendencies. This structured cooperation within within the informal informal empire is a customized customized imperialism which caters to nationalist projects of different hues. While asserting a competitive resistance identity of the nation state, the coordination with imperial order is based on elaborating a Eurocentric monoculture monoculture of modernization modernization and development based on opening up markets. The Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism ethno-nationalism that emerged with the spread of markets in the post-1977 period in Sri Lankacoincided Lankacoi ncided with a concerted attack on the labour movement. In collaborating with the new imperial order, the local ruling classes projected a new common sense of nationhood and citizenship citizenshi p that also drew from the anti-imperial discourses of cold-war politics. This new anti-imperialist anti-imperia list nationalism reinforced by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, as well as the rise of protests against the state in China in 1989, was reconfigured into a new militarised dimension with the 2001 changes in US foreign policy. policy. The expression of Sri Lankan anti-imperialism anti-imperialism within SinhalaBuddhist ethno-nationalism articulated in terms of national selfdetermination is embedded in furthering existing class and ethnic privileges. The contradictions contradictions of this version of national selfdetermination expressed purely in terms of geo-political sovereignty is that it hides the material dimension of economic dependence on global financial markets and consumer goods markets in the US and EU. The moral community of SinhalaBuddhist ethno-nationalism asserted by the present notion of national sovereignty is anchored in reproducing a system that commodifies people, communities, cultures and ecologies. The representation of “markets”, “economic growth” and “development” “developmen t” as universal interests or shared human values is central to the imperial articulations of nationhood and citizenship.
Informal Empire, nation-state sovereignty and development he reframing of imperialism is significant for counter hegemonic movements mobilizing against authoritarian ethno-nationalist state strategies as well as capitalist markets. Social movements, including the labour movement, embody contradictions which maintain inadequate account of the tensions within capitalist markets. Imperialism in the present historical
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reintegration with the imperial order coordinated by “structural adjustment” programs of the World Bank.
This coordination with the imperial order is not without w ithout conflicts within the national ruling classes. But, these conflicts are often mediated by family, ethnic/religious community and political party dynamics. More importantly, the ruling classes are united when it comes to avoiding as well as repressing any rebellion by the dispossessed. Creating consent to this hegemonic order depends on the efforts and compromises of elected leaders and a range of civil society actors, media, religious/spiritual leaders, intelligentsia as well as trade unions. At the same time, maintaining the informal empire requires the permanent undermining of oppositional class solidarities across religious, ethnic and other cultural identities, which might spur alternative notions of anti-imperialism, “national community” or alternatives to “development”.
Financialization, pensions and the World Bank he proposed 2011 pension reforms are directly in line with the shift in economic activity from production to finance, described as the financialization of capital accumulation. The deregulation of financial markets, enhancing the integration of domestic capital with global financial flows, maintains an uneven global accumulation accumulation process. As Patnailk (1999) argues, argues, the ascendency of of the international international finance capital capital "prying open third world markets to goods and services" underlies attempts to overcome metropolitan stagnation and the crisis of capitalism capitalis m in general. Thus, deregulation of finance capital is particularly advantageous, for two reasons:
Social protection, community and the labour movement n Sri Lanka, as elsewhere, the realm of public social provisioning or the welfare state has been central for the creation of consent for the nationalist project promoted by the ruling classes. The public social provisioning is an outcome of social struggles instigated by workers, women and other marginalized groups. It reflects a class compromise with its own historical and spatial dynamics. Particularly during the 1956-75 period, the postindependence capitalist state extended public social provisioning which was instrumental in improving the conditions of a selected segment of the working classes in Sri Lanka. Within a spectrum of public social provisioning, pensions cover only a small segment of the labour force consisting consisting mostly of public sector workers workers and those in the formal private privat e sector. Generally these are skilled workers mainly from urban Sinhala-Buddhist backgrounds.
first, it keeps state intervention in demand management at bay, and with it any threat of political radicalism; radical ism; second, by deindustrializing the third world and forcing it into greater reliance on primary production, it keeps inflationary pressures in the metropolis in check. Patnailk (1999)
In a context of financialization, the World Bank agenda of privatizing pensions represents the “fiscal crisis” of the state ameliorated by increasing “efficiency” (profitability) (profitability) of public pensions (World Bank 1994). Despite numerous market failures and systemic crisis, the rhetoric that equates markets with “efficiency” has been central to restructuring pensions. The main aim, for the proponents of markets and competition, is to retract public social provisioning while coupling welfare entitlements with the participation in wage labour. labour. Meanwhile, the privatization of public goods and services further restrains state capacities capacities to properly resource and coordinate public social provisioning. This process of accumulation, appropriating public or common property as a private good or a commodity, is also described as “primitive accumulation” or “accumulatio “accumulation n by dispossession” (Harvey 2003).
The public social provisioning depends on the realm of community and family for enabling workers to engage in wage labour or the sphere of production. The realm of social reproduction of households and communities communities is the sphere of non-markets, beyond the realm of utilitarian exchange, consisting of solidarity sol idarity,, cooperation cooperatio n and care. However, this realm of community is also shaped by dominant norms of patriarchal family, a sexual division of labour and other social hierarchies.
The “restructuring” of social protection is promoted as “modernization” “moderniza tion” and “development”, “development”, while while strengthening of coordination between national and global finance institutions. institutions . This involves the collective collecti ve effort of a range of actors including other multilateral agencies, agencies , the state, local elites, and global corporate and financial interests (Sumaria 2010). In terms of World Bank pension reforms, far from increasing efficiency, most have drained public resources through tax incentives and significant administrative and regulatory expenses (Sumaria 2010). In Chile, where the neo-liberal neo-liberal project was was launched after a CIA backed military coup that established the dictatorship of Pinochet (1973-
The assertions of nationalism that accompanied the welfare state stat e have maintained a notion of national community that privileged the Sinhala-Buddhist identity within a multiethnic, multireligious community. Despite improving livelihoods liveli hoods of most women, the welfare state of the 1956-75 period supported by the labour movement as well as working class parties reproduced a notion of national community that remained grounded groun ded in patriarchy. This dynamic between public social provisioning (or social protection) and national community was reshaped by the post-1977
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1990), the private pensions system absorbed around a third of the overall government budget and 42 per cent of public social expenditure in 2006 (Sumaria 2010). The privatisation of pensions maintained by imperial structures not only erase the potential for a universal non-contributory pension but also restrainsany democratic accountability over national and global financial institutions.
the developing developi ng world. We borrow as a AAA borrower, I might add, and provide these benefits. So, we’re in a different situation than kind of some of the foreign assistance players, but that in itself is a logic, because the money that was first invested in the World Bank is leveraged many, many, many times, pursuing U.S. interests. (Zoellick, 2011)
World Bank, global governance and imperialism n asserting the interests of global finance, the World Bank approach is aimed at subordinating alternative perspectives perspectives within institutions of imperial governance, such as the UN. As opposed to the World Bank’s Bank’s focus on social protection protect ion in terms of “individual vulnerabilit vulnerabilities” ies” and the capacity to manage risks in old age,the UN highlights notions of “intergenerational solidarity” (Dullemen, (Dullemen, 2007). From From the UN approach, approach, social protection and pension policies not only marginally improve conditions of poverty and deprivation of older people, but also has “intergenerational effects as it stimulates school enrolment and continuation and improves nutrition for the younger generation” (Dullemen, 2007). Encouraging a more democratic and pluralist approach to global governance, the UN frames pension reforms in terms of broader notions of egalitarianism and human rights, while taking into account the role of the public sector. Unlike the market perspectives of the World Bank, the UN promotes a social framework that recognizes demands of trade unions and civil society social welfare networks.
The ways in which global financial institutions are integrated with US informal empire necessarily involves a coercive military dimension which links markets and development with “national “nation al security”. In the post 2001 geo-political-military context, the ‘sovereign’ right of the US to reject international rules and norms when necessary also enabled the self-governing states under the empire to promulgate existing “rule of law” in the name of “national security”. The irony of asserting state sovereignty within imperial structures is that the ‘internal’ security of SinhalaBuddhist nationalism is based on deepening coordination with ‘imperial security’.
The “liberalization” “liberalization” of pension by global finance capital capital and global institutions of economic governance illustrates the ways in which the informal empire operates. Particularly, Particularly, with the 2001 launch of the US “war against terrorism” terrorism”,, global institutions of economic governance, including the World Bank, were re-drawn into promoting markets as “democracy”. The present head of the World Bank (since July 2007), Robert B. Zoellick was the vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group, as well as the deputy Secretary of the US State Department and the U.S. Trade Representative influencing WTO policy, under the Bush regime. The US appointed former head of the World World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz (2005-2007), was a neo-conservative ideologue of The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), under the Bush regime, which saw the emergence of a new unilateral militarized imperialism (Panitch and Gindin 2004). For the World World Bank, the logic of opening markets is inherently in the interests of the US empire, as head of World Bank, Zoellick, would candidly describe at a public gathering in 2011: You know, at the World Bank, recall we actually got capitalized, we make revenue, we put money back into
Despite concerns of the US State Department and the “international community” over violations of “international humanitarian law” or “crimes against humanity”, the militarization of the Sri Lankan state was and remains geared to create new markets for accumulation. It illustrates how the opening of markets since 1977 has restrained democratic representative institutions and the “rule of law” while undermining citizenship and the realm of civil society. The professional diplomatic realm of the World Bank and the finance ministries, as coordinating agencies, is compromised with the extending coercive apparatus of the state – the military military,, police, legal system (Emergency Regulations) and prisons. The violent repression of the FTZ protests illustrates how the “sovereign” state of Sri Lanka with the assistance global financial institutions instit utions remains committed to "free" markets, in which trade unions appear only as recalcitra recalcitrant nt troublemakers.
The World World Bank on global unions : “nothing useful to contribute” he ways in which the World Bank interacts with the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC), and the ILO reveal the tensions within institutions of global governance in terms of organized labour. This can be traced back to the 1997 WTO agenda, complemented by the World Bank, which avoided the inclusion of international labour standards within international trade agreements. When a trade union delegation from the ITUC, the main international trade union body, approached the World Bank regarding their th eir 2001 Social Protection and Labour Strategy, this global worker’s organization was dismissed as
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having “nothing useful to contribute” (ITUC 2011). Similarly, the strategy of the World Bank’s Advisory Group on Social Protection and Labour, announced in March 2011, excluded trade unions and other civil society organizations. As the ITUC claims,
to coordinate a serious challenge. Not surprisingly, only a few unions in Sri Lanka Lanka are affiliated to the ITUC, such as the CWC (Ceylon Workers Congress–plantation workers) and the NWC (National Workers Congress – private sector low wage workers), mostly for symbolic purposes avoiding any contentious politics.While the World Bank is engaging unions in “consultations” on “social protection and labour strategy” throughout 2011, the promotion of deregulated “flexible” “flexibl e” labour markets remains central.
Since workers will be the primary beneficiaries, or victims, of the Bank’s new social protection and labour strategy, one wonders why the Bank rejected any presence of workers’ organization experts in its Advisory Group. (ITUC 2011).
From “excessive” job protection to “worker protection” he World World Bank’s market driven agenda for pension reforms, refo rms, articulated in Sri Lanka Strengthening Social Protection (2007), is firmly based on restraining social protection while deregulating the labour market and privatizing public goods. In Sri Lanka, the UNP regime (1977-94) was instrumental in accommodating the th e World World Bank agenda on social protection pro tection by reducing public spending to so-called “targeted safety-net” while restraining unions in new industrial zones, such as the FTZs. The World World Bank’s ideological shift from the “developmental state” to a market model of , “social capital” , "partnerships”, and “good governance” in the 1990s masks the contradictions in practice.
In addressing the World Bank’s concept paper on Social Protection and Labour, strategy 2012-2022, the ITUC exposes multiple contradictions contradict ions and ideological biases. According to the ITUC, the World Bank: under the pretext of assuring fiscal sustainability, often worked with the primary objective objectiv e of reducing the state’s role and responsibilities in the provision of social protection. Thus in many middle income countries Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe for example, the bank advised countries to scale down comprehensive public pension schemes and create new “second and third pillar” pension programmes which shifted responsibilities for oldage income security to individual workers and the contributions and provisions of benefits to the private sector. (ITUC, 2011) The ITUC’s analysis of pension systems restructured by the World bank in Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe, reflect the similar tendencies in Sri Lanka. The World World Bankdismissal of the ITUC,a form of class snobbery, snobb ery, is a core sentiment that is central to neo-liberal ideology complemented by local ruling classes and their policy poli cy technocrats. This subordination of unions to the interests of capital not only mocks liberal notions of social social contract denying individual and collective freedom freedom to voice grievances, but also the freedom to build solidarity with others. More importantly, the ITUC hardly represents a radical oppositional force (Biyanwila 2010). As a bearer of European social-democratic social-democratic tendencies, the ITUC is positioned to civilize capitalism, as opposed opposed to the smaller global global union federation, the WFTU (World (World Federation of Trade Unions), mostly consisting of working class parties from the global South, which foreground the destructive impact of capitalism and imperialism. Even within the ITUC, unions in the global South, particularly the Confederation of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have criticized the ITUC’s compromises with the global ruling class and the capitalist system as well as the inability
According to the World Bank 2007 report on social protection, Sri Lanka’s “labour market institutions provide excessive job protection of core labour standards – albeit to the formal sector” (World (W orld Bank 2007). From there t here it goes on to argue that “excessive “ex cessive job jo b se secu curi rity ty le lead adss to lo lowe werr pr prod oduc ucti tivit vity y an and d ex excl clus usio ion n of vu vuln lner erab able le workers from formal sector workers”, because “Sri Lanka’s severance pay (Termination of Employment of Workman Act TEWA) system is one of the most restrictive severance pay systems in the world” (World (World Bank, 2007:11) 2007:11) and high unemployment is due to “labour market rigidities”. As a result, “Replacing ‘job’ protection with ‘worker’ social protection programs can promote market efficiency and helps allay the political costs of reform” (World (World Bank, 2007:11). Not only do the World Bank’s abstract self-regulating labour markets misrepresent concrete local labour market dynamics, the acknowledgement of the”political cost” also implies the willingness of the state to engage in coercion and violence. This World Bank document (126 pages of it), prepared with the contribution of local technocrats or ‘experts’, is primarily directed at undoing and misframing policy efforts towards social protection that were built into wages and labour markets by activist workers and struggles. By positioning the World World Bank and the privatization of pensions as promoting interests of the marginalized workers, the Bank undermines undermines workers’ capacities capacities to organize by appropriating the supposed voices of the powerless. The attack on unfair dismissal laws along with labour tribunals or institutions 14
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global care market with little protection. Even within the protected public sector, women workers, such as nurses, are faced with dismal working conditions, lack of adequate resources and male dominated bureaucracies undermining their capacities to provide quality nursing care care (Biyanwila 2010). This intensification of women’s care labour within and outside households, househ olds, along with their concentration within low wage work, illustrates how global processes of accumulation by dispossession reproduce male privilege within notions of community.
of conciliation and arbitration is central to this neoliberal neolib eral market ideology of self-regulation. In a footnote in the second chapter titled “Enhancing employment opportunities and employability” employability”,, the World Bank states, Although there are few unions in this (FTZ) sector, workers in BOI (Board (Board of Investments) firms producing for the export market usually enjoy better terms and conditions of work than informal sector workers, partially due to the concerns of international buyers and the implementation of social compliance contracts (World Bank, 2007:21).
A key contradiction of dominant union struggles concerns the framing of working class politics purely in terms of the realm of production or the workplace. This framing of workplace struggles remains inadequate particularly particularly in a context of flexible labour markets and the privatization of public goods and services. Although most women workers are located within informal labour labou r markets, they also play a vital role in export sectors (FTZs, plantations, and as migrant workers) embedded in global networks of production. Extending workplace struggles into the realm of social reproduction involves identifying, naming and confronting the processes of privatization furthering accumulation by dispossession.
This is instructive because in fact most “international buyers” do not implement “social compliance contracts”, a form of selfregulation, which are mostly used as marketing tools. Moreover, the firms that do have such contracts have been compelled to do so mostly by the struggles of workers’ organizations and unions in the FTZs with the help of global labour activist activ ist networks. But for the World Bank and local advocates of abstract self-regulating markets, the concrete struggles of workers’ organizations and unions are “rigidities” “rigidit ies” and “excesses”. Understandably, Underst andably, the World World Bank (2007) document on social protection in Sri Lanka lacks any references to the UN, the ILO, or any trade union resources.
The reframing of politics of social protection in terms of accumulation by dispossession enables a repositioni repositioning ng of women wo men workers' interests within working class struggles. In ‘making a living’, the disproportionate share of household labour women already perform, which is unpaid and devalued, is central for politics of social protection. The working class demands for social protection require stransforming women’s exploitation within workplaces, households, households, as well as communities. communities. It demands demands expanding democratic control over state provisioning of essential services, such as clean water, sanitation, transport, electricity, health, education education and modes of coordinating coordinating these services. services. The politics of social protection can draw from other struggles, particularly in Latin America, which foregrounds the devastating effects of endless accumulation on natural ecology (water, oceans, rivers, lakes, air, soil, forests), which is essential for life on planet earth.
Politics of social protection: gendered class struggles, labour and pensions he struggles over pensions highlight how the workplace interacts with care labour within households, which are embedded in communities. Private pension schemes generally fail to increase coverage, since one has to have the means to pay premiums and those who are deemed as high risk individuals are excluded (Sumaria, 2010; UN 2007; ITUC 2011). Women workers in particular are affected since they make up a large proportion of low wage workers, informal workers and the poor. Not only do they receive significantly lower benefits, they are further marginalized through cuts in public expenditure on social provisioning (ITUC 2011).
The cuts in public spending on social provisioning along with their privatization impact on women engaged in the provisioning of care within and outside the market. The reorganization of the sexual division of labour within households, embedded within a stratified class formation is central for the provisioning of care. While some households are able to outsource some of o f this labour by employing wage workers (cooks, cleaners, child care workers, etc.), most have to depend on their own resources. With the opening of global labour markets for women’s care work, women migrant workers continue to play significant roles in the
Developing a global sense of local struggles over social protection protect ion foregrounds the processes of dispossession involving multiple dimensions. The ways in which local (ethno) nationalist projects grounded in variety of patriarchies maintained maintained by the informal empire and coordinated by global finance institutions is at the heart of struggles against dispossession. dispossession. In elaborating the labour movement, the collective action of women workers enables a reframing of working class politics to confront the class and gender dimensions of the empire, empire, global finance institutions, and notions of social protection within wi thin a national community. 15
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Politics of social protection :imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy The struggles of FTZ workers expose the contradiction of the post-war (2009)patriarchal ethno-nationalist politics constructing a “harmonious motherland”, while simultaneously undermining worker protection through a deeper integration with global finance capital. By framing social protection purely in terms of ‘vulnerabilities’ ‘vulnerabilitie s’ of individuals and households, the neo-liberal market ideology is aimed at countering social protection as a collective public good. Alternatively, social protection is about intergenerational solidarities as well as citizenship. The elaboration of intergenerational solidarities as well as citizenship also relates to transforming communal social norms that reproduce multiple power hierarchies and structural violence. Articulating a transformative politics of social protection relates to foregrounding how the realm of social reproduction is reconstituted by national as well as global financial institutions advancing a process of accumulation accumulation by dispossession. Locating the attack on the FTZ workers protests against the pension plan as a multifaceted struggle, which includes an anti-imperial dimension, opens a different local sense of the global politics of social protection. This anti-imperia anti-imperialism lism reframes working class politics within, against and beyond, not only the capitalist state (Wainwrite 2003) but also the patriarchal ethnocentric state elaborating accumulation by dispossession.
Patnaik, Prabhat, 1999, “Capitalism in Asia at the End of the Millennium”, Monthl Monthlyy Revie Review w, Volume 51, Number 3 JulyAugust, http://www.monthlyreview http://www.monthlyreview.org/799pat.htm .org/799pat.htm Sumaria, Sheena, 2010, Social insecurity: The financialisation of healthcare and pensions in developing countries. Bretton Woods Project Report,http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/artReport,http: //www.brettonwoodsproject.org/art566515. United Nations, 2007, Deve Developm lopment ent in in an Aging World . World Economic and Social Survey, Surv ey, New York. York. vanDullemen, Caroline, 2007, Inter Intergenerati generational onal Solidarity Solidarity:: Strengthening Economic and Social Ties, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development.UnitedNations Headquarters: NewYork. www. un.org/ esa/socdev esa/socdev/unyin/.../egm /unyin/.../egm_unhq_oct07_va _unhq_oct07_vandullemen.pd ndullemen.pdf. f. Wainwrite, Hillary, 2011, Crack Capitalism or Reclaim the ,http://www.tni.org/article/crack-c .tni.org/article/crack-capitalism-or-rec apitalism-or-reclaimlaimstate,http://www state. World Bank, 1994, A Avert verting ing the Old Age Crisi Crisis: s: Policies Policies to http://go.worldbank.org/ nk.org/ Protect the Old and Promote Growth, http://go.worldba OEU6RWFNI0.
References Biyanwila, S. J, 2010 The Labour Movement in the Global South: Trade Unions in Sri Lanka. London:Routledge.
World Bank, 2007, Developm Development ent and the Next Generation. www-wds.worldbank.org/external/.../IB/.../359990WDR0 complete.pdf.
Help Age International, 2008, Tackling Poverty in Old Age: A Universal Pension for Sri Lanka, Help Age International. www.helpage.org/download/4c48e25e0b087/.
World Bank, 2007, 200 7, Sri Lanka: Strengthening Social Protection, Human Development Unit, South Asia Region, Report No. 38107-LK.Available: www.ipc-undp.org/publications/.../ Social_Protection_report_Sri_Lanka.pdf
Harvey, David 2003, The New Imperialism, London: Oxford University Press.
Zoellick , Robert B, 2011, Society for International Development (SID) World Congress, Transcript, Washington D.C. http:// web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/ ORGANIZATION/EXTPRESIDENT2007/ 0,,contentMDK:22972811~menuPK:64822279~pagePK:64821 878~piPK:64821912~theSitePK:3916065,00.html.
ITUC (2011) ITUC / Globa Globall Union Unions’ s’ Respo Response nse to “Bui “Building lding Re si li en Resi ence ce an and d Op Oppo port rt un it ity: y: Th Thee Worl d Ba Bank nk So Soci cial al Protection and Labour Strategy 2012-2022: Concept Note.
www.ituc-csi.org/ituc-global-unions-response-to.html?lang=en. Panitch, Leo and Sam Gindin 2009, “Global Capitalism and American Empire”, Socialist Register, socialistregister.com/ index.php/srv/article/view/5809.
Janaka Biyanwila is a part time lecturer in Employment Relations, at the Business School of the University of Western Australia 16 POLITY
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AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL WHO WOULD BE REFORMERS (1910) S. Handy Perinbanayagam My dear Friends,
take it for granted that every one of you possesses at least the one qualification without which one can never be a reformer. I mean that you have that modicum of vanity which makes you imagine that you are better than your fellows, and that you have your quota to contribute to the sum of human progress; in brief, that you possess that simple qualification in wanting to be a reformer. I want to make another simple assumption about you, which also I am sure that at least in some vague and indefinite manner you feel that this world of ours is not what it can be and much less what it ought to be, that you have faith in human nature and have realized the infinite possibilities of perfection that are innate in man. I am not sure which of these assumptions is the more fundamental, but I know that they are both not without importance. If any of you who read this lack either for these essential traits of the reformer, you will do well to leave me and my words alone and go your way. Bearing these two assumptions in mind I shall endeavour to point out some other qualifications which also I think you ought to possess if you really mean to do some thing in the world. In truth, some of the propositions I shall here after enunciate are contained in the assumptions that I have made the basis of my whole argument, they are corollaries derived from the basic propositions. My first assumption, the one about personal vanity, I shall restate in another form. Of course, you cannot be a reformer by merely wanting to be one. Also, you will not be a reformer if you do not want to be one. It is a truism that you must want to be a reformer, before you can be a reformer, but the mere desire to be a reformer will not result in your being one, any more than the desi re of a child who wants the moon for playing results in its becoming the owner of that much coveted play thing. Although it is true that no man has ever achieved everything that he wanted, it is equally true that a man has never been anything or got anything without in some manner wanting to be it or to get it, however vague and undefined the wish might be. Granting that you want to be a reformer and that you think that the world in which we live needs reform, what further qualification do you need if you are to accomplish your purpose of reform? Here is my answer.
First, do you feel the evils and the wrongs which you want to set right with a personal intensity? Is it a passion, an agony, an all absorbing religion with you? Does this religion transfuse every fibre of your being? Do you feel these wrongs as personal wrongs? For example when you see an untouchable treated with inhuman callousness callous ness or cruelty, do you feel it as an insult to your own self, as an affront to the divinit y in you? Do you feel the blow as if you have received it? Or, if you want to emancipate this country from the foreign yoke, do you feel with all the strength of your being that the treatment meted out to the humblest of your brethren b rethren is a personal wrong to yourself? Is your desire for the liberation of your country from its cultural, political and economic bondage an allconsuming fire, which burns at a red heat in all your being? If you do not feel these things with the personal intensity which I have tried to picture very imperfectly you simply cannot be a reformer. Your imagination imaginati on is enriched, your you r nature ennobled, and your sympathies intensified intensified only if you feel the wrong of others in your own person. Without a sympathetic imagination it is impossible for you to see the needs of the people whom you want to serve. Second, do you know the forces which are arrayed against you? Do you know the abysmal depths of the innate and subconscious selfishness of human nature, and the tenacity with which mankind clings to traditions and customs merely because man refuses to think? Do you know the deep seated blindness to other people's needs which you see in the so called higher classes, whether it be the higher castes, or the potentates of the British Empire, or the princes of capitalism? How naturally they think that their province is to enjoy privileges and comforts, which are theirs simply through the toil or perhaps the starvation or even the death of others among the children of God! Have you not seen a man seated in a rickshaw, his nether parts protected from rain by a tarpaulin, flinging curses at the th e rickshaw coolie who runs as fast as he can through mud and rain? His lordship, who is inside is not satisfied with the speed of the rickshaw man; hence the shower of curses, as if the shower of rain were not sufficient annoyances to the poor coolie, how naturally and gracefully does the cursing become his Lordship inside the rickshaw! Also, have you not seen now meekly and how
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like a worm which has no right on this earth of immortals (like the occupant of this rickshaw) does the coolie increase his speed and splash through mud and through water, panting for his very breath? Do you not see that he thinks that his being drenched through and through, the mud bespattering his clothes and his person, and his Lordship sitting inside flinging eloquent curses, his boots, trousers, and person immune from the shower – that all these things are according to the disposition of a just and benign Providence? If ever you have the temerity to suggest that things could be otherwise, and that they ought to be otherwise he would laugh you to scorn, and perhaps would believe you more readily if you told him that from a certain day forward the sun would rise in the west and set in the east. To come nearer home, have you not noticed how naturally and unhesitatingly your high caste man kicks the pariah, and how naturally and wi th what unquestioning servility he submits himself to this treatment, and how shocked the pariah would be if you told him he was the equal of the high caste man, and that hence he ought to resent any violation of this sacred rights as a human being? To take another example, supposing you told one of your farmers that he has a right to be the free citizen of a free country that he may be the pioneer of freedom in this country, that he may be a Washington or a Cromwell or Gandhi, that he can help to eliminate the Durai who is tyrannizing over him and for whose wine and tennis he pays his taxes, the man will forthwith declare decl are you to be insane, or dismiss you with vague nothings and when you have turned your back on him will give the knowing nod and the discerning smile of the superior. In short, do you know the age-long servility and apathy of those whom you want to rouse to a realization of their own worth and of their righ ts? Now, to state the other side, if his Lordship in the rickshaw, or the high-caste gentleman, or the British bureaucrat got an inkling of what you have said, what is your lot? The rickshaw lord may challenge you for a duel if he pays you this compliment. The Vellala Vellala gentleman will wil l have you cudgeled cudg eled by the retinue of ruffians, in some of whom, perhaps, you had tried to imbue a sense of their own worth. The British bureaucrat will have you arrested and perhaps deported or imprisoned for treason against His Majesty’s government. So, then, to put the matter in a nutshell, do you realize the abysmal selfishness and egotism of the privileged classes against the battlements of whose special citadels you are directing your attack? Have you not seen the apelike violence and ferocity with which they defend their privileges? Have you not seen the selfishness of these people express itself in all its lurid and ugly colours when the merest trifle of their privileges was in danger? On the other hand, I have drawn
your attention to the indifference and servility of the people whom you want to help, be they the starving labourers, or the untouchables or the people of the subj ect race whom you want to set free from the shackles which have been imposed upon them by man’s diabolical lust for power. Intimately blended with this selfishness and egotism is another quality which I would describe as Pharisaism. I mean, a desire for respectability, a wish to be well thought of by others, an inclination to be angry with anyone who dares to differ from the rest of the world – the hatred that normal animals have for freaks who do not conform to t o the natural types. I refer to the complex feeling of animosity, defiance, vindictiveness, malice and wounded respectability that led the Pharisees to crucify Christ. Third, do you know that the obstacles that you ought to fight are not material, but spiritual and intellectual, not physical and corporal, but physical and intangible, not men but men’s thoughts and impulses, not the illus ion which we call matter but the reality which we call mind, the spirit, or whatever other name you may choose to give to t o the non material essence of your being. The task before the reformer is not to change physical objects objec ts but to transform mental attitudes. atti tudes. You You cannot do away with slavery unless you first do away with the slavementality of the slave, and the slave-owning mentality of the slave-owners. Likewise you cannot do away with the British bureaucracy unless you first change the bureaucratic mental attitude of the imperialistic Englishman and the servile mental attitude of your cringing countryman, coun tryman, or at least one of these complementary attitudes must be changed so that they cease to be complementary to one another but become mutually antagonistic until the stronger impulse prevails over the weaker. Our will to freedom and not our armaments, the zeal with which we want to be free and not the money which we squander on furnishing, furnishing , a navy and an army, the intensity of our wills and not the immensity of our wills and not the immensity of our physical and material resources are the things that count. The real question is, do we honestly wish to get rid of the evils against which we declaim vehement ly. Do we not in addition to our reforming zeal have also a sneaking desire to derive some personal benefit from the evils which we profess to eradicate? Whether the evil be a personal sin or a national sin, the reason for its persistence is our conscious and unconscious and subconscious compromise with the ideal which we have in our minds. Do we not, like St. Augustine, pray to be saved from a sin, all the time reserving our right to commit that sin, at least once more? Is not this compromising attitude at the bottom of all our failures? Do we honestly and sincerely will the things which we say
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that we do want? If so, nothing can stand in the way of achieving our aims. When you are sure of what you want, pursue it with all the energies of the conscious, un-conscious, and sub-conscious parts of yourself. Have you never asked your friend for a loan and even when he did not help you as desired, have you not gone away happy because in a silent conversation between your soul and his soul, your soul had come to know that he would have given you what you wanted if he could have? Or again, have you not got what your wanted and yet gone away unhappy because in some manner or other you felt that the spirit of o f the giver was not happy? In both these cases what really mattered was the spirit of the giver. That is what I mean by saying that, after all, the material is an illusion and the eternally true is spiritual and the nonmaterial your will and your soul? I do not, however however,, deny that material things have their role to play and have their reactions on the spirit of man, but in estimating their relative importance there is no doubt in my mind that the spirit of man is the more potent factor. So then, do you realize that what you want to effect is not a change of things but a change in things – a change of attitude toward things.
breeding. It is not my purpose to decry reason, but I know that its role is minor to that of the imagination and emotions. Of course, the perfect appeal is to man’s entire nature, the imagination, the emotions, emoti ons, and the intellect. Your Your appeal must contain a subtle fusion of reason with passion.
Fourth, having realized that your task was to bring about a change of mind, how are you to do it? Whatever people may say about the supremacy reason and intellect, do you know that the stronger part of your non-physical being is your emotional self and not your intellectual self, your feelings and not your thoughts? For example, do you not know in an intenser sense that sugar is sweet, that fire scalds your fingers, that your mother loves you, than that any one side of triangle is less than the sum of the other two sides, or that the meridian of Greenwich is the basis of some certain geographical calculations? Would you not die more willingly to vindicate the honour of your mother than to establish the truth that three angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles? The sweetness of sugar and the love which your mother has for you are parts of your personal experience. You have realized them, whereas whe reas you have simply understood und erstood certain facts concerning the Meridian of Greenwich and the properties of triangles. In short, do you know that realization and not demonstration is the supremest proof of reality, be the reality spiritual or economic, political or social? Your Your task as a reformer, then, is not merely to convince people, but to convert them, so that they themselves may carry on a further campaign on your side, to create not merely an intellectual response but throbs of emotion? If your cause has appeal only to the human intellect and not to the emotions and the imagination, you would do well to gi ve up all idea of reform and take to something more sensible like farming or cattle-
Fifth, now that we know to what faculty in man the appeal must be made there is another factor which ought not to be ignored, you know the extremely slow pace at which truth travels. Despite new methods of disseminating truth, such as the motorcar, the printing press, and the thousand other contrivances of science, the spiritual progress of man is not a whit quickened. These contrivances undoubtedly help in making public several aspects of truth, but the publishing of truth is not the same thing as the growth of truth. The response to ideals in the human heart is as slow today as it was twenty centuries ago, when mankind crucified the Prince among idealists. Tides of idealism dash themselves agains t the rock of human selfishness and meet today with as many rebuffs as they did in the middle ages or even earlier. So, then you must not expect that with modern facilities of travelling and the advantages of advertisement you can better the world with your motor cars, printing presses, skywriti ng, and other mechanical contrivances. If truth cannot be propagated in this manner, how then can it be propagated? My answer is, it can be done only through the spiritual force known as personality. Mankind, or at any rate, we o f the East, have no loyalty to spare for institutions or committees. Our loyalty can be won only by a personality. A personality influences another by human contact and not through institutional redtape. So, your duty, as a reformer, is to live with the people whom you want to help, and let l et them see you, feel your ideals, play with you, laugh with you, joke with you, and cease to fear you or to hero-worship you. Jesus of Nazareth did this, and the result is too well known to need any elaboration. One of these results anyway, is that all the disciples suffered martyrdom for the supreme Person who loved them, and whom they loved. The stories of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Paramahamsa, and Vivekananda, of Gautama Buddha and Ananda are further illustrations of how personal contact was the impelling force in the lives of these men. Sixth, do you expect to be thanked or recompensed for your loyalty to your ideals? If so, your folly is certainly to be pitied. The mountain in its serene height cares not to be thanked for the rains and rivers that flow from it and enrich the lowlands, filling them with plenty. The mountain receives its treasure from above, and scatters it on the plain below below.. Similar is your function. You You must give because you are rich and over-flowing
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and not for the purpose of earning interest or public thanks or public memorials. The mountain expects and receives no thanks from the lowlands it gratuitously enriches. It is always being filled and refilled to overflowing from above. Likewise shall you do. You receive from above and scatter it abroad. You will then be filled from above. Even as it is impossible that high mountains should get any recompense from the plains and lowlands whose needs they serve, so also if you are really a bigger personality than those you help, help , it is impossible for them to recompense you for what you do. The hi gher the mountain, the greater is its usefulness, and the less is the possibility of its being recompensed. In like manner, the greater the service, and the less chance of his being rewarded.
your life from henceforward must be a living sacrifice to your ideals. You must become a personality consecrated to the service of your fellow man. Your surrender must be complete and wholesale. If you want to save others, yourself you cannot save. “He saved others, himself he could not save”. These idle words, spoken by the jeering crowd around the cross, are perhaps the most concise expression of the Master’s ideal of achievement. Incidentally let me caution you not to commit the error of confusing existence with life for we live in deeds, not in years. People argue that in order to be useful for a longer time we must not spend ourselves absolutely, and we should be careful about preserving our health and life. The only answer to such people is the life that has meant most to mankind was lived during the brief span of three and a half years, and that He who lived this life could have extended his physical existence if only he were persuaded of the wisdom and usefulness of such a course of action. I have dwelt on the thorny side of a reformer’s life, not because I fail to see the roses that grow on the thorns, but because I know that the full-blown flower of the perfected humanity can be grown only on a thorny plant, and whosoever would undertake this task, let him not forget the thorns which are the indispensable part of the plant. Let him not imagine for a moment that this blossom can blow on a thornless shrub.
Lastly, do you know that you cannot serve God and Mammon? You cannot serve your ideal, and at the same time conform the vanities of the world. If you would be a reformer you must needs be a non-conformist. Do you know that it is just as impossible to serve God and Mammon, as it is to be in Colombo and Jaffna at the same time? You You may be between God and Mammon, as you may be between Colombo and Jaffna, say at Anuradhapura. You may even be nearer God than Mammon, but under no circumstances can you serve God and Mammon at the same time. You must forsake one and leave the other, when you have once chosen your ideal,
(Courtesy, Miscellany , March 1910) S. Handy Perinbanayagam (1899-1977) was the pricipal of Kokuvil Hindu College and the founder member of the Jaffna Youth Youth Congress. Congress .
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SUMITRA PERIES, SRI LANKAN FILMMAKER, ALTERNATIVE VIEWS AND PERSPECTIVES Vilasnee Tampoe-Hautin
ext of the address by Vilasnee Tampoe-Hautin 1 giv en on the the occasi occasion on of the laun launch ch of her book book,, Sumitra Peries, Sri Lankan Filmmaker, Poetess of Sinhala Cinema, on 11th August 2011
bequeathed to me by Britain and France, just as Sumitra Peries has given Sri Lanka the benefit of the European film culture she acquired in the highest circles. Further, my SinhalaTamil origins as well as the contacts I had with members of the film industry facilitated my access to this particular milieu, which is conservative and Sinhala-speaking. But more prosaically speaking, the funds made available to me by my university also encouraged me to write this book on a key figure of Sri Lanka’s cinema industry.
I’m very happy and honoured to present this book to you tonight. I would like to address three points : first the origins and reasons why I decided to write this biography on Sumitra Peries, second, the focus and objectives of this study, and finally, how this book is relevant to the research that I am conducting at my university, Université de La Réunion, in France’s Overseas Department in the Indian Ocean.
Track Record umitra Peries’ accomplishments are no secret. She and countless other people, both illustrious and ordinary, have worked in their capacity as producers, directors, critics, crit ics, actors, and of course academics, to forge the industry and make cinema in Sri Lanka what it is today. As regards this biography, mine was one of the many promises that had been made to Sumitra, and which I have fulfilled tonight, after a brief period of intensive writing.
To begin, the roots of this particular book go back to the launch of my other book, Last of the Big Ones2 which I wrote on my father, Robin Tampoe, Tampoe, a contemporary of Lester and Sumitra Peries and a friend of Philip Gunawardena, Sumitra Peries’ uncle. My father was also part of the film establishment, during the early 1960s until his death in 2000. On the day of the launch in December 2008, Sumitra Peries was the chief guest and I remember distinctly how she was not unmoved that a daughter should honour her father this way. So together, Sumitra and I mooted the idea of writing her biography, something that seemed to me to be largely justifiab justi fiable. le.
Straddling 50 years, Sumitra’s career, whether as a woman filmmaker or otherwise, has been remarkable, with an exceptional track record in terms of international and national accolades. And And yet, a closer look at the existing bibliography, both in English and in Sinhala, reveals that she has not been the focus of many studies. These were some of the reasons why a biography seemed to me to be a good idea, all the more so as publications on Sinhala cinema in English are a rarity.
My own position in all this was rather ambiguous, when one considers that, on the one hand, both my grandfather W.M.S. Tampoe (1916-1996) and my father, Robin Tampoe (19302000), had left their names inscribed in the annals of local commercial cinema, and on the other hand, I had as if by a strange coincidence, a quirk of fate, entered the world of cinema not as a practising filmmaker but in a film-related area, as part of those who had made cinema their intellectual breadwinner.
As concerns this point, numerous critical reviews of Sinhal a films are regularly brought out through a diversity of channels, primarily journals and magazines specializing in cinema, destined for the Sinhala-speaking public. 3 A number of commendable books in Sinhala also trace the evolution of the seventh art in our island. They concentrate on filmmakers, actors, music directors and lyricists, but also bring to the fore playwrights and stage actors, given that various forms of the performing arts have comprised an important part of the
So, as another daughter of our nation, this is my contribution to research on cinema in Sri Lanka. This I think I have achieved on the strength of the language and cultures 21
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Sinhala cultural tradition, the Tower Hall theatre becoming the foyer of Sinhala nationalist creativity during the first quarter of the 20th century.4 With regard to publications in English, however, research on Sri Lankan cinema has always remained in the shadow of the gigantic Indian cinema. This is why the special issue of Asian Cinema (2008) devoted to Sri Lankan cinema, edited by Ian Conrich, can be viewed as a truly significant milestone, milest one, 5 coming to enrich the existing corpus. More needs to be achieved, if we consider that only ten English language monographs exist that explore various aspects of Sri Lanka’s film industry, many of which are dedicated to Sumitra’s husband, Lester James Peries. 6 This is not to deny the existence of two theses7 and a number of investigations of exception, which have appeared in Framework and Cinesith, notably Richard Boyle’s review of Song of Ceylon (1934) and the worthy contributions of Professor Wimal Dissanayake, Professor Jayadeva Uyangoda, Robert Crusz and Ashley Ratnavibhushana. As far as the main thrust of the book is concerned, which is my second point, it’s true that the biography places more emphasis on the life and times of the personality behind the camera than on the depth and quality of Sumitra Sumitr a Peries’ work. The book explores her rise to stardom from the time she entered cinema as assistant director in the late 1950s with Sandeshaya, and worked her way to become one of Sri Lanka’s rare women filmmakers, having, in the interim, edited a good part of her spouse’s films before going on to do her own record-breaking, at national and international levels. 8
Role he roles Sumitra Peries has played at different levels are wide-ranging, which this account has explored, reiterating her exceptional qualities and competences, as well the more humdrum ones, like her love of gardening and antiques. Her life has been eventful going from the provincial Sinhala Buddhist environment to a more sophisticated urban life in the capital city during the war years. The 1950s were years spent in Europe, and the cinema training Sumitra received would lay the foundation of her future career. Her marriage to Lester James Peries no doubt equally contributed to forging her vision of cinema. She stands out in striking contrast to other filmmakers fil mmakers such as Sirisena Wimalaweera, whose nationalist ideas and attempts to portray the culture of the Sinhala people did not concretize, for lack of financial resources, but also lack of exposure to Western culture, or at least an urban culture, indispensable to those wishing to enter the industry in the mid 1950s.9
It’s true that I could have done more justice to Sumitra’s outstanding oeuvre by engaging in a critical discussion of all her films. But assessments and critiques of her works are numerous, that have been written by academics, film. specialists and journalists. I have included such relevant critical material in my study to bring into sharper focus how and why Sumitra Peries rose to the top as Sri Lanka’s first qualified professional filmmaker. Indeed, in addition to the interviews that I conducted, which present Sumitra as she is today, the study has gathered and collated other ot her material written so far to expose both known and unknown facets of Sumitra Peries’ achievements, her personality and her daily existence, both as a public figure and a human being, in relation to herself, her country, her peers and the outside world. This leads to my third point. In fact, this book is more consonant with my approach to research on cinema – that is, cinema as a way of extending my reach to other grounds. Cinema as a prism through which one o ne could observe society. Many of those who write on cinema usually concentrate on film as text, they delve into the contents, they analyse film as they would a text, or a piece of artistic work. They use certain tools, i.e. a critical language, to decipher the grammar of cinema. Their primary concern is to critique the final product. So much so that, as pointed out by Dr Ian Conrich, 10 there is a veritable lacuna in what might be termed as cinema studies as against film studies – i.e. all the things that surround film – the faces, the places, and cinema ephemera, or the social history of cinema. We all all know that cinema is not just j ust about film content, or a director’s style and technique, or how many awards a film has won. It’s not only about art and aesthetics, its also about politics, and economics. Cinema, through its three branches (production, (productio n, distribution and exhibition) exhibition),, illuminates a host of interrogations on ideology, colonialism, ethnicity, religious and linguistic nationalisms, caste and class. This of course signifies acknowledging cinema in its duality, as both an art and a trade, as both a means of expression and a means of subsistence. Cinema is dependent on a whole gamut of human and technical resources, with a long and complex assembly line going from creation to production, from distribution and exhibition. Which precisely makes cinema an extremely fertile ground from whence to observe human behaviour and mentalities.
A multitude of avenues thus await investigation for those interested, such as the complex relationship between distributor, proprietor, producer, exhibitor,or how audience preferences are determined by their social and ethnic origins, 22
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or on the contrary, their choices belie these very markers of identity. Other areas are are state policy. policy. Conservation is a particularly important question both i n terms of research and national policy. Film, stills, handbills, posters, billboards are all precious material. We note the disappearance of the limelight and the box office, now relegated to metaphorical language, but sometimes entire cinema halls are demolished because proprietors are oblivious to the value of such buildings with their art-deco interiors and 1920s façades, and unique names that belong to a by-gone era. These are giving way to multiplexes. Sri Lanka lost its first ever cinema hall, the Empire, where now stands a block of luxury appartments. But perhaps, it is this very link to Sri Lanka’s colonial past that is disturbing and which one feels obliged to erase for a variety of reasons. Or perhaps p erhaps it’s simply a question of money. mo ney. We know that many cinema professionals do not consider cinema as constituting part of national heri tage, but simply a means of making money while entertaining the masses.
begun to take an interest in the the way cinema began in Sri Lanka during colonial times, and how it has ever since continually articulated the socio-political and economic dynamics of the island, more particularly, the island’s geographical proximity to India and the cultural affinities the countries hold in common.
Cinema architecture, auditorium lay-out and social segregation, linguistic nationalisms and film dubbing and sub titling, distribution circuits as revelatory of ethno-demographic patterns, make-up and costume as an articulation of national identity are other areas of interest. The question of film and propaganda has been a classic subject of research. In Sri Lanka, film has been used to project the imaginary of a people, the Sinhala majority. This includes both commercial feature films and documentaries shot during the 1960s-1970s by the Ceylon Government Film Unit. These are a few random examples to show the multiple avenues of exploration.
Cinema Studies Indeed, current trends in cinema studies exhibit an increasing concern with cinema as a socio-cultural phenomenon.11 Religion, language and culture cannot be extricated from the discourse on film. As in the case of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, the cinematic art in Sri Lanka has been deeply enmeshed in political, social and ethnic issues. The growth of the film industry in Sri Lanka needs to be examined within the framework of colonial and post-colonial history, and the identity crises that arose from such a context. It must equally be put in parallel with the cultural histories of neighbouring countries.
In a multi-cultural society like Sri Lanka where cinema has been deeply enmeshed in politics from its arrival in the colony, there is a crying need for more research on how cinema has either oriented or reflected Sri Lankan history, during the colonial period and after independence. in dependence. A number of scholars, students, film commentators and critics writing in English have
In fact, no other art form has highlighted in such an unmistakable way the ties that bound Great Britain to her overseas possessions, which neither geographical distance nor cultural conflicts could totally obliterate. Cinema saw the light of day at the apogee of British colonization, during the latter decades of the 19th century, as part of a spate of inventions, and following the now celebrated race for patents between the French inventors, the Lumière Brothers, and Thomas Edison. It then rapidly occupied the colonial space with American companies capturing on celluloid the first moving images of British territories, but also actuality and news reels. It didn’t take long for colonies to constitute rich subject matter for primitive cinema. Ceylon became the locus of some of the earliest newsreels shot by American companies at the turn of the century. Figuring prominently as a classic of primitive cinema, and as the first “movie” on Ceylon, is the one-reeler, Ramb Ramble le throu through gh Ceyl Ceylon on (1910), shot by Charles Urban’s film company, where seven minutes of footage are devoted to the island colon y. But the jewel of the crown is undoubtedly undoubtedl y Basil Wright’s Wright’s Song of Ceylon (1934), a documentary commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board to promote tea sales but which ended up as one of the most outstanding examples of films to come out of the British Documentary Movement. More importantly for our discussion, Song of Ceylon would present itself as a model of reference to aspiring Ceylonese filmmakers seeking an alternative to the popular commercial movie. 12 The Boer War War (1890-1902) was the t he first major conflict confl ict to be shot en direct by British companies who despatched their operators, such as Joseph Rosenthal, to South Africa. Film was also part of imperial propaganda, an apt illustration of this being the screening of the British victory in South Africa to the colonized subjects in India and Ceylon. More significant is the projection of the images of British triumph to the very vanquished of this war,–Boer men women and children who were incarcerated in Diyatalawa from the late 1890s to 1902.13 Between 1920 and 1950, Indian and American commercial distribution circuits brought the island within their fold, many pioneers demonstrating the efficacy of the colonial network in the development of cinema in the Indian Ocean territories. territori es.14
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on the request of D.S. Senanayake. He was followed by Englishman Ralph Keene, who later recruited Lester James Peries to work with him. 19
Ceylon, as it was then known, was part of an area under British occupation, comprising Burma, Malaya, Singapore and of course India. Culturally, Culturall y, and more particularly as regards cinema, distribution circuits also reflected this unity of colonial space. Films circulated between these colonies from 1920 until independence, imported by mostly Indian companies, such as Madan Theatres Ltd., that acted as intermediaries between the US and the British territories.
As a young woman, freshly returned from England, Sumit ra joined forces with these directors in the late 1950s, of whom the most important was Lester James Peries. What they all accomplished is all the more commendable, as there was a well-established tradition of commercial cinema that dated back to the 1940s. When these young filmmakers broke away Indigenous Cinema? his is at the level of distribution and exhibition. exhib ition. As regards from the GFU to strike out on their own, dissatisfied wit h the institution , they carried with them the training creativity,, cinema is again a compound art and a gigantic functioning of the institution, creativity industry – working in concert with other forms of expression, and skills received in anthropological cinema – and the seeds such as literature, music, dance, song, theatre, painting. At of future ‘indigenous’ Sinhala cinema. Some had already the turn of the 19th century, Ceylon came under the sway of experimented with different genres, integrating into their both western and Indian art forms. Parsi theatre troupes documentaries various forms of fiction. They inadvertently toured the Indian continent and extended their reach beyond laid the foundations of Sri Lanka’s feature film industry, or its shores to adjoining colonies.15Their nurthi style would national cinema, whose substratum would be the documentary become the blueprint of early Sinhala cinema and orient format and Italian neo-realism, inherited, possibly, from audience tastes in post-colonial Ceylon.16 That burgeoning Petroni’s and Ralph Keen’s documentary work. But then Sinhala cinema should be born in India in the mid, 1940s would again, Sri Lanka must also face the question, not to say, act as a compelling force in the creation of a nationalist dilemma, of creating a "national cinema", in multi cultural and multi linguistic contexts, "national" being synonymous in discourse on “indigenous” Sinhala cinema. the minds of many with "Sinhala". While road signs, official The Sri Lankan film industry would for a long time be dogged documents and other public visual signs are now displayed in by a fissure between private companies and directors three languages, - Sinhala, Tamil and English, what of a making formula films, driven by commercialism, and those "national Sri Lankan Tamil cinema" ? who refused to make compromises for box office demands. This period was marked by generic disputes reaching a Needless to say, with the departure or the demise of the Tamil frenzied peak during the mid 1960s, some of these dichotomies and Muslim founding fathers and other pillars of cinema referring back to more deep-seated issues that are beyond production and distribution, (A. Gardiner, K. Gunaratnam, coincidi ng the scope of this address. Such rifts, cutting across ethnic Jabir Cader), a page has been turned, such a turning coinciding and social categories, provided subject matter for a lively with 1983. It is interesting to note their replacement with a ideological discourse, substantially nourished by a local film new generation of benefactors, financiers and promoters of press who decided on what was “good” or “bad” cinema. As Sinhala cinema, keen to be in the pub lic eye and keen too to Uyangoda argues, the Sinhala critical discourse of cinema project their Sinhala Buddhist identity while engaging in evolved in parallel to the project of what has been termed as philanthropic work. In the same vein, the political or economic a truly indigenous Sinhalese cinema (…) an artistic or strategies that underpin the creation of film festivals, awards and other distinctions by prosperous citizens are also worthy aesthetically refined cinema and a home grown cinema. 17 of attention, given the passion evinced by those in the Sri It is against this background that a new generation of Lankan film industry for such barometres of "quality". Government Film Unit-trained and other directors became the architects of quality cinema with seminal works that are Context t is evident then that a proper understanding of Sumitra’s today part of the immortals of the Sinhala silver screen. The cinematic career, themes, style and format of her films GFU in fact evolved into a centre of promotion of Sinhala culture, attracting virtually only Sinhala filmmakers and can only be reached by recalling this background and making technicians, the latter learning their art and trade from the a brief survey of the expansion of the film industry during the th GFU’s first directors, Italian Giulio Petroni Petro ni and Ralph Keene. 20 century, at a national and international l evel. Her career Petroni arrived in the island in 194818 and took over the GFU and contribution to Sri Lankan cinema acquire greater significance when articulated in relation to the political, socio-
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economic upheavals and cultural currents that marked the 1950s through to the 1970s.
reconsider the primitive Sinhala cinema, and its genesis in the Indian sub-continent, more objectively, possibly as part of the healing process. But afer Sinhala film critics of exception had consistently elaborated their critical discourse around the idea that generic disputes and lopsided homilies are both petty and outmoded.24 Despite belonging to the very vocal nationalist press, these Sinhala critics were very much avant-garde in their stance to straddle that divide between the superficial glitzy extravaganza, and the realist film with its memorable dialogues and shoestring budget.
Sumitra Peries was only an assistant director and editor during the decade of the 1960s. On the strength of a cinema culture gained in Europe and by working along side Lester James Peries, she learnt the ropes of the art. Lester James Peries’ Rekawa (1958) broke away from the formula that dominated the film industry at the time, even though the film contained a few elements derived from the entertainer, including songs, which drew the comment from patriotic film critics that the film did not portray authentic Sinhala culture. When Gamperaliya (1963), edited by Sumitra, was awarded the Golden Peacock for its editing, Sumitra was on her way to being recognized as a director of quality cinema. Her films, beginning with Gehenu Lamai (1978) are shot in the realist genre20, avoiding the popular formula of songs, dances and fights. Not only have they successfully developed thèmes that are dear to the Sinhala people, but they have fared supremely well at the box office and given lie to the theory that only entertainers bring in i n money.
In fact, some of the romantic dramas and musicals belonging to incipient Ceylonese cinema,–despite, or sometimes by reason of–their buffoon performances and makeshift technology, have increased in both popular demand and academic appeal. Through these forebears of our cinema, researchers can take the pulse of a society at a given time. Critics made much of the 1950s Sinhala melodramas’ disinclination to deal with realism and social issues. But in fact Ceylon’s incipient cinema must be viewed as texts that are bound by generic conventions, like formula, and an internal logic, which are just as justifiable just ifiable as "social realism" or other variations of the realist genre.
Indeed, for the disinterested researcher, it is thi s very conflict between those who privileged the entertainer and others who upheld "realism", that makes for fascinating study–with parallels to be made between such choices and the ethnic and social ills that our island has been beleaguered with until recently. 21
They also attest to the cultural heritage held in common by both India and Sri Lanka. Culture as everyone knows is a hybrid phenomenon, and it would come as no surprise that nascent cinema should draw heavily on existing theatrical forms and models, some of which derive from ancient Sanskrit opera, or from the more "modern" Parsi theatre. 25 The latter grew out of partnerships between British coloni als and the affluent Parsi community of Bombay, with the knowledge that even during the 18th century, heydey of the East India Company, a theatre hall had been erected in Bombay and plays organized to entertain members of the resident British community, agents of the British East India company and other expatriates living in Bombay. It is no coincidence either that Bombay should then become the cradle of Indian cinema, and today the nerve centre of Bollywood, Bollywood, having been nurtured by the colonial, mercantile and cultural elites of what was the commercial capital of t he British Raj.
Disputes hile generic disputes and nationalistic discourses went far in buttressing the film industry in Sri Lanka, the new millennium has also revealed how far we have travelled down the road from every point of view, including the very critical discourse on cinema. Times have changed radically. The binaries of art/commerce, quality/trash or the debate on art and box-office are now obsolete, with wider ramifications than this speech would allow. all ow. The struggle between the realist reali st movie and the formula film has not much relevance in research: the tearjerker and the Bollywood musical, castigated by intellectuals, and enjoyed by most of us, have gained recognition in academic circles. Be they films termed as "cultural" or "commercial", "realist" or "formula,"22 most films constitute objects worthy of academic inquiry and are an important part of our national cinema heritage.
Sinhala indigenous cinema also has its roots in the documentary and neo-realist forms which are the worthy contribution of British and European cinemas. 26 Few would disagree that realism and documentary cinema have a special resonance for many film directors in Sri Lanka, because they came as solutions to other formats imposed by supposed alien cultures that dominated the scene during the 1960s. 27
This is evidenced by the increasing number of studies devoted to the entertainer, to music and spectacle in film, of which the Hindi formula movie is a perfectly notorious example. 23 In Sri Lanka, of late there has also been a palpable effort to 25
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Crossing Boundaries evertheless, classifications, typologies and gradings, while spurring resourcefulness resourcefuln ess and creativity, must not prevent the crossing of real or imagined boundaries, especially with today’s increasingly blurred frontiers between genres, where even the art movie has to bend its rules, if it must be an economically viable venture, and not a financi al disaster. As I stated in my preface, this book owes its very existence to my own refusal to take any firm ideological stance on fil m discourse, with all due respect to those who occupy various camps and fight for what they believe is “true” cinema. It is indeed this very philosophy of vivre et laissez-vivre which has enabled me, the daughter of a “commercial “co mmercial director”, to pay homage to Sumitra and Lester Peries, two of Sri Lanka’s top filmmakers who have conferred on Sinhala cinema the stamp of quality, that of cinéma d’auteur d’auteur..28
and thereby push further the frontiers of Sri Lanka’s national cinema.
End Notes 1
V. Tampoe-Hautin is senior lecturer at the University of La Réunion, specializing in British and Commonwealth Studies. 2 Tampoe-Hautin, Last of the Big Ones, Colombo: Tower hall Foundation Institute Publication–2008. 3 A recent addition is the journal 14 edited by Anoma Rajakaruna. 4 The Tower Tower Hall was built by one of the rare Sinhala businessmen, business men, C. Hendrik Seneviratne, its works completed between 1910 and 1911. It immediately drew within its fold many dramatists, the most significant, for our discussion, being Sirisena Wimalaweera. Wimalaweera would be one of the playwrights to become vic tim of the popularity of cinema and the transformation of the Tower Tower Hall into a cinema hall by A. Gardiner, Gardiner, inciting Wimalaweera Wimalaweera to attempt filmmaking. 5 Ian Conrich, Nelly Gillet (eds.), "Cinema in Sri Lanka : A Symposium", in Asian Cinema, ed. J.A. Lent, Vol 19, no 2, Fall/ Winter, Philadelphia: Asian Cinema Studies Society, 2008. 6 See list at the end of the book. 7 Laleen Jayamanne’s unpublished thesis focussing on women, and my own thesis published in France, Cinema, Colonialisme et L’Harmattan, 2011. Identité , Paris: L’Harmattan, 8 V. Tampoe-Hautin, Sumitra Peries : Sri Lankan Filmmaker, Poetess of Sinhala Cinema, Colombo Aitken Spence, 2011. 9 W. Dissanayake, "The Early Phase of Sri Lank an Cinema", Asian Asian Cinema (ed. Conrich et Gillet. N), Vol 19, no 2, Fall/Winter, Philadelphie: Asian Asian Cinema Studies Society, Society, 2008. p. 9 ; M. D. S. Maithripala, "Sirisena Wimalaweera’s Wimalaweera’s dream: penchant for fostering Sinhala film industry", Daily News, 30 août 2006 ; "Pioneer of Sinhala Cinema", M.D.S. Maithripala , Daily News, le 12 septembre, 1984. 10 Dr Ian Conrich of the University of Essex is a specialist of cinema, more particularly the cinemas of South Asia and the Pacific. He has published extensively on all aspects of cinema. 11 Diongu B. Nihalsingha, Public Enterprise in Film Development: Success and Failure in Sri Lanka, Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2006 ; see also Wimal Wimal Dissanayake, "Sri Lanka: Art, Commerce and Cultural Modernity", in Contemporary Asian Tereska Ciecko (ed.), pp 108-119, 219-220, Oxford : Cinema, Anne Tereska Berg, 2006. 12 In an interview given to A. Ratnavibhushana, filmmaker, scriptwriter and writer Tissa Abeyesekara highlights high lights the important role played by the film units and documentary format in postcolonial Ceylon. RATNAVIBHUSHANA, Ashley, « Tissa Abeyesekara on Song of Ceylon and the GFU » , Cinesith, ed.(Sinhalese, trad. Somachandra Wijesuriya), 1986. See also Richard Boyle, « Basil Bas il Wright’s Wright’s Song of Ceylon », Cinesith , 2 : 411, Colombo: Asian Film Centre, 2002. 13 RK. De Silva’s illustrated and commented work carries a photograph of the Diyatalawa camp where the prisoners lived: 19th Century Newspaper Engravings of Ceylon – Sri Lanka, Londres : Serendib Publications, 1998.
To conclude, let me say that Sumitra Peries is part of Sri Lanka’ss film industry which is animated by a lively discourse Lanka’ on genres, style and techniques. The existence of a pulsating film press and a longstandi longstanding ng tradition of festivals and awards are also a sign of good health. Film festivals and film journalism journalis m have played equally bracing roles in taking Sri Lankan cinema to higher levels with competitive assessment. The film festival is a forum, a veritable marketplace, and a necessary stimulus for any creator. As Edwin Ariyadasa argues, it is a “wholesome meeting place for the film technician and technologist, director and producer, actor and writer, film critic and film merchant, film buff and film expert – in other words the totality of the film tribe.”29 All this keeps film professionals in the country on their toes . By the 1980s, Sinhala cinema had benefitted largely from being exposed to and recompensed by both internati onal and national critical appraisal. This is one of the most important goals to achieve for any filmmaker, and which Sumitra has many times reiterated and achieved. Widely acclaimed at various festivals organized around the world, both Sumitra and her husband have been persistent in their mission to uphold quality and improve the aesthetic taste of Sri Lankan audiences. They continue to be efficient ambassadors, both official and unofficial, of Sinhala cinema and culture at home and abroad. Suffice it to say, that with legions of stylish directors, seasoned actors, polished cameramen and skilled technicians, techni cians, a number of memorable films and many dreadful ones, Sri Lankan cinema does merit erudite comment. It is my wish that this book be the beginning of many more to come and revive in Sumitra Peries the desire to pursue her work of excellence, 26
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Practice", M.R. Bose, Bollywood, a History, New Delhi, Lotus collection, 21 See Robert Crusz, "Sri Lanka : the Crisis and Cultural Practice", Framework No. 37, London : 1989, pp. 12-13. Roli Books, 2006. 15 For more on the Parsi Theatre tradition, see Kathryn Hansen, 22 On formula films, see J.Uyangoda, art.cit. p. 45. "Parsi Theatre and the City : Locations, patrons, audiences", in 23 The importance of song “picturization”, a unique word and Sarai Reader 2002: The Cities of Everyday Life (date of process inextricably linked to Bollywood has been the focus of an consultation18/22/2007):http/: consultation18/22/2007):ht tp/: life/2parsi_theatre.pdf+ life/2parsi_theatre.pdf+%C2%AB+ %C2%AB+ illuminating article by Heather Tyrrell and Rajinder Dudrah, “Music Moment s, (ed Ian Conrich P a r s i + T h e a t r e + a n d + t h e + C i t y + : + : & c d = 1 in the Bollywood Film”, in Film’s Musical Moments, &hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=lk&client=firefox-a ; P V, Dr., Vaidyanathan, and Estella Tincknell), Edingurgh University Press, 2006, p. 195“ The Dream Merchants” : (date de consultation : 29 August 208. 2003)www. screenindia.com. http://www.screenindia.com/ 24 Among them, Ranjith Kumara, Sunil Mihindukula and Elmo Gunaratne. fullstory.php?content_id=5694. 16 See the work of Wimal Dissanayake, Profiling Sinhala 25 For more, see Joël Fargès, "Le Cinéma en Inde : Rasa Cinematographica", Cinematographica ", ch. XXIV, XXIV, pp. 545-68, in Christophe Jaffrelot, cinema,op.cit., p 2-15. 17 J. Uyangoda “Cinema in cultural and political debates in Sri Inde Contemporaine, Paris, Fayard 2000. Also Kathryn Hansen, "Parsi Theatre and the City: Locations, patrons, audiences ", in Lanka”, in Framework 37, London, 1989, p. 40. 18 In fact, Giulio Petroni had been recruited by three nationalist Sarai Reader 2002: The Cities of Everyday Life (18/22/2007): http/ life/02parsi_theatre. Sinhala businessmen who had set up a company The Vishvaran Vishvaranga ga Movietone Company. They had travelled to Italy in search of a 26 A. Ratnavibhushana, , "Government Film Unit : Centre of exce llent documentary filmmaker in order to train young aspiring Ceylonese tradition in documentaries" and "The Awakening of the Local in the art of film. Petroni arrived in the island with two other Documentary Cinema", trans. Somachandra Wijesuriya in inesith, colleagues, Frederico Serra and Giogio Calabria, only to find that 1986. the company no longer existed. They soon found a new job with 27 V.Tampoe-Hautin, , "Le genre documentaire et les Film Units natio nal au Sri Lanka (1930-1960)", Ceylon’s first independent government under the aegis of D.S. dans la construction d’un cinéma national Idées et représentations coloniales dans l’Océan Indien, (dir.), Senanayake. 19 Peries was residing in London during the latter lat ter 1950s but answered Norbert Dodille (no. 17 coll.), Paris : PUPS, mai 2009 pp. 629-641. 28 A.J. Gunawardana, Gunawardana, R. Crusz Crusz and A. Ratnavibhushana, (eds.) Keene’ss call to return home. Keene’ 20 Lester James Peries : Life and Work , Colombo : Asian Film Centre, J. Uyangoda argues that within the Sinhala critical discourse, “realism” calls for a clarification. The concept is as unclear as it 2005. possesses multiple layers of meaning, ranging from the reproduction of true-life or real conditions to left-wing theories of "social realism". 14
V. Tampoe-Hautin Tampoe-Hautin is senior se nior lecturer at the University Univers ity of La Réunion, specializing special izing in British Britis h and Commonwealth Studies.
Soon From SSA
Now Now Available at the Suriya bookshop
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PROTEST LIKE A WISCONSINITE Judy Waters Pasqualge
(The slogans in quotation marks are from signs held or chants by demonstrators)
similar RP legislation in many states. With the 2012 election season quickly approaching, there is a heightened realization of what is at stake, and an urgent need for coordination by a broad range of groups. One thing is for sure, these are not boring times.
his article is a continuation of one that appeared in the last issue of Polity (“Protest Like an Egyptian” – In Wisconsin,” January-April 2011). That article detailed the broad-based movement that developed early this year in opposition to the labour l abour policy of Governor Scott Walker Walker and his Republican Party (RP)-controlled state Assembly and Senate. The governor’s governor ’s ‘budget repair bill’ included measures to restrict collective bargaining to only wage issues (and on wages only up to the cost of living), eliminating such rights regarding pensions and health care benefits. Aimed at the state’s public sector workers, who are unionized, the bill also required workers to vote annually to retain their union as bargaining agent.
“People Not Profits” nd they certainly are not easy times, despi te media spin regarding a recovering US economy. More than ¼ of US productive capacity remains unutilized. The only sectors that recovered from the Great Recession are corporate profits and the stock market. By March 2011 the former were 22% above pre-recession levels, with workers in that sector making 3% less. By early June the official unemployment rate was again over 9%, some 13.5 million people. This figure does not include the 6.5 million who are not in the labour force (not looking for work), and the 8.4 million who can find only part-time work – a total of 28.4 million. One third of the officially unemployed do not qualify for unemployment benefits. In March the official unemployment rate for blacks was 15.5%, Hispanics 13.7%, 16-19 year olds 25%, and whites 7.9%. Since 2007, 5 million homes have been foreclosed, with another 3 million likely in the next 3-4 years. By the end of 2010, 25% of homeowners were underwater, underwater, meaning that they owe more on their mortgage than the house is now worth, wo rth, and prices continue to fall. It should be noted that in ‘good’ times, the housing industry accounts for over 20% of employment. The holding of wealth wealt h in the US says it all: the wealthiest 5% of households hold 63.5% of total wealth, and the bottom 60% hold 4% of wealth, with gaps between whites and minorities increasing.1
The response to these measures saw people take to the street, and the state Capitol building, the numbers rising from 10,000 in mid-February to 125,000 two weeks later (with support demos in every state), and to 150,000 in mid-March. Notable support came from high school and university students, police and firefighters firefight ers (in unions left out ou t of Walker’s Walker’s plan), the NBA and NFL players’ unions, Catholic archbishops, and groups working on issues of poverty, civil rights and the environment. env ironment. By the third week of March, campaigns had been started to force recall elections this summer on key state Senate Republicans, and a county judge had issued a restraining order on putting the collective bargaining bill into effect – the RP Senate had violated state Open Meetings Law regarding proper notification of a committee meeting and vote on the bill. In the process, in Wisconsin and nationally, future strategy was being debated. In addition, old stereotypes of big government/small government, of unions, and of public workers were being broken.
Wisconsin – “This Fight Is NOT Over!” ccording to Wisconsin state law, 24-hour notice must be given for all public meetings, but no such notice was given for the 9 March session when Republicans passed the collective bargaining provisions in a n ew bill separated from the budget. The Dane County district attorney filed a challenge, and the county judge agreed, issuing the th e restraining order (RO). The RP, RP, instead of passing passi ng the bill again properly, pro perly, appealed to the Court of Appeal. This court felt it could not decide the issue, and on 24 March sent the case up to the state Supreme Court (SC, having a 4-3 conservative majority).
Now, as of late August, the bad news is that, after another example of the crude manipulation of the democratic process, the law came into effect at the end of June. The good news includes DP gains at several recent state elections, and at recall elections (on state senators in both parties). In addition, the events in Wisconsin have affected RP plans concerning the national budget, and there have been public challenges to 28
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The Court of Appeal raised the following questions: Can a circuit court judge strike down a legislative act as a remedy for the violation of the Open Meetings Law (OML)? If yes, does the court have the authority to stop the secretary of state from publishing the bill before it becomes a law? The court stated that the two sides had cited laws that were at odds with each other. Additional questions question s concerned whether the OML protected a constitutional right; if not, then the judge couldn’t void it based on violation violati on of such right; if yes, must the court act only when the legislative process was complete? Despite this situation, on the next day the administration published the bill electronically, prompting the county judge to ultimately issue two restraining orders against any attempt to implement the bill. At the end of May, the county judge ruled that a “clear and convincing” violation of the law had occurred. On 6 June the state SC heard arguments, in preparation to deciding whether to take the case or not.
Prosser ran against Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenberg (DP). When the results were first announced, Kloppenberg had won by 200 votes. On 7 April, however, the city clerk of Waukesha County announced that she had forgotten to include the votes vo tes from one city, and that she had known of this for over a day. Clerk Kathy Nickolaus had previously been on Prosser’s staff when he was in the Assembly. She had stored the election data on the computer in her office, not on the city network. Out of over 14,000 ‘new’ votes, over 7,300 went to Prosser, ensuring his win. On 16 April the Tea Tea Party, with Sarah Palin attending, held a rally to celebrate; about 600 turned out; they were met by 5,000 pro-labor demonstrators, shouting “Shame, shame, shame,” and “Scott – Pull a Palin – Quit.” Kloppenberg filed for a statewide recount, which was completed at the end of May and confirmed Prosser’s win. That process illuminated serious problems regarding the safety of the vote, when ballot bags in Waukesha County were found open, torn, with holes, with seals torn apart and numbers written over. Calls for a federal investigation of t he county were unsuccessful. Conservatives retained control of the court. At the end of June it emerged that Prosser had physically attacked a woman SC judge during an argument in her office concerning the collective bargaining ruling. Apparently, he had grabbed her neck with both hands. On another occasion he called another woman SC justi ce a bitch and threatened to destroy her. 3
Then, a week later, the SC accepted the case and issued a decision on the same day – meeting the deadline set by the RP.. The 4-3 ruling stated that legislative RP leg islative committees are not subject to the OML; a lower court had “usurped the legislative power” – meaning that the legislature-passed OML is enforceable only by the legislature. The dissenting minority opinion was hard-hitting: hard-hitting : the majority, for political motives, had misused facts to support a decision that had already been made; this was not a mistaken application of the law. A day later unions filed a lawsuit in federal court on the grounds that the law discriminates between classes of employees (not applicable to police and firefighters). As things stand, the law has come into effect, and in several months union members will have to vote on whether to certify their unions. An immediate consequence saw the state increase the use of prison labour in (former) union jobs, such as landscaping, painting and basic maintenance. One positive positiv e aspect emerged, with a fracture in RP unity, one state senator terming what had happened as a classic case of “overreach.” 2
On 3 May elections were held for three Assembly seats of Republicans who had joined the th e Walker Walker administration. The RP won two, but it was the loss of John Lautz in the third that caught national attention. The 94th district had been held for 16 years by Mike Huebsch, who became Walker’s secretary of administration in January. Despite the RP spending $125,000 on negative TV and radio ads, and 8 mailings, DP opponent Steve Doyle won by 56-46%. The 94 th Assembly district is part of RP state Senator Dan Kapanke’s area, and he faced a recall election in August (see below). The RP now holds hold s a 59-38 lead in the t he Assembly.4
Wisconsin – “Vote, Vote, Vote!” n 5 April elections were held for one position on the state Supreme Court and many in local bodies. The turnout was an unprecedented 1.5 million. In the race for Milwaukee County executive (formerly held by Governor Walker), the RP candidate lost to a Democratic newcomer by 61-39%. The RP also lost in conservative Outagamie County, home of Joseph McCarthy and of the incumbent Republican just re-elected to the Supreme Court, David Prosser.
Under Wisconsin law, an elected official can face a recall election if enough valid voter signatures are gathered – at least 25% of the total number of votes cast in the election the official won. In the entire history of the state there have been four recall elections. After the state Senate passed the labour legislation in March, efforts began to win the body back to the DP. With With the Republicans Republi cans having a 19-14 19 -14 Senate edge, a flip of three would give the DP a 17-16 ed ge. By the end of May the state Government Accountability Board 29
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DP Senator Dave Hansen beat RP challenger David VanderLeest (66-31%).
(GAB) had certified recall elections on six Republicans, and in mid-June did so on three Democrats; Democrats ; this means that 27% of the 33 senators faced a special election. This recall process exposed two major areas of shady electoral practice. The first concerns the gathering of signatures by the RP, which used several out-of-state groups. One was the American Patriot Recall Coalition, the head of which had served time in jail for grand theft, forgery and writing bad checks. Another was Kennedy Enterprises, which the RP paid $100,000. As the weeks went by, the DP alleged fraud and filed a complaint to the GAB: some signature gatherers offered shots of alcohol for a signature; some claimed the petition was in support of the DP, in support of schools, for tribal rights, for work on a local park, to recall an RP senator, and even to recall Governor Walker. Walker. There were claims that signatures had been forged, that there were names with fake addresses. In the end, the GAB certified the recall efforts against the three DP senators, saying that there were more than enough signatures anyway. The second practice concerns the successful RP attempt to delay the elections on its six senators, so that it had more time to pass legislation. If there were only one candidate from each party, the RP senators would have faced el ections on 12 July. However, if more than one party member wanted to contest a seat, a primary would be held on that day, with the final election on 9 August. (It should be noted that in 1904, Wisconsin was the first state to introduce the primary system – doing away with candidate selection by party bosses; 19 states now use this system.) The RP found candidates, so-called “spoiler” candidates, to force DP primary elections in all six races (and increased campaign costs). One such spoiler candidate was a RP county leader. Here the RP seemed to be on shaky grounds, as under Wisconsin law a candidate must specify his party affiliation. The question arises, is party membership required? At any rate, u nder state law, a false declaration on this is a Class I felony. The DP decided not to use the spoiler tactic.5
9 August – general election in six RP-held seats: The RP held on to four and lost two. DP Jennifer Shilling unseated Senator Dan Kapanke (55-45%), and DP Jess King beat Senator Randy Hopper (51-49%). The DP lost in suburban Milwaukee against RP Joint Finance Committee co-chair Alberta Darling (54-46%). Another disappointing DP loss was Fred Clark to Education Committee chair Luther Olsen (5248%). Early in the month, the conservative Americans for Prosperity mailed absentee ballots to voters in t wo elections; it spent over $500,000 on TV ads. In a tour of the state, the Tea Party Nation compared anti-Walker protesters to Nazi storm troopers. In mid-July DP supporters started a twoweek Wisconsin Truth Truth Tour (by bus), holding open forums. It is estimated that candidates and groups spent $37 milli on on the recall elections, split fairly evenly between parties; this was more than double the amount spent on all 116 legislative races in 2010. RP donors included pro-life and anti-gay groups, Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and The Club for Growth. The largest DP donor was the labour coalition We Are Wisconsin. While the DP loss of four disappointed many people, others noted that all RP incumbents had long track records and had won in 2008, with most representing districts that had been drawn to elect Republicans.7 Further, Governor Walker had won these districts in 2010 by an average of 13%, even as Obama took the state by 14%, and most places had never elected a Democrat. 8 16 August – general election in two DP-held seats: Senator Jim Holperin beat RP/Tea Party Kim Simac by 55-45%. Senator Bob Wirch beat RP Jonathan Seitz 58-42%. As things stand in the th e Wisconsin Wisconsin Senate, the RP has a 17-16 edge. However, in March one Republican voted against the collective bargaining measures; in effect, Walker Walker has lost his 9 majority in the Senate. Wisconsin – “Hey, Walker, Walker, you can’t hide, we can see your corporate side”
Here’s what happened in the summer recall elections 6: 12 July – primaries in six RP-held Senate seats: All six DP candidates beat the “spoiler” candidates, with five gaining at least 65% of the vote. On the 11 th, Wisconsin Right to Life ran “robo calls,” urging voters to file absentee ballots instead of going to polling stations st ations the next day.
Sometimes it’s nice to see elected officials reaping the consequences in the short term, rather than just in the long, or never; it doesn’t seem like Governor Scott Walker will have as easy a time of it as the politician whose path he seeks to follow, Ronald Reagan. Steps are already being bei ng taken to force a recall election. Since Walker came into office in January, signature gathering can begin in November, with signatures to be submitted by 3 January 2012 (at least 540,
19 July – primaries in two DP-held Senate seats, and general election in one: The two DP senators won their primaries;
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208 – 25% of the total vote in November 2010). The GAB has one month to determine validity. If there is a recall election, any primary would likely be held on 14 or 21 February, and the election a month mont h later. Already, many cars are displaying “Recall Walker” bumper stickers, and the RP has formed a committee to raise money for Walker’s campaign. That committee sent out a fundraising letter in early May, which referenced an “angry mob,” “union thugs,” “radical left-wing zealots,” and “radical left-wing community organizers.” And there is already speculation, and polls, concerning possible DP opponents; they include Milwaukee Mi lwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost in 2010 by 53-46%, former US Senator Russ Feingold, and former US Congressman David Obey. One thing seems certain – Walker is unlikely to try a run for a US Senate seat in 2012. It remains to be seen if the RP will try to legislate changes to the recall law – this would require passage in both houses and affirmation at a public referendum.10
the lake, he was met by dozens of small boats with signholding protestors: “Scott Walker Drowning Education in Special Interest,” “Walker’s Mullet: All Shady Business in the Front, Tea Party in the Back,” and “S.S. Union Thug.” Two days later Walker was again in Washington, to deliver the keynote address at a function of the American Federation for Children (AFC). AFC is run by the Michigan couple Dick and Betsy DeVos; he is heir to the Amway fortune, and she the sister of Blackwater’s Erik Prince. AFC advocates for the privatization of public school education, and plays a huge role nationally in state efforts to implement school voucher, charter school and tax credit school programs, under the rhetoric of “choice” – what this actually means is the use of public funds (taxpayers’ money) for private schooling. It is important to note that in Wisconsin, school choice groups play as big a financial role as business groups in the funding of statewide election campaigns. At the end of June Walker was met by 200 protesters at an event at Devil’s Lake State Park. As 100 guests listened to him speak, people in 12 boats displayed such signs as: “Walker Smells Fishy,” “Walker Jump in the Lake,” “Recall Walker ASAP,” and “Walker Crimes Against Nature.” In early July a flotilla appeared at Walker’s Walker’s lakeside residence, and in early August he was booed at the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair.12
In early May one of Walker’s financial backers in the 2010 campaign pleaded guilty to two charges of money laundering. William Gardner, the chief executive of Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Company, had contributed more than the $10,000 individual legal limit, and had reimbursed company employees for their donations – both charges are felonies. The state had allocated $14 million to Gardner’s freight rail company to buy the rail track, with the company to operate the trains and be eligible for additional funds. By the end of 2010 the company had agreed to pay a fine of over $166,000, and the Walker campaign campaign had returned $50,000. Gardner was sentenced in early July to two years probation.11
Wisconsin – “Say No to Walker’s Budget” he state of Governor’s G overnor’s Walker’s Walker’s budget (for 2011-2013) 20 11-2013) can be imagined: funding cuts regarding schools, mass transit, health care (including cervical cancer screening for the uninsured), and other services. In addition to the $1.5 billion in cuts (over $1 billion from public schools and universities), the budget prevents local governments from raising taxes and gives businesses a $128.7 million tax break. It also expands public school privatization measures (more money to charter schools, few limits on income eligibility for vouchers). Public pressure led the RP to back down on cuts to senior services and recycling programmes, and on initial steps to privatize the University of Wisconsin.
Finally, the governor is being confronted by demonstrators almost everywhere he goes – he is being ‘dogged.’ In midMarch he went to the town of Washburn (population 2,117) for an RP dinner and was met by 4,000 demonstrators shouting “Shame, shame, shame.” In mid-April mid-Apr il he was in Washingto Washington, n, DC, to speak before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at a hearing on “State and Municipal Debt: Tough Choices Ahead.” In the face of tough questioning by DP Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Walker admitted that th e issue of collective bargaining had not figured in his run for the governorship, and that his measures concerning same would not save the state money. Demonstrators were on hand, telling Walker he couldn’t hide, and “Tax Wall Street, Not Main Street.”
On 4 June protesters started to set up u p a tent city surrounding the state Capitol – “Walkerville,” modelled on the 1930s Depression-era Hoovervilles. There were information and medic stations, and each day dealt with a different issue theme, with teach-ins and rallies. The city operated until the budget was passed. One On e sign there read: “Workers Mobilize! Wisconsin: Now Open for the People! Peop le! General Strike!” The RP held very few public hearings, and in mid-June placed budget consideration in the format of an “extraordinary
In early May Walker attended the annual opening of the state fishing season, held at Lake Wissota. As he cruised out on
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session”; this eliminated the required notification of committee hearings and some postponement of actions, and limited debate and amendments. The budget was passed and came into effect on 1 July. 13
Services (2001-2005 under Bush), but he is opposed by the neo-con side of the party. 14
“Save Medicare: Tax the Rich” here are many people who would like to see the back of US Rep. Paul Ryan, who has tried to push through the RP budget cut agenda on the national level. Ryan worked for several US senators before being elected to the House in 1998; in 2010 he was re-elected with 68% 6 8% of the vote, and in 2011 became chairman of the House Budget Committee. In January he gave the RP reply to Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress, and has referred to him as the “class warfare guy.” In his election campaigns before 2010, he received over $2 million, mostly from finance, insurance and real estate sectors; for the 2010 campaign he received almost $4 million, 325 times the amount of his DP opponent.
Wisconsin – “Voter rights are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” o chants of “Sieg Heil” and “Shame,” on 19 May the Wisconsin state Senate quickly passed a bill dealing with voter identification, limiting li miting debate to one hour. The measures make it harder for people without photo ID to register, eliminate party-line voting, and increase from 10 to 28 days the state residence requirement for registration. In confirmation that the targets were university students, lowincome people and the elderly, Governor Walker started closing Department of Motor Vehicles offices (which issue such IDs) in some DP areas and expanded hours in RP-area ones. Another piece of legislation was passed in July to redistrict the state electorally to assure more safe RP seats; the new plan takes effect in 2012.
Two addition additional al anti-Walker anti-Walker campaigns deserve mention mentio n here. The “Stick It to Walker” campaign promotes the boycott of companies whose executives supported Walker, and places such stickers on these companies’ items in stores. Particul ar targets are Johnsonville Brats and Sargento Cheese; these are family-run companies, the first donating over $40,00 0 to Walker, and the second over $22,000. The Th e Wisconsin AFLCIO said it would not support the campaign. The second campaign is the Reverse Robin Hoods, led by National Nurses United and Wisconsin Resisters, 200 of whom in early May deposited their ‘last pennies’ in the accounts of the CEOs of J.P. Morgan Chase, M & I Bank and Merrill Lynch at branches in Madison. They stencilled with mud “Tax the Rich.” Later they went to the Senate, chanting and shutting down the proceedings. A final note on Wisconsin concerns the very fluid electoral situation. The political future of Governor Walker is now in doubt, and he will likely face a recall election. In addition, Wisconsin US Representative Paul Ryan (RP), who chairs the House Budget Committee (see below), must face the voters in November 2012, and he already has a DP opponent, Rob Zerban. In May US Senator Herb Kohl from Wisconsin (DP) announced that he will not seek re-election in 2012. If not for events in the past eight months, one might have expected Ryan to try a run for the US Senate, or even Walker, Walker, but the feasibility of both is now in doubt. One RP old hand is mentioned, Tommy Thompson, a former governor (1987-2001) and secretary of the federal Department Departme nt of Health and Human
Ryan has attacked the (federal) Social Security (largely retirement) and Medicare (largely seniors’ health care) programmes as “collectivist.” He advocates the partial privatization of the former, and turning Medicare and Medicaid (the latter provides joint fed/state support for low income and disabled) into voucher programmes. He supports cuttin g income taxes on the wealthy, and the eliminatio n of all taxes on corporate profits, capital gains and dividends. One measure in the 2011 national budget proposed in the House would woul d have the federal government provide subsidies for people to purchase private Medicare insurance, and this would immediately affect all people under age 55. In April the House passed the RP budget, with only four Republicans voting against. And then, legislators went on their annual April break, back to their state constituencies, with some national polls showin g that 80% of people opposed the Medicare plan. Ryan went on a tour of the southeastern part of the state, attending sessions with the public, and encountering big crowds. At Kenosha he was heckled by senior citizens – “Hands Off My Medicare” and “Ryan Stop Lying.” Opponents adopted a tactic used so well by the RP in 2009 against Obama’s health care legislation. At local ‘town hall’ meetings, DP politicians and Obama supporters were confronted by opponents, often organized, even bussed in, by groups such as Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Opponents were prepped on how to crash the meetings. Now, the tide had turned. All over the t he country, RP reps were confronted, in Pennsylvania, in i n Ohio. In April when RP House newcomer Allen West (a star of the Tea Party) visited his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, constituency, handlers had to
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prescreen questions and deny access to the microphone, but people shouted. In May 100 opponents showed up at another meeting, and this also turned into a shoutin g match. Another RP newcomer, Herrera Beutler, was met by her h er Washington Washington state constituents with cries of “People not Profits.” The national media started to cover these open challenges. Such is the opposition that the AFP may have started to bus in supporters, and the American Action Network (run by several Wall Street investment bankers) issued a sheet of questions to be used by RP supporters.
CIO has signed new support agreements with two sections of the Excluded Workers Congress (domestic and guest workers; after 2006 agreements with day labourers and taxi drivers). The EWC was formed at the 2010 session of the US Social Forum. The union may shift electoral strategy to support candidates who back labour, l abour, rather than give blanket support to the DP DP.. The Service Employees International Union Un ion has started a campaign to reach low-wage, non-unionized workers, via door-to-door campaigns; it also will give more focus to support of state coalitions. National Nurses United is very active, with Blame Wall Street, and Contract with Main Street campaigns. A significant development is a decision by the International Association of Firefighters to suspend contributions to national-level campaigns, and focus on the states. National People’s Action targets banks and home foreclosures in its Make Wall Street Pay campaign. Various work is being bei ng done by Americans United for Change, Chang e, Moveon.org, and Progressive Democrats for America. Another new development is the formation formati on of the US Uncut group, modelled on its UK counterpart, which targets large banks regarding taxes, and large computer/software companies for sheltering money abroad and not paying taxes; specifically,, it is spotlighting Apple for its participation in the specifically industry’s Win America Campaign (with Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Kodak, Google, Oracle and Adobe, which collectively avoid some $80 billion in taxes).16
But the damage had been done. Back from the break, in Washington, DC, some Republicans started to backtrack. Newt Gingrich termed the plan “right-wing social engineering.” RP House Speaker John Boehner said Ryan’s plan was just “one idea,” and the number two RP rep said he was looking for alternatives. With the public on the warpath, DP Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) said he would put the House budget to a Senate vote, and at the end of May the budget was voted down 57-40. Five Republicans sided with the majority: Maine’s two senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, the latter calling the Medicare measures equal to privatization; and senators from Kentucky, Massachusetts and Arkansas. Republicans have suddenly gone very silent on Medicare, but what happens to the huge federal funds – which workers pay into throughout their working lives to cover retirement, health and disability – will remain a key issue through the 2012 election season. And, finally, another vicious stereotype has been broken, that of a politically conservative and compliant working class; as John Nichols noted, Ryan had claimed that “he could win with these ideas in working-class areas,” but now the RP is not so sure. 15
“We’re Watching. We Vote!” he RP agenda is playing out in every state, in one way or another, backed by a party national plan and a national network of funders and supporting organizations. The RP has been building this structure for the past 30-40 years. The fight against this plan during the next few years will have huge consequences, for US citizens and immigrants.
“You Say Cut Back, We Say Fight Back!” here’s a lot of news coming out of the US, about unions and their campaigns, the situation in individual indivi dual states, and several upcoming elections. Here are some key highlights.
Readers may be interested in the state of Michigan, where Governor Rick Snyder’s Republicans now have the legal right to appoint emergency financial managers to reject, modify and terminate existing contracts and union agreements, and to dissolve local governing bodies of schools and cities. Several towns and some schools in Detroit are under such administration now. A group of citizens has filed a lawsuit, saying that the law is an unconstitutional power grab, and signatures are being gathered to force a referendum to repeal the law. There is also a campaign to recall Snyder.
In an event that may well become an annual affair, 4 April, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, was observed in every state. The We Are One campaign entailed ent ailed some 1,000 rallies, demonstrations and teach-ins. King was killed in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was supporting the collective bargaining rights of public workers.
Or, take Ohio, where in March Governor John Kasich and the RP passed a bill restricting collective bargaining. Under state law, if the required number of signatures are col lected, a law can be suspended until voted on by the people at the
With the RP clearly relentless in its onslaught on social services and collective bargaining, many national unions, and progressive and liberal groups, are scrambling. The AFL33
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next (November) election. In this case, 232,000 valid signatures had to be submitted by the end of June. The organization We Are Ohio, with 10,000 volunteers, ensured that amount by mid-May. By the deadline, almost 1 .3 million signatures were submitted, the largest number ever gathered in the state. Another movement to watch is Stand Up For Ohio, a very broad coalition that is holdi ng house parties and public gatherings in many towns and small cities.
south Portland area, where the party split is usually 50-50, DP Cynthia Dill received 68% of the vote.
Or California, where attempts by DP Governor Go vernor Jerry Brown to cut the education budget were met by successful protests led by students and teachers. In July the DP held on to a (vacated) US House seat (54-45%).
What’s Next? government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom, morality and humanity,” so said Michael Moore in a March speech in Madison, Wisconsin. By now, the reader must have noticed that the relationship between US states and the national level is rather like the one between poorer indebted nations and international donors/ financiers. Further, the same squeeze is passed from the stat e level down to localities. In the 1980s Ronald Reagan’s administration expanded the channelling of mandated federal funding to the states. Instead of doing so via each federal programme, states were given lump sums by categories (for example, education, housing, transport, health care) – block grants – which state governments had greater latitude to divide. This often served to set up a scramble to maintain or retain existing services. s ervices. Today’s Today’s RP model (with significant DP compliance, and sometimes support) can be seen in much of the US South: low wages and deunionization, with the first priority being to subsidize large corporations.18 Thus, states compete against each other for outside investment – in a “race to the bottom.”19
And even New Hampshire, with a record turnout in an RP area in May, the DP won a key seat with 58% of the vote. There is one upcoming US House election, in September to a RP-held seat in Nevada. 17
Or Arizona, where Tucson students fought a school board plan targetting ethnic and Mexican American studies programmes; there is a recall campaign against th e president of the state Senate; and the state is the subject of a national tourism/convention boycott due to anti-immigration legislation supported by Governor Jan Brewer. Or Massachusetts, where DP Governor Deval Patrick had to abandon a plan to target collective bargaining on health care at the municipal level, due to protest by public employees, including police and firefighters. Or Florida, where the consequences are awaited for RP Governor Rick Scott, one of the most unpopular governors in the country, and his moves to cut taxes and unemployment benefits.
One might ask: How can this work? And the answer, luckily, involves a paradox. On the one hand, there is a consistent, centuries-old message that enforces the following composite brainwashed opinion: there are many problems, but the US system is still the best, it’s the only way; at any rate, there are no apparent alternatives; and, after all, the country does have a glorious past. On the other hand, this doesn’t work – the message has to be repeated, because too many people have historically not accepted the status quo wealth grab – there are too many holes, too many cracks, too much information, too much poverty.
Or New York state, facing budget moves by DP Governor Cuomo and New York York City Mayor Bloomberg (independent, RP until 2007). Proposals for state education cuts saw middle school students walk out in Central Islip in April, with some arrested and some suspended; crowds at the police station chanted: “Black, Latino, Asian and white, for public education we will fight!” A broad coalition protested Bloomberg’s proposed education cuts in May, with more than 20,000 joining in “The Day We Made Wall Wall Street Stand Still.” Still. ” In May there t here also was a by-election to a US House seat, in a district held by the RP since the 1970s (the RP incumbent resigned due to dating on the internet). In the outskirts of Buffalo, an area of suburbs, small towns and farms, a white area of higher than average income, DP Kathy Hochul beat RP Jane Corwin by 48-42% – Hochul ran on the issue of protecting Medicare.
Michael Moore said (in Wisconsin) that the t he wealthy are smart, and they’ve done two things: controlled the message about obtaining the ‘American dream,’ AND created a ‘poison pill’ – if US taxpayers don’t periodically bail out the financial system (as in 2008), the whole system will crash (including your savings, pensions, etc.).20
Or Maine, where opposition to RP Governor Paul LePage resulted in the loss of a state Senate seat in May. In the
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This obviously leads to questions of strategy: what should be the message, what should be the tactics? Regarding the message, there is a need for providing both an explanation of the existing situation, including reframing the way to speak about it, and a focus on aims. In my previous article a crack in the stereotype of big government was seen, it becoming clear that the RP meaning involved cutting spending on social services, giving tax breaks to the rich, and denying rights. In a recent article, István Mészáros notes that while services and public sector wages/pensions wages/pensi ons are fair game, the military, debt and corporate subsidies are not. Further, the Left must speak of, name and educate about the economic system, now a hybrid one, which includes direct investment of public (taxpayers’) money into the private sector (state intervention), as in 2008-2010, and in the privatization of education. education . Another image to fight is the portrayal of globalization as a system marked by increased international competition – actually, each major industry is now characterized by monopoly (a small number of firms which can collectively control prices). Advocating ‘growth at all costs’ is thus clearly questionable.21
Wisconsin, I will only mention measures that would serve to strengthen electoral participation and open the political space: campaign finance reform (limits on donations, and/or state funding, strict enforcement of existing law); candid ate asset disclosure (with harsh penalties for fraud); provisions for the recall of elected officials and for citizens’ veto of existing legislation; open primaries for choosing party candidates; and, with regard to underrepresented/minority groups, the inclusion in any such set-asides of people of low income/assets. The electoral system is clearly one where the aims cannot be limited to what is seen as possible in the short term. As for tactics, it now seems clear that the old models must be questioned, and changed. Groups based on issues must act in coalition with groups that focus on other issues, and with community alliances, burying differences. National organizations need to consider the situation in states, and revise plans as state actions impact the national. Campaigns must be long term, not just revving up at electio n time. Adherence to issues has to take priority over support for a political party. And there must be less reliance on the media as the key method, and more on direct public contact, and direct action. Finally, organizations must question themselves, their structures, leadership and decision making, to maximize who can participate, how people’s skills can be used, and how members and the public can be educated on the issues. 26
Another important point is made by Michael Hurley and Sam Gindin, Canadian union officials: the link between cuts in public services AND privatization must be made clear. In the current conservative agenda, services that are not profitable will be lost; in the services that remain, quality and access will be sacrificed; and people will have to pay more for services and health care. 22 John Nichols is among those who call for incorporating progressive history, as was done in Wisconsin.23 Many people call for reclaiming the values agenda, stressing stressi ng equity and fair play. Finally, great care must be taken in speaking about what is being criticized – in particular, government, the public sector, public education, unions – lest such negatives are used to t o justify the conservative agenda. With regard to the aspect of aims, Monica Adams references Stokely Carmichael, who distinguished between mobilizing (of people against something) and organizing (people for t he same things).24 Elly Leary, in a review of a book on labour l abour in the 1970s, says that there has been a dominance of “pragmatism” – what is possible is determined by what is present; short-term gain is all that matters.25 It is clear that a comprehensive agenda, a plan, a vision, is needed. Here, after noting the twists of electoral politics in
As the US heads into the presidential election campaign season, the trajectory of the building of a progressive movement will be instructive to see. So will the strategy of the DP, DP, which kept its i ts distance from grassroots gras sroots Wisconsin – even as Obama’s approval ratings increased. With the difference between DP and RP support so narrow in many places, what message will be sent? It has been suggested that DP strategists advised party recall candidates to ‘tone down’ emphasis on labour, perhaps sacrificing votes. 27 And recently, Obama left Wisconsin out of a Midwest tour.28 As for the RP, there is already anti-RP action in key battleground states, especially Florida and Ohio, and many new (2010) RP governors are now very unpopular. One thing is certain: there will be no lucky upturn upt urn in the US economy, the reality is now too stark. follow the news at: defendwisconsin.org, firedoglake.com, thenation.com, progressive.org, labornotes.org, motherjones.com, inthesetimes.com, zcommunications.org, mrzine.monthlyreview.org.
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Roger Bybee, “The Truth About Paul Ryan,” progressive.org, March 2011; Allison Kilkenny, “Governor Snyder’s Emergency Manager Crushes Student Protests,” thenation.com, 27.4.11. 16 John Nichols, “The Post-Wisconsin Game Plan,” thenation.com 11.5.1 11.5.11. 1. 17 Allison Kilkenny, “Thousands Protest Snyder’s Authoritarian Power Grab,” thenation.com, 20.4.11; John Nichols, “Democracy is Coming to Ohio: 1.3 Million Voters Voters Force Referendum to Restore Labor Rights, thenation.com, 29.6.11; David Moberg, “Unions Work to Turn the Tide,” inthesetimes.com, 15.6.11. 18 Roger Bybee, “Class War Heats Up in Wisconsin, Cairo Moves to Madison?” Madis on?” zcommunications.org, April 2011. 19 Sid Plotkin and Bill Scheuerman, “The Tea Party Creams Labor,” mrzine.monthlyreview.org, 5.5.11. 20 Michael Moore, “America Is NOT Broke,” truth-out.org, 5.3.11. 21 István Mészáros, “The Dialectic of Structure and Histo ry: An Introduction,” Monthly Review Review, vol. 63, no. 1, May 2011, 26-27. 22 Michael Hurley and Sam Gindin, “The Assault on Public Services: Will Unions Lament the Attacks or Lead a Fightback?” mrzine.monthlyreivew.org, 15.6.11. 23 John Nichols, “The Wisconsin Model,” progressive.com, July 2011. 24 Monica Adams, “What Next: Mobilizing or Organizing?” zcommunications.org, May 2011. 25 Elly Leary, “Labor Revolts in the 1970s,” Monthly Review, vol. 63, no. 1, May 2011, 42. The book reviewed is: Aaron Brenner, Robert Brenner and Cal Winslow, eds. Rebel Rank
Richard D. Wolff, Wolff, “Ongoing Crisis and Liberal Li beral Blindness,” mrzine.monthlyreview.org, mrzine.monthlyreview .org, 6.6.11; Fred Magdoff, “The Jobs Disaster in the United States,” Monthly Review, vol. 63, no. 2, June 2011. See Magdoff’s article for a history of recessions, job losses and gains from the 1970s. 2 David Dayen, firedoglake.com, 31.3, 4.5, 14.6, 1 4.6, 7.7.11; Roger Bybee, “Class War Heats Up in Wisconsin, Cairo Moves to Madison?” zcommunications.org, April 2011. 3 Jane Slaughter, “Wisconsin Voters Rebuke Governor,” labornotes.org, 7.4.11; John Nichols, thenation.com, 8.4, 10.4, 17.4, 25.6.11. 4 David Dayen, “Wisconsin Democrats Pick Up State Assembly Seat in Recalled Senator’s District,” firedoglake.com, 4.5.11. 5 David Dayen, firedoglake.com, 26.4, 21.4, 28.4, 5.5, 6.6, 8.6, 9.6.11; John Nichols, thenation.com, 11.6, 9.8.11. 6 David Dayen, “Fake Democrats Go Down in Wisconsin, Non-Fake Democrat Wins Congressional Election in California,” firedoglake.com, 13.7.11; Mark Pocan, “Recall Wisconsin Election #1: Lessons Learned,” progressive.org, 20.7.11. 7 John Nichols, “This Is What Democracy Looks Like: A Wisconsin Recall Primer,” thenation.com, 9.8.11. 8 Roger Bybee, “Wisconsin Labor Delivers Solid Punch, But No Knockout to t o GOP,” GOP,” inthesetimes.com, 11.8.11. 9 John Nichols, “Wisconsin Democrats Score Two More Recall Wins as Voters Voters Reject a GOP Governor’s Governor ’s Anti-Labor Agenda,” thenation.com, 17.8.11. 10 “Earliest Possible Walker Recall Information by teachersagainstwalker,” defendwisconsin.org, 21.7.11. and File: Labor Militancy and the Revolt from Below 11 “Wisconsin Railroad CEO Pleads to Illegal Donations to During the Long Seventies (New York: Verso, 2010). Gov. Scott Walker’s Campaign,” AP/thenorthwestern.com, 26 In addition to articles by Monica Adams (n 24) and Hurley/ 6.5.11. Gindin (n 22), see: David Moberg, “Unions Work to Turn the 12 David Dayen, “Walker Stumbles Repeatedly During House Tide,” inthesetimes.com, 15.6.11; John Nichols”The PostHearing,” firedoglake.com, 14.4.11; “Wisconsin New Protest Wisconsin Game Plan,” thenation.com 11.5.11. 27 Movement Is on Water,” Water,” defendwisconsin.org, defendwisconsi n.org, 7.7.11. Kevin Donohoe, “In Wisconsin, Did Democratic Strategists 13 John Nichols, thenation.com, 16.5, 6.6.11; David Dayen, Tell Candidates to ‘Soften’ Their Pro-Labor Message?” “Wisconsin Democrats Will Try to Recall Scott Walker Next thenation.com, 12.8.11. 28 Year,” firedoglake.com, 3.6.11. For a comparison of Obama’s approach with that of 14 Rebecca Kemble, “Wisconsin Republicans Ram Through Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who visited the st ate in 1934 and Voter ID Bill,” Bil l,” progressive.org; Roger Bybee, “Payback Time: spoke in terms of the contest between the privileged few Polls Promising as Wis. Unions Ready for GOP Recall and the many, see John Nichols, “FDR Came to Wisconsin Elections,” inthesetimes.com, 1.8.11. to Battle ‘Economic ‘Economi c Royalists,’ but Obama Avoids That Fight,” thenation.com, 15.8.11.
Judy Pasqualge is the author of International International McCarthyism: The Case Case of Rhoda Miller Miller de Silva 36 POLITY
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THIS WALK CAN TALK TOO Srila Roy says slutwalk in india will serve a purpose, even if it appeals only to one class
lutwalk has travelled to India, and with it, has travelled the controversies and divides. Is India ready for a SlutWalk, The New York Times asks. Some will say that it is more than ready, having recently emerged as one of the five worst places in the world for women. New Delhi, where SlutWalk is slated to take place, is known for a high rate of street sexual harassment, rape and violence against women. Public spaces, like the streets, are sites of normalized and ritualized modes of exercising male power and control over women’s bodies. In public consciousness, such everyday forms of violence are encapsulated in the misnomer ‘eve-teasing’. The latter positions women as actual or potential instigators of sexual desire; temptresses that incite sexualized responses, even harassment and violence from male audiences. The responsibility of a wider rape culture is squarely placed at the feet of women; male violence is normalized if not legitimized.
It is in this context that SlutWalk and the conversations or criticisms around it enter. Some of these are already familiar to those who have been following SlutWalk’s journey from Canada, where it was first started to protest prot est a Toronto Toronto police officer’s advice to women to ‘avoid dressing like sluts’ in order not to be raped. Why slut? Is it possible to reclaim a word that is so rooted in the patriarchal imagining of women’s sexuality? Is the politics of dress and clothing what feminism is all about? In more aggressive criticisms of SlutWalk in the Indian press, rape culture’s tendency to blame women for rape is reinforced in suggesting that if women sexualize their environments by dressing a certain way, there will be consequences. consequ ences. As in all discourses of sexual violence, the good or ‘modestly dressed’ woman is pitted against the bad woman who is the bearer of (ir)responsible conduct and deportment. What this means for sex workers whose profession already places them outside of codes of respectability and protection is not Illustration:Tim Tim Rose even up for consideration.
Delhi has also been the seat of visible public protests against gender and sexualized violence, an important corrective to overestimations of the newness of SlutWalk-type protests. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, which marked the first explicitly feminist phase of the Indian women’s movement, women’s groups coalesced around the issue of violence against women and staged marches and performed streetplays to raise consciousness and ask for legal interventions into dowry-related murders and rapes. New Delhi-based NGOs, like Jagori, have carried on the mantle, working with the police to make the city safer. More recently, recently, the urban, cyberfeminist Blank Noise project created online and offline campaigns to tackle the sexual harassment of women, reclaiming public spaces and redefining the meaning of eve-teasing.
SlutWalking in India also gets complicated by i ssues of class SlutWalking and authenticity. The two often go together in the Indian context. If its elite, it is invariably Western and therefore culturally ‘other’ and irrelevant to most of the country. In India, as in many post-colonies, feminism has had to battle hard against dismissal on the grounds of Westernization, repeatedly having to prove its indigenous roots and/or its relevance to Indian women’s lives and struggles. ‘Indian woman’ here stands in for the poor, the unprivileged, who have always been the true and rightful subjects of Indian feminism. SlutWalk is even more prone to anxieties around authenticity and elitism in having non-Indian origins and deploying words (slut) that have little meaning to non-English speaking Indians.
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In many ways, SlutWalk evokes the Pink Chaddi campaign of 2009, which began as a Facebook campaign against the rightwing, violent attack on a group of women drinking in a pub in Mangalore. The campaign which asked women to send their panties or chaddis to the leader of the group who had instigated the violent attack had the same playful, performative, slightly cheeky quality that SlutWalk SlutWalk does, and was fairly unprecedented in a long history of Indian feminist struggles around gender violence. It was condemned in similar terms – as urban, elitist and irrelevant, irrelevant , except to the needs of a small minority of upper-class, alcohol-drinkin g women. In both cases, dismissals on the grounds of elitism amount to very little in terms of concrete concerns or critiques. More problematically, they set up a hierarchy of feminist concerns together with their appropriate subjects. Poor, working-class women are almost exclusively associated with material concerns of survival, whilst middle- class women have cultural ones of violence, safety, dress, and so on. But, on the gro und things are a lot more complicated. The public space of the city is inhabited by all sorts sort s of women, no less vulnerable to harsh social judgement or forms of regulation and control because of varying forms of economic privilege and deprivation. Even if we were to accept that such newer forms of protest were of relevance only to the educated upper-class (and they
will no doubt dominate the actual walk), does it take away from the value of the protest? Part of the problem is with t he manner in which feminist debates in India in trying to prove their relevance to the majority have rendered middle-class subjectivity and status less real and of less importance in a (false) hierarchy of feminist issues and priorities. In this manner, the material and the cultural come to be sharply divided, and there is little room to seriously consider how class-caste and gender together determine all, and not s ome, (underprivileged, ordinary, real) women’s lives. It is in these intersectional spaces and identities that the potential for a truly feminist engagement with violence against women lies. Indian feminists have been at the forefront of shifting our understandings in these directions. But, their activism has been less sustained, and it has taken something so mething of a panty to reinvigorate it in recent times, drawing in younger voices and not from the usual NGO-activist circles. New Delhi’s SlutWalk might do the same, and it might never get off the ground. But, its mere anticipation in the press has reinforced its urgent need, where overwhelmingly the idea persists that if a woman dresses a certain way, she is asking for it. In violently repudiating the potential to reclaim the word slut, these commentaries reproduce patriarchy’s tendency to divide women into those who deserve protection and those who do not. They tell women to stop leaving themselves open to rape, while taking it as given that India’s flourishing rape culture is not the fault of individual women.
Srila Roy works on women’s issues with the University of Nottingham, UK. [email protected]
e w N Now Availabl Availablee at the SSA / Suriya Bookshop
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PEASANT REVOLTS IN DUTCH AND BRITISH PERIODS Nimal Sanderatne The book is in three parts. Part One of the book is a thoughtful political and sociological analysis that puts the more descriptive parts of the book in perspective. It provides a conceptual framework that makes a contribution to analytical writings on political history, peasant behaviour and the sociology of peasant protests. She posits Eric Hobsbawm against Ranajit Guha and leans more to Guha on the issue of “primitive rebels”. In this she is again breaking new ground with this kind of approach to Sri Lankan historical studies. She supports Newton Gunasinghe’s notion of a ‘multiclass bloc’ as the rationale for the absence of peasant rebellions against landlords and chiefs. Her Introduction gives you an idea of her analysis of social change. Her perspective is a political economy one oriented to a critical social analysis.
Kumari Jayawardena, Perpetual Ferment Popular Revolts in Sri Lanka in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Colombo: Social Scientists’ Association. Price Rs. 850.00 This is a most delightful book that could be read and enjoyed at different intensities of interest and understanding. It is a scholarly work that is readable as a narrative of events and of personalities who figured in peasant revolts during the Dutch and British period up to the mid-nineteenth century. It is woven around the theme that the incursion of capitalist modes of production on peasant societies has cataclysmic effects on that society. The social discontent, people’s protests, popular revolts and rebellions are portrayed in a fascinating manner.
Part One also deals with the political, economic and social changes brought about by foreign rule. The Portuguese and Dutch that created mercantilist economic relations and then the spread of this mercantilism to the hinterland with British rule in 1815 brought about hardships especially to the peasanty. With the introduction of the plantations, first with coffee and then tea, there was a fundamental transformation of the economy and society that changed the traditional role of the dominant classes as well as the condition of the poor peasantry. The introduction of the plantation system brought about severe difficulties to the peasantry and at the same time colonial rule denied the feudal elite their social and political status and power.
Perpetual Ferment is an excellent social
history of the Dutch and British periods. It belongs to that genre of books that crosses disciplines. It is a work on social and political history as well as sociological and political analysis of people’s discontent, popular protests, and peasant rebellions. Its analysis reveals several dimensions of peasant political behaviour in the context of Sinhala feudal social organization and the ideological hegemony of feudal chiefs, bhikkhus and nobility. Interesting facets of the study are the importance of monarchism in the revolts and the role of pretenders to the throne, chieftains, bhikkhus and Veddhas in the frequent rebellions. The book also highlights the lesser-known uprisings of the cinnamon peelers against the East India Company during the Dutch rule, as well as the famous ‘Great Rebellion’ of 1818 against British rule, and the rebellion of 1848.
Part Two of the book consisting of five chapters gives a detailed account of the revolts and rebellions that took place in the maritime provinces and the Kandyan kingdom from 39
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1848 that have been “hidden from history”. The 1848 rebellion that has been the focus of historians is dealt with in much detail in Chapter 8. This was the last rebellion despite the “perpetual ferment” of the peasantry. It is analysed afresh in the light of several interpretations of peasant revolts. The 1848 rebellion Jayawardena contends “was the most important of the continuous protests against foreign rulers.” It was multifaceted in its causes and different in character and participation. Unlike the previous protests discussed by the author, it was not an aristocratic revolt, but included an attempt to enthrone a pretender as king. It had diverse causes of discontent, widespread participation, the alignment of different classes and was not confined to the Kandyan kingdom but also extended to Colombo. It was rooted in mass discontent arising from the deprivation of rights and privileges previously enjoyed by the peasantry, oppressive taxation and difficult economic conditions. It was fueled by perhaps the first external economic shock that common people experienced when the plummeting of coffee prices led to lower incomes of the peasantry that had by now taken to the cultivation of coffee in home gardens. The hostility was not confined to the peasantry, the chiefs, the aristocracy and the bhikkhus. It extended to town dwellers in the maritime provinces, traders and workers. The varied discontentss led to a broader alignment of classes and agitation discontent in Colombo. Jayawardena contends that although it had a few trappings of the earlier rebellions and revolts, revolt s, it was vastly different in character and was fuelled by growing hardships and oppressive taxation. The influence of foreign historical movements, such as the 1848 revolts in Europe, challenge to British rule in India and the role of enlightened foreign ers in Colombo like Dr. Christopher Elliot are brought out in this analysis.
in Chapter 12.The perception of British rulers of these leaders was that they were vagabonds, desperate robbers and thieves. Never did the rulers realize that there were fundamental causes of discontent fomenting disaffection. In portraying the perpetual oppressive colonial rule and discontent of the peasantry and workers that led to popular protests, revolts, and rebellions during Dutch and British rule, Kumari Jayawardena dispels the popular notion that colonial rule ushered in peace and calm. On the contrary, her book demonstrates the undercurrents of mass discontent that found expression in a series of rebellions that culminated in the best-known last rebellion of 1848. She makes a profound contribution to understanding the nature of peasant revolts. Interestingly the revolts were not against the oppression of landlords but peasant alignments with the oppressors, the nobility, chiefs and higher echelons of monks to restore the monarchy and the precolonial political and social structures. The notion of class solidarity and class actions were still to arise till the wage labour in enterprises and early trade unions and strikes in 1890s arose with the development of capitalist modes of production. It is of much interest that these revolts revolt s ceased after the 1848 rebellion. A facile explanation for this is that the ruthless crushing of the 1848 rebellion and a realization of the futility of such rebellions silenced further protests and revolts. Kumari's explanation is deeper. deep er. She attributes it to the social and economic transformations that took place with a more prosperous plantation system, trades associated with the thriving plantations, development of an urban proletariat and bourgeoisie and the decay of monarchism.
In the third part of the book, three chapters, she analyses the character, causes and motives of the peasant uprisings and rebellions, the role and nature of leadership of the uprisings and foreign influences. Fascinating accounts of the two rebels, Gongalegoda Banda and the better known k nown Puran Appu, who had a controversial background, are enthralling. A brief account of Saradiel the bandit of Utuvankanda too is made
Based on archival research and secondary sources the book is attractively presented with maps, documents and illustrations of colonial rulers and leaders of rebellions. These miniatures are themselves a fascinating collection. Readers who savor the analysis and the narrative of events hidden in history would no doubt relish it. it . It is a book a review cannot do justice to, repeated readings would make you “ask for more”.
Nimal Sandaratne, is Former Director of Economic Research and Director of Statistics Centr al Bank of Ceylon
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TAKING SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT SERIOUSLY Sharon Bell La ksir Laks irii Ja Jaya yasu suri riya ya,, 20 2010 10 Takin g So Soci cial al De Deve velo lopm pmen ent t Seriously: The Experience of Sri LAnka, New Delhi: Sage
hilst not an expert in comparative social policy my research interests have revolved for many years around the focus of this volume, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was the site of my two years Ph.D. fieldwork in the late 197 0s – the time Professor Jayasuriya quite appropriately identifies as the turning point in Sri Lanka’s Lanka’s post-colonial social development and welfare state evolution. I experienced firsthand the shortages of essential goods and rural hardship characteristic of the last days of the Bandranaike government; the 1977 election that brought to power the neo-liberal UNP government that turned a blind eye to post-election violence directed at the Tamil population – the harbinger of the civil war that was to embrace the island for over two decades from the early 80s; and the frustration of the educated rural youth in Sri Lanka’s south whose aspiration, aspiration , to eschew primary production and find white collar employment commensurate with their educational attainment, was palpable. Taking Social Development Seriously
covers three broad fields. Part One: Social Development and Social Policy provides an overview of the key conceptual and theoretical issues relevant to social policy as social development. Importantly this section links the theory and practice of social pol icy with development theorizing. Particular attention is given to the work of Amartya Sen and his long-standing engagement with the conceptualization of equality (42). In Part Two: The Evolution of Social Development in Sri Lanka the focus is on the development of the Sri Lankan welfare state. This social development is seen largely as a consequence of British colonial policy and in the early colonial phase (1833-1931) the importation of modernity via colonialism (70), which created a vibrant export economy (tea, rubber and coconut) and a favourable political and social climate for sustained social development. Yet Yet it also created ‘a dual society denoting
a marked social and cultural difference between an urbancentred English educated middle class tied to the metropolitan culture and the more rural vernacular educated adhering to the provincial local culture’ (85) – a recurring theme in the volume. Jayasuriya’s analysis of the late colonial state (the period of self-rule from 1931) focuses on democratization and the emergence of welfarism, particularly in health and education, which increased both the numbers and the ambitions of the educated. This section provides a fascinating analysis of the British cultural ethos of the time and the importation of the ‘big ideas’ of utilitarianism and evangelicalism. It may be argued that with this firm focus on the Western intellectual tradition and its importation to Sri Lanka the analysis downplays the dynamic interface with Indigenous culture and politics, particularly the prevalence and sustained importance of patron-client relationships in all facets of life. The persistence of these feudalistic patterns of interaction and dependency arguably persisted because of the failings of the welfare state to address the needs of the rural poor, but it is perhaps simultaneously the reason why there was not greater pressure to extend the welfare state more comprehensively to the rural poor. Part Three: The End of an Era and Reframing Welfarism focuses on the influence of the neo-liberal political and economic ideology which represented a paradigm shift – a retreat from the welfare state based on a modified ‘social safety net’ approach to welfare in the political context of a ‘monolithic authoritarian structure of government, a Bonapartist State, whose prime objective was to facilitate market-driven economic growth’ (140) aided and abetted by the orthodoxy of the World Bank and IMF at the time. Whilst the foregoing is undoubtedly an important resource for students of social policy and academics with an interest in Sri Lanka, the most fascinating and important parts of this
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volume are arguably chapters 9 & 10 and the afterword by Nimal Sanderatne. In chapter 9 it is argued that the consequence of the ‘ideological rejection of State welfare in Sri Lanka’ (159) and the impact of the new economic policies of liberalization combined to generate a social philosophy in government of ‘private affluence and public squalor’ (159). Tragically this has been accompanied by a retreat from the principles of social democracy. Jayasuriya however has not abandoned hope and promotes the concept of the ‘third way’ – the doctrine of market socialism as a basis for reclaiming social democratic ideals capable of addressing the diversity of interests interest s in a plural society. This view is however tempered in chapter 10, the Postscript: Taking Stock after the Fall of Sri Lanka’s ‘Berlin Wall’. This chapter links analysis analy sis of the 25 year civil war, the JVPled insurrection in 1989, the rise of Sinhala nationalism, the high social and economic costs of militarization, which is proceeding apace, and the development of a ‘regime of exception’ (179). We We are reminded that Sri Lanka now ranks as the most militarized country in South Asia with defence expenditure as a proportion of total government expenditure far exceeding social expenditure: ‘Put simply, the defence burden represents a massive shift of resources away from welfare enhancing functions’ (183). The analysis in these two chapters, together with Jayasuriya’s astute linking of the importance of welfare provisions to the predominantly rural Tamil Tamil people of the Jaffna peninsula, and the t he subsequent withdrawal of these provisions under the neo-liberal regime post 1977 as an important factor in ‘rupturing the ethnic accommodation’ (130) cries out for more attention.
historical resources and in so doing makes an invaluable contribution to our understanding of an extremely important policy and social development site – once an exemplar of equitable social development, but now, as others have noted, a paradise clearly lost. The work generates understanding of the complex interplay of policy, economics and politics and its contribution is readily transferable to other contexts. It broaches the highly contested issue of the achievements of the welfare state to extend equity and fair treatment to all persons and the gravity of the crisis of the welfare state in Sri Lanka in the 1970s – the cost of the welfare state, in an economy which failed to keep pace with the aspirations of its educated and healthy population. I was asked to write this review as I embarked on a new role in an Australian University that arguably sits at the centre of Australia’s Australia’s own public policy and economic economi c development cauldron – Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory. This is a state with a large geographical landmass and a tiny population (just over 200,000), but where 30% of that population is indigenous. This is a state that is an exemplar of failed public policy and now shows all the signs of the author’s ‘two-societies’: an indigenous society characterized by third world living conditions and poor poo r health and education outcomes and a multicultural settler Australian society that is enjoying the new wealth of the booming extractive export economy. The context gives weight to the t he value of Professor Jayasuriya’s reflective volume, not just for scholars of Sri Lankan society, but to those with an interest in the interface between public policy, economics and the real politik. The volume stands as a testimony to the value of comparative social policy.
This volume is the work of a mature academic and analyst. It draws on a formidable array of conceptual, policy and
Professor Sharon Sharon Bell, is Deputy Vice Vice Chancellor Research, Charles Darwin University, University, and Professorial Fellow University of Melbourne, Australia
PIRAVADAM Tamil Journal of the SSA
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POVERTY OF WRITERS Usvatte-aratchi
have for some time now been interested in Sinhala (Tamil) writing for the intelligent reader on a variety of subjects. There is hardly anything to read on the pubic debt problem, the recent crises in the world economy, economy, the emergence of China and India as economic giants in the world, the environment problem in the context of the world economy and many another problem. Those familiar with other areas will readily speak about scarcity in their own fields of work. I suspect that the main reason for this dearth of reading material is that it is not rewarding and indeed punishing to write in Sinhala seriously on this sort of subjects and themes. The major reason is that there is no market ma rket for such books. We buy books after meeting our daily expenses and saving some small amount of our income to meet emergencies and to spend in old age, out of what is called ‘discretionary income’. When incomes are low, as in our country country,, discretionary income is low. Therefore the average person has no money to spend on buying books. Those in our society with discretionary income are few and tend to read in English, mostly cheap fiction and therefore would not buy Sinhala (Tamil) books. There are, no doubt, a few who both have the income to spend and read in the local languages. This number is far too small to permit a decent income to a scholar with competence to write such books. The contrast with India is striking. There are some 250 million there out of 1.2 billion who have substantial discretionary income and book writing and publishing is a flourishing business. Dr. Ramachandran Guha who recently spoke in Colombo is an example of one such successful author in India. He writes in English Englis h only. only. I don’t know about writers in local languages. In Sri Lanka we do not have that species.
of publication. Without such support, we will not have serious writing in local languages on subjects that matter. Governments in this country, the present one in particular, particula r, are in high dudgeon that NGOo receive assistance from overseas for various purposes. (This is normal for a government which would wish to destroy all opinion contradicting it.) Where would NGOo look for money here unless they were putting up a stupa or a ranveta? I have had most disappointing experience trying to raise money locally and would not waste on such ventures any time again, unless I were to be far more religious than I ever imagine myself to be. Here is a good cause on which foreign donors can be effective. At the moment there are no books coming out with foreign help, unless they be on the ethnic issue or women’s’ problems. Foreigners also pay for public opinion surveys by NGOo. However, what sense do people make of these findings when they lack basic learning in the principles that underlie the rationale for undertaking that sort of work, in the first place? (There is no point talking to the few hundred who read and write only in English.) What purpose economic surveys, when nobody can read the surveys with a knowledge of economic principles that underlie reasons there for? I submit that the subjects foreign funds now support are overdone and that this money can be far more effective paying for writing and publishing books on subjects of the kind I have mentioned. The books must be sold and not distributed free. But the prices can be subsidized with such financial aid. Authors must be paid adequately to avoid recruiting people who have no other way of occupying their time. A person must be able to say no to a consultancy with some international agency and take on this work and keep herself fully employed in writing. The funds should be so administered that a contracted author does not walk away with the advance advance payment. This kind of activity will be far more productive than a hundred seminars conducted by visiting scholars usually of dubious competence.
Yet I receive several volumes of books in Sinhala a year distributed free. They are mostly on religion and morality. I find them painfully repetitive and utterly boring. So I do not read them beyond the title page. So far as they are written by a bhikkhu or other clergymen they are looked looked after by the laity who support them and need no other reward. The Social Scientists’ Association is an exception and does publish high quality books on serious subjects subje cts in Sinhala (Tamil?). Another set of books I receive are published for free distribution by several NGOo financially supported from overseas. I presume the writers are paid reasonably well by these institutions. These books are for the most part related to conflict resolution and similar subjects. What is significant is that there are no domestic sources of money to pay authors and meet the cost
Authors must be free to write once a theme has been agreed upon. The choice of themes must be the privilege of the author with a right to approve or otherwise by the financing agency. It is unlikely that each agency would finance more than two books a year and if several of them adopt this sort of programme, we might have three or four books coming out every year, a great bonanza to Sinhala (Tamil)readers. Courtesy, The Island , 28 August 2011 43
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Karthigesu Sivathamby : A Tribute Romila Thapar Former Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. evolved through close interaction with other cultures. He was concerned that the respect and accommodation of plurality that was given to cultures of South Asia in the past, should also continue into the present. It is a concern that many of us share.
After the Jawaharlal Nehru University was founded in 19 70, one of the first persons whom we, at the Centre for Historical Studies, invited to come on a Visiting Fellowship, was Professor Karthigesu Sivathamby. Some of us had met him briefly but most of us knew his studies s tudies on Tamil Tamil culture, which we greatly admired. His presence was catalytic, in terms of expanding our awareness of Tamil history and culture, and more so in the area of Tamil drama with which we were largely unfamiliar. His lectures and seminar discussions, helped to bring drama into focus as a form of social articulation which in many ways was an innovation in the understanding of South Asian culture. And above all he had a great presence that involved everyone in his discussions, his knowledge and also his laughter. lau ghter.
Karthigesu Sivathamby: A Tribute R. Champakalakshmi Former Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Professor Karthigesu Sivathamby’s sudden demise is an irrepairable loss to the scholarly world of Tamil and to the social values and humanitarian principles that he stood for. His interest in theatre was not just academic for he was a As a scholar of Tamil, his contribution is not easy to assess keen follower of theatre movements in various places, in towns as he was not merely a master of the Tamil language and and villages, and by a variety of performing groups – all of literature but transcended his academic discipline to enrich whom he was able to integrate into his way of giving drama other areas like history, literary history in particular, and socioa major cultural space. economic history of the Tamils. His work on the Sangam anthologies and the importance of the Tinai (eco-zone) His analyses of Tamil literature were enriched by his readings concept has been a seminal contribution to the study of the in Sociology and Marxism. This led to insightful questions socio-economic organization of the early Tamils, underlining that had not been asked before. It also enabled those of us the importance of man-nature relationship and ecological and who were not in Tamil studies to understand and appreciate environmental factors determining determin ing the nature of the economic his approach. It was important to correlate details of authorship activities. It has inspired many historians including me to with those of its audience and to enquire int o the intention of examine the Tamil Tamil Sangam texts, which whi ch his work established the work in terms of the social and historical histo rical concerns of the as historical sources of great relevance for understanding time when it was written. This kind of analytical understanding early social formations and the changes which occurred over was initially limited to scholars such as him and Kailasapathy the centuries of the post-Sangam and early medieval times. who worked on heroic poetry. But it made an impact on those It has indeed provided a new vision of the Sangam age (early of us who were working on the Sanskrit epics and drama. historical period ) with fresh insights questioning the theory of a linear development of economy from a predominant What was so heartening was that he did not see the culture hunting-gathering to a food-producing agricultural economy of a society as uniform and monolithic. He understood the with corresponding changes in society. In fact his emphasis plurality and porosity of all cultures and the fact that they on the eco-zonal variations and the uneven nature of economy 44 POLITY
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as reflected in the Tinai concept opened up many interesting avenues of research into the socio-economic organization of the early historical and early medieval periods. The changing historical contexts were for the first time clearly understood and related to the nature of the tribal and kin-based society of the Sangam Tamils, Tamils, which gradually gave place to a sociopolitical organization based on the spread of the Brahmanical tradition as a package, composed of the Vedic, ItihasaPuranic and Dharmasastric forms, introducing monarchy as the chief institutional instituti onal force and the VarnaVarna- based social order dominated by the Brahmana- Ksatriya alliance in establishing regional polities, with Brahmanical institutions like the bahmadeya and the temple becoming the integrative forces in the new social formation of the early medieval period. Sivathamby’s works on literary history significantly add to these fresh insights by placing the composition compositi on of the Sangam poems, their collection into anthologies and the commentaries on these anthologies at various points in chronology i.e., in the changing historical contexts and have influenced the historian’s approach to the study of the Sangam corpus as historical sources and to explain how they reflect in many ways the processes of historical change in Tamil society and economy in the two major periods, the early historical and early medieval. That the Sangam texts were practically lost or became irrelevant in medieval times and came to be rediscovered in the 19th century AD as a major resource, which influenced the highly significant 19th century ideological changes, are a major contribution of Sivathamby to literary history, This rediscovery was particularly significant in the emergence and progress of the Dravidian movements and to this day the Sangam texts have been of central importance in the political sphere for the Dravidian movements, apart from their literary value and academic interest as the classical language which produced the oldest literature of the Dravidian languages. As a historian, my focus has been on Sivathamby’s works on the Sangam works and the literary history of Tamil, though his concern for the social welfare and human rights of the Tamils Tam ils in Sri Lanka and elsewhere is equally signifi cant and has shown that his involvement as a committed social activist was characterized by a rare moderation and peaceful approach to the problems of the Tamils. He has been undoubtedly influenced by the Marxist ideology and yet his was not straight-jacket Marxism, but a sober and conscious stand with a legitimate application of the Marxist principles and methods to his study of society and literature and to the achievement of a free Tamil society.
The scholarly world will forever miss Professor Sivathamby both for his rare scholarship and humanitarian ideals.
Professor Sivathamby: The Man and His Vision Chelva Kanaganayakam University of Toronto, Canada For the world of Tamil Studies, the passing away of Professor Sivathamby marks the end of an era. If one were to survey the intellectual history of that last one hundred years and pick out a handful of scholars who have shaped the way we think about literature, literary history, and cultural studies, Professor Sivathamby would be among them. His thirty or more monographs and his large number of essays are a testament to his encyclopedic vision, his depth of knowledge, and his academic rigor. He gently but insistently deconstructed a number of mythologies that we had created about literature and culture in order to project proj ect a clear genealogy of ideas and replaced them with thoughts that were entirely original in conception. For me, he was more than a scholar. In the last four decades, from the time I was an undergraduate in his class, through the years that we taught as colleagues, until the time of his death, he was both a mentor and a guide, constantly reminding me of areas that I needed to explore, tasks I needed to accomplish, and gently showing me the way to achieve them. Beneath his self-deprecating manner was a wealth of knowledge that he was only too happy to share. Whatever little I learned about Tamil studies was entirely due to his guidance. Four years ago, the University Universit y of Madras and the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, jointly organized a seminar in Chennai to both appraise and celebrate the work of Professor Sivathamby. I remember this occasion in particular because the hall in which the conference took place was packed to capacity and scholar after scholar spoke at length about the ways in which Professor Sivathamby’s scholarship shaped the way they thought about literature and culture. Scholars from many disciplines spoke with genuine admiration and I realized that we, w e, as Tamils Tamils from Sri Lanka, were blessed to have him in our midst. Professor Sivathamby was also my father’s student. My memory of that time is vague, but I now realize that even then he must have been very different from many of his
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peers. At a time when ideological positions were common and allegiances to one side or another were almost inevitable, Professor Sivathamby was willing to rise above petty rivalries rival ries and see the best in everyone. In fact, if not for Professor Sivathamby, I would not have understood my father’s contribution to literary studies. studi es. It was he who established an award in my father’s name and ensured that the award was given to scholars of the highest caliber. Many of my visits to Sri Lanka in the last decade were specifically undertaken to learn from Professor Sivathamby. Sivathamby. He was always generous with his time, unassuming in the way he expressed his ideas, and breathtaking in his depth of knowledge. He showed me by example that being a scholar in the best sense of the term meant much more than claiming a profession. It meant commitment to a vocation. The difference was difficult at first to understand, but over the years it became increasingly clear that is how he lived his life. His scholarship and his kindness were two sides of the same coin. There was a deep humanity that framed his scholarship. From his perspective, there was no contradiction in being a Marxist scholar and a deeply religious person. Hi s objectivity in his work w ork and in his life never got in the way of his compassion and empathy. Professor Sivathamby always treated me like a member of his own family, and for that I was always alw ays grateful. It was an honor and a privilege to have known him as a teacher and a close friend. He would remind me whenever I spoke to him on the phone that he could not hope to live much longer. lon ger. And yet when the end came, it was a tremendous shock. I take some consolation in the fact that like his life, his death too was gentle. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by a loving family.
how they differed. His only audience was me and Rich Freeman, and we both felt were in the presence of an extraordinary mind. When he left Berkeley, the war in Sri Lanka was becoming quite intense, and I was concerned he might become a target, as he was not only a scholar but a politician as well. The next time I saw Siva was at the Classical Tamil Conference, when we both were visiting visiti ng the CM in his hotel room. Siva hadn’t changed. He started talking and said many things that must have displeased the CM–though they needed to be said. I still sti ll remember that Siva’s dominating presence as he spoke to the CM. His death is a great loss to Tamil Tam il and to Ilankai. Professor Sivathamby was, quite simply, a titan in Tamil studies. He approached the subject not from a chauvinist or sentimental viewpoint, but rather as a scholar of leftist leanings who wished to clear the mists of politics and sent iment from the study of the language. languag e. This enabled him to see Tamil Tamil and its various disciplines from genuinely new and productive perspectives that will guide and inspire students for generations to come. As a person, Siva had a presence and a warmth that none of his friends can forget. He was a remarkable scholar and a remarkable man. We are all poorer for his passing.
Prof. Sivathamby’s Contribution to the Study of Early Historic Tamil Nadu K. Indrapala Formerly Professor of History, University of Jaffna and later Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, Tamil University, Thanjavur Much has been said and written about Prof. Sivathamby’s contributions to Tamil literary studies. Perhaps it is not well known in the world of Tamil scholarship that he had also made valuable contributions in the field of ancient history. The study of ancient history in i n South Asia is largely dependent on literary sources. As a result, the historian is indebted to the literary scholar for the proper interpretation of the literary sources while the literary scholar is in need of assistance from the historian for a critical analysis and proper understanding of the literary texts, in particular t heir context. Traditional scholars of Tamil Tamil have generally tended to ignore the modern historian. And the modern critical historians have in turn ignored them. In the th e last fifty years, two Tamil scholars from Sri Lanka had made very valuable contributions to the study of the ancient history of Tamil Tamil Nadu through their critical analysis of the early Tamil texts. Prof. K. Kailasapathy and
A Titan in Tamil Studies George Hart Professor of Tamil Language, University of California, Berkeley I was fortunate enough to spend considerable time with Siva when he visited Berkeley for a month or so years ago. He was an extraordinary person, with a presence and charisma that anyone who knew him can never forget. He was larger than life, literally and in every other ot her way. way. I still remember his private reading of a paper he had written about the different words in Sangam Tamil for ‘king,’ trying to discover dis cover exactly 46
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Prof. K. Sivathamby are the two scholars and serious note of their contributions has been taken by the leading historians of south India. Prof. Sivathamby was as keen a student of history as he was of Tamil and politics. In fact, he studied history along with Tamil literature for his first degree in the University of Ceylon and went on to write athesis for his Ph.D. on a historical topic based on ancient Tamil texts. The topic was ‘Drama in Ancient Tamil Tamil Society’. It was a study of the origins and development of Tamil drama in the Early Historic Period of Tamil Nadu. He was guided in this study by an eminent scholar of Classical Greek, Prof. George Thomson, who himself had written copiously about ancient Greek society. After obtaining his doctorate, Prof. Sivathamby continued his interest in history, writing on such topics as ‘Cankam Literature and Archaeology’ and ‘Development of Aristocracy in Ancient Tamil Nadu’. But his most important contribution came in the form of his lengthy essay on the Tinai concept. As is well known to students of ancient Tamil literature, the ancient Tamil texts divide the Tamil country into five major physiographic divisions or tinais. Historians of Tamil Nadu had for a long time followed the interpretations of medieval commentators for an understanding of this concept. As Prof. Rajan Gurukkal has summarized, “Commentators writing on the compositions after many centuries, certainly had serious lexical problems with a large number of terms and expressions, apart from their real context. They could view things only through a grammarian’s eye, searching for the rules and principles of poetics. What are socially symbolic in the poetics were beyond their comprehension. Without caring for these limitations of the commentators, historians often followed the interpretations given by them and lost sight of historical reality. The fivefold physiographic division, which was a mere poetic concept to the commentators, therefore, hardly made any realistic sense to the historians even though they sought to make it historical.” (Gurukkal, Social Formations of Early South India, OUP 2010: 27) Refusing to accept the interpretation of the commentators, Prof. Sivathamby made a deep study of the Tamil poems and came up with an insightful interpretation of the Tinai concept. His first contribution on this subject was made at the First Conference of o f the International Association for Tamil Tamil Research in Kuala Lumpur in 1966 (‘An Analysis of the Anthropological Significance of the Economic Activities and Conduct Code Ascribed to the Mullai Tinai’). But hi s major
contribution came in the form of a long essay in the Social Scientist (New Delhi) in 1974. This led to a realistic interpretation of the Tinai concept and leading historians of south India, including Professors Rajan Gurukkal, Kesavan Veluthat, R. Champakalakshmi and Sudharshan Seneviratne, have followed it with further elaboration of the economic activities of ancient Tamil Nadu. That these historians have quoted Prof. Sivathamby, discussed his views and given credit to his interpretation is a measure of the contribution he made to the study of Early Earl y Historic Tamil Nadu110
A Long Time Friend Santasilan Kadirgamar Former Department of History, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka Sivathamby was a long-time friend, contemporary and later colleague in the university. We We first met in the t he University of Ceylon, Peradeniya when I entered the University in June 1955. That was the golden age, as we the alumni of that time claim, in the history of university education in this country. It was a fully residential resident ial campus in which Sinhalese, Sin halese, Tamils, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and students from other communities lived, studied, fraternized and formed friendships that lasted a life time. Ramanathan Hall, then a men’s hall, had 280 students, each having the luxury of a single room, with three spacious common rooms and a huge dining hall in which we had lunch and dinner together with our lecturers resident in the hall seated at the high table. Here we interacted, exchang ed views, shared our thoughts and aspirations about life, even as the clouds of conflict with the passage of the Sinhala Only Act of 1956 and the consequent 1958 anti-Tamil violence that changed the course of history in this country took place. Contemporaries at Ramanathan Hall included in addition to Sivathamby (Tamil), Kailasapathy (Tamil), Balakrishnan (Economics), Sivasamy (Sanskrit) A.J.Canagaratna (English) Ramakrishnan (Philsophy) and self (History). Indrapala (History) was resident at Arunachalam Hall. There were several others (I refer here to my Tamil contemporaries) who entered the Civil Service, Foreign Service, Journalism, the Legal profession, the police and the teaching profession – a list too long to mention here. The names I have mentioned above I have done so for a special reason. Having gone our different ways we re-grouped after some two decades when
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the University of Jaffna was established. All mentioned above volunteered to ‘return’ to Jaffna where we were rooted and had our early education. The first eight years of the University of Jaffna (1975 to 1983) were years of great hope and aspirations when the foundations foundati ons were laid for excellence in education. If the war had not intervened this university would have blossomed to be one of the best in the country and perhaps in Asia – in the then three major faculties of arts, science and medicine as eminent lecturers and professors returned from abroad.
modern history, contemporary issues and very much so the unresolved national question in this country for over five decades. He could be agitated and did not h esitate to express his views in the strongest of terms. But he would stop short of expressing anger and bitterness marked by harsh words. He did not attempt to impose his views on his peers.This was the hallmark of an educated person. I must also acknowledge here the positive comments he has made on numerable occasions to the contributions made by Christian missionaries, the Morning Star and Christian educational institutions placing them in a historical perspective. Mrs. Sivathamby had her education at the Uduvil Girls College and since then had been b een a live wire and a very loyal old student, seen at every function associated with Uduvil. I wish Mrs. Sivathamby, her daughters and all the members of his family well as they face the irreplaceable void left by the departure of a much loved family man, a remarkable public figure and a good friend fri end to so many of us.
Sivathamby continued to teach in the Jaffna University until his retirement, facing the challenges imposed by the war having to tactfully perform his duties dut ies as an academic under a dual government – an unenviable task. With the early passing away of Kailasapathy, his distinguished colleague, with whom he shared common concerns both academic and so cial. As it turned out Sivathamby apparently filled the void in Tamil studies. I am not fully conversant and knowledgeable about this major part of his remarkable contribution, Others have commented on this aspect of his academic life – a matter that has been covered abundantly both before and after his passing away.
Moments of Recollection Selvy Thiruchandran Director, Womens Education And Research Centre, Colombo
I remember him as an academic who was socially engaged. He was a member of the Jaffna Citizens Committee and a key member of the then Tamil Refugee Organisation in the 1980s. I happened to be associated with both in the initial stages. He was also closely involved with the Colombo-ba Colombo-based sed Social Scientists' Scientists ' Associatio Association n – a meeting point for academics island-wide taking a stand for justice on the National Questi on and perceiving world issues from the standpoint of the left. From Zahira College to Peradeniya, and then as an interpreter in parliament and from there to Vidyodaya University (now Sri Jayewardenapura), he developed a wide range of contacts which stood him well in later life. From Jaffna he was able to reach out to a range of Sinhalese and Muslim academics, writers, artists in drama and the theatre, and political and social activists. He was a key member of the Progressive Writers. This was his unique role, especially taking into account that his first and primary discipline was Tamil Literature. He was a humanist who reached out far and wide. I heard him once address a huge gathering in Toronto as the main guest speaker. When he visited Tokyo I witnessed his discussions with Japanese J apanese scholars in Tamil Studies. Studies.
Writing tributes to the late Prof. Sivathamby is indeed a difficult task, considering the multifaceted talents and scholarship he was endowed with. with . I have come to know and appreciate his multifaceted personality rather late in my life. I did not have the opportunity of studying under him and knew him only distantly as a close friend of my brother and the late Prof. Kailaspathy who was my teacher. My second interaction, again distant, was when he delivered the memorial lecture of my father in Jaffna when I was in the Neth erlands. I came to know him closely and use his expertise and lit erary genius only when I was writing my Ph.D. thesis. With Prof. Kanapathypillai and Prof. Kailasapathy out of the scene of the mortal world, my next recourse was Prof. Sivathamby. I had many problems with the various discourses that had come up in the Tamil literary field and the Tamil studies. The half truths chauvinistic interpretation, nationalistic hallucination that had come up as free flowing inadequacies in the field of epistemology have baffled me. Many a time I have to sift the chaff while reading the innumerable publications that I needed to read to make my conclusions but I got confounded. The more I read the less I became convinced of the stuff that
It was always a pleasure to engage him in conversations over a wide range of issues, and specifically in my case on
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was presented as knowledge. It was at this time that I thought of approaching Prof. Sivathamby, it was a delightful diversio n in terms of getting to know various opinions, ideas and points which needed to be sifted through. He injected a critical thinking in me with which I have grown from my childhood. His articulation was thoughtful with evidences and references. However,, it was not a one way traffic. I still have reservations However on a certain points and raised objections. He was a patient listener and magnanimous enough to tolerate my differing view points some of which he conceded lat er and said with a broad smile that I was educating him. This relationship continued for nearly two decades reaching out of him with my confusions, questions and sometimes my disagreements over what he had written or over the lectures he had delivered. Throughout this period I did not experience the arrogance of knowledge or the arrogance of power that comes out of it. Many times we left with unreconciled differences only to meet again. Many a time he has called me to clarify Derrida and Foucault and other relevant social science theories. It was a mutual exchange of knowledge and mutual experience of learning. It was moments of pride for me that I taught him feminist theories; since he was already open to them, I did not experience experi ence the male chauvinism that may other educated comrades displayed. There Th ere was no need for me to further convert him.To talk about his personality he impressed me with his simplicity simplicity,, frankness and his deep desire to always part with his knowledge to whoever who approached him. There was no trace of vindictiveness in him. Even when people who criticized him vehemently went to him seeking his help he gave the necessary help. He has confessed to me with tears in eyes that a few who have learnt under him, had turned against him, attacking not his views but his person. His heart was as large as his body and forgiveness sprang out all the time. The absence of Prof. Sivathamby from the Tamil World World create a vacuum, since his place cannot be easily filled because he had many visions in him. He politicized politici zed knowledge and had political knowledge knowl edge as well. Reading Marxism into Tamil text was something of an innovative exercise in which Sri Lanka played a prominent role along with scholars like Prof. Kailasapathy, Prof. Sivathamby and Prof. Nuhuman . He combined historiography with Tamil studies to comprehend the Tamil Social Formation and Tamil Literature, from the Sangam period to the twenty-first century. century. He saw interacting influences between them. He grew with the times and applied new epistemological theories that came from the Western world in Literary Studies, Film Studies and Theat re.
In summing up my contribution I want to plead with Tamil scholars to apply and impart intergenerationally the critical knowledge that they have learnt from the late. Prof. Sivathamby, so that we can fill the vacuum in the future.
Man of Insights Karthigesu Sivathamby Was One of the Great Progressive Thinkers and Versatile Scholars of Our Time S. Dorairaj Frontline, August 12, 2011
It was a baritone voice that people across the globe heard with reverence, for they recognized it and considered the man who owned it, Karthigesu Sivathamby, as the voice of reason on many of the pressing social and cultural issues of their time. On July 6, that voice fell silent; Sivathamby, one of the great progressive thinkers of our time and versatile scholar, social historian and critic, passed away in his Colombo residence at the age of 79. His insightful and pioneering works, especially on Tamil literature and culture, will continue to guide scholars and writers for generations to come. Sivathamby’s interests were varied, but it is the scientific and sociological perspective in his analysis of Ta Tamil mil culture from the Sangam age to the modern era of the mass media that continues to amaze scholars today. His analyses on the origin and growth of the Dravidian Dravidi an Movement, the Pure Tamil Movement, and the impact of cinema on politics in Tamil Nadu have also stood the test of time and won critical acclaim. Sivathamby authored more than 50 books and monographs. His doctoral thesis on “Drama in Ancient Tamil Society” traces the genesis of Tamil theatre from the earliest period of Sangam literature to the 5th century A.D. Some of his books are Being a Tamil and Sri Lankan, The Tamil Film as a Medium of Political Communication, Literary History Hist ory in Tamil – A Historiographical Analysis, Tamil Na t io na li sm an d So ci al Co nf li ct s , Th e O ri gi n an d De ve lo pm en t of Tam Tamil il Sh or t St Stor or y, No ve l an d Li fe , Understanding the Dravidian Movement and Confronting the Prospects for Peace in Sri Lanka.Among his 200-odd
research papers are the following: “The Ritualistic Origin of Tamil Drama”, “Early South Indian Society and Economy: The Tinai Concept”, “Cankam Literature and Archaeology”, “The Development of Aristocracy in Ancient Tamil Nadu”, “Politicians as Players”, “Religion: Cultural Integration for Human Development in Sri Lanka: A Socialist Viewpoint”, “Tamil Novel Since the Fifties”, “The Sri Lankan Tamil 49
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Question: 1977-1983”, “Tamil Nationalism and Social Conflicts”, “American Influence on Sri Lanka’ Lanka’ss Social Life”, “Muslim Tamil Relations and the Sri Lanka Ethnic Crisis” and “Vaiyapuripillai as a Literary Historian of Tamil: An Analysis of his Ideology and Methodology as Seen in His ‘History of Tamil Language and Literature’”. These works offer testimony to his industry, intellectual honesty, thoroughness and accuracy, scholars point out. “His work is valuable, both for what it achieves and for what it will help others to achieve.” That was how George Thomson, Sivathamby’s guide at the University of Birmingham, described “Drama in Ancient Tamil Society”. Describing Sivathamby as an “original thinker well-versed in ancient and modern literature and art”, his contemporary and veteran Sri Lankan writer S. Ganesalingan, said: “His research works on Tamil literature and sociology will vouch for it. For him, art itself was universal, originating from rituals, and this was the bottom line of all his commitments towards art and literature. He always held Marxism and sociology as the basis for his approach to research. His rational thinking made him adopt this particular kind of approach.” He also said that Sivathamby treated Greek tragedy purely as an aesthetic form of expression, pertaining to perception by the senses and appreciation or criticism critici sm of the beautiful or of art. The veteran folklorist A. Sivasubramanian recalled Sivathamby’s long association with the Communist Party of Sri Lanka and said he never concealed his adherence to Marxism. For him the ideology was not a stagnant pool po ol but a flowing perennial river. He had never been dogmatic. This became possible for him because he keenly followed developments and constantly updated his knowledge by absorbing the positive aspects of new trends in the progressive world, Sivasubramanian opined. He pointed out that though the scholar adopted a sociological approach from a Marxist perspective for his research, he carefully avoided jargon and cliches. cliches . Readers, he said, always appreciated Sivathamby’s approach for being unbiased and straight. Sivathamby engaged himself actively in promoting Koothu, the native traditional theatre, in Sri Lanka in a big way.. He also associated himself keenly with the New Theatre way Movement, besides evincing interest in radio drama.
to Tamil society. When scholars from abroad and their counterparts in India failed to give due importance to South India, he took upon himself the task of recording, with the help of classical texts, many aspects of South Indian literary history. Breaking away from the traditional approach, he stressed the need to give the same level of importance to both classical and modern literature, Arasu said. Scholars point out that Sivathamby never failed to appreciate creativ e writing. A case in point is his assessment of the works of Jayakanthan, a Jnanpith Jnanp ith Award Award winner: “One of the greatest contributions of Jayakanthan is the change he brought about in the process of thinking think ing in the Tamil literary world. “He [Jayakanthan] wrote about subjects not explored by others. His writings revolved around the lives of ordinary people, especially those th ose who were on the margins of society. s ociety. He identified the agon [a literary device in Greek tragedy indicating conflict] in the lives of the subaltern and popularised them.”
Research on cinema ivathamby gave importance to the media, both print and visual, while teaching 20th 20 th century social history, Arasu said. At a time when Tamil scholars treated films as anathema, he took up extensive research on cinema. According to P. Anandakumar, professor, Gandhigram Rural University, Sivathamby was of the view that the cinema hall was the first performance centre where all Tamils sat under the same roof.
Referring to Sivathamby’ Sivathamby’ss book The Tamil Tamil Film as a Medium Me dium of Political Communication, Anandakumar said the scholar had pointed out that the motion picture was “from the beginning beginnin g an entertainment, produced for the masses despite the indifference or disapproval of the cultivated minority”, while the tradition of music, drama and literature reached their first eminence as an exclusive possession of the educated aristocracy. Rama Sundaram, former head of the Scientific Tamil Department, Thanjavur Tamil University, described Sivathamby’s research on Tinai in early South Indian society as a pioneering work. (Tinai represents the natural land divisions on the basis of which behaviour patterns are developed.) Though Tinai had been regarded only from a literary perspective for a long time, Sivathamby gave a Marxist interpretation to the socio-economic evolution of the fivefold division: Kurinji, Mullai, Marudam, Neithal and Paalai. He also stressed the fact that the Tinais were a contemporary physical reality. Sivathamby and his contemporary, K.
According to S. Thothathri, a function ary of the Tamil Tamil Nadu Kalai Ilakkiya Perumanram (Tamil Nadu Art and Literary Federation), at one stage Sivathamby was drawn to postmodernism. However, he accepted it with reservations, he said. V. Arasu, Professor and Head, Department D epartment of Tamil Literature, University of Madras, said South Indian literary history writing was Sivathamby’ Sivathamby’ss most significant contribution 50
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Kailasapathy, who were a part of the progressive literary movement in Sri Lanka, had lively exchanges with their counterparts in India. Besides contributing to progressive literary magazines such as Shanthi, Saraswathi an d Thamarai, they also visited Tamil Nadu to interact with literary personalities, including stalwarts such as P. Jeevanandam, T.M.C. Raghunathan and N. Vanamamalai, said Rama Sundaram.
Mariyaadai Iyakkam) sought to unite all the non-Brahmins
against the overwhelming traditional prestige of the Brahmins, and their pre-eminent position in the ritual hierarchy. And then there is the third stream – the Tanittamil or Pure Tamil Movement of Maraimalai Adigal, which is really much older, dating from 1916.
One aspect that could not be ignored by the progressive world was that Sivathamby and Kailasapathy with their Marxist background were also professors in universities in Sri Lanka, and together they played a major role in evolving the curricula and syllabi for Tamil students, Arasu said. Impressed by Sivathamby’s exemplary contributions to the institutions of higher learning in Sri Lanka and guidance of students in research, the University of Madras and certain other universities in i n Tamil Tamil Nadu invited him hi m to be a visiting professor. profes sor. It would be no exaggeration to say that Sivathamby the social historian made sincere attempts to fathom the political and cultural history of Tamil Nadu to ascertain the factors that contributed to the origin, growth and metamorphosis of the Dravidian Movement right from the days of the Pure Tamil Movement up to the successive splits suffered su ffered by the Dravidar Kazhagam and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, even as the Marxists in the State were involved in a similar exercise.
On Dravidian Movement part from his research papers, including the one titled “Understanding the Dravidian Movement – Problems and Perspectives”, he had shared his views on the subject in in-depth interviews to magazines. In one of his int erviews to Frontline (April 29, 1988), he traced the origin of the movement thus: “The Dravidian Movement arose out of the real, as well as the imagined, grievances of certain nonBrahmin sections of the population of the old, composite Madras Presidency against the Brahmins…. In securing government posts under the British, the Brahmins had a competitive edge over these land-holding, trade-oriented castes.
“But then with E.V. Ramaswami Naicker’s Naicker ’s entry in the 1930s, there was a turning point. The pro-British Justice Party got discredited, and the movement thereafter took on a particularly ‘Tamil’ flavour. EVR (Periyar) started an atheistic, rationalist movement, with Singaravelu Chettiar [who became the first communist from South India] supporting him at the start. After the Vaikom Vaikom issue of temple templ e entry for the untouchables, unto uchables, EVR left the Congress. His Self-Respect Movement ( Suya
“By 1930 all these three streams – the grievances of the Justice Party, EVR’s Self-Respect Movement, and the Pure Tamil Movement – had converged. Along with the Independence struggle grew this Dravidian Movement, and by 1949 it had become a socio-political reality.” In another interview to Frontline (November 8, 2002), Sivathamby dwelt at length on issues relating to the crisis faced by the Dravidian Movement. “[T]he tragedy of Tamil Nadu is, as I look at it as a student of Tamil literature and as a Marxist, there has been a de-ideologisation of politics. As a Marxist, I would say that the basic problem was that the whole Dravidian ideology was not shaped in terms t erms of economics,” he opined. “[T]he socio-political grievances for which the Dravidian Movement gave expression were not cemented with a basic economic perspective…. Owing to its inability to forge a politico-economic outlook, the leadership took the path of populism [when the movement wielded political power]”. As his country was undergoing a turbulent period, with ethnic Tamils Tam ils demanding a fair deal, Sivathamby did not choose choo se to give sermons from an ivory tower. His stature did not allow him to be a ringside watcher either. According to M.D. Rajkumar, fellow, Central Institute of Classical Tamil, the scholar, without even minding about his personal safety, undertook a lot of fieldwork to end the hostilities, rehabilitate rehabilitate the internally displaced people and enable his Tamil Tamil brethren to live with dignity dign ity and honour. He played a remarkable role in this regard in his capacity as chairman, Coordinating Committee of Citizens of North and East of Sri Lanka (19841986); member, National Committee for the Monitoring of the Cessation of Hostilities (1985-1986); chairman, the Refugee Rehabilitation Organisation (1986-1998); and patron of the Colombo Tamil Sangam. Born in Karaveddi in Jaffna in 1932, Sivathamby studied B.A. (History, Economics and Tamil) and M.A. (Tamil) at the University of Ceylon and received his Ph.D. (Drama in Ancient Tamil Society) from the University of Birmingham Birmin gham in 1970. Awards Awards and honours knocked on his doors in recognition of his contributions to Tamil Tam il society and humanity as a whole. He had served as a simultaneous interpreter in the House of Representatives Representativ es of Parliament of, Ceylon. He taught at Zahira
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College, and Vidyodaya University of Jaffna, and Eastern University of Sri Lanka. He was a visiting professor of Tamil at the University of Madras and the Institute of International Studies, Chennai. He was also a senior research fellow/visiting fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Tamil University, Thanjavur, and the University of Cambridge. “Unfortunately the renowned Tamil scholar was given a raw deal in Tamil Nadu on a couple of occasions: he was denied permission permission to present a paper at the fifth World Tamil Conference held in Madurai in 1981 and he was not even allowed to participate in the eighth meet in Thanjavur in i n 1995,” lamented a scholar. However, at the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore last year, as chairman of the academic committee, commit tee, Sivathamby called for greater coordination among universities to streamline postdoctoral research in Tamil at a global level. In an interview to Frontline (July 30, 2010) during the meet,
he allayed all apprehensions about the future of Tamil. Tamil. “Unlike a tribal language, Tamil has a civilisation. When I say so, I mean Tamil’s Tamil’s antiquity and continuity. conti nuity. The language has been able to face challenges in every major historical phase…. In all these phases Tamil Tamil has changed and it is bound to change, but its identity remains,” he asserted. “Tamil has been a secular language: even religions that are competiti ve in their explanation of the world found it easy and approachable to express their ideas,” he pointed out. Stressing the need for efforts to eliminate the questions and situations that led to the “so-called separatist rights” in the post-civil war scenario in Sri Lanka, he also made an appeal to both communities, through that interview, for peaceful coexistence. “The Sinhalese should accept that t hat we are Tamils Tamils and Sri Lankans, and we should accept that they are Sinhalese Sinhal ese and Sri Lankans. This does not mean the country belongs to any one of the communities. It is ours….”
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