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Michael Roberts’s article finally arrived in time for North-South dialogue

By Philip Fernando in Los Angeles

(June 10, Los Anegeles, Sri Lanka Guardian) Michael Roberts’s article finally arrived. With the sole representative of the Tamils unceremoniosly removed from the theatre it was unavoidably refreshing to read the acknowledgement by Roberts of the probability of a dialogue between the north and the south. That we lived to see that come out of his mouth is enough to send the barometer of hope spiraling towards a favorable level.

In this artcile on "Pillars for Sri Lankan success" in the Guadian, Roberts also added that the need is there to remove the Tamil chauvinist forces in the TNA and elsewhere in Sri Lanka, in Tamilnadu and in the ranks of the vociferous SL Tamil Diaspora across the world. These forces have to be corralled and undermined. All this time Roberts had harped only on the presence of Sinhala chauvinists. He dared not call Prabhakaran a chauvanist.

First I have to clear the stage of some debris which is irrelevant to the debate.

Roberts is worried about the treatment of the IDPs in what are effectively internment camps rather than "welfare centers”: he fears about draconian levels. Sri Lankan government had the civilians dumped on their lap by Prabhakaran as he betrayed the Eelam movement. He could not deliver what he promised to Roberts and others.

The plight of the poor rural peasant in remote Sri Lanka or that of the Muslim families displaced by the LTTE is not second to what is being seen in the IDP camps. Roberts did not shed a tear for them. Unlike Prabhakaran, the government has to deliver for survival. The government has to be given a chance to react and they are showing that they will take care of the civilians. Roberts and others were impotent onlookers when Prabhakarn obviously swallowed much more then he could chew.

Prabhakaran’s army was fed by the Sinhala government for decades. Roberts even pooh-poohed about what little morsel of food the Tamils got in one of his early articles. The LTTE cadres were well-fed as the TV footage showed compared to the civilians under Prabhakaran’s care. The 26 year-old war was Prabhakaran’s bread and breakfast-also luxury living. That man was a common-or-garden smuggler. Roberts never thought about it that way. He wants others to think outside the box now.

Again, Roberts pays a left handed compliment-unworthy of a champion of a robust dialogue among all peoples-- for the government making Tamil compulsory at schools in the Sinhala-speaking areas since mid-2007; while proficiency exams have been introduced at various levels of the public service that give incentives to those with bi-lingual capacity. There is an unbroken line of willingness by the government to accede to the wishes of all people in the country.

Why Tamils ran to the East? Roberts again is not being complimentary. I do not know whether he had visited the East recently. The Tamils in the East are getting a fair deal. The Muslim lands confiscated by the LTTE are being returned to the legitimate owners. The Tamils, Muslim and Sinhalese are holding seats in the provincial Council. The prospects are very good there.

It is highly rewarding to see Roberts not ride his hobby horse that the Tamil civilians were by definition practicing self-immolation in complete subjugation to the greater leader Prabhakaran. He theorized about it in drawing parallels from the Japanese suicide legends and other such examples. The civilians ran from Prabhakaran into the government fold like nobody’s business.

Roberts wants the social service and administrative personnel to think outside the box. Few months ago they were gunned down on sight by Prabhakaran goons. Roberts never said a kind word about those who died serving a greater cause. Sometimes I wonder whether Roberts’ long foray into analyzing the Eelam mind-set of the LTTE had made him a different person than the genial gentleman we saw during our days at the Peradeniya campus.

Dr. Roberts is completely off in describing the situation about excecutive presidency set up by JR. We in the States fought the draconian deeds of the George W Gush exceeding his authority under the executive presidency.

Theories about "Asokan Persona" spawned by deeply-rooted cultural tendency towards the over-concentration of power at the head of organizations and a failure (if not an ingrained inability) to delegate power are complete hogwash.

The delegation of power in Sri Lanka is perhaps at its very best now. Fifty ministers and three or four parties coalescing under Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency—this is my field of expertise- is what the doctor ordered. I just visited Sri Lanka and met with the key players who gave me details of a successful governmental set up. I have written editorials on governmental deficiencies for the last three decades. All is not perfect but the level of proficiency seen and practiced is amazing. More needs to be done, of course.

There is a tremendous amount of rivalry among the Minister sto outdo each others. The best politics is when there is complete access to power. One hundred ministers and their deputies in all-give deep access we had never seen before. This is serendipity in some form. Ministers were needed for the survival of the government inherently handicapped due to the JR constitution. But indirectly, the need for survival at any cost paved the way for the real survival. More about this some other day.

Robbers also stated that the ministerial or presidential persona is always pirivaragena, surrounded by an entourage (or preceded by beeping security cars on road). The concept pirivaragena is deeply etched within Sinhalese thinking: images of the Buddha are surrounded by disciples and followers in many temple wall-paintings; and it is known that chiefly journeys in Sinhalese kingdoms past were invariably pirivaragena. Roberts is treading on foreign ground.

This again is totally jabberwocky. The Catholic hierarchy in many countries and the unparalleled Ayatollah regimentation in Muslims countries are examples of pirivaragena, which Roberts did not want to write about. Roberts makes it a point to take pot shots at the Sinhalese even when they are not called for.

While welcoming President’s parliamentary address on Tuesday 19th May, Roberts downplays that as a symbolic deployment of a few sentences in Tamil. You can take this to the bank Dr. Roberts: President will address rallies in Tamil when the Vavuniya and Jaffna election campaigns begin. I saw him address the UN General assembly last year and receive thunderous applause when he broke into fluent Tamil.

The statements about the national flag and flag waving are common in all countries. There are over fifty war memorials both national and at state levels in USA. Prabhakaran built a cemetery to honor his fallen heroes. Patriotism is not something to be ashamed of. The debate about using the Confederate flag in the States wages on for hundreds of years. Roberts never wrote about the Tiger flags at Westminster or the highways of Toronto when thugs took mob rule to a new high.

Why talk about how new generations of English persons are taught not to equate "England" with "Britain". Say that to the hard working Jamaican, Asian and Muslims struggling to get promoted above mid management in English firms. England remains the last Bastian of the indomitable English no matter how many ethnic groups inhabit London and its suburban areas.

Roberts’ notion that Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and others must unit for a common motherland is very welcome. However his notion that it is imperative that the Sinhalese=Sri Lankan equation must be undermined and split asunder is a hair-brained idea similar to what Prabhakaran projected in the minds of the Tamils. Dr Roberts! That idea will never fly. Prabhakaran had the best shot at it but failed miserably.

When the need rises for a Mahinda or a Gotabhaya to fight a Prabhakaran, the country has always produced one. Dr. Roberts can research this topic and prove me wrong. The Sinhalse do not have 66 million people living accross Palk strait--like what the Tamils have-to claim as their home. They will claw, scratch and plunder, pillage and ruthlessly fight to preserve their only abode. They have always tolerated those who share their humble abode with them.

The Sinhalese have proved that peaceful co-existence is ingrained in them. Over 55 percent of the minorities live with the majority community. The Sinhalese have not reacted adversely to unprecedented and ruthless killings by the LTTE terrorists-not since 1983. Everything is not hunky dory. The prospects are rosy.

There is irrefutable sings of greater desire to succeed and we will.

-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

sarath said...

Michael Roberts has made some useful reflections of theoretical nature, for those who want to think soberly on these issues: the cultural problem Idea of Asokan persona: the constitutional question of the problem the executive presidency( which has nothing to do any constitutional notion ,Common law or civil law, and nothing to compare legally with Bush) and the problems of identity.
Unfortunately Philip Fernando tries drag the discussion to the gallery, expressing his political credo on personalities quite without shame.
I Hope the readers will not deflect their attention by this kind of politically biased commentary, gloating over his great political leaders, and join in to reflect critically but at the same time rationally on the matters raised by Roberts.
Sarath Jayasooriya

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