Sunday, November 16, 2008

Anandasangaree and the diminished voice of reason in Sri Lankan politics

Of all the commentators, news analysts and academicians who are writing about embattled Sri Lanka and the long drawn out ethnic conflict in the country, I find the most truthful, progressive and humane analysis coming from two sources - one a fearless Tamil expatriate journalist named DBS Jeyaraj and the other an intrepid Sinhalese political scientist, Jayadeva Uyangoda.

Both Jeyaraj and Uyangoda show the ability to think beyond their ethnic confines -something that is a rarity in the ethnic jaundice that has characterised the decades-long war ravaged Sri Lankan country. Both favour a just solution to the conflict and recognise the weaknesses of "identity" based claims of exclusivity that determines the charter on both sides of the conflict. Thus, Jeyaraj fearlessly raises his voice against the authoritarianism of the intransigent and violent LTTE while Uyangoda fiercely critiques any unitarian impulse in the increasingly militant and exclusivist Sinhalese ruling classes. Jeyaraj writes in a host of Sri Lankan and other newspapers (his most recent articles are archived here ), while Uyangoda's incisive pieces appear regularly as part of the "Letter from South Asia" in the Economic and Political Weekly .

Unfortunately very few in the Sri Lankan polity have shown this ability to think beyond the confines of "ethnic exclusivism" in articulating a solution to the conflict or provide a political line during the same. The Sinhalese polity for e.g. is now comprised of the ruling SLFP which, by all accounts, seems to be a family controlled ethnic majoritarian enterprise for all its lip-service to a political federal solution "after" the military defeat of the LTTE. The other parties in the picture include the even more hawkish JVP whose shameless ethnic nationalism belies the party's "left" orientation, the communal Jathika Hela Urumaya, a Buddhist monk party whose politicians are the exact antithesis of Buddha's bhikkus; and the now-hawkish, now-dovish UNP, whose political positions on the conflict change with the wind.

On the Tamilian side, whatever is left of the rump of the polity apart from the LTTE's minions, are all in more ways than some, beholden to the diktats of the Sri Lankan ruling classes.

Among all this morass, one figure stands out. Veerasingham Anandasangaree, of the nearly defunct TULF. Jeyaraj has this well written profile of Anandasangaree. Anandasangaree's remains the only legitimate voice in Sri Lanka which articulates a just federal solution to the conflict and that which bases itself on a regime that rejects the authoritarian and exclusivist impulses as characterised by the above mentioned sections of the broad polity.

It is just plain unfortunate that the TULF is hardly any kind of force in Sri Lanka today though. But fierce articulation of the federal agenda by Anandasangaree should eventually force the violent and muddled heads in Sri Lanka today, it is hoped.

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