The Lankan Liberal | Challenging the Conservative State|

Originally published on the Weekend Express. (10.02.2016)

Often I find myself in conservative conversations, discussions, and strategy sessions on policies that affect millions of people and I can’t help but wonder: “what am I doing here?” Our state and its administration have been built on conservative values. This foundation has lasted decades, and today, 2 insurgencies, a 3 decade war and several authoritarian governments later, these conservative values seem so unshakeable. They are so deeply entrenched to our state administration and its culture. I look around and feel so different than everybody else; not just because I’m always half the age of everyone else at the table and almost always the only woman in the room, (of course ageism and sexsim play a big role in state administration but that isn’t what I’m trying to get at here,)  but because politically my values are so far away from everyone else I’m usually surrounded by at these conversations.

I’m a 22 year old liberal. I believe in equal marriage rights. I believe in one’s right to one’s own body. I believe the only time the state should have a say on a citizen’s  sexual life is if they had engaged in non-consensual sex. Although the Sri Lankan law believes any form of non-heterosexual sex is unnatural, and there isn’t such a thing as marital rape, I believe the complete opposite. I believe in affirmative action; giving priority opportunities to political minorities to make up for the injustices of the past. I find it preposterous that we still (in 2016) have schools that are dedicated to the majority races and religions. (It’s like America in the 19th century when it had Whites Only schools.) I don’t believe in the death penalty, I believe in rehabilitation and imprisonment when necessary. I believe our economy should be regulated enough to minimise wealth/income  inequality.I believe that the state must secure its society’s high rates of social mobility and there should be state-sponsored welfare systems that protect the working and middle classes. I support  free or low-cost government controlled health care being equally accessible and hassle free to all citizens regardless of their social status. I believe in the complete separation of the  “church and the state”, i.e I don’t believe religion should be state sponsored, nor should it influence state politics in any way. I believe our tax system should be a progressive one, unlike the regressive one we currently have, i.e. big corporations must be taxed heavily and small businesses and entrepreneurship should be supported. My political views are in complete opposition to most of those borne  by our conservative state.

Yet, somehow, I still believe in the state.  


I believe in the infinite capacities of the state to protect citizens, and increase their quality of life. The state, regardless of politics has the capacity to make or break a country.We live in an era where so much priority is given to politics that attention is often taken away from the state and its functions. People believe that every election a new set of politicians will come in and change things. What they don’t realize is that  whoever is elected has to take office in the same state, and its pool of conservative values and institutional conflicts. Most Sri Lankan liberals are thrown off by the conservative state. They choose to stay away from it and fight it from outside. This has been done by many generations, and their efforts have often proven to be obsolete.    Due to this liberals in Sri Lanka have rightfully earned the label of being anti-establishment idealists. Although their voices are heard on the streets, in coffee-shop rants and panel discussions the lankan liberal is not represented within establishment that is the state. The liberal values are not represented within the state, giving a free hand to the existing conservatism. The needs of the middle and working classes are not represented, there are fewer and fewer regulations and welfare systems protecting these vulnerable social groups, while the wealthy are protected by the state.        


Think about food. Food is the most basic need that I can think of, maybe  after air and water. We all need food. Politics and food are so closely linked; not just because more often than not, in Sri Lanka, the masses vote from  their stomach, and not their heart or mind, but because it’s one of the main duties of public servants and people’s representatives to make sure the country is fed. One would hope that politicians would work by this rule of thumb, keeping in mind that if you make sure you feed your people, and keep their stomachs full there’s a good chance you’ll be re-elected. But Sri Lankan politics is a little more complicated than that. For the longest time, in Sri Lanka, food hasn’t been as affordable as it should be.  Nutrition levels have been plummeting. A majority of the population is either unemployed or underemployed. Inequality rises everyday. A large portion of the country’s wealth circulates amongst the richest 10% and the remaining 90% struggle to make ends meet. Like we prefer to do in any crisis, we often choose to victim-blame. We like to blame it on the people; say that our workforce is unskilled, that our people lazy, they choose not to work hard. Not really.  It’s not a matter of productivity. The Sri Lankan workforce works hard, very hard. Take the apparel industry of Sri Lanka, for instance, which employs about 15% of the nation’s workforce, amounting for about half of the country’s total exports. Sri Lankan garment factory workers are skilled and quite efficient; infact, Sri Lanka is among the top apparel-producing countries in the world relative to its population. If you walk into few of the many thousands of jam-packed hostels for garment workers in Sri Lanka, and conduct a rough survey about their day; you’ll realize that most of them work 50+ hour work weeks, save little to nothing, spend a large portion of their income on food and yet intake very little nutrition. The average Sri Lankan doesn’t get as much as they give.


People assume that this gap of representation of middle and working class interests can be filled with politicians who represent the interests of these social groups, but that is far from the reality. Even if honest politicians with a genuine interest  of changing things are elected, at the end, they are all thrown into the conservative maze of an institutional web that is the state, which blinds them, and build walls around them. Some of them stand their ground remain stuck within those walls, they shout they scream, yet they can never move forward,  and most of them give in to the system, and swim in a wave of hypocrisy through their entire political career. Either way nothing much gets done. The middle and working classes go to bed hungry and fall apart when a personal medical crisis hit, and more than anything, they continue to be held back in the same social class, their children don’t go on to live better lives than they did.     


In Sri Lanka left-wing politics has been made a joke out of for decades. Most of the politicians who claim/claimed to be leftist have gone on to have extremely hypocritical political careers.  The biggest flaw in leftist politicians in Sri Lanka is that they stand stand for one or few leftist values and completely disregard the others. For instance if you take the leading “leftist” parties in Sri Lanka the SLFP and JVP, they have often claimed to be fighting  for income equality but have a track record of fighting against racial, and gender equality. Leftist politicians in Sri Lanka have failed to understand that left-wing politics doesn’t merely stand for income equality, it stands for the core value of equality. With the damage that has been done to the perception of leftist politics by the chaotic violence caused by the JVP (claiming to fight for social equality, while chanting a message of racism) and a decade of hypocrisy of the SLFP (by the Rajapaksas standing under the tent of a leftist party and enforcing the most capitalist ideals protecting the wealthy and exploiting the poor), it  is going to take a long time to restore the Sri Lankan public’s faith in true leftist values. Today the UNP, with it’s right-wing, capitalist origins, has come forward to be more socially- leftist than either of the major socialist parties in the country. But regardless of the UNP’s progressive influence on the politics of the country, the state still remains to be its conservative self. No dosage of politics could change this conservatism entrenched in our state. It can only be changed institutionally, from within.

So many take the effort to understand the politics of Sri Lanka, but very few do the same with the state.  Electoral politics and the politics of the state differ so vastly. So many new young faces come into Sri Lankan electoral politics every election season, with a paternalistic passion for saving the country, but most of them have no experience or education on the institutional politics of the state. This wedges the policy implementation processes and the state remains its rigid, unmovable self. If young politicians were to spend few years serving in the state, gaining experience learning the processes and complexities, this gap between the state and the people’s representatives  can be filled to a large extent.


We live in an era when the young lankan liberals need to be injecting themselves into the state sector. Yes, the existentially conservative, all-consuming state. It is not an easy task. It will make you angry, frustrated and make you see new depths of conservatism, misogyny, patriarchy, and bigmanism at play that you didn’t know existed.  But it is absolutely necessary. Without truly understanding how the state functions you can never reform it. And without true liberals to challenge the deeply embedded conservatism within it, the state will always remain conservative; leaving working and middle classes and political minorities vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination.  If we are to change things we need to join the state, learn the state, challenge the state ,change it from within and in the process redefine what it truly means to be a Lankan liberal. It is the only way we could restore this country’s faith in left-wing politics and the power of the fight for equality.  Lankan liberals don’t belong at streets protests, behind computer screens, conferences and coffee shops, they belong at state institutions; exactly where they are not wanted.  
I often find myself in rooms, buildings and conversations of the state filled with conservatism, and I do often wonder how I got there, but not for a second do I feel lost. I’m exactly where I belong.    

වමක් නැති රට.

imagesමීට සති කිහිපයකට පෙර හිටපු ජවිපෙ නායක සෝමවන්ශ අමරසිංහ මහතා මියගියේය. සාමාන්‍ය දැනීම ප්‍රශ්නයක් ලෙස පාසැල් සිසුවෙකුගෙන් ලංකාවේ සිටින / හිටපු වාමාන්ශික දේශපාලඥීන් කිහිප දෙනෙක් නම් කරන්නට කිවහොත් බණ්ඩාරනායක, විජේවීර නම් සමග සෝමවන්ශගේ නමත්  කියවේවි. ඒත් මේ එක් අයෙක් වත් සැබෑ වාමාන්ශිකයන් ද? එහෙම නැත්තම් හුදු අවස්ථාවාදී කුහක දේශපාලනඥීන් ද?

සෝමවන්ශ මහතා මියගියේ බදාදා දවසකය. ඒ රජයේ කන්තෝරු,  දේශපලනඥීන් නින්දෙන් කූද්දමිනි. සෝමවන්ශට පහුගිය දින 364ම හූ කියපු මේ උදවිය ඒ බදාදා නරක හීනෙකින් නැගිටලා මෙන්  ශෝක පනිවිඩ සකස් කලහ. “ලාංකීය දේශපාලනයේ වාමාංශික රන් සලකුණ, ඉන්ද්‍ර ඛීලය, ඇත් ගොවුවා – නෑ නෑ ඇත් ගොවුවා හරියන්නේ නෑ ඒක කපන්න, ලක් වාමාංශික සයුරේ එඩිතර තොටියා” දේශපලනඥීන් ගේ පොදු සබදතා ලේඛම්වරු හරි හරියට ශෝකප්‍රකාශ ලිවුවේ දත් මිටි කමිනි. ශෝකප්‍රකාශ හුදෙක් protocol එකකි. Protocol තිබිය යුතුය. Protocol අප  ශිෂ්ඨ සම්පන්න මිනිසුන් කරයි. අප හැසිරීමට යම්කිසි වෘත්තීමයත්වයක් ලබාදෙයි. එහෙත් ලාකිකයන්ට සංස්කෘතිකව ජාන ගතවී ඇති දේශපලන ඇම්නීසියාව නිසා, බොහොවිට දේශපාලන ඉතිහාසයකට කියා අපට ඉතිරි වන්නේ protocol ඉතිහාසයක් ය: protocol ශෝක පණිවිඩය.වන්දිබට්ටන් විසින් ලියවුනු ගුණ වර්ණනා පොත් ය.

ඒ බදාදා protocol නොතිබුනානම් අපිට සෝමවන්ශ ගැන  ඇත්ත කතා කරන්නට තිබුනි. සෝමවන්ශගේ දේශපාලනයට මට ගරු කරන්නට නොහැකිය. ඒ මන්ද යත්, ලාංකීය දේශපාලනයේ පදනම් ගලක් වන දේශපාලන කුහකකම ඔහුගේ දේශපාලන ඉතිහාසය පුරාම ලියවී ඇති නිසාය. ධනවාදයට එරෙහිව අපි අරගලයක් කරමු කියල අමාරුවෙන් කැම්පස් තේරුනු ළමයින්ට කියල, ඒ කොල්ලො කෙල්ලො අරගලයෙන් මැරෙද්දී, සෝමවන්ශ පැන්න ලෝකේ තියන ධනවාදීම රටකට: එන්ගලන්තෙට. ඊට කාලෙකට පස්සේ ලංකාවට ආපු සෝමෙ, ලංකාවේ වාමාන්ශික දේශපාලනය වෙනුවෙන් වැඩිදෙයක් කලේ නැහැ. ලංකාවේ බහුතරයක් දේශපලනඥීන්ට වගේ රටේ මිනිස්සු වෙනුවෙන් දෙයක් කරන්න සෝමවන්ශට උවමනාවක් තිබ්බේ නැහැ. දශක ගාණක් දේශපලානයේ හිටියත් “මෙන්න සෝමවන්ශ කරපු දෙයක්” කියල පෙන්නන්න දෙයක් ඔහු ඉතුරු කලේ නැහැ. ඔහු තනි නෑ. අවුරුදු ගාණක් රටේ මිනිස්සුන්ගෙ කාලෙ, බදු සල්ලි නාස්ති කරල ඔහේ මැරිලා යන දේශපලනඥීන් දාස් ගාණක් පහුගිය සතවර්ශෙ බිහිවෙන්නට ඇති. දේශපාලනඥයෙක් විදිහට ගරු කරන්න නොහැකි වුනත්, එක් පැත්තකින් මම සෝමවන්ශ අමරසිංහට ගොඩාක් ගරු කලා: සහෝදරයෙක් විදිහට. නෑ මම කියන්නෙ මේ ජවිපෙ කොල්ලො කෙල්ලො කියනවා වගේ “සහෝදරයෙක්” විදිහට නෙමෙයි. ඔහුගෙ අක්කට සහෝදරයෙක් විදිහට.

මට මතකයි මීට අවුරුදු කිහිපයකට කලින් සෝමවන්ශගෙ අක්කා මාර්ගයෙන් ඔහුට මඩ ගහන්න දේශපාලන set up එකක් කරල තිබ්බා ඇය ගණිකා මඩමක් පවත්වගෙන යනව කියල. දේශපාලනයේ ඇතුලේ ඉන්න අය මේකේ ඇත්ත නැත්ත දැනන් හිටියත් පොදු ජනතාව බොහෝ දෙනා මේ කතාව පිලිගත්ත. මේක සෝමවන්ශට බොහොම අසීරු අවස්ථාවක්. දේශපාලන PR angle එකකින් බලද්දී ඒ අවස්ථාවෙ සොමවන්ශට තිබුන විකල්ප දෙකක්. එකක් තමයි මේක වුනේ නැහැ වගේ ඉන්න එක. කාලයක් දෙයක් පසෙකට දාලා තිබ්බොත් ඒක මිනිස්සුන්ට අමතක වෙනව. අනිත් විකල්පෙ තමයි  “ඔව් අපි හැමෝගෙම පවුල්වල අපි කැමති අකමැති පුද්ගලයො ඉන්නවා” කියලා තමන්ගෙ සහෝදරිය කරපු දේ හෙලා දකින එක. එහෙම කරන එක සෝමවන්ශට දේශපාලනඥයෙක් විදිහට ලේසී. අනික එහෙම කරාම ඕක ඔතනින් ඉවරයි. ඒත් සෝමවන්ශ හොඳ සහෝදරයෙක් විදිහට එහෙම කලේ නැහැ. ඔහු තමන් ගෙ සහෝදරිය වෙනුවෙන් නැගී සිටිය. “එයා තවමත් මගේ අක්කා” සෝමවන්ශ එදා එහෙම කිව්වෙ ඇස්වල කඳුලු පුරෝගෙන. එහෙම ලෙන්ගතු, ප්‍රතිපත්ති ගරුක මිනිස්සු අඩුයි. ඉතින් ඇත්තම කිව්වොත්  ලාංකික දේශපාලනයේ ඉන්න බොහෝ අයට නැති පිට කොන්දක් දේශපාලනඥයෙක් විදිහට නැති වුනත්, මනුෂ්‍යයෙක් විදිහට  සෝමවන්ශ අමරසිංහට තිබුනා.එහෙම මිනිස්සු අඩුයි. ලංකාවෙ ඉන්නවා ඕනතරම් මිනිස්සු, පෝඩියම් උඩ, කාන්තා අයිතිවාසිකම් ගැන දේශනා පවත්වල ගෙදර ඇවිල්ල නංගිට බිරිඳට ලිංගවාදී කුනුහරුප වලින් බනින, ගහන අයියල, මහත්වරු. කාන්තා, සමාජ යුක්තිය ගැන කතා කරල සල්ලි හෙව්වට තමන්ගෙ කෙනෙකුට  සමාජ අසාධාරණයක් වුනාම වචනයක් නොකියන NGO කාක්කො. දේශපානඥයෙක් විදිහට කොච්චර අඩුපාඩු තිබුනත්, මනුශ්‍යෙක් විදිහට ගරු කරන්න පුලුවන් මනුශ්‍ය සංයමයක් සෝමවශට තිබුනා. ඔහු ඔහුගේ ප්‍රතිපත්තිය ආගමක් වගේ ඇදැහුවා. අපේ රටේ ඒ වගේ පිට කොඳු තියන මිනිස්සු බොහොම අඩුයි. සෞඛ්‍ය අමාත්‍යංශය කිව්වට දියවැඩියාව හා හෘද රෝග ලංකාවේ තියෙන සුලබම රෝගීතත්වයන් කියල, මට හිතෙන්නෙ අපේ රටේ මිනිස්සුන්ට වැඩිපුරම වැලදිලා තියෙන්නෙ කොන්දෙ අමාරු කියලා. බොහෝ මිනිස්සුන්ට දේශපාලනය ඉදිරියෙ කොන්ද පණනැතිව යනවා, අනිත් සමහරුන් පූරුවෙ කරුමෙකටද කොහෙද පිට කොන්දක් නැතුවම ඉපදෙනව. ශක්තිමත්, ප්‍රතිපත්තිගරුක මිනිස්සු නැති රටක වමක් නැති වීම පුදුම වෙන්න දෙයක් නෙමෙයි.

ඉතින් protocol අමතක කරල අවංක හිතින් මම සෝමවන්ශගෙ ශෝක පණිවුඩේ ලිව්වානම් මම ලියන්නෙ නැහැ ඔහු ලක් වාමාන්ශික සයුරේ එඩිතර තොටියෙක් කියලා (ඇත්තටම කිව්වොත් සෝමවන්ශගෙ දෙශපාලනේ අන්තිම කාලේ රුවල් හැලුනු ඔරුවක් වගේ සෝමාලියව පැත්තට පා වෙමින් තිබුනෙ.) ලියනවා දේශපානඥයෙක් විදිහට කොච්චර අඩුපාඩු තිබුනත්, මනුශ්‍යෙක් විදිහට ගරු කරන්න පුලුවන් මනුශ්‍ය සංයමයක් සෝමවශට තිබුන බව. ඔහු අපේ රටේ ඉන්න අන් බෝහෝ වාමාන්ශිකයො වගේම කුහුක දේශපාලනඥයෙක්. මල ගෙදර ආපු අනිත් හැමෝමත් නොකිව්වට ඕක් දැනගෙන හිටිය. ඒත් සංස්කෘතික  protocol  නිසා හැමෝම ඕක හිතේ තදකරන් දත් මිටිකාගෙන එතුමගෙ වාමන්ශික එඩිතර බව ගැන වැලවටාර ගෙතුවා. දේශපාලනයෙ මුහුණ දෙන බොහෝ වෙනත් අවස්ථා වගේම දේශපලන අවමගුලුත් තනිකර ප්‍රෝඩාවක්.

ඇත්තටම දේශපාලන වම යනු කුමක්ද? වාමාංශික දේශපාලනය බොහෝ විට සමාජ අසමානතාවන්ට විරුද්ධ, සමාජ සමානතාන්ටවන්ට සහාය දෙන ඒ වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටීන දේශපාලන ව්‍යාපාරයකි.   සැබෑ වාමාංශිකයින් සමානාත්වතාවයේ අභිප්‍රායෙන් ආයතනික හා ධනපති පංතියේ අසාධාරණකම් වලින් කම්කරුවන් ආරක්‍ෂා කිරීම සඳහා   වෘත්තීය සමිති බල ගැන්වීම, කම්කරු අයිතීන් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටිමින්. සමාජ අසාධාරණයන්ට ලක්වන කාන්තාවන්, සමලිංගික, ද්වෛලිංගික වෙනත් ලිංගවලට අයත්වන ප්‍රජාව, සුලු ජාතීන් ඇතුලු, සියලු සමාජ සුලුතරයින් වෙනුවෙන් පෙනී සිටි. කාන්තා අයිතිවාසිකම් පිළිබඳ රටක ප්‍රමුකත්වය ගත යුත්තේද වාමාංශිකයිනි.

දකුණේ සිටගෙන වමේ ප්‍රතිපත්තීන් දේශනා කල සොලමන් වෙස්ට් රිජ්වේ ඩයස් බණ්ඩාරනායක කතා කරේ දේශීය  යාන්ත්‍රනයකින් රට දියුනු කිරීම පිලිබඳවය. “සගරදගුරු- ගොවිකම්කරු” දැක්මෙන් ශ්‍රී ලංකා නිදහස් පක්‍ෂය ස්ථාපිත කල ඔහුට හිටපු  කොළඹ ආණ්ඩුකාරතුමාගේ වෙස්ට් රිජ්වේ නම ලැබුනේ අප රට යටත් කරන් සිටි සුද්දන්ට ගෞරවයක් ලෙසය. ධන හා පන්ති සමානාත්වතාව මුල් කරගත් සමාජවාදී දර්ශනයක් මත ගොඩ නැගුනු ශ්‍රී ලංකා නිදහස් පක්‍ෂයේ නායකයා වූ ඔහු ජීවත් වුනේ අක්කර ගාණකින් වට වූ හොරගොල්ල වලවුවේය. වාමාන්ශිකයෙක් නොවුනත්, “සුද්දගෙන් අප බේරාගත් උතුම් සිහලයා” ලෙස protocol ඉතිහාසය විසින් හඳුන්වන ඩී. එස්. සේනානායක් මැරුණේ මනුශ්‍යයෙකුට මැරිය හැකි ඉන්ග්‍රීසිම විදිහටය ; ඒ අශ්වයෙකු පිටින් වැටීය.

දේශපාලන කුහකකම අපේ මුතුන්මිත්තන් ගෙන් අපිට උරුම්වුනු දෙයක්. මේ සින්හල අපේ රට කියලා කෑ ගහගෙන, අනිත් භාශා අයින් කරලා,සින්හල රාජ්‍ය භාශව කරලා, අපේ යුද්ධෙට මුල්ගල තිබ්බ, SWRD (Solomon West Ridgeway Dias), බණ්ඩාරණායකට ඒ නම ලැබුනේ, අපේ රට ආක්‍රමනය කරල අපේ මිනිස්සු වහල්ලු කරගෙන, හිටීය සොලොම වෙස්ට් ඉන්ග්‍රීසි ආණ්ඩුකාර තුමාට ගෞරවයක් විදියට. රටට තිබ්බ ආදරේට, රාජ්‍ය බාසා නීති වෙනස් කරන්න මහන්සි වුනු එතුමට, නම වෙනස් කරන්න අමතක වෙන්න ඇති. ධනවාදයට, බටහිරට එරෙහිවමැයි දින රැලිවල කෑ ගහපු වීරවංශ, කොණ්ඩෙ කැපුවෙ හිල්ටන් එකෙන්, වයිෆ්ට ලන්ඩන් යන්න පාස්පෝර්ට් දෙකයි, ළමයි ගියෙ ඉන්ටනැශනල් ස්කූල්, ඒත් ඔවුන් එක්ක පෙලපාලියෙ පසුපෙලේ ගිය ජවිපෙ සහෝදරයො ටික කවදත් පාරේ. මහින්ද ලොකුවට විවෘත කරපු මහාමාර්ග හදන්න වහල් පඩියට, ගිණියම් අවුවේ මහවරුසාවෙ, කරගැටි පැලෙනකම් පොලොව කෙටුවේ,පෙනහැලි කලුවෙන දුමාරේ තාර දැම්මේ, අපේ අහිංසක කම්කරුවො. ඒත් මහින් ද කිව්වේ එයා රට හැදුවා කියලා. යුද්ධ කලේ, යුද්ධෙන් මැරුනෙ, අහින්සක තරුණ ළමයි. ඒවුනාට විරුදිනයට ගෝල්ෆේස් එක වටේ යුධ ටැංකියක හිටගෙන හැමෝටම පේන්න රවුමක් ගිහින් මහින්ද “රට බේරාදුන් වීරයා” වුනා. ලුතිනල් කර්නල් කාලේ යුද්ද කරන්න බරුව, ඇමරිකාවට පැනලගිය ගෝටාභය, යුද්ධේ ඉවරවුනාට පස්සෙ Gota’s War කියල පොතක් ලියෙව්වා. අපේ රට ආක්‍රමනය කරල අපේ මිනිස්සු වහල්ලු කරගෙන අපේ තිබ්බ තේ කෝපි රබර් පොල් මුතු මැණික් විකුනල ලාබය උන්ගෙ රාජධානියට යවපු ඉන්ග්‍රීසි  රජපල්වුලෙ චාල්ස් කුමාරය CHOGM එකට ලන්කාවට ආවහම, ඔහුට සලකන්න හෝටල් බිල් ගෙවන්න, පාරවල් කාපට් කරල රතුපල්ස් එලන්න, යන්න එන්න රෝල්ස් රොයිස් ගෙන්නුවේ වෙන රට වලින් ණය අරන්. ඉංග්‍රීසි රජ පවුලෙ අයට කොලොඹ ඉඳන් සමාජවාදී රාජපක්ස ආවතේව කරද්දි, අනුරාධපුර පොලොන්නරුවෙ අපේ මිනිස්සු නියගය නිසා වතුර නැතුව දුක් විනදා. හේන් පාලුවෙලා මාසගනන් හරියට කන්න නැතුව හිටිය.CHOGM කාලෙ නියන් පැත්තට වතුර බවුසර් ආවෙ සතියට එකයි, නැත්තම් දෙකයි. පීඩිත පන්තිය වෙනුවෙන් නැගී හිටින අපේ උතුම් සමාජවාදී වාමාන්ශිකයො . අපේ රටේ කාලයක් තිස්සේ හිටපු වාමන්ශිකයො බොහෝදෙනෙක්ගෙ ප්‍රතිපත්ති තිබ්බේ ධනවාදී දකුණෙ. ඕකට තමයි වාමාන්ශික කුහකකම කියන්නෙ.

2015 වන තෙක් අප රට පාලනයේ කෙරූ සියලු නායකයන් දේශපාලන ප්‍රභූ පවුල්වලට සම්බන්ධකම් තිබූ පුවර බබාලා වීමත්, අප රටේ කවදාවත් ශක්තිමත් වමක් තිබ්බාද යන්න හිතන්නට හේතු සාදකයකි. ලංකා ඉතිහාසයේ පලමු වරට වැඩ කරන පන්තියේ ග්‍රාමසේවක මට්ටමේ සිට රජයේ උසස්ම නායකත්ව තනතුර ලැබූ මෛත්‍රීපාල සිරිසේන මහතාට එරෙහිව යන සියුම් පන්තිවාදී ප්‍රහාරයන් ගැන සමාජයේ ඇති නොසැලකිල්ලත් අප රටේ වමක් නැති බවට තවත්  නිදසුනකි.පන්තිවාදය දකුණු අන්තවාදීන්ගේ න්‍යාය පත්‍රයේ කොටසකි. ලක් දේශපාලන භූ තලයේ ඇත්තේ දකුණක් පමණක් වීම නිසා පන්තිවාදය, දේශපාලනයේත්, රාජ්‍ය පර්පාලනයේත්, සමාජදේශපාලනයේත් සුලබව දැකිය හැක. මේ සතවර්ශයේ පන්තිවාදය නව මුහුණුවරක් ගනී. ඉස්සර පැවති කුලවාදය හා වලව්වාදය වෙනුවට දැන් පාසැල්වාදය හා භාශාවාදය පැමිණ ඇත. දැන් උසස් තනතුරු සදහා පුද්ගලයින් නම් කරද්දී සුදුසුකම් සියල්ලටම වඩා පාසැල වැදගත් වේ. මේ වර්ගයේ පන්තිවාදය දක්ශිණවාදී දේශපලන අන්තයක ලක්‍ශණයකි.විනයගරුක දේශපාලන දකුණක් රටක  ඇතිවීමටනම් ඒ රට තුල ශක්තිමත් වමක් ද තිබිය යුතුය

වමක් නැති රටේ හැමතැනම දකුණය. වමක් නැති රටේ දකුණට ඉමක් කමක් නැත. දකුණ පිරී ඉතිරී ගොස් ඇත. වමක් නැති රටේ මිනිසුන් වම ගැන උගත යුතු නැත. වම ගැන නූගත් මිනිසාට දකුණ ගැන ඉගනීමටද අවශ්‍යතාවයක් නැත.  වම නැති රටේ දකුණද දුබලය.වම නැති රටේ සාමන්‍ය මිනිසුන් අනාතය;  පොහොසතාගේත්, බහුතර ජාතීන්ගේත් අභිවෘධියත්, දුප්පතාගේත් සමාජ සුලුතරයන්ගේ අභාග්‍යයත් සනාථය. වම නැති රටේ වමක් සැදීමට කාලය පැමිණ ඇත.

A Letter to My Daughter.

The world may seem so big, and it is, but don’t let anyone make you feel small. We are not here to stay; billions of people came before us and will keep coming long after we are gone and the world will keep on spinning. But while we are here, remember to change a few things, or at least die trying. It’s rough out here for you than it will be for your brother. And I’m so sorry. I’m going to try to give you everything you’ll ever ask for, but I can’t promise you that there won’t be days when you will feel so deprived just because you were born a woman. They will have so much to say to you, about how you should look, about how you should feel, about what you can and cannot do with your body. The world is full of ugly double-standards. Don’t give in.In the midst of all that chaos, I know you will want to give up and try to fit in, but hold on to who you are. We are born with the privilege of the ability to be blind to injustice. Most remain blind to it their whole lives, it’s the convenient thing to do. But not you, you will learn to see the world for what it truly is.
Travel the world, learn what it is like to live as an ethnic minority. Learn the pedagogy of the oppressed. You are not alone, there are many like us, like women, many different communities out there who get marginalized just because they were born to a political minority. Learn from their strength. Forgive history, but never forget it. Know that more often than not, history repeats itself.
Always remember that the term “tradition” is a very dangerous one. Question it persistently. It has acted as a roof for many conservative, oppressive values since time unknown. Slavery was once tradition. White supremacy is often justified by tradition. In our country, it is also tradition that has always held back women. It is tradition that restricted women to the kitchen. When women want to dress the way they prefer they are told they shouldn’t, as it goes against tradition.When we Sinhalese shamelessly played “Mey Sinhala Apagey Ratai” on loudspeakers in cities where all communities lived, we saw nothing wrong in it. “It’s a traditional song,” we said. When men want to love men, and women want to love women, they get furious. “How dare they? They are disrespecting tradition.” When women give their man a dowry in order to get married, that is in no way derogatory on the value of the woman, it’s tradition. When women take their husband’s name after marriage, it’s not in anyway saying that the woman has to lose the identity she’s grown up with her entire life to please the man, it’s tradition.
You still haven’t even heard the most dangerous part about tradition: it convinces the oppressed that tradition is a good thing, that it is sacred: it is ‘what makes us who we are.’ For instance in our country and many others around the world, women are taught to appreciate their traditional role in the household, to take pride in their cooking and housekeeping skills, in being “the good wife.” Women, too, are often taught to feel the need to defend the acts of men, performed solely to feed their sense of entitlement. They laugh it off and often defend such acts saying “it’s just a fun tradition.” It is because, as oppressive and divisive as tradition is, it applies to the whole society in the form of the blinding term ‘culture.’ Don’t get me wrong, it applies to different communities (political minorities v. majorities) differently, but it applies to the entire society as a whole, creating a false sense of inclusion. We humans are weak; we want to hold on to that false sense of comfort. The world is a cold, lonely place, and tradition gives our vulnerable selves warmth. In a world that is constantly changing we find comfort in the consistency and familiarity that tradition provides.
How did tradition become this omniscient God who knows it all and gets to decide what is good for us? Remember when I said history often repeats itself? Tradition is a product of history. Our history was built on oppression and inequality, and history is more often than not, written by oppressors and generation after generation, the oppressed have been educated to respect the oppressors and respect tradition. So don’t be surprised when women conveniently turn a blind eye to patriarchy. Just like men can support gender equality women can support patriarchy. I wanted you to know this because it will help you understand what is to come. Whenever you question patriarchy, hell will break loose. Disrupting existing traditions requires strength. And being my daughter, I’m sure you’ll have it. They will tell you that you are offending them by disrespecting age old traditions. They will tell you that you are deluded,that “not everything is about gender.” They will feel so threatened and get so irrationally angry. They will threaten to “make you unrecognizable” with acid attacks. Ironic, isn’t it, that whenever they find a woman threatening they think that hurting our physical image would stop us? But don’t be surprised, most of them will only see you for the curves on your body and your face. When they hear you speak things they do not want to hear, they wouldn’t be able to resist. Their reactions would be quite the sight, like animals in a circus. They will work day and night to find ways to tell you that you are wrong. Be watchful: different people deal with their insecurity of losing the grip on tradition in different ways. Some will do it furiously and some will just mansplain to you calmly. In the thick of it, no matter how passionate and angry things make you, stay above the fray and always treat others the way you would like to be treated. Never resort to personal attacks. Topple the game, not the players.
I want to build you a world where you will be treated equally, where my son and my daughter will have equal opportunity. I want my son to be called a great leader, a go-getter, and tough as much as my I don’t want my daughter to be called bossy, pushy, a bitch for doing exactly the same. I want my son to be cheered for his achievements as much as I don’t want my daughter to be hated for being successful. I want you to be born to world where you can speak your mind and not be threatened with acid for doing it, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. But we are so far behind and I’m afraid you’ll have a lot of work left on your plate. But, you might be able to have the pleasure of building that world for your daughter. And the day you decide to, I hope you read this.
(Published on today’s Colombo Telegraph )

What Your Schools Didn’t Teach You

The culture of fraternity surrounding school Big Matches in Sri Lanka is a reflection of the misogyny and social malnourishment within our education system. Most of us are blind to it, not merely because we are too frenzied by the artificial hype created by these events, to see the deeper social implications they reflect. But because our national school system didn’t teach us how to open up our minds  to understand the backward values entrenched in our culture that we continue to hold on to.    

#1. First of all:  School is only one step of the way. Life doesn’t end there.

It’s only in sri lanka that we’ve seen people stay fraternized to educational institutions from their childhood. Not universities, but schools. In the United States, this culture of fraternity is seen amongst elite universities, Sports play a major role in US universities and is a multi-million dollar industry. The annual Harvard- Yale game, for instance, is one controversial battle of fraternities, and promotes a culture of sporting rivalry. It’s somewhat easier to understand why a culture of fraternity may prevail among these university students; elite universities are extremely competitive, exclusive and promote a certain culture of academic thought that they collectively take pride in. And above all a social culture (sometimes pretentious, sometimes not) that binds them.

But how do we explain such a fraternity existing amongst students of schools? If you take the students of the schools represented in Sri Lanka’s Big Match season: less than 10% of  their annual graduates receive entrance into distinguished universities. Is the reason for their return to school annually, to behave as they would have when they were children, an implication  that school is as far as most of our population get in life? No, this is not a statement made to degrade the youth or middle-aged men who go to these Big Matches; it’s a fact.  Statically speaking, as of now, only 6% of our Sri Lankan youth are in university. A significant number of the students who graduate from these schools remain unemployed/underemployed or end up at low quality mid-way alternative higher education programs that do not fill the gap of the education that their schools failed to give them. A majority of students don’t get the opportunity to learn how to think socially progressively. They remain socially and intellectually backward.

*(Facts and statistics aside, yes we can all agree it is also very demeaning:  you attend these schools when you are a child, before you’ve matured into an adult: a time in our lives we treasure quite a lot, but not enough to go back to our sports-meets dressed in our uniforms. I mean, you don’t have to be the coolest kid in the room to agree that fully-grown adults feeling the need to go back to their childhood school every year is a little weird, unless they do so to mock their childhood selves.)

#2. They never taught you the meaning of the term misogyny. And now here you are, ignorantly being a total misogynistic a******.  

When I was a student at St. Bridget’s Convent, during Big Match season, without any consent, boys would break into our school and vandalize it. It was a joke to us. It was so normalized by our school culture that we even laughed about it. But I now realize that this was patriarchy and sexism taking place in its most ignorant form. How absolutely misogynistic is it that boys feel the need to disrespect the boundaries and space of a girls’ institution breaking and entering in such an act of dominance?  

*Oh and by the way, “to disrespect/ disregard an individual’s physical boundaries and space by non-consensually entering it” is literally the definition of rape.

 For the past three years I’ve been conducting research on education institutions in Sri Lanka and potential administrative reforms that could help ease the passing of progressive education reforms, which involves deep conversations with education administrators across the country. I’ve met countless female officials who (when we discuss the matter of sex education and its importance to reduce the high number of sexual assault cases) have opened up to me about having been sexually assaulted by their male co-workers but refuse to speak up. A lot of them and when I mean a lot I mean about 95% of them, do not believe they should speak up on it, they believe it will further lower their chances to succeed in the workplace.  I think one of the most striking encounters I’ve had was when a female official who was a sexual assault survivor laughed about it at the end of our conversation, saying (translated from Sinhala) “it was bad then, but that’s how we learn.” It wasn’t nervous laughter, it was genuine laughter. She was laughing, but I just wanted to cry for her.This brought me back memories of how once, a few girls in our school were assaulted by some boys who broke in during Big Match season. The girls were crying and the teachers told them to “laugh it off, these things happen.” As if it was something that happens to everyone: a lesson in life that we can learn from. Like it’s an experience we as women ought to have. That’s what our schools teach us.  And in a country where almost 90% of the population depend solely on the education they receive from school, our society reflects what our schools teach.  And man don’t they set us up for a treat.  

Anyone with a knowledge in social psychology would know the widely-accepted theory of “stereotype threat” when a certain social group, be it a gender or ethnicity, is treated a certain way, they are much more likely to be at risk of losing confidence in themselves and giving into believing that they are meant to be treated that way.    

#3. They never pointed out the severe levels of transphobia you suffer from; that you feel the need to parade it.

Big Match parades having men dressed up as women behaving in a degrading manner is just another petty and ignorant act of misogyny and transphobia being played out in public. The homophobic terms commonly used by boys and girls of elite schools in Colombo include “faggot” as an insult and the use of the phrase “gay” to describe something that is uncool. Our school system never taught us to be politically correct or how to grow up to be a part of an inclusive society that respects people of all genders, and sexual orientations.

#4. They forgot to teach you that racism is your own insecurity.

The Sinhala-Buddhist centric schools conveniently forgot to teach their kids that racism is a reflection of one’s lack of education. Someone go to the “Battle of the Maroons” to see how blissfully ignorant and backward a majority of boys in these schools are.  The racism is a whole other level. It’s like someone did a mass infomercial for “Sinha-le”. (Or maybe that’s what they were going for.)

Here’s the thing:       

little boys who grow up seeing in this culture will never quite learn how to respect a woman equally, and someday they will become one of the 1 in 10 men in Sri Lanka who sexually assault a girl in their lives, or  the majority of men who restrict their wives to the kitchen and the household, and the worst part is: they die believing they did nothing wrong, they will always believe they were entitled to live this way. They will disrupt their work places and god forbid their homes (incestuos rape is very common in Sri Lanka).

They will raise their daughters with much less freedom than their sons; and the kids will carry on the stereotypes with them. The girls who grow up entrenched in this culture lack the self confidence to speak up against discrimination;  in fact they may never know how to identify if they are being discriminated against or not, because sexist discrimination is all they’ve known in their lives that it’s so normalized.

We are currently in a phase of administrative transition in Sri Lanka. We are trying to change the way the country works. In this process, more often than not we find ourselves facing the same problems we faced 50 years ago. And sometimes we wonder why? We want to make progressive change but our country is filled with racists, misogynists and homophobes. They are not terrible people; their education system has failed them. They were never given a chance. We know that our education system is the root of the problem; the reason we are still living in the 1960s. Yet, we get so surprised when a kid gets expelled from a school for a false AIDS rumor. And we question “why are people so ignorant?” like we don’t already know the answer.  If even the most well-resourced national schools in Colombo seem to fail at teaching students to think progressively, how can we expect the rest of the country to?

We are what we learn.

And they teach us so little.  

மனிதநேயம் மீதான அன்பு

இந்த கட்டுரையின் நோக்கம் என்னுடைய அரசியல் எண்ணங்களை வெளிப்படுத்துவதோஇ என்னுடைய தாரளமய விழுமியங்கள் குறித்து தற்பெருமை பேசுவதற்கோ அல்ல. எமது ஜனநாயக நம்பிக்கைகள் மற்றும் எமது தனிப்பட்ட கருத்துக்களுடன் நாம் தொடHச்சியாக முரண்படும் வயதில்இ நீதியைத் தேடி செல்லும் போது சில சந்தHப்பங்களில் நாம் கவனிக்க மறுக்கும் மனிதநேயம் மீதான அன்பின் காரணமாகவே இது முழுமையாக எழுதப்பட்டதாகும்.

எப்போதெல்லாம் வெறுக்கத்தக்க குற்றச் செயல்கள் (கொலைஇ வல்லுறவூஇ இன்னபிற) அதிகளவூ ஊடக அவதானத்தை பெறும் போதுஇ மரண தண்டனையை மீள அமுல்படுத்துமாறு கோருதல் எமது சமூகத்தில் அதிகரிக்கின்றது. மரண தண்டனையை ஆதரிப்பவHகளின் தHக்கத்தை புரிந்து கொள்வதில் எனக்கு சிக்கல் இருந்தாலும்இ அது எதுவிதமான நேHநிலையான விளைவூகளையூம் வெளிப்படுத்தாமையால்இ அவ்வாறான தீவிர கோரிக்கையின் பின்னுள்ள காரணங்களை என்னால் புரிந்து கொள்ள முடிகின்றது. இந்த கோரிக்கைககள் கோபத்தினால்:இ நியாயமான கோபத்தினால் எழுபவையாகும். இந்த கோபம் எவ்வாறாயினும் தற்காலிக உணHவாகும். அதேபோலஇ முதல் தர குற்றச் செயல்களான பாரிய பிரச்சினைக்கு இந்த மரண தண்டனையானது தற்காலிக தீHவூ ஒன்றாகும். நாட்டின் சட்டத்தின் எமது தற்காலிக உணHவூகளை பிரதிபலிக்கச் செய்வது சாத்தியமானது இல்லை. அதற்குப் பதிலாக குற்றச் செயல்களுக்கான காரணங்கள் தொடHபான நிரந்தர தீHவூகளை கண்டறிவதற்கு நாம் முயற்சிக்க வேண்டும். சட்டம் என்பது என்னைப் பொறுத்தவரையில் சுதந்திரத்திற்கான தராசாகும். ஆம்இ குற்றத்திற்கு ஏற்றதாக தண்டனை இருக்க வேண்டும். தராசின் இரண்டு பக்கங்களும் சமப்படுத்துவதற்கான பல்வேறு வகைகள் பயன்படுத்தப்பட்டலாம் என்பதுடன்இ அதனை நாங்கள் பல்வேறாக விளக்கலாம். நாம் இதுவரை அனுபவிக்காத மரணத்தை நாம் எவ்வாறு விளக்குவது? நம்மால் விளக்க முடியாத எல்லைகள் அல்லது ஆழத்தைக் கொண்ட தண்டனை ஒன்றை அளிப்பதற்கான சுதந்திரத்தை எது நமக்குத் தருகின்றது?

எதிHகால கொலைகளைத் தடுப்பதற்கான நிரூபிக்கப்பட்ட முறையாக மரண தண்டனை என்பது இல்லை என ஆய்வூகள் தெரிவிக்கின்றன. உண்மையில்இ அண்மையில் வடகிழக்கு பல்கலைக்கழகத்தினால் நடத்தப்பட்ட ஆய்வில்இ மரண தண்டனையானது எதிHமறையான விளைவூகளை ஏற்படுத்துவதாக முடிவூகள் தெரிவிக்கின்றன. அதாவதுஇ மரண தண்டனையின் மூலம் சமூகம் மேலும் குரூரமானதாக மாறுவதுடன்இ அதிகரித்த கொலைகளுக்கு அது வழிகோலும் எனவூம் அந்த ஆய்வூ கண்டறிந்துள்ளது. உதாரணமாகஇ வேறுபட்ட மாநிலங்கள்இ வேறுபட்ட குற்றவியல் சட்டக்கோவைகளை தன்னகத்தே வைத்துள்ள ஐக்கிய அமெரிக்காவை எடுத்துக் கொள்ளுங்கள். மரண தண்டனை அமுலில் உள்ள மாநிலங்களை விடஇ மரண தண்டனை அமுலில் இல்லாத மாநிலங்களில் கொலைகள் நிகழும் அளவூ குறைவாக உள்ளது. அதேபோலஇ அதனை ஒத்த நாடுகளுடன் ஒப்பிடும் போதுஇ மரண தண்டனை அமுலில் இல்லாத ஐரோப்பா அல்லது கனடாவை விட அமெரிக்காவில் கொலைகள் நிகழும் அளவூ அதிகமாகும்.

சாதாரண சமூகம் ஒன்றில் சட்டவிரோத நடவடிக்கைகள் முதலில் தடுக்கப்படல் வேண்டும்இ அதன் பின்னரே தண்டனையளிக்க வேண்டும். சமூகம் என்ற வகையில் அதற்காகவே நாம் முன்னெழ வேண்டும். குணமாக்குவதிலும் பாHக்க தடுத்தல் மற்றும் தண்டனையளிப்பதிலும் பாHக்க திருத்துதல் என்பதனை நோக்கியதாக இருக்க வேண்டும். நாகரீக சமூகத்தில் வளHச்சி கண்ட மனித உயிHகள் என்ற வகையில்இ மரண தண்டனை போன்ற பொருத்தமற்ற சட்டங்களை புறந்தள்ளுதல் மற்றும் கடூழிய சிறைத்தண்டனை போன்ற தண்டனைகளை உளவள புனHவாழ்வூ மற்றும் சீHதிருத்த நிலையங்கள் போன்ற மேலும் நிலையான மனிதநேயத் தீHவூகளின் ஊடாக மாற்றுதல் என்பன குறித்து கவனம் செலுத்த வேண்டும்.

கொலை செய்வது தவறு என்பதனை கற்பிப்பதற்குஇ கொலை செய்பவHகளை நாமும் கொலை செய்ய வேண்டியதில்லை.

My Sinha-le

My Sinha-le is the same blood that runs in all Sri Lankans ‎who love their country for what it is: a land filled with people of Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and several other ethnicities, who all have equal rights for as long as they are Sri Lankan. We also share this land with a few who feel the need to create a conflict between its different communities, just so they can stop feeling insecure. It has happened many times before.
Us Sinhalese don’t have the best track record of treating our Tamil and Muslim neighbours well. In the 80’s some of our people tracked down the houses of Tamils and set fire to them. They beat them, killed them in broad day light as the public watched. On the streets of Colombo they filled cars with Tamils and set fire to them, to watch them burn, watch them suffer and die, just because they were minorities. And then we all dressed up in our conservative national costumes and sang “mey Sinhala apage ratai” like that was true. How weak we were. How uncivilized we were.
Although sometimes I have flashes of shame in my mind about my people, they go away almost instantly as I am reminded that it wasn’t the true Sinhalese who created this conflict. It was a few weak individuals who were easily swayed by political propaganda. Most racists in Sri Lanka, both then and today, are products of a bad education and political brainwashing. They are not Sinhalese or Sri Lankan. And they sure do not have Sinha-le.
Before we wiped out almost half of their population from the country and forced most of the Tamil community to flee and find other countries to live in, Tamils and Sinhalese thrived together in Sri Lanka. Tamils, just like the Sinhalese, had equal access to all positions of power; some of the best and the brightest in our workforce were Tamils, their reputations remain untarnished even to this day. Our Sinhalese extremists have very conveniently forgotten that Sri Lanka’s first Army Commander was also a Tamil. Yes, there was a time in our country’s history when democracy was stronger than racism.
Today many years of racism, injustice and bloodshed ‎later some people have decided maybe now is a good time to rekindle our racism. With graffiti on walls and bumper stickers on cars, their cheap  “revolution” has begun. Their revolution can be bought for 35 rupees per bumper sticker and 350 rupees per t-shirt ( no taxes included of course, because these people have never and will never pay taxes.) All funds raised will be contributed to the welfare of a community of frustrated individuals who have nothing in their lives to be proud of, that they consider being born to the majority race as an achievement. Sinha-le means lion blood and they claim to have it.‎ You see, lion blood is for people who understand what it means to be Sri Lankan. You can’t claim to have Sinha-le by printing out a sticker and pasting it on your motorbike.Sinha-le cannot be bought for 35 rupees a piece. It doesn’t work that way.
Sinha-le is the blood of those who stand up for all citizens that live under the lion flag, regardless of their race,‎religion or class.
My Sinha-le is the same blood that runs in those who cried when Tamils were set fire to in their cars by some people who claimed to be Sinhala nationalists. My Sinha-le is the same blood of us Sinhalese who hid our Tamil friends in our own homes when the extremists came hunting for them, those of us who held their hands when they got the news that their life-time’s earnings and hard work were all burnt down with their homes.  There wasn’t much we could do, than be ashamed. We were helpless too. My Sinha-le is the same blood that runs in the sensitive Sri Lankans who were uncomfortable celebrating in May 2009, because we all know there are no victories in war, only losses. My sinha-le is the same blood that runs in the intelligent Sri Lankans who refused to blindly worship our leaders who used our money and our people to fight a war they named their war. Gota’s war, Mahinda’s war; none of these tax-payer-money-seeking cardboard figures ever took a bullet, ever felt the pain a mother felt when they lost a child to a conflict some Sinhala people created in the 1950’s because they were insecure; because they felt like a majority being treated like a minority. How childish were the Sinhala extremists who decided we had to kill the Tamils to earn our place in our own country?
Those insecure, inhuman children do not have Sinha-le. Because lion blood is for lions, and lions are never insecure, lions don’t kill their own kind just to feel bigger. Racists are all fearful children, who are yet to learn how to live in a civilized world. They don’t yet have the strength or intellect it takes to learn the concept of equality, perhaps they are all damaged products of our very flawed education system. No religion can change them. No temple can save them. Only they can help themselves. And until they do, until they learn to stop being so scared of someone other than Sinhalese living in Sri Lanka, until they stop being so insecure, they won’t be lions, and they won’t have Sinha-le. My sinha-le is the same blood that runs in all Sri Lankans including Tamils, Muslims and Burgers. The same blood that runs in cricket stadiums full of roaring Sri Lankans.‎ My Sinha-le cannot be bought by politicians. My Sinha-le needs no bumper sticker or logo, it’s written all over our faces, shown in our actions and felt in our hearts.

The Sri Lankan Social Psychology of Cyberbullying and Dog-whistle Politics

My grandparents were hard workers, who started from scratch and worked extremely hard to build their own businesses.  When they became established businessmen, they took care of their communities. They helped out everyone they could. I’ve heard the legends; it’s almost hard to believe how much they gave back. Decades after their passing, they are not remembered for their wealth; it is  the good they did for others that still remains. When I think of being successful, I think of having what they had in them, the ability to be so successful that you felt no insecurity, or need to demean anyone and you could give back unconditionally. I’ve seen my parents take after their parents so much. My father is from a rural town in Kurunegala named Bingiriya and my mother is from Nugegoda. They met at Colombo University.  If not for how hard they worked on their education, coming from worlds apart, they would have never met, and my brother and I wouldn’t exist.  Having won many battles in life, my parents always reiterated the fact that there is no such thing as winning alone and that we must do all we can to help others win too. 

 Today’s society is filled with people who are looking to replace hard work with shortcuts like defaming the successful through mudslinging campaigns. It’s taking a toll on our youth, and if you look carefully you could see today’s youth slowly adapting this technique and trying to defame whoever they feel threatened by. They are given the wrong impression of what success means and how to get there.   

I always look to surround myself with hard workers, people who work so hard that they live with a sense of contentment, that takes away the insecure need to hate on others. This trait is something I have a bias on.  I see it in my family,  I see it in my closest friends and I see it in the politicians I support.

 There’s something about hard workers. You can spot them from far away. They know the struggle and they live with a sense of discipline that reflects how they got there. And they are happy to pull other hardworkers along with them as they make their way up. Because they know, that they were at the bottom themselves at one point, and they needed someone to help them too. And more than anything, they know it’s the work ethic that matters, and nothing gained by defaming  and tearing others down lasts for very long.

With the growing culture of tabloids within social media, we live in a world where people are continuously looking for reasons to belittle other’s successes. People feel the need to find excuses to blame other people’s successes on, so they can justify their own weaknesses and failures. Attacking and defaming others for quick personal fame and attention is soon becoming something so common.  But why is that?

This post explores the social-psychology of why people choose to act this way towards others through direct cyber bullying and deceptive bullying (dog-whistle politics).

Cyberbullying is so common in Sri Lanka today. But if you look closer, you will notice that it is a very specific group of individuals that is victim to this.
In recent Sri Lanka, tabloids and social media platforms have consistently targeted social minorities and verbally abused them either directly, or indirectly. These social minorities have included outspoken young women, celebrities, and sons and daughters of politicians. While most may argue that the cyber bullying is the masses reacting to their disagreements with popular culture, I argue that this is a sign of a much larger and deeper social issue: social minorities, (i.e individuals belonging to social groups the masses fail to identify with, positively or negatively,) are shamed and discouraged to keep being who they are.  In this process of cyberbullying, society forgets to remember that there is an individual with feelings on the other end of the conversation taking the punches, most of the time, undeservedly. While you may choose to brush it off as childish humor, it may be worth considering the deeper social implications that this culture creates. .  The higher the number of youth who feel the need to sit behind a computer,  cyber bully and shame people to feel better about themselves, higher is the level of social decay.

Causes behind the rising level of cyber bullying?



While direct cyber bullying is cheap, ugly and outright immature it is the indirect kind of bullying that we really need to be concerned about. While anyone who can tell black from white can identify bullying from criticism, the indirect kind is much harder to tell.  The indirect verbal abuse I am talking about is the kind that may not seem abusive or politically incorrect to readers on the surface, but  under the surface these can be devastatingly abusive to those whom the words are targeting. More than the direct verbal abuse it is the indirect kind that is harmful because it comes with its own sense of agency of creating stereotypes in the readers mind.    There’s a definition for this kind of verbal abuse and it’s called dog whistle politics.

 Dog Whistle Politics
 *What exactly  is Dog-Whistle Politics?
Dog-whistle politics is a type of political messaging using coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a much more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. It’s inherently deceptive and convinces the general public to assume, on their own, a certain picture about the target group, that is not directly stated through the words used. Just like a dog whistle,  where the high-frequency whistle is only heard by dogs but inaudible to humans, only the targeted group can identify with the truly offensive nature of the words used.
Below I will explain to you 3 of the most common ideologies promoted through dog-whistle politics in Sri Lanka.
Dog Whistle Politics (2)
Classism promotion in Sri Lankan social media is extremely subtle, trapped in a web of dog-whistle politicking and it takes very careful observation to grasp it.
The hashtag #aiyoSirisena is a great example of a classic case of dog whistle classism in Sri Lanka. Anyone who initially encounters it would not notice the underlying derogatory classism code within it. But if you look at the context of the origin of this phrase and  the most frequent users of this hashtag, the classism is absolutely visible.
This phrase was initiated during the November -January election season when Wimal Weerawansa, in an unsurprising move, made fun of President Sirisena’s social class. He referred to him as “Sirisena goiya” and spoke of him derogatorily repeating the phrase “Aiyo Sirisena.”
We have to understand that what happened on January 8th was a social revolution in Sri Lanka. President Sirisena is the first Sri Lankan leader who did not originate from an elite family and was not driven by the political capital of elitism. He is the first President in Sri Lankan history that is purely a product of hard work and rose from the grassroots to the very top. While most of us appreciate and applaud it, there’s a considerable group of social circles in Colombo that dislike and detest this change.
Dog Whistle Politics (3)
Women are often spoken of as victims, as a group that needs to be protected. And that in itself is a form of sexism.The idea of rape as something that can only happen to women is dog-whistled throughout about 95% of the news and literature available on rape in Sri Lanka.Women are not the only victims. Boys, men and individuals who identify with other genders get sexually, physically, verbally abused and cyberbullied on a daily basis in Sri Lanka. However the media chooses very carefully, to avoid speaking of it. Because the idea of the possibility of a male being sexually abused is socially unacceptable  and an insult to masculinity.
This has also created a culture that believes rape is the best way to threaten women. When I wrote an anti- death penalty piece following the rape and murder of Seya and the huge pro-death penalty wave that followed, thousands reacted to it by saying I must be raped, and that my daughter must be raped. Popular (most “liked”) comments included “I can’t wait for the day she has a daughter and her daughter gets raped, maybe she’ll change her mind on the death penalty then.” As if women are so incompetent that they need to experience rape to understand how traumatizing it is.  As if, my son cannot be raped. As if every woman who has the audacity to speak her mind, and does not share a man’s opinion, must be raped.
Dog Whistle Politics (4)
It’s 2015 let’s grow the hell up and stop giggling about the gay politicians. It’s not just an immature joke, it’s downright offensive and reflects a lack of education and exposure. Some of them are open about their sexual orientation some of them aren’t or have for the longest time assumed to be gay.
(which, btw, is unacceptable: sexuality is an extremely personal thing, it is not society’s place to comment on a public figure’s sexuality. If anything it’s just a petty political tactic used by campaigners to convince society into bullying individuals under unconfirmed pretenses. Again, another instance where people feel the need to attack the successful, and use petty ploys to achieve it.)
If we, in fact, have LGBTQ politicians in our parliament, we must not just come to terms with and accept it, we must applaud them; in a country and a world where these communities are marginalized to an unimaginable extreme, we must be proud that some of our own citizens have found the courage to not let society’s ignorance hold them back from rising above, living their lives and serving their country.   
However, tabloids and even mainstream media continue to dog whistle around this topic. Whenever one of the politicians concerned is criticized, it is not rare for there to be sly comments and homophobic jokes made at their expense. These jokes are sometimes direct, sometimes not but anyone who carefully watches the dog whistling could pick it up.
Dog Whistle Politics (5)
Something else that is frequently dog-whistled is racism. There are numerous times when mainstream media speaks of individuals belonging to minority races and their political views (Tamils, Muslims and others) using a subtle derogatory undertone. Sometimes the tone isn’t so subtle. For instance almost all Sinhala tabloids when referring to Tamil and Muslim politicians, regardless of their actual political stance, imply that they’re pro- LTTE. It is not a rare sight to come across a Tamil national with absolute no evidence of being affiliated to the LTTE, being referred to as a “Kotiya” (a tiger). Muslims and Catholics are constantly painted as an anti-Buddhist collective.
Although we were primally coded to be competitive, and build the optimum environment for us be the fittest that survives, we have to be evolved enough to believe that there’s space for every one of us to thrive in this world. And if not we should make space.
Instead of attacking others in order to get ahead and serve our own insecurities, let’s work hard to build a Sri Lanka that is inclusive of all of us.
Hard work is everything, but it means nothing if it doesn’t serve anyone other than yourself. Thrive to be someone who works hard to live their dreams and help others live their dreams too.
Life is too short for hate.

ඇගේ ගමන ඇය යනු ඇත

නිදහස නම්
උගත්, ශක්තිමත් ගැහැනියක් වැනිය.
ඇය සමාජයට නොරුස්සන සුලුය.
සමාජය කැමති ගැහණුන්
සුමුදුය, සුකුමලය, අහිංසකය.
තටු  සිනිදු සමනළී
පිරිමින්ට දෙවැනිය
පරිස්සම් කල යුතුය.
එහෙත් ඇය;
ඇය එසේ නොවේය.
ඔබේ වෛරයට
පබැඳු කටකතාවලට
ශක්තිමත් ඇගේ
තටු කැපිය නොහැකිය
‘තිබූ තැනක සොර සතුරන් ගත නොහෙනා’
ඇගේ බුද්ධිය,
මතු මතුත් රැකෙනු ඇත.
ඇය  එඩිතරය. බලවත්‍ ය.
පිරිහුනු සමාජයේ හිරිහැර, අපයෙදුම්
නොපෙනෙනා නොදැනෙනා මානයකට
උගත්කමේ ශක්තියත් කැටුව
ඇගේ ගමන ඇය යනු ඇත.
ගැහැණුන් හට සමතැන දෙන
සමාජයක් ගොඩනගන්න
කෙදිනක හෝ ඇගේ දුවට
ඇගේ බලය ඇය දෙනු ඇත.
නිදහසද එබඳුය
සමාජයේ  ඝෝශාවට
නිදහස සැලෙනු නැත.
ප්‍රජාතන්ත්‍රවාදයේ අවකාශයේ
තටුගසා ඉගිලෙන්න
නිදහස නිදහස්‍ ය.
-තිසුරි වන්නිආරච්චි

Our National PTSD and Uncivil Society

We as a nation have been through so much trauma in the past few decades and we all have our PTSD tendencies, and that’s okay. It’s only natural. We are all in recovery; the leaders, the citizens, the media: all of us. Following 30 years of war we  immediately began to treat MR as our saviour, that’s was PTSD. We were insecure and we became so dependent on our leaders. Like children are to their parents, when they get scared. And soon after the war, we, as a nation, fell at his feet and said “it’s okay, you do what you think is best for us. Imprison commanders, kill journalists, rewrite our constitution with your pen. Do what you have to do. We believe in you.”  And then about five years into that we got bitter, we got angry, our media got in the habit of criticising the government. It worked. We yelled at the top of our lungs, we investigated, we shamed the corrupt. We defeated the corrupt out of office. We restored democracy. We made magic happen.

And now we have a leader who amended the constitution so his term in office would be shorter. A leader who is open to decentralize power, a leader who aspires to reconciliation so much so that he talks about it in almost every speech he makes. A leader who focuses on real burning issues that affect our middle class like shortcomings in local food production, the high rates of Chronic Kidney Disease, the increasing Narcotics and Tobacco addicts, environment conservation, children’s and  women’s rights. These issues were ignored by previous leaders simply because they were not masculine enough, they had little popular appeal. But President Maithripala Sirisena has long term plans in the works for all these issues; he talks about them in front of the whole word and also in his conference room with the local experts in the respective fields every opportunity he gets. For the first time in a long time we have a leader who is respected internationally. A leader who gets a seat at the table only Ban Ki-moon, Putin, Obama and two other national leaders got to sit. (Don’t forget, we are a fraction of those nations, in land, in wealth, in population, in power. But for the first time, we are respected on the same level.)  But we don’t talk about it. We don’t appreciate it. Our media doesn’t report it, our civil society doesn’t advocate for it, and most of our public is unaware of it. Instead we nit pick the little things, the typos in speeches, the family member who stands beside him, supporting him as he fights this lonely battle for us. We have let our PTSD get the best of us.  

We spoke against the government once, it was necessary. It worked. but it also gave us a sense of privilege, a sense of  entitlement, a need to always criticize the government; a new PTSD. To quote the President himself “I applaud criticism. Uninterrupted criticism is a sign of a functioning democracy.” A quote I hold very close to me is : the right to criticize  is earned through the willingness to construct. So if you are going to criticize be sure your views are balanced. Be sure you also look at the good.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case of the performance of some media outlets in the past week. Nobody took a minute to talk about the strides we made in Foreign Policy. No media outlet pointed out the humility in our President in choosing to speak in his mother tongue in front of the entire world.  He spoke about women’s rights and eco-sensitive development, things no Sri Lankan leader has spoken of for decades. Somewhere along our national PTSD our civil society has become bitter and pessimistic. We have developed a sense of privilege and entitlement.
We have chosen to forget that our leaders are human too. And we hold them to standards that even we can never live up to.

This semester I’m taking a class titled Civil Society in Conflict Resolution with leading Nigerian political scientist Rotimi Suberu. In it we learn about the absolute cruciality of civil society’s role as both a critic and an advocate in rebuilding post-conflict nations such as Sri Lanka. Media is a large component of civil society. And it’s absolutely necessary that media is civil.  (Varshney, 2001, provides an elaborate analysis of how civil and uncivil media deliver contrasting outcomes in different states in India.) Uncivil media pushes for a negative narrative of the state, to provoke civil society, to manipulate them into disputing the government. The past week, has brought out the uncivl nature of some of Sri Lanka’s media outlets, disregarding the progress and nit picking provocatively. This is extremely damaging for the long run progress of a government and it’s collaboration with civil society. And we need to correct it before it’s too late.

In the coming years, we are looking at mass-scale education, healthcare, institutional and constitutional reform. For these processes to be democratic and participatory, the civil society has to be vocal. Vocal in a constructive sense, a progressive sense. With all this one sided pesimism that the media is throwing at the public, I’m afraid we might be damaging the drive and interest required of citizens of a nation in transition.

I urge my country, especially the media and youth, to leave our nation’s traumatic baggage aside and move forward progressively. We have a nation to build.