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Friday, April 28, 2006

An Eastern Affair

What went on in the east just under two weeks ago? This is a question I have been asking myself since then. The established facts are, following two of the many blatant LTTE actions murdering innocent civilians their aim of instigating retaliatory attacks bore some fruit when there was ethnic rioting targeting tamils. To the credit of the government they reacted quickly and effectively to bring the situations under control. Beyond that there are accusations such as these, primarily from tamil nationalists, that the revenge attacks had a degree of pre-planning and organization to it.

The violence did not occur against a backdrop of ethnic harmony. Over the past year, besides the tiger related violence, there have been other incidents associated with singhalese extremists aimed at inflaming communal tension. There was the erection of buddha statues, thaipongal hartals and the assault on a JVP MP who opposed the said hartal. Given these incidents the obvious question is, has there been a resurgence of the singhalese ethnic identity in the east over the national identity and did it contribute to the retaliatory attacks?

Aggressive identity politics based on ethnicity always leads to communal tension and if not mitigated ends up causing a blowback in the form of organised violence, be it in sydney, bosnia, or the janjaweed. It is within this context that I find myself unable to discount the possibility of third-party organisation and/or involvement in the retaliatory violence.

Over at sittingnut thinks that I am being irrational in engaging in such speculation.

go by facts and common sense not by wild irrational speculation
Am I being irrational and unreasonable given the recent tension and agitation in the east? The facts are thin and I haven't seen any credible investigative reports of the events that unfolded other than the news from the international media, SL related websites and the likes of DBS Jeyaraj and co (If you have any please point them out to me or email them. My profile contains the email address). Perhaps this is an indictment of state of investigative journalism coming out of the SL these days.

I suspect that I am facing a form of the information asymmetry problem given the tyranny of distance to SL. If I am having doubts, and I consider myself to be open minded on issues, how will these events be perceived by those who are sympathetic to separatism and/or do not trust the GOSL?

Events since then have stolen the limelight and given the non-conclusive nature of the issue I am going to wait a little longer before making up my mind. I await the next UTHR (J) report hoping that it will shed some light on the issues.

Also, what did the MahindaR mean in his latest speech when he said

We are also aware that several Tamil citizens have also been killed during this period. My special attention has been drawn to this.

Was it an acknowledgement or a subtle warning?

A note on the CPA report (pdf) - I find sittingnut's concerns about the press statement to be valid. While CPA is not under any obligation to explain itself to an anonymous blogger but it’s reputation would have less damage had it released the report together with the press statement.


  • At 6:40 am AEST, Blogger sittingnut said…

    a good balanced post. you should write more often.

    my comment in moju about you engaging in 'irrational speculation' concerned the argument about third party organization of the riot you put forward. my argument was that if there was any third party organized (or any sort of organized)mob, as opposed to spontaneous anger spilling over, why did it act only on two occasions after provocations (in a regular riot on 12th and some burning of houses on 15th) there was plenty of other ltte (sometimes quite more brutal )attacks against sinhala civilians during the period from 12th to 25th.
    of course the political agitations and even elections may have increased the tension but organized violence like that ?
    btw my comments at moju were not intended to be personal attacks. sorry if they seemed so.

    as for 'press statment' of cpa, recent publication of supposedly actual report and non correspondence between it and the statement, at least in description of riot and allegations about it, makes the matter even more troubling. there is more correspondence(including copy and paste jobs as pointed out)between the statement and jeyaraj's account than between statement and report with regard to riot.

  • At 9:23 am AEST, Blogger ivap said…

    a good balanced post. you should write more often.

    I wish mate, I wish

    btw my comments at moju were not intended to be personal attacks. sorry if they seemed so.

    Hardly mate. It takes more than that to rile me. As we say here, No worries.

  • At 12:48 am AEST, Blogger ashanthi said…

    Yep that was good and of course we share your sentiments about the tyranny of distance - however, often those from the outside get better reports than those who live in a country where the press is heavily censored. Thank God though for the internet.

    s/nut machan - how nice that you said sorry to Ivap. I think I'll have an apology too.

    Ivap - I read your comment via my blog, I've all but abandoned it and it's all s/nut & morqs fault 'cause I just feel we are never ever going to win the peace.

    After i read your post I'm cool now.

    The situation is very difficult and it's understandable that people takes sides. But I just wish that we could put aside our differences and try & focus on how much we could have & how much we are losing & stand to loose if we don't stop hating each other.

    Maybe it's easy for me, my parents never, ever made racist comments about any race. We had so many different types of friends from all over the world. We adapted to other peoples religons & customs.

    I was just explaing to young Electra that my Father moved to a "third world country" after living in England. There he met "old man Silva" who was a Sinhalese, Buddhist Jeweler. He built a Buddhist temple in this third world country & then donated it to the Hindu community there because he was a good man & the only Buddhist in this country.

    He had lots of children and family from Sri Lanka but when he died, he had written in his will that it was to be my father that would light his funeral pyre because they were the closest of friends. I remember going to that funeral & sitting in the car outside the temple the whole day whilst all the proceedings were happening because I wanted to be there but of course my parents did not want me to see a body being burnt.

    I also remember a beautiful ring that he made especially for my mother with diamonds & emeralds set in plantinum in a stunning but simple art deco style. I begged her to give it to me and the sadly I lost it. I regret that so much.

    All I ever feel, when I think about Sri Lanka, is sadness. Every memory is tinged with sadness - because all it's about is loss. That's what I feel - just constant helpless, loss.

    Well you men are made of sterner stuff , I think that's where it is all going wrong. You won't bend, you won't show pity & you won't forgive.

  • At 7:44 pm AEST, Anonymous Pulmonale said…

    What "erecting Buddha statues"?

    ONE Buddha statue was REPLACED with another. That's all tht happend. Is it "extremist" to REPLACE one old statue with another?

    Please get your facts straight.


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