Sri Lanka politics and commentary

UN- බලු පැනල් එක පිලිබද ලිපි

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On those botched relations with foreign friends...

By Rajpak Abenayake
Some people have been recommending latterly that we subscribe to western liberal values because there is a lot to learn from them, and because good governance and the Rule of Law began because of the Magna Carta, and such. Personally I have not heard such a great deal of gobbledygook in a very long time. The western liberal values that I know have all been values of coercion, never mind what the Magna Carta envisaged for Englishmen in the 13th century. At least that’s how I see western liberal values operate vis-a-vis us Sri Lankans, living in our country. For instance, they tell us “you accept our western liberal terms for getting rid of the Tamil Tigers, or else.’’ What is positive about embracing such a value system, claiming ownership to it, and calling it our own? They say that we should embrace western liberal value systems by ensuring human rights and the Rule of Law in our country. Why should we not ensure human rights and the Rule of Law in our country in the first place?

Western liberal

Ensuring human rights in our country is about ensuring our own freedoms and making sure that our social contract remains intact. But it has absolutely nothing to do with western liberal values.
A social contract is not a western liberal concept. One can find a solid social contract in China. The Chinese governing hierarchy may create some dissidents who are imprisoned. But, the countries that are governed by so called western liberal values are known to send young people to war, sometimes implementing a mandatory provision of a draft, to fight needless wars in other countries. I’d like to know what the difference is? A western liberal ideologue might tell me that going to war in another country, even if it’s mandated by law, is different from being an imprisoned dissident. Personally I’d rather that this question is put to and answered by such a person who has been sent to die —- by legal stipulation —- in such a ‘noble war.’ The other thing about the rubric of western liberal value systems, is that we are told that we have little choice except to embrace them. This is curious to me. To me what is compulsory or mandated cannot be a value system, but has to come by way of dictatorial fiat. Of course in the typical western liberal way, we are told that certainly western liberal values are not imposed on us, as that would be coercion. It is just that we had better embrace these values as else there would be negative repercussions to us...
This sounds suspiciously as if somebody is telling me “we are not going to assault you, but if you do not listen to us, when you walk out of this room, somebody else might.’’ In other words, in my value system, there is not much difference between a direct physical assault and an ever present threat of it. Personally I see that those who say we should not openly identify with countries such as China, Cuba and Venezuela have chickened out. I would even go so far as to advocate some Cuban values, such as excellent health care for the entire population, while taking care also to expressly, pointedly, reject the kind of value system that has foisted a “health care system’’ on the people of the United States of America last week. This is not a health care system at all, but a regime of unjust enrichment of the insurance companies. What is special about the Magna Carta we do not know, when it is clear that the Licchavis in India practiced a very advanced form of democracy over two thousand years ago, whose residual influences such as a panchayat system had been prevalent in our country, and would have doubtless characterized our systems of governance even today, had not there been any liberal democratic influence due to our colonizers —— colonizers who would of course have hardly been exemplars of good governance and democracy, when they were by habit rapacious and armed-to-the-teeth invaders. This whole issue about Sri Lanka having to imbibe a healthy dose of western liberalism of course has its wellsprings in the tangential issue of Sri Lanka having apparently botched her copybook, by eschewing liberal values and prosecuting a war on the LTTE, in which human rights are said it have been rather blatantly violated. It is true that the current regime has shown certain authoritarian tendencies and some level of disregard for certain human rights aspects in general governance, but this is no more than what regularly obtains in regulation democracies not just in the west but other countries such as liberal and democratic India as well....( refer Nagaland.) Nandita Haksar, a respected Indian rights activist, wrote in ‘Outlook India’ recently, of how she visited “Ukhrul, in Manipur, and saw that the India of Nehru’s dream was a nightmare for the Naga people there.’’ She then proceeded to detail the travails of the Nagaland people fighting for a homeland. She wrote further: “Several years later (that’s after her first visit) the entire country woke up to find a shocking, dramatic photograph plastered on front pages of newspapers: some 40 naked Manipuri women with a massive banner screaming: “Indian Army Rape Us”.

Indian dream

They were protesting the rape and murder of a 32-year-old Meitei woman, Thangjam Manorama, by the Assam Rifles.’’ Haktar then goes onto detail how the Communal Violence Suppression Bill, 2005, of India, could now effectively place “the entire country under Martial Law.’’ “The Indian dream is turning into an Indian nightmare’’, she concludes. However, my intention here is not to demonize India or the Indian system, but to state that nations suffused with Western liberal values as India is today —- not the India of Licchavi times (!) - could also experience egregious human rights violations. Maybe India should have stuck to the Licchavii form of democracy that had nothing to do with the Magna Carta, and maybe we in Sri Lanka should have too. Yes, there are many human rights and Rule of Law problems that have to be addressed in this country today - but we have to do that incrementally, in our way, by ourselves.
There seems to be an epidemic of strife discord and lack of democratic values in the so called liberal democracies infused with western liberal values, ranging from USA to England, to India, in this present day. So much then for us having to imbibe from the western liberal value system to entrench the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka!

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