A few soft lines on ‘hardliners’ and ‘hardlining’
* Robert O. Blake, Jr., is Assistant Secretary of State for South
and Central Asian Affairs
* Former United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives
* He is the son of Robert O. Blake, retired U.S. Ambassador
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
That sweet man Robert Blake (we are required to be saccharine-sweet
to the powerful, an ex-diplomat advises), US Assistant Secretary of
State (no less!) has made an observation (all hail!): ‘I think one of
the noteworthy things about the recent election was that hardline
Sinhalese nationalist parties took a severe beating in these elections’.
That’s a bit awkward-sounding, grammar-wise, but I must let that pass.
The man’s sweet, after all.
He ‘thinks’, he says. This calls for celebration, I would say, but we
have more important and happier things to discuss today. The assertion
raises several questions.
Robert O. Blake
First of all, we know the parties that lost in this election:
principally, the United National Party (UNP) and the Democratic National
Alliance (DNA), in terms of party history (the DNA is made of the rump-JVP
plus a few Sarath Fonseka groupies), party wealth, braggadocio and
Is Bob saying here that the UNP is a ‘hardline Sinhala nationalist
party’? I know that they officially dropped ‘federalism’ from political
agenda a couple of years ago, but that party is as anti-Sinhala and
anti-Buddhist as ever, when one considers political stance on key issues
and the kinds of people being promoted in recent times.
Perhaps Bob is thinking, ‘JVP’. Is the JVP a ‘hardline Sinhalese
nationalist party’, though? True, they’ve not exactly toed the line of
I/NGOs and over-zealous diplomats by dabbling in Federal-speak.
Does this make the JVP a ‘hardline Sinhalese nationalist party,’
though? Yes, let’s cut to the chase. What exactly is ‘hardline Sinhalese
nationalism’? Is there something called ‘softline’ Sinhalese nationalism
and if so, what exactly is it, would Bob tell us?
The little sweetheart tells us that this alleged ‘severe beating’
suffered by the yet unnamed ‘hardline Sinhala nationalist parties’ is
‘telling and important’, because ‘these particular parties’ (unnamed,
let us reiterate) had opposed any kind of power-sharing with the Tamils
and with the Muslims.
So those who oppose power-sharing with Muslims and Tamils are
‘hardline Sinhala nationalists’? Interesting! Bob Blake knows so much
about Sri Lanka, her history, her geography and demography that he
assumes that power-sharing is good and those who oppose it are bad.
How sweet! Bob Blake is telling us that if you are not for
power-devolution (is he touting Federalism, I wonder; or perhaps
secession?), then you are bad. He will give us the logic of devolution
soon, I am sure, and will consider in his thesis the fact that some 53
percent of Tamils live outside the North and East, that history and
archaeology do not support the exclusive traditional homeland idea and
that President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UPFA were not elected to
implement the agenda of the TNA.
Bob has been very active in trying to get rid of a big-time
hardliner. That ‘hardliner’ had a name. Mahinda Rajapaksa. I am not
complaining. Who wants hardliners? We are all softliner-lovers, aren’t
we Bob? Bob Blake, ladies and gentlemen was and is and will always be
soft. Soft on the LTTE (how compassionate!), soft on Tamil chauvinism
(how magnanimous!) and soft on terrorism (well, not the al-Qaeda brand
of course, but hey, that’s the US protecting her national interests!).
I am worried though. Blake seems to see the JVP as a hardline Sinhala
nationalist party. Perhaps he was busy running around IDP camps in
Pakistan and Afghanistan and doing damage control in the latter country
where US troops killed five civilians and wounded 18 the very same
morning he was waxing hard and soft on the prospects for peace in Sri
Lanka. Perhaps this is why he seems to have forgotten that the man many
like him loved to hate and called a ‘hawk’, a ‘hardliner’ and ‘Sinhala
chauvinist’ had his resounding victory in January overwhelmingly
endorsed in the Parliamentary Election last week.
He’s forgotten (he’s human, folks; let us forgive him) that one of
the reasons why the JVP faded out is that the SLFP-UPFA essentially
hijacked their nationalist agenda. He’s forgotten that the strongest,
most eloquent and clinically logical voices against devolution and
against pandering to myths and fantasies of chauvinistic groups from the
minority communities were returned in overwhelming numbers. Wimal
Weerawansa, for example, polled approximately 300,000 votes. Champika
Ranawaka and Ven. Athureliye Rathana, both from the Jathika Hela Urumaya
(JHU) who are among the strongest voices against devolution, were among
the top four in the UPFA lists in Colombo and Gampaha. The JHU is not
what it was in 2004, yes, but then if pushing agenda is what counts,
today no one can dispute that the regime has embraced the JHU’s
political line articulated six years ago with respect to dealing with
Robert must have been in a rush, folks. Don’t judge him too harshly.
He says that the landslide win for the UPFA ‘can now pave the way for
President Mahinda Rajapaksa to unify the nation’. Almost a year later,
but that’s ok. The ‘paving of the way’ so to speak was completed on May
18, 2009. Must have slipped his mind. Unification happened almost a year
ago. There’s consolidation happening now.
Blake is positive about the future. He should be! The UNP-JVP
kakul-maattu kaarayas have been punished by the voters. The LTTE’s
mouth-organ, the TNA, has suffered a debacle. The UPFA has gained in the
North and East. Communalists who were meant to hold elected governments
to ransom have been cut down to size. A nice time to visit us Bob. You
got it a bit wrong, yes, but we don’t mind. Come walk a little, talk a
little, and you will get a better picture. Cheers, brother. And please
tell your troops to go easy on them Afghans. And Iraqis. And whoever
else they are training their guns on as I write.