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A few soft lines on ‘hardliners’ and ‘hardlining’

[Diplomatic career]

* 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.

Political agenda

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 expectations.

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?

Big-time hardliner

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.

Aha!

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!).

US troops

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 Tamil chauvinism.

Landslide win

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.

malinsene@gmail.com
 

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