By Lakshan Dias
[Social Justice Activists]
It’s my believe that I have used correct heading for this short article even though its look likes anti peace and bit prejudice. The opening, which Dr. Sumanasiri Liyanage created, is timely and worth to examine and thorough scanning. Lack of organizational scanning and independent and professional evaluations continuously push Sri Lankan peace movement in to a sophisticated industry instead of peace movement and deteriorate its importance as a vibrant civil movement. Some people may not agree with me on the existence of a “peace movement” but I strongly believe that there was and there is a peace movement in Sri Lanka whether we like it or not about its present shape.
Its worth to scan some important points that Dr. Liyanage brought up to support his argument on his piece of work. His argument is the contribution of peace activist of seventies and eighties are more committed and post CFA peace culture doesn’t produce enough results even though plenty of money is spent and its elite. Even though I was not personally involved in peace activities in seventies I have some knowledge on the seventies and somewhat experienced on how does the peace movement in Sri Lanka behaved since mid eighties. I believe that there wasn’t a peace movement as such in seventies and I believe it’s a movement of social justice and human rights. Due to that reason those activists are very much used the word ethnic issue, and human rights, rights of the Tamil people instead of So called “peace”. For many people whom Dr. Liyanage named are from that background and are also founders and initiators of present-day peace movement even though they didn’t identify them selves as peace activists. They were more politically motivated social justice activists, mainly coming from liberation fraction of the catholic and Christian church or trade union movement or old left; and belongs to Singhala , Tamil and Berger ethnicities. Its good to read the article of Ms.Camila Orujuela of Goteberg University of Sweden on Sri Lanakna peace movement and the book written by Ulrich Dornberg of Aache, Germany on Christian leaders of sixties and seventies. These church related groups such as Sathyodya, Devasarana and SCM were among the many founding organizations or personnel’s of Movement for Interracial Justice and Equality (MIRJE) as they felt the dangerous directions of the singhala mejoriterianism and its suppression towards the Tamil minority. There were die-hard activists whom believe by their conviction that Sri Lankan must be a multi ethnic and multi racial society and rejected the developments of post 56 Era. I strongly agree with Dr. Liyanage that these organizations and personnel’s were committed and lived exemplary lives for many years. Un fortunately these individuals and movements also transformed in to figures and institutions when the time pass. This is the factor that contradicts with Dr. Liyanage and his argument on Post CFA Peace professionals. While I agree with his point of rent seeking ness of some of so call Peace figures I don’t wants to see the whole issue in a black and white perception. Its not correct to say this new breed of peace professionals are elite or aliens, very true that some of the recruitment styles of foreign funded and local NGOs questionable as they concentrate more of English ability and reporting skills. As very clearly Dr. Liyanage also know how the funding agencies request reports and the Peace organizations are bound to prepare these reports in order to secure next slot of funding. Funding organizations has created the this situation and it’s not only for the Peace organizations but its applicable also for any NGO that depend on foreign funds. The fact here is passion and creativity of the peace movement is largely diluted and waste due time waste on administrational work and its not the failure of person involved. Therefore many organizations recruit so call young elites or peace professionals to cover this aspect of administrational involvement and programme aspect of the organization together as its serve dual purposes. Until Sri Lankan peace organizations are depend on foreign funds this will be a factor which is difficult to tackle . In the other hand in eighties many Christian base funding organizations was not serious on feeds backs, evaluations and reporting like today but thanks to some organizations of progressive nature these funding agencies also felt is compelled to seek sophisticate reporting form all their recipients due to what they experience from their so call local counterparts. The freedom, which those individuals Dr. Liyanage mentioned are not any more with majority of peace organizations, except for hand full of figure based Peace institutions. I don’t think we can blame or find faults with these elite or peace professionals as they were by product of the current NGO culture which was introduce by funding organizations and various foundations which Dr. Liyanage and I know very well. All NGO activists are part of that culture and they allow this to happen and they all should take the blame instead of few scapegoats . We shouldn’t forget that the people that Dr. Liyanage mentioned or persons belong to the same generation also ended up with much corrupted and shameful situations than these peace professionals. Whole scenario is unavoidable chapter of the evolution of Sri Lankan peace movement. It’s the story and the history of many Sri Lanakn people’s movements that ended up as NGOs.
Dr. Liyanage is mentioning about Sudu Nelum Movement (White Lotus campaign )and I propose that it’s a significant turning point of the evolution of Sri Lankan peace movement which state involved in peace with progressive bandwagon which pave the way to peace industry. I propose that Sudu Nelum is not a peace movement but a government sponsored mechanism for it political package, which targeted political mileage. Sudu Nelum created a biased and commercial peace seekers whom understood only CBK peace. It was a mouth peace of PA and it was willingly take part in crating a war atmosphere as well. Their stance was “war for peace” and it’s clearly proved what I am saying. We all know how much of state money was spent on Sudu Nelum and how much of people power has been used and what’s the end result of it. It was criticized on political reasons by the elements such as JVP and SU (now JHU) for its political Ideology but rarely criticized for corruption or waste of money. It’s my understanding that it’s simply due to unaware of facts as how the state funds were used and where this money came. It’s a know factor that both National Integration Programme Unit (NIPU) and Sudu Nelum received foreign funds through government and direct. NIPU was partially funded by Norwegian Government even though it’s a state institution. The fact I am bringing here is that Mass organization like Sudu Nelum which state sponsored attracted many contractors and suppliers to the peace movement. For the first time in Sri Lankan history peace received a commercial value. The huge mechanism of Sudu Nelum for the first time recruited large number of peace animators affiliated to AGA divisions and peace suppliers as well. Animators were use d to people mobilization and suppliers were given opportunity to supply stage items to food and beverages.
At present after that mass involvement, many commercial suppliers remaining within and around peace NGOs simply for supply. Even with such mass involvement if suppliers exist then peace organization that doesn’t have much people bases or membership base obvious to seek suppliers to show mass support and strength. With out these peace suppliers present peace organizations cannot survive in their big events. There are no organizations except for Sarvodaya and the Catholic Church who can bring masses in support of peace. Even Sarvodaya and Catholic Church I am doubt how far these masses can be mobilize for conscious activism. For me it’s merely following their leaders requests but nothing else. Sri Lanka is going through very pathetic state thousands of Tamil people lost their human rights, more than half a million people internally displace, 4000 or more people died during last 15 months but our So call peace NGOs are active on their own felid.
I don’t know even how far we can think of some thing similar to freedom from fear campaign that MIRJE and Yukthiya organized in 1993. It’s a more risky job but its organized for come out of fear and it gave strength for many people whom feared to raise their voice and talk about what happen to them. “Pada Yathra” and other campaigns led by political parties were also brought similar strength. Last fourteen years since freedom from fear campaign have turn the mindsets of peoples of Sri Lanka and the civil society nothing has happen of that nature. Regime of CBK has brought many peace minded NGOs and funds in to Sri Lanka. Sudu Nelum as a politically motivated mechanism has created peace Industry on an artificial atmosphere and many interested people join or initiate peace organizations either family based or individual based as they found this is profitable. These NGOs are not only because of Sudu Nelum but various other social factors as well. So now we are living in this newly created scenario. We cannot reject the existence of such groups neither reject them as politically incorrect. They are part and parcel of Sri Lankan peace movement . We cannot think of Good old days and so call committed people with left or trade union orientations. We also have seen how some of these people with good track records betrayed when politicos change their minds simply for positions or political favors. How some of these intellectuals kept quite when CBK government turn in to war while flag carrying for peace. For me these peace professionals are genuine even though they don’t have greater political track records or history. If we seriously scanned the Sri Lanka peace discourse we can see how these so call politically correct people abused their stature for money and positions and ego. Politically correctness or track records doesn’t mean any thing today if some one can raise a single word against what’s happening or country and how Tamil people are marginalized and cornered and discriminated and killing that’s far enough to be a peace activist. To examine the virginity of the peace activism the elders haven’t done their job properly. Its only hand few of them are exempted. By using these fresh concern young people as their walking sticks these peace Gulliver’s are dumped Sri Lankan peace movement in the present helpless position. We have no other option than these peace professionals or rent seekers to carry the peace flag in our country. They can be not trained not qualified like the old left or trade unionists but we have to respect them as they at least commit their lives for some worthy course even though they get good salaries and elite. Some have capacities for well paid salaries in the private sector but still working for peace sector. We have to examine the reason behind their involvement instead of labeling them. Many of them leave with frustration and complaining of their bosses whom are usually old males.
The most needy thing of the hour is exodus of the rhetoric speaking, framed minded, conventional peace grandfathers. None of those grandfathers were born with political activism as born talent it’s their context that made them activists either political or peace, as such these peace professionals also will get sharpen by the contextual circumstances and contextual needs. Soon they will lead the Sri Lankan peace movement with new directions and new vision. As I always claming that Sri Lankan peace movement is Colombo, Old and Male (COM). This needs to be change and there should be clear exodus of the above COM power structures and new blood has to come in irrespective of whether they are rent seekers or peace professionals. COM have to give the baton to the new generation and go to their arm chairs to see what’s happening. I believe these so call elite peace professionals or rent seekers will bring new perceptions and modernization through changes with contextual experiences and needs. They will be the next generations of peace activism and they are the Future Peace.