victor will have to wage war on terror
There is, perhaps, no higher sense social responsibility for the
business sector to embrace than the demonstration of resolve even
in an atmosphere of terror. Indeed our businesses could be called
upon to give scope to commerce in defiance of terror that asymmetrical
warfare inspires, when cultural logic forces the country to wage
war either on the prevailing Tamil terrorism or on the Sinhala terrorism
that may follow if a dishonourable peace is imposed from above.
business sector has been in the forefront of those who have been
advocating peace at any cost – even at the cost of justice
and honour. Understandably, bound as our businesses are by a narrowly
pragmatic creed, the concern with ideals of justice and honour would
seem too esoteric a matter for them to willingly endure pain and
face brutality of war on account of it.
equally explicable is the fact that a significant segment of our
population, both Sinhala and Tamil, is seen to be animated by the
idea of defending the honour of the community to the exclusion of
all other moral considerations. Among Tamils, the concern with the
dignity of their community has even given rise to the impulse for
ecstasy through suffering and martyrdom.
is often the backward looking, and not those who are facing the
future with hope and confidence, who would allow a single consideration
to outweigh all other considerations involved in the overcoming
of impediments to living well.
is no doubt a mark of vice that a significant segment of our population,
both Sinhala and Tamil, is not of a sanguine temperament and lacks
a lively consciousness of the dignity of being a man – factors
that undermine in a basic way the disposition to act fittingly and
intelligently. However, habit brings moral dispositions to maturity.
Aristotle says: “lawgivers make the citizens good by training
them in habits of right action – this is the aim of all legislation,
and if it fails to do that it is a failure; this is what distinguishes
a good form of constitution from a bad one.”
this is so, it would appear that historically we have had only very
bad constitutions. We are also an agrarian society. As is often
the case with agrarians everywhere, the preference is for conservation
rather than for change. “Farmers traditionally even excuse
the privilege of the aristocrat in exchange for the shared avowal
of an inflexible cultural continuity,” says a historian.
Religion is one of the most significant forces that unite the Sinhalese
as well as the Tamils. Both Buddhism and Hinduism are ancient religions
that have persisted largely unchanged and unaffected by either the
attraction or logical contradiction of new ideas.
due to a variety of factors, many of us do not put a high premium
on change or progress. It is not difficult to see how the very lack
of progress must be intensifying the feeling of pessimism, unworthiness,
and impotence that underlie thought and action.
many of us in the country are ill disposed toward acting decisively
and righteously due to an underlying feeling of pessimism and impotence
as well as poor moral training, we often give the impression of
lacking even the desire to better ourselves materially. Moreover,
because of our lacklustre approach to bettering ourselves even materially,
the method of conducting our affairs reasonably, by means rational
co-operation has not become a settled habit here.
the upcoming elections will show how far the emergence of new customs
and habits due to the growth of capitalism, increased worker-migrations,
and the brutality of war are proving disruptive of the settled moral
dispositions – whether such disruptions have given rise to
a majority that is favourably disposed toward seeking freedom for
self-improvement which capitalism alone can provide.
Perhaps so, yet it is difficult to imagine the situation in which
there is a peaceful acceptance of the will of the majority. This
is not only because the individual is imperilled in our collectivistic
constitution that lacks a comprehensive American-style Bill of Rights;
it is also because the principle of majority rule has been perverted
by the introduction of the system of proportional representation.
direction of the country is now left to an elite group to decide
- the parliament can act today in contemptuous disregard of the
wishes, fears and prejudices of “we the people”. The
perversion of the democratic theory must be added to the conditions
that are preventing us from being trained in the habits of acting
virtuously. Some such cultural logic, it is ventured here, is forcing
asymmetrical warfare on us.
Tamil liberation movement is animated neither by the idea of liberty-ancient,
which is democracy, nor by the idea of liberty-modern, which is
the Bill of Rights. There are elements in the South that wish to
impose the tyranny of the majority on dissenting minorities. Some
of those who advocate peace at any cost with Tamil terrorism would
gladly have a Premadasa cruelly suppress Sinhala terrorism. But
if we are to become genuine allies of cultural progress, we need
to declare war on enemies of liberty not just in the South but also
in the North.