THE CONSTRUCTION OF NATIONAL IDENTITY THROUGH ONLINE DISCOURSE IN POST-JANUARY 2015 SRI LANKA Abdul Halik Azeez Carmen Aguilera-Carnerero
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Content 1. Acknowledgements and Foreword 2. Introduction/executive summary 3. Background and Context 3.1. Background and Context to the Conflict in Sri Lanka 3.1.1. Pre-war and war years 3.1.2. Post-war years 3.2. The concept of transitional justice 3.3. Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka post January 2015 3.3.1. Implementation and progress 4. Theoretical Framework and Methodology 4.1. Theoretical framework 4.2. Corpus compilation 5. Research findings 5.1. Political speeches 5.1.1. Political speeches selected and rationale 5.1.2. Conclusions 5.2. Analysis of comments from Social Media posts 5.2.1. Selection of posts 5.2.2. Content taxonomy 5.2.3. Conclusions 6. Concluding remarks and recommendations 7. References
1. Acknowledgements and Foreword This report is the result of intense and fascinating work carried out since May 2016. We would like to express our public gratitude to the people who helped us immensely in easing the workload, and in making the final output richer in the process. Our thanks, first and foremost, to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) for trusting us with this project and for being enthusiastic with our proposals. We would also like to thank USAID (SPICE) for funding our work and placing their confidence in us. We would like to deeply thank Jovita Arulanandam of the NCEASL for having been an invaluable source of support throughout the process of writing this report. We would also like to thank Yamini Ravindran for the coordination of the overall project and to Annouchka Wijesinghe for support provided, as well as Marisa De Silva who stepped in as liason for this report at the final stages. Our gratitude also goes to Balachandran Gowthaman of SPICE for the confidence placed in us and for the valuable input as the writing progressed. We would also like to extend our gratitude to Niran Ankitel and Bhavani Fonseka for the useful insights provided on the topic Our deepest gratitude to our reviewers, who found time in their extremely busy schedules to read, comment and make great suggestions on how to improve our report: Dr. Encarnación Hidalgo Tenorio and Dr. Juan Ramón Guijarro Ojeda from the University of Granada (Spain) and Dr. Arjuna Parakrama from the University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka). We are much indebted to Imaz Imthiaz; who provided invaluable assistance in data analysis, translation and organization and to Ramla Wahhab for the support in procuring background literature for context analysis. Last but not least, we would like to deeply thank God, our families and friends for being always there with patience and affection.
2. Executive Summary After a civil war that lasted nearly three decades, Sri Lanka entered a socio-political phase in which right wing nationalism held sway. It was a time in which calls for the country to engage in essential post-conflict reconciliation efforts, coming under the blanket term ‘transitional justice’ (henceforth TJ), were ignored. The new government of Sri Lanka that came to power in 2015 adopted a more pro-Western approach, agreeing in September of that year to a historical resolution to promote ‘Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’. The government agreed to ensure truth seeking, right to reparations, right to justice and non-recurrence of conflict in the country. It was agreed that four mechanisms would be set up to ensure the achievement of these goals, namely, an Office on Missing Persons, an Office for Reparations, a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel, and a Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and NonRecurrence Commission, mechanisms collectively identified under the term Transitional Justice. Parallel to this, Sri Lanka is also in the process of redesigning its Constitution, another key element in ensuring reconciliation and a lasting solution to the country’s ethnic problem. 4
The post war years (from May 2009 to January 2015) have seen violence against minorities and widespread racist rhetoric, which has continued, albeit in a less visible form, after the regime change of January 2015. Incidents of violence, propaganda and discrimination against minorities have continued. It is clear that, while Sri Lanka may be on a footing towards enacting long awaited reforms, society is yet to catch up. And if not paid attention to and appropriately countered, racist grassroots sentiment could sabotage the country’s hopes for lasting peace. This report attempts to make a contribution towards understanding public awareness and sentiments in response to the ongoing transitional justice process and issues within its area of concern. The report primarily analyses public discourse taken from social media, and complements that with an analysis of speeches delivered by key politicians relevant to the transitional justice process. Through the analysis of the discourse of citizens in social media, we could asses to what extent the concept of transitional justice has been assumed by them and if they have assimilated the messages conveyed by politicians. The methodology used for our analysis is Corpus Linguistics (Sinclair, 1991; McEnery and Wilson, 2001; Tognini-Sinclair, 2004), as the most suitable to establish patterns based on frequency of use, using real language produced by speakers coupled with a theoretical framework centred on Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (Faiclough, 1989; Fairclough and Wodak, 1997; Wodak, 2004). CDA looks at language in terms of its social impact, with a special focus towards unveiling power asymmetries between various social groups. Our study is based on a bottom-up linguistic analysis of the most relevant elements in the discourse of both politicians and citizens. We give special attention to the system of transitivity (Halliday, 1985), or the way we organise reality through the linguistic processes involved and the semantic roles, or functions the actors taking part in them play although modality and metaphor were also taken into account when they had a special relevance in the discourse. The choice of online data to study discourse has several advantages. It is easier and inexpensive to collect, allowing the corpus of study to be sizeable. Speakers tend to be more honest about controversial topics when protected by a screen, than in face-to-face interactions tending to organize themselves in ‘virtual communities’ (Rheingold, 1993). The virtual world offers them a potentially infinite number of interactive possibilities, providing a rich landscape for online data analysts to reach conclusions based on the study of linguistic behaviour. While this study does not make the claim to be representative of the opinions of the Sri Lankan population as a whole, we believe there are significant factors that make this a valuable contribution towards the understanding of public opinion on TJ. Sri Lanka is a highly networked society and 20% of its population are Facebook users. While this may not be a huge percentage, this segment of the population is highly networked and influential. As studies have shown, Facebook and social media have increasing influence in how information is received and spread1. Facebook and social media in general have also proven to be a potent breeding grounds for hate speech and racist rhetoric, and in the past such rhetoric has gained traction online media and spilled over into ‘real’ spaces2.
See CPA Sri Lanka - Consumption and Perceptions of Mainstream and Social Media in the Western Province http://www.cpalanka.org/full-report-consumption-and-perceptions-of-mainstream-and-socialmedia-in-the-western-province/ 2 See Liking Violence: study of hate speech on Facebook in Sri Lanka http://groundviews.org/2014/09/24/liking-violence-a-study-of-hate-speech-on-facebook-in-sri-lanka/
While we have analysed over 3000 comments of users that cut across all language groups, the demographic breakdown of the users is unclear. Available statistics on Facebook users in Sri Lanka suggest that the majority of them are in the Western Province3. Our findings also indicated that there was far larger engagement on TJ oriented issues from Sinhala speaking users than Tamil. While this may have been partly due to the relative numbers of Sinhalese (who are the vast majority at 70%) vs Tamils, it could also be perhaps explained by a relatively lower use of Facebook to express opinions and consume media in the Northern and Eastern provinces where the majority of Tamil speaking peoples live. In the light of the textual evidence, the various politicians surveyed in this analysis approach the issue of TJ from different angles, and use their own discursive strategies to push forward their individual agendas. These strategies differ when it comes to the audiences, as is clear in the case of President Maithripala Sirisena, whose discourse subtly changes in speeches to different audiences. The President, the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Foreign Minister and the three Tamil politicians surveyed all actively promote their own ‘discursive formations’, using speech and discourse ‘as a practice that systematically forms the objects of which they speak” (Foucault, 1972: 64). They each try to redefine the sets of concepts and images associated with the TJ agenda in a way that seeks to promote their own. The Foreign Minister is by far the most explicit and open about Sri Lanka’s commitment to the TJ process, while the President uses a range of discursive strategies to accommodate the interests of the various audiences he speaks to. The former President, strongly negative to the TJ process, chooses discursive formations that highlight economic issues and invoke patriotism. While all the Tamil politicians surveyed make a strong demand for the increased freedom and autonomy of Tamils as a pre-condition for reconciliation, they at the same time take pains to avoid being associated with ideas of wanting a ‘separate State’. The analysis of the social media posts in the three languages (English, Sinhala and Tamil) was the primary focus of this report. Comments on news directly related to the concept of TJ (its mechanisms, processes and associated international events) were minimal, reflected by the difficulty we found in gathering data from these posts. However, incidents with more direct implications on current contexts and realities did attract a heated exchange of opinions. Indicating that while awareness levels of the hifalutin aspects of TJ among the populace appear low, the impact TJ, and the policies it creates and will create, are higly contested at the grassroots. A very clear example is the huge number of comments which greeted the removal of the defacto ban on singing the national anthem in Tamil in 2015, and again in 2016 when it was announced that the Tamil version of the national anthem would be sung in the Independence Day celebrations. The ‘Anthem Fracas’ was by far the most commented upon incident in the three sub-corpora of English, Sinhala and Tamil followed by the most recent incident at Jaffna University in July 2016. By contrast, comments on incidents such as the sponsoring of the Human Rights Council bill by the government in September 2015, and even the demand by the Northern Provincial Council for federalism in April 2016 received much less attention. With regard to the National Anthem, the great majority of the Tamil sub-corpora welcomed the measure. In the English sub-corpus the speakers were divided between great joy and radical 3
opposition, and the vast majority of speakers in the Sinhala sub-corpus were against it. The case of the national anthem provides a good illustration of the general sentiment around TJ, of segments society broken down on the basis of language. Mutual blaming of the two main ethnic and religious groups, Sinhalese and Tamils, for past events and current discrimination is recurrent through the corpus. These discussions display a level of animosity that is often openly hostile. The Tamil minority complains that it does not feel wholly integrated in society. It is also very outspoken on topics which affect its minority status, such as constitutional reform and the right to self-determination. While in the Sinhalese corpus, virtually any advance of inclusivity towards minorities is greeted with paranoia and insecurity. Discourses within the Sinhala and Tamil sub-corpora are largely ethnically homogenous.There are very few Tamils commenting on Sinhalese Facebook threads and vice versa. Pointing to the language based polarization and isolationism among these communities. The English sub-corpus however witnesses a much more cosmopolitan interaction. While the internal debate within the Tamil corpus is not very polarized, with participants largely agreeing with each other, the Sinhala corpus sees progressive and conservative arguments in hot contest, despite the the latter tending to dominate. This discourse appears to occur within progressive and conservative sections of Sinhala society, and also sometimes mirrors class and political divisions. The third minority group in question, Muslims, is mostly instrumentalised by either Tamils or Sinhalese to further their own arguments. The Tamils see them as a fellow oppressed minority when it suits them, while the Sinhalese see them as a part of the â€˜Tamil problemâ€™ or as a threat to the Sinhalese in their own right.
3. Background and Context 3.1. Background and Context to the Conflict in Sri Lanka 3.1.1. Pre-war and war years
Sri Lanka was given independence from British rule in 1948. In the post-Colonial era, a populist political drive to gain the support of the majority Sinhalese resulted in the Sinhala language being made the official language of Sri Lanka in 1956 (Thirumalai, 2002). This and other policies steadily created an ethnic based majoritarian politics which led to dissatisfaction and perceptions of discrimination among the Tamil minority. In the period post 1956, Tamils staged protests across the country and, in response, there were periodic anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka, most notably in 1953, 1958 and 1977. After many years of failure to attain its goals via political means, upheavals within the Tamil community in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka saw the emergence of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in the mid-seventies, a militant separatist group which demanded a separate State for the Tamils: Tamil Eelam, in the North and East provinces. The pre-war history of inter-ethnic unrest in post-independence Sri Lankan culminated with the anti-Tamil riots of 1983, in which thousands of Tamils died as a result of pogroms carried out in Colombo and other parts of the country. The civil war in Sri Lanka broke out shortly thereafter and lasted for nearly three decades until finally grinding to a halt in the midst of much controversy in May 2009 with the defeat of the LTTE. 7
Attempts at brokering peace between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers had been made during the course of the war, but to no avail. The most significant one resulted in the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) of 2001.The agreement, however, fell apart due to a range of factors such as political divisions and disagreements on the part of the Sri Lankan government, numerous violations both by the LTTE and the government and a deep mistrust of the peace process by the Sinhalese majoritarian South, which was capitalized upon by right wing parties who painted the peace process as being biased against the interest of the Sinhalese4. Many detractors of the CFA saw it as aiding the LTTE in establishing a de facto state in the North. After a sudden dissolution of the parliament in late 2003 and a change in Government in April 2004, a new pro-war politics came to the fore. With the Presidential Elections in November 2005 and the victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa, a quickly escalating campaign of violence waged by both sides saw the complete breakdown of the CFA by mid-2006. The government officially announced its withdrawal in the early days of 2008. After this, the armed conflict escalated with government forces steadily gaining ground. The final years of the war saw serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The LTTE, various paramilitary groups and the Government of Sri Lanka stood accused of perpetrating these violations, despite the latter’s claim to have followed a ‘zero civilian casualty’ approach.
3.1.2. The Post-War Years
In the immediate aftermath of the war, the government issued a joint statement released with the UN Secretary General. It agreed to address the grievances of all communities and put in place measures to address accountability issues and work towards a political solution to the ethnic problem5. However, faced with an absence of progress, the Secretary General convened a Panel of Experts to advise him regarding the design and execution of an accountability process as well as the nature and scope of violations against International Human Rights Law during the final stages of the conflict6. The panel, convened in June 2010, delivered its report on March 2011. Meanwhile the Government appointed its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to ‘inquire into and report on the facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) operationalized on 21 February 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to 19th May 2009’7 [LLRC report, 2011: 2]. The LLRC report was presented to the president in November 2011. The UN Panel of Experts was critical of the LLRC, calling its members ‘compromised’ and saying that it ‘failed to satisfy key international standards of independence and impartiality’ (Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 2011: V). It questioned the effectiveness and ability of the LLRC’s findings to significantly address post war grievances 4
Crisis Group, 2006, Sri Lanka: The Failure of the Peace Process http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/asia/south-asia/srilanka/124_sri_lanka___the_failure_of_the_peace_process 5 Joint Statement by United Nations Secretary-General, Government of Sri Lanka http://www.un.org/press/en/2009/sg2151.doc.htm 6 Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf 7 http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2011/12/full-text-of-llrc-report.html page 2 in Preamble
and the root causes of the conflict. The Panel of Experts’ report was damning in its condemnation of war crimes carried out during the end of the conflict in particular. It asserted that the civilian death toll in the final stages of the conflict could have numbered into the tens of thousands, and that most of them were victims of government shelling. The government was also accused of firing into ‘safe zones’ set up to protect civilians and food distribution lines. The LTTE was accused primarily of using civilians as human shields8. Faced with international outcry and condemnation, the Rajapaksa regime’s response was to domestically demonize the international community, positioning its rhetoric as a threat to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, and creating a highly polarized environment in which terms such as ‘reconciliation’ and ‘transitional justice’ became associated with a paranoid fear of foreign imperialism and treachery. The post war years also saw violent attacks on religious minorities (Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities, and non-Theravada Buddhists) as well as widespread public campaigns against them, often implicitly endorsed by politicians and the mainstream media. The period saw the rise of organizations such as Bodu Bala Sena (BBS. Buddhist Power Force) and Ravana Balaya who have been responsible for inciting hatred on social media as well as public platforms and have been linked to several attacks minorities, and the Muslim community in particular. The country also saw increasing curtailment on freedom of expression and democracy as the government steadily sought to consolidate power with an increasingly authoritarian approach. The international community’s call for investigations into alleged war crimes and meaningful measures to address grievances of affected communities mounted pressure on the Rajapaksa regime9. The regime displayed a strong reluctance to corporate and it denied the fact that war crimes took place on the part of the government forces. It also insisted, when pressured, on domestic approaches to address grievances. While the government’s appointed commission of inquiry, the Lessons Learned for Reconciliation Committee (LLRC), succeeded in coming out with findings that were well received even by the international community, the government failed to fully implement them. Furthermore, the lack of capacity of state institutions to operate independently was compounded by the inability of various political stakeholders to agree on meaningful steps to address post-war grievances. In a resolution adopted in March 2014, the Human Rights Council asked the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to:
[…] undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedures mandate holders. (Oral update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, Sep 2014: 2)10
Sri Lanka 'war crimes': Main allegations http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-13158916 Small steps forward? International pressure and accountability for atrocities in Sri Lanka https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/kate-croninfurman/small-steps-forward-internationalpressure-and-accountability-for 10 Retrieved from: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/OISL.aspx 9
The surprise defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa paved the way for a change in the willingness of the government to engage on peace and reconciliation issues with the international community. The report OHCHR (Office of The High Commissioner of Human Rights) Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) was released weeks before the historic resolution 30/1 on Sri Lanka by the UNHRC in October 2016, heavily influencing the latter.
3.2. The concept of Transitional Justice
In recent decades the idea of ‘Transitional Justice’ (henceforth TJ) has emerged as a means to shed light on human rights violations mainly committed in war environments and dictatorial regimes, and has come to be associated with post-conflict healing and reconciliation of societies. Arthur (2009: 326) contends that the field arose from a period between the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, and Sandoval Villalba (2011: 2) places the temporal origin of the concept in 199511 with the book (edited by Kritz) Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes. According to Arthur (2009: 321), the term was invented to signal a new sort of approach to human rights and as a response to concrete political dilemmas faced in what are understood to be ‘transitional contexts’. To her, TJ is a field of study that evolved from the field of Human Rights, changing its temporal focus from present to past abuses, seeking responsibility for the former. Despite the central role of the notion in the field of Human Rights, there are several questions around it both at a theoretical and practical level. As its very same name suggests, the notion of TJ is built on two main pillars: the idea of justice and the process therein and the idea of transiting from a less democratic to a more democratic context. The concept has been defined in different ways by authors who have highlighted distinct aspects from diverse theoretical approaches but, as Sandoval Villalba points out (2011: 3), all of them ‘highlight the fact that TJ implies a particular set of approaches to deal with the legacy of gross human rights violations and international crimes’. According to the International Center of Transitional Justice12 (ICTJ), TJ ‘[…] is not a “special kind of justice, but an approach to achieving justice in times of transition from conflict and/or state repression13”. By trying to achieve accountability and redressing victims, TJ provides recognition of the rights of victims promotes civic trust and strengthens the democratic rule of law14’. TJ has been defined by the United Nations as ‘the full set of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuse, in order to secure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation’ (Annan, 2004: 4).
Teitel (2003) distinguishes three main stages in the development of the concept of TJ: 1) a pre cold war stage, a post-cold war phase and finally and steady-state TJ that continues up to today. 12 The ICTJ works in 30 countries in the five continents and, surprisingly, Sri Lanka is not among them. 13 https://www.ictj.org/about/transitional-justice 14 Ibid.
The very concept of TJ seems to be grounded on binary dichotomies such as war and peace, peace and justice, democracy and dictatorship, victims and perpetrators and, ultimately, good and evil Turner (2013). The core elements/processes of TJ are criminal prosecutions, reparations, institutional reform and truth commissions. This list of elements is not exhaustive, and other elements have been added in certain cases such as memorialization. The processes encompassed by TJ (Sandoval Villalba, 2011: 3 ff) focus on criminals (the justice process), on victims (reparation process) and on the crimes committed (truth process). While these three processes deal with past events, the process institutional reform focuses on the future:
A justice process to bring perpetrators of mass atrocities to justice, so that they can be punished according to the law; A reparation process to redress the victims of those atrocities for the harm they have suffered; A truth process to uncover what those atrocities consisted of, who committed them and what happened to the victims and; An institutional reform process to make sure those acts are not going to be committed again.
Fischer (2011: 414) emphasizes some critiques of TJ that are relevant when considering its implementation.The gaps arise when TJ is approached at a micro level engagement since not many studies have focused on societal responses, and how it affect people: ‘Very few authors have dealt with cultural phenomena such as social discourses and national narratives’ (Backer, 2009: 66-7). In that way, the particular policies advised by the experts are not based on empirical evidence but, on the contrary, are too theoretical and based on generalisations. In the same line, Hansen (2011) argues his disagreement on the way the concept of TJ is approached nowadays is based on the fact that it is too homogenous and tends to neglect the importance of the context in which abuses take place. He proposes a taxonomy of study of TJ processes around the concept of liberal transitions ‘rejecting a uniform normative framework for evaluating transitional justice, however, does not mean that we cannot formulate some general positive goal of transitional justice’ (op. cit.: 41). In that way, he distinguishes the TJ process in liberal and non-liberal transitions, and within this last group, he makes a subdistinction between TJ in deeply conflicted societies and in consolidated democracies. His main point is that the very notion of TJ has been studied based solely on the cases of liberal transitions from dictatorships to democratic regimes ignoring the rest of contexts in which TJ occurs or may occur.
3.3. Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka - Post January 2015 With the surprise victory of Maithripala Sirisena in the presidential elections of January 2015 the government of Sri Lanka sponsored Resolution 30/1 at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Entitled ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’, it was adopted without a voteThe Resolutionfollowed hot on the heels of the OISL report, and many of the report’s findings were subject to discussion in the process of finalizing it.
The resolution welcomed “the historic free and fair democratic elections in January and August 2015 and peaceful political transition in Sri Lanka” (Human Rights Council, 2015: 1), underscoring the significance of regime change and highlighting the arrival of a new political era in Sri Lanka. In this document, the government agreed to ensure truth seeking, right to reparations, right to justice and non-recurrence of conflict in the country15. It was agreed that four mechanisms would be set up to ensure the achievement of these goals. Namely, an Office on Missing Persons, an Office for Reparations, a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel, and a Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission. While the resolution met with criticism both internationally and domestically, nd among factions of the Sinhalese and Tamils, key Tamil organizations such as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and diaspora organization the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) have welcomed the move (the latter has only done so ‘cautiously’). Other members of the international community, including the United States and organizations such as the Human Rights Watch, gave it a warm welcome. In addition to the four measures proposed, legislative measures such as the repealing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and a review of the Public Security Ordinance Act were agreed upon16, as well as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances was ratified17. The resolution also recognized the crucial role of constitutional reform in order to bolster democracy and provide a political solution to minority grievances in terms of power devolution18. It congratulated the passing of the 19th amendment in April 2015, which helped curtail the executive powers previously vested in the presidency. The Transitional Justice process in Sri Lanka is thus being carried out conterminously with a constitutional reform process aimed at creating increased democratization in the country. While this can add to the complexity of the political climate, as experts such as Howard Varney have stressed19, the importance of these two measures being informed by and complementary to each other is significant. The need for international participation in criminal trials was highlighted by the OISL, and the inclusion of foreign judges in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism was agreed upon and included in the Resolution20, with the government free to only decide on the composition and sourcing of said judges. However, this would later prove to be a highly contentious point as the government faced domestic majoritarian dissatisfaction at the move. As a result, first the President in January 201621 and then the Prime Minister in May 201622 have insisted that investigation and judicial mechanisms will be entirely domestic in nature. What is unclear is if this applies only to sitting judges or also to participating foreign investigators and prosecutors, who are, as argued by the
From Words to Action: A Roadmap for Implementing Sri Lanka’s Transitional Justice Commitments, Annex 1 16 Human Rights Council, Thirtieth Session, Agenda Item 2, Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, 29 Sep 2015 - Article 12 17 Op Cit. - Article 13 18 Op Cit. - Article 16 19 http://tjsrilanka.org/2016/04/16/interview-prospects-for-transitional-justice-in-sri-lanka/ 20 34 UNHRC Resolution 30/1, op. cit., para. 6. 21 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35376719 22 Pm Announces Probe Will Be Domestic http://www.sundaytimes.lk/160529/columns/alleged-warcrimes-pm-announces-probe-will-be-domestic-no-foreign-judges-195284.html 15
South Asian Center for Legal Studies, ‘indubitably of much greater importance to the success of a court than sitting judges’ (South Asian Center for Legal Studies, 2016: 24).
3.3.1. Implementation and Progress To carry out its commitments to Transitional Justice, the government formed the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms in December 2015, tasking it with the design and implementation of Sri Lanka’s reconciliation mechanism23. In January 2016, the government appointed the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms as a body with a mandate to carry out public consultations on the design of these mechanisms, as well as to seek input on any other measures the public feels it needs in relation to the pillars of transitional justice24. In a welcome move, the government passed the Office of Missing Persons bill in August 2016. However, it has so far moved slowly in other areas and it is as yet unclear what its proposed transitional justice measures will ultimately look like. In February 2016, the Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, asserted25 the government’s intention to fully implement the Transitional Justice process within a year of the date. Yet current progress would likely render that target impractical, and could mire Sri Lanka’s efforts at reconciliation in bogs of political infighting and public apathy (Ankitell, 2016)26. The government, functioning within tight a window of political momentum, is facing an uphill battle against increasing political instability; coalitions are showing signs of breaking down and public confidence is in jeaopardy due a failure to control corruption and promote transparency, cornerstones of its campaign promise. The Government, meanwhile, has made overtures such as the re-allowing of the singing of the national anthem in the Tamil language. This in particular was a highly visible, symbolic move welcomed by minority communities and, as our findings indicate, hotly contested by the Sinhalese majority. While the right to sing the National anthem in the Tamil language had always been guaranteed by the Constitution, the post-war regime passed an unofficial diktat that only allowed it to be sung in the Sinhala language (Jeyeraj, 2015), subsequently overturned by Sirisena. The Government also released 1000 acres of land in the Northern Province previously held by the military in January 2016. However, nearly half of the 11,000 plus acres of land seized by the military during the war still remains within its control27. While ethnic issues and overt racism appears to have ceased in Sri Lanka at first glance, all indications point to the opposite. A steady spate of incidents against minorities has continued to
http://www.scrm.gov.lk/ The Office on Missing Persons Bill and Issues Concerning the Missing, the Disappeared and the Surrendered 25 Advancing Reconciliation and Development in Sri Lanka https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCYB3hT034A&feature=youtu.be&t=4183 24
Sri Lanka returns land confiscated by military during decades-long war http://www.irinnews.org/report/101655/sri-lanka-returns-land-confiscated-military-during-decades-longwar
take place, and watchdogs have recorded continued incidents of violence, propaganda and state discrimination against minorities28.
3. Methodology: corpus and theoretical approaches
This report uses social media discourse to assess public sentiment around the issue of TJ. While this study does not make the claim to be representative of the opinions of the Sri Lankan population as a whole, we believe there are significant factors that make this a valuable contribution towards the understanding of public opinion on TJ. Sri Lanka is a highly networked society and 25% of its population are Facebook users29. While this may not be a huge percentage, this segment of the population is highly networked and influential. As studies have shown, Facebook and social media have increasing influence in how information is received and spread30. Since the end of the war, the usage and importance of Social Media in public political discourse has increased greatly (Thuseethan and Vasanthapriyan, 2015). The influence of Social Media discourse, including messaging apps such as Whatsap, on recent political events in Sri Lanka such as the 2015 Presidential Elections has been significant, forming an important alternative channel for public discourse and information sharing (Gunewardene 2015). Facebook and social media in general have also proven to be a potent breeding grounds for hate speech and racist rhetoric, and in the past such rhetoric has gained traction online media and spilled over into ‘real’ spaces31. While we have analysed over 3000 comments of users that cut across all language groups, the demographic breakdown of the users is unclear. Available statistics on Facebook users in Sri Lanka suggest that the majority of them are in the Western Province32. Our findings also indicate that there was far larger engagement on TJ oriented issues from Sinhala speaking users than Tamil. While this may have been partly due to the relative numbers of Sinhalese (who are the vast majority at 70%) vs Tamils, it could also be perhaps explained by a relatively lower use of Facebook to express opinions and consume media in the Northern and Eastern provinces where the majority of Tamil speaking peoples live. The choice of online data to study discourse has several advantages. It is easier and inexpensive to collect, allowing the corpus of study to be sizeable. The virtual world offers a potentially infinite number of interactive possibilities, providing a rich landscape for online data analysts to reach conclusions based on the study of linguistic behaviour. Interaction online has changed the way people communicate, social media has offered an ideal landscape for citizens to express opinions and present them to a large audience which can potentially ‘ambiently affiliate’ if they partake of the same values (Zappavigna, 2011).
See incident reports by NCEASL (http://nceasl.org/category/incident-reports/) and SFMSL Sri Lanka Parliamentary Election 2015: How did Social Media make a difference? http://groundviews.org/2015/09/03/sri-lanka-parliamentary-election-2015-how-did-social-media-makea-difference/ 30 See CPA Sri Lanka - Consumption and Perceptions of Mainstream and Social Media in the Western Province http://www.cpalanka.org/full-report-consumption-and-perceptions-of-mainstream-and-socialmedia-in-the-western-province/ 31 See Liking Violence: study of hate speech on Facebook in Sri Lanka http://groundviews.org/2014/09/24/liking-violence-a-study-of-hate-speech-on-facebook-in-sri-lanka/ 32 See http://www.digitalmarketer.lk/internet-usage-statistics-in-sri-lanka.html 29
Online users can form communities based on common shared values. Social Media users engage in virtual communities (Rheingold 1993, Jones 1995) created around certain bonds built upon their shared common interests. Speakers tend to be more honest about controversial topics when protected by a screen than in face-to-face interactions, tending to organize themselves in ‘virtual communities’ (Rheingold, 1993). Rheingold defines virtual communities as “social aggregations that emerge from the net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace” (1993: 5). Knight (2008) posits that virtual communities are defined by the social bonds created by how people use language and how they accept, reject or gather around certain values. Social media has also transformed formerly passive audiences into active groups that not only receive and digest information but also create and comment publicly on events of their interest. In this way, average citizens have now been given the power of becoming potential opinion leaders. As Allen (2012: 3) argues: […] today social media is beginning to change the form and nature of ‘the media’ in turn presenting many new and different challenges. In the social media sphere, we have recently seen existing boundaries being pushed, not just in what can and cannot be said, but so too by whom and to which audiences. […]
While several advantages thus exist, the approach is also not without its weak points. Demographic information can be difficult to track, and it is impossible to tell the ages, geographic locations and other pertinent information that might enhance a study. In this study, we have made a loose assertion of the ethnicity of the commenter based on their name, which is culturally possible to do in Sri Lanka. However it is impossible to say if any pseudonyms or false accounts are used to interact. The presence of ‘trolls’ and propaganda accounts are also part and parcel of online discourse today. These accounts and individuals can post inflammatory and/or agenda driven content that can frame and drive discussions in certain directions. It is important to remember that all social media discourse takes place within a complex environment of interests, especially given the various algorithms and fuctions that control how platforms like Facebook operate.
4.1. Theoretical framework
This report combines Critical Discourse Analysis (henceforth CDA) as the primary theoretical framework and Corpus Linguistics as its methodology. CDA is “based on the idea that text and talk play a key role in maintaining and legitimizing inequality, injustice and oppression in society” (Van Leeuwen, 2004: 277). Similarly Wodak (2001: 2-3) says CDA “may be defined as fundamentally concerned with analysing opaque as well as transparent structural relationships of dominance, discrimination, power and control as manifested in language […] Consequently, three concepts figure indispensably in all CDA: the concept of power, the concept of history, and the concept of ideology”. With its emphasis on the relevance of history, power assymetries between various social groups and the ideology 15
underlying linguistic choices, CDA is an ideal theoretical framework to study the discourse of TJ in post-war Sri Lanka. While the study CDA can be approached via various points of departure (see Hidalgo Tenorio, 2011), our analysis is based on the model of Fairclough (1995). The model emphasizes the principles of language description, interpretation of discursive processes present in the text and the exploration of the relationship between discursive and social processes. For the present study, we adopted a bottom-up approach of analysis and started osberving particular linguistic features relevant in our corpus (selected after a sample analysis). These were mainly transitive frames and semantic roles. Other aspects such terms of address, modality, metaphors and expletives were also taken into account when relevant. To classify and interpret the data at a linguistic level, Halliday’s Systemic Functional Grammar (1985) was used as a linguistic framework that conceives of language as a social semiotic system. This theoretical approach concieves of language as acomplishing three ‘metafunctions’ (1985: 179 ff): ideational; the way language construes human experience, interpersonal; how language builds up personal relationships, and textual; the creation of discourse through language. The clause is the basic unit of analysis and “Transitivity” is the grammatical system through which the world of experience is construed into manageable process types (op.cit: 106). There are three main processes, material or processes of doing, mental or processes of feeling, knowing or sensing, and relational or processes or being and becoming (op.cit 106 ff); on the borderline between material and mental processes, there are three subsidiary processes: verbal located between mental and relational, behavioural located between material and relational and existential, in which processes are simply recognised ‘to be or to exist (or not)’ Corpus Linguistics is a methodology that studies language through the linguistic analysis of samples of real language (corpora). Hunston and Francis (2000: 15) summarize the pros of using corpora for analysis; the data is authentic, the data is not selected on any grounds, there is a lot of data, the data is systematically organized and the data does not have to be annotated in terms of existing theories. The use of corpora in linguistics, an innovative approach that focused on actual data and frequencies in texts, led to what Crystal (1995: 438) called ‘the corpus revolution’. Today, the use of Corpus Linguistics to approach the study of discourse is quite well accepted and frequently used. As Törnberg and Törnberg (2016: 134) contend, the combination of CDA and CL enables one to ‘[i] study a vast amount of unstructured data and [ii] intend to address some methodological weakenesses often raised concerning CDA, such as the lack of academic rigor in that the analyst’s subjective preconceptions and desired results may affect the outcome of the analysis (Fowler, 1996; Orpin, 2005; Widdowson, 1996; Widdowson, 2000)’. The analysis of the political speeches and comments from the posts was mainly made around two linguistic features:
selection of key lexical words both in terms of frequency in the discourse and relevance to the topic, transitive frames, i.e. type of process (following the Hallidayan distinction between material, mental, relational, behavioural, textual and existential), in which those lexemes are inserted and the semantic roles of the main constituents taking part in those processes. The main semantic roles in the three sub-corpora are going to be the ‘agents’ or doers of the action in material processes (processes of doing) and ‘patients’ or the undergoers of 16
it. In relational processes, (processes of being) not that frequent but also present in the sub-corpora, the main roles are the ‘carrier’, or participant about whom the quality is abscribed and the ‘attribute’, or defining trait associated with the carrier (Halliday, 1985: 109 ff).
4.2. Corpus compilation
The corpus used in this report contains political speeches delivered by Sinhalese and Tamil politicians on relevant occasions related to the process of TJ or in public events in which they expressed their opinions on topics related to TJ. It also contains data from the two official languages of the country, Sinhala and Tamil, as well as English which is the ‘link language’ between different linguistic groups and is also the primarylanguage of communication used in certain segments of society. In the table below details the political speeches selected for analysis. Discourse
Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka
Unite To Build A New Future For Our Country’ Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, leader of the opposition ‘On the Need for a New Constitution’, speech delivered by Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiranm, member of the Parliament by the district of Jaffna ‘Constitutional models of power sharing, challenges and perspectives in multi ethnic societies’, speech delivered by CM Vigneswaran’s, Chief Minister, Northern Province, during the Seminar organized by the Institute of Constitutional studies in collaboration with Fribourg University ‘On Reconciliation and Peacebuilding’, speech delivered by CM Wigneswaran, Chief Minister, Northern Province, with the occasion of the presentation of the book ‘Unearthed: Ten Years in Sri Lanka – 2005 to 2015’ compiled by Kusal Perera Maithreepala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka
30th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva
12th January 2016
12th January 2016
Date 14th September 2015
18th January 2016
Public Library Auditorium, Jaffna
Sri Lanka Foundation Institute
12th May 2016
United Nations General Assembly
28th September 2015
Maithreepala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka
Maithreepala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka Mahinda President
Discourse to the Nation Discourse to the Nation on the Victory Day at the Joint Opposition Pada Yatra - Final Rally
4th February 2016 18th May 2016 1st August 2016
Table 1: Political speeches analysed
The main criterion for the selection of social media posts was their relation to the topic of TJ. However, very frequently public engagement on posts related directly to the topic of TJ, i.e. with regard to international negotiations, mechanisms and technical discussions around it, was rather minimal. However, interest was stronger on topics related to the areas of concern of the TJ process itself such as reconciliation, coexistence and national identity. For this reason, the most commented news items in the three subcorpora had to do with the national anthem being sung in Tamil and the conflict at Jaffna University. The data from social media was retrieved from either posts on Facebook uploaded by different newspapers or they were taken directly from the web page of those very same newspapers. The preference of choice was made depending on the number of comments the same piece of news had, i.e., when one of the selected news got more number of commenters on Facebook than on the web page of the newspapers, we always chose the media with more number of comments. The table below shows the sources from the three sub-corpora of our study (English, Sinhala and Tamil):
Anthem Fracas Anthem Fracas Revisiting Tamil Self Determination Part V: Sleepwalking Into An Inferno Historical, Political & Legal Justification Of Tamilsâ€™ Right To Self-Determination DT: Conundrum: Sinhala Nationalists Against Federalism But Unintentionally Promoting Separatism US Draft Resolution: What The Ranilâ€“Sirisena Govt Will Not Tell you! Civilians who died during war commemorated in Wellamulli Waikkal,
Daily Mirror on FB Daily Mirror on FB
Number of comments 737 122
Daily Mirror on FB
Jaffna University Science Faculty Closed Followed Ethnic Clash
Video by Jeremy Corbyn on the Victory Day Shameful Day
His official FB page
Anthem Fracas 2015
Anthem Fracas 2016
Jaffna University Clash
Prosecution of Soldiers Sri Lanka gains international recognition President removes ban on the Tamil National Anthem National Anthem sung in Sri Lankan Indenpendance Day celebrations after 67 years
Gossip Lanka (FB page) Sinhala Buddhist (FB Page) Sri AV TV network (FB Page) Ape Rata (FB Page) MitaKalinDekalaNeThamai (FB Page) Sinhala Buddhist
Tamil Nadu BJP
On the National Anthem to be sung in Tamil National Anthem sung in Tamil The Tamil national anthem would create a division among people says Mahinda Rajapaksa.
1398 337 66 212 154
Rauff Hakeem official videos Raiz Rafai videos
Sooriyan FM news
No one can halt the rise of another Prabakharan – Wickneshwaran warns
Executive presidential system coming to a close, Government plans to
Sooriyan FM Sri Lanka
Protest by the liberal tiger supporters against President’s tour of England Muslims need a separate province for themselves – SLMC Basheer Segudawugh
produce a new constitution. 19th Amendment to the constitutions come into operation The name of the country needs to be changed as “Sinhaley” says, BBS If Gota is punished, we will immolate ourselves – Bodu Bala Sena Scandal of the white van abductions from the previous goverment Presumed cases of kidnapping carried out by the former government
Table 2: Social media posts in English analysed in the report
SUBCORPUS English Sinhala Tamil Total number of comments
NUMBER OF COMMENTS 1733 2234 986 4953
Table 3: Total number of comments from social media posts analysed
For reasons of privacy, the names of the commenters from the posts in social media are withheld. Their texts have not been altered in any way and any grammatical mistakes or typos are presented unaltered.
5. Research Findings 5.1 Political speeches selected and rationale Even though ‘political discourse’ is easily distinguishable when it is read/listened to, providing a definition of what makes a discourse political is not an easy task. Van Dijk (2002: 19 ff) points out some of the problems one encounters when trying to define political discourse: a) It cannot be defined by topic since parliamentary debates, for instance, can virtually be about almost everything, b) It has no definitive style (despite there often being general formality constraints) and, c) It does not have a common format. These difficulties show that a description of political discourse should be taken out from the level of text to the level of context. Following this premise, Van Dijk (2002: 21-2) contends that political discourse can be defined in terms of contextual categories such as: - The global domain: politics. -The global act(s) being implemented: legislation, policy mailing, etc. -The global setting (House of Parliament, Parliament session etc.) -The local political acts being accomplished: Tabling a motion, ‘doing’ opposition, etc. -The political role of participants: MP, representative, party member, member of the opposition, etc. -The political cognitions of the participants: Political beliefs and ideologies; aims and objectives, etc.
In what follows, we will study political speeches related to the topic of TJ delivered by Sri Lankan politicians. The speeches were selected from multiple sides of the political spectrum. They were delivered in different contexts, from local and international political fora, like the parliament or the United Nations, to academic/intellectual events and diverse public gatherings and addressed different audiences such as world leaders and the humanitarian community, parliamentarians, intellectuals, the military and the general public. Despite not being comprehensive, these speeches provide a sufficient level of diversity through which we can analyze the various strands and focuses on political discourse surrounding TJ issues in Sri Lanka. Of all the speeches analysed, the one delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera, is the most straightforwardly related to the topic of TJ. This makes sense given the audience to whom it was addressed, the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, which expects certain socio-political commitments from the Government of Sri Lanka. Interestingly, however, President Maithripala Sirisena’s speech delivered to the UNGA just a few days later (see below) was non-committed and more general. Samaraweera’s speech is focused on the decisions already taken and to be taken by the government in order to make TJ a reality in Sri Lanka, specifying all the points in which the government will act (mentioning, for instance, the 4 pillars of TJ). The discourse is constructed around lexemes directly related with TJ such as justice, reconciliation, accountability or Human rights: (1) Accountability is essential to uphold the rule of law and build confidence in the people of all communities of our country, in the justice system. (2) The National Unity Government is now approaching reconciliation afresh as a matter of urgent priority. He barely mentioned the ethnic groups of the country (just a couple of references to Tamils) and use the generic term ‘communities’ instead. (3) This includes ensuring that the universal values of equality, justice, and freedom are upheld by fostering reconciliation between communities and securing a political settlement. (4) The Government of Sri Lanka recognises fully that the process of reconciliation involves addressing the broad areas of truth seeking, justice, reparations and nonrecurrence and for non-recurrence to become truly meaningful, the necessity of reaching a political settlement that addresses the grievances of the Tamil people. The minister (and, by extension, the government) promises (through the use of the modal verb ‘will’) to carry out some political measures like some reforms in the penal code to criminalise hate speech and the consultations. (5) For many victims of human rights abuses, from whichever community, where the perpetrators are unclear for a judicial mechanism to handle, or where the practices of the state and society have resulted in discrimination, this Commission will allow them to discover the truth, understand what happened and help remedy any sense of injustice.
(6) Special Rapporteurs to undertake visits to Sri Lanka in 2015 and beyond; issue instructions clearly to all branches of the security forces that torture, rape, sexual violence and other human rights violations are prohibited and that those responsible will be investigated and punished; The two Tamil politicians who addressed their speeches to the Parliament, R. Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran, insist on the need to change the constitution in different areas. Sumanthiran’s discourse is mainly focused on the need for a new constitution in which the status of the minorities (who he always refers to with the euphemistic phrase ‘those small in numbers’) can be guaranteed and the right to self determination of the Tamils assured. (7) I am using the word minority only in terms of numbers “it is always the will of the majority that prevails. That is why it is important that the system of government is changed so that it will not be possible for one community to override the others merely because of the strength of their numbers in this country. (8) And justifiably so. Justifiably so, because if you can’t live together, if you can’t accommodate, if you don’t have the will to share power with everyone irrespective of their numbers, then you must let them live by themselves. Lexemes such as ‘justice’ or ‘accountability’ are not included in his speech and ‘reconciliation’ and ‘human rights’ are only mentioned a couple of times: (9) This is significant because the history of our country, particularly that of Constitution making and also of various efforts at reconciliation, is marred by one party or the other opposing the initiatives taken by the party that is in office at that time. Sumanthiran’s use of modal verbs reveals the strong determination of his proposal. The use of ‘must’, the strongest verb to show obligation or necessity (Quereda, 1997: 217) conveys his opinion on what is a real need and a duty to preserve the rights of Tamils: (10) If there is a recognition that there live in this country different peoples that belong to different linguistic, cultural, and ethnic groupings, those who have different religions, and together, that there is a mix of rich diversity that must enhance the character of this country â€ “ then certainly the First and the Second Republican Constitutions must be done away with and we must start from the declared status that all are equal in this country; (11) There is no place for the Supreme Court also to rule that you must place it before the people at a referendum. Likewise the use of ‘will’ especially shows his strong determination to change the constitution as well as the promise to do it. (12) If you don’t do the right thing by is [sic], you can’t expect us to fold our hands and collapse. We will not do that. (13) You must choose one of the two: you must either choose it to do it under the Constitution, or you must say that we will stand outside the Constitution and we’ll go to Court. 22
Sampanthan’s discourse reinforces the same idea already put forward by Sumanthiran that the rights of minorities should be respected and, for the first time, recognized and be taken into account in the constitution: (14) It would be sufficient for me to state that the main flaw in the 1972 Constitution was that it removed the safeguards provided to minority peoples in the Soulbury Constitution and entrenched majoritarianism. (15) This [the constitution of 1978] too was enacted without the consensus of the Tamil people. Lexemes directly associated with the notion of TJ (like ‘justice’ or ‘accountability’) either do not appear in his discourse or are hardly mentioned, just as with lexemes such as ‘human rights’ or ‘reconciliation’ that have a very scarce presence in the English sub-corpus (a couple of examples each): (16) And whereas it has become necessary to enact a new Constitution that, inter alia, abolishes the Executive Presidency, ensures a fair and representative Electoral System which eliminates preferential voting, strengthens the democratic rights of all citizens, provides a Constitutional Resolution of the national issue, promotes national reconciliation, establishes a political culture that respects the rule of law, guarantees to the People’s fundamental rights and freedom that assure human dignity and promotes responsible and accountable government. The discourse also emphasizes the idea that the Tamil community does not support the idea of a separate or independent state: (17) The demand for a separate State was given up even before the war came to an end. The Tamil people have at successive elections Parliamentary, provincial and local authority elections â€ “ after 1987 clearly confirmed and democratically endorsed that definite policy. (18) And it is in this background that there is no longer a demand for a separate State and it is also in this background that we are seeking to resolve the national issue within the framework of a united, undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka. Wigneswaran’s speeches are of a different type from the other Tamil politicians since he talks very clearly about his views on what self-determination should be, especially from the Tamil perspective out of a political context. At the heart of the first of his speeches is the concept of ‘federalism’, which is clearly dealt with and mentioned, in contrast with other speeches in which the word seems to be a taboo and replaced by quasi-synonyms as we will see later: (19) It is therefore imperative to learn and familiarize with the practices of the federal principles in multi lingual, multi ethnic, multi religious societies to live in peace, security and harmony! (20) Power sharing arrangements must be established in a unit of a merged Northern and Eastern provinces based on a Federal structure, in a manner also acceptable to the Tamil Speaking Muslim people
The whole speech is constructed around the concept of ‘power,’which is the most frequent lexeme in the whole talk, alone or typically in the collocation33 ‘power sharing’: (21) Yet it is essential to keep in mind the fact that a strictly unitary state places power in the hands of the majority and the consequent authoritarianism, majoritarianism and domination of the majority-centre would affect the minority-periphery. (22) Of course our learned Lecturers would give us the knowledge with regard to the various models of power sharing, the challenges we have had in pursuing various models of power sharing and the various perspectives that prevail in multi ethnic societies. The second most frequent lexical word in his speech is ‘ethnic’, both in the collocations ‘multi ethnic societies’ or in ‘ethnic conflict’ by means of which he vindicates the place ethnicity has played both in the recent past of Sri Lanka but, most importantly, in its future: (23) How to recognize our right of self determination within this Country which is multi lingual, multi ethnic and multi religious is the larger problem facing the Country. (24) It is in this context that we are seeking solutions for our ethnic conflict. Also meaningful is the use of the word ‘devolution’, since it implies the returning of something (in this case, ‘power’) that was taken from the Tamils: (25) Devolution of power on the basis of shared sovereignty shall necessarily be over land, law and order, socio-economic development including health and education, resources and fiscal powers. (26) Thus we cannot limit us to look at the problem of devolution from a binary reasoning standpoint of unitary or federal only. Wigneswaran’s second speech is built upon the central metaphor34 that Sri Lanka is a building (masons, materials, contractors, fractures in the building, etc.) that must be ‘reconstructed’ (27) So I use the phrase “Nation Building” in the sense of rebuilding this fractured Country. (28) But what does one do when a building has major flaws and needs repair? When we speak of “Nation Building and Reconciliation” we are looking at reconstructing a building that has had deep fissures and fractures – they could be due to structural flaws, they could be due to bad workmanship, they could be due to sabotage, they could be due to natural causes and many others. (29) What should we do? The easiest option would be to destroy the entire building and hire a new set of architects and contractors to set about building a new structure from the beginning. But how do we know I those architects and contractors will not make the same mistakes? What if the problem was with the ground conditions or was due to other natural causes?
Collocations are “word co-ocurrences” (Sinclair, 1991: 109). “The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another” (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980: 5). 33
In that process of reconstruction three aspects seem to be essential: a) That all the ethnic groups and religious communities work together, b) That the rights of Tamils and Tamil speaking Muslims be taken into account, c) That everybody but specially the government and the media stop intoxicating the citizens with lies The main idea of his speech is the need to respect the integrity of the different ethnic groups recognising each of them as separate realities and not diluting them by mere mixing. He gives strong advice on carrying introspection, self-criticism and an honest analysis to find the source of the problems as well as the decentralization and removal of armed forces from the North. These ideas are also conveyed through the use of modal verbs and, especially, through the use of ‘cannot’ which conveys Wigneswaran’s strong opinions on what the process of reconciliation should and should not consist of: (30) In as much as the Buddha said that spiritual discourse could not be had when a person is hungry, it is important to understand that populations that are fighting for their survival cannot generate solutions. Interestingly, and in the lines of the previous speeches analysed, the lexeme ‘federalism’ is avoided but paraphrases and quasi-synonyms are constantly given in his speech (‘selfdetermination’, ‘shared sovereignty’). The concept of ‘separation’, just as in Sampanthan’s speech, is totally rejected: (31) Proposals for the Tamil Speaking Peoples to be granted equal status as their Sinhalese brethren are hardly proposals for separation. The tone of the discourse is conciliatory and mild but containing very determined ideas and historical claims. The most frequent lexeme is ‘reconciliation’: (32) If the Military were progressively diminished and during the past seven years concrete steps to solve the ethnic question were taken we would already have been on the Road to Recovery, Rebuilding, Revival, Regeneration and Reconciliation. Another central lexeme that is especially relevant in Wigneswaran’s speech is ‘trust’: (33) Trust is not born at the end of the barrel of a gun. Nor can it flourish when private lands are occupied by Military Forces. (34) Thus building up trust among the communities is the way to Reconciliation. ‘Trust’ is the key concept upon which reconciliation can be built upon to the point that without the first, the second would not be possible. The word ‘justice’ is never mentioned and ‘accountability’ just once: (35) Many more steps are needed such as having a proper plan including economic plans, measures to ensure accountability, transparency, good governance etc. Each of President Maithripala Sirisena’s speeches were delivered in different contexts and to different audiences, following is a separate analysis of each of them. Since the speeches were delivered in Sinhala, the translation into English is provided below the original quotation. 25
The discourse given by Maithripala Sirisena to the UNGA on September 30, 2015 portrays the country’s strong willingness to move forward into excellence in human rights and democracy, asserting its intent and goal to become a model nation of the UN. Another dominant discourses when Sri Lanka is in agent position, is its portrayal in the light of its already excellent standing within the UN and international community. When the country is a Theme (or, to put it simply, an inanimate Patient) is portrayed on two occasions as the target of the new government’s reform programs, and on one occasion as the victim of a conflict. The president tries very hard to show the UN that Sri Lanka is a model country, striving for acceptance within the international community, and it will prove it by being pro human rights and pro reconciliation organizations?. He ingratiates himself with the international community by using international definitions of HR and deferring to the UN. In his use of the phrase ‘human rights’, he mostly brings it up in relation to the UN and the international community, often highlighting its tenents and requirements. This reinforces Sirisena’s openness to work with an international consensus on Sri Lanka’s reconciliation mechanism. This also implies a rejection of a purely ‘local definition’ of the phrase and a domestically designed process as insisted upon by the previous regime. (36) එක්සත් ජාතීන්ගේ මූලික පරමාර්ථයක් වන්ගන් මානව හිමිකම් පිළිගැනීම, ආරක්ෂා කිරීම සහ ව්යාප්ත කිරීමයි. ශ්රී ලංකා ජනරජය එම වගකීම් ගනොපිරිගහලා ඉටු කරනු ඇති බව ගමහිලා ප්රකාශ කරමි. One of the UN’s primary goals is to enjoin, protect and enforce human rights. The Sri Lankan Republic is committed to executing this purpose completely. His discourse portrays the country’s strong willingness to move forward into excellence in human rights and democracy, asserting its intent and goal to become a model nation of the UN. ‘Sri Lanka’ for this purpose is portrayed as the maker of its own destiny. (37) එම රටවල් සමග අදට වඩා සක්රීය සංවාදයක නිරත වීමටත් ඒ ගවනුගවන් හඬ නැගීමටත් ශ්රී ලංකාව සූදානමින් සිටී Sri Lanka is prepared to engage in constructive conversation with these countries, and to be vocal in this intent, more so than today. In addition, he attempts to reinforce Sri Lanka’s relationship with the United Nations by highlighting its illustrious history, attempting to erase thereby more recent, negative associations. (38)
ප්රජාතන්ත්රවාදයට හිමකම් කියන රටවල් අතර ඉදිරිගයන් සිටියි. Sri Lanka is foremost among the oldest democracies of South Asia. This is evidenced also in his use of the term ‘terrorism’. ‘Terrorism’ is portrayed as an agent except for two instances in which it is a theme (39 and 40). All of the references to terrorism place the phenomenon within its global context. i.e. ‘terrorism’ is treated as a monolithic entity, a global problem, a branch of which was affecting Sri Lanka.
In this way Sirisena seeks to associate the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) with the global war against terror. It aligns the GoSL with the nation states of the international community along a binary in which legitimate power (the governments of the world) are in conflict against illegitimate attempts at seizing power. The speech also sets up the GoSL as a hero of this conflict, having annihilated a terrorist outfit where everyone else has failed. (39) අප මැඬ පැවැත්වූගේ ගලෝකගේ දරුණුතම ත්රස්තවාදී ව්යාපාරයකි What we managed to control was one of the world’s deadliest terrorist outfits. (40) එම අත්දැකීම් අද දවගස් ත්රස්තවාදගයන් බැට කන සංවර්ධනය ගවමින් පවතින රටවල් සමග ගබදා හදා ගත හැකි බව අපගේ විශ්වාසයයි. We believe our experience (with terrorism) can be shared with other developing countries which are being attacked by terrorism. Sirisena often uses the pronoun ‘I’ when he wants to drive home certain points and express his opinions, and often uses the term ‘we’ in an inclusive sense to make reference to all the citizens of ‘Sri Lanka’ implying a united and undivided country by reason of ethnic or religious belonging with him as its representative. This also creates the impression that he is assuming personal responsibility for the country. Sirisena is careful to make sure that economic development is represented as the primary motive for internal peace and harmony in Sri Lanka. The word ‘reconciliation’ is mentioned in relation to economic development. (41) ඒ අනුව, ගමතැන් සිට, රටක් ගලස, අපගේ නව ප්රගව්ශය වන්ගන්, සංහිඳියාව සහ සංවර්ධනය එක්වර සාක්ෂාත් කර ගැනීමයි. From now onwards, as a country, our goal is to secure reconciliation and economic development together at the same time. The troubled history of Sri Lanka and the causation of conflict are vaguely alluded to as being a result of a hopeless youth whose dreams have been thwarted. (42) තරුණයින්ගේ බලාගපොගරොත්තු කඩවීම ගබොගහෝ විට ගැටුමකට මූලය සපයයි. The thwarting of the hopes of young people is often the cause for conflict. While erasing the political, historical, cultural and social aspects that form the root causes of the war, this argument helps set the foundation and reinforce the main thrust of the quid pro quo argument that Sirisena sets up: reconciliation can only happen if Sri Lanka is aided economically by the international community. When ‘Sri Lanka’ is a theme in the sentence, it is portrayed as the target of the new government’s reform programs, and on one occasion as the victim of a conflict. This clearly posits the desirable destiny of the country as being the responsibility of the government, and places it within the focus of its promises.
(43) එගමන් ම, සාමය, ආරක්ෂාව සහ මානව හිමිකම් ශ්රී ලංකාව තුළ තවදුරටත් යථාර්ථයක් බවට පත් කිරීම සඳහා වන ක්රියාකාරී සහ ප්රාගයෝගික වැඩපිළිගවළක් ගගොඩ නැගීමට මගේ රජය කැප වී සිටියි. My government is committed to carrying out activities towards making peace, security and human rights a further reality in Sri Lanka. He is also careful to not overcommit on the Transitional Justice agenda. When Sri Lanka’s civil war is mentioned, it is always mentioned in terms of a ‘conflict’. Sirisena is careful to avoid ascribing blame for the conflict and often portrays it in passive voice. (44) සභාපතිතුමනි, ශ්රී ලංකාව ගැටුමකට මුහුණ දුන් රටකි. Sri Lanka is a country that has faced conflict. When terms such as ‘truth’, ‘past’ and ‘justice’, key terms in the TJ discourse, are mentioned they are done so in general terms and not in application to specific incidents, or groups. In the speech Maithreepala Sirisena gave to the Nation on the Independence day this year, he tries to promote aspects such as peace and reconciliation as essential for goals such as economic progress and development,through the positioning Colonialism of as a project that essentially disturbed a pre-existing harmony in Sri Lanka. Phrases such as the below position other former colonies who have managed to successfully carry out internal reconciliation between their various factions as having had huge developmental success as a result. This strategy is essentially trying to provide a financial motive to reconcile. Attempting to address both Sinhalese and Tamil grievances thereby. (45) අපිට පසුව නිදහස ලබාගත් ගලෝකගේ ගබොගහෝ රටවල් සිය රට තුළ ජාතීන්ගේ සමගිය සංහිඳියාව, ආගමික සමගිය, භාෂාමය සමගිය ඒ සියල්ල තුළ පුළුල් සංහිඳියා පිළිගවත ශක්තිමත් කරමින් ගේශපාලන සහ සමාජ ප්රතිසංස්කරණ කළ නිසා ඔවුන් අද ප්රබල ජාතීන් ගලස දියුණුගවමින් ඉදිරියට ගගොස් තිගබනවා. Countries who have obtained independence after us have managed to instill unity, coexistence, religious and language unity comprehensively in re-developing their political and social landscapes. This has resulted in them progressing and becoming powerful countries. Interestingly, the speech makes no mention of the terms ‘minorities’, ‘justice’, ‘the past’ and ‘truth’. Sirisena actively avoids making references that brush too specifically on the context of Sri Lanka’s conflict issues. Reconciliation is portrayed as a ticket towards gaining economic development. Sirisena compares the accomplishments of countries that achieved reconciliation after their own independence and highlights the economic development that has taken place as a result. (46)
මිත්රශීලිභාවය ඇති කිරීම සඳහා කළ යුතු කාර්යයන් අප විසින් කළා නම් 80
දශකගේ මුල් භාගගේ ආරම්භ වී 26 වසරක් ගගවුණු ම්ගල්ච්ඡ ත්රස්තවාදී යුේධයට අපට මුහුණදීමට සිදුගනොවනු ඇතැයි මම විශ්වාස කරනවා. But If we had done what was necessary to secure coexistence, brotherhood and friendship among ethnic groups, I believe that the barbaric terrorist war that started in the eighties and continued for 26 years we would have not needed to face prolonged war. Sirisena spends a considerable amount of time attacking his political opponents. While specifics are not mentioned, he uses the platform to denounce their attempts at sabotaging his, and thus the nation’s agenda and desire for progress, for petty political purposes. (47) විගශ්ෂගයන්ම ආරක්ෂක හමුදා සාමාජිකයින්ගේ සිත් ගනොසන්සුන් කරන ආකාරයට ගනොගයකුත් ආකාරගේ වැරදි මත, අදහස් ගම් සම්බන්ධගයන් දේශපාලන ප්රතිවාදින් සහ ගනොගයක් අන්තවාදී අදහස් දරන අය කි්රයාත්මක කරන බව ගපනී යනවා. There are various false rumors, ideas being spread by (my) political opponents and extremists, especially in a manner that unsettles the minds of the security forces, His references to ‘Human Rights’ in the speech does not address the actual concept, instead he defers to the UN Human Rights Commission, an issue which became the focal point of much of the crisis between the previous regime and the international community. (48) පශ්චාත් ගැටුම්කාරී යුගය තුළ තිබූ කාර්යයන් අප විසින් ඉටු ගනොකිරීගම් ප්රතිඵලයක් ගලස එක්සත් ජාතින්ගේ මානව හිමිකම් ගකොමිෂන් සභාව හරහා අපට ගයෝජනා මාලාවක් ඉදිරිපත් වුණා ඒවා කි්රයාත්මක කිරීම සම්බන්ධගයන්. As a result of us not fulfilling the duties we should have in the post-war climate, the UNHRC presented us with a range of proposals in connection with implementing (human rights).. Here Sirisena projects transitional justice and reconciliation mechanisms as a duty of Sri Lanka for its own sake. And not purely because it is a suggestion by the international community On Victory Day (or National War Hero Celebration Day – his rebranded effort35) on May 18th, the president made references to reconciliation as a carrot in exchange for development that are largely missing on the surface. The need for healing is strongly emphasized. And even though causation and agency are erased, there is much discussion of pre-war history and mistakes that ‘happened’, adding weight to the need to reflect on the past. The post-indpendence era is portrayed as a time period when steps were taken to create co-existence but fell short. The use of ‘we’ in this context is also interesting as Sirisena seems to be referring to the majority Sinhalese in this context.
(49) ඒ තුළ අපි ලැබූ නිදහස සමග අපි ඉන් පසුව ජාතීන් අතර රට තුළ සමගිය සහජීවනය සංහිඳියාව ඇති කර ගැනීමට ගත්තා වූ ක්රියාමාර්ගවල අඩුලුහුඬුකම් රාශියක් ඇති වුණා. (After independence) there were many gaps and weaknesses in our efforts to create unity and coexistence among the various ethnicities in the country. In this address to the military, Sirisena is uncharacteristically more explicit on the non-economic benefits of reconciliation, and forceful in his emphasis on its importance for peace and harmony, in one instance even going as far as to mention specific mechanisms of transitional justice. (50) සංවර්ධනය තුළ පමණක් සංහිඳියා පරමාර්ථ ඉටු කර ගැනීමට පුළුවන්වන්ගන් නැහැ. සංහිඳියා පිළිගවතක් පිළිබඳව කථා කරන විට සත්ය ගදේෂණය, යුක්තිය ඉටු කිරීම, සියලූ ජාතීන් අතර බිය සැක අවිශ්වාසය නැති කිරීම, සියලූ ජාතීන් අතර විශ්වාසය ඇති කර ගැනීම.... We cannot hope to achieve reconciliation through development alone. When we talk about a reconciliation process we also need truth seeking, justice, the eradication of suspicion and fear among ethnic groups and the creation of trust among ethnic groups...
There is also a tendency to trivialize the origin of the war, and reduce the systematic racism against Tamils to one of an economic problem originating over a dispute over farming, a gross reduction of the complexity of the conflict’s origins and its many structural and deep seated causations. In this way he once again indirectly connects the cause for the war as economic, ultimately presenting the same argument for reconciliation in exchange for economic prosperity as his main thrust. But in this speech he does position reconciliation as a goal of development that must also be achieved through truth seeking and justice, instead of the other way about (as in the Feb ‘16 speech) (51) යුේධය ආරම්භ වූගේ ගගොවි ජනතාවගේ ජලය පිළිබඳව ඇති වු ප්රශ්නයක් සමගයි. The war began over an issue between farmers to do with water The word ‘terrorism’ is always preceded with the word ම්ගල්ච්ඡ, which means savage/barbaraic, emphasizing its inhumanity. Thus, terrorism is portrayed as something that ‘we’ had to ‘face’. Causation and a critical examination of what is referred to as such is not undertaken.. (52)අවසාන ප්රතිඵලය වුගේ ම්දේච්ඡ ත්රස්තවාදයකට අප සියලූගදනාටම මුහුණ දීමට සිදු වීමයි. The end result was that all of us had to face a brutal terrorism
While there is invoking of a ‘golden period’ in the past, just as in the case of the February 4th speech.
(53) එදා දමිළ, මුස්ලිම්, සියලූ ජාතීන් සගහෝදරත්වගයන් කටයුතු කළා. ඒ යුගය තුළ සැබෑ නායකයින් තමන්ගේ වගකීම සහ යුතුකම ජනතාව සමග ඉටු කරනු ලැබුවා. Back then, Tamils, Muslims, all ethnicities lived in brotherhood. In that era, true leaders carried out their responsibilities and duties with the people. The emergence of ethnic disharmony as a precursor to conflict is similarly passivized. (54) ඒනිසා අගප් රගේ ජාතීන් අතර අසමගිය ගගොඩනැගුණා. අවසාන ප්රතිඵලය වුගේ ම්දේච්ඡ ත්රස්තවාදයකට අප සියලූගදනාටම මුහුණ දීමට සිදු වීමයි. This developed disharmony among the ethnicities. The final result of this was that we all had to face a brutal terrorism. As in the speech delivered on 4 Feb 2016, this speech also contains a bogeyman, in this case, the ‘extremists’ who are trying to destabilize the efforts of the new government to enact reconciliation. They could be the racist face of the political manipulators he is referring to in that speech. When speaking of the defeat of terrorism as well as the emergence of ethnic strife, he is careful to remove agency thereby, avoiding direct reference to the perpetrators of the war victory (the army, the government) and triumphalist rhetoric. At the same time, he avoids blaming the majority or any single cause or entity for the emergence of conflict between ethniticities, not ascribing blame. In this way, he avoids angering both liberal and international audiences as well as more nationalistic and right wing audiences. In relation to the use of pronouns, ‘we’ seems to refer exclusively to those who are not on the side of the LTTE, i.e. the ones who had to ‘face’ the LTTE (“we suffered from the experiences of the war with the despicable LTTE, We all had to face terrorism”). In this remark, Sirisena includes not only Sinhalese but also Tamils, his intent being to discredit the LTTE as an entity that stood for Tamils. In the post-war context, he refers to ‘us’ as having failed in ‘our’ ‘duties’. Here he is obviously referring to those with agency and power, therefore appearing to address the Sinhala majority. The phrase ‘our soldiers’, for instance, is used on several occasions, and the sacrifices that ‘we’ made together are celebrated. The armed forces are directly addressed by the use of ‘you’. Sirisena is imparting specific messages to them here. Interestingly it seems as if he is trying to get the armed forces on his side. This might also explain the more direct appeal to a moral landscape as the military may not be swayed by purely materialistic rewards, and thus he delivers a speech in which idealism is heavily present. The last of the speeches analysed was delivered by former president, Mahinda Rajapasa, in a final rally at the Joint Opposition Pada Yatra; it largely touches on economic issues and the corruption of the existing government. The only time in which he touches on Transitional Justice in this speech, delivered at the culmination of the rally he led from Kandy to Colombo, is when he speaks of the plight of the soldiers in the new regime.
The soldiers are referred to with the Sinhala term ‘Ranaviruwo’, which loosely translated means ‘War Heroes’. The choice of this term instills in the soldiers heroic, patriotic and nationalistic qualities. (55) Me rate ranaviruwanta slakanawa. (They say that) The Soldiers of this country are looked after very well. (56) me monawada Mahindage anduwa, kaanu kapanna danawa Ranaviruwo, mal pochchi ussanawa ranaviruwo Whereas the soldiers in Mahinda’s time were assigned to build drains and carry flower pots (57) Ada ranaviruwo lawa karawana weda tika dannawanang. If you only knew what they are making The Soldiers do today…! (58) Pension ekath kapala, hamadema kapala ranawiruwage. They’ve cut them off from their (Soldiers) pension. They have been stripped of everything. (59) Ranaviruwa, maha parata adala dala, kunu baldiyata adala dala. Hira gewal walata adala dala. The soldiers have been dragged down to the roads, the garbage and prisons! (60) Dang hadanawa, ranaviruwo tika, yudha adhikaranayata (yawanna). And now they’re trying to send The Soldiers to the yudha adhikaranaya (war tribunals) (61) Yudha adhikaranayata ida denawada? Ida demuda? Mekata wiruddawai me avilla inne Will we allow war tribunals? Will we allow it? This is what we have gathered against here The soldiers are frequently referred to in material processe as patients. They are portrayed as always being manipulated by the political regimes of the time. According to Mahinda, they are being mistreated in the current regime even more than they were accused of being maltreated in his. The soldiers are portrayed as a symbol of national integrity, mistreating soldiers is shown as a betrayal of thecountry itself. Mahinda’s final comment referring to soldiers being ‘turned over’ to the war courts is depicted by him to constitute the ultimate betrayal. Mahinda uses the soldiers as an entry point to challenge the Transitional Justice agenda, of which war crime tribunals are one of the most controversial elements. He finishes off this part of his speech by asserting that war crime tribunals will be opposed at any cost.
In the light of the textual evidence, it can be argued that the various politicians surveyed in this analysis approach the issue of TJ from different angles, and have their own discursive strategies to push forward their individual agendas. These strategies differ when it comes to the audiences, as is clear in the case of President Maithripala Sirisena, whose discourse in three different speeches to three different audiences display unique characteristics in terms of the focus and narratives proffered. To the general Sri Lankan public he justifies the urgent need for Sri Lanka to join the international community for it to progress economically. Reconciliation, too, is offered as a ‘carrot’ that will further development and prosperity. The mirror image of this approach is evident in his address to the international community, where he promises reconciliation whilst also insisting that it will not happen without economic development. Sirisena’s role in this sense is that of a middleman. He attempts to indirectly persuade the international community to dispense with all the largesse at its disposal in order to help Sri Lanka develop, ensuring reconciliation in return. Sirisena is focused on erasing Sri Lanka’s recent tumultuous history with the international community by continuously invoking its glorious past relationship with the UN. He attempts to re-position its controversial conflict as a victory against ‘terrorism’, conceiving the term in a monolithic fashion i.e. equating it with all ‘terrorism’ everywhere, thus aligning himself globally within the War on Terror and giving legitimacy to Sri Lanka’s controversial war victory. However, he does this without over-committing to specifics on the TJ agenda. He is also careful in his discussion of the context of the conflict, and does not ascribe blame to any party whilst discussing it. The conflict is always referred to in the passive form; attributing direct agency and causation for it is always carefully avoided. When he does allude to causation, as he does in the Independence Day speech to the general public and the War Heroes Day speech to the military, he projects it purely as a problem inherited by colonial powers that they (Sri Lankans/the Sinhalese) failed to ‘fix’, essentially absolving the majority of blame for it. In the context of truth seeking and the other TJ mechanisms, this attitude is not a positive one. However, these arguments may not necessarily be revelatory of Maithripala’s actual ideological beliefs and notions about the TJ process, but may rather be more revelatory about his particular strategic approach to the various audiences he speaks to e.g., in the speech to the military, he is uncharacteristically strong on the moral and ideological arguments for reconciliation, as opposed to the purely economic ones. This points to a well-designed discourse strategy that is always carefully worded. Sirisena is very careful to represent himself as fully cooperative with he Transitional Justice agenda but more with the intent of appeasing the international community and other watchdogs like the Tamil Diaspora. He does this by appearing to be fully onboard with the need for a transitional justice process while at the same time complicating this with various caveats and conditions. This indirect, strategic approach of Sirisena is directly in contrast with the approach of Mangala Samaraweera, who is far more direct and explicit about Sri Lanka’s willingness to cooperate with the international community and the proposed transitional justice agenda. According to Stuart Hall, “members of the same culture must share sets of concepts images and ideas which enable them to think and feel about the world, and thus to interpret the world, in roughly similar ways. They must share, broadly speaking, the same 'cultural codes'” (Hall, 2013: xx). Locally Sirisena’s attempts to re-position reconciliation as a ticket to economic growth as opposed to a pathway to cultural degeneration is an attempt at ‘representing’ the concept in an 33
alternative manner, thereby changing cultural codes. Sirisena’s approach could also be interpreted in terms of Foucault’s definition of discourse “as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault, 1972: 64). His sensitivity to the importance of this process is revealed in his almost paranoid denouncement of un-named political opponents he claims to misrepresent him for petty political gains. The opposition to this discursive formation is represented by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who speaks for the right-wing, nationalistic sector of the population, he used economic critiques as the primary structure within which to embed his critiques of the TJ process His representation of which is alarmist and negative. His condemnation of war tribunal strikes at the core of transitional justice mechanisms. And his lack of mention of any alternative reconciliation oriented approach is significant. He seeks to undermine the process by claiming to protect ‘war heroes’, a symbol of pride for the patriotic right. The Tamil politicians are also actively engaged in discursive formation, in order to try and influence the ‘circuit of culture’ (Hall, op.cit) by their diligent attempts to re-position the Tamil claim for autonomy in distinct terms to the LTTE’s claim for a separate state. They try to reposition Tamil identity in terms of its unity with the rest of Sri Lanka’s ethnicities. However, at the same time, they detail conditions that must be met in order for this to happen. This quid pro quo approach to the transitional justice agenda then is apparent across the political spectrum and audience bases. Taken together, the political discourses highlight the interests of the parties involved and collectively comprise a negotiation process. All of the Tamil speeches stress on the need for increased Tamil autonomy and freedom. All Tamil politicians whose speeches were analyzed stressed the current lack of equality for minorities, and demanded it as an initial requirement before any meaningful reconciliation process could even begin. As a long term solution, they all echo the demand for federalism announced by the Northern Provincial Council in April 2016. However the actual term ‘federalism’ is never used, instead they employ a range of euphemisms whilst also taking great pains to stress that Tamils do not want ‘separation’. This points to a very delicate process of discursive formation. The attempt is to communicate the need for Tamil autonomy as a pre-requisite for reconciliation whilst at the same time attempting to avoid alarmist and sensationalist reactions. Significantly, the Tamil politicians surveyed all have similar discursive strategies and thrusts, pointing to organized or organic discourse strategy, at least at the time of analysis and with regards to the speeches surveyed. However, key differences between these speakers exist and/or have come to light more recently. Wigneswaran for instance has increasingly taken a more hardline approach towards presenting his demands, and in a recent speech called to remove ‘unauthorized Muslim and Sinhala settlements in the North’36, implying according to many commentators that according to him at least, the North belongs solely to Tamils.
5.2. Analysis of comments from social media posts
Judge Wigneswaran and ‘unauthorized’ Muslims and Sinhalese. Found here http://www.ceylontoday.lk/print20160701CT20161030.php?id=6206#.V-oRva-xhAQ.twitter. Accessed October 3, 2016. 36
As we said in the methodology section, the birth and growth of social media has imposed a new form of interaction in which citizens, formerly a more passive audience, have become a very active and outspoken on the topics of their interest. This new channel of communication has imposed new features on social discourse and its implications: Through this shift towards user-driven, participatory information exchange, there are reasons to assume that the growth of new social media may bring with it new media dynamics, which could relocate the construction and formulation of societal discourses […] Therefore, we need to pay more attention to how power and dominance can be jointly produced through mass-interaction from the bottom up. (Törnberg & Törnberg 2016,: 134)
As expected, there is an intense debate on whether social media is used by online citizens to produce discourse in conflict with hegemonic ones existing in the mainstream society or, on the contrary, it merely mirrors online the offline social structures present in the traditional media (Lilleker et al., 2011). In the case of this report, social media offered the easiest and direct way to get the biggest amount of opinions from netcitizens about the topic under discussion.
5.2.1. Selection of social media posts and rationale The selection of the posts in English analysed was made on two main criteria: a. The relationship (direct or indirect) to the topic of TJ. The main difficulty faced in selecting posts on TJ was that those dealing with incidents more precisely on the topic, e.g., posts around Sri Lanka’s sponsorship of the resolution in the UNHRC for instance, had minimal engagement. This necessitated a wider net to capture posts that were concerned with topics, while not directly concerned with TJ related news stories, were still directly concerned with the principles of TJ such as reconciliation, coexistence and pluralism (e.g. the post on the national anthem and the ethnic clash at the University of Jaffna). b. The number of comments. When there were some posts on the same event related to the topic of TJ, the ones with the bigger number of comments were selected. According to the two criteria of selection explained in the methology section, the following posts were chosen: 1. Tamil National Anthem (2015), Daily Mirror on FB. 2. Tamil National Anthem (2016), Daily Mirror on FB. These two posts deal with the national anthem being sung in Tamil. The first, wth the announcement by President Sirisena in March 2015 that the national anthem would be allowed to be sung in Tamil in public events from that date onwards. The second post, from February 2016, records the reactions to the announcement that it would be sung at the Independence Day ceremony.. 3. Revisiting Tamil Self Determination Part V: Sleepwalking Into An Inferno, Colombo Telegraph.
4. Historical, Political & Legal Justification Of Tamils’ Right To Self-Determination, Colombo Telegraph. 5. DT: Conundrum: Sinhala Nationalists Against Federalism But Unintentionally Promoting Separatism Colombo Telegraph. The three posts above are about the claim of some Tamil politicians about the right to be a Federal state. 6. US Draft Resolution: What The Ranil–Sirisena Govt Will Not Tell you!, Colombo Telegraph. This post contains the comments on the United Nations Human Rights Council in relation to post-war Sri Lanka. 7. Shameful Day, Colombo Telegraph. The post is a reflection on the day the war was over, 18th May 2009, and the comments from speakers belonging to all the ethnic communities on the war, its causes and consequences. 8. Video by Jeremy Corbyn (from his official FB page). This post shows a video by British politician, Jeremy Corbyn, supporting the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and the diaspora, and his wish that justice reach them after the war. 9. Civilians who died during war commemorated in Wellamulli Waikkal, Daily Mirror on FB This post deals with the public event paying tribute to all the civilians who died in Wellamulli Waikkal. 10. Jaffna University Science Faculty Closed Following Ethnic Clash, Colombo Telegraph This post contains all the comments, the great majority by Tamil speakers, on the incidents that happened at the Jaffna University when a group of Sinhalese students decided to perform Kandyan dances in a performance on campus. By far the topic that generated the most number of passionate comments was the announcement of the elected president Maithripala Sirisena in March 2015, allowing the national anthem to be sung in Tamil at official events from that year onwards. This was followed by the quite recent clash between two groups of students at the University of Jaffna (16th August). The Sinhala segment of social media discourse by far is the most active among those of all three language groups. Out of the large number of posts that our research which was based on a keyword search looking for terms such as ‘Human Rights’, ‘Reconciliation’, or ‘Federalism’ the post with the highest number of comments from each topic was selected for final analysis. The posts analysed in the Sinhala sub-corpus were the following: 1. HRC Resolution, Gossip Lanka (FB page) 2. Anthem Fracas 2015, Sinhala Buddhist (FB Page) 3. Anthem Fracas 2016, Sri AV TV network (FB Page) 36
4. 5. 6. 7.
Federalism, Ape Rata (FB Page) Jaffna University Clash, MitaKalinDekalaNeThamai (FB Page) A soldier’s wife speaks out, Sinhala Buddhist (FB Page) Bringing Sri Lanka back into international favor, BBC Sinhala (FB Page)
The Posts related to Sri Lanka on social media are fewer in Tamil in comparison to the volume of input available in Sinhala and English. Tamil being a minority language in Sri Lanka could be one reason, and limited accesss to Facebook and internet in general in former war-torn areas could be another. However the exact reason for this significant dearth of engagement online is unknown. Speakers of Tamil sometimes find it more productive to use English as their primary language on social media, as evidenced in the English language corpus. The posts selected in Tamil are related to general issues surrounding TJ that have been already explained in the previous sub-corpora and others that are specifically more Tamil oriented:
1. President removes ban on the Tamil National Anthem, Dinakaran News 2. National Anthem sung in Sri Lankan Independence Day celebrations after 67 years, Tamil Nadu BJP 3. On the National Anthem to be sung in Tamil, Rauff Hakeem official videos 4. National Anthem sung in Tamil, Raiz Rafai videos 5. The Tamil national anthem would create a division among people says Mahinda Rajapaksa Sooriyan FM news 6. Protest by the liberal tiger supporters against President’s tour of England, SLUPFA The comments referred to the protests carried out by the Tamil diaspora in England with the occasion of the visit of the President. 7. Muslims need a separate province for themselves – SLMC Basheer Segudawugh, BBC Tamil 8. No one can halt the rise of another Prabakharan – Wickneshwaran warns, TamilOneIndia.com These two last posts contain information about the claim of a Muslim politician on a separate province and of Wigneswaran (whose speeches were analysed in the previous section) on the potential risk of a new Prabkharan if the Tamil demands are not taken into account. 9. Executive presidential system coming to a close, Government plans to produce a new constitution, Thanthi TV(video) 10. 19th Amendment to the constitutions come into operation, Virasekari 11. The name of the country needs to be changed as “Sinhaley” says, BBS, Sooriyan FM Sri Lanka The three posts above are about the amendments in the Sri Lankan constitution suggested by the Tamil politicians to guarantee their rights as a minority. 12. If Gota is punished, we will immolate ourselves – Bodu Bala Sena, Virasekari The two posts above referred to some actions performed by the Bodu Bala Sena that we will analyse in detail in the following section. Specifically, they mention the suggestion made by this section of Buddhist monks of changing the name of the country and the threat to immolation if Gota (a member of the previous government) was punished by the law. 13. Scandal of the white wan abductions from the previous government, Lanka Sri 14. Presumed cases of kidnapping carried out by the former government, SLUPFA
The two last posts make reference to the scandal on the presumed abductions made by the previous government. 5.2.2. Content taxonomy
The analysis of the comments using those tools brought to light several recurrent patterns in the three sub-corpora (English, Sinhala and Tamil) that were organized around a thematic axis that we will comment on in detail below. Due to space constraints, every category is illustrated only by a limited number of examples from different posts from the three sub-corpora. a. Old wounds are still open In this category, we find comments in which members of one ethnic community blame the other for the atrocities of the past, mainly committed during the period of the war. In the English subcorpus, both Sinhalese and Tamils appear alternatively in agent and patient roles, performing the roles of executioners and victims alike, depending on the perspective of the speaker. The most frequent processes in this category are material with a wide array of verbs all related to the lexical field of crimes (‘rape’, ‘bomb’, ‘kill’, ‘sponsor pogroms’, ‘loot’, ‘ethnically cleanse’, ‘deny education and language’, ‘steal the land’) as it can be seen in the following examples: (62) Sinhala soldiers raped Tamils girls and women and children, bombed theirs temples,churches and schools. thousands of Tamils killed in riots by Sinhala mobs (63) @username, the conscience-less, never mentions all the Sri Lankan state sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms, and all the atrocities on Tamils by the Sinhalese regimes since independence. (64) On what basis you say that Tamils are impaired of their rights? in Fact, it is the Sinhalese who have been deprived of their rights (65) They [Sinhalese] kill rape loot and ethnically cleanse the neighbouring Tamil areas and the government and the authorities turn a blind eye to this and encourage this so that more Sinhalese can be settled when Tamils start to flee, as they receive no support. (66) In 1985, all other Tamil militant groups were blamed for the killings of the Muslim farmers in Unnichai , in the Batticaloa District in retaliation to the violence erupted between the Karaitheeevu Tamils and Sammanthurai Muslims. (67) Deny them [Tamils] education employment language rights, steal our lands use our own taxes to employ a racist army and police to kill rape loot and ethnically cleanse and them claim discrimination at the hands of the Tamils. A significant portion of the Sinhala sub-corpus’ discourse concerns itself with the provisioning of arguments justifying pro-Sinhala supremacist, anti-minority stances. In the use of the lexeme ‘Tamil’, the Tamils are depicted as opportunistic and calculating. As agents, the Tamils are said to be unable to enjoy the same benefits and freedoms provided to them by Sri Lanka in India (here India is clearly construed as a country in which Tamils ‘belong’, more 38
so than in Sri Lanka), and Tamils being allowed to sing Sri Lanka’s national anthem in Tamil is displayed as an attempt to overstep their boundaries. (68) ගමොන මගුලක්ද යගකො ගමක. අල්ලපු රගට ල0කාවට වඩා ගදමල මිනිස්සු ඉන්නවා. එත් උන් කියන්වද ගදමගලන්. What the hell is this. There are more Tamils in our neighboring country than in Sri Lanka, but do they sing (the Anthem) in Tamil? (69) india we millions kiyak tamil innawada.? untath ehenam epe N.A ekak Howmany millions of Tamils does India have? Shouldn’t they also need a National Anthem? Material processes depict ‘India’ as ‘singing the National Anthem’ only in one language, mistaken by many to be Hindi, the majoritarian language (in fact it is sung in Gujarati, a minority tongue). But this idea that the national anthem does not have a Tamil version, in a country with as vast a population of Tamils as India (here the numerical number is favoured over the percentage of Tamils), is invoked widely to ask the question ‘then why do we need it in Sri Lanka’? (70) India sing National Anthum only in Hindi (71) i dont think this is nessasary india also has so many languages and communities but is has only one national anthum, (72) දකුණු ඉන්දියාගව දමිල අය පවා ජාතික ගීය ගායනා කරන්ගන් හින්දි භාෂාගවන් Even Tamils in South India sing the national anthem in Hindi. The same is apparent when India is looked at as a theme in material processes. These statements are often backed up by the argument that no other country in the world has a national anthem in two languages, which is factually inaccurate37. But this is also an argument that is popular and has wide purchase, just like the argument that asserts that India’s anthem is sung in Hindi, the language of the majority, while it is in reality sung in Bengali, a minority tongue. Despite the occasional voices to the contrary, these ‘facts’ persevere throughout the corpus. (73) This is atrocious. No freaking country in the world has a national anthem in two languages. (74) එකම රටකට ජාතික ගීත කීපයක් කුමකටද? Why does one country need several National Anthems? (75) මගේ අදහසට අනුව ගවන කිසිම රටක නැහැ භාෂා ගදකකින් ජාතික ගියක් සිංහගලන් විතරක් ඇති.
e.g. Switzerland, New Zealand, South Africa
As far as I know no other country has a national anthem in two languages. Only in Sinhala is enough Purporting to be a reasonable comment along the 'I'm not racist but' theme, some commenters first assert their non-racist credentials before going on to claim that the national anthem has an inherent ‘Sinhalese’ nature, and this must be honoured by singing it only in Sinhala. (76) We don't have any problem with the Tamils and Tamil language either. But national anthem (77) is not a rap song that can sing in multi languages. In the 2016 Anthem post, in which a young white girl sings the national anthem in Sinhala, more of this discourse is repeated. She is taken as a good example of how ‘anyone’ can sing the national anthem in Sinhala, if they cared enough to. (78) this Little one is not even a Sri Lankan ., if this little child can sing how our own country citizen can't sing it . (79) You have given good lesson to all of stupid people in Sri Lanka. (80) කාලකන්නි පර ගදමලුන්ට තමයි ලංකාගව් ජාතික ගීය කියන්න දන්ගන් නැත්ගත්. The useless, pariah Tamils are the ones who do not know how to sing the Anthem. This argument reappears in the discussions around ‘reconciliation’, only this time in relation to language in general. The comments come in response to a presidential speech on reconciliation. Here it is asserted that Tamils must learn Sinhalese and not the other way about. India is brought on as an example as in the case of the Anthem 15 corpus, as ‘proof’ that the national language should always be that of the majority. (81) Why all cannot learn Sinhala as the first step than learning Tamil by Sinhala people. (82) In India only language is Hindi. Why we can't? (83) Are u nuts? In india its hindi and tamil and here its sinhala and tamil as the national languages In this framing, minorities have always existed in mutual harmony and the presence of a Sinhala only national anthem did nothing to endager that. Quite the contrary in fact, the ‘introduction’ of the national anthem in another language, it is argued, will only serve to divide communities, not unite them. (84) Apda yako jaathiwade awussanne..me gon sirisenayane..issara idanma Thibuna wage me rate jaathika geeya e vdihatama thiyenna ariyanm iwaraine..e kaale kisima jaathiwadayak thibunada yako..sinhala demal,muslim okkoma e hithin ekama jathika geeyai qwe..kisi prashnayak thibunada? Aaa mu mokada dn eka wenas karanne..ekath hithapalla..kotiyatath oni une me dema neda? Mu karanne jaathika aalaya pennala sinhalayawa kon karana ekai..ithin ape sinhala le rath wena eka jaathiwadayada yako
Are we the ones creating racism? It is Sirisena who is doing that. They should just leave the national anthem the way it has been all this time. There was no racism at all in those days. Did we have any problems? Why is he trying to change this, think a little, doesn’t the LTTE want the same thing? He is trying to alienate the Sinhalese. So if our blood boils as a result, is that racism? (85) if sri lankan ppl define their nationality as sri lankan's not as singhalease, hindu, muslim and christians we should only need one national anthum as one country Aren't we?
b. Mutual accusations of racism by the two main ethnic groups Under this category we can find comments that state the structural racism born in the government and public institutions, mainly made by Tamils. In the English sub-corpus, the most common process is relational and the most frequent lexemes are ‘racist’, usually in attributive position (86) and ‘racial superiority’ (87). (86) In Srilanka the government machinery is institutionally racist and Tamils cannot get justice. (87) This was not a request but a demand based on racial superiority., this is why despite the authorities not granting any permission they started to dance the Kandyan dance thinking it was their superior birth right to do this even in a historic ancient 100% Tamil Hindu area. (88) This is why the Tamils student reacted very badly, as they knew this was not a gesture of reconciliation and peace but a show of racial superiority in their own land. This is what is called true reconciliation and peace (89) This smacks of racist superiority and the feeling that they can get away with this behavior as they are backed by the armed forces/police and the ruling Sinhalese government. Tamil speakers, especially outspoken in the post on the ethnic clash at the University of Jaffna, complain about the structural racism in national institutions and backed by the armed forces, all of them controlled by the Sinhalese: (90) Everything is only for the Sinhalese and the Tamils and other minorities deserve nothing. Just pay taxes to support the life style of the Sinhalese majority and Buddhism. On the other hand, Tamil speakers defend their right to be considered Sri Lankan citizens with full rights, usually conveyed linguistically through the use of relational process with the relational verb ‘to be’ or ‘to have’. (91) We have been part of this country's history and culture for hundreds of years. Sinhalese people eat our wattalapan and the tamils vadey but we can't sing the anthem in our mother tongue. (92) haha...look at this racist bastard! Just coz the majority are sinhalese dosent 41
mean you can bloody well dictate terms! We have an equal right in this county! We tamils didn't fall from planet mars yesterday! So go shove your opinion right up your asshole! Racism presents itself in interesting ways in the Sinhala corpus mostly either in terms of denial, excuses or a blatant and defiant self-acceptance of it. There are some commenters who begin denying racism using the ‘I’m not racist but’ discursive strategy, before going on to make clearly prejudiced statements. In other cases, the particular is equated with the universal. (93) This is not rascism but minority populations must adhere to the countrys' culture they live in. When i was schooling in sri lanka colombo in an intenational school where there were tamils muslims and foreign students we all sang national anthem in sinhala. In other instances, it is the minorities that are accused of being racist. (94)
සිංහලයන්ගේඋදහසට ලක්ගවමින් Know this pariah, racist Tamils, the government is giving you all this instead of to us at the expense of the ridicule the Sinhala in the South. (95) Ape rate sinhala demala kiyala wenath jaathi na, inne sri lankikayo witharai kiyala hithan hitapu apita eka ehema newei kiyala mathak kalata bohoma sthuthi. Thank you for reminding all of us, who thought that this was a country of Sri Lankans and not people of divided ethnicities, that this is not the case. There is bemoaning of the fact that Sinhalese are unfairly labelled racists when they see themselves only as fighting for their rights. Labeling the majority as ‘racist’ is denounced as a mechanism for silencing just and proper Sinhala Buddhist outcry. (96) sinhalaya gana wachanayak katakoloth jatiwadaya kiyanawa if we even speak a word about the Sinhala we are labelled racist (97) hamadeyama kumana ho kramayakin laga kara gannakan sinhalayo hangila imu... JATHIVADAYA awissena nisa.. Let the Sinhalese wait in hiding until everything (bad) somehow happens.. because otherwise there will be racism (sarcasm) (98) ජාතිවාදය උගදසා ගනොව ගම් හඩ ආගප් ජාතිය හා ගබෞේධ ආගම රට ගබ්රාගැනිමයි.ජන හඩ අවදි කරවා ගමයට එගරහි ගවමු. This is not a cry of racism but a cry to save our race, Buddhist religion and country. Let us wake up the voice of the people and oppose this. (99) අද ගෙඩරල් ගහට ගවනම ගපොලිස් බලතල අනිේදා මුලු රටම. එගහම ගවේදිත් ගම් ගප්ජ් එක කරන අම්බරුවා තප්පුලයි සිංහලගයෝ ගබොරුවට ජාතිවාදය අවුස්සනවා කියලා. 42
Today it will be federal, tomorrow police powers and the day after the whole country. While all this is happening the idiot admin of this page accuses the Sinhalese of falsely inciting racism A more extreme variant of the above discourse features an open and blatant self-ascribing of the term ‘racist’; self appropriating what is originally meant as a disparaging term. This appears more frequently towards the end of the period analysed, more particularly in the Jaffna University Clash corpus. (100) Man kiyanne mage idea eka.Mn jathi Wadi Thama.Mehe inna Tamil unata gahuwanam
I’m saying what I think. Yes I am racist. If we beat up the Tamils here (in the South) it will solve the problem. (101) Ai ithin ubala sinhala jathiwadiyo wenna baya. .yako Un unge agama, bashawa wenuwen jathi wadi nam. ..ape unta henagahanawada sinhala jathi wadiyek wena eka. So why are all of you afraid to become Sinhala Racists? If they are racists for their own religions and races, why not us? (102)Yako thamange ratata jathiyata agamata adare karana eke waradda mokakda. .sinhalayo gankabarayo wage bakan nilagena eka ekata bana bana noida thopith jathiwadi weyaw. ..... What’s the harm in loving your country and race? The Sinhalese should stop being idle and criticizing each other and become racists. The topic of racism in the Tamil sub-corpus appears mainly in the post on the Jaffna clash. Both ‘Sinhalese’ and ‘Tamils’ appear in agent and patient positions in material processes: (103) தமிழனை சிங் களவை் அடக்கி னவத்திருக்கத்தாை் நினைக்கிறாை் தமிழை் அடி பணியமாட்டாை் The Sinhalese try to suppress and keep Tamils under their control. The Tamils will not bow to that. (104)
தமிழனை சிங் களவை் அடக்கி னவத்திருக்கதாை்
நினைக்கிறாை். பல் கனலக்கழகம் முதல் பாராளுமை்றம் வனர,,,,,,,,,, The Sinhalese try to suppress and keep the Tamils under them, from Univercities to the parliament! (105)
If you’re a Tamil, you must listen to the others and obey them, If not you will be attacked. Nobody can stop that. (106) நீ ங்கள் இைத்துபவசம் பண்ண இது ஒண்டும் உங் க ஏரியா இல் ல யாழ் ப்பாணம் டா அண்ணை் பிறந்து வளந்த இடமடா இது !! -யாழ் பல் கனல#சிங் களமாணவர ்களுக்கு This is not your area to do whatever you want and cause racial discrimination. This is “Yalpanam”! -To the Sinhalese students of the Jaffna University
c. Supremacy of Sinhalese majority: Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhalese In this group, we find a set of comments that establish the identification between the majoritarian ethnic community (Sinhalese Buddhist) with the whole country, excluding minority groups, especially Tamils, from the national identity. In the English sub-corpus, the relational structure ‘This is a Sinhala Buddhist country/this is the Sinhala people’s homeland’ is repeated quite frequently to bolster Sinhalese supremacy. Usually followed by a conditional clause ‘if you don’t like x, then y …’ These arguments imply that Tamils should either accept Sinhalese supremacy or leave the country, examples (107) and (109). (107) ado adin ponna demala this is a Sinhala buddhist country just because we gave you fucks refuge doesnt mean you can change the national anthem. Fuck off to india if you got a problem with the way we sinhalese run the show! (108) This is Sinhala people’ ™s homeland, this is where our language developed, our people built a civilisation. Every historical monument in the country is a proof to Sinhala civilisation. (109) He [Sirisena] is a fucking idiot. why give ass to modi and the tamils so much? i voted for you but now i'm fucking regretting it big time. This is a Sinhala buddhist country if you can't deal with it fuck off to india or somewhere. Fuck you maithree. Some Sinhalese speakers feel their privileged position as the majority in the country may be threatened if the Tamils were given more rights: (110) British people brought Tamils into this country to clean their toilets. Annnnd under the yahapalanaya government now Sinhalese people have to wash Tamils toilets. It's time to get Sinhalese right place in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese speakers also deny that any mistreatment to minorities has been carried out but Tamils, as a minority, are duty bound to adapt to the majority’s will although they might not want to: (111) I strongly say Tamils were/are treated similar to the Sinhalese in every aspect in their lives. Tamils need to learn to live as a minority the same way millions of other minorities live in other countries (112) For Sinhalese Pluralism and in Colombo and suburbs we must live with appeasement and harmony with minorities, But for Tamils and Muslims, They want to have mono-ethnicity
In material processes, the lexeme â€˜Sinhalaâ€™ usually most often came up as a theme in connection to the national anthem, the country and the idea of race. The national anthem is constructed purely as a â€˜the Sinhala national anthemâ€™, i.e. the idea of it being sunh in Sinhalase is just as much a part of the national anthemâ€™s content as its meaning. It is asserted here further that Sri Lanka is a â€˜Sinhala countryâ€™belonging to the â€˜Sinhala raceâ€™. (113) ayi sinhala jatika geeyata niga karanne hadanne Why are you trying to insult the Sinhala National Anthem? This is repeated in relational proceses, in which the lexeme â€˜Sinhalaâ€™ is mentioned in terms of asserting the identity of the country as Sinhalese, along with that of the language of the country. (114) pakayo me ape Sinhala rata tho hithuwada eka eka basa walin jathika geeya gayana karanna thope ratak kiyala. **** this is our Sinhala country, did you think it was yours to be able to sing the anthem in whatever language you like? In other places, sarcasm is the linguistic strategy used to drive the point home. The idea that it is now a Tamil country is sarcastically stated in response to the Jaffna University incident. This conveys the idea that things have now taken an about turn, i.e. from a Sinhala country to a Tamil country. (115) ŕśœŕś¸ŕˇŠŕśš ŕśœŕśŻŕś¸ŕś˝ ŕśťŕś§ŕśšŕˇŠŕśœŕśąŕˇŠ ŕś‰ŕśŕˇ’ŕś¸ŕˇŠ ŕśŻŕˇ?ŕś¸ŕˇŠ đ&#x;˜ đ&#x;˜ đ&#x;˜ This is a Tamil country now (sarcasm) When the Sinhalese are portrayed as agents in material processes in the national anthem post, they are passive and at the mercy of ongoing events. There is continuous re-enforcement of the idea that Sri Lanka is the only country that the Sinhala Buddhists have, by implication saying that other minorities do not belong, and are essentially foreign. (116) sinhala apita me podi rata vithari thiyene apita e ratath nathi wenawa wage apita dannene mita wada hodi apiwa maruwa nam Us Sinhalese only have this small country, looks like we are about to lose even this. It is better if you kill us. When they are depicted as patients, the discourse of helplessness on the part of the Sinhalese is extended to victimization, with the Sinhalese being directly portrayed as patients of actions. While perpetrators of these actions are sometimes mentioned, many cases the agents of these actions, their perpetrators, are not mentioned. (117) ŕˇ„ŕˇŠ ŕś¸ŕśťŕˇ” ŕˇƒŕˇ’ŕśąŕˇŠŕˇ„ŕś˝ŕśşŕś§ ŕśœŕśŻŕˇ€ŕˇ’ ŕś´ŕˇ’ŕˇ„ŕˇ’ŕś§ŕśşŕˇ’ Ha this is great God save the Sinhalese These recurrent speech patterns in both the English and the Sinhala sub-corpora arise in the Tamil sub-corpus in a slightly different way.
The comments analysed below are related to two posts: the proposal by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) that the name of Sri Lanka should be changed to ‘Sinhale’, and the threat of immolation made by the Gnagasara Thero of the Bodu Bala Sena if Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was punished by the justice system. In relation to the first post the commenters expressed openly their disagreement on the proposal. (118) What's wrong with Sri Lanka? So are you going to divide the country in to four parts and name it "TamilLE" ""MuslimLE" "ChristianLE" - This is what Bodu Bala Sena wants. What a joke! Keep your mouth Shut. (119) Ungada Nada da Ithu Name Matra. Is this your own country to change its name? (120) Ethu singala nadu but ingu singal a ana kuripital nanga Tamil a ana alutha varum / muslim gal maraga lay ana alutha varum /parangiyar enresi lay ana aluthavarum/ aga motham This is a Sinhala Country. But if it was to be called "SinhaLE" we would have to name it in Tamil. The Muslims will have to name it "MarakkaLE" and the Burghers will call it "EnresiLE" - So in total..? The lexeme ‘Tamils’ appears in Agent position as the doers of actions in material processes, and as patients of actions carried out by Sinhalese, such as ‘destroy’. The clause ‘What torture is this!’ appears repeated by more than one Tamil speaker echoing the desperation of Tamil speakers in relation to this kind of news. (121) Enna kodumai sir ethu intha naaigal thulla eppo than nikkumo kadavila Tamillan nalla valava mutiyathu intha nadula What torture is this! When will we have to stop tolerating these dogs? Tamils can't live a happy life in this country! (122) Enna koduma Anna ethu.appo tamilar nanka eppudi name vikkirathu. What torture is this! Then how do we Tamils call it? (123) தமிழ் ஏ நீ அழிந்திடு எை்பபதா மனற பபாருள் !!! Tamil must be destroyed; that's the hidden message here. In relation to comments to the news of the BBS’ Ganasara Thero’s threat of self-immolation if Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was punished by the Justice system, all of the comments (100%) displayed contempt for the Bodu Bala Sena. Speakers use a lot of expletives to refer to them (not reproduced in the examples) the most frequent of which include the lexemes ‘dogs’ and ‘mongrels’. Other speakers use less aggressive methods of showing their disapproval as can be seen in the following examples: (124) bothubala sena oliganum irst BoduBala Sena must be abolished first. 46
(125) Moonta pissu These guys are crazy. (126) நாடு படுற கஸ்ரத்தில நரி உழுந்து வனட பகட்டதாம் In a situation where the country is suffering; the foxes want to benefit (127) நல் ல முடிவு இப்ப தாை் நிம் மதியா இருக்கு அது சரி எப்பவாம் குளிக்குறது பபட்பரால் பசலவு எை்னுடய பங் கு ?நாை் பபாய் பசால் ல மாட்படை் இது சத்தியம் Good decision. Now we feel relieved. So, when are they going to set themselves on fire? The petrol cost is on me. I don't lie, it's a promise! (128) அனத பசய் யலாம் நாட்டில் இை மதம் பவறு பாடு ஏற் படாது Let's do it. Then we wont have any regious and cultural discrimination. (129) இது நல் ல ஐடியா This is a good idea! (130)
பசய் யுங் கள்
அப்பதாை்பபௌத்தமதம் பமம் பட்டு விளங் கும் Do it first! Only then will Budhdhism be higly positioned (131) முதலில் இவர ்கனள தண்டிக்க பவண்டும் . ... ! First these people must be punished! The BBS is hardly mentioned by its name but with other phrases such as ‘these guys’ or by means of metaphors such as ‘the foxes. By sarcastically encouraging their threat to self-immolate, the speakers blame them for part of the racial tensions of the country as well as for giving Buddhism a bad name.
d. Negative stereotyping around ethnicity and expletives Aggressive language in the corpus is mainly found in the post on the National Anthem in 2015, in which there are plenty of insults addressed to other speakers with dissenting opinions or the government (both current and former). Insults are communicative exchanges where a speaker (insulter) uses language with the intention of morally hurting an addressee (insultee) (Mateo & Yus, 2013). In pragmatic terms, insults are face-threatening acts addressed directly to the hearer. In stereotyping, however, “the individual (1) categorizes other individuals, usually on the basis of highly visible characteristics such as sex or race; (2) attributes a set of characteristics to all members of that category; and (3) attributes that set of characteristics to any individual member of that category” (Snyder, 1981: 183).
Minorities are frequently insulted and addressed in a derogatory manner though it must be established some differences among the different sub-corpora. In the English sub-corpus, the majority of insults are from Sinhalese speakers to Tamils and in the Tamil sub-corpus, it’s the opposite: majority of insults are from Tamils towards Sinhalese though this only happens in the post on the incident at Jaffna University. In the following sections, a detailed analysis of these derogatory language will be analysed. a. Negative stereotypes of Tamils Negative stereotyping of Tamils mirrors a wide range of aspects from insults related to their alleged lack of personal hygiene, their support for terrorism or their lack of patriotic feelings for Sri Lanka. Usually these evaluations are conveyed through relational structures with attributes, like in (133) or through the Agency of negative material processes such as ‘don’t treat SL as their homeland’ in (135): (132) I think India and Tamil Nadu should first build some latrines for their people to defecate before conquering other countries. (133) Also are you saying I'm a terrorist because I'm Tamil? Not surprised. (134) Tamils are the least when it comes to honouring smart people. Jealousy is eating Tamils. (135) Were tamils aliens in SL? No, tamils lived in SL, there was a tamil presence but they never treated SL as their homeland, it was simply where they made money and not a tamil civilisation. Tamil identity is also actively constructed in the Sinhala sub-corpus. Tamils are negatively construed as not being people of this country, ‘Tamils do not belong here’, i.e. ‘Tamils are not Sri Lankan but Indian’. Accommodating the Tamils in the national culture by itself is seen as a threat to the identity of the Sinhalese. (136) tamil aya me rate minissu nemey eyalawa dakunu inadia walin genella mehe padinchi kare Tamils are not people of this country, they were brought here from South India. (137) meka sinhala rata apita api witarai unta indiyawa tinawa this is a Sinhala country, we only have ourselves, they have India. There is frequent use of racial slurs such as ‘demala’ for Tamils, and ‘hambaya’and ‘thambiya’ for Muslims38. Minorities are more often than not referred to in the third person, always being spoken about by Sinhalese, and with the dismissive, ‘animalistic’ reference ‘un’, depicting them as sub-human or inferior, just as in the case of Tamils.
‘Demala’ is a derogatory variant on the Sinhala term for a Tamil person. ‘Hambaya’ and ‘Thambiya’ have long been used as derogatory terms for Muslims, even though their origins are benign. ‘Hambaya’ refers to a type of boat used by Javanese traders to visit Sri Lanka and ‘thambiya’ literally means little brother. 38
(138) Munta oni merata ayemat demalata denna tawa tikadawasakin mahinda mahattayage aga terei me ponnayo rajakam karanna gatama ohoma wenawa ban.. sinhalayawa demala eun isara pal karankita unta loku kam oluwata gahanwa kohomath They want to give this country again to the Tamils. In a few days the value of Mahinda (Rajapsksa) will be understood. This is what happens when these sissies get a little power. They want to embarrass the Sinhalese in front of Tamils (139) Tamil fuckers, පර ජාතිවාදි ගදමළ හැතිකගර්, සක්කිලි පර ගදමලු.....,Wesa Demalun Dan hari sirisenayo thoge budiyanna deepiya demalunta duwa deepiya hambayanta ethakota yaha palane hari OK Sirisena, sleep with the Tamils and give your daughter to the Hambayas, then you will have fulfilled Yahapalanaya (good governance) (140) demlunta.muslim evuntai oni vidihata lankave natanna denna be. Can’t allow Tamils and Muslims to ‘dance’ in whatever they want in Sri Lanka b. Negative stereotypes on Sinhalese In the English sub-corpus, Sinhalese are less insulted and/or stereotyped than Tamils, when they are, the accusations leveled against them are of racism or of being troublemakers: (141) Even after the British left, most of the Doctors, Postmasters, Railway Station Masters, Police OICs, PWD overseers, Colombo School Head Masters, University Professors, and most of the Executive Officers in the public/civil service were Tamils, even in remote Sinhalese village government dispensaries, the Doctors were Tamils whereas the laborers, attendants, peons, and drivers were the Sinhalese. The reason for the above was, he Tamils were hard working and English educated whereas the Sinhalese were lazy and did not bother to learn English. However, the Tamil leaders wrongly believed (myth) that the Tamils are intelligent whereas the Sinhalese are fools. (142) Wherever the foolish Sinhalese go, there is always riot & mayhem¦ [Comment from the post on ethnic clash at the University of Jaffna]
e. Expletives addressed to the former and current presidents In relation to the expletives addressed to the presidents (both current and former), there are relevant differences in the three sub-corpora. In the English sub-corpus, Mahinda Rajapaksa who is accused of being directly responsible for crimes committed against minorities (especially the Tamils) or of hindering the process of TJ. Rajapaksa usually appears as the agent of material processes, all of which involve verbs (+ objects) with a negative connotation (e.g. engineer of the Aluthgama riots) or the failure to carry out processes with positive connotation (e.g. apologise to Tamils, listen to the UNHRC). (143) Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa and others were not shamed, when they engineered the Alutgama Riots, using BBS and the state police. (144) Mahinda Rajapaksa had 5 years to fix the problem. What did he do?
(145) It is Mahinda governmentâ€™s inaction and its foolhardiness in failing to meet and address the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity for over six years that resurrected the LTTE Diaspora and gave the Americans a much wanted weapon to beat the Mahinda Government seen by Washington as pro-China and anti-West. (146) Yet, it is the failure of the Mahinda government to listen to the UNHRC and its member states for more than six years that has now resulted in this American backed resolution. (147) US is pi$$ed off that Mahinda Rajapakse did not allow LTTE leaders to be shaved to be used in indian ocean affairs and also did not give forces to involve in afghan war. Mahinda to be exonerated on all counts, of course. (148) Had Mahindaâ€™s government apologised to the Tamils and to the world that there had been unwanted losses of lives and went on to rehabilitate those caught up in the war, Sri Lanka would not be in this plight today. Only in the posts on the National Anthem from 2015 in the Sinhala sub-corpus is the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, when mentioned, portrayed much more benevolently than his successor by his supporters. In general, Sinhalese speakers enhance all the good things he brought to the nation (like ending the war) and to Tamils (in particular) like building a lot of infrastructure in the North and East. (149) This is a Sinhala buddhist country if you can't deal with it fuck off to india or somewhere. Fuck you maithree. Where is Sir Mahinda when you really need him!! (150) Mahinda already provided that. we had one of the fastest growing economies in whole Asia. remember this is after a 30 year old war. In the English corpus as a whole, his terms as president are harshly criticized specially in terms of TJ, as we have seen and will see in the following sections. The context in which the current president, Maithripala Sirisena, appears is primarily in the discussion around the National Anthem in 2015. The announcement, creating space for a Tamil national anthem, split the virtual community in Sri Lanka along lines of political affiliation. The action concerning the anthem to be sung in Tamil was interpreted by some speakers as an act of betrayal to his voters (mainly Sinhalese Buddhist), and a sign of weaknesses and submission to the Tamil population: (151) We are not fucking Indians. Don't compare Sri Lanka to India. Sirisena support terrorists. (152) Begining of an end of Sirisena. ....he just plsying [sic] puppet role....shame on Sri Lanka (153) Well done president that's how you are replying to majority ! asshole. (154) You are going beyond the limit. This will create more issues. Stupid president. This trend of thought contrasts with that of the overwhelming majority of the speakers of the Tamil sub-corpus. The decision of the then newly elected president Sirisena to allow the national anthem to be sung in Tamil was received with unanimous enthusiasm by the Tamil speakers. Not 50
a single comment was negative (save for a couple of skeptical ones). The overwhelming majority thank the president for the decision that is seen as an important, great step towards national unity. (155) நை்றி ஆதிபர ் அவர ்பள தமிழ் , தமிழை் மைதில் ஒரு இடம் பிடித்தாய் Thank you his excellency! You’ve caught the hearts of the Tamils (156) This is sirisrna’s inclusive political agenda. A year since he assumed power he has evicted the army from 1000 acres held by them but originally those of Tamil civilians . Attacks on Muslims have also stopped . Well done (157) நை்றி பாலசிறிபசைா பதாடரட்டும் நல் ல பசனவகள் இலங் னக
நல் வாழ் வு
இலங் னகக்கு நற் பபறு கினடக்கும் எங் களுக்கும் நிம் மதி இப்படிக்கு இந்திய தமிழை்.! Thank you Maithripala Sirisena, May your good services continue. If the Sri Lankan Tamils are given a good life, the country will yeild good results and we will also be in peace. Sincerely, Indian Tamil (Tamilian). The government and the president appear frequently in the Sinhala subcorpus. Interestingly, the current president is named more frequently in the beginning of the period analysed versus the end, when he is usually referred to in the second person or included in a collective reference to the government. In the National Anthem posts especially, in early 2015, the election is seen as the root of present troubles. There is the blame directed towards other Sinhalese who voted for Maithreepala Sirisena, as well as threats directed at the incumbent that next time it would not be so easy to get Sinhalese votes. (158) niyama sinhalaya chande dunne bulath koleta bn the true Sinhalese voted for the betel leaf (the symbol of Mahinda Rajapakse] (159) ape sinhala chanda walin awith korapu hariya maru ah Brilliant what you have done by coming to power with our Sinhala votes In comments in which relational processes dominate, there are also commentaries on the president questioning his Sinhalese credentials. (160) My3 radda pallan baranawa.....damalata pukadepan....uba sinhalayak nawae My3…Kiss the Tamils’ ass….you are not Sinhalese ‘Yahapalanaya’ or ‘good governance’, the primary election promise upon which Sirisena rose to power, is identified on an overall basis very negatively in the Sinhala corpus. The term mostly appears in sentences in which relational processes dominate, and overwhelmingly are in ‘identified’ position. This means that some event or occurrence or concept is being identified with ‘Yahapalanaya’. In this case the whole of ‘Yahapalanaya’ is reduced to associations of conceding to minorities and the erosion of Sinhala values. The idea is conveyed overwhelmingly with the 51
rhetorical question ‘is this what yahapalanaya is?’ often supplemented with sarcasm for added effect. (161) Paka mithringe keri yahapalanaya *expletive* Maithree’s *expletive* yahapalanaya39 (162) Meka thamai yahapaalana wenasa. This is the difference of Yahalapanaya The government and rulers are also referred to when the lexeme ‘country’ is discussed, often in the position of Theme in material processes. In this situation, the country is seen as being victimized by the selfishness and incompetence of the political leadership. The political leadership is also actively associated with willful ‘treason’ to the nation. (163) This uneducated son of a farmer ruin the great country!!! (164) මයි 3 රට ගදමලට සන්නසකින්ම ලියලා ගදයි වගග.රනිල් 1 සැරයක් ,මයි 3 තව සැරයක්. Looks like My3 willl legally hand over the country to the Tamils. Ranil will do it once, My3 again Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president, overall makes for much less of a presence in the Sinhala subcorpus and only appears significantly in the set of comments associated with the UNHRC resolution sponsored by the government in September 2015. The post with the highest number of comments dealt with Rajapaksa’s response to the event, leading to much of the discourse also being centered around him. In strong contrast, Rajapaksa benefits from overwhelmingly respectful terms of address: (165) metuma kiyana deth deparak hitala balanna Think of what sir has to say a little (166) amataka karanepa..2010 n passe mona waradi karath..ohu 2010 ta pera ratata tirasara samaya gena a nayakayay.... Don’t forget that MR brought peace to the country, no matter what mistakes he did before. It must be noted that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s relatively small presence in the Sinhala subcorpus indicates that he is not considered very relevant to current political issues in the country. The invoking of the corruption and misrule associated with his regime both by his supporters and detractors could be one reason why he still inspires vocal support only from a die-hard group of fanatics and does not feature significantly as a viable alternative elsewhere in the discourse: (167) Mahinda hora Mahnda the thief
Some expletives have not been translated due to accurate translations being difficult to surmise.
(168) Dan awalangu kasiyak He is an invalid coin
f. The need to clarify the past The comments under this category in the English sub-corpus are perfectly aligned and straightforwardly related with the pillars of TJ. The most frequent verbs are ‘want’, related to the wishes of speakers, and the lexical verb ‘need’. Speakers demand their right to get information (the most frequent verb in the Mental process in this category is ‘know’) in the first place and to have justice done in the second place. The Agents of ental processes, that is, the Sensers vary from being individuals (like in example 171) to speakers who act on behalf of an entire ethnic group, or groups of citizens driven by noble intentions as in (169) and (170): (169) What the Tamil community wants to know is what happened during the last stages of the war and Is the government intently massacred those people (170) All decent people in Srilanka want to know the truth and justice to prevail to be part of ordinary citizens. (171) As a Sinhalese I want to know what exactly happened. Hopefyluuy M3 and RW can deliver on this. Our judicial system is inefficient and not independent. Hence we need a different mechanism. We need accountability. (172) Or do you suggest that never mind they all committed war crimes and/or crimes against humanity to slain the dragon of terrorism, therefore we should close our eyes and not investigate/punish wrongdoers? Can you please clarify. (173) How many criminals who killed hundreds of Tamils during 1958, 1977 and 1983 and 2009 were brought under justice? (174) The war crimes victims need justice and the Tamil people need a political solution to address the root cause to the conflict.
g. Unity and reconciliation In the English subcorpus, there are comments that call for unity and reconciliation, and praise any political decision along those lines (such as the Tamil version of the national anthem). The most frequent lexical words are the nouns ‘reconciliation’, ‘unity’,‘peace’ and the adverb ‘together’, all of them a part of Material Processes. It is important to remark on the inclusive use of the pronoun ‘we’ as Agents, which, in stark contrast to the rest of the corpus, is a collective reference to all the ethnicities in Sri Lanka, and not just one. (175) Bravo, well done... one more move towards reconciliation... we need Unity in diversity... and this is a super example. (176) Good on him. Tamil is a major ethnic group in Sri Lanka and have been for a long long time. If we are to have peace in our country we have to recognise other ethnic groups and they need to feel belonged
(177) No matter what language you sing the national anthem, you wouldn't belong if you don't want to belong. How about making harmony like we used to before 83? (178) This is something that should have been done years ago. This will show the world that we truly are SRI LANKAN working towards being one Nation under one flag. (179) For nothing? Why so many sacrifices? When will you start to behave as Sri Lankans and not like Tamils, Cingales, etcâ€ ¦ (180) I Meant that Our Nation of Srilanka belongs to Sinhalese Tamils Muslims and Burghers to build together for a Prosperous nation (181) What is good for the Sinhalese is good for the Tamils too The same sort of rhetoric is present in the Tamil subcorpus, especially in relation to the National Anthem news from 2015: (182) See, we are Sri Lankans. Be happy with all the people and their religion doesn’t matter. Treat equal. (183) Beginning of Equality (184) More than congratulatings and welcoming the Tamil National Anthem; It would be great if the tamil speaking community come together and unite. An interesting sub-segment of the discourse in the Sinhala sub-corpus is that which takes place between Sinhalese. Reliable demographic data is largely unavailable for users of Facebook but due to the clear differences in the names of the Sri Lankan people a guess of their ethnicity becomes possible. On this basis, it is very clear that the Sinhala corpus is largely populated by those who are Sinhalese. While ‘positive’ (i.e. anti-racist, progressive) comments are rare and few between, the vast majority of them are also made by Sinhalese. Essentially the Sinhala corpus largely features a discussion carried out mostly in Sinhala, by Sinhalese. Any representation for the cause of minorities is also made by Sinhalese. This is also largely true in the Tamil Corpus, while the English educated and capable are the only ones who engage in more cosmopolitan fora. While the progressive comments in both these insulated fora is positive, it points to an internal mediation of the discourse with very little or no consultation with the other. (185) Ane hukahan demala kiyanne minissu nemeda mahalokuwata kiyannenam akama rathu le hamotama thiyenne kiyala Fuck off, aren’t Tamils also humans? You only talk about how everyone has the same red blood… (186) We are one nation. (187) Tamil ayath ape minissu. Tamil’s are also our people In the Sinhala subcorpus, ‘reconciliation’ is regarded as a ruse to destroy the Sinhalese, and betrays the treachery of Sirisena. It is a plot/trick to fool the Sinhalese.
(188) Ehenn demalu gahanawa mehenn tambi gahanawa sinhalayaa sahajiwane kiya kiya guti kanawa We are under attack by both Tamils (animalistic reference) and ‘Thambis’, and have to put up with it because they call it reconciliation The Jaffna University clash, occurring more than a year after the first instance when the Tamil national Anthem came up as a topic of contentious discussion, is displayed as proof that conspiracy theories touted at that point in fact had some basis in reality. (189) දැන් ජාතික ගියත් ගදමගලන් ගයනා කරලා මුන්ට අගප් හිටන් චුන් කරා දැන් සනිප ඇති ගන් We excited them by singing the anthem in Tamil. Does everyone feel good? (190) Tamil song neme andukramayata wirudda unath jathika geeya Tamil walin kiyanakotath ohe hitapu jathiyak ne api We as a race kept silent even when they sang the anthem in Tamil, what use is dissent now? The lexeme ‘Eelam’, usually highly controversial due to its associations with the demand for a separate State, was also connected in a couple of positive instances however, depicted as the alternative Tamils would resort to if they were not properly integrated by the mechanism of a Tamil national anthem. (191) tamil valin kiyanneth srilanka matha kiyala thami .nathnam eelam matha kiyala newei The Tamil version also says ‘Sri Lanka matha’ not ‘Eelam matha’ Aside from the few positive examples, there is an interesting internal discourse between the Sinhalese that appear to be divided along the lines of political preference and values. Mental processes ask the question if the ‘toyyas’ who brought yahapalanaya into power are now feeling good. These divisions in the Sinhalese corpus could be largely and crudely conceived as the divisions between the ‘biayyas’ and ‘toiyyas’. ‘. ‘Toyyas’ are a derogatory term used to describe urban, affluent Sinhalese with progressive values sympathetic to ideas of pluralism who in the corpus, are associated with a pro-yahapalanaya stance, while ‘Baiyyas’ (a derogatory term which means the exact opposite – rural and backward individuals) are more nationalistic and pro-Sinhala supremacist. (192) Once these yahapalanaya toiyyas handover 1/3 of the land, 2/3 of the coastline and half our exclusive economic zone (the vast ocean area around the island which belongs to Sri Lanka and is four times the size of Sri Lanka) is handed over to less than 11.3% of tamil racists, we will not have anywhere much to go or even to live in. (193) ගමරට සිංහල ගබෞේධයන්ට "ජාතිවාදීන්" යනුගවන් අප්රමාණ නින්දා අපහාස කරමින් තමන් පමණක් "පිරිසිදු ගේශප්ගර්මීන්" යැයි කියාගත් "පැහැදීලි නිශ්චිත ජාතියක් ආගමක් නැති"නිසාගවන් ම සැබැවින්ම අනාථ වූ
"ශ්රී ලාංකික" නම් වූ ගල්බලයට රැවටී ක්රියා කළ සිංහල ගබෞේධ ඔබ දැන් කුමක් කියන්ගනහි ද ? What do you Sinhala Buddhists who have been tricked into self-identifying as ‘Sri Lankan’, who have so far been calling Sinhala Buddhists in this country ‘racist’, have to say for yourself now? The material process comments also anthropomorphize ‘Yahapalanaya’ and portray it as an entity or element that is anti-Sinhalese and pro-minority, and focused on dividing the country. (194) yahapalaneta chande dipe awnta sape vava Curse those who voted for the yahapalanaya In general terms, while posts directly related to the concept of TJ do not see much engagement. There appears to be a clear understanding and distinct opinions on the values and beliefs that underly TJ. This understanding however is hghly polarized and fractured.
f. Federalism The call of the Northern Provincial Council for increased autonomy/federalism was similarly treated in the Sinhala subcorpus. Federalism was regarded as an initial step to achieving what the Tamils ‘really want:’ a separate homeland. (195) Federal kiyala thamai patan ganne..iwara wena thana balamu.. It will start with Federal… let’s see where it will end This idea is taken to a more alarmist level by those who assume that ‘federalism’ by itself means that a separate sovereign state is what is being discussed. This argument is driven by ignorance of the real meaning, historical context and rationale for federalism as much as it is by alarmism. (196) එකම රටක් තුල ගවනම පලාතක් යනු ඒකීය රටකි. ගෙඩරල් යනු සන්ධීයරාජ්යකි,,,එනම් ගබදුනු රටකි,,,, A province within a single country means it will be a separate country. ‘Federal’ means a ‘separate state’. Making this a devided country. (197) ona welawawka unta wen wenna onnam wenama ratak vidiyata wen wenna puluwam...Soviyat Rusiyawata une aka.. pakistan bangladesh hedune ahemai.... With federal they can become independent at any time they want. This is what happened to Soviet Russia. Federalism is portrayed as being ‘unnecessary’ for a small country such as Sri Lanka: (198) gothayo.. mee chuti ratata mona ගෙඩරල් පාලනයක් da?dan americawe tamil speakers lata kiyala wenama states thiyenawada? Why a small country like Sri Lanka go beyond current system.? (199) In the Tamil sub-corpus, as in the speeches of Tamil politicians, ideas of ‘federalism/self-determination/separatism’ have a significant presence. The post on 56
the proposal for federalism by the Northern Provincial Council saw both very positive and skeptical (sometimes negative) reactions. On the one hand, majority of commenters in Tamil expressed their joy for what they considered to be a positive step for Tamil self determination and the prevention of future ethnic conflict:(199) We will support and work for the same proposals the Provincial Government has made through the Chief Minister. This is what the UN and International community is interested to achieve. The Universal Human Rights Charter-1948 also aim to achieve this.வடade through the Chief Minist Tamils must rule North East (200) பசாந்த
காட்டுச ்சிங் களவை்.அனதபய
பகாள் னளயடிக்கிறாை் காப்பாற் றிக்பகாள் ளவ
ழியில் னல.கிழட்டு நாய் கபள! உங் களுக்கு அரசியல் ஒரு பகடா! The primitive Sinhalese are taking away our own home! We don’t even have a way to protect ourselves from that, you old dogs! Why are you all in politics? (201) வரபவற் க கூடிய சிறந்த திட்டம் . மாநில எல் னலகள் பமாழி அடிப்பனடயில் தீர ்மாைிக்கப் பட பவண்டுபம ஒழிய மத அடிப்பனடயில் தீர ்மாைிக்கப் பட முடியாது A very welcome plan. State Borders must be based on language and not on Religion (202) மிகச ் சிறந்த திட்டம் இது. இலங் னகயிை் எதிர ்கால சுபீட்சத்துக்கு உதவும் எைலாம் . இல் னலபயல் நீ று பூத்த This is a very good plan. This will help with the future betterment of Sri Lanka. Otherwise, the religious and racial issues will prevail. (203) Good and needful work at the correct time. On the other hand, some speakers see this measure as the first step towards an ethnic fracture in the country. It is the only time in which lexemes such as ‘war’, or phrases such as ‘racial disparities’, ‘ethnic conflict’ or ‘racial disparities’, appear in the post. (204) Please don’t separate the country for any reason. Don’t cause racial disparities. This is trap laid by foxes to live their luxury lives. (205) இதாலதாபை பபார ் வந்திச ்சு Didn’t the war start because of this? ! (206) No more Seperatism [sic] talks which had brought Srilanka in to a darkest era... Do we need another ethnic conflict ?? 57
(207) முதல் ல உை்ை சுட்டா நாடு நிம் மதியாகும் ....எை்ைடா குனற
வந்தபத இதுக்கு தாபை… First of all: if you're shot, the country will be at peace. What shortcomings do have? The whole war started because of this!
In the Sinhala sub-corpus, the Sinhalese who support the measure and tolerate the call for federalism are regarded as traitors, along with the ruling government and the president. The rulers are regarded as puppets with no loyalty to race or religion. (208) ඒකට උදම් වනන්න මුන් වගේ අවජාතක නමට සිංහල කියන උන් දකින්නත් උනාගන.. I had to live to see such traitors supporting these measures whilst calling themselves Sinhalese (209) යුේගදන්
කරන්නජාතියක්,ආගමක් නැති පබගයො ටිකක් රට පාලනයට ඇවිත්... A set of puppets with no loyalty to race or religion are going to give away the country that couldn’t be won by a war.
g. Conspiracy Theories A number of conspiracy theories present themselves mainly in the discourse of the Sinhala corpus and, to a lesser extent, in the Tamil sub-corpus:
‘Eelam Rising’ One theory posits that allowing two national anthems in one country will eventually lead to having two countries, the national anthem as an initial cultural step to achieve the goals of Tamil EELAM. The move is depicted as a different means of achieving the EELAM the LTTE could not achieve by taking up arms. In this view, the Sinhalese leaders in power are complicit, ‘selling’ the country to the Tamils. Echoing the rhetoric of a political landscape in which the supporters of MR regard him as the true patriot and my3 and the UNP as treacherous to the country. The ‘Sinhalese’ themselves are depicted as being fools lacking racial integrity and being complicit in destroying the Sinhalese race/nation. The slippery slope theory is also expounded when ‘Tamil’ is treated as a theme. In terms of a language or a nation, the national anthem is seen as the first step in many to come that will see the Tamils benefitting at the expense of the Sinhalese. A portent of advancing Tamil interests, Tamil ‘possession’ of the national anthem is equated with eventual Tamil possession of the country. (210) Demalunta eelama hadaganna ratak nathuwa inne. Unge eelam raajyata danatamathnayakayo innawa. Habai eka kriyathmaka karanna ratak nathuwa inne (…) Rata kadana salasme 1 kotasak mekath. 58
The Tamils are looking for a country to establish their EELAM. They have their leaders ready…But they don’t have a country to set it up within. This is one measure to achieve the separation of the country. (211) Munta oni merata ayemat demalata denna tawa tikadawasakin mahinda mahattayage aga terei They want to give our country to the Tamil again. Soon we will realize the value of Mr. Mahinda. While the example of India is invoked when convenient, in order to deny the need for a Tamil national anthem, India is also accused of plotting against Sri Lankan interests. (212) indiayawath awith udaw karanawa wenama desapalana paksath tiyanawa wikramabahu sunanada desappriya wani sinahalayoth unta udaw karanawa api India is helping them, they also have separate political parties, and even Sinhala politicians are helping them. In the Tamil sub-corpus, the topic of a re-emergence of Eelam was central due to the words of Tamil politician Wigneswaran and his claim that there is no possibility to stop the rise of another Prabakharan (Prabhakaran was the leader of the LTTE). That statement gave rise to two different currents of opinion: on the one hand, speakers who insult Wigenswaran for his opinion, and, on the other hand, speakers who agree with his words:
(213) யாழ் பாணத்துல பிரபாகரை் உருவாைா இலங் னகயில மஹிந்த
லாபத்துக்கு மக்கனள பலியாடாக பயை்படுத்த பவண்டாம் விக்கி If a Prabakaran rises in Jaffna, Sri lanka will have a Mahinda. "Vicki" don’t sacrifice the people for your own political benefit. (214) இது
வார ்த்னதகள்.ஏற் பகைபவ
மக்கள்.பமலும் இவர ்
பசால் றாறு. This is an unnecessary statement. People have suffered a lot because of the War and he is saying this! (215) இை்னும்
னஸத்தாை்களுக்கு அவல் பகாடுப்பனத நிறுத்துங் க. Are you going to sacrifice more Tamils? Sir, you need to control what you're Saying instead of feeding the majority satans. 59
(216) தைி தமிழ் ழம் சாத்தியபம அதற் காை வழி வினரவில் வரும்
உருவாக்குபவாம் Tamil Ealam is possible, the path for that will come soon. With hope, lets create a silent revolution. (217) கினடப்பது உறுதி விழ விழ எழுபவாம் நாங் கள் தமிழை் பானதகளும் இலட்சியமும் எமக்கு ஒை்பற ...வினரவாக ...பதாடரும் எமது பயணம் We will defenitely get it. We will rise back everytime we fall. As Tamils we have one target.Soon. Our journey continues. (218) நிச ்சயமாக பிரபாகரை் பபாை்ற தனலவை் பவண்டும் ... தமிழைிை் தனலவை் பிரபாகரை் மட்டும் ... எமது தனலவை் வந்தால் நாம் அனத வரபவற் பபாம் ..... Definitely, a leader like Prabakaran is a necessity. Prabakaran was the only leader for Tamils. We will always welcome our leader.
In the Sinhala sub-corpus, Muslims are predominantly present only in the Anthem Fracas 2015 and the Jaffna University posts, the most divisive and heated discussions in our data set. This indicates that they only seem to figure when the conflict is hot and in action, and are brought in to bolster and supplement arguments. When Muslims are depicted in material processes, they are primarily portrayed as part of a series of predictions in the National Anthem corpus that support the ‘slippery slope’ argument as discussed above, i.e., as the next logical step in terms of a minority to concede to after the Tamils. If Muslims are the agents of an action (like in 157 and 159), they are predicted to soon be making demands such as a National Anthem of their own. The fact that the majority of Muslims speak Tamil and thus will not need a version of the anthem of their own passes notice and Muslims are said to variously want an anthem alternatively in the languages of ‘Arabic’, ‘Muslim’, ‘thambi’ etc. (aside from the first, the other two do not exist). (219) Mun mehema gihin tawa tika dawasakin ape jathika geethaya muslim ayata eyalage language eken kiyannai, Christian ayata english walin kiyannai permissikn devi (…) At this rate they will give permission to the Muslims and Christians to sing the national anthem in their own languages (220) Mokada me wenne. ?pissu. ..ahenam muslim ayat kiyai apita terenne naa. etakota me awrudu gana kohomada danne naa jathika giya kiwwe. ? 60
What is happening? This is crazy, then Muslims will also say that we don’t understand….I wonder how they sang the national anthem all these years (sarasm) The likelihood of this coming self-assertion of Muslims is supported by arguments to the effect that Muslims are antagonistic towards the Sinhalese and are a globally powerful community united in its need for dominance. (221) bangaladesh...affganisthan..pakisthan..bauddhayooo......issara e bauddha ratawal......ada bangadesh wala innna bauddha minissunta wa maranawa muslim ballo Bangaladesh...affganisthan..pakisthan..buddhists..they used to countries…today Muslim dogs are killing Buddhists in Bangladesh
(222)I hope you have witnessed the Islamic invasion and destruction of Sinhala Buddhist culture in this land by them (223) I hope you've seen wht Muslims have done to Kuragala, muhudu maha vihara, Anuradhapura .... Etc etc . All what they need is an Anthem in their language to achieve the ulterior motives. The lexeme ‘Arab’ is used in connection with Muslims, often implicitly, with users taking it as a given and as obvious that the association is natural. This indicates a strong association of the Muslims in Sri Lanka with the global Muslim community, just as in the case of Tamils, and not simply as an autonomous community within Sri Lanka. This also indicates a stong level of ignorance on the part of the Sinhalese to the other minoritis in Sri Lanka. For example, there is a strong supposition that Muslims must speak Arabic, and that a version of the national anthem in Arabic will be the next to be demanded. Another argument is that while ‘we’ (i.e. the Sinhalese) will allow them to sing the anthem in ‘their’ (i.e. the minorities’) language in ‘our’ country, ‘they’ will never allow ‘us’ to do the same in ‘their’ country. Other minorities are also mentioned though less frequently. For example, the Christians and Burgers (Eurasian people) are deemed to eventually want a national anthem in English. (224) Mekata hai giyana gon nambo gihin arabiye indiyawe sinhalen jathika giya kiyala warenko balanna. The idiots who agree with this should try going to Arabia and singing the national anthem in Sinhala (225) thawa arabi basemuth ona jathika geeya kiyanna.ethakota thamai hari There should also be a version in Arabic, only then will things be right (sarcasm) Muslims do not have any significant presence in the English sub-corpus, but in the Tamil subcorpus Muslims (or Moors as they are refered to in the comments) appear as an unwelcome guest for those who are pro-separatist: (226) பவட்டி பபச ்சு இரண்டாக பிரித்தால் முஸ்லிம் மக்கள் கடலில் தாை் குதிக்க பவை்டும் . Useless talk. If it’s seperated [sic] into two, the Muslims must jump into the sea. 61
(227) இதில் முஸ்லிம் கள் தனலயிட எந்த உரினம கூட கினடயாது Muslims have no right to interfere in this. (228) ஒை்று சிங் கள மாநிலம்
அப்பதாை் முஸ்லிம் கனள அடினமகளாக னவத்திருக்க முடியும் நல் ல தீர ்வு திட்டம் A Sinhalese State and a Tamil State. Only then can you have the Muslims as slaves. Good plan. (Sarcasm) (229) First, the illegal Muslim settlements in Eastern province must be stopped.Anyway the moors will win. Both Tamils and Buddhist Moors wont accept the merger of the North East. Then why are we crying? Eastern tamil reject TNA and forma government with S. In the Provincial Council - chase moors. When ‘Muslims’ appear in an Agent position, the speakers deny them the right to have any participation in the topic in question, the prediction that they will oppose the separatism (by means of the modal verb ‘won’t’) or as the beneficiaries of the whole controversial situation. When they are the patients of the action, they are the undergoersof negative actions carried out by the Sinhalese such as ‘chase’ or to ‘stop the Muslim settlements’ that the speaker qualifies as being ‘illegal’ (229).
The Minority-Sinhala Government Nexus
When Tamils are represented as patients in material processes, they are portrayed as being the benefactors of the new regime’s incompetency, pandering and treachery. There is an escalation of paranoia in the discourse. The ‘slippery slope’ idea is often invoked. In this view the next victim is the national flag, then the status of Sinhala as the national language, after which the Muslims will also want national self-determination. This will ultimately lead to the Sinhalese being losers in their own land. (230) sirisena ratama demalata dewi.ethakal uda balan htapiyau.gon haththa Sirisena will give the whole country to the Tamils. Just look up and wait (Sri Lankan expression for passivity) until then Once these yahapalanaya toiyyas handover 1/3 of the land, 2/3 of the coastline and half our exclusive economic zone … to less than 11.3% of tamil racists…. Muslims are similarly represented, again largely when being portrayed as patients or the targets of actions, they are displayed as being the recipients of the pandering of the new government, implying that they once again have more power than what is immediately apparent. (231) Oka kara ganna thamai gonnu diigena kathire gahuwe..dan harine..thawa tika dawasakin hambayoth redda assata da ganii.. In a few days even the hambayas (derogatory term for Muslims) will be taken under their skirt (Sinhalese expression). 62
The Muslim-Tamil Nexus
Another significant characteristic of Muslims in the Sinhala sub-corpus is that they are most often referred to together with the Tamils, in terms of a relationship in which the minorities are seen as being united together against the Sinhalese. In this discourse there is no difference between Tamils and Muslims; both are deemed the enemies of the Sinhalese by dint of them not being Sinhalese. (232) Hoyala balapan demala muslim bahuthara inna pathiwala sinhala minissunta kohomada salakanne kiyala. Just see how Sinhalese are treated in areas with majority Tamils and Muslimsfirst in the world.showing tough on helaya. losing to demala/muslim. (233) Ape senhala hathta karapu gon kam thamai dan vidinta wela thiyenne demala muslim menha jathiya bera ganta wada karaddi ape eun bada raka ganta wada kara harima santhosai senhala jathiya gana While the Tamil and Thambis (derog for Muslims) struggle to save their races, our people just think about their stomachs (234) ගදමලුයි තම්බියි ඉන්න හින්දයි ගම් හැම කරදරයක්ම... All these problems are because of the existence of Tamils and Thambis (derogatory term for Muslims) The comments in which Muslims are positioned in relational processes also stress the slippery slope argument. They also strongly predict the country as being in danger of becoming a ‘Muslim and Tamil’ country, a grave and absolute threat to Sinhalese national identity. (235) Mun denna balaye hitiyoth mey ratama demala/ muslim ratak venava aniwarayenma If these two are in power, this country will definitely become Tamil/Muslim me rata tamil ratakwat muslim ratawat nowiya utui This country should not become Tamil or Muslim
Calls to Action
Towards the end of the period analysed, in the set of comments taken from the post dealing with the Jaffna university clash in particular, there is an emergence of a theme that calls upon the Sinhalese to act. A part of this theme portrays the Sinhalese as a ‘sleeping giant’ that the Tamils are beginning to provoke. (236) Aniwa ayeth ape army viruwoi deshabhimana sinhala janathawama aussaganna hadanne hadidemalu.. They are definitely trying to provoke the military and the sinhala people again (237) Demala pakkunta ayea sinhalayagea gehilla balanna hithila wagea. Looks like these Tamil fuckers again want to see how hard the Sinhalese can hit 63
These arguments morph into outright calls for violence against minorities. While the national flag incident has triggered debate and discussion around topics of identity, the Jaffna university clash adds the re-emergence of spatial rivalries with constant emphasis on the North-South/TamilSinhala divide. For example, the invocation that all Tamils should be chased to the North, and calling for all Tamils in Southern Universities to be ostracised, uncannily resemble the real life events of the pogroms of 83. Clearly what could have just as likely been framed as a clash between two student groups in a university is overpoweringly framed as a clash between Tamils and Sinhalese. (238) රට ගවනුගවන් සිංහල ජාතිය ගවනුගවන් ආගයත් තුවක්කුව අතට ගන්න අපි සූදානම් යාපගන් කැම්පස් එගක් ඉන්න සිංහල ගකොල්ගලෝ ටික ඔක්ගකොම ගගන්න ගගන අනිත් කැම්පස් වල ඉන්න ගදමල්ලුන්ට රිගදන්න දුන්නනම් ඔකුන්ට ගතගරයි කාලකන්නි. ප්රභාකරන් හිටියනම් ඔය හැත්තට යන්න ගවන්ගන් කැමපස් ගනගමයි, කගර් දාගන්න ගවන්ගන් සයනයිේ කරල. ගකගලහගුණයක් නැති ගම් වගේ හැත්තට ගවන කරන්න ගදයක් නැහැ We are prepared to take up arms again for the country and the Sinhala race. If we take all the Sinhala boys in the Jaffna campus and beat up Tamils in all the other campuses they will understand. If Prabhakaran was still here they wouldn’t get to go to university, but will have to carry a cyanide pill around their neck. There is nothing else these ungrateful rabble deserve. (239) Dakina dakina demalata gahapiya.kari thambi, demalui thama hamadama puka dunne.munge ammalatath ekka hukawala maranna one wesa kariyo waduwata. Beat up any and every Tamil you see. These Tamils and Thambis are the ones always kissing ass. They must be killed and their mothers raped. This strand of discourse also construes the recent civil war as a ‘defeat’ of Tamils against the Sinhalese, and calls for Tamils to be ‘reminded’ of this fact: (240) Demala pakainta mechara ikmanata amathaka unada kapu kema Hinhala yatA katakaranna kauda ennne API gawa jathi beda hinhalayo nakitiyau demala minisunta Mula amathakadaDemalunta,thambinta wiruddawa wada krna mokakma hari dyk tynwnm kypalla. Mn ekenma enwa mge yaluwoth ekka. Sinhalajathiyata jayawewa... Did the Tamil fuckers already forget the loss they siffered so soon? If you have any strategies for working against the Tamils and Muslims, say it. I will come with my
friends. Victory to the Sinhalese. h. The Mistreatment of Soldiers Soldiers were invariably referred to as brave in the Sinhala corpus (the only instance in which they as a group were discussed in detail) showing the bias for them. This is pre-supposed in the very term 'ranaviru' which means 'war hero', used in the post we analyzed. In the narrative of the majority of the comments in this post, soldiers were portrayed as the ones who saved the country, however they have now been abandoned in the post war climate. Here a distinction is made between the MR regime and the Sirisena regime, with the former depicted as being more concerned over the welfare of soldiers. Only one contrarian view was expressed on prosecutions 64
against crimes committed by soldiers, the consensus on which was vastly against. Interestingly this viewpoint also first reinstated respect and love felt for soldiers before criticising any crimes that may have happened using the uniform as an excuse (242). (241) රටගවනුගවන් දිවි පරදුවට තැබූ රනවිරැවන්ට සලකන්ගන් ගමගහමද? Is this the way we treat the war heroes who endangered their lives for the country? (242)උබට ඔලුවක් නැේද දන්ගන නෑ ..අපි හමුදාවට ආදගරයී ..ගරු කරනව..එත් නිල ඇදුම් ඇදන් කරන කුපාඩී ,මැර වැඩ හරි කියන්න තරම් ...මම ගපොන්න නෑ ...මට හරිගේ හරි කියන්නත් වැරදි ගේ වැරදී කියන්නත් මට මගේ ගදමව්පියන් ඉගැන්නුවා… Do you not have a head? (i.e. are you crazy?)… We love the army… respect it..But I will not endorse crimes commited in uniform… my parents have taught me the difference between right and wrong (243) ජඩ පාලන ආේඩුව වැඩි දවසක් ගනොගිහින් රටගේරා ගැනීමට දිවි පිදූ අභිත රණවිරුවන්ගග මිනී වලවලුත් ගගොඩ දාලා මමලමිනිත් සී.අයි.ඩී. එගකන් අරං යයි
The ‘jada’ palana government will no doubt soon even resort to digging up the dead bodies of soldiers out of ther graves and take them to the CID (244) Mahinda mahaththyai,weerodhara ranawiruwoi Udde nima karala Apita ratak ithuru keruwa.ase nouna nam,mewan palakayan ratata ha ape anagathyata kumak nam,karawida? Mr. Mahinda and the brave war heroes ended the war and left us a country. If that didn’t happen, what will leaders like this have done to our country and future? In the English corpus, soldiers are not glorified in such an explicit way as in the Sinhala corpus though speakers clearly blame Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government as the responsible forces behind war crimes, being soldiers just the executioner arms who carried out the decisions taken by the Rajapaksa administration: (245) A shameful day must arrive for war criminals, not soldiers. (246) If the sergeant was given the order by the officer commanding the unit he conveys that to the soldiers and follow orderseven if it means a war crime,because if they don’t they can be shot. (247) It is also possible that those who later claimed ownership of the war ordered them (soldiers) to suspend their (soldier’s) moral values. (248) It is Mahinda governmentâ™s inaction and its foolhardiness in failing to meet and address the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity for over six years that resurrected the LTTE Diaspora and gave the Americans a much wanted weapon to beat the Mahinda Government seen by Washington as pro-China and anti-West. 5.2.3. Conclusions 65
The analysis of the posts from social media has proved to be very revealing in relation to the topic of Transitional Justice. The first outstanding conclusion is that not a single speaker in the corpus mentions the actual term ‘Transitional Justice’. The scarcity of public commentary directly concerned with TJ (its procedural frameworks, associated political and diplomatic negotiations, etc.) reveals indifference on the part of the citizens on the ‘hifalutin’ aspects of the topic. Lexemes directly related to the concept such as ‘accountability’, ‘reconciliation’, ‘justice’ or ‘human rights’ are hardly mentioned. However, this fact does not imply that they do not have a strong opinion on the suitability of certain statements and actions taken by politicians in relation to the topic. Basically, the two main trends in the corpus could be summarized as the feeling of threat a great sector of the majority (Sinhalese) perceive in relation to losing their privileged status in Sri Lankan society, and the claims of the minorities, especially the Tamils, who think their rights are being ignored or denied. These two confronting opinions are best exemplified in the National Anthem posts from 2015, which was the most popular topic in the three sub-corpora. The most recent Jaffna incident was the piece of news on which Tamil commenters were more active. The great majority of Tamil commenters on this topic expressed their outrage at what they saw as a Sinhalese provocation in Tamil territory. In relation to the first of the most popular posts, the Sinhalese population’s opinion was radically divided. While some of them welcomed the measure as the first real and honest attempt made by the new president to promote and encourage reconciliation and the building of a new multicultural Sri Lanka, the majority saw in this measure an unwelcome submission to minority demands. Sirisena (a Sinhalese) is perceived as a ‘traitor’ who is ‘selling’ the country to Tamils by a decision that jeopardizes Sinhalese hegemony in a country in which they constitute the majority. Tamils, as expressed in the Tamil sub-corpus, almost unanimously understood the measure as the first honest step taken by the government to instill in them a sense of belonging in Sri Lanka. In the English sub-corpus, the opinions on this decision were more or less equally split between those who, despite of being Sinhalese, applauded the idea and those who perceived it as a provocation to the majoritarian ethnic group. The status of the third minority group in the country, the Muslims, is very interesting because of how they are instrumentalised by other groups. Muslims as a topic of discourse have only an insignificant presence in the English sub-corpus. In the Sinhala sub-corpus, however, they are bunched within the same group as Tamils, forming a distinct ‘non-Sinhalese’ bloc (most Muslims in Sri Lanka speak Tamil). The Sinhalese identity, which for the vast majority of Sinhalese speakers in the corpus is synonymous with ‘Sri Lankan-ness’, is considered to be in danger and under threat by the combined forces of the two minority groups. This causes them to greet any decision that claims to be taken on behalf of ‘reconciliation’ with paranoioa and fear. Tamils in Sri Lanka are associated with Tamils in India, and Muslims in Sri Lanka are seen as being a part of a very powerful global community, making the Sinhalese in fact a majority community with the sense of insecurity of an under-threat minority. Attitudes like the above lead, unavoidably, to racism and accusations of discrimination. Though some Sinhalese speakers (in the English sub-corpus) admit to the historical discrimination of Tamils, most completely deny it. Tamils, on the other hand, complain how their basic rights as full citizens of Sri Lanka have been violated and, more seriously, that it has been done by the State. In this sense, the former government of Mahinda Rajapaksa is accused of plenty of atrocities against Tamils. The ‘racial superiority’ Tamils accuse Sinhalese of as well as the structural racism rooted in the system are the common grievances raised by Tamils. Sinhalese speakers, however, 66
do not see this approach as racist but as the natural order. The Sinhalese see themselves not as attacking Tamils but as defending themselves. Sirisena is, in their view, the guilty one who is encouraging racism through his decisions. His framework of ‘Yahapalanaya’ is seen as having a hidden agenda that favours Tamils and Muslims, with a strong prejudice against Sinhalese. The conflicting investments in the concept of ‘Sri Lankan-ness’ is present in many other comments in the English and, above all, the Sinhala sub-corpora. On numerous occasions, Sri Lanka is claimed to be the ‘land/homeland of the Sinhalese’, eradicating any possibility of building a multicultural society in equality. The implications of such a statement are basically that the minorities should adapt to the dominant culture or, as some speakers call it, ‘learn to live like a minority’ or leave the country;that is, in those speakers’ minds the Sri Lankan identity is exclusively identified with the Sinhalese Buddhist, neglecting any cultural and religious trace proper of other ethnicities. The concept of TJ, as discussed by the Sri Lankan politicians, has not permeated to the level of the mainstream discourse. There is a mismatch between the discourse of politicians and the discourse of citizens. The measures and mechanisms proposed by it do not appear to have any significant effect on public conversation. This could either be due to a lack of information, understanding or apathy. Most of the comments in the three sub-corpora look at the recent and problematic past, projecting the immediate measures of reconciliation in the present to the future in a hopeless, negative, pessimistic manner. This does not bode well for the more concrete measures proposed by the TJ agenda for the future. Even Tamil optimism, which coincides with the regime change in early 2015, gradually becomes more skeptical, reaching a lowpoint in the final post studied, i.e., the incident at the Jaffna university in summer 2016. 6. Concluding remarks and recommendations The discourse around Transitional Justice touches deep seated issues concerning the ideology, history and identities of the peoples of Sri Lanka. The huge outcry at the accommodation of the Tamil national anthem in legitimate public spaces can be seen as a protest against a key national institution that actively ‘interpellates’ an exclusively Sinhalese identity. ‘Interpellation’ is a process by which Repressive State Institutions (‘hard power’; the army, police, judiciary, prison system, etc.) and Ideological State Institutions (‘soft power’; National anthem, the national flag, family, media, politics, etc.) combine to spread and legitimize the dominant ideology (Althusser, 1971). In the discourse around the national anthem, what we are seeing is the struggle between two ideological formations as well as a conflict about the nature of what the Sri Lankan identity is. The emerging inclusive and multicultural formation is now competing with a more conservative majoritarian formation and, as Wodak (2012: 216) states, “identity construction always implies inclusionary and exclusionary processes, i.e. the definition of ONESELF and OTHERS”. This cultural struggle can be framed in terms of Gramsci’s notion of ‘cultural hegemony’ (reference). Gramsci sees civil society as a space in which dominant ideas are discussed and beliefs were shaped, “where bourgeois ‘hegemony’ was reproduced in cultural life through the media, universities and religious institutions to ‘manufacture consent’ and legitimacy” (Heywood, 1994: 100-101). The ‘old’ post war ‘cultural hegemony’ of strong nationalism and majoritarian supremacy (backed up by innumerable Repressive and Ideological state institutions) is now being challenged by a new, pluralist one. And the online sphere reflects the ongoing debate in civil
society (which Gramsci conceptualizes in terms of the broader public as opposed to its narrower conception in liberal democratic thought) on these important ideas. However, despite these indications of ideological struggle, it is clear that there is a serious lack of public awareness around the tTransitional Justice process and its implications. The lack of a powerful propaganda and public relations campaign by the government could be one reason why there is such a degree of free interpretations and conspiracy theories prevalent in the corpus of study, especially among the Sinhala speaking public. In this sense, these findings reflect a fact noted in the interim report of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF) (CTF, 2016: 11) (see also CTF, 2016: 55). The sectoral and written submissions and information from the consultations raise concerns about the lack of public awareness on the Government’s intentions to establish transitional justice mechanisms and their objectives. This need for greater awareness was not just a point made by those working in the North and East. Specific submissions refer to the need for a public awareness campaign in the south of the country to address the lack of awareness about the Government’s intentions as well as to counter the racist rhetoric being used in an attempt to mobilize nationalist forces against transitional justice.
The lack of awareness and general uncertainty surrounding TJ results in a lack of public support for the processes involved, which translates into a lack of political will. Visiting experts such as Howard Varney40 have stressed the clear need to build public support for Transitional Justice mechanisms to acquire the purchase of decision makers, in turn endowing institutions with executionary powers. What we are also seeing is that, at the level of public discourse, little differentiation is made between issues of Transitional Justice (as defined by the specific processes and measures it involves), constitutional reform and other aspects of reconciliation. This points to the importance of considering TJ within the complete spectrum of social and political pressures and changes occurring in the country, especially in terms of constitutional reform once again as stressed by Varney41. Further complicating matters is an underlying struggle of supremacies. Wherein even minority populations in Sri Lanka display tendencies to want their own form of majoritarianism, a ‘cathect majoritarianism’ is noted for example by Ismail (2013: 4). This is at times seen as a healthy counter to Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism but in the end is counterproductive to the goals of TJ and reconciliation. The polarized discussion around the Jaffna University clash is illustrative of this. The challenge of the transitional justice, reconciliation, constitutional reform and other processes remains to move beyond a situation in which opposing forces exist in teetering balance, to a space in which differences can be accommodated within a healthy coexistence. This becomes particularly difficult given the strong investment in mythical constructs, in the Barthean sense, prevalent in Sri Lanka. ‘Myth’ in this sense refers to a reality in which ideologies and values are presented as if they are a natural condition (Barthes, 2013). A prominent example in the corpus is the taken-for-granted nature in which ‘natural’ supremacy of Sinhala majoritarianism is
See Interview: Prospects for Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka http://www.cpalanka.org/interviewprospects-for-transitional-justice-in-sri-lanka/ 41 Op. cit.
touted42. A better understanding of public discourse, especially discourse on active and uninhibited online fora, can provide important insights for state, non-state and other interested actors in the TJ space to facilitate strategy formulation.
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For a discussion of myth in Sri Lanka see Bartholomeusz and Silva, 1998
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Published on Feb 13, 2017
The NCEASL published a study on the contribution of online discourse towards the construction of the Sri Lankan identity in the post-January...