Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow but no jam today
By Prof. C. Suriyakumaran
Once more, the great Presidential battle is joined! In well over 50 years of
Independence, once more, we are on to the pastime in which we have excelled most!
Before, it was the General Elections, where each party promised the moon - these 50
years to the masses. Add now the Presidential Elections, like a scepter unto the
crown, to the Parliamentary periodic heroics, in both of which the people continue to
be promised so many things so many times in - (A) Development; (B) Governance; (C)
Peace knowing that hardly any of these have been fulfilled.
In development, the people want this country to become a truly prosperous one. Will it
become so? We don't know. Only, we know that while they last, the elections for
President or Parliament will be more of the same. Panem et Circenses indeed, as an
18th Century English phrase had it, "Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow, but no Jam
Today exhibited best at our own home grown demonstrations with mesmerizing
slogans, such as (from the Leader) " Apata Denda" (by the People) “ Kaema Kanda"!
And so we go on!
We can only hope, like some dues ex machinae, that some leaders from among those
personally giving us the good and bad times, will emerge and truly transform this
country (A) from being Developing to becoming Developed, (B) as a Nation, and (C) in
The means and the answers are there - certainly not in the Board Rooms and
Committees of Private Entrepreneurs, or of Government Nabobs (and the Economic
Growth Indices copied in the Financial Pages of our dailies); or in the ISO 9000 and
As for oneself, one has written only too often on these - our 50-Year Development
Folly- precisely and extensively, in both popular writings and in professional; in the
former for example, entitled A Totally Different Framework, Or The Disastrous South
Model? (Daily News 25 April 2003) and "Government's Policies for Ensuring
Absorptive Capacity of Aid" ( 21st June 03): and in the latter, "The Wealth of Poor
Nations" (LSE/ Croom Helm, 1984) and "The Autumn '91 LSE Lectures on
Environmental Planning for Development" which evoked a personal letter from the
World's First Nobel Laureate in Economics Prof Jan Tinbergen (copied in the "Prof. C.
Suriyakumaran UN 50th Anniversary Commemoration Volume, Page 33 ).
In Governance we had the particular framework where the majority elite imagined
themselves as rightful inheritors of empire: and vested themselves with a system of
dominant Central Government burying their heads in the sand in that process
exchanging our historical 'Consensual Pluralism' for 'Confrontational Pluralism' losing
our National Identity and our Unity. Politically later, we already lost the battle when
certain exalted leaders, muzzled S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (under whom I had the
privilege of pioneering my own ideas) in his efforts at true Devolution - the complete)
Decentralizations of Administration and of Development, as he called it.
We paid the price ever after, exchanging State Terrorism - the infamous “Emergency
‘58” and on- for Politics; and a) drawing up a holier than thou balance sheet of the
former, without taking in the latter in the so called 'Solutions'; (b) hardly understanding
the differences between forms of Government; and (c) 'ruled at the Centre only by a
Permanent Parliamentary Majority based on Ethnicity, instead of on Views' (for further
references see my “Anguish of 83”, “Anguish II” and “Anguish III,” all introduced by the
late Regi Siriwardena).The Great Truth of Political Governance, that 'at any time in
History the extent of National Unity in any country) is an inverse co-efficient of the
extent of true participation by the minorities in Central Government in that country',
was not even known much less admitted in the ABC of our 50 Year solution building -
except by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike at the time.
So much so, that in a subsequent, divided era, (read J.R.J) even some of our Tamil
intellectuals subsequently found themselves taking 'Glorified Local Government
Solutions' (JR's 'Guliyas') from 'Colombo' to Jaffna as 'final, take it or leave if Political
Solutions! (c.f my BCIS 1987 Lecture Series on Devolution). The LTTE, quite outside
the Political process at the time, considered these misguided purveyors of 'solutions'
as traitors - most wrongly of course - and therefore to be ‘dealt with’.
Only mutual violence of unimaginable proportions stoked to be sure, on both sides-
not one- ensued. It is a dangerous phenomenon now, which we have - the public
being fed in some of the media, on the one side of the LTTE as the 'criminals', and the
other as the 'victims'. Sad, but it seems essential to recall at least some of these pasts,
so that good people, everywhere, may know that ultimately, what we had was a total
descent into violence by both sides, and by fair means or foul. It seems necessary
also to recall, simply for the sake of our future, that until then, we went on with over
confident and over bearing assaults by the Majority upon the Minority!
That did not begin with what the whole world talks of, in the 83 Holocaust that
occurred. There was the barbaric ravage of ‘58 which perpetrated, a set of the worst
perversions on one people by another. Certainly the latter were not of the entire
Sinhala people - in much the greater part, human, brotherly, supportive and with
concern for their Tamil brethren. Yet, what this smaller perverted fraction of the
Sinhalese segment did was enough never to be forgotten and of which this writer was
personal witness and victim. Unlike in the "83 Holocaust, people were brutalized in
their homes, in the streets, and in the mass. At the homes, and one feels compelled to
recall, at least for the sake of our present and our future, men folk - father, husband,
brother, son -- tied to pillars; and their women folk - mother, wife, sister and daughter -
brutalized. And much more.
My family and myself barely escaped, simply by a twist of fortune, although I had guns
which I was prepared to use; and at the end of the day as I said referring to the
Sinhalese people at large, a Sinhalese family close to us gave us no choice, but swept
us away to their mansion, to live there a full three months before we started our poor
It was then out of these rampant assaults by elements of Sinhala groups that a group
called the LTTE arose, indeed several Tamil rebel parties. The Tamils as such did not
create the LTTE. Between then and '83, it was free rein for the so-called Government
'Security' Forces in the North!
Even now, peace has no alternative. True Governance is the path to it, forsaking all
else, like brothers that we are - Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher. That final peace
now has to come - not simply, as some peace pundits are simplistically asserting from
their pedestals, about 'teaching' democracy gradually to the 'rebels'; when teaching
this to themselves has too to come! Real concepts of Central Government,
Devolutionary Government, and Participatory Government are at stake - and
Sinhalese will even more behoove themselves to learn these as much as Tamils. The
knowledge bases are available; but NOT necessarily amongst the so-called Party
Leaders, or 'Specialists', who go around as if nothing happened between '58 and '83.
It was a little before, and shortly after ousting of the LTTE from Jaffna by the
Government, that Lakshman Kadirgamar arrived on the scene -succeeding the late T.
W. Rajaratnam - becoming the latest conventional Tamil MP nominated by every
Government. (Quite before then it was known that I myself had been pressured upon
my retirement from the UN, first by President Premadasa, later by Mrs. Sirimavo
Bandaranaike, only being able to decline by stating that I was a Professional not a
Lakshman and I were indeed not unknown to each other from our UN days. It was at a
crowded CIMA Annual Conference in 1996 as Chief Guest and myself as the Key Note
Speaker, upon conclusion of my speech, Lakshman came up to me simply to say he
had never heard such a brilliant speech, delivered without reading from a script. I
reminded him of what Natwar Singh on the occasion of my address at Gamini
Dissanayaka's 50th Birthday event had told me, that it was the best impromptu speech
he had ever heard - upon which I humbly recalled Churchill's dictum that the most
brilliant impromptu speeches were the most well prepared! - a style which I had
persistently to use in my long years in the UN, handling jointly or simply the eventual
creations of International Programmes or Projects like the Asian Development Bank
(opposed initially by the US, "Japan and others!), the Asian Clearing Union (one day
for sure to be a rival Centre in the world dollar market), the Great Asian Highway
Network,) the series of Sub Regional Environment Co-operation Programmes for
South Asia, Asean, South Pacific; and others.The great Solution Buildings had to be
found in the three phases- Peace Keeping, Peace Making, and Peace Building.
Peace Keeping -was already attained by the Army and the LTTE fighting themselves
to a standstill.
Peace Making - had taken a major step forward with the Ranil / LTTE Accord.
Peace Building - was what we were left with -where we are now; and where we are in
great confusion. Our so-called leaders have been Politicking for Prizes, voicing
slogans of war and forgetting lessons bitterly learnt, and to be learnt again.
It was in this last, more than any that we failed most, ever and ever again. Political
Formation at the Centre is constituted, not by just one word or the other Unitary,
Federal or other- but by clear 'constitutions' of a wider totality covering concepts these
people do not even talk about now. These - and we need understanding by all of them
- are as Participatory Government (at the Centre); Devolutionary Government; and at
the end of it, Federal or 'Con-Federal' Government - not of course Unitary
Government as we understand it, at least for now.
The net result of such a Conclusion, would then be of a "National Government', as
much as it would be one with the fullest natural Regional Self-expressions- otherwise
available only through Separation!
There is no room in this for hobby horses or diversions, such as of Second Chambers.
Devolution itself is a Public Good, also noted by this writer some years ago in the
phrase "Development without Devolution is as blind, as Devolution without
Development is empty".
We should recall that devolution was at the heart of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's
struggles for solutions. Speaking of these problems, in his famous statement at the
end of the signing of the B-C- Pact, when asked how he came to do it, said, “My dear
fellow, I was simply interpreting the Present in the context of the Future"; in contrast to
JRJ when asked by BBC how he came to sign the Accord with Rajiv Gandhi - " Too
little Foresight, too little Intelligence, too little Courage!"
It is perhaps not inappropriate in the context of our country's recent history to
conclude all this by referring to one Constitutional Event on the eve of Independence.
It was the days of the State Council in which two 'Great' persons, E. W. Perera in
proposition and S.W.R.D. in opposition, figured- the former requesting the House to
accept the British Parliamentary Party System as the basis in the Country's
Governance upon Independence, a proposition whose future implications only
someone like S.W.R.D. could have foreseen.In a celebrated speech in State Council in
1932, "Bandaranaike opposed the change over from an on going Executive
Committee System to, what he called, a pure accident of history, the British Party
System, adducing argument and example on behalf of the former, in this country's
situation of its ethnic configuration as by far the foremost for ultimate Peace,
Governance and Development - or Ruin!
The motion by E. W. Perera for a Parliamentary Party System was carried. With the
advent of Independence, albeit with' some rules', the expectations totally failed. We
have only paid the price since then. We have now the chance to redeem ourselves,
not blaming each other as to who started first, and all that this can be done - but only
if the present Great Leaders of the New Armagaddon will themselves to do so!
In humility therefore yet given my seniority in age, may I rightfully ask our (to me)
young contenders for the leadership and faith of our country, that they answer the
three questions below openly, as to what they understand by the terms 'Unitary
Government'; 'Participatory Government'; 'Devolutionary Government' (Cum 'Federal
or Con-Federal Government.' The one who answers this best should get first
preference for the votes of our poor people. Otherwise, to them, in my phrase that I
started with, once again, "Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow but no Jam Today!" I can
only wish all wealth, welfare and prosperity to my country and my people, whom I have
loved so well for so long.
(The writer is former Deputy Ex. Secy. Economic Commission for Asia; UNEP Global
Director Ed; Tr; TA; Regional Director Asia Pacific; Visiting Professor, London School
of Economics (… MIT/Harvard, Berkeley, EWC, San Diego, Waterloo, Chennai), UN –
Sasakawa World Environment Laureate; Hony. Fellow – CEWEM (UK)}
[Courtesy: Daily Mirror]