Zero-sum political games in Post-Independence Sri Lanka
Posted on February 2nd, 2012

R Chandrasoma

In a zero-sum game, the winner takes all and the loser is left high and dry to rue his losses. The native card-game of booruwa is a classic example of a zero-sum game. In the great game of politics, parties joust for success but the presumption that it is a kind of zero-sum game will be rejected by those who truly care for their country. Let us travel backward in time to the early days of the UNP when the Marxist forces (LSSP. CP, etc) were a formidable political presence. The “ƒ”¹…”Leftists’ reacted to political defeat by using their vaunted demagoguery to throw into turmoil the country as a whole – with shrill denunciations of every move of the party in power, dire warnings of impending doom, lightning strikes, etc.  Independence was denounced as a charade and the UNP rulers were dscribed as stooges and agents of the Imperialists who were playing tricks with the natives. Notice the zero-sum philosophy here “”…” because the “ƒ”¹…”leftists’ were beaten at the polls, all was lost and the winners were destroying a country that was truly their bailiwick. Based on this arrant foolery, a destructive and anti-national policy was openly canvased.

Need we say that this pernicious “ƒ”¹…”zero-sum’ philosophy persists largely unchanged in the political games currently under way? When the nation teetered on the edge of disaster in the battle with the Tiger seperatists, the UNP ridiculed the war effort and backed the alien forces that were hell-bent on destroying our country. The UNP now jousts with the “ƒ”¹…”People’s Alliance’ and the grand strategy of the former is to denounce all contributions to national prosperity as a “ƒ”¹…”devious trick’ by a corrupt and self-serving clique of imposters. Thus, if a great harbor is constructed, it is the (supposed) robbery involved that is highlighted “”…” not its great benefit to the nation as a whole. If a bridge is constructed, the weakness of the metalwork is the important issue “”…” not the goodness that accrues to all parties from such construction. If there is a failure in Z-scores (a system of assessing examination scripts) the hullabaloo is not about the technical shortfalls but about the stupidity of the government. This approach “”…” the denunciatory mindset that sees everything in the framework of zero-sum politics “”…” is the prime cause of our failure to achieve greatness. That political parties must aggressively pursue goals and forward agendas that are at cross-purposes with those favoured by the ruling power is not the issue. What is truly destructive is the crass purblindness to real achievement in national development for reasons that are rooted in the parochialism of party politics. That the city is beautiful and clean is a state of affairs that must win the plaudits of everyone. To see this as a means to attract rich gamblers from overseas is the product of a sick political mind. Enrichment and development of a country is “ƒ”¹…”scalar’ in nature “”…” it has no political direction. The party that succeeds the “ƒ”¹…”builders’ will benefit greatly as they will begin work on a solid platform of achievement already secured due to the good works of the earlier “ƒ”¹…”players’ in a “ƒ”¹…”non zero-sum’ game.

Let us turn to another “”…” more malignant “”…” aspect of zero-sum politics. While the Sinhala and Tamil people constitute definable “ƒ”¹…”nations’ and are not political parties as commonly understood, the ground-reality is that the two racial groups have “ƒ”¹…”acted’ as rival parties in a zero-sum political game. The fact that must be honestly faced is that Tamil politicians from the early Pre-Independence period forced a zero-sum strategy on a disorganized Sinhala leadership. The conviction on the Tamil side was that anything “ƒ”¹…”political’ gained by the Sinhala people was a loss to the Tamils “”…” that advantages and disadvantages followed the protocol of a zero-sum political game. Thus, universal franchise was opposed by the caste-dominated elite of Jaffna “”…” the rationale being that Sinhala power will increase with corresponding diminution in the standing of the heretofore dominant minority. Colonization of the dry zone by the majority race was denounced as an encroachment into areas that were autochthonously Dravidic. The replacement by Sinhala of the alien tongue of the Invader was seen as a move to downsize Tamil from it position of importance as an instrument of discourse in widespread use. We need not add to this sad list of willful distortions of the true intent of the “ƒ”¹…”Sinhala party’. The great ideological corrupter is the belief that what is good for the Sinhala people is necessarily bad for the Tamils. The latest brouhaha over land rights and police powers in the North-East arises directly from the belief that Sinhala governance is intrinsically inimical to the best interests of the native Tamils. This “ƒ”¹…”zero sum’ attitude has caused immense difficulties “”…” not least to the “ƒ”¹…”apolitical’ Tamil majority who subscribe to the philosophy that “ƒ”¹…”existence precedes essence’ in the common human struggle to survive in an unfriendly world.

3 Responses to “Zero-sum political games in Post-Independence Sri Lanka”

  1. Christie Says:

    Is it a Zero Sum Game in Fiji, Mauritius or in Kenya?

    Indian colonial parasites in the Indian Empire; formerly British-Indian Emire are the same. The writer implies the so called Tamils have been there for a long time.

    Tamils and other Indians are the only group of people who can claim that they have lived 12 miles accross the sea for such a long tme and have the same characteristics of their peers accross the sea. Something the Anglo Saxons do not have.

    What we need is the unity among the majority and demand freedom from the Indian Imperialism and colonialism.

  2. Naram Says:

    TO add few more to Christie’s list think of Malaysia with its once dominant minoritieswho held all the commanding heights of the economy and the rise and rise of Indonesia’s majority with the help of CIA and other operatives.

    I knoe in clubs and pubs of Sri Lanka Zero sum is game is played with vehemence with another target that is Buddhist Monks. Personally I know of no monk other than that Somarama who committed a murder but they who are mostly intellectually endowed products of Sinhala villages rank highly in the minds of certain sects as evidenced by mass murder in Aranathalawa, bomb in Dalada Maligawa.

  3. Bodhi Says:

    I think Christi and Naram have missed the point made by Chandrasoma that the sour “Bhangaveva” attitude created by Marxists in Sri Lanka has been taken over by the sinhalese to decry even the good deeds in an unfair way.
    Indeed, they introduced false militancy to a people who were well behaved and respectful.

    As for Tamil leaders, they used the Sinhala Tamil issue to try to pry out a part of the country as their personal fiefdom.
    The Sinhalese, aided by the West, almost agreed to it, and the country was just saved at the last moment, by a narrow hair. What if Ranil had won in 2005?

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