Interconnectedness and the Future of Democratic Tamil Politics or Federalism and Tamil-speaking Canadians
Canadian Foreign Policy and the Creation of Multicultural Democracies
Canada can articulate a foreign policy based on the principles of expanding human rights, overcoming all forms of racism and sectarianism in an increasingly interconnected and multicultural world and establishing the infrastructure required for democratic choices wherever there is intercultural conflict. We can, at least start.
There are a number of initiatives going on in the world, born of European social democratic principles, South Asian non-sectarian democrats, and proponents of a rule-of-law based social prosperity everywhere in the global economy. There is a unique Canadian perspective on these issues.
These remarks are addressed to Tamil-speaking Canadians about the future of Sri Lanka and the Tamil-speaking world. When speaking with Tamil-Canadians and people interested in Tamil politics, I often suggest that they look at events in Tamil-speaking Sri Lanka in a global context and understand the unique importance of their activities. By repudiating the violence that has damaged the reputation of Tamil culture, they make a point of global significance in and of itself. Tamil politics will also be influenced by the interconnectedness of the modern world. Events in Kurdistan and Burma will have the kind of ripple effect on Sri Lanka which events in Poland and Eastern Europe had on South Africa two decades ago. Events in Sri Lanka and the Tamil-speaking world will also have ripple effects that will be felt around the world as struggles for the achievement of multicultural democracy seek their inspirational templates.
It is important for a democratic movement in Tamil-speaking Asia to put the issues which interest and motivate their political activities in a language of global justice and the global politics of the pursuit of the rule of law and sustainable prosperity. No nationalist politics can exist in 2005 without a global context . It is important to show the connections between seemingly obscure and distant events. Who in 1982 saw the links between events in the shipyards in Gdansk and the changes that would come by the end of the decade in South Africa? The end of the Cold War ended the realpolitik-based defense of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Now today, democratic nation-builders like the Kurdish regime and Iraqi President Talibani will make decisions about how the institutions of a liberated Kurdistan integrate into a pan-Iraqi regime and that will have implications for the Tamils of Sri Lanka. They will set a framework for the management of multicultural states pursuing the rule of law. In global geopolitics, a Buddhist democracy in Burma will have implications for the greater south Asian community from Lahore to Java. A democratic Burma would open up the possibilities for more cross-border investment and for different strategies of south Asian economic growth. That too will have implications for the way in which Sri Lankan politics will evolve.
South Africans in 1982-89 could only monitor the events in Gdansk and Warsaw that would within a decade ripple through the interconnected world of global politics. But they could be ready and could understand how global democratization might create opportunities for them. Today Tamil-speakers who want to reconstitute a democratic Tamil politics have to understand how events in Kurdistan and Burma may create opportunities for them. Success will require an understanding of how domestic politics intersect with the global environment in this interconnected world.
History teaches us not just of “butterfly effects” and undisclosed connections. It also shows us how events inspire, how liberalism in Napoleonic Spain had an impact on Spanish-speaking California or the Colombian and Venezuelan settlements on the Caribbean coast. Every society in the world is grappling with the complex politics of multiculturalism. And there are lessons to be learned from how good politics and great political leadership can accelerate the end of isolationism and sectarianism in this modern age.
A football game in Barcelona reveals some important new networks in a world of celebrating post-nationalism
In Barcelona last month, the football player of the year Ronaldinho invited Catalan fans to a friendly match between Barcelona and the Israel-Palestinian Peace team. The hosts of the event (www.peres-center.org) included Shimon Peres, the Nobel Peace Prize winner for his attempts to manage the complex politics of multiculturalism; Sean Connery, the world’s most famous Scottish nationalist; and Pasqual Maragall, the President of Catalonia, a “non-state nation” in the new jargon of international diplomacy, and certainly a 21st Century metaphor for the management of complex identities and for peaceful cross-cultural nation-building. (“I am a Catalan, I am a European, I am a Spaniard” is a phrase echoed and turned into spoken poetry in European popular culture.)
We are in 2005 enjoying the possibility of entering a new global political era of democratic non-sectarianism. This is not the time for advocates of human rights and rule of law to take a victory lap, but there are powerful metaphors there for those who choose to see them. Democracy is not something one imposes, but if we look at the activities in Zimbabwe, Burma and Kashmir as of 2006, we know that in Bernard Kouchner’s phrase, “humanitarian intervention” sometimes makes possible the removal of the artificial obstacles to democracy.
The Zimbabwean, Burmese and Kashmiri people have all demonstrated a will to a democracy that has been suppressed. Kouchner remains an important political figure, outside of the current power situations www.echofoundation.org , an advocate of liberation of Kurdish democrats among others whose vantage point and philosophical framework is European democratic socialism.
Similarly, the speech Harn Yawnghwe delivered on behalf of Aung San Sui Kye to the conference at the University of Virginia is of eloquence and importance to democratic advocates because of its belief in the universality of democratic aspirations and its evidence that there is nothing “western” or “imposed” about democracy.
Another Nobel Peace laureate, Jose Ramos-Horta wrote in an article in the Wall Street Journal http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110005071 challenging the assumptions frequently made about the role of international institutions and what Kouchner would call “humanitarian intervention” in creating the conditions for democracy. The vigour of democracy in these contexts like Bosnia, Burma, and East Timor is remarkable and inspirational. These butterfly effects, or global ripples have implications for the future recasting of constitutional options in Sri Lanka and for Tamil-speaking Canadians and their advocates who want a democratic formula for sustainable prosperity in Sri Lanka and the Tamil-speaking global community.
Complex identities and Canada’s Significance for a New Democratic Order in Sri Lanka
For Canadians, this is an historic opportunity to redefine our foreign policy around things that matter and things we understand, we have long lived with the complexities of identity (“I am a Canadian, I am a Quebecois and I am a North American”). The reconciliation of different cultures in a functioning democratic system is something that Canadians deal with daily (and we take too lightly our success at doing this). It is one of our contributions to the models of global decision-making that make us unique. We are the only member of the G8 with no imperial history. We are also the only member of the G8 that is explicitly about the creation of a multicultural politics in our constitutional design. We are a democratic society which has chosen to spell out the terms of our disengagement in a Clarity Act; we are the anti-Lincolns of the 21st Century. As Bob Rae (*) has pointed out, we have something to offer young Tamils and Sinhalese speaking Sri Lankans by way of our learned and digested experiences with federalism and other complex models for multicultural nation-building. We can at least define the options.
(*) See in particular Bob Rae’s comments regarding the applicability of discussions about Canadian federalism to the current political negotiations on Sri Lanka http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=9514
It is for Sri Lankans to determine the form of their new political order. The democratic world can only speak declaratively on the rules of the game. We can only assist in framing the options. Federalism can work. The Czech and Slovak partition within a unified Europe provides another option which has proven viable. As Canadians, we know the value of complex multiple identities; we also know the stresses and potential for an economic lack of focus in a federal state without strong national institutions.
Cross-border investment and the future of Sustainable Democracy in Tamil-speaking Asia
The Tamil business agenda is as significant as the Tamil political agenda. The need for Canadians with business backgrounds to create the economic instruments which are the prerequisite of longterm sustainable development is more apparent than ever. Just as there is a need to create instruments to provide entrepreneurial finance to innovative Palestinians, there is a need to create these kinds of financial instruments for the development of a new economic structure in South Asia.
Cross-border investment reinforces democratic political tendencies. While the realities of capital markets are such that there will and should always be obstacles to complete ease of access, the next stage of economic integration provides for the kind of investment in new growth activities which wealthy counties have been doing for decades. In the previous section the Palestinian Peace fund was citied as an example. The proposal for a northeast African instrument of economic integration, backing business management teams from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti has been discussed previously (see www.jimdewilde.net ) , Such attempts to provide innovative structure for entrepreneurial finance in south Asia are equally important to the sustainable prosperity of the region and the capacity of nation-states to evolve a predictable rule of law.
The future prosperity of any multicultural unit and especially one which involves a federal arrangement depends on its capacity to create win-win investment deals between regions. The politics of south Asia depend on the capacity of the capital markets to create export-led competitive strategies of the types which have made successes in Thailand, Korea and Malaysia. Economic integration and the development of well-capitalized export-oriented companies make nation-building easier in multicultural societies. Federalism without a formula for win-win economic decision-making and the development of globally competitive economic strategies is a formula for economic inefficiency, and obviously a corresponding political instability.
In South Asia, the already existing Tamil role in e-commerce provides an important component of sustainable prosperity in a knowledge-based south Asian economy http://www.tamilnation.org/digital/singtisc.htm . The Colombo exchange www.cse.lk , existing as it does halfway been Dubai and Singapore, is an incentive to create of win-win economic deal-making, regardless of the constitutional forms that are democratically selected for Sri Lanka and the models of economic integration that are democratically selected for South Asia. The challenge is to develop economic and political strategies for making diversity in Sri Lanka and South Asia a source of competitive advantage.
The importance of Sri Lanka and Democratic Tamil Politics to the New Global Communities
We know that tolerance of the use of political violence disqualifies people from serious participation in the management of complex intercultural politics. We also know that successful management of multicultural societies requires both legal frameworks than facilitate negotiations and economic activities which create the win-win bargains between regional economies. The development of cross-regional commitments to sustainable prosperity remains one of the great political philosophical breakthroughs of the early 21st Century. Even while the European initiative falters in the Netherlands and France, it gains ground in globally-oriented communities in Bratislava and Lvov, Tallinn and Bucharest. For the south Asian region, an ASEAN initiative on creating cross-regional commitments to sustainable prosperity starts with Burma.
In the Middle East, economic integration creates the potential for win-win activities between Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs and financiers. This process has been one step forward and two steps sideways for over a decade, since the Oslo accords started an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Cross-border investment creates economic habits that offset parochial sectarianism. The Turkish initiative in creating instruments or regional investments for three-way deals between Turkey, Israel and Palestine and Shimon Peres’ Peace Technology Fund for channeling Israeli investment into Palestine, http://www.peres-center.org/ are case studies that suggest strategic options of economic network-building and the political complexities of doing it in areas of historical sectarianism. http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=41319
What could be more relevant to the development of a democratic 21st Century politics than a Tamil-led commitment to the liberation of primarily Buddhist Burma, showing that a commitment to sustainable prosperity, the politics of economic growth and the universality of commitment to the rule of law underlies expressions of Tamil political culture? Tamil politics is either about the attempt to express democratic sentiments through new political forms or the attempt to introduce a narrow sectarianism with a violent trajectory into 21st Century politics. As in northeast Africa, the test is in how the inevitability of regional politics is reflected in the political agenda of aspiring political leaders in Tamil-speaking south Asia. One valid test is how they view the democratization of Burma and the ASEAN agenda for the region.
It is not for me to suggest whether a unitary Tamil state is preferable to a federal state, or whether the Scottish, Slovak or Catalonian “models” make the most sense for Sri Lankan constitutional engineering. It is for people like me to say that they want Tami politics to be identified with the best form of 21st Century democratic statecraft and not the worst form of 20th Century political violence. It is also for people sitting learning from the Canadian experience to show that the project of regional integration can be liberating for smaller communities. Catalans and northern Italians with their own regional frustrations embraced the united Europe. The building of economic habits of integration and cross-border investments is not just good for investment bankers. It also develops the economic habits which make possible the management of complex identities in the modern world. How Tamils approach the issues of democracy-building in Sri Lanka and the creation of the conditions for sustainable prosperity in an economically interconnected south Asia can set standards for global politics in the 21st Century. Canadians know about the complexities of multicultural nation-building and can offer some significant political insights into the tradeoffs of different models of constitutional design.