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A fragmented world




Globalization as an economic model became popular following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990s. Capitalism’s onward march no longer faced a barrier. Factors that had contributed to globalisation were increasingly sophisticated information, communication and transportation technologies and services, mass migration of people, a level of economic activity that had outgrown national markets through industrial combinations and commercial groupings.

Globalisation has resulted in increasing economic integration and inter-dependence among countries leading to the emergence of a global marketplace. Multinational companies manufacture products across many countries and sell them all over the world. Money, technology and raw materials have broken international barriers. The developed economies have integrated with the less developed through foreign direct investment, reduction in trade barriers and economic reforms. According to the World Bank, globalisation is “the deepening of economic integration among countries of the world”.

However, globalisation has been complicated by widely differing expectations, standards of living, cultures and values, legal systems as well as unexpected global cause and effect linkages. The housing and banking crisis that originated in the United States in 2007-08 and then turned into a global economic crisis showed the more problematic side of globalisation.

Globalisation is a negation of an egalitarian society. Social democracy has not yet lost its relevance. It is also considered that globalisation is an attempt to erode the Westphalia system that gave the state supreme and sovereign authority. Globalisation is a threat to national boundaries. If the collapse of the Soviet Union is taken as the cut-off date, globalisation has a history of only 30 years.

While the world has become more globalised and therefore, smaller, yet in some respects it has become more fragmented and larger. In 1945, the UN had 51 members, fewer than the number of countries in Africa today. As of now, there are more than 200 states of which 193 states are UN members. South Sudan is the newest member. The colonial empires were quickly dissolved after the Second World War. The colonies under Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal attained independence with amazing speed.

In 1989, the Soviet empire in central and eastern Europe disappeared within a half year, from elections in Poland to fall in Romania. In 1990-91, even the Soviet Union itself was dissolved into its 15 constituent republics. The not-so large Yugoslavia broke into seven parts and Czechoslovakia into two. East Timor broke away from Indonesia; Bangladesh from Pakistan. Canada has the Quebec question; France has its Corsica. In Britain, Scotland’s independence is hotly discussed. Today, the US is virtually alone among the big powers to have unchallenged territorial unity. This is the picture of world fragmentation today. Nobody knows for certain how many nations are there in the world since it is up to the people to decide how they want to define their identity. It has been estimated that in only half of the world’s states is there a single ethnic group that comprises at least 70 per cent of the population. If, eventually, most nations are to have their own states, the number may go up to 1000. In the early nineteenth century, many thought Belgium and Greece too small to become independent. In the early twentieth century, many thought Iceland and Malta too small. Such is the extent of fragmentation that today there are about 80 countries with a population of under 5 million, 25 have fewer than one million.

Globalisation is overwhelmingly a technological and economic process while fragmentation is primarily political. Even though they take place in different spheres, it is often assumed that there is a relationship between the two. It was the Industrial Revolution that had opened up opportunities for creation of nation states from advancement of communications and technologies. Studies have shown that globalisation influences forces of opposition and sows seeds of conflict and tension.

Talking about the mid-twentieth century, Ian Clark wrote,” the century saw the creation of hitherto unattainable wealth but ever wider gaps in its distribution. Above all, the century was characterised by the greater interconnectedness of events on a global scale, while simultaneously being subject to political processes of rapture and disintegration. It has been an age of globalization and fragmentation”. Political fragmentation and disintegration have been seen to be the obverse of globalization.

The curious contradiction has been caused by the fact that with more than enough wealth at hand and with the tolls of new technology giving completely new means of interaction between minorities, the way has been paved for a resurgence of nationalist thinking so that all over the western world and slowly in rest of the world minority groups are creating states of their own.

The theoretical underpinnings can be put to test in three case studies. The break-up of Yugoslavia occurred because of a series of political upheavals and conflicts during the early 1990s. After the Allied victory in World War II, Yugoslavia was formed as a socialist federal republic of six nations with borders drawn along ethnic and historical lines. It comprised an area of about 2,60, 000 sq km and a population of about 25 million. The Yugoslav model of state organization as well as a combination of planned and liberal economy had been a success and the country experienced a period of strong economic growth and relative political stability up to the 1980s under the rule of president-for-life Josip Broz Tito. After his death in 1980, the weakened system of federal government was left unable to cope with rising economic and political challenges of the constituent republics. Dissatisfied with the exercise of power by the majority Serbs, the Slovenes succeeded in establishing their independence in 1991 after a ten-year war. That was the beginning of the end. Even though Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia also in 1991 like Slovenia, it took four years of bitter fighting before occupying Serb armies were ejected from Croatian lands. The Yugoslav wars saw string of inter-ethnic incidents, first in Croatia and then most severely in multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina and finally the Kosovo war. The wars left longterm economic and political damage in the region, still felt decades later. The crisis occasioned by the disintegration of Yugoslavia has remained one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world over. The nations formed out of Yugoslavia are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. In July 2010, the International Court of Justice had ruled that the declaration of independence by the individual members of the Kosovo assembly and not binding the assembly itself did not violate general principles of international law. 98 out of 193 UN member states have recognized Kosovo. Kosovo can be taken as the seventh country born out of disintegration.

Czechoslovakia was created with the dissolution of Austro- Hungarian empire at the end of the World War I. In 1918, the Czech and Slovak representatives signed the Pittsburgh Agreement which promised a common state of two equal nations, Slovaks and Czechs.

Some Slovaks were not in favour of this change and in 1939 with pressure from Nazi Germany, the first Slovak Republic was created as a satellite state of Germany with limited sovereignty. After World War II, a truncated Czechoslovakia fell within the Soviet sphere of influence. With the collapse of Soviet Union in 1989, Czechoslovakia regained its freedom through a peaceful “velvet revolution”. On 1 January 1993, the country went through a “velvet divorce” into its two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Sudan had never known stability. South Sudan is tropical, under-developed and populated by hundreds of ethnic tribes of African descent. The north, by contrast, is drier but wealthier – a Saharan world with strong links to the Middle East. Civil war erupted between two parts even before the nation gained independence from Britain in 1956. Even though there was a fragile peace for 11 years between 1972 and 1983, the roots of violence had never changed. Undivided Sudan had long been ruled by a small circle of wealthy northerners, who because of their Arabic culture considered themselves Arabs instead of Africans. When oil was found in the south in the 1980s, the government planned to pipe it northwards for refining. Oil wealth went to Khartoum into the hands of a privileged few. This exploitation combined with a government plan to divert southern water to grow cash crops in the north ignited tensions that restarted the civil war.

A Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the south and the north in 2005 as an outcome of international mediation. However, six years after signing the agreement, 99 per cent of South Sudanese voted in favour of independence and Sudan split into two. South Sudan became the world’s newest nation in July 2011. The civil war in Sudan, one of the longest in modern history, was estimated to have cost nearly two million lives. The calamity of Sudan had unfolded largely without witnesses ~ an apocalypse in a vacuum

The three case studies show that globalisation has not directly contributed to the withering away of states. States have disintegrated more due to internal contradictions, compulsions, ethnic nationalism, separatist movements, lack of governance, sovereignty disputes, economic and political mismanagement rather than external influence of globalization. Globalisation is about economic integration, inter-dependence, and openness. Fragmentation is about disintegration, heterogeneity and separation. The result of globalisation is one economic world. The end result of fragmentation is many political worlds. It is a question of one against many.

The breakdown of the USSR and the end of the Cold war has produced a world that is more globalised but more fragmented. It is a contradiction, yet true. Mikhail Gorbachev said in 1990, “A new world order is taking shape so fast that governments and private citizens find it difficult to absorb the gallop of events’’. It is not possible to predict where the world will be twenty years from now. (The Statesman/ANN)

The writer is a former central civil service officer who retired from the Ministry of Defence


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Islamophobia and the threat to democratic development



There’s an ill more dangerous and pervasive than the Coronavirus that’s currently sweeping Sri Lanka. That is the fear to express one’s convictions. Across the public sector of the country in particular many persons holding high office are stringently regulating and controlling the voices of their consciences and this bodes ill for all and the country.

The corrupting impact of fear was discussed in this column a couple of weeks ago when dealing with the military coup in Myanmar. It stands to the enduring credit of ousted Myanmarese Head of Government Aung San Suu Kyi that she, perhaps for the first time in the history of modern political thought, singled out fear, and not power, as the principal cause of corruption within the individual; powerful or otherwise.

To be sure, power corrupts but the corrupting impact of fear is graver and more devastating. For instance, the fear in a person holding ministerial office or in a senior public sector official, that he would lose position and power as a result of speaking out his convictions and sincere beliefs on matters of the first importance, would lead to a country’s ills going unaddressed and uncorrected.

Besides, the individual concerned would be devaluing himself in the eyes of all irrevocably and revealing himself to be a person who would be willing to compromise his moral integrity for petty worldly gain or a ‘mess of pottage’. This happens all the while in Lankan public life. Some of those who have wielded and are wielding immense power in Sri Lanka leave very much to be desired from these standards.

It could be said that fear has prevented Sri Lanka from growing in every vital respect over the decades and has earned for itself the notoriety of being a directionless country.

All these ills and more are contained in the current controversy in Sri Lanka over the disposal of the bodies of Covid victims, for example. The Sri Lankan polity has no choice but to abide by scientific advice on this question. Since authorities of the standing of even the WHO have declared that the burial of the bodies of those dying of Covid could not prove to be injurious to the wider public, the Sri Lankan health authorities could go ahead and sanction the burying of the bodies concerned. What’s preventing the local authorities from taking this course since they claim to be on the side of science? Who or what are they fearing? This is the issue that’s crying out to be probed and answered.

Considering the need for absolute truthfulness and honesty on the part of all relevant persons and quarters in matters such as these, the latter have no choice but to resign from their positions if they are prevented from following the dictates of their consciences. If they are firmly convinced that burials could bring no harm, they are obliged to take up the position that burials should be allowed.

If any ‘higher authority’ is preventing them from allowing burials, our ministers and officials are conscience-bound to renounce their positions in protest, rather than behave compromisingly and engage in ‘double think’ and ‘double talk’. By adopting the latter course they are helping none but keeping the country in a state of chronic uncertainty, which is a handy recipe for social instabiliy and division.

In the Sri Lankan context, the failure on the part of the quarters that matter to follow scientific advice on the burials question could result in the aggravation of Islamophobia, or hatred of the practitioners of Islam, in the country. Sri Lanka could do without this latter phobia and hatred on account of its implications for national stability and development. The 30 year war against separatist forces was all about the prevention by military means of ‘nation-breaking’. The disastrous results for Sri Lanka from this war are continuing to weigh it down and are part of the international offensive against Sri Lanka in the UNHCR.

However, Islamophobia is an almost world wide phenomenon. It was greatly strengthened during Donald Trump’s presidential tenure in the US. While in office Trump resorted to the divisive ruling strategy of quite a few populist authoritarian rulers of the South. Essentially, the manoeuvre is to divide and rule by pandering to the racial prejudices of majority communities.

It has happened continually in Sri Lanka. In the initial post-independence years and for several decades after, it was a case of some populist politicians of the South whipping-up anti-Tamil sentiments. Some Tamil politicians did likewise in respect of the majority community. No doubt, both such quarters have done Sri Lanka immeasurable harm. By failing to follow scientific advice on the burial question and by not doing what is right, Sri Lanka’s current authorities are opening themselves to the charge that they are pandering to religious extremists among the majority community.

The murderous, destructive course of action adopted by some extremist sections among Muslim communities world wide, including of course Sri Lanka, has not earned the condemnation it deserves from moderate Muslims who make-up the preponderant majority in the Muslim community. It is up to moderate opinion in the latter collectivity to come out more strongly and persuasively against religious extremists in their midst. It will prove to have a cementing and unifying impact among communities.

It is not sufficiently appreciated by governments in the global South in particular that by voicing for religious and racial unity and by working consistently towards it, they would be strengthening democratic development, which is an essential condition for a country’s growth in all senses.

A ‘divided house’ is doomed to fall; this is the lesson of history. ‘National security’ cannot be had without human security and peaceful living among communities is central to the latter. There cannot be any ‘double talk’ or ‘politically correct’ opinions on this question. Truth and falsehood are the only valid categories of thought and speech.

Those in authority everywhere claiming to be democratic need to adopt a scientific outlook on this issue as well. Studies conducted on plural societies in South Asia, for example, reveal that the promotion of friendly, cordial ties among communities invariably brings about healing among estranged groups and produces social peace. This is the truth that is waiting to be acted upon.

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Pakistan’s love of Sri Lanka



By Sanjeewa Jayaweera

It was on 3rd January 1972 that our family arrived in Karachi from Moscow. Our departure from Moscow had been delayed for a few weeks due to the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It ended on 16th December 1971. After that, international flights were not permitted for some time.

The contrast between Moscow and Karachi was unbelievable. First and foremost, Moscow’s temperature was near minus 40 degrees centigrade, while in Karachi, it was sunny and a warm 28 degrees centigrade. However, what struck us most was the extreme warmth with which the airport authorities greeted our family. As my father was a diplomat, we were quickly ushered to the airport’s VIP Lounge. We were in transit on our way to Rawalpindi, the airport serving the capital of Islamabad.

We quickly realized that the word “we are from Sri Lanka” opened all doors just as saying “open sesame” gained entry to Aladdin’s cave! The broad smile, extreme courtesy, and genuine warmth we received from the Pakistani people were unbelievable.

This was all to do with Mrs Sirima Bandaranaike’s decision to allow Pakistani aircraft to land in Colombo to refuel on the way to Dhaka in East Pakistan during the military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was a brave decision by Mrs Bandaranaike (Mrs B), and the successive governments and Sri Lanka people are still enjoying the fruits of it. Pakistan has been a steadfast and loyal supporter of our country. They have come to our assistance time and again in times of great need when many have turned their back on us. They have indeed been an “all-weather” friend of our country.

Getting back to 1972, I was an early beneficiary of Pakistani people’s love for Sri Lankans. I failed the entrance exam to gain entry to the only English medium school in Islamabad! However, when I met the Principal, along with my father, he said, “Sanjeewa, although you failed the entrance exam, I will this time make an exception as Sri Lankans are our dear friends.” After that, the joke around the family dinner table was that I owed my education in Pakistan to Mrs B!

At school, my brother and I were extended a warm welcome and always greeted “our good friends from Sri Lanka.” I felt when playing cricket for our college; our runs were cheered more loudly than of others.

One particular incident that I remember well was when the Embassy received a telex from the Foreign inistry. It requested that our High Commissioner seek an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Zulifikar Ali Bhutto (ZB), and convey a message from Mrs B. The message requested that an urgent shipment of rice be dispatched to Sri Lanka as there would be an imminent rice shortage. As the Ambassador was not in the station, the responsibility devolved on my father.

It usually takes about a week or more to get an audience with the Prime Minister (PM) of a foreign country due to their busy schedule. However, given the urgency, my father spoke to the Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Sectary, who fortunately was our neighbour and sought an urgent appointment. My father received a call from the PM’s secretary around 10 P.M asking him to come over to the PM’s residence. My father met ZB around midnight. ZB was about to retire to bed and, as such, was in his pyjamas and gown enjoying a cigar! He had greeted my father and had asked, “Mr Jayaweera, what can we do for great friend Madam Bandaranaike?. My father conveyed the message from Colombo and quietly mentioned that there would be riots in the country if there is no rice!

ZB had immediately got the Food Commissioner of Pakistan on the line and said, “I want a shipload of rice to be in Colombo within the next 72 hours!” The Food Commissioner reverted within a few minutes, saying that nothing was available and the last export shipment had left the port only a few hours ago to another country. ZB had instructed to turn the ship around and send it to Colombo. This despite protests from the Food Commissioner about terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit prohibiting non-delivery. Sri Lanka got its delivery of rice!

The next was the visit of Mrs B to Pakistan. On arrival in Rawalpindi airport, she was given a hero’s welcome, which Pakistan had previously only offered to President Gaddafi of Libya, who financially backed Pakistan with his oil money. That day, I missed school and accompanied my parents to the airport. On our way, we witnessed thousands of people had gathered by the roadside to welcome Mrs B.

When we walked to the airport’s tarmac, thousands of people were standing in temporary stands waving Sri Lanka and Pakistan flags and chanting “Sri Lanka Pakistan Zindabad.” The noise emanating from the crowd was as loud and passionate as the cheering that the Pakistani cricket team received during a test match. It was electric!

I believe she was only the second head of state given the privilege of addressing both assemblies of Parliament. The other being Gaddafi. There was genuine affection from Mrs B amongst the people of Pakistan.

I always remember the indefatigable efforts of Mr Abdul Haffez Kardar, a cabinet minister and the President of the Pakistan Cricket Board. From around 1973 onwards, he passionately championed Sri Lanka’s cause to be admitted as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and granted test status. Every year, he would propose at the ICC’s annual meeting, but England and Australia’s veto kept us out until 1981.

I always felt that our Cricket Board made a mistake by not inviting Pakistan to play our inaugural test match. We should have appreciated Mr Kardar and Pakistan’s efforts. In 1974 the Pakistan board invited our team for a tour involving three test matches and a few first-class games. Most of those who played in our first test match was part of that tour, and no doubt gained significant exposure playing against a highly talented Pakistani team.

Several Pakistani greats were part of the Pakistan and India team that played a match soon after the Central Bank bomb in Colombo to prove that it was safe to play cricket in Colombo. It was a magnificent gesture by both Pakistan and India. Our greatest cricket triumph was in Pakistan when we won the World Cup in 1996. I am sure the players and those who watched the match on TV will remember the passionate support our team received that night from the Pakistani crowd. It was like playing at home!

I also recall reading about how the Pakistani government air freighted several Multi Barrell artillery guns and ammunition to Sri Lanka when the A rmy camp in Jaffna was under severe threat from the LTTE. This was even more important than the shipload of rice that ZB sent. This was crucial as most other countries refused to sell arms to our country during the war.

Time and again, Pakistan has steadfastly supported our country’s cause at the UNHCR. No doubt this year, too, their diplomats will work tirelessly to assist our country.

We extend a warm welcome to Mr Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is a truly inspirational individual who was undoubtedly an excellent cricketer. Since retirement from cricket, he has decided to get involved in politics, and after several years of patiently building up his support base, he won the last parliamentary elections. I hope that just as much as he galvanized Sri Lankan cricketers, his political journey would act as a catalyst for people like Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to get involved in politics. Cricket has been called a “gentleman’s game.” Whilst politics is far from it!.

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Covid-19 health rules disregarded at entertainment venues?



Believe me, seeing certain videos, on social media, depicting action, on the dance floor, at some of these entertainment venues, got me wondering whether this Coronavirus pandemic is REAL!

To those having a good time, at these particular venues, and, I guess, the management, as well, what the world is experiencing now doesn’t seem to be their concerned.

Obviously, such irresponsible behaviour could create more problems for those who are battling to halt the spread of Covid-19, and the new viriant of Covid, in our part of the world.

The videos, on display, on social media, show certain venues, packed to capacity – with hardly anyone wearing a mask, and social distancing…only a dream..

How can one think of social distancing while gyrating, on a dance floor, that is over crowded!

If this trend continues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Coronavirus makes its presence felt…at such venues.

And, then, what happens to the entertainment scene, and those involved in this field, especially the musicians? No work, whatsoever!

Lots of countries have closed nightclubs, and venues, where people gather, in order to curtail the spread of this deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands.

Thailand did it and the country is still having lots of restrictions, where entertainment is concerned, and that is probably the reason why Thailand has been able to control the spread of the Coronavirus.

With a population of over 69 million, they have had (so far), a little over 25,000 cases, and 83 deaths, while we, with a population of around 21 million, have over 80,000 cases, and more than 450 deaths.

I’m not saying we should do away with entertainment – totally – but we need to follow a format, connected with the ‘new normal,’ where masks and social distancing are mandatory requirements at these venues. And, dancing, I believe, should be banned, at least temporarily, as one can’t maintain the required social distance, while on the dance floor, especially after drinks.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana keeps emphasising, on TV, radio, and in the newspapers, the need to adhere to the health regulations, now in force, and that those who fail to do so would be penalised.

He has also stated that plainclothes officers would move around to apprehend such offenders.

Perhaps, he should instruct his officers to pay surprise visits to some of these entertainment venues.

He would certainly have more than a bus load of offenders to be whisked off for PCR/Rapid Antigen tests!

I need to quote what Dr. H.T. Wickremasinghe said in his article, published in The Island of Tuesday, February 16th, 2021:

“…let me conclude, while emphasising the need to continue our general public health measures, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowded gatherings, to reduce the risk of contact with an infected person.

“There is no science to beat common sense.”

But…do some of our folks have this thing called COMMON SENSE!

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