Sri Lanka’s perilous political scenario
File Photo: Switching fasces of "Our Mahinda Aiya," (A distinct by-product of Sinhala chauvinism has been the rampant spread of corruptive fungi of all kinds that are eating into the body politic of the country like a highly noxious cancer. Whoever takes up the cause of championing Sinhala-Buddhism becomes an instant hero. Whether they understand the spirit of Buddhism and the richness of a particular culture is immaterial to a mob seasoned over the years into an incensed mass ready for the kill and plunder in the name of Lord Buddha and the Sinhala language. The mob from time to time has their material dividends too.)
By: Durga Velautham reporting from New York
Optimism of any kind is fast dying in Sri Lanka; the whole perilous political scenario is turning into a potentially terrifying nightmare. There are genuine fears that deadly violence could once again break out in the island country as has been the pattern ever since 1958.
Unfortunately President Mahinda Rajapakse has failed to impress on the country that he has the guts and the foresight to handle the political complexities of Sri Lanka. These have ridden the wild steed of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism at the expense of the minority Tamil-speaking community and the socio-economic development of the country. On both fronts, the country has been virtually ruined.
A distinct by-product of Sinhala chauvinism has been the rampant spread of corruptive fungi of all kinds that are eating into the body politic of the country like a highly noxious cancer. Whoever takes up the cause of championing Sinhala-Buddhism becomes an instant hero. Whether they understand the spirit of Buddhism and the richness of a particular culture is immaterial to a mob seasoned over the years into an incensed mass ready for the kill and plunder in the name of Lord Buddha and the Sinhala language. The mob from time to time has their material dividends too.
Looking back at the preachers of racist and religious bigotry over the years, one can identify many a Sinhala charlatan who has had vast influence on the machinery of successive governments in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, these counterfeit quacks and con-artists were able to hold sway since Sri Lanka’s independence because the Tamils themselves hung on to wrong leaders, virtual pretenders from the Colombo elite community whose commitment to politics was based on interests that served their own in the country’s capital.
They hardly knew rural Sri Lanka even less the Tamil community outside Colombo. The Tamils on the other hand were brain-washed to believe that English educated professionals especially the lawyers were the best people to represent them, a colossal contortion of actuality. A study of how some coalition governments were formed during the last forty years in Sri Lanka will clearly indicate that Colombo’s landed interests were the decisive and bonding factors in the governance of the country.
Continuously Colombo has failed to come to grips with the real problems of Sri Lanka. The ethnic question should have been sorted out long ago especially when Srimavo Bandaranaike and Junius Jayawardene had comfortable majorities in Parliament. It is incredible that such an issue that gravely affects a major minority community should have been left to fester so long leading to periodical letting out of Tamil blood.
It is a shame that thousands of Tamils had to flee the country since 1958 and more especially after the communal outburst of 1983. Even worse, a deadly terror group emerged in consequence as the saviours of the Tamils left behind in the country. There is every justification to the claim that, but for the LTTE there would have been genocide against the Tamils especially when Jayawardene, the archduke of racism in Sri Lanka, became the executive head of the country and promulgated a constitution that personally suited him.
He went to lowly depths of political management blackmailing itinerant Government Members of Parliament carrying undated but signed letters of resignation from each of them. The rule was such, or rather so tailored, that once he filed such a letter, the member concerned would be booted out of Parliament.
In respect of the ethnic nightmare, even today there is so much dilly-dallying and searching for overseas sites to hold talks and depending on suspect countries like Norway to help. Norway’s involvement in Sri Lanka goes back to the 1970s with the Ceynor Development Project and Redd Barna in North Sri Lanka which turned out to be a massive failure. The Norwegian principals never understood the needs and interests of the local people. A great deal of corruptive factors plagued the project.
Today Norway is involved in the peace process despite being a major funding country to promote the interests of the LTTE. It is even feared that Norway is involved as a proxy to promote NATO interests in the Indian Ocean, and North Sri Lanka offers a good foothold. People from Valvettiturai and Karaiyoor in Jaffna began settling down in Norway in the early 1970s, they being the first Tamils to migrate to a non-English speaking country.
Today these people are a powerful factor in promoting the interests of the LTTE in Norway. Norwegian banks must also be bulging at their seams with massive LTTE funds flowing from other countries in Europe, Canada, USA, and Australia. Norway, under these circumstances, cannot be an honest peace broker.
Unfortunately, one finds it hard to understand why the Government of Sri Lanka still wants Norway to be actively involved in what they claim as their determination to bring about peace in Sri Lanka.
In reality, the Government of Sri Lanka has not understood and appreciated the fact that the rights of the Tamils, as much as that of the Sinhalese, are sacrosanct. Unless this issue is addressed with political integrity, something that lacks in Sri Lanka, there is no chance of making any progress towards a peaceful settlement.
Secondly, the LTTE has repeatedly indicated in various ways that they do not want peace in Sri Lanka. Any progress in this direction will go against the motives of the LTTE which is clearly to establish a Fascist Mafia state in Sri Lanka. More than the Sinhala Armed Forces and the Police, the Tamils have now become a major problem for the LTTE.
The Tamils themselves do not know who their real leaders are now. The head of the LTTE makes an annual appearance very briefly and there are others who make statements now and then, and some of them on issues ranging from the determination of one to slit the throat of a fellow Tiger comrade resident in London and shopping for luxury goods to the brothels of Thailand. Meanwhile auxiliary LTTE gangs are involved in violence and extortion in the Jaffna peninsula and the Government of Sri Lanka has turned a blind eye to them.
The LTTE is determined to provoke a war in which a lot of Tamil civilians will become gun fodder because they have carried out some kind of forced training to arm the civilian population of all ages. In the event of war breaking out, the Armed Forces will be faced with indiscriminate firing from all directions that they will easily overcome but at great cost to civilian lives.
The LTTE has planned a proxy war giving them time and leeway to escape from the Wanni bunkers perhaps helped by certain friendly powers that have certain motives in the region. Or some kind of an intervention will take place that will safe the lives of the LTTE leaders and even go towards legitimizing their status with some settlement or other. When this happens, and if this happens, the Tamils would have by that time lost thousands of civilians who have been already readied for the slaughter.
All that need to happen now is for the Government of Sri Lanka to work out a solution and this obviously has to be a federal structure for the country and then seek the help of countries like India, being the major power in the region and Canada which has the largest community of Sri Lankan Tamils outside Sri Lanka to help in enshrining this in the constitution of the country.
Anything less will plunge the country into a terrible chaos from which recovery would be very hard. President Mahinda Rajapakse is fast being stamped as a massive failure. He has, let me repeat, no courage nor foresight.
(The writer is a feature editor of the Lanka Guardian. She is currently lives in New York, USA )