The predicament of a Defence Secretary

“Already in North America, some groups have become exposed collecting funds purportedly for the LTTE and mostly in cash that may not be forwarded to Wanni. Even a North American lawyer has joined in the melee to collect funds allegedly for instituting legal proceedings against Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, his brother and the army general Sarath Fonseka. The Tamil Diaspora organization that retained him has publicly stated that he has over-ridden client-counsel relationship and become a loose cannon.”

by Jacinta Cruz in Los Angeles and Renuka Sharma in Colombo

(July 10, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is no question of doves and hawks in Sri Lanka’s bloody ethnic troubles. The world of media sees every Tamil as anti-Sinhala and every Sinhala, anti-Tamil and reports constantly indicate in the words of Rudyard Kipling that never the twain will meet. The extreme solution demanded as paraded by the insensitive media is that the Sinhalese want the Tamils out of Sri Lanka and the Tamils want a separate state all of themselves.

The root of this tragic consequence to the continuous failure of successive governments to solve the ethnic crisis in a statesmanlike manner goes to pre-independence time when Junius Jayawardene who later was president when the near-genocidal riots against the Tamils occurred in 1983, raised the issue of Sinhala dominancy over the Tamils in the late 1930s. Supported by historical material of unchecked pedigree and fictitious derivations the idea was canvassed that Sri Lanka belonged only to the Sinhala Buddhists. This idea lit the spark of Buddhist monks engaging in racist politics which is abominable to the Sanga but went unchecked because Sinhala racist politicians found it ideal to exploit to their advantage to seek political power and fortune.

Following the general elections of 1947 and Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, the UNP Government of D S Senanayake supported by the Tamil Congress headed by G G Ponnambalam disfranchised large numbers of Tamils from the Central, Uva and Sabragamuwa Provinces and made them stateless persons. Riding on the hysteric wave of Sinhala Only, S W R D Bandaranaike became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1956 and from then onwards, the racial crisis went from bad to worse with no government since then having the guts to solve it.

Ideally at the time of independence, the pre-British period historic reality of Sri Lanka should have been upheld as a federal state based on what existed for decades as the Kotte, Kandy and Jaffna kingdoms. What occurred was a Colombo elite preference of a unitary state controlled by them when, what in reality at the grass roots was a country that had an ingrained federal potential. The rest is tragic history and the current havoc and turbulence and both communities continue to tug bitterly from extreme positions.

The Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa inherited the administration of a country brutally at war and all the evils war nurtures as arms deals, corruption at various levels, interference of foreign powers to serve their interests especially geo-politically and even contraband and alien smuggling. Faced with this, the Sri Lankan political performance is also one deluged with multi splintering of political parties, change of policies, failure to deliver the essential needs of the people through good government and the use of goondas and hooligans as private armies.

One gets the impression that just about every one who enters the political arena wants to be the head of state or a minister. This has been clearly seen in President Mahinda Rajapaksa having a cabinet of hundred ministers which he found essential to hold his government together.

Just about every political party in Sri Lanka – the Lanka Samaja Party, the Communist Party, the United National Party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Tamil Congress and now the Jatika Vimukthi Peramuna which was founded on terror as a means in politics have all gone through the process of splintering and it has never stopped emphasizing the volatile nature of Sri Lankan politics.

Amidst all these a heart-rending observation could be made that a large majority of Sinhalese and Tamils are against terrorism of any kind and they want to live in peace with each other in whatever form of governmental system that may be set up as long as it upholds equal rights for all people. Neither community wants supremacy over the other. But they have been rendered totally helpless and they are tragic victims of this state of affairs.

Successive governments have ignored this reality and taken measures that strengthened divisions further and even more hatred between the two communities than resolving the ethnic chaos which itself was created by the politicians.

The culprits are those who fan Sinhala supremacy in Sri Lanka and Tamil separation via the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam mostly from the Tamil Diaspora who have no stakes in Sri Lanka. Neither group wants an amicable solution. As a matter of fact any solution anymore because corruption has become so rampant and Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis has developed into an industry in which the majority of Sri Lankans, Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others are held in absolute ransom. This also accounts for the continuing farce of the APRC that is unable to take even one step towards solution.

The Defence Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, apart from being a brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a forces veteran and a highly successful military officer who served the country for twenty years before migrating to the US. He has been decorated for valour many times having risen from the ranks. He had served in Jaffna and participated with honour in the offensive to liberate Vadamarachchi from the LTTE in 1987.

He comes from a family that belonged to the grass roots of southern Sri Lanka and has been politically active with total dedication to the well being of the people in the Hambantota District for over eight decades. Since the needs of people of this area are replicated all over rural Sri Lanka from the south to north and east to west, the politics of the Rajapaksa family was indeed a national cause.

This was certainly in conflict with the urban elite especially of Colombo and racially, the urban elite were quite united under a capitalist order. This has been a serious drawback for the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. This largely accounts for the problems it has with media organizations and journalists most of whom operated from Colombo as if the entire country reflects the capital.

There is hardly any link – intellectual, social, cultural and even in economics – between urban Colombo and rural Sri Lanka and worse, between rural Sri Lanka and overseas, a reason why the Tamil Diaspora has assumed the position of arrogantly representing Tamil interests virtually oblivious to ground situations in Sri Lanka. The Tamil Diaspora hardly communicates politically with their people in Sri Lanka; they decide themselves and dictate to them through the LTTE.

While Sinhala extremists virtually rule the roost of the Sinhalese, Tamil extremists hold the Tamils down to their knees whipped by the LTTE in Sri Lanka and their agents in countries to which they had fled in large numbers and established their homes. Even members of the Rajapaksa family felt Sri Lanka was no more the home for them and considering the best interests of their families went in the westward direction. Many who have gone overseas would still love to get back to Sri Lanka but it is the ethnic chaos that is preventing them from making such a move to return to where they feel they really belong.

The solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic chaos needs leaders from both sides to create a climate for such, and take the steps towards resolution. The LTTE has repeatedly derailed any move towards a solution and have even gone further and engaged in terror attacks of brutality and ruthlessness. It has decimated all the moderate leaders of the Tamil community, many of them great men of political intellectuality and integrity. It even went to the extent of assassinating India’s Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who wrenched out an excellent solution to the ethnic problem from President Junius Jayawardene.

The LTTE also massacred all the other Tamil liberation groups, and of the remaining one of any consequence led by Minister Douglas Devananda, it has made several attempts to destroy him and his followers, succeeding in some of their attacks. Furthermore, the LTTE enjoys the support of the Tamil Diaspora who does not have to pay the kind of terrible price their kith and kin do in Sri Lanka.

It is increasingly becoming clear that the Tamil Diaspora organizations supporting the LTTE in countries like Canada, USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway are themselves engaged in activities that do not serve their people in Sri Lanka. Apart from rampant corruption prevailing among them and some are indeed at each other’s throats, they are largely supportive of an LTTE that may quite possibly be an international network akin to the mafia involved in illicit arms trade and large scale smuggling of contraband goods and humans.

This points to the suspicion that all along Velupillai Prabhakaran used the Tamil question as a springboard to set up his mafia empire Sicilian style especially in the South Asian theatre.

If this is the reality in Sri Lanka and a solution to the ethnic crisis opposed by extremists on both sides while a large majority of Sri Lankans want it, the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a very passionate military man himself, has no option but to end the LTTE plague once and for all. Expecting the LTTE to agree to any solution is like the wolf howling to gobble up the full moon which it does every month. The more the LTTE is pushed to the corner the more the Tamil Diaspora organizations supporting them will become exposed.

Already in North America, some groups have become exposed collecting funds purportedly for the LTTE and mostly in cash that may not be forwarded to Wanni. Even a North American lawyer has joined in the melee to collect funds allegedly for instituting legal proceedings against Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, his brother and the army general Sarath Fonseka. The Tamil Diaspora organization that retained him has publicly stated that he has over-ridden client-counsel relationship and become a loose cannon.

Analyzing the current situation in Sri Lanka, what other options has the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa except to extend his full support to the forces under Major General Sarath Fonseka and bring the LTTE to its knees and to end the Prabhakaran terror once and for all? Apart from the many lives he brutally exterminated among the Sinhalese and Tamils, the damage he has done to the Tamils have been incredibly horrendous. It all began in July 1975 when he cowardly killed a man point blank who was praying at a famous Krishna Temple in Ponnalai in the Vaddukoddai electorate. He was the amiable and adorable man who loved and cared for the common people. He was Mayor Alfred Duryappah and a friend of the Rajapaksa brothers and their families, a relationship that reflected how Sinhalese and Tamils can get along very well with each other.
- Sri Lanka Guardian