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Sri Lanka Paradise: Miles and miles to go

By Gamini Weerakoon

(May 31, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)
The squawks of the Sinhala hawks have abated considerably. The Peace Doves have stepped up their mooing to squeaks and are now accusing Tigers of crimes which had bypassed the poor doves for three decades. The talk is of reconstruction, rehabilitation and restoration of human rights. It does convey the impression of Paradise blossoming out again. But is it so?

At the risk of falling into the wrong category of President Mahinda Percy Rajapakse’s classification of Sri Lankans into ‘patriots’ and ‘those who are not with us’ (‘us’ meaning the Rajapakse side) we say that Paradise is still a dim distance away from us.

Paradise is where we would have expected Sinhala Aiyyas and Demala Mallies (or is it Thambies) including akkas and nangies dancing on the streets, lighting crackers and eating kiributh after ‘liberation’ from the terrorists. But there was only the Sinhala kind celebrating ‘liberation.’ Tamils were maintaining a sombre silence. Sad but true. And it appears that if we are to reach Paradise, we have, as the poet said, ‘miles and miles to go.’

Celebrations

True, it is not even two weeks after ‘liberation.’ And we are still in a celebrating mood. With celebrations and the Victory Parade will come election campaigns for provincial councils in the Uva and the South. All this song, dance and elections are in the usual Sri Lankan order of things. But for this all important ‘historic’ occasion, the beginning of a new epoch as is said, the vital element is still missing: Spontaneous Sinhala and Tamil amity.

The victors in battle — as such victors everywhere — are cocky and certain about what the fallen want. But the essential difference here is that this was not a war between two different nations or two different states. We are all citizens of one country, one state.

The ‘liberated’ people are of many different minds over this ‘liberation.’ Those who have been brutalised, their children taken away from them as canon fodder for war, their properties destroyed will harbour many grudges against the Tigers. But a great many will not speak out, partly out of fear.

There are others who have suffered not so much by LTTE atrocities but do not appreciate their barbarism over the years and the sufferings they have caused. Yet they will not come out openly against the Tigers. There is another category which is furious and seething over what happened to the Tigers. They consider what happened as not a victory over terrorism but as a triumph of Sinhala chauvinism over them. Sum total of all these reactions: A sombre silence.

Sole representatives

It is not only fear but many Tamils over the past 30 years have wittingly and unwittingly come to accept — even sub-consciously — the LTTE as spokesman for the Tamils in the absence of an effective Tamil leadership. They savaged all other groups and after the Ceasefire Agreement even Western nations that had proscribed them as an international terrorist organisation considered the LTTE as the only party that could negotiate with the Sri Lanka government if the conflict was to be resolved. Most Tamils are no doubt much relieved over the end to violence and brutality of the LTTE but are in no mood for celebrations.

Much to celebrate

On the other hand those who are celebrating are amply justified in doing so. Not only Tamils but other communities too suffered terribly. The number of dead servicemen — soldiers, navy and air force personnel during the entire conflict has not yet been revealed. We have lost count of the tens of thousands of civilians dead or wounded. The disastrous impact to the economy has yet to be estimated. Thus when Velupillai Pirapaharan lies sprawled in the jungle, there is much to celebrate about.

But if the fruits of victory are to be reaped and the country is to progress the need for unity and amity of the two communities goes without saying. How this is to be done is a challenge to all. Solutions to be carried out from village level to constitutional amendments have been forthcoming in the last few days.

One vital requirement for amity is not to exacerbate the feelings of the Tamil people.

The mass media TV, radio and the press are now in an orgy of celebrations, The past is being recalled with gory and extremely provocative scenes being recalled and replayed. Such publicity may have been justified earlier to show the world the barbaric nature of the ‘liberators’ of the Tamil people but it is no longer needed for nation building. It can once again set off dangerous trends

Stimulus package

The question to be considered now is how much these celebrations will contribute to re- building amity among the people. Apart from the various development projects that will be cited what is called for is a stimulus to generate confidence of the Tamils.

The best stimulus would be the elusive political package which has been considered from way back in 1956. The APRC proposals are still being kicked around but President Rajapakse must show solid commitment and sincerity in implementing such a proposal or any other proposal if it is to become a reality

A constitutional solution to the Tamil problem would involve a certain degree of devolution of power to the Tamil people and to the north and east --a move which both the UNP and the SLFP has been fighting shy of. And undoubtedly President Rajapakse’s silence indicates that these restraints are still on.

Newspapers are now projecting him as the legendary king Dutu Gemunu or even much greater than Dutu Gemunu as H.L.D. Mahindapala did from Melbourne. That should give him enough courage to take on the challenge of a political solution. Or will he say: Dutu Gemunu did not devolve power!

Paradise after polls

But as we pointed out before in these columns Rajapakse is a firm believer of considering ‘war as another form of politics.’ And right now he is girding up his loins for elections to the Uva and Southern Provincial Councils. Already he has swept all other provincial council elections on the cry that ‘a defeat at the polls means that people are not supporting the military victories against terrorism.’ No doubt this successful mantra will be tried out at the forthcoming elections and then again at a general election to be held soon and perhaps a presidential election as well.

But all that will leave this historic opportunity hanging in the air. Will the promised Paradise have to wait the crowning of Rajapakse for the second time as president?

Paradise, as we said earlier, is a long way off. We have miles and miles to go.

-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

Ellan said...

There are no paradises on earth, there never was. It all sounds like "sour grapes" for this author no matter where Sri Lanka is headed from here on.

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