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Mehta's Political Will Required

By Ira de Silva

(April 08,London, Sri Lanka Guardian) In his article Mehta continues to try to impress the world of his knowledge of Sri Lankan politics. However anyone who reads the news from Sri Lanka regarding the politics of the country will recognize that his thinking seems to be "old", his judgements influenced by experiences in Sri Lanka over twenty years ago when the IPKF was deployed and that he has overtones of Indian thinking then and now that they have the blueprint for the future of Sri Lanka and in particular of what the Tamils should get.

His concern then and now seems to be how to further the demands of the Tamils as evidenced by "the election excitement is really in the north and east where, despite voters’ lists being incomplete, Tamils and Muslims will be voting independently for the first time. Big Brother LTTE is not watching". He seems to have missed the message from the TNA that they continue to represent LTTE thinking and that the LTTE message is carried on through them, namely the division of Sri Lanka to create Eelam. In that sense the "excitement" is all over the country as Sri Lankans realise that although militarily defeated, the LTTE and it's supporters in Sri Lanka, India and the diaspora are alive and as determined as ever.

He claims that "Mr Rajapaksa has completely ignored the question of national reconciliation". What he means is that Mr. Rajapakse has ignored India's version of national reconciliation of the type that was forced on Sri Lanka in 1987 including the 13th amendment. I refer him to the news reports in India in 1983 that India planned an airborne invasion of Sri Lanka to force the then president to give in to Indian demands. It is no secret that India developed the LTTE into a terrorist organization, trained and financed them to destabilize Sri Lanka so that the Gandhi's could win elections in India, and have continually meddled in Sri Lanka to "win" support for the Central Government in Tamil Nadu. It would be well to remind him that President Rajapakse has stated on several occasions that a solution will be "home grown". It does not have to be what India or the Tamil diaspora thinks Sri Lanka needs.

Regarding the 13th Amendment, what he ignores is that it was inflicted by force on the people of Sri Lanka by India for India's political benefit. There is no reason that it's concepts should be accepted by the people of Sri Lanka if they do not want it and vote against it. Why should "New Delhi be angry over devolution being pushed to the back-burner despite its unpublicised role in helping Sri Lanka win the war against the LTTE"? The answer is, as it has always been, that India wants to impress the Tamils in Tamil Nadu. Mehta expects the Government of Sri Lanka to sacrifice Sri Lanka again for Indian political expedience - note his "members in the Tamil Nadu Assembly periodically endorse the same sentiments". Big brother LTTE may not be watching but Big Sister India is always watching and scheming for it's own benefit. That must be why he seems to be critical of the statement that in Sri Lanka “Tamils are interested in development, not devolution”. It does not conform to the Indian thinking.

It is ironic that he refers to the "deployment of the IPKF and sacrifice of 1,200 lives". To speak of the sacrifice of 1200 lives is the height of hypocrisy. Indian troops did not come to Sri Lanka because India wanted to help Sri Lanka but to force the implementation of the Indo-Lanka Accord thrust on Sri Lanka by India. India deployed about 100,000 soldiers in Sri Lanka of which 1200 died and eventually India were forced to retreat. It must still rankle him that the 4th largest army in the world were beaten and chased out by the very people they trained, funded and sent to Sri Lanka to help India subjugate Sri Lanka. Indian soldiers did not "sacrifice their lives" for Sri Lanka, they died because of India's miscalculations, aggression and vanity. It is important to remind Mehta that the Sri Lankan army had cornered Prabhakaran in Vadamarachchi and that India's "aggression" was to rescue Prabhakaran. He forgets that the east was quiet and that most of the Jaffna peninsula was under the control of the Sri Lankan army.

As for "power sharing with the Tamils", Mehta is merely repeating the LTTE mantra. Sri Lanka belongs to all Sri Lankans and it is not only the Tamils that have to be considered. The aspirations of all communities have to be considered and that includes the 74% Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. It is time that the Government of Sri Lanka makes it clear to the Mehta's of the world that it is not only the Tamils who have rights, aspirations, grievances etc. All communities have to be dealt with equally and the Sinhalese majority can not be sidelined or discriminated against any more. They have earned their rights by sacrificing their lives to defeat LTTE terrorism and the division of the country. For example, if the Tamils can live anywhere in the island, non-Tamils have the same right. The ethnic cleansing that was carried out by the LTTE should be redressed. If the displaced Tamils are provided with assistance, then the other communities who have been displaced by LTTE violence should be provided with the same assistance to return to their homes and the means to set up their livelihoods too.

It is estimated that 55% of the Tamils live outside the north and east of Sri Lanka and that Colombo's population is about 41% Tamil. Should not 55% of non-Tamils be able to live in the north and east and 41% of Jaffna City be non-Tamil? That is what "genuine reconciliation" means to Sri Lankans. Just giving the Tamils what they want, what India wants and what the Tamil diaspora who still have their dream of Eelam want is not reconciliation but discrimination which will lead to future unrest. President Rajapakse must show he has the political will to win the hearts and minds of all Sri Lankans not just the Tamils which is what Mehta is advocating.

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