Chief Minister Wigneswaran is already throwing challenges to the government that if total power devolution sought by them is not forthcoming, they would launch province-wide massive protest movements. Signs of such mass protests are already appearing in the Northern Province.
| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( March 19, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) When the news of former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, fleeing the country amidst escalating violent protests against his rule reached our shores, political power base in the local scene was shaken to its very roots. They simply could not believe that Russia would allow such a debacle to take place in a country in its own backyard.

From their point of view, it was unthinkable that Russia could not protect an anti-American-European and pro-Russian President, especially in a country in its own geo-strategic sphere of influence. It could have conjured up serious misgivings in the minds of local political big guns, especially since it was in Russian help they reposed great trust to successfully face Euro-American harassment in international forums.

Just when Mahinda's Government was losing heart about its friend and protector Russia for its inaction in the face of threat to one of its friendly and closest allies, news came from international sources that Russia had sent in its Armies to Ukraine to protect Russian people in that country. Apparently, it was good news for Mahinda's Government giving a jolt to its frayed nerves, dispelling uncertainties created by unforeseen circumstances. With new vigour resulting from friendly Russia's sabre rattling to dissuade Euro-American escapades in its own backyard, the Sri Lankan Government issued a statement condemning their interference in the affairs in Ukraine and approving Russian intervention as legitimate.

"Sri Lanka yesterday expressed regret over the unconstitutional removal of former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, which has aggravated the present political uncertainty in Ukraine.

"In keeping with Sri Lanka's consistent policy of recognizing democratically elected Heads of State, the unconstitutional removal of President Viktor Yanukovych from office is regretted, and has aggravated the present political uncertainty in Ukraine," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

While acknowledging the justifiable concerns of the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka said it also welcomes attempts at de-escalating the tension.

"Sri Lanka is confident that the parties concerned would be able to resolve the issues arising out of the recent developments, through a legitimate democratic process, enabling harmonious co-existence of the people of Ukraine," the statement said. Sri Lanka has established a closer relationship with Ukraine at bilateral and multilateral levels following the establishment of diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union."

Affirmation of Russian action

This statement, which is in total affirmation of Russian action in Ukraine, a small neighbour of it, poses a pertinent question as to whether Sri Lanka approves the intervention of a bigger country in the internal affairs of a smaller neighbouring country. This could give rise to a precedence that a big and a powerful country is justified in sending its Armies to a smaller country trotting out an excuse that it is done to protect its own citizens. But there is a big danger here, especially in relation to our own position viz-a-viz India. Apparently, by approving Russia's action in Ukraine wholeheartedly, Mahinda has overlooked the real hidden danger; that India could one day give effect to 'Putin doctrine' in a similar situation in our country.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2010 ( AFP photo)
Chief Minister Wigneswaran is already throwing challenges to the government that if total power devolution sought by them is not forthcoming, they would launch province-wide massive protest movements. Signs of such mass protests are already appearing in the Northern Province. The government is also stubbornly showing that it does not tolerate any protest actions in the North to destabilize the government. To all appearances, both sides are on a collision course.

If such a contingency arises regime will use force to quell riots or disturbances which could come in the wake of protest campaigns. In such a scenario loss of life is inevitable; as happened in Rathupaswala in the South. In case such a situation arises in the North and if the Government of India then is headed by Modi as Prime Minister in alliance with Jayalalithaa's Party, it is next to impossible to foresee India keeping silent without doing anything. If Modi then follows in the footsteps of Putin and decides to send in Indian forces to protect the Tamils, it will pose the biggest external threat to this country ever.

Modi had recently declared that a future government of his would consult Tamil Nadu when he attends to Indo-Sri Lanka relations. Jayalalithaa at a recent political rally had made a very strong statement with ominous overtones that a future strong Indian Government should be ready to show its might whenever necessary.

"Jayalalithaa said the coming election would be a turning point for India – and to protect the county from threats from neighbouring countries.

She said the allocation for the military in the recent vote-on-account was very low and there were inordinate delays in finalizing military deals.

Defence purchases

Defence purchases should be done on government-to-government basis rather than from foreign companies to avoid corruption, the Chief Minister said.

If the AIADMK were to be part of a new government, she pledged to dramatically strengthen the Indian defence forces.

In 1947, Indians wanted to throw out the British. Now they want to oust the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), she said.

"In the last 10 years, the country was plundered by the Congress-led Government.

"It is not enough to have a people's government at the centre. It should be a Government of Tamil Nadu, a government in which the AIADMK is a part. Only then the rights of Tamils would be established."

She reminded the crowds about the freebies given by her government after coming to power in May 2011.

Referring to the frequent attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, Jayalalithaa said: "If this has to stop, there should be a change at the centre."

She said the Indian fishermen were not able to carry out their activities fearlessly as they are attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Jayalalithaa charged the centre for betraying Tamil Nadu's interests on the Cauvery River water row with Karanataka and accused it of failing to protect the State's fishermen from the Sri Lankan Navy.

She also took on the Congress for supporting the ruling regime in Sri Lanka, despite widespread allegations of war crimes allegedly committed in the conflict against the Tamil Tigers."

Jayalalithaa's intention here is clear. If Modi wants her help form the government in the centre he has to listen to her.

The Sri Lankan Government statement issued subsequent to sending Russian troupes to Ukraine had referred to the fact that the former Ukrainian President, who was ousted by a coup, was a legally elected President. In the same manner Northern Province Chief Minister is also an elected representative by popular vote. If Sri Lanka accepted Putin's deployment of Russian forces to protect a legally elected President as a correct move then Sri Lanka will be confronted with the possibility that the international community would query one day what is wrong with Indian PM Modi sending their armed forces to protect Wigneswaran; a scenario which is unnerving to say the least.

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