An open letter to President Rajapaksa

Dear President,

( April 23, 2014, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am writing this letter to you, form the same flat, same room, with a computer placed on the same table you were sitting at, discussing a pending visit of a group of parliamentarians to study the federal experience in Europe. It was some ten years ago when you were the leader of the parliamentary opposition. 

I am writing this in the context of one of the most serious international challenges our country is facing, in the post independence era: the UNHRC resolution A/HRC/25/L.1/Rev.1 , which calls for a comprehensive UN investigation in to human rights violations alleged to have taken place in the last phase of the war. Within a week or two we will see the implementation of the resolution getting shaped. 

Geneva and the Human Rights Council is not a palace unfamiliar to you. Weren’t you here, in Geneva and at the Human Rights Council, to obtain justice for the youth disappeared and killed during the period of terror in 1988- 2000? It was on that mission that you told a newspaper that you will go to any Timbuktu and work even with the mother of the Devil to obtain justice. 

Hope you remember all those days.

As an irony of destiny, the same Human Rights Council on which you placed your hopes of obtaining justice for the missing youth has now charged you for the violation of the same human rights. A little over a decade ago the Human Rights Council was a temple of justice for you. Today according to politics you propagate it as a playground of the wicked!

What a change! 

History does wonderful things. It is written outside of our liking. So the rulers need to be more concerned with the history than the present. In a sense, history is like the mythical hell and heaven. Metaphorically speaking Mr. President where do you intend to land?

As we all know, if, the LTTE leader Phabakaran bogged in a myth that your victory in the presidential election 2005 would enable him to tip the balance of war in his favour, did not ban the Tamil people form voting, UNP leader Ranil Wicremasinghe would have become the President. In that case the war that was already in making would have been fought under Ranil Wicremasinghe's leadership. (UNP is no stranger to waging ruthless war as we all have seen in 1988- 1990 war against the JVP.) If it was Mr. Wikremasinghe who finished the war, I am sure that you, the human rights campaigner Mahinda Rajapaksa, would have been in Geneva campaigning for the justice for victimized Tamils. Isn’t that so? Most probably then your human rights follow traveller Mr. Vasudeva Nanaykakara would also have joined you in Geneva.

After the war’s end, I wrote in my Ravaya weekly column thus: ‘At present President Rajapaksa has two choices. One is to take the way of Chandashoka and the other is to take that of Darmashoka Chandashoka way is to continue the war policies and suppressive rule. Darmashoka way is to reflect on the war tragedies and reinvent the righteous policies of rebuilding humane values. The historical role of President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be judged based on the choice he makes.’

Now look at the political fate that has befallen you since the end of the war. 

Soon after the war's end, you proclaimed that you are the leader of all peoples in Sri Lanka, where there will be no minorities with an arrogant confidence. With such confidence you stated that Sri Lanka will be the miracle of Asia under your leadership. 

You continue to obtain over 60 percent of Sinhalese votes which showed that you are the uncontested leader in the post war Sri Lanka. But September 2013 provided a different picture; that you have completely failed to win the confidence of Tamil people; it was true for the east as well. In the Northern provincial election Tamil National Alliance obtained the largest electoral victory margin in post war Sri Lanka by obtaining over 70 percent of votes. You were beaten in the Tamil North.
Soon after the war, Muslim community in Sri Lanka provided you with the strongest support. But what is the situation today? You could not ensure the victory of a single Muslim candidate for your politics in the recently held election in the Western Province, where a sizable Muslim population resides. 

Have you ever wondered why? 

You won the war. But now you have lost the Tamils and Muslims, the two major minority communities in Sri Lanka. The reason is a no secret. You still live in war triumphalism which is based on the chauvinist Sinhala Buddhist ideology. But you do not see that ethnic minorities continue to get burned in the heat of war triumphalism. Today Sinhala Buddhists chauvinism has given rise to extremist violent tendencies in our society. It is strange that you do not see the anti Tamil and anti Muslim flames of war triumphalism. Or perhaps you condone them? 

You said that LTTE is over and you have liberated the people. But now according to your government’s version, you had to deploy 2500 soldiers and 18 armed vehicles to nab three ‘LTTE’ suspects, just before the Sinhala – Hindu New Year. The new 'LTTE suspects' are being arrested; more than 50 Tamils, including a 68 old mother, are in detention, suspected of the new LTTE. Militarisation heightened and Tamils live under constant surveillance.

Is this an achievement or a failure, after 5 years of war's end? 

Post war Mahinda Rajapaksa is slowly but surely loosing popularity among the Sinhalese as well, as shown by the recent provincial council elections. Mind you, this is happening without a political opposition worth its name. It is not difficult to forecast what would have been the result, judging form the relative gains achieved by the JVP and Democratic party, if there was a opposition that can be called an alternative government? On top of that, Provincial Council elections show that your politics are not accepted in areas where citizenry is active, i.e., in the city centres. Hasn’t a message form your own backyard, Hambantota, heralded that concrete jungles and highways cannot surmount the post war rebuilding challenges. 

If the opposition had a Mahinda Rajapaksa or J.R. Jayawardena or Chandrika Kumaratunge last Provincial Council would have been the first salvos of your downfall. After Prabhakaran, Ranil Wikremasinghe has become your best luck. 

Look, you have lost among the Tamils and Muslims. Among the Sinhalese your popularity is waning. Within your party, too dissent is growing. In such a twist, even the extremist Bodu Bala Sena says that if their leaders get killed, you will be held responsible! 

That is not all. Our neighbour India and its Tamil state Tamil Nadu is against your post war policies re the reconciliation and accountability. All mainstream political parties in India consider you as an oppressor of Tamils, who rule by iron grip. You have visited a number of dictators during the last few years; unfortunately you have not been invited to India.

These developments do not make a ruler happy, but to retrospect. 

List of failures you can claim does not stop here. Soon after the war’s end you received the support and praises form the international community and of the UN Human Rights Council. In 2009 Human Rights Council congratulated for the war victory. Today? Since 2012, there has been three consecutive resolution at the Human Rights Council, very critical of your post war polices. Now UN Human Rights Council is about to launch war crime investigation on your rule. 

Locally your best buddies have become former UNPs, who have crossed over and been trapped. Internationally your buddies range form king of Swaziland to dictator of the Belarus. Most of the counties who stand by you in this juncture do not have functioning multi- party democratic system, free and fair elections, free press or freedom of association. 

You might agree that by no means this can be considered an achievement. 

Dear President, even after centuries the king Darmashoka is being respected because he was able to understand the injustices and inhumanness of the war and elevated the right to life to respectable heights. You have turn your back to King Darmashoka. 

Now the moment of historical judgement has arrived. Why not at least initiate a suitable, credible and independent investigation in to the injustices of war? Why not contribute to the pending international investigation to find the truth of war casualties and victims? Why not use this opportunity to prove to the world your point of zero civilian casualties? Why not give up authoritative powers your have amassed through parliamentary majority and constitutional changes? 

Post-independent Sri Lankan history is a continued tragedy of lost opportunities. Now you have added your name to the list. The comprehensive investigation that the United Nation will be conducting on human rights violations during the war, may be the last opportunity for you to prove to the world that you are in the right side of the history. 

History’s is measured over the life time of humanity, not according to one’s life time. Truth will take its place in history, sometimes after decades, even centuries. In Sri Lanka's case it will not take much long. Justice is unstoppable.

Sunanda Deshapriya
(Slightly edited version of an article published in Sinhala weekly Ravaya translated by the author)