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Too Old To Be A Terrorist


( April 6, 2014, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) We came to know the news about the President Rajapaksa’s new move of banning selected organizations and people who are associated with them. Around 16 groups were banned and over four hundred people, almost every one of them of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, were black listed.

The news came just after I had finished my long interview with the Rev. S. J. Emmanuel who is the President of the Global Tamil Forum, the foremost unarmed group in Tamil Diaspora. Also some active Diaspora members calling for self-determination to the Tamil people in the country were carefully selected by the government for the proscription. I have no clue whatsoever as to how much, they maintained in their bank accounts in Sri Lanka, or how much in other assets they have stored. The prime target of the government is to freeze their assets which may fulfill the short term dreams of those behind the move. Many people have been arguing about this new move of the government but there is hardly any explanation based on facts, on the real agenda behind the decision.

What next?

The government is likely to carefully monitor all transactions between local entities and those who are now on the black list. Therefore the government is expected to start plinking local people to get media attention and eradicate these desperate people just to cater to Rajapaksa politics in the country. This will be a great idea to keep the “Sinhalaese patriotism” alive. But Rajapaksa may have another agenda too, behind the scene. This is the regime’s most important strategy just two years before the next presidential election. Apparently he has declared that there will be no election till 2016, but these words like the Chinese production come without guarantee, as he may have very well generated, planned and cultivated ideas for calling an early election to minimize the margin of loss. He is afraid on two fronts. The first is the eventual progress of the Tamil political diagram which has been pragmatically flying around the globe after the elected chief minister assumed duty in the Northern Province, in which the ruling party constantly lost the political intelligentsia. The second front concerns political consequences that he is facing in the South where Sinhalese Buddhists are taking off from Rajapaksa’s cunningly charted road.

President Rajapaksa seems to have thought that Sinhalese Buddhists tend to stay trapped in the day time in the same trap in which they were necked in the night. In fact the theory is formidably correct. He was skillful enough to use the same arguments under the patriotism cover with different incidents to accomplish his personal desires while the country’s needs were always secondary to him. And he has carefully selected people around him from the Tamil and Muslim communities who are personally greedy to feed the public with the message that he is the only man who is concerned about true reconciliation. In addition to that he talked in Tamil. These are all tricks not bigger than the worms in the rotten egg, which appears to be good so long as it doesn’t crack. But after the recent Provincial Council election has seems to be alarmed by the reality of political pungency, while the third UN resolution was a crown of thorns on the head of President Rajapaksa.

In this reality he moved to ban some selected Tamil groups and named them as terrorist organizations. This has ridiculed even the term of terrorism, though it has no definite definition but the word does connote a basic structure to define “terrorism” in the wider world. It indicates impact and requires criteria to name any group as of terrorist origin. Many political movements which have military wings and have conducted violent attacks on civilians qualify to be called terrorists in the particular jurisdiction. But whether this knowledge, based on facts was deployed equitably when certain other groups were recently banned by the Rajapaksa government is doubtful.

However, the Canadian Court just a few weeks ago convicted a terrorism expert who called one of the groups in the Tamil Diaspora a front of the LTTE: “The Toronto-based Canadian Tamil Congress filed a defamation case against a Sri Lankan born terrorism expert for linking it to the LTTE, and in his judgment, Justice Stephen E. Firestone of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto agreed. He awarded $37,000 in general damages and imposed $16,000 in legal expenditure.” The list and names of the groups and people published by the government clearly included the group which won the case against the terrorism expert. In that sense it could be concluded that the whole process is controlled by a few men to address their personal difficulties with those on the terrorism list.

If there is a real reconciliation process the government should have looked for areas of mutual understanding instead of making pariahs of those lobbying in international political circles. This kind of unnecessary political motivation is neither good to the ruling party nor to the people. This is a form of self-isolation instead of engaging in the battle of political ideology, in this hour of need.

The Rev. S. J. Emmanuel who is an exiled priest and active person even at his late age is also now a terrorist, according to the Rajapaksa government. The government may have a kind of rationalization or justification in naming people as terrorists but serious outcomes of the short term decision can be damaging and it may open another path to the deadly conflict. When I was asking, The Rev. Emmanuel about the government’s decision, he simply replied, “Ministers and Ambassadors are inviting me to visit Sri Lanka when they meet me in Geneva, but once they returned to the country, they call me a terrorist”.

However, as far as I understand at least, Father Emmanuel is too old to be a terrorist. True, no one would dispute this if I flag up the basic notion of Marxism, “History repeats ... first as tragedy, then as farce.”

Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at ilangamuwa@gmail.com

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