Will people sacrifice Mahinda to avoid sanctions?

| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( June 18, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Government sources say that Basil Rajapaksa has proposed to debate the UNHRC resolution to probe Sri Lanka's human rights violations in Parliament. He has proposed this after thoroughly studying the impact of the probe on internal politics of the country. However, coalition Party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU)'s stand on the probe is different. They say that it is not easy now to rouse pro-government patriotism through the UNHRC proposal because people pay more attention to the cost of living and corruption today. They point out that the UNHRC proposal has failed to gain votes at the Western and Southern Provincial Council elections. They argue that the people may be afraid of the UNHRC probe and they may think that the government has failed to solve the problem. They have warned that the people think the country will have to undergo an economic embargo and they may be compelled to vote to with the opposition to prevent it.

A Sri Lankan Muslim woman carries her daughter outside her burnt house after at least three Muslims were killed and 80 injured in clashes with Buddhists on Sunday night. The sectarian riots in and around the town of Aluthgama, in southern Sri Lanka, followed demonstrations by the hardline Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, police said. Homes and shops were looted and burned, and a curfew remains in place. Image Courtesy : CNN
The JHU was proved to be right when it analyzed the 1994 and 2001 elections. Up to 1994, the United National Party (UNP) won elections through a demand for a mandate to defeat the LTTE. At the 1994 Presidential election too, the UNP was spreading the idea that Chandrika would split the country and hand over a part of it to Prabakaran. After UNP candidate Gamini Dissanayaka was assassinated, UNP said that their argument had been proved because the LTTE killed Gamini sparing Chandrika in their strategy.

But the people thought differently. They thought the LTTE which had overrun the Pooneryn army camp and assassinated the former President and the Presidential candidate would capture the entire country if UNP was in power. They preferred Chandrika who had promised to discuss with Prabakaran than the UNP which was actually strengthening the LTTE in its proclaimed war to defeat it.


The same thing happened at the 2001 General Election. Chandrika had won elections from 1994 to 2001 through seeking a mandate to defeat Prabakaran, playing the same old record. When the UNP said that the problem should be solved through negotiations, Chandrika said that Ranil had a secret pact with Prabakaran. Up to 2000, people trusted Chandrika and voted to defeat Prabakaran. But by 2000, Prabakaran had captured all the military camps in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. He had attacked the economic nerve centres in Colombo including Katunayaka airport. Jaffna was also under siege. People understood that Chandrika had strengthened Prabakaran. They were afraid the LTTE would come to Colombo if she was in power. Therefore, they voted Ranil to negotiate with the LTTE and to prevent destruction.

Since 2010, Mahinda Rajapaksa government won all the elections through seeking a mandate to defeat the UNHRC probe. But now people see that actually the UNHRC resolutions have gathered momentum throughout this period and the country has been pushed to the economic embargos. It is no wonder people may think of bringing in a ruler who can discuss with the UN and the countries like US to resolve the crisis.

Both the government and JHU have sensed it. The government is afraid that holding the Presidential election in November may be disadvantageous to it as the people can sense that the States may impose individual economic embargos after the end of UNHRC probe that will end by March.


Basil might be thinking to label the Opposition as traitors through debating the UNHRC issue in Parliament. He may be planning to revive patriotism and win elections. He thinks that the JHU and the National Freedom Front (NFF) led by Wimal Weerawansa who are trying to make friends with the UNP even sans the UNHRC issue can be kept in the hold of the ruling alliance through this. The government also wants to undermine the opposition slogan of common candidate through patriotism.

In this backdrop, the opposition, especially the UNP appears to be fumbling in darkness. UNP needs to quote the following excerpt of Mahinda's biography to show that Mahinda was earlier on the stand that the country needed a UNHRC intervention.

"Vasu remembered that the daughter of the Lanka Samasamaja Party trade union leader Kunanayagam was serving in the UN. He found her and went to meet her. Thamara Kunanayagam welcomed them warmly and provided lodging to them in her small apartment. She next tried to take Vasu and Mahinda to the UN headquarters.

"She brought two entry tickets for discussion on a session to discuss the human rights of another country. They entered the lobby through this ticket but they had no permission to speak.

"Mahinda stayed in the corridor and spoke to the delegates of the states arriving for the meetings. He showed the dangerousness of the Premadasa regime of Sri Lanka to the diplomats.

"The government has already killed thousands of youths. Bodies are burnt on roads in the mornings. More bodies float in rivers. A large number of parents are looking for their disappeared sons and daughters. Women have been widowed. Discuss this situation of Sri Lanka at the UN. The killings can be stopped if the UN gets involved."- When Mahinda tried to enter the lobby through the pass for the third day, the security officers stopped him.

"The discussions regarding the problems of the country which is related to the pass have been now finished. Therefore, you cannot be allowed to enter."

This is how Mahinda pleaded to the security officers.

"The young people like you are killed in thousands in our country. This conference is held here for us to relate our tale of woe before you. Where else can we go to plead unless we come here?"

( The writer is a senior journalist and editor who edits the Mawbima, a sister newspaper of Ceylon Today where this piece was originally appeared.)