The Sunday Leader

National Disunity In Time Of Peril

United we stand, divided we fall’, has not been an endearing belief among Sri Lankan leaders. If one flicks through the pages of our ‘glorious ancient history’ it will be revealed: Come what may, our ancient leaders have taken the chance, wittingly or unwittingly of ‘standing divided’ — not united. The fall of the Kandyan Kingdom to the British reveals it all.
Even in our contemporary history there is only one unique personality that has been able to bring about national unity — winning Independence from the British under that awesome personality, D.S. Senanayake.
Since the tragic fall of Senanayake off his horse while riding on a morning on Galle Face Green leading to his death, his followers have been engaged in internecine quarrels and been at each others jugulars in their quest for power. Senanayake brought about unity among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims in forming the United National Party and having all communities in his government. The ‘Revolution of 1956’ led to opening of Pandora’s Box and racial strife has plagued the country’s politics since then.

Moment of peril

We raise this question of national unity, because that is the call made by some who consider that this is a moment of adversity of the Sri Lankan nation — those ‘war heroes’ of yesteryear being threatened to be labelled with the adage of ‘war criminals’ by no less an organisation than the United Nations. The state controlled and state influenced private media have been screaming with impotence for the past two weeks that ‘the nation is in peril’ but to no avail.
The call for ‘unity’ has been sounded by President Rajapaksa to meet the threat of the UN panel that investigated alleged war crimes committed by Sri Lankan armed forces. But will this ‘unity’ fall from the skies at today’s planned massive rally at Colombo’s Town Hall lawns, as manna from heaven?  If allegations made are rejected, if they are to be credible, they must be rejected by the nation by and large — not only by the leaders and cohorts of the ruling party.

Instant nationalism and patriotism

There appears to be a belief among those who call the shots in this country today those concepts such as ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ can be turned on the people instantaneously by their orders. A classic example is the declaration of President Rajapaksa soon after this victory in the last parliamentary elections: ‘Patriots are those who are with us’ (government). The implication is that those not with the government are not ‘patriots’ and possibly are traitors. The creation of this kind of instant patriotism or nationalism as wished for has not been possible, is quite evident.

UNPers not Arahats

To expect UNPers to rally round President Mahinda Rajapaksa and demonstrate to the world the solidity of our national unity would be expecting UNPers to be Arahats. Firstly their party was cannibalised of its members who were quarreling with their leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. What is regrettable is not the cross-over to government benches but that it was tantamount to bribery because all of them were given cabinet portfolios with all ministerial perks attached while true blue non ministerial SLFP MPs got nothing.
The abuse of state power in the run up to the second presidential and parliamentary elections was abominable and the main Opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka was arrested after the elections and is now facing civil and military trials which this most decorated war hero claims are motivated by political revenge.
Finally the passage of the 18th Amendment that took away the checks and balances to executive presidential power is contrary to all the norms of a democratic process. (An excellent publication The Eighteenth Amendment To The Constitution — Substance And Progress edited by Rohan Edirisinghe and Aruni Jayakodi was launched last week.)

Nationalisms of different kinds

When reference is made to nationalism, do Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers entertain the same concept? Despite the efforts made to build Sri Lankan nationalism over the years, the majority of the two major races still think in terms of their own nationalism — Sinhala, Tamil. During the last three decades of terrorism, we in our journalist endeavours tried to be realistic about this Sri Lankan concept. To bring about national unity, we stressed that there should be Sinhala unity first. But that as evident, was a futile effort. Sinhala nationalism was polarised around the main political parties and remains so as today’s government May Day rally will indicate.
The SLFP with its allies using state resources will stage their rally at the Colombo Town Hall while the UNP and JVP will stage theirs’ elsewhere. The Tamils are tending to their wounds in their own camps and are the least concerned about May Day frolics. Apart from national unity, even workers’ unity will not be evident this May Day. It will be continuous raucous cries of tens of thousands calling to support Mahinda Rajapaksa who ‘won the war against terrorism’.

Lost opportunities

Mahinda Rajapaksa had a wonderful opportunity to build on Sri Lankan nationalism and a Sri Lankan identity when he won the presidential election for the second time with his party convincingly sweeping the parliamentary elections, gaining enough seats to muster a two third majority. But he enacted the 18th Amendment which removed the limits of the term of executive presidency of two terms only. This enhanced his executive presidential powers. Regrettable as enhancement of presidential powers was, it could have freed him from being captive to his southern Sinhala electoral base which many thought may have reacted adversely to Tamil grievances being addressed. But that was not his objective because he did not make a move in that direction.
But Rajapaksa after winning the war two years ago appears to have shelved  the most pressing problem of the nation: Tamil grievances and seems to be enjoying monument building such as in converting his once isolated and dreamy home town  of Hambantota  into a modern metropolis cum Olympic village in addition to other projects out of town. He is interested in cricket, having built two stadia for the World Cup and  encouraged Sri Lanka’s attempts to win the World Cup. He is now attempting to stage the Commonwealth Games which could cost billions of dollars. Tamil problems remain untouched.
But Tamil grievances have come back with a vengeance through Ban Ki-moon’s panel report on Sri Lanka. Had sincere attention been paid to calls made by fearless Tamil leaders such as Anandasangaree instead of to high ranking ex- LTTE terrorists now in the bosom of the Rajapaksa clique, Sri Lanka would have been looked at much more sympathetically.

9 Comments for “National Disunity In Time Of Peril”

  1. Kornelius

    Only a true statesman would have acted in the manner that you describe, but what do we have?

    • Nadagama

      I will give you a reminder of the caliber of our leader Mr. Kornelius,

      -Arrested, humiliated and jailed our greatest soldier for the ( crime of !!!)
      saving Lanka
      - Sleeps, cuddles, tickles, hugs, kisses etc the no one enemy of Lanka- (KP ) in recognition for attempts to destroy Lanka
      -Leads a govt. which the members are king pins of corruption, bribary etc but framed the best commander in the world with false accusations.
      -Gives a minister post in Public relations to a human who ties a fellow human to a tree, talks filth, have gangs roaming attacking civilians and a god father of the underworld
      -Leads a govt. even institutions who teach Law breaks the law to give special privilages to the first born and the highest officials such as Attorny General orders stopping of cases against political criminals
      - Wastes billions on joy trips, tamashas ( IIFA), posh vehicles and now planning to spend more than 1/2 national budget for commonwealth games but no money for salary increases of poor workers

      the list goes on and on Mr Kornelius…….

  2. marcus fernando

    i feel sorry for him

  3. S.A.

    The stark truth is that we can’t produce the likes of NELSON MANDELA, ABRAHAM LINCOLN etc. – I mean a real statesman. Buffoonery supported with arrogance has given a dangerous blend of eternal political stupidity, repeating itself automatically on the Sri Lankan arena for the last 60 years since the In-Dependence (of stupid personal evil desires).

    • love2beTRAITOR

      we need someone like lee quan yee. he doesnt do racial politics. sri lankan politicians like wimal weerawansa r cleaver leeches. they play the racial politics n earn billions n will send their sons n daughters to parliament n retire.

  4. gabriella

    You can take the tree from the monkey : but you cannot take the monkey from the tree.

  5. Ravana

    but friends when or where is this going to end ? How are we going to go forward or leave a decent Country for our children ?

  6. Country Lover

    GOD ONLY NOW HAVE TO SAVE THIS WONDER OF ASIA, NOT EVEN OUR CARDBORAD PATRIOTS THERE NOISES ARE ALL GAS NO SOLIDS.

  7. S.A. Please understand that statesmen cannot be produced at will by humans. They are born by supernatural means by the will of the Almighty Creator. What has happened here is power has corrupted the people who govern and absolute power will corrupt absolutely. At the same time it is very easy to criticise those who are in power, no matter what they do. Just think for a moment when the independent (NOT In-dependence)sovereign nation of Sri Lanka, the resplendent island republic was driven to HELL by demonic beings for over 30 years and then the masses see freedom to live peacefully, they can wait patiently for a little longer for the great awakening and hope of resplendence that once was the pearl of the orient. If that pearl was broken in half, hell would manifest in total darkness in Sri Lanka with zillions of demons devouring those who seek peace.

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