Ehi Passiko – Come And See!
by Wimalanath Weeraratne
I did not tell the people that I’m coming. I went inside their houses and looked at what they were eating. I even looked into their rice pots and hearths. I asked their children what they learn in school. Asked their parents how they are living. All of them said just one thing. Please take us back to the era that we were in32 years back. For those extremists who say that there is a breakdown of national defense and that the LTTE is raising its head, I call upon them to visit the North.”
President Maithripala Sirisena who visited the Christmas celebrations in Jaffna touched the heart of all people of the North. The Sirisena that we knew neither stood for communalism before nor had touched the depths of the problems of the Tamil people. Now as Head of the State, he has taken the greatest step that can be taken by a president – visiting the kitchens of our Tamil brethren. The grim reality of the suffering undergone by Tamil people cannot only be found in their kitchen. Petty-minded Sinhalese leaders ensured that the lives of their northern brethren were driven into conflict. Militant Tamil groups of the North engaged in a ruthless battle against their own kind by eliminating political opponents. This created a violent bloodbath which does not end at the kitchens of Tamils.
Who is crying out loud about the disintegration of aspirations of our nation? Extremists are anti-government protestors as the President has rightly understood. There is no room for true anti-government protestors. They originate from within those who toil hard to bring about change. Necessarily, only the communalists cry out loud that the LTTE is raising its ugly head. We have one question for them. Were our national aspirations accomplished during the tenure of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was the de-facto leader of the ultra-extremists?
National aspirations consist of the desire for core existence of all races in peace and harmony. It cannot be ‘National’ if it denotes the aspirations of only the Sinhalese, or the Tamils, or the Muslims for that matter. It consists of the dreams of all citizens of Mother Lanka. The aspiration of the whole country should be the reconciliation of all people. Unfortunately, none of this happened during the time of the Rajapaksa regime. Terror reigned among the Tamils of the North while Muslims of the South were petrified and terrified. Innocent Sinhalese who did not tear the line of petty racism were insecure. Rajapaksa and its mafia reigned supreme. Aspirations of this mafia and the regime were portrayed as national aspirations. On the other hand, the present President stands for true national aspirations. That is why he could relate to the problems of the Tamil.
As the world’s most ruthless terror outfit – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rubs salt into the wounds of the Rajapaksa regime. On one hand, they pushed the whole country into a mammoth killing spree, and on the other hand, made huge sacrifices for their cause. True, the Tigers engaged in terror politics. However, we must not forget that the Tamils too had legitimate grievances.
During time of the 2001 United National Front government, a Professor from the University of Jaffna said this to me. “I know that you don’t pay taxes to your government willingly. We too don’t willingly pay taxes to the LTTE. However, it was the LTTE that gave strength to us to stand on our feet when your side attacked us.”
This statement shows that the LTTE was not a mere terror organisation. Their biggest challenge was that their politics had been engulfed by a culture of killings. They were unable to come out of it. Even at the eleventh hour, the LTTE leader, his wife and children did not abandon their cause. The President who looked into the rice pots of the Tamils in the North must not mix national aspirations with extremism in the South even during elections.
Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody who took pride in being called Pansale Piyatuma (Catholic priest of the Buddhist temple), once said, “Mage Naththala dugiya bath kana daya,” (My Christmas is when the poor gets to eat). President Maithripala Sirisena too went into the houses of the poor in the run up to Christmas. The President can learn one universal truth from this. That all people need equality.
If one were to miss it, the crèches of the plantations would be able to see and equal or more sorrowful situation. Infants even as young as two or three months can be seen in cots crying out for their mothers who have gone to pick tea leaves. That is the grim reality of life. True, a president can give words of encouragement to the true proletariats of the country, but it would not give them equality. Our President can bring equality to both North and plantations, before that he must eradicate the epidemics of the South. Corrupt politicians, pseudo-patriots, drug peddlers, ethanol dealers, and those who exploit public funds to live exorbitant lifestyles must be eradicated. Although some things cannot be changed overnight, he must take a firm decision on the corrupt. The President must be able to understand the aspiration of the North. He must understand that viewing the North as a Sinhala leader of Polonnaruwa is different to understanding the problems as a Tamil of North. The day he comprehends that truism will bring in true Christmas for the people.
The ultra-extremists have now resorted to ‘Sinha-le’ sticker campaign as a last resort to revive communalism. Janatha Mithuro, Jathika Hela Urumaya, Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Balaya have now metamorphosed into ‘Sinha-le’. Former President Rajapaksa gave patronage to communalism which led to Dharga Town being converted into a town of blood. Some inquire as to why setting an organisation for the Sinhalese could be wrong. A national movement that will benefit all communities cannot limit itself to one community or race. As such, ‘Sinha-le’ will never benefit the whole country.
The downfall of Rajapaksa led to the downfall of many communal-minded organisations that had his patronage. However, Mahinda Rajapaksa created a firm foundation for racism. As such, outfits such as ‘Sinha-le’ can easily disrupt the return to peace and normalcy. Origination of people’s organisations cannot be prevented but persons with ulterior motives can lead society into destruction. The former President wherever he goes says the LTTE is trying to raise its head. Addressing the anniversary of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), he stated that during the war time, a father never sent his two children together but separately to Royal College Colombo in order to avoid bomb blasts. Rajapaksa cannot attract people without boasting about the war. He tries to link this story with the revival of the LTTE. But President Sirisena proved them wrong. The former president said, ‘Come and witness’ (Reminding the concept of ‘Ehi Passiko’ propounded by Lord Buddha) to the international community, but he never allowed them to come. But with genuine intention, President Sirisena calls upon extremists to witness what is happening in the North.
Some newspapers and websites carried a picture of former President Rajapaksa engaged in yoga, downside up, at the eve of his 70th birthday. One can rightly assume that he is still having an upside down view of Sri Lanka’s problems just by analysing the statements he made. He is internally on the look-out for an enemy to capitalise on but sadly, he still depends on the LTTE notion. He became closer to thieves, corrupt politicians, and rapists.
For him, visiting the suspected killers of Eknaligoda was more important than putting a stop to the killings. He once visited Premalal Jayasekera alias ‘Choka Malli’, remanded for allegedly murdering a UNP supporter during the 2015 Presidential Election, and said that he in fact came to see another detainee.
However, he has still forgotten that he came to see suspects of large heinous crimes. According to Rajapaksa, his confidants such as ‘Choka Malli’ or Nalaka Godahewa are those who have been imprisoned as a political vengeance and not those who committed crimes. Mahinda always had a downside view of problems just as depicted in his photograph.
Just as President Sirisena looked into the rice pots of the North, he must critically look into his own party – The Sri Lanka Freedom Party. He appointed several persons who were rejected by the people both into Parliament and Cabinet. Was he too hanging upside down and think that he could lead SLFP to victory at the next elections in this way?
What the Tamil people ask for is to restore what existed before the war for them. The President pledged that he will resolve the problems of the IDPs (Internally displaced persons) within the next six months and will set up a task force towards that purpose. Such an intervention is crucial. Sri Lanka does not need any IDP camps to exist beyond 2016. That chapter has to be closed forthwith. These people must have their own houses. President may build houses for them in 2016, but he cannot restore the pre-1983 situation overnight.
One must remember that what the Tamils really sought was not a ‘Tamil Eelam’ but a self identity.