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Of singing fish and other fishy happenings

The legendary singing fish of Batticaloa are reported to be singing loud and clear: "We are free, we are free like birds like bees," after the recently concluded elections to the Batticaloa district local government bodies. The story about the singing fish of Batticaloa has been considered fishy for a long time and been invented by the residents to romanticise their town, say some. The story of singing fish striking new notes after the concluded elections is absolute ballyhoo, say those not singing from the Mahinda Chintanaya hymn sheet.

But our Excellency Mahinda Percy Rajapakse is striking the same notes as the singing fish in the Batticaloa lagoon. Read the headlines of his favourite paper the Daily News of March 19: President likens his eastern victory to the grant of universal franchise to Sri Lankans way back in 1930. What the learned president is saying is that his 'election victory' is as historic as when the British colonialists, after long years of subjugation, decided to teach the natives of this country a little bit of democracy by giving all citizens the right to vote at elections to the State Council, a council fully under the control of the British governor. Earlier only 'educated Ceylonese' were given that right.

Resurrection of democracy ?

The presidential rhetoric had flowed when he addressed the elected representatives to those six bodies. The country could now demonstrate to the entire world that we are a nation which respects democracy.. Democracy has triumphed in the east defeating terrorism enabling the common masses to elect their own representatives masses to rule their local bodies. Very soon we will be ready to grant the same freedom and franchise enjoyed by the eastern population to the northern populace too.. '

Whether the 'whole world' believes that the electoral victories to the six local bodies has brought about a resurrection of democracy in the east , however, is very much in doubt because the president's friends and allies of the TMVP are being accused by some of the most powerful nations in the whole world for gross violation of human rights such as abduction of children for war and doubting whether elections were free and fair because two main parties in the east, the TNA and UNP kept out of the elections fearing the armed cadres of the TMVP.

President Rajapakse and his faithful may be justly satisfied with the results in the eastern province and has vowed that democracy would be restored in the northern province as well but some in the outside world such as the European Union (EU) comprising 25European countries  appear to have their reservations. The EU delegation that was here last week locked horns with the government insisting that they wanted to visit the Wanni to speak with the LTTE but permission was refused.

The world fooled?

The point we are attempting to make is not whether President Rajapakse's choice of the military option is correct or not but that his assertion that the whole world believes that democracy has been restored in the east, is wishful thinking. He may be deceiving himself and attempting to deceive the rest of the country as well if he thinks that winning six local government bodies with his political allies under very questionable conditions is receiving international approval.

President Rajapakse may claim of the triumph of the ballot over the bullet. But it is too premature. In an interview with a weekend paper, the newly appointed Mayor of Batticaloa from the TMVP Sivageetha Prabagaran alias Padmini when asked whether the TMVP would give up arms had said: "We will disarm when it reaches a satisfactory level." What she implied is that the LTTE is still armed and they cannot give up their guns until a 'satisfactory level' is reached. What that 'satisfactory level' would be or when it will be reached it is anybody's guess.

˙President Rajapakse who should be the most informed person in the country, by virtue of the office he holds, appears to be in a make-believe world. On March 15, his favourite paper the Daily News ˙had the headline: 'Untrammelled media freedom in the country.' At an awards ceremony of the Ruhuna Artistes Forum he had asserted that there was absolute freedom in the country and the government is not answerable for isolated incidents as and when they occurred. The Daily Mirror, the same day (March 15), had the headline: 'Fresh attack sparks Rupavahini protest'. The report was about an Assistant Director of Rupavahini and Trade Union Leader Arunasiri Hettige being attacked by an iron˙ rod by a pillion rider of a motor cycle while he was waiting for a bus at a bus halt. It resulted  in the employees of the government's main TV propaganda channel suspending all broadcasts, save news bulletins, and threatening to go on strike. This attack came after a series of other attacks - Rupavahini employees being slashed and bashed on public highways after an incident on December 27 when the Minister of Labour Mervyn Silva stormed the Rupavahini headquarters with some thugs and a news director of the corporation was assaulted. The provoked employees then gave Silva a strong dose of his medicine. Thereafter, for 81 days periodic assaults on Rupavahini employees took place.

It was˙ only after that President Rajapakse summoned a high level meeting, called in Silva and assured employees that the attacks would cease. What follows is to be seen. Only one person has been arrested for these whole series of attacks on journalists and other staff of the government. Newspaper editorials have unequivocally criticised the savage behaviour of Minister Silva and the inaction of President Rajapakse who has to take responsibility as the country's executive president.

It is a human frailty that some people, particularly politicians beginning  to believe in their own lies. It will be disastrous to the persons concerned but more disastrous to the country if the people are the leaders.

 


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