Sri Lanka Paradise: Miles and miles to go
squawks of the Sinhala hawks have abated considerably.
The Peace Doves have stepped up their mooing to squeaks
and are now accusing Tigers of crimes which had bypassed
the poor doves for three decades. The talk is of
reconstruction, rehabilitation and restoration of human
rights. It does convey the impression of Paradise
blossoming out again. But is it so?
risk of falling into the wrong category of President
Mahinda Percy Rajapakse’s classification of Sri Lankans
into ‘patriots’ and ‘those who are not with us’ (‘us’
meaning the Rajapakse side) we say that Paradise is
still a dim distance away from us.
Paradise is where we would have expected Sinhala Aiyyas
and Demala Mallies (or is it Thambies) including akkas
and nangies dancing on the streets, lighting crackers
and eating kiributh after ‘liberation’ from the
terrorists. But there was only the Sinhala kind
celebrating ‘liberation.’ Tamils were maintaining a
sombre silence. Sad but true. And it appears that if we
are to reach Paradise, we have, as the poet said, ‘miles
and miles to go.’
it is not even two weeks after ‘liberation.’ And we are
still in a celebrating mood. With celebrations and the
Victory Parade will come election campaigns for
provincial councils in the Uva and the South. All this
song, dance and elections are in the usual Sri Lankan
order of things. But for this all important ‘historic’
occasion, the beginning of a new epoch as is said, the
vital element is still missing: Spontaneous Sinhala and
victors in battle — as such victors everywhere — are
cocky and certain about what the fallen want. But the
essential difference here is that this was not a war
between two different nations or two different states.
We are all citizens of one country, one state.
‘liberated’ people are of many different minds over this
‘liberation.’ Those who have been brutalised, their
children taken away from them as canon fodder for war,
their properties destroyed will harbour many grudges
against the Tigers. But a great many will not speak out,
partly out of fear.
are others who have suffered not so much by LTTE
atrocities but do not appreciate their barbarism over
the years and the sufferings they have caused. Yet they
will not come out openly against the Tigers. There is
another category which is furious and seething over what
happened to the Tigers. They consider what happened as
not a victory over terrorism but as a triumph of Sinhala
chauvinism over them. Sum total of all these reactions:
A sombre silence.
not only fear but many Tamils over the past 30 years
have wittingly and unwittingly come to accept — even
sub-consciously — the LTTE as spokesman for the Tamils
in the absence of an effective Tamil leadership. They
savaged all other groups and after the Ceasefire
Agreement even Western nations that had proscribed them
as an international terrorist organisation considered
the LTTE as the only party that could negotiate with the
Sri Lanka government if the conflict was to be resolved.
Most Tamils are no doubt much relieved over the end to
violence and brutality of the LTTE but are in no mood
Much to celebrate
other hand those who are celebrating are amply justified
in doing so. Not only Tamils but other communities too
suffered terribly. The number of dead servicemen —
soldiers, navy and air force personnel during the entire
conflict has not yet been revealed. We have lost count
of the tens of thousands of civilians dead or wounded.
The disastrous impact to the economy has yet to be
estimated. Thus when Velupillai Pirapaharan lies
sprawled in the jungle, there is much to celebrate
the fruits of victory are to be reaped and the country
is to progress the need for unity and amity of the two
communities goes without saying. How this is to be done
is a challenge to all. Solutions to be carried out from
village level to constitutional amendments have been
forthcoming in the last few days.
vital requirement for amity is not to exacerbate the
feelings of the Tamil people.
mass media TV, radio and the press are now in an orgy of
celebrations, The past is being recalled with gory and
extremely provocative scenes being recalled and
replayed. Such publicity may have been justified earlier
to show the world the barbaric nature of the
‘liberators’ of the Tamil people but it is no longer
needed for nation building. It can once again set off
question to be considered now is how much these
celebrations will contribute to re- building amity
among the people. Apart from the various development
projects that will be cited what is called for is a
stimulus to generate confidence of the Tamils.
best stimulus would be the elusive political package
which has been considered from way back in 1956. The
APRC proposals are still being kicked around but
President Rajapakse must show solid commitment and
sincerity in implementing such a proposal or any other
proposal if it is to become a reality
constitutional solution to the Tamil problem would
involve a certain degree of devolution of power to the
Tamil people and to the north and east --a move which
UNP and the SLFP has been fighting shy of. And undoubtedly President
Rajapakse’s silence indicates that these restraints are
Newspapers are now projecting him as the legendary king
Dutu Gemunu or even much greater than Dutu Gemunu as
H.L.D. Mahindapala did from Melbourne. That should give
him enough courage to take on the challenge of a
political solution. Or will he say: Dutu Gemunu did not
Paradise after polls
we pointed out before in these columns Rajapakse is a
firm believer of considering ‘war as another form of
politics.’ And right now he is girding up his loins for
elections to the Uva and Southern Provincial Councils.
Already he has swept all other provincial council
elections on the cry that ‘a defeat at the polls means
that people are not supporting the military victories
against terrorism.’ No doubt this successful mantra will
be tried out at the forthcoming elections and then again
at a general election to be held soon and perhaps a
presidential election as well.
all that will leave this historic opportunity hanging in
the air. Will the promised Paradise have to wait the
crowning of Rajapakse for the second time as president?
Paradise, as we said earlier, is a long way off. We have
miles and miles to go.