– by Shenali D Waduge –
Ranil Wickremasinghe wanted to celebrate the arrival of Portuguese in 1505 and that lost him the election for his foolhardy suggestion not realizing Sri Lanka was a predominantly Buddhist nation and Portuguese banned the practice of Buddhism. The present scenario appears no different and our reservations to the Government come with the advice not to make that same mistake. CHOGM is a celebration of all that was associated with the British. British rule and their record of crimes against humanity and war crimes have yet to receive apology in the least – where is the justice to our ancestors from whom the country was usurped? How would wearing the CHOGM hat dispense of those injustices simply because CHOGM comes with pomp and pageantry to only a handful and what are we to sacrifice for 2 years for this chairmanship hat? Which next raises the question what about the sacrifice made by 26,000 of our heroic soldiers to give us an elusive freedom after 30 odd years will their victory be compromised? Their sacrifice cannot be ceremonial chants of glory.
While the entire State of Sri Lanka is kept busy telling us what merits CHOGM will bring to the country things do not look to be too much in order and it has nothing to do with any shortcomings from the defence and law enforcements but as a result of not addressing key areas that are now beginning to congregate to chock the President and the entire nation. If the State and its politicians claim to have had foresight and had already taken care of these areas unbeknown to us, we remain perturbed at the current status quo of things which to most appear isolated but are definitely not.
1. Wither 13th amendment – 4 years after the defeat of the LTTE and in realizing that killing LTTE ground force alongside its leader did not kill Eelam separatist ideology, it was important that key stepping stones to that grand objective needed to be immediately dealt with – our question is why has it been impossible to repeal the 13th amendment given that Sri Lanka’s bureaucracy had every opportunity to sell malfunctions of the 13th amendment even to India well on its way to balkanization with its entire borders on fire? Surely Indian officials would have looked at the possible dangers to India in the context of the 13th amendment vis a vis the provincial council system turning into a headache India would not want to deal with.
2. When the Sri Lanka Armed forces ensured that with the defeat of the LTTE all LTTE martyr memorabilia were removed from the north why did the political establishment fail to do the same by enforcing the 6th amendment which would have blocked TNA from propagating separatist slogans of any kind politically. In not doing so we not only face separatist chants, but even calls to take up arms, demands for the removal of the armed forces from the north, a manifesto that the Government does not have the pluck to take action against and the possibility of walking into a Kosovo style situation. Who will take the responsibility for the tragedy that is likely to befall?
3. If the decision not to address item 1) and 2) because the political pundits had a counter plan why is the whole nation in alarm mode now and TNA candidates are dictating terms to the GOSL even before election victory? Exactly what challenge do we have before us?
4. Prabakaran and LTTE stood for terrorism – it is something that even Tamils can today denounce without fear. C V Wigneswaran is the opposite to Prabakaran and in him the TULF, TNA, Tamil Diaspora and all those flagging Eelam have found their perfect man. He has no bag and baggage (except maybe his daughter’s father-in-law) – in short the perfect choice and will soon rise to the stature of a demi-God one that Prabakaran forced upon himself but one that Wigneswaran by default would garland. With the predicted victory he would be given no short a welcome than a head of state by the very Western nations who were pals of the LTTE and who refuse to forgive Sri Lanka for eliminating their prodigy. Have the State politicians and in particular the Foreign Ministry thought of this scenario given that whatever assurances India may give to President Rajapakse, Indian elections means Tamil Nadu dictates Manmohan Singh’s reactions and so CHOGM style reception will definitely await Chief Minister Wigneswaran in India and Tamil Nadu. Simply put even LTTE terrorists had more friends than Sri Lanka and will in future too.
5. While many will take lightly the fact that apart from a handful of Resolutions, nothing-to-be surprised comments from UN HRC head Navi Pillay, nothing substantiate has happened to Sri Lanka, should that suffice for us to take things as casually as Gaddafi or Saddam for both did not think that a country such as theirs would end up being ruled now by barbarians placed there by Western human rights champions. Are we to think that these nations that have a history of racism, discriminative and murderous exploits would think twice of not doing to Sri Lanka what they did to Kosovo, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, East Timor, Egypt and now Syria?
Are we so naïve to think that our leaders would be given different treatment to what happened to the leaders of these nations who are now either in exile, facing ICC criminal charges or eliminated from earth completely?
Where have our strategists gone wrong?
It took just 500 years to completely turn up side down the bond that the Buddhists and Hindus enjoyed over its long civilizational history – we should not allow those long ties to be forgotten. Why has present day looking-West political pundits not strategized that the best way to bring India and Sri Lanka together was to renew these bonds as well as align with traditional friends instead of getting jilted by going behind those who care not a penny for us?
Use Education to bond Buddhists and Hindus
Education is always a good platform to renew ties starting from children. The Government should have started Buddhist schools in the North, given that there are Hindu schools in the South without allowing only Christian schools to monopolize and thereby not promote any significance to the culture of unity between Hindus and Buddhists that prevailed before colonials arrived in 1505. Hindu-Buddhist schools side by side would be ideal to build up those lost ties with language sharing, culture and religious sharing taking place together. Now that is what is called reconciliation not the whimsical scenarios imported from overseas. If GOSL can inspite objections permit Muslim only universities for a Muslim population that mostly study in non-Arabic why are they reluctant to set up such Buddhist-Hindu combined schools?
In this context of what value is the commonwealth today apart from being a podium to exchange trivialities that lead to nothing relevant to the poverty stricken populations that are its members? Let’s also not fool ourselves that Britain has been at the head of all troubles that have been weathered by Sri Lanka and remains the LTTE’s international headquarters where even Adele Balasingham the child soldier lead trainer lives inspite of her criminal past. Surely, at some of these bargaining exchanges our foreign ministry should have countered Human Rights accusations for need to take action against her. Can officials take note that we are a sovereign country or at least we should behave like one instead of applying the policy of appeasement and nodding acquiescence to every allegation being made without sufficiently countering them.
Deaths of 26,000 ranawiruwan should not be in vain
We again remind the political establishments and state officials that upon giving us a war victory when we were sold the idea that we faced an ‘unwinnable war’ it was left to the political establishment to take care of the rest within a democratic framework. It emerges that things that should have been done have instead been used for political purposes and we have again landed ourselves in a soup of our own making and there is little point in blaming those that are taking advantage of the inactions. Moreover, the present western-centric terminologies being floated by western influenced officials will lead to the denationalization of the people and the leaders may like to ponder a scenario of who will then defend the nation – it is only those who love the nation and who believe the nation belongs to them, valuing the ancestral heritage and culture that came forward to defend it and will continue to defend it. That must not be forgotten by anyone especially those who did not defend the nation and who are now talking shop.
Why has Sri Lanka failed to counter accusations and lies?
Why are our politicians and public servants not asking key questions? Asking them on election platforms to fool us is not going to get us anywhere? Moreover with the President given the chairmanship of the Commonwealth he will be forced to take actions against his own natives and nation in what would end up a precarious situation for Sri Lanka. Much of the troubles we are likely to face stems from the inactions of the political establishment.
Way Forward: We need to demand answers and proof to the following:
1. Authenticity of July 1983 riots – The Sri Lankan public has had enough of being blamed for an incident that it had not participated in. Would the Sinhalese attack Tamils when international chagrin falls upon them? The Government owes the Sinhalese to declare that there should be no future reference to blaming the Sinhalese for 1983 without proof.
2. Proof of Sinhala-Tamil divide before arrival of colonials. All troubles began after the colonials because of their divide and rule policy. If any reconciliation has to take place the colonials must first apologize. The Government must demand from all those who claim ‘ethnic’ problem exists to give proof.
3. Where is this Tamil Homeland – show proof of an independent Tamil Kingdom and not by fabricating historical data as had happened throughout LTTE de facto rule where Sinhalese nameboards have been changed and Buddhist artifacts have been destroyed in the North and East and continue to happen. The Government needs to stop allowing myths to become a platform for international discussions.
4. Sinhala Only – show proof that Tamil was a language of administration before the introduction of Sinhala Only to have any grounds to feel grief. How many Sri Lankan Tamils were in employment functioning in Tamil language to have been affected by the Sinhala Only? The Sinhala Only was made an issue by both English educated high class Tamils and Sinhalese because it affected them. The outcome of that was Bandaranaike falling for a deal with separatist Chelvanayagam along a federal solution which had nothing to do with the Tamil language. Eventually Tamil language from reasonable use became an official language through the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987 and now through the LLRC Tamil has gained a position that came about in devious means. No politician chose to argue against such. The Government must place these facts properly before the public alongside with the issue of standardization so that the myths with which LTTE propaganda bases its promotion can be dealt with.
5. The Government needs to remove all labels and references in State files as well as school text books that declare Sri Lanka faced an ‘ethnic problem’ – we faced a terrorist problem. Period. This is a historical justice that has to be done without delay.
6. Electoral system needs to change – it is obvious that the present PR system has given rise to minority political party rule and that bargaining dilemma is sending the country along a path that would lead to further animosity. We must reintroduce first past the post system and make the politicians earn our respect.
7. The Government must do right by the Buddhists who built up the civilization of Sri Lanka. It cannot deny the place of Buddhists and the indigenous culture. It is on their votes that Governments come into power though they are a forgotten majority thereafter. It is because of the Government’s courting of mostly minorities that has led to a lot of animosities, irregularities, incursions and state patronage that are now questioning the existential existence of Buddhists and Buddhism in a future date (an extrapolation of population dynamics should make politicians wake up) When informal decisions have been taken to not allow future religious places of construction why is it that mayors lay foundation stones for mosques in residential areas where non-Muslims live?
8. How relevant is multiculturalism and why are we accepting notions irrelevant to us? Multiculturalism is applicable to nations built by immigrants – Singapore is one such example, Australia is another. Yet, in countries where a civilizational existence prevails, evidence of such abounds and a clear ethnic majority gives further evidence – on what grounds should we need to completely disregard the cultural dynamism of the Sinhala Buddhist race, culture and religion to treat it on par with others when the Constitution itself provides pride of place to it? Has State entities like the Kadiragamar institute not been guilty of subtly pushing a multicultural base agenda to denationalize the patriots of the country and only upon highlighting this that the institute is now steadily realigning its policy?
9. Reconciliation bogeys – Again why is the Government accepting theories, norms and concepts simply because it comes from the mouth of the West. Should we not question the validity of these statements, these notions and terminology? If Sri Lanka was ruled by over 180 Sinhala Buddhist kings and that status quo changed because of a foreign invasion and the story of Sri Lanka thereafter was written by rule of foreign invaders reconciliation should have no time bar or exclusions – it must rightly first address the wrongs done to the indigenous natives first. Why is the Government who depends on the Buddhist vote to exist not making this demand and simply accepting only the demands of minorities as grievance? Does the majority not have grievances themselves?
A lot of wrongs by many have left Sri Lanka in a wretched situation and we cannot blame ONLY the external forces. The shortcomings of our own leaders in many ways have not only added but worsened the situation and it is now time for these errors to be corrected.
It is also good to finally discover on whose advice Emperors will be left without clothes and how far CHOGM may be a trap Sri Lanka cannot wriggle out of.