– by Shenali D Waduge –
“One night with Venus and a lifetime with Mercury” aptly describes the unfolding events taking place in Sri Lanka given the Government policy decision to embrace the pomp and pageantry to hold the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka in preference to rejecting the 13th amendment/Indo Lanka Accord. The choice will place Sri Lanka in a perilous and irreversible situation sealing the fate of Sri Lanka and even its leaders. However, public support lies with the 13th amendment backing their valiant soldiers because it is the nation that interests the people. CHOGM is simply a Colombian satisfying event irrelevant to the rest of the country. Metaphorically speaking CHOGM represents Venus (one night stand) while 13th amendment means is a lifetime threat to Sri Lanka.
The pithy saying quoted above was coined in the 19th century and refers to two planets to alert the public to the deadly habit of womanizing and risk of contracting syphilis, an incurable disease until the late 1920s. Mercury was used as a remedy to treat syphilis over a lifetime but it was an agonizing treatment. The eventual cure came with the discovery of Penicillin in 1928. We can now connect the saying with the current state of affairs.
Valiant leadership required
The13th amendment and the forcibly imposed Indo – Lanka Accord now remain like an incurable disease unless the same valiant leadership that withstood the tides to win the war on terror in May 2009 is adopted. The fault of policy makers not to immediately declare all agreements detrimental to the national security of the nation as being null and void, and unacceptable to Sri Lanka is a circumstance that again has come to haunt us.
CHOGM and the Colonial Legacy
CHOGM or the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is all about former colonies meeting with their former boss. What is there to be proud about being enslaved or governed by a colonial power?
This is a question all former colonies need to ask. People unaware of history may think that like in the present the Queen or the British Empire shared afternoon tea with the natives discussing their woes? That is dreaming because colonial rule was nothing short of enslavement of subject people. So decades after gaining paper freedom are we to be giving an impression to the rest of the world that we are thankful to have been colonized by Britain and treated as slaves or second class people in our country? This is the question that people promoting the pomp of the CHOGM pageant shies away from answering.
Ideally at every Commonwealth event, Great Britain must be made to read out a speech of its atrocities and apologize to these nations while phasing out a plan to annually make amends for the gross human rights violations it has committed over centuries. Instead, Britain becomes the Chief Guest and former colonies want to celebrate the anniversaries of their invasion or conquest?
What we all need to remember is that as Sri Lankans we have a score to settle with our former colonial masters. That chapter is not closed yet. Our national pride is at stake. Our leaders must not become lickspittle and show undue deference to those who have yet to apologise, account and pay compensation for their crimes on our land. Posterity will never have a good word for those who prostrate themselves in subservience to former colonial masters. In short, our current leaders must not let our country down through belittling and self – deprecating behavior.
The material is all out there. What did the colonials do to nations they conquered? Did they come as guests and visitors with benevolent intentions? No, they were conquerors – they plundered lands, they demarcated territory according to their wishes, they began plantations that would accrue profits to their nations and leaving the indigenous people landless, they divided people so that the people would not join against them, they murdered, slaughtered and raped the natives, they planned evil methods to kill at times to vanquish entire territories of people – This being the colonial legacy ; is this what we are proud to hold in high stature?
Are we to continue to adopt a policy of come what may that will end up having to sacrifice another lot of people who will end up having to sacrifice their lives because leaders were undecided on what course of action that needed to be taken at a critical moment?
Are leaders not aware that the façade of Commonwealth wherein the President will be crowned as Head for the next two years will mean his wings will be clipped because he will have to chirp Commonwealth Human Rights maxims and so called ‘Commonwealth values’ which will end up making him look ridiculous and blindly lead our valiant soldiers to the gallows? It will also create the effect that these Western-Indian agenda so wanted – to make the hero-President into a zero in front of his own people and it does not take much for people to realize when the leaders are leading the country astray. Is this not why the Opposition Leader can never come to power – again the Sinhala Buddhist vote of the Opposition ensures they do not betray the nation and so the votes never suffices for the Opposition to come into power.
Self – deprecating behavior
A former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe paid a heavy price electorally for his gaffe in calling for country wide celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka in 1505. Only people lacking any sense of national pride would make such statements. Jews do not celebrate the Holocaust. They commemorate with great sadness the extermination of their fellow Jews at the hands of the Christian gentiles during the Second World war. So do the Russians, French, Dutch, Polish, Greeks, etc who were victims of Nazi aggression.
Exploiting the vanity and lust for honorifics
A tactic of the West and our country’s enemies has been to always tap into the vanity and weaknesses of people and shower plenty of worthless titles devoid of real power combined with pageantry so that covertly they can carry out their real agenda.
In the long colonial period of our country’s history we find many a victim of crass stupidity and denationalizing missionary education that finally had the effect of pushing them to desert their country, cross over to the enemy, denounce their race, betray their religion and ultimately give up their Sinhala or Tamil birth name for the sake of an alien Portuguese or Dutch or English name. It is with a sense of shame that we recount that the ruling classes of this country during the extensive colonial period found resounding honorifics such as Maha Mudaliyar, Gate Mudaliyar, knighthoods and memberships of the British Empire and the like from foreign conquerors as acceptable a compensation for the loss of the reality of power.
It would be a far greater shame if the leaders in the post – independence era of our country were to ape the shameless Maha Mudaliyars and Gate Mudaliyars of our colonial past and run behind the very same colonial power Britain today for another set of worthless titles e.g. Chairmanship of the Commonwealth, that is not at all in step with the proud image of a liberated country.
Sri Lanka found common cause with peoples of Africa and Asia among others in the long bleak period of colonial domination. We had as role models the likes of Ho Chi Minh(Vietnam), Subhash Chandra Bose (India), Aung San (Burma), Nkrumah (Ghana), Nassar (Egypt), Sukarno ( Indonesia) U Nu (Burma), Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Nelson Mandela (South Africa), and our own Anagarika Dharmapala. Even Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe continues to refuse to bow down to Western pressures.
None of these leaders bowed their heads down in subservience to their colonial masters. The challenge we face today is de – colonization; to be truly free from a colonial influenced mindset and as proud people with a rich history of over 2, 500 years we must accept that challenge.
The CHOGM is working perfectly for both the West and India and no sooner the Indian-backed Wigneswaran secures the North and given that he is already echoing India’s demands in calling for the removal of the military and the Governor to be a non-Military personnel, it is time to ask if the Government is aware of the risks involved.
It is now too late to lament for the failure of pursuing a programme similar to the ‘de- nazification’ programme that the victorious Western Allies launched soon after defeating the Third Reich in 1945. The Nazi aims and goals went down with their defeat by the Allies. The Germans were not allowed to raise the cries of the Nazis in their dealings with the new masters. The Allies would have punished any German who raised a cry for withdrawal of the Allied armies from Germany.
In Sri Lanka over 27, 000 soldiers sacrificed their precious lives to ensure the preservation of the unity and territorial integrity of the country. The defense of the country is a matter for the central government and not a provincial council.
The presence of the Army in the North is for the security of the entire country. Nobody has the right to ask for space and territory free of the Army in the Northern Province to create conditions that may result in the beginning of another terrorist movement similar to that of the LTTE.
Mistake of J.R. Jayewardene
The greatest mistake that the Government of J.R. Jayewardene made soon after its victory in 1977 was to withdraw the armed forces from the North which were strategically placed by Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike’s Govt. upon the advice of N.Q. Dias (Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs) to forestall illegal immigration from India and any other incursions from overseas promoted by local groups bent on the division and break – up of Sri Lanka. President J.R. Jayewardene withdrew the troops at the behest of A. Amirthalingam, then leader of the opposition. President Mahinda Rajapakse we trust is astute enough not to repeat the mistake of J.R. Jayewardene. Present leaders should not exchange the mandate given.
What needs to be said clearly is that now is not the time to apply a come what may approach given that the scenarios are far too risky to be delaying decisions that need to be taken. Already we see the possibilities of the East also embarking on a separatist drive. The Oluvil Declaration of 2004 is now in full swing with US and Saudi funds coming in through the cultural and religious path. The track record of the leaders of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (some of whom supped with Prabhakaran under the LTTE flag while holding Ministerial Portfolios in the Central Government of Sri Lanka) should suffice not to place too much trust in them. The Muslim leadership in the Eastern Province wants to remake the East in the image of Saudi Arabia rather than emulate the culture of Sri Lanka. This is an unsettling trend.
King Senerath (1604 – 1635)
King Senerath (1626 CE) who out of compassion protected the Muslims when they were attempting to escape the wrath of the Portuguese under the leadership of Captain – General Constantine de Sa de Noronha, and re-settled them in Batticaloa and surrounding areas, being land under the Kandyan Kingdom, would be ‘turning in his grave’ if he were to see the rapid changes that had taken place there.
It would be a crying shame if we ignore the sacrifices that the brave ranaviru made on our behalf which the nationalists and the other forces of the nation are today repeatedly telling the country’s leaders not to overlook.
What glory is there if the nation were to be divided and the people having to again face a terror no different to what the LTTE dished out?
If leaders of the past were not aware of the mechanizations at play the present leaders cannot be excused because they are accommodating some of the very people (who have sneaked through the back door) who caved in to the demands of the enemy without any firm resistance and misled the country and our people through their ‘unwinnable war’ attitudes and cowardly and treacherous conduct in public office. Such people do not deserve high mantles. Other self – respecting countries would have had no hesitation in treating such unreliable characters as persona non grata.