– Shenali D Waduge –
With 43 years’ experience in politics, President Rajapakse does not need to be told what politics is all about – he’s been there, seen it and gone through all the ups and downs. It is probably using that cunning that he envelops under his purview all the men and women who in our eyes are unworthy of public office. While this may be a good way to keep a watchful eye it is a dangerous scenario in so far as the safety of state secrets and the manner that they can legally influence and implement policy. It is this that keeps most of us on our toes and watchful of the likely deceits that can take place to undermine the victory over terrorism for which the armed forces sacrificed their lives. We do not want to see a handful of traitors undo and damage a country where terrorism no longer exists.
When a country such as Sri Lanka has an enviable historical record that goes back thousands of years, it is a civilization held together by an ethnic group who continue to remain the majority and whose religion also continues to maintain that majority, the cultural ethos that existed should not be undermined. Japan’s political leaders would not undermine its cultural ethos or indigenous identity; neither would even countries as modern as Australia. The cultural identity of the country that existed for millennia is not for experiment. The crux of the present dissatisfaction amongst that majority comes from the feeling that certain quarters within the Government are undertaking subtle and overt initiatives to not only distance the President from the majority contributing to his unpopularity but also to legislatively bring changes to dilute the cultural ethos and identity and confine the majority to that of a ceremonial status and make the country vulnerable to foreign intervention.
This works perfectly for the foreign destabilizers who have been dumbfounded as to why its regime change templates are not working out in Sri Lanka. Getting its own people to dig Sri Lanka’s grave seems to be working out quite fine.
There are plenty of reasons to question the maneuvering’s to sideline the majority. Top on the list comes the English media. A good example is how the English media underplayed and blocked the visit of the Thai Prime Minister to Sri Lanka. Was it because she represented a Buddhist nation that her visit did not get a SINGLE front page headline or even a write up on the reason for her visit in either the Daily Mirror or the Island Newspaper and even in the Sunday newspapers – whereas enough of space was available for rape and murder and even on the funeral of an opposition MP who was well known for his links with the LTTE and efforts to divide the nation as well as Western officials get front page headlines even before their arrival? Content analysis of the main dailies in Sri Lanka will reveal the exact nature of the bias and the unbalanced coverage given purposely to tilt opinion against the majority calling for editor evaluation and a national media commission.
Credibility is always a factor. The integrity of people is measured by the manner in which they work towards safeguarding the Sri Lankan nation. Any and all who functions to the contrary will naturally be questioned.
Therefore when the people question the present external affairs minister not many should be surprised – “Power sharing” “devolution” “union of regions” are just a handful of terminology he has used to make him a member of the NGO darling circle and cheered by Western politicians for the “gentlemanly” initiatives taken to bring peace to Sri Lanka and comparable to another similar persona who claimed “victory” in Geneva when realistically that victory came after this Sri Lankan representative secretly inserted a clause stating Sri Lanka would implement the 13th amendment – why else wouldn’t the quorum at Geneva not vote, in their eyes Sri Lanka had consented which calls for a public apology from this officer to the nation.
A series of other proposals have also paved the way for Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity and sovereignty to be questioned. These hiccups have arisen directly as a result of the authorship of the present external affairs minister.
His infamous GL-Neelan Package of constitutional reforms released in August 1995 were hailed as a “progressive breakthrough” – but it advocated devolution of power and it contained provisions for separate land, police and even external aid and taxes which were used as a basis for the LTTE’s Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA). Jayantha Dhanapala was a key player on behalf of President Chandrika at this time while the peace doves represented by Jehan Perera said “With its proposals for an Interim Self Governing Authority, the LTTE has given concrete form to its expectations in a manner that is essentially compatible with peaceful coexistence in a united Sri Lanka.” Are these people surprised when we question their credibility?
GLP’s 1995 package includes provisions for a separate police force in the Northeast region Para 3.1 “There will be a regional police service headed by a Regional Police Commissioner appointed by the Chief Minister, in consultation with the Governor of the Region. The Regional Police Commissioner will be responsible to, and function under the control of, the Relevant Chief Minister. The Regional police service will investigate all offenses against persons and property.”
GLP’s 1995 Devolution package also contains Land devolution – Para 4.1 Land will be a devolved subject and State land within a region will be vested in the Regional Councils. Para 4.2 Priority in future land settlement schemes will be given to persons first of the district and then of the Region.
GLP;s 1995 also included imposition of taxes and levies by a regional council Para 2.2 stipulates that “Regional Councils will have the powers of taxation in certain specified areas, and the Constitution will require other revenue-sharing arrangements” While Para 2.3 states that “Regional Councils will have the power to borrow as well as to set up their own financial institutions. International borrowing above a prescribed limit will require the concurrence of the center.” Para 2.4, “Regional Councils may regulate and promote foreign direct investment, international grants, and development assistance, subject to such conditions as may be specified by the center.”
It is blatantly clear that the ISGA (Interim-Self-Governing Authority) proposals by the LTTE were prepared on the lines of the proposals made by GL Pieris for the regional councils devolution.
His next target was Buddhism by carefully introducing something called the “Equal Opportunities Act” in 1999 which thanks to Ratnasiri Wickramanayake never materialized. The heading of Bills drafted and the contents therein demands close scrutiny – clauses are treacherous!
Sri Lankans have every right to question GLP because following his stint with Chandrika he forsaked her to join the Ranil W Government and came up with another agreement that equally betrayed the nation in the form of the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement which more or less officially gave a defacto State to the LTTE and humiliated the armed forces beyond description. This same devolution architect next went on to join the present Government and it is only a matter of time having made a popular President unpopular he is likely to do to President Rajapakse what he did to Chandrika and Ranil. His past record has shown that he has always abandoned ship for better opportunity and a serial pathological trait carried forward over decades is nothing that will stop repetition.
Thus, given the past record the President cannot be surprised that the country questions the bonafide of the person tasked to steer the foreign policy of the country given that within a handful of years the country has faced diplomatic blunders and catastrophes leading the taxpayer having to pay millions to foreign PR firms as damage control. There are enough of Professors who are proficient in English and who will not be uttering the same gibberish that has now become a nuisance to all listeners. Not only is he taking down the country, the status of the ministry under his tutelage is declining rapidly too.
But, how many in the Government are aware of how many snakes are within its own “home” and in what ways can they be “monitored” before they can do irreparable damage to the country and how much of this damage can the people write off on the premise that the country is minus terrorism is something the Government cannot evade effectively responding to.
The bottomline is that even a single word on an official document can totally change the framework of a country. Therefore, given the quality of “learned” members in Government giving the mantle to the “learned” but treacherous handful is not only detrimental to the country but will eventually add to the woes of a popular leader who will find himself becoming unpopular because of the decisions he is being steered to take unknowingly or knowingly using all sorts of diplomatic and multicultural jargon in vogue – all of which will only add to the President’s woes. What has upset the majority populace is the fact of being taken for granted without securing and safeguarding the historical cultural ethos in existence, the basis of which the country came to the level it is and for which lives had been sacrificed to protect the nation.
A more holistic approach to governance is now needed one that does not the cultural identity of a historic civilization or its cultural ethos. Elsewhere round the world the calamities that have arisen are all due to the failures of these experiments.