By TU Senan –
Contrary to the claims of the Sri Lankan government they have been defeated on many fronts now. Not just in the UN in the form of the UNHRC resolution, but they also suffered a humiliating loss of support in the local provincial election.
In the last provincial election in Sri Lanka, the ruling party candidates lashed out at the US and the UK. It wasn’t that the ruling party of the misnamed ‘socialist republic’ suddenly wake up to the reality of the horror of capitalism. On the contrary the current Sri Lankan government has been implementing vicious neoliberal policies. But a US-led resolution in the UNHRC this month regarding human rights violations by the Sri Lankan regime, was a major propaganda defeat for the government.
Although the resolution fell short of any concrete action it was a humiliation for President Mahinda Rajapaksa. To this day he maintains that no human rights transgressions either took place or are taking place in Sri Lanka. The ruling party went all out to turn the Geneva embarrassment into votes and support – hence the bashing of western governments. They urged voters to support them to ‘save the nation’ and ‘to send a message to Geneva and the Americans’.
Despite these attempts, the results in the last election provided a clear indication of the diminishing support for the government, even in the places they used to consider as strongholds. While the fall in the vote is significant (11% in the western province and 9% in the southern province), more revealing is that this fall in support is taking place despite the massive Geneva scaremongering. What has been vote-producing ‘development rhetoric’ also received a whacking with a 9% reduction in the vote in the heartland of development and Mahinda’s family cave – Hambantota.
In an attempt to whip up Sinhala nationalism the government now resorts to attempting to adopt an anti-imperialist face. Look at the example of Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe from the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and national organiser of racist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). He claimed in an election rally that “they” are prepared to sacrifice a hundred thousand people to “ensure the protection of the country”. This is not just a throw-away comment from a racist, but reflects a mentality that exists in the ruling party in Sri Lanka.
While the anti-western mood is whipped up to protect the regime, a carefully choreographed scaremongering is also taking place. The spectre of the LTTE is used as a tool for further suppression. In the name of a fictional new leader ‘Gobi,’ there is an effective curfew in place in the north. Each and every house has been searched. This is a clear message of what is to come. Anyone willing to give evidence or speak out against the government will be framed as LTTE.
Is a war crime investigation a possibility?
Mahinda Rajapaksa denounced the UNHRC resolution, though he and the SL regime cannot completely ignore what is to come. They may be forced to set up some sort of ‘internal investigation’ mechanism to comply with the UN and the west. This, however, will only be a tactic to avoid further fallout. No investigation will satisfy western interest as its aim is to break the current regime’s increasing ties with China. Unless that break takes place, the west and their institutions will constantly be on the back of this regime. As the ruling family’s strength and wealth is tied to China, the only action we can expect is tactical manoeuvres.
One such tactic was outlined by the regimes’ former ally Dayan Jayatillega. A summary of his argument goes like this: set up some sort of investigation – get Cyril Ramaphosa involved (Cyril Ramaphosa was appointed by South African president Zuma as a special envoy to Sri Lanka) – get ‘known’ Sri Lankans involved in the investigation – get some international names involved. There you have it – a cocktail that that can put a delay on western governments’ advances on the ruling regime!
But this is a proposal for a cover-up. Dayan, who previously successfully defended the Sri Lankan regime in the UN, knows the ‘game’ the regime will have to play. Like Dayan, many who do not support the regime are directly or indirectly showing loyalty on this matter as they have bought into the government’s propaganda that the UNHRC resolution is an attack on Sri Lanka in general, not just against the regime. From the UNP to other opposition parties, many have defended the regime on this with the exception of left forces such as the United Socialist Party.
Even the tactical manoeuvre of setting up a bogus investigation is in itself a humiliation for the ruling family. Mahinda’s family members continue to argue that nothing wrong was done – which effectively rules out any investigation. If they have to establish any investigation – who can they investigate? Who can they blame? Because every blame and every crime will lead all the way to the high command – Gotabhaya Rajapaksa himself. This is one of the reasons why the so-called credible investigation under the current regime is an impossibility. And this is not a secret.
Western interests in Sri Lanka
This is common knowledge among thousands of Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim people. Of course UNHRC experts and those who advise western governments are also aware of this fact. So what makes them turn a blind eye? Why should they continue to “encourage” or “urge” or “welcome” the Sri Lankan government to come out with any meaningful investigation? The recent UNHRC resolution is full of such sham terminologies. It hides the real intention of the western governments which they dare not openly debate for fear of facing a backlash from the masses. Establishing an economic advantage in Sri Lanka is not talked about openly (Beyond UNHRC resolution – demand a constituent assembly http://www.tamilsolidarity.org/?p=3507). What actions the western governments are prepared to take is linked to how far they are prepared to go to challenge the Chinese influence in the region. China and Russia, who have veto power in the UN Security Council, will limit the scope of any UN action.
Some campaigners may argue that these competitions between China and the west in the region could be used to our advantage. This is a false hope. This simplified argument will lead to the dangerous tactic of taking the side of this or that oppressive force. The US and the west attempting to dictate human rights to neocolonial countries is indeed hypocritical. Together the US and western governments are responsible for more deaths across the planet than other governments. But at the same time opposing these imperialist interests should not lead to defending undemocratic regimes who are also committing heinous crimes. Outrageously the Cuba and Venezuela governments support the Sri Lankan regime in the name of an anti-imperialist alliance against the US and the West. This amounts to a parody – ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.
But the Cuban and Venezuelan action comes as no surprise to those who know the character of these states. Their foreign policy is often an extension of local policies that restrict democratic rights. In fact, there is not a single state in the world that genuinely stands for democracy and is on the side of the oppressed masses. Alliances are forged and broken, not in the interest of the masses, rather to corner a piece of the pie. Of course the character of a state like Venezuela is fundamentally different from that of the US in that the Venezuelan government under former President Hugo Chavez took enormous steps forward in lifting the masses out of poverty.
But this doesn’t mean that this country can be immune to criticism and that all they do is progressive. Far from it. The trade unions and political activists in Venezuela are forced to wage a brave fight against the state’s oppression against them. At the same time they are also fighting against the pro-capitalist right which is relentlessly trying get back to power to turn the clocks back on the advances of ordinary people to use the country’s wealth to meet their needs instead of lining the pockets of the rich. A simplistic interpretation of what side any force or individual is on is dangerous – the question can only be, do they defend the rights of ordinary people and oppose oppression whenever it rears its ugly head.
Similarly a one-time armed group with revolutionary ideas, the ANC, now has the blood of South African workers on its hands after the massacre of striking mineworkers in Marikana in August 2012. Workers in South Africa have been forced to assess whether their traditional party, that led the mighty battle against Apartheid is still fit for purpose in the world’s most unequal and racist country. But that is not the end of the story.
Massacre to mass workers’ party is the new South African scenario – which should be the model in Sri Lanka. People in South Africa are drawing conclusions from their bitter experiences – now they know the rotten bankruptcy of the once-revolutionary ANC. The Marikana massacre sounded the death knell of the ANC. The newly formed Workers And Socialist Party (WASP) is expected to make its first impact in the upcoming election. Cyril Ramaphosa, on his way to being a billionaire, was recently chased out by the people during his election canvassing.
There is no reconciliation for the poor and oppressed in South Africa until they have a powerful independent voice to organise the struggle for justice and for rights. Tamils and all oppressed people in Sri Lanka will have to take the South African road – the one that started in the massacre in Marikana.