By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
The open economy introduced in Sri Lanka by the JR Jayewardene(JR)-led government marked a fresh page in the history of Sri Lanka with the emergence of globalization. JR had a formidable team of Ministers like Lalith Athulathmudali, Ronnie de Mel, and Gamini Dissanayake who played a vital role in the best interests of Sri Lanka. Srimavo Bandaranaike and her Ministers failed to address their minds on open economic policies and market liberalization, as a result people underwent untold hardships. Globalization can be described as the process of interaction and integration of economics, social and cultural relations among the people of various countries.
However, the clumsy handling of the 1983 communal riots by JR Jayewardene gave birth to the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. Indra Gandhi waited for an opportunity to take on JR and exploited the Tamil issue, when JR remarked her as a cow and her son, a calf, for which he paid heavily. All efforts by JR to control the Tamil rebels were smashed with the air-drop of parcels by the Indian Air Force and by the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord. Had JR and the subsequent leaders continued to implement the 13th Amendment genuinely, globalization would have played a contributory role in neutralizing secessionism. The lack of broader vision on the 13th Amendment was instrumental for the creation of tension and conflict in the country. Even the Peace move initiated by Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) through the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the LTTE, was again spoilt by Chandrika Kumaranatunga (CBK). In fact, the people failed to realize that the LTTE was hoodwinked by RW. The parties to the MOU, who were the violators of human rights viz, the LTTE leader, the UNP and the Army Commander, had not signed in the presence of one another. After signing the MOU at different places, RW just waved his hand across Vavuniya to please the Tamils. RW initiated this Peace move with the support of the US President Bush and British PM Blair. RW had two plans – First plan was to change the mindset of the LTTE and the Second plan was to take adequate action should the LTTE return to war again. But CBK realizing RW may capture power and took this opportunity to mislead the people, and dissolved the Parliament. The creation of the Provincial Councils was viewed by the Sinhalese political leaders with bitterness but failed to view the other side of the 13th Amendment in conjunction with the process of globalization.
Federal countries throughout the world have strengthened the Provincial governments with constitutional provisions, making it a co-partner in a Federal system, paving way for inter-governmental co-operation. It is a pity that politicians failed to realize that economic integration would gain priority within the Provinces on account of the impact of globalization instead of the call for secession. Had the 13th Amendment been implemented in the proper manner by way of granting land powers and allocating adequate funds to its needs, Sri Lanka would have witnessed some functional autonomy for efficiency gains with the passage of time and the impression that Federalism would lead to separation would have gradually disappeared. But the narrow-minded ruling politicians were reluctant to relax restrictions to attract international capital for the Provincial governments, the result of which saw the deterioration of Sri Lanka’s economy.
Though majority of the Sinhalese politicians were of the view that the 13th Amendment would lead to separation, JR could have solved this issue had he implemented the 13th Amendment with the introduction of open economy and demonstrate that it signals the expansion of democracy. Even the deliberations made by H.W. Jayewardene on self-determination during the Thimpu Talks signalled that he failed to address his mind on the impact of globalization which promotes co-existence with others, after the introduction of the open economy in Sri Lanka. This was a tragic error by the Sinhalese and Tamil political leaders, the result of which saw the loss of thousands precious lives. The reluctance to find a firm solution on the 13th Amendment only led to the suppression of any economic developments in the North-East Province, which is not the way to establish a confident building measure within the communities. What is astonishing is that some Sinhalese prominent citizens had shown themselves as ardent devotees of Sai Baba and Lord Thiruppathy, but failed to observe the path of Dharma and lacked broader vision on the issue of confident building measures.
After Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) took over the regime, the LTTE was crushed with the assistance of India, Pakistan & China. MR misled the people by creating an image that he was the liberator of this country and champion of Buddhism, when, in fact, both the USA and India provided Sri Lanka with Satellite images of strategic targets to crush the LTTE which included the destruction of several armament ships, because terrorism was considered a global threat. MR concentrated to utilize the tussle between India and China over the supremacy in the Indian Ocean, which was the turn of event, for his benefit and avoided the confident building measures between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. He continued to harass the Tamils through some politicians like Rishard Badurdeen, Athaulla, Hisbullah, etc. Even in the SAARC, Sri Lanka began to antagonize India by joining hands with other member States to support China.
In a world, where people have different ways of life, based on their religious beliefs, the impact of globalization saw people throughout the world to adopt a new way of life on account of the curiosity to learn new techniques of other countries together with the cultural ideals. When such a new way of life was to be adopted, MR went to the extent of ignoring India as well as antagonizing USA and other Western democratic countries by having close links with Iran, Libya and other Islamic countries, the Islamic political leaders took advantage of strengthening their areas in the Eastern Province, the result of which saw destruction of statutes of Swami Vibulananda and Hindu gods which indirectly signalled a threat to India and to the spirit of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord. Apparently there were damages also in Mosques which also is not a healthy sign for reconciliation. It is also unfortunate that when the destruction of historical sites (including the Bamiyan Buddha statute) took place in Islamic countries, Sri Lankan Islamic politicians remained silent, but did not had the courage to question the depiction of Lord Ganapathy in the currency notes of Indonesia which is difficult to replace the image of Lord Ganesh, as it is a wide spread symbol of wisdom in Indonesia. Symbol of wisdom also denotes forgiveness and not killing. Perhaps MR and the Islamic community may have intended to neutralize the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord without realizing that it had already tied their hands. In such a complex situation, the task before the MS-led government is whether the Islamic politicians with this double standard would cause any obstacles, though globalization has the force of reconciliation.
If the mindset is lacked with the respect and equal treatment for the oppressed, globalization would appear to be a culture killer. Since globalization transforms the human conditions in matters affecting economic, social and political aspects, such an adoption of the new way of life is viewed with suspicion by backward thinking community especially the Islamic community, for it shatters their false belief that Islam is destined to rule and dominate the world. Since globalization tends to offer hope for people yearning for freedom, the Islamists should abandon the idea of converting the followers of other faiths, so long as they are not free to convert themselves to other faiths, despite the assurance given by the UN Declaration of Human Rights that everyone has a right embrace a faith of their own choice. If the Sri Lankan Islamists are absorbed in such an undemocratic character of Islam, then their alliance with Maithiripala Sirisena would appear to be an unholy one. The international community expected the moderate Islamists, who have been woven into the fabric of global culture, to look forward and abandon the backward ideologies. All religions teach that forgiveness is really a divine gift. Forgiveness does not mean to justify the criminal acts of others, but giving the accused an opportunity to refine himself or herself. God had never given instructions to kill a person even if he has committed a crime. Even the moderate Islamists maintained silence and failed to condemn such executions when dead bodies of housemaids were flown to Sri Lanka every year as well as on matters relating to mode of punishments. This was evident when recent executions took place in Indonesia in spite of wide condemnations throughout the world. What is surprising is that the word ‘Indonesia’ is a Sanskrit word and not an Arabic word, but keen to implement the Sharia Laws. As such, one ponders whether the Islamic political leaders will revive call for a Muslim Administrative Unit which will be an obstacle for reconciliation.
The absence of unity among the Tamil Movements and the cunningness of the Southern politicians for unlawful political gains leave room for strengthening the double standard for the Islamic political leaders which shatters all hopes of a confident building measure. The politicians always expect the media to boast about themselves for their survival, having placed all the restrictions and threats on it. The question is, have the politicians ever realized that the purpose of merging the North-East Provinces was not only to simplify the administration, but also to demonstrate that devolution symbolizes reconciliation for which globalization lends a helping hand and prevent children from all communities being lost in a senseless war. Switzerland stands as a fine example that people of each country should realize that they are in charge of their respective countries while respecting the rights of others in a changing world.
Having known the behaviour of the Islamists, Japan keeps Islam at bay by way of placing restrictions on all Islamists, who are never given citizenship and even there is a ban on the propagation of Islam. What is surprising is that if a Japanese woman marries a person from Islamic community, she is considered as an outcast forever. Perhaps the Japanese knew about the attitude of the Islamic community which will be instrumental for shattering the confident building measures within the communities by way of exploding bombs in public places like markets, schools, bus stands, places of worship, etc. It is quite an eye opener for other democratic countries including Sri Lanka to watch whether the Islamic community proves itself to be a tolerant society.
Today we are reminded of the same situation that prevailed during the latter period of Srimavo’s regime which has re-emerged during Maithiripala Sirisena’s regime but with the different turn of events. RW is seen in an unholy alliance consisting of break-away MR group and Islamic politicians (some of whom have been notorious) on the one hand, while majority of the Buddhists appear to favour MR who is likely to raise communal cries. The maintenance of silence by the Islamic political leaders is viewed with suspicion amidst such a complex situation. However, there is a moderate group from all the communities of which C. V. Wingneswaran who is a prominent figure. It will be a questionable issue whether CBK and MR or even Rauff Hakim after all their misdeeds, would gracefully stepped down accepting responsibility, which will give Maithiripala Sirisena a free hand for good governance. Even David Cameron, after winning the election, has not increased the number of Ministers which sends the signal that power hungry Sri Lankan politicians are a curse to democracy.
The expectation of peace loving citizens is that RW should shed all differences and stretch a friendly arm towards CVW and work together for the betterment of Sri Lanka, because CVW is a firm believer in democracy and a religious minded person, both of which will raise the image of Sri Lanka. He also has better recognition and is steady in his stand for a united Sri Lanka than some Tamil and Islamic politicians. The time is ripe for RW to have a good team consisting of prominent Sinhalese and Tamils. As both the UNP and the TULF, who are aware that the 13th Amendment provided an opportunity for such reconciliation, should act together with broader vision of life. The stretching of friendly arm towards CVW is certain to create an atmosphere friendship and brotherhood among the Sinhala and Tamil speaking communities and pave way for a glorious chapter in the history of Sri Lanka.