By Paul Newman –
On the 4th of February 2013 marking the 65th Independence Day of Sri Lanka, its President Mahinda Rajapaksa, shut all doors on the question of greater autonomy to the Tamil areas of the North and East. By this he has virtually told the UN, India and the International Community that he does not care for their views and the Tamils will be subjugated to more humiliations in future.
“The U.N. charter gives no powers to interfere in internal affairs of countries,” Mr Rajapaksa said, quoting Article 2 of the UN charter. Dismissing criticism against his government as baseless misinformation, Mr. Rajapaksa invited critics to “come over and see for yourselves”.
This is what exactly Justice Verma of India wanted to do but he was refused visa on flimsical grounds, there are scores of others who wanted to see for themselves but they were never allowed, with only the notable exception of a handful of Indian lullaby singing politicians who preferred not to hurt the sentiments of Mahinda at the expense of crushing the Tamils rights.
People who know Mr.Mahinda also know too very well that he will not stop at just denying autonomy to the Tamils, he will have other sinister designs over a period of time to win the Sinhalese and establish ‘Dynastic Democracy’. History is a great teacher and very few have learnt from knowing the history of Mr.Mahinda. In the 2004 the then President Mrs.Chandrika Kumaratunge made him the Prime Minister and later became the Presidential candidate in 2005. After becoming President Mahinda dumped Madam Chandrika into wilderness and she looks for an opportunity to reassert her claim in the Sri Lankan Freedom Party.
The LTTE helped him a great deal in his first Presidential elections victory by a very slender margin over Ranil Wickremasinghe when the organization asked the Tamils to boycott the elections. The boycott of the Tamils inspired by the LTTE’s call helped Mahinda, seen as a hardliner to win the 2005 election by less than 2% votes. One must also note that the Ranil was extremely popular with the Tamils as the chief architect of the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement. The rest is history, the next move of Mahinda was to exterminate the LTTE from 2006 onwards ending the very existence of the LTTE on Sri Lankan soil in May 2009.
Here one person who took the lead in defeating the LTTE militarily was General Sarath Fonseka who went all out to achieve what no other Sri Lankan had achieved in the past, the military defeat of the LTTE. Sarath Fonseka became a National Hero along with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In Sri Lanka there can be only one National Hero and that has to be Mahinda. Immediately Sarath Fonseka was forced to resign as the Chief of Defence Staff in November 2009 and he announced his candidature to the Presidential elections to face his former boss, President Mahinda. This could not be digested by Mahinda and Sarath Fonseka was arrested after his defeat in the January 2010 elections. He was released only in 2012 after International Intervention and promises that he will not speak out against the President.
In 2009 India went out of its way at the UN to justify and defend the gruesome Genocide of the Tamils as the first victory of a country over terrorism. Prior to that they were part of the scheming to defeat the LTTE in its final war. Since then Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers have always preferred China over India for their economic and strategic needs, leaving India with a bitter feeling. Within a span of three months what is the need for Mahinda to visit India? India knows there would be protests in Tamilnadu during his forthcoming visit, but they are not strong enough to tell him not to enter India like the way Malaysia did it in December 2012. Now as an Indian, one wonders whether India needs Sri Lanka or Sri Lanka needs India more!
In 2009 Ban Ki Moon, played into Mahinda’s hands as he thankfully visited the war zones a few days after the war was over and issued a joint statement that there would be Independent Inquiry into War Crimes and justice would be done to the Tamils. When Ban Ki Moon appointed the three member panel out of compulsion, Sri Lanka demonized him, the UN staff was kept as hostage in the UN building in Colombo and Ban Ki Moon became an enemy of not just Mahinda but the ultra national Sinhalese too.
Shirani Bandaranayake was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Mahinda Rajapakse on 18th May 2011, She was expected to help the ruling class, when she did not budge, her political bosses did not take kindly to the fact that she had begun to act independently. On January 13, Rajapaksa dismissed the Chief Justice without following the due process of law, the International community condemned it but Mahinda does not care for such condemnations anymore as he knows the weakness of the International Community and the UN which cannot take any action against him or his country.
Tamara Kunanayagam, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN at Geneva had worked tirelessly to legitimize all the wrong doings of the MR regime, despite her efforts Sri Lanka was forced to bite the dust during the 19th UN Human Rights Council in March 2012. She was a personal friend of Mahinda since the 1980s, but that defeat dented the image of MR and Tamara became the scapegoat as she was shunted out of Geneva despite the whole world acknowledging her great diplomatic skills.
With the term of China and Russia coming to an end at the UNHRC as voting members among the 47 countries, Sri Lanka is once again on the prowl to find confirmed voters. In his quest to get India’s vote Mahinda is on a pilgrimage to India, to appease the Hindu sentiments by visiting Tirupathi after destroying Hindu temples and culture in country and to please his countrymen by visiting Bodhgaya and also to lay a new friendship foundation with Mr.Nitesh Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar who could play a major role in 2014 when a new Union government is formed in New Delhi.
After his pilgrimage MR would seek the help of the ever helpful Manmohan Singh to rescue Sri Lanka once again. It is here one must acknowledge the Maverick Master manipulator cum maneuveror Mahinda as “The politician of his time”. He knows a defeat at the 22nd UNHRC will have no impact on his political career or his coffers but he does not want to face an International defeat and dent his image internationally, once again India holds the key for his victory or defeat. It all depends whether India has learnt its lessons and vote against his regime or history repeats itself, we have to reconcile with failures in our foreign policy.
*The author holds a Doctorate of Philosophy on ‘Internal Displacement and Human Rights situation in Northern Sri Lanka from Bangalore University. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on War Crimes against Sri Lanka.