By Mahendra De Silva –
Today Sri Lankans who are living abroad watch with sadness and anger what is happening in our country. Whenever I meet Sinhalese Buddhist Rajapakse supporters they ridiculed me for expressing my views about Sri Lanka. They say that one should come to the county to understand the developments taking place. They talk of new roads, sky rise buildings, overhead bridges, luxury cars and also the cleanliness of Colombo city. According to them very soon Sri Lanka will be far ahead of Singapore When I ask about freedom and level of democracy, media freedom in the country they again get excited. What freedom? When Tamil Tigers were killing our people daily, did you talk about freedom? We all lived in fear. How many innocent people were killed by Tiger bombs, in trains, busses and everywhere? No one talked about our democracy and freedom then. It is Rajapakses who saved us from a disaster. None of the other leaders, JR, Chandrika, and Premadasa could not save us. We have to worship Rajapakses for saving our country. They deserve to rule the country for generations. – I have come across even highly educated and intelligent Sinhalese professionals who subscribed to this viewpoint. It appears that this regime can continue for generations to come even if it becomes a total dictatorial state like North Korea so long as mentality and attitude of majority Sinhalese Buddhists remains same in tolerating injustices of Rajapakse regime.
I was thinking to myself the rationality of this argument in support of Rajapakses which is quite prevalent with Sinhalese ordinary people. It is a fact that ruthlessness of Rajapakses had a positive effect in completely eliminating Tiger menace from Sri Lanka temporally. But Sri Lanka had to pay a huge price in terms of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians who had to sacrifice their lives in Vanni during last stages of the war and adverse publicity Sri Lanka received. War could still have won more respectably if they were little sensitive to human casualties. But brutality of the way it was conducted damaged the reputation of Sri Lanka as well as Sinhalese who are known as peace loving followers of Lord Buddha. Further War Crime charges were repeatedly made against the Armed forces who made a great sacrifice to liberate the country. In my view we could have minimized the damage to great extent if the Sri Lankan Rulers of the day acted intelligently. A good leader, who has all the powers needed to make a difference to other people’s lives, should have understood the sufferings of Tamil people due to decades of war. How great it would have been for Sri Lanka if Rajapakse made use of the golden opportunity he got to unite the country. His heart should have felt for the over hundred thousand refugees in camps in Vanni. If he was intelligent enough first thing MR should have done after the war was to admit that innocent civilians were lost in the war. If there were claims of misconduct or war crimes a proper enquiry should have been made, and culprits punished. A rapid compensation and settlement process should have taken place immediately after the war. Instead of wasting billions of dollars to build unproductive ports and airport at places like Hambantota or creating airlines in his own name like Mihin Air, wasting billions of public money, an intelligent ruler would have spent that money to develop North and East ruined by war and also to uplift the morale of Tamil people who had lost everything in their procession due to war. It is natural that they would harbor an ill will towards Sri Lankan government for what has been happening there. Goodwill gestures by government would have done a huge attitude change in Tamils within the country as well as diaspora outside Sri Lanka. Our Buddhist priests and Sinhalese ordinary people should have been the forefront in refugee camps helping Tamil people who lost everything due to the war. Act of Kindness by Buddhist priests and Sinhalese towards Tamils would have done much more to spread Buddha’s message across North and East, than building Buddha statues and temples all over Northern peninsula. Even the war crimes charges and the very bad publicity Sri Lanka and Sinhalese Buddhists received after the war would have been minimised if Sir Lankan government took concrete steps to achieve real national reconciliation and rebuilding of war-torn territories. Rajapakse would have been hailed like Nelson Mandela, if he acted as a statesman at least after the war. If he worked towards winning hearts and minds of all the people including Tamils after the war, Rajapakses could have stayed in power easily without having to do all the bad things he does today to stay in power.
Again coming back to the rationality of the argument that Rajapakse’s can do anything because they liberated the country from Tamil Tigers, counter argument could be made that if someone saves a another from a disaster in order to pay gratitude is it necessary to allow liberator the liberty to do anything as he likes to the victim.? In Sri Lanka the liberator who saved the county from the clutches of Tiger monster is turning to be a monster. Liberator has shut down the free media in the country. Liberator has killed, harmed or chased away any one challenging his decisions. Remains of democracy and independence of judiciary which have been still surviving in the country is to be taken out completely. Liberator has eliminated any opposition in the Parliament by buying out Parliamentarians by offering lucrative deals using public funds. Parliament has become a rubber stamp of Rajapakse, who has ensured a Parliament with his clowns who would do anything for him. He is also in the process of buying members of judiciary with various bribes. Liberator would try to attack people who do not bow down to his wishes or try to work according to their consciousness. Liberator would take revenge from people who becomes a threat or likely to be a threat to him with fictitious or made up criminal proceedings. Best example was former army commander Sarath Fonseka or present CJ, Shirani Bandaranayke. Liberator will ensure that all his die-hard followers and admirers are protected from the arm of law irrespective of whatever they do. Liberator has released rapists, murders and drug dealers from criminal proceedings because they are his supporters.
Rajapakse supporters who boast about Sri Lanka becoming a Singapore, does not realize although democracy is restricted in Singapore, one thing certainly happening is the rule of law applying to everyone equally. After former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew left his office after making Singapore one of the greatest and rich countries in the world, he did not appoint his son or a relative to be his successor. Corruption is lowest in Singapore compared to rest of Asia. Can anyone believe Sri Lanka becoming a Singapore with the level of corruption, nepotism, and indiscipline rulers of present day Sri Lanka?
At least now the Sinhalese Buddhists should understand the damage happening to our county under the present corrupt leadership. They should realise that democracy we enjoyed under British rule and post-independence governments all this time is in last stages today. Are they allowing the liberator to continue to undermine our traditional values, rule of law, independence of judiciary and a public service? Are we allowing liberator to use the police and armed forces as his private army. Are we allowing liberator’s puppets to be the judges of Supreme Court and other courts? We also should remember that birth of another Prabakaran is not far away if we alienate Tamils the way we do now and the birth of another Wijeweera if the Liberator runs the country this way. The mentality that Sri Lanka belongs to only Sinhalese Buddhists should be done away in modern 21st century. Treating everyone equally irrespective of community or religion is an accepted norm of a democratic country. Devolution of power and allowing people in a particular region to take its own decisions on administrative, development matters is also a recognized component of democracy. Because of foolish communal minded Sinhalese politicians SriLanka had to suffer from communal disharmony and violence and unrest among minorities. At least now we should learn from past experience that real peace is possible only when there is communal harmony and satisfaction among all communities. We should realise that one of the culprits of present day unruly behavior of governing politicians is the monster constitution which gives unlimited powers to the President. These powers would make even a good man an evil dictator. Even if we change the present rulers very soon we will find the new rulers would make use of the huge executive powers vested in the Executive President fully to continue the same path of dictatorial rule. Politicians promise to change the constitution when they come to power, but when they get the taste of power, they do want to continue to enjoy it and make as much as personal gains, not only to themselves but also to their generation. Therefore the most important task would be to make sure that whoever takes over power again do it under a new democratic constitution model with full of safeguards to protect Sri Lanka from corrupt politicians in future.