By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Our politicians have, essentially, been exploiters; trying at every turn to fish in troubled waters. The sole objective is to find some electoral dynamic to push themselves to power or to maintain themselves in power. This is why they have failed to navigate our nation toward progressive goals of economic advancement, fiscal managment, social healing and reconciliation of the broken arms of the diverse civilian population. The latest is the Vijayakala episode.
Out of Context
The Joint Opposition characteristically picked up a part of the State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran’s speech at Veerasingham Hall on July 2nd. This has been, apparently, taken off context. Oh my! And did they not create a mad row! As they have done so many times in the past? Not one single protesting Southern MP bothered to raise the question: What are the facts? The solitary cue from the Deputy Minister’s reference to the LTTE in seemingly benign terms was enough catch for them.
For one thing, the moment was fine as the New York Times story of an alleged Mahinda Rajapaksa’s mega scandal had just been out and was becoming the talk of the town. A diversion of public attention was necessary. Hence, we saw the Opposition MPs dancing in Diyawanna Oya. Member of Parliament, Prasanna Ranatunge, who is himself exposed to serious criminal charges relating to extortion, reportedly flew his massive body around and tried to snatch the “senkolaya,” which is the very symbol of Parliamentary dignity. Parliamentary dignity isn’t important for the Opposition; the power game is the driver of opposition muscular power.
Grasp the Facts
Therefore, at least in the writing forums let us have a decent breathing space and try and intelligently grasp the facts before us.
I have with me an English translation of the speech given by Vijayakala. Thanks to LankaEnews that carries that. I presume that is a correct transcription and I proceed herefrom on that assumption.
First, Deputy Minister Vijayakala tries to explain the serious existential hardships that the Tamil people go through in the North after the war and the downing of Prabhakaran. Tamil girls are being raped. “A six year-old girl was raped and killed….Our girls who are receiving no support from anyone have only one choice – commit suicide….There are 30,000 widows in the north and 12000 LTTE cadres in the rehabilitation camps. What is the government doing for them ?”
“Our people are selling goods at Polas and doing cement mixing .That is why they are forced to stage fasts. The previous government too did the same thing. Jobs shall be provided to our children. The war was confined to the North and east only. Hence a separate special development program shall be evolved for these two provinces. What has happened now is, special development programs are being implemented for other provinces, but not for the north and east.”
“Our patience is reaching the limit,” cried the Deputy Minister.
Vijyakala was obviously speaking in anguish over the social injustice that the people in the Northern war-torn regions face. The absence of the protection of law-enforcing agencies in respect of girls and women going on the road and the breakdwon of law and order was immediate in her mind. The neglect of devleopment in the North took ancilliary place in her speech. It is in the context of the protection and safety of the civilian population that she figuratively sighed for the return of the LTTE. “If our children and women are to come home safely, an LTTE administration is again necessary,” are her precise words.
What would you make of that? We state in ordinary conversation that even the devil is necessary sometimes. One thing that observers all through the LTTE regime had commented on was the tight discipline that Prabhakaran had over the civil order. The average civlian in the North was under an umbrella of LTTE protection and LTTE-managed justice system that was perceived as being fair. That justice system was indeed superior to the one we had during the ten -year- long Rajapakse regime where decisions were taken by the King in Temple trees; Chief Justices removed illegally and unceremoniously; and policemen operated from MP’s offices.
Vijayakala also mentioned about the developing drug scourge: “Today the drug scourge is on the rise in Jaffna. After the war was over the political leaders are transporting drugs to Jaffna. That is why drug addiction has shot up in Jaffna.”
From this specific perspective of law and order and the basic protection of civilians alone was there anything wrong about the plea of this lady? The spoken human language has many shades and levels of meaning. I would rather think that Deputy Minister Vjiyakala had spoken rhetorically and that what she said cannot be interpreted literally. At least, she has the judicial right of the benefit of the doubt.
Besides, Vijayakala has called for a pure UNP government next time. What does this mean? Nothing less than the fact that she has identified herself with the mainstraem political forces of the island. She isn’t segregational as an LTTE sympathizer should be.
The Joint Opposition has obviously taken up this issue in order to deflect public attention from the serious charges raised by the New York Times. The JO are bound to try and take this further and try to put the government in a soup. On the other hand, it is our responsibiliy as ordinary civilains to let our heads govern us and not our misdirected emotions. Sri Lankans have had enough of being led by irrational emotional factors.
We have heard of the common wisdom: “Don’t shoot the messenger. Listen to the message.” There is a serious problem of governance in the North and there isn’t an iota of doubt about that. The people in the North are our brothers sisters;they are an essential part of the body politic. The government must do something urgently to sort things out. The charge of discrimination in development programs is also serious.
We are obviously all happy and content that the LTTE is no more and Prabhakaran dead. The hidden fact that is hitting our eyes is that the causes of that uprising have not been given needed focus and attention. Southerners live in a self-deluded world that there would never be a repeat of that horrendous and brutal era that set back the clock for both the South and the North. Our military is safely ensconced in the North in large numbers. The gun will not silence a population that groans under a perceived and felt deep-seated social injustice. We must look at Vijayakala’s cry with the seriousness that deserves. “There’s no flesh or blood within this cloak to kill. There’s only an idea. Ideas are bulletproof.” ― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta