By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“…..he who erected
His own gallows was the one who least expected
To end up dead.”
La Fontaine (Selected Fables)
Vellupillai Pirapaharan could have been the saviour of his people. He could have won for the Tamils a federal solution, perhaps even a con-federacy. He could have, but didn’t, because that was not his goal. His goal was His own state; the Eelam he worked towards was not Tamil-speaking Eelam, Tamil Eelam or even Tiger Eelam; his goal was a Pirapaharan Eelam, a country where he was the state, the law and the religion.
That megalomanic quest ended in an apocalyptic devastation which consumed the Tamil people, the LTTE and, ultimately, Vellupillai Pirapaharan.
Post-victory, the Rajapaksas could have chartered a different path for Sri Lanka, towards democratic peace and humane development. They could have resolved the Tamil issue, strengthened religious-amity and created the political and socio-economic foundations of truly Lankan nation. They could have, but didn’t, because that is not what they want. They used the enormous political capital they gained by defeating the LTTE to transform Sri Lanka in to a familial oligarchy, because that was what they wanted.
Democracy is a shell, the judiciary and the bureaucracy subjugated, minorities disempowered and majority addicted to ethno-religious extremism because these are essential steps in the road towards Familial Rule and Dynastic Succession.
The Rajapaksas regard nation-building not as the consensual union of equals but as the forced welding of unequals. The ‘Lankan nation’ of Rajapaksa-making is intended to be – and will be – a Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist entity under Rajapaksa rule. The Siblings have no interest in winning over the Tamils. A regime which has even a marginal interest in ensuring ethno-religious reconciliation would not have given baying saffron mobs carte blanche to antagonise every minority group.
The Rajapaksas are viscerally allergic to sharing power with anyone, including the SLFP and the judiciary. They will tolerate a provincial council in the North only if it is their appendage, like all other provincial councils. They will use the judiciary to postpone the NPC election, the same way they used the judiciary to de-merge the North-East, unless Delhi is willing and able to make the success of the Hambantota Commonwealth contingent on a relatively free and fair Northern poll, on schedule.
That the Rajapaksas are incensed and worried by the TNA’s Chief Ministerial choice is obvious. The Siblings’ most verbose ventriloquist-dummy, Wimal Weerawansa, has decried Mavai Senathiraja’s withdrawal from the CM-race as a foreign plot: “One diplomatic mission reminded him that his family was in their country and they will send them back to Sri Lanka and not give them a visa again if he contests for the post. The other foreign mission contacted all the TNA MPs individually and said they accept Wigneswaran for the post”[i]. He then resurrected the separatist-bogey: “the diplomatic missions are of the view that Wigneswaran can create the legal loopholes for a separate Tamil state to be formed in Sri Lanka”[ii]
Minister Weerwansa’s braying can be ignored; Basil Rajapaksa’s pronouncements cannot be. Basil Rajapaksa is his Presidential brother’s favourite trouble-shooter, for obvious reasons. Of the Ruling Siblings, he is indubitably the wiliest. If Basil Rajapaksa hurls a verbal-grenade it is not because he has lost his cool but because the Brothers Inc has decided that the time has come to speak of it.
And throwing a verbal-grenade is precisely what he did in his recent Hindu interview. He condemned the TNA’s CM-choice as “a candidate of ‘external forces’ who did not represent the people of the North” [iii]. He proclaimed that the “Rajapaksa government had given the Tamil people ‘everything’ – roads, railways, water, electricity, schools, and hospitals” and warned that the “TNA provincial government will whip up ‘emotional issues’”[iv]. He pronounced that if police powers are activated, the NPC will form its own army.
Basil Rajapaksa’s words prove that the 13th Amendment and the NPC are damned ipso facto. The Rajapaksas have no intention of developing a modus vivendi with a TNA-controlled NPC or even allow it to function. The only debatable point is whether the NPC will be allowed to come into existence and function until the Hambantota Commonwealth is over (due to Indian pressure) or whether it will be judicially aborted.
Basil Rajapaksa’s words also indicate what the real mandate of the APC is – disembowel the 13th Amendment. The Opposition’s decision to boycott the APC is correct. Participation will not make any change in the intended outcome; it will merely provide the process with a cloak of legitimacy. The Impeachment travesty demonstrated how Rajapaksa-APCs, in which the opposition is fully represented, work in practice. All that APC did was to provide a fig-leaf for an act of vindictive tyranny. The APC on the ethnic issue too is an exercise in mirage-making.
Ultimately, the Rajapaksas will disembowel the 13th Amendment and call it democracy[v].
A Tangled Web
An entity that is enslaved to a personality, a party or a family, is incapable of acting in its own best interests. That was the fate of Adolf Hitler’s Germany and Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s LTTE.
In Sri Lanka, the state has become totally subservient to the Ruling Family. Every line of demarcation between the state and the rulers has been deliberately and consciously erased. The state is thus totally geared towards fulfilling the needs, whims and fancies of the Ruling Family, politically and socio-economically, even at the cost of the country and the people.
With their shenanigans on the devolution/NPC front, the Rajapaksas are alienating the Tamils and antagonising India. They may not have embarked on this ruinous path, with such sanguinity, had they not been so buoyed by Chinese patronage and so confident of Chinese support.
The Chinese factor might work in the short term, but in the medium to long term it can boomerang on Sri Lanka. Like any rising Super Power, Chinais belligerently fractious. Chinahas disputes with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines over islands in South and East Chinaseas. Its border-conflict with Indiawas renewed when a platoon of the PLA reportedly established a camp 19 kilo meters inside Indian controlled territory. According to a classified report from Indian Defence Ministry “increasing numbers of Chinese submarines (are) venturing into the Indian Ocean region, thus posing (risks) to India’s security….. The ‘implicit focus’ of China’s navy appears to be ‘to control highly sensitive sea lines of communication’”[vi].
In addition, there is China’s rivalry with the US, made worse by President Obama’s ‘Pivot toAsia’ policy.
On the international stage,China is somewhat porcupinish, prickly and irascible. It would not make any sense for a country as small, weak and relatively-friendless as Sri Lanka to become entangled in those Sino-quills. Nor must we become a bargain-chip China can trade in some international forum, to win herself a necessary concession.
Unadulterated self-interest is myopic and thus dangerous. Blinded by his ‘My Eelam’ dream Vellupillai Pirapaharan did not realise the deadly impasse he was driving the Tamil people, the LTTE, his family and himself to, until it was too late.
A deadly and a desolate future awaits us, if we allow ourselves to be enticed by the Rajapaksas and their patriotic drum-roll.
[v] The previous APC too was an exercise in deception. On an appointed date, the Tissa Witharana led APRC ceremoniously presented President Rajapaksa with a ‘consensus’ document advocating the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. The week before Rajapaksa had given the APRC a document advocating the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, with instructions to present it back to him as that long suffering body’s own recommendation. The APRC acquiesced. The ‘consensus’ imposed by the President was presented to the President with a straight face and was accepted by the President with a straight face.
[vi] Project Syndicate – 16.4.2003