By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“….the discipline man needed most
Was to learn his submission to unreason….
So he won’t find it hard to take his orders
From his inferiors in intelligence
In peace and war….
Robert Frost (A Masque of Reason)
In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, Schrödinger’s cat is a Tiger.
In Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought-experiment, a cat was kept in a box for one hour, together with a poison vial, a Geiger Counter and a radioactive atom – all hypothetical. If the atom decays, the Geiger Counter will detect radiation, the vial will break and the cat will die. If the atom does not decay, the cat will be fine. So for that one hour, the hypothetical cat is both dead and alive.
According to Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, there is no point in investigating the alleged war crimes committed by the LTTE because the LTTE is an ‘organisation which has ended’[i].
The Tiger was menacingly alive just three months ago. Hardly a day passed without some power-wielder warning about this dire threat to national security and territorial integrity. Charges were levelled and the PTA was brought into action. A heap of Tamil Diaspora organisations were proscribed and many individuals (including a few dead ones) declared terrorists. A reign of terror was unleashed on the North. Weapons were uncovered and terrorists were discovered. Arrests proliferated; some of the supposed Tigers were subsequently released, but many others, including the 58 year old mother Jeyakumari Balendran remain in custody.
The government informed the UNHRC that “Gobi…… was actively involved in reviving the LTTE through regrouping LTTE cadres and recruiting unemployed local youth with the intention of using them for acts of terrorism.”[ii]
Then, as suddenly as it came to life, the Tiger departed from life. And the centre-stage was occupied by the Muslim bogey, once again.
If the LTTE is no more, as the regime now claims, why keep civilians like Ms. Balendran in custody?
Four ‘suspected senior Tiger leaders’ were arrested in Malaysia this week[iii]. Shouldn’t Colombo inform Kuala Lumpur not to bother, because the LTTE is an ‘organisation which has ended’?
According to Minister Rambukwella, “As far as the government is concerned, there is no one left on the ground level to hold accountable for LTTE crimes.”[iv]
Well actually there is – none other than Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s designated successor, the man who was responsible for Tiger finances and weapons procurement, a man wanted by both the Interpol and the Indian government. But Kumaran Pathmanathan is no longer a devotee of the Tamil Sun God. He has transferred his fealty to the Sinhala High King. So naturally neither he nor any of the other top Tigers who have become Rajapaksa acolytes can be ‘held accountable for LTTE crimes’.
Meanwhile plenty of ordinary Tamils are rotting in jails across the island, without being charged or tried, for ‘Tiger crimes’.
When to explain the difference between The USA’s violent deeds in Nicaragua and the violence it condemns as terrorism elsewhere in the world, the then American envoy in Managua Anthony Quainton responded, “If they do it, it is terrorism, if we do it, it’s fighting for freedom”[v]. The Rajapaksas used a similar logical dissonance to bridge the gulf between their rhetoric about a humanitarian operation and the starkly different reality during the Fourth Eelam War. Post-war the same illogic continues to be in operation: any LTTEer who supports the Rajapaksas cease being a Tiger; any Tamil who opposes the Rajapaksas can become a Tiger.
The Tiger will not stay dead for long. Once the Islamic bogey had been used to the maximum, once the UNHRC investigation is over, the Tiger will be brought back to life again – and will be replaced by Islamic, Christian/Catholic or some other bogey, in the next phase.
The only question is will the Tiger come alive in time for the Uva Election or will it be kept in cold storage until the next Presidential election? And in the interregnum, how much more harm will be done to the already badly damaged relations between Sinhalese/Buddhists and Muslims?
Recently the Auditor General warned about the dilapidated condition of Sri Lanka’s vitally important oil pipelines. This week another pipeline broke down: “Unlocking and storing of refined crude oil was halted yesterday due to a pipeline bursting off the buoy located in the sea off the coast of Uswetakeiyawa….. A similar pipeline burst on 25 June, which resulted in the closure of the Sapugaskanda oil refinery.”[vi]
The government is busy trying to find funds, not to build new pipelines but to extend the Southern Highway to Hambantota.
When a leader is deemed infallible, the space for criticism, appraisal and course correction vanishes. Crimes and errors are denied because crimes and errors are impossible. Whatever that goes wrong is someone else’s fault. Thus infallible leaders have a visceral need for a stable of enemies, to function as scapegoats, excuses, justifications and diversions.
When the pipelines collapse and the oil runs dry, the Rajapaksas can blame Tamil Tigers, Sinhala Tigers or Islamic terrorists.
Bogey-creation is a timeless phenomenon. In fattening-up the Islamic bogey, the Rajapaksas seem to be using some of the same tactics beloved by American ultra right-wingers (especially the racist and Christian fundamentalist Tea Party Movement). Measures such as framing Muslims as dangerous to the nation, twisting statistics and using fake research to prove a Muslim threat and inventing the danger of ‘creeping Sharia’[vii] (all of which are Tea-Party staples) are being used, even now, by the Rajapaksas and their Sinhala-Buddhist pawns, to spread Muslim-phobia in the Sinhala-South.
Are the Rajapaksas using Aluthgama violence to build an anti-Islamic bridge to the Modi administration over the chasm created by Colombo’s increasing dependence on Beijing? Last week, Indian media speculated about the possibility of Aluthgama riots being “exploited by ‘foreign elements’ wanting to carry out terror strikes in Southern states of India”[viii]. When Minister GL Peiris travels to Delhi next week, he will be discussing “the shared fear of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism”[ix] with his Indian counterpart.
The ‘foreign elements’ referred to by Indian media are of course Pakistanis. Colombo has already begun to crack down on Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka, most of who, incidentally, are Ahmadiyyas or Christians, fleeing persecution by Islamic extremists. “After Premier Modi raised issue with Rajapaksa over fears that Pakistani intelligence agency would use Sri Lankan soil to attack South Indian targets, the Government launched an operation to round up visa overstays…. In the midst…..came reports that a senior Pakistani High Commission official has been told by the EAM to leave Sri Lanka.”[x]
Will the Rajapaksas succeed in using the Islamic bogey to neutralise Hindu-nationalist BJP, for a while? Or will the regime find itself in a dangerous limbo, unable to satisfy Modi-India and incurring the displeasure of traditional friend Pakistan?
The Rajapaksas, by subsuming everything to familial power, will push Sri Lanka into an unprecedented mine-field, made up of angry minorities and hostile neighbours.
[v] quoted in Information Clearing House.com