By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
On Tuesday, around 700 Tamils – mostly elderly women – set off from Jaffna. As Lankan citizens, they were exercising their constitutional rights; as family members of the war-disappeared, they intended to participate in a demonstration against extra-judicial killings, outside the UN office in Colombo.
They never made it out of Vavuniya. “The military said the protesters were stopped for their own safety after reports their vehicles were been attacked…… In the end, the mainly elderly women protested in Vavuniya, where they had been halted…..holding pictures of their relatives….” (Colombo Page – 6.3.2013).
The demonstration, organised by Mano Ganesan, was aimed at drawing the attention of the UNHRC, currently in session in Geneva, to the very real problem of the war-disappeared. Since the regime allowed the protest in Colomboto go ahead, its real problem was not with the demonstration per se but with the participation of Jaffna Tamils in it.
Post-war, a new wall is dividing the North and the South, a wall kept up in the name of national security by the Rajapaksa regime. Economic, cultural and personal contacts between the North and the South are permitted, in general. But political contacts between the North and the South, outside the Rajapaksa-fold, are regarded with zero-tolerance.
So UPFA leaders can have political rallies in the North; and pro-government Tamil politicians can bus innumerable Tamils for political events inColombo(no stone-thrower problem there!). But any Sinhala-Tamil contact within the oppositional fold is perceived as a threat and treated with anti-democratic and illegal severity.
An oppositional unity which cuts across ethno-religious-class lines is the ultimate Rajapaksa nightmare. The regime becomes jittery whenever a Southern political party tries to reach out to the North. The JVP, several smaller left formations and even Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP have experienced the violent effects of this absolutist-intolerance.
Preventing any anti-Rajapaksa political awakening in the North or any anti-Rajapaksa political unity between the North and the South is thus a top priority for the Siblings.Sri Lanka would not been in hot-water in Geneva today, had it not been for this Rajapaksa obsession. Had the regime permitted normalcy and democracy to return to the North, post-war, the war-crimes charges would not have taken wing. If the Tamils were allowed to enjoy at least the limited freedom permitted to their Sinhala brethren, that would have sufficed to neutralise the West and keep India on the Rajapaksa-side. The world was tired of Mr. Pirapaharan’s murderous maximalism, and all the Rajapaksas had to do was to make minimal political concessions to the Tamils. Instead they imposed an anti-democratic Sinhala Peace on the Tamils, thereby giving the ‘war crime’ charge a new life.
Had the regime allowed the Northern Tamils to come to Colombo and take part in the demonstration, it could have used that fact to bolster its own claims and attack its opponents in Geneva, with some credibility. Instead the regime opted to provide its opponents in Geneva with one more weapon. In the power-besotted Rajapaksa eyes, permitting a majority-minority alliance within the opposition-fold is a far greater evil than tarnishing Sri Lanka’s international reputation.
When Lankan-interests conflict with Rajapaksa-interests, the latter wins, always.
Tiger Eelam and Rajapaksa Sri Lanka
Vellupillai Pirapaharan wanted not an Eelam for Tamil speaking people or even a Tamil Eelam. The only Eelam he was interested in was an Eelam under his total control.
Up to a certain point, the contradictions between Tamil-interests and Pirapaharan-interests remained minor and non-antagonistic. But when they diverged, sharply, and turned inimical and mutually exclusive, it was his interests Mr. Pirapaharan prioritised, over and above Tamil-interests, every time. This obsessive vision not only pushed the Tamils towards a historic defeat; it also blinded Mr. Pirapaharan to his own long-term interests. He decided to abandon reality altogether and chase his dystopian mirage. An un-heroic death on the shores of Nandikadal was the appointed end of that journey.
The Rajapaksas do not want a pluralistSri Lankaor even a Sinhala-supremacist Sri Lanka. Their Sinhala supremacism is as instrumental and opportunistic as Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s Tamil supremacism. It is a useful – and a necessary – handle. What the Siblings really want is a Rajapaksa-supremacist Sri Lanka, a country under their total control, a land ruled by their family for evermore, their own ‘Thousand Year Reich’.
Rajapaksa-interests and Lankan-interests are already divergent and headed in opposite directions. The contradictions between Rajapaksa-interests and Sinhala-interests too are slowly turning antagonistic, especially in the economic sphere. The irrational Family-first economics of the Rajapaksas is seriously undermining Sinhala wellbeing. A genuinely Sinhala supremacist regime, for instance, would have prioritised improving the lot of Sinhala farmers over the building of an unnecessary airport in Mattala. But for the Siblings, the pride and joy of having a Rajapaksa Airport far outweigh all the needs of all the Sinhalese. Eventually Sri Lanka will become a graveyard of infrastructural white-woolly mammoths, all named after the Rajapaksas, while most Sinhalese wallow in poverty.
Sinhala supremacism is a weapon to promote and a mantle to cover Rajapaksa supremacism; no less, no more. The Siblings will conjure into being crucibles of hate from time to time, to assist in its agenda of keeping ordinary Lankan too divided and afraid to realise the ill-effects of Rajapaksa-rule.
Like the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)
Last week, a BBS delegation powwowed with the Army Commander and the IGP. The meeting with Gen. Jayasuriya was “also attended by Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Major General Shavendra Silva…” (The Sunday Leader – 3.3.2012). Its purpose was to discuss the BBS claim that ‘Islamic terrorist groups’ (including Al Shabaab) are here. “The Venerable Embilipitiye Vijitha Theor said the monks handed over some documents to the army to back their claims and called for an in-depth investigation” (ibid).
The BBS came into being, organisationally, in July 2012. Today it is a major political player. Such a meteoric rise is not possible in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, without Rajapaksa patronage. The BBS is obviously a Rajapaksa-pawn, used by the Siblings to further their own dynastic project.
Pawns are expendable, and replaceable; infinitely.
According to the Sunday Times website, there is a plan to incarcerate BBS activists until the UNHRC sessions are over[i]. Whether this faux ‘show-and-tell’ crackdown happens or not is immaterial. The BBS will perform its allotted role and evaporate from the polity and public memory. But the venom they spewed will continue to fester, impeding unity and promoting discord/fragmentation.
That is precisely what the Rajapaksas want. If Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus suspect, fear and hate each other, if they build walls against each other, if they maintain a climate of cold war across these psychological ramparts (interspersed occasionally by real conflicts), they will never be able to unite, politically. And the Rajapaksa future is secured.
Hatred breeds hatred; violence begets violence. That is precisely the Siblings’ purpose. Countries which are normal and peaceful do not need heroes or saviours. SoSri Lanka must always be awash with suspicion, fear and hatred. How else can the minorities be cowed into inaction and the majority made to cling to the Kurakkan-shawl for protection?