By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“He must first smash a world so that he can confer his peace upon it.” – Rolf Hochhuth (The Deputy)
The police have informed the Colombo Magistrates Court that they are unable to identify the BBS monks who very publicly invaded the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in April 2014[iii].
When five Tamil students were murdered Trincomalee in January 2006, it was a Sinhala Judicial Medical Officer who debunked the military’s claim that the victims were killed when the bomb they were carrying went off prematurely.
Since then a minister tied a Samurdhi official to a tree in public, in full view of the media and the police, and claimed that the officer tied himself to the tree. And a Chief Justice, who refused to violate the letter of the constitution, was impeached and thrown out of her job, illegally.
Impunity does not recognise borders. What happened in the North will happen in the South. What happened to the Tamils will happen to the Sinhalese and the Muslims. Weliweriya and Aluthgama are omens of that unsafe state which awaits every Lankan who is not a member of the Ruling Family, if Mahinda Rajapaksa wins a third term.
Last week the police arrested Rev. Watareka Vijitha Thero, for filing a false complaint. Medical reports are said to indicate that the monk’s injuries were self-inflicted. Are they the same sort of medical reports as in Aluthgama? Did injuries inflicted by BBS thugs become self-inflicted injuries, just as gun-shot wounds turned into knife/sword cuts?
Some months ago, Minister Dinesh Gunawardane stated in parliament that Khuram Shaikh’s partner, Victoria Tkcheva was neither raped nor sexually harassed. He claimed, “I am presenting the answer given to me by the Ministry of Defence, based on police records submitted to them”[iv]. This attempt to subvert the truth failed thanks to relentless pressure from the UK. Had Mr. Shaikh not been a British citizen, Sampath Chandrapushpa and his goons would never have been indicted.
Six more years of Rajapaksa rule and ordinary Lankans will have to seek UNHCR assistance to obtain even the most basic justice in their own country.
Every institution is being undermined, deliberately. To mention only the most recent example, the Director General of the Bribery Commission was given a lightening transfer to the Presidential Secretariat. “….it is an open secret in the Commission, that she had disputes with the Commission Chairman Jagath Balapatabendi. There is a complaint to the Commission against Chairman Balapatabendi as well…..”[v]
Imagine the state of the state, especially the police and the judiciary, if Mahinda Rajapaksa wins another presidential term.
One of the few state institutions to maintain a modicum of autonomy still is the Auditor General’s Department. The Auditor General has warned that the network of pipelines used to carry petroleum is in a dilapidated condition and if immediate remedial measures are not taken a fuel crisis might ensue: “The Auditor General observed that these pipelines installed some 40 to 70 years ago had deteriorated. The normal lifespan of such pipelines is only 25 years. Meanwhile two pipelines had been abandoned because they were beyond repairs. Against such a background the petroleum authorities were bound to face serious difficulties in meeting the increased demand for fuel products in the country with only three pipelines in operation.”[vi]
Clearly the government is aware of this potentially dire problem. But in Rajapaksa eyes building artificial islands and expanding useless airports/ports are far more important than building new pipelines for fuel transportation. If the crisis predicted by the Auditor General happens, the Siblings and their BBS/JHU/Ravana Balaya acolytes will probably claim that the pipelines were destroyed by Jihadists, resurrected-Tigers or the Sinhala allies of one or the other. There is, after all, a historical precedent for such an absurd travesty. In 1986, when the Kantale Dam burst, killing 126 people and destroying more than 1,600 houses, the JR Jayewardene regime tried to blame the Tigers for it[vii].
That the Rajapaksa profligacy is placing the country in a debt trap is no secret. Recently Minister Tissa Vitarana warned that “state and private banks are getting caught up in a severe debt trap by raising loans in international financial markets witht the consent of the Central Bank…”[viii]
Education is being de-prioritised; budgetary allocations declined from 1.81% of the GDP in 2010 to 1.51% of the GDP in 2013. This is one of the factors driving up youth unemployment which is believed to be around 20%. Sri Lanka (along with China) has also been identified as one of the countries suffering from alarming increases in income disparities.
The mostly Malay residents of Colombo 2 were evicted last week, en masse, from their traditional homes.
The Rajapaksas are planning to turn part of Colombo into a mini Las Vegas[ix].
Given the nature of Rajapaksa development priorities, imagine the state of the economy and the condition of ordinary Lankans, after six more years of Rajapaksa rule.
Absent Reconciliation and New Faultlines
Very little is being done politically or economically to win over the Tamils.
The North needs over 60,000 new homes for people made homeless by the war and more than US$300 million to build them. Unfortunately the funds are unavailable. The regime is uninterested while donor assistance is drying up[x]. High levels of graduate unemployment[xi] and increasing school dropout rates[xii] represent the two ends of a problem which can have an extremely destabilising impact on both the Northern society and Sri Lanka.
How can a society which is incapable of educating its children or employing its educated youth become safe or stable?
The low quality of most of the available employment opportunities in the North is another seething issue. During the 2012 household survey by the UNHCR, “researchers found that 43 percent of participants reported having a monthly income of Rs.5,000 ($38) or less, against a national average of Rs.36,451 ($280) per month”[xiii]. Income and regional disparities will create another generation of disillusioned and angry Tamils.
The regime is busy alienating Muslims, who remained steadfastly loyal to Sri Lanka throughout the long Eelam war.
Debating over who came when to this island is an exercise in futility. The reality is that we are all here, Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Christians, whether we like it or not. Therefore the challenge is to devise some arrangement which enables us to coexist if not in amity at least in forbearance. Instead of doing that the Rajapaksas are igniting more conflicts, so that they can become indispensable to Sinhala-Buddhists.
Six more years of Rajapaksa rule and Sri Lanka will be in the lethal grip of at least one religious conflict, if not two.
Post-Rajapaksa Sri Lanka will not be utopia realised. But if it means a return to ordinary corruption, repression, nepotism and chicanery, it will do Lanka, Lankans and Sinhala-Buddhists far less harm than six more years of Rajapaksa rule would.
[i] The fourth victim was a Tamil, probably a case of mistaken identity.
[vi] AG warns of likely fuel crisis – Kelum Bandara – Daily Mirror – 24.6.2014
The regime claimed that the gunny bag in which the explosives were transported was discovered and the legendary BA Siriwardane wrote a scathing column exposing the lie.
[viii] Sri Lankan banks moving towards severe debt trap, Senior Minister says – Banduala Sirimanne – The Sunday Times – 22.6.2014.