By Athithan Jayapalan –
As the UNCHR conventions in March 2013 closed in, Tamils were gathering momentum to persuade international powers to favourably influence the decision concerning the future of island Tamils. The outcome of the convention disappointed those hoping for an international mechanism capacitated to intervene in the affairs of the Sri Lankan state. The resolution instead urged Colombo itself to enact an impartial investigation into allegations of war crimes and human rights violations and to implement recommendations of the LLRC report conducted by the government. In short, Colombo is entrusted with the task of securing justice and security for Tamils when genocidal actions occur unhindered in the Tamil homeland. To the dismay of Tamils, the international community continually fails to recognize the institutionalized nature of the violence perpetuated. Expecting the Sri lankan state to change its structural approach to Tamils political rights and aspirations out of free will is utterly futile as investigating war crimes would only implicate its own officials. Soft diplomacy is then redundant and facilitates only time and space in favour of Colombo as it is bent on pursuing a policy of eradicating the national characteristics and territorial integrity of Tamils.
If enough space is given to scrutinize the Sri Lankan government’s maneuvring of the international pressure and spotlight shone since 2008, it is then made easier to grasp the unliterally mode of operation thrusted by Colombo. Lip-service, hoodwinking, rhetorics of anti imperialism, chauvunism and multiculturalism and commericial co-optation have been visible traits. The political leadership of Sri Lanka employ fervent anti imperialist sentiments when handling what it considers negative international pressure and condemnations. When forced to deal with the diaspora, one can see a range of rhetorical concoctions, from the diaspora being a proxy of the West and India, to where it is a sinister terrorist organism which the West is to be wary of. In brief there seems to be apparent incoherence and contradiction in the manner Colombo handles international politics in the aftermath of 2009.
The political leadership is exuberant about their legitimacy to put to practice their intent as a sovereign nation, with the military oppression and genocidal policies in the Tamil homeland as an integral part of its agenda. The use of chauvunistic rhetoric and genocidal practice have perhaps been the most effective mode of politics in the arsenal of the Sinhala political elite and the state, when it comes to trussing the stratified Sinhala speaking populations into a nation.
The contemporary issues of increased authoritarian rule in the south as President Rajapakse secures the concentration of power within his family and the military, the complete subjugation of judiciary, drastic austerity measures, steep inflation, privatization of welfare and massive slum clearances are all glossed over. The common enemy is portrayed as the battered Tamils of north-east, the Tamil homeland, diaspora, Tamil Nadu and occasionally the imperialist West. The Sinhala worker who fervently waves the lion flag at protests in support of his nation’s defiant stand against the West is peculiar and paradoxial. He is oblivious to the hypocrisy of his State which utilizes violence and suppression in the south to satisfy Western economical demands in return for finance; noteworthy are the preliminary actions taken in order to be granted IMF loans.
The sinhala masses under the mayam of war triumphanism and intoxicated by chauvunism, are mobilized effortlessly by the state for purposes which often work against their own class interests. Even as the visibility of these paradoxes seem to be minimally perceived within a victorious Sinhala nation, it is quite easily trackable for expatriates and for the outside. Unfortunate as it is, the international powers,in order to achieve their immediate goals, have been accommodating Sri Lanka. Over a due course of time, an institutionalized mode of interaction with Colombo became quite evident. Vague condemnations from the international powers prevailed during the last war, in which both LTTE and the government was equalized in responsibility for the genocidal massacres. This effected in shadowing truths which appeared only post-humously of how the relentless government artillery barrage and air raids caused the extreme majority of deaths. Soft diplomacy and the indirect assistance given through trade and arms exports only enboldened the chauvunistic political leaders, the state and its ardent supporters. It resulted in allowing the Sri Lankan state to carry out the most dreadful genocide in the 21st century.
The benign international pressure and the indirect assistance procured by Colombo have contributed to the formation of powerful imaginations within the Sinhala national consciousness. The presentation of the Sri Lankan state as inhabiting both the might of a Goliath and the seeming inferiority yet honor of a David within the Sri Lankan nationalistic discourse must be Colombo’s greatest weakness. On one hand the state is portrayed as a David who combats evil forces far larger that itself and emerges victorious against the odds in a battle blessed by the heavens. Alternatively the state blatantly indulges in glorifying its military and diplomatical achievements, its prowess and abilities. Appalling as the Victory Day is, where the army lavishly celebrates the genocidal war, it further entrenches such paradoxy within the Sinhala national consciousness, and in the epistos of the political elite. The genocidal war is perceived as a unprecedented military achivement in modern world history as Sri Lanka won its ”war on terror”. Added to this is the illusion that the State holds enough diplomatical and military capacity to ensure its defiant and unilateral approach to the international community. As a former commander in chief of Sri Lankas propaganda machinery Dr. Jayatileka puts it, “thinking it is Israel”. This cognitive stand, which in return directs the state’s practice, is in reality a blessing in disguise for Tamils and their allies if employed as a focal point of attack. Exposure of the state’s activities and contradictionary rhetoric may provide the pretext to trap a defiant and delusional Sri lanka. This was more of a reality ahead of the UNCHR convention and with Sri Lankas head on collision with the U.S. establishment. This is by no means any attempt to be oblivious to the bias Western countries hold and their tendency towards the Sri Lankan state. Recently Australian government ministers visited Sri Lanka, and were escorted through the North-East by the military, upon which they returned with tales of how Tamils live peacefully and are on the verge of thriving: Tamil refugees in Australia were then presented merely as ‘economic refugees’. It is understood in the conjunction of the politics of national interest (with the election ahead) and foreign affairs, that the Australian government is shamelessily aiding a genocidal state. Whilst acknowledging this, the possibility of spaces remaining within these foreign establishments which can be utilized and influenced in aiding the Tamil cause is not to be discarded.