Hope is a bird
With wonderful feathers
Sits on the boughs of the soul
And sings the song of how to remain alive
It sings when the dream breaks
It sings when ships over turn
You are at the bottom and
Far away is the beach
At that time it teaches you
How to ride from bottom to top
How to swim to reach to the beach
How to rebuild the broken wings of your dream
Then you get an energy in form of a wind in the tune
To be alive strongly better than before
And it will continue to sing till you want to listen. (inspired by Dikinson)
Dreams I despair
Loss of hopelessness
Doubt my hopeless dreams
Trapped in this small mess
Here lies in this yard
All my precious dreams
Not so precious anymore
Feel like I want to scream
One, two, three down, gone
There go all my schemes
Not so precious anymore
There goes the dream within a dream
Gone, gone, all gone
Those beautiful words
“When I grow up…”
“Goodbye” as they fly like birds
Dreams I despair
Loss of hopelessness
Doubt my hopeless dreams
Trapped in this small mess (Nathalie Payamps)
In my travels around the world I have felt the hope that drives countries forward and the despair of hopelessness that hits me smack on the face in countries that are moribund. I saw, I heard and I felt the hope for a better future surge among all Sri Lankans, including the war wary in IDP camps. I shared this hope and dreamt it would be translated into tangible action. This was both a rare historical moment and a golden opportunity. My hopes and dreams have been shattered. However, I have not been rendered incapable of yet hoping.
The words of our President and the goodwill of the International community, led many to believe our country had turned a new page in her post-independence history. The speed with which the government moved to address the mundane needs- food, shelter, clothing and healthcare- of the IDPs was impressive, amidst activities of social vultures who preyed on these camps, though under the patronage of the government. It appeared to be an unavoidable / inevitable adjunct to perceived security considerations. These aspects- smuggling out of individuals, including LTTE cadres for a payment, skimming funds meant for the IDP camps, etc. -did not overwhelm the positives.
The manner in which the Sinhala villages and individuals responded to the needs of the IDPs was overwhelming, though expected in view of the fact that this is their nature. The manner in which the political forces among the Tamil community sought to exaggerate the negatives and in instances invent the negatives, was revolting in the circumstances the IDPs were due to the nature of the war. This was not a new book for those involved, but the beginnings of a new chapter in the same old book. The TNA was also trapped in this fog and refused to see the possible light ahead. Was it a once bitten twice shy syndrome? The non-inclusion of the TNA in the IDP care, rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts of the government also contributed to this sad situation. This was pardonable in view of how the LTTE had taken over the TNA and dictated terms.
It was a war defying specific definitions. It was neither a civil war nor a war between countries. It had both dimensions. It was neither a conventional war nor a guerilla war. It was a mixture of both. It was also a war where all civilized norms governing even what in essence the most uncivilized aspect of human life, were observed in the extreme breech by both sides.
Sections of the Tamils and the political elements among them chose to make the plight of the IDPs their new political weapon both against the government and the Sinhala people. For me this was a bad beginning after the war for the Tamils in the north and east. It was a move that highlighted and exaggerated the despair without adding value and strength to the hope that was beginning to emerge. It was a bad political move at that point in time. It did not place the immediate needs of a war battered people above the goals of failed politics.
On the other hand, the government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa during the years following the war and despite a good beginning, drifted either by design, default or death wish, on to a path that would lead to a new phase in the alienation of Tamils and other minorities. The President and his government, supported by the Sinhala-Buddhist extremist fringe was determined to write a new script much against the hopes and vision of the majority of people. The Rajapakse presidency that embarked on an ambitious program of restoring and enhancing the neglected and destroyed infrastructure in the north and east and admirably succeeded, unfortunately imposed a political leadership with tainted reputations on the Tamils in the north and east ( what was notable was that this government wisely also embarked on rebuilding the infrastructure in the South). It also took under its wings the most culpable LTTE who survived the demise of the organization and pampered them while punishing the people who were their victims. Many surviving LTTE cadres became government operatives and used their re-found power against the surviving war-victims.
The government, under international pressure (premature and unwise in my opinion), hastily (or was it gleefully?) returned most IDPs in camps to their original places of residence without enabling them to restart their lives. It failed to create employment in the war-affected areas. It ignored the special needs of the war-widows, war-orphans, war-injured and the rehabilitated LTTE cadres. It permitted its political favourites to loot the north and east and misuse their new found power. It principally failed to empower the Tamils politically. It has failed to empower the Northern Provincial Council, even after reluctantly holding the PC elections. It threw the APRC recommendations, which it touted as the panacea during the war into the President’s dustbin. This was unforgivable deceit of the worst sort. It forbade singing the national anthem in Tamil. It has stolen valuable land from the Tamils in broad day light. It has also surreptiously initiated Sinhala colonization schemes in the border areas of the north. It has failed to implement the important LLRC recommendations and is lying about the extent of implementation.
The Rajapaksa regime has smothered the post-war hopes of a vast majority of Tamils with a wet pillow. The Tamils are free of war and terror, have electricity, have good roads and even a KFC outlet (!) in Jaffna, but they are caged animals who cannot even to a limited extent decide their destiny. What is the difference between the Tamils and caged broiler chicken? They are yet under incipient threats of various kinds now and possibly more overt threats in the future, if they become restive and raise their voice- their democratic right. Are the broilers free because they are fed well, feel safe and are healthy? They will be slaughtered soon enough! The Tamils have reasons to despair five long years after the war. They have more the reason to be wary because of what is happening to the Muslims, who are also Tamil-speaking. This does not imply that they are not free of the burdens of an overt war and the extreme LTTE misdemeanors. Is this enough five years after the war?
The Rajapaksa presidency has made governance a mockery and bad governance its hallmark. The entire country has been pushed into the abyss as a result. All cornerstones of our governance and social structure- the constitution, legal system, rule of law, presidency, cabinet, parliament, police service , administrative system, education system, healthcare system, universities, Buddhist priesthood and everything else we can think of- have been undermined and devalued as never before. The armed forces have been brought into the realms of civilian life-a Rajapaksa first and the beginning of the Pakistanization of Sri Lanka. Even the houses damaged in the recent anti-Muslim riots in the South are to be repaired by the army! Gnanasara thundered in Aluthgama that the armed forces and police are Sinhalese and for the Sinhalayos! I fear the implications of the militarization of public life for the whole country in general and the minorities.
The worst has been the bad example set for the peoples of this country- corruption, subterfuge, trickery, pretense, nepotism, financial profligacy, bribery of various sorts, patronage extended to drug peddlers, rapists and murderers, corruption, misuse of the police, deaths while in police custody, murder of prisoners, misuse of the armed forces and use of hired thug muscle power, intolerance of dissent, White Van syndrome etc., etc. The people are being taught that bad behaviour, wrong doing and violence of one sort or another are the norm, they pay and are the means to achieve material success quickly.
All this is being capped now by the anti-Muslim crusade that has been brought to the fore. The manner in which Gnanasara and his criminal gang are being promoted and protected is the most obvious and recent example of the shameful manner our government functions at various levels. The plight of Vijitha thera sheds further light on our sad plight. The anti-evangelical Christian crusade though in abeyance at the moment, can also come to the fore when this government wants it to. The country is being further divided on ethnic and religious lines, even before the old Sinhala –Tamil divide could heal and could be bridged. The government is the principle impediment to this healing process. Even on this front, Tamil reactions are not as warranted or as to be expected, because of yet raw war memories and the heavy military presence in the north and east. However, no one can expect that social aspirations and grievances can be kept bottled by war-wariness or a military presence for long.
The economic renaissance expected has also not materialized post-war. If the economy had improved as expected post-war, in real and palpable terms, many of the emerging social problems, would not have found public expression, however much the government would have wanted it. The cost of living, unemployment, under-employment and lack of opportunities, are creating a class of paid thugs, who are at the beck and call of the government and its coterie of corrupt, crooked and heartless. The failure of the many is being blamed on the success of the others, especially the Muslim minority, in a very subtle manner by this government, to divert attention from the national malaise it has become. The frustrated young and the middle aged are the resource pool from which the black guards and storm troops are recruited to act and react at the command of the government and the organizations that work under its patronage. The black guards and storm troops in the vanguard of the Aluthgama and Beruwala anti-Muslims riots according to reports were hired from the Kegalle district! It was not a spontaneous action/reaction of the Sinhalese living in the affected areas.
Mahinda Rajapaksa has empowered himself beyond our imagination and the constitutional constraints that existed before, and paved the way for what he thinks will be perpetual rule by him or members of his family. The personality cult and self – aggrandizement being promoted by MR using public funds is nauseating. One has to wonder whether he has any sense of propriety or shame left. Structures and projects conceived and built with public funds are being named after him, while he is yet alive. One has to look at his mug, wherever one goes! Mervin Silva and Pavithra Wanniarachchi have started falling at his feet and worshipping him! He visits Duminda Silva’s house- an alleged murderer and someone perceived to be involved in the drug trade. This is worse than keeping him in parliament and appointing him a monitoring MP to the Defense Ministry! The police was directly under the defense ministry once and is yet under it indirectly! There is no end to the immorality of this government and its head- Mahinda Rajapaksea -, despite the pretense and words of piety.
The government is discovering external enemies and their local counterparts by the day, to cover its own footprints and foul- smelling spoor. Even the opportunity to prove the LTTE-crimes against humanity, is not enough reason to welcome the UNHRC investigation! Perverse nationalism of a very poisonous variety is being planted, watered and fertilized, as a deliberate manoeuver to win votes and hide the governments multiple sins. All principles of popular, vibrant and participatory democracy are being undermined with blatant disregard to consequences and moral norms.
Post-war hope has turned to extreme despair among all the right thinking and righteous people in this country. They are fortunately yet the majority among all communities .This is made worse by the fact that people’s despair is not translating into votes needed to displace this government. The reason defies me. The trick is yet to be deciphered. Some call it computer ‘jilmart’, while not explaining how. It is definitely not the popularity of this government and MR that makes this possible.
Hope has been replaced by despair. Despair leads to sullenness and/or violence. What will follow despair is already beginning to appear in our horizon on many fronts. How all these disparate events will coalesce to manifest as a consolidated reaction is not hard to predict. How can a hopeless and despairing people and the country they live in, progress in such circumstances?
However, hopelessness and despair always transform into new hope. Who or what will harbinger the new hope for our country? Time is ripe. How will this new hope manifest as action? Thank God, we are designed to be capable of having a wisp of hope even in utter despair.