“The Romans, in the countries which they annexed, observed closely these measures; they sent colonies and maintained friendly relations with the minor powers, without increasing their strength; they kept down the greater, and did not allow any strong foreign powers to gain authority.”– ‘The Prince’ -Niccolo Machiavelli
Did you know that President Mahinda Rajapaksa read the Sinhala translation of “The Prince” which was serialised in the Sunday Lankadeepa, ‘Raja Veediya’ supplement? Yes he did. Even three years after capturing the Northern and Eastern provinces we can see that Rajapaksa still follows Machiavellian principles. This short essay is to highlight what I see as the main issue with Rajapaksa with regard to reconciliation after the war.
In his essay “Concerning Mixed Principalities” Machiavelli says; But when states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside there. …The other and better course is to send colonies to one or two places, which may be as keys to that state, for it is necessary either to do this or else to keep there a great number of cavalry and infantry. A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled. In conclusion, I say that these colonies are not costly, they are more faithful, they injure less, and the injured, as has been said, being poor and scattered, cannot hurt. Upon this, one has to remark that men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge. ….But in maintaining armed men there in place of colonies one spends much more, having to consume on the garrison all the income from the state, so that the acquisition turns into a loss, and many more are exasperated, because the whole state is injured; through the shifting of the garrison up and down all become acquainted with hardship, and all become hostile, and they are enemies who, whilst beaten on their own ground, are yet able to do hurt. For every reason, therefore, such guards are as useless as a colony is useful.”
This is what Rajapaksa is doing now. Although they are building a presidential palace near Iranamadu lake in Kilinochchi, our King will not go and live there. But the King is cleverly deploying the second strategy which Machiavelli recommended. The systematic Sinhalisation of the North and East! Building Buddha statues for the Sinhala colonies is just one example. Strategic state-planned settlements, land, military intrusion, boundary changes and the renaming of villages etc. are others. The most important element of the process of Sinhalisation is the continued militarisation of many aspects of civilian life. The Sri Lankan government presented its 2012 budgetary estimates to parliament on October 18, 2011 unveiling a nearly 7 percent increase in military expenditure. Presently the civilian-military ratio in Jaffna is 8:1 and in the Vanni it is 4:1.
Three years after the end of the civil war, state polices have deepened existing feelings of fear, suspicion and mistrust between and within communities rather than creating more understanding amongst them, exacerbated ethnic tensions and further polarised the country. Unfortunately the Rajapaksas have no idea about the meaning of reconciliation. The establishment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, implementation of the recommendations in the LLRC report and the release of Sarath Fonseka are outcomes of international pressure. It is now clear that without any international pressure the Rajapaksas are not willing to give up the old Machiavellian theories. Although the Rajapaksa clan talks loudly about ‘sovereignty’, they are the people who are allowing foreign interventions, because they are not doing their jobs.
In future the King will not be able to even “maintain friendly relations with the minor powers”, such as Pillayan and Douglas without increasing their strength. For a true reconciliation process power sharing must not only be regional but in the centre as well.