Colombo Telegraph

Tiger, Still Burning Bright?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“For the enemy to be recognised and feared, he has to be in your home or on your doorstep.” – Umberto Eco (The Prague Cemetery)

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an alleged ‘secret-plan’ by Jewish leaders for world domination, took the occident by storm in the early 20th Century. Even after it was exposed as a forgery perpetrated by the Tsarist secret police (a sham culled from two works of literature – a French satire and a German novel), it continued to excite the fanatical imagination of anti-Semitics and became a major influence on Adolf Hitler. [i]

An ‘us vs. them’ metanarrative is dependent on an enemy who is ubiquitous, both geographically and temporally, who never ceases to live, lurk and loom, who can be summoned across any barrier, whenever its exculpatory or terrifying presence is needed.

That is why, even if the Tiger is forgotten by every Tamil, he will live forevermore in Rajapaksa propaganda.

When asked why the regime failed in its lobbying campaign in America, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga did not blame the Rajapaksa kith and kin festering the Lankan Embassy in Washington – understandably; nor did he mention Colombo’s inane decision to hire an unrated, miniscule and extremely expensive lobbying firm headed by a political-has-been from the Reagan-era. He laid the blame squarely on the Tiger, the same Tiger his political masters annihilated almost five years ago. “I must say that the LTTE has hired a lobbying company which is one of the strongest groups and is already in the White House. Its head is one of the closest associates of President Obama, so they are well placed. And the Sri Lankan government has not been able to reach that level.”[ii]

So almost five years after the entire LTTE leadership was killed/captured the Tiger is thriving.

The Tiger is the Exhibit No. 1 in the Rajapaksa political gallery. The Siblings base their claim to eternal rulership and unconditional impunity on the argument that they liberated the country from the Tiger. According to this logic, Lankans must willingly agree to a lifetime of Rajapaksa rule, as payment for the debt-of-gratitude they owe to their liberators. (No such gratitude is owed to the war-winning army commander who became a national enemy when he opted to oppose the Rajapaksas).

And whenever the Siblings are in need, the vanquished and annihilated Tiger is presented as a real living threat with undiminished destructive strength and wrecking capacity.

So in the Rajapaksa metanarrative, the Tiger is the defeated-enemy and the omnipresent bogeyman, the evil which was wiped-out and the threat which never dies. Thus Lalith Weeratunga can indicate that the defeated Tiger has more resources and more capacities than the victorious Miracle of Asia and can afford to hire the best of the lobbyists while Colombo is reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel: “The LTTE has taken the Podesta Group… They have John Podesta who is almost an advisor to President Obama…”[iii]

Are we to believe that the Rajapaksa regime failed to be heard in Washington because Sri Lanka, which spends the largest chunk of its budget on defence, has less financial resources than the organisationally non-existent LTTE? Are we to accept that this monumental failure has nothing to do with the total incompetence of the Lankan embassy in Washington, which has become a haven for political appointees? Do the Rajapaksas and their glib Laundrymen think that Sinhalese are stupid enough to gulp the ludicrous claim that various pro-Tiger Diaspora entities have more resources and capacities than the Lankan state?

Are they right? Are we that gullible?

The Podesta Group was certainly not hired by the LTTE (which, apart from being organisationally non-existent, is banned in the US) or even the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam but by the Tamil American Peace Initiative[iv]. The Tamil American Peace Initiative paid the Podesta Group US$ 90,000 in 2010[v], US$ 80,000 in 2011[vi] and US$ 90,000 in 2013[vii]. Thus the Tamil American Peace Initiative spent US$ 260,000 for three years to retain the ‘well-placed’ Podesta Group, which according to Mr. Weeratunga, is headed by a man who ‘has the ear of the administration’.

In 2013 Sri Lanka signed a contract agreeing to pay US$ 792,000 for just one year to Thompson Advisory Group (TAG), which is headed by Robert Thompson who may (or may not) have had the ear of President Ronald Reagan (diseased) and President George Bush senior (retired), on the recommendation of Mr. Thompson’s Lankan-born chauffer! Also in 2013, Presidential-kinsman Ambassador Jalyiya Wickremesuriya hired the Majority Group[viii], for US$ 50,000 a month (US$ 600,000 per annum).

That is a grand total of US$ 1.39million, for one year, for two lobbying groups which pale into insignificance besides the ‘well-placed’ Podesta Group.

And to retain that super-influential Podesta Group for three whole years, a non-famous small Tamil group paid just US$ 260,000 (less than US$ 87,000 per year).

Was Colombo’s failure to ‘reach that level’ due to lack of resources or lack of brains – and a superabundance of nepotism and chicanery?

Politico-Developmental Failures

The Washington debacle is a microcosm of the larger Lankan debacle. The truth is that the Rajapaksas have used the post-war years not to lay the foundation for a Lankan future based on national reconciliation and a consensual peace but to destroy democracy from within and set up a familial state. The current problems the Siblings face in the international arena are primarily sourced in his essential nature of Rajapaksa project.

The Rajapaksas do not want to share power even with fellow Sinhala-Buddhists. They have spent the post-war years undermining the provincial councils and evading a more comprehensive political solution. Since they do not believe in the existence of an ethnic problem, and because they do not want to permit the existence/creation of any alternate power-centres (including the judiciary), they have opted for a militarised and a majoritarian peace (peace as the continuation of war by other means).

This political nihilism could have been mitigated had the regime prioritised the livelihood, health and education needs of Tamils. The gross neglect of human and community needs in the war-torn areas has led to the creation of dangerous socio-economic trends. The latest case in point is the high rate of school dropouts in the North and the East due to financial and economic reasons: “Most of the dropouts are from poor families who find it difficult to make ends meet as humanitarian assistance dries up…. This situation is being aggravated by an acute lack of job opportunities and a rising cost of living.”[ix] If the regime does not address this issue fast, it will find itself facing problems on another international front. The ILO has already expressed concern about the proliferation of child labour in the North and the East and the appalling working conditions these children face, including very low pay[x].

Currently the most potent challenge faced by the Rajapaksas is a result of their reductio ad absurdum approach to the ethnic problem and the anti-democratic nature of their dynastic-project. The Theatre de bouffonnerie that is Rajapaksa-diplomacy is no help, but even the most effective lobbying firm cannot turn non-reality into reality.

[i] The Protocols first appeared in an abbreviated form in 1903 in the Russian paper Znamia (The Banner). In the US, Henry Ford published and distributed 50,000 copies in 1920, after anti-Communist Russian émigrés presented copies of the Protocol to American politicians, judiciary and intelligence community. In 1921, Philips Graves, a reporter for the Times discovered that the Protocols was a fraudulent document largely culled from a political satire by Maurice Joly and an anti-Semitic novel by Hermann Goedsche.

[ii] Lanka’s fate hangs on tough lobbying on US: Lalith – Daily Mirror – 14.2.2014; emphasis mine

[iii] Small countries at the mercy of lobbying groups – The Sunday Times – 16.2.2014; emphasis mine








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