12 August, 2020

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Whenever The Rajapaksa Is In Need, The Tiger Emerges From The Underworld

By Tisaranee Gunasekara –

“…the closer the kingdom of God, the more the demons are on the offensive”.
Olivier Roy (Holy Ignorance)

Whenever the Rajapaksa administration is in need, the Tiger emerges from the underworld into a brief but useful life.
According to the latest episode of this serial-reincarnation drama, more than 150 LTTE cadres, trained in three secret camps in Tamil Nadu, have entered Sri Lanka, in the guise of fishermen. They plan to destabilise the country by launching clandestine attacks. The tale of the undead-Tiger is crafted to fulfil multiple needs. It can be used to pinch Delhi, in revenge for Geneva, by depicting India as a terrorist-haven and the LTTE as an Indian pawn. It can be used to daub Tamil Nadu as a Tiger-hotbed and Tamil Nadu politicians as Tiger-lovers. Since the Tigers allegedly assumed the guise of fishermen, the tale enables Colombo to impose the anti-terror imprint on incidents involving the Lankan Navy and Tamil Nadu fishermen.
Thanks to the tale of the undead Tiger, Colombo can avoid asking hard questions about its own conduct, post-Geneva. Why grapple with the complex relationship between the Indian volte-face and Sri Lanka’s unresolved ethnic question, its Sinhala supremacist peace or the vagaries of Tamil Nadu politics and public sentiment? It is much easier to imply that Delhi supported the Resolution because, deep down, India is still pro-LTTE and still harbouring Tigers.
The Tiger-bogey can help the regime ignore the momentous US decision to place a $10 million bounty on Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, co-founder of Lakshar-e-Taiba and the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack. Mr. Saeed is reportedly very close the Pakistani defence establishment and publicly committed to a greater-Pakistan which includes all of India. The US bounty is believed by some to be an advance political payment for a new supply route to Afghanistan via India. It is certainly a measure of the importance the US attaches to India; and perhaps an indication that the Cold War era special relationship between America and Pakistan will be replaced with a new strategic partnership between Delhi and Washington aimed at containing Beijing. Sri Lanka needs to be aware of this fluid political-landscape, and its implications, particularly given our intimacy with Pakistan and China (not to mention Indian allegations about LeT footprints in Colombo). But why bother with such troublesome issues, when we have the perennial Tiger to scream about?  If Tigers are roaming around, armed and dangerous, the regime is justified in focusing on ‘security’ at the cost of everything else, including popular wellbeing. ‘Tiger, Tiger’ is an extremely efficacious way of diverting Southern attention from rice-and-curry issues. Since the IMF granted only half of the final tranche of its loan to Sri Lanka, more tax hikes and subsidy cuts will have to be implemented, in the coming months, for Colombo to become qualified to receive the remaining $400 million. The Tiger-scare can be used to reconcile the masses to the resultant price increases and exacerbation of economic woes; and to prevent them from questioning the financial wisdom of maintaining defence costs at stratospheric levels, post-war?
A South consumed by Tiger-phobia is unlikely to be concerned about the creation of a state within a state, an entity which is shrouded in darkness, operates above the law and is controlled by the Ruling Family. Indeed many rights violations and democratic absences can be justified using the need to battle the resurrected Tiger.
The Tiger threat was the premise on which the axiomatic relationship between the Rajapaksas and the Sinhala South was created. Saving the nation was the justification for Familial Rule. Though the South will ever be grateful to the Rajapaksas for defeating the LTTE, this gratitude may not always be expressed in the form of political and electoral support. But if the Tiger is being kept alive by a perfidious India, the South might see a need to keep the Rajapaksas at the top, despite innumerable malfeasances.
A lurking Tiger is the best possible justification for the continuation of the Rajapaksa rule and the strengthening of the Rajapaksa security state.

Cyclopean Perspectives

Tyranny has its own irrational logic. It is premised on ensuring the wellbeing of the tyrant and the longevity of his rule, at whatever cost. This cyclopean perspective makes possible, even inevitable, deeds which would seem suicidally irrational in a more balanced system.
It was this irrational logic which made Vellupillai Pirapaharan forego/sabotage every opportunity to win a just peace for the Tamils at the negotiating table and push the debilitated Tamil nation into war after destructive war. Mr. Pirapaharan not only wanted a de jure Eelam; he also wanted to win it on the battlefield, so that his name could be joined in the Tamil annals with the great South Indian empire-builders. The Tiger leader, who turned himself into the secular presiding-god of an organisation every bit as ruthlessly fanatical and mindlessly obedient as any religious entity, had a voracious appetite not just for power, conquests, fame and accolades but also for historical recognition. Eventually, the path carved by that extreme vision led him to an ignominious death and his denuded people into humiliating captivity.
Such self-devastating mistakes are not unique to the LTTE.
Accolades such as Surya Devan and High King come with considerable politico-psychological baggage; they indicate a desire for omnipotence and a belief in infallibility. The Rajapaksa project of Dynastic Rule is as non-negotiable as the Pirapaharan project of Tiger Eelam. The Siblings will never implement any measure which will limit their powers, or reduce their capacity for arbitrariness, abuse and impunity. Asking the Rajapaksas to implement the LLRC recommendations is like asking an ogre to cut off a couple of his own fingers. After all, the LLRC was set up not to learn lessons or promote reconciliation but to offset the UN Secretary General’s Expert Panel. It was just a time-buying exercise, like the IIGEP or the All Party conclaves. Incidentally, since a political solution to the ethnic problem will strengthen democracy by reducing some of the excessive powers of the Rajapaksas, that too is out.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is no Bonapartist balancing antithetical extremes. Extremism and irrationality are fundaments of Rajapaksa rule and emanate from the very top. President Rajapaksa’s statement about Lanka’s 2,500 year old fidelity to human rights reveals the anti-modern nature of his political vision. At best, this vision entails an absolute monarch who uses his powers for the common good of his subjects. Since democratic citizenship is alien to this vision, not just the minorities but also the Sinhalese will be denied inalienable rights.
Last month the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter publicly opposed a plan to hold night races in Kandy, calling it a ‘ridiculous idea’ and ‘totally inappropriate”. But the races went ahead. In the clash between the whim of a Rajapaksa and the expressed opinion of a senior-most prelate, the Rajapaksa won hands down. Rajapaksa supremacism handily trounced Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka only the Family has inalienable rights; the rest of us count for nothing. From Mahanayakes and ministers down, we are the disempowered subjects. So the Rajapaksas need fairy tales, especially the tale of the Eternal Tiger…

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Latest comments

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    Excellent article describing the ground reality in a very meaningful way. No wonder the Rajapaksas are destroying the country and its democratic traditions just for their own good. They are undoubtedly changing the country into next Burma of the world. But the history is full of stories that not even a single tyranny lasted forever. Of course the Tiger bogey, among other grand designs, will definitely help the rulers to keep the minorities under permanent surveillance and repression.

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    There are ‘nikang’ tigers and ‘rump’ tigers. Now ‘indian’ tigers have landed!
    Dayan J floated an “impending external threat” to sri lanka to justify the all island militarisation – which acually serves to perpetuate Rajapakse familial rule by silencing dissent.
    Now, these ‘reincarnated tigers’ will help immensely.

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    I am happy to see that the individuals of the 4th Estate has parted ways after losing recognition which they built under the Premadasa era as a powerful force. Now Tissaranee Gunasekera writes sense and I wish she did this from the beginning. There was a time during the Premadasa era, Tissaranee Gunasekara, Dayan Jayatilake, HLD Mahindapala et al held fort writing for Premadsa trying to project Premadasa as a parogan of virtue, covering his criminal side of massacreing innocents and silencing the dissent just like MR. Then when the UNP under RW in 2002 established a govt. this 4th estate expected to be given recognition and position which they believed they are the rightful heirs. But RW just ignored them. Thereafter the lot went on a leather hunt, hammering RW at every corner trying to depict RW as an incompetent leader most unsuitable. They were heavily backed by Premadasa acolyte Sirisena Cooray who was responsible for many a murder, acting to be a very mild character. Thereafter they tried to gloat MR at the beginning but now have parted ways as they did not get recognition from MR as he had his own 4th Estate hiring even outside help like Bell Pottinger Co. at a cost to project an immage for MR which he lacks.

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      Gamini,
      Your comment amply demonstrate the practice of true democracy.Journalists are free to criticize the administration if and when they feel.Even blogs such as CT is free to air any views.But in the US and UK it’s not so.A clear example is the unfortunate situation of Julian Assange.Anyone is free to call the president “Hora””murderer”etc,where one comes across on this blog.I have never complained to CT about it though some have called for not only removing my comments but also totally doing away with my participation.I don’t go crying to the moderator like a spoilt child.I hope that the Tamil Tigers will eventually absorb themselves into democracy.Participation on this blog is a good start.I don’t expect terrorists to turn into overnight democrats.Hence at times they can’t swallow my comments and call me names.But i take it as a sign of healthy democracy.

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