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Sri Lanka: The Threat to National Security and Unity Within

by Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, 26 October 2008

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The Morning Leader, October 22, 2008

As the importance of peace, reconciliation and national unity in Sri Lanka grows in salience and Tamil Nadu as well as New Delhi agitate on the one hand and voice their serious concerns on the other in respect of these overarching issues, representatives of the ruling regime seem more determined than ever to go on the offensive in more ways than one.

This columnist, amongst others, has addressed the remarks of the Army Commander on the history and politics of Sri Lanka and their perverse contribution to the sustenance of secession and the undermining of governance.

Ignorance compounded

The Army Commander’s offensive ignorance is now compounded by a cabinet minister who seems to be clearly miffed that Gen. Fonseka may end up with all the kudos for the sustenance of secession. In the considered opinion of this columnist, the remarks made by JHU’s Champika Ranawaka exceed any parody of Sinhala nationalism LTTE propagandists could have concocted out of their wildest fantasies.

The tragedy of this regime and of this country at the moment, by extension, is that no member of the regime has disassociated himself or the regime, from the bile Minister Ranawaka and his ilk habitually spew out as history. Have the rest of them been ethically converted or was this just not necessary?

According to the Ministerial ‘Mahavamsa’ in an interview in an English language daily of October 16, 2008, it was stated:

‘The Sinhalese are the only organic race of Sri Lanka. Other communities are all visitors to this country, whose arrival was never challenged out of the compassion of Buddhists. But they must not take this com- passion for granted. The Muslims are here because our kings let them trade here and the Tamils because they were allowed to take refuge when the Moghuls were invading them in India. What is happening today is pure ingratitude on the part of these visitors.’

There are others who are better qualified and infinitely more committed to the noble profession of teaching, as they would have to be, to give the Minister the history lessons he so obviously and desperately needs. Suffice it to say that there are no illusions on the part of the Muslims and Tamils in particular, about taking for granted the compassion of the majority community after 1983. And perhaps there should be a national book donation to the JHU on the subject of the history of this country and the Moghal invasion of India.

Whilst it is just not done to dwell too much on Minister Ranawaka’s grossly inadequate education, since his ignorant outpourings are also outright dangerous and a threat to national unity, it is nevertheless necessary to ask the brotherhood in power to at least instruct him to keep quiet until the glaring lacunae are filled. Or better still, till the 13th Amendment is implemented in full!

Ranawaka’s utterances are a threat to national security because they are unequivocally a threat to national unity.

Spread poison

Whilst the ideologues of the Rajapakse regime spread their poison, India has once again been activated to highlight the best interests of this country. In a statement on October 17, 2008, the Indian Foreign Ministry in its boldest declaration of policy to date declares that:

‘…We have consistently made it clear that a return to normalcy cannot be brought about by military means or battlefield victories. What is required in Sri Lanka is a peacefully negotiated political settlement which allows each community to realise its own potential within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

‘The Government of India will do all in its power to achieve this goal, (emphasis added) to ameliorate the humanitarian conditions in Sri Lanka and has been making representations to the Government of Sri Lanka at several levels.’

This is not perhaps the prelude to a ‘parippu drop’ or a peace-keeping force, whatever the agitation in Tamil Nadu is intended to achieve and electoral imperatives suggest. However, it cannot be brushed aside as grave rhetoric compensating for the absence of effective policy in the recent past. As to what steps the Government of India will take remains to be seen.

Its diplomatic and realpolitik skills will be severely tested in that it has to make sure that whatever action it takes does not push the Rajapakse regime further into the arms of other extra-regional powers, the checking of whose influence in the region is an axiom of Indian foreign policy. At the same time, it cannot talk big only to reveal the serious limits of power and influence.

Needs time

The Rajapakse regime may just stay put and argue that the 13th Amendment — the full implementation of which India welcomed as an important first step when the APRC was told to recommend it at the beginning of the year — needs time to be implemented in full. Consequently, Delhi may be caught in a game of "catch up" because earlier it was otherwise occupied and/or uninterested, and finds that because it needs to assert itself now, assertiveness may well have to be bolder than thought politic, if it is to register at all.

The rains have come and the descendants of Ranawaka’s "visitors" are facing the most inhospitable of situations in the Wanni. Food convoys are being compromised by military action with both sides holding each other responsible for compounding civilian suffering. As with food and medicines, shelter is now an issue of urgent priority. There are no signs of an alleviation of this misery and there is every possibility of the conflict continuing for some time to come — Kilinochchi has yet to fall and thereafter there is Mulaithivu.

Security and unity undermined

Despite all the hysteria about national sovereignty, security and unity, it is also beginning to look like the decisive decisions affecting them, could be taken across the water, by the big neighbour to the north. Meanwhile in the muddy, murderous battlefields of the Wanni and in the mad, murky recesses of Ranawaka’s mind, national sovereignty, security and unity are being undermined.