Rajapakses' incipient personality cult would shame a Chinese communist - Guardian
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 15 September 2009, 03:20 GMT]
In the second article in two days, UK's Guardian, warned Monday that by making Tamils feel newly repressed Sri Lanka is sowing seeds of future rebellian, noting that "in the months that have followed [the military victory] there has been little magnanimity, let alone reconciliation. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians are still being kept in camps surrounded by barbed wire." The article further said that "Colombo's streets are littered with so many pictures of president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers that the incipient personality cult would shame a Chinese communist. The triumphalism in Colombo means those who dare to question the government are deemed Tiger collaborators, terrorist sympathisers or Tamil secessionists."
Full text of the Guardian comment follows:
When the Sri Lankan government routed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on the sandy beaches of the country's north east, few would have predicted that the government offensive would continue. Yet in the months that have followed there has been little magnanimity, let alone reconciliation. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians are still being kept in camps surrounded by barbed wire. The victorious army is being expanded – a bizarre peace dividend in a country that had to be thrown an IMF lifeline earlier this year.
This is really zero-sum identity politics: the Sinhalese government's victory viewed as the Tamils' catastrophic defeat. Colombo's streets are littered with so many pictures of president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers that the incipient personality cult would shame a Chinese communist. The triumphalism in Colombo means those who dare to question the government are deemed Tiger collaborators, terrorist sympathisers or Tamil secessionists.
These charges can discredit virtually any position in Sri Lanka. The result is a surreal and deadly political climate where even though the entire leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was wiped out in May, the government is on a war footing to kill off a comeback.
The government argues that it has to suspend liberty, in certain cases, in order to save it. War is a nasty, bloody business where laws are observed in the breach. But it is difficult to sustain that argument once the rebels have been vanquished.
It's also impossible to see how beating up journalists or imprisoning writers for 20 years or expelling diplomats or threatening political thinkers in times of peace can be seen as anything but state intimidation, designed to kill off the idea that the Tamil minority could argue for parity with the Sinhalese majority.
If opinions cannot be changed through democratic debate, there's a risk that the gun will return to Sri Lankan politics. There's little doubt that the Tamils are better off without the LTTE who created platoons of child soldiers, murdered political opponents and assassinated Sri Lankan and Indian leaders. But Tamil grievances, which sustained Tiger support despite their bloody record, are still not being addressed by the Colombo government. The gap between minority demands and Colombo's intransigence is laughably small.
Defusing Tamil anger and frustration will not mean partition in a land-for-peace deal, as is sometimes portrayed in Colombo. Rather it amounts to giving Tamils political and civil rights so that in areas where they are in the majority there is meaningful Tamil representation. It means Colombo handing over control of local finances, property laws and policing to local government. It means the Tamil language becoming part of official Sri Lankan life, the touchstone of minority ire. Yet even these measures are considered beyond the pale in Colombo.
Instead president Mahinda Rajapaksa offers Tamils a bargain based on amnesia, not justice: forget the past and your future will be assured. The offer carries the latent threat: reject it and face the consequences of being an enemy of the state.
The intolerance of dissent and menacing tone will result in the Tamils seeing themselves as a people under occupation. They will feel beholden to the generosity of a president over whom they have little influence, as his political base is drawn from a rural, chauvinistic Sinhalese population.
Rather than liberating the Tamils from terrorism, the government risks making them feel newly repressed. This will not lead to rapprochement, but will sow the seeds of future rebellion.