Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Murder, Mayhem and Fraudulence

by V Gunaratnam

The trust and confidence Rajapakse has been enjoying is beginning to evaporate. There is a sneaking realization that nothing has changed since Kumaratunga’s days, and that the wages of war would still be enormous...

Rajapakse, blinded by his headlong rush to achieve a military solution, does not realize that it is not just a question of a military strategy capable of producing victory, because a military victory would be meaningless unless it brings about a political reality that could survive. Up to now he has been treading water despite the urgings of the Co-chairs, India and others to come up with a viable solution...

The upshot is that we have reached the point where nothing short of a far-reaching political solution is likely to resonate with the Tamils longing to be free of Sinhalese domination.

Shock Waves

The LTTE sent shock waves through the country when they stole through the night in DIY planes and bombed Sri Lanka’s main Air Force base in Katunayake! At one fell swoop they shattered Sri Lanka’s calm and damaged the killing machines, the Kfirs and MIGs, the very machines that have been spitting fire and raining death and destruction on the Tamils, and driving them out of their homes.

International Apathy

The international community looks on impassively at the cruel spectacle of Rajapakse’s murderous killing machines sweeping down pitilessly daily on innocent Tamil men, women and children, but does nothing to stop the onslaughts except issue muted diplomatic calls to both parties to abandon the violence and get to the negotiating table.

The numbers are staggering, because it’s been open season on the Tamil population ever since Rajapakse became president, with over 2,000 civilian deaths, and more than 340,000 people driven from their homes, in a campaign of terror to disperse them from their traditional homeland and install Sinhalese hegemony over their lands.

Side by side, there is a thriving abduction and disappearance ‘industry’ mostly targeting the Tamils, carried on with government complicity that reflects the utter corruption and lawlessness in the country. Even some government ministers are said to be involved in this new get-rich-quickly criminal enterprise.

But the world continues to look askance. They must know by now that nothing is going to work against a Rajapakse regime that’s looking more and more like the repressive Mugabe rule in Zimbabwe. The time for behind-the-scenes silent diplomacy is over. People are dying and hundreds of thousands displaced and undergoing unspeakable suffering, reason enough for Rajpakse’s feet to be held to the fire.

Phony War

Rajapakse promised to deliver the country from the scourge of war and bring peace to the country, but alas, he has proved to be nothing but a politician corrupted by power who seems completely lost, dwarfed by the responsibilities of his office, and a leader who has by design or sheer ineptitude ceded power to his unelected siblings, Basil and Gotabhaya, a couple of transplanted political neophytes who are running the country into the ground, conducting a phony war with horrendous human rights violations breaching all civilized values.

It surely must have been a jolting descent to reality for them when Katunayake was bombed. Whatever the damage inflicted, the mere fact that security had been severely breached at the vital military complex would have been enough to shake the Sinhalese public out of their daydreaming and expose Rajapakse’s phony war - a war not against his professed enemies, but helpless Tamils children, students, aid workers, farmers, teachers, politicians, doctors, nurses, journalists and even the judiciary.

Chalking up assaults against Tamil civilians and occupying their lands and the camps vacated by the LTTE as victories against ‘terrorism’ now has big question marks against them. How could it be otherwise when this vital military base, which had been comprehensively destroyed just a few years ago when Kumaratunga was president, and was said to be guarded like a fortress fell so easily to the LTTE attack.

With literally thousands of soft and totally vulnerable targets all over the country, and strategic other military sites open to attack, the Sinhalese must be full of apprehension about the direction Rajapakse’s war strategy is taking them, and fearing for their own safety. But they were discounting the military ‘genius’ of the Rajapakses, because the very next day not only were the attacks dismissed as of little consequence, but they came up with the ‘perfect’ solution to safeguard the nation by asking rural folk to call a 911-like number to alert dozing security forces whenever they heard sounds resembling aircrafts flying overhead!

A most ingenious solution only a Napoleonic ‘genius’ behind Sri Lanka’s ‘defence’, the lowly ex-army officer, elevated to the defence of the realm, could have come up with. Defence establishments all over the world must be scrambling to send their experts to study this unique system just as soon as they can hold their bellies and stop laughing! Snide remarks by some brave media types in Colombo seemed to be saying “with friends like this who needs enemies!”

Propaganda and the Freedom of the Media

After Katunayake, people will not be fooled so easily; it won’t be easy to pass off propaganda as news, extolling the government’s march to victory. People usually like to believe that ‘their side’ is winning, but suddenly everything looks suspicious to the Sinhalese. Rajapakse’s claim that they only have a little plot called the Vanni to run over to achieve complete victory now looks so unconvincing.

It has reached the point where the only news in town is what Rajapakse’s propaganda machine is churning out, with a brutal clampdown on news reporting by others, enforced by draconian measures threatening prosecution, imprisonment and torture under the much feared PTA. But after Katunayake only the Rajapakses and their hangers-on are left to believe their own piffle.

The trust and confidence Rajapakse has been enjoying is beginning to evaporate. There is a sneaking realization that nothing has changed since Kumaratunga’s days, and that the wages of war would still be enormous. Except for the incongruous, sinister and self-serving Rajapakses, the extremist JVP and the JHU, and an assortment of Sinhala racist elements, Katunayake only serves to confirm what many military experts have been saying for a long time that seeking a military solution would be total insanity, that it could never be war at any cost.

The military counter-offensive to Rajapakse’s phony war has begun and with the changing political dynamic in Colombo, the conflict now enters a new phase, indeed a more dangerous one. But there are other questions about Rajapakse’s regime that keep surfacing and could spell trouble for him.

Concentration of Power and Political Corruption

Ministers Samaraweera and Sooriaarachchi opened a Pandora's Box with allegations of secret pacts and corruption in high places. The secret-deal claim has not gathered any momentum and could be ignored for now, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

Why has Rajapakse grabbed so many ministries for himself and presides over 60% of the national budget while 106 other ministers are left twiddling their thumbs looking after the balance 40%? The Ministry of Finance, Defence, and just about every other important ones are under him. Who but his two brothers, the unelected expatriates, are there with all the freedom to play ‘pandu’ sitting over the nation’s money-box!

When it is hard enough for a minister to manage even one ministry efficiently, why is Rajapakse trying to do a gargantuan job all by himself, aided by just two siblings who have absolutely no experience in government or in managing national finance? It’s not about good government or efficiency, but smacks of self-aggrandizement and the Rajapakses.

And for everything to be conveniently as porous as possible for monetary transactions and keep the door open for the free flow of funds in and out of the country, a person said to have been a cargo agent, discovered by Rajapakse on a visit to the Middle East, was appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank, a position previously occupied by eminent economists of international repute!

All of these anamolies derive from the exploitation of the monstrous powers of the presidency, a travesty of governance, a ludicrous spectacle that stinks of the political skullduggery reminiscent of a banana republic, adding more than a dash of spice to the stories floating about in Colombo.

It’s a growing catalogue: Rs 600 million on the purchase of mothballed old MIGs finding its way into someone’s pockets; the huge Hambantota port development contract parceled out to two well-connected people; the pet airline project of a functionary launched as a ‘national’ airline while long suffering tsunami victims are still waiting for life giving aid; a government company floated for the purchase of arms and armaments, shutting out competitive bidding, facilitating direct ‘deals’ with suppliers, plans for another international airport in the rural south! The latest is about Rs 38 billion in smacking new currency being printed to lubricate the wheels of government, mostly to keep ministers and MPs happy, especially those who have crossed over to be near the watering hole!

What is intensely disturbing is that elected representatives are being firmly sidelined and the business of government involving security, the economy and everything else is being handled by Rajapakse’s brothers, who are said to be lording it over every minister and ministry, mocking parliament and its elected representatives. But Rajapakse must be forgetting that he is only a “bird of passage,” not president for life with unending immunity and one day will be asked to account for his deeds.

Disappearances and Abductions

A culture of impunity has settled over Colombo, with the government looking the other way when heinous crimes are being committed against its own citizens, invariably mostly Tamils. It is troubling in the extreme. No arrests are ever made. How this is happening in Colombo, a city that is said to be like a fortress, a network of armed security checkpoints, says a lot about Rajapakse’s utter failure to protect his citizens

Recently the IGP said he suspected rogue police elements to be involved in this racket, but why has he made no arrests? In fact, the Sri Lanka police never seem to be in the business of protecting the people or solving crimes, because they are too preoccupied with doing the bidding of politicians, harassing and persecuting the critics and political opponents of the government. That the judiciary falls in step surprises no one.

Nor has the multitude of commissions and investigations, including those with an international flavour, all ordered by Rajapakse, brought any results to date. It has been a case of commissions and omissions, because nothing actually gets investigated. For Rajapakse it’s only about projecting an image, the appearance of doing something about the violence. For example, it was so convenient the IGP came out with his ‘intelligence’ for Rajapakse to rather belatedly order another one of his ‘investigations’ into this criminal activity, to give the air of a president doing his duty. But nobody is being fooled anymore.

Power Devaluation Proposal

Sri Lanka’s efforts to deal fairly with the Tamils died a long time ago. Successive Sinhala governments have done nothing in half a century to deal in any meaningful way with the issues involved. It has been a history of deception and broken promises since 1956. Ironically it all started in 1948, the very year the British in all their wisdom granted the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others their independence.

That was the signal for the Sinhalese politicians to begin the process of discounting the Tamils and reducing them to second class citizens. It was all downhill from then on. Everything got institutionalized in quick succession with the unraveling of the constitution handed down by the British that had built-in safeguards for the minorities. The rest is history that hardly needs repetition here.

Sri Lanka’s ruling party has said that on May 1 President Rajapakse will be announcing a plan for a new constitution that will address the question of the devolution of power to the Tamils, together with proposals for the abolition of the executive presidency, with the idea of reverting back to the prime ministerial system that’s more answerable to parliament.

Predictably, we can expect nothing but ambiguous power devolution proposals with everything forced into the Mahinda Chinthana straightjacket, the current gospel of the Sinhalese. We won’t need political pundits to tell us the fate any proposals will suffer when they sees the light of day, all dressed up in their unitary-state regalia. The proposal to abolish the executive presidency appears to be a red herring, to mix it up and divert people’s minds from the real issues, since it will arrive bypassing the APRC and without a modicum of political consensus.

Nothing in the experience with Rajapakse up to now inspires confidence in him or what he has in mind for the Tamils. People won’t be surprised to see the plan as just another offering calculated to be rejected. When, as expected, it fails to produce any traction and is dismissed or ignored by the Tamils, it would have served his purpose, to paint the Tamils and the LTTE as obstacles to peace, and to get the international community on-side to continue with his strategy to prolong the war sufficiently and exhaust the LTTE.

Nothing dramatic is therefore going to happen when the plan is finally presented. Rajapakse, blinded by his headlong rush to achieve a military solution, does not realize that it is not just a question of a military strategy capable of producing victory, because a military victory would be meaningless unless it brings about a political reality that could survive. Up to now he has been treading water despite the urgings of the Co-chairs, India and others to come up with a viable solution.

Tamils Will Not Be Deterred

The time for a fair compromise was, however, lost a long time ago, even before Rajapakse’s vision for the Sinhalese cast everything in stone. He fed the Sinhalese with the poison of his Chinthana, stoked their fears about Tamil intentions that needed to be checked. It is a tragedy, because it simply shut the door in their face. The upshot is that we have reached the point where nothing short of a far-reaching political solution is likely to resonate with the Tamils longing to be free of Sinhalese domination.

It is an open question what the Co-chairs, representing the international community, will do when Rajapakse’s plan, as expected, opens the door to more political wrangling on all sides and violence, even before Tamils get the chance to say anything. Rajapakse might be under the illusion that merely plunking something down on the table as a solution would enable him to win over the Co-chairs to his side, but no longer. He has shown an utter disregard for human life and human values, by his criminal failure to protect the Tamils from harm.

It is a paradox that the Mahinda Chinthana which Rajapakse trumpeted as the panacea for all the ills of Sri Lanka is turning out to be the very instrument of the country’s ruination, plunging the country deeper into chaos and war, aiding the looting of the national treasury, leaving Sri Lanka significantly worse than when he became president. He is in a sense his own best enemy, a president who has chosen to forget that there are other people besides the Sinhalese living in Sri Lanka, who have lived there for centuries!

In the end Rajapakse will be consumed by the very forces he has unleashed on the Tamils with his myopic vision for the country, a visualization that excludes the Tamils and other minorities!


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