Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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In Sri Lanka, Money Fuels Genocide

by Sivakami Rajamanoharan, Tamil Guardian, March 10, 2010

Juxtapose the government’s proposed 20% increase in the country’s military budget with the recent claim by Gordon Weiss, a former UN official, that the Sri Lankan government slaughtered up to 40,000 Tamil civilians last year and the idea of feeding the Sri Lankan purse whilst turning a blind eye to its genocidal expenses is not only irresponsible but morally corrupt...

A pragmatic ally in these circumstances is nothing but a willing accomplice.

 

Over the past year, the cracks in Sri Lanka’s façade of liberal democracy have started to show. Filling them with money, be it through direct aid, encouraging trade or international loans, has obvious appeal. Sri Lanka’s lack of liberalism however, is not due to economic hardship; precisely why economic development will not lead to its salvation. In Sri Lanka money is merely used by the state to pursue its own fascist agenda.

Several months after the government claimed victory in the war with the Liberation Tigers, civilians continue to languish in camps or in temporary shelters with no access to jobs, houses or a living. The fact that conflict and discrimination have propelled many, Sinhalese and Tamil alike, into poverty is undeniable. The need for financial aid, through either aid agencies or economic development is accepted by all aware of the humanitarian situation. It is the method of administering it is questioned.

Any money,  be it through direct humanitarian aid, encouraging trade or international development loans eventually finds its way into the hands of the state. In a liberal democracy this economic boost should in theory, be distributed fairly across society in order to serve those most in need.

It is often argued that despite a state’s flaws, impeding the flow of money only accelerates economic descent, as well as disproportionately exacerbating the plight of the poorest.

Sri Lanka, despite its regular elections, does not represent our ideal of democracy. Society is not, in the eyes of the state, considered to be made up of equal individuals. The minority, vulnerable through numbers, is oppressed by state and people through the enforcement of the racial divide and by the sheer magnitude of the numbers of the majority. This discrimination is ratified through the distribution of parliamentary seats, through the access to jobs and upper echelons of society and through access to education opportunities. It is propagated through the generations through state propaganda and reinforcement of Sinhala fascist policies.

Many international analysts have long been critical of the Sri Lankan government’s lack of transparency and accountability. Despite money being allocated for development projects, improved infrastructure and industry have for too long remained pipedreams, with the money assigned to unfinished projects left unaccounted for – or disappearing into the pockets of politicians who use it to maintain their families or their patron client networks.

After the tsunami, aid agencies expressed concern over the disparity in aid distribution, with a consistent leaning towards the Sinhala south over the Tamil North and East regions. Even now whilst the state perpetuates the poverty of Tamil civilians by forcibly maintaining their refugee status within camps, there have been numerous reports of newly built Buddhist temples and Sinhala colonies in the traditional Tamil homelands of the North and East.

In order to alleviate the immediate suffering of the poorest, the government must welcome international and Diaspora aid agencies into the country and allow them to take responsibility of aid distribution and allocation themselves.

The Sri Lankan state, with decades of Tamil genocide hidden in its closet, is hardly a trustworthy recipient of aid.

Despite claiming victory last year, the intolerance of dissent and stifling of individual freedoms has only worsened. Instead of fostering peace the government has focused its efforts and finances on state control. This is why the EU’s decision to withdraw the GSP+ trade concession, based on Sri Lanka’s failure to fulfil its commitment to UN human rights conventions, is to be applauded. Although it is a tax relief rather than a direct sum of money, it nonetheless allows the government to mask its failing economy and irresponsible use of the state’s finances.

Some analysts however have criticised the EU’s move, claiming that the most prudent position would be one of simply doing no harm.

The idea that Britain should keep quiet and increase trading with Sri Lanka, in order to surround it within a circle of democratic countries and exert a positive, liberal influence on Sri Lanka is quixotic. Sri Lanka was not in want of democratic trading friends, when driven by a need to defend its ever more brazen abuse of human rights, it chose to make new friends with those that shared similar views. Indeed it was from within that very circle did Sri Lanka fall so spectacularly from grace. 

Juxtapose the government’s proposed 20% increase in the country’s military budget with the recent claim by Gordon Weiss, a former UN official, that the Sri Lankan government slaughtered upto 40,000 Tamil civilians last year and the idea of feeding the Sri Lankan purse whilst turning a blind eye to its genocidal expenses is not only irresponsible but morally corrupt.

In Sri Lanka money is fungible and no one is held to account. It is a state that does not share our view of liberalism and has repeatedly massacred thousands based upon its fascist views.

A pragmatic ally in these circumstances is nothing but a willing accomplice.