Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

Mahinda Rajapakse - The Road to Disaster

by Brian Senewiratne, MD, Brisbane, Australia.

The manifesto of Mahinda Rajapakse, presidential candidate of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), is an endorsement that a leopard (Sinhala political leaders) does not change its spots (the supremacy of the Sinhalese). 

It is instructive to know that, despite the loss of more than 65,000 lives, a devastation of the country and serious questions about its future, the thinking of Sinhalese politicians has not changed.  If such people are elected to power, neither has the thinking of the Sinhalese majority changed.  It is not “instructive” for us, who have known this for years, but it is instructive for the international community which is still hallucinating that there is a genuine desire on the part of the Sinhala leadership to reach a political settlement with the Tamil ‘minority’.

Rajapakse’s manifesto titled “Mahinda Chintana” (Mahinda’s thoughts), in the setting of agreements signed by him with so-called Marxists” (read political opportunists) in the JVP, and the extreme Sinhala chauvinists among the politically active Buddhist clergy (the JHU), is the clearest indication that the concept of multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious Sri Lanka as a Sinhala-Buddhist nation is alive and well.  If that is the score, there is no alternative to the establishment of a Tamil Nation, Eelam.   

In other pronouncements of “Mahinda’s thoughts”, he has said that the ongoing Ceasefire Agreement between the government and the LTTE will have to be ‘revised,’ i.e. scrapped. The concept of self-determination for the Tamils will have to be abandoned and,with it, Federalism as a basis of a negotiated settlement. Mr. Rajapakse does not seem to realise that the bottom line in the struggle to free the Tamil people from Sinhalese domination is the right of a people to self--determination.    He should note that it is this same right of self-determination that enabled his ancestors to free themselves from British domination. By rejecting this right, he is effectively closing the door to a negotiated settlement.

Rajapakse’s ‘thoughts’ and their inevitable consequence (war) is reminiscent of another Sinhala political ‘leader,’ J.R.Jayawardene, from the other side of the Sinhala political divide, the UNP. In the wake of the 1977 post-election massacre of Tamils, the newly elected Prime Minister Jayawardene told the devastated Tamils,    “If you   want a fight, let there be a fight”, and went on to attribute this to  the Sinhala people - “It is not what I am saying. The people of Sri Lanka say that”.  Perhaps we should ask the people of Sri Lanka whether they did say “that”.

The comparison between Jayawardene (UNP) and Rajapakse (SLFP, now in an expanded group, the UPFA), is important.  What it means is that Sinhala politicians from the Green or Blue (and now even the Red) camp, are the same.  They are Sinhala chauvinists with whom the Tamils cannot negotiate.  That is not pessimism, it is realism based on historical fact.

Since Rajapakse has effectively closed the door to a negotiated settlement that will accommodate the aspirations of the Tamil people, he leaves no alternative to the Tamils other than to achieve this by force.  If Rajapakse (and his bedfellows in the JVP and JHU) want war, (and it seems they do), then war is what will occur – now or in the not-too-distant future.  If/when it does, it will be a war for which Rajapakse will be responsible.  Let us be clear about that.  Let this be made known to the international community, in particular the crucial aid-givers who are the godfathers who enable the Sri Lankan government to buy the necessary weapons to destroy part of the population of its own country.

Rajapakse's manifesto is replete with glorious words : “I am dedicated to building a ….just state…..”.  What?  Another “Just State”?  I thought Jayawardene built one in 1977 when his election campaign promised a “dharmista” (just and righteous) society. When demagoguery was replaced by realpolitic in 1983, it meant the genocidal massacre of some 3,000 Tamil civilians in the Sinhala South. This presumably was a pre-requisite to the establishment of a ‘Just” Sinhala nation. Jayawardene, by then the self-appointed President, told Ian Ward of the London Daily Telegraph “I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people now…..Now we cannot think of them, nor about their lives or their opinion about us”. These are the Sinhala ‘leaders’ with whom the Tamils are expected to negotiate.

Rajapakse dedicates himself to achieving an undivided country.  If that is so, a prerequisite would be the removal of the Constitutional provision which effectively spells out a Sinhala-Buddhist nation.  Will he do that?  Not likely.

He goes on to ensure that the people will be free to practise their respective religions.  Well, they already can do this - give or take the burning of many Christian churches, and the destruction of even more Hindu temples, some filled with refugees. However, the fact remains that the people have been free to practise their religions.  Rajapakse need not “dedicate” himself to this.  What he has to do is to ensure that the Tamil people can live with equality, dignity and safety in the country of their birth and this, Rajapakse has carefully avoided mentioning.

Rajapakse also carefully avoids mentioning anything about addressing corruption - just as well, after dipping into the Tsunami funds to the tune of Rs.83 million (which he graciously returned in an attempt to avoid being prosecuted for fraud!).  If the Sinhala people want crooks as their leaders, that is their problem. Why saddle the Tamil people with such leaders?

When Rajapakse “dedicates” himself to moulding a new Sri Lanka and creating a  “prosperous peaceful country”, he will have to face up to some basic realities.

1. The Tamil people in the NorthEast have long since realised that they can never expect a fair deal under a unitary set-up where administrative and developmental power are entrenched in the hands of the numerically superior Sinhalese majority.  If the deciding factor is the mere counting of heads and not equality of all the island's citizens, then a change is mandatory.  A manifestation of this realization is the overwhelming mandate the Tamil people in the NorthEast gave their parliamentarians in 1977 to pursue the establishment of a Separate Tamil State.  The brutality unleashed on these people (civilians) by a succession of Sinhala governments since 1977, in a determined attempt to crush them, has only hardened their resolve.  So when Mr. Rajapakse “dedicates himself” to ensuring an undivided country, he is living in fantasy-land.

2. The Tamils have, in fact, established a Separate State in the Wanni which has its own administration, its own police, legal system and military.  What is more, it seems to be far less corrupt and a far more efficient and organized administration than anything the Sinhala South has had for a quarter of a century or more.  When the Sinhala South and their politicians finally wake up, they will find to their astonishment that a Tamil State has been functioning for years.  What is left is for the Sinhala South to accept this reality and not fool themselves that a denial will make the reality of a Tamil State go away.  It will not.

As for Mr Rajapakse and the Sinhala extremists and political opportunists in the JVP and JHU, they can hallucinate about an undivided country.  If they plunge the country into war, they will be held responsible by the Sinhala people (whom they claim to represent) and the international community. Rajapakse will also have to explain to the Sinhalese people why the bodies of rural youths, who will be called up to fight this war, are returning in body-bags.

What of the other side of the political divide - Ranil Wickremesinghe and his UNP?  What if he becomes the next President?  The Tamils do not need imagine that there will be a fundamental change.  As I have said, a leopard does not change its spots.  In 1983, when the Tamils were being butchered in Colombo, it was a young Minister in Jayawardene’s government who appeared on TV to say that Tamil businessmen deserved what they got.  The Tamils would do well to identify that person.  It is also worth remembering that, after half a dozen non-productive Peace Talks and no peace–dividend for the Tamil people, the LTTE decided to abandon further peace talks “for the time being”, because Ranil Wickremesinghe (and his UNP) were dragging their feet in the implementation of what had been agreed to previously.

What of the possibility of a so-called “National Government” (Wickremesinghe’s UNP and the Bandaranaike-Kumaratunga SLFP)?  It is merely the amalgamation of two parties that have, for years, adopted more and more anti-Tamil measures to win the electoral support of the Sinhala majority.  It was a combination of similar people who, in 1948, disenfranchised a million Plantation Tamils in one of the worst acts of political savagery the world has known.  So let us not have any illusions that a “National Government” (read National Sinhala Government) is the answer to the National Question.

The upcoming election is to elect a Sinhala President and that is a problem for the Sinhala people.  It is not a problem for the Tamils.  If the Sinhala people want crooks who have had their hand in the Tsunami till as their President, that is their problem. If they want hoodlums who have wrecked the South in armed uprisings (in 1971 and again in 1989) with the murder of thousands of civilians who included university professors, leading professionals, reporters and charismatic Sinhala leaders such as President Kumaratunga’s husband, and an extensive destruction of infrastructure which included much-needed agricultural equipment that could be described as “the vandalisation of a country”, that is a choice for the Sinhalese.  If they want Buddhist “monks” who are more comfortable preaching violence than the doctrine of Buddha, that is a problem for the Buddhists.

The Tamils have a problem.  This is to develop the area under their control and carry this forward.  The role of the international community is to assist this commendable activity.  It is the role of the expatriate Tamil community to stop dreaming about a Tamil State and help in its building.