Well, the above video clip from the BBC One’s pseudo-historical sitcom, Blackadder sums up the General Elections (2020) held in Sri Lanka yesterday. Nobody, literally nobody else than the dirty politicians, their henchmen and sponsors who do it entirely on business interests worried about the elections this time. It is a good sign though. This should be the way to go.
We all know that democracy doesn’t work for the people. If it does, as Mark Twain once very correctly said, they (politicians) would have already found a better solution (for themselves) than democracy.
Experiencing a stay in a Sri Lankan hospital cannot be a pleasant experience to any patient, especially if it is in a state hospital. I have been unfortunate to have such bitter experiences in a few state hospitals. I won’t name them here as I don’t want to be at the receiving end if I happened to go to any of those again.
I had to spend a couple of days at the Teaching Hospital – Jaffna early this year and was amazed with the professional and caring way I was treated there. I was directly taken to the Emergency Care Unit (ECU) as soon as I got myself admitted to the hospital and was given the treatment immediately in a comfortable ECU bed. (I have been to some other hospitals before with more serious conditions of the same illness before but I have had to wait for hours even without being looked into let alone being treated!) Once my condition was stabilized, I was transferred to a regular ward.
The hospital staff in this hospital in Jaffna, from the specialist doctors to the minor staff, were very helpful and caring. Language barrier also did not become a big issue even though most of the staff members were Tamil people. There were a few Sinhala and Muslim staff members too, everyone was nice to me, and I saw with my own eyes they were the same towards the other patients too.
Once I was cured, they discharged me and guided me properly to the medical clinics too. I couldn’t get the signature of the chief medical doctor for my insurance documents as he wasn’t available when I left the hospital and the staff gave me a date to come back to get the signature. However, I couldn’t go on the stipulated day due to a personal reason and went to the ward on a later date. As soon as the doctor saw me coming, even without my asking him, he came to me and signed the diagnosis card needed to get my insurance claims.
I wish the staff of the other state hospitals also could do the same. It doesn’t cost money to smile, be humble. Of course, I understand that the state hospitals can be understaffed at times but what I saw at Teaching Hospital in Jaffna was that, more than anything else, it was the positive attitudes of the staff that made my stay there a pleasant one as opposed to arrogance.
I had the pleasure of watching the 2008 movie “Valkyrie,” which is based on a true story that took place during World War II. Valkyrie shows the last of the known 15 attempts to assassinate the German dictator Adolf Hitler.
The most important military conspirators of this final assassination attempt were General Friedrich Olbricht, Major General Henning von Tresckow, and Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, along with Claus-Heinrich Stülpnagel, the German military commander in France. Most of these people come from the aristocratic families and it is understandable that they didn’t approve Hitler’s increasingly irrational management of the war.
A young German officer, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who is not happy with Hitler’s cruel and despotic rule over Germany and occupied Europe. He is already badly wounded in Tunisia, which lost him an eye, the right hand and two fingers in the left hand. He rejoins the service once he is treated and rested for a few months.
As part of the plan, Colonel Stauffenberg is to keep a briefcase with two bombs under a table in the room in which Hitler was to hold a war briefing and blow him up. The plan succeeds but luckily for Hitler and unluckily for the rest of the world; he gets away with some minor injuries.
Colonel Stauffenberg after placing the briefcase under the table leaves the briefing on some pretext and therefore is under the impression that the plot worked and that Hitler was killed. He and his group then put the plan code-named “Valkyrie” into action to take control of the country without letting the public know, it was his group who planned to kill Hitler and take Germany under their control and then have a truce with the Allied Forces that were fighting against Germany.
Till I watched this movie, I was under the impression that almost all Germans approved Hitler’s sickening atrocities against humanity, but now that I did some research after watching this movie, it is apparent that there had been a large number of German civilians and military (regular army) themselves who was against Hitler. Therefore, we can imagine how many civilians must have tolerated Hitler’s massacres simply because they had no way of opposing or doing anything to the contrary.
Not only Hitler but also many other despots elsewhere in the world have committed atrocities of similar brutality against humanity until they were brought to justice in the end. But many escaped justice too.
I think you should watch this movie as it is historical and to know that, there had been brave people who had the courage to stand up and oppose the autocratic dictators even though many of such brave people hardly succeeded and paid with their lives.
The presidential pardon bestowed on the convicted war criminal, the perpetrator of the Mirusuvil massacre, Sergeant Sunil Rathnayaka has raised many an eyebrow in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, rightfully so. What he was convicted of was the killing of eight ethnic Tamils in cold blood, including a 5-year-old child, which was a heinous act under any circumstances. One could argue that the Tamil Tigers too have done even more ruthless atrocities such as the annihilation of entire Sinhalese or Muslim villages, ripping off babies from pregnant mothers, killing infants to the elderly. However, the two types of crimes cannot be compared because a member of the armed forces is expected to be disciplined within the legal boundaries. All legitimate Armed Forces are signatories of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. There is a fine line between terrorism and fighting a legitimate war. War crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating basic human decencies.
There is much evidence that many a soldier involved in wars, suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.) PTSD has destroyed many military personnel’s lives even after they complete their military service and rejoin their families. Symptoms may include nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma, avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the trauma, heightened reactions, anxiety, or depressed mood. Some have even killed themselves. This is due to the trauma they experienced while in service. If it is so, one can imagine the trauma of a soldier who fights an ongoing war, away from the loved ones, facing the unimaginable danger and uncertainty while his colleagues are being killed or injured every passing day. This is one reason why soldiers like Sgt. Rathnayaka may have resorted to the violence of this degree.
As per the terrorists, it is even worse. They are an illegal group and have no rights of any sorts. Without proper training or the arms and ammunition, without a salary or any regular income, with the risk of being unjustly punished, sometimes with death, by their own leaders for even a minute mistake, their part of the suffering is beyond imagination. So, we should understand the plight of these people too.
The security forces and the terrorists of Sri Lanka underwent all these for almost three decades. Atrocities were committed against each other and the civilians on both sides. It is more than 10 years since the war ended. Luckily, not a single major incident has happened after the war ended to date. Even though there were attempts of the revival of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and running an effective Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam failed big time.
Especially the incumbent president of Sri Lanka is well known for his expertise in handling intelligence services very effectively so the chances of the Tamil Tigers regrouping are very low.
Why not we pardon BOTH sides who are being tried or punished for war crimes or terrorism? I know this is easier said than done. The biggest challenge is how to demarcate war crimes from politically motivated killings of journalists, whistleblowers, etc. The other big area of concern is how to set up a mechanism to release the war crimes suspects and convicts and ex-terrorists.
Once the monstrous apartheid system in South Africa was officially terminated, the nation had two enlightened leaders namely Nelson Mandela and P. W. Botha. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up and both parties forgot and forgave a lot and came to a compromise. We cannot expect the same in Sri Lanka due to obvious reasons. Besides, there will be “red tape” that would be created in appointing a commission and subsequent deliberations will only complicate things more than they already are.
The best approach would be giving a presidential pardon en masse to both parties involved in terrorism and war crimes. This will enable the two parties and their sympathizers to have an understanding of each other and learn to live and let live. The so-called Tamil Diaspora too may feel sympathetic and may have a subdued opposition to the Sri Lankan government and might even, in the long run, invest and develop Tamil areas of the island. The present challenge of the Coronavirus outbreak also has created a situation where people look at more reasons to be united than to be divided.
So, after a lengthy explanation, let me come back to the title of this essay. “Does Sri Lanka Really Need a Federal Solution?” A big NO, is my one and only answer and I won’t change this for any reason. Why? I am no political analyst or an expert on political science. The only academic qualification I have to talk about political science is the mere “C” pass I obtained for Political Science at high school level. All the rest comes from my own experiences and extensive reading about politics.
Sri Lanka does not meet any of the criteria that a federal state requires. We are a small island nation with enough access to any part of the island within a couple of hours. We don’t have the divisions some other countries have within ourselves, i.e., Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. We were living peacefully and our cultural heritage and religious beliefs are very close to each other and we share the same faith or reverence to places like the Adam’s Peak, Kataragama and Nallurrather than fighting each other to claim the ownership of those holy places to each ethnic groups like it happens with Jerusalem in the Middle East. Christians, Jews and followers of Islam are fighting for it while we harmoniously climb Adam’s Peak holding hands with each other respecting each other’s beliefs that it is their respective holy messengers’ footmark that lies up there.
I have seen how so-called intellectuals, both local and international, bring about various logic to prove that Sri Lanka needs a federal solution to solve its “nonexistent” ethnic issue. All three communities in Sri Lanka suffer because of the corrupt governments and corrupt politicians we keep electing. We are discriminated not because of our race. All three communities suffer because of the dirty politicians’ shortsighted decisions. Rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. Rather than treating each other enemies, we should understand that it is our poverty and ignorance that these politicians manipulate and we should unite and fight them, not ourselves. All three races are equally ill-treated by successive governments since the Independence in 1948. Those governments included politicians from all three communities and they held high offices in them. The only thing they did was looking after their own welfare rather than that of the citizens’ whom they were voted in by.
There are talks of how bags of dollars changing hands in the process of advocating a federal solution to Sri Lanka but I have no proof. At least nobody paid me to write this piece. I am not a big fan of Professor Nalin de Silva. But I do believe in at least two of the many theories he kept advocating. What he said long before the things got worse and complicated in Sri Lankan polity was,
He said something to the effect of,
There is no solution other than a military solution to fight the terrorism and the military can definitely defeat the terrorists in Sri Lanka.
If the government kneels down before the terrorists and agrees to create a separate state for Tamils (Eelam,) from the next day onward, there would be an endless border war.
He was (and is) correct. Without an official state, the Tamil Tigers had an almost conventional army, a sizable navy and a tiny air force, something that no other terrorist organization in the rest of the world ever had. Imagine what could have happened if they had a federal state that would definitely upgrade itself to a legitimate sovereign nation, how strongly the Tamil Diaspora and the West pumped money and technology to initiate and sustain an unending border war. Sri Lanka would have been the “Israel of the Indian Ocean” and the chaos would have kept going in Sri Lanka till humans started civilizations in Mars!