Ms. Indira Gandhi used its southern powerhouse (Tamil Nadu) lead by M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) an actor-turned stupid politician who did not know much about politics than being the emblematic knife-wielding movie hero he was cracked up to be on the silver screen. He knew pretty well that it was easy to change the mindset of the Tamils in Tamil Nadu who were docile enough to treat their sly political leaders (especially actor turned politicians) as demigods.
The result, my friends, was MGR’s Tamil Nadu becoming “the cradle of the Tamil Tigers” with the full blessings of Ms. Gandhi. And the lambs to the slaughter were the poor Tamil boys in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Later the whole Northern and Eastern Provinces were infected by the deadly terrorism. Sri Lanka, being such a promising country with a lot of economic and other developmental opportunities, went to the labyrinths of endless terrorism as a result.
If Ms. Gandhi believed in self-governance and promoted it, she should have offered Khalistan, the de facto nation that the Sikhs fought for, on a platter. But she didn’t. Instead she spearheaded a brutal war that killed both the terrorists – yes, I call anyone who breathes the air of a country and drinks its water and eats its fruits and fights for parts of the same land terrorists – be it Tamil Tigers, Sikh terrorists, Talibans, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, etc., whatever – and the civilians in Punjab saying that their claim for a Khalistan was illegitimate. How can she advocate self-determination for Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka and say no to the Sikh terrorists who claimed more or less the same for the same reasons? She went ahead with the controversial attack of reducing Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the holiest place of worship of Sikhs, almost to rubble (and finally paid for it by being brutally gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards of her own security cordon.)
In fact, the 3-decade-long rancorous war was never Tamils’ war or Sri Lanka’s war. It was by no doubt India’s war. The hitherto peaceful, studious, hardworking Tamil boys and girls were dragged into a bloody terrorist war by India the former’s own fellow citizens in Sri Lanka. It was India’s disastrous foreign policy against her neighbors that created a terrorist war in Sri Lanka during the late Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi‘s tenure. With India’s secret spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW,) she misread the political situation in Sri Lanka and manipulated it into a full-scale terrorist war. As I see it, (I strongly believe I am right) Indira did not like the newly elected Sri Lankan president J. R. Jayewardene’s Open Economic Reforms that opened up the door for investors in the West that could create a rapid economic development in the island nation. The open economy could have easily made Sri Lanka the economic powerhouse in South Asia, just like Singapore did. Mr. Jayewardene enjoyed a huge mandate of 5/6ths of enormous majority in the parliament and all he wanted was a vicious Indira Gandhi to upset his apple cart. And she was up to it and absolutely successful at that. (India would conveniently and sarcastically brush off this claim stating that India was already a super power and Sri Lanka was not a significant player when it comes to the former’s economic realms to wash her hands-off Sri Lanka’s misfortunes.)
India, being a more leftist patriarchy with a soft corner to the Soviet Union and the rest of the communist world, was a far slow economy with her ill-advised “License Raj” approach to domestic production of goods and services, was upset when she came to know that Sri Lanka had an open minded and a futuristic leader in the capacity of J. R. Jayewardene who had stronger links with the White House than with the Rastrapti Bhawan or the Kremlin for that matter.
It is “customary and “politically correct” to a Big Brother like India to harass a tiny island nation like Sri Lanka if the former takes the latter as a threat economically or otherwise. It happens elsewhere too. The USA – Cuba, Ukraine – Crimea, China – Hong Kong, etc. are the living examples to prove my point“.) But being politically correct does not necessarily mean it is the right thing to do. Besides, fostering terrorists has been compared with nursing the serpents for the time immemorial by the visionaries and Mrs. Gandhi was so irrational not to understand that universal truth and decided to turn the Tamil boys who were very peaceful and committed to whatever work they took on to a terrifying terrorist outfit in the name of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE.) Let us not discuss how the LTTE crushed its brotherly terrorist outfits to be the so-called sole representative of the Tamils here.
I know a lot of atrocities must have happened during the war, especially towards the last few days of the war. There could have been killing civilians, raping women, robbing valuables from fleeing civilians, etc. During the ancient wars, this was called “the spoils of war.” Killing men, raping women, enslaving children, looting treasure were part and parcel of war. It is true that the modern-day wars should be fought by keeping with the human rights accords, etc., with least damage to the civilians. But this is the last thing one could expect during a war. There are no such things called “war crimes” for what happens during a war. War itself is a crime and the smart thing to do was (and is) to take every effort to prevent a war, not to let a small misunderstanding to grow into a national issue and develop into a full-scale war like the late president Mr. J. R Jayewardene and his successors did. What I believe is there is nothing glorious about a winning a war, especially if it is fought with your own countrymen. The most glorious thing is to live in peace with every ethnic groups.
I never expected this futile war to end during my lifetime or during that of my son’s for that matter. But, thanks to the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the brave armed forces, the police force, the Civil Security Force and the citizens at large who sacrifices the unimaginable, the war ended for good on May 18, 2009, before my son celebrated his first birthday. What a relief? Endless attacks on civilians in so-called “border villages,” heinous acts of killing civilians in public transportation systems, constant bomb blasts inside almost all high security zones, suicide attacks on dignitaries, air raids on Colombo etc., kept the whole nation anxious and alert and the people were tormented for almost three decades. War was that horrendous and it was a welcome decision that the former President Rajapaksa took, to take the Tigers head on, not from the tail like the other ineffective and cowardly leaders did since 1975. Mr. Rajapaksa sent the Tigers to the right place, the dustbin of the “bloody” history. This is why former president commands a lot of respect – despite the fact that he was allegedly corrupt and violated human rights – from the people islandwide, especially the people who were directly affected by war. Me being a person who comes from a so called “border village” – Mahawilachchiya – a farming settlement inside the government controlled area but on the edge of LTTE’s haven, i.e., the sprawling Wilpattu National Park from three sides of the village, I have every reason to praise Mr. Rajapaksa for his daring act of taking a stern decision to finish the terrorists’ war with counter war, if not counter terrorism.
I am not trying to explain how the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka happened and the different perspectives to its root causes. I am only going to talk only about how I perceive it. I was born in 1972 in the village of Mahawilachchiya (in Anuradhapura District of Sri Lanka) bordering the Wilpattu National Park. Velupillai Prabhakaran, who went on to create and lead the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – L. T. T. E.) and waged a bloody war on all communities of Sri Lanka) got his first human target late Mr. Alfred Duraiappah, an SLFP MP in 1975. I was just 3 years old by then. When the real terrorist War in Sri Lanka broke out in 1983 I was a 11-year-old schoolboy. Therefore, I can remember most of the sequences and developments of the ethnic war after the infamous “Black July” in 1983 into a fully-fledged civil war, that hampered the development of Sri Lanka into a possible regional economic power by dragging the country down literally to the Stone Age.
The infamous 13th amendment was forced upon both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE terrorist outfit by India for a problem that would have been solved between the government and the terrorists. The said amendment was a solution that had no sensible approach at all. Both the government and the LTTE equally opposed it and the then president late Mr. J. R. Jayawardene had to sign it as he was forced to do so by going against his own cabinet and the rest of Sri Lanka. This is the high time that a totally new constitution is introduced by taking the issues in the immediate past and the foreseeable future are addressed. This has to be done with the participation of all ethnic groups to make everybody feels they are part of one Sri Lanka. Each different ethnic group would have to sacrifice some of the long enjoyed privileges and come to a compromise.
There are three leaders the new President can learn from. Rwandan President Mr. Paul Kagame who made Rwanda the “Switzerland of Africa,” Pakistani Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan who tries his best to fight corruption, end the terrorist issue of the Taliban, and the Philippines President Mr. Rodrigo Duterte who fights the drug war, underworld activities, jihadist terrorism and corruption. All these leaders are far from saints. Well, no one in politics is. Most charismatic leaders who changed the fates of the countries had many a skeleton in their closets. Obviously our own President cannot be an exception. So, we have to live with it to see a REAL change.
However, Mr. President’s main challenge would be to keep Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister and his notorious three sons who are popularly known by the citizens as “Three Idiots,” at bay throughout the President’s office. Mahinda Rajapaksa has done his share of duty to the country by finishing the terrorism that no one expected to happen before 2009 and then improving infrastructure (even amidst massive corruption allegations) and the best thing he should do is to help the present President with his political experience and help groom a new leadership to take the country forward. Mahinda can become a senior adviser than in active politics anymore. It would make more sense if he becomes such one without accepting a remuneration and any other privileges that he is entitled to as an ex-president. (But this would be the last thing one could expect from him though.)
I know very well that many will criticize my stance about the new President here. At the moment, I have seen his positive moves. If he disappoints me and the rest of the country, it is our bad luck. So, for the moment, we will just wait and see. If the things go wrong, you would know it well because I won’t be able to write this monthly review about him anymore. You know what I mean. 🙂
Even though the president earned a lot of appreciation by appointing a smaller interim cabinet soon after taking oath, within a few days he lost the very admiration by appointing a large number of state ministers, obviously the almost the whole lot of rogues. I understand that it is very difficult to keep the MPs happy but they should understand that the new era has dawned and they have to support the changes the president aspires for.
Reopening some of the buried legal and corruption cases look like witch-hunting prima facie but if they do so, both the present and the past governments’ misdeeds should be taken with equal treatment. But I have no hopes in this.
The most unfortunate Swiss embassy employee’s drama has happened and I personally don’t think the government would be involved in such a stupid activity within the first month of the new president’s rule. But, this has to be delicately handled as there are hyenas who are eagerly waiting to see till blood spills in the politicalsphere in Sri Lanka again.
There is much talk about abolishing or amending the 19th amendment. We all agree that the amendment in question was done by the Sirisena-UNP coalition with political motives, but good things like limiting a president’s term to 5 years and maximum 2 terms are fair by every measure. If a leader cannot develop a country up to a decent level within 10 years, it is ridiculous to let such a leader to take another term or to do it.
I am not an economist so we will have to wait and see how the recent tax reductions could help the economy in the long run. This is a gamble the new president is indulging in and the gamble should have a meaning beyond the forthcoming general and provincial council elections. But like everyone else, I too smell a rat here as Sri Lanka does not have a stable economy to tolerate such huge tax cuts and reductions at a time like this.
Another good thing that has happened is that the horrific underworld activities have been reduced remarkably since the new President’s ascend to power. He is known as a ruthless executioner when it comes to underworld crimes and let’s wait and see the present reduction of the underworld activities are continued. The same can be said about the drug mafia too. Sri Lanka has become a big drug distribution center if not a cartel. One cannot imagine the mammoth amounts of narcotics hauls sporadically nabbed by the law authorities. Looks like the import if drugs might well surpass the import of wheat flour if the former drug mafia is not subdued at the earliest.
Doing away with sand and soil transportation licenses has come under heavy criticism and this has to be revisited before it is too late. The same could be said about rice and vegetable mafia that deny the farmer or the consumer the benefits but allow some greedy middlemen disguised as “traders” in so-called economic centers to profiteer.
The UNP-led Sirisena government failed big time in every step it took except for some timely reforms in education with the then Minister of Education Akila Kariyawasam having been able to introduce largely pertaining to changes in new subject areas for Advanced Level streams. He wasn’t scared of those strong teacher unions and had the stomach to take the bull by horns. Apart from that, I could not see any other major contributions from that failed coalition for the country to do the justice for the citizens who voted them in. This is exactly why they lost the presidential election with such a heavy defeat. But the president should not undo the good changes they did such as forming police, election and judiciary commissions, etc., at least to ensure partial transparency and good governance. If there are any flaws in those commissions, those should be rectified but the last thing the present government should do is to abolish or weaken them.
One main surprising difference is how both his admirers and even some of the distractors, largely the youths irrespective of petty ethnic, religious and class differences got together without any directions from the top started making the cities and the villages beautiful on their own initiative. I am not sure if such a reaction happened even once we gained the Independence some seventy years ago. The youths seem to have some “hopes” for the first time in Sri Lankan politics I guess. Hope Mr. President won’t ignore this commendable gesture by the youth and act against their fresh hopes down the line. (The youths also should not get carried away by overstepping their limits by painting the walls by erasing road signs.)
Some people think that appointing ex-military personnel to state institutions would create a military style government in the long run and you can’t totally ignore that, can you? But, my point is that the state machinery is too slow, lethargic and outdated, they should run in an effective manner and if the military is the best option, let that be for some time and see the difference. The large number of government servants are not contributing to the nation productively at the moment. They will have to work hard to retain their jobs but there should be a system to check and balance the status quo in the public services to prevent a communist style bureaucracy that took the economy of the former Soviet Union backward to a point where the once mighty empire crumbled unexpectedly.
Regulating and monitoring the NGOs by the Ministry of Defense has come under heavy criticism but what I think is the good NGOs who work for the needy won’t have to worry about this measure as long as they keep their financial records transparent and don’t step beyond their limits. The national security of a nation is of paramount importance and the last thing we want to see is that the hard-earned peace we achieved after decades of terrorism couldn’t be put at stake to satisfy some NGOs. We saw well how big moneys flowed to local shady initiatives that created the Muslim jihadist terrorists who staged a massive attack on civilians last April in the guise of relief aids and religious education aid to Sri Lanka. The same happened during the Tamil terrorist war and a lot of NGOs were directly supporting the terrorists. One should understand that nobody is above the law of a country.