After the guns fell silent…

Vishnuguptha | Published on November 18, 2012 at 4:09 am

“We are free, but not to be evil, not to be indifferent to human suffering, not to profit from the people, from the work created and sustained through their spirit of political association, while refusing to contribute to the political state that we profit from.” Jose Marti

Remember the day

Remember the day, May 18, 2009? The day that the security forces of Sri Lanka declared victory over their enemy on the battlefield? Remember the gruesome visuals that were displayed at

The body of slain Tiger supremo Pirapaharan carried in triumph by Sri Lankan troops.

almost every five minute interval on national television? Prabhakaran, the arrogant leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) was dead; the LTTE bastions were overwhelmed, their beleaguered, war-weary soldiers surrendered in thousands and a war that was waged against one of the most brutal terrorist organizations that the world had ever known came to an official finale. The grisly picture of Prabhakaran’s dead body and other ghastly photographs appearing on the country’s TV screens and newspaper front pages did not draw even an iota of sympathy from ‘the land, the race and the faith’.

Mass euphoria

After the guns fell silent, mass euphoria replaced an unspeakable sense of despair that had gripped the collective psyche of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority It also replaced despondency by fresh hope, war by ‘peace’ and guns by firecrackers.

Serving kiribath

The streets in the South of the country were swarming with those who delighted in the moment; they served ‘kiri bath’, a traditional way in which our folks share their joy and ‘victories’. The celebrations reached a crescendo when the Government called a mass rally in the premises of historic Jayewardenepura when the emcees of the day openly addressed the President as “King”. This might not be the first time a leader of a People’s Republic is most reverently addressed as King but it sounds terribly odd and speaks a lot about the subservience of a nation and denial of Twenty First Century political and social realities by its members.

Not to be downplayed

Nevertheless, the gale of relief that swept across the country could neither be overstated nor be downplayed. Parents knew instantly that they no longer had to wait in anguish and anxiety until their children came home safely from school; wives wept no longer in silence for their husbands’ return in the evening, three-wheelers did not have to dread to give a ride to an unknown passenger with a parcel in his hands. Everyday life of the average Sri Lankan apparently returned to normal.The war lost and peace triumphed. Or did it really?

Common badge of identity

Tens of thousands of refugees of the war were rounded up, collected and given a common badge of identity: Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). They were packed into camps at the Southern tip of the North, Vavuniya. It was a mass of humanity that had been battered by the ravages of war and whose children had gone to sleep in the night to the unholy lullabies of the wailings of a dying soldier or a wounded neighbor. They had been wandering in a forlorn landscape like ghosts, not walking or running but just meandering with the rest of the flock, for they never felt safe alone in a jungle of gunfire and explosions of landmines. And they were housed in canvass tents or tin-roofed shacks.

Under the scorching sun

In the blistering heat of Vavuniya, under the scorching sun during the day and the suffocating gloom in the night, the inmates suffered not only the humiliation of a community isolated from the rest of their clan but they had to endure the stench of their own excreta, for the usual and timely regular practices of civilization were not in practice in that wasteland of humanity.

Forsaken

Yet they survived. Instinct for survival, that primordial quality of man whose storied history has been written and re-written by survivors who dared to defy all odds, has kept this desolate community of IDPs from becoming another set of statistics in an academic’s journal. They have been forsaken by their own leaders- for the leaders, these wandering relicts of humanity is only a pawn that can be used at the bargaining table- and have been treated to a different set of standards and to a different set of rules and regulations that are usually associated with those who are considered not among the civilized.

Ready bedfellow

Three eventful years have passed by, hardening the hearts and minds of the fringe groups that hang around the Government party and being the overconfident children of the ‘Mahawansa mindset’ , they are very audible and visible in the television and radio channels. They have begun to ostensibly represent the ruler’s thinking as these modern chauvinists have found a ready bedfellow at the helm of the Defense apparatus of the country, a sibling of the “King”. These fringe elements have gone to such an extreme corner that they have dared to challenge the only piece of legislative umbrella that the Tamil community has achieved in their long struggle for equal status in the land they have been living for centuries, the Thirteenth Amendment, in the highest court in Sri Lanka.

TNA, Tamil favourite

The Thirteenth Amendment had a very unusual and tortuous entry into the annals of Sri Lankan constitutional history. It was the only piece of agreement that the slain Prabhakaran penned his signature to. The Amendment initially gave the Northern Tamils, a merged North and East Province. It gave them some devolution of real power subject, of course, to the discretion of the Central Government which is headed by an Executive President. In every election that was held after the end of the war, the Tamils in the North and the East have returned the TNA as the favored politicians of that part of the land.

Gift after gift

Those Tamils who were subjected by the LTTE and other terrorist armies and who found themselves, more often than not, at the wrong end of the guns of the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF), have obviously decided to throw in their lot with their own kind, Tamil National Alliance (TNA). That must have hurt a lot of Government mechanics of the political kind. After offering ‘gift’ after ‘gift’, especially during the election campaigning times, the people in the North voted as one single ethnic community and cast their votes for the representatives of the ITAK and TNA in the local council elections and those that followed suit in the East and in the latest round of Provincial Council elections, both in Trincomalee and Batticaloa.

Government lukewarm towards the Tamils

Yet the Government is just lukewarm towards the Tamil people in general and their leaders in particular. The Indian Government’s insistence that the Thirteenth Amendment should not be dabbled with, obviously had not had any telling effect on the ruling court in Colombo. Using of the postures of the Jathika Hela Urumaya and Jathika Nidahas Peramuna led by the most vocal architects of this derailment process, Champika Ranawaka and Wimal Weerawansa respectively, is not a random act of political craft.

Political strategy

It is a preconceived political strategy put in place by the bright minds of the Government. While the inconsequential Nimal Siripala de Silva renders leadership to the seemingly harmless process of the Parliamentary Select Committee mechanism, the Government is seen to play a high-risk political chess game with their aces up the sleeve, with the Defense Secretary giving vent to the populist thinking of not budging and sending a signal of false strength to the majority Sinhalese Buddhist masses.

Thirteenth Amendment

In the meantime, the United National Party, the main Opposition political force in the country, is conspicuously quiet and non-committal on the fate of the Thirteenth Amendment that the Government led by their late Leader J R Jayewardene went a winding and weary way to get enacted. The UNP’s lack of action is as vital in this deceptive dynamic of power politics as any action of the Government.

Tasteless political soup

Into this tasteless political soup is added the most pungent ingredient one can find in the realm of all spices: an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice in the wake of her legal decisions contravening the wishes of the Government. The Divi Neguma Bill is very much related to the Northern Tamil Question. Its enactment and implementation solely at the whims and fancies of the Minister in charge, who happens to be another sibling of the “King”, would have a very serious bearing on the Northern and Eastern Provinces, not only in the field of physical development but also in the arena of social cohesiveness.

Win win situation

The two-pronged attack launched by the Government seems to bear fruit. On the one side, one brother, the Secretary of Defense is taking a very staunch stance on the Thirteenth Amendment and the other brother is seemingly trying to control the financial makeup of the region. It’s a win-win situation for the Governing Party, if it turns successful, it will achieve its desired results. If they fail, the status quo remains and the stalemate continues.

Scars of war

The guns fell silent, but there is no real peace. The war zone has been deserted by the fighters but the scars that the war caused are lingering on; the Government’s zigzag march seems directed towards the land of ‘nowhere’. Those skeletons that roamed the fallen cities of the Northern peninsula may have found some temporary refuge in makeshift shacks which they call human dwellings but the human suffering continues without a visible and tangible cause. The story of the Northern Tamil is indeed a very sad one; its logical finale does seem to evade all logic.

Victims of inter-ethnic rivalries exploited

The politicians on both sides have exploited these hapless victims of inter-ethnic rivalries for centuries, the only commonality being that we at present are going through a terrible phase that these two communities had undergone throughout their existence as two different peoples in the same land. In a land devoid of any pragmatic and inspiring leadership, in a land that is exploited by the perverse merchants of corruption and deceit, a ray of hope seems as rare as the midnight sun in this tropical part of the earth.

 


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Issues

The body of slain Tiger supremo Pirapaharan carried in triumph by Sri Lankan troops.

After the guns fell silent…

“We are free, but not to be evil, not to be indifferent to human suffering, not to profit from the people, from the work created ...