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Learned Lessons After Three Decades And Lost Hope

2013 Jun 22

M.N. Getaberiya

The Civil War aggravated the nature of conflict on the island of Sri Lanka, first the incidents against Tamils in July 1983,  and then on 23 July 1983 when the militant outfit LTTE launched a deadly ambush on a Sri Lanka Army check point, whereby killing an officer and 12 soldiers. This changing nature of the conflict transformed into an armed conflict between the state actor and the non-state rebellion movement, subsequently stretched its hands throughout the country within short span of time. The armed conflict which long lasted nearly for more than three decades and ended up in 2009. Thirty year ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka almost, in which thousands of people killed and injured during the tug-of-war power struggle between the majority Sinhalese government and the second largest Tamil speaking minority in the island. Notwithstanding this difficulty, in the shape of conflict there were different phases and different changing natures which took place in the changing nature of conflict, it may be through peace-talks, MOU’s, or other negotiation process, and intervention of many good officers, yet the situation escalated than ever based on mistrust by the parties and trust deficit increased the situation from bad to worse day by day and year by year.

However, the conflict which came to an end when the newly democratically elected Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in 2006, came to power with an narrow win in held election. His victory paved the way for strong democratic government by strengthening the executive power of the president which described in the constitution of Sri Lanka. By taking advantage of the maximum power of the executive president, Mahinda Rajapakse decided to strength Sri Lankan armed forces and launched the campaign throughout the island; finally reached till the remote and far-flung areas of the country, especially his charismatic leadership expedited his campaign. And he could succeed in ethnic cleansing in the north-eastern part of the country, which the government out looked as the main strong hold of the LTTE rebels. Moreover, the government launched a campaign through the media by propagating against the evil nature of LTTE, which favored President Rajapakse to unleash the constitutionalized violence against LTTE.

The regional dimensions behind the elimination of LTTE – The regional forces, such as Pakistan and India, which frequently faced the evil menace of terrorism and sacrificed economically, politically and as well as militarily. Basically the Pakistan is gauged as the state which harbors terrorism and extremism, even though; it’s a controversy and debatable due to sixty year hostility between two regional nuclear powers in South Asia. The covert role of India and its secret agency called RAW (Research & Analysis Wing) supported six Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups including LTTE in 1987, and this interference of India in the island violated the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and its territorial integrity. This queried the existence of Sri Lanka within the minds of Sinhalese people, and later the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s clandestine support to the LTTE thrived till today throughout the history in different guise as furthest point exact and evident that today even the Tamil issue of Sri Lanka plays a pivotal role in the politics of Tamil Nadu, sometimes in Indian national level politics. On the other hand, it has sometimes been said and justified that it was the pressure come out from Tamil Nadu that forced the Indian central government to intervene in the matter. The Tamil Nadu government was no doubt concerned to see the divisive issue was settled, but it is now apparent that the central government of India was also motivated by reasons of national security as much as the pressure from Tamil Nadu, and more over the then rising Tamil nationalism and demand for its separate statehood within Tamil Nadu was seen as the huge threat for the union of India in early 1960’s.

The government of Sri Lanka and the policy of bandwagon – knowing that India’s overt hegemonic looking towards the other small states in South Asia, forced the GOSL to tie hands with Pakistan in the field of defence cooperation, wherein Sri Lankan forces advanced military trainings were provided by Pakistan and till today. It is a well known fact that Pakistan played a major role in eliminating the LTTE rebellion group by providing military equipments, and even financially in the reign of General Pervez Musharaf. The move of GOSL add fuel to the Indian hostility and created a more worse situation by turning its friendly foreign relationship towards Pakistan, whereas India considers Pakistan is the sole enemy in South Asia apart from China in the region since the day it was born based on two-nation theory. Moreover it is an undeniable truth that India’s involvements in Sri Lanka which are not related to the ethnic conflict but concern India’s security interests in the region. The rapidly growing animosity within Sri Lanka was not properly digested by the India and the defence ties between Pak-Sri Lanka also forced feebly India to teach a lesson. Substantively, the forefront role of Pakistan & China apart from other stakeholders  in eliminating LTTE terrorist outfit and Sri Lankan Rajapakse regimes friendly cooperation with these two enemies of India, which ultimately forced India to support the GOSL to put a full stop to the Tamil Tigers or to counterbalance the extra-regional influences. Primarily, the India was worried or frightened by these two foreign powers interference in the conflict of Sri Lanka and further scared of failing in achieving its approach and interests in the isle. Which means that the regional geo-political changing conditioning and as well as the global scenarios with these combination of circumstances underpinned the President Rajapakse’s strong desire and intestinal fortitude to eliminate the LTTE terrorism from the island by proving to the world that the traditional security paradigm is still successful, it has been clearly proven by eradicating LTTE rebellions. Beyond these fore mentioned factors, President Rajapakse also could outmaneuver the changing regional situation in favor of Sri Lanka and as well as his domestic political career, which any other previous leader failed to achieve.

A number of interesting things, both positive and negative, have happened in Sri Lanka after restoration of peace. Sri Lanka has shown promising signs of ending its 30-year ethnic rebellion, even though it eliminated so called LTTE insurgents from the isle successfully, yet it faces many International Pressures and alleged War crimes which the government refuses. And when we take a glance at the factual developments, it remains as a query in the mind sets of Tamil speaking people in the country, as they were expecting the good socio-Economic, Socio-Political progress in the country, which at the end failed to provide by the Rajapakse regime in Sri Lanka. Instead, they replaced these desires by allowing the new racial apartheid menace of religio-Political problem for the general masses or can identify it as a gift for the oppressed and suppressed Tamil speaking minority ethnically Tamils and Muslims by the democratically elected majority Sinhalese government. This new face of terror or the emergence of state sponsored Sinhala Buddhist nationalist party JHU, becomes a coalition along President Rajapakse’s victory in the elections and throughout till today. The new setup of the JHU is not known to the people, even the Sinhalese were not skeptical about rising religious fundamental movements and its veiled activities, which invariably played a negative role behind the scene. On the other hand, looking at the economic aspect of Sri Lanka, the country has shown the economic growth of 8.3%, which is ahead of other countries in the South Asian region in this four years.

Post-War Era – Incidents such as kidnapping by white vans and torturing, apart from that the GOSL has given a re-birth to many Velupillai Prabakarans in the south through the government forces and though many cases were highlighted in the media, the GOSL and coalition parties still remain silence. The women in Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east are facing a desperate lack of security in the aftermath of the war, today many still live in fear of violence from various sources. Those who fall victim to it have little means of redress. Women’s economic security is precarious, and their physical mobility is limited. The heavily militarized and centralized control of the north and east – with almost exclusively male, Sinhalese security forces – raises particular problems for women there in terms of their safety, sense of security and ability to access assistance. Militarization and the government’s refusal to devolve power or restore local civilian administration in the north and east have directly contributed to this complex societal distress, which comes on the heels of the collapse of the repressive regime run by the LTTE. Then the denial of the rights of minority, deepening militarization and the lack of good governance in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province are preventing a return to normal life and threaten future violence, and most bitter fighting in the civil war, the Tamil-majority north remains under de facto military occupation, with all important policies set by Sinhala officials in Colombo. The slow but undeniable movement of Sinhala settlers into the fringes of the north and other forms of government-supported “Sinhalisation” are reigniting a sense of grievance and weakening chances for a real settlement with Tamil and other minority parties to devolve power. With the massive number of troops in the north have come various forms of Sinhalisation. The almost entirely Tamil-speaking north is now dotted with Sinhala sign-boards, streets newly renamed in Sinhala, monuments to Sinhala war heroes, and even a war museum and battlefields that are open only to Sinhalese. Sinhala fishermen and businessmen are regularly given advantages not accorded to Tamils.

 

Pseudo politik and the Nanny-state – Seminars and public relations forums to attract investors cannot help when the ground conditions are not conducive to livelihood revival and development. The fake promising and ear catching political chanting of the Rajapakse regime during the pre-election time has merely become a walk the talk, and not talk the walk. This is seen everywhere in the typical South Asian pseudo politics, and still we people are being bad by these loony politicians, who often takes the decisions based on self centric. They blow the trumpet we dance to their tune. This is what we have been learning since last 30 years, and learnt nothing at the end. In fact, the Rajapakse regime also has taken many decisions and upholds them as the policy of the government in interfering unduly with personal choice.

Primarily, the GOSL also failed to advance justice for the victims of the country’s 30-year-long civil war. While Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged North and East became more open, the government deepened repression of basic freedoms, notably limiting the right to free speech. The long-awaited Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report on the fighting failed to call for investigations into well-documented allegations of violations of international humanitarian law. The government largely ignored complaints of insecurity and land grabbing. The Tamil population in the North benefitted from greater access by humanitarian and local human rights groups and the media, but inadequate steps were taken to normalize their living conditions. Instead, the current authoritarian Rajapakse monarch of Sri Lanka has purposely unleashed a new form of cold war through a legitimate Sinhala Buddhist Nationalist party JHU (Jathika Hela Urumaya and other racist elements), is a huge threat for the minority within the country, will sooner or later unleash its anti-minority religious movement as we have witnessed throughout the island even in the recent past in Dambulla.

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