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CHOGM is choking the government

2013 Oct 25

by Vishnugupta



"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom, and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."



~W. Somerset Maugham



The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) has been dominating the national discourse in the past few weeks. The media, print as well as electronic, in the constant exchange of opinions and commentaries, have been disgorging one after the other, the pros and cons of Sri Lanka's moral justification to host the 'Summit' of the countries of the Commonwealth fraternity. The miserable performance of the External Affairs Ministry at the diplomatic level in Europe and its failure to draw competent and experienced minds into its besieged bureaucracy produced embarrassing results for the government at the last United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting in Geneva. When a government loses friends in the international arena, it speaks volumes for the 'unfriendliness' of the government in question as well as of its pronounced policies and principles.



In international politics, governments are judged on the public postures they assume. Patently false declarations, underestimation of world leaders' capacity for analysis and discernments, their technocrat's detailed attention to the nuances of politics and economic and social projections, could all contribute mightily to well-thought out conclusions and resultant stances adopted by other countries. Particularly when Sri Lanka is being branded as a country in violation of basic human rights not only in the context of the penultimate stages of the war but also in the sphere of media and human rights activism in the rest of the land, the prism through which the world looks at Sri Lanka changes drastically, and the picture that is reflected through that prism invariably helps to redefine the country in question in terms of the new revelations, if such fresh revelations do spring out.



The obnoxious and obstinate adherence to narrow power-play and obvious unfair practices heaped upon those who oppose the government and indirectly the current ruling cabal has alienated the intelligentsia of the country to such an extent that those so-called intellectuals who are closely identified with the government are held in utter ridicule by the rest of the country. Selection of total outsiders as candidates for various representative bodies and for diplomatic postings and whose only qualifications happen to be either being blood-related or otherwise 'connected' to the ruling family, have left the current bureaucracy and officialdom the laughing stock among a more professionally-credentialed diplomats and civil servants. This tendency on the part of the rulers is not limited to this administration alone, although nepotism practiced by the present lot is much more severe in numbers as well as more rampant.



Caught up in such an inadequate environment, the government is getting ready to hold the CHOGM, its showpiece event amidst numerous protests and accusations by some unfriendly countries, India- Tamil Nadu in particular.



It has begun to choke



On the local scene, anti-Muslim sentiments, though subsided for the time being, instigated by fly-by-night organizations such as the Bodu Bala Sena and Rawana Balakaya, have sharpened the ethnic discords even to a bursting extreme. The silence observed by the Sinhala-intelligentsia is taken for passive approval of such practices, and the spineless attitude adopted by the majority of the Maha Sangha is even distressing and alarming.



The strength of these balakayas is inherent in their very garb, the yellow robe of the members of the clergy. Its magnetic effect was taken into political advantage for the first time in ancient Sri Lanka by the hero of the Mahawansa, King Dittagamini, who asked them to lead the northward march of his army to bring the land under one sovereign king. The trio of 'the land, the race and the faith' (Desa, Basa, Resa) is being fed continuously by these balakayas and the resulting frenzy engendered in the psyche of the ordinary Buddhist is enhanced further by some laymen in the country who enjoy some political clout. And these elements, whose tentacles have intruded inside the Cabinet of Ministers, are deliberately involved in a most covert operation of political brainwashing.



These tentacles belong to the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). When one engages these individual members at a personal level, their views are most 'reasonable' and moderate, yet for purely politically expedient purposes, the JHU's public pronouncements and commentaries are one-sided, malicious and extremely dangerous, both in the short and long run. Their warped sense of history, their exclusive interpretations of historical events and the myths and fantasies they have built around these mythical stories, bear a special shade of ethnical superiority of the Sinhalese over Tamils and Muslims. The Aryan character that our populist historians have painted around the Sinhalese ethnic group has elevated that ethnic group from a wandering tribe into one historic race of epic proportions. The embellishments are so riveting and seemingly credible and this educated clique of JHU Parliamentarians and Provincial Councillors and their henchmen continue with the same hypocritical human behaviour and their pontifications from their lofty platforms usually cover the transparently empty political slogans. The JHU is another fist that is around the government's neck throttling it to political inaction.



The choking continues



Then came the Provincial Council elections in the North. One way in which the government could have showcased its much bragged-about development undertaken and the promise held for the expansion of horizons for the people in the North and the Tamils in particular, was not by winning but at least securing a fair percentage of the Tamil votes in the North for its candidates. It could have succeeded in doing so with the active support of Douglas Devananda, an ex-terrorist leader turned Cabinet Minister, and the main international fundraiser of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), more popularly known as KP, along with former Media Expert of the LTTE, Daya Master, spearheading the campaign for the government-backed candidates. But they were electorally annihilated by the Northern voter, showing how deeply they resent the present government's policies and attitudes towards the Tamil people. What was considered a trump card for the government,that is, elections in the Northern Province, turned out to be a total disaster. The results not only reaffirmed the widely-held view in the world at large that the present government is tremendously disliked and distrusted by the Tamil people, it further ensured that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is the genuine and sole representative organization of the Tamil people in the North, unlike the LTTE, which claimed so solely due to its muscle power.



The elections in the Northern Province did not help the government at all. On the contrary, it served as a reminder to international fora that all is not well in 'the land of the race and the faith' in the Indian Ocean.



When one adds into this cruel reality the probable Indian snobbery in sending a second-rank delegation to the CHOGM, Prince Charles's declared intention of asking the government to probe more genuinely into the killing of Khuram Shaikh in the South, and the Canadian boycott of the Summit altogether, the tightening of fists around the government's neck is almost complete, the eventual result of which is choking!



Intrinsically internal and self-created



Sadly, it's too late for the government to extricate itself from this ever-tightening grip and the irony is that all these factors that have conspired to strangle the Government of Sri Lanka are intrinsically internal and self-created. The seemingly calm atmosphere that is prevailing in the country is going to be shattered with the arrival of the international media personnel in the country closer to the commencement of the Summit. The barrage of questions that will be hurled at the government, its political leaders and its officials would lend itself as another warfront whose weaponry and armour would be laptops and fax machines, words and pens, and questions and questions and more questions. The government's 'media experts' will be tested to their core.

Who comes out better would be known by the morning following the closure of the Summit. 

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