Now who remains so? Some of us as people? Some of them as political leaders? The UNP and its rusty leader ran berserk against the 18th Amendment and did not even want to attend the parliamentary sessions that debated and passed it. Thereafter he went to nominate another from a different party, the TNA, that sat, argued and voted against the 18 Amendment. Then the UNP suddenly stopped quarrelling for a moment and announced they don’t stand for a “federal system” anymore. Well, they had said that two years ago and no one asked them if they do. Federalism is out of context, to make statements on.
The TNA after arguing and voting against the 18th Amendment, saying this is a “Bill that threatens to put the final nail in the coffin, in which democracy of this country has been laid for some time” (MP Sumanthiran) announces a seven member committee of MPs, that would work with the very government that nails the coffin, with democracy laid within. What for? Well, they have to work towards finding answers for all those people gone missing, detained, widowed, orphaned, left tormented and traumatised, disabled, pauperised, displaced, but in the midst of untold misery and devastation due to war, are trying to drag life on. Those people the TNA is also responsible for in many ways, as a political party.
The 18th Amendment anyway, is now done with and over, signed into the Constitution as law of the land. Now it is the 13th Amendment that would in particular have the future of all those Tamil people wrapped up and in general the South too. The seven member committee of TNA MPs, who would sit with the government in trying to work out rehabilitation especially in the North, would have to take a stand on the 13th Amendment now and that would tell them how valid their decision to work with a government that would further compress their political rights on devolution of powers for provincial rule.
Delhi is in no mood to pamper Sri Lankan Tamil aspirations any more. It was fortunate the Rajapaksa regime did what it did, never mind the human tragedy that lingers in agony. It could now pay off that sin with a few crores signed as grants and aid. Delhi does pay the Rajapaksa regime for seeing the war brutally ended along with Prabhakaran, the “podiyen” who went out of their control.
The evolving political tragedy is that, Delhi compromises with the Rajapaksa regime to have all dues for the damage caused by them in the past paid up, without insisting on a delivery system for speedy and effective rehabilitation. Letting up on the responsibility of having played around with Sri Lankan Tamil lives all these decades and pushing the whole of Sri Lankan society, into an abyss of chaotic rule. That system of responsible and effective provincial rule would now have to be worked out within this country and on a democratic political platform.
For sure, this Rajapaksa regime, steam rolling its way into authoritarian family rule with the South ever willing to forfeit its future and democratic life, would not have land and police powers allowed in a provincial system, when working out its own “home made” answer, in appeasing a crushed and a debilitated Tamil nationalist demand. Allowing comparatively free administration with planning and decision making powers, is not their brand of politics either. Not anymore. If what the Rajapaksa regime plans and what Delhi is willing to accept as enough for the Sri Lankan Tamil people, finds its way to the 13th Amendment as a new amendment, the structure of provincial rule, would alter in favour of more centralised power, handled under the new Executive that was made stronger with the 18 A.
There is no credible opposition any more in the South that could pull the brakes on this Rajapaksa run and this has been written and proved many times over, in the recent past. The Sinhala opposition including both the JVP and the UNP, apart from their lonely cry to save the General who is now beyond rescue, has no firm political demarcation from that of the Rajapaksa politics. Still the two most nationally important issues, the economy and the northern reconciliation and rehabilitation to be achieved, make the Rajapaksas and the opposition see eye to eye, without a blink.
All what Nivard Cabraal now says about economic upturn in Sri Lanka is what Wickremesinghe would also define as development. They don’t have any fundamental difference in economic policy, except that Wickremesinghe would say he is “clean” and the “rebels” within don’t even know what they stand for in politics, as different to Rajapaksa.
With the neo liberal open market that was projected by the UNP as the answer for socio economic development kept intact by Rajapaksa with further liberalising of exchange controls, as announced by Nivard Cabraal on Friday last, the business and trader community see no political reason to fund the UNP any more.
The North, rehabilitation, devolution, the 13th Amendment, none would stir the opposition politics to question Rajapaksa’s home made pickle of a solution to the long standing Tamil problems, he has been often saying he would solve, in his own ‘democratic’ way. JVP would have to go along with Rajapaksa with PCs having the axe on them, despite their noise on corruption and undemocratic rule.
This is precisely the strength this regime has in this country, now culturally and politically divided and ruled by the dominant Sinhala South. This leaves minority politics at a breathless disadvantage. They don’t have the leverage for bargaining they had in the past, when governments and ruling parties still had to decide within democratic traditions and practice. That now is a bygone era, though not so long ago.
The future therefore is once again left dependent on Tamil politics. It’s now Tamil politics that campaigns for democracy that would give the South a chance to breathe free of gradual militarisation of this part of the country as well, if the South wishes to have such opportunity. There is an on going programme that collects data of workers in private companies by the intelligence authorities. There were reports of a section of Peradeniya University non academic staff being sent for a motivational training programme at the Randenigala army camp. Possibility of the Colombo Municipal Council being turned into a non elective authority under the MoD is not one that can be ruled out as “mad or stupid”. The victorious war psyche nurtured by the Sinhala Buddhist ideology provides space for such militarisation as administrative and clean up operations.
This could only be challenged for necessary democratising of society with devolution demanded for provinces under civil administration. It would for now hinge on the 13th Amendment and how the TNA would position their programme for rehabilitation and reconciliation of its own people. It would depend on how the TNA would campaign for a parliamentary approved rehabilitation and reconciliation programme, implementable under the North and East Provincial Council authorities, instead of collaborating through non workable Committees for ad hoc projects decided in Delhi and Colombo, that would tie the TNA to further centralised systems, under the presently militarised North – East.
This political thinking does not seem practical in this society for some years to come. It is not the thinking in the TNA either. That would thus leave the issue of democratising Sri Lanka for a different generation to address and feel fortunate that we live in Sri Lanka, a country that prides in its history and heritage and not in its present life and perhaps not the future too.
“I had the great good fortune to be born in a mad village. It was the kind of village that you could not actually invent” said Dario Fo, the Italian dramatist and playwright.
What can we tell Dario Fo ? That we are fortunate to be born in a mad country ? One that was actually invented by politicians, in connivance with the people who keep electing them ? Perhaps that and nothing more, for now.
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