Dushy Ranetunge in London
China is the key to Sri Lanka’s present woes.
The pressures that the Sri Lankan state is under at present is its own creation in failing to strategically position Sri Lanka in a rapidly transformed post LTTE landscape. It is remarkably similar to the predicament of the LTTE, which was also its own creation.
Long before May 2009, the demise of the LTTE was quite obvious as the international community began losing patience with LTTE intransigence and violence. The writing was on the wall, but the LTTE and its Diaspora supporters could not see it. They had faith in the invincibility and superiority of Tamil nationalism against insurmountable odds.
A mirror image of this now exists in Sinhala society, but do the Sinhalese see what is before them?
If it was the Tamils who felt isolated and at the receiving end of international law enforcement, sanctions and hostility a few years ago, it’s now, the turn of the Sinhalese.
Then the LTTE condemned, that the Sinhalese, the “Sinhalese” government and some “Tamil traitors” were behind “anti-Tamil” activity in the international arena.
Now the Sinhalese say, that the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora, the LTTE and some “Sinhalese traitors” are behind “anti-Sri Lankan” activity in the International arena.
The “Sinhalese” received GSP+, the Tax concession, which is on the verge of being removed. The Tamil tax concession was the charity status of the TRO (Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation), which was their conduit to transfer EU funds tax-free into Sri Lanka.
The Sinhalese reaction to loss of GSP+ is almost identical to the Tamil reaction to the loss of TRO charity status, with the resultant loss of millions of EU Tax-free funds inflow.
The Sinhalese reaction to “war crimes” charges is identical to the Tamil reaction to the LTTE being listed as a “terrorist” organisation.
Tamil nationalists think that their side were not “terrorists” but “liberators” from Sinhala oppression. The Sinhala nationalists think that their side were not “war criminals” but “Terrorist fighters” who “liberated” the Tamils from LTTE oppression.
The similarities are mind boggling, and even President Rajapakse quite unintentionally drew parallels in an interview with the “Hindu” when he stated “He is from the jungles of the North. I am from the jungles of the South. Let’s see who will win!’ It was very prophetic.”
The reactions of both communities are almost identical but each tries to deny the other, and try to convince themselves and the international community that they are better than the other, because Prabakaran is like Mandela or because Sri Lankan action in the North is like American action in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is hilarious at times to observe the two sides of the ethnic divide.
If the “Sinhalese” perceived that India had learnt its lesson, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, and is now on the side of the Sinhalese “mindset”, they are sadly mistaken.
Indian policy in relation to Sri Lanka remains constant. Only the “modus operandi” has changed. India, then and now is pursuing the establishment of a devolved Tamil unit in the North and the East to secure its own security. Then Indian intervention in Sri Lanka was overt. Today it is covert, and the Sinhalese are unaware of Indian initiatives.
Rajapakse’s China policy is ringing alarm bells in New Delhi and increases Indian priority to establish a devolved pro-Indian Tamil unit in the North and East, to stabilize Tamil Nadu and secure Indian interests on its Southern flank by keeping the Sinhalese in check.
The war crimes initiative of the UN Secretary General and the removal of GSP+ by the EU brings pressure on Colombo to the same extent that the removal of TRO charity status in Europe and the listing of the LTTE as a terrorist organization brought pressure on the LTTE.
Rajapakse’s China policy is also raising concern in Washington and NATO.
The interests of Washington and New Delhi converge in respect of Sri Lanka and they will and are working closely as they did in respect of the LTTE.
The response of the Rajapakse administration to the loss of GSP+ and the UN Secretary General’s “War crimes” initiative is identical to the response of the Prabakaran administration to the loss of Charity Status of the TRO and the listing of the LTTE as a “terrorist” organisation. They both lightly engaged to see if they could have their way and then, ignored the issues and continued on their path.
The Sinhalese are playing cat and mouse talking about “instant noodles”. They are trying to maintain and prolong the “LTTE” militarized mindset to thwart the “foreign” hand, while India wants to open offices in Hambanthota and Jaffna.
Unfortunately, cricket has to be played according to English rules. Our present captain is trying to play cricket according to Sinhalese rules, because he is incapable of winning, playing according to English rules. Prabakaran also ignored English rules and tried to play cricket according to Tamil rules.
Under the circumstances the future is uncertain.
The cold war continues, until perhaps the emergence of a new leadership with new thinking, who can lead the Sinhalese and the Tamils out of the quagmire.