Rajapaksa fears the expat Tamils more than anybody else
Vol 2 | Issue 49
Sinhalese are now learning that the guns that mowed Tamils will next be turned on them, says Brian Senewiratne, an Australia based Sinhalese doctor in the fourth and last of a series for TWL. (Also Read: First Part, Second Part, Third Part)
The Government of Sri Lanka claims that the Tamil Tigers were the problem. The reality is that they were not the problem but the result of the problem. The ‘problem’ was, and still is, Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism, and Sinhala political opportunism to get the votes of the majority Sinhalese (74% of the population) to get into or remain in power.
It is this, more than any other factor that has prevented the building of a nation. Not surprisingly it is now falling apart.
Whatever the Tamil Tigers have done or not done, one thing is beyond question. They stood between a succession of murderous Sinhalese governments and the Tamil people.
With their elimination, the Tamil civilian population has been at the mercy of a brutal, undisciplined, Sinhala Army, that is running amok, doing what it pleases with no questions asked, and certainly with no accountability.
The Sinhala government’s claim that the “entire problem in Sri Lanka is (Tamil) terrorism”, and that once the ‘terrorists’ are “wiped out”, the land will be flowing with milk and honey, has not happened.
The Tamil people are being brutalised as never before, an Army of Occupation is running the Tamil areas (and behaving as such), and the country, far from flowing with milk and honey, is spiralling down into chaos.
The Sinhalese are learning that the guns which mowed down the Tamils will next be turned on them, as totalitarian regimes have done for centuries the world over.
Thus far the ruling Sinhala regime has managed to get away with it, because they have capitalised on the age-old prejudice against the Tamils based on the “Mahavamsa mind-set” – that the Tamils are marauders, villains, and ‘invaders’, and the Sinhalese are there to defend the country, and the religion (Buddhism) from a ‘foreign foe’ – the Tamils. It is this ‘Mahavamsa-mindset’ that has to change if there is ever going to be Peace with Justice in Sri Lanka.
The Sinhalese are yet to realise that crushing the Tamils is not an answer to Sri Lanka’s problems.
The Chinese, Indians, and Western Nations came to the aid of the Sinhalese government to crush the Tamils, and are now demanding a share of the ‘spoils of war’. This is why large areas of the Tamil homeland are being given to China and India, and now, large areas of the Sinhalese South are going the same way.
The Sinhalese have not yet realised that for peace and prosperity, there must be a strong vibrant Sinhala South and a strong vibrant Tamil North and East. Ethno religious chauvinism and a fascist dictatorship or a totalitarian State will not deliver these.
These are messages that must be delivered to the Sinhalese people. This is easier said than done given the murderous regime running the country.
All is not lost, since there are Sinhalese of enormous courage, three of whom (Wije Dias, Siritunga Jayasuriya, and Dr Vickremabahu Karunaratne) contested President Rajapaksa for the Presidency, putting their lives on the line to challenge this tyrannical regime. These are people we simply have to support if the Tamils are to have any future in Sri Lanka.
The expatriate Sri Lankan Tamils
The expatriate Tamil community, more than a million strong, is the most powerful ‘weapon’ that the Tamils in the Sri Lanka North and East have today. There is not the slightest doubt that President Rajapaksa fears them more than he fears any other body or group, in or outside, Sri Lanka.
The power of the expatriate Tamils was seen in December 2010, when President Rajapaksa was scheduled to address a meeting in the Oxford University Union.
The magnitude of the protests was such that the invitation to Rajapaksa was withdrawn by the Union, and he had to beat a hasty exit from Britain before a member of his entourage was served with a charge-sheet on war crimes. Rajapaksa himself left in a hurry, which he was well advised to do.
The greatest problem with the expatriate Tamils is their infighting. They most certainly lack leadership.
A totally committed expatriate Tamil friend of mine put this better than I can. He said, “The Tamil boat is sailing with no captain”. To this I would add, “and without a rudder too”.
If the expatriate Tamils can sink their petty differences and unite, President Rajapaksa will have a problem on his hands. Having dealt with them for four decades, I do not think that this is likely to happen. It is time that the expatriate Tamils addressed this critical problem if their fellow Tamils in Sri Lanka are to survive.
They can play a major role in obtaining the crucial evidence now available from Tamil asylum seekers and refugees on some of the worst atrocities and crimes against humanity that was committed during the height of the civil war in Sri Lanka. This is critical evidence that is so important to take the culprits to the International Criminal Court.
During a recent asylum seeker problem in Australia, I published a booklet, “Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers. Australia’s Disgrace.”
The then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, flew to Indonesia to persuade the Indonesian President to stop the refugees from coming to Australia.
I addressed the Prime Minister, “Mr Rudd, the problem is not in Jakarta, it is in Colombo”. I went on to draw the attention of Mr Rudd, who boasts about his Christian beliefs, that, “It is a most un-Christlike Christian who disregards the “When I was homeless you took me in” provision, when people in need of a home have a brown skin”. Not long after, Mr Rudd lost his own home in the Prime Minister’s Lodge in Canberra!
The Economic situation. A financial crisis
The economic situation is in chaos. The extent of the financial crisis is seen in the budgetary estimates for 2012 (tabled on 18 October 2011).
The total budget expenditure for 2012, Rs 2.22 trillion (US $20.1 billion), is double the expected income of Rs 1.1 trillion. The trillion rupee budget deficit will almost certainly be met by more taxation, foreign and local borrowing and social welfare cuts, imposing an even greater burden on working people and the poor.
Sri Lanka’s public debt has topped Rs 5 trillion, an increase of Rs 555 billion in just one year. The newly named ‘Ministry of Defence and Urban Development’ (under Gotabaya Rajapaksa, one of the President’s brothers) has been allocated an astronomical Rs. 230 billion.
Contrast this with the Education Ministry, which has been allocated a mere Rs 33 billion, and Health, Rs 77 billion. The Ministry of Reconstruction has been allocated less than a billion (Rs 481 million to be exact), less than every other Ministry, even though most Tamils in the North and East lack basic facilities.
Almost half of the massive military budget of Rs. 230 billion, will be spent on the 200,000 strong Army. This massive ‘Defence’ spending indicates that the Government is preparing for a violent confrontation with working people.
As the economy starts to collapse, and the IMF ‘austerity measures’ start to exact their inevitable toll from those at the bottom of the ladder, a rising of the Sinhalese, a Sri Lankan ‘Spring’, similar to the Middle East ‘Spring’, might not be too far away.
The rich (the Rajapaksa brothers and their supporters) are getting richer and moving upwards to the ‘super-rich’ level by stealing from the country. The poor, irrespective of ethnicity, are getting poorer by the day, and barely able to survive.
No Totalitarian regime in history has lasted for ever. The Rajapaksa regime is no exception. The end will come, it must. The question is whether it will come before terrible damage is done to Sri Lanka as a whole and to the Tamil people in particular.
I do believe that a better and a more just Sri Lanka is possible.
What can be done?
Those of us who are outside Sri Lanka cannot deliver the change that is badly needed. This must come from those within the country. We can only do so much to help. That said, what we can do are things that those who live under a tyrannical rule cannot do. Let me summarise what we can do:-
1. Isolate the Sri Lankan regime as was done to Apartheid South Africa.
2. Bring the criminals in the Government, the Armed Forces, and the LTTE (including those who have left that group and are now with the Government) to the International Criminal Court and charge them with war crimes, and crimes against humanity. This must include Sri Lankan ‘diplomats’ – essentially war-criminals, sent by the GoSL as ‘Ambassadors’ to several countries as a reward for the mass murder of Tamils.
3. Block foreign aid to Sri Lanka. As I have set out, Sri Lanka is already in a deep financial crisis. This is the soft under-belly of the monster that is the Rajapaksa regime. It is only foreign aid that will prop up this monstrous regime. That is what we have to target.
4. Get foreign members of parliament and the Media to visit Sri Lanka and insist on going to the North and East without a government ‘custodian’.
5. Get India (Delhi) onside. This can only be done through Tamil Nadu. A ‘solution’ to the ‘Tamil problem’ is not possible unless supported by India. That is political reality.
6. Lobby the Sinhalese South. There has got to be a ‘regime change’ in Sri Lanka. This the Tamils cannot deliver. It can only be done by the Sinhalese and the Plantation Tamils. The aim has to be to grind Sri Lanka to a halt and make it ungovernable until there is Justice for all.
7. Counter the disinformation campaign of the GoSL by circulating the compelling evidence published by internationally credible organisations and groups.
This is by no means a comprehensive article to address the many problems in Sri Lanka. What I have set out is just tip of the iceberg.
If there is no action both in Sri Lanka and outside, the Tamil people will be a ‘dying ethnic group’ in Sri Lanka, and the country as a whole will drift into a bankrupt failed State under despotic rule. These are not opinions to be debated, but facts to be faced and acted on.
As Edmund Burke the Irish politician and philosopher said some 300 years ago, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.
The author can be contacted at [email protected]