Sunday 2 January 2000

The 2010 Sri Lankan presidential election, and beyond

By Brian Senewiratne
25 January 2010 In the scores of talks, interviews, and meetings, that I have been involved in over the past four decades, on the problems facing the Sri Lankan Tamils (and the Plantation Tamils) in Sri Lanka, I have rarely been asked absurd questions. This has changed. I have been bombarded with one question, “Whom should the Tamils vote for in the up-coming Election – the current President Mahinda Rajapaksa or the former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka?” That I have been asked to chose between two mass murderers guilty of Genocide of the Tamil people, crimes against Humanity and the Violation of International Law and Sri Lanka’s own Constitution and Laws, is a manifestation of the widespread confusion and despondency among the expatriate Tamil community, which I, as a Sinhalese, find difficult to comprehend. These two men (and their associates) should be on their way to an International Criminal Court, not to the Presidency. Let us be clear about the choice – not only for the Tamils, but for the majority Sinhalese of my ethnic group. The choice is not between Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka. It is a choice between the entire Rajapaksa clan (at the last count some 35 members of his family holding positions in Sri Lanka and abroad, for no reason other than that they are relatives of Rajapaksa), and Sarath Fonseka and his military clan. Fonseka does not belong to any political party, and can do as he likes. His entry into politics is a most dangerous development, since it is the first time in the history of Sri Lanka that a military man is trying to take over the country. We know from Pakistan, Burma, Indonesia, Libya, and numerous countries in Africa and South America, that have gone down this path, how dangerous this can be. A ‘democracy’ (or what is left of it), might, yes, it just might, become a ‘militocracy’ if Fonseka becomes President. This is a detailed analysis of this serious event about to occur in Sri Lanka on 26 January 2010. It has to be discussed in detail. I make no apology for its length. The “tell-me-quickly-in-a-couple-of-words” group should look for some light reading on the subject, elsewhere. The importance of the Tamil vote Not for the first time in Sri Lanka’s history, the vote of the Tamil ‘minority’ is critical in deciding which Sinhalese ‘leader’ (for lack of a better word’), should rule Sri Lanka for the next 5 years. The Tamils have been down this road many times in the post-Independent (1948) Sri Lanka. With the Sinhala polity split right down the middle. Fonseka 5,493,809 (49.4%) Rajapakse 5,373,751 (48.3%) the votes of 2.5 million Tamils, could prove decisive. Both Rajapakse and Fonseka, who have just finished murdering thousands of Tamils, and putting nearly 300,000 of them in concentration camps, and seriously violating their human rights, realise the importance of the Tamil vote. They are now blaming each other for the atrocities committed on the Tamil people, and are trying to woo them with promises which they have no intention of keeping. The Tamils have been down that road, many times. There are other candidates, some of whom have consistently taken up their cause over a prolonged period, who are also in the ring, The question is, “will the Tamils vote for them?” The answer is “No”. I say this with confidence having witnessed the duplicitous politics, indeed political opportunism, of a succession of Tamil politicians ever since I focused on the problems facing the Tamil people, way back to 1948. The Tamils and their pathetic politicians, will most certainly vote for one of these two Sinhalese with a documented track record of criminal acts, rather than for those who could have a major impact on country, on the verge of becoming a Failed State. The result of this repeated error, is that which one of the two documented Tamil murderers is elected as President, will have little effect on the Tamils. The Tamil ‘jokers’ in the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main Tamil polity in Sri Lanka, are split. The majority have decided to support Fonseka, the rest to support Rajapaksa! I will comment on this absurdity later in this article. I do not know where the ‘non-jokers’ such as Gajan Ponnambalam (whom I know), and Gajendra (whom I do not know), stand. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), one of the most influential thinkers of all times, said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. He must have reached this conclusion after looking at what the elected representatives of the Tamil people have done in Sri Lanka from 1948 onwards. My attention to this quote was drawn by a close friend of mine, Professor C.J. Eliezer. The title of this article reads, “The 2010 ….Election and beyond”. Since the result of this election is inconsequential to the Tamils, they will have to look beyond it. The title was no accident. The tract record of the Rajapaksa-Fonseka regime When Mahinda Rajapakse was going to contest the Presidential Election in November 2005, I wrote an article Mahinda Rajapakse – the Road to Disaster. It is still on the net. Both Rajapaksa and Fonseka have done serious damage to Sri Lanka. They have: 1. Made the ethnic conflict unsolvable, as unsolvable as the Israeli-Palestine conflict, 2. Taken the country to economic bankruptcy by pouring money into building a massive military force and by stealing billions of dollars to build a personal financial empire, 3. Been responsible for mega-corruption at all levels, including and especially, the ruling politico-military cabal. 4. Dragged Sri Lanka into the dustbin in the area of human rights (Sri Lanka has just been tossed out of the Human Rights Council), making Sri Lanka into a pariah State. For the first time in history, people of international repute are openly talking of taking Sri Lankan ‘leaders’ and the military to international war-crimes tribunals. The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) based in Milan, which held hearings on 13-14 January 2010, in Dublin, looked into war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government. After listening to eye-witnesses and looking at other material evidence, a panel of 10 international jurors, has just (16 January 2010) released its preliminary findings – that the Sri Lanka Government is “guilty of War-Crimes” and “guilty of Crimes Against Humanity”, and that the charge of Genocide requires further investigations. Eye witnesses included several escapees from the final week of Sri Lanka offensive in the Mullaitivu “No Fire Zone” where more than 20,000 Tamil civilians were allegedly slaughtered by Sri Lanka Army (SLA), turning heavy weapons on them. The two current presidential candidates were in charge – Rajapaksa, the Executive President with sweeping powers, Minister of Defense and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and Fonseka, the Army Commander. I am sure that the PPT findings will not be the end of matter for them, whether they are elected President or not. Nor will their position as President give them immunity, as the President of Sudan realized (despite heavy lobbying against such action by no less a power than Russia). The International Criminal Court clearly stated that it did not recognize immunity for a Head of State. This is the first time that an arrest warrant has been issued for a sitting head of State, an encouraging start. 5. ‘Delivered’ abysmal governance to the detriment of not only the Tamil ‘minority’, but also the Sinhalese majority and the Muslims. 6. Established a politico-military fascist dictatorship – a Totalitarian State, going down the dangerous path that the only solution to every problem in Sri Lanka is State violence, intimidation, repression and murder. 7. Silenced dissent, murdering critics, including media workers and members of parliament. 8. Made a mockery of parliament by buying, bullying, and threatening Opposition parliamentarians to join the ‘Government’. Rajapaksa has the largest cabinet in the world, by offering Ministerial positions to Opposition parliamentarians to cross the floor. 9. Created an economic crisis, borrowing money and creating an international debt (to the IMF, China, and other ‘aid’ givers – a debt that will take generations of Sri Lankans to pay (if ever). 10. Sold large chunks of the country to other countries (China, India, the Arab nations, to name just a few), a ‘fire-sale’ at abysmally low prices which can never be reversed. 11. Created major geopolitical problems in the region, especially between India and China, dragging in Pakistan and Iran, for good measure. 12. Brought international disgrace by sending educationally subnormal people, notorious liars whose lies are so transparent as to be absurd, and now, military men with blood on their hands, as Ambassadors. 13.Taken the country to a Failed State – Sri Lanka has dropped dramatically in the ‘Failed State Index’. 14. Been responsible for the loss of Sri Lanka’s most valuable asset, trained (and potentially highly trainable people – Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims – who have left in droves, taking their talent and training with them. 15. Put Sri Lanka in the “no-hope” basket. This politico-military dictatorship has done more damage to Sri Lanka in the short space of four years than any other government has done in the past 60 years of Independence. These are not opinions to be debated, but facts to be faced. The background The agenda of a succession of Sinhalese-dominated Sri Lankan governments has been to make multi-ethnic, multilingual, multi-religious, multicultural Sri Lanka into a Sinhala-Buddhist county. This extreme ethno-religious chauvinism has been pursed by every Sri Lankan ‘leader’ since Independence from Britain (1948), and even before that, to get the electoral support of the Sinhala-Buddhist majority (74% Sinhalese, 70% Buddhist), to get into or remain in power. The first act (1948-9) was to disenfranchise a million Plantation Tamils, and remove their elected representatives from Parliament. The Tamil representation in parliament was reduced by 40%. The Sri Lankan Tamils were to follow. They lost the use of their language, Tamil, with the Official Language, English, being replaced by Sinhala Only (1956). Discrimination in education followed, with the bar being set higher for Tamils to enter the University (1972). Then followed discrimination in employment by excluding Tamils from the Government service whenever possible, the developmental neglect of the Tamil areas (North and East), and the ‘Sinhalisation’ of the Tamil areas by government-directed mass translocation of Sinhalese to the Tamil areas, especially the East (indeed, this started even before Independence in 1948 by Sinhalese politicians working under the British). Hand in hand went the periodic massacres of Tamils by government-sponsored Sinhalese hoodlums, while the overwhelmingly Sinhalese Police force and Army looked on. There is a widespread misconception that there has been an ‘ethnic conflict’ or ‘civil war’ in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese government and the Tamils. There has not been an ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka since Independence in 1948. What there has been are a series of increasingly virulent pogroms against the Tamil people by the Sinhala State, resulting in the degeneracy of Sinhala society and its rapid descent into barbarism, by the concerted efforts of Sinhalese politicians, many from my family, the politically active Buddhist monks, Sinhalese goons, and the overwhelmingly Sinhalese Police (95% Sinhalese), and Armed Forces (99% Sinhalese). This murderous program had a marked acceleration after the election of Mahinda Rajapaksa as President (November 2005). He is the only head of State that Sri Lanka has ever had who genuinely believes that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala-Buddhist country. The ‘problem’ facing him (and others of his ilk) was “What does one do with the Tamils?” There were four options: drive them out of the country, make them non-people, make them ‘disappear’, kill them. 1. Drive them out of the country. 1.3 million already have been driven away and now constitute the ‘expatriate Tamils’. Others are fleeing as refugees or asylum seekers – fleeing the murderous conditions in the Tamil North and East. 2. Make them ‘non-people’ – ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs). There are some 350,000 of them in Sri Lanka, and at least another 200,000 outside (in South India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, and elsewhere. Almost all of them (except those in India), are in concentration camps, falsely called ‘detention centres’ or, in Sri Lanka ‘welfare villages’! They are being held without charge or trial in barbed-wire fenced prisons (irrespective of what they are called). To do so is a violation of a number of international human rights Conventions and the UN Refugee Convention (signed and ratified by Sri Lanka), and Sri Lanka’s own Constitution and Laws. To do so is illegal. It is also illegal to treat asylum seekers as ‘illegal migrants’. Those responsible for this blatantly illegal activity, be they in Sri Lanka or outside, must be charged, if the word ‘illegal’ is to have any meaning. 3 Make them ‘disappear’. Sri Lanka has the 2nd highest rate of involuntary disappearances’ in the world, second only to Iraq. Almost all of them are Tamils, mostly young Tamil males. A ‘white van’ arrives with unmarked number plates, the victims are bundled in, never to be seen again- he notorious ‘white van’ phenomenon - well-documented in innumerable international human rights publications. 4 Kill them. That is Genocide. I have been told that to use the word ‘Genocide’ is “unhelpful”. Whether it is ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’ is not the irrelevant. What is relevant is the definition of Genocide. Genocide is defined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide , as an act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Genocide has nothing to do with numbers killed, it is the intention and the act(s) to achieve this intention that defines Genocide. The ‘intention’ of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) can be seen by all, except those who do not want to see. Genocide of the Tamil people was launched in 1983 by the then President J.R.Jayawardene and his Ministers, assisted by murderous Buddhist monks and Sinhalese hoodlums led by Jayawardene’s Cabinet Ministers. More than 3,000 Tamils living in Colombo and the South were butchered. They had done nothing to harm anyone. Their ‘crime’ was to be born Tamil. The Genocide really got going after Mahinda Rajapaksa became President (November 2005), and his brother, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, an American citizen, a former Army officer who had left for greener pastures in the USA, brought back to work for his brother’s election campaign and the appointed his Defense Secretary. Politicians and their lackeys, cannot commit mass murder. This can be done only by the Armed Forces. What was now needed, was an Army Officer with the same mind-set. Sarath Fonseka fitted the bill perfectly (see below for the Fonseka mind-set). Moving aside the existing Head of the Armed Forces, and leap-froging several others who were next in line, Rajapaksa appointed Fonseka as the Head of the Armed Forces. He was given whatever fire-power he wanted, be they KFir jets, or multi-barrel rocket launchers, or helicopter gunships, ‘to do the job’, and absolute impunity to do as he pleased, with no questions asked, and with no accountability. The stage was set for the slaughter. The United Nations was warned, by no less a person as their own staff in Colombo. Gordon Weiss, UN spokesman Colombo, told Reuters on 11 May 2009, “We’ve been consistently warning against a bloodbath, and the large-scale killing of civilians, including the death of over 100 children, over the weekend shows that the bloodbath scenario has become a reality.” What did the UN do? That which it is expert at doing – nothing. Genocide cannot be committed with ‘troublesome’ witnesses. So, on the 12th September, 2008, the Rajapaksa-Fonseka cabal ordered all aid agencies (including UN agencies) to leave the ‘war zone’. 13 aid groups that were providing emergency food aid, clean water, sanitation and medial aid, to 200,000 people living in refugee camps and under trees, were ordered to leave, and they left! Amnesty International held the Sri Lankan government responsible for any consequences that might follow. In a statement “Sri Lanka’s Government must act now to protect 300,000 displaced persons”, released on 19 November 2008, Amnesty International USA, stated in the clearest possible terms: “In September (2008), the Sri Lankan Government ordered the United Nations (UN) and non-governmental aid workers to leave the region. The Government then assumed total responsibility for ensuring the needs of the civilian population affected by the hostilities are met” . The claim by the GoSL that it was only targetting Tamil Tigers ‘hiding’ among civilians, is in violation of the Geneva Convention. The 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Convention, signed and ratified by GoSL, clearly states: “The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character” (Article 50). Even of there were Tamil Tigers ‘hiding’ among the civilians, it is a violation of the Geneva Convention to bomb and kill civilians (which was done in a big way). The GoSL and its Armed Forces could not care less about the violation of any Convention, including Sri Lanka’s own Constitution and Laws. Inveterate pathological Liars Some of the disturbing characteristics of Sri Lankan politicians, in particular Heads of State, and their cronies, is that they are inveterate liars, abysmally ignorant, think the rest of the world are fools, could not care less about international public opinion (and even less about public opinion in Sri Lanka), and that International Conventions (and even the Laws and Constitution of Sri Lanka), are there to be violated. There is no reason to believe that this will change, whichever one of the two leading candidates are elected to power, indeed it might get worse, as Sri Lanka slides into a Totalitarian or Military State. The lies that emanate from those in authority in Sri Lanka are so blatant, without even a minimal effort to make them believable. The two consequences of this is that not a word that is uttered by the ‘leaders’ or potential ‘leaders’ should be believed. Promises made are there to be broken, a point that must not be forgotten in election campaigns. A good example is the promise to end the Executive Presidency and return political power to Parliament. This was promised by both Mahinda Rajapaksa and his predecessor, Chandrika Kumaratunga. Once in power, they exploited it to the full. The same will probably be true of Fonseka’s promise to abolish the Executive Presidency within six months and to “strengthen the parliament”. Only a fool who will take Fonseka at his word. If he does do what he promises to do, it will only occur because he is simply unable to run the country (see below). The other serious consequence is that with the international media banned from the country, and the local media heavily censored, the only information available to the outside world is from these globe-trotting inveterate liars. For example, Rajapakse’s predecessor, the gaffe-prone President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, interviewed in November 2001 on the BBC Hard Talk by Tim Sebastian, claimed that the US State Department’s 2001 Report on human rights was a lie. Sebastian, “Why would they lie? Kumaratunga, “Well, there are all sorts of people who want to lie”. She then went on to make the hilarious claim that only one Tamil girl had been raped in Jaffna. It would have been important to get the name of this unfortunate girl so that the hundreds of mothers of Tamil girls who have been raped, could be reassured that it was only a ‘pretence-rape’, and if they got pregnant, it was a ‘pseudo-pregnancy’. The Rajapaksa regime is worse. His Defence spokesman claimed that not a single Tamil civilian was killed in the North and East by the Armed Forces – “it was all done by the Tigers”. As for their abysmal ignorance, here is an example, again from the previous President who was interviewed by Zain Verjee of CNN in November 2001. Verjee, cited the Human Rights Watch Report of 2001 which criticized her government for the way it treated Tamil civilians in the north and the east (discrimination, restriction of freedom of movement, arbitrary arrests, abuse at the hands of government, army and police, and imposing forced labour). Kumaratunga, “Lot of it is lies. What is that report? By whom is it written?” Verjee, “It was written by Human Rights Watch. It’s the 2001 Country Report for Sri Lanka”. President Kumaratunga, “The Human Rights Watch, what is that?” Rajapaksa is not gaffe-prone, if only because he rarely speaks – he leaves that to his brother, Gotabhaya, and the cronies he has hand-picked to speak, both in Sri Lanka, and abroad. His recently appointed Ambassador to the United Nations can only be described as an embarrassment. In a recent interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which I recorded and replayed many times, I was unable to find a single sentence (in the half-hour interview) that was actually true. So, all of the numerous AI Reports, and an increasing number of Human Rights Watch Reports, critical of the violation of human rights by the GoSL, are like pouring water on a duck’s back. It was ‘true to form’ that the Amnesty warning was ignored and the slaughter, and gross violation of human rights, proceeded full steam ahead. All of this has been recorded by me on a series of dvds which will be produced when the prosecutions start, which they sure will, especially after the recent Permanent People’s Tribunal findings. War crimes A massive Military Force of 175,000 (larger than the British Armey or the combined Armed Forces of Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines) were given free reign, to do as it want, with no accountability and no questions asked. Every known weapon, except atom bombs, has been unleashed on the Tamil civilian population. They have included bombers, JFir jets, multi-barrel rocket launchers, helicopter gunships, and war ships. The ammunition used has included cluster bombs, white phosphorus bombs, fire bombs and bunker-buster bombs (all of them banned internationally). Nothing has been spared. Schools, hospitals, churches (with hundreds inside) Hindu kovils (temples), markets, homes, businesses, it was all ‘fair game’ as long as it was Tamil. The A 9 Highway to Jaffna, the only land access from the South, was blocked by the Army on 11.8.06. Half a million Tamil civilians in Jaffna, 150,000 of them children, faced starvation. Food has been used as a weapon, violating the Geneva Convention, signed by Sri Lanka. Article 55 and 56 Fourth Geneva Convention: “an occupying power [the Sri Lankan Army], has the duty of ensuring adequate food and medical supplies in the area under occupation [the North and later the East].” Since Rajapakse and Fonseka got into power (November 2005), there have been scores of massacres of Tamil, men, women, and children, the largest number of massacres in Sri Lanka’s history. All of them have been unarmed civilians who have never carried a weapon in their lives. Tamil aid workers, working for the French NGO, Action against Hunger were lined up and executed. Ulf Henricsson, Head of the Nordic Monitoring Mission stated, “this is one of the most serious crimes against humanitarian aid workers worldwide”. Some 20,000 Tamils were slaughtered by Fonseka’s troops in the first five months of 2009. 280,000 Tamils (men, women and children), who escaped the slaughter were imprisoned behind razor-wire fenced camps, 40 of them, guarded the Army, and held there without charge or trial, with no access to their friends, relatives or humanitarian workers, in open violation of the UN Human Rights Convention, International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the Rights of the Child, the UN Refugee Convention, and Sri Lanka’s own Constitution and Laws. President Rajapakse and his cronies, in particular his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse, and Sarath Fonseka, the Army Commander and his undisciplined troops, must be held responsible. To list out all the war crimes committed by Mahinda Rajapaksa (and his brother, Gotabhaya, Defence Secretary), and Sarath Fonseka, (and the Tamil Tigers – who, incidentally, are not Presidential candidates and therefore irrelevant where the current discussion is concerned), will make this article too long. These atrocities (and more) have been recorded by me in a half a dozen dvds, which are available with me and which will be presented as evidence when these criminals are charged. It is important to set out the mindset of the two main candidates. Mahinda Rajapaksa (and his brother Gotabhaya). Mahinda Rajapakse’s mindset is clear – to make Sri Lanka into a Sinhala-Buddhist nation. There is no ‘hidden agenda’. Speaking in Kandy on February 10, 2009, prior to the provincial council elections, Rajapakse indicated his intentions: “We said that this election was not just an election, but an election to strengthen our war heroes. Some people in our own country worked to set traps to block the path of the war heroes. That’s why we say that our victory in north-western and central provincial council elections will strengthen us.” Rajapakse has not changed, nor will he. His current offer to the Tamils whom he refers to “as my Tamil people” (whom he murdered and put those who escaped in concentration camps), is a lie. His ‘offer’ to the Tamils is an exercise in extreme political fraud. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, is his able ‘assistant’. This US citizen and former army officer, is the most feared thug in Sri Lanka. His contempt for the law, national and international, is not even thinly veiled. He gives the orders, which are carried out without question, however illegal they may be. They are simply too numerous to recount here. This man who ran a 7-11 store in Los Angeles, is as arrogant as they come, and will continue unchanged if his brother is re-elected. He is the man who issued the orders that civilian hospitals are legitimate targets to be bombed. Here is his interview with the BBC that has been recorded in some of my dvds. You can see and hear him. The BBC Reporter, introduced the problem with Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) sitting in front of her. “With casualties mounting on both sides, an aid agency told us that a hospital packed with wounded was repeatedly shelled killing some patients and injuring many more. The Defence Secretary told us right now everything is a legitimate target if it is not in the ‘safe zone’ the government has created. The only hospital is outside that zone”. GR: “Nothing should exist beyond the no-fire zone. How can you…” The BBC Reporter interjected: “Even if this hospital is operating, it is a legitimate target?” GR: “Yes. No hospital should operate. That is why we have clearly given these no-fire zones”. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa clearly does not understand the Geneva Conventions 1st Geneva Convention: “Fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical Service may in no circumstances be attacked, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict,” 4th Geneva Convention, Article 18: “Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict”. Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is a signatory to the First, Second and Third Geneva Conventions and it ratified the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, by accession to it, on 23.02.1959. The murder of thousands of unarmed Tamil civilians, men, women and children, injury to many thousands more, preventing medical and humanitarian assistance from reaching the area (in violation of International Conventions), using food as a weapon of war (regarded as Genocide in International Law), the execution of combatants who had surrendered who are Hors de Combat (one of the most serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law), the forced removal of hundreds of Tamil civilians from Colombo in the Sinhalese South (in Violation of Sri Lanka’s Constitution), and much more, was done by this dreadful man, Gotabhaya Rajapakse. That said, Mahinda Rajapaksa is responsible. He is the Executive President, the Minister of Defence, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Parliament has been sidelined and reduced to a rubber stamp. The decisions are made in the Presidential President and his Secretariat. He is responsible, the buck stops with him. His Defence Secretary can issue whatever orders he wants, but the responsibility and accountability rests with the President. Those who are in the ‘Government loop’ are also responsible. They consist of the Presidential Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (a US citizen), Parliamentarian and Special Advisor to the President, Basil Rajapaksa, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohone (an Australian citizen), and Keheliya Rambukwella, the Foreign Employment Promotion Minister and Defence Spokesman, for whom the truth is a dispensable commodity. Indeed it is for all of them. Incidentally, it was Rambukwella who in a press briefing in Colombo on 28 January 2009, said that he and the President “were aware of the murderers (of Lasantha Wickrematunga, Editor-in-Chief of the widely read Sunday Leader newspaper)”. A vote for Mahinda Rajapaksa is a vote for a continuation of these dreadful people. His re-election will be a disaster for Sri Lanka. Fraud by the Rajapakse regime The Rajapakse ‘Government’ if one of the most fraudulent governments that Sri Lanka has ever had. That is saying a lot when the other contender for this position is the previous government under my cousin Chandrika Kumaratunga, whose fraudulent dealings (some of them) have recently been published. I did, in fact, draw attention to this before Rajapakse was elected as President in 2005. In the article already cited (Ref 5), written on 31 October 2005, some three weeks before the Presidential Election, I wrote, “If the Sinhala people want crooks who have had their hand in the Tsunami till, as their President, that is their problem”. The reference was to the fact that Mahinda Rajapakse, then the Prime Minister, had deposited (or was involved in the deposition of) some US$ 830,000 into a private fund, the “Helping Hambantota” fund, controlled by him, to allegedly help victims of the Tsunami in Hambantota – Rajapakse’s home town and electorate. Mahinda Rajapakse and his brothers have used the State machinery as never before, to empower themselves economically, amassing vast sums amounts of wealth, using the Tamil struggle as a guise. Sensing defeat, Rajapakse, who is not only the Executive President but the Minister of Finance, has opened the flood-gates so that massive amounts of money could be shipped out by him, his family and his cronies. I do not know about Fonseka’s honesty, but I gather he is reasonably honest. That might, of course, change, as it did with others who have held this position. The election as President seems to be a license, not only to rule the country, but to plunder the wealth of the country as much as is possible. That, President Rajapakse has certainly done. If Fonseka is an exception, that will be a huge plus. Sarath Fonseka He was the Head of the Armed Forces. He is responsible for all the atrocities committed by the Armed Forces. There I no getting away from that. Those in his loop, also responsible for crimes against humanity, are the following – note their names – it might be important later when war crimes are investigated. Commander, 57th Division, Jagath Dias, (now Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner in Germany, appointed presumably to give him protection under diplomatic immunity, since he has no diplomatic experience. Commander, 59th Division, Prasanna Silva Commander, 58th Division, Shavendra Silva who might be able ‘to shed some light on the execution of 3 LTTE leaders who had surrendered and were asked to lay down their weapon, carry a white flag and advance, but were executed in violation of Hors de Combat, a serious war crime. Commander, 53rd Division, Kamal Guneratne Leader, Task Force 8, Ravipriya Commander of the Special Forces regiment, Athula Kodipilli Leader of the Special Forces battalion 1-SF, Mahinda Ranasinghe Leader of the Special Forces battalion 2-SF, Vipulathilhilake Ihalagoda Leader of the ‘Golf Squad’, Chaminda Gunesekera Leader of the ‘Romeo Squad’, Kavinda Abeywardene Leader of the ‘Echo Squad’, Kosala Wijekone Leader of the ‘Delta Sqad’ Lasanka Ratnesekera I have no idea whether they are now friends or foes of their former boss, Sarath Fonseka, nor do I care. They were in his ‘loop’ and have a case to answer, as has their former boss (even more so), Sarath Fonseka. If he wins the Presidency, then the ‘friends’ can expect diplomatic positions, whether they have the necessary diplomatic experience or not. Sarath Fonseka’s mindset Whatever Fonseka says about settling to problems faced by the Tamils to get the critical votes of the Tamils in the North and East, his mindset has been clearly set out in his interview with Stewart Bell, National Post newspaper in Canada, 23rd September 2008: “I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities …We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country… They (the minorities) can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.” Let us look at this magnificent act of generosity: “this country belongs to the Sinhalese”. That is fine. Both Presidential candidates agree. “there are minority communities” – for sure there are. To put this more accurately, there are other communities less numerous than the Sinhalese. “We being the majority, 75%, will never give in”. ‘Give in to whom? The Tamils? “we have a right to protect this country”. Protect the country from whom? The Tamils? But the Tamils are citizens of the country and one cannot protect the country from its own citizens – unless, of course, the Tamils are not citizens of Sri Lanka. “They (the minorities) can live in this country with us”. Thanks, General, for giving permission, but this is not necessary, since they were born there and have a right to be there. “under the pretext of being a minority”. No, General, they do not need to pretend, they are a ‘minority’. “Demand undue things”. What would these ‘undue things’ be? Not to be raped, brutalized, killed, have their homes destroyed and their schools, with their children inside, bombed and shelled, and to have their hospitals destroyed? Or to live with equality, dignity and safety in the country of their birth? Is that what you meant? If these are “undue things’, then you are notfit to be their President. Sarath Fonseka, on his own admission, is one of the most anti-Tamil Sinhala chauvinists, despite his current pretence. And, would you believe it, the Tamil politicians have decided to back him! Fonseka the military dictator Fonseka says he is a democrat. He must have had difficulty in getting this word out. What he will be, if elected, is a military dictator, running a military State. He was a prominent figure of the ruling politico-military cabal that rode roughshod over basic democratic rights, flouted the Constitution and ignored parliament. He is now trying to portray himself as a democrat, who was a victim of the President whom he now calls a “tin-pot dictator”. This is absurd. During the mass murder of Tamils in the North and East, Fonseka backed Rajapaksa to the hilt, and played an increasingly aggressive political role, openly denouncing the media for “undermining the war effort”. The differences only emerged, not over the conduct of the criminal war, but over Rajapakse’s determination to take all the ‘credit ‘ for the ‘victory’. Rajapaksa calculated that he could win the Presidential election by posing as a ‘war hero’. Shedding his military uniform, and clad in a white cloth and a long-sleeved (the typical dress of a Sinhalese politician), he chose the lavish Hilton condominium to announce that he was standing against the President as the “common candidate” of the Opposition parties, but said he had yet to decide under which political party to file his nomination. Not being a member of any political party, he is not subject to any policies or discipline. His real power base is the military, the officers in particular. With a deepening economic and political crisis, his only answer will be military repression. For all his claims to oppose the present “dictator” (Rajapaksa), Fonseka’s message is that he was a strong man, the sort of person needed to implement tough “law and order” policies that Rajapaksa failed to implement. As Head of the military, he collaborated in Rajapakse’s “war on the underworld” that resulted in the extra-judicial killings of a number of alleged criminals by the police and “security forces” Fonseka certainly has the required ruthlessness required to run a military dictatorship. What Sri Lanka needs is not ‘strong men’ but strong institutions. Fonseka and Rajapakse, will make sure that strong institutions do not develop. Fonseka’s capitalist agenda Fonseka is a capitalist, about to move nearer the US (of which he is a ‘Green Card’ holder), and away from China (which Rajapakse embraced). This makes him an ideal candidate for the ruling bourgeoisie elite (be they Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims), to ram through austerity measures and suppress any opposition, with or without the support of parliament. This is what the IMF wants, and for this there can be no more reliable a person than Sarath Fonseka. In the global economic crisis, Sri Lanka is in a far worse position because of massive military spending. In June 2009, the Rajapaksa government was compelled to go cap in hand to the IMF for a $2.6 billion loan to avert a foreign exchange crisis. No IMF loan comes without stringent conditions, and these include further privatization and cutbacks to public spending which, in a setting of rising unemployment and falling living standards ( the inflation rate got up as high of 28%, the highest in Asia), will result in mass protests and strikes. Big business and the capitalist elite no longer believe that the fragile Rajapakse government is capable of imposing these austerity measures and are backing Fonseka, the strongman, to carry them out. Workers, the poor and those at the bottom of the economic ladder (and even this in the middle of the ladder) are in for a tough time if Fonseka gets in. Military repression will be as certain as day follows night, so that all protests can be crushed. This is why the massive military machine, which despite the ‘end of the war’, is growing. The American Capitalist agenda, and its backing for Fonseka In a series of dvds, I have said that there are two ‘wars’ in Sri Lanka – one, a Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist ‘war’ waged by the Sinhalese Government on the Tamil people to force them to accept Sri Lanka as a Sinhala-Buddhist country. The second is a much bigger (and far less recognized ‘war’ among capitalist countries, the US, China, and India (among others), for the control of the economically crucial Indian Ocean, for which a foothold in Sri Lanka, astride the Indian Ocean, is crucial. There is now documented evidence of this. The US Foreign Relations Committee, headed by John Kerry, issued a 14-page Report in mid-December 2009. It calls for a ‘policy shift’ to safeguard and further the strategic American interests in the region. It says, "While humanitarian concerns remain important, US policy towards Sri lanka cannot be dominated by a single agenda. It is not effective at delivering real reform, and it shortchanges US geopolitical interests in the region. But Sri Lanka is too important to be isolated from the West. Sri Lanka is located at the nexus of crucial maritime trading routes in the Indian Ocean connecting Europe and the Middle East to China and the rest of Asia….” There can be no better person to deliver this “real reform” and move the country back to the capitalist West, than the US ‘Green Card’ holder, Sarath Fonseka. He was, in fact, recruited by the USA in October 2009, to get evidence from him to pin another US citizen, Gotabhaya Rajapakse. On October 21, 2009 the State Department gave the Congressional Appropriations Committee a document titled ‘Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka’. The 68-page State Department report lists 170 alleged incidents and acknowledges that it does not provide, nor is it intended to be, a comprehensive portrayal of the conflict ie there could be more to come! On October 28, 2009, on the basis of the State Department report, the U.S. authorities summoned Sri Lanka’s then Chief of Defence Staff, Sarath Fonseka , for questioning on November 4. General Fonseka, who led the war against the LTTE as the Army chief, is a U.S. Green Card holder and was on a private visit, using his diplomatic passport, to see his daughters in the State of Oklahoma. The general was told by the Attorney that his statement during the scheduled November 8 interview could be used as possible evidence against Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa over charges of excesses by the security forces and the LTTE during the 34-month war. Washington dropped the idea after Colombo took serious exception and let the General return to the island without being questioned. Fonseka’s ‘promises’ Sri Lanka’s political history is littered with pre-election promises, none of which are kept when those who make these promises are elected to power. They are not held accountable by a weak and frightened civic society. This is not about to change. However, they are worth noting, “just for interest”. Fonseka promises: 1. To be a democrat. For an Army General who has been as ruthless as he has been to suddenly become a democrat, is unlikely. 2. To abolish the Executive Presidency within six months and to “strengthen the parliament” – a promise made by his predecessors, and not kept. If he does abolish the Executive Presidency and return power to parliament, it will only be that he simply cannot run the country. His fall-back position will then be to become a demi-God (or God himself), and allow Ranil Wickremasinghe (UNP) to be the Prime Minister and run the country, provided he implements his (Fonseka’s) ‘vision’, which he openly stated in the Canadian interview (see above). 3 To end nepotism (meaning the Rajapakse clan). This he almost certainly will do, and will be his greatest service to Sri Lanka. Whether this will be replaced by a different clan (even a ‘military clan’) is a possibility. 4 He fully appreciates the vital importance of the Tamil vote, and has made a series of promises to the Tamil party (the TNA) and the Tamil people (in Jaffna). He has promised the gullible TNA leader a 10-point plan program of reconciliation, demiitarisation, and ‘normalisation’ of the Tamil North. With his tract record, this is unlikely, to put it mildly. (Matching lie for lie, Rajapakse has promised to resettle displaced civilians in the High security Zone – which he will certainly not do) He as promised the TNA that he will merge the North and East as a single entity, in other words, implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (which he is most unlikely to do). That he would clear the so-called High Security Zone from the Tamil areas, and release all LTTE suspects held in jails (neither of which he is likely to do). He has promised to do all this within a month after he is elected. (As a skeptic, not without reason, I think this most unlikely, but will be delighted if I am proved wrong). Visiting Jaffna, he said that he will renovate the Kankesanthurai port and make the Palaly Air Force base, an international airport. Interestingly, he did not mention how these would be achieved. The Ethnic problem Fonseka says that he is for a “political solution”. This, coming from someone who has slaughtered thousands of Tamils, is a bit rich, to put it mildly. He says that his “political solution” might go beyond the limited provisions for provincial autonomy contained in the constitution’s 13th Amendment. Only a fool will believe this. My own ‘vision’ is that the Tamils are in for a tough time, Fonseka’s promise of a “political solution” not withstanding. What of the rest? United National Party (UNP) The UNP is a write off. They could not even find a candidate for the Presidency. All they could do was to adopt a non-party man, Fonseka. This reflects their political bankruptcy and falling support. Lacking any difference with the governing party, the rival Opposition party decided to support an alternative “war hero” to challenge Rajapaksa. Much is made of the fact that the UNP under Ranil Wickremasinghe signed a Peace Pact with the Tamil Tigers (or, to give it its proper name, “Declaration of Cessation of Hostilities”, signed by the GOSL and the LTTE ) on 23 February 2002. As I wrote in my article “The Peace cannot be abandoned” (still on the net), “After half a dozen non-productive Peace Talks and no visible peace-dividend for the Tamil people in the North and East, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have declined to take part in any further talks “for the time being”. The specific accusation was of “…the government’s refusal to implement the normalization aspects of the Ceasefire Agreement and subsequent agreements reached at talks…” With hypocrisy reaching unprecedented heights, the UNP now insists that the ceasefire it signed with the LTTE in 2002 was nothing but a clever ruse to enable the army to prepare for renewed war. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe sought to prove his patriotic ardour in a recent statement that “saluted the armed forces for its military victories” and paid tribute to the government “for overseeing the conduct of these military operations.” The UNP are some of the biggest rogues in politics in Sri Lanka – they have been so from Day 1 (1948). Nothing has changed, nor will change. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Jathika hela Urumaya (JHU) The JVP are self-styled ‘Marxists’ who have long-since abandoned Marxism and adopted the politically much more rewarding Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-religious chauvinism. Running around with a red cap with a hammer and sickle emblem, does not make them Marxists. They are a dreadful bunch of extreme Sinhalese chauvinists who campaigned against the 2002 ceasefire, and now claims credit for pressing Rajapakse to restart the war against the Tamils. The JVP also bears responsibility for sabotaging the efforts of workers to fight to defend their pay and conditions. In strike after strike, JVP leaders caved in as soon as the government accused workers of undermining the war effort. Aware of growing anger over falling living standards, the JVP has begun a populist campaign, vigorously denouncing the government for corruption and wastage – as if removing a few ministers and ending kickbacks will solve the immense economic problems created by the global crisis of capitalism and a 35 year war between a succession of Sinhalese governments and the Tamil people. Anyone voting for the JVP, needs to have their head examined. The JHU are the party of the politically active Buddhist ‘monks’, who are, in reality, political thugs in yellow robes. They are the curse of Sri Lankan politics. With some 20,000 Buddhist monks (mercifully not all of them politically active), they will obstruct, sabotage and attempt to destroy any meaningful political solution to the problems faced by the Tamils. They have done this since 1956, and are not about to change. They are anti-Tamil ethno-religious bigots. To expect them to change is totally unrealistic. They support Fonseka and if he wins, he will be expected to implement their extremist agenda. The Left The Left consists of what I call ‘Left jokers’ and the ‘genuine Left. The former are parties like the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which played a crucial role in opposing capitalist politics and advocating genuine power-sharing with the Tamils. However, with LSSP giants such as Dr Colvin R de Silva and N.M. Perera, crossing over to the blatantly racist Sri Lanka Freedom Party(SLFP) under Sirima Bandaranaike, for ministerial rewards, they showed their political opportunism. I gather that they are fielding a candidate, best ignored. The ‘genuine Left’ consists of three parties: 1.The Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) led by Dr Vickemabahu Karunaratne 2.The United Socialist Party (USP) led by Sriritunga Jayasuriya 3. The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) led by Wije Dias All of them are Presidential candidates. They all belong to Trotskyite political parties, the differences being ideological. This is not the place to go into these differences. All of them are Sinhalese, but they have all supported the Tamil struggle for justice, perhaps with more determination, courage, and resolve than all the Tamil parties and Tamil politicians put together. This is why I, a Sinhalese, have supported them from Day 1. My maternal uncle was a founder-member of the LSSP, and one of the most sincere politicians I have ever met in any country. Karunaratne (Bahu) has been the most vocal. A brilliant man (1st class honours in electrical engineering, doctorate from Cambridge University), he joined the LSSP in 1962 and was later expelled. He (and other ex-LSSPers) formed the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) (New Social Equality Party). He has addressed scores of political meetings and written numerous articles supporting the Tamil struggle. Siritunga Jayasuriya is a trade unionist, formerly of the LSSP, then the NLSSP, and now the leader of the USP. In early 2007, he was nearly killed when 300 armed Sinhalese thugs stormed a rally against the Sri Lankan government’s anti-Tamil war. In the last Presidential Election (November 2005) he got 35,405 (0.35%) votes coming 3rd of 13 candidates (behind Mahinda Rajapakse and Ranil Wickremasinghe)! He clearly has support among the Sinhalese rural people, an important point. Wije Dias, the leader of the SEP is one of the most sincere politicians in Sri Lanka. He took over the SEP in 1987. He has consistently opposed the Sri Lankan government’s war against the Tamil people, describing it like it is, “racism, capitalism, imperialism, and terrorism”. There has been no better description. The numerous writings of Wije Dias and his co-workers in the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) are always worth reading. In the Provincial Council Elections (February 2009) the SEP candidates called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Sri Lankan security forces from the (Tamil) North and East. The political program of the SEP calls for a “Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and (Tamil) Eelam”, as part of a “Union of Socialist Republics of South Asia”. They insist that the democratic rights of the Tamil people can only be delivered by a united struggle of the Sinhalese and Tamil workers for genuine social equality. I have strongly supported this stance. Wije Dias contested the last Presidential Election (2005), getting just 3,500 votes (0.04%), coming 11th of 13 candidates. In a country that cannot comprehend the importance of a genuine socialist program to address the (many) problems faced by the poor and the disadvantaged (Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims), cutting across ethnic boundaries makes no sense. This is reflected in Dias’ ‘poor’ showing at the last Election. It was with tremendous satisfaction that I saw a photograph of Wije Dias addressing the Tea Plantation Tamils, the most neglected and disadvantaged people in Sri Lanka, despite the fact that it is their slave labour that has put Sri Lanka on the map, and has enabled the Sinhalese (Tamils and Muslims) in Colombo to live their 5-star life. The Sri Lankan Tamils could not care less about these ‘forgotten people of Sri Lanka’. The Plantation Tamils will line up like sheep behind their dreadful ‘leaders’ to vote as instructed (for Fonseka or Rajapakse) – something that has happened since Independence in 1948. We now move to the Tamil party, the self-styled ‘leaders’ of the Sri Lankan Tamil people. The Tamil party (TNA – Tamil National Alliance) After what the Tamils have been through in the past four years at the hands of a murderous politico-military Sinhala chauvinist cabal, I would have thought that the TNA would simply refuse to get into bed with either of the two mass murderers. Amazingly, that is not the case. The majority of the TNA are supporting Fonseka, and the minority, Rajapakse. As a Sinhalese, I find this decision by the Tamil politicians, unbelievable. Let me be clear. The criminal assault on the Tamil people was restarted and intensified by Mahinda Rajapakse and his government after their election in November 2005, and ruthlessly prosecuted by Sarath Fonseka and his bunch of murderers in the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, violating every International Convention on the conduct of a war, and Sri Lanka’s own constitution and Laws. ‘Victory’ (if you can call mass murder of civilians a ‘victory’), was ‘delivered’ by on 18 May 2009. Here is a Tamil party, the most important Tamil political party in Sri Lanka, supporting these two dreadful people, who have just slaughtered thousands of Tamils, and put another 280,000 who escaped the slaughter, into concentration camps in the North and East, and held them there without charge or trial. Their support for Fonseka or Rajapakse) is a damning indictment of their own politics, the politics of political opportunism or of political bankruptcy. One way or the other, it is a dreadful thing to do to the Tamil people whom they are supposed to represent. For more than three decades, the TNA has been the mouthpiece of the LTTE. The LTTE has treated them with absolute contempt they fully deserved. With the demise of the LTTE, the TNA is looking for another ‘master’. They seem to have picked Sarath Fonseka (and Rajapakse). In a two-page statement, TNA’s impotent leader, R. Sambandan, after a discussion with Fonseka, decided to support him, after Fonseka pledged (as I have said), a 10-point program of reconciliation, demilitarisation, and ‘normalisation’ of the Tamil North. I find it incredible that someone with Sambanthan’s political experience should accept this ‘pledge’. He has learnt nothing from history. It has been rightly said that those who do not know history, are destined to repeat it. However, Sambandan must know the history of the Tamil struggle, unless he is getting senile. It is more likely that it is an attempt to get into bed with the dreadful ruling clan which the Tamil MPs have done with monotonous regularity, and which compelled their youths to pick up arms in 1972. Sambandan attempted to justify the unjustifiable, ie the decision to support Fonseka. He described as “matters of immediate concern” to the Tamil people, the need for “a durable political solution”. In real life this meant crawling under the table of the Sinhala masters in Colombo to pick up whatever crumbs are thrown at them. It is very significant that there was not even a mention of the pressing needs of the Tamils, whose lives had been destroyed by a 26 year series of massacres, or the fundamental problem of discrimination of the Tamils and the neglect of the area they live in (the North and East), compensation for the innocents whose lives and livelihood had been shattered, and the continuing military occupation of the Tamil areas by the Sinhala Armed Forces. With mind-boggling hypocrisy, he claimed that Fonseka “understands the ground situation” (or what is left of it), and that he has “acknowledged the need for a political solution to restore normalcy and permanent peace in the country”. He tried to paint Fonseka as the “lesser evil”. The TNA and its leader really must do some home-work, and at least look at my dvds which has the Fonseka interview to Stewart Bell in the Toronto Star where he sets out his mind-set which I have referred to earlier. If the Tamils elect ‘leaders’ like that, they will get what they deserve, (as they have since Independence in 1948). Perhaps the more able leaders such as Joseph Pararajasingham and Nadaraja Raviraj, both TNA MPs, have been ‘taken out’ by the Rajapakse-Fonseka cabal. Jaffna MP Gajendran, a supporter of he LTTE, has just been ‘advised’ to leave the country, or join Pararajasingham. The ‘advise’ came from the “Tamil Protection Alliance to save the county”, which operates under the direction of the Sri Lankan Army Intelligence Unit and Tamil para-military political thugs, who have issued death threats to the media and even the Universities in Jaffna. With the blessings of the TNA, Fonseka visited Jaffna. He paid homage at the famous Nallur temple which I visited 65 years ago. In conformity with the traditions at the Temple he had to stand bare bodied. This was just great since the people were able to see the scars of the wounds he sustained when an LTTE suicide bomber managed to infiltrate the Army Headquarters in Colombo and detonated a bomb on his heavily armoured car. The public were now able to see what a true patriot he was, and what risks he was prepared to run for his country! Whom should the Tamils vote for? That, I guess, is a problem for them. I have set out the dangers of voting for one of two mass murderers who will make their life even more miserable than it is. Will the Tamil vote make any difference? Of course it will. With the Sinhala polity spit down the middle, the votes of some 2.5 million Tamils will have, (or can have), a huge impact. It will have no impact if they vote for jokers in the TNA, they might as well vote for one of the murderers. Will it make a difference if they vote en bloc for the Sinhala Left, genuinely concerned people, such a Wije Dias? Of course it will. Will that happen? There is no way that it will. The Sri Lankan Tamils (or what is let of them) are about as confused as they have been for years. They cannot think ‘outside the box’ of voting for impotent and patently incompetent Tamil ‘leaders’ – a problem they have had for 60 years. This is not about to change. It will be ‘business as usual’ for the Sinhalese ‘leaders’ – treating the Tamils as is done in a different trade – use when they are needed, and discard them after the need is over. For the Tamils and their so-called ‘leaders’, I will repeat what Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. With the certainty that the Tamils will make an insane choice, voting for Fonseka or Rajapakse (it matters not which one), the only parting message I can give is that they should hold the TNA responsible to see that the promises are kept (which, of course, they will not be). The TNA will have to be pressured and pressured, till they go mad or quit, leaving the necessary space for younger and (hopefully) saner leaders to take over and deliver to the Tamils the Peace and Justice that has been denied to them by a succession of no-hopers. Looking beyond the inconsequential Presidential Election, the Tamil struggle for Peace with Justice will have to be re-started. To embark, or rather, re-embark on another armed struggle is an exercise in futility. Even the threat of doing so will only enable the likes of Rajapakse and Fonseka, to justify the need to expand the repressive military even more. It is never going to be possible for the Tamils to militarily defeat the Sinhala government. To think that they can is to be totally ignorant of the geopolitics of the International players, China, the US, Europe and India, for the control of the economically crucial Indian Ocean, something that was beyond the comprehension of the Tamil Tigers. Violence is a dead end, as the LTTE have realized at tremendous cost, both to them and the Tamil people, and Rajapakse and Fonseka will realize in the not too distant future when reality dawns. The Tamil struggle for justice will have to be won, not with weapons but with the ‘weapon’ of a total boycott and the isolation if this dreadful regime. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. I am only drawing attention to what history has taught us from South Africa to the Philippines, from Europe to Indonesia. It takes neither courage or power to shoot rockets at children in an orphanage, or blow up old women in a bus. That is not how moral authority is gained, that is how it is surrendered. Last year I went to Cape Town to meet that battler of battlers, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who should know what he is talking about. He has lived though all this. I realized that the only two things that dismantled the dreadful Apartheid regime was the trade sanctions and stopping playing cricket. What the Tamils need are not strong men but strong institutions and a realistic strategy that has been proved to work. These the Sinhala government will block with every power at its disposal. The Tamils cannot give in and slide under the Sinhala master’s table yet again. Tamil thinking has to change. They have to realize the importance of the Sinhala working class (reeling under impossible living conditions), and the absolute need to support Sinhalese leaders like Wickremabahu Karunaratne, Siritunga Jayasuriya, and the crucially important Wije Dias. Above all, the Tamils will have to realize the importance of the most potent weapon they have, the million Plantation Tamils on the tea estates. They will have to recruit them for their battle with the Sinhala Government. It can be done, but not by spitting on them. The expatriate Tamils will have to get their act together. They constitute the Tamil NATO (No Action Talk Only). This must change. They will have to leave their capitalist thinking aside, just for once, and lobby crucial groups such as Trade Unions to stop servicing goods passengers and services, in and out of Sri Lanka, as was done with Apartheid South Africa), and keep up this boycott until the violation of human rights in Sri Lanka ends. If this type of ‘fresh thinking’ does not happen, the Tamils in Sri Lanka will be in for a torrid time, to say nothing of the Sinhalese who will have to live under a fascist dictatorship or under military rule. Who will win the Presidential Election? This is irrelevant since it will be by one of two criminals. More relevant is how it will be won. This Election, like others in Sri Lanka’s recent history, will be ‘won’ by intimidation of voters, thuggery, murder, fear, vote-rigging, denial of voting rights on a massive scale (see below), manipulation and intimidation of the media, and on absolute lies masquerading as “election promises” uttered by the two leading contenders. It is important to look at these since the result could be challenged as invalid. Will it be? “No” for sure – there is simply too much fear. The validity of the Election result, whoever wins There are serous concerns about the validity of the result whoever wins. Election violence, murder, and plans for vote rigging are already well under way – and that is before a single vote has been cast. Denial of voting rights to the Tamil people in the North and East The Tamils in the North and East have been effectively disenfranchised. In the Jaffna Peninsular, less than 53% of the total 623,678 polling cards have been delivered to the registered voters. 45% remain undelivered in Jaffna Post Offices. It has claimed that it is not possible to issue the remaining cards as the address of the voters is not available. In the Kilinochchi division, 90% of polling cards lie undelivered in post offices in Kilinochchi and Poonakari, as very few people in the Wanni area (formerly held by the Tamil Tigers), have been resettled in the area. To add to this real problem, a Sri Lankan Government Minister, a Tamil, Douglas Devananda (whose track record in violence is well known), and Chandra de Silva, former Inspector General of Police, a Sinhalese, in a remarkable demonstration of ‘inter ethnic co-operation’, are engaged in activity aimed at rigging votes of people in Kilinochchi district which falls under the Jaffna electoral division. Abuse and intimidation of the Media by the Rajapakse regime Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stated (21.1.10) that 98.5% of news and current affairs on Sri Lankan State-owned TV stations, Rupavahini and ITN, was given to the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapakse. They said, ‘The TV propaganda is deafening, and figures we release today are worthy of Burmese and North Korean regimes”. This violates the Constitution and, above all, its 7th Amendment to the Constitution, Article 10(b), empowering the Election Commissioner to act. Sisira TV, a privately owned station has not resumed its independent style of reporting since it was attacked y gunmen sent by the Rajapakse junta in January 2009. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission forced all mobile phone operators to send SMS messages signed by President Rajapakse to all their clients. Soldiers from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have seen putting up President Rajapakse’s Election posters. The Election Commissioner, an impotent man presiding over a flawed election Despite overwhelming evidence of intimidation, violence, and the abuse of the media in the run-up to the Presidential Election by President Rajapakse and his cronies, Dayanada Dissanayake, the Commissioner of Elections has given up his attempts to enforce the law in terms of his powers under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. He has withdrawn the ‘Competent Authority’(CA), appointed to regulate the State media institutions because of a refusal by these bodies to carry out the directions of the CA. He has publicly stated that he will not be issuing any more directions to the Police because his directions are not being followed. If his Constitutional powers are being flouted, the Commissioner has recourse to file a writ in the Supreme Court, to have his directions enforced, a course of action he has chosen to ignore. He is therefore as guilty as those who flout the Law. The failure/refusal of public officials and others, to follow the directions of the CA is a clear breach of a legal duty imposed by the Constitution. That such officials are able to violate the Constitution and Election Laws illustrates the absolute contempt and disregard with which the Rule of Law is held in Sri Lanka. The very least the Commissioner can do is to declare the Election result null and void, whoever wins, because the Election Laws and the Constitution has been violated. Will he do this? Most unlikely. He is just another frightened man in Sri Lanka, whatever position he holds. Dissanayake has held this position for years and knows fully well what he can, and must, do, but has chosen not to, not for the first time either. Elections in a Totalitarian State – anything but a ‘Democracy’ Is this relevant to the current discussion? It most certainly is, since an Election in a true democracy is very different from an Election where ‘Democracy’ is a mere word. Although there is no definition of ‘democracy’, there are two principles that must be included – equality and freedom. All citizens must be equal before the law having equal access to power, and their freedom must be secured by legitimized rights and liberties, which are generally protected by a Constitution. If that is accepted, then there has never been democracy in Sri Lanka. The ‘weak democracy’ (if you can call it that) which has existed, has been totally dismantled. I have dealt with all this in an exhaustive presentation in London in May 2001, The Abuse of Democracy in Sri Lanka, parts of which are still on the net Sri Lanka styles itself the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. It is neither ‘Democratic’ nor ‘Socialist’. It is a politico-military fascist dictatorship, a totalitarian regime, probably moving to a Police State. Democracy never existed under the British colonial raj. It got worse after Independence (1948) when a million Plantation Tamils, brought by the British to work on their tea estates, were disenfranchised and decitizenized by the first Sri Lankan (the Ceylonese) government in 1948-49, before the ink had dried on the Independence Constitution. This drift away from a democracy has steadily got worse under a succession of Sri Lankan regimes. The horse has kept going in the same direction, only the rider has changed. These are evolving fascist States, even if an Election is sprinkled here and there to give the impression of a democracy and a democratically elected government. One of the fundamental requirements in a Democracy is free and fair elections, where there is press freedom and freedom of individuals to cast their votes without violence being unleashed on them. This has not existed in post-Independence Sri Lanka, and the situation is deteriorating. The Tamil areas have suffered most. In the recent past, in elections in the Tamil homelands – the North and the East, the ruling party has recruited paramilitary groups (often Tamils) to intimidate voters to cast their votes for their support. This is not about to change. Elections are won and lost based on who can do the most amount of vote-rigging, violence, intimidation, effective denial of voting rights by preventing voting cards from reaching the people, and other election malpractices. They are also win on who can come up with the biggest lies. This is not about to change. This is why election results are so meaningless. Centralisation of power has added to this. As Sivamohan Samathy, a Tamil from the Left, observed so correctly, in a recent article, centralised control has been enshrined and fine-tuned in an alarming fashion by the ‘politics of patronage’. This has taken on a dangerously ethnicised form, particularly in the Tamil East, were ethic tensions have been steadily on the rise from the very beginning of the post-colonial State, if not before. As such, the Election results from the East are always suspect. The collapse of Law and Order This is relevant because elections in the setting of a collapse of Law and Order cannot produce a meaningful result. Law and Order has collapsed in Sri Lanka, with hoodlums and thugs (both from the Sinhalese community and even from the other communities) becoming part of governance. This became the ‘norm’ after the election of J.R. Jayawardene (UNP), Sri Lanka’s first dictator who, with his murderous Ministers and Buddhist monks, organized and conducted the 1983 Tamil pogrom in the Sinhalese South. This has steadily got worse, irrespective of the political party in power. This collapse of Law and Order has escalated after Rajapakse got into power. What has been even worse, is that the Rajapakse regime has recruited disaffected members of the LTTE, including a dreadful character, Karuna, who had machine-gunned some 700 Sinhalese Policemen in the East who had surrendered. This man, who was a senior member of the LTTE, was bribed to join the government, to give the Armed Forces the necessary directions as to how the LTTE should be crushed. As a ‘reward’, he was sent to London on a false diplomatic passport, issued on the instructions of Gotabhaya Rajapakse, as the government nominee for a climate conference! The fraud was uncovered by the British Police, Karuna was charged and jailed. Under pressure by the GoSL, he was repatriated to Sri Lanka where he was promptly appointed a Minister in Rajapakse’s government. Amnesty International took a dim view of this. It is this dreadful man and his mate, Pillayan, also an ex-tamil Tiger, who have unleashed terrible violence in the East, and who will determine who votes and who does not. Every government has used the infamous Prevention of Terrorism Act and ‘Emergency Regulations’ to weaken political opposition. To an alarming extent, it is hooligans and thugs who determine who can vote and who cannot. The International Commission of Justice in Sri Lanka has just (January 2010) release a 175 page Report on The Rule of Law, the Criminal Justice System and Commissions of Inquiry put together by an outstanding (Sinhalese) lawyer, Kishali Pinto-Jayawardene. I met her at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and was most impressed by her integrity, honesty, and bravery. The ICJ Report was preceded by an extensive Amnesty International Report, Twenty Years of Make-Believe. Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry released on 5 June 2009. What about India? India is not keen on having a military man as the President of Sri Lanka. It has had enough problems with a similar set-up in Pakistan. Indian support for Rajapakse has been obvious. However, India will cope, especially with someone who will not embrace China the way Rajapakse has done, and which India has tried to undo with (military and other) bribes. What capitalist India needs most is a capitalist as President of Sri Lanka. There is no better candidate for this need than Sarath Fonseka. So, India will take this in its stride. India might even take Rajapakse as a refugee, if he decides to flee the country, which he sure will, if Fonseka wins. To stay at home and face the wrath of his former Army Commander that the latter has recently unleashed in no uncertain manner, is not a pleasing prospect. In Conclusion The impending Presidential Election might not make that much difference to a country on a downhill slide to a Failed State. Unless the current President, Mahinda Rajapakse indulges in massive election fraud, serious intimidation, disappearances of ballot boxes, etc (all of which are possible), (ex)General Sarath Fonseka will probably win the Election and be the next President. Should this happen, there will be a major purge of the Rajapakse clan from positions obtained entirely from rampant nepotism. This will be the greatest contribution Fonseka could make. Whether he can (or will) do what he has said he will do in his list of ‘promises’, remains to be seen. Whether he can run the country, never having had a day in politics, remains to be seen. Running an Armed Force and running a country require an entirely different expertise. Whether he will dismantle the Executive Presidency and make Parliament little more than a rubber stamp, remains to be seen. Who will run head this parliament, will be determined by the Parliamentary Elections, due shortly. The leader of the main political party backing Fonseka, Ranil Wickremasinghe ( UNP) is the presumed choice. Wickremasinghe has already had a crack at this, but it was when President Chandrika Kumaratunga, from the opposing political party (SLFP), was metaphorically sitting on him, determined to prevent him succeeding. Without such an impossible obstacle, he might do better than he did. Sarath Silva, the former Chief Justice, has been mentioned as a possible alternative to Wickremasinghe. Despite a few blemishes, he seems a reasonable man (so are they all before they get into power). Whoever is the man at the helm, he will have his work cut out. There is the massive military machine to maintain (dismantling this is most unlikely), the gaping hole in the budget, largely due to the spending spree on the ‘war’ by the Rajapakse-Fonseka politico-military junta, rampant corruption at all levels, the pressure that will be exerted by international players for their own geopolitical and economic gain, and the continuing drain of Sri Lanka’s most valuable asset, its trained and trainable manpower, who can (justifiably) see no light at the need of the tunnel. As for the Tamil people, and the very real problems they face, the outlook, despite Fonseka’s promises, is poor. As I have said, their MPs are a waste of time. For the Sinhalese people at the bottom of the economic ladder, the outlook is equally poor. The promise of a “Land flowing with milk and honey” now that the ‘war is over’ will not materialize. The poor will continue to get poorer, and the rich will continue to get richer, since much-needed social equality, will not be delivered. Social equality is not even on the horizon. The current leaders and potential leaders, simply do not have this in their mind-set. Those who do, will continue to languish preaching their outstanding gospel to deaf ears. What if Rajapakse wins? That will be ‘good-bye’ to Sri Lanka. We will know tomorrow. Brian Senewiratne is a Consultant Physician living in Brisbane, Australia, and a member of the Socialist Alliance. He is a leading campaigner for the rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

No comments: