Sri Lanka must act against traitors
Posted on June 1st, 2010

George Rupesinghe

Anne Abayasekara, writing in The Island (19 May) posed the question, “Is it necessary to demonise the enemy?” in response to Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s statement that “anyone seeking to undermine Sri Lanka’s sovereignty should be regarded as a traitor… and traitors deserved capital punishment.” Mrs Abayasekara, no doubt, is driven by a strong sense of magnanimity and charity that is, sadly, misplaced in the harsh realities and machinations of the Tamil diaspora challenging Sri Lanka now.

The LTTE military may have been vanquished on the battlefields but its supporters and sympathisers are very much alive and kicking in Sri Lanka and more strongly in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. Many of them, ensconced in their cocoons of Western comfort, blatantly spend a lot of time, energy and money whipping up Western media and other organisations to destabilise, undermine and bring Sri Lanka into disrepute on spurious claims of “abuse of human rights” “genocide” “war crimes” and such. Sinister developments affecting the security and sovereignty of Sri Lanka, such as the formation of a Tamil Transnational Government, cannot be ignored. It is significant that India declared on 17 May that it “is of the opinion that”¦activities of the LTTE continue to pose a threat to and are detrimental to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of India.. therefore, should be declared as an Unlawful Association.”

The defeat of the LTTE does not mean that the climate for extensive civil and democratic liberties can automatically prevail in Sri Lanka. A good example is Singapore and Malaysia just after those countries got Independence. With a long history of Communist insurgents wreaking havoc for years, the authorities had no alternative but to lock up troublemakers and crush dissent. Even in today’s Singapore, dissent or any action potentially damaging to the civil, social and political fabric is ruthlessly stamped down.

When President J. R. Jayewardene described the LTTE as a terrorist organisation and urged US President Ronald Reagan to regard it as such, Reagan apparently did not understand the vicious nature of terrorism despite having a US citizen, rescued from LTTE captivity, at the White House function for the Sri Lankan President. It took 9/11 for the US to wake up to the realities of international terrorism. One of the early actions of the Bush Administration after that event was the enactment of a 500-page plus Patriot Act. This law, hastily rushed through Congress, effectively extinguished the American Bill of Rights and stifled dissent and civil liberties. It also had the unsavoury effect of demonising Muslims and Islam “”…” an attitude that has gathered momentum in the West and extending into debates about Muslim women’s veils and dress and reactions like cries for imposition of Sharia law among Muslims living in the West.

One must bear in mind that the mindset of terrorists, whether it be Prabhakaran or Wijeweera before him, is locked against dialogue, discussion or gentlemen’s agreements. Being ill-equipped to thrive in a democratic environment, they exert power through the barrel of a gun. They interpret every gesture of goodwill or concession as a sign of weakness and use it as a springboard for more outrageous demands and claims. In other words they cannot recognise charity and magnanimity.

Tensions between Sinhalese and Tamils go back 2500 years and more. Such a brittle social fabric is fertile ground for unscrupulous elements to sow seeds of discord and division. Ever since Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has had to cope with a “Tamil problem” “”…” from the demands of 50/50 by G. G. Ponnambalam’s Tamil Congress to the cries of federalism and separatism in the 1950s and 1960s, and finally an all-out war for “Eelam.” (In between it also had to overcome the terrors of the 1970s JVP insurgency following decades of trade union unrest fomented by the LSSP to wreck the economy and instil an attitude of entitlement “”…” twenty-one demands, two free measures of rice etc “”…” in the minds of people without any commensurate productivity in the workforce.)

There was also the fiction, buttressed by laws such as Thesawalamai, that the north and the east of the country was “Tamil territory,” meaning that in such areas Tamils had special privileges including, for instance, the exclusive right to property, through complex succession arrangements, denied to the rest of the population.

Such attitudes and situations cannot and must not be allowed to continue now that the scourge of the LTTE military has been crushed. The Government must instil the plain truth that Sri Lanka is home to all its communities and all parts of the country are open to everyone. The importance of living together as Sri Lankans and not as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims or Burghers must be understood and accepted.

There is a long history of justifiable suspicion of Tamils. That suspicion and demonisation will not abate while the Tamil diaspora in the West, with the clout of a hefty war chest, continues its vicious campaign to bring the Sri Lanka Government to its knees. The Government has more pressing priorities taking the country forward to peace and prosperity after decades of conflict than waging a futile public relations war on the international media airwaves to defend ridding the country of the cancer that is the LTTE.

Sri Lanka’s enemies, within and without, can be justifiably regarded as traitors. The pursuit of such traitors is forcing them to escape vigilance and scrutiny by security forces and scurrying to boats to take them to Canada, Europe and Australia where they can continue their campaign of terror with impunity.

In such a climate, with the need for eternal vigilance, the bitter medicine of the curtailment of civil liberties, just like in Singapore and the US, may be necessary and justified. The luxury of a Western style liberal democracy in the country will have to wait for the time when Sri Lankans gain the maturity to understand and use democratic processes instead of resorting to conflict to solve disagreements. That the rule of law is paramount and the best safeguard of freedom. With over three decades of its 60 years of Independence spent in a fruitless war, Sri Lanka can ill afford to be tolerant of traitors at this juncture.

George Rupesinghe

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