Posts Tagged ‘sri lanka rajapaksa’
Yesterday, in a stinging rebuke to the Sri Lankan government, voters in northern and eastern parts of the country defied intimidation to hand an alliance of parties closely linked to the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgency majorities in an overwhelming number of local elections.
The results reveal that seething discontent remains among Tamils about the glacial pace of political reconciliation and deep divisions still haunt Sri Lanka two years after the government declared victory over the LTTE and ended one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running civil wars.
Some members of the Sri Lankan government, still running victory laps from 2009, were quick to declare the results a “great victory”, with one minister touting that “people had used ballots instead of bullets”.
Such a view, however, is alarmingly short-sighted and incredibly blinkered. Yes, Colombo has always been quick to point out (and few would disagree) that a country at peace is better than one riven by war.
But whether Tamil opinion is conveyed through the ballot box or through the barrel of the gun, it embodies the same message: the government, dominated by the Sinhalese majority, must acknowledge and address the legitimate grievances of the Tamil minority if it is to win the support of the people and achieve true reconciliation for Sri Lanka. That means not just more economic development, but greater political representation as well.
Yet there are few signs that the voice of the people is being heard by the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group, despite the end of the war, minorities and political opponents continue to be either suppressed or excluded from decision-making, draconian emergency and anti-terrorism laws are still exercised, and creeping authoritarianism and heightened militarism appear to be subsuming the country. Aid to Tamil areas has been slow to arrive, development is often conducted without adequate consultation, and the pace of reintegration of former LTTE cadres has been much too slow.
Sadly, even as it is saddled with these myriad problems, the government appears to be devoting most of its political will to resisting true reconciliation than allowing it to occur. It has spent more energy fervently rejecting the establishment of an international inquiry into atrocities committed during the last stages of the war and quibbling over casualty figures when it is clear that tens of thousands of people died in the final weeks of the conflict (which included brutal army atrocities against civilians) and the nationally established Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is virtually powerless.
The Sri Lankan government may think that it can fool the international community through foot-dragging and finagle the Tamil population with false promises of reform in the near term. But at the end of the day, so long as the Tamils at home (and the diaspora abroad) continue to see a better future in a separate state than as part of a Sri Lanka that balances majority rule with minority rights, the wounds of war will not heal, and the deep distrust of government will persist.
Indeed, if the status quo continues unabated, it is not too difficult to imagine a scenario where Tamils conclude that justice may once again be better fulfilled through the barrel of a gun than at the ballot box. That, Mr. Rajapaksa and his triumphalist government may recall, was how the LTTE rose to power in the first place.