President Mahinda Rajapaksa has, in an interview with Gfiles, told his critics in the international community a few home truths. He says he needs no lectures from outsiders on Sri Lankan Tamils, who, he says, are `my people`. He could have bolstered his argument by asking what the so-called international do-gooders did for Tamils when terrorists held them as a human-shield. The now vociferous foreign governments and their human rights shock troops did not care to pressure the cornered terrorists to release those people.
President Rajapaksa raises a pertinent query: `Would these Western nations who were calling for a ceasefire when the LTTE was about to be defeated be willing to give refuge to all the LTTE cadres in their own countries?` What would Washington, London, Paris, Oslo and Ottawa say to this?
Nothing is so freely given as advice, it is said. If advice from western governments were cash, Sri Lanka would be able to buy all the diamonds in the world! President Rajapaksa`s crime, in the book of some foreign powers, is that he did not grovel before them but stood his ground and destroyed the LTTE. Had he allowed the Colombo-based western diplomats to run the country the way the UNF government did from 2001 to 2004, he, too, would have been in the good books of Brown, Obama et al.
Interestingly, President Rajapaksa says he has `openly spoken about the 13th Amendment as a starting point`, as `it is acceptable to India and it has been accepted in Sri Lanka`. In other words, President Rajapaksa is reiterating his commitment to 13-A Plus. The question is why it has become a taboo of sorts for other government worthies as could be seen from the sacking of Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka reportedly over his advocacy of the 13th Amendment.
Asked to comment on charges of genocide against his government, President Rajapaksa rightly denies them. Those who are bandying these allegations about are sadly unaware of the meaning of genocide. Where on earth do victims of genocide seek protection from the perpetrators? Had Sri Lanka military carried out a genocidal campaign on the pretext of battling terror, would Tamil civilians ever have fled the LTTE and sought refuge in areas under army control? The sheer number of civilians in welfare centres as well as LTTE combatants being rehabilitated belies the claim of genocide in the Vanni.
Ironically, the sinister foreign powers that are hauling President Rajapaksa over the coals for human rights violations are propping up some Opposition politicians who were prominent ministers of the JRJ government responsible for the 1983 pogrom against Tamils! The involvement of one of the key Opposition politicians in the 1983 prison massacre is well documented in a UTHR (J) report. For legal reasons, we cannot reproduce the relevant section of the report but it is available on the UTHR (J) website.
President Rajapaksa gets it wrong when he says, `No community has been systematically destroyed in my country.` There have been instances of genocide here. One was the slaughter by the Portuguese of Muslims. It assumed such frightening proportions that King Senerath had to intervene to remove Muslims to safety in the Kandyan kingdom first and to settle them in the East later. The British committed genocide against the Sinhalese in Wellassa in 1817/18. Over 30,000 people were reportedly put to the sword by the marauding British soldiers who unleashed hell on civilians to quell a rebellion in that part of the country. It was not only genocide but also gendercide as the British killed all male children by way of `preemptive action`. Wellassa was reduced to rubble. Paddy fields were set on fire and fruit-bearing trees felled to starve survivors out of existence. That brutal military campaign by the British left Wellassa so named because of one hundred thousand paddy fields in the area barren and sparsely populated. It has remained so to date.
Today, the British are treating us to lectures on human rights, as President Rajapaksa rightly says! And the UNF government wanted to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese in this country!
Countering allegations in some quarters that he is dictator, President Rajapaksa asks two rhetorical questions: `Do dictators hold election in the middle of a war?: `Would a dictator not censor the press?` Admitting `there have been wartime restrictions`, he seeks to justify them on grounds that `they have been imposed by all counties, including the US in Iraq and (the then British PM) Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands`. His critics are apparently crying wolf and their hyperbolic rhetoric has cost them their credibility. But that does not mean the wolf is only a flight of fancy. There have been a number of attacks on journalists resulting in the death of an editor as well as on the Opposition. But none of those incidents have been properly probed. The government has revived the Press Council as a bludgeon to be used against the independent media. The rule of law is noticeable by its absence and the law enforcement authorities are being selectively efficient at the behest of powers that be. The President has demonstrated on more than one occasion his willingness to exercise all the draconian powers concentrated in the executive presidency. Parliament has been robbed of its vitality and made a mere appendage of the executive presidency. These may be viewed as portentous signs of the much feared wolf`s advent.
It is not only in words but also in deeds that President Rajapaksa has to disprove allegations that this country is heading for a dictatorship.