The President of Sri Lanka
, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was snubbed. Well and truly snubbed. Perhaps it was Sri Lankan generosity, perhaps it was ego or perhaps it was just seizing of an opportunity to present his case, his vision or his credentials, perhaps a reaching out, a going of an extra mile with respect to the pro-Eelam/LTTE
sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora, we don`t really know why he accepted this invitation. He opened himself to a snub and snubbed he was.
There`s no political fallout here, though.
The rabidly anti-Mahinda sections of our polity, including those who were rooting for the LTTE at the height of the military offensive, would have lost a lot of saliva over the past three days.
One remembers though that among them were editors of newspapers who rushed to pronounce Sarath Fonseka
dead seconds after that unsuccessful suicide-bomber attack a few years ago and who were visibly full of glee when receiving unconfirmed reports of an LTTE attack on Vavuniya way back in mid-2006. One remembers too that these same individuals and their yes-boys and yes-girls were falling over themselves to support Sarath Fonseka when he ran for president and one tends to imagine that they would support Mervin Silva (Dr) or even Malu Nihal if either were to weigh their chances against one Mahinda Percy Rajapaksa.
Apart from the sour-graped bunch, though, the snub only helped a lot of sympathy to accrue to the President`s political account, even from those who had voted against him. He was the leader during whose tenure the LTTE was crushed and this insult is directly related to what is unarguably The High Point of Sri Lanka`s post-independence political life. It was not about, for example, dictatorial tendency, dynastic ambition or the cost of living, i.e. the main sources of discontent for some.
Internationally, the snub is hardly a blip on the political radar, courtesy a man called Julian Assange and his growing team of voluntary informants, collators and information disseminators gathered at Wikileaks.
While one may view Wikileaks with suspicion for very valid reasons, especially given the fact that the `leaks` are being processed for public consumption through comment and emphasis by a mainstream media extremely partial to the western political thuggery and appear to have generated just one important `fact` of political significance (alleged fear of certain Arab governments of Iran), they nevertheless provide enough grist for talk-shoppers to take the newsworthy gloss out of this snub.
What is important, then, is learning lessons we`ve stubbornly refused to learn.
First of all, let us stop fooling ourselves that the British Government had nothing to do with this.
I just got this email from one of the most astute students of international politics I know, someone who is also a student of history, political economy and world literature.
The following comment would `locate` him in the intellectual firmament of our time (if `credential` were required): `This year`s Nobel Prize for Literature was given to Peruvian novelist Jorge Vargas Llosa, a Blanco (i.e `white`), who as presidential candidate promised to build a wall around Lima to keep the majority India
ns out! Such is the noble Nobel (aka Bofors) commitment to the truth`.
Well, here`s what he has to say about the British Government not being associated with the snub: `You think the English would allow the Taliban to prevent Zardari speaking at Oxford? Allow Al Qaeda supporters to prevent Obama speaking? Hamas in London to prevent Nut`n`yahoo? Puhlease!!! It`s nothing to do with rent-a-Tamil demos per se. It is the English state doing their usual fokkery.`
A few months ago I wrote how a senior British diplomat took issue with a Sri Lankan employee at the British High Commission for deciding to vote for Mahinda Rajapaksa. He had asked how a person of this voter`s community and religious faith could vote for Mahinda Rajapaksa. The man had told the diplomat where to get off and the latter had returned the favour, dismissing him on trumped up charges. That`s NOTHING, though.
We are talking about a nation built on loot plundered from countries they invaded, a nation whose deputy prime minister has confessed that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, a nation that is complicit and/or guilty of monumental crimes against humanity including systemic torture, genocide and ethnic cleaning, not just during the grand days of empire but right now, as I write and as you read. We are talking about Channel 4, an outfit that`s more than partially blind about these things. We are talking about a nation that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that the LTTE was funded by the very same people agitating against President Rajapaksa and that these funds killed thousands of people in Sri Lanka. We are talking about a nation that has not returned a fraction of the loot it took from our lands and our peoples. We are talking about a nation we owe nothing to, but who owe us much by way of compensation.
This is a beautiful moment in our history, if we seize it, look at it in the eye and read that gaze correctly. We are not an island, in a political economic sense, this is true. On the other hand, we are not a failed or failing state and are moreover endowed with enough resources to feed ourselves and keep our children happy provided we recover our sense of who we are. I am not saying we should turn into frogs and jump in the well. This is a moment to devote ourselves to figuring out what`s important, what to take, what to give and what to say `no` to. A time to buckle down to the nitty gritty, the hard work and discipline, the striving for excellence in all things, the determination to be competitive globally, to play to our strengths, to emphasise the need to secure food sovereignty, to protect our resources, our environment, and each other. A time to be united.
A time to be kind, too. A time to invite the entire British High Commission to lunch, to give them the choicest dishes, shower them with Sri Lankan made gifts, treat them to smiles they`ve never seen before without mentioning a word about what kind of murderers their ancestors have been or how the lifestyles they enjoy today were built through blood-letter and laceration, the desecration of places of worship and the orchestration of famine, the theft of resources and extraction of sweat. No, none of that should be put before them on the table at Temple Trees or wherever the President chooses to host a meal.
The British will be British. That`s sad. We should be Sri Lankans. Take the hit, smile and resolve never to repeat mistake. Simple.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com