Sri Lanka on the Knife Edge

“When a dog howls at the moon, we call it religion. When he barks at strangers, we call it patriotism.”

— Edward Abbey

Another howler has emerged from Sri Lanka. And, neither laughing nor crying will make any difference. In reply to the recent attack on Buddhist monks in Tamil Nadu, by politically motivated extremists, has proved once again the range of the howls by those holding unquestionable power and enjoying all the privileges in Sri Lanka. Secretary of Defence Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been quoted by a pro-Rajapakse daily in Colombo this morning saying that any Dravidian coming from Tamil Nadu would be taken into custody and punished.

Published in Divaina, a newspaper owned by the Minister’s brother, is a statement by Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa that Sri Lanka will not have any dealings with Tamil Nadu hereafter and maximum penalties will be invoked on Tamils coming from Tamil Nadu, in retaliation to Sri Lankans being attacked and harassed in Tamil Nadu. A former Sri Lankan army lieutenant colonel, Mr. Rajapaksa has been breaking all the rules that should be obeyed by any Defense Secretary. The damage he has done to this country is bigger than anything he might hope to achieve. That said, as someone able to control ‘everything’, he can always blame the reporter later for ‘misrepresenting’ his comment.

It was only fairly recently, when Indians were attacked by Australians in Australia. But none of the Indian politicians howled like how our Secretary of Defence has done over the recent attack on the Buddhist monks in India. There is no doubt  that the attack is wrong. The Indian government has to not only arrest perpetrators and prosecute them quickly, but also prevent such incidents happening in the future.  Maintaining a comprehensive diplomatic communiqué between the two countries is more important than expressing destructive emotional feelings in foolishness.

However, while this comment may be aimed at fooling the people in Sri Lanka to keep a ‘patriotic’ image alive, it will damage Sri Lankan needs at this crucial time. Acting like another Tamil Nadu politician is nothing other than the Secretary showing his true colours, while putting his country in danger. This kind of silly patriotism will not be able to give oxygen to the authoritarianism already at death’s door.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is on his way to conclude his notorious political game in the country; it may take a little more time unless the opposition is able to get rid of the follies we have seen during the last few years. However, nothing can be stop the fall of the Rajapaksa regime, perhaps Rajapaksa has already walked out beyond the control of his own conscience. In fact, he may later, like former President Chandrika Bandaranayake, understand the blundering steps he was forced to take in the last couple of year, killing the primary institutions of the state. He has fallen into a boiling pot like a crab, where he dances with his family members, oblivious to the country having become a volcano about to erupt.

The UN Human Rights Council has passed its second Resolution against Sri Lanka, with 25 member states in favour, including India. Eight members abstained, while 13 voted against the Resolution. As predicted, the Government of India voted for the resolution. It seems that India is using a big stick against the present regime, which is habitually assassinating personal liberties and freedoms in the country. This is another historic event in the country’s arrogant diplomatic mission to eliminate the country’s image internationally.

Terrorizing diplomacy is a common practice that the government of Rajapaksa has worked hard to perfect in many ways in recent years, to aid which the President appointed military leaders as top level diplomats following the end to the bloody civil war in May 2009. At the same time he evicted most of the seasoned, rational, diplomats who could have protected the country from diplomatic catastrophe.

It is as if ignorance has become a central idea to the government’s decision making. It is its strategy, its motto. Such a strategy can work in local politics, but it will never work in international politics. It is clear that none of the Rajapaksa brothers have any idea what diplomacy is. They are deliberately ignoring what this country needs, concerned only with their personal benefit.

While being a cunning fox one can easily attack Tamils in Tamil Nadu, in the same way that the Rajapaksa puppets insulted the lady Chief Justice after tabling the impeachment motion in Parliament.

The country and its people have to suffer due to acts of these individual extremists.

“I can runaway to the United States if it’s no longer safe here”, the Secretary said at the start of the war, remember.

Let us applaud the howls of the ignorant extremists as we stand on a knife-edge, not glad, but in acknowledgement of the bad, sad, mad gifts that the Rajapaksas continue to offer us.

Nilantha Ilangamuwa is journalist and editor of the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily news paper based in Colombo Sri Lanka. He can be reached atilangamuwa@gmail.com or editor@srilankaguardian.org 


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Nilantha Ilangamuwa is Editor of Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives. He also edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper. He is the author of the recently released non-fiction books, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), published in Sinhalese, and “The Conflation”, published in English. 

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