THE RETURN OF THE RAJAPAKSE DYNASTY AND THE SURVIVAL OF A UNITED SRI LANKA
Following last November's election of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President of Sri Lanka, a lot of his alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity are emerging from the woodwork. His handling of the war during its final stages in 2009 with the summary execution of those who surrendered with white flags, denial of food and medicine to the trapped civilians, shelling and bombardment of masses of innocent Tamil civilians and Red Cross hospitals in the no fire zone, followed by the incarceration of survivors in detention camps in contravention of the Geneva Convention and committing crimes against humanity will portray a murky side of his Presidency.
Gotabaya's elder bother Mahinda Rajapaksa was the Sri Lankan President from 2005 to 2015 during which time he became increasingly authoritarian and Tamil people lived in fear. Corruption and nepotism were rampant, minority rights and especially the political and human rights of Tamils along with their traditional homeland were systematically squeezed. It was at best, a majoritarian democracy where the root causes of the ethnic conflict were ignored, and the minorities were treated as second class citizens. A recent quotation from the government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwela and a previous TV interview given by the former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka claim that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country and the Tamils, and the minorities cannot claim anything and should be quiet.
The former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was incriminated in the blatant murder of the veteran Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, who alluded, in his famous advance epilogue,to Mahinda's involvement in his demise. The murder case remains unresolved.
It's been said that when the incumbent Sri Lankan President comes out of his comfort zone of diplomatic immunity, he will face charges for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Already a criminal charge is being pursued in the civil court in the U.S.A and it is reliably known that UN has all the required sworn statements from witnesses and associated evidences to complete the recently adopted UN resolution to protect the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka.
But this will be of no avail to those weeping mothers who have lost their loved ones in the Sri Lankan atrocities and the lamentations of those who have been waiting for a decade, without knowing the fate of those who disappeared (sometimes enforced disappearances) during the final stages of the separatist war.These will be the constant reminders of the President's murky past, belying his desire to start his regime with a clean slate.
Although credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity have plagued Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa's are still venerated by many members of the Sinhala community as war heroes.
During last presidential election, in the North-East electoral Districts, Rajapaksa received only 17% of the votes while his opponent Sajith Premadasa who was supported by the majority Tamils in the respective provinces received 75% of the votes. In addition, in the Tamil dominated hill country district of Nuwara Elia, Rajapaksa was able to obtain only 37% while Premadasa who was supported by Tamils got 58% of total votes.
This showed that the minority communities rejected Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his past actions when he was Defence Secretary and his brother Mahinda was President and when scant regard was paid to minority rights, human rights were violated with impunity and the Sri Lankan constitution was blatantly breached.
Analysis of the results show that the moderate UNP candidate Sajith Premadasa received overwhelming support from the North and East with over 75% of the votes while in the south, 52% of the voters elected Gotabaya thus endorsing the Sinhala Buddhist dominance in the country. It has been proved in no uncertain terms that the North - South divide is, beyond any doubt, getting wider than ever. i.e. The Sinhala Buddhist desire for total dominance and the aspirations of the Tamils for their own administration in the North East appear to be irreconcilable.
However, the new President can turn the political situation to his lasting legacy and even make amends for his past failings by restoring Tamils' lost nationhood in the form of self-determination of the North East within a United Sri Lanka. It's a well-established truth that in any democratic country, the majority are required to protect the minority which was also enshrined in the Independence Agreement when the British granted independence to then Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. This was implemented to ensure that the two nations, Tamils and Sinhalese who historically inhabited this island for over 2500 years, lived in harmony.
It is now up to the current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that this harmony prevails in this island and it remains a united island by granting the necessary self determination to North Eastern Sri Lanka, so that Tamils could run their own affairs within a united Sri Lanka like the Sinhalese in the South. Any other approach will inevitably lead to this island becoming two independent nations in the future.
Tamil Writers Guild Editorial Board