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Monday, April 15, 2024

Adventures Of The Undead-Tiger And Other (Rajapaksa) Fairy Tales

Tisaranee Gunasekara
“…the closer the kingdom of God, the more the demons are on the offensive”.
Olivier Roy (Holy Ignorance)
Whenever the Rajapaksa administration is in need, the Tiger emerges from the underworld into a brief but useful life.

According to the latest episode of this serial-reincarnation drama, more than 150 LTTE cadres, trained in three secret camps in Tamil Nadu, have entered Sri Lanka, in the guise of fishermen. They plan to destabilise the country by launching clandestine attacks. The tale of the undead-Tiger is crafted to fulfil multiple needs. It can be used to pinch Delhi, in revenge for Geneva, by depicting India as a terrorist-haven and the LTTE as an Indian pawn. It can be used to daub Tamil Nadu as a Tiger-hotbed and Tamil Nadu politicians as Tiger-lovers. Since the Tigers allegedly assumed the guise of fishermen, the tale enables Colombo to impose the anti-terror imprint on incidents involving the Lankan Navy and Tamil Nadu fishermen.

Thanks to the tale of the undead Tiger, Colombo can avoid asking hard questions about its own conduct, post-Geneva. Why grapple with the complex relationship between the Indian volte-face and Sri Lanka’s unresolved ethnic question, its Sinhala supremacist peace or the vagaries of Tamil Nadu politics and public sentiment? It is much easier to imply that Delhi supported the Resolution because, deep down, India is still pro-LTTE and still harbouring Tigers.

The Tiger-bogey can help the regime ignore the momentous US decision to place a $10 million bounty on Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, co-founder of Lakshar-e-Taiba and the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack. Mr. Saeed is reportedly very close the Pakistani defence establishment and publicly committed to a greater-Pakistan which includes all of India. The US bounty is believed by some to be an advance political payment for a new supply route to Afghanistan via India. It is certainly a measure of the importance the US attaches to India; and perhaps an indication that the Cold War era special relationship between America and Pakistan will be replaced with a new strategic partnership between Delhi and Washington aimed at containing Beijing. Sri Lanka needs to be aware of this fluid political-landscape, and its implications, particularly given our intimacy with Pakistan and China (not to mention Indian allegations about LeT footprints in Colombo). But why bother with such troublesome issues, when we have the perennial Tiger to scream about? If Tigers are roaming around, armed and dangerous, the regime is justified in focusing on ‘security’ at the cost of everything else, including popular wellbeing. ‘Tiger, Tiger’ is an extremely efficacious way of diverting Southern attention from rice-and-curry issues. Since the IMF granted only half of the final tranche of its loan to Sri Lanka, more tax hikes and subsidy cuts will have to be implemented, in the coming months, for Colombo to become qualified to receive the remaining $400 million. The Tiger-scare can be used to reconcile the masses to the resultant price increases and exacerbation of economic woes; and to prevent them from questioning the financial wisdom of maintaining defence costs at stratospheric levels, post-war?

A South consumed by Tiger-phobia is unlikely to be concerned about the creation of a state within a state, an entity which is shrouded in darkness, operates above the law and is controlled by the Ruling Family. Indeed many rights violations and democratic absences can be justified using the need to battle the resurrected Tiger.

The Tiger threat was the premise on which the axiomatic relationship between the Rajapaksas and the Sinhala South was created. Saving the nation was the justification for Familial Rule. Though the South will ever be grateful to the Rajapaksas for defeating the LTTE, this gratitude may not always be expressed in the form of political and electoral support. But if the Tiger is being kept alive by a perfidious India, the South might see a need to keep the Rajapaksas at the top, despite innumerable malfeasances.

A lurking Tiger is the best possible justification for the continuation of the Rajapaksa rule and the strengthening of the Rajapaksa security state.


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