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Monday, December 11, 2023

Devolution talks with TNA deception of Mahinda Rajapaksa exposed by his brother Gotabhaya

Tisaranee Gunasekara
“The talk of political solution is irrelevant” Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (Interview with India Today)
 Watching or reading an interview with Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a rewarding experience. The Defence Secretary often says outright, usually in very blunt language, what his brothers try to conceal.

While Mahinda and Basil Rajapaksa may prevaricate, wrapping unpalatable truths in misleadingly attractive linen, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa puts things as they are. His prepared speeches can be as banal as those of his brothers, but his impromptu interviews are always revealing, and often explosive.

His latest interview with India Today is the ideal case in point. In that he makes a startling revelation. There will be no more devolution.

“The existing constitution is more than enough for us to live together. I don’t think there is any issue on this more than that. I mean this was given as a solution for the whole thing with the discussion of these people I mean now that the LTTE is gone, I don’t think there is any requirement. I mean what can you do more than this? This gives power at a lower level. Even now we had the local government elections. Then the President will have very soon provincial elections and appoint chief ministers and ministers. So devolution-wise I think we have done enough. I don’t think there is a necessity to go beyond that” (India Today – 8.8.2011 – emphasis mine).

The Defence Secretary has revealed in no uncertain terms the real thinking and the real agenda of the Rajapaksa Inc. With the LTTE gone, there is no need for more devolution. The 13th Amendment suffices.

Ergo, the talks with the TNA were nothing but an act of deception aimed at getting Delhi off President Rajapaksa’s back. Obviously the plan was to drag on the talks for as long as possible, thus creating the impression that a political solution is being sought and will be achieved any time. The talks with the TNA were thus meant to take the same trajectory as the now defunct APC: interminable, unending and unproductive discussions. That way the Rajapaksas can deceive India and the West and placate Lankan Tamils, while they get about their real business: that of consolidating Familial Rule and ensuring Dynastic Succession.

The proposed (second) APC too will be an eye-wash and a time-buyer. Nothing will come of it, because it is not meant to produce anything – except confusion and deception.

Fortunately Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has let the cat out of the bag, thereby proving that the TNA did the right thing in breaking-off negotiations.

If there is not going to be a political solution based on more devolution, what is the point in the TNA or any other minority party engaging in discussions with the regime? Such discussions will serve the personal-political agendas of the Ruling Siblings and nothing more. Futile discussions will not help either the Tamil people or the Muslim people.

They will not even help the Sinhala people – because a Rajapaksa dynasty will be as antipathy to Sinhala interests as Tiger-power was to Tamil interests.

When the constitution of an independent India was being constructed, its framers found the language issue to be a major stumbling block. There was a powerful current within and outside the Congress Party demanding the acceptance of Hindi as the sole national language. But several states with their own regional languages were angrily opposed to such an imposition.

Tamilnadu was one of the hottest spots. Its leading politician, EV Ramaswami Naicker (Periyar), the head of Justice Party, was advocating a separate state, Dravidastan. He had been sent to jail as many as 23 times in 15 years, by the then Congress-run Tamilnadu regional government. In December 1939, when Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared a ‘Day of Deliverance’ as part of his battle for Pakistan, Periyar supported him (probably the only Hindu leader to do so). He also “sat beside Jinnah on a stage dressed in green silk when the Muslim League’s Madras session began on 12th April 1941 at the People’s Park, a fellow secessionist in spirit” (Nehru – The Making of India – MJ Akbar).

He was viscerally opposed to Hindi and passionately attached to Tamil, seeing a political division in the linguistic divide. He regarded Hindi as the “language of northern imperialism and (believed) the Tamils would break from break India rather than surrender to the Aryan North” (ibid).

Understanding the potency of the issue, and its capacity to foster another (if not several) Pakistan-type crisis, the framers of the Constitution opted for a compromise. They decided that Hindi and English would be official languages for 15 years, after which Hindi would become the sole national language. It was a wise move; that a country which waged a relentless struggle for Independence should opt to retain the language of its colonial oppressor was a tribute the foresight and maturity of the Indian polity.

15 years later, the time came to carry out the Constitutional provision, ditch English and make Hindi the sole national language. But this move was violently opposed by non-Hindi speaking Indians. Riots broke out in Tamilnadu, Kerala and Bengal. The Hindi nationalists were equally determined to see the constitutional provision implemented and Hindi enshrined as the sole official language. Violence was spreading and instability was beckoning.

Fortunately for India, Nehru’s successors understood the value of compromise and the dangers of unilateralism as much as he did. His daughter Indira, then Minister of Information and Broadcasting, “immediately hopped on a plane to Madras where she gave assurances to the protestors against Hindi and helped restore peace” (Indira – The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi – Katherine Frank).

The government of Lal Bahdur Shastri decided to retain English and to enshrine both Hindi and English as official languages. The regions were given the power to conduct their affairs in either the regional language or English. Civil Service examination would be held in both Hindi and English. Apart from a handful of fanatics, the majority were satisfied with this compromise. The violence died down. Tamil Nadu abandoned the cry of Dravidastan and settled down to become a loyal member of the Indian Union.

What would have happened had the Indian government stuck to Hindi Only policy stubbornly using violence to quell the violent protestors? What would have happened if English was abandoned and Hindi was imposed on resentful Tamils, Bengalis and Keralites? That would have happened if Hindu nationalists were in power in Delhi?

Unhappily for Lanka, the situation was polar opposite. Contrary to received wisdom, the SLFP is not similar to the moderate Congress Party; its Indian equivalents are the Hindu nationalist parties (currently the BJP). The SLFP ignited the language issue in 1956, failed to resolve it in 1956 and prevented the UNP from implementing the D-C Pact. It also opposed the Indo-Lanka Accord, helped the JVP to set the country on fire and assisted the JVP’s violent anti-devolution/anti-provincial council campaign until the JVP turned its guns on SLFPers.

Today the SLFP of Mahinda Rajapaksa, rather than the weakened JVP or the ineffectual JHU, is the main impediment to a political solution to the ethnic problem based on devolution. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa deserves commendation for revealing this truth. There will be no devolution so long as the Rajapaksas are in control. To believe otherwise is an act of self-deception.

The Rajapaksas are uniformly opposed to devolution for a very simple reason – they do not want to share power with anyone outside the Family. It is their Rajapaksa supremacism (rather than their Sinhala supremacism) which is the real bar to devolution. This is no Bonapartist regime, engaged in a balancing act between the right and the left. This is a Family-tyranny, which keeps both the right and the left on a short leash to be used as and when the occasion demands.

Tissa Witarana to chair the APC and Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka to wreck it; Douglas Devananda to propose devolution and Dinesh Gunawardana to oppose devolution – depending on the needs of the Rajapaksas. The regime has a right and a left, but neither has even a pinch of autonomy, both are totally subservient to the Rajapaksas and are mere ciphers of the Ruling Family. Their stances on devolution or any other issue are of no importance. What matters is what the Rajapaksas think, and thanks to Brother Gotabhaya, the we know the answer to that all important question.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa revealed much else in his India Today interview besides the Ruling Siblings’ real stance on devolution. For instance, his interview indicates that accountability and justice will remain elusive goals (as elusive as devolution) so long as the Rajapaksas are in control. Asked about the Channel 4 allegations (backed by video-footage) that Tiger leader Col. Ramesh was arrested, tortured and murdered by the Lankan Forces, Mr. Rajapaksa erupted: “I don’t want to talk about that man. He is a terrorist. Don’t ask me. I am not worried about a criminal. He is a killer, cold-blooded killer…” (India Today – 8.8.2011).

Ramesh was a cold-blooded killer. But if he was tortured and murdered, his executors too had turned themselves into cold-blooded killers. National and international laws forbid revenge killings and vigilante justice, because such acts brutalise societies, debase citizens and breed more killers.

Issipriya was a Tiger cadre. But that does not absolve her rapists, if she was raped, as the Channel 4 alleges. Killers and rapists are a menace to the society; irrespective of the nature of their victims. This is all the more so, if they are men in uniform. If the Sinhala-South allows its necessary anti-Tigerism to blunt its sense of morality and justice, and thus permits uniformed killers/rapists to get away because their victims were Tigers, such permissiveness will boomerang.

Someday, those very same killers/rapists will turn on their own kind.

The omens are already here. It was reported that in the incarceration camps for the IDPs, some soldiers were in the habit of using their mobile phones to take photographs of young Tamil women when they were bathing. Such acts went un-investigated and unpunished. Last week, in Minneriya, a soldier was arrested “for videoing with his mobile phone, a woman taking a bath in a stream near Minneriya town. At the time of his arrest the soldier attached to the army camp in the area was in his civvies” (Sri Lanka Mirror – 12.8.2011).

Monsters do not understand limits. Disregarding boundaries is an inherent characteristic of being a monster.

So it begins..


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