Rajapakse’s commitment of reconciliation with the Tamil minority remains as empty as his long promised devolution
by Dushy Ranetunge
It was indeed a stunning victory, as it surprised everyone, including many of those who are in power who displayed great anxiety and frustration in their campaign, expecting a close result.
For weeks and months to come, analysts will ponder as to the reasons why; the largely Sinhalese electorate decided to hand Rajapakse such a resounding mandate.
There was always a significant disjoint in the perceptions and world views of the Westernized English speaking constituency and the rural Sinhalese masses who were the targets and victims of LTTE terrorism in bus and train bombings, and the war itself in terms of manpower for the military effort.
It has been commented that the war was being funded by the village females working in the Middle East remitting several billion US dollars home and the war fought by the village males who were manning the armed forces. They experienced the reconciliatory politics of Chandrika and Ranil not yielding tangible results.
This then, is their gratitude to Rajapakse who is personally untainted by corruption in the eyes of the rural masses and rarely criticized by them. Criticism is directed at those around him. This may be reflected in the general election.
Rajapakse seem to defy gravity, as he has not only defeated the LTTE, which experts the world over declared unbeatable, he has emerged from this election with a stunning mandate, which no one expected. He would be the envy of politicians the world over, if not for the poor conduct of the war in the final weeks, and his style of governance which seem to aspire to the "pavement", at "subsistence level", rather than the "highest standards" aspired by great statesmen.
Rajapakse’s victory is largely a sectarian "Sinhalese" victory and do not have the support of large chunks of the minorities, Tamil, Muslim as well as the English speaking affluent Sinhalese who disapprove of the "brothers" and Rajapakse style of governance. These segments of society judge standards of governance and value systems in terms of liberal western democracies, rather than Rajapakse’s standards, which are perceived as being closer to his friends in Iran, Libya, China and Myanmar.
Rajapakse has already tried to defray charges of "War Crimes" based on his stunning Presidential victory, but these "wish lists" are unlikely to be accommodated as they are more legal rather than political processes.
The creation of one of the worlds largest and hostile diasporas will ensure that the international legal processes will be pushed forward as the Tamils have no confidence in the Sri Lankan legal processes which have been compromised on sectarian lines with Tamils failing to gain any legal or political recourse to the injustices suffered by them. Already this week Rajapakse has stated that no war crimes investigation is required in Sri Lanka as requested by the UN. By stating so, he has shut the door and Tamils can now demand that since Sri Lanka has ruled out a war crimes investigation, it now remains for the international community to initiate one.
Statements made during the Presidential election has further strengthened the case for war crimes charges and this trend is expected to continue with the hostility of the administration to the General and his supporters within the military establishment.
Rajapakse’s commitment of reconciliation with the Tamil minority remains as empty as his long promised devolution proposals. What Rajapakse means by reconciliation is a "Sinhalese" nationalist reconciliation, which will never be accepted by the Tamils, other than those Tamils who rely on him for political survival.
The reconciliation that Tamils yearn for are those found in Western liberal democracies and in India. This is a prospect that is anathema to the Sinhalese nationalist mindset who fails to realize that military unity has a shelf life, unless the Sinhalese want the army on their streets indefinitely like in Myanmar, Iran, Libya and China.
India and Western democracies have achieved stable political systems based on politically accommodating minorities within their democracies.
The chances of resurrecting GSP+ will now be remote and "hope" on resurrecting tourism is fragile as long as standards of governance are in line with China, Myanmar, Libya and Iran.
Sri Lanka’s geo-political positioning will ensure its continued somewhat stunted success under a Mahinda Rajapakse presidency, but it would be economic expansion under "controlled economic" conditions, rather than harnessing the spirit of free enterprise and an expansion of the private sector.
The Rajapakse doctrine favours an expansion of the state sector, which is inherently inefficient in terms of economic productivity and national output.
On the eve of Sri Lanka’s historic military victory over the LTTE, so much goodwill was squandered on flag waving jingoism reminiscent of the tribalism displayed by Tamil nationalists when the LTTE captured Elephant Pass.
This week, on the eve of another historic political victory by President Rajapakse, so much goodwill was squandered with the army surrounding the hotel in Colombo, which accommodated the losing opposition candidate.
What was achieved by this Libya/Myanmar/Iran/China style military action is unclear, but the political damage to Sri Lanka was immense. Unfortunately those in power seem clueless. There are other ways to safeguard security rather than mobilizing the army to surround a five star hotel.
Sri Lanka would continue to experience net emigration of the educated and the highly skilled, under a Rajapakse Presidency