President quips on Grease Yaka phenomenon
Parliament witnessed an important incident on Thursday—the abolition of the state of emergency after six years. The government came under immense pressure and criticism over the continuation of the emergency after the end of the war on May 19, 2009. Some forces that supported the emergency during the time of the war were also among those who were critical of it in the aftermath of the war victory. Critics, both local and international, argued that the government was using the emergency regulations to undermine democracy, to suppress media rights and to silence the dissent.
In some instances, the government itself gave credentials to allegations by these critics, by attacking media organizations, harassing journalists and assaulting opposition parties during their anti-government protest rallies.
Some ruling party politicians were taking law into their own hands to suppress the rights of their opponents.
On Thursday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appeared in the House at the commencement of the day’s business and announced in a special statement that the emergency situation would not be extended any further. The President noted that law and order could be maintained without the enforcement of emergency regulations hereafter in an atmosphere with no threat from any form of terrorism. He made the statement under the special provisions in the Constitution that provide for the head of the state to address Parliament on issues of national importance.
In his speech, he, however, noted on a lighter vein, “There is no terrorism now in the country except imaginary grease Yaka.”
By lifting the state of emergency, the President put to rest the speculation that the government would extend the state of emergency for a further period of one month to expel fears instilled by the grease devils.
The grease yaka is a phenomenon in which some persons covered with a thick coat grease are alleged to be causing harm to women by scratching them. Allegedly, there were some such incidents in several areas of the country. It led to unrest in places such as Potuvil, Kinniya in the east and Puttalam, where civilians clashed with the security establishments, eventually leading to the deaths of a civilian in Potuvil and a police constable in Puttalam. Some people opined that the government would retain the emergency regulations to deal with this recent turn of events.
However, the President on Thursday allayed such concerns of those people by lifting the state of emergency.
Be that as it may, the question remains whether the government succumbed to the international pressure, in its decision to lift the state of emergency.
It is no secret that such pressure came from world powers and various other local and international organizations, the most recent being from neighbouring India.
External Affairs Minister of India S. M. Krishna, in a suo motu statement in Lok Sabha on August 4, recalled how he stressed, at a meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart in February, the need for the withdrawal of emergency regulations in Sri Lanka.Mr. Krishna said, “I have, nonetheless, stressed to my Sri Lankan counterpart, the need for an early withdrawal of emergency regulations, investigations into allegations of human rights violations, restoration of normalcy in affected areas and redress of humanitarian concerns of affected families.”
In the analysis of matters in this context, there is scope for anyone to interpret that the government succumbed to external pressure, particularly from India, in the withdrawal of the state of emergency.
India’s interest in the withdrawal of the state of emergency in Sri Lanka could be gauged from the fact that the Indian media gave wide publicity to the move. For most Indian media institutions, this was the most newsworthy issue that happened in Sri Lanka, in recent times.
In the suo motu statement, Mr. Krishna mentioned, “the relationship between India and Sri Lanka is based upon shared historical, cultural, ethnic and civilizational ties and extensive people-to-people interaction. In recent years, the relationship has become multifaceted and diverse, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance”.
As it is the case, Sri Lanka’s issue can have ripple effects in Indian politics because of this shared culture. It is obvious that there is high political sensitivity in Tamil Nadu over the issues in Sri Lanka, especially in regards to Tamils. So, India, as a country with cultural affinity with Sri Lanka, will come under domestic compulsions with regard to the issues of Sri Lanka. The state government of Tamil Nadu even asked the central government of India to impose economic sanctions against Sri Lanka and prevail upon the government of Sri Lanka to work out a political solution that suits the interests of Tamils.
India’s interest in removing the state of emergency here can be attributed to this aspect in Indian polity.