Our beloved Sri Lanka appears to be at the crossroads, though the war is over on the ground here in our country, our enemies have continued the war by other means and we need to deal with this before the situation gets out of hand. That is how many concerned citizens see things: One issue of great concern has been reports of the rise of the so called Sinhala ‘nationalists’ agenda on the 1950s and 60s. There is no doubt that it was Sinhala chauvinism that led to the Ethnic problem, had we conceded to the Tamil people of our country, (with whom we share their religion), the same rights we demand for ourselves, to live as equal citizens under the law, with equal opportunity, with the right to manage their affairs in the areas of Tamil habitation and also have a say in the destiny of the country at the Centre, this wretched problem would cease to exist.
Why are we unable to concede this to the Tamil people so that we can all live in peace with dignity? The President has a golden opportunity after the local elections in the North in particular to transfer power to the people in the North reserving Land and Police powers to the Centre. It appears to us that the President is a prisoner of those who claim to represent the vast Sinhala Buddhist majority. Is the President, who has been elected on the Sinhala Buddhist vote, scared that if he reaches out to the Tamil people that there would be a march of the Saffron Brigade on Temple Trees?
That is the impression we have got. The government should reach out to the Sinhala people and convince them that they need not have any fear by conceding to our Tamil brethren the same rights as we enjoy. If we claim to be a Buddhist country let us all abide by the word of the Buddha.
Our next concern or observation is the increasing ‘militarization’ of the country. We were in the North recently and we saw and heard was that whilst the military was kind to them and treated them with respect; they were happy about the construction work going on, they nevertheless lived in fear for they seem to think that they will never have real civilian rule. Once again the forthcoming local elections give the government the opportunity to give back to the Tamil people their dignity and right to manage their own affairs.
The Military has done a fantastic job at great sacrifice to save this country but we should ensure that they do not wield political power. This is dangerous for the country for we could become another Pakistan, where the military rules with a civilian façade. In recent days it has been rumoured that the Military is running our missions abroad. Apparently senior Military officers have been appointed to our missions as rewards for services rendered but that they are not merely Defence Attaches and some are even heads of Missions. These war heroes must be appointed Governors and Deputy Governors of Provincial Councils — and as heads of all state Corporations for they will bring discipline and order and can certainly turn these loss making institutions around. These posts must be reserved for them for the next ten years.
Diplomacy is not for them. We must in our own interest understand an important fact, namely that professional diplomats of developed countries in particular may not cooperate fully with our military diplomats. We should also factor in the fact that we should not do things which would help the Diaspora’s anti Lanka campaign by provoking the Diaspora by appointing those responsible for the defeat of the LTTE to countries where the LTTE Diaspora are well entrenched, organized and hell bent on revenge. We need to accept the fact that Military men cannot promote international relations particularly at this point of time. The armed services must indeed be rewarded for having saved this country from a fascist dictator – it is a debt we the people need to repay, but this repayment should not harm the long term interest of the country.
Since the thrust of this administration is economic development and the promotion of Trade, Tourism and Investment I do hope the government would appoint Captains of Industry and Commerce to head our Missions and have qualified trained professional Diplomats and Trade Department officials to assist them in the commercial, political and Diplomatic work. As for countering the LTTE abroad the government should have a special Corp of trained officers absolutely articulate in English, like Professor Rajiva Wijesinghe, with no hang-ups about race and language, trained in Press and Public Relations and also with a training in Intelligence work and send them out to counter the Diaspora’s malefic campaign.
We should also arm them with a good brief to advocate our country’s cause, this would be possible if the government reaches out to the Tamil people in a credible and meaningful manner. The government in its own interest sanctify Transparency, Accountability and the Rule of Law and show the world that we are a true humanitarian liberal Democracy and effect changes to the Constitution and the electoral system, bring back the Donoughmore system, end confrontational politics which is a British transplant which has not taken root in this country and has only served to spread hate and curb economic, cultural and political development of our beloved country. The final issue we wish to flag is this, we see increasing hostility towards the West, this we think is self defeating; we say this not because we live in the West but it must be conceded that almost 90% of our exports are to the west — yes the markets for our products are in the West, not in China or Russia; we are increasingly dependent on tourists from the West, the Security Council is dominated by the Western powers and we cannot always depend on China and Russia to use the Veto to save us — they will not only want their pound of flesh but could sacrifice us when their interests are involved. No, it is in our national interest to mend fences with the West with whom we have had a 400 year relationship and to abide by international treaty obligations. We should ensure that we do not under any circumstances acquire the status of a Pariah State. Let us all get together and build one Sri Lanka.