Sri Lanka: Facts and Fiction
By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
Vithya Sivaloganathan's murder trial exposes the real national issue in Sri Lanka and the surrounding paradox between fact and fiction. The attempt was to pin the crime on the Sri Lankan Army and Navy, but it failed. The real culprits were the criminal elements living within Jaffna society. The involvement of the State Minister Vijayakala Maheswaran in attempting to release the mastermind is clear evidence of corruption at the highest levels of power. The motive behind this grisly murder was to pander to the perverted and sadistic fantasies of the European pornographic market.
The thorough and proper investigations and the fair trial by the Sinhala CID officers and the Tamil Judges show that the Sri Lankan society lives as one nation. For 30 years, we had a terrorist issue in this country. Initially, we contended not with one, but numerous terrorist groups. In our minds, we have only the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam because about 20 years ago the LTTE cannibalized the other terrorist organizations and swelled like an anaconda.
These organizations were financed, armed and trained by the Indian Government from the '70s onwards. They literally exported a domestic issue to Sri Lanka. The Indian Central Government needed a strategy to garner the support of South India, who was agitating for their own independence. By showing the northern peninsula and the eastern coast of the neighbouring island, Sri Lanka, as the Tamil Homeland and pledging support to win it for Tamils, the Indian Central Government cleverly solved their dilemma - or thought they did, until it boomeranged and killed their former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Sri Lanka's Northern peninsula is well recognized for its people's intellectual capacity. During the colonial era, the missionary schools were largely established in this region. Though these schools taught a language and customs and practices totally alien to the Hindu society, Tamil parents sent their children to these schools for education. Some even changed their religion to accommodate the new order. As a result, the civil administration and English speaking society was largely comprised of Tamils from the North. As Shenali Waduge highlights "Sri Lanka: by 1956, 30 per cent Ceylon Administrative Service, 50 per cent clerical service, 60 per cent engineers and doctors, 40 per cent Armed force were held by ONLY Tamils who were less than 10 per cent of the population."
The Northern Tamils are also known as a hard-working community. Living in a rather inhospitable environment, as especially farmers, requires grit and those in the North shows no lack of it.
Less acknowledged is the sub-criminal society that fell between the cracks of this intellectual and farming communities. Largely downtrodden as the low castes, they were engaged in underworld activities as smuggling contraband between the northern tip of Sri Lanka and the southern tip of India. At the beginning, it was mostly harmless items such as saris that fetched a good price for the merchant community. Then, since the mid '50s, this contraband extended to other items such as small arms and rifles.
The market for it was the then northern Tamil politician. In the post-colonial era, other communities were also joining the ranks of civil society. This change, which Tamil politicians saw as a dilution of their own position in society, became a chip on their shoulder.
It was this nexus, between the angry Tamil politician and the low caste smuggler that the Indian Government exploited in the '70s. The Tamil politician and the Indian Government encouraged this sub-criminal community into the marauding murderers they eventually became, destroying at least two Tamil generations in the process by their own hands.
In time to come, these criminal elements marketed as freedom fighters (and now as political prisoners) became pivotal in the geopolitical strategies of the West. The Norwegians involvement in the early 2000s, for instance, is a well-known interference. They came in the guise of engineering peace and pushed through the infamous Cease Fire Agreement in 2002 (CFA 2002). It was severely inimical to Sri Lanka's national security and strengthened terrorism in Sri Lanka, instead of curtailing it.
The CFA allowed the LTTE, among other things, to create a network of sleeper cells in Colombo itself. That fear alone, that the LTTE now had the means to activate any terror within the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, was paralyzing, investors and tourists, as well as ordinary routines in day-to-day lives deterred, severely impacting our economy.
Our security advisors were never consulted on the CFA, and nor was it taken to debate in Parliament. The then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe (now incumbent), signed it without the knowledge of even his own party. This CFA placed Sri Lanka at great disadvantage against an illegal, non-State actor, proscribed by all civilized nations that many speculate that Wickremesinghe himself may have not even read it. The secrecy and Wickremesinghe's apparent ignorance of the CFA contents indicates that Norwegians as its engineers understood very well the implications of it. The LTTE on the other hand would have never placed their signature blindly. They would have bickered and bargained and milked it to the maximum, as was their practice when they were at the negotiating table. Thus, we were at a severe disadvantage of having been bound to an agreement that we were ignorant of, let alone understood.
Yet, the Norwegians pushed it and the West-led international community and their allies like Japan supported it. They all profess that their interest is to engineer peace and bring reconciliation between two warring ethnic
communities. They ignore the basic fact that the two ethnic communities that they insist are warring among themselves are actually living as one society and do not even see themselves as apart. Soon after the 18-year old Vithya's grisly murder in the North, 4-year-old Seya Sadewmi was murdered in the South. The outpouring grief and anger to one was no different to the other. Sri Lanka as a whole was aghast and angered by these two grisly murders. As proven by Vithya's case, justice was not brought by one community, but both Sinhalese and Tamils.
In fact, as reported by this newspaper on 1 October, during the war Vithya was living in Colombo. Her family returned to Punguduthivu only after the war concluded and Vithya joined them two years later. If the war was between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, as interested parties insist, then it is illogical for Vithya and her family, who are Tamils, to be in Sinhala concentrated areas during the height of tensions and return to an area dominated almost to exclusivity with Tamils afterwards.
If facts were allowed to speak, then the case would be: During the 30 years of war against terrorism, all civilians in the North and East were the worst affected. The Tamils living there were subjugated and terrorized by a section of their own community. This terror and dehumanizing was politicized and justified by their own representatives for their political survival.
It was the very same element, that sympathized and legitimized the LTTE and even today espouses separatism, which tried to pervert justice to Vithya. Vijayakala Maheswaran as the State Minister for Child Affairs and as a mother of two daughters and a son was caught on video releasing the mastermind of this heinous crime. At the time, he was tied to a tree. She claimed it was to prevent the angry mob from lynching him. This does not explain why he was then not handed over to the proper authorities and why he had to be arrested in Colombo.
This case did not start with Vithya and to every indication will not end with her.
Our terrorist issue could have got sorted at least by 1987 had India not intervened. The LTTE not only survived for another 22 years to kill and terrorize, we ended with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. That was the Indian solution for us. It did not bring relief to us, but clearly demarcated the lines the country could be broken into at a future date.
Over the course of these 30 years, numerous countries in various labels got involved. The Sri Lanka Donor Group Co-Chairs consisting of the European Union, Norway, Japan and the US was one such group. Though they were so interested in architecting various peace-building solutions, they were not as keen in helping build us our economy. In contrast, China who never took an interest in our internal matters played a pivotal role in rebuilding our economy.
In 2009, we finally concluded the war. Instead of celebrating and letting peace settle in, these very same peace-bearers turned our war victory into a war crime. While Prabakaran still reigns as "supremo", Mahinda Rajapaksa who ended the terror era is vilified as a scoundrel. Former U.S. State Secretary John Kerry is on record for taking credit for installing the incumbent Government.
In 2015, Sri Lanka was in the 68th position in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index. In 2016, we fell to the 71st and in 2017 to the 85th places. In September 2017, the inflation was at 7.1 per cent amidst increasing food prices, but the IMF is happy with the Government's reform performances.
A country in debt is a country crumbling under siege. If we fail to arrest the situation, then we will have to surrender our resources and be under the dominance of our debtors.
This is our actual national question and not some ethnic issue purported by interested parties.
We may have gained our Independence in 1948, but we had never been free from the neo-colonial agendas. If India and our neighbouring East Asian countries could rise above it and be a force to reckon, then so can we - but first we must understand the national issue we are actually confronted with, instead of grappling on some fictitious problem.
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