Blindly marching backward into the future

Recently there was a story doing the rounds that Sri Lankan authorities have banned women from buying liquor at the airport duty free shop. It was hard to believe. But if such a decision had been made it would come as no surprise.

What with the bigotry that is increasingly beginning to infest our society who could put beyond an administration hard pressed to win friends and influence people, not to succumb to such ludicrous demands from political and religious quarters that are fast becoming intolerant of other views and values.

The ban on those entering the country-both locals and foreigners- from bringing in the usual quota of cigarettes seems to have been a decision taken under commercial pressure.

But any decision to stop women from purchasing liquor would have to be made on some high moral principle though it would have been violating the principle of gender equality by discriminating against women.

Fortunately the story happened to be just a rumour. Still the fact that such rumours circulate and sometimes do presage things to come, is evidence of an axiom that used to be drummed into us in our school days many decades ago- from small acorns do big oak trees grow.

From whatever source such rumours emanate and then spread, it does mean that people do not put it beyond our politicians and governments to come up with some disastrously unproductive and useless ideas that do little to elevate our moral standards, if that is indeed the intention.

Some might call this ingenuity, others insanity. Talking of insanity, I was reading the other day the 20-point demand list presented to the government by the JVP that should be met if the Mahinda Rajapaksa government wants its support.

If I still remember correctly my early lessons in Christianity, God presented Moses with 10 Commandments. The JVP, which believes it is god in our political firmament despite recent election setbacks, has dramatically improved on God and presented Rajapaksa with a 20-point wish list that appears incredibly confused, if an understatement might be permitted.

Subsequently I read somewhere that the JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe has said it might still extend support if as a first step, President Rajapaksa abrogates the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) that Ranil Wickremesinghe entered into with LTTE leader Prabhakaran in February 2002.

More about this Somawansa Amarasinghe later. What immediately concerns me are the 20 commandments which though they may not begin with "Thou shalt not" do this or that, seem to have the same effect of telling Rajapaksa what he should do if he wants the JVP's political support to strengthen the government's parliamentary numbers which don't add up to much right now.

It is not certain-and Amarasinghe has not enlightened the public on this-whether the 20 points are in order of priority or sequential. As they have been presented they do create much confusion which is perhaps evidence of the simplistic and narrow mindedness that invests the JVP's own thinking.

The JVP calls for "reinforcing democracy in the North and East." While those who are genuinely concerned with political pluralism and the right of the people in the region to exercise political freedoms, the JVP's objective is easier said than done.

How is it to be achieved? That of course is not made clear in that document. Whether Amarasinghe expanded on it at the press conference or whether he was questioned on it, one does not know.

The JVP suggests that military power be used to free Northeast from terrorists and to enforce government rule in un-cleared areas. One supposes that the latter is to be done in the same way that the Northeast is to be freed of terrorists which is with the barrel of the gun in the same way that in the late 80s the JVP tried to do to impose its edicts on an elected government and the people.

Of course at that time the JVP was not so concerned about democracy or democratic rights of others as Somawansa Amarasinghe well knows. After all he was a member of the JVP's politburo during those days when the JVP did its best to spread anarchy in the country.

When the JVP leadership was wiped out by the government of the day Amarasinghe was the last man standing, or rather running, for important persons in that same government helped him run away eventually ending up in the UK.

In a political move that was nothing but self serving and intended partially to satiate her thirst for power it was the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga that brought down Amarasinghe to Colombo from London to help her boost the government's dwindling numbers and diminishing public support.

Had it not been for her innate desire to cling on to power, Somawansa Amarasinghe would be still languishing in the UK having run from obscurity to oblivion.

The 20-point programme makes fascinating reading if only because it clearly demonstrates the naivete that is at the heart of JVP thinking about international affairs and diplomatic relations. But that discussion must await another Sunday column because right now other aspects of its 20 commandments must take precedence given the current politico-military situation in the country.

If as the JVP demands Rajapaksa should accept that government rule be enforced in the un-cleared areas by which is obviously meant territory under LTTE control, the way shown by the JVP is military action. It also calls on the government to free the Northeast of terrorism and the way to achieve that is also the same, military means, which several experts on such matters, have said is virtually impossible.

Having said all that the JVP calls for direct talks with the Tiger organisation.

In short what the JVP says is this. Free the area of terrorism, enforce the government's edict in the un-cleared areas and then hold talks with the Tigers, if the sequential arrangement of the 20-points implies its logic.

Some might then ask why hold direct talks with the Tigers if the government has eliminated terrorism and enforced its rule in Tiger held territory? If the Tigers have been reduced to a rump by such actions why have direct talks only with the LTTE when the JVP is all for political pluralism and democracy in the north and east?

Is this not to give a place of undue importance to a group from which the whole initiative and power have been wrested by the government? Would this not be at the expense of other Tamil voices that surely exist but are today silenced by coercion and intimidation?

How interesting it is to listen to the JVP's homilies on terrorism. Those who lived through the years in the late 1980s would remember only too vividly the killings and the attempts to intimidate a people into submission. Journalists were not only threatened but actually murdered only because they were practising their profession. Officials and security personnel were killed because the JVP acting in the names of some Sinhala kings which they actually denigrated, because they stood against the anarchy that the so-called Vijayabahus unleashed on the nation. Does Somawansa Amarasinghe still remember all this or does he suffer from convenient amnesia.

Now, by proposing some incredulous ideas that impinge not only on domestic affairs but also on our international relations without any sense of the world we live in, the JVP is merrily marching us backward into the future.

It is indeed an impressive set of ideas-like uprooting cash crops like tea and planting manioc. Why not? After all Amarasinghe and his cohorts have big mouths, don't they.

Back To Top Back to Top   Back To Business Back to Columns

Copyright © 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.