By Susantha Goonatilake

A confidence trick neatly punctured
In an interview with Shakthi TV, Anton Balasingham announced that the 19th Amendment was the result of Tiger advice. Its failure now - obvious to any one with basic commonsense - lays to rest many Tiger plans. The President of the whole country has held sway while the Prime Minister of the South lost. Meanwhile thanks to the MOU, - marketed as "peace" - Tigers had got what they could not get in battle. So Prabhakaran, the self-appointed President and Prime Minister of the North and East controls "his" area that he lost militarily. Yet the legalization through the Interim Council of this de facto Tiger regime is now out. Only the Joint LTTE/government Task Force could now do it.

By all objective measures the Tigers had been defeated when the UNF came to power. The enormity of the Tiger loss one realizes only after actually seeing the North empty of its people (they are among the Sinhalese or living abroad) and its destroyed towns. Usually a figure of ten government soldiers to every guerilla is the accepted norm in this type of war. Yet the LTTE's admitted losses are more than the government's. It was only propaganda that has kept the Tiger myth of invincibility going, combined with the cowardice of leaders frightened by threats of assassinations and suicide bombings. The US and the West are today beset with these same problems but their reaction has been just the opposite.

The first duty of a government is the defense of the country's borders. But today the military is heavily compromised, the Tigers recruit in government areas and army readiness is being dismantled. More alarmingly, those with suspect attitudes are advising the military. Harry Gunatillake who had appeared on TV saying that the Tigers could not be defeated is in official committees. One advisor to the new UNF defense plan - through a retired flag officers group - is Kumar Rupasinghe (source retired flag officers group). Rupasinghe, when the government was about to take Jaffna went on BBC demanding the UN halt it. At the time he was head of International Alert which had been formed specifically to fight for Tamil Eelam. Today changes in the military are being attempted based on this new defense plan.

Yet, apart from the claim to fictitious Tamil homelands which even the Prime Minister claims he does not believe in, (but grants in his Interim Council), Tamils and other minorities have more language and religious rights here than India or Western countries, Norway included, give to their minorities. (Yet, such legal equality may not translate to actual practice as many Sri Lankans in Western countries quickly find out).

Not only did enemy views infiltrate the military, but the government became the enemy's main spokesman. State and private TV - during the post December period the difference between the two vanished - fell over each other to justify Tigers. One had the spectacle of bird brained "vidwathun" who would never be entertained in a serious academic discussion justifying Tiger positions. Especially TV was under tight control. Positions opposed to pro-Tiger views were blanked out. This was done directly in the government media; in the private media it was done informally by phone calls to key persons. The most infamous incident was blanking out the monks' statement rejecting the MOU. Since then there was the careful grooming of monks especially by gifts, some called this bribery. It was the most extensive campaign of brain washing which any post colonial democratic country has seen.

But the brain washing backfired. One of those foreign funded outfits closely linked to the MOU, monitoring public opinion has come to the conclusion that the majority in the country rejects this attempted coup by the Tigers. Only 11% of the Sinhalese believe the statement in Thailand by Balasingham, the government's key partner, allegedly disowning separatism. This figure should give pause for any sane UNF deciding to go to the polls now.

But how did this impossible dream, a supreme con act come about? Weren't there UNPers who could have seen through this? By any measure of democracy this is the only post Independence government where most of the key influential positions are held by non Buddhist families. One does not have to be a sociologist; count and the results should alarm any democrat. It is like the 1962 Catholic coup had succeeded without a shot being fired. It was an attempt at what in financial circles is called a leveraged buy out; a small amount of money being leveraged to buy much larger assets. It is a high risk strategy. In our case, it was a minority like in colonial times allying itself again to external forces and fraudulently and undemocratically trying to impose its will on the majority in the country. But this, in an aware society like ours was like constructing a house of cards, so that the slightest wobble could bring the whole edifice down. The Supreme Court decision did this.

The UNF had come in with twin challenges, in the ethnic and economic fronts.

In the economic front the government instead of making the state sector efficient got bogged down in trying to sell it. The private sector, instead of trying to earn profits by selling their products turned to being the key salesmen for the MOU and the Tigers. One had the comical spectacle of employees being forced by their employers to hold hands, and in the case of the Jana Bala Mehayuma to parade the streets on orders of employers. Both of these acts violate new social clauses in international trade under the SA 8000 requirements and could put our exports at risk.

And what about business now? The stock market was hyped up by the peace talks. It did not require hyping up. By any standards Sri Lanka is a good place to invest. A key indicator, the price to earnings ratio of our shares is cheap compared to other countries. Businessmen instead of playing anti national politics should have invested in the country. Above all instead of sleeping with the enemy it should have invested in its people. And the people? They should disinvest from those businesses that become traitorous. Any self respecting country would bankrupt them.

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