The state of Paradise Isle
The news from London is that there
are more participants from Colombo's travel and hospitality
trade than visitors to the Sri Lanka stall at the annual
World Travel Mart exhibition now in progress. Many are
flocking to the stalls of neighbouring India, the Maldives,
Thailand, Indonesia and so on.
Flights into Colombo are so empty
that airlines are offering tickets even budget carriers
find difficult to match. Hotels are receiving cancellations
for the peak-season of December/January/February with
each passing day.
Is anyone surprised when one sees
what is happening in this country masquerading as a
Paradise Isle? A look at the events of this week alone
is enough to make one shudder.
In the Eastern province town of Vakarai,
the military shelled a building housing civilians, killing
scores. Nobody seems to be giving the right figures.
In Colombo, a representative of the People --- a Member
of Parliament - was shot down.
The LTTE has to do nothing but sit
back and enjoy all this -- watching the Government's
image take a pounding as it kicks into its own goal.
No wonder then, that the President was constrained to
say that people are "discrediting" the Government.
There is no doubt that the LTTE is
using civilians as human shields - and the latest news
that its area leader had died in the shelling confirms
their presence in civilian terrain. But the difficult
question is how the military must avoid civilian casualties
in its bid to neutralise the terrorists.
The assassination of Nadarajah Raviraj,
the MP killed on Friday, was a total disgrace for the
authorities. An unabashed apologist of the LTTE, partly
by conviction and partly by compulsion, the late MP
was nevertheless a bridge that conveyed largely LTTE
thinking, however unpalatable, to the Southern audience.
You just cannot stifle dissent this way.
But when the late Foreign Minister
Lakshman Kadirgamar was brutally killed much the same
way, Mr. Raviraj's TNA expressed "shock and consternation"
but little else. There was no condemnation of the perpetrators
of that heinous crime. Now the same heinous crime has
been committed on Mr. Raviraj.
Condemnation of these dastardly acts
must be across the board. One cannot allow one jack-boot
to replace another. Today, abductions have become the
order of the day -- and the night. The press is under
siege. The totality of the picture for Sri Lanka is
a very grim one.
Calling Scotland Yard and appointing
Commissions of Inquiry are an exercise in futility --
worthless post-mortems at best. No proper investigations
are carried out to its logical end; and none punished.
A Commission appointed to probe corrupt
activities of Admiral Daya Sandagiri cannot even get
an appointment to meet the President to hand-over its
What is more important, however, is
to take effective measures to get rid of this killing
culture; and the tit-for-tat never-ending cycle of violence.
There is a growing fear that the President has either
no control over this runaway trend of hit-and-run cases,
or is turning a Nelsonian-eye to them.
It's a long and arduous road to bring
Sri Lanka back into the fold of civilised nations. But
that journey must -- has to -- begin right now.