ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 24
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Wijeya Pariganaka

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 interim report.

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.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.