India destabilising Lanka again

The military parade to commemorate the second anniversary of our own 'V Day' was impressive, but coming as it did in the backdrop of protests by workers, university dons and a host of external compulsions, the Government is being accused of 'milking the issue' and falling back on the defeat of terrorism in May 2009 to give impetus to its political longevity.
There was also an element of hollowness to it when, at Hulftsdorp Hill, not far away from the parade, the General who led the ground forces to that momentous victory was making a dock statement in his defence in a trial instituted by those taking the salute at Galle Face. Having concluded his statement he was escorted back to jail where he has been for the past year and more.

That itself is also a damper on what is expected to be a glitzy conference scheduled to begin next week on the manner in which one of the world's deadliest terrorist organisations was defeated. Something is not right when you have to stage Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.

The heroic victory of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces over the LTTE is a historic fact. Whoever may claim the mileage for the victory, the men - and women, who fought the good fight, deserve the eternal gratitude of a nation. The cost was high in battling a brutish terrorist organisation to a finish. Apart from those who made the supreme sacrifice, or were permanently maimed over the three decade-long insurgency, 6,000 soldiers were killed in the final phase of the battle alone with 20,000 injured, half of them critically and for life. That was the high price paid to liberate the country from a fascist organisation.

These sacrifices are slowly receding in memory. Initially, there was an internal political scrummage for political leadership among the victorious, and now there are external elements casting shadows over this now terror-free island-nation.
From the West comes the exertion of pressure through the UN and the report of the so-called panel of experts appointed by the Secretary General; the threat of investigations into purported crimes against humanity. Last week came a thunderbolt, not unexpected, from neighbouring India. It refused to support Sri Lanka's moves to ward off these threats and acquiesced to wanting these allegations investigated.

India's strategy of destabilising its neighbours is well chronicled. Its external intelligence agency has a chequered record; active in the years when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, virtually shut down in the brief tenure of Morarji Desai only to spring back with gusto with the return of the modern-day Gandhis to high office in New Delhi.

It was Sri Lanka's close dalliance with the West in the late 1970s up to the end 1980s under President J.R. Jayewardene that worried India, a socialist country then with a defence pact with the then Soviet Union.

Ironic as it is, times have changed. With India opening up to the West, what is of concern to it now is Sri Lanka's recent overt flirtation with China. International alignments may have altered course, but India's fixation with China ever since its border clashes in the early 1960s remains.

It was only a matter of time before India sent a strong signal over Sri Lanka's urgency to get China more and more involved in the country's economic development process. First it was by wanting a firm grip on the North with some exclusivity in the post war development projects in that region, but now it is back to the destabilisation doctrine.

Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister formally gave his stamp of approval to these renewed efforts by India. In the joint statement issued after his official talks in New Delhi a "devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment" was agreed.
It was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who first spoke of "13 plus". It was good enough at the time to ward off Indian pressure for a 'political settlement' in return for tacit Indian backing to defeat the LTTE, militarily; but New Delhi kept reminding him lest he reneged on his pledge.

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and its predecessors whipped up the Federalism slogan soon after Independence in 1948 only to play second fiddle to the LTTE which claimed to be the 'sole representatives of the Sri Lankan Tamils'. The TNA has now re-emerged as a political force thanks to the military defeat of the LTTE; and yet, chooses to stoke the embers of ethnic division in the country, once again.

No doubt, the TNA has won the support of its constituency both in the North and East. In the North it is being challenged by the EPDP whose leader is a cabinet minister in the Rajapaksa administration. The EPDP runs the Northern peninsula with an iron fist, as its own domain, but at the end of the day it remains loyal to a unitary state under the Central Government.
The TNA on the other hand displays greater loyalty to New Delhi than to Colombo.

In years gone by, there were the two Communist Parties that had their allegiance to Moscow and Beijing until those two capitals gave them up as lost causes and decided to deal direct with the Government in Colombo. The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) also had fraternal ties with India on the basis that its members were people of 'recent Indian origin', but now it is the TNA's turn to pay pooja at the altar of New Delhi's policy-makers.

What further devolution the Government hopes to grant under the 13th Amendment is still uncertain, but whatever it may be, it must be 'home grown' and best suited to the needs of Sri Lanka and its people not a foreign model implanted locally. The Provincial Council system that came with the 13th Amendment in 1987 is a textbook case of failure, a 'white elephant' serving none, only draining the nation's coffers.

Indian worries of growing Chinese influence have accelerated its eagerness to get a firmer grip of Sri Lanka's Northern Province and turn it into its fiefdom with the TNA as its proxy. This is not a pie in the sky. But the sacrifices made by those valiant soldiers whose blood has soaked the soil of that same province defending the unity of this country cannot easily be washed away and forgotten. No one knows that better, surely, than their Commander-in-Chief himself.

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Editorial Archive 2011 
09th January 2011 - Reciprocity to visitors
23rd January 2011 - Food crisis: The balanced diet
06th February 2011 - Independence 2011 and beyond
13th February 2011 - The message from Egypt
20th March 2011 - Be with Japan, be prepared
27th March 2011 - Without FIA, more sabhas will mean more crooks
03rd April 2011 - Sports: Heroes and villains
10th April 2011 - Move towards direct democracy
17th April 2011 - A report that seeks to open old wounds
24th April 2011 - Clinically shred war crimes allegations
01st May 2011 - May Day: Distress call from migrant workers
08th May 2011 - Global 'dupli-macy' and what’s fair in war
15th May 2011 - The light of Asia and the Dhammadvipa
22nd May 2011 - Diplomatic debacle
29th May 2011 - India destabilising Lanka again
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