Last Sunday’s Cabinet reshuffle was a damp squib; and now, the DIGs are shivering in their boots more than anyone else fearing that the one-time Army Commander turned politician might be their Minister; and the President continues to hold back on his part of the reshuffle deal. With the hullabaloo domestically, and the National Government [...]


Uniting the North and the South


Last Sunday’s Cabinet reshuffle was a damp squib; and now, the DIGs are shivering in their boots more than anyone else fearing that the one-time Army Commander turned politician might be their Minister; and the President continues to hold back on his part of the reshuffle deal.

With the hullabaloo domestically, and the National Government in a state of shock and paralysis following the February 10 local council polls, the happenings at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva have gone off the radar, somewhat.

The UNHRC chief has labored to make the usual refrain calling for transitional justice in Sri Lanka and an international war crimes tribunal. He refuses to move on from a three-decade-long insurgency that took its toll not only on the people of the North, but the rest of the country as well. So does the Northern Provincial Council refuse to move on.

The NPC resolution passed recently to coincide with the UNHRC sessions betrays the mind-set of the Northern politicians. They continue to refer to the ‘contiguous North and East’ being ‘the traditional homeland’ of the Tamil people who are a “nation”. In every sense, this was the rhetoric of the LTTE and the cry for Eelam. The TNA leader may say in Parliament in Kotte that his party stands for a “United Sri Lanka”. So then, is this to be a case of a ‘Nation within a Nation’?

Who is calling the shots up in the North? Is it the Diaspora? We can see nationalism is also not dead in the South. The recent election results prove the point.
It is, however, correct that the Government is far too slow in doing the things it has to do in the name of reconciliation. The eventual naming of the Office of Missing Persons came only to comply with UNHRC Resolution 30/1. Why is the Government not implementing what the home-grown LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) report recommended? The North has fresh issues – micro-financing issues, drugs, crime and unemployment. The people want to live in the present – not in the past.

Maldives now a geopolitical hotspot

When Sri Lanka was in the midst of recovering from the race riots of July 1983, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi famously said that when one’s neighbour’s house is in flames, one cannot remain without intervening. What she did not say was that it was her spy agency that lit the fire.
Notwithstanding Sri Lanka’s bitter experience by that ‘intervention’ in that era of not-so-long-ago, there’s some sense in the late Ms. Gandhi’s words, provided, however, the intervention is bona-fide.

The Maldives, whose closest neighbour is Sri Lanka (though not vice-versa) is in political turmoil. The incumbent President has gone almost the whole journey towards dictatorship. His supporters say he is fighting against the old feudal system and the new political upstarts.

A state of emergency exists in the archipelago. A Supreme Court order was reversed by the sacking of the Chief Justice. The apex court is under a political directive. “National Security”, the common phrase to overrule the Rule of Law, something not unfamiliar to Sri Lanka as well, was the excuse for the Male Government to justify suspending the democratic political process in the Maldives.

Sri Lanka has taken what seems to be a soft, noncommittal stand on what’s happening, seemingly a conscious decision to give some space for the Maldives to return to some normalcy. The Colombo Government issued a relatively inconsequential statement saying it was observing the evolving situation and urging all parties to find a peaceful solution.

It was Sri Lanka’s Parliament Speaker who wrote to his counterpart in the Maldivian Majlis, in his capacity as the Chair of the SAARC Speakers and MPs, to express “concern” over the “evolving situation in the Maldives, where democratic norms and parliamentary practice appear to be in peril”.

The volatile situation less than 1,000 km from Sri Lanka would normally be something that would only otherwise worry the top-end tourists who flock to its famed resorts, if not for the interest this part of the world has generated in recent times among global players in world power capitals.

The United States and Britain had the area covered for most part of the last century; the Maldives being a British colony during World War II and with nearby Diego Garcia, a US naval base. India had its matriarchal protective rights in more recent years. New Delhi firmly believed that this was its patch. After all, this was the Indian Ocean.

However, there’s now a new predator on the scene. With an expanding blue water navy and a global outreach policy, China has set its eyes on these sea lanes that run past the Maldives islands, and its presence and influence have turned the Maldives into a geopolitical hot-spot – an extension of what has become of Sri Lanka.
Such was the importance of the recent political developments in the Maldives that the Western powers raised the matter at the United Nations Security Council. Fears that China was making headway with the anti-democratic regime, bathed in allegations of corruption, were clearly bothering the West.

The result has been the appointment of a UN mediator to play the role of ‘honest broker’ in negotiating an amicable settlement between the President and Opposition forces and to restore broken down democratic institutions. The fact that this UN mediator is a legal counsel to one pro-West faction of the Opposition groups comes as no surprise.

Thus, the West has got a foot in the door in the internal affairs of the Maldives. This was exactly what they were after in Sri Lanka right through the Northern separatist insurgency. They light the fire and want to come in as the fire fighters.

This is where SAARC, the South Asian regional grouping and even the Commonwealth have shown their ineffectiveness to be bodies that carry any weight. If any external ‘good offices’ were required, SAARC and the Commonwealth of which the Maldives is a member-state would have been the natural first and second option. But these two groupings seem to limit themselves to summit meetings of Heads of Government, and little else.

Politics has transformed the Maldives from an idyllic top-of- the-range sun, sea, sailing, surfing and snorkeling paradise to a geopolitical honey-pot coveted by all super powers of the modern era. Their geographical location on the world map has been its fortune and now, its fate.

Share This Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
Comments should be within 80 words. *


Post Comment

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.