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Sinhala chauvinism turns new pages

KM De Silva adopts a patronising tone on the issues of reconciliation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka\'s post-civil war phase.

Published: 06th January 2013 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th January 2013 12:18 PM   |  A+A-

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He has authored several books and articles on the history of Sri Lanka. KM de Silva’s latest book is a continuation of his earlier works on the history of separatism in Sri Lanka. Its title is misleading. He focusses on the elimination of the LTTE and not the military or political defeat of the LTTE. From the first page to the last he emphasizes on portraying the LTTE as a monster and focusses on why it was necessary to eliminate it from Sri Lanka. There are several questions that have remained unanswered. Could Sinhala chauvinism escape the blame in making the LTTE what it was? For any neutral observer it may be worthwhile to look at the demography of Sri Lanka: Sinhala- 74%, Sri Lankan Tamil- 13%, Indian Origin Tamil- 5%, Muslim- 7% and others- 1%. The majoritarian Sinhala population has not allowed the minorities to flourish in any sense of the term. This resulted in the alienation of the Tamils socially, economically and politically for years after Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. The “Sinhala Only” policy has been vigorously pursued and it has resulted in complete banishment of the “Others” (Tamils and Muslims) in all respects.

This book is divided in to four parts: part one deals with the history of Sri Lanka’s separatism. Part two is about the controversial issues that were prominent in the contention between the Sri Lankan State and the advocates of Tamil rights and claims. Part three deals with the complete rout of the LTTE. Part four deals with the problems of reconstruction and reconciliation after the decimation of the LTTE. The author has unnecessarily tried to find an analogy between the separatist movement in Sri Lanka and the one in Jammu and Kashmir without taking note of the fact that each of them have followed a different trajectory with a different legacy though the aim of both may be same as in the emergence of an independent homeland. Even India’s role in the liberation and emergence of Bangladesh as an independent country cannot and should not be seen as contributing to Tamil groups in Sri Lanka approaching India for similar help in achieving their goal. The author seems to be hell-bent on referring on more than one occasion to the successful operation of Sri Lankan Armed Forces led by Lieutenant General Cyril Ranatunga in 1987 against the LTTE. He rues the fact that it was due to pressure mounted by the Indian Government that Sri Lankan Armed Forces had to abort this operation. Even when the Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) left Sri Lanka in 1990, the then Sri Lankan President Premadasa did not capture the areas liberated by IPKF which were earlier held by the LTTE. The author criticises the Government of Sri Lanka for indulging in peace talks with the LTTE instead of continuing with armed operation against them.

On the issues of affirmative action in higher education for the Sinhalas, the language and the employment sector, the author has taken a partisan approach. He rebuts the criticism of pro-Sinhala policies with his own findings and tries to prove that “Sinhala Only” was not an official policy of the Government of Sri Lanka. Is it not true that the successive Governments in Sri Lanka have bowed before the demands of the Sinhala nationalist forces and followed policies that have led to complete alienation of Tamils?

The last phase of civil war in Sri Lanka which culminated in the decimation of the LTTE in May 2009 had put a question mark on the conduct of the Government of Sri Lanka and its Armed Forces. But the author rubbishes the claims of war crimes against the Sri Lankan Forces as unfounded and goes on to justify the military intervention in glowing words. He even goes to the extent of saying that large number of non-combatant civilians that were trapped by the LTTE in the war zone, did go back to their houses within six months to one year’s time. This is a blatant lie. Several thousand Tamil refugees were holed up in the detention camps and a large proportion of them have not been allowed to go back to their areas. The author doesn’t mention why some of the senior leaders of LTTE and their family members who had wanted to surrender were all shot dead in cold blood. The Sri Lanka Armed Forces resorted to massive human rights violations that included rape and killing of women—whether in large or small numbers highlighted in this book.

He adopts a patronising tone on the issues of reconciliation and reconstruction in the post civil war phase. Reconciliation can happen only when truth is ascertained. It will be judged by the level of justice, human rights and accountability that the Government of Sri Lanka adheres to not only in principle but also in practice. Celebration of military victory is a sign of the Sinhala chauvinism. Sri Lanka has a long history of not implementing the recommendations of earlier domestic enquiry commissions into disappearances and political killings. Thousands of captured and surrendered members of LTTE continue to remain under detention without any trial even after three and a half years of the end of war. It is still not too late for an honest assessment.



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