Reflective thinking will put everything in perspective. It is an easy exercise and comes naturally; only if you choose to weigh a perspective with possible others, no matter how bitter or irregular the “other”, at first sight, appears.
It is bewildering to see how people, at large, lack in analytical reflection. Two recent incidents clearly substantiated this fact. The first of these was the government’s anti-UNHRC protests and the numerous allegations the more patriotic forces within its fold paraded on the streets and vocalized through megaphones. The cry, at large, was that the USA was brining forth “anti-Sri Lankan” measures so that the “war heroes” who ended “three decades of ruthless terrorism” could be tried of “war crimes”. Another much harangued line of barrage was that the US-led coalition was leading the President to the electric chair.
In summary, the slogans cautioned us of an immediate threat to Sri Lanka’s esteem and integrity, calling forth the sons and daughters of the soil to agitate against these “international conspiracies”. Likewise, the government itself organized a series of protests across the island, using state resources and parading (what I saw was largely) the state labour force and proxy agencies. The initial protest — a massive assembly at the Colombo Fort — had amply collected the workers from the governmental offices from Fort, Slave Island, the harbour etc.
My concern is not with these who came to the protest. Their commitment to the protest was understaood as the greater body — except the first 2-3 rows of the protestant ring — would be seen in their own conversation and bavader. The uniform sized flags given to be wagged, the mass produced boards and posters showed a more clinical organization, than what will go down in the dramatist’s script as a “realistic” struggle “of the people”. However, the point I wish to raise is to do with segments of society who buy into the governmental “conspiracy theory”: those who, in spite of their critical faculty, do not see beyond the decoy propounded by the state.
“How come the US — a snobbish violater of human rights elsewhere — has the moral gut to come and tell us to clean up”? “Channel 4 documentary material are LTTE funded”. Anti-US messages are being circulated on Facebook and Yahoo. Torture scenes from Guantanamo Bay, Iraq etc are being shared by serious-sounding patriots via social networking. “How come Ch 4 has suddenly appeared on the scene? Where were they when the war was a ripe for 30 years”? Well, one may question back: where were the Guantanamo Bay photo sharers when the dogs were being first unleashed on the prisoners of war?
The simple fact is that what we call “international trade” is an ongoing exchange of agendas. All state and non-state stakeholders, including media magnets and human rights agencies, have their own less altruistic and humanitarian agendas. The charges brought forth against the government of Sri Lanka and her war mechanism pose to challenge two main counts: (a) the state’s policy in conducting a battle which, against all international intervention, was stubbornly and ruthlessly carried out; (b) the aftermath of the conflict, where the rights and fundamental needs of the displaced Tamil identity needs to be addressed.
The government’s after-conflict trajectory has been monitored by all stakeholders in the issue and her progress has been gaged for 2 1/2 years. The UN intervention comes at a cruciel point where the state’s altruism in safeguarding the dignity of the Northern population — the solemnity of her pledge to uplift the social, economic, political and cultural rights of those people — has fallen way short of any dignified expectation. As Kumar David writes in his column in the Lakbima News, if international pressure means that the government will take heed of implementing a reconciliation mechinery that will earnestly bear the welfare of the Tamil identity in mind, then, this is much commendable.
The mass collective of citizen heads, however, have not cultivated the option of seeing through the “faceless foe”; or the “conspiration theory” which the government — much akin to the US government, so Alex Jones would say — banks on to hold its own. The “conspiration theory” is a multi-fronted defence shield: it can be used against any political development at all times. The people, after three decades of war and three generations of ignorance on political matters, have been installed with the ghost of segregation to the extent that whatever the odds, the state just has to say “they are trying to divide the land”. The people with little reflection or potential to be quizzical would not read more than that.
Then, a charged Wimal Weerawansa, in spite of the obvious paradox, went on stage proposing that all US-born products and brands should be boycotted. He urged the people to deactivate their “gmail” accounts and to refrain from using “google”. The newspapers had a field day collecting public opinions on Weerawansa’s opinion (tells us much about the bankruptcy of the media as well). The published opinions were more or less complementary — Weerawansa was off road. Yet, there were some who would discard Weerawansa’s proposal, but with a minor acknowledgement as well. Minister Weerawansa’s effort at “promoting local produce”, they claim, is commendable; but, to ban “google” is not the way to set about it.
Minimal reflection would make us see that there is no connection at all between the Minister’s passion for “local produce” and his statement on stage. His prerogative is very clear — he, in his demagogue’s cloak, was voicing a populist sentiment without much weight. This has been the essence of populist politics and Weerawansa’s career has been marked with such passionate battlecries. One who could reflect on either the vocal politican’s past, or his immediate concern would not connect a passion of the indeginous with his flashy statements on stage.
The price the Sri Lankan government is paying at being grilled and hounded by the human rights lobby is chiefly owing to her arrogant and uncompromising relation to the latter. The utter failure on the diplomatic floor and the inability to transmit the proper vibes (leave aside the practice of progressive ethics to deal with the humanitarian crisis in the North) to the global community at large has only accumilated pressure for the Lankan state. The disregard and contempt with which the local population was treated in their rights to information, speech and action cannot be extended beyond the shores bordering the Indian ocean. The island ends at the circumference — one cannot bandy tribalisms on the global political board of chess.
When the US champions a human rights agenda what matters is not whether the US by herself is a human rights violater. If that, indeed, is the case, she has to be tried; but, that debate does not negate the debate at hand. If the hollow patriot’s logic is to be taken seriously, then a Sri Lankan MP who indulges in thug activities cannot propound legislation either; nor can a minister who drinks head the Ministry of Buddha Saasana. Our statements betray the narrow strip along which we have strewn our Fire Zone.
My patron (to the paper which he edits I contribute) Malinda Seneviratne and other journalists are busy gunning down the conspirators of the International Community. One by one they bring down and try at exposing the duplicity of the numerous faces involved in the assault against Sri Lanka’s “go green” government. I am sure everyone has a double layer that is unsavoury. But, to peck at such bellies is, yet again, a “home grown” solution for the issue — a kind of sex for the Sri Lankan disbeliever, who, by now, is contorted by the developments at Geneva. The contortion is caused by the government-brew of “conspiracy special”. So, the pro-government wits / wags now launch on their own mission of apologizing for where the government flouted.
The human rights issue in Sri Lanka, however, has gone beyond the national fray. To run on headlines that Pakyasothi Saravanamuttu was seen with an LTTE sympathizer at Geneva or of Sunanda Deshapriya (as one paper unabashedly called him, a “traitor working with an NGO”) being “apprehended” by the Swiss Police for photographing a protest on the sly are more for the gallery. You prove no points by using such bloated headlines, unless your attempt is to undermine more provocative play.