Colombo shuns being welcomed into the civilised world

Sri Lanka is experiencing a very public descent into further instability.

Today we receive news that the recent opposition presidential candidate, Sareth Fonseka, has been arrested for allegedly planning a military coup.

But the real reason may be this (via the Guardian):

Hours before his arrest, Fonseka, who himself has been accused of a range of human rights abuses during the fighting against the Tamil Tigers last year, had said he was prepared to give evidence at international tribunals investigating the 25-year-long civil war. “I am definitely going to reveal what I know, what I was told and what I heard. Anyone who has committed war crimes should be brought into the courts,” the BBC reported him as saying.

To make matters worse, the disenfranchised Tamils remain isolated and ignored by the leading political elites:

Jaffna is a city of ruins. Some are physical, like the overgrown jumbles of mold-streaked concrete where graceful buildings used to stand. But perhaps the biggest ruin of the Tamil Tiger insurgency against the Sri Lankan government is the very thing the Tigers wanted most: any hope of self-rule.

After 26 years of war that ended with a decisive government assault last May, Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority seems no closer to winning a measure of autonomy in a Sinhalese-dominated nation, and Tamil nationalism, the cri de coeur of the Tamil Tiger insurgency, seems all but dead.

“All of this armed struggle, so many dead and wounded, for what?” said P. Balasundarampillai, who leads the Citizen Committee in this city on the claw-shaped peninsula of the northern Tamil heartland. “In many spheres of public life our role is very much reduced. Economically we are weak, and politically we are weak.”

Perhaps most interesting is last weekend’s Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader editorial, expressing typical bravery, passion and despair over the country’s direction:

Today paupers become politicians to become millionaires and billionaires. Post independence was a time that the little island of Ceylon was a respected citizen of the world, holding its own against the mightiest of nations. J.R. Jayewardene put the country firmly on the world map by eloquently arguing the case of pleading mercy for Japan at the United Nations.

The world nodding its assent to the stance taken by Ceylon at this historic meeting, was an indicator of the high regard the world had for little Ceylon. We were the toast of Japan and the civilised world. Nations were to describe Ceylon as the conscience of the world. What a great decline then, when 62 years later we are reduced to the status of a pariah state with the very same nations calling for probes on human rights violations on our own people and the lack of space for free expression. Yet we organise grandiose ceremonies at huge cost to the emaciated taxpayers to celebrate ”˜independence’ as was the case in Kandy last week.

With all the infrastructure at our disposal post independence, when much of the world was in ruin, what did we Sri Lankans do to benefit our fellow human beings?

Did we, like Japan or the West, create anything for the benefit of mankind? After sixty-two years of independence what is our greatest boast when it comes to industry? It is the supply of undies for the West. We have never been able to attract more than half a million tourists to this country even at the best of times. For much of our post-independence survival we have depended on the British created plantations.

Japan, when Sri Lanka was pleading its case in the early fifties, was for all intents and purposes a wasteland, having been bombed to nothing, with two nuclear atom bombs leaving Hiroshima and Nagasaki frightening ghost towns that could not be inhabited for years.

This was also a time that none of the modern day gadgets that we are so accustomed to today had even been thought of. Man had yet to venture into space. It is fascinating to note that all the technology around us today was created post Sri Lanka’s independence and Sri Lanka’s contribution to this has been nil.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common