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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A painful blunder! ....... The Island Editorial

The Island: Editorial: 09/06/2007" While extraordinary measures are certainly called for to meet the growing threat of terrorism, the eviction of Tamils from any part of the country on any ground cannot be countenanced. That amounts to blatant racial discrimination. If the government considers such action a surrogate for better surveillance and intelligence, which alone can help keep the Tigers at bay, it is making a terrible mistake.

The war for dismembering this country is not confined to the North and the East. It is being fought in many other places, both here and abroad, especially in Colombo, where the political leadership and the national economy are targeted. Ridding Colombo of LTTE cadres is therefore a sine qua non for defeating terrorism. All over the world, capital cities are the prime targets of terrorists and countries battling terrorism are compelled to adopt extraordinary measures to protect them.

In dealing with an elusive enemy, the police and the armed forces are at a distinct disadvantage. Terrorists are omnipresent and can pose as civilians as long as they are not caught in flagrante delicto. Even the democratic role models like the US and the UK have had to adopt draconian measures to keep terrorists at bay. The British police have orders to shoot terror suspects in the head slap-bang with no questions asked.

In this country, the security forces and the police are doing a thankless job. When raids are conducted, they are blamed for harassing the public and when bombs go off, they are faulted for their lapses! Their difficulties and concerns must be appreciated vis-à-vis the monster they are fighting, against numerous odds. They have to think of novel ways of tackling an outfit which is quite innovative and full of surprises. It is against this backdrop that the controversial expulsion of Tamils from Colombo should be viewed.

The government has naturally drawn heavy flak over its action, which is being widely condemned as discrimination against the Tamil community. Some have chosen to blow it out of proportion. Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has likened the plight of Tamils under the present government to that of Jews in Germany during the World War II and that of black Africans under the apartheid regime in South Africa. We thought Mr. Wickremesinghe needed lessons only on Sri Lankan history. Another politician (Mano Ganeshan) promptly chose to call the eviction of Tamils ‘ethnic cleansing!’ They are entitled to their views. But, where were those champions of human rights when the LTTE forcibly evicted tens of thousands of Muslims who had been living in the North for generations at a two-hour notice in 1990? They were allowed to carry only a change of clothes with them. Ear studs of women and girls were removed with pliers! They are still languishing in welfare centres in Puttalam. That, Mr. Ganeshan, is ethnic cleansing!

A TNA MP took his shirt off in Parliament in protest against the expulsion in question. Those who have so shamelessly enslaved themselves to the LTTE and are justifying its savage terror don’t need any clothes at all. No amount of clothes is going to help cover their nudity!
Such hypocrites are doing the biggest disservice to the civilians caught in the nutcracker of terror. They have hijacked the cause of those innocent people and are making political capital out of their plight like vultures that feast on carrion. If their concern for hapless civilians is genuine, they must be able to take on the LTTE, too, which is making cannon fodder of their children and exploiting them in every conceivable way. Why are those human rights campaigners silent on what is happening in area like Kilinochchi, which the LTTE has turned into mono ethnic hellholes?

It is not to those hypocritical opportunists that the government must listen. It must listen to the feeble voice of the hapless civilians, whom the police want to evict. (Military Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella is trying to have us believe that they are leaving voluntarily and the government is only providing transport: He must go tell that to the marines!) They may not be able to provide ‘valid reasons’ as such to justify their stay in Colombo but they, as is well known, have a thousand and one reasons to be away from the war zone and the LTTE’s clutches, the main being the safety of their children. When life becomes unbearable in a particular place, the people naturally vote with their feet. The government is driving them back into the jaws of the predator. That is the tragedy!

There are, no doubt, LTTE cadres posing as civilians among them. But, should all the Tamil people be penalised for that? As TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree has pointed out in a letter to the President—(The Island of June 08)—the LTTE is smart enough to evade eviction.
The city of Colombo belongs to all Sri Lankans, regardless of their ethnicity or religion and they have a right to live there or anywhere else in the country. That right guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be questioned or denied. It is the duty of the police and the armed forces to make the country safe for all communities to live in. While extraordinary measures are certainly called for to meet the growing threat of terrorism, the eviction of Tamils from any part of the country on any ground cannot be countenanced. That amounts to blatant racial discrimination. If the government considers such action a surrogate for better surveillance and intelligence, which alone can help keep the Tigers at bay, it is making a terrible mistake.

The Supreme Court is right in having immediately halted the harebrained scheme. Three hearty cheers!


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