It may be said, with apologies to the Bard, that politicians see more devils than vast hell can hold when they get into trouble and want to justify the vilification of their political enemies. This is the name of the game in politics where the devil looks after its own.
President Maithripala Sirisena, over the weekend, gave the people of the Northern Province, crippled by a hartal, a choice between him and the devil, so to speak. He got off his presidential limo, in Jaffna, and met a group of people, who, waving black flags and shouting slogans in protest against his visit, demanded the release of LTTE detainees being held under the PTA. He sought to reason with the demonstrators, but in vain. Subsequently, speaking at an event to celebrate the National Tamil Day, he cautioned the northern people that attempts being made to weaken him would stand ‘the devil’ in good stead. He stopped short of saying who the devil was.
Did President Sirisena refer to the person he had served so obsequiously for nearly a decade before partaking of hoppers at dinner and decamping in November 2014? Or, did he mean someone undermining his power in the unity government?
Those who are calling for the release of the LTTE detainees won’t heed the President’s plea and stop staging hartals. They are obviously limbering up for something bigger on the pretext of championing human rights. (They did not protest while the LTTE was abducting children, did they?) They have already demonstrated their ability to paralyse the North and prevent the writ of the state from running in that part of the country albeit temporarily. The government is trying to wish away the problem though it does not hesitate to unleash hell on protesting undergrads and workers in Colombo for disrupting vehicular traffic.
President Sirisena is trying to do in the North what his bete noire Rajapaksa did in the South in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election—instilling fear into the people to retain their support. Rajapaksa projected himself as a saviour who alone was equal to the task of warding off the evil forces bent on harming people and the country. He warned that if he was ousted, satanic forces he had banished would return. Sirisena has sought to convince the people of the North that he is the only person capable of saving them from the unnamed devil!
One of the organisers of the northern protests was heard on television saying that President Sirisena had to remember the Tamil vote he had obtained in 2015. Is it in return for their backing for Sirisena that they are now making the demands at issue? True, what made Sirisena’s victory possible was a massive swing in the North and the East. He polled 57.8% of votes in his home district, Polonnaruwa whereas he secured 78% of the votes in the Vanni, 74% in Jaffna, 81% in Batticaloa and 71% in Trincomalee. The UNP, even with the help of the SLFP dissidents and the JVP, could deliver only 55.93% of votes to him in its stronghold, Colombo.
Unrest in the North not only means the disillusionment of the forces which threw in their lot with Sirisena in 2015 but also portends trouble for him in that it will be grist for the his political enemies’ mill. He is in an unenviable position. Any move to appease the pro-LTTE groups on the warpath in the North will cost him dear politically elsewhere.
Let all politicians be warned that enlisting the support of terror backers to realise one’s political dreams is akin to selling one’s soul to the devil. For, there is no escape, thereafter, and those who make that fatal mistake are doomed to be at the beck and call of the devil or destroyed.