Daily News Editorial
Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, spearheading the Eliya movement to defeat government efforts at creating a new constitution, in Galle, the other day, stressed that devolution of power to the minority Tamils was not the solution to bring about reconciliation, but it was only through the provision of sufficient facilities and development in the North that this could be achieved. The former strongman, in the Rajapaksa government, has certainly got his wires crossed, and, what is more, is seemingly condemned to live with this school of thought, as did brother Mahinda to his great cost.
The Tamil community is not demanding development, or, freebies by the government. Development of the North, in any event, was carried out at a frenetic pace, led by Basil Rajapaksa, immediately after the conclusion of the war, which changed the entire landscape of the war ravaged territory, erasing all vestiges of the bloody conflict. Not only that, Mahinda Rajapaksa even went to the extent of distributing gold items, among the populace, that were plundered from them by the LTTE, during his presidential election campaign, and, moving freely among the community. What good did this do to him, in terms of the northern vote, at the poll?
Nay, the Tamils have demonstrated, time and again, that they did not want the patronage of the government, in terms of special treatment, or, development bonanzas. They only want to live with honour and dignity, and, to be treated on equal terms, with the rest of the population. The scars inflicted by the racist policies of successive governments are too deep to be assuaged by any other means than recognizing the rights of the Tamil community to live in a milieu where they will have an opportunity to decide on their own affairs, of course, without harming the unity and integrity of the country. This is what is sought to be offered under the new constitution, which the likes of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, and, his like-minded cohorts, in the Eliya movement, have rejected outright.
Cartoon from internet
Of course, Gota must be bitter towards the Northern voter, for more than tilting the scales, that spelt disaster to his brother, on January 8. But MR himself invited this disaster upon himself for the way he treated the Tamils after the war ended. They (Tamils) were made to feel a conquered race. ‘Victory Parades’ were held, day in and day out, that gave the spectacle the patina of conquest of one race by another. Matters were not helped when Rajapaksa, in the days following the victory, addressed parliament in the manner of a latter day Dutu Gemunu, hectoring to one and all that a solution to the Tamil question will be only on his terms and would not condone anything planted from ‘outside’. The war victory was propagated as one won by one nation over another, relegating the North to that ‘other nation’, rather than an armed conflict between brethren of the same country.
To cap it all, Rajapaksa banned the singing of the National Anthem, in Tamil, in schools, and, government offices, in the North, out of pique, after a last minute cancellation of his Oxford Union address by the authorities, due to a mass protest by Tamils in London. All these events, no doubt, were decisive in ousting the hitherto invincible Rajapaksas from the seats of power, and, there is no reason to suggest the status quo has changed to any degree, notwithstanding Basil Rajapaksa’s recent efforts to make amends, during his visit to the North. Nay, things can only further aggravate the electoral fortunes of the Rajapaksas, with Gota, who may be entertaining ideas of contesting for the Presidency, himself leading the campaign to deny the Tamils their legitimate right to even a semblance of devolution (he has criticized the 13th Amendment), through the Eliya movement.
Be that as it may, this is the first time in our post-independence history that we have come close to enacting a constitution that has the inputs of all, both, across the political and communal divide, and, also the best chance of producing a document that has the consensus of all. After all, it was Mahinda Rajapaksa, as an opposition politician, it is, who agitated most against the present constitution, and, was a minister in the government whose leader described it as a bahubootha viyawasthawa. Hence, on what basis can the Joint Opposition oppose the scrapping of the constitution is difficult to fathom, unless this stems from narrow political considerations.
A phenomenal recovery
The Railway engine drivers, who are currently on strike, perhaps, are without children who are sitting for the GCE (O/L) examinations, that commenced yesterday. Or, may be their offspring are driven to school in luxury vehicles, what with a take home pay of an engine driver topping an astounding Rs. 225,000/- per month. It was at one time suggested that the Railway Department was so broke that the government was planning to selloff railway property and it’s other assets to make ends meet. Perhaps it has made a remarkable recovery.