The National Heroes’ Day was marked on May 18. Defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) and their terrorists-in-arms is indeed a very significant victory for the Sri Lankan security forces. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force with all the assistance of the Police Force managed to put to rest an ethnic war that lasted more than twenty five years. The gallantry of our soldiers, sailors and airmen and policemen cannot be overstated. The leadership on the battleground was precise, decisive and final. Each unit and each division made unspeakable sacrifices. Some, more than a lot, made their ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives for the sake of the land, the faith and the race.
To paraphrase Leonard Woolf’s opening in his celebrated literary creation ‘The Village in the Jungle’ -- ‘all wars are evil and no war was more evil than that engulfed Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009’ (‘All jungles are evil and no jungle was more evil than that lay about the village Baddegama’ – The Village in the Jungle by Leonard Woolf). The carnage committed by the Tigers and their cohorts assumed devilish dimensions, in numbers, nature and style.
However, the LTTE or any other military arms of other terrorist groups fighting for the same cause of Eelam were no official armies representing a separate State or nation. On the contrary, the Sri Lankan security forces are the official army representing the country, the state and the people. Any equivalence assumed or presumed between these two opposing forces is unwise, immaterial and discriminating to both parties. But a celebration of a ‘war-victory’ by the soldiers is legitimate and natural. No living person on Sri Lankan soil can argue against such a celebration. But this celebration activity becomes a blatant indulgence in triumphalism when it exceeds the precincts of a civilized expression of joy and relief; the day we shamefully declare that we won the war and lost the peace is not too far. When chauvinism is mistaken for patriotism, when unconcealed attempts at humiliating another religion or ethnicity is mistaken for relief from conflict, what is revealed is not pure joy of victory but utter contempt and disregard for the fallen pride and destitute of fellow human beings.
Languishing in sorrow of parting, meandering in the forlorn land of nowhere, man may seek rest in a cruel surrounding; he may enter an illusionary world where nightmares roam like demented demons, he may even regret the wasteful days and wasteful nights spent on a wasted pursuit of mirages, but when his manhood is confronted with foolish insinuations and mythical superiority of one ethnicity over another, he reacts. It may take some time but react he will.
By pretending to be more patriotic than others, the Rajapaksas and their defeated clan showed this kind of monumental idiocy and hypocrisy last week, on May 18 to be exact, by visiting some detained soldiers in prison and declaring that the Government is ignoring the soldiers who fought the war. Under the pretext of paying tribute to the gallant solders who won the Eelam war, these living examples of hypocrisy and double-standards, forgot that it was they who imprisoned the greatest of all war heroes, the then General and now Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in the aftermath of the 2010 presidential elections. How on earth these guys can sleep in the night is a wonder beyond anyone’s speculation.
These are the same characters who shrieked on the Sri Jayewardenepura platform soon after the war ended in May 2009 and sang melodies and odes of praise and tribute to Fonseka; these are the same politicians who gave a new meaning to patriotism and redefined it as blind and irrational fidelity to a set of beliefs and faiths based on ancient myths and bloated egos. With those bloated egos they became blinded; the victors became victims of their own self-created prisons; what was granted to them at the preceding elections was grossly misunderstood as a lifetime guarantee in power, an unrestricted license to govern forever. The march of flagrant hypocrisy began in earnest.
When Fonseka announced his candidacy for the Presidency, everything changed. The Rajapaksas went berserk and their propaganda machine turned the ‘war-hero’ into a traitor overnight. In one of the most dishonest election campaigns ever conducted in Sri Lanka they castigated Sarath Fonseka and established in the minds of the voter that the credit of the war victory belonged to the Rajapaksas and them alone. In the immediate aftermath of the election, they dragged out Fonseka from his household and placed him under arrest.
Ironically, within a fortnight of the Presidential Election held on January 26, the officer who manhandled and did this ghastly deed at the behest of his masters to Fonseka on the night of February 8, 2010, Major General Manawadu, bade a most unpleasant goodbye to the world and his family a couple of weeks ago under the most unfortunate circumstances. Some say it was ‘Ditta-Dhamma-vedaneeya Karma’ (sins committed by a person being visited upon by the same in his or her own lifetime).
The incarceration of Sarath Fonseka was the ultimate evil the Rajapaksa regime committed. There is no parallel that one could find in our history, except perhaps the detaining and eventual execution of ‘Mahattaya’, the second-in-command in the LTTE, when Prabhakaran suspected that Mahattaya would one day overtake him in the ranks of the Tigers. That parallel looks, very strangely, too close for comfort. Same sins committed by apparently closely-associated sinners.
Every minute, hour, day and month spent in the Welikada prisons, Sarath Fonseka may have questioned the veracity of the Sinhalese superiority in race and their ostensible adherence to the teachings of the Great One, Gautama Buddha. So many Buddhist monks too followed the identical sinful path of the regime and participated in the wicked exploit. All the Rajapaksa cohorts who visited the Welikada prison the other day are as guilty as anybody. For them to cry foul now is an expression of flagrant hypocrisy and the fact that they indulged in that pastime of theirs is no surprise.
Then they instituted the infamous white-flag case to nail Fonseka for good. A condemned man, they thought, could be written off. And they were dead wrong. Today the tables have turned. Fonseka is a Cabinet Minister while the Rajapaksas are rotting away in the Opposition benches, sulking away and displaying their envy, hatred and anger towards a ‘war-hero’.
It’s all in the cycle of life. A poor rural woman would understand the ups and downs of life; she would understand the impermanence of power, might and wealth, she would relate to loss of mundane matters as a rational and reasonable human being. But those who were drunk with power, glory and self-aggrandizement, that realization comes very hard and late. The cobwebs that have grown while they were in power are difficult to remove. They still seem to persist in inhabiting the fragile wilderness of delusion. For such beings, dawn of wisdom and sensibility is much too far away. When the crimson skies that linger just before twilight turn into gray gloom of night, the same shadowy ghosts of their past sins begin to harass them; self-doubt enters their hearts and minds which up to that point were shielded by state-power, an unlimited number of bodyguards and wealth allegedly accumulated through corruption, nepotism and sinful governance.
They are in a chaotic state of eruption, the key word being eruption. If one does not take a serious note of that potential eruption, if one chooses to disregard that fragile state of mind as of no consequence, then those who underestimate the past regime will be caught napping too. For, the fundamentals of politics have not changed: No political animal could be ruled out, whatever the circumstances.
The past regime still possesses some of the best craftsmen in political propaganda. Those who turned a war-hero into a traitor within a couple of months could be capable of anything. In other words, there is no alternative to being vigilant; there is no other option available to the Government in power. Those who are managing the state affairs today should not forget that the memories of the voters at large are pathetically short-lived.
In the context of dealing with the current campaigns run by the so-called ‘Joint Opposition’, one must remember that in his celebrated works, The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote thus:
“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared”. The past regime thought that they threw an un-returnable blow to Sarath Fonseka. It did not happen. Fonseka came back. So can the Rajapaksas.
The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.