It is indeed a pleasure to walk down Colombo’s well-manicured roads these days.
One almost forgets that just a few years ago these very streets were death traps sans any glamour or greenery. There was a great sense of anxiety till bread winners returned home after the day’s work. Parents would wait for their children with pounding hearts and bated breath. Even a tyre burst would send a chill down one’s spine – a bomb?
The relief today is so great, almost palpable. So much so, many of us tend to take peace for granted.
The land which gave the word serendipity to the world is by and large finally at peace.
Or is it?
Have we really wiped off the deadliest of the anti-Sri Lankan agents?
Or have we turned a blind eye to their lethal weapons of ‘mass destruction’ in a gross deadly case of mistaken identity?
Prabhakaran was a killer, no doubt. His organisation was responsible for the deaths of nearly 26,000 civilians and 13,000 – 14,000 servicemen during the 25 years of protracted war.
Forty thousand deaths within twenty five years, is certainly gruesome.
However, what has one got to say if there’s another group that killed eight times more Sri Lankans during the same period?
While the killing machine of Velupillai Prabhakaran took 40,000 lives, a deadlier agent killed half a million of the country’s population during the same period.
Nearly 80 per cent of this number or 400,000 have been bread winners of families. This means in addition to committing this horrible mass murder, the tobacco bosses have also made 400,000 Sri Lankan women widows and nearly two million dependents – children and elders penniless during the 1983-2009 period.
In short, altogether 15 per cent of the country’s total population was directly hit by the industry.
As to why the government has turned a blind eye to this human loss and economic burden created by the tobacco industry is quite intriguing.
It looks like the industry’s smoke screen of government revenue by way of tax, has blinded the policy makers to the horrendous reality – a continuing saga with the number of victims rising every minute.
During the five years that passed since the war victory, tobacco has killed another hundred thousand.
It is almost inhuman that the government opts to disregard the social and economic burden of the deaths and the ever-increasing number of widows and dependents.
The rulers’ failure to wake up to the deadly dimension of the plague has seen the marauding tobacco bosses venturing to play Santa Claus to national leaders and top officials with the help of top political advisers and activists who are already in their pockets.
Direct and indirect sponsorship of sports and other events where big money is needed is just one strategy.
It is high time that the national leaders woke up from their deep slumber and stopped the gross massacre of Sri Lankans by the biggest terrorist ever to inhabit the nation.