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Rajapaksa’s actions speak louder than words for sceptical Tamils

[Times Online UK, Thursday, 2 July 2009 22:23 No Comment]

Jeremy Page: analysis

When President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka declared victory over the Tamil Tigers in May, he reached out to the Tamil minority that the defeated rebels had claimed to represent over 26 years of civil war.

Speaking in Tamil, as well as his native Sinhalese, he told Parliament in Colombo that the war against the Tigers was not a war against the Tamil people, and declared that everyone in Sri Lanka should live with equal rights.

Since then, however, he has done little to convince Sri Lanka’s three million Tamils — let alone the 74 million-strong diaspora — of either of those points, and has, in fact, tolerated or condoned much to persuade them that the opposite is true.

In the celebrations that followed his victory, he appeared to revel in comparisons to King Dutugemunu, a legendary Sinhalese sovereign who routed a rival Tamil monarch and unified Sri Lanka.

More than six weeks after the Tigers’ defeat, his Government still has not allowed UN staff and aid workers unfettered access to the 300,000 ethnic Tamil refugees in army-run internment camps.

Critics of the Government continue to be harassed and intimidated, the most recent example being a popular astrologer who was arrested last week after predicting that Mr Rajapaksa would lose power in September.

This week, his Government announced that it planned to add another 50,000 people to its armed forces — already at a record strength of more than 350,000, almost all Sinhalese.

In its defence, the Government says that it has set a date of August 8 for elections to representative bodies in the Vavuniya and Jaffna areas, as part of a broader plan to democratise the Tigers’ former territory.

However, if the Government continues to indulge Sinhalese nationalists, drag its feet on resettlement,

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