The visit of the 12 member Indian parliamentary delegation led by the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj may be likened to locking of the stable door after the horse has bolted.
The American sponsored-European Union backed Resolution moved against Sri Lanka was what the Rajapaksa government desperately wanted to avoid. But it was passed with the backing of India – which could have been avoided had India decided otherwise – much to the chagrin of Sri Lanka.
Now what could be done to the devastated Indo-Lanka relations? Optimists on both sides of the Palk Strait hope that the warm and cordial relations that existed – if not continuously but periodically – could be restored to some extent. We sincerely hope so.
This debacle may have been avoided had Indo-Lanka relations been what they were three years before the much celebrated victory over the LTTE. But after the military triumph, relations between New Delhi and Colombo flagged visibly. Gone was the subservience shown by Colombo to the rulers and bureaucratic Brahmins of New Delhi and so was the absence of condescending patronage that emanated from New Delhi.
Only terse official communiqués were issued till the critical moment arrived.
What can be expected of the parliamentary delegation that was here last week? It was shot in the foot even before embarkation to Sri Lanka when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jeyalalitha and Muthuvel Karunanidhi the DMK leader pulled out their party representatives from the delegation. The mood in Tamil Nadu after the defeat of the LTTE is to whip up anti-Sri Lanka sentiments to the political advantage of these two leaders. They are in severe competition with each other to show their voters who can whip Sri Lanka better.
With one of the objectives of the visit of the Indian delegation being to bring about improved relations between the two countries, the question is whether this objective could be achieved without representatives of the two main Tamil Nadu parties.
The Indian parliamentarians will be inquiring about the welfare of the Tamil people who were caught up in the conflict and how they have fared in the near three years of peace.
For a people who have been battered for decades caught up in the cross-fire of war, their near and dear killed and maimed, their homes destroyed, they cannot be expected to tell the visitors that their lives are all hunky-dory. The government has done much to re-settle thousands of displaced people after demining acres of land but much remains to be done. There are more issues such as disappearances, civilian deaths and suspects still incarcerated without trial which are referred to in the reports of the panel appointed by the UN Secretary General as well as the government appointed LLRC which the Indian parliamentarians would have gone through.
The proud boast of the Rajapaksa government is the vast economic development that is taking place after the war ended. While there has been some progress in agricultural production on land which had remained uncultivated for decades, the youth of the North and East want gainful employment. Agriculture today is not a pursuit which youth in the north, south, east or west desire. They will want to work in factories or offices which are woefully lacking resources. Will the government be able to impress upon the visiting delegation; the construction and repair of factories, schools, hospitals and new development schemes that have taken place in the last 3 years in the war devastated areas?
While commendation of the relief provided to the victims of war cannot be expected to come from refugees, what is striking to even those living in far away places such as Western capitals is the lack of progress in bringing about a settlement of the national question. The resolution of the grievances complained of by Tamils does not require billions of dollars in foreign investment. What is required is the political will, which has not been evident.
A striking flaw in the thinking of the government and most Sinhalese is the ‘granting of rights’ to Tamils. What has to be realised is that the Tamils need not be ‘granted’ any rights by a government or the Sinhalese because as citizens of this country for as long as the Sinhalese have been, Tamils have inherent rights and these rights have to be legally implemented.
Sri Lanka does not need the blessings or the munificence of New Delhi or the moral sanction of Washington, London or any other Western capital to resolve its national question. It has to resolve the issue of the minority Tamils by recognising their rights as equal citizens. Until this issue is resolved we will have interested powers breathing down our necks using the issue of minority rights which is the latest instrument used to subjugate a nation.
Jeyalalitha now wants trade sanctions imposed on Sri Lanka for alleged ‘War Crimes’ by our armed forces. Karunanidhi wants a referendum held in Sri Lanka on the issue of Eelam. Meanwhile India has commissioned a nuclear power generation station at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu a short distance across the Palk Strait as the crow flies.
No one in Sri Lanka is objecting even though countries such as Germany are closing down its nuclear power generation plants after Fukushima and Japan too is drastically reducing its nuclear power generation.
If Koodankulam breaks down with a radioactive leak how much of Sri Lanka will be engulfed by radioactive clouds? No one in Sri Lanka is objecting to Koodankulum and no one seems to know the fall out of a Koodankulum blow out. Not even that self-proclaimed doughty fighter for the Tri Sinhale, Champika Ranawaka! Price paid for reconciliation with India after Geneva?