Serendipity of politics
I seem to often hear the word “serendipity” these days which makes me feel quite home-sick for my country of birth – Sri Lanka. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this word stems from an old name for Sri Lanka coined by “Persian” traders – Serendip. However, most of the initial excitement and emotion that may well within me would be quenched when I realise that this beautiful country is still in the throes of regaining its once held glory when it was described by such beautiful names.
After winning a war fought over nearly three decades, Sri Lanka was was indeed given a great opportunity to turn into the envy of the world. That was over 5 years ago. Somehow, the so called leaders of that nation managed to screw that up over and over again.
I am recording below an excerpt from a very interesting article written by Niranjan Canagasooryam via the Colombo Telegraph that may explain some of the sentiments I feel right now.
Hijacking war victory success
The Rajapaksa‘s are widely credited with winning the civil war that had plagued this nation for over three decades. Yet, there are many unsung heroes who have played crucial roles in winning the war both directly and indirectly. The obvious is Sarath Fonseka and the honourable forces that were not given the due recognition they rightfully deserved. Amongst the other silent players, Ranil Wickremesinghe is widely believed to be the mastermind architect in splitting the LTTE with the defection of Karuna, who had supposedly delivered vital intelligence on LTTE’s modus operandi. Another unsung hero is Lakshman Kadirgamar, who under the leadership of Chandrika Kumaratunga worked tirelessly to ensure ban on the LTTE by many global powers and as a result made it difficult for the LTTE to raise funds and operate its activities. The list goes on and on and in this context, Ranil Wickremesinghe’ s recent TV interview drew parallel between the war victory and a cricket match, whereby winning is ascribed to the performance of the entire team with Mahinda Rajapaksa merely taking the last wicket.
Hurting the reconciliation process by claiming zero civilian casualties
Any war brings with it, bloodshed and civilian casualties. Rightly or wrongly to moral consciousness, the majority of Sri Lankans agree that the war had to be ended despite this civilian loss. Nonetheless, the Rajapaksa‘s deceitful claim of zero civilian casualty questions their credibility and has inadvertently trapped them into an irreversible position. Importantly, this deceitful claim has resulted in missing a golden prospect of sincere reconciliation of a battered society who had to suffer both the brunt of terrorism and had to face the horror of the sheer death numbers of their loved ones and community brought upon them during the final stages of the war. The first step towards any sincere reconciliation is to deliver the truth and use the strong roots of democracy to reach out to the marginalized society by acknowledging such tragedy. Assuming in the remotest scenario that by acknowledging the truth, the Rajapaksa’ s are tried to war crimes, they would have been hailed as martyrs that great leaders are willing to die for. In this context, it is arguable in the truest essence whether the Rajapaksa ‘s actually won the battle and lost the war as it was a successful military defeat but lacked winning the hearts and minds of all communities to elude recurrence.
Alienating Sri Lanka from global powers
There remains no secret that co-chair countries unanimously agreed that LTTE had to be militarily defeated and to this effect had supposedly assisted the Sri Lankan Government in bringing this war to an end. Instead of garnering this international support and working closely with these global powers, the Rajapaksa’ chose isolating themselves not merely for the fear of consequences, but also for the benefit of their local popularity. Historic examples across the globe showcase humility and success differently, following the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, the United States Government reached out to the Japanese with colossal aid and Japan recovered from being a war-torn nation to becoming one of the leading economies of the world. Germany post-World War II received enormous international aid and progressed to become the number four economy of the globe. In comparison, ensuing the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia failed to garner international support and faces the consequences of its economy being in doldrums even today. Lacking wisdom and learning’s from historic global experiences, the Rajapaksa ‘s have branded countries as friends or foes namely western powers, imperialism, colonizers, bullying by the big brother, help from China, etc. and turning down the opportunity for receiving billions of dollars of aid and opting instead to financial borrowing that our future generations would have to pay.
After the finale of the war in 2009, Mahinda Rajapaksa enjoyed unprecedented popularity and absolute power and could have rebooted Sri Lanka. Instead, for the sheer greed of power and family rule, six years later the country is facing rising levels of authoritarianism, denigration of the rule of law, alarming levels of nepotism, cronyism, politically motivated religious violence and disturbing levels of human and financial corruption. With Mahinda Rajapaksa taking 100% credit for war victory, claiming zero civilian casualties and alienating Sri Lanka from global powers, he chose personal victory and popularity and missed the golden opportunity of leaving behind a legacy of a revitalized, united Sri Lanka.