Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Jehan Perera writes -Giving the ethnic minorities more than a Hobson’s Choice to please some, and to mislead many others.

Jehan Perera has begun his former anti-government campaign after the defeat of the terrorists. But never would Jehan Perera use the word terrorist in describing them; they were for him the LTTE. I read somewhere that Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu and Jehan Perera had visited the Assistant Secretary of State Robert O’Blake. What they had discussed we will not know, but whether their visit was to help the Assistant Secretary of State to prepare an adverse report against Sri Lanka to the American Congress is any body’s guess.

We however know where lies Jehan Perera’s interests. He is not an independent political analysts. During the days of terrorism his sympathies were with the terrorists - the LTTE -for him. And now it sounds as if he supports the Western Agenda against the government of Sri Lanka.

Jehan Perera had published in The Island of the 24 November,2009, an article-« Giving the ethnic minorities more than a Hobson’s choice ».
He writes, that the keenness in the forthcoming elections surrounds the candidacy of the former Army Commander General Fonseka as a common candidate of the opposition parties. It is undoubtedly so because there we have an Army General who became a respected hero of the people after he led with brilliance the Armed Forces for the termination of thirty years of suffering under ruthless terrorism, with a determined Commander –in-Chief the undaunted President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse giving him the political support.

Now, the people are furious that their hero has fallen from the high pedastal of respect and admiration where they had placed him, and dabbles in politics which is not for him. Whether the prediction that the Presidential elections would be closely contested is not that sure, as the people would like to have an experienced politician at the helm to lead the country in the aftermath of redeeming it from the terrorists , and therefore their choice is already made.

The popular vote against Sarath Fonseka would not be because people disrespect him, but because Sarath Fonseka a great army commander who will always be a hero in the minds of the people is just not the suitable person to be the Country’s President.
Jehan Perera says that at previous elections when pro-minority-Wickramasinghe spearheaded the opposition election campaign , President Mahinda Rajapakse and his allies were able to campaign on a platform of unrestrained Sinhalese Nationalism that was able to capture the imagination of the Sinhalese voters.

Jehan Perera is sadly mistaken what ever his qualifications as a political analyst, in his effort to please the anti Sinhala local and foreign elements, in saying that Rajapakse and his allies were able to capture the imagination of the Sinhala voters by campaigning on a platform of Sinhala Nationalism.

He says so because he makes statements to please a selective audience for his own personal reasons, and he is a writer who thrives on divisive politics of Sri Lanka. He surely knows that Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse in announcing his candidature had launched his election manifesto in which his main slogan was to end terrorism.

And if Mahainda Rajapakse were able to capture the imagination of the Sinhala voters it was not because of his campaign of unrestrained Sinhalese Nationalism, but because they were really interested in placing their trust on someone to put an end to thirty years of suffering and uncertainty, living under threat to life, with a ruthless group of terrorists able to create death and mayhem any where in Sri Lanka.

And they -the Sinhala voters, if not the other minority Communities who were under threat or being forced to vote otherwise, knew from his “track record” that Ranil Wickramasinghe is a weak leader, who is completely incapable of putting an end to terrorism, and knew that voting for him would have been the continuation of living under threat of terrorism for another uncertain period of time.

The continued disbursement of capital in the north and east for the development of the infra structure, education, health and agriculture, by the government of the President Mahinda Rajapakse, is certainly not designed to appeal to the minority communities for the fear of a competitive rival candidate’s, be it Sarath Fonseka’s or any one else’s ability to attract the voters of the minority community away from the candidate Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse. The development efforts of the Government, in the North and East has to be looked at objectively, without the tainted glasses of an anti-government political analyst.

But, it is because the people of the North and East had unfortunately ( despite perhaps a sentimental sympathy towards the terrorist) had suffered for three long decades without any social, cultural or economic development and lived under miserable conditions, and it is an absolute necessity now as a responsible government to give priority for the development of these areas redeemed from the terrorist to give those people living in those areas a decent conditions of living.

Therefore, it is ignoble on the part of Jehan Perera to express distorted views, that please who ever he wants to please, to minimize the importance of the work that is being carried out by the government to improve the condition of living of the people in the North and in the East without considering who ever they would like to vote .

The denial of the ethnic rights of the minorities has been a popular debate, without defining the ethnic problem. It is a political debate among the politicians and the anti government, dissentious journalists and analysts. But the ordinary Tamil people are not interest in that debate, they would rather vote for improved living conditions, reduction of the cost of living, providing education and health facilities, and access to employment without discrimination.

As far as Sarath Fonseka is concerned, a great Commander of our Armies, who was a good soldier, not being a politician did not mince his words when he said very “undiplomatically” that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhala. The statement was distorted by the interested racial “ Tamil supremacists”. They will therefore do every thing possible to turn the Tamil voters away from Sarath Fonseka, even if the good Commander were now to say that he had to say that to please the “young Sinhala Buddhist youth who were giving their lives to bring freedom to the Tamil people “.

Another instance of the distortion of the truth by Jehan Perera comes in the second paragraph of his article in The Island. He knows very well that the successive post independent governments of Sri Lanka had not treated differently the ethnic minorities of Sri Lanka. If there was dissatisfaction, it was exaggerated by the Tamil politicians themselves, who were expecting a larger part of the “cake” of Independence. They who were of the Vellalah Caste were seeking there own personal aggrandizement without working genuinely for the betterment of the every day living conditions of the middle and low caste Tamil people.

Thereafter, with the terrorism that had been installed in the North and East, and a very weak political leader taking over the reins of the office of Prime Minister- namely Ranil Wickramasinghe, made matters worse by foolishly signing a CFA proffered to him by the Norwegian Mediator Solheim, conceding parts of North and East of Sri Lanka to the terrorists as terrorist occupied areas, forbidding entry to the Government Army or Police Force, while allowing unarmed terrorists to enter into government territory.

The government was thereafter handicapped to look into the welfare of the Tamil people of the North and East without constant confrontation with terrorists. Jehan Perera without referring to this period where the ethnic minorities received scant attention for “ obvious” reasons says, that the most obvious case of disregard was the continued detention of the people from the LTTE-controlled areas who were confined to welfare centres run and guarded by military personnel.

Terrorism, had not apparently frightened Jehan Perera, or perhaps he knew them better, for him to speak of them with favour, and sees no reason why the Government took so much of precautions during the active period of terrorism. He therefore does not seem to agree with the government’s claim that national security required the detention to prevent LTTE infiltration out of the camps to prevent fresh insurgency erupting in the future.

That is of course a valid reason, which only the Government and the people who suffered because of terrorism could very well understand. Some of the detainees have confessed to their connection to the terrorists and given information of the caches of arms and ammunitions. Even the man who recruited child soldiers to the Charles Anthony Regiment of the terrorists has recently been found hiding among the detainees.

Doesn’t that justify the government’s concern, and not release the detainees without giving into International pressure ? The International Community, with whom Jehan Perera seems to agree with, has no genuine “human” interest for the internal security of our country or our people. The International Community has its own agenda to discredit the Government of the President Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse, and if possible to help his ouster to replace him with a “yes man” of the west as the next President.

The detention of the IDPs is still necessary as terrorist activists are still present hiding among the detainees, and their detection takes time. And the government which eliminated the scourge of terrorism knows better when it would be safe to release them. The International Community which took no part in the elimination of the terrorists in Sri Lanka is not in a position to advise the government as to what it should, and should not do.

Of course the detention of the IDPs is an extraordinary matter, as much as all what happened in Sri Lank with a ruthless terrorism incrusted in to the fabric of the Society for the last thirty years, and the military operations since 2006 until the elimination of the terrorism on the 18 May,2009. They were all extraordinary matters. Sometimes it would be a good thing to violate the freedom of movement, if it is in the greater interest of the security of the country and its innocent people, whether it pleases, or not the International Community.

The International Community is not always correct, and we see how the Communist China has become a great Nation today because it did not allow the International Community to interfere into its affairs during the period of its development.
It is time that short sighted Tamil “supremacists”, and the likes of Jehan Perera learn that there is more in detention of the IDPs , than releasing them to keep in terms with constitutional rights, and international covenants, when there is a greater need for the Government of the Country to defend its people, and be circumspect with regard to probability of terrorist activities to put in danger the security of the Country.

The confidence of the ordinary Tamil people, other than those Tamils with terrorist sympathies, could be built later when the possibility of a revival of terrorism is completely removed.

Of course people in Jaffna as well as the IDP detainees have genuine grievances, but in view of the conditions that brought about the difficult situation, the government has to move cautiously in finding solutions to the genuine problems of these people. And that cannot be done overnight in a hurry.

But why does Jehan Perera who says that the government’s decision to open up welfare centres and give the people within them the freedom of movement, and allowing the movement of Jaffna people without the need for military permits would be viewed positively by the people, has to add that the apparent change of heart by the government could be due to a combination of reasons . One the pressure brought to bear on it by a range of actors including the international donor community. (etc).

This government of the President Mahinda Rajapakse, thankfully does not give into the pressure of the International community, if the matter concerned is viewed by the government as not in the best interest of the Country and its people. Because ultimately it is the responsibility of the government to see what is good for the people and the country and what is not.

This government risked loosing the GSP+ not due to a question of national pride, but because the conditions laid by the EU who acts as the defenders of Democracy and human rights, for the grant of the concession were neither in the interest of the people, nor in the interest of the country. In reality the decision of the European community to deny the grant of the GSP+ concession is a violation of the human rights of a developing nation in the global political sense.

And it was for the same reason that the government refused to buckle down to international pressures to negotiate with the LTTE in the last phase of the war. Had the government given into international pressures to negotiate with the terrorists in the last phase of the war, they would have probably removed the terrorist leadership to safety from where they had been “cornered”, and Sri Lanka would not have been able to eliminate terrorism from it soil as it did on the 18 May,2009

It is not a correct interpretation that the departure of General Sarath Fonseka from the ranks of the government has been the catalyst for the change on the part of the government. It is indeed a sad end of a Great General’s breaking away from his old friends, but it is no reason for the government to be apprehensive .

The General Fonseka may rejuvenate the dispirited ranks of the opposition and may to a certain extent split the Sinhala electorate. But at no time had the government monopolized the Sinhala electorate. The Sinhala electorate is much more intelligent than Jehan Perera would like to give credit.

The Sinhala electorate would chose the eminently suitable candidate when the time comes. And there is no doubt about it. The people on the whole will not appreciate General Sarath Fonsek’s desire to take credit for himself for the victory over terrorism. A candidate favoured by the International Community would not necessarily be the best Presidential Candidate for Sri Lankan Communities.

The elimination of the terrorism was done in coordination with the Infantry Military Force, the Air Force, the Naval Force, other Security Forces such as the Police, and the “ Political Force” of the Commander in Chief Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse.
The precise bombing by the Air Force Pilots was a remarkable achievement, and so was the sinking of the ten ships and the boats of the sea tiger terrorists by the Sri Lanka Navy. The Soldiers and the Colonels in charge of each platoon of soldiers directed their soldiers with distinction despite the risks they were taking.

The Secretary of Defence too did his part excellently well in coordinating the Infantry Military Force, Air Force and the Navy. If the President Mahinda Rajapakse at any time requested the Armed Forces to cease fire, meekly giving in to the pressure of the International Community the elimination of terrorism would have turned out to be a dream.

Therefore, General Sarath Fonseka does a mistake in trying to take credit for himself for the elimination of the terrorists. However great the General had been , if the political leadership was weak, the terrorism in Sri Lanka would have continued unabated. This the Sinhala Electorate as well as the Tamil Community who suffered under the jack boot of terrorism, is quite aware. Under the circumstances the General Sarath Fonseka cannot certainly muster a greater support from these Electorates. They will instead abhor him for his egoism, in claiming that the credit for the victory against the terrorism is his and his alone.

Finally Jehan Perera explains the Hobson’s Choice. He says that the minority voters appear to be facing a Hobson’s choice, between Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse on the one hand and General Sarath Fonsek on the other. Jehan Perera seems to have no sympathy to either of the two candidates but definitely has a penchant for the General Sarath Fonseka.

Because Jehan Perera , due to his former sympathies towards the terrorist LTTE, probably hates the President Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse, for not having weakened under the pressure exerted on him by the International Community, to allow a reprieve to enable them to throw a life line to the terrorist leadership cornered in the no-fire zone in Mulaitivu.

But Jehan Perera has a Hobson’s choice himself not knowing which of them to praise , and which to condemn. Because, he knows that both of them were responsible for the elimination of the LTTE leadership.

He complains that the government of the President Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse waged a costly war “merely” to defeat the LTTE ( Jehan Perera calls the terrorists the LTTE). And he says the government mobilized the Sinhala nationalism to do so. He doesn’t see patriotism in those Sinhala Buddhist youth who perished in thousands to redeem the innocent Tamils who had suffered under a ruthless group of terrorists for nearly three decades, and save their motherland from being divided.

Jehan Perera is definitely with the American Ambassador Robrt O’Blake and the rest of the International Community, who were intent in dividing Sri Lanka and setting up an Eelam, and with that in view continued to pontificate that the solution to the ethnic problem is a political one, and called upon the government to negotiate with the terrorists for a peace settlement. Jehan Perera echoes this same sentiment when he says that , during most of the war the government down played the need for a political solution to address long standing ethnic minority grievances.
If such a solution as counseled by the O’Blake and the IC was followed we would have still not seen the dawn of peace, and the terrorists may still be continuing their ruthless activities.

Though Jehan Perera does not seem to accept that peace had dawned after the war, the poor Tamil people who suffered the brunt of terrorism knows in their heart of hearts that they can now live without fear, and that peace has at last dawned with the end of the war against terrorism. It is people like Jehan Perera who tries to keep the memory of terrorism alive, broaching the non existent “grievances of the ethnic minority”.

Even if the common people of the minority communities are now satisfied with the condition of living, and perceive the government’s efforts to improve all aspects of their living condition in the North and East, it is outsiders to the suffering that they went through, who try to put them against the government.

There being nothing to harp about Jehan Perera continues with his ranting about ethnic minority rights of which he himself is not sure. No one who speaks of the minority rights and the grievances of the ethnic minority has so far defined what they are. If it is political rights that they speak of, that definitely is not the urgent need of the ordinary Tamil people.

Speaking of a Rajpakse led government and Fonseka led Opposition Jehan Perera says their track record with regard to understanding minority rights and addressing their grievances has been poor. Here Jehan Perera is trying to compare, two which are uncomparable. Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse had been a politician for nearly forty years, and Sarath Fonseka had been a soldier all his professional life without any political experience what so ever to speak about track records.

But on the other hand Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse has had a remarkable political carrier, and no-body who is an objective observer could say any thing ill about his track record with regard to ethnic minority rights and addressing their grievances.
Jehan Perera through out his long article wrote about ethnic minority rights and addressing their grievances without explaining once, what are these rights and grievances that have not been addressed.

It was the ethnic minorities that suffered most from the ruthless terrorism in the North and the East. For thirty years these provinces had not been developed. They lacked basicl amenities in comparison with the present day living conditions of the people in other parts of Sri Lanka. In a matter of three years the President Mahinda Rajapakse was able to bring the ruthless terrorism that lasted for thirty years to a stop. That it- self is no small achievement.

Though General Sarath Fonseka along with the Commanders of the Air Force, the Naval Force, and other Security Forces ably orgnised the military strategies that finally saw the end of terrorism, the driving force behind the military onslaught was undoubtedly that of the President Mahinda Rajapakse.

If he had faltered at any instances, under the pressure exerted on him by the International Community, the Armed Forces would not have been able to complete its war against terrorism. What more is required as a track record to make the President eminently suitable to continue to lead the Nation of Sri Lanka, to develop the country further , eliminate corruption, thwart thuggery, bring about a real communal unity, and usher in economic prosperity to Sri Lanka.

The fault with Jehan Perera and the critics of his ilk is that they do not know how and when to give credit to whoever it is due, even while constructively pointing out errors and shortcomings.

If the Hobson’ choice of the ethnic minority Jehan Perera points out in his article to The Island, is the choice between General Sarath Fonseka and Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse at the forth coming Presidential election, it seems that there should not be any dilemma in the minds of the ethnic minority. They have a very good choice, unless they wish to remain niggardly in offering their generous gratitude.

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