Posted on 08-02-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Previous posts in this blog (see link) had noted the challenges facing Sri Lanka in the aftermath of its total military victory against the LTTE.  Sri Lanka’s President and the Amy Chief tried to hog the credit for the victory and both giant egos faced off in the recent Presidential election, which President Rajapaksa won handily.  In what seems like a harbinger of the policy facing the defeated Tamils, President Rajapaksa seems unwilling to rest on the laurels of victory at the ballot box.  He has now proceeded to arrest General Fonseka, confirming the fears of the opposition.  See link.   Generals who grow too big for their boots while in uniform are a concern for any democracy.  But arresting the loser of an election a week later is an authoritarian move that does not bode well for Sri Lankan democracy.

Many Tamils are still stuck in refugee camps.  The minority areas had ironically voted for General Fonseka feeling he was more likely to seek a solution to Sri Lanka’s ethnic divide.  With the firm backing of Sinhalese nationalists President Rajapaksa may not see the need for compromise or to implement the Sri Lankan constitution’s mandate to devolve power to the provinces.  See link.  It is hard to see how a state with two distinct ethnicities at loggerheads who are also conveniently segregated can survive without such a compromise.  The failure to compromise (and the attempt to deny citizenship to the Tamil minority) helped spark the civil war in the first place.

The LTTE’s assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 cost it Indian sympathy.  But the LTTE is now gone and sympathy for Sri Lanka’s Tamils runs deep in the next door Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  Any recurrence of civil war would put domestic pressure on India to intervene to protect the Tamils ( a situation neither New Delhi or Colombo want to arise).  Sri Lanka could use a dose of enlightened leadership that uses the period of war exhaustion to forge a lasting settlement.  I am not sure that President Rajapaksa’s thin-skinned government is up to the challenge.

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