Friday, November 25, 2011

Diversionary Tactics, Racial Politics in Sri Lanka

The Sinhala ruling class and Sinhala diplomacy are highly skilled in creating new diversionary problems with the sole objective of creeping out of tight corners. To be specific, they are experts in this art of obfuscation. The recent announcements and actions with regard to the resettlement of Sinhala settlers in Jaffna is also a part of this diversionary tactic.
By compelling opposition factions to think upon and focus their attention on a particular issue, and by crippling their activities on the other hand, the government diverts their attention from the main issue at hand. This has been the time-worn strategy and practice of the Sinhala ruling class.
Resettlement of Sinhala Families
The latest is the creation of the controversy relating to the resettlement of Sinhala families in the Jaffna Peninsula. This has created an issue that diverts the attention of the media and Tamil populace. They think about and talk about no other issue.When they turn their entire attention to this issue they forget their main grievances. Their attention is monopolized by the new issue. Since the issue of resettling Sinhala people in the north has surfaced, their main issues namely resettlement of displaced Tamils, High Security Zones (HSZs), ethnic issue, and development of their regions have been put on the back burner.
It has become a common practice for the ruling faction to postpone or delay dealing with existing problems by creating new problems. This is a ruse that is meant to drive the oppressed class to get embroiled in new problems.
Presidential Election
We quote here a recent example to substantiate our argument. Conducting two major elections simultaneously was a ruse used to divert the attention of the people from the refugee camp issues. Although there was time to hold the presidential election, the government held it ahead of time. With that move it made the presidential election a controversy in itself. Subsequently, the government also conducted the general election. A cross section of people had to cast their votes while still being in refugee camps cut from any and all contact with the outside world.
Not only was this wrong it was also an offense. Giving the people incarcerated in camps no option but to cast their votes was certainly not an opportunity for them to exercise their franchise. It was tantamount to being the commission of a crime because they were prisoners and yet expected to vote. All those people who compelled these people to cast their votes while being in such a plight are co-perpetrators of that crime.
Solving Country's Problems
The elections held during that period took everyone's focus away from their problems and onto the elections. These elections not only drew the attention of the country but also of the Tamil community. Instead of solving the country's problems the government used this strategy to make Tamil parties struggle to contest the election. The media also focused attention exclusively on the election. In this strategy we see that governance means nothing more than a strategy of the Sinhala ruling class. And the Tamil polity as well as political parties were kept gravitating round this strategy used by the Sinhala ruling class to divert public attention away from burning issues. And that is the situation that is once again prevailing in the country.
The issues relating to HSZs, those who are missing, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leaders who are missing after their surrender to the security forces, a solution to the ethnic issue have all been driven below the national consciousness by the creation of the issue relating to the resettling of Sinhala people in Jaffna.
The government has created a breathing space to overcome the crises it is faced with. And it has done so by staging this drama of Sinhala people seeking resettlement in the Jaffna Peninsula.
The truth is that these Sinhala people had never been refugees anywhere nor have they ever received any form of refugee aid outside Jaffna. They have not been subjected to any form of hardship by any displacement, as claimed. Nor, for that matter, had they themselves ever considered coming to Jaffna to take ownership of lands and assets. They have however by some means been brought to Jaffna in the guise of refugees to create a resettlement issue. We can now see that even the Sinhala people in Jaffna are being used as pawns of the Sinhala ruling class.
The government agent Jaffna has said these Sinhala people cannot in the foreseeable future be resettled in Jaffna. At the same time Minister Douglas Devananda says three months would be needed to make a decision pertaining to their plea for resettlement.
The Jaffna Peninsula is not in a position to welcome these Sinhala settlers and help them in a resettlement process. The peninsula is faced with an issue of landless people and yet, those who claim that they want to resettle in Jaffna have no lands or assets of their own in the peninsula.
As far as Douglas is concerned this is an issue that has trapped him in a crisis situation. He finds himself under pressure with the question pertaining to how the government can send Sinhala people to Jaffna for resettlement when it is dragging its feet over the need to resettle the Tamil people in the HSZs in the peninsula. He therefore used the three-month grace period to resolve the issue. His announcement disappointed the government and also created a bit of a crisis for it in this context. Consequent to such announcement a group of Sinhala people returned to the South. But the Sinhala ruling class did not remain mum. It stirred up the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). The JHU said that if these Sinhala people were not resettled in the Jaffna Peninsula it would leave for Jaffna and engage in direct action to resettle them in the peninsula.
The Sinhala Urumaya is not such a powerful Sinhala political force. But it has the ability to create an issue. Its announcement was meant to create an opinion that it was pressurizing the government on this issue. The objective of the ruling class in creating forces like the Sinhala Urumaya is to create crises by exploiting such circumstances.
The government also wanted to show that it respects the voice of the Sinhala Urumaya. Hence, by expressing its concerns about the plight of these Sinhala people it is really contributing towards the intensification of this issue into a problem for the Tamil people.
The government wanted to make a show of its concern for the welfare of these Sinhala people who want to resettle in Jaffna. So, instead of telling them to return to the south pending a solution to their demands it told them to remain in the peninsula and sent the resettlement minister there to assure them of a solution.
Minds of Tamils
Resettlement Minister Milroy Fernando arrived in Jaffna. He studied the situation and gathered details from the Sinhala people. He was already well acquainted with the facts relating to this issue long before he came there to speak to them. He did speak to them for the sake of creating appearances that he knew nothing of the issue. Was that not a dramatic touch? The minister played his role well in the drama to mislead the Tamils as well as the Sinhala people.
Finally, he asked these people to wait for some time. He also told them that Minister Douglas Devananda would attend their issue. Minister Milroy has gone back. But these Sinhala people have become fake refugees and made to stay on in Jaffna. The issue remains unresolved in Jaffna. It has become a burning issue as far as the Tamils are concerned and also poses several questions in the minds of the Tamils.
Meanwhile, this issue has given rise to debates relating to the arrival of Sinhala people in Jaffna. An open discussion was held in Jaffna on this issue recently.
There are voices cautioning that this issue be handled cautiously. An analyst claims that the arrival of Sinhala people in the north is not an issue. But their attempts to settle in the north and in the east and the manner in which they are going about it have turned it into an issue. While thousands of Tamils remain to be resettled in Kilinochchi, Mullattivu, and Trincomalee areas what could be the objective behind the government's attempts to settle Sinhala people in Jaffna?
The government shows no interest in resettling Muslim people who fled the north. But the same government and ministers make a big show of deep concern about these Sinhala people. What is the explanation behind this? No one understands.
Racial or Religious Differences
The president says there should not be any racial or religious differences in the country. All are equal and are the citizens of this country. So he says.
But the reality is entirely different from what he claims it is. All differences exist in this country. Does not the president know about all these differences? Do all these incidents take place without his knowledge? Does he expect us to trust him in all this?
The Jaffna District Secretariat has made all arrangements to supply these southerners with relief supplies. Every family is to be supplied with relief worth rupees 10,000 (SIRe). But SIRe 1,000 only is given to Tamil families which have more than five members.
Racial Perspective
The government gives SIRe 1,000 to each Sinhala family. Is this the society without racial or religious differences as claimed by the president?
It is true that certain sections approach this issue in its racial perspective. But it is the government that's creating this effect because the government needs to stoke racism for its survival. It is a well known fact that the leading forces in Sri Lankan politics survive on racism. That such a mode of politics continues even after such enormous losses and destructions the nation has been subjected to is a matter for deep regret. The Tamils have become the victims of racial politics and the government continues to dig its own grave via this brand of politics.

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