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 Post subject: A political tsunami in Lanka
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 19, 2005 4:17 pm 
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A political tsunami in Lanka

By Mohammed A.R. Galadari
18 June 2005

© 2005 Khaleej Times

THE latest round of political bickering and instability that is rocking the government in Sri Lanka is another example of the callous, almost irresponsible way some political outfits function in the Third World countries.

Dear readers, the issue at stake is distribution of internationally-organised tsunami aid to the rebel-held provinces, with the pro-Marxist People’s Liberation Front — the main partner of the ruling coalition — questioning President Kumaratunga’s plan to distribute the aid to these provinces along with the other affected areas. Is there any real logic behind the demand to leave out one section of the people in such a humanitarian efforts? On the one hand, as the leader of the nation, the president will owe an explanation to the international community when questions are raised about any discrimination in the aid distribution. On the other, and more importantly, it would only give another example and reinforce the view that the Sinhala-dominated government is discriminating against the Tamil inhabited areas — the very issue that has led the Tamils to raise a banner of revolt in 1983 and begin a fight for a separate homeland.

Things are somewhat under control now, ever since a Norway-brokered ceasefire came into force three years ago, but not before more than 65,000 people were killed in the fighting that had turned Lanka’s generally stable economy upside down. In all fairness, credit must go largely to the former prime minster Ranil Wickremesinge for setting the peace ball rolling, even as President Kumaratunga took her own time to warm up to the emerging realities.

Now that truce itself is in jeopardy, if only for the reason that the Tamils are upset over what they call as the failure of the government to equitably distribute the aid to the tsunami-hit areas. The tsunami has killed more than 30,000 people and displaced over a million. Hundreds of thousands are still living in relief camps, as they have no homes to go back to. The government is faced with a very difficult task, reaching relief material and organising reconstruction efforts, as is the case with every major natural calamity. Needless to say, this is the time for all political parties to stand as one, and reach succor to the suffering people. Instead, we are seeing the spectacle of some politicians using this as an opportunity to show their one-upmanship and fish in troubled waters. The Marxists’ argument, that distribution of aid to the rebel-held areas will give legitimacy to the rebel movement, lacks substance. It shows how the Marxists are not able to face realities. They are rather trying to run away from the realities.

It must be said to Kumaratunga’s credit that she sees the proposed joint aid distribution deal, supported by the Norwegian peace brokers, as a good opportunity to win back the rebels and end the era of long-standing hostilities. By taking such a stand, the president is showing a kind of statesmanship and rising beyond the realm of petty politics, with national interest supreme in her mind. That should be how good leaders should conduct themselves in such situations.

The situation in the rebel-held east is already posing some serious concern, with fighting between rebel factions intensifying as days pass. The Front’s decision to pull the rug from under the feet of the government at this critical time is seen by many as an irresponsible act. This is an unfortunate development. It has reduced the strength of Kumaratunga’s coalition government to 81 in a house of 225. The strange thing is that the Marxists have taken the extreme action to rock the government at a time when even the opposition is supporting the government’s plan for aid sharing. Clearly, the Marxists have other scores to settle with the Kumaratunga dispensation; or, it is that they are under the unholy influence of the fundamentalist lobby, the very lobby that has brought the situation in Sri Lanka to such a pass by their short-sighted action.

Dear readers, as I have often commented in this column, this kind of divisive politics is the bane of the third world. This is what retards their progress. The Marxists who have joined hands with others to run a government are using an awkward situation to embarrass the coalition leadership and pull down the government, with no regard to the harm their stand can cause to the nation and its long-term interests. They are not mindful of the fact that people will be able to see through their actions.

Readers’ response may be forwarded to marg@khaleejtimes.com

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