The Mysteries that have Confounded Sri Lankans – Part II

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The recent unprecedented events have stumped the discerning public with a swarm of questions. 

Mystery Four – Why is Gotabaya Rajapaksa denied entry to the USA? 

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s main folly was his overemphasis on democracy. He followed the textbook guide to democracy as dictated by the West. He risked his family’s wrath by disallowing even his own brother’s supporters from challenging the protesters. 

According to dissident MP Wimal Weerawansa, the incumbent US Ambassador Julie Chung exerted undue influence over his decisions. The US Embassy has neither denied nor clarified this statement, which is recorded in the Hansard. 

MP Weerawansa also claimed that Chung tried hard to get President Gotabaya to sack his then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe before resigning. Apparently, he refused as that would lead the country into total anarchy. This accusation too is met with silence from the US Embassy. 

Was that why the US State Department refused him a visa to a country that has been his home for years? If not, then what is the justification to deny Gotabaya to be with his family when he gave space for unrestrained anti-government protests and thereafter left Office peacefully without costing even one life? 

It is not only the US, but the entire Western Hemisphere has denied him permission to their  respective country. These are the very countries that harp on human and fundamental rights until the rest of the world wants to stuff their ears with fingers. Yet, when this lone man’s and his wife’s lives are in danger, they turn their back on him. 

They ought to feel a sense of responsibility for Sri Lanka’s former President’s plight. From the onset, the West exerted immense pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to allow the anti-government protests to continue unhindered. This, they promoted, as a feature of “strong democracy”. 

Though the west and west-led civil groups insisted that these protests were “peaceful”, the milestones of this entire movement is marked with violence the country has never seen before. This is saying something for a country that had been grappling with insurgencies and terrorism since the 1971. 

Colombo witnessed its first mob action on 31 March 2022 when mobsters, armed with poles and other sharp objects, tried to forcibly enter then President Gotabaya’s private residence. This was neither commented nor condemned by those western agencies who continued to defend this unrest as a democratic right.

Despite this traumatic experience, then President Gotabaya too did not contest this view. Instead, he simply moved to his official residence and allowed the protests to continue without restraint or boundaries. 

Protests are not new to Sri Lanka. These protests had even at times led to clashes with the Police. Yet, never had these clashes been as belligerent as that witnessed during the Rambukkana riots on 19 April 2022. 

This whole incident, which should have been universally condemned, was condensed to the death of one rioter. Discounting all the violence perpetrated by the rioters, this single death was marketed by Western agents as the killing of a “peaceful protester by the Police”.  

During this period 105 personal properties, including that of the former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and that of the then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, were looted, vandalised and destroyed. This was excused as the reaction of an “outraged public”. Still, the then President Gotabaya did not argue. 

When the situation deteriorated to the point that demanded some government action or facing death at the hands of the anarchists, President Gotabaya opted for the most peaceful course. 

He, as the Commander of Chief of the Tri-Forces, could have used the powers vested in him to confront and control the anarchists as done by other countries faced with similar situations. The events at the Tiananmen Square in 1989 is a case in point. 

Alternatively, he could have arrested the instigaters as being done by the incumbent government. Of course, the West will frown upon it. This has not stopped the country from returning to a sense of normalcy, giving the much needed space to address the ailing economy. 

Instead, the then President Gotabaya simply resigned as demanded. It was the West and not the East or the neighbourhood that protected and thereby promoted the anti-government movement. This was respected by the then President. He is advised by the present government against returning to the Island on grounds of his own security. 

Perhaps, this unsavoury episode should be a lesson to us. We have an idea of the West as one that is about fairness and righteousness – but it is not. 

Mystery Five – Why has the Government decided to delist Six Organizations engaged in Tamil Diaspora activities?

On 18 August 2022, the Government delisted six organisations and 316 individuals who had been proscribed for propagating the LTTE ideology. Immediately afterwards, the Government issued a detailed press release that noted the relevant laws and outlined the procedures of proscribing and delisting individuals and organisations over aiding and abetting terrorism on Sri Lankan soil. This included a roundup of recent statistics of the numbers that have been thus proscribed and delisted. The release also stated that this government action can be challenged by anyone in a Court of law. 

Nevertheless, this clear communication did not deter the speculations from forming. The situation is not helped by some of the broad hints dropped by Tamil People’s National Alliance’s C.V. Wigneswaran soon after his meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

Intuitively, people are suspecting a deal of some sort and are wondering how this is related to the recent events that undemocratically ousted the legitimate government. The present President’s journey to presidency is indeed a twisted tale.

These six organisations, as intense lobbyists in international forums have been a thorn to Sri Lanka’s integrity. The government is of the view that there must be an end to this estrangement and closure to the so-called ethnic conflict. However, recently delisted Global Tamil Forum’s remarks to the UNHRC as not to let Sri Lanka use its current economic woes to get off its commitments certainly challenges the government’s hopes for reconciliation.

The most confounding question of all

In this two-part series that discusses the unusual events, the most perplexing is the third question: Why were the West so keen to defend the protesters? 

As victims, the whole world is familiar with western hypocrisy. The West’s textbook style of modus operandi of felling governments through dissent is not a new phenomenon. This was used as way back as 1815 by the British to oust Sri Lanka’s legitimate King. 

Yet, the West is unabashed as it uses the same tactics despite being exposed as hypocrites. The most confounding aspect is that it is still very effective. When the West takes cudgels against a country over alleged human rights violations and pushes themselves forward as an advocate of democracy, we know that there is some self-serving purpose or geopolitical interest involved. 

Yet, the West nonchalantly continues with their pre-planned programme. In due time, the West achieve their objective as well. 

Could it be that this plot is no different from a robber throwing a bone at the guard dog? While the dog is busy gnawing the bone, the thieves rob the house. Perhaps our bone of distraction is the hypocrisy that we are hyperventilating over. We spend so much time and energy trying to prove a point and less time on matters that are truly important to us. 

Even during the recent events, our effort was to prove that we are democratic and have “strong democratic features” as the right to protest and express ourselves, even in the most vulgar fashion. This kind of unrestrained behaviour is not tolerated even in the West. 

We knew this was affecting our economy. However, the West’s opinion of us mattered more. 

Today, we stand hat in hand, biting nails waiting for the IMF verdict. The protests have not made the country secure or ushered in utopian governance. The only thing that had come out of the protests is our increased vulnerability to the West’s diktats. 

Concluded 

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(The views and opinions expressed in this article are writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Ceylon Today)

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe