Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

The subterfuge called All Parties Representatives Committee

Deception has two extreme poles at each end of the untruth. One end is witty, subtle, astute and artistic. A magician, for example, perplexes us with pleasant surprise, tickling our innocent perception of truth as something illusive, though the deceptive role involved in the trick is taken for granted by everyone, magician and spectator alike. And, this trick, as long as it is not disproved hangs in suspension as an “untrue truth”. It is this that mesmerizes us and makes us his easy prey.

The mediocre con artist occupies the other pole of deception. A bald man selling some indigenous oil as a sure remedy for falling hair fits this category. His deception works not in his own smartness but in others’ naivety.

Rajapakse regime resembles the latter who has no finesse at all in his subterfuge. As there is a large section of naively vulnerable population any deception can work for some time. However, another group of people who can hardly be deceived but who pretend not to notice the deception for their own reasons are the worst lot. In Sri Lanka we can identify these people as veteran leftists.

At present, those so-called progressives in the Samasamaja and Communist parties are busy with publicizing political statements mildly criticizing the government decision to abrogate the Cease Fire Agreement and the President’s efforts at derailing the independent proposals of the APRC. Furthermore, they express their concerns at the President’s apparent subservience to hasty diktats of the JVP.

Their present misgivings are so pathetic that one gets the impression that these people could not have been in this country for the last two years, for they had not apparently known that there was no credible solution for the ethnic question in the Mahinda Chinthana Manifesto except within a unitary state structure. They don’t seem to have known all this time that the maximum devolution possible within such a unitary system could not go beyond the 13th amendment. Nor had they known that this same cease-fire agreement had been castigated in the same Manifesto as a conspiratorial act committed by Ranil Wickremasinghe in collusion with imperialist forces.

It is almost two years since this undeclared war by the government has started with all its collateral destruction being widely covered in the media. During this period not a single murmur of these people against that war waged by the government in which they hold ministerial portfolios has been heard. It is only now that their tongues have started to wag feebly over the inappropriateness of the cease-fire abrogation. The Communist Party of Sri Lanka issuing a statement on the said abrogation says that the government could have achieved all that it wanted while keeping the CFA as well.

In this respect, I believe the JVP is much more genuine than these veteran leftists. The campaign of the JVP against the CFA while clamoring for war is complementary. Their thinking that a document (CFA) even if it carries no weight had to be scrapped is consistent with their belief that even a symbolic paper should not be left to stand in the way of an all out war. The reason why those conventional leftists raise their voice against this abrogation is not that they stand for peace but that they fear of losing international backing thereby frustrating Rajapakse’s overall plan, including the possibility of war being carried out to a victorious finish with international blessing. If the CFA was there government could always portray their major military thrusts as defensive or preemptive measures. The JVP, on the other hand, would not want to camouflage anything regarding their war intention, which makes them more honest than these leftists.

Certain terms are in use not because they mean anything but because they are habitually used by a sizable section of the people. All Parties Representatives Committee has been such a term in common parlance for some time now. In the first place, all parties are not represented in this Committee. For example, the main Opposition in the Parliament, the UNP that has stood for a negotiated settlement all along does not participate in this Committee. The JVP, the main party in the Parliament that stands for war opposing any political settlement with the LTTE is boycotting this Committee. The main Tamil party in the Parliament that opposes the war and defends the rights of Tamils in the country, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is not there, though they were the ones a solution is sought for. In fact, all the parties included in this futile exercise are none other than the very coalition partners of the government.

Among them there may be some groups or parties that stand for a credible devolution of power. The final report of the APRC is to be out tomorrow. But I have no qualms about being too hasty in proclaiming today the outcome, which I know, would not be liable to be changed tomorrow. From the very beginning Rajapakse regime’s intention was to defeat the LTTE militarily first and then to think about a political solution if there is any one left to ask for it. This is common knowledge from among the ignoramus to our Professor Tissa Vitharana, the chairman of the APRC.

But in this logic there is an inconsistency perhaps not easily grasped by the normal layman but could not elude an academic’s scrutiny. First, it was the LTTE that made the South to acknowledge for the first time that there is an exclusive problem for the Tamils living in the country. Secondly, it was not the collaborative politics of the EPDP but the incessant pressure exerted by the LTTE that drove the South to be ready, at least in principle, for a political settlement, whatever that settlement is. In this context, militarily defeating the LTTE would amount to killing the messenger with its message swept under the carpet until another type of the LTTE springs up from among the Tamils. It is interesting to note that even under heavy pressure of a brutal war the South has only agreed today to grant the mere 13th amendment, even that, 20 years after it was enacted. So, one can easily imagine a South not under any pressure acquiescing to granting a fare share of power to the minority, perhaps in the next century!