Colombo, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

A Continuation of War by Other Means?

The war it seems is not over.  The international conspiracies to save Prabhakaran and the LTTE are now said to have morphed into a conspiracy to destabilize the government, initiate regime change and charge its leading lights and war heroes with war crimes.  The opposition and civil society activists are said to be key figures in this decidedly and dangerously unpatriotic exercise.

A English language broadsheet during the week quoted the Minister of Transport and leading light of the current regime as saying this and in doing so making a link between the Channel 4 video and the fate of the GSP Plus extension.  Whilst the regime’s argument is that the sole purpose of this purported conspiracy is to destabilize and replace it, the question does arise as to whether the airing of such allegations in the first instance without substantiation with hard facts, is not destabilizing in itself?  Is there a conspiracy abroad as alleged or, is there a most disturbing paranoia and over-exaggeration of threats to national security at the heart of the regime?  Are we in a post-war situation heading steadily towards a post conflict one, as we should, or are we in a situation of a continuation of war by other means?

It is clear that the central issue here is human rights and the record of the regime on this score.  This is what GSP Plus revolves around. Likewise, the Chanel 4 video. Human rights is at the very core of the plight of the IDPs – the unquestionably central and urgent issue impacting on our future and the litmus test for peace, reconciliation and unity.  Demonstrable progress on this issue is surely possible and to no one’s detriment?  On the contrary, it is centrally and self –evidently in the national interest.

Argument and assurance are surely insufficient without action embodying sincerity of purpose and commitment.   Were it to be the case that the regime is feeling the “heat” internationally on account of GSP Plus, the Pasocoe visit, the Tissanayagam verdict and the impending war crimes report to the US Senate, is it not both prudent and politic to address the overarching issue of human rights accountability and the culture of impunity in a mature and sensible fashion aimed at strengthening protection and accountability?

Is this the real problem?  An unwillingness and/or inability to deal with the human rights challenge.  Conspiracy theories, denunciations and allegations cannot be a substitute for sincere and concerted action.  A rights based approach on the IDP issue in particular is long overdue.  As this columnist amongst others has argued many times, freedom of movement of the IDPs is of paramount importance.  The regime has announced its willingness to allow relatives to take in IDPs in the event the latter are willing to go to host families.  This has yet to be expedited.  There are reports that IDPs have been let out of the Menik Farm complex only to be relocated in other “transit” camps.  It would seem that the onset of the monsoon and international concern is being translated into a prioritization of decongestion of the Menik Farm complex as opposed to the prioritization of the freedom of movement of citizens of this country who happen in this instance to be Tamil – monsoon or no monsoon, international concern or silence.

There is yet another serious concern.  Is every criticism of the regime, even of the mildest variety, every alternative perspective on public affairs and national priorities to be treated as products of a conspiracy for regime destabilization and change?  I have written about the politics of hate and hurt and harm and of fear and insecurity.  It appears to be still with us; firmly entrenched and corroding our prospects for democratic governance.  This is the time for a vigorous and robust national debate and discussion on how to move forward.  This is the time to be the functioning democracy we claim to be.

The widespread expectation is of presidential and parliamentary elections in the course of the next six months.  Were this to be the case, these elections will come at a crucial juncture in our history at which the opportunity presented for peace, reconciliation and national unity is tremendous.  The mandate of the people at these elections will in addition to registering their appreciation of the military defeat of the LTTE also be one for rejuvenating the potential of this country for peace and prosperity.  The current trend of conspiracy and insecurity will not merely obscure this promise but effectively obliterate it in a frenzy of recrimination, allegation and abuse.  Is the country going to have to choose on the basis of conspiracy theories, allegations and counter – allegations?

We cannot keep going back to the future.  The war ended. The LTTE was defeated.  If it must be the case, that war alone sustains and underpins our current governance, can it be waged against the culture of impunity in respect of human rights violations?  And can the weapons be the Rule of Law and international human rights standards.