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

Different forms of terrorism

LTTE terrorism ended with the death of its leader Prabakaran in May 2009. But other forms of terrorism seem to have erupted in the country to keep the government busy waging many more wars on terror. One such war was declared on narcotics, alcohol and cigarettes and we are told it has been a success, in the case of cigarettes.

Now, there is a kind of terrorism in the Universities. A vice chancellor has been assaulted and a minister has been jeered at. Students have also forcibly entered the ministry of higher education premises and destroyed public property. As a result Udul Premaratne, the convener of the Inter University students Federation has been arrested. Almost all our universities are in turmoil and the government points a finger at the JVP and its allies. Could the JVP alone bring about such unrest in the universities or is this also part of an international conspiracy to destabilise Sri Lanka?  One never knows.

There’s another kind of terrorism in the prisons. Prisoners and prison guards have reportedly attacked the police who were carrying out a raid. The minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms has said that he is not aware of any such clashes but thinks it is possible, “I cannot recommend any prison officer as they are the most corrupt in the public sector”, he has said. Fortunately Sarath Fonseka was not involved in these clashes, at the moment he seems to be fighting to keep the rain water out of his tiny cell.

“Paang terrorism or American wheat flour terrorism” is seen by Minister Wimal Weerawansa as a deliberate attempt by America and the West against the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. It not only deprives our paddy farmers of their due profits but also makes our people unhealthy. Sri Lankans should be more patriotic and eat more rice instead of wheat is the minister’s advice to the people. Wheat flour based food items have been banned from school canteens, hospitals and prisons. But so far those have not been banned in parliament where bread rolls, sandwiches and butter cakes are freely served.

Then there are the armed gangs that terrorise the people in the North. As Dr. M. Sarvanathan points out in an interview with Sergei De Silva Ranasinghe, “Although LTTE terror doesn’t exist any more,  Certain negative aspects of the LTTE era stubbornly persist in the North (particularly in Jaffna) with a new role player, albeit, at a much smaller scale than that of the LTTE. The EPDP (The Elam People’s Democratic Party), a pro-government militia, cum political party headed by a Cabinet Minister has filled the boots of the LTTE in certain illegal activities such as extortion, kidnapping for ransom…”

Could the same minister’s armed gangs have been involved in the attack on the JVP politicians when they visited Jaffna? JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti has said, “The gang came and tried to abduct our Jaffna district leader. I tried to prevent it and they assaulted me severely.  These attackers spoke in fluent Sinhala. We suspect that this is a state-sponsored gang”. A few government supporters say it’s the Tamil residents in that area who attacked the JVP parliamentarians. But the injured MP denied it, on the contrary the Tamil people had saved him from the armed gang, he maintains. As we all know, the attackers will never be found.

CAFFE (The campaign for free and fair elections) complains that many people who wanted to make their submissions to the LLRC (Lessons learnt and reconciliation commission) in Kayts were threatened by an armed gang. (Daily Mirror November 18th)  Could it be the same gang? The government says it’s unaware of any such incident and that is the end of the matter.

The controversial gambling bill (Casino Regulatory Bill) has been passed by a majority of 81 votes. According to the Bill anyone who wishes to operate a Casino can do so, in an area designated by the minister. It legalises gambling. One would have expected a burst of moral outrage from the JHU parliamentarians. But they remained silent showing their approval. While the morality or immorality of gambling could be debated, there is no doubt that gambling is also addictive like narcotics, liquor and cigarettes. Casinos can create compulsive gamblers. It also breeds crime, specially where politicians consider themselves above the law. Casinos also encourage the consumption of alcohol and global sex trafficking. According to the teachings of the Buddha drinking and gambling are among things that can destroy a person. But the JHU, the custodians of Buddhism don’t seem to see anything wrong in promoting casinos as long as it promotes our tourist industry. Strange that Wimal Weerawansa does not see casino culture as another brand of terrorism from America and the West trying to destroy our Sinhala Buddhist culture!

Terrorism seems to be lurking in some form or other behind the apparent peace and prosperity enjoyed by the people. And so the government is forced to increase its defense expenditure, while asking the people to tighten their belts and face the rising cost of living. There is very little protest from the people because they seem to have understood the government’s dilemma. Cynics of course   say this fear of terrorism is used by those in power to curb the freedom of the people and keep them firmly under control. Just this week when there was an island wide power failure there were people who feared it could be the work of the Tigers who are still moving around. Take away this fear of terrorism in some form; all hell would break loose with the people demanding their political, civil and economic rights. That definitely would be disastrous for the government.

Recently Sonia Gandhi said that although India has progressed in many ways its “moral universe is shrinking”. In Sri Lanka, has it shrunk or completely disappeared? In India some of the corrupt ministers are sometimes forced to resign. In Sri Lanka,-never, in fact they seem to be rewarded. One could of course argue that our moral universe firmly based on Mahinda Chinthanaya has in fact expanded, like our cabinet of ministers where among the ninety one (91) there is not one single corrupt minister!