It appears there’s no stopping the vigorous promotion of new president Maithripala Sirisena as a man of peace and goodwill who will bring justice and harmony to all Sri Lanka, including the Tamil homelands.
The local and international media cannot get enough of this story of wondrous overnight change; of acknowledgment of past sins; of the resurrection of democratic values; of the rooting out of corruption and connivance with the devil.
The fact that Sirisena was neck-deep in this connivance as a senior minister in his predecessor’s cabinet is of no concern to those media urgers at the heart of this public relations exercise. Inconvenient facts are impediments to be overcome, as always, by wilful blindness.
However, although so many mainstream journalists refuse to remove their blindfolds, it’s not too difficult to sneak a look around the propaganda veil to find the truth behind this campaign, which is being boosted by the US and India now that they have achieved the regime change they desired, and helped activate.
There’s any amount of evidence to show that Sirisena, like the man he replaced, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is a sworn upholder of the vile brand of Sinhalese chauvinism that has been used to oppress the Tamil population in the north and east of the country for more than 60 years.
Every week we get new clues that, while there’ll be a certain amount of tokenism along the way, such as this week’s release from jail of disappearances’ campaigner, Jeyakumari Balendran, Sirisena is hell-bent on preserving the racist Sinhalese ideology that is at the heart of the Tamil genocide.
This week we saw the new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickramesinghe, dispute the UN findings that at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed while sheltering in government-designated ‘No Fire Zones’ in the final days of the war.
He parroted the Rajapaksa regime’s discredited claim that no more than 5000 were killed, and this was as a result of combat, not deliberate targeting, as UN reports stated. Indeed another UN report said it could have been as many as 70,000.
This comes as Sirisena’s foreign minister keeps on telling the world that they are not in denial and are in step with the UN all the way as it continues its’ war crimes investigation.
An investigation, by the way, that remains hampered by Sirisena’s continuation of Rajapaksa’s refusal to allow the UN into the country to interview victims – even though the UN has acceded to Sirisena’s request to delay the report due this month until September.
Of course, you can understand Sirisena’s reticence given that he was acting defence minister, and giving orders from the very top, when so many of those innocent civilians were slaughtered by the Sri Lankan Army.
More evidence of the true nature of the Sirisena government came when his energy minister demanded this week that India stop focusing on the plight of the Tamils. His clear message was that the Tamils’ right to self-determination was a thing of the past, just as is India’s push, three decades ago, for a devolution amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution.
It smacks of the same Sinhalese arrogance that is best explained through the infamous quote from the proudly-racist president J.R. Jayawardene back in 1983. He said that if he starved the Tamils in the north the rest of the country would be happy. It was a statement that came just before the infamous Black July pogrom and no doubt incited the Sinhalese mobs who killed 3000 Tamils in the streets.
Finally, just to ensure there can be no mistaking the cynicism behind Sirisena’s much-touted desire for reconciliation and justice for the Tamils in north and east, the news came this week that the army commander who oversaw the mass killings towards the end of the war was to be elevated to the highest military rank in the country.
General Sarath Fonseka is to be promoted to field marshal, as part of his resurrection to high office.
Fonseka was jailed by Rajapaksa after unsuccessfuly challenging him at the 2010 election. Now Sirisena has brought him back into the fold, wiping out his convictions, restoring his military awards and paving the way for his return to politics.
Indeed, Fonseka has confidently predicted that after he wins back his seat in parliament at next month’s elections he will take over as Sirisena’s defence secretary.
So, if this happens, Sri Lanka will have two men with the blood of tens of thousands of Tamils on their hands occupying two of the highest offices in the land – the president and his defence ministry chief.
It’s another piece in the Sirisena jigsaw that exposes the reality that the hopes and aspirations of Tamils in their north-eastern homeland will continue to be crushed under the boot of Sinhalese oppression.