by Gamini Weerakoon
National Unity receives the backing of one and all—saints, sinners, racist killers, communal lovers, fanatics, rationalists and of course all types of politicians including those of the UPFA and UNP.
During and after the ’War’ every person who climbed a public platform did not fail to call for national unity. But amidst all this cacophony for national unity we failed to see any advocate pushing for it.
Everyone called for it but none did anything about it.Surprisingly Ranil Wickremesinghe and Rajavarothyam Sampanthan decided to hold a common May Day Rally in Jaffna and although May Day rallies are not held for purposes of national unity, this move did signify an attempt at initiating it.
The UNP of course was split on the move from the very beginning, as usual, its rump finding the death anniversary of late President Premadasa falling on the same day a valid excuse.
The Young Turks missed the bus in boycotting the Jaffna rally because what better opportunity could they have had in demonstrating their commitment to national unity than by going to Jaffna and holding a rally with Tamil leaders on the anniversary of the horrendous killing of their beloved leader?
To Sinhalese of most other political parties the call for national unity was a mere political shibboleth. It was a subject to be ignored or viewed cynically because their pet hate since Ranil Wickremesinghe was giving leadership to it. This indicated that petty politics took precedence over a vital issue concerning the future of the nation.
Some government leaders resorted to their latest reflex action on the Jaffna rally. ‘They can go to Jaffna and hold rallies because we won the ‘War’ was their stupid contention.
Who won the ‘War” ? Whether it was the tens of thousands of poor boys who died n the sands of the Vanni, Batticaloa and Jaffna for 30 years or whether it was General Sarath Fonseka who led them into battle?
Let history decide. Mahinda Rajapaksa did give the political leadership in the final years of the ‘ War’. But for nincompoops in government ranks who had not stepped into a battlefield to claim that they won the ‘War’ is a preposterous claim. The history of a 30 year ‘war ‘will have its heroes, villains and cardboard generals. History will decide who was responsible for victory.
For government politicians to claim responsibility for victory and then say that every other move made after the war is feather in their cap makes them the stupid fools they are turning out to be in the eyes of the public. It is like a a doctor who saves the life of a patient or a lawyer who saves the neck of a client claiming credit for every subsequent creditable action of their clients or patients.
Holding a political rally in Jaffna and making Sinhalese supporters to travel there is by no means and easy task. State owned buses at hiring rates on the payment of a ‘never-never basis’ as is the privilege of ruling parties and not of the opposition parties. Yet the rally turned out to be a success even though some government owned TV channels showed some of the participants carrying LTTE flags. Perhaps some Sri Lankan TV channels may have learnt some camera tricks from BBC’s Channel 4.
The crowning moment came when the Leader of the Tamil National Alliance Sampanthan together with Ranil Wickremesinghe carryng the national flag. It was certainly a momentous occasion which could turn out to be a historic occasion if moves towards national unity progresses, as it did that day.
Here was the leader of the largest Tamil party who has for years supported the LTTE as being the sole representatives of the Tamil carrying the National Flag and declaring that he stood for a United Sri Lanka
Sampanthan clarified the stand of the TNA in parliament. He said: ‘Give us equality to our people, make our people as equals, give them political power everywhere. We are prepared to be integrated into the nation but not be assimilated’.
These are actions and words that some Tamil and Ranil baiters cannot bear to see and hear.
Some saw this joint rally as one of political opportunism. Indeed all such open public demonstrations of unity for honourable causes are of mutual political benefits for both parties. The history of political coalitions in Sri Lanka be it the MEP with the SLFP under S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, the LSSP ntellectuals swinging on the Saree ‘pota’ of Sirima, the Chelvanayakam-Dudley Senanayake Agreement or Philip Gunwardene teaming up with Dudley Senanayake have certain elements of mutual political opportunism and Wickremesinghe and Samanpthan too would have seen immediate political benefits for both parties. But selling out of birth rights etc which endangered political interests speculate on need not be there.
The manner in which the SLFP under Chandrika and under Mahinda coalesced with the JVP has enough evidence of political opportunism which critics of the Jaffna rally prefer not to see.
The question has been asked whether Sampanthan would shed away all his previous political agreements and commitments when he declares he is for a united Sri Lanka. That need not be. There are enough examples of revolutionaries or supporters of revolutions reaching agreements with bitter enemies such as the IRA and the Ulster Unionists where participants did not declare forsaking the beliefs they fought for but declared their commitments the said agreements.
Do the critics sincerely want Sampanthan to declare his contriteness publicly and forsake his past beliefs? Such demands were not made of JVP leaders when the SLFP and UPFA merged despite the ghastly murders of those near and ear to leaders of both sides.
Sampanthan has declared his support for a United Sri lanka. But the President Rajapaksa is stutterimg about the alleviatin of grievances of the Tamils.
Ranil wickremesinghe and Sampanthan has broken through a 30 year old communal barrier. Do others have the the wisdom and the guts to follow through? courtesy: The Sunday Leader