By Ranjana Narayan
New Delhi, Nov 13 : There is very little chance of resolution of the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka, and particularly so if Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former defence secretary and brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, wins the November 16 presidential elections, says a new book on the island nation.
The book, ‘Annihilating the Demons of Sri Lanka – An Unfinished Story’, by senior journalist Apratim Mukarji, is a product of closely watching the developments in Sri Lanka over the past three decades.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, leader of the newly-founded Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), presided over the end of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war with the Tamil rebels in 2009. His close rival in the election is Sajith Premadasa, a cabinet minister backed by the ruling United National Party.
Though Gotabaya has been accused of human rights violations committed during the civil war, he enjoys strong support among the island nation’s majority Sinhala Buddhist population.
The book says that though after the end of civil war in May 2009 when Sri Lanka was enjoying goodwill all around, it failed to capitalise on it.
“Three years later, much of the bonhomie had evaporated. The government has dealt with various issues in fits and starts, in a curious mix of competence, honesty and bad faith, incompetence and plain dishonesty.”
“It did not take long for (Mahinda) Rajapaksa to stage a comeback with a heady platter of malevolence, revenge and an obsession with resuming and continuing with his unfinished agenda of turning Sri Lanka into a full-fledged autocracy…. While the minorities have adequately expressed their lack of trust in him, his consistent failure to honour his own commitments during his tenure concerning the minorities (such as bringing in the so-called 13th Amendment and the devolution package) discourages one from taking his words seriously.”
“There are many Sri Lankans who do not regard Rajapaksa as a monster but rather as a hero, particularly among the island’s Buddhists, ethnically Sinhala majority. He was the person who led them to victory in the long civil war with the Tamil minority. They want a strong man like him at the helm,” the author writes in the 213-page book, brought out by Konark Publishers.
“Rajapaksa Gotabaya is very much likely to win. But the Tamil parties have decided to support Rajith Premadasa as they consider him to be the lesser evil,” Mukarji told IANS.
According to the author, Premadasa who was earlier silent about the Tamil cause “is now suddenly talking about what he could do for the Tamils if elected”.
“Now Premadasa’s chances are slightly better. But in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala being the majority, comprising 72 percent of the population, if they decide to vote almost en-bloc for Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then he is definitely going to win,” he added.
His book focuses more on the Tamils and their overall situation. “The Tamils are still struggling to get justice – justice for the missing persons, justice for all the wrongs done to them since independence, the army has returned quite a good bit of land occupied by them, but even now a considerable portion of land is with the army, and the Tamils are pushing for getting that,” he said.
According to Mukarji, when he went to Sri Lanka a few years ago he noticed that plenty of development has taken place in Jaffna and adjoining places. “But the shops are all owned by Sinhalese. A lot of banks have opened there, but they are staffed by Sinhala.
“It is a peculiar kind of development, because if you want to develop a region then you have to give jobs and business opportunities to the local people,” he added.
“The settlement of Sinhala in Tamil areas is going on, even after the present government came to power. Sinhala colonies are coming up all the time.
“I don’t see any future resolution of the Tamil problem, particularly definitely not if Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins. He is 100 percent anti-Tamil, there is no doubt about it. And he has made no bones about it, He knows he will get no votes from the Tamils and the Muslims, and he doesn’t really care for them,” said the author.
“In fact, if what I have written in the book happens in that way – Sri Lanka is going to go back to history, before 2015, when Mahinda Rajapaksa ruled for 10 years… Gotabaya has already announced that if he wins he is going to release all the army men who are in jail (due to war crimes) and withdraw all the cases against Sri Lankan soldiers, because they are heroes, they have saved the country.”