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KUMAR RUPESINGHE’S FANCY FOOTWORK IN THE VANNI

By H.L.D.Mahindapala

Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe has played many roles in his life, most of which has been in marketing his punditry that has seldom yielded the desired results. One of his noted exploits in political meddling resulted in him being thrown out of Sierra Leone. He was accused of having a hand in a failed coup and, consequently, he was banned by the Organisation of African Union. Unfazed by such affronts to his integrity he keeps popping up in the Sri Lankan scene with pretentious claims to know the right recipe for peace. But as seen in his latest article, Collective Rights and ISGA (published in LTTE website, please note) he is regurgitating LTTE propaganda that the ISGA is way to advance peace. He first states that the ISGA should be accepted as the basis for talks and then concludes by saying that if “the Sinhala ruling class” engages in transforming the state then everyone can live happily ever after.
Clearly, he wants to have it both ways. First accept the ISGA as the basis for talks and then, yielding to the escalating demands of the LTTE that are bound to follow – a habitual practice endorsed by the likes of Dr. Rupesinghe -- transform the state to suit the needs of the one-man rule in the north. This is the latest strategy of the LTTE to shift the goal posts to make it easy for their goal-kickers to score points that they can’t grab with the gun. Any refusal to accommodate the escalating demands is branded as giving “too little too late”. If he knows his history he may realize that he is merely parroting this overworked phrase used regularly by the Tamils each time “the Sinhalese ruling class” went out of their way to accommodate their “grievances” and their “aspirations”. Parrots are conditioned to repeat noises taught by their masters. They have never shown a talent for thinking on their two feet. Dr. Rupesinghe, an obedient parrot trained in the LTTE cage, fancies himself as an expert on conflict resolution if he mouths the line fed to him by his latest masters in the Vanni.

Practically every line in his latest expression of punditry is a repetition of the LTTE propaganda as seen in the following concluding paragraph: “In the last 50 years the state evolved to be only a state for the Sinhalese state i.e. a Sinhalese hegemonic state. The Sri Lankan state developed and created a highly centralized state where resources were mostly concentrated at the center and in Colombo. In the process of continuous under-development both sides have lost, where the civil war became its end result. The challenge for the Sinhalese ruling classes is to grasp this historic lesson and engage in transforming the state and ensuring that the peoples in the NorthEast can control and develop their own regions in freedom and security. If this happens within a united Sri Lanka both sides will enjoy extraordinary economic developments within an agreed Federal system. “

So what else is new, Dr. Rupesinghe? Any brainwashed child-soldier of the LTTE could have said the same thing, perhaps with greater felicity. It is this kind of pap dished out by the pro-LTTE pundits that has polarized the two communities and reinforced the intransigence of the northern Tamils. He argues as if the concentration of resources for development in Colombo affected the Tamils exclusively and not the other communities. In what planet was he living when the JVPers first took up arms – long before the Tamil youth – raising the slogan : Colombata kiri, apita kakiri? The uneven development of the economy has been recognised by even undergraduates. But to give it a racist twist is to indulge openly in an act of intellectual onanism that seems to be one of his common habits. Put simply, he is lying through his teeth when he presents the underdevelopment of the northern and the eastern regions as racist acts of Sinhala hegemonism.

Then again he repeats slavishly that since independence “the state evolved to be only a state for the Sinhalese state, i.e a Sinhalese hegemonic state.” Really? If so how did G. G. Ponnambalam take industries to Jaffna under Sinhalese hegemonic state? How did Jaffna maintain the high Personal Quality of Life Index (PQLI) exceeding in some respects even that of the Western Province? Its infrastructure, schools, hospitals and life span were rated to be higher than those in the southern provinces. He should be given another doctorate if he can explain convincingly and rationally how the Sinhala provinces fell far below that of Jaffna under “Sinhalese hegemony”?

Predictably, he blames the “Sinhalese hegemony” for the prevailing conditions in the north and the east. Has ever bothered to ask why Prabhakaran has all the luxuries which the other Tamils under him do not enjoy? More importantly, if Prabhakaran can purchase in the international black market highly sophisticated military hardware at exorbitant prices to kill his own people and others why can’t he buy some basic provisions to feed the people he claims to have liberated? Which is more important? Killing or keeping his people alive? If Prabhakaran is denying his own people the vast resources flowing into Vanni from the expatriates, the NGOs, taxes, state funding, extortion etc., why is Dr. Rupesinghe blaming the “Sinhalese hegemonists”? Shouldn’t he blame the hegemony of the one-man rule in the Vanni for diverting valuable resources that can be used for his own people to destroy his own people?

If his arguments are based on humanitarian grounds should he not take into consideration the opportunities and resources available to the LTTE to improve the PQLI of the Tamils without depending on the generosity of the “Sinhalese hegemonic state” – the only state according to the UNICEF that has provided basic, non-military assistance to a rebel-held territory? Forget “the Sinhalese hegemonic state”, for a moment. What was the LTTE’s response to the $.4.5 billion offer by the international community to alleviate the suffering of the Tamil people? Prabhakaran even refused to participate in it. Who should be blamed for that? The “Sinhalese hegemonists”? Or will he state that the international community has given “too little too late”? Whose agenda is Dr. Rupesinghe serving when he dodges the hard realities and pass the buck to the “Sinhalese hegemonists”?

He also makes the astounding statement that “the Sinhala ruling class (should) engage in transforming the state and ensuring that the peoples in the NorthEast can control and develop their own regions in freedom and security.” Had he done a simple reality check he would realize that the “freedom and the security” of the north and the east is threatened not by “the Sinhala ruling class” but by the one-man band who claims to be the liberator of the Tamil-speaking peoples. The Tamils are hunted down like animals and slaughtered in all parts. The Tamils find greater security in living with the “Sinhalese hegemonists” than with the Tamil fascists. The Muslims and the Tamils of the east too are refusing flatly to be under the hegemony of Prabhakaran. They prefer the freedom and security (however flawed it may be) under the “Sinhalese hegemonists”. So in what cuckoo-land was he living when wrote that propaganda tract for Prabhakaran’s latest demand for the ISGA?

His stated objective is to “transform the state” so that power could be transferred to a self-governing administration which would enable the resources to be utilised for the under-developed north and the east. But can he guarantee the “freedom and security” he talks about under “the latest Pol Pot of Asia”, as defined by the New York Times? When he knows that the man who is demanding the ISGA powers – whatever the percentage – has never observed or respected human rights, rule of law, pluralism, liberalism or democracy on what moral basis is he recommending the transfer of power to Vanni? If it is under the principles of “freedom”, or “security” can he provide the readers the necessary facts and figures about the availability of these fundamental democratic factors in the Vanni? Unable to defend the crimes against humanity, war crimes, the obscenities of force conscription of children in to the one-man ruler’s unwanted war, he swiftly puts the blame on the “Sinhalese hegemonists” – the one and only scapegoat of the likes of Dr. Rupesinghe. His so-called intellectual defence is quite simple: when you have no argument just blame it on the Sinhalese. All of which leads to the simple question: when is he going to grow up and think like an adult?

On the issue of human rights he takes a devious route. He blames the intellectuals for focusing attention only on the LTTE killings and then, with some sly footwork, rushes to defend collective rights of people living not only in the north and the east “but also the peoples living in the Hill country.” Here he proceeds to pin-point the denial of the linguistic right of the Tamil-speaking peoples in the South…” He adds: “Although the Tamil language is a national language, the state has failed to provide for the reasonable use of Tamil in the Administration. The denial of peoples to use their own language in the pursuit of their business and education is a gross violation of a person's fundamental rights.”

In saying this he is merely recycling the Tamil propaganda and he expects the readers to take him seriously. If he had a firm grasp of the political history of the nation, he would know that this is the same cry raised by the Sinhala youth when they took up arms on the issues of discrimination, particularly on the issue of language. They claimed that they do not have the “sword”, meaning the power of the English language which continues to rule the nation despite Sinhala and Tamil being made the official languages for nearly five decades. But he is quite happy to give this issue a racist twist as if only the Tamils are affected. Then again, can he give us an estimate of how many Sinhalese can expect to get a reply in Sinhalese from the Vanni? His naked bias stands in utter contrast to his insistence on a holistic approach. Every issue he has cited makes it clear that he is nothing more than a one-eyed Jack who cannot see beyond his nose stuck in the Vanni.

Furthermore, with a grandiose generalization he proclaims that the “denial of peoples right to use their own language in the pursuit of their business and education is a gross violation of a person’s fundamental right.” This is neither original nor profound. When S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike introduced the Sinhala Only Act, overthrowing English, he was doing precisely that: restoring the fundamental right of the majority to conduct business with their elected government in their mother tongue. He restored the same right to Tamils in his Tamil Language (Special Provisions) Act. But the Westernized apes ganged up with the elitist Tamils and condemned him as a chauvinist. Ironically, in the latest words of Bandaranaike’s ex-son-in-law, history has come full circle to justify the restoration of the lost rights of the people by Bandaranaike after five centuries of colonialism.

It is also rather bizarre, if not comical, to read him accusing “the Sinhalese ruling class of the last fifty years”. He seems to have forgotten that he crept into the “Sinhalese ruling class” when he married Bandaranaike’s daughter. In his residence abroad he made it known to all foreign visitors that he was the son-in-law of Mrs. Bandaranaike by placing a huge portrait of hers at the entrance. He was also a leading and servile apparatchik of Mrs. Bandaranaike’s Sinhala regime. He battled for “the Sinhalese ruling class” until he was thrown out of his marriage bed, somewhat like in Sierra Leone. Now he is in bed with the fascist ruling class in the Vanni. All said and done Mrs. Bandaranaike, like other Sinhala prime ministers, preserved the democratic framework intact, despite attacks on this structure by left-wing rebels and right-wing coups. But, predictably, Dr. Rupesinghe loses his memory when he tumbles in the air performing political somersaults to please his latest master. This time it happens to be Prabhakaran. Who’s next, Dr. Rupesinghe?

Consider also his racist twist in highlighting the plight of the fishermen in the north and the east who, he says, have been harassed by the Navy. He says that they undergo immense difficulties in running their day-to-day lives due to several resistances imposed by the Sri Lanka Navy. Fishermen have been killed or injured by the navy during fishing even after the ceasefire. Fishermen were also harassed and their nets and fishing boats were damaged, he says. Not surprisingly, even as he was writing this, the brutal action of LTTE against the Tamil fishermen of the Gurunagar has conspired to undermine his accusation leveled at the Sri Lanka Navy. Here are extracts from the Hindustan Times of September 1, 2004: Since August 30, the LTTE is facing the wrath of the fishermen of Gurunagar in Jaffna for not allowing them to fish close to the LTTE's territory on the southern side of the Jaffna lagoon off Pooneryn. Fishermen, who approached the Pooneryn on the night of August 30, were shot at by the LTTE, which had designated that area as a "High Security Zone", much like what the Sri Lankan Armed Forces had done in many parts of the Jaffna peninsula.

In the firing, fisherman Tharmanayagam was injured in the leg, and a boat caught fire…. The angry fishermen came back to retrieve Tharmanayagam, but the LTTE overwhelmed them, and took ten fishermen and three trawlers into custody. The next day, the irate fishermen stoned the Gurunagar political office of the LTTE….. The LTTE (like the Sri Lankan Navy) wanted the fishermen to keep a two to five kilometre distance from the shore. Meanwhile, local Catholic priests, Fr Justin and Fr Jeyasegaram, tried to resolve the issue, but this has borne no fruit till date. But the fishermen were not in mood to listen, Fr Jeyasegaram said. They wanted the LTTE's political wing leader, SP Tamilselvan, to come to Gurunagar and meet them.

Embarrassed by the firing and the subsequent prolonged agitation, the LTTE has clamped a news blackout. The Tamil media had been

told not to report the incident and the developments. This resulted in the fishermen holding a protest demonstration in front of Uthayan

— Jaffna peninsula's leading Tamil daily, reported P. K. Balanchandran. .


What more proof is needed to convince Dr. Rupesinghe that he is drifting closer to the asylum of the mentally retarded? Realities have a nasty way of rubbishing self-proclaimed pundits who have failed to fulfill their task even as servile propagandists. Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe should give up his disreputable profession of manufacturing excuses for fascists if he is to regain his sanity and self-respect which he lost in Africa and in Sri Lanka.




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