Ven. Ratana said a mouthful!

The Island -Editorial (Courtesy The Island 18-05-2005)

There may be a difference of opinion on what JHU MP Ven. Athureliye Ratana did at the Development Forum. Incensed, the spin doctors of the government must be devising ways and means of tearing him to shreds politically. The NGOs and their hirelings, worshipping the white man, must be fuming. The terror lobby may call it a cardinal sin and condemn the monk to the stake. Anti terror activists must be jubilant that the donors were given an earful.

Formality and etiquette notwithstanding, the fact remains that Ven. Ratana had the courage to convey a strong message to the donors who have become demigods in the developing world, whose leaders cringe and crawl before them. His message to the donors was that they must listen not only to those who are armed but others as well. He said a mouthful in that the LTTE has ready access to the diplomatic community and is entertained at ministerial levels in foreign countries, especially in Europe.

A 2.2 billion-dollar aid package is, no doubt, an enormous boost to Sri Lanka’s ailing economy, especially at a time when it is reeling in the aftermath of the worst-ever disaster the country has faced. The presence of the donors here at the present juncture is a gesture of goodwill, which deserves praise.

But, their aid conditions are difficult for a country to stomach. Some may claim that this time around aid has come without any strings attached. But if what the donors spelt out in Tokyo when they pledged aid to Sri Lanka a few years ago is any indication, then there are conditions. How they want the Sri Lanka government to handle the now stalled peace process is a case in point. This condition links aid to Sri Lanka to the progress to be made in talks with the LTTE and it smacks of a hidden agenda on the part of some donors and the lack of knowledge on the part of others. They are, in other words, asking the government to give in to all LTTE demands so that some progress could be made in the peace process.

It is a hidden agenda of this nature that has threatened the territorial integrity of Sudan, which is in for dismemberment, thanks to moves such as the Machakos Protocol, which the Khartoum government was made to sign. The proposed ISGA has been crafted on similar lines and the controversial Joint Mechanism is a stepping stone to it.

Hence, the consternation of the anti terror activists over the government’s inordinate haste to grant the JM to the LTTE, which will bolster its claim of being the sole representative of Tamils and recognise its ‘administrative apparatus.’ The dissent is being either ignored or suppressed. Only the voice of the advocates of the JM is heard.

The country has come to such a pass that the ruling party and the LTTE sans representation in any democratic institution are trying to control the destiny of the nation much to the detriment of the democratic principles the developed world is said to be upholding and crusading for. This amounts to an infringement of the rights of millions of democratic people and their representatives without an opportunity to make representations to the international community. Their views on this crucial issue, too, need due attention.

This is what Ven. Ratana said so lucidly at the Development Forum albeit in an unorthodox manner. He was non aggressive and didn’t interrupt any speaker contrary to the claims of his detractors.

If the LTTE can kill an incumbent President of Sri Lanka (Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa); blow to smithereens a former Indian Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi); make an attempt on another Sri Lankan President’s life (Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga); recruit thousands of child soldiers; massacre thousands of civilians; assassinate democratic Tamil politicians; destroy an airport and public property worth billions of dollars; bomb civilian targets and still have a hearing from the international community, then there is no reason why an educated Buddhist monk from a democratic political party with representation in Parliament cannot make his voice heard at an aid group meeting.

Let his message be heeded!



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