Narendran’s Critical Dissection of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Victory Day Speech on 18th May 2009

Rajasingham Narendran, courtesy of Colombo Telegraph, 19th May 2009, where the title is “A Response To The President’s Address On Victory Day”

I read with much interest the President’s ‘Victory Day’ speech at the Galle Face Green, yesterday [18th May 2009], reproduced in CT.   While I agree with much of his recount of recent history, there are glaring gaps in the story he recalled.  Further, he has failed to address the current concerns of the victims his forces liberated, at all.  I have selected some sentences and sections from his address to express my concerns.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse (C) looks on as he rides in a vehicle during a Victory Day parade in southern town of Matara on May 18, 2014. The government is holding a military “victory parade” to mark five years since the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels, who waged a decades-long battle for a separate homeland for minority Tamils. Services have been banned to honour Tamil rebels and remember civilians killed in the conflict which ended in 2009 after claiming at least 100,000 lives. AFP PHOTO/LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Today we have the fourth opportunity to celebrate with dignity the great victory of our Motherland.”

Mr. President, victory over whom?   I raise this question in terms of the word ‘Conquered’ used in a war memorial in Mullaitivu.  Was it a victory over the LTTE or the Tamils?  Motherland!  Whose?  I did not see any opposition figures in the podium?  There were also no representatives of the Tamils, who were liberated by the armed forces, on the podium. I also did not see any Hindu priests, Christian padres or Muslim Moulavis on the podium, except for a handful of Buddhist monks.  The absence of Sarath Fonseka, the man who led the army from the front, at this function and his name and role not being even mentioned were glaring omissions that portrayed the smallness this great country is being reduced to.

Further, the language in the inscription on the war memorial at which flowers were laid was only in Sinhalese. Why?  What does this imply in terms of the word ‘Motherland’ used by you? Is Tamil not the language of the ‘Other’ children of ‘Mother Lanka’?   Why were these inscriptions not also in Tamil- an official language and English- a link language? What is the message this government is conveying?

“We must bear in mind that thousands of heroes like this sacrificed their lives for the country to obtain this great victory.”

Why were the thousands of civilians- innocent and forcibly conscripted by the LTTE- who sacrificed their lives and much more, not remembered or mentioned in the president’s speech?  They are war-victims who are yet living and are the bigger heroes.   Those Tamils liberated from the clutches of the LTTE are the real victors. They sacrificed most, put up with the worst imaginable and barely escaped alive. Why were the disabled, the orphaned and widowed Tamil civilian survivors, not paraded and honored at this event? Why was an opportunity to promote national reconciliation once again missed?

“If one is to fully understand the great service provided by these heroes we must recall how the people of this country lived before May 2009.”

I hope you also had in mind the period preceding the emergence of Tamil militancy and the LTTE, where the Tamils were exclusively targeted and the interim period when they were also subjected to state terror.  The Tamils have borne the consequences of terrorism- of the state, Sinhala hoodlums and the Tamil terrorists masquerading as liberators, for a much longer period than the others in our Mother Land.  They are the bigger victims and the larger than life heroes.  They are the ones who should prod our conscience and make us humane and hence human.

“We know that those who had ceasefire agreements that betrayed the country to the Tigers are making every effort to make us forget the heroism of this nation.”

This is a very unfair and inaccurate statement.  It is the last ceasefire agreement signed with Norwegian mediation that exposed the LTTE for what it was to the Tamils and helped weaken it from within.  It was an important prelude to what the last war achieved.

“This era should be not go-down in history as an era when we were warring, but an era when war was ended.”

True.  What about the hereafter?  What sort of peace are you trying to build? What sort of nation are you trying to build?  This has been neither defined nor clarified yet.  Is it going to be a victor’s justice or resolution of issues that led to Tamil militancy, terrorism and war, for all time, to the satisfaction of the Tamils and all right thinking people in this countryAre the minorities to be permanent step-children in the Mother Land that is also theirs?

The end of the war has also not helped liberate all the peoples of Sri Lanka from the scourges of bad governance and the unbearable cost of living. There are haunting realities in the lives of all the citizens of this country.  The armed forces have won a major battle under your leadership, but you are on the way to lose the bigger war.

“Similarly, this era should go down in history as one that carried out a major transformation to prevent the occurrence of war again.”

What sort of major transformation?  Are increased militarization and surveillance the only answers? Should not the political needs, concerns and fears of the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims be addressed in a more Statesman-like manner? Isn’t it important to remember that each one of us is a child of Mother Lanka and the weaker in political terms, need special care from your government, which at the moment is in charge of affairs here.

Why were warnings against commemorating the war-dead among the Tamils, issued by the military and not the police?  Why has not the government organized official events to commemorate all the  riot/war/ insurgency dead in this country?  If the government can publicly celebrate victory, why can’t the Tamils publicly commemorate the innocent victims of war?

Why should  almost 7000 acres of land that was commandeered for reasons of war  25 years back from their owners, be not returned to the rightful owners, four years after the war ended?  What is the moral justification for acquiring these lands?  Will this help with reconciliation or win the hearts and minds of the Tamils?  How will these acquisitions prevent the recurrence of war?   Do you understand that the Tamils will not want a war in their midst for the next thousand years?   You have to know what the Tamils think, better and trust their good sense. They have learned more lessons the hard way than you and your government have learned.

“It is the people in the North and the East who would and should feel this most. Today, in the north and east of the country, there are twelve political parties carrying out their activities freely.”

How freely?  What choices do the war-affected have?  What sort of individuals and political formations has your government promoted in the north and east?  What sort of individuals would come forward to contest elections in the north and east, considering the political climate?  You have embraced ex-LTTE’rs – both big and sm all — but have not yet reached out for the hearts, minds and souls of the Tamils. You have not trusted them and they are yet unable to trust you yet, despite your laudable efforts on the IDP, resettlement, rehabilitation and infra-structure development fronts.   It is for you to identify the missing piece.

“Prabhakaran and his cohorts destroyed the erudite society that could build the culture of the Tamil people of the north.”

What has your government done to encourage the remaining erudite and the cultured Tamils to lead the Tamils in the north and east?  How can we expect you to do this in the north and east, when you are orchestrating and promoting the entry of scum and the lumpen into Sinhala and Tamil politics?

“The time has come for the people of the north to have a good understanding of the honesty of those who claim to speak on their behalf.”

Please remember that this caution will also apply to those you have promoted and continue to promote as the leaders of the Tamils in the north and east.

“I understand well and recall the hearts and minds of the people of the north and east. History shows that in the Presidential Election of 1982 the Tamil people of the north defeated Ponnambalam who stood for a separate state and elected Kobbekaduwa who was from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.”

The vote for Hector Kobbekaduwa was a vote against the high handedness of JRJ and the UNP.

The voting at the 1982 Presidential Elections was as follows in north and east:

Jaffna:  Total voters- 493,705          Voted- 218,003

SLFP – 77,300    UNP -44,980    ACTC- 87, 263

Vanni:  Total voters- 119,093           Voted- 70,739

SLFP-23, 221      UNP -32,834     ACTC- 11,521

Batticaloa:  Total voters- 172,480     Voted- 120,076

SLFP- 21,688      UNP- 48,094      ACTC- 47,095

Trincomalee:   Total voters- 133,646    Voted- 70,739

SLFP- 31,700      UNP- 32,834     ACTC- 11,521.

Kumar Ponnambalam had the largest share of votes in Jaffna, although he basked in the glory of his late father and had no vote base there.

You have failed also to mention how the Tamils voted when Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge was a presidential candidate for the first time in 1994:

Jaffna:   Total voters- 596,366      Voted- 14,716

SLFP – 16,934         UNP- 341

Vanni:    Total Voters- 184,090     Voted- 40,053

SLFP- 75, 242           UNP- 26,860

Batticaloa:  Total voters- 201,897   Voted- 168,443

SLFP – 33,585      UNP- 4493

Trincomalee:   Total voters- 184,090     Voted- 106,480

SLFP- 75,242       UNP- 26,860

The above results are self explanatory. Tamils have been ready to vote for candidates of national parties, irrespective of the token candidatures of Tamils.  The overwhelming Tamil vote for Chandrika Kumaratunge was for the promise she represented for the Tamils.  The UNP caricatured her dressed and adorned as a Tamil, to draw the Sinhala vote. However, this did not work. She won 66% of the votes cast.

There is a lesson for you in this. The Sinhala people are wiser and more ethical than they are portrayed to be by fringe Sinhala political parties.

“I believe that the feeling that we should all live together in a single country is once again emerging in the hearts of the Tamil people.”

That feeling was always there among the overwhelming number of Tamils. Unfortunately, they were driven to consider other options, when forced to feel they were unwanted in their Mother Land.  Yes, they want to yet live in a single country, but as equal citizens in every way and with rights to manage their political affairs internally, in areas where they predominate, to a reasonable extent.  They also want to share power at the centre, to commiserate with their numbers. They do not want to be victims of state terrorism, Tamil terrorism or Sinhala chauvinism and majoritarianism, ever again.

The big question is what are you and your government doing to meet Tamil and other minority expectations in terms of their role and place in the national politics and life?

“Before me today I see brave sons and daughters of Sri Lanka who are ready to sacrifice their lives for our Motherland.”

There would have been more Tamil and Muslim sons and daughters of Sri Lanka, in front of you, ready to sacrifice their lives too for the Motherland, if you had made 18th May, the National Commemoration and Remembrance Day, instead of a Victory Day.   I think there is a big lesson for you and your government to learn on what national reconciliation means.

“It is with great pride that I recall that through thousands of years past there were hundreds of thousands of brave people ready to sacrifice their lives for the Motherland.”

These brave people included Tamils who fought in Dutu Gemunu’s army, Sempakaperumal alias Sappumal Kumaraya, Tamils who fought against the Portuguese invaders and the thousands of Tamils who refused to bow down to the LTTE, any longer.  Please also do not forget the Tamil leaders who were in the fore front, demanding independence for Sri Lanka.

“It said “Never did we know what fear was. Never were we bothered about life, but for our land”.”

However, dastardly the LTTE was, it should also be remembered that many thousands of young Tamils knew no fear, did not bother about life and sacrificed their lives for its cause, because they loved the part of this Mother Land that they believed was theirs to live as proud citizens.  It was a fallback position on account of their being marginalized and brutalized in the larger Mother Land of Sri Lanka. If this fundamental is not understood, there can never be reconciliation in this land.

Tuyilam Illam at Kopay November 2004 –Pic by Michael Roberts

I end this response repeating some lines from Prof. Niranjan Mahesan’s recent poem:

“With the end of the Fascist, the new dawn we toasted;

With strength of Leadership, of a new plan we boasted.

 Now what can we show, for all that gore?

Food for thought Mr. President!

****   ****

ALSO NOTE

Michael Roberts: “Profound Flaws in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Victory Speech in May 2009,” 4 July 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/profound-flaws-in-mahinda-rajapaksas-victory-speech-in-may-2009/ ….. being a re-presentation of Roberts, “Some Pillars for Lanka’s Future” being lead article in Frontline, Volume 26 – Issue 12 :: Jun. 06-19, 2009  

 an illustration of the pirivaraagena concept

AND THE RAJASINGHAM NARENDRAN series

NAREN RAJASINGHAM 2005 “An Open Letter to the Sinhalese,” …………………. http://www.infolanka.com/ubb/Forum2/HTML/001127.html, posted on 14 May 2005, …………….reproduced as “Rajasingham Narendran’s Open Letter to All Sinhalese  in 2005,” in https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/rajasingham-narendrans-open-letter-to-all-sinhalese-in-2005/ … on 28 January 2014.

2009 “Internally displaced persons: The new front of an old war in Sri Lanka,” Tamil Week, 30 August 2009, http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/08/post_415.html

2013 “A Response to The President’s Address on ‘Victory Day’,” 19 May 2013, Colombo Telegraph, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/a-response-to-the-presidents-address-on-victory-day/

2013 “Sinhalese, Tamils and Sri Lanka: Yet Needed Paradigm Shifts,” 20 April 2013, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sinhalese-tamils-and-sri-lanka-yet-needed-paradigm-shifts/

2013 Need of the Hour: A National Provincial Council for the North,”  29 April 2013,  https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/need-of-the-hour-a-national-provincial-council-for-the-north/

2013 “National Provincial Council for the North: A Reply to Austin Fernando,” 5 May 2013, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/national-provincial-council-for-the-northern-province-a-reply-to-austin-fernando/

2014  “Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014, ………………………… ……………………………… https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/11702/

2014 “The Land where Hope was killed and Despair was reborn,” 28 June 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-land-where-hope-was-killed-and-despair-was-reborn/

2014 “Keys to Modi’s Success in Gujarat and Lessons for Sri Lanka,” 9 July 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/keys-to-modis-success-in-gujarat-and-lessons-for-sri-lanka/

2014 “Republican Constitution and Executive Presidency: Review, Revise and Retain,” 9 August 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/republican-constitution-and-executive-presidency-review-revise-and-retain/

2014 Democracy and Good Governance. The Little Red Riding Hood of Sri Lanka,” 26 October 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/democracy-and-good-governance-the-little-red-riding-hood-of-sri-lanka/

2016 “NPC passes Resolution against Its Agriculture Minister—Summary & Remarks,” 10 February 2016, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/npc-passes-unanimous-resolution-against-its-agriculture-minister-a-summary-remarks/

2016 “The Proposed New Constitution: Some Suggestions and Thoughts,” 4 March 2016,  https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-proposed-new-constitution-some-suggestions-thoughts/

PLUS

* Michael Roberts: Naren Rajasingham’s Reading of Pirapāharan’s Thamilīlam in 2004/05,”  20 September 2019, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/?p=37542&preview=true

 

1 Comment

Filed under accountability, authoritarian regimes, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, cultural transmission, democratic measures, devolution, disparagement, ethnicity, governance, historical interpretation, language policies, life stories, LTTE, Muslims in Lanka, nationalism, politIcal discourse, power politics, racist thinking, Rajapaksa regime, rehabilitation, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, truth as casualty of war, unusual people, world events & processes

One response to “Narendran’s Critical Dissection of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Victory Day Speech on 18th May 2009

  1. Janaka Perera

    I agree with the writer. The shortcomings he mentions were avoidable mistakes. Ignoring them probably led to other issues that came up later
    Some food for thought

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