Lest Sri Lanka has forgotten: All that haunts us today began in 1980s
We gained nominal independence in 1948. Nominal, because the Queen remained Head of State & UK Privy Council was the Highest Court inspite of being called ‘independent’. Hardly, 10 years into post-independence, a prime minister was assassinated, after the 1st prime minister accidentally fell to his death. But we also produced the world’s first female prime minister. Her reign continues to be regarded as the best, post-independence. She gained acclaim globally and she embarked on a nationalist program of self-sustenance. This was not a good recipe & she met her waterloo with the creation of JVP and the Tamil New Tigers the same day of her Republican Constitution. These were no coincidences. The geopolitical shift came in 1977 a year after Tamil leaders declared quest for a separate Tamil state, where South Asia began to dabble with western economic liberalizations in both goods & thought.
1980s came with bloodshed and the foundation for more bloodshed.
The JVP movement was created drawing Sinhala Buddhist youth to rebel and vanquish their heritage, their traditional customs, their nationalism and embrace an ideology of hate, jealousy, vengeance motivated by the belief that what they deemed true had to be accepted by all.
How far the JVP was packaged together with the Tamil New Tigers in 1972 is important for both came when Sri Lanka adopted the first Republican Constitution ending the Queens reign as head of state, ending UK military bases in Sri Lanka and ending UK Privy Council as our highest court.
While JVP insurgency was quelled, it resulted in killing Sinhala Buddhist youth. Ironically, not many called for human rights investigations for their deaths! It was not fashionable or newsworthy enough. The aim would have been to eliminate these energized Sinhala Buddhist youth.
The Tamil New Tigers created in 1972, became LTTE after the Vaddukoddai Resolution of 1976 which called for a separate Tamil state & resulted in TULF become the country’s Main Opposition in 1977.
Then came 1977 elections & the start of Sri Lanka’s collapse.
The UNP reversed their 1956 set back, winning the elections. UNP leader, J R Jayawardena soon converted premiership to create an executive presidency.
Championing democracy by deceit became the hallmark of rule. Violating democracy in the name of democracy became the norm. Elections were replaced with a referendum. Judges that questioned had their houses stoned. Thugs, goon squads, underworld, armed security became the body-armour of politicians.
Politicians of pre-1977 were people who served the people. They used their own funds to serve their electorates. Post 1977 the scenario changed. JRJ ushered in a luxurious lifestyle for politicians giving them perks, privileges, cars, foreign trips and even state land for tuppence.
If you wondered how ballot box stuffing, ballot box stealing, impersonations, voter intimidation, voter threats started – it was during JR’s time as president & under UNP rule. Of course the credit for stealing NICs goes to the JVP.
In case you wondered how the distinguished and respected Public Service descended to such pitiful heights – look no further, post 1977 sealed the damage there too. Respected civil servants, secretaries were soon to become Yes Men to a bunch of thugs that started entering parliament after voter intimidation and ballot rigging. Public Sector became the den for employing their stooges and voters inflating the public service with a mob of people who were not qualified to do anything and who merely passing time reading newspapers & gossiping sipping tea. Each election meant more people were given political jobs as favors for canvassing.
It was only natural that this would trickle to the Armed Forces & Police as well. This eventually created a politicized police inspite of public sector supposed to be apolitical & required to serve the nation not the government in power but to carry out the orders of the government so long as it is in keeping with their public ethics code.
Erosion of the public sector commenced when they were demanded to do what they were not supposed to do. Erosion of public sector turned into corrupting the public sector. With this erosion a plethora of associated vices took place where resources and assets of the nation became victim and resulted in blatant wastage, theft, siphoning, sale, and its bargaining. The assets and resources came to be the treasures that siphoned off by politicians, their cronies and public sector and with every year and with every govt, it only got worse.
This was the source and root of the corruption. Lest people have forgotten – it was JRJ who introduced all of these vices and dished them out to the politicians to enjoy allowing him to rule as he pleased.
That was however shortlived, in JRJ’s shadow was a man who had other objectives. He was to put an end to dynastic family rule that had been a cornerstone of politics since independence.
1983 saw Govt sponsored mob riots once again choreographed to chastise the Sinhalese.
Then came the period of bloodshed – brute force if ever prevailed by a state was seen at no other period in time, than under UNP rule. The liberals who were the backers of the UNP are today mum when it comes to this period. They all refer to State oppression but flinch to say it was by UNP.
It was also during this period that the puthano’s piyano under advice or otherwise went on a rampage of killing opponents. This was the bheeshana period where all types of “cats” roamed the streets and an alogosuwa, a man with a hood had to merely nod his head to decide the fate of people. Kidnapped lawyers, students, clergy, academics had their eyes treated with chillie powder, nails nailed to the ground, the type of horrendous physical abuse may not even come secondary to the waterboarding techniques used by US in their secret prisons.
People were burning on tyres or naked, tied to lampposts courtesy JVP.
Who dared to come forward to count the kidnapped or disappeared leave alone count the dead.
The JVP was used to bump off the cream of Sinhala Buddhists in Sri Lanka both from within & by virtue of their victims. What did people like Premakeerthi di Silva do to deserve to be shot in front of his own children by the JVP? How many more talented artists similarly were killed by JVP?
Thus, we watched JVP being used to destroy Sinhala Buddhists by drawing them to join the JVP and we watched as these brainwashed youth ran berserk resulting in the UNP Government shooting or torturing Sinhala Buddhists to death. In the end this period targeted Sinhala Buddhists & was aimed at terminating talented individuals who would have served their nation and would have posed a challenge to the gameplan being rolled out.
While Sinhala Buddhists were getting eliminated by both JVP and UNP, Sri Lanka was to be recipient of terrorism that came in the form of Tamil militancy trained by India and packed off to rebel against the State. This was to combine with an Indian Army presence that turned sour, creating a fire all killing spree. No one knew who was killing who but in the end scores of people were getting killed.
Where were these “heroic” liberals of the present day?
Most of those that eloquently address in the halls of the suddas were very much present during those times, cowering in fear no doubt. That was the time they were in exile or had to hide their pen, not presently. How many of these were actually trouble makers themselves. How many of those that write on Richard de Zoysa care to mention the name of the UNP leaders who ruled during his disappearance. They are very careful to selectively say “state oppression” but never the party or individuals involved. However, when the whole world likes to hate one family of people, they are all united in writing books, in galvanizing groups and proudly displaying “I was there” slogans because such stands come with international awards, scholarships and even exile status – what a ticket to live in the West at the expense of the West and then be invited to panels or UNHRC from time to time to play the same broken record!
People who lived during the 1980s & 1990s & even early 2000 will know the life Sri Lankans had to deal with.
Those who were less than 10 years at the time and who are now in their 40s may not know what their parents had to go through to protect them from being kidnapped by the JVP or LTTE or killed by the UNP claiming they were either JVP or LTTE.
This was the period of fear we had to live in, not the glorified lies of fear that are being floated.
JVP joined CBK government. LTTE was eliminated in 2009 and IPKF was packed off in 1990.
JVP remains to ruin the lives of youth and brainwash people while LTTE diaspora wish to only make hay while the sun shines plugging geopolitical objectives to their advantage.
As for Sri Lanka, we are in an economic mess as a result of unplanned open economy and the system of corruptions that was unleashed under the then Executive President and followed by every successive government. It is a system that benefitted all those who today are on anti-corruption drives. Many of those who became rich after 1980s were the recipient of corrupt practices that prevailed then.
Only a handful of uncorrupt people can call both the pot & the kettle, black!
Shenali D Waduge