August 28, 2008

The Sick Man of Asia

Winston Churchill opposed granting independence to India. He had a very poor opinion of the Indians’ ability to manage their own affairs. In a speech to the House of Commons in 1946, he castigated the Labour government for relinquishing power and handing India over to Indian leaders. He said: “Power will go into the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters. Not a bottle of water or a loaf of bread will escape taxation. Only the air will be free, and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Attlee. These are men of straw of whom no trace will be found after a few years. They will fight among themselves, and India will be lost in political squabbles.”

In February Sri Lanka celebrated 60 years of independence. On July 25th it was 25 years since the anti-tamil riots of July 1983. We all know that the dominant Sinhala community was responsible for promoting a conflict which was completely avoidable. The ethnic conflict has extracted a heavy price on all Sri Lankans. Democracy has been completely subverted and the Island has been turned into an authoritarian state. The draconian ‘Prevention of Terrorism Act’ and other similar legislations, and many years of the country being under a State of Emergency has led to the exercise of arbitary powers by successive governments.

Today abductions, killings, intimidations, frisking of individuals, searches of houses, stoppages of traffic and roadblocks have become routine in the daily life of harassed citizens, mainly Tamil. Thousands of people, both civilian and uniformed, Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims have been killed and the number wounded and crippled is too large to be counted. Lakhs have been displaced and become homeless refugees in Sri Lanka and India.

Churchill’s gloomy prophecy of India seems to have come true in Sri Lanka. The current generation of Sinhala leaders have proved to be men of straw who spend their time squabbling with each other whether or not to devolve power to the minorities. The cost of living is sky high and corruption has become a part of life. The war is being stage managed by the government media, and Sri Lanka’s future looks dismal and grey.

There are only two possible ways in which things can be set right in Sri Lanka. One realistic, and the other pure fantasy. The realistic possibility is that extraterrestrials will land in a spaceship and set everything right. The fantasy is that the people themselves will find a solution to their problems.

Sri Lanka…A Land Like No Other!


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