North or South - racism hath no other name | Sunday Observer

North or South - racism hath no other name

It was only last week that we wrote in these columns about ‘own goals’ scored by political parties in recent weeks. Then comes the most spectacular own goal from Vijayakala Maheswaran, United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian for the Jaffna district and, until a few days ago, State Minister for Child Affairs. Maheswaran’s recent antics have been well documented. She told a public gathering, that for children in the North to feel safe and for them to be able to return home from school unharmed, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) need to be in control of the region once again. Later, compelled to reflect on her statement following a public outcry, Maheswaran was to say that she was emotional and was only commenting on the deteriorating law and order situation in the North. Of course, by then it was too little, too late. The opposition had pounced on her remarks- as they should have- and demanded her resignation. She had to go and she did. In fact, Maheswaran may face more consequences.

A Sinhalese nationalist organisation acted with lightning speed to lodge a complaint alleging that Maheswaran had violated the Constitution. In this instance, the wheels of justice are turning at a furious pace. Last week, Police reported to court that she could be charged under the Penal Code for the offence of espousing the cause of separatism. If she is found guilty, that would almost certainly spell the end of what was a promising political career. Lest the conspiracy theorists take over, let us be very clear here: this was not a tactic to canvass votes for the UNP in Jaffna. Maheswaran did no favours for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe or the United National Party (UNP) which is struggling as it is in the national popularity stakes. For the UNP, she only made a bad situation worse. Ever since Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, when he held the same office sixteen years ago, endorsed a ceasefire agreement with the LTTE, he has been branded as being soft on the Tigers. That Mahinda Rajapaksa took an entirely different approach to dealing with them and was resoundingly successful only made his plight worse. Since then, Wickremesinghe has been doing his best trying to rid himself of the koti label, with only limited success. Maheswaran’s words last week certainly didn’t help his cause. Worse still, Maheswaran’s few words, even if they were uttered in a moment of emotional distress, may have cost the UNP dearly. The opposition- or to be more specific, the Joint Opposition (JO)- is grinning from ear to ear. Those few words have given them enough material for slogans, placards and debating points that would last them for months- even until the next elections. Now, they will tell the electorate, ‘the UNP was always pro-LTTE, we told you so, didn’t we?’ and a significant proportion of the population will believe them too. That is why Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was quick to show Maheswaran the door. A contrite Maheswaran reportedly offered an explanation and an unconditional apology but the Premier was unmoved: the UNP’s dynamic and outspoken lady representative in Jaffna has now become a political liability. In fact, she would have already cost the UNP thousands of votes in the South. Maheswaran does deserve all the flak she gets, even if she said what she said in a moment of indiscretion.

The fact remains that she called for the LTTE’s resurgence. That is the same LTTE that killed and maimed thousands of innocent Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims. Those killed included scores of Tamil parliamentarians, Ministers, a President of Sri Lanka, a Prime Minister of India -and Maheswaran’s own husband, former Jaffna district parliamentarian Thiagarajah Maheswaran himself! Thousands of men and women from the armed forces laid down their lives to rescue the nation from the clutches of the LTTE. It was not a victory that was given on a platter. Instead, it was a victory against all odds- the strength of the LTTE, the interference from the West and the Indian influence, to name just a few factors that saw such an outcome elude the Sri Lankan forces before. If Mahinda Rajapaksa and his loyalists choose to vilify Maheswaran’s comments, that is a problem of Maheswaran’s own making- and not Mahinda Rajapaksa’s fault.

Rajapaksa and others of his ilk have many deficiencies. He indulged in nepotism on a scale that was unprecedented in this country. Despite all the feet dragging on the investigations into the alleged frauds and scams carried under his watch, few believe that his administration was squeaky clean. Nevertheless, to give him his due, Rajapaksa did win the war against terror and he has earned every bit of credit he gets for that. That is why people voted for him with a resounding majority in 2010 and that is why he still has, despite being only a backbench MP, currency among the Sri Lankan electorate. What Maheswaran has done now is to give Rajapaksa and his acolytes more oxygen in what is already a suffocated political arena. Sri Lankans must also realise that racism and communal hatred in any form and against any community is equally despicable. Those who speak in anger against the comments of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara thero when he spreads his vitriol must also speak with the same vehemence against Vijayakala Maheswaran.

Sadly, what happens though is that when Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara thero speaks, there is a group in the South which is happy to exploit those comments for political purposes. When the monk is sentenced to imprisonment, they hail him as a hero, making a mockery of the justice system. Similarly, there will be a group in the North who will now hail Maheswaran’s comments. Should she too suffer legal consequences as a result of her comments, no doubt they will hail her as a heroine- and this is what is rotten with our ‘system’. That is not what it should be. That is why, we should shed tears for Thiagarajah Maheswaran when he is assassinated but not for Vijayakala Maheswaran when she is excommunicated from her party and has to face legal consequences for her actions. 

Comments

Based on ignorance lack of understanding imaging thinks which is not there. Lucky are those surrounded by differnt group of peoples as friends advisors teachers friends with reasonable relationship. Don't pollute your head unnecessary evil thoughts. All social problems are ame good family good education hardworkis good moral character make you great as a person. Read your religious book and mindful thoughts. Hating someone because he speak domething is stupid. Yes send yor child to a family speaking different language see how he/she become expert in other language

Based on ignorance lack of understanding imaging thinks which is not there. Lucky are those surrounded by differnt group of peoples as friends advisors teachers friends with reasonable relationship. Don't pollute your head unnecessary evil thoughts. All social problems are ame good family good education hardworkis good moral character make you great as a person. Read your religious book and mindful thoughts. Hating someone because he speak domething is stupid. Yes send yor child to a family speaking different language see how he/she become expert in other language

Think reason analyse act. Everything exaggerated for selfish reasons. Who want hitler learn from him. Think israel

First of all, on what basis except for emotional reason this woman was made a minister of the Sri Lankan parliament. It is pathetic to note that whole of Indian region elect major part their representative, either member of parliament, ministers or prime minister or the on emotional reasons rather than on capability, merit or qualification basis. This is the primary cause for stagnation; i.e. no progress ; be a basket case.