Peace begins with the truth not lies | Sunday Observer

Peace begins with the truth not lies

8 March, 2020

The unique achievements recorded in the brief American journey in the New World surpass all other historical journeys of mankind in the ancient, feudal and modern periods of this blue planet. America has defined and changed the course of global history for others to follow. It has been at the cutting edge of knowledge leading mankind into new frontiers which were unattainable when our ancestors were plodding their way through primitive and grinding passages of time. America has lifted the world from the bullock cart age to the space age and beyond.

America has lifted the hopes of all mankind to great heights. It made the American dream the ultimate goal of those who look up to America as their ideal home. As Sen. John McCain’s daughter stated in her eulogy to her brave father, “America has always been great”, meaning that it does not need pompous and loud-mouth hawkers to make it great again. Its resilient democratic institutions had withstood one of the mightiest ideological battles fought in the Cold War era. It had stood Marx on his head. It minted a new culture that has dazzled the world. It has enriched the English language with the vigorous, athletic lines of Walt Whitman and the soft domestic gentilities of Emily Dickinson.

One of its brightest stars, the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has shone with her use of the American idiom. She uses it to drive home some hard-hitting fundamental truths. One of her witticisms which said “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down” applies to its enemies within. Going by this nugget of wisdom it is incumbent on the State Department to give their diplomats a heavy dose of laxatives before they post them to foreign lands. It is the constipated stomachs that have spawned the Ugly Americans. In the eyes of the world America sinks to lower depths each time these meddlesome mediocrities step in to abuse its great power with their arrogant and unwanted interventions.

Sri Lankans got a taste of this kind of American arrogance – it is also known as neo-colonialism – when the American Ambassadress, Alaina Teplitz imposed a travel ban on Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva and his family. It was a provocative act that question the rationality of the American Ambassadress.

Her mission was to study at first hand the evolving situation after the end of the brutal Vadukoddai War – a war declared by the Tamil leadership against the Sinhalese – and then make the passage easy for both America and Sri Lanka to work together to advance the interests of both parties. In particular, an American diplomat’s mission is to enable the State Department to make enlightened decisions that could protect, advance and consolidate its strategic interests.

It is also their duty to be missionaries of American idealism. But that’s a story that has taken many twists and turns. Getting down to realpolitik, America’s security and future depends on its global partnership for which it has established a network of nearly 1,000 bases around the world. American diplomacy has been aiming to incorporate Sri Lanka into its global network. It needs the goodwill of the people, in some cases more than that of the governments, to run American bases abroad. Of course, America can establish bases by flexing its imperialist muscles. In the long run, such repulsive force leads to greater insecurity. Power based on the will of the people has a greater force to last longer than the expedient use of imperial power pushed down the throats of resisting people. A short-term gain can be a long-term risk.

Take the case of imposing travel restrictions on Sri Lankan generals who ended one of the most brutal wars in Asia by liberating the nation from ‘the deadliest terrorist leader’ (FBI). It is certainly America’s right to decide who should come in and who should be kept out. But when it decides to pick and choose its visitors on moral grounds then it runs into highly sensitive and controversial grounds. America not only loses credibility but also looks stupid when it uses double standards – one for its favourites irrespective of their crimes and the other against those who are punished on Yankee whims and fancies. America like anyone nation must be judged on its own high moral rhetoric and if it can’t live up to its declared standards then it has no right to dictate morality to the others.

Besides, morality can be a force only when it is based on truth. Not on lies. The crisis facing Sri Lankan foreign policy abroad is because it has failed to combat the lies at home. The central issue that bedevils the foreign policy is the North-South crisis. The overwhelming international pressure comes essentially from this issue. The Northern separatists who waged their Vadukoddai War for 33 years (May 1976 to May 2009) ran their most effective campaign not in the battlefields but in the propaganda campaigns demonising the Sinhala-Buddhists abroad.

In the past Sri Lankan governments had surrendered to the Gobbelsian propaganda campaign launched by the Northern Tamil leadership. The Tamils won the propaganda campaign by lamenting incessantly wherever they went. They played the sympathy card of being the victims of the evil Sinhala-Buddhist state. Victimology has been their second religion next to Saivism. Hats must be raised to them because they have been able to market this line successfully. But what is the truth behind their claims? The Tamils of the North have been the most privileged community in Sri Lanka and for them to go around crying that they have been victimised by the Sinhala-Buddhist majority is like saying that Pinocchio did not have a long nose.

The crisis was caused because the Tamil leadership was never afraid to tell lies while the Southern leaders were always afraid to tell the truth fearing that they would lose Tamil votes or be painted as racists if the Tamil lies were nailed. At the centre of this crisis is the tale of two narratives: the Northern and Southern narratives. So far the Tamil narrative has been accepted as the truth. And as long as this narrative remains unchallenged the foreign policy crisis can never be resolved.

The naïve and ignorant international community has swallowed the Tamil narrative hook, line and sinker because the Tamils have been successful in selling their lies. They base their judgments on the Tamil narrative. Consequently their judgments tend to blame the Sri Lankan governments. They can’t be blamed because the Southern leaders too have joined them in demonising the Sinhala-Buddhists. A classic example is the notorious 30/1 passed in Geneva with Ranil Wickremesinghe and his chuck-golaya, Mangala Samaraweera, raising both hands to endorse it. What more proof does anyone need when Ranil raises his hand with a pirith noola to brand the Sinhala-Buddhists as war criminals?

What is more the evidence has been selected to hide the truth and propagate the Tamil lies. Naturally the international community is emboldened to do what Colin Powell did at the Security Council: present cooked up stories to the world as the truth and demonise those refusing to bend to their will as the evil force that should be tamed by the principles of human rights.

Which Sinhala-Buddhist had told the world that the 33-year-old war against the nation was launched by the Tamil leadership? Which leader has told the Indian government that the Tamils of Sri Lanka get free education to qualify as, lawyers, engineers etc., whereas the Tamil state of Tamil Nadu charges fees for Tamil students at the tertiary level? Which leader will tell the Western governments that the evil Sri Lankan government made R. Sampanthan, the Leader of the Opposition when he had only 16 MPs in a House of 225?

It is this Sampanthan who cries in international fora saying that the Tamils have no dignity in Sri Lanka. Has he ever told the American Ambassadress that he never lifted a finger to give dignity to the low-caste Tamils who were demanding the God-given right to worship in His temples? Has he told Modi that he did nothing when the heads of protesting low-castes were cracked with bottles filled with sand at the entrance to Maviddipuram Temple?

What were the rights he fought for on behalf of the fellow-Tamils who were denied the basic rights to walk in God-given sunlight? When he was acting servilely as the agent of his Thalaivar what rights had he to act as a free individual? Did he have the right to criticise his Surya Devan (Sun God) the way he can criticise Gotabaya Rajapaksa? What dignity did he have when he went cap in hand paying pooja to his ‘Thambi’ just to be alive for another day?

Reconciliation can be successful only on the day after the Tamils admit their political blunders and accept the historical realities that have given the Tamils the chances enjoyed by everyone else. As for discrimination everyone has a tale to tell about it. Let’s not forget that it is the Sinhala youth who first took up arms against discrimination by the English-speaking elite.

The future of the nation depends on the peace-makers revisiting the past and reassessing the myth, distortions, fictions that had ruined the chances of peaceful coexistence. It is also time for the Western diplomats who rush in as pious missionaries to save the minorities to take a peek at the past of those who accuse the majority. These diplomats would serve peace and stability in Sri Lanka if they could also listen to Toni Morrison and take a dose of her prescription if they really want to fly high.