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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2397

Who boycotted the tsunami victims?

By A Patabendige

The Prime Minister (PM) presided 2 weeks ago (Feb 2017) over the handing over of 20 houses to the victims of the Aranayake landslide disaster in May 2016. He pointed out among other things that the speed of the response to the tragedy in which over 200 people perished and over 133,000 were displaced, showed what (political) unity in a nation could achieve. It was assumed that many had chipped in to help, irrespective of party affiliations.

He then reflected on the 2004 tsunami. Apparently its slow recovery period (‘of many years’) was an example of what disunity brings. This then is a significant mind numbing admission by the PM as to why help for the tsunami victims was withheld, presumably only by those who were not in the government. Was this act then not calculated, planned and deliberate? He must have known that the tsunami killed 34,000 people in just a couple of hours. Every single country with resources brought relief and the whole country (it was thought) including the terrorists waging war against the country acted in unison in an effort to help the survivors as never ever seen before in SL , what sort of people could withhold succour to the devastated survivors simply because they were not in the government? Was this act then calculated, planned and deliberate as well as wickedly cynical? No wonder then that the same lot acted in an identical fashion during the counter terrorist operations when the survival of the people was at stake.

Characteristically he then tossed in a totally irrelevant, immaterial, distracting comparison to the floods in New Orleans USA. Floods occur frequently there about every 5 years. Did he refer to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana that killed 986 and displaced over one million and caused damages of about $150 billion in 2000? This was another gratuitous display of his knowledge of geography and history. Especially so after his increasing travels abroad. Was it to cover up the slovenly response of the government to the tragedy when it occurred? Who among the desperately and wretchedly poor estate labourers, exploited for generations without end, had even heard about it or at least knew where New Orleans was? He drew attention to the so called SL unity government ‘that is able to talk to the world with one voice’. But he failed to say what the connection to unity or disunity in USA was during the New Orleans floods and if the ‘world’ helped SL this time.

The irrepressible PM in full flow then warned the awe struck and mystified labourers and spread of ill educated political bed fellows in attendance that if SL did not unite it could be worse off than Cambodia and Laos. Had he forgotten that at a school prize giving in the hills a few days before he had casually tossed Afghanistan instead? No one was stirred or impressed. Those remote countries were carefully picked to avoid diplomatic repercussions. He did not add that SL had slipped already to being the 86th poorest in per capita income (GDP /PPP) worldwide during the new ‘unity’ era.

Here in SL that ‘unity’ unraveled some time ago- as the ‘world’ may know if it is even interested. Unity exists however by a besotted lake to grab unending splurges on myriad bribe like perks and to hide corruption, especially in bonds.

The fact was that one man, the St Anthony's Group self effacing, publicity shy, philanthropist boss Raja Gnanam and not the unity government that gave Rs 50 million to pay for the houses. It may not have been lost altogether on the PM even as he squinted at without connecting with the suffering and weary survivors.

Was it for same selfish reason that when in 1974 a Martine Airways Indonesian Hajj Pilgrim flight crashed into the 7 Virgins hills off Hatton killing about 180 people on board the UNP MPs and its allies in the Civil Aviation Dept sought to blame the incumbent government? When another Martine Air charter plane crashed while landing at BIA/KIA about 4 years later when the PM was deputy minister, did he think the government was responsible? What utter hypocrisy for political gain.

In December 2004, just as in the floods of 2016, it was not the government but the people of all communities and walks of life who rallied round and rushed relief first to the affected in appalling conditions, at night with roads and railways washed away, bridges and power lines broken and with no time to lose. It is recorded that the world has no better civil society in times of distress than SL. No mention was made of SL government responses. The 2016 Salawa tragedy was an example.

No one flew in helicopters then, to have a jolly, looking down as usual on the victims or went walk about. This was not in the landslide affected rural areas with hundreds dead but in the relatively far less affected, comfortable metropolis with hard topped roads, carefully avoiding the sludge and muddy parts. There were umbrella carriers in attendance too to ward off drops of rain. During the 2004 tsunami helicopters were used for rescue and relief work, the latter mainly by doctors.

The PM may remember that in 2008 when the troops were dying in their hundreds and being wounded in the thousands he and his Royal cronies did not unite to ensure the defeat of the terrorists that caused 30 years of gory slaughter of innocents all over SL. This did not prevent the SL forces from defeating the terrorists comprehensively. The PM must recall how his cronies in parliament, frothing in their mouths, offered the terrorists tremendous propaganda footage and moral support by mocking the forces. This was when victory and real peace were in sight.

One said that the SL Army Commander was not fit to lead even the Salvation Army. That one is now the Foreign and hopeful Salvation Minister. Another one (now Finance Minster) said that the Army had not taken their military objectives as reported at Elephant Pass and Killinochchi in the Northern Province after bitter fighting. He guffawed that the army had instead taken Grandpass in Colombo and Madawachchi in the North Central Province. This would be like a identical clown at London's Speaker's corner during WW2 saying Park Lane for El Alamein, wine for Rhine and heaven forbid, royal for loyal. He defends the Bond scam feverishly with the same credibility now. Another (now also a Minster and still trumpeting after somersaulting) said that any bull could do what the soldiers did. What a united effort not to support but ridicule and demean the Army during war time.

The PM as the leader of the Opposition then, not to be out done as is his wont when it comes to mocking, derided the fall of the most dominating tactical feature in the East, Thoppigala. He described it as an inconsequential patch of jungle. It was taken by storm at the cost of many lives. It had eluded at considerable cost the much vaunted (pre invasion of SL), IPKF, of the 4th biggest Army in the World. That’s how much history and geography can be mixed to support his sick sense of humour. He craftily dodged going for the C in C’s job at the following election. Fortunately for all of them, no one stirred the mobs in Colombo.

Nowhere in the world have politicians ever insulted their own troops in like fashion and got away with it. That is the insurance ‘unity’ provides in SL. No apology has still come from them. They have survived so far as they submit to foreign Gods in far off lands supported by their genuflecting supplicants here.

The PM will remember how President Premadasa gifted truck loads of weapons, ammunition, cash and cement to the terrorists even while an Allied force, the IPKF, was battling them on behalf of SL. That was both a betrayal of SL and an allied force. The Prime Minster was a Minister in that government. What was his stand? Did he unite with or oppose the President who betrayed SL? Were there wise cracks as in 2008 to self consciously cover up being compromised? Was that ‘unity’ too?

There was also the near genocide of the people in far parts of the South in 1988-9 when nearly 100,000 were killed by both the fascist JVP and the government sanctioned killer squads. The latter were armed with lists, given them by ruling politicians, of people to be shot and burned. Those who refused to do so were dismissed as the PM knows. Was this another united effort too?

The JVP and the UNP are creatively united now even as the former Tiger terrorist mouth piece purrs for the UNP. The historian must tell the country why and how surviving fascists and fascist propagandists unite with democratic governments.

Finally who tried to unite with the LTTE to govern SL for time without end? Who shook hands with which devil then? What was the history behind that unity?

- Asian Tribune -

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