February 12, 2010 3:16:48 am
Political developments in Sri Lanka are not following the script that Sri Lankans and their nations well-wishers would have liked them to. But was there such a script to follow in the first place? The prelude to the presidential election last month had been violent,constantly intimating of violence,and filled with very vocal,visible animus notwithstanding the promises and half-promises made towards reconciliation and resolution. Beyond a shadow of doubt now,the end to the island nations 26-year-long civil war has not ushered in the end of conflict and division. If anything,while Sri Lankas original ethnic fissures remain intact (and threaten to widen with every day wasted),the war-ravaged state seems to be on the brink of a new political fracture. The clash between government supporters and opposition activists on the streets of Colombo,following defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonsekas arrest,is only the most visible face of the tension that had been building up ever since troops surrounded Fonsekas hotel in the immediate aftermath of the poll. Its a tension that has intensified and,without drastic damage control,looks to plunge the country into political chaos.
Fonseka has been accused of leaking military information to opposition politicians while still army commander,of plotting to assassinate the president and conduct a coup. The government intends to court martial him; and Fonseka has been warned against talking to international bodies on war crimes during the war against the LTTE. Things would not have come to such a pass without political miscalculation and recklessness on both sides. While Fonsekas elevation to the common candidate of a united opposition had seemed too sudden and somewhat enigmatic,the government appears to have given the reins to its authoritarian instincts,detaining many who worked for Fonsekas campaign,clamping down on the media and increasingly intolerant of those who do not agree with it. Moreover,President Rajapaksa has dissolved parliament,to which elections must now be held by April.
While India cannot take sides in Sri Lankas domestic political battles,it has to closely watch how those unfold and guide Colombo along a constructive path. This crisis is not going to make things easier for inclusive democracy in Sri Lanka,nor will it soothe matters between Colombo and the world. The economy is in bad shape. There are thousands displaced and destitute in the war-torn region awaiting deliverance. The Tamil minority awaits a political settlement. A Sri Lanka possibly,and violently,repolarised again,around Rajapaksa and Fonseka,will still fail its people. And the longer it fails,the farther recedes the post-war peace.
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