Bridge viewed from the Rameshwaran train
India’s Manomohan Singh and Canada’s Stephen Harper are not attending the CHOGM summit in Sri Lanka. They say because of moral issues, but they act for political reasons – at best a crude approximation of the former. Singh is tired of getting shit from Tamil Nadu and Harper is tired of getting shit from the Tamil diaspora. For both of them disgruntled Tamils are a vote base and they respond to voters. Which is fine, that’s the political side. From that perspective it’s easy to say that these politicians are craven, but that’s missing the point, which is that politics does crudely approximate morality, sometimes, mainly on Thursdays.
Since the end of the war, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s main concession to Tamils has been encouraging discrimination against Muslims instead. Which is, uh, not a gift. When asked, the government says they’re building roads and stuff and Tamils should be happy, but they make no gestures that make these ‘things’ meaningful. There’s also still military up the wazoo, lots of land still seized, etc. But more than anything, there are no gestures of understanding, of sympathy for the loss the North has endured, or of any giving, dare I say Buddhist reconciliation.
For people like Singh or Harper, this means that they have no fig leaf of an answer when constituents ask about Sri Lanka. Neither of these politicians can say that Mahinda is trying, give him a chance, cause he’s not. And I don’t mean trying as in building roads, I mean trying as in at least acknowledging the emotional and personal toll that the war and its end took on a bunch of people.
Do I think much of the diaspora and Tamil Nadu would listen even if he did? Nope. Many of those communities are as stuck in their views as nationalist Sinhalese are in theirs. But if there were some gestures by Mahinda politicians like Singh and Harper would at least have some political cover, enough that they could come to something like CHOGM and not be completely exposed.
As it is, they have nothing to say to their constituents so it makes no particular sense to come.