If it’s worth fighting for, it’s worth thinking for.
In a stunning turn of events, the Government has taken responsibility and apologized for deporting the 300+ Tamil citizens from Colombo. Given the broad local and global uproar, it was inevitable. They woke Prime Minister Ratnasiri up to apologize and say that the incident would never be repeated. That, in itself, is a testament to how far the country has come since 1983. The fact that the incident occurred at all is a testament to how far Mahinda could take us back. Sri Lanka is fundamentally different from the LTTE in that we do have systems and freedoms to enable a moral or at least decent state. The danger is that the spectre of the LTTE causes us to lower our own moral standards, until being better than terrorists is all we aspire to. It is not, and it should not be. Sri Lanka is better than that. We must be a place where any Sri Lankan can move and speak and live, and where people live under laws. We should never be a feudal Rajapakse estate, willing to give up our freedoms to the threat of terror. The LTTE are terrorists, but we have to face that terror and not forget how we are. Deporting Tamils is easy, temporary, and wrong. Living together is difficult, long-term, and right. We need to have the courage to do the right thing.
The problem with terrorism is that it literally terrorized people. It changes you, it changes your behavior, and that is intentional. The LTTE was nothing before they killed 13 soldiers in 1983. Yet, after the frenzy of communal violence that spread, they blossomed. They fed on that hatred, that division and they grew. They now number over 10,000 and have ruptured this nation. Why are we still feeding them?
People argue that we must not point out the flaws of our government because the LTTE is so much worse. That is the worst corruption of all. They are saying that we must now take our moral standards from terrorists. That we should take them as an example, and only reach to be “better” than the LTTE. I refuse to believe this. Sri Lanka is so much better than the LTTE. That it is why it is my duty to criticize, protest, and improve this nation – because it is the very unruly democracy that makes us better. Those who would sacrifice liberty for freedom deserve neither, and those who posit the LTTE as a moral reference are quite simply terrorized.
They are terrorized by LTTE bombs and mutilations and ethnic cleansing into anger, and anger makes for incoherent reactions. People ask for quick fixes – bombs, arrests, deportations, and at worst riots. Quick fixes which only fuel the LTTE fire. People are too much in shock to make the hard decision of peace, so they react with instinct defense of the government and whatever excesses it cares to pursue. That is why every critic must be branded as a ‘kotiya’ or LTTE supporter – because they are terrorized into seeing the world like that. The LTTE has not won their hearts and minds, but it has won their fear. Works just as well.
As Fareed Zakaria said in Newsweek:
We will never be able to prevent a small group of misfits from planning some terrible act of terror. No matter how far-seeing and competent our intelligence and law-enforcement officials, people will always be able to slip through the cracks in a large, open and diverse country… If one day bombs do go off, we must ensure that they cause as little disruptionâ€”economic, social, politicalâ€”as possible. This would deprive the terrorist of his main objective. If we are not terrorized, then in a crucial sense we have defeated terrorism.
At some point we have to stop being terrorized. We have to stop living in fear. We have to live in hope, and we have to return to our Constitution. We need to be and demand a moral, democratic state. If we’re fighting for freedom we have to live it. Mahinda cannot shut down newspapers without protest. His brother cannot threaten editors. They cannot use the immoral Karuna force as a proxy terrorist army. We cannot condone abductions in our capital. We have to stand up and make the sacrifice it takes to be free. We have to give up our fear.