TMVP Cadres: like letting the Mafia run New Jersey
This is an article for the latest issue of Montage, out soon or now even
The war (and the nation) feels like its reached a cruel stasis. There’s some gravity at the center of the SLFP that has caused all other parties to splinter. Neither the UNP nor JVP can mount anything near an opposition now. The LTTE, too, has fractured and fractured again. There is nothing moving, no opposition, and perhaps no will to oppose. The war machine churns on, terrorism burns on, and the economy sputters and stalls. By all accounts the war is going well, even though there is no real exit strategy as long as Prabhakaran is alive. Things are just going and the decline is hard to notice, because it’s all borrowed against the future.
Fundamental rights were the first thing to go, and the press was the easiest target. With the Island publishing obscene poems in their kids section, its not the most defensible target. So TamilNet was banned, Rupavahini physically attacked by Mervyn Silva and various journalists arrested, detained and taken from their homes and beaten. Against the greater threat of terrorism, it seemed like a small problem, a vain indulgence of the powers that be. The long-term cost, however, is not insignificant. A free press gives a nation the information it needs to change its course before it steers off a cliff. Now with defense reporting so curtailed, we are literally steering blind. The government doesn’t want us to know much about the war, and we don’t.
The economy was the next expendable good. Not only the war, but also the corruption needed to maintain the government in power (both perks for ministers and jobs for vassals) cost huge amounts of money. Much of this money was printed, leading to inflation that gallops on at 25% and higher. This hits poor people directly in the form of higher cost of living, made worse by the fact that food and fuel prices are rising globally. Direct mismanagement and politicization of economy is costing Sri Lanka billions, most of it in small pains across millions of pockets. Feeding the war machine and the political machine is costly, and it burns heavy fuel.
Finally, international relations has been shunned so that we can do ‘as we will’. This means the Governor of the Central Bank telling the EU that we could stand to lose garment subsidies rather than change our human rights practices. It means the Prime Minister telling the world we’re just fine with a few friends like Pakistan and China. Essentially, relations with the rest of the world have been deemed expendable if they don’t give us unquestioning support.
Our national rights, prosperity and international standing have been compromised for short-term advantage in our own War On Terror. And we have seen short-term gains. With a stable (and well paid) government, the Rajapakses can prosecute the war as they see fit. With gains on the war front, they can continue printing and spending money without people complaining too much. With friends like China, Iran and Pakistan they can deflect international pressure as well. So, for now, the center holds. However, if history and common sense is any indication, there is no free lunch. Eventually we will need our freedoms, we will need money, and we will need true friends. These things that the government deems luxuries against the exigencies of war are really the foundation of our nation and our greatest bulwark against terrorism and decline. We are selling them far too cheap, and we may not notice until it’s too late. This is not a short-term war. We need a long-term plan.