This is an article for the latest Montage, which should be out now
A friend was walking to work and got stopped by the cops. Regular, really. For those of us with proper -jeeva or -watte – or -hamu type names it’s just an inconvenience. For those unfortunate enough to have consonants at the end of our names, and for those cursed to be born in the North, it’s a much more chilling procedure. And this time it was. My friend ended up in jail for the day, fielding questions about terrorism and being told his people were ‘poison in the milk’. Bit of a buzzkill.
And that’s freedom of movement in Colombo. Try to move out of the North (and out from under the bombs) and you’ll find yourself stymied by the LTTE on one end and the government on the other. And the government doesn’t help, it just lumps you in with LTTE in a cruel vestige of ‘security’. Which is, incidentally, both unconstitutional and morally wrong. I use the word ‘you’ because the people affected are Sri Lankans, like you and me. However, it is vital to understand that this is not the view of the people with guns. To quote General Sarath Fonseka:
“I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people. We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country. We are also a strong nation. They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”
Now, unfortunately, fundamental constitutional rights now fall under the umbrella of ‘undue things’. This includes freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom from torture, the right to equality and freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment. My friend walking the street in Colombo does not have the latter right (under our infinite Emergency Law), and he knows he doesn’t have the others.
And, in a point so obvious it is ignored, this is wrong. Morally, nationally, politically and in terms of guaranteeing our national security, this is wrong. What does it profit a nation to gain the Wanni and lose its Constitution? What does it profit a nation to gain brush land and lose its own people to migration and death?
If you’re fighting for Sri Lanka and believe in Sri Lanka, then Sarath Fonseka and Gotabaya Rajapakse are the most unpatriotic people imaginable. It is only through the prism of a Sinhala state that they appear patriotic, but that is not Sri Lanka. We are not a Sinhala state, and why anyone would want such a thing is beyond me. The beauty of Tamil and Burgher women alone is worth keeping this thing together. This Sri Lanka. There is a Sri Lanka (metaphysical) where anyone can walk the street, speak and just live; to be judged by their character and deeds, not on their racial correlation with terrorism. This is a Sri Lanka worth fighting for. Unfortunately, the people with guns seem to think otherwise.