After the war ended, the LTTE-supporting site TamilNet began using the word accountability more and more.
A political dog whistle is a code word that sounds reasonable, but which the faithful can hear. In the US it would have been something like ‘states-rights’ for slavery and segregation. In the Sri Lankan context, many people are using ‘accountability’ to perpetuate the Eelam war by other means. This blogger Anapayan puts it well:
Previously LTTE used to attract resources and moral support from the diaspora by their spectacular military victories against the security forces. Now in the post-Mullivaaikkaal context, newly mushroomed various advocacy and campaign groups have been approaching the diaspora Tamils with the same strategy, “we managed to give a bloody nose to the Sri Lankan government diplomatically therefore please support us to do similar work in future”. And not surprisingly many wealthy Tamils are supporting these campaign and advocacy groups. Same applies in Sri Lankan politics as well, alleged ‘international conspiracy’ against Sri Lanka is being played out cleverly to deflect the domestic pressure which is caused by a catastrophic failure in governance.
The politics has not changed since the end of war, therefore it is the same ‘us and them’ paradigm. Tamil nationalists’ demand for accountability is not meant for reconciliation or justice rather a political maneuver to suit their incompatible political agenda. (The Tragedy of Sri Lankan Political Discourse)
He offers a balanced and realistic argument, and I think it’s worth reading. It’s not that accountability in the abstract is bad, neither is states rights. It’s that Eelamists have hijacked the word for their usual mischief, namely destabilizing and attacking the government and trying squeeze the people of Sri Lanka until a separate state snaps off. It’s not going to happen and it’s not intellectually honest. They’re wrapping themselves in the guise of liberal democracy to try and get what they couldn’t through terrorism and illiberal means. They’ve turned a reasonable word into a political dog whistle, a hunting call for zealots.
And, just as the LTTE did, by their furious over-reach, they end up strengthening Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mahinda has enough problems domestically (I think there’s a trade union strike coming up) and is offered more domestic cover than discomfort by this petulant posturing.
It’s honestly silly and people get distracted into academic debates without looking at who’s making the debates, and why. To that end, anayapayan’s post is worth a read. It truly is a bad discourse, which would be more disconcerting were it not smoke and mirrors on a distant field. There is actual reconciliation happening, both economic and social, and it’s happening among neighbors, among young people, and on the ground. It’s just more doing than whistling, and thus sometimes harder to hear.