Monday, July 16, 2007

The Jaded Glory of Thoppigala

Thoppigala has now been successfully captured and the entire east is now, according to the Government of Sri Lanka, under their control. Albeit the apparent lack of government control in Colombo, where abductions & murders are the order of the day, this is a significant accomplishment if not for anything else, but because the government says so.

The purpose of this post is not so much to discuss issues regarding the operation itself. Rather, its purpose is to examine the aftermath of the "victory," and the elaborate celebrations that are underway to serve the personal interests of certain individuals.

Primary celebrations are to take place at Independence Square, where the President is arrive ceremoniously, escorted by the fleet of BMW motorbikes as well as the mounted guards. This is to be followed by a military parade, 21 gun-salute, a fly-over by the air force, and a handing over of a sannasa by the Commander of the Army, to the President -- declaring the East is now in fact, under government control.

Parallel to this celebration, a number of parallel celebrations are also to be held in government schools and departments island wide. Principals, and other leaders are instructed to talk about the importance of this accomplishment of capturing the east.

In the backdrop all these celebrations, a few questions that I think are worth pondering, do come to mind.

First, the "national event" that is being planned is almost like Independence Day celebrations, including the pivotal venue, and the ceremonial activities. Does this imply that the Republic was liberated from an occupying foreign force? While the LTTE are obvious terrorists, and obviously maintained a presence in the East, comparing them to an occupying foreign force (such as the Brits, one might add) might just end up being a compliment to the LTTE.

Second, everybody keeps saying that the capture of the East is "important." However, apart from the obvious face-value of it, no one has so far pointed out the strategic importance of the East. Hence, what is the real, strategic importance of permanently occupying the East? No large stockpiles of weapons have been captured, and no significant casualties inflicted on the LTTE. If they have, it would've surely been broadcast all over.

Third, since the East is now completely under government control, will the government accept responsibility for any killings and/or recruitment of child soldiers? Will camps of the Karuna faction, with whom the government claims they have no connections, be shut down?

Finally, who are the real heroes of this battle? Although the authorities have been rather slow in releasing casualty figures, I am sure there were soldiers who either died or got injured in the battlefield. Why is the government wasting all this money in these elaborate celebrations without recognizing the true heroes? Wouldn't it have been a more sincere, more patriotic and a more appreciative act to recognize those men & women who fought? If not any other, just sharing the money spent on these event among those veterans would perhaps have given them a significant bonus.

Instead, what we have is a pompous pageantry symbolic of a monarch, carried out in a sorry bid to boost the popularity of the very man who has been accused of providing money to the LTTE.

No comments: