Below is an email from a Sri Lankan uncle to his mixed race Sri Lankan nephew living outside Sri Lanka. It is a highly relevant blog post that demonstrates in actual fact how far Sri Lanka is from true independence as granted in 1948 by the British. For those of you who wish to read up in more detail about the themes and events discussed in the email, given below are some in-depth articles.
Date: 10th February 2011
I am encouraged to hear from your mother that you are looking at plans to return to Sri Lanka. You must be feeling the pressure from many of your friends here telling you to return home and help to re-build the country? They are right; if this country has any hope of progressing, it needs the diaspora to return to make a difference at a grassroots level if not at a political level. But I understand that you have doubts too especially when considering the events of the last few days!
I am sure you have read that that the vigil by the UNP outside the Welikada Prison on the 4th February turned into a nightmare with thugs beating up peaceful protesters and party officials and vehicles with iron rods whilst the police passively watched on? You must ask yourself why you would want to bring up your children in a country where there is no protection even from the Police who in this case seemed to have been deployed to obstruct the vigil in the first instance? Appealing to the Police in any circumstance other than if you are with the ruling party in Sri Lanka is now a joke. People who value their lives no longer look to the Police for protection; in fact they have nowhere to look and there is no sense of public security.
Yes the law no longer offers protection for citizens of Sri Lanka as the upholders of the law are simply a masquerading goon squad. And the Courts can’t protect you either, not unless the President orders them to! The treatment of General Fonseka is a prime example of how the courts are powerless and how actions to pervert the course of justice seem to succeed. If people like the General are not protected by the Law then you might ask what hope for you and me and the minorities in Sri Lanka? The minorities of this nation have become more overlooked and more neglected than ever before.
I hear you: minority or not, civil liberties all round have been suppressed like never before! You would have heard about the latest blow to the freedom of expression in Colombo?
Only a few days before the Independence Day celebrations, the Lanka eNews offices were attacked causing millions of rupees in damages. This was just physical damage and is nothing compared to the numerous lives that have been threatened and in some cases lost because people have dared to voice their opinions which have not been favourable to the ruling party. I know it will be a tremendous challenge for an educated, principled individual with sound morals to live in such a lawless society and suffer the suppression we experience everyday.
Citizens have no ultimate authority to turn to for protection and the courts do not have the power to intervene if the actions of the state violate the civil liberties of individuals. You ask how can there can be independence without protection and freedom for citizens? Every democratic institution in this country has been undermined by the actions of the state.And if this is not enough to discourage you, you just need to consider the poor quality of education, the collapse of the health system and the rising poverty and unemployment and arguments the ruling party has made numerous claims about increasing per capita income and rapid development and growth of the economy, but of course none of us see the evidence of this. You know for a fact that most of the wealth generated today is controlled by the ruling party and unless you are willing to join their party, literally and metaphorically, you will have no share of it.
And yet we witnessed the pomp and pageantry of an Independence Day celebrations! I can understand that you have doubts about being connected to this farce! You can see what opposition to this farce can lead to – physical attacks, being thrown behind bars, disappearing, being marginalised, and the list goes on. And you are right to be cynical about the fact that Colombo could experience a Cairo-like uprising and hail the return of democracy! As long as complacency, ingrained prejudice and ignorance dominate the psyche of the Sri Lankan, such a thing will never be a possibility. And even with a change in mindset, what about the fear for one’s life? And as long as individuals like yourself stay away from Sri Lanka, those that remain will be too weak and easily overcome by the far reaching powers of a dictatorship.
Ananda, I am not trying to place guilt upon you for choosing to live in a country that is democratically governed granting you the freedom of expression and a free media that ensures democracy stays alive! You are not wrong to choose fundamental human rights and civil liberties over a cess pit that only appears to be a paradise! But I know you love this country and that it saddens you to see what is happening. I know that you are torn for the moment but that you will return someday. But the good news dear Ananda is that till then, you can make a difference even from afar.
Even if the political situation in Sri Lanka remains dire, a stronger diaspora acting together can have a huge impact on a grassroots level.Raising awareness and keeping Sri Lanka on the agenda of foreign actors – governments, INGOs, media..giving support to local advocacy and human rights groups and minorities that are fragmented or too weak to have a voice, supporting international lobbying efforts and simply uniting diaspora groups and focusing energies together can make a big difference. Your actions and those of like minded individuals even from afar can make a difference to those of us too fearful to speak up at times. Don’t simply watch from the UK, devote your love for this country and your talents to make a difference. This will bring you home sooner my son.
All my love,
Further reading on this topic:
Lankanewsweb incidents this year on Independence day http://www.lankanewsweb.com/news/EN_2011_02_07_003.html