The chauvinistic ruling class which caused the war, led it to victory and cares little for the disastrous consequences of the war is back in the saddle. Likewise, the Tamil political leaders who led the Tamil people towards loss of life and property and disablement are back in their parliamentary seats. Muslim and Hill Country Tamil nationalist leaders, who get elected to parliament for their own advancement and not that of the people, too have returned to parliament.


It is almost a year since the war ended. But the national question is nowhere nearer a solution than before the war. The people who lost most by the war are still in a state of misery. Close to a hundred thousand are still behind barbed wire fences, unable to return to their homes. Those allowed to return have not been provided with necessary resources to return to normal existence. Much of the war ravaged Vanni, mainly to the east of the A-9 highway, is still unavailable for resettlement by its former residents and has a strong military presence. The government policy on resettlement and rehabilitation is guided by chauvinistic considerations.


The country’s foreign and domestic debt are at crisis levels and there is rising pressure from lending agencies on the government for ‘reforms’ — meaning economic hardships for the people and the economy being subject to foreign control and domination.


The number of persons detained by the police and the armed forces without formal inquiry or trial is unknown, but has certainly risen from hundreds to many thousands. Very little information is available on the whereabouts of people reported missing since the end of the war and reportedly taken for questioning about connections with the LTTE. Detainees also include many Sinhalese, Muslims and Hill Country Tamils held in remand prisons and detention centres for several years. Legal intervention has enabled the release of only a minority of detainees.


Corruption, crime and social violence have escalated in the past few years and the media has been particularly targeted for attack. The legal system of the country is a shambles and the police and the judiciary, with some remarkable exceptions, are severely politicised. The number of active soldiers per million of population is among the highest in the world and set to rise even after the end of the war. 


Given the steamroller majority that the ruling alliance has in parliament and the number of opposition MPs waiting to cross over, there is little excuse for the government not to find a just solution to the national question. But that is unlikely to happen, and excuses will be made of chauvinist dissent to finding a viable solution. Foreign meddling including Indian pressure — motivated by considerations other than concern for Sri Lanka’s Tamils — can at best lead to eye wash reforms that will go nowhere towards a solution.


More importantly than before, disaffection with government is bound to grow on the economic front when the government, in the process of dealing with its fiscal problems and imperialist pressure, begins to burden the working classes. Protests and strikes have never been treated kindly in the past and the treatment is likely to be harsher as the protests increase in numerical strength, intensity and frequency.


The state will adopt a combination of strategies to deal with protests. Firstly, it would seek to divert attention away from problems by pointing to residual terrorist problems, and secessionist efforts — although confined mainly to a section of the elite among the Tamil diaspora.


Secondly, it will resort to repression. Intimidation of the media is likely to be followed by near absolute control of the media and suppression of dissenting views. The police and armed forces that had been built up in the name of fighting a war against terrorism will be turned against protesters. That is not something new to the country, which has seen the legislation against Tamil terrorists being used to kill tens of thousands of Sinhalese youth in the South less than a decade later in 1988-89.


Although the national question remains the main contradiction, its resolution cannot be isolated from issues of economics, democracy, and human and fundamental rights and, as importantly, political, economic and military domination and intervention by imperialist and hegemonic powers.

The post-war situation is one of impending national crises on several fronts, whose solution demands mass political struggle based on and guided by the broadest possible and principled alliance of the left, progressive and democratic forces of the country.


(May 200,  Organ of the New Democratic Party of Sri Lanka [])

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