When badgers fight, everyone's a foe

The government has drawn flak and earned plaudits simultaneously for having blocked Canadian MP Bob Rae's entry into the country. Those who fault the government consider Rae a champion of human rights and friend of moderate Tamils in Canada. Anti-terror activists in Canada pooh-pooh this view and claim he is an out-and-out LTTE backer. That is the way with this world: Prabhakaran was a terrorist to his victims but a freedom fighter to his followers and some western countries.

Should the government be inveighed against for what it did to Rae? The answer is in the affirmative to the extent that he had been issued with a visa by the Sri Lankan High Commission in Canada. And, paradoxically, the answer is more in the negative given Sri Lanka’s present situation and Rae's track record.

Ideally, Sri Lanka should be able to throw her doors wide open and tell all foreign dignitaries desirous of seeing the situation here for themselves to come and see. But, critics of Sri Lanka ought to realise that she is desperately trying to defend her victory over terrorism against a collective of pro-LTTE western powers hell bent on discrediting her. She is like a badger being baited. What John Clare wrote in his famous poem, Badger, is applicable to Sri Lanka:

When badgers fight, then everyone's a foe.

The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray

The badger turns and drives them all away.

Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,

He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.

If Sri Lanka is being paranoid as claimed in some quarters, she has a very good reason for that. Canada, a haven for LTTE terrorists, has been extremely hostile to Sri Lanka as evident from the voting at the recent UNHRC special sessions. Canada joined forces with the countries that sought to subject Sri Lanka to diplomatic lynching for the crime of having liberated her citizenry from the clutches of ruthless terrorism without heeding their diktat that terror masterminds be spared! Most western lawmakers and even UN bigwigs come here with the ulterior motive of facilitating conferment of pariah status on this country. Once bitten, it is said, twice shy. Rae became a soft target!

Sri Lanka is not the first country to have turned away a foreign VIP on grounds of national security. Last March, Canada, which boasts of a seven star democracy, denied British MP George Galloway entry claiming he supported Hamas and other terrorist groups and therefore posed a threat to Canadian national security! Galloway refuted this allegation. The US waited until last year to lift travel restrictions on Nelson Mandela!

Troubled by a western conspiracy to press trumped-up war crime charges against her leaders, Sri Lanka has developed a siege mentality, the blame for which should be apportioned to several countries including Canada. And her sensitivities need to be appreciated.

It is up to Rae's friends who have taken up the cudgels for him to convince the government and people of this country abhorring terrorism beyond doubt that he is no LTTE sympathiser. If they could do that, the government should invite Rae as a State guest and roll out the red carpet by way of an apology.

Meanwhile, it is nothing but unfair for anyone to try to demonise Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the armed forces. It is because of them that moderate Tamils are today in a position to speak up and engage in democratic politics without languishing underground and all Sri Lankans are able to live without fear of terrorism in any part of the country after thirty long years. "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues," Cicero famously said, "but the parent of all the others."

It is not insults that the Defence Secretary and the military deserve but praise.

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