History is past politics and politics is present history. Judging by the recent sequence of events the past may, by all accounts, come back to haunt Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been militarily wiped out, but the Tamil question reverberates from Jaffna to Kilinochchi and beyond that to the Tamil inhabited areas in India, Toronto, London and Australia. This is a scenario that the current Sri Lankan government has to live with and address.
The single-minded commitment of the Sri Lankan military to blasting the LTTE into extinction has paid dividends, but there is another power that shapes thoughts and actions: the power of ideology. In the case of the LTTE, and thousands of Tamils, the idea of a separate homeland will never die. A movement that was once based on terrorist activity and violence has now entered a new phase through fund-raising, growing political consciousness and commitment to the Tamil cause beyond the shores of Sri Lanka. It is a softer doctrine but one that is capable of gathering momentum over a period of time, chipping away at Sri Lanka's image as a democracy and its policy towards human rights. It could affect the island nation's status in a global context.
The onus is on Rajapakse's government to address the plight of the Tamils sooner rather than later. The thousands displaced from their homeland need to know that they belong to Sri Lanka and not in refugee camps, facing an uncertain future. For the minorities, participation in the country's political process should be treated as an immediate priority. Rajapakse's government should not waste time in doing the right thing. Efforts to provide basic living amenities such as jobs, housing, electricity, water and education for children are as important as giving Tamils the right to vote. It's time to look at the bigger picture.