Faith and the fate
Those living in Sri Lanka can see the reality of the 'commercial X'mas' and the 'real Christmas' being celebrated side by side, despite the hype that anti-Christian elements sharpening their tools to destroy the spirit of Christmas.

Here's a classic example of how a section of the so-called independent western media, namely the Wall Street Journal, has played the bogeyman: In an article published on December 12, where it says "Many Sri Lankans celebrate Christmas with shuttered windows and barricaded doors out of fear for their lives. Those brave enough to celebrate Christmas in defiance of local Buddhist authorities risk discrimination, exile, fire bombings, or worse".

This requires no comment, except to say in Latin, the language of the Church -- res ipsa loquitor -- or that the facts speak for themselves. All people of all faiths must be permitted to celebrate their holy days the way they choose without offending others. We have had enough of religious intolerance around the world for too long now. And those who obstruct such observances do no service to the faiths they claim to profess.

Having said that, our hearts and minds this Christmas are with those who suffered the ravages of the tsunami one year ago. Our features section has a spread to mark this monumentally sad event.

Sri Lanka lost an opportunity to re-build. The massive inflow of the world's sympathy and its cash went waste as our energies were sapped by sheer aimless governmental inefficiency coupled with political squabbling with the rebels in the north and political allies in the south. The UN promised an early-warning system which we have yet to see.

It was left to some genuine NGOs and ordinary Sri Lankans -- both here and abroad -- to muscle in with their help to wipe away the tears in every possible way they could. But, the long trek to a complete recovery has miles to go. And all of us, as Sri Lankans should not rest until such time that the tsunami survivors can truly say they have put this horrifying tragedy behind them.

A vassal state?
President Mahinda Rajapakse's interview with Colombo-based Indian journalists this week betrays a thorough lack of focus on what he wants to discuss with India when he goes on his first state visit since his election to the high office he now holds.

For example, he says he wants to "study India's devolution". Surely, that's not something he can do on a three-day state visit. Or is that some other way of saying he's prepared to move on from his "unitary Sri Lanka" promise to his people, which is bound to be a bone of contention with India which stands for a "united Sri Lanka", a euphemism for a federal Sri Lanka?

The President's visit to New Delhi comes quick on the heels of the visit by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera where more of Sri Lanka's concerns were not discussed, than discussed.

In Parliament, this week during the votes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Minister referred to many issues that were the outcome of his visit to the Indian capital, but said nary a word about the Defence Cooperation Agreement which India promised at Head of Government level in November 2004 and has now allowed to go into limbo because of its internal political compulsions.

And there was not a word about the controversial Sethusamudram Canal project initiated by India without the simple courtesy of a by-your-leave from Colombo on its concerns for the environmental and economic impact for Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, recent developments, especially an upsurge in LTTE attacks on the Government security forces, have seen Colombo's political leadership scurrying to India seeking succour. That mantra will not work, and that mind-set of our political leaders needs to be cleared, and cleared very quickly. India is not going to bell the big cat (the Tigers) for us.

Having got a snub when they asked India to directly intervene in the peace process, forcing the new Government to do a volte-face and re-invite the "salmon-eating" Norwegians as they were called on bended knees because the Indians showed us the door, our leaders should have learnt a bitter lesson by now. Not so, it seems.

In the last few days India's High Commissioner in Colombo it would seem is being besieged by requests, and the country is witness to the pitiful display of not just a breach of protocol, but of political naivety: Almost, like a child running to an aunt saying the neighbourhood bully is hitting him.

Independent Sri Lanka's new Government would do well to stop falling prostrate before Goddess India and seeking her blessings -- and her intervention. India has her own reasons to fight shy of getting her fingers burnt again in Sri Lanka after her interventionist policies of not so long ago. And she wouldn't mind her neighbours pot simmering a bit.

She has running battles with most of her northern neighbours. And there's so much (or so little) that India can do. President Rajapakse must not go to India as if he represents a vassal state, but rather a nation that wishes to work together for the common good in a multi-faceted kaleidoscope of common objectives -- and this includes the elimination of terrorism.

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