By Izeth Hussain –
In the first paragraph of the first part of this article I stated that I had two purposes in mind, the first of which was to establish that the Tamil ethnic problem is best understood, and therefore best handled, in terms of a paradigm of racism. I come now to my second purpose, which is to show that the prolongation of the ethnic problem without a political solution is due not just to Sinhalese racism but also Tamil racism, which I would show is even worse than Sinhalese racism. But first I must make a clarification. Up to mow I have applied the racism paradigm only to the present phase of the ethnic problem in which the Tamils want very extensive devolution because they have the racist conviction that the Sinhalese will never give them fair and equal treatment on a permanent basis, and the Sinhalese will not give anything more than a modest measure of devolution because they have the racist conviction that the Tamils will never give up the quest for Eelam. I have not applied the racism paradigm to the earlier phases of the ethnic problem. That will take up much space, and besides the reader can do that for himself without much difficulty. Where I stand is indicated by the following sentence from the first part of this article: “The state in Sri Lanka has been racist and has indisputably promoted the ethnic problem with stupendous stupidity”.
I come now to the racism that contributed to the prolongation of the war. The fact that I want to emphasize is that the Tamil racist contribution to that end was far greater than the Sinhalese one. We tend to think that the real Sinhalese accommodativeness to the Tamils began with the ascendency of Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1994, and people have in mind particularly her reported spectacular offer to put the entire North under the lordship of Prabhakaran for ten years. Actually the accommodativeness of Premadasa towards the LTTE was equally spectacular. He gave weapons to the LTTE to fight the IPKF troops, he ordered the surrender of 600 policemen who were instantly butchered by the LTTE and – most spectacular of all – he allowed the LTTE to reoccupy locations vacated by the IPKF troops. As for trying to reach a political solution, this is what K.M. de Silva says in his book Sri Lanka and the Defeat of the LTTE: “In July 1990 just when the LTTE seemed on the verge of winning at the bargaining table what it had not been able to win on the battle-field, the hostilities between it and the Sri Lankan Government were renewed. The LTTE broke the ceasefire pact …..”
There can be no doubt whatever that President CBK was deeply committed to bringing about a political solution. She couldn’t succeed, partly because she was not the kind of person to push things through to a conclusion with grim dogged determination. There is also the fact that in 2000 Karu Jayasuriya of the UNP tore up the draft Constitution in Parliament. That was in accord with a hallowed tradition according to which the Opposition would always sabotage any attempt by the Government towards serious accommodation with the Tamils. All that may be true. But it is also true that there was nothing to show that the LTTE was in earnest about a political solution. If it had been, that could have served as a catalyst towards a political solution.
The next phase was the peace initiative backed by Norway and other powers. As I declared in my writings of that time I saw all that as farce. Could there be anything more farcical than Balasingham’s insistence that existential problems be solved before addressing matters of substance for a political solution? Has there ever been any liberation movement that has insisted on that priority? It can be argued that through the CFA and PTOMS the Sinhalese side was bending over backwards to be accommodative to the LTTE. The record suggests that the LTTE observed the ceasefire only to recoup before fighting again. It is significant that the hardliner Rajapaksa continued with the CFA and engaged in full-scale war only after Maavil Aru which left absolutely no alternative to war. It may be that both sides were resistant to a political solution but the evidence suggests that the LTTE was far more resistant. Anyway the resistance on both sides can best be explained in terms of the racism paradigm: the LTTE could not believe that the Sinhalese would ever give fair and equal treatment on a permanent basis; the Sinhalese could not believe that the LTTE would ever give up the quest for Eelam. The essentializing habit of mind that is at the core of racism prevented a solution during that phase of the ethnic problem and it is continuing and it is continuing to do so in the present phase as well.
What of the future? Obviously we must bring about an understanding of the racism paradigm and how it applies to our ethnic problems, both the Tamil and the Muslim ones, so that we can cope with them more effectively than in the past. In addition, it seems to me crucially important to bring about recognition of a fact that has hitherto been unrecognized or inadequately recognized: Tamil racism is much worse than Sinhalese racism. As I have stated earlier this is not an impressionistic evaluation but a conclusion based on solid empirical data. The data consists of exchanges between me and Tamils over my articles which have appeared in the Colombo Telegraph. I have already covered this matter in my three-part article on Tamil lunatic fringe anti-Muslim racism. I will therefore here focus on just one point, a tellingly decisive point. I have used the phrase “hysterical hatred and mad dog rage” to characterize the Tamil attacks on me. The surprising, very surprising, fact is that there is not one, literally not even one Sinhalese attack on me to which that characterization can apply. Certainly there have been many Sinhalese anti-Muslim racist attacks in the CT, but unlike the Tamil attacks they have not focused on me personally. Those facts, in my view, point to the Tamils being much more racist than the Sinhalese.
The other fact on the empirical level that I have in mind as pointing to intense Tamil racism is the eviction of 80,000 Muslims from the north in 1990, the only act of ethnic cleansing during the entirety of the thirty-year war. The very short notice and the ruthless despoliation of the victims makes it rank with the more horrible acts of racist savagery. It is true that it was preceded by acts of anti-Tamil savagery in the East by Muslim Homeguards who acted together with the STF. But we cannot condone the notion of collective guilt, and besides the scale of the horrors perpetrated in the North was far greater. The LTTE is now resurgent and is reportedly flush with funds. It should be requested to pay compensation to the Muslim victims. It will probably refuse because it has not been endowed with much of a moral sense. In that case there should be an international campaign to compel it to pay compensation.
We must hope that the international community will recognize that the Tamil ethnic problem has two dimensions, Sinhalese racism and also Tamil racism which could be even worse than Sinhalese racism. The international community can help or hinder over the ethnic problem. Up to now it has more hindered than helped, the main reason for which was an over-indulgent attitude towards the Tamils seen as victims. It was that over-indulgent attitude that contributed to the Tamils missing every opportunity to reach a reasonable solution between 1990 and 2006. We must hope that now at least the international community will influence the Tamils against making inordinate demands. This applies particularly to India. Internally my formula for a solution of the ethnic problem is 13A minus plus, meaning 13A without police and land powers, plus a full-fledged democracy. Much can be done for the Tamils just with 13A minus. Consider the implications of the diversion of Mahaveli waters to the North, which according to Dr Rajasingham Narendran can be easily accomplished. I would now suggest that measures to combat racism be built into the process of moving towards a full-fledged democracy.