By Kumar David –
When the LTTE was at the height of its power, if the TNA had dared to say it opposed the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (RSD) the original Leninist wording its leadership would have been murdered by these liberators of the Tamil people, have no doubts about that. If it had said it was for RSD the leaders would have been summarily locked up and tortured by our heroic armed forces, have no doubt about that either. So, rather imaginatively the TNA coined the term “Right to Internal Self Determination” or RISD. Such a thing never existed nor does exist now in the Leninist lexicon. But necessity is the mother invention and the TNA in all its previous and current avatars managed to survive un-assassinated and unhanged thanks to RISD. But times have changed; the LTTE is no more and the SL regime is licking its putrefying financial sores and international lacerations and is in no position to set off another habitual round of human and democratic rights violations. Therefore, the TNA can chose its terms with more freedom. That’s good. Of course the Tamils will not commit hara-kiri and march out on to the streets in the prevailing autocratic climate. Hence the TNA is clever to probe alternative methods, including canvassing international pressure.
As an old hand who learnt his Leftism more than half a century ago, RISD to me is a strange creation of the TULF-TNA imagination. Old boy Lenin would have baulked. RSD, crucially, included the RIGHT of nations to secession. (A nation is a distinct people with their own culture and language living in a clearly separate area). A right can be exercised, but why not stay if the others offer you a good deal? Pooling together makes everyone stronger. The unsuccessful Scottish referendum and the successful referendum in South Sudan would measure up to the Leninist norm. RISD, or RSD without balls (read teeth is you are the sensitive type), is just a demand for greater devolution of power and at most federalism. The TNA had no choice but to opt for that mask. I think it was right; to fight another day you have to live for another day.
Successful federal states are the USA, India, China, Germany, Malaysia, and for that matter de facto the United Kingdom today. Actually not just successful, these are very successful in that there is stability of the national constitutional structure as opposed to Sri Lanka’s endless bickering, rioting, racial hatred, a 30-year civil war and three constitutions. The pending fourth will be the nastiest on many counts, so my dear countrymen of all nationalities and faiths, gird up your loins, the worst is still to come. It will be 20 times worse than 20A. Is the country also staring down the barrel of a gun?
The Tamils have been plain fed-up with all governments since 1956, fed-up with Sinhala-Buddhism, discrimination, de facto Sinhala Only to this day, continued military occupation without justification, robbery of land by the army and navy and so on. They have a long list of grievances, and many if not most of the whinges are justified. This state of affairs cannot go on and if it does “When will the next Prabaharan make an appearance”? This is the suicidal option; the Thamil Eelam door has been slammed shut.
Sumanthiran declared in parliament that if the government and the Sinhalese rule out devolution of power and a reasonable degree of self-administration, then the matter of “external self-determination” a non-provocative way of saying demand for a separate Tamil state, is bound to surface. A second civil war will again end in disaster and defeat, but it will also inflict as much destruction on the whole country as the first one did. The day Prabaharan decided to spit in India’s eye and murder Rajiv Gandhi he killed Thamil Eelam at the same time. If separatism rises again no one can say how the chips will fall nor how India will respond a second time. For heaven’s sake isn’t all this obvious to every Sinhalese?
I simply cannot understand why the Sinhala-Buddhist majority does not cut a deal with the Tamils and the Muslims and lay this demon to rest. Are they afraid that a Tamil-Muslim de facto federal unit will do better than the Sinhalese unit(s)? What does it matter if California, Michigan, Kerala or Punjab pulls ahead of other federal units? That is in the nature of things and sometimes it inspires others to put their shoulder to the mill with added effort. Today we have the sickliest government in our post-independence history and an economy that has never been as legless as now.
The TNA-GTF conference with the American State Department in November brought all this into the open. But Washington (I don’t know about New Delhi) will be reluctant to be drawn into these small-change issues unless big dividends on the China and Indian Ocean strategic front are factored in. The Gotabaya regime will have to be very stupid to place itself in the ross-hairs of Biden’s current human-rights democratic rights double-barrelled crusade. Assuming that the regime is not quite that stupid, most likely the Americans will not interfere but stand aside and watch Sri Lanka and the incumbent regime rot.