By Indi Samarajiva –
The Daily Mirror wrote a misleading headline saying “Tamils to blame for Lanka solution delay: Rajapaksa“. What the President seems to have said is that he blames the TNA, saying “There is no point blaming me, it’s the Tamil parties that are delaying the solution.” In the Colombo Telegraph, also, Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka has pointed to the intransigence of the TNA (the Tamil National Alliance).
Are Tamils To Blame? No. Tamils are people with diverse opinions and multiple identities. That would be retarded if Mahinda said it, but as it is I think it’s just a stupid headline.
Is The TNA To Blame?
Eh, not really. They’re not really negotiating in good faith, but that’s really because the premises they (and some Tamil groups) are operating under are completely different from the that of the government and the vast majority of Sri Lankans. There’s no point blaming them really, but they’re not really part of a solution either. That said, they are more a part than they were four years ago.
What are the premises? On the extreme Tamil side, you’ve got the idea that the North and East are a separate state, or at least a nation. On the mainstream Sri Lankan side you’ve got that idea that Sri Lanka is one country which requires equal rights for all. On the extreme Sinhala side you’ve got the idea that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist nation and everybody else can just deal with it.
One side is calling for separation, one for subjugation, and the majority for unity and civil rights.
Why do I say the civil rights position (mine, coincidentally) is the mainstream? Because that’s what the government says (though not always what they do). That’s what the laws of the country are. That’s what the political system could support. It’s essentially the path of least resistance.
The War Crimes Debate
The war crimes debate makes a bit more sense viewed through these premises. The TNA and, more vocally, LTTE and non-LTTE diasporals are calling for international investigation because they want to see the Sri Lankan government punished for winning the war, leading somewhat mysteriously to separation for the North and East. People in the diaspora still want Eelam recognized as a separate state, while the TNA is more reasonably calling for autonomy. Note that this issue is not actually connected to the war crimes in question, that’s just a means to an end. It is, like Dayan Jayatilleka says
As if most of German society did not criticise the Nazis and Auschwitz even after WW 2 ended, and called instead for an international inquiry into the fire-bombing of Dresden by the Allies. (Colombo Telegraph)
The extreme Sinhalese oppose any investigation because, to paraphrase, fuck them. The mainstream, however, has conducted a flawed investigation which nonetheless took the huge steps of admitting that civilians died and that abuses did occur (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Highlights). The argument therein was that these losses were proportional to a broader aim – ending the war and uniting the country. That said, the next step would be civil rights.
The War Debate
I think why this isn’t enough is that the TNA et al don’t agree with the proportionality at all. They don’t see a united Sri Lanka as a desirable outcome at all, so any price would be too high for such a thing. It’s like asking a Muslim how much they’d pay for a ham sandwich. Nothing, less than nothing. They don’t want a ham sandwich at all. They’re not debating war crimes, they’re debating the entire war.
What they want out of investigations is not specifics of what went wrong and redress for that, the essentially want the whole premise rolled back, to say that the war itself was wrong. That’s obviously unattainable (because it’s not really true, IMHO) and the next step of internationally backed ethnic division is even more implausible. But that’s where they are.
Personally, I think the separatist argument is dumb by any degree. Even if the North and East is separate, nearly half of the Tamil population is still in the south and a ton of Muslims and Sinhalese are in the East and North. Aside from ethnic cleansing I don’t see how that works out. AFAIK, civil rights for all is the only way out and in that sense the TNA and many in the Tamil community are not helping. Many, however, are. It’s just going slower and more one-sided than it needs to be, because many political leaders don’t want to buy into the idea of a united Sri Lanka at all.
So, in that sense are the TNA and some diasporals beyond useless? Yeah. But I think the vast majority of Sri Lankans accept the idea of a united Sri Lanka and just want equal opportunity and a better life for their kids, ie, civil rights. It’s sad that many Tamil political parties aren’t really pushing for that attainable and worthy goal, but I think the people of Sri Lanka are more broadly moving in that direction.