By Kusal Perera –
Last evening (28 March) a mail in my “Inbox” from CT said. “Three replies to you.” I went through all of them, beginning with Pon Chandran‘s and Dr. Paul Newman‘s second response, both Tamil activists from India and then SL Tamil Diaspora leader, Ms. Usha S. Sri Skanda-Rajah‘s very aggressive reply. The two Indian friends, Chandran in particular says, the human rights fraternity in India, especially the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) acknowledge and express their profound gratitude and respect to me, the “hypocrite” and the “cynic” in Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah’s reply,who would have to “eat his own words”. The only “sin” I committed was to argue how the SL Tamil conflict could be finally solved, or at least attempted to be solved.
Solving the “conflict” that is not just “post war”, but is “post LTTE” too, is actually the issue with most of them who desist accepting the ground reality in SL. They can not and they do not want to accept that “post LTTE” SL has no political space for a “Thamil Eelam”. I don’t blame these groups for their inability and reluctance to understand that truth, but I do blame these Diaspora groups for dragging the Tamil people in exile with an elusive “Eelam” for another 20 years or more to come. Over 30 years ago Prabhakaran promised them an “Eelam” and made them fund that “dream” for over 20 years to the tune of over 100 million dollars a year. He then helped bathe that “dream” in innocent blood, most unnecessarily. President Rajapaksa was the choice of Prabhakaran, over UNP candidate Wickramasinghe at the 2005 November presidential elections. They termed Wickramasinghe “a cunning fox” who tried to weave an international net to curb the LTTE during the 2002 CFA. LTTE therefore called on the Tamil people to boycott elections knowing very well, that could make Rajapaksa the next President.
Having allowed Rajapaksa to ascend the presidency, a week later on 27 November, 2005, Prabhakaran told the Tamil people, in his annual policy statement made as the “Mahavir Day” speech, since Rajapaksa is considered a “pragmatic leader” he would give one year for Rajapaksa to come up with a reasonable solution. He said from his Mullaitivu hide out,“Our people have lost patience, hope and reached the brink of utter frustration. They are not prepared to be tolerant any longer. The new government should come forward soon with a reasonable political framework that will satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamil people.” He made it sound “an urgent final appeal” and promised the Tamil people, if such offer is rejected, the LTTE “will, next year, intensify the struggle for self-determination, to establish self-government in a [Tamil] homeland.”
It was such stupidly arrogant pronouncements that made the Tamil people in exile fund his promise of “Eelam” in millions of hard earned dollars that left a still unbelievable human tragedy on our soil. That human tragedy could have still been avoided IF only, Prabhakaran accepted his “Eelam” project was defeated and over, when he decided to abandon Kilinochchi on 02 January, 2009 without a single shell fired. IF he actually wanted to avoid a human catastrophe in Vanni, he should have allowed the civilians to leave the conflict zone and fought his own battle to death, in Nandikadal or where ever he chose to. He proved he was not interested in civilian life. Prabhakaran therefore is as responsible as Rajapaksa is, for all the brutal deaths, for all the missing numbers, for all the displacements, for all the widows, for all the children who have lost their fathers, for all sons and daughters Tamil mothers had lost, my Tamil Nadu friends and the Diaspora groups keep saying it is “genocide”.
That said about “genocide” and Prabhakaran’s complicity in mass murder during the last phase of the war, Chandran’s response titled, “The Cat Is Out Of The Bag”, a title that for me has no relevance to what I have argued before, would still be valid I thought, as the caption to Paul’s second reply. He has now very clearly accepted, TN Tamil activism is not in “solidarity” with SL Tamils, but is a “stakeholder in Tamil struggle”. That changes the TN contours of the SL Tamil conflict completely and in a bizarre manner. A Tamil “stakeholder in India” who would not want a “Tamil Eelam” for them in India, but instead demands one for SL Tamils in N-E SL.
Their argument is not based on any political reasoning, but in arguing that they have an ancestral right to intervene on behalf of SL Tamil people. An ancestral right, TN did not want to enjoy on behalf of their own Indian origin Tamils who were brought here by the British colonial masters as bonded labour in late 19th Century, were disfranchised and turned “Stateless” for almost 03 decades after independence. Everything else, facts and fiction in Paul’s article comes after “usurping of the right to intervene” in SL. That according to what Paul argues, is the right of the TN youth as “brothers and sisters” who are part of the struggle in establishing a separate “Eelam State” for the Tamils in North – East Sri Lanka. Funniest implication is, Paul thinks the TN youth can decide a “separate Eelam State” and the Tamil people living here in SL, have no option, but to accept that decision.
This call for a separate “Eelam” in N-E SL is popularly argued by all TN activists and the likes of Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah in the Diaspora, on “historical” assumptions. They say the Tamil kingdom was annexed by the British in creating a unitary State in Ceylon. In the ancient feudal world, there were no permanent kingdoms. Kings and warlords, went about annexing territory and where they lost the war, they lost their territory too. That was how the great Persian empire was established on land that extended from Greece to Punjab, after young Alexander the Great crossed the Khyber Pass. That was how Genghis Khan established the Mongolian empire from Tashkent to the East coast of China. Old feudal India too had many kingdoms scattered across its map in contrast to the present one. South India, once under great Chola kings was not part of North Indian Moghul empire. Would any one therefore advocate bifurcating present India to match its old kingdoms ? Its stupid now to talk of all those independent kingdoms and ancestral links in this modern world, where “capital”, “labour” and “information” have no geographical boundaries. So is “military intelligence”.
Also, it beats my poor intellect to understand Paul when he says, I am “insulting the intellect and democratic fervor of the Tamils of Tamilnadu” and adds that I “must remember that time and again the whole Tamilnadu assembly which represents a total of 46 million voters has passed resolutions against MR and Sri Lanka.” Is there a better democratic way than this? he asks. First it is not me who is insulting the “intellect and democratic fervour of the Tamils in Tamil Nadu”, but they themselves. What democracy is there and what intellect, when ordinary civilians are physically attacked and insulted with video cameras on the roll, simply because they are Sri Lankans ? When properties are stoned and damaged as protests, because they are occupied by Sri Lankan agencies ? When BCCI has to say they would “ensure the safety and security” of SL cricketers playing in their IPL ? When heads of States have to exchange diplomatic communications in assuring no more vulgar attacks would be allowed over and over again ?
It is easy and comfortable for Chandran to write in his re-joinder to CT that as human rights activists they, “unequivocally condemn the attack on the Buddhist monks in Tamil Nadu, which cannot be condoned whatever may be the provocation.” But where in TN was this condemned and by whom ? Has TN CM condemned these uncivilised acts ? Have MK as DMK boss condemned ? Or even Vaiko or Seeman ? That’s what democracy and intellect is about in TN agitations and protests and I don’t have to add any more insults to them.
Again, I pity Paul for making himself the “J” of the deck of TN cards with his argument, the TN State assembly that represents 46 million voters, passing resolutions against Rajapaksa has to be accepted as endorsed by the whole of TN and he says there is no better democracy than that. Well yes, the system is accepted as a “democratic procedure”. So is the parliament in SL that technically represents the 20 million SL population that includes Tamil and Muslim minorities as well and passes the “impeachment against the 43rd Chief Justice” in removing her from that position to install a high powered stooge. And there can not be a better democracy than that for Paul.
In passing let me also note that I am surprised how a person like Chandran could go about making irresponsible accusations, just to make his arguments look sound. I do agree, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a major “Sinhala troublemaker” accused of sponsoring even the latest “anti Muslim” Buddhist outfit, the “BBS”. Given his crucial role in all pre and post war accusations, I would not attribute mischievous quotes like, “Gotabaya had admitted publicly that the Tamil North has been converted into ‘Free Fire Zone’. He has also gone record proclaiming that let Sinhala army throw the Tamils in the Ocean and enjoy the Tamil women”. I did not know, Chandran could compete with “Mad Max”. Chandran should tell from where those quotes were plucked out from. He is simply not alone in making such stupidly scandalous stories and that no doubt, is how the “ignorant” students in TN have been provoked !
Coming back to Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah’s argument of a referendum and separation, she also argues, it is they in the Tamil Diaspora who should decide the future of the Tamil people living in SL. She sounds thrilled with Jeyalalithaa passing a resolution in the TN State assembly that says the Tamil Diaspora too should vote at a referendum on separation. Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah thinks, the Diaspora becomes a legitimate stakeholder in deciding the future of Tamil people, when JJ says they should vote. First, Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah fails to understand that the Indian government can not under any context and circumstance, allow any third party intervention and worst, a UN Resolution for separation in SL. That would make the Indian government accept a third party intervention on Jammu and Kashmir, a position India has stubbornly refused to accept. And before I could even finish writing this, the Indian Minister of External Affairs publicly trashed JJ’s resolution. He simply said, “No”.
Secondly, Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah does not know the Tamil Diaspora and her own TGTE, though mentioned by Jeyalalitha, would never be a political entity with recognition in international power blocs. The TGTE is only an extension of KP’s (Kumaran Pathmanathan‘s) idea of a peaceful, non violent campaign in achieving “Eelam” that he mentioned, immediately after assuming leadership of the LTTE, when he accepted Prabhakaran was killed in battle. His arrest in KL, Malaysia and extradition to Colombo, still has many stories making rounds, Nediyavan accused of tipping the Colombo regime of KP’s where about and Rudrakumaran coming into lead the pro KP group, as the TGTE. What ever they may be, what is more important is that, the TGTE was not projected as what it is now, with a PM, cabinet of ministers, a Senate and all that goes to make it a government in exile. Initial projection was to have it very loose and more like a NGO, registered with the blessings of a liberal democracy, where it would be located. In over a year, it assumes the right to represent “Eelam Thamils” but no SL Tamil living in SL would ever want such a “transitional government”. The best is, their usurping of the right to represent the Tamils living in SL, is totally rejected by young Tamils in the North, who now try to get involved in numerous social activities. Quoting such source through an e-mail interview, the ICG Report No. 186 – “The Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora After The LTTE” has this denunciation of the Diaspora’s claim for a separate Tamil State. “Let these people come tell the Vanni IDPs that they are speaking on their behalf for a separate state. They will be physically assaulted for sure.”
Let me also ask, what moral right does the TGTE have in trespassing on the right of the Tamil people in SL making their own political decisions ? A lot more than half the Tamil Diaspora including almost all in TGTE, GTF, the BTF, etc., are no more Sri Lankan, except in their origin. Over the past decades, they have pledged their allegiance to Constitutions of Canada, the UK, the USA, Australia, France, Switzerland and such countries as citizens of those “liberal democracies”. Others are those who have so far failed to obtain citizenship in those countries. Yet they are called the SL Tamil Diaspora and wish to live another decade or more, dreaming of a “Thamil Eelam” that still seem to generate plenty of money for those who keep the promise going.
The most common answer to all these is that within SL, the Tamil people can not speak their mind. Not even the politicians, the elected representatives. That’s what TN activists and the Diaspora say. But the fact is, Tamil politicians don’t agree with and accept what the Diaspora says and remain silent. They instead openly refuse to accept the diktats of the Diaspora. “The Diaspora can suggest things to us. We will consult with them. But they cannot make decisions on their own and enforce it on people here. That is unacceptable” was what TNA leader Sampanthan told in Nallur on 23 January 2010, addressing a presidential election rally.
Before I conclude, let me also make a brief note on how bad the reading of the 1976 Vadukkodai Resolution is, among the Tamil Diaspora and those in TN. The first TULF Convention in Vadukkodai adopted the resolution for a separate Tamil State with the CWC a constituent party of the TULF and late Saumyamoorthy Thondaman as one of its Vice Presidents, disagreeing with separation. Therefore the Resolution was re drafted to include the phrase, “…….And, while taking note of the reservations in relation to its commitment to the setting up of a separated state of Tamil Eelam expressed by the Ceylon Workers Congress as a Trade Union of the Plantation Workers, the majority of whom live and work outside the Northern and Eastern areas,….” With the adoption of the resolution, the CWC left the TULF.
The other most important development was that the TULF leadership, was not convinced the socio political situation had matured enough to carry through the resolution to its conclusion, although in the following year, the TULF contested the 1977 parliamentary elections on the basis of the resolution adopted and was voted to be the largest opposition party in parliament. Therefore in 1981, the TULF laid the Vadukkodai decision aside, to accept District Development Councils (DDC). That became a total disaster with President Jayawardne thinking he could have the TULF to run on his agenda. Meanwhile armed groups trained and funded by India, took over Tamil politics, competing against each other for dominance. They were all being manipulated by the RAW from New Delhi.
Thimpu discussions in July – August 1985 was thus an outcome of Indian intervention, where once again, the Vadukkodai Resolution was not taken as the basis. That resolution left out any possibility of negotiations. All armed Tamil groups, 05 in number and the TULF together in Thimpu laid the basis for any future negotiations on what is still called the “Thimpu Declaration” on 04 principled positions. They were (i) recognition of Tamils as a nation (ii) acceptance of North – East together as the Tamil homeland (iii) the right of self determination and the fourth, which is no more valid, as all Indian origin Tamils have been granted their citizenship and voting rights back. All negotiations thereafter between the GoSL and the LTTE was also based on Thimpu principles. So was the Indo-SL Accord of July 1987 and the Oslo Declaration signed by the LTTE in 2002 December. The Vadukkodai resolution was thus history.
All that said, I wish to ask all who want to resurrect the Vadukkodai Resolution, how many more decades would it take for the Tamils and the TGTE with their brethren in Tamil Nadu to achieve their aspirations of an independent Eelam ? The strategy for now as Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah says, “strategy should center on how we are going to widen the distance between powerful global players and our enemy the Sinhala government, and how we are going to develop our relationship with these global powers.” The ICG Report No. 186 – “The Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora After The LTTE” quotes a Tamil academic to the effect that, “….once again TGTE founders increasingly see the endeavour as a long-term political project, achieving its ultimate goal (separation) within 30-60 years.” [page 12].
Does it mean the Tamil people who miraculously survived the most savage war waged since the armed conflict began, those who still manage to exist with untold misery has to wait that long till the TGTE brings them a separate Eelam and those in exile also have to keep funding the Eelam dream, that long ?
My proposition does not take that long to find a permanent answer. All what it needs, is to re align all efforts, all funds and all human resources that the Tamil Diaspora is betting on a 30 year project and the TN activism, in demanding the Indian government and this Rajapaksa regime to implement the APRC Final Report, Ms. Sri Skanda-Rajah conveniently drops saying it is “only a pdf document” by two members. That build up forces for a decent, democratic answer with pressure on India and Colombo would not keep the post war decimated Tamil society waiting for the second “Eelam” promise to come round with a totally new world order that would accept such separation. I for one, would not ask for these Tamil people to keep hanging on to a promise that even Prabhakaran failed to deliver and instead left them without houses, without land, without proper income and most of all, without justice to their loved ones gone missing and dead. Ain’t that too much to ask from them ?