18 October, 2019

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One Step To The North And Two To The South

By S.Sivathasan

S.Sivathasan

A Beginning

For a single move with purity of motive, reciprocity from Tamils can take multiple wholesome ways. If the country’s regeneration is valued by the polity, then the concerned parties intent upon a dialogue have to move close to one another. Who is in the driver’s seat with the hand on the wheel? It is the major community, vested with the full panoply of state power, freed from any incubus that restrained it till four years back. Now it is at a vantage position to steer in the desired direction.

If the major community moves one step forward, the Tamils can move two steps towards. What inhibits? The absence of initiative to give kinetic energy to a static situation. What can be the first move? A profession of good intentions to put the past of six decades behind and a declaration of the steps to be taken for rapprochement. Withdrawing the army of occupation and appointing a civilian Governor will establish the credentials. Doing them ahead of the election will have optimum leverage. To proceed in this direction, the state of mind of the Tamils has to be appreciated and their psyche understood.

Aching Frustration

What vexes the Tamils both inland and out? It is the ominous presence of the military, lacerating the dignity of the people. The spread of the army throughout the Province, it’s peering into people’s lives at all times and its display of military might rub in the fact of subjugation. This is the design and the same is the effect. Tamils perceive it this way and all others see it the same way. It restrains them in every manner and impels the people to demand its removal. They are having a collective toothache and can think of nothing else unless the offending tooth is removed.

How should the extraction be done? Speedily, before the PC election. This is seen as a condition precedent to a free election. Otherwise it will be a khaki election with fatigues added. How long does it take? Within hours of signing the Accord in July 1987, the continuous roar of planes for five days to and from Palaly, bespoke the induction of the Indian Army and the moving out of the SL Army. With decision taken by India to vacate SL, the operation took but a few weeks. Even such assets as fence posts and used barbed wire were shipped from Trincomalee. I was witness to it. All it takes for the army to move out and to create a wholesome environment is for the government to take a decision, if moving towards reconciliation is intended.

Objectivity

The four years of respite have given the Tamils enough space for introspection, reflection on our faults, reassessment of our past judgment and to realign our approaches. Based on them political formulations have to be made and strategies framed. More importantly they have to be conveyed to the other side for its understanding and conviction. Thoughts about the future cannot be influenced solely by the emotional trauma of the past. To refashion the future, reason and logic have to be the sheet anchor. With a full understanding of the past, but without getting lost in the immediate present, issues have to be addressed.

Lessons From History

It is said that history moves in spurts. In 1917, ten days shook the world to bring revolutionary changes in Russia and elsewhere thereafter. To a thirty year mass movement in India, Mountbatten placed the coping stone with six months of negotiations. In little Sri Lanka thirty years of non-violent struggle superseded by thirty years of violence and followed by four years of non-war, mire us yet in inaction and an impasse. Are we condemned to taking it to another thirty years and to repeat the cycle till eternity?

The powerful political formations of the South, assuming that society will not grow or politically mature, have tirelessly peddled the fear that the North East is a threat to them. When ethnic hate is widespread, critical faculties cease to operate. Can anybody formulate five cogent reasons citing evidence of simmering revolt or impending explosion and show convincingly that in the post 2009 situation, there is a separatist threat? After the execution of Louis XVI in 1793, was there a threat to the Revolution? After the Meiji Restoration of 1868 did the Japanese waste their time harping about the return of the Shoguns? They settled down to constitution making and development. Did Indonesia tire itself from 1965 invoking the bogey of communism? She engaged in reconstructing her economy. In Sri Lanka itself even after two insurgencies is there a felt threat of a third? Not stationing the army in the South is proof enough that no danger is perceived. Then why should this threat be flaunted only about the North, otherwise than to serve a different agenda? Responsibility lies with the government itself to abandon this synthetically contrived bogey and to settle down to the serious business of worthwhile ethnic relations.

With the end of World War II in 1945, history moved fast. In UK Attlee was voted to power and he himself forced the pace for Indian Independence. He appointed Earl Mountbatten as the best man to work out the transfer of power and prescribed a timeline as before 1948. No attempt was made to appoint a war victor, Montgomery a Field Marshall at that as Viceroy. No thought of rewarding anybody or scuttling India’s progress. The selection fell on the best man for the highest office.

Statesmanship

Tamils and the Northern Province look forward to an appropriate selectee as Governor to effect a transition from military dictatorship to civilian governance. In doing this with sagacity, the President has the occasion to win over the trust of the Tamils and the approbation of all others. Not doing so will have sinister forebodings. On top of subjugating a Province, rivet a Frankenstein governance, circumscribe the Council, keep it in thrall and emasculate the Chief Minister would seem the agenda. Can this be the approach for nation building? With professions of a single nation, could the Western segment of Germany united in 1989, have kept the Eastern segment underdeveloped? It was the proactive policies and programmes of Germany towards Israel together with reparations that helped in the latter’s industrialization and economic advancement. Today Germany is the second largest trading partner of Israel. Statesmanship commencing from 1948 brought it about.

The country is now laid to waste. Where was Ceylon then and where is Sri Lanka now? Peradeniya University then and now is a display of the country in microcosm. What was the relative budgetary allocation for Education and for Defense then and now? With a single realignment of finances between these two Ministries, the nation’s fortunes will change. If the impoverishment of education is paucity of funds, demilitarization of the North can alter the face of education. The foundation is then laid for many more transformations. The nation yearns for them.

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Latest comments

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    MR will never replace the military governor as the army will be ‘displeased’.
    The army has tasted unlimited power even of “life & death” over civilians – in and not,in custody.
    The army also has a life of leisure with everything provided,including surreptitios sex as and when needed.All this cannot be easily given up.
    The ‘food contracts’ alone bring a lot of income for middle & upper level officers.Many other ‘contract procurements’bring quite good income.The ‘sweet pie’ has to be enjoyed to the full.There are no audits – none will dare.
    MR regime depends on the army and police not only to keep the northeast under undeclared military rule,but also to swiftly eliminate any potential rebellion in the south.
    Military and Police too are necessary for “security” of the Ruling Family, the Extended Family and the political ‘storm troopers’.

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    It is strange that the Govt continues to defy all logic and reasoning. It seems to continue on a set path to achieve a mythical kingdom of the past foregoing the realities of the present and the opportunities of the future.

    Just as we in the South suffered from the 30 yrs war, so did the people in the North. Tragically even after the end of hostilities we continue to inflict the pain of subjugation on them through the wholesale deployment of the military, intruding into their personal lives, lands and freedom.

    No one says the Military should be completely withdrawn. It only needs to reduce its public involvement and over bearing presence. It has to stop interfereing in civil matters and dicating terms to the people. The taking over of all private lands must stop. The Goverener of the NP must reflect the majority of the people who live there and must be a Tamil. Unless the Govt gives the people of the North their rights the dividends of peace will never be achieved.

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    /*
    Can anybody formulate five cogent reasons citing evidence of simmering revolt or impending explosion and show convincingly that in the post 2009 situation, there is a separatist threat?
    */

    I think you are misreading the situation. The politico-military presence is probably there to create a level political playing field free from caste and creed transgressions. Anybody should be able to lead Tamils including all other castes of Tamils, Moslems and Sinhalese. Think of it as finally bringing freedom of choice and association to people there. From that point onwards everyone can be equal and dignified.

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    A lot of ground reality in the comments of reader Justice. The army has spread its tentacles into many aspects of governance in the Tamil majority areas it is unlikely to abandon these – easily. The militarised regime cannot infuriate the disproportionate uniformed power bloc – lest its own survival is endangered.

    Mr Sivathasan’s thoughts on a Civil Governor and a far lower uniformed presence in the Peninsula is ideal and will bring the regime much credit in the region and in the world. But is it feasible in the conditions obtaining?

    We are, in many ways, prisoners of circumstances. That appears to be the national fate.

    Senguttuvan

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    What assurance do we have that if the ‘presence of the military’ is removed the Tamils in these areas would not take up arms and set up the LTTE (again) or another terrorist organization in the country?

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      Suranee,

      Who gave the ‘assurance’ or guarantee that there will not be a third insurrection in the South? So how come there isn’t a huge military presence in the South as in the North? It is all a matter of trust and understanding. Otherwise there will never ever be any progress.

      Sengodan

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        Sengodan,

        Were those involved in the ‘insurrection in the South’ aided by any foreign country like the LTTE was by Tamil Nadu? Did those involved in the ‘insurrection in the South’ have an international diaspora network who funded their fight? It’s not that I don’t trust the Tamil people living in these areas. It’s mostly those in Tamil Nadu and the Tamil Diaspora I do not trust. I have a strong feeling Tamil Nadu and a lot of the Tamil diaspora are just waiting till the President declares military presence to be removed so that they can began the LTTE terror all over again in these areas.

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          Suranee,

          More often than not in today’s world all significant insurrections have some form of foreign elemental support. In the South insurrection you refer to, the name of the North Koreans figured in prominently in the 1971. The Chinese were believed to be behind the N. Koreans. Later during the 1988/89 period and after the name of the Iranians was mentioned. Now the Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, Israelis, Islamic Wahabis/Salafis/Fundamentalists all seem to have their Agendas here.

          The learned and articulate Justice Wigneswaren points out to that vital feature than may be the panacea for our ills – mutual trust. Despite the huge blood-bath and enormous destruction and pain inflicted on the Tamil Nation, if the Tamil political leadership is now prepared to trust the Sinhalese leaders should the latter not respond likewise. The problem is the obstinacy and the complications in the South where both the political leadership and the unelected below-the-surface clerical leadership claim the mantle to the Country’s future.

          Believe me, unless we sort out our matters and live together in an undivided island events might overtake us. Today, once more, the Israelis and Palestinians – whose conflict bears much similarity to ours – are talking in Washington and are considering a 2-State within one country solution. There is little doubt both will find common ground under this formulae soon. I am sure you agree with me, it is best we avoid this extreme option for us while we have an entirely peaceful and bloodless alternative.

          Senguttuvan

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          Then why was the North Vietnam embassy closed?

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          Suranee,

          Any insurrection that is ‘imported’ will never have the slightest chance of success unless the home grounds are fertile for same and remain so for long. If,we the Tamils and Sinhalese resident in Sri Lanka sort out our problems with mutual trust where is the room for any outsiders including the diaspora to intervene? For that there must be a political WILL.

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    So let us know how long do you think you need presence of military to ensure people dont take arm again, another 5 billion years by when sun looses all its energy?

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      Manisekaran,

      How long? Well I really don’t know because it would depend entirely on the Tamil people living in these areas but my guess is it would take some time. These people who have had to sacrifice their freedom and rights because of a war a stupid cowardly man (a.k.a Prabakaran) started, just so he could wipe out a race he hated so much – the Sinhalese, were kept captives in these areas by the LTTE, forced to believe that the Sinhalese are responsible for their plight, etc. Who knows how many of these people still blame the Sinhalese for their plight?

      I’m curious, when Prabakaran initially began his massacre against the Sinhalese and non-Sinhalese were there no Tamil politicians in the Government or opposition parties during that time? If there were, aren’t these politicians responsible for working towards the rights of the Tamil people instead of some insane terrorist who claimed he was a freedom fighter?

      If the military was removed from these areas I strongly feel there is a chance some of the Tamils would take up arms and began the fight of the LTTE. So please Defense Ministry do not remove the military from these areas.

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        Shall I tell you simple scenario from world polictical history, “prolonged the military persistnce in civil affairs, more possibility for arm uprising”

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    The basis on which the present government survives is the maintenance of Sinhala supremacy and Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism. How will it agree to take any measure to flout same? If there is some pretence of normalisation and reconciliation, it is entirely due to international pressure and that too may evaporate soon after CHOGM! The government will revert to triumphalism in no time.

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    What Mr Sivathasan has suggested is of course the simplest and common sense approach that the leadership of the country should take, even belatedly. But this calls for statesmanship and magnanimity, which unfortunately for Sri Lanka, neither MR or the Brotherhood have any idea about. They will not and cannot give up their games. However, this time around it will definitely lead to further outside intervention in the setting up of a federal or some such unit for the Tamils. Those who cry hoarse now against 13A will then have to grin and bear.

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    Suranee,

    More often than not in today’s world all significant insurrections have some form of foreign elemental support. In the South insurrection you refer to, the name of the North Koreans figured in prominently in the 1971. The Chinese were believed to be behind the N. Koreans. Later during the 1988/89 period and after the name of the Iranians was mentioned. Now the Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, Israelis, Islamic Wahabis/Salafis/Fundamentalists all seem to have their Agendas here.

    The learned and articulate Justice Wigneswaren points out to that vital feature than may be the panacea for our ills – mutual trust. Despite the huge blood-bath and enormous destruction and pain inflicted on the Tamil Nation, if the Tamil political leadership is now prepared to trust the Sinhalese leaders should the latter not respond likewise. The problem is the obstinacy and the complications in the South where both the political leadership and the unelected below-the-surface clerical leadership claim the mantle to the Country’s future.

    Believe me, unless we sort out our matters and live together in an undivided island events might overtake us. Today, once more, the Israelis and Palestinians – whose conflict bears much similarity to ours – are talking in Washington and are considering a 2-State within one country solution. There is little doubt both will find common ground under this formulae soon. I am sure you agree with me, it is best we avoid this extreme option for us while we have an entirely peaceful and bloodless alternative.

    Senguttuvan

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    Vibushana – In what numbers should India deploy her army to free the land of caste & creed transgressions there?

    Senguttuvan – In the early seventies after ‘license control raj’ was well and truly riveted, how many thought it could be dismantled without spelling disaster? JR & Ronnie De Mel cut the Gordian Knot. It was not the failure of economic policy that we saw subsequently, but the inevitable fall out of the engineered pogroms of ’77 & ’83.

    While appreciating your sense of realism and that of Justice, may I say that what seems intractable needs a drastic remedy that is unconventional.

    • 0
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      Sivathasan,

      /*
      In what numbers should India deploy her army to free the land of caste & creed transgressions there?
      */

      Given the previous experience I dare say this would be counter productive. Whoever deployed must be above primitive caste inhibitions. You must agree Indians hardly fit the requirements.

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    Mr Sivathasan,

    The Open Economy – the brainchild of JRJ and more of Upali W rather than Ronnie de Mel – was the finest happening in our recent history.
    I agree – many were surprised about the pace of change. The UK, USA, Japan and the EU trusted him and knew they can do business with him.
    His problem was he unnecessarily chided Indira G – not the person to rub on the wrong side.

    I know some academics argued 7/83 was a result of the Open Economy. I argued it was more individuals with little learning, both in the lay and clerical areas of the extreme anti-Tamil variety – who planned and executed the pogrom. JRJ felt threatened and yielded. Prof. Hoole and UT(J)HR provide valuable insights into the events of and what lead to 7/83.

    Yes. What we need is visionary, fearless and statesman-like leadership – in the mould of Kemal Ataturk or even the Narasimha Rao/Dr Manmohan Singh due – to see us through. Whether we have this in the material now available is your question and mine. And that, I fear, will define the future of the present and the next generation – or even beyond.

    Senguttuvan

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    The continued undiminished military presence in the North in reality is not to prevent any possible fresh insurrection. Since May 2009 has a single shot been fired anywhere there except by the military or Police? Has a single grenade been blown? No, never! So why this huge military presence except for intimidation of the local populace and to prevent even any peaceful resistance to the government’s efforts to change the demography of the area to make the Tamils an insignificant minority even in the North! Didn’t Gota say that there should be 78 percent Sinhalese even in the North and let the cat out of the bag?
    Sengodan

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      Sengodan,

      Are you sure Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse said such a thing? Please prove with facts.

      So why has there been no ‘single grenade blown’ or ‘ a single shot fired?.’ Probably because of the presence of military in these areas.

      • 0
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        Suranee,

        Please read the interview given by Gota to the ‘Daily Mirror’ recently.

        Sengodan

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          Sengodan,

          Why do you twist words? Read the full text. I fully agree with the Defense Secretary. How can a country which allows Tamils to live freely in all areas of Sri Lanka deprive the Sinhalese of living in such areas. Isn’t this what the LTTE did by making the areas they controlled to be populated by nearly 98% Tamils? Isn’t this what the Defense Secretary was referring to? You know it really disgusts me how some people make the Defense Secretary to be a racist and cruel person when in fact he is doing his best to bring back normalcy to the country.

          Please read the full text Sengodan.

          “That is the problem. That shouldn’t be the case. This happened because the LTTE prevented any other community from entering these areas. They ethnically cleansed the North. For thirty years there was no growth of Sinhalese in that area. The reverse never happened in any other area. Tamils were allowed to come to any other province and settle down at any time as they wished, during this period. But the Sinhalese weren’t even permitted to enter the Northern Province.

          If the situation was normal there would have been more and more Sinhalese in the Northern Province. I would know this because I served in Jaffna as a 2nd lieutenant. There were Sinhalese in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullathiwu, Vavuniya, Mannar and other areas. What happened to these Sinhalese?

          Not only were the Sinhalese chased out, they weren’t even permitted to enter the areas, so obviously it was confined to Tamils.

          This is not even an argument. Take Trincomalee as an example. Before the 1980s the majority in Trincomalee were Sinhalese. Today the Sinhalese have become a minority in Trincomalee and that is because the LTTE chased them out. Not only did the numbers decrease, there was also no growth of the Sinhalese.

          If normalcy prevailed this entire situation would have changed. It is nothing but true and correct that in the North and East there must be the same percentage of the majority community. When 78% of this country comprises Sinhalese how does such a vast landmass in the North become 98% Tamil. Isn’t this unnatural? This was forced. Natural growth was prevented.”

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            Suranee,

            Please don’t distort the facts. Can you please re-read the last para of Gota’s interview? Sri Lanka has census records from 1891. Can you please check and see whether at any time from 1891 to 1971, the Sinhala population in the NP was more than 5 percent? When did the LTTE come into existence? Gota speaks as though the Sinhala population in the NP would have grown to 78 percent, if not for the LTTE!

            I agree with you fully that anyone should have the right to settle down in any part of the country voluntarily but NOT through State sponsored colonisation of areas with intent of changing the demography of vast areas whether they be districts or provinces. Doing so is nothing short of a genocide!

            Sengodan

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              Sengodan,

              Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakse said the following – ‘When 78% of this country comprises Sinhalese how does such a vast landmass in the North become 98% Tamil.’ Isn’t this unnatural? This was forced. Natural growth was prevented.

              To me those words do not mean – ‘Gota speaks as though the Sinhala population in the NP would have grown to 78 percent, if not for the LTTE!’ or ‘There should be 78 percent Sinhalese even in the North.’

              The 78% he was referring to is the percentage of Sinhalese in the country and NOT the ‘Sinhala population in the NP would have grown to 78 percent’or ‘There should be 78 percent Sinhalese even in the North.’ At least that’s how I understand it.

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    I congratulate Mr Sivathasan’s objective observations.

    Most people commenting here would not know that he was a top civil servant and served as Mr Thondaman’s Permanent Secretary, when that worthy was the Tourism Minister. It was due to these two gentlemen’s balanced, focussed approach, that hotels like Kandalama were built amongst all the opposition raised locally. I wonder what those same opponents are saying now!!I was fortunate to have been in the Tourism Industry at the time, so I have first-hand experience of these two gentlemen working in tandem.
    Enough looking over our shoulder at the past! Come on people, let’s get real. Mr Sivathasan’s opinions are easily achievable if only MR has the guts to take a statesman-like stance for the greater good rather than hide behind his not-so-far-thinking advisors and allies.
    SL Tamils are NOT looking for another insurrection. All they want is to be treated with respect without someone breathing down their shoulders. Let’s get on with it!!

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      When a Leader is “credited” with this ability, do you think he will
      follow all the suggestions of the Writer?

      [Edited out]

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    Vibushana

    The question I posed was, are you aware that if your ratio is applied to caste-ridden India to free the land (India) from caste and creed transgressions, she (India) needs to deploy there (in India) a military of 150,000,000 (one hundred and fifty million)?

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    Hello Sivathasan.

    Well, India is hardly a concern of mine. Although I feel the need to establish context here. You asked why military presence in Jaffna is needed now. I responded saying it perhaps to create a level playing field for all concerned. Why do I feel army needed for this? well, my view is similar to views expressed eloquently here by Thomas Fernandopulle.

    http://www.colomboherald.com/world-politics/tamil-caste-discrimination

    MR is continuing the journey started by Srimawo back in 1958 with the social disabilities act. SLFP being strong Buddhists have an affinity and empathise with the grass roots. They find the primitive Hindu caste culture revolting. They will do anything to smash it. They know how Jaffna operates. The military presence is there to keep a check on things especially given elections are coming.

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    A Daily Mirror report of Jan.30th,quotes the President, “If Mr. Wigneswaran becomes Chief Minister, we can have dialogue with him”.

    In the imagination of well wishers he is already CM. If the President is great enough to ponder on the imponderable, to withdraw his nominees from the NPC election, all others can consider doing likewise. Then without a costly process the CM becomes De facto and is in place ahead of time.

    Two sides building a beach head is certainly better than solitary effort. If nobody undermines and everybody contributes, positive thoughts may follow. When there are two steps from the South, four from the North may be the response.

    • 0
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      A de facto CM is not democratic. Or are you admitting that the Tamil upper caste is not interested in demoncracy, just a power base supported by the US and others who told TNA to make him their man. You can’t have it both ways.

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