Colombo Telegraph

One Step To The North And Two To The South

By 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.


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.


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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