By Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka
Suren Raghavan’s remarks amply demonstrate the gap between reality and the rhetoric of the expatriate Tamil intelligentsia. He calls the military victory of 2009 over the Tigers ‘repugnant’. That by itself reveals where he is coming from, so to speak, and that flawed perspective runs right through his analysis and observations. ‘Repugnant’ for whom? For a majority of Sri Lankan citizens? For a majority of humanity as represented in the global inter-state system, most of whose members supported Sri Lanka? ‘Repugnant’ for Asia? ‘Repugnant’ for India, the world’s most populous democracy, a quasi-federal state with 70 million Tamils? ‘Repugnant’ for the USA? Repugnant for the radical Latin America states such the ALBA group? Certainly not, going by the Wikileaks cables, the testimony of Erich Solheim, the findings of the Norway study and actual political behaviour itself.
While congratulating Suren Raghavan on his spell at Oxford, I hope he sharpens his currently blunt skills at understanding the difference between a research question of primary importance from one of secondary importance. He criticizes my evaluation of the Norwegian evaluation of the failed peace process for not probing the role of the Buddhist clergy, the Sangha. I did not do so because it was not the Sangha — whatever one thinks of its role–that went to war against the Indian peacekeeping forces despite the Accord, or murdered Rajiv Gandhi or unilaterally reinitiated war in April 1995 against the liberal Chandrika administration (which Raghavan supported) or boycotted
the Presidential elections of late 2005 or commenced ambushing Sri Lankan troops shortly after Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected (as a Wikileaks cable noted, ‘giving him no chance’)! As the Norwegian study quotes Chandrika, Suren’s one time political boss, the Tigers fooled her in 1995 and let her down badly, and she wasn’t going to be fooled again– and therefore insisted on greater guarantees before any ceasefire. In short, I did not focus on the Sangha because it was of entirely secondary relevance to the topic of the failed attempt at peacemaking by Norway. This is also why the scholars who undertook the NORAD study did not spend much time on the factor of the Sangha either.
Raghavan is using the Sangha as a red herring, to avoid the main reasons for the failure of succesive peace efforts — which I have drawn attention to– (i) the fanatical, totalitarian and fascistic character of the Tigers, and (ii) the failure of the Tamil community to marginalize or offset it as the South did with the JVP, even when there was a chance of doing so with the Accord and subsequent peace efforts (Premadasa, CBK, Ranil). The killing of Vijaya by the JVP had a much greater impact on the Southern consciousness than the killing of Sri Sabaratnam, Rajiv, Neelan, Rajani, Amirthalingam, Yogeswaran, Mrs. Yogeswaran, Sam Tambimuttu, Pathmanabha and Kethesh did on and within the Tamil community.
As a researcher, Raghavan has also got it wrong about K Pathmanabha, founder leader of the EPRLF. If he were my ‘political boss’, I could not have been the First Accused in the indictment in the Colombo High Courts on 14 counts under the Prevention of Terrorism act and the Emergency, while Pathmanabha was the 8th accused. If Raghavan is right, it should have been the other way around! Pathmanabha and I met (as Suresh Premachandran would confirm, since he was present) in 1978, years before he formed the EPRLF. At that time he was still with the EROS/GUES (General Union of Eelam Students). When we met again, he had founded the EPRLF that year, in 1981. Pathmanabha and I were political partners and comrades in arms. After a decade long partnership, I wrote him a letter (the version I sent chief Minister Perumal was published in the papers) and resigned from the North East Provincial Council (of which I was a Minister) in the first quarter of 1989, when it was clear that it had deviated from the right path and was heading for a needless clash and a crash.