By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“People here do not want the war. They say they only want to live with dignity, with powers and rights”. – Rev Thomas Saundranayagam, Bishop of Jaffna[i]
Victor Klemperer, who occupied his purgatory years as a German-Jew in Hitler’s Germany by studying Nazi semantics, warned that “if someone replaces the words ‘heroic’ and ‘virtuous’ with ‘fanatical’ for long enough, he will come to believe that a fanatic is a virtuous hero and that no one can be a hero without fanaticism”[ii].
Vellupillai Pirapaharan can be a hero only if brutality, intolerance and ruthlessness are accepted as essential ingredients of heroism.
Does Justice Wigneswaran really believe that murdering unarmed civilians and child conscription constitute no bar to heroism? Or was he playing the politician, wooing the preference of Velvetiturai-voters by praising their native-son? Either way, he had given the Rajapaksas a potent politico-propaganda weapon which they will use to the maximum, against a TNA-led NPC and the Tamils.
Mr. Wigneswaran’s opprobrious remark indicates that Tamils – like Sinhalese and Muslims – continue to be plagued by politicians who place personal agendae above national/popular interests. If the Tamils are to avoid a replication of the homicidal-suicidal politics of the Tiger-decades, they need leaders who not only have the intelligence to understand why the Eelam War ended in total unmitigated defeat but also the courage to tell the truth as it is.
The TNA and Justice Wignewaran have ruled out separation explicitly[iii], much to the wrath of the Diaspora-hardliners. They are certainly not taking the Tiger path. But if they do not draw a clear line of demarcation between their way and Tiger Way, explicitly and publicly, they will fail to build local alliances (especially with Muslims) and gain international support (especially of India) without which they cannot defend the 13th Amendment, let alone achieve a more just political solution.
The LTTE refused to accept that there could be Tamil separatists or Tamil nationalists who are anti-Tiger or even non-Tiger. The Rajapaksas (and Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists) believe that every Tamil nationalist is a separatist and that every separatist is a Tiger. If the next stage of the Tamil struggle is to have a happier ending, democratic Tamil leaders must demonstrate that Tamil nationalists are capable of criticising the inhumane Tiger-ethos and eschewing the homicidal-cum-suicidal Tiger Way.
Re-antagonising Tamils; Alienating Muslims
Just as Tamils must face up to the reality of the Tiger, Sinhalese must understand that the Rajapaksa Path will lead not to a lasting peace but to a new (perhaps multiple) conflagration/s.
In his VVT speech, Mr. Wignewaran made a point which is of utmost importance to anyone committed to an undivided Sri Lanka and a sustainable peace: “When Prabhakaran was alive, the President came forward on his own to grant 13 plus and more than that. Now that Prabhakaran is no more, the President has begun to speak of 13 minus and even to the extent that there is no such thing as 13th Amendment”[iv].
That observation is spot on. During the war years, President Rajapaksa paid lip service to 13th Amendment+ because he needed Indian/Western support (or at least benign neutrality) to defeat the LTTE. According to a document tabled in parliament by the Lankan Deputy Foreign Minister, “President Mahinda Rajapaksa had assured former Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee that his intention was to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution quickly as possible and explore the possibility of moving beyond the 13th Amendment…. This assurance had been given on January 27 (2009)….”[v]. Indian National Security Advisor MK Narayanan after meeting Mahinda Rajapaksa in late April 2009 told the US Ambassador that the President “intends to pursue political devolution (‘the thirteenth amendment plus’) and will make a gesture soon to win over Sri Lanka’s Tamils”[vi].
So the facts prove Justice Wigneswaran correct; the promise of expeditious and extensive devolution was made in order to win Indian/international backing for the final offensive. With the death of Mr. Pirapaharan and the decimation of the LTTE, that compulsion evaporated. Now the Rajapaksas are as disinclined to devolve power to the Tamils as they are to allow an independent judiciary. They want to abolish the 13th Amendment for the same reasons they got rid of the 17th Amendment, and launched a pernicious and illegal impeachment offensive against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake – concentrating all power in the Familial-fist.
Opting, again, for the non-democratic/armed path to win their rights would be suicidal for the Tamils. But if such a lethal return is to be avoided, a consensual peace is necessary. And a consensual peace is impossible so long as the Tamils are denied everything from meaningful devolution to the right to mourn their dead. (It is one thing to disallow memorials to Tiger-heavyweights; but it was both inhuman and uncivilised to destroy the grave of every Tiger cadre). This Sinhala-Buddhist supremacist approach to peace-building will play into the hands of those hardliners who dream of resurrecting the dead Tiger, in a holier guise.
Albert Hirschman, in ‘The Rhetoric of Reaction’, pointed out that those who do not want to find solutions to a problem use three methods to justify themselves: ‘it will make things worse’ (perversity); ‘it will solve nothing’ (futility); ‘it will jeopardise something good, hard-won’ (jeopardy). This analysis fits perfectly with the Rajapaksa/Sinhala-supremacist approach to a political solution in general and a functioning NPC in particular.
The Rajapaksas waged the Fourth Eelam War as the main axis of a restorationist project, to give back to Sinhala-Buddhists the place of dominance they enjoyed since 1956 and lost in 1987 due to the intervention of an external force, India. The maintenance of Sri Lanka as a hierarchically pluralist nation was the quid-pro-quo the Rajapaksas offered to the Sinhala-Buddhist South for Familial Rule and Dynastic Succession. Therefore the Rajapaksa approach to peace-building will continue to consist of keeping the minorities quiescent through a combination of terror and miniscule economic bribes and using various minority-bogies to slow-down the erosion of their Sinhala-Buddhist base.
This is the reason for the periodic incitement of Sinhala ire/phobia vis-à-vis not just Tamils but also Muslims and Christians.
In his Mahaveer Day Speech of 2005, Vellupillai Pirapaharan exulted that “the Sinhala nation continues to be entrapped in the Mahawamsa mindset…”. In the four plus years since defeating the LTTE, the Rajapaksas have proved him right. Not only have they failed to win over the Tamils; they are also alienating Muslims and even Sinhala-Christians. If this trend continues, Vellupillai Pirapaharan might begin to seem like a prophet to not just many a Tamil but even some Muslims/Christians.
In a surprising move, Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana announced that the government will sign a Free Trade Agreement with China before the Commonwealth[vii]. Delhi has been pressing for a free-trade agreement for years, unsuccessfully, and would regard such a pact with China as a threat and an affront. Is this a ploy to compel the Indian Premier into attending the Colombo Commonwealth, despite Tamil Nadu pressure and a manifestly unfree/unfair NPC poll? Or is this a serious move towards becoming the next Chinese pearl?
Will the Rajapaksas end up by making even the anti-Tiger Congress Party miss the Tiger?
[i] The Sunday Times – 15.9.2013
[ii] The Language of the Third Reich
[iv] The Sunday Times – 15.9.2013
[v] Daily Mirror – 21.8.2009