1 October, 2020

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The GTF Conference in London: Who Is Afraid Of Sinhala-Tamil Unity?

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

In an amazing turn of events the LSSP has prioritised its toadying to Mahinda Rajapakse above its relationship with the Tamil people. Let me explain. The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a diaspora organisation little known in Sri Lanka, but not connected to the LTTE-rump, and whose programme is to win the rights of the Tamil people in a democratic Lanka, is organising its annual conference at the House of Commons in London at the end of this month. The theme is challenges to democracy in Lanka, since this has a grave bearing on the future of the Tamil community. As a writer I am watching with keen interest and as a Marxist I have a stake in Sinhala-Tamil unity to fight authoritarianism. Several Sinhalese lawyers, political figures, trade unionists and journalists were invited, including leading LSSPers from both factions; some accepted. Then a ghastly thing happened; the LSSPers were forced to withdraw at the last minute because the party barred participation. Here is a typical reply: “I deeply regret that I will not be able to accept the invitation to the GTF conference as my party (LSSP) has not approved it.  If I act in breach it will affect my struggle within the party.  Please pardon me.  Sorry for disappointing you”.

As a party man for decades I accept bowing to party discipline provided the objective is to engage in decisive inner party struggles. To bow to party discipline as mere formality, without credible political objectives, is empty. Hence the jury is out on the LSSP Left-wing’s effort to defeat the leadership – all toadies of Rajapakse whose sole motive is personal opportunism. Admittedly this is not an easy task since the quality of party membership has declined appallingly from the old days. If the Left-wing does not make significant headway now, where the rottenness of the regime lies exposed for all to see, then it is time to change strategy, fundamentally.

It is the left movement that for decades preached the need for Sinhalese-Tamil unity; it is the left that opposed narrow nationalist disunion. V Karalasingham, in the days when he was still a fine Marxist, wrote a pamphlet entitled “The way out for the Tamil speaking people” in which he argued that Tamils must not hitch their wagon to rotten Sinhala governments but unite with the left in common struggle. Now the Tamil community (the LTTE is non-existent internally, and a minority in the diaspora) is calling for unity to protect democracy, but the Dead Left is fleeing to Mahinda screaming “Rape! Rape! Save us from the Tamils”. Poor Karlo must be turning in his grave! Tissa et al have turned the tables on him. It is not the majority of the Tamils, but the Dead Left, that is now a slave to reactionaries.
Who’s afraid of national unity?

In a hard to believe reversal of fortunes, those who want Sinhala-Tamil unity and those who oppose it have changed places. The Rajapake government fought a bitter and costly military campaign to defeat the LTTE because it was Eelamist and wanted to divide the country. Some Tamils supported the LTTE, some opposed it and many were neutral. Now most Tamils have come to appreciate that abandoning democracy is a grave threat to them. As a national minority they have seen what happens every time authoritarianism is entrenched and military power rides rough shod over the people. It is the minorities that become the easiest targets and suffer the most. If the Rajapake strategy of making this country an autocratic fiefdom of the family succeeds, it will be curtains for the minorities. The Muslims still shut their eyes to this reality because of Rauf Hakeem’s treachery, but the Tamils, since they are outside the pale of the regime’s protection, are well aware of the danger. Yes, I agree that the Tamils are seeking unity with democratic Sinhalese not because they have read the latest enlightenment tomes on liberty, but out of a sense of self-preservation. What’s wrong with that?
Why is the regime opposed to unity across the ethnic divide? From where comes the slander that the GTF Conference is an Eelamist gathering? Why is every independent (of the regime) Tamil slandered as a Tiger in sheep’s clothing? Why is everybody who is an obstacle to its authoritarian ambitions (against 18A, Impeachment, Divineguma, potentially opposed to 19A) labelled a foreign agent if Sinhalese, a terrorist if Tamil? Because unity of Sinhala and Tamil (and Muslim) peoples, will inevitably, be an alliance against encroachments on democracy. Hence in a turn around, the Rajapakses oppose unity but the majority of Tamils see that their protection depends upon it! As a Marxist, this is where I see the importance of the Conference, if done properly.

What is the meaning of ‘done properly’? The GTF certainly does not need to hide that it is primarily a Tamil entity concerned with justice and fairness to the community. It does not need to conceal that it is seeking an alliance with Sinhalese and Muslims to make common cause on democratic rights; communities standing for democracy for their own protection. The GTF should not fight shy of publicising its programme about a democratic solution to Tamil concerns. It has insisted that it is neither a rump nor a bearer of LTTE ideology, this is essential if it is seeking inter-ethnic alliances (LTTE ideology was separatist, hence it rejected such alliances; I say this as a matter of fact, not morality). However, since chauvinists attempt to obscure this, GTF has duty to publicise its identity in ways that reach people in Lanka. Above all the Conference must be a genuine multi-ethnic gathering with international participation. The Conference must proclaim its objectives and publish its conclusions; it must stuff the mouth of the chauvinist state.

Most Sinhalese pull out

I am not a GTF member but an outsider who sees these developments in the Tamil community as valuable and welcomes positive responses from Sinhalese; but have heard that many Sinhalese invitees have pulled out. If true, the reason in all likelihood is racist slanders by chauvinists, and fears of reprisals by the state. If a Sinhalese engages in action in unity with a Tamil, he/she is mocked as a demala-lover. Narrow prejudices are common in the petty-bourgeoisie; progressives, Marxists and liberals, come under persistent ideological attack. It is not surprising that some progressive Sinhalese fear association with anti-Rajapakse Tamils, even of the anti-LTTE variety. Marxists like Bahu and strong personalities like Vijaya Kumaratunga have no difficulty in relating to Tamils, but most liberals, and nearly all soft-leftists, are bashful of alliances with Tamil organisations, even democratic ones.

In part, however, the blame also lies with GTF, which has not done enough to highlight its identity and publicise its own programme among people living in Lanka, especially Sinhalese. How many people know the difference between democratic Tamil groups and the LTTE-rump? GTF must be bold in asserting its identity, if an alliance of Tamils and Sinhalese for democracy, is to be a core element in its programme.

Liberal democracy

Left inclined folks like me usually see liberals as people of limited courage and partial objectives. Considering what is happening to the Dead Left, an example being the story in my opening paragraph, and the difficulty that the JVP and the Frontline (Peratugami) have in taking up a Marxist position that will be unpopular with the chauvinism of the Sinhala petty-bourgeoisie, it is idiotic to be snooty about liberals. Sure there are still are elements frightened to stray beyond talk-only or write-in-English-only, and who avoid anything that faintly smells of action; horror of horrors, Gothabhaya might notice their existence!

However, anyone who has followed the campaign against the regime’s drive to autocracy cannot but be impressed by the determination and courage of certain sections of liberal society. Many in civil society movements and in business chambers are contributing to the struggle without concealing their work. Which leftist does not shrivel in embarrassment at the mention of Vasudeva? So who dare deny that certain liberal groups and intellectuals are openly defying the would-be dictator? I will not mention names since many lobbies are at work on parallel tracks; naming names will not be comprehensive.

International assistance

Where there is a substantial threat to democracy – Burma in the past, Syria acutely, and Sri Lanka obviously – international questioning and pressure is welcome. A criticism of Obama is that he is not making a decisive intervention in Syria and finishing off Assad. (This would be in the best interests of the Syrian people, but will have tangential consequences not in America’s best interests; obviously the latter is Obama’s priority). Similarly, the assistance the international community will afford us, will be what is in its own interests. But the crucial point is this: At times there is a convergence of interests, and this is the case at the moment. Defeating burgeoning dictatorship is vital for the people of Lanka; but if Lanka goes under the jack-boot, in the long run it will be costly and dangerous for the international community, including China. The Chinese have learnt from the mistake of backing brutal dictators in Burma, Libya and Sudan. A more nuanced foreign policy approach is likely from the new leadership in Beijing. Furthermore, involving human rights activists and the UNHRC in Lanka’s democratic campaign will be fruitful. A helping hand from governments, rights groups and UN bodies on terms defined by Lanka’s peoples’ organisations (obviously not the Rajapakses), is desirable.

The reason for discussing international assistance in this essay is that human rights bodies, the British opposition and political leaders from the governing coalition are slated to address the Convention. But a final assessment can be made only after the event. The criteria are: Did the conference build Sinhala-Tamil unity in support of democracy? Will the conference contribute to winning the rights of the Tamil people and mobilise Sinhalese support? Did it contribute to a healthy relationship between the people of Lanka and the international community? The answers to these, not vile chauvinist slanders, are the acid test.

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Latest comments

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    Tamils were abandoned by democracy. Then they thought ‘why not try violence’. But nothing seemed to work with successive Sri Lankan governments and the Tamils are back to square1. So they they’ll try democracy again hoping that sanity prevails among a critical mass of Sinhalese to change the direction and destiny of Sri Lanka.

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      Eureka,
      A lesson rightly learned. The Tamils have to keep on trying the democratic option. There is no alternative. But the leadership for this must be home grown and come from a new breed of politicians and leaders who have learned this lesson the hard way. This leadership cannot be forged in London, Paris, New York or Toronto. It has to be forged here in Sri Lanka. The forging of a new leadership should be a process that is not directed by the Tamil Diaspora, if is to be effective and strong.

      Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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        Well said Sir, I entirely agree with you.

        The whole argument of Kumar David falls flat because of the unsubstantiated naive claim that “The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a diaspora organization little known in Sri Lanka, but not connected to the LTTE-rump, and whose programme is to win the rights of the Tamil people in a democratic Lanka ….” The writer is keen to paint a rosy picture. But it is the intuitive understanding of the Tamil mainstream – let alone the rump – that this is the most opportune moment to join hands with all enemies of Sri Lanka – the unholy alliance of western powers, NGOs, and their legitimacy manufacturers known as human rights organizations, and the local lackeys: the UNP and TNA – in carrying out the forthcoming Geneva Farce 3 to pave the way for an eventual regime change. The writer is correct when he says, “Tamils are seeking unity with democratic Sinhalese not because they have read the latest enlightenment tomes on liberty, but out of a sense of self-preservation.” And then he asks, “What’s wrong with that?”

        Let me tell what’s wrong with that. If we, the Tamil people, are serious about self-preservation through democracy we must first launch a self-critique, our own LLRC, accept responsibility and accountability for LTTE’s war crimes as a community (just like the people of Sri Lanka are threatened as a community with economic sanctions for alleged war crimes by the GOSL). This is the only way we Tamils can win over the democratic Sinhalese and find a solution to our problems in a democratic Sri Lanka. Instead if we align ourselves with the sworn enemies of Sri Lanka and the LTTE rump whose one of many sophisticated PR fronts is the GTF – which even a Grade 3 student in the Tamil Diaspora knows – we are alienating the democratic Sinhalese. That’s what is wrong. Betraying Sri Lanka to avenge the military defeat of a ruthless fasicst organization that claimed to be our sole representative and eliminated all those brave people among us who stood for democracy is not the way to democratic reconciliation and bring relief to the war-affected people in the north and east – but only more disaster.

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          It is all well said, but seriously how can the Tamils accept liability or resposibility for the LTTE’s war crimes when the they never sccepted the said outfit as their representaives or guardians.What evidence is there to support that contention of the so called democratic Sinhalese to whom the Tamil Diaspora is a convenient scape goat to heap blame while denying and ignoring the historic underlying undemocratic majoritarian politicsl follies for the emergence of that diaspora.
          As long as the undemocratic fascistic majoritarian Sinhalese polity keeps alienating the minority Tamils who only want to be treated as equals and desist from launch of a self critiqe and admit accountability the island country will keep itself mired in delusions of supreme grandeur and provide the opportunities for .

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            Uthungan:

            If nothing else, my above comment has at least cornered you to admit the naked truth “seriously how can the Tamils accept liability or resposibility for the LTTE’s war crimes when they never sccepted the said outfit as their representaives or guardians.”

            You have admitted:

            1) The LTTE was not a legitimate, democratic, liberation movement of the Tamil people.

            2) The LTTE was a criminal mafia.

            3) The LTTE committed war crimes.

            Case closed.

            We are learning something everyday, aren’t we?

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          It is all well said, but seriously how can the Tamils accept liability or resposibility for the LTTE’s war crimes when the they never sccepted the said outfit as their representaives or guardians.What evidence is there to support that contention of the so called democratic Sinhalese to whom the Tamil Diaspora is a convenient scape goat to heap blame while denying and ignoring the historic underlying undemocratic majoritarian politicsl follies for the emergence of that diaspora.
          As long as the undemocratic fascistic majoritarian Sinhalese polity desists from launching a self critiqe of it’s own and admit responsiblity and accountability for it’s own historic omissions and commisions for not treating the Tamils as equal citizens, this island country will keep itself mired in delusions of supreme grandeur and cannot avert or blame for external interference in it’s internal affairs.So why complain.

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      The Russian revolution did not happen suddenly and also did not start with Lenin himself. The process of development toward the final Revolution took years with individuals and groups coming and going, failures and successes and patriots and traitors, until the appropriate time and right leadership emerged. So it is with the Tamils whatever or whoever came and went, and happening at present is a process until things fall in place; and opinions such as this should happen here but happen, he or they should do it or should not are just opinions of and more often arm-chair criticisms.

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      I have problem with the GTF. GTF has has gained massive growth since the death of Prabaharan. Organisations such as GTF were oppressed by him when he was alive. Those who curse GTF must direct their anger towards MAHINDA becuase he is the catalyst for GTF’s massive growth.

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    A nuanced approach by rebuilding bridges with the moderate sinhalese could meet with some success. Trust and goodwill need to be built up. The common perception built through govt and racist propaganda is that GTF are supporters of the ‘LTTE Rump’.

    LTTE is like a millstone hung around the necks of the tamils. This suits the govt very well as it clings on to power by fuelling racist feelings amongst the majority community. GTF is viewed with suspicion. So having a more cosmopolitan, open and transparent approach will help in dispelling doubts and fears. This will help gain acceptance in order to operate locally and uplift the local tamil community.

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    Global Tamil Forum and World Tamil Congress are in identical mission has been undertaken established Tamil state in NORTH PART OF SRI LANKA
    These two Tamil out-fit base in West unknown location to be esatblished Tamil State in World Map by hook or crook in Sri Lanka.
    In political term- objecative of GTF is nothing more than that originiated Tamil Republic not Tamil Nadu ,but weakist nation of chain of Imperialist Globally location -SRI LANKA.
    Needlees to say LTTE-Tamil terrorsit outfit, Is NOT dead orginization is ,living under the NEW Blood has been pump by West,India,and So-called Disapore of Tamils in -Left wing Tamils, Chauviist Tamils, Nationalist Tamils , Trostkist Tamils,incuding Tamil speaking in WORLD and GLOBAL community members are behind that which play central role to be founded of So-called Tamil-expansion of hegemony state,in Part of Sri lanka.
    I have to say out-fit of GTF utterly useless to build Sinhalese -Tamil unity
    What Dr Kumar David says no body knows inside methods of operation of GTF,and its objective of mission.You can join as “Marxist” but are A Troskist are NOT “Marxist”.In action and Pratacice Troskist of LSSP leaders are who escaped Bourgeosie Goveremnet and betray vital interest of Proletaret since 1964 until death of LSSP.
    There is possibility to ever-never review or rediscoverd of Trostakism in Local or Globale scale,in human history or Civilization.
    I am blame to you Dr David ,but your philosophy mode of ideology is Methaphisis leades to that degeneration of social movement of Liberalism in SRI LANKA as well as Globally.
    These outright politically direction could serve for reactionary nature of Politics of Hegemony of Capitalism that undermine the struggle Tamil People’s mission of emicipation,as well as whole Humankind.
    Dr Kumar your are well matured political figure,you know where you stand that, your political package serve for whom and for what class! And what Commuinty.
    I have to say outfit of GTF is utterly useless to build Sinhales-Tamil unity of Sri Lankan,that mission can accompolished by “A HISTORCIAL CATEGORY BELONGING TO DEFINIT EPOCH,THE EPOCH OF RISING CAPITALISM”
    (Stalin Works Vol 2) Marxism and National Quesation.Stalin was first Marxist a work such theses on give good repuation as a specialist ON THE NATIOANL QUESTION.Is even now valid and possible to apply our own conditions of Democrtic Revoluation of Tamils Nation Problem in Sri Lanka.

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    I’m curious to know in what discipline Dr. Ranajsingham Narendran got his Phd, please.

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      He is an alien, with tamil name… Phd may be from ET studies…ask steven spielburg, may help you…

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      [Edited out]…..
      His regular use of Dr. shows either his inferiority complex or his demand for respect by showing the title. Since you asked …. [Edited out]

      Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
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      • 0
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        He has PhD in AH licking…………..!! and he gets prolonged orgasms when he praises mahinda and he getsa’quicky’ orgasms when he runs down Tamil diaspora…..he is heading for a double PhD in Mahinda’s AH licking.

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    I agree with Prof David that the GTF is perceived by the Sinhalese as an organisation that represents the LTTE. This misconception is not only due to “tamil” being in its title but also because it is also perceived as the biggest threat to the Rajapaksa regime’s attempt to evade war crimes allegations.

    The so called LTTE rump is insignificant in that it carries no clout among the NGOs, HR organisations or the western governments but the GTF does and has enormous support among the diaspora tamils. The Rajapaksa regime therefore fears the GTF and it tries its utmost to label it as representing the LTTE. The GTF can become a focus for all Sri lankans – Sinhala, tamil, muslim and others – in defeating the dictatorial aims of the Rajapaksa brothers and bring democratic governance to Sri Lanka.

    The GTF should have ignored the LSSP, CP and others aligned with the regime as they have no influence over the regime and have hardly any support among the Sinhala people either.

    I have two questions for Prof David and they are: were you invited and if so would you have gone?

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      Piranha, I had earlier taken you for a sober blogger and David as one who is rather unfortunately apt to go off on rants.

      I am surprised by your response but no so surprised at his article…

      The common element in both is an ennthusiasm to whitewash the GTF? Is it not led by SJ Emmanuel, a well known backer of Thamil Eelam?

      These are not the guys who should be espousing Tamil-Sinhala unity despite David’s naive attempts to do so while not citing a single example where this GTF has condemned the LTTE for its brutal actions

      Both LTTE/LTTEdisapora and this murderous Rajapakses are of the same breed, I reckon!

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        Chandra,

        My point here is that the GTF has no connection with the remnants of the LTTE which is now represented by two warring factions based in France and Norway. I don’t believe the GTF is promoting violence against anybody in achieving their aim of self determination for the tamil people. Unlike the LTTE the GTF is courting the Sinhala left and moderate non racist politicians in order to educate the Sinhala people who have since 1956 been misled by the opportunistic and chauvinistic Sinhala politicians.

        If you look at the political scene in the South today there is no moderate political party that is willing to share power with the tamils and the muslims. The UNP, despite its claims of being a moderate politrical party, will not antagonise the Sinhala electorate and accommodate the tamil people’s wishes. After the end of the war there isn’t the appetite among the tamils in Sri Lanka for a separate state. There are many educated and professional people in the GTF who are no fools to realise that tamil eelam will ever be a reality. They are striving for the rights of the tamil people to live with equal rights and dignity in Sri Lanka and ensure that the many thousands of tamils murdered by their own government get justice. If anyone in Sri lanka is trying to divide the country and its people it is the present ruler, his brothers, the JHU, BBS and other Sinhala Buddhist rabble rousers and political opportunists.

        Rajapaksa regime is the main and biggest threat to Sri Lanka’s unity and the unity and peace of its people at the present time. I feel that all those who are opposed to the regime must get together drop their petty differences and fight for the country’s name and the welfare of all its peoples by kicking out the dictator and his thieving brothers.

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    Piranha – Adding to the widely held theory we are far too deeply divided racially is the fact the once hated JVP is accepted in the Sinhala South now as a significant democratic political party. But the
    very mention of LTTE makes people go berserk. If the same tolerance is allowed, take my word – the very name LTTE will gradually vanish from
    the memory of many – Tamils mostly.

    Senguttuvan

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      The name LTTE is associated with tamils, violence and separatism in the eyes of the Sinhalese whereas the JVP is only associated with violence. That is why the Sinhalese accepted the JVP as a political party after they eschewed violence.

      I agree that racial division is still very deep but Rajapaksa could have done a lot to rectify this but sadly he chose to appease the Sinhalese by further suppressing and subjugating the tamils for political reasons.

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        The difference between the JVP and LTTE is much more fundamental
        than just LTTE being separatist and JVP not:

        IDEOLOGY

        JVP: Left-oriented, Pol-Potism, Anti-West, Secular
        LTTE: Extreme Far Right, Fascism, Pro-West, Saiva-Vellala domination

        POWER BASE

        JVP: Sinhala Rural Lower Classes and Oppressed Castes
        LTTE: Jaffna Middle Class and Upper Castes

        POLITICAL SYSTEM

        JVP: Authoritarian, Limited Democracy, Multi-Ethnic
        LTTE: Authoritarian, One-Party Police State, Ethnically-Cleansed Saiva Tamil State

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          Because of these crucial differences only the JVP was able to eschew violence and switch to mainstream politics and the Sinhalese people accepted it as a political party.

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            Ajay

            Bankrupt and bartered to death, they could not win their ideological arguments and join the main party which JVP criticised sice its establishment and won the election by supporting SLFP.

            The hypocritical JVP opposed provincial councils through out its history but enjoys the perks the Councils provides.

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          Ajay

          IDEOLOGY

          “JVP: Left-oriented, Pol-Potism, Anti-West, Secular”

          Karava dominated exclusively Sinhala/Buddhist chauvinists, pro North Korean, terrorists.

          “LTTE: Extreme Far Right, Fascism, Pro-West, Saiva-Vellala domination”

          Another Polpotist, Tamil Karava dominated,

          Need definition for your Extreme Far Right and Fascism.

          POWER BASE

          “JVP: Sinhala Rural Lower Classes and Oppressed Castes”

          Beginning yes, not anymore,aspiring to be upper class,

          “LTTE: Jaffna Middle Class and Upper Castes”

          Sustained by lower class, middle class always escapes.

          POLITICAL SYSTEM

          “JVP: Authoritarian, Limited Democracy, Multi-Ethnic”

          Despotic, anti democratic, Polpotists, Token Multi ethnic, racists, assimilation is the final solution for minority people, considers hard working up country Tamils as 5th Column. Anti working class, …………..

          “LTTE: Authoritarian, One-Party Police State, Ethnically-Cleansed Saiva Tamil State”

          Christians were not targeted but saivaite too were murdered.

          I see no difference between Sinhala/Buddhist terrorists and Tamil/Saiva terrorist.

          Both are anti people, anti democratic, run by despotic terrorists,anti Indian but when in need ready to shake hands behind the scene, prepared to seek asylum in India, treacherous,………..hypocritical, …..very stupid people

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    Dr Kumar says GTF wants to promote democracy in our Motherland.

    And he seems upset that our Sinhala Socialists didn’t take up the free cattle class returns to London.

    Don’t our Socialists have enough Tamil inhabitants to build bridges with and promote democracy?.

    Although democracy is not the forte of Leftists.

    Still don’t we have reformed real LTTE leaders for the Kumar Socialists to help build bridges and help the inhabitants who sacrificed big time and got nothing in return from the Diaspora, except the dream of Eelaam and the TNG?.

    Talking about GFT democracy ,didn’t Dr Manmohan Singh kick out the GFT boss when he tried to build bridges with Naduans and preach them the goodness of Eelaam Democracy through his mates, Vaiko & Co?.

    Is this the same GFT which forced our Prez out of his lecture engagement on building bridges, by threatening him with violence if he ever set foot on British Soil?.

    By the way did Dr Kumar get a ticket ?

    If so he can convey the best wishes of all inhabitants both left right and centre and kindly remind the GFT that they are not welcome and will not be welcome in the future either.

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    GTF and democracy ? My foot.

    Does anyone know S.J.Emmanuel, ..

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