Ilankai Tamil Sangam

23rd Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

The Island and Federalism

An open letter to the editor of The Island

by Usha Sri-Skanda-Rajah, May 2, 2007

The LTTE’s air power can do amazing things – it could make a leading Sri Lankan newspaper like yours quote the words of a Tamil calling for “Federalism” as indeed good counsel to be listened to!  

Colombo, Sri Lanka  

Dear Sir, 

Your editorial titled “A light aircraft ride to statehood” is based on envy for an organization which has the discipline, ability and integrity that actually Cranwell, Dartmouth, Sandhurst and Scotland Yard could do well to learn from and emulate. 

It’s indeed laughable that you are quoting Prof. Hoole in your editorial: 

"If we are interested in Tamil well-being and Tamil education, we must obtain control of a federal area through negotiations. Time is against us. Another few years of war, through death and migration, there will be no Tamil people left to speak of. The war must stop before we are totally destroyed as a people." — the concluding remark of a lecture delivered by Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole at the Toronto University recently.”

The LTTE’s air power can do amazing things – it could make a leading Sri Lankan newspaper like yours quote the words of a Tamil calling for “Federalism” as indeed good counsel to be listened to!  

We normally would have congratulated you, although your enlightenment has sadly come several decades and more than 70,000 lives too late; also your supposed change of heart does not seem to us to be very sincere. We could be wrong. 

What we want to know is, since when did you begin to think Federalism is really good for Sri Lanka! The LTTE airpower has certainly brought some light into the usually closed minds of the Island’s editorial office.  

Correct us if we are wrong, but we didn’t think you held the view that federalism was good at all before. If your Newspaper had supported federalism in the past, things might have been very different now. 

We are eager to know - how you intend promoting federalism? 

Although it baffles us as to what exactly Prof. Hoole meant by “..obtain control of a federal area through negotiations,” and to whom is he preaching when he says the war must stop?  

Obviously your newspaper thinks Prof. Hoole’s words are meant for the LTTE and the Tamils.  

If that’s the case we are wondering if Prof. Hoole and you think we had all gone to sleep and woken up only now and knew nothing about LTTE’s moves for peace? 

So we thought we should remind you and Prof. Hoole about some basic facts pertaining to events not far gone. 

Despite being in a strong position and controlling around 70% of the areas covering the traditional Tamil homeland and defeating Sri Lanka in a war that Sri Lanka started, which Chandrika Bandaranaike the former President of Sri Lanka attempted to justify by calling the “War for Peace”:   

  • It was the LTTE which approached Norway, expressing its intention to negotiate peace with Sri Lanka
  • It was the LTTE which called for a ceasefire and was ready for peace talks
  • It was the LTTE which at the “Oslo Accords” was prepared in good faith to suspend the Tamil demand for a separate state, rightly defined and guided by three cardinal principles: those of “Homeland, Nationhood and Self-rule”
  • It was the LTTE that was willing in good faith to settle for a Federal state to move the peace talks forward to reach a political settlement
  • It was LTTE which introduced the ISGA – an interim mechanism to administer the war-torn NorthEast with the participation of all affected parties, including the Sri Lankan government, until a political settlement was reached (which also had a provision for democratic elections) that was rejected by Sri Lanka
  • It was the LTTE which was sincere at the peace talks, while Sri Lanka was breaking the spirit of cooperation of the accord by arranging a donor conference in the USA where the LTTE was not invited
  • It was the LTTE that had to watch while President Chandrika and Prime Minister Ranil Wikremasinghe were engaged in a power struggle between them with no decisive measures taken on the Sri Lankan side and the first round of talks ended in failure
  • It was the LTTE that has been going back for talks despite all the ceasefire violations by Sri Lanka and CFA conditions not fulfilled by Sri Lanka (refusal to dismantle the High Security Zones, denying the rights of farmers to till arable lands and fishermen to go out to sea for their livelihood, arming and deploying Paramilitaries against the LTTE and conducting an illegal and covert war using paramilitaries to do its bidding in breach of the CFA )
  • It was the LTTE which showed keen interest and took initiatives towards peace while Sri Lanka procrastinated, stating Federalism was against the Sri Lankan constitution
  • It was the LTTE and its leader who were willing to talk peace, giving time and respect and enough forewarning to a hawkish Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who ran on a war platform guided by the highly provocative and misguided “Mahindage Chinthanaya,” which said “no” to everything including Federalism, and who is engaged in bombing and shelling civilian targets, is responsible for the ethnic cleansing and internal displacement of Tamils, and is imposing restrictions on free movement, through the closure of two major highways which provide access to the Tamil homeland, depriving Tamils in their homeland from basic necessities for survival such as food, medicine and fuel and opportunities for livelihood.  

Prof. Hoole talks glibly of “obtaining control of a federal area by negotiation” as if it were easy as pie. I wish he had words of advice to the actual  guilty party who has repeatedly refused to consider any autonomy worthy of mention and never federalism; not thus far.   

No wonder you are hailing him as good counsel. 

Let us see how far you can go with promoting federalism! 

We are counting on you. 

Yours truly,