Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Tamils: A Disruption to the Norm?

by Chandi Sinnathurai, December 10, 2007

Every one knows that any peace-plan must patiently find out the fundamental reasons for such an extraordinary disruption and then perhaps advance a durable solution.  Not the other way round.

Persistent disruption signals that the norm is challenged. It calls for fresh thinking, and radical approaches.

The Western governments view Sri Lanka as a strategic spot in South Asia.  The emerging regional power, India, is in partnership with the US Imperium. When this writer asked an influential thinker this summer, of his opinion of the US-India nuclear deal, he commented: “[It is] shameful and dangerous.”  It is another indication that the world conducts international affairs without any moral or ethical considerations. The regional power notwithstanding, the global power has their geo-political, economic and strategic interests deeply entrenched in this tiny island.

The Sri Lankan regime, however, wants to be seen as being extra cautious.  They have quickly established firm alliances with Pakistan, Iran and China.  Suddenly, all these countries have become obsessively interested in protecting the integrity of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. That could be a euphemism for their helping hand in the war efforts. Colombo is swept into sensing the emerging reality of a multi-polar world.  There is also but another pressing reason… illogical though it might sound to a post-modern mind…

One knows that the Sinhala nation, by and large, only with a sprinkling of exceptions, have always been compulsively xenophobic.  They have historically perceived themselves as ‘victims par excellence’ – ‘on the one side the hated Demelu - the Tamils; and on the other the giant India’ – they sadly see themselves being precariously sandwiched between two adversaries.  History reveals, from the days of King Duttugamini, the Sinhalese always wanted the Tamils to be kicked out to the deep sea.  ‘Let them sink’ is the genocidal impulse.  If they managed to swim the Palk Strait, ‘let them not return, but swim to the other shore – Tamil Nadu.’  This simplistic view works wonders for the politicians every time, and they return to parliament with great plump. 

That is the “success” of the racially motivated democracy in Sri Lanka.

India [like the US proxy Norway] would want to play a pre-eminent role in the international peace initiatives in Sri Lanka.  India knows that the Sinhala masses would view them as a hegemonic foreign power.  Both India and the US want to solve the Tamil question without any emphasis on self-determination.  They seem to sing from the same hymn sheet.  Both powers want to see a federal set-up as a solution to the problem. The Sri Lankan state, however, is aggressively opposed to such an idea. Devolving power to the Tamils is incompatible with the Sinhala mind-set. The mythical politico-Buddhism that is practised as state religion in the island sadly does not lend itself to a pluralistic paradigm. Even a dog-bone treat to the Tamils, let alone power sharing, is anathema.   Therefore, forced colonisation of Tamil territories is no longer a state secret.

The international community seems to suggest that the creation of an independent Tamil state would destabilise peace in the region.  But in actual effect, the ulterior motive of these powers is to totally disarm the defence systems of the Tamil resistance movement.  The rationale is simple: Get rid of any resistance. Disarm. Neutralise. Decapitate the headship.  Things will fizzle out.

Imagine Tamil Tigers minus the Tiger leader Prabaharan? The Sri Lankan state, including the international community seems to think getting Praba out of the equation would solve 99% of the problem.  They also seem to make-believe that Col. Soosai’s Sea Tigers are on their last legs.  All these could very well be fibs. Quite.

None of these ‘sub texts’ offer any tangible solution.  On the contrary, these are part of the aggravating problem.

The Tamils view this as a daring move against their empowerment.  That is to put it mildly.

Within the rapid changing realities in the global scene, the Tamils can begin to wonder whether it is pragmatic to remain pro-Western.  The Sinhala state has chosen to exploit the fears of India.  Perhaps, Colombo feels much safer in the triangular alliance with Pakistan, Iran and China.  Japan also has much economic interest in Sri Lanka.  

In any case, the Sinhala nation still has a hostile view of the Western powers. Not only as former Colonial masters, but also as potential colonisers – neo- colonialists.  Colombo plays its cards close to its chest. 

In essence, India along with the Western powers is of the mind that the Eelam cry is a disruption.  Birthing of a child, as well as indeed of a nation, can be disruptive to the normal patterns of the status quo. Both have its dangers, risks, trauma, travail and birth pangs.  But all of these have to be understood as part and parcel of the creative process in nation-building.  Viewing change as some thing suspect, negative and regressive is unhelpful.

One can, of course, understand the questions some Westerners raise.   Will Eelam be a free and fair, and democratic state?  How will the minorities be treated?  Do the Tigers have fascist tendencies? Will Eelam be pro-Western?

The Tamil Tigers also have to take into account the ever-changing existential realities. The changing direction of the winds in the geo-political climate require them to be supple. But such suppleness need not necessarily pervert the original doctrine of the struggle.  One must be mindful that this is a struggle of the people and hence they will need to carry the world Tamils with it.

One can safely conclude that the answers can be found not by spreading fear of disruption but, by choosing to dialogue. It is in this process of engagement one can turn the corner. Disengagement will only spoil peace-building.

Therefore, killing peace negotiators on the Tamil side would not enhance the chances of peace.

Genuine peace can no longer be just academic.  Nor should it be in the realm of talk-shop conferences, seminars, working lunches and piano wire puppet shows. 

The suffering Tamil people have had enough of the stench of death.  They wish to see the light of dawn.  There are some propped up Tamil leaders who have aligned themselves with the Sinhala regime.  They are self-appointed spokespersons of the Tamils. Naturally the people are sickened by such pusillanimous “leaders.”  They are part of the problem.  Not the solution.

Every one knows that any peace-plan must patiently find out the fundamental reasons for such an extraordinary disruption and then perhaps advance a durable solution.  Not the other way round.

Persistent disruption signals that the norm is challenged. It calls for fresh thinking, and radical approaches.  Archaic reasoning, mythical justifications and tools of oppression ought to be discarded. 

Tamils must feel free in their homeland.

For all concerned, it will be a steep learning curve.  There are things, nonetheless, that have to be unlearned.