Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Comments on 'Countdown to Kosovo

Lessons for Sri Lanka'

by TamilNation.org, February 17, 2008

We do live in an emerging multi-lateral world - with many states jockeying for power and influence in the Indian Ocean region and elsewhere. Be that as it may, it has to be said that it is because the two peoples in the island of Sri Lanka are divided, that the 'old game' can still be played - whether by the West or by anybody else. It is because a Sinhala Buddhist nation seeks to masquerade as a 'multi-ethnic'  'Sri Lankan civic nation', albeit, with a Sinhala Lion Flag, with an as yet unrepealed Sinhala Only Act, with Buddhism as the state religion  and with an occupying Sinhala army in the Tamil homeland, that the 'old game' can still be played.

The true lesson that Sri Lanka may usefully learn from Kosovo's 'independence' is that there is a compelling need for Sri Lanka to join with Tamil Eelam in structuring a polity where two independent states may associate with one another in equality and in freedom - and where the security of each may be secured.

Mr. Dayan Jayatilleka is right. Yes, there are lessons for Sri Lanka to learn from Kosovo. Mr. Jayatilleke is right to recognise that 'the patterns of world politics appear kaleidoscopic, with coalitions forming over one issue, only to break up over another'. The 'kaleidoscope' is a reflection of the asymmetric multilateral world in which we live - a world in transition from the unipolar to the multilateral.

But it seems that despite recognition of the kaleidoscopic nature of the world in which we live, Sri Lanka and Mr. Dayan Jayatilleka will continue to search hopefully (within the kaleidoscope) for 'strategic friends, allies and partners'.

Of course, Mr.Jayatilleke will not be unaware of  the remarks made by a 19th century British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston - remarks which have stood the test of time -

"We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow."

Mr. Jayatilleke's  understanding of the 'underlying dynamics' of world politics, should warn him that Sinhala Sri Lanka's search for benign friends may prove futile - and costly. After all, a kaleidoscope is a tube of mirrors and as the tube is rotated, the tumbling of the coloured objects presents the viewer with an arbitrary and changing pattern of objects.  

Again, no one can foresee clearly the effects of even very simple facts as they pertain to the future.

"...Foreign Ministers and diplomats presumably understand the permanent interests of their country.. But no one can foresee clearly the effects of even very simple facts as they pertain to the future. The Rajah of Cochin who in his resentment against the Zamorin permitted the Portuguese to establish a trading station in his territories could not foresee that thereby he had introduced into India something which was to alter the course of history. Nor could the German authorities, who, in their anxiety to create confusion and chaos in Russia, permitted a sealed train to take Lenin and his associates across German territory, have foreseen what forces they were unleashing. To them the necessity of the moment was an utter breakdown of Russian resistance and to send Lenin there seemed a superior act of wisdom... .." Sardar K.M.Pannikar, Indian Ambassador to China from 1948 to 1952, and later Vice Chancellor, Mysore University in Principles and Practice of Diplomacy, 1956

Mr. Jayatilleke is right to point out that -

"...Western interventionism is not tied to any particular ethnic or religious group. The name of the game seems the old one of divide and rule, and whichever group or struggle weakens the target state appears to be the one that is afforded patronage..."

Whether Mr. Jayatilleke's analysis applies only to Western interventions may be questionable. We do live in an emerging multi-lateral world - with many states jockeying for power and influence in the Indian Ocean region and elsewhere. Be that as it may, it has to be said that it is because the two peoples in the island of Sri Lanka are divided, that the 'old game' can still be played - whether by the West or by anybody else. It is because a Sinhala Buddhist nation seeks to masquerade as a 'multi-ethnic'  'Sri Lankan civic nation', albeit, with a Sinhala Lion Flag, with as yet unrepealed Sinhala Only Act, with Buddhism as the State religion  and with an occupying Sinhala army in the Tamil homeland, that the 'old game' can still be played.

The true lesson that Sri Lanka may usefully learn from Kosovo's 'independence' is that there is a compelling need for Sri Lanka to join with Tamil Eelam in structuring a polity where two independent states may associate with one another in equality and in freedom - and where the security of each may be secured. Sovereignty, after all, is not virginity. If Germany and France were able to put in place  'associate' structures such as the European Union, despite the suspicions and confrontations of two world wars, it should not be beyond the capacity of Tamil Eelam and  Sri Lanka to work out structures, within which each independent state may remain free and prosper, but at the same time pool sovereignty in certain agreed areas.

Self-determination and democracy go hand in hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then the principle of self-determination secures that no one people may rule another - and herein lies its enduring appeal. And we may need to attend more carefully to the words of Subhas Chandra BoseYelena Bonner (widow of Andrei Sakharov) that 'the inviolability of a country's borders against invasion from the outside must be clearly separated from the right to statehood of any people within a state's borders.'

Said all that, Kosovo's 'supervised independence' (with an European Union/NATO military force in occupation) has lessons not only for Sri Lanka, but for the people of Tamil Eelam as well. The words of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose come to mind -

"No real change in history has ever been achieved by discussions alone... Freedom is not given, it is taken.. One individual may die for an idea; but that idea will, after his death, incarnate itself in a thousand lives. That is how the wheel of evolution moves on...The freedom that we shall win through our sacrifice and exertions, we shall be able to preserve with our own strength.."

Freedom is never given. It is taken. And it is freedom that we win through our sacrifice and exertions, that we shall be able to preserve with our own strength. In this context, it is altogether appropriate that Mr. Jayatilleke should quote Fidel Castro. It was Fidel Castro Ruz who declared more than fifty years ago in History will Absolve Me on 16 October 1953 -

"We were taught ... that liberty is not begged for but won with the blade of a machete.... When there are many men without honor, there are always others who bear in themselves the honor of many men. These are the men who rebel with great force against those who steal the people's freedom, that is to say, against those who steal honor itself. In those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained ...'To live in chains is to live in disgrace and in opprobrium,' and 'to die for one's homeland is to live forever!' All this we learned and will never forget... "

The people of Tamil Eelam too will never forget that when there are many men without honor, there are always those who bear in themselves the honor of many men and that 'in those men thousands more are contained, an entire people is contained, human dignity is contained.'

The people of Tamil Eelam will learn from Kosovo's 'supervised independence' (with an European Union/NATO military force in occupation) that the machinations within the asymmetric multilateral world continue - and have not diminished. They will learn that Velupillai Pirabakaran was right when he declared in 1993 - 'The world is not rotating on the axis of justice. It is economic and trade interests that determine the order of the present world, not the moral law of justice nor the rights of people. International relations and diplomacy between countries are determined by such interests.' They will learn that the denial by international actors of their conflicting strategic interests in Sri Lanka and in the Indian Ocean region has drawn a veil over the real issues that any meaningful conflict resolution process in the island will need to address.

But the people of Tamil Eelam also know that a struggle for freedom is a nuclear energy and that the Fourth World is a part of today's enduring political reality.

"Increasingly, the Fourth World is emerging as a new force in international politics because in the common defense of their nations, many indigenous peoples do not accept being mere subjects of international law and state sovereignty and trusteeship bureaucracies. Instead, they are organizing and exerting their own participation and policies as sovereign peoples and nations." - Bernard Q. Nietschmann

And the people of Tamil Eelam know that the 'asymmetric multilateral world' of states in their search for stability will find an increasing need to adopt a more principle centred approach towards struggles for self determination not only in the Indian region but also elsewhere in the globe.

 "...Let us accept the fact that states have lifecycles similar to those of human beings who created them... hardly any Member State of the United Nations has existed within its present borders for longer than five generations. The attempt to freeze human evolution has in the past been a futile undertaking... Restrictions on self-determination threaten not only democracy itself but the state which seeks its legitimation in democracy..." Self Determination & the Future of Democracy  - Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, 2001

[see also Kosovo's  'Supervised Independence'  "This declaration reflects the will of our people and it is in full accordance with the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement...We invite and welcome an international civilian presence to supervise our implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan, and a European Union-led rule of law mission... We also invite and welcome the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to retain the leadership role of the international military presence in Kosovo... We shall cooperate fully with these presences to ensure Kosovo's future peace, prosperity and stability..."

EU Launches Police, Justice Mission for Kosovo  "One day before Kosovo said it will declare independence from Serbia, the European Union on Saturday, Feb. 16, approved sending a 2,000-strong police and justice mission to the province...Once Kosovar leaders declare independence, the EU will take over responsibility for supervising police, judicial and civil administration from the current UN mission after a 120-day transition period. Kosovo Serb leader Milan Ivanovic on Saturday called the EU's police and justice mission a form of "occupation."

Comment by tamilnation.org five months ago on 'U.S. and EU ready to recognize Kosovo Independence if Serbia does not agree on role of the province,' Judy Dempsey, International Herald Tribune, 24 September 2007 "..Kosovo as a client US state may not be without its attractions for US policy makers provided broad based European support is secured - and here the role of the members of the European Union may become pivotal. It seems that Velupillai Pirabakaran was right when he declared in 1993. 'The world is not rotating on the axis of justice. It is economic and trade interests that determine the order of the present world, not the moral law of justice nor the rights of people. International relations and diplomacy between countries are determined by such interests.'"

Nato, Kosovo & Tamil Eelam - Nadesan Satyendra, 24 April 1999 "Milosevic fears that greater autonomy will lead to secession. NATO fears that repression will lead to an increase in extra regional Muslim influence and in that way to secession. Milosevic believes that he can put down Kosovar resistance if  NATO stays out. But NATO fears that even if Milosevic succeeds, this will strengthen the Yugoslav-Russia-Belraus link with far reaching implications for the future of the European Union."

Understanding Kosovo - Nadesan Satyendra, 31 October 1998 "...Russia remains one of the few friends of Serbia... A leader of the Russian Liberal Party, proclaimed on a recent visit to Serbia, the brotherhood of the Slavs, and declared, in a rhetorical flourish,  that he would rest content only when the Slav people ruled a contiguous land stretching from Russia, through Bulgaria to Serbia.  One message that is being conveyed by the ‘international community’ may be that the Balkans is not an area within the Russian circle of influence and that it is time that the Serbs recognised this reality. That is not to say that there may not be other messages as well. The spill over effect on Albanians in adjoining Macedonia and Albania, the destabilising influx of refugees to other parts of the European Union, and the support that may be given to Muslim Kosovo by the Muslim world,  may be other matters of concern. There is also the importance that Germany attaches to its relations with Croatia on the western border of Serbia. Indeed, it was German recognition of Croatia which hastened the collapse of the earlier Yugoslavia..."]