Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Response to Ambassador Blake

by TamilNation, October 25, 2008

We ourselves believe that a  principle-centered approach which will 'inspire and attract' will also need to draw a distinction between violence and terrorism. The two words are not synonymous and much confusion arises by conflating the two. All violence is not terrorism and an US approach which liberates political language will also help liberate peoples who have taken up arms as a last resort in their strugle for freedom from oppressive alien rule. We believe that the long term strategic interests of the US, whether in the Indian Ocean region or elsewhere will benefit by a foreign policy which 'inspires and attracts as much as coerces'. If the US aspires to play a lead role in an emergent multi lateral (though asymmetric) world, we believe that that leadership will not come simply by the display of military might and economic power. There is a need to defend the very real values that a people stand for and speak from the heart to their hearts.

Time for Colombo to defeat LTTE with political solution:
U.S. Ambassador Blake's Foray into Tamil Nadu

25 October 2008  - InfoTamil

Comment by tamilnation.org  Mr.Blake is ofcourse right to point out that the "greatest failure of the last 25 years has been the failure of the main Sinhalese parties to reach agreement " though it would have been better if he had got his history right - it is not simply during the last 25 years that Sinhala parties have failed to reach agreement. As long ago as 1957, the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam agreement was torn up because of the opposition of the UNP led by J.R.Jayawardene - and that  was fifty years ago. And in 1968, the Dudley-Chelvanayagam Agreement collapsed with the opposition led this time by the SLFP. And that was 39 years ago.

Said that,  Mr.Blake with his depth of understanding of the conflict in the island of  Sri Lanka, does not explain why it is that Sinhala political parties have failed to reach agreement during all these many years. Are the Sinhalese political parties stupid? Or are the Sinhala people who put these parties in power so stupid that they do not see that which Mr.Blake sees so clearly in his wisdom?   Or is Mr.Blake stupid in failing to see something which Sathasivam Krishnakumar and the LTTE  saw many years ago -

Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has been institutionalised in Sri Lanka and today it has become more powerful than the politicians themselves. Indeed even if the Sinhala politicians seek to settle the conflict, Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism may try to prevent such a settlement. This is the political reality that those who are aware of the Sri Lankan situation are well aware of. This is the result of the grievous error committed by Sinhala politicians. In 1956 for the first time this 'communalism' was openly put forward for electoral gain. This Sinhala chauvinism which was nurtured by Sinhala politicians for their electoral advantage, has grown into a Frankenstein monster which now has the power to destroy and make politicians. This we understand very well..." Sathasivam Krishnakumar, June, 1991

Senator S.Nadesan said it all, fifty years ago in the immediate aftermath of Genocide'58 -

"...Hon. Senators will remember how one of the present Ministers of this Government went round the countryside saying that the U.N.P. Government had offered the Sinhalese man's mat to Suppiah to lie on and allow Nalliah to pluck his eye and Subramaniam to wring his neck. That is the type of communal propaganda indulged in by members of the M.E.P. and by their Ministers. We cannot forget that...The Tamils are the pawns in a political game. It does not matter to anybody how we suffer, how we feel, so long as in this game one Sinhala party is the victor and the other Sinhala party is the vanquished. .... if one party said, "We will kill the Tamils", the other party could go one better and say, "We will eat the Tamils." In other words, it was a competition as to who would hold down the Tamils most. And the party which was going to hold down the Tamils most was going to have the support of the Sinhalese masses... That is all. That is why I ask you not to make us pawns in your game... The suffering of the Tamil man is not a joke. A man being slapped is not a joke. But when these things were told the Prime Minister, he laughed it off and said that matters would adjust themselves. This is no laughing matter... We are willing to go. Every Tamil man, woman and child is willing to go...We do not want language rights from you. We will look after our language..... Please have Sinhalese only. No Tamil worthy of his name is ever going to study the Sinhalese language. You have stamped it out...  We only want the right to live in our areas. We want the right to be able to walk the streets without being molested. Those are the rights we want.  The elementary duty of a Government is to afford protection to its subjects, and the duty of the citizens is to be loyal to that Government. The moment that Government fails to afford that protection, it forfeits its right to that loyalty and affection. This Government has forfeited that right... "

Again Mr.Blake who was addressing the University of Madras may also want to attend  to the words of Sinhala  academic, historian K. M. de Silva in 1996 -

"...In the Sinhala language, the words for nation, race and people are practically synonymous, and a multiethnic or multicommunal nation or state is incomprehensible to the popular mind. The emphasis on Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhala Buddhists carried an emotional popular appeal, compared with which the concept of a multiethnic polity was a meaningless abstraction..." [Sinhala Historian K. M. de Silva in Religion, Nationalism and the State, USF Monographs in Religion and Public Policy, No.1 (Tampa, FLA: University of South Florida 1986) at p31 quoted by David Little in Religion and Self Determination in Self Determination - International Perspectives, MacMillan Press, 1996]  

Mr.Blake may also gain by reading Stephen Grossly, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Clemson University on "The primordial, kinship and nationality”- “When is the Nation?” -

 “The central place of Buddhism in the constitution of the Singhalese territorial relation of a nation goes back to the Sinhalese histories of the fourth and fifth centuries of the Christian era, the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa. There one finds the myth of the visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka, during which he freed the Island of its original supernatural and evil inhabitants, the Yakkas. As a result the Buddha had sanctified the entire island transforming it into a Buddhist territory. These histories thus asserted a territorial relation between Sinhalese and Buddhism, the stability of which was derived from a perceived order of the universe, that is, the actions of the Buddha. The reaffirmation of that relation may be observed to-day in the shrines throughout the island at Mahiyangana, where the supposed collarbone of the Buddha is kept, at Mount Samantakuta, where the Buddha’s supposed fossilized footprint may be seen and the most important one at Kandy, supposedly containing the relic of the Buddha’s tooth." Stephen Grossly, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Clemson University on The primordial, kinship and nationality”. “When is the Nation?” Edited by Atsuko Ichijo and Gordana Uzelac Routledge (2005) p 68

Mr.Blake may then begin to understand that what we have in the island of Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist ethno nation which dares not speak its name and which  seeks to masquerade as a Sri Lankan multi ethnic 'civic' nation, albeit with a Sinhala Lion flag, an unrepealed Sinhala only Act, with Buddhism as the state religion and with a Sinhala Sri Lanka name which it gave itself unilaterally in 1972. Mr.Blake may then begin to understand that if  you are serious about defeating the LTTE politically, then you will need to face upto the political reality on the ground  that gave rise to the armed resistance of the people of Tamil Eelam and the LTTE. And that political reality is that there are two nations in the island; that two nations may agree to associate with one another in equality and in freedom; but that they cannot be compelled to live together by force of arms.  Political solutions directed to resolve the conflict on the ground must address the political reality on the ground and not the other way round. And it is this that US  Congressman Mario Baggio seems  to have recognised when he declared eloquently  in the US House of Representatives in May 1980 -

"To understand the problems that exist in Sri Lanka - formerly known as Ceylon - it is essential that we review its history. Located in South Asia, the island of Sri Lanka has been composed of two distinct populations for centuries - the Tamils and the Sinhalese. They lived not as one, but as two nations, with separate languages, religions, cultures, and clearly demarcated geographic territories...

My colleagues and I have introduced the following resolution because we believe it is essential to express the concern of the Congress about the army occupation in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka: the denial of basic rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, equal citizenship and educational opportunities; and the freedom to exercise the right of political self-determination."

Again, the resolution of US Massachusetts House of Representatives in June 1981 calling for the Restoration of the Separate Sovereign State of Tamil Eelam suggests that the country which Ambassador Blake represents is not without an understanding of the political solution that is needed to end the conflict in the island.

"Resolved, that the Massachusetts  House of Representatives hereby urges the President and the Congress of the United States to support the struggle for freedom by the Tamil nation for the restoration and reconstitution  the separate sovereign state of Tamil Eelam and to recognize publicly the right of self determination by the Tamil people of Tamil Eelam, and be it further resolved,

that copies of these resolutions be forwarded to the President of the United States, to the Presiding  Officer of each branch of Congress, to the members thereof from this Commonwealth, to the Secretary of State, to the Director of the World Bank and to the Secretary General of the United Nations." Resolution of US Massachusetts House of Representatives 18 June 1981

But then again, it may be that it is not that  Mr.Blake does not know all that we have said here, but that he is simply concerned to secure the perceived geo strategic interests of the United States in the Indian Ocean and is moved by that which US Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan said many years ago -

"Whoever controls the Indian Ocean dominates Asia. This ocean is the key to the seven seas in the twenty-first century, the destiny of the world will be decided in these waters."

It may be that he is also be moved by the analysis of US Lt.Col. Christopher J. Pehrson in 2006 -

" Militarily, the United States must bear the cost of maintaining superior military power to guarantee security and serve as a hedge against a possible future China threat. In the “String of Pearls” region, U.S. efforts should be aimed at broadening and deepening American influence in ways that have wide appeal among the various regional states." String of Pearls:Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral - Lt.Col. Christopher J. Pehrson, July, 2006

It may be that Ambassador Blake is concerned to secure for his country the effective implementation of  the ten year Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) signed by the United States and Sri Lanka on 5 March 2007 –

“The ten year Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) signed by the United States and Sri Lanka on March 5, which provides for among other things logistics supplies and re-fuelling facilities, has major ramifications for the region, particularly India. For all the sophistry and spin by the Americans, the ACSA is a military deal and, on the face of it, is loaded in Washington's favour “ B. Muralidhar Reddy in the Hindu, 9 March 2007

Again, though Ambassador Blake, pointed out that India and the United States could use their 'strategic partnership to good effect in Sri Lanka.'  he made no reference to the 'strategic partnership' that the US seeks to build with Sri Lanka. He did not for instance, explain how the 'ten year Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) signed by the United States and Sri Lanka in 2007' squared with the recent statement by India's External Affairs  Minister, Pranab Mukherji that Colombo had been told that India would 'look after your security requirements, provided you do not look around' and that India  'cannot have a playground of international players in our backyard.'

Neither did Ambassador Blake in his foray into Tamil Nadu,  spell out the details of the 'strategic partnership' that the US seeks with India - and whether that included the recent US-India nuclear deal which has drawn widespread opposition from Indian political parties and evoked concern that the US foreign policy was directed not to building 'partnerships' but  to building 'clients and dependencies' -

"..In the background of the Indo-US nuclear deal now going into 'overdrive', as well as the increasing economic co-operation and (most importantly) the joint military exercises and interoperability efforts and acquisitions made by India, there is a geopolitical notion: that the US is building India's military capacity in order to counter potential rivals China and Russia in the region... (But) Empires don't build great powers. They build clients and dependencies..." Justin Podur, 5 August 2005

It is unfortunate that Ambassador Blake was not as forthcoming as India's Jyotindra Nath Dixit was about India's foreign policy objectives in 1998 -

"...Tamil militancy received (India's) support  ...as a response to (Sri Lanka's).. concrete and expanded military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, Israel and Pakistan. ...The assessment was that these presences would pose a strategic threat to India and they would encourage fissiparous movements in the southern states of India. .. a process which could have found encouragement from Pakistan and the US, given India's experience regarding their policies in relation to Kashmir and the Punjab...."

It would have been helpful if Ambassador Blake had explained to his Tamil audience at the University of Madras the extent to which  'military and intelligence cooperation' of the US with Pakistan may impact on that which he called the  US-India 'strategic partnership'. 

It is unfortunate that Ambassador Blake was not more transparent about US strategic interests and the motivations for US actions in relation to the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka. Unfortunate, because apart from anything else, transparency is a first step towards an open evaluation of  that which US  may 'perceive' to be its strategic interests - and as we have said elsewhere, GNP is not necessarily a measure of wisdom. The recent financial crisis in the United States is proof enough of that.

Sacked Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera did  ofcourse help the Tamil people to further their  own understanding of international relations in this age of empire, when he said on 14 February 2007 -

".... two days after the vote (on Israel), US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns telephoned me. The decision taken by us regarding the vote went a long way in building trust and strengthening US-Sri Lanka ties. Few days afterwards, at the Co-Chairs Meeting in Washington DC, Nicholas Burns expressed America's fullest support to the Government of Sri Lanka in defeating the menace of LTTE terrorism. After the meeting he also held a press conference that was very encouraging to the Government and the people of Sri Lanka..."

Said all this, the US may want to rethink as to where its true strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region may lie and here Ambassador Blake may help his country by revisiting the words of Hilary Clinton in October 2007 -

"..I believe that terrorism is a tool that has been utilized throughout history to achieve certain objectives. Some have been ideological, others territorial. There are personality-driven terroristic objectives. The bottom line is, you can't lump all terrorists together. And I think we've got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raisons d'être of terrorists. I mean, what the Tamil Tigers are fighting for in Sri Lanka, or the Basque separatists in Spain, or the insurgents in al-Anbar province may only be connected by tactics. They may not share all that much in terms of what is the philosophical or ideological underpinning. And I think one of our mistakes has been painting with such a broad brush, which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what it is we were up against when it comes to those who pursue terrorism for whichever ends they're seeking... (US) can have an approach that tries to project power and authority in an appropriate way that draws on all aspects of American power, that inspires and attracts as much as coerces."

We ourselves believe that a  principle-centered approach which will 'inspire and attract' will also need to draw a distinction between violence and terrorism. The two words are not synonymous and much confusion arises by conflating the two. All violence is not terrorism and an US approach which liberates political language will also help liberate peoples who have taken up arms as a last resort in their struggle for freedom from oppressive alien rule. We believe that the long term strategic interests of the US, whether in the Indian Ocean region or elsewhere will benefit by a foreign policy which 'inspires and attracts as much as coerces'. If the US aspires to play a lead role in an emergent multi lateral (though asymmetric) world, we believe that that leadership will not come simply by the display of military might and economic power. There is a need to defend the very real values that a people stand for and speak from the heart to their hearts.

Mr. Blake will hopefully take heart from the fact that whoever else may be stupid, the Tamils at the University of Madras, as well as those in Tamil Eelam, are not stupid.

[see also We won’t stop military cooperation with Lanka
says Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee]

Time for Colombo to defeat LTTE with political solution:
U.S. Ambassador Blak
e, 25 October 2008  - InfoTamil

"The U.S. view is that the [Sri Lankan] government could further isolate and weaken the LTTE if it articulates now its vision for a political solution," said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake while addressing an interactive session at the University of Madras on Friday, 24 October 2008, The Hindu reported. While ruling out the military option, Mr. Blake has alluded that the U.S. position was to militarily weaken the LTTE,  to defeat it politically. The United States has been a key player of the Co-Chairs for the Sri Lankan process, which has been managed by the facilitation of Norway till Sri Lanka unilaterally withdrew from the ceasefire.

The U.S. ban on the LTTE, which was followed by several other countries, has cut the flow of money and weapons to the Tigers, the U.S. Ambassador observed adding that the "result of which could be seen in their recent military defeats."

Refusing to comment on the rising voice in Tamil Nadu for Indian pressure on Sri Lanka, the U.S. Ambassador has said India and the United States could use their "strategic partnership to good effect in Sri Lanka."

"The greatest failure of the last 25 years has been the failure of the main Sinhalese parties to reach agreement," the paper quoted Mr. Blake as saying.

The Hindu report summarised the U.S. view expressed by Mr. Blake in following words:

"Moving forward on a political solution would have three-fold benefits - to reassure 2,00,000 refugees in the Vanni region that they can move south and aspire to a better future; to disprove the LTTE's claim of being the sole representative of Sri Lanka's Tamils; and to persuade Tamils overseas to stop funding the LTTE."

However, the U.S. Ambassador, who admitted that his government earlier helped the Sri Lankan military, said the U.S. has recently effected a complete freeze on all military assistance to Sri Lanka.

As pressure mounted from Tamil Nadu against India's military assistance to Sri Lanka, the LTTE Political Head B. Nadesan, in his recent interviews to Indian media, has urged the Indian Central Government to objectively reconsider its stand on who, whether the Tamil people or the Sri Lankan government, are India's friends in the island of Sri Lanka, not opposed to India's strategic interests in the region and urged to lift the ban on the LTTE hinting that the Tigers were prepared to enter negotiations if Colombo announced a ceasefire.