Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Exit the Tiger, Enter the Dragon

by Dushy Ranetunge, TamilWeek, April 1, 2009

The Government of Sri Lanka could not have succeeded in their present course of action, if not for the internationally favourable position to pursue its military strategy – I call these trade winds...

Sri Lanka is a mere pawn in the international chess game, a pawn that has certain strategic value.

Indian and Western powers want influence over this pawn in their favour and they view the Sinhala-Tamil conflict as a strategic tool for this purpose.

See also Nadesan Satyendra on 'The Politics of Humanitarian Intervention' TamilNation, February 24, 2009

The West wants a “humanitarian pause.”

Whenever anyone uses the word “humanitarian”, it's like politicians kissing babies, it's time to get worried. The word “humanitarian” is another word for “weapons of Mass destruction”. It smacks of an agenda, certainly not a “humanitarian” one.

Remember the “humanitarian” flour bombing of Jaffna. The “humanitarian” operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Sudan. There was also that very “humanitarian” operation in Mavil Aaru. Not to forget the one we are having in the Vanni as well.

Right now in the East coast there is another “humanitarian” Indian army medical team doing, you know what.

So has the world, including Austria, Costa Rica and Mexico suddenly woken up, mounted their white stallions and are galloping to the rescue of Tamils who are “trapped” in between the nasty LTTE, and the biscuit and tea offering, cotton wool caring Sri Lankan armed forces?

Hambantota Port plan, Asian Tribune, November 1, 2007

I suspect that only the galloping part is accurate.

The Government of Sri Lanka could not have succeeded in their present course of action, if not for the internationally favourable position to pursue its military strategy – I call these trade winds.

The government is playing a very high quality chess game with great skill in the international arena, by carefully reading the game, so far, accurately. No previous government has in my opinion played this game with such skill.

But, they are sailing very close to the edge.

Sri Lanka is a mere pawn in the international chess game, a pawn that has certain strategic value.

Indian and Western powers want influence over this pawn in their favour and they view the Sinhala-Tamil conflict as a strategic tool for this purpose.

Mrs Gandhi did not train and arm the early Tamil militants because of her love for Tamils. It was because India was at the time pro-Russian and she wanted to “control” a pro-Western Jayawardene’s Sri Lanka. This Indian foreign policy in relation to Sri Lanka fitted in with the Tamil cause and they hitchhiked on the slum dogs.

This strategy needed Tamils to be the pawns of India and as soon as the LTTE rejected this, the two parties fell out.

The next trade wind to affect Sri Lanka was Islamic fundamentalism. That wave ensured the banning of the LTTE around the world and Lakshman Kadirgamar guided Sri Lanka through that period to gain maximum benefit.

The Rajapakse administration is presently riding the Chinese trade wind. The world is watching China, the sleeping giant of Asia awakening, slowly becoming the super power of the 21st century.

The world is aware of the long unbroken relationship of Sri Lanka with China going back to Sirimavo and Mao Tse Tung. Sri Lanka is China’s most stable and consistent ally in South Asia.

For India, the earlier equation of Pro-Russian Indira and Pro-Western Jayawardene is no longer valid as India is also now in the Western economic camp. For them too, the new concern is China, with whom they fought and lost a war.
India is emerging as Washington’s key economic and strategic partner and is concerned that developments in Sri Lankan will impact negatively on its interests.

Rajapakse has repositioned Sri Lanka reducing its reliance on the West and increasing its engagement with China. Sri Lankan officials comment that the level of aid that we get from the West is negligible.

China has begun a process of building capacity around the globe, with significant input in Africa to secure markets and raw material.

One of its major projects are in Sri Lanka at Hambanthota, where its shipping, bringing in Oil and other raw material and its exports to Europe are passing six miles from Hambanthota in the major sea lanes. For the Chinese this is a strategic investment.

China favours the Sri Lankan state to have complete, uncontested political and military control over the Island, so that Sri Lanka cannot be compromised in any way in its allegiance to Chinese strategic interests.

The Wickremasinghe administration’s action of handing over Trincomalee oil tanks etc to India was to safeguard Sri Lankan strategic interests. This would not have taken place if the LTTE had been marginalised previously.

Removal of the LTTE from the equation strengthens China’s position in Sri Lanka and weakens Indian and Western control over Sri Lanka.

Control over the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora also gives the West a certain degree of control.

With the straining of relationships between Sri Lanka and the UK, highlighted by the Des Browne affair, we see Britain turning a blind eye to increased LTTE fund raising currently going on in the UK.

The LTTE fundraisers are going around saying that even if they lose territorial control in Sri Lanka, they intend staying around for another 20 years.

Britain has also turned a blind eye towards a LTTE front, British Tamils Forum, assisted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPG-T), hosting an international conference, titled "World Tamils Forum", on Thursday, 26 March 2009 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in London.

These events do not take place without the knowledge of New Scotland Yard, Specialist Operations.

Des Browne was one of those present, together with Rev Jesse Jackson. Colombo ignored the event rejecting Jackson as yesterday’s man.

Britain would not have dreamt of allowing a group allied to a radical Islamic group to put on such a show in London.
By allowing the event, Britain is sending a signal that it is treating a front organisation of a terrorist group that assassinated Rajiv Gandhi and President Premadasa in a different light to that of Islamic fundamentalists.

But then, Britain will argue that they did business with the IRA, who assassinated Lord Mountbatten.

The present “Humanitarian” pause smacks of a Western agenda, rather than the World coming running to help the Tamils. It is an attempt by the West and India to counter Chinese strategy in Sri Lanka and to safeguard their strategic interests. Sri Lanka has already allowed an Indian “humanitarian” presence in the form of an Indian military medical team on the East coast.

It is hard to believe that those who dropped atomic bombs on civilians in Japan, dropped napalm on civilians in Vietnam, have killed more civilians in Iraq than Saddam Hussein, looked the other way while the Jews were being gassed in Germany, carpet bombed the civilian city of Dresden to the ground, herded civilians into concentration camps in Malaya (teaching our brothers a thing or two), watched over the carnage in Rwanda, have suddenly found humanitarianism in their hearts towards the Tamils.

The Tamils around the world are distraught, watching their families bombed, shot and chopped by those claiming to be liberators, and yes, “humanitarians”. Those who manage to escape are only swapping prisons. They leave an open prison run by the sole reps, to a brand spanking new one, complete with a glistening razor wire boundary, run by the humanitarians.

The humanitarians will of course argue that they are making omelettes and that omelettes cannot be made without breaking eggs. Then they will bless you and talk of the triple gem.

War on terror has resulted in the abandonment of the triple gem, and embracing radical Catholicism and Islam. Its no longer the middle path, but the philosophy of medieval Catholicism and Islam. Then it was the Crusades and the Bible or death. Then it was the Jihads, the Koran or death. Today its “you’re with us, or you are against us.” You can only spread our gospel, of the “humanitarian” patriots. The middle path is as dead as the enlightened one.

The Western world have been preoccupied with other issues and have been taken by surprise by the speed and the momentum of the Sri Lankan military advance.

Suddenly, it has dawned on them that the politico military landscape of Sri Lanka has changed and is continuing to change rapidly.

They have suddenly woken up to the prospect that in Sri Lanka, the exit of the Tiger, will result in ‘enter the Dragon’. The West is scrambling to press the pause button. A humanitarian pause, of course.

Response by Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan, April 2, 2009

So the Tamils to you are “slum dogs” – an expression I used in these columns earlier to refer to that despicable gangster masquerading as MP/Deputy Minister.

I did so because of where he came from and the culture of his much condemned public behaviour. No one has disputed that description. If at all there is a contradiction it will be that I have made under-statements about this man where the revulsion of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers finds convergence on the continous maniacal behaviour of this State-protected attack animal.

In stating “Govt is playing a very high-quality game with great skill in the international arena accurately” you probably aim to tickle the cockles of MR’s motley group of advisors. No harm - from your personal angle. Its good to be on the ruling side. But it is a compliment that is misplaced. Many within and outside Sri Lanka feel differently. If GoSL is handling affairs on the international area with skill, how come just about every major Western country and our sponsors, including India and Japan, are at logger-heads with us?

Why even you refer to the unnecessary “straining of relations with the UK” - a country so close and friendly to us. In the Des Browne cases MR has, once again, failed to keep a solemn promise he had made to the UK. Very soon Robert Blake is to take over from Richard Boucher at State in Washington. Blake knows all too well about the strangle-hold JHU, JVP have on MR: the capacity and depth of MR’s bearded policy advisors.

You rightly fear a serious error in policy perception as you note “Colombo ignored the event rejecting Rev. Jesse Jackson as a yesterday’s man” Surely, our advisors should note Jackson was afforded a seat right in front at the Obama inauguration and the TV camers of the entire world were focused on him when he shed tears “ when a black man was inaugurated at the White House” – the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. And in creating doubts of the “humane” act of volunteer Indian medical help now in the Batticoloa District you lend yourself to the potential Indian public outcry that Lankans are an ungrateful people and not worth even humane help.

The Indira/JR relationship does not have an ideological mooring – but rather a personal one. Indira is reported to have told those close to her – reported in the media – JRJ tries to make her feel “childish” One reason was his oft references to “your father, my friend did it this way” etc., A woman with Indira’s mental make-up is hardly likely to welcome such patronizing attitudes – and you and I paid the price. She was clearly stung. In so far as the Tamil struggle is concerned in stating “strategy required Tamils to be pawns of India” in addition to showing your rather poorly veiled dislike of Tamils, you err grievously. While I have stated before I disagree with the LTTE on many a score, I have equally and emphatically stated there are many services they have rendered for the Tamil struggle against Sinhala hegemony and for the securing of justice and equality that began, at least this instalment, a quarter century before LTTE entered the political arena.

VP and the LTTE proved to the country and the world there is no substitute for their avowed principles for their just cause and that they fear none – even a big military power like India. They shed many young lives but did not surrender those features they stand for. Even men of your disposition must give these young lads credit - for they made the supreme sacrifice. To hold on to their principles they took on the might of the Indian army and survived. No wonder they are held in awe all over S.India.

So take this “Tamils as pawns of India” out of your mind, my man. If it is “pawns to India” you are looking for remember Gamini Dissanayake and the JRJ clique that had surreptitiously arranged for an Indian Man-of-War to be outside the Galle Face waters in 1987 ready to helicopter these “Sinhala patriots” (including Premadasa, Mathew and all) then, when their lives were in imminent danger - both from the JVP and the nascent LTTE.

On the subject of “pawns” again what was Basil Rajapakse, who had no official status inGoSL, doing in New Delhi not long ago, all alone and breaking protocol distastefully keeping the Foreign Minister away – when he (Basil) was authorized to negotiate on behalf of GoSL Who gave him this sensitive authority – the Cabinet of Ministers? He had no locus standi, did he? To this day the country was not told what he talked, what he agreed to and so on. The wide belief is, to keep strong Indian and Tamilnadu tempers at bay, he agreed to just about everything GoI wanted.

Why does Manmohan Singh even today mutter as he now and then does “President Rajapakse agreed to this” What did the President agree to? Where is the element of the sacredness of democracy and peoples government here? Has the interest of the entire country been sold to the Indians – just to keep a virtual family in power? Those should be your ideal questions, Sir.

In your piece here you have displayed more political knowledge and understanding of world affairs than all of MR’s “advisors” combined. You will agree it is a far more wiser thing to get along with your immediate neighbour – with whom you may not agree on everything – rather than one who comes from very far away – the “unknown quantity” as we say. .

I am an admirer of China, Mao, Deng and the current pragmatic and professional leaders in tweed suits. Their combined political sagacity and pragmatic skills have transformed the face of China from what that could not produce sufficient basic food for its hundreds of millions into a stupendously strong growing world power. Nastrodamus and Bonaparte were right “China sleeps.

When she awakes the world will tremble” The world does. China has the largest financial investment in the USA. Remember Deng’s chat with Maggie “It matters little if the cat is black or white – so long as it catches mice” China is an old, wise and proud nation. These men are a continuum of that great tradition.

China will act in her longer and wider interests- and, we should in our own. Sometimes, in the pursuit of her goals, China appears to abandon principles – as in Burma (Myanmar) where nearly 56 million people are in shackles ruled by a brutal military dictatorship of thugs like Generals Than Shwe, Maung Aye, Thein Sein et al which totally ignored an entire people’s popular verdict to install the gentle Aung Saung Suu Kyi as their democratic leader. Like the Tamils of the Wanni, she is allowed to quietly fade into death.

Only because of the reckless support of China, right? Incidentally, long before the Sirima-China friendship it was R.G. Senanayake who laid the foundations of a modern Ceylon-China friendship (1958?) – against the cold-war stalwarts the USA, whose foreign policies then were headed by the virulently anti-Chinese John Foster Dulles. Little Ceylon then stood against Western might and won. We got the badly needed Rice during global shortages. When Mrs B took over the Chinese used her as a “pawn” and encouraged her to rail the Western countries – our saviours today – as “the rapacious West” So much so she (Sirima) then preferred to be called Sirimavo perhaps to rhyme with Mao. I also contest your claim Sri Lanka is “China’s most stable and consistent ally in South Asia” I believe there are other more valid claimants – Burma, Nepal and even Pakistan now. The nearly 90% Chinese dominated Singapore is as pro-China as anyone else - across the ideological barrier.

You carry your affection to MR too far stating “Rajapakse has repositioned S/L reducing its reliance on the West and increasing its engagement with China” Its refreshing someone accuses the MR regime of some “thinking” - “strategic thinking” being many light years away. If in stating “SL officials comment the level of aid we get down from the West is negligible” you rely on the figures of our friend Nivaard Cabral, you are in trouble. Remember, the man said something similar on the impending global economic crisis and bad-mouthed the IMF; and now MR and family are going with begging bowl to the IMF for the necessary oxygen to save the economy - carelessly ruined by them.

Once again, Basil was in Washington last week sans locus standi. What took place there? It is true China has begun a process of building capacity around the globe (String of Pearls) but it is in our interest to remain visibly neutral. You probably will concur with me some noted academics have, years ago, concluded “the 3rd World War” has already begun – this time minus armies and sophisticated military hardware. It is a subtle, below-the-surface, continuous, quiet battle.

The crash of the world financial markets could be part of this battle. We should at no time allow the Indians to feel threatened or that our acts “are inimical to theirs” In fairness to Ranil, he did not allow such fears to manifest in his tenure – largely because he had more than a set of good, professional advisors with tremendous experience and international exposure. Let’s admit it, MR does not have this.

His lot has totally alienated the talent available within ( seniors Jayantha Dhanapala, Bradman Weerakoon, DS Jayawardena, Baku Mahadeva, Charlie Mahendran – to name a few). In fairness to CBK, she had the courage to take brains across the ethnic and political constraints. She hired Ram Manikkalingam, that brilliant young academic from the States once mischievously dubbed as an LTTEr. Ram worked usefully at Temple Trees and now in a Universiry, I believe, in Holland. He is as LTTE as the Mahanayake of Malwatte.

Today’s China cannot be isolated from the whole of the Western economy. She is far too deeply integrated within it and is, in fact, a major player therein to the extent any injury to that machinery is a deep injury to China’s interest, which she will resist with all her might. She is a huge investor in the USA. It is time we set up a team of experts to formulate a scheme where we conduct our affairs without offending India and/or China. There should be regular dialogue between this team and high officials of these two friendly countries.

Do I take some of your comments to be in sympathy with the Tamil suffering and perhaps the eventual Tamil cause – which is markedly different from some of the means the LTTE adopts to gain the end. Using your analogy “an omelette cannot be made without breaking eggs” I hope we do not fall prey to the equally striking analogy “there can be no birth without of blood” – so sang Valampuri John, the South Indian poet on his own dream of Eelam – a favourite of the late MGR. The South Indian support of Eelam is only in response to the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, it may be noted, and not for territorial expansion or a Tamil land. They already have one.

I do not agree with you when you say “the middle path is dead” because there are many features of the middle path that has relevance to the politics of the 3rd world. But I fear for you when you continue “as dead as the Enlightened One” which might place you in direct confrontation with those great Buddhist patriots of the JHU, JVP, PNF and name it. You would have had the Buddhist priests, Champika Ranawake and all running round your backyard with raised sarongs and yellow robes – except you are lucky to be safe in that hated land of the English

You say the world community is astonished “at the military advance of SL forces” You are, of course, referring to over 200,000 men being after less than a 3,000 rag tag band of goes - for years now. Why it was only the other day Spokesman Rambukwella (Kehelmalla, some say) “LTTE are now trapped within a single sq. km” The cantankerous Wickramanayake repeated it, as usual. But now this has become “21 sq km” – how come? TNA’s Sampanthan, on the other hand, says in Parliament “the war is being fought in other areas of the Northern Province against various LTTE formations” which appears to be more believable version as the army is merely dragging the war along despite different promises to different sources at different times. Surely, somebody is not telling the truth here.

But the liquidation of Tamil civilians – said to be around hundred a day – goes on. Do you agree with the widely held Tamil belief now that a carefully planned conspiracy of the Sinhala supremacist clique – lead by the Buddhist hierarchy and the armed forces – is carrying out an elaborate and carefully-planned strategy of physically reducing the Tamil population in the North East? They have succeeded in the Eastern Province and it is only a matter of time before the two Batticoloa quislings kill each other – yet another part of this plan.

And, under the guise of “the war” this is being carried out in the Northern Province deliberately keeping the local and foreign Press, foreign aid bodies, visits of diplomats out. I am reminded of the reply a high army official gave an Australian journalist on the phone – relayed on TV
all over – as to why the army does not allow these independent sources within the conflict zone “That is the way. We decide what is best for the country. Nobody can come here unless we give permission” So that is democracy under the Rajapakse regime.