Ilankai Tamil Sangam

13th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Triumphalism and Other Delusions

by Dr. S Sathananthan, May 4, 2009

True to form, the Co-Chair and Indian governments glossed over the slaughter of Tamil civilians for more than three years in the east and the Vanni, from the start of hostilities in 2006 up to LTTE’s withdrawal from Kilinochchi in early 2009. They occasionally mouthed duplicitous bilge – that there cannot be a military solution – while shovelling military and financial aid directly or though surrogates to the Sinhalese regime to execute precisely that solution.

Peace brokers and conflict transformers – generally knows as peaceniks – in Colombo waved their manicured hands while spewing forth mind-numbing banalities on “the end game” for the LTTE, following the Organisation’s withdrawal from Kilinochchi on 2 January 2009. Within a week, a Sinhalese “peace counsellor” merrily assured the armed forces that “the military and psychological blow to the LTTE cannot be in doubt” and expansively invited President Mahinda Rajapakse’s Sinhalese-supremacist regime to altruistically “rise above ethnic and political considerations” and build “a bridge to the estranged Tamils people of Sri Lanka”. A Tamil “policy analyst” appreciated the military gains against the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement; but he deeply worried over “the danger of the regime snatching political defeat from the jaws of military victory”. With staggering naiveté, he beseeched the rabidly anti-Tamil Sinhalese-Buddhist regime to compassionately “search for a political and constitutional settlement beyond…the unitary state, with commitment, urgency and a sense of the utmost priority.” To lend credibility to his ludicrous call, the policy analyst also slavishly projected the President as a moderate who could rise above the Sinhalese chauvinism of his own regime; he urged Rajapakse to “take the lead…and drive the process to a successful conclusion.”

By the middle of March, peaceniks were distressed because the Sinhalese army had not carried the battle to its bloody and decisive end within the deadline, set by Rajapakse, of “two weeks” from the “fall” of Kilinochchi; they were also startled by the LTTE’s protracted resistance. The so-called Tamil policy analyst, no doubt recollecting the deadline fed to gullible southern masses, feared “the end game is not ending”. He found comfort that “the Government will deal with the LTTE on the basis of surrender” but was chagrined because “the LTTE adamantly refuses to do so”.

About the same time the first signs of alarm surfaced when the Sinhalese peace counsellor agonised that “international attention that only a few weeks ago was on the spectacular advances of the Sri Lankan military” against the LTTE “has now turned almost completely to the humanitarian crisis” relating to the genocidal conditions imposed by the regime upon Tamil civilians in Mullaitivu. He anticipated a rise in international displeasure towards the Rajapakse regime fuelled by the deepening “humanitarian crisis” and desperately begged the Opposition United National Party (UNP) to close ranks with the regime and present a common front against the International Community (IC).

One would have thought peaceniks would gladly welcome humanitarian concerns of the IC, which in effect is represented by the Co-Chairs (US, EU, Norway and Japan) of the Donor Consortium in the Sri Lankan context, and would support their calls for a ceasefire to protect Tamil men, women and children, the old and the infirm. But peaceniks dread international pressure may compel the regime to implement a ceasefire, which their anti-LTTE paranoia deludes them into believing could throw a lifeline to the Organisation supposedly in its death throes. Their next demented step is to decry a ceasefire while “accepting” (acceptable to whom?) the cold blooded massacre of Tamil civilians as the necessary “price” (paid by whom?) to destroy the LTTE. In contrast, Sinhalese chauvinists do not whitewash their anti-Tamil prejudice with sophistry; they are refreshingly honest in blatantly baying for Tamil blood and unreservedly condemning all who call for a ceasefire as “Tiger lovers” bent on rescuing the LTTE under cover of humanitarian intervention.

The Tamil people, as always, have a more sophisticated grasp of the Machiavellian tactics underlying the tear-jerking humanitarian concern of the Co-Chairs, with India playing second fiddle. The US, UK and India had not been moved by the wretched plight of Tamils between 1995 and 2000 when President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s army barrelled into the Jaffna peninsula and then fanned out into the Vanni in pursuit of the LTTE; but they quickly discovered compassion for Tamils following landmark debacles for the army and floated the 2002 Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) to give the military breathing space. True to form, the Co-Chair and Indian governments glossed over the slaughter of Tamil civilians for more than three years in the east and the Vanni, from the start of hostilities in 2006 up to LTTE’s withdrawal from Kilinochchi in early 2009. They occasionally mouthed duplicitous bilge – that there cannot be a military solution – while shovelling military and financial aid directly or though surrogates to the Sinhalese regime to execute precisely that solution. The Co-Chairs and India looked the other way when the regime’s scorched earth military campaign in 2006/07 in the east drove almost 200,000 Tamils from their homes into refugee camps where they languish to this day. Nor did they lose any sleep when the Sinhalese war machine rumbling over the lives and homes of Tamils in Mannar, Mankulam and Kilinochchi, to name but a few Tamil-majority towns, during 2007/08.

In fact, to avoid hobbling the Sinhalese military’s drive to crush the LTTE, the Co-Chairs and India did NOT raise inconvenient matters such as humanitarian issues, laws of war and responsibility to protect. Indeed, they knowingly backed and effectively condoned the Rajapakse regime’s decimation of thousands of Tamil civilians – who constitute the social foundation of the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement – as collective punishment to cow down the Tamil nation and emasculate its will to resist with arms.

Then, why did the Co-Chairs and India suddenly turn, beginning around the middle of March, into well springs of human kindness for the Vanni Tamils? And that too after giving the regime the green light to unlawfully incarcerate Vanni Tamils virtually indefinitely in Nazi-style, army-run draconian concentration camps??

A simplistic explanation insinuated by the Co-Chairs is that the LTTE has been effectively smashed and so, it is time for a ceasefire, to rescue the civilians, mop up residual cadres and get on with “post-LTTE” scenarios. But Tamils know if the LTTE has been annihilated the Co-Chairs would callously move on, throwing a few “aid” sops and leaving Tamils at the mercy of the Sinhalese regime.

Therefore, one reason why the Co-Chairs and the UN are stirring the humanitarian pot could be that the LTTE has survived the military onslaught. For the Organisation’s guerrilla operations have been escalating in the so-called “cleared” east from mid-2008. It is common knowledge in Vanni and Jaffna that thousands of cadres melted into the Vanni jungles as they withdrew from Kilinochchi. In the first week of April, villagers reported sighting about 600 armed LTTE fighters crossing from the Vanni to Trincomalee district near a river, Paalampottaaru, unchallenged by Sinhalese home guards who stood idly by, quivering in their rubber sandals. The villagers put the total number of cadres who crossed over within a period of 10 days at around 2,000. A few weeks ago, the quisling Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) abandoned its office in Tharavai (near Thoppigala) citing “security reasons” – translation: the LTTE is back in Batticaloa. The Tamil grapevine has it that LTTE allowed the human avalanche of about 150,000 – 200,000 civilians beginning on 20 April calculated to overwhelm the army’s holding capacity and stymie its screening procedures. The LTTE cadres who also slipped out of Mullaitivu took advantage of the open and unsecured locations, where the army is compelled to hold the mass of civilians, and dispersed unnoticed into the Vanni. Plans to extend train service from Vavuniya to Omanthai were dropped on 24 April for “security reasons,” reportedly due to clashes between the guerrillas and the army in the area.

Recently, there have been a spate of grenade attacks on army posts in the Jaffna peninsula, and the army has carried out repeated cordon and search operations to capture LTTE guerrillas. In Vadamaraadchi and Thenmaraadchi, the army using loud speakers issued a hilarious order yesterday (3rd of May) directing LTTE cadres who have infiltrated the peninsula to surrender. Not surprisingly, none have.

But Rajapakse and his pathetically unimaginative spin doctors want the world to believe that LTTE’s spreading armed resistance in the north and east is a bad dream; that supposed “remnants” of the Organisation’s cadres are bottled up in 3.8 sq km of Mullaitivu coast and will be eliminated by the day after tomorrow, the 6th of May!!!

So it should be obvious that humanitarian concerns have popped up because the military success Rajapakse promised is evaporating before the eyes of the Co-Chairs and India.

The calls for a “humanitarian ceasefire” from the UK, “an end to hostilities” from the US (the pace-setter for the Co-Chairs), an “immediate ceasefire” from Canada and from several other countries over the past month and half, though clothed in the garb of newly discovered humanitarianism, are in fact desperate manoeuvres to contain a resurging LTTE. The Co-Chairs’ two-pronged approach is to arrest the armed resistance through a “ceasefire” and lock the Organisation into “talks”, as had been done under the 2002 CFA, in the name of what else but “peace”!

The second reason for the Co-Chairs to don the humanitarian cloak is a longer term agenda of bringing the Rajapakse regime to heel. The President and his acolytes may think they have cleverly played off Iran and China against the US and EU, and Pakistan against India. There have been short-term gains for the Rajapakse regime, particularly the reduced dependence on western aid. And the US and key EU members tolerated Rajapakse cosying up to Tehran and Beijing while his army was battling the LTTE. But the naval base Beijing is constructing on the southern coast at Hambantota directly overlooks the strategic maritime shipping routes in the Indian Ocean that carry vital energy supplies and so has sent shivers up the spine in New Delhi and Tokyo. And by permitting the naval base Colombo is breaching the US encirclement strategy to contain Chinese expansion.

So, although the task of defeating the LTTE is seemingly not accomplished, it appears western powers are ratcheting up pressure on humanitarian grounds and alluding to war crimes to force the regime to cool its relations with Iran and China.

One wonders whether Rajapakse’s bearded advisors have distilled the lessons from Russia’s inability to protect its ally – Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic – from charges of Crimes Against Humanity and China abandoning its strategic partner – Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir – to his fate at the International Criminal Court.

New Delhi is irked for a further reason. The Indian State has been keeping former north-east Chief Minister Varatharaja Perumal on ice since he fled Sri Lanka with the Indian army in March 1990. It is paying for his and his family’s upkeep from Indian taxpayers’ money, not out of kindness but to parachute him at the opportune moment into the Northern Provincial Council as India’s cat’s paw. As a senior Indian bureaucrat who may have a hand in crafting Sri Lanka policy put it to us, “Varatharaja Perumal is technically still the Chief Minister” because he never resigned!!! New Delhi extended military assistance and intelligence cooperation on the understanding that, after the LTTE is dislodged, Colombo would facilitate Perumal’s return. It is becoming increasingly clear to New Delhi that Rajapakse’s military campaign cannot create the conditions for Perumal’s return and, in any event, that Rajapakse has no intention of keeping his side of the bargain. In addition, the widespread pro-LTTE sentiments in Tamil Nadu must be assuaged in this election year. So New Delhi too is making strident demands for a ceasefire.

But for the Rajapakse regime, a ceasefire now is a virtual kiss of death. The political consequences could be disastrous for the regime if delirious expectations of victory it nurtured among the Sinhalese masses collapse in acute disillusionment. Perhaps realising this, the LTTE too offered an indefinite ceasefire on 26 April. Rajapakse rejected all requests for a ceasefire, including the one jointly made by the British Foreign Secretary and the French Foreign Minister.

The President’s advisors would do well to ponder the fact that the two European diplomats visited Colombo knowing well in advance that Rajapakse would reject their elaborate, staged request for a ceasefire. The drama eerily resembles Colombo’s intemperate refusal to allow entry for the flotilla of fishing vessels bringing food from Tamil Nadu for the beleaguered civilians in the Jaffna peninsular in 1987.