The Tides of War

by Wakeley Paul, Esq.

I was most impressed by many of the points made by Peter Gourevitch [The New Yorker magazine, Aug. 1, 2005, page 15] in his sensitive account of the ethnic divisions that dominate and inflame the politics in the island of Sri Lanka.  I write as part of the Tamil diaspora - one who has published many commentaries on this topic and is very conversant with the subject.

Unlike the opinion that Father Miller expresses to Gourevitch in the article, I am of the view that the fragile and hesitant peace process, with highly disputed killings attributed to both sides, is not the fate that the people of this land are heir to.  His objection to Prabakaran is on religious grounds because he objects to all killing per se.

The concept of a Single United Nation under Sinhalese rule, however, has been scrambled by the unending determination of Sinhalese rulers to insist on exercising Sinhalese supremacy over a region where they are the regional minority.  The ultimate answer will be Prabakaran's people's vision, which is the removal of the Sri Lankan military from those Tamil regions that are infested by this undesirable and resented military presence.  Eelam or "Peace" is the only viable solution to the island's racial problems.  Federalism has long lost its attraction, because it involves a continuing subordination to the discriminatory rule of the Sinhalese.  That is what caused Mr Chelvanayakam, the long-standing and highly regarded leader of the Federal party to abandon this concept in favor of separation with the Vaddukottai declaration of 1976.

In dealing with Mr. Prabakaran, it would do Mr. Gourevitch well to remember an unforgettable phrase that I read in the NY Times, which referred to the American people.

" We only resort to violence to prevent others from doing worse things to ourselves."  That is all that Mr. Prabakaran has reacted to in the past.  Another phrase from the NY Times also applicable to us Americans seems appropriate here, which is that "sometimes we have to resort to doing horrible things in our effort to do what is right."  Our regular resort to what proponents describe as justified wars is the perfect example of this very unpleasant truth.

The tolerance of discrimination is unacceptable and must be fought and quashed at any cost.  The LTTE, which began as a guerrilla organization, wound up as an efficient army and navy whose enemy was the Sinhalese armed forces.  Theirs is now a justifiable war which Americans can hardly condemn.


Posted August 2, 2005