by V Gunaratnam
That is what is happening in Sri Lanka today. Everything is moving backwards. It is as if the country is being sucked into a black hole by racial and religious intolerance, lawlessness, and political deception, dragging it through a tenuous ceasefire to confront the perils of war again.
Jayantha Dhanapala, the Senior Advisor to the Sri Lanka President and Peace Secretariat Secretary General, was making his own contribution to this mess in Washington DC, on September 8, with a speech to clear the 'fog of peace,' saying "unfortunately the Tamil diaspora appears to have played a negative role in sustaining the conflict in Sri Lanka through their remittances and that it is in this context that Sri Lanka has insisted that the international community must come down hard on LTTE front organizations, which continue to fund the LTTE’s war chest through various disguises as charitable, cultural and even religious bodies, abusing host country laws and regulations."
Dhanapala must have run out of ideas to be going down the same road taken by Lakshman Kadirgamar, who huffed and puffed mightily, made a mountain out of a molehill, and got the LTTE banned in several countries. But these efforts produced a Pyrrhic victory for Kadirgamar because, in the end, Sri Lanka suffered humiliation and defeat at the hands of the LTTE, when his strategy failed to produce the expected results, and created more difficulties than it solved for the government.
Dhanapala was, in effect, asking the Tamils to shun the LTTE and trust them, the Sinhalese, who led by the Bandaranaikes, Wickremesinghes, Rajapakses, the JVP, and JHU, etc. and go forward with them. But these were just empty words that fly in the face of everything the Tamils have experienced in nearly six decades.
The very conditions Dhanapala is now crying for existed in Sri Lanka for over thirty years, long before the LTTE came into existence, but the Sinhalese did nothing. The Tamils are still waiting. Another thirty years have gone by, but not even an inch of anything meaningful has been conceded, only the blood the of the Tamils has been spilled, agreements shredded and thrown to the winds, and illegally concocted constitutions foisted on the country that are rid the only safeguards the Tamils had against the Sinhalese running roughshod over them. In a cruel twist of the tsunami disaster, even an agreement to distribute humanitarian aid to Tamil victims has been stalled by the action of extremists.
If Dhanapala thinks that the LTTE’s indomitable strength comes from huge sums of money flowing to them from abroad to maintain a powerfully equipped war machine, he is imagining things. What the LTTE spends on armaments cannot be more than a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars Sri Lanka lavishes on its armed forces, to maintain its colossal military superiority over the LTTE in armaments and manpower. They purchase big-ticket items that the LTTE can only dream about, but cannot afford, like modern artillery, tanks, fighter planes, bombers, and gunboats.
But if the massive advantage of the armed forces has not translated into much in the war with the LTTE, and they have been overwhelmed time and again by the LTTE, it is not difficult to understand why this is so.
The Tamils, unlike the Sinhalese, are fighting for a cause; their freedom from oppression, and it is this motivation and spirit that is making the enormous difference, despite the monstrous military power of the state - not the numbers, firepower or military hardware. That is another reason why the armed forces, having failed in head-to-head confrontations with the LTTE, are now trying to win by stealth, in a proxy war using the Karuna factor.
Dhanapala, if he is unable to accept these unpalatable truths, should reflect on why over 73,000 soldiers ran away from the fighting, deserting the Sri Lanka armed forces, despite their overwhelming superiority in everything. Perhaps then he would understand. Of course, the LTTE also need resources to equip their fighting force, but obviously not on the scale or manner Sri Lanka believes that it is being done.
It is time to clear the 'fog of peace,' but not in the way Dhanapala sees it, challenging the credulity of the Tamils and the international community. Let us note in passing that Dhanapala has so far accomplished nothing to get the peace process moving, except let things get worse. So it is absurd for him to be telling the Tamils what they should be doing or not doing, instead of trying to do something over which he has influence, or control, and producing results.
Most crucial is for the ordinary Sinhalese people who have been fed a bagful of lies to date to be told the truth, because no solution will be possible or accepted without the people standing behind it.
Next, the people must be made to understand that it is not the LTTE or the Tamils who are standing in the way of an accord being reached. The problem exists not because of the Tamils, but because of the current unitary, centralized form of government in which the minorities have no voice! The constitutional safeguards of the Tamils have been eliminated, the Tamils have been systematically discriminated against, and they have been reduced to an oppressed people.
It is also strange but true that the Tamils have nothing to give or take. Everything is the hands of the government and the Sinhalese, to give or take. The only thing the Tamils can do is to offer resistance, resistance to shape an accord or agreement, but nothing more.
Do the Sinhalese also know that the Tamils can never have anything more than what the Sinhalese have? That is the simple truth that seems to have escaped the understanding of the Sinhalese and their leaders, or have they chosen to ignore this? The Tamils have had so much taken away by the Sinhalese, and that is the problem.
So it is pointless for Dhanapala to be going around trying to solve problems that really do not exist. There are enough things in his backyard for him to do. But time has almost run out.
Sixty years is a long time for the Tamils to have waited for a solution. They are tired of the endless variations the Sinhalese have been inventing and dreaming up for so many years to deny them their heritage. The patience of the international community also is wearing thin, frustrated by the roadblocks to peace, and Sri Lanka’s attitude to the humanitarian plight of the Tamil, highlighted by the tsunami disaster.
But the deception goes on. It is baffling why the Sinhalese find it so difficult to accept the Tamils as equals and, by extension, the other ethnic and religious minorities. This refusal is driving their people, both the Tamils and Sinhalese, more and more away from the state of happiness and peace they cherish.
The world is watching with great concern how Sri Lanka has squandered every opportunity to reach an accord with the Tamils, and it must surely recognize that the Tamil struggle has now evolved to the point where they have earned the right to exercise any viable option to secure their rights.
Posted September 28, 2005