ISGA : Dead-end or Historic Opportunity?

No author given, September 12, 2004

The Interim Self-Governing Authority - ISGA - proposals of the LTTE present a challenge as well as a historic opportunity to advance towards a genuine democratic settlement to the national crisis.

They represent the first and only proposals the LTTE has officially presented as a basis for a negotiated political settlement.

The LTTE conceives the ISGA proposals as a transitional way of moving towards a process of mutual de-escalation and normalisation, with the aim of seeking a final solution towards exercising the right of national self-determination of the Tamil people in the North-East region.

Release of the ISGA Nov.1, 2003

From the point of view of the LTTE, the proposals seek accommodation with the Sri Lankan state in exercising the right of a national self-determination it has already established on the ground, in the territory it has liberated, through two decades of armed struggle.

This is the ground reality. We can hold the tribal rituals, plunder the robes, burn the proposals, and call for total war.

We can continue to prevaricate by insisting on a "final solution" to sidetrack the fact of not having any alternative transitional solution. We can continue to play the game of war and peace and hold the country and the people hostage as every government has done.

Deciding the issue will produce the most portentous crisis ever in our history. Core issues

The emerging political conjuncture will present core issues, which will force themselves on the stage of history, to be resolved either through violence or through conscious, determined, democratic leadership and struggle. ISGA has brought these issues to the fore with a sense of finality.

The LTTE has expressed its terms for a voluntary union of the Tamil state with the Sinhala state on equal terms within a united country.

Can we come to terms with that? The Sri Lankan state has been built on the twisted ideology that only the majority Sinhala-Buddhists has the exclusive right to claim a national identity, and therefore to form a state, and that all others are to be treated as alien, second class minorities.

This is the official state-sponsored ideological mindset instilled into the Sinhala-Buddhist masses by both the UNP and the SLFP, and by the JVP, the Sihala Urumaya, MEP, the JHU and other such agents of the state.

As a consequence of the politics of chauvinism, duplicity and violent suppression of the Tamil people by the state, we have arrived at the ISGA. Do the Tamil people living in the North-East region have an equal right to form their own state - if they decide they can no longer coexist with a Sinhala-Buddhist hegemonic-theocratic state? How do we deal with a Tamil state that has come into existence through the force of arms? Can we live in peace with a Tamil state in an undivided country? Can there be a democratic Tamil state coexisting with the prevailing centralised, militarised chauvinist-hegemonic, feudal-colonial Sri Lankan state and political order? Should we try to radically transform the hegemonic Sinhala-Buddhist state so it is a genuine democratic state of the people?

Will the pre-eminent dignity of the Sinhala nation be enhanced by the recognition of the dignity of the Tamil nation and of the other nationalities?

A product of a deadly stalemate and a defunct political order
The ISGA proposals stand as a profound indictment of a fractured and defunct state. It is a recognition of the near impossibility of sharing any political power at the centre under the prevailing system. It is a vote of no-confidence regarding a hegemonic chauvinist, feudal-colonial state backed up by world imperialism and its regional enforcers.

A state propped up by the very same entrenched political ruling class constituted by the UNP-SLFP-JVP-SU-MEP-JHU-LSSP-CP all of which have combined and contributed to bring us to this crisis of civilization. ISGA is a response to this Sinhala-hegemonic state which stands as a mortal threat to exercising any real form of Tamil national self-determination.

ISGA has been conceived within the reality of a liberated Tamil state somehow compelled by the prevailing order to be joined together with a hegemonic, fractured, hostile, and volatile Sinhala state. Anyone who is anything but an ideological Neanderthal, with any degree of historical conscience - and intelligence, would arrive at such a conclusion.

Critique of ISGA
ISGA envisages a hegemonic Tamil state under the political leadership of the LTTE exercising undisputed dominance over the North-East region and over its diverse nationalities and communities. The LTTE has sought assurances for its continued undisputed dominance in the context of a heightened perception of being encircled, cornered and mortally threatened.

The democratisation of the Tamil polity is a function of the democratisation of the Sinhala state and polity and a task to be carried out by the people. Only a negotiated political settlement can pave the way for such a historical process.

However, the truth is that the ISGA proposals have failed to recognise the human and democratic rights and to provide assurances as to the security, dignity, equality and autonomy of the Sinhala people and the Muslim nationality in the region.

It does not explicitly entertain any organic integration with a central state. The proposals have not identified reciprocal obligations, responsibilities and duties in the context of sharing state power. These are fundamental issues that have to be democratically resolved in any negotiated political settlement.

What is needed is not to attack the ISGA nor to defend it. The challenge is to situate the conditions that have given rise to ISGA and to transform them so we can move away from the politics of stalemated, non-negotiable, final and ultimate demands on both sides of the divide, to the politics of principal accommodation and compromise. To achieve this goal, we would have to be blessed by a quality of statesmanship, or 'states-womanship' far beyond what prevails.

Critique of the peace process
All previous governments had failed to achieve a negotiated political settlement due to the failure to develop national consensus on recognising the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation.

The UNF did not possess a strategy for building democratic consensus for a political settlement.

Even though the UNF negotiated the historic Oslo Agreement it did not address any of the core issues.

It simply relied on Uncle Bush to somehow deliver the peace in exchange for selling out the country lock, stock and barrel to the US. Has the UPFA done any better? The UPFA has effectively stalemated the peace process and brought the country to a perilous state. They have not done anything constructive towards seeking a lasting political settlement.

This is because the UPFA is founded on an irreconcilable political contradiction. While the SLFP/PA would be more interested in seeking some sort of a negotiated settlement if only for the political survival of the system and that of their own, the JVP has no option other than to oppose this agenda at all costs.

This is because their political survival and ride to absolute state power depends on appearing as the only true saviours of the Sinhala-Buddhist nation.

This is the only card in the pack to demarcate themselves from both the major 'traditional' comprador ruling parties.

The JVP's game plan is to attack the UNP head-on, while accelerating the crisis and intensifying the contradictions within the UPFA, so that the SLFP/PA would appear to be just as bad and just the same as the UNP.

They would advance their political agenda even though it may mean a resumption of war, the destruction of our collective civilised existence and piling endless misery upon the people.

The way out of the crisis
Is there a way to rescue the peace process and to avert a state of national and civil war? What is the role and task of the people in resolving this issue? Can we identify a minimum transitional program to deal with the National Question at this crucial hour? The path lies in addressing the ISGA and articulating the institutions and instruments of democratically sharing power at the center, supplemented by effective forms of regional autonomy within a genuine federal framework.

The Sunday Observer

###

Posted September 15, 2004