‘Discussion Paper’: Sinhalese Politicians Learn Nothing and Forget Nothing

by TAGOT Press Release, Sept. 2, 2003; originally published October 1, 2003

Kotte, Sri Lanka
Email: gntbgfy@ubgznvy.pbz'));

2 September 2003

The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT) has time and again emphasised that the so-called “peace process” is in fact the political power struggle between the Sinhalese Sri Lankan State and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Up to now the Sinhalese State has not shown any intention whatsoever of acknowledging the national rights of Tamils. Therefore that State is incapable of ensuring justice to Tamils.

Peace is an outcome of justice. It is obvious that the Sinhalese State contemptuously rejects the national rights of Tamils and, therefore, obstinately refuses justice to Tamils. It logically follows that peace, as understood by Tamils, is not on that State’s agenda. In short, there is absolutely no basis or prospect for a political settlement.

The utter absence of any condition for peace means precisely that there are no creatures called “anti-peace elements”. For the same reason, Sinhalese President Chandrika Kumaratunga cannot “throw spanners” into non-existent efforts supposedly to achieve peace.

TAGOT has repeatedly argued that, under the guise of a so-called “peace process”, the Sinhalese Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and his United National Party (UNP) are strategising to neutralise LTTE’s military capacity and undermine the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement.

The Sinhalese “anti-peace elements” including President Kumaratunga and her Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) are pathologically opposed to the UNP. They detest any strategy that could ensure victory for Prime Minister Wickremasinghe over the LTTE. They are intervening to sabotage UNP’s strategies and to deny Wickremasinghe victory over the Tamil National Movement.

While in the parliamentary Opposition, Wickremasinghe and his UNP similarly discredited President Kumaratunga’s 1995 military campaign to invade Jaffna. The obvious aim was to prevent her from achieving an outright victory against the LTTE.

This political tug-of-war between the two blindly anti-Tamil Sinhalese political factions goes back to the infamous 1957 Kandy March. Then the SLFP leader SWRD Bandaranaike had virtually crippled the Tamil National Movement by buying over the Federal Party under the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact, which bartered away the national rights of Tamils. But UNP leader JR Jayawardene had successfully neutralised the ploy. He whipped up Sinhalese chauvinism against the Pact and forced Bandaranaike to renounce it and so denied him victory over Tamils.

Since then each party when in Opposition has sabotaged the manoeuvres of the other in government to defeat the Tamil National Movement. The unfolding shenanigans over the Discussion Paper (Sunday Times, 20/Jul/03) are no different. The growing hostility to the document does not even remotely imply that the Discussion Paper seeks justice. The anti-Tamil hysteria should not under any condition be misconstrued as “anti-peace”; that is a grave error. The Discussion Paper has nothing to do with peace based on justice.

What is necessary is to focus on the Discussion Paper itself. The document was released by the UNP-led United National Front (UNF) coalition government. It is supposed to be a credible response to the LTTE’s insistence that an Interim Administration (IA) must be established for the Tamil-majority North East Province (NEP).

While the LTTE speaks of an IA, the UNP’s Discussion Paper offers a Provisional Administration (PA). The jugglery begins here. The Paper uses the word “interim” once; but, “provisional” appears 7 times. Indeed the document specifically deals with a “Provisional Administrative Council (PAC)”. Why does the Sinhalese government shy away from the term Interim Administrative Council? Why does it refer – that too in passing and only once – merely to an “interim administrative arrangement”?

The references to “the Northern and Eastern Provinces” are more insidious. The Paper refers to the two provinces 5 times. But it does not even once refer to the existing NEP. In other words, the government has announced its unilateral decision to divide the NEP and re-establish the two earlier provinces. This is a deliberate and provocative rejection of the Tamil demand, that the NEP must be recognised as the Tamil Homeland.

Thirdly, the aim of the PAC as specified in the Discussion Paper would be “the rebuilding of the war damage [sic] infrastructure and economy in the Northern and Eastern Provinces…to ensure rapid improvement in the life of the population”. Therefore, the proposed PAC is irrelevant to either power sharing or a transition to a confederal or federal arrangement. Indeed it has nothing whatsoever to do with Tamil national rights.

We, in TAGOT, have no doubt that the LTTE is fully justified in consigning the Discussion Paper to the dustbin of history.

Instead the LTTE has exercised Himalayan patience to continue the dialogue, to propose political alternatives and to stay engaged to reap whatever meagre benefits available for the Tamil people. On the other hand, Prime Minister Wickremasinghe, like his predecessors, has aggressively sought to weaken the LTTE and defeat the Tamil National Movement…

The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT)


Dr S Sathananthan, Secretary

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