Mr. Martin Collacott writing on 13 June 2000 in the National Post On Line, Canada has unburdened himself of his feelings about the LTTE. His views deserve more than passing consideration, not only because of that which he asserts, but also because he writes with the authority of one who served as Canada’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1982 to 1986 – and as one whose links with the Canadian Foreign service may not be entirely absent at the present time…. In fairness to Mr.Collacott and also to enable readers to judge for themselves the correctness or otherwise of Mr.Collacott’s assertions, his article is also published below in full.
Mr. Martin Collacott writing in the Canadian National Post on 13 June 2000 has unburdened himself of his feelings about the LTTE. He is “appalled” by the way in which the Tamil Tigers and their supporters have “abused” and “exploited” Canadian hospitality.
Mr.Collacott’s views deserve more than passing consideration, not only because of that which he asserts, but also because he writes with the authority of one who served as Canada’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1982 to 1986 – and as one whose links with the Canadian Foreign service may not be entirely absent at the present time.
His remarks also follow upon Asia Week’s editorial comment on 2 June 2000:
“…Tigers and their front organisations operate with much freedom. They have offices in London, Paris, Toronto and New Jersey, and propaganda units in Sydney, Norway and Texas. Their network raises over $2 million a month from 38 countries. The LTTE boasts ocean-going ships, which only the PLO and the IRA, among other rebel groups, have. Such organisation and resources make few nations willing to take on the Tigers. But the world must pressure all sides in Sri Lanka to talk peace, if necessary by blocking money flows…”.
Additionally, Mr.Collacott’s article came on the heels of attempts to prevent two public rallies organised by Canadian expatriate Tamil groups to celebrate Tamil Tiger military successes around Jaffna – rallies which had become a focus for fund collection to support thestruggle for Tamil Eelam. And, Mr.Collacott’s remarks also spawned coverage in the BBC and in sections of the Indian media as well.
Tamils will be forgiven if they take the view that the timing of Mr.Collacott’s intervention was not unrelated with the concerted attempts being made in the international arena, to demonise the Tamil Eelam leader, Velupillai Pirabaharan, to marginalise the LTTE and to ‘persuade’ the Tamil people to give up their demand for an independent State.
Guerrilla wars are primarily fought on the field of morale and defaming a guerrilla movement as “terrorists” is a useful way of discrediting them…
John Harrington pointed out perceptively in 1998, that though it may not be the case that the media world wide is collectively manipulative, the media do often interpret and synthesise images in accord with the assumptions of ‘the dominant ideology’:
“…Truth doesn’t stand alone; rather people engage in a selection process… the real battle is over who’s interpretation, who’s framing of reality gets the floor… the maintenance of order is the key idea to be examined in the media…. (ofcourse) the media world-wide would find it hard to be so collectively manipulative… (but) it can still maintain order by ‘leading’ rather than ‘ruling’… Repeated representations of ideological domains continues to define or ‘indicate’ culture, particularly for people who are heavily exposed to the media… media often interpret and synthesise images in accord with the assumptions of the dominant ideology’… ” (The Media, Framing, and the Internet: Dominant Ideologies Persist – John Harrington, February 1998, University College Cork, Ireland)
In relation to the struggle for Tamil Eelam, the assumptions of that dominant ideology are not far to seek. Guerrilla wars are fought primarily on the field of morale, and defaming a guerrilla movement as “terrorists” is a useful way of discrediting them. The message that the Canadian National Post and Mr.Collacott wish to convey is simple and direct: ‘terrorism’ is a crime against humanity, the LTTE is a terrorist organisation and therefore it should not be supported.
It is a message which serves to create the international political space within which the Sri Lanka government may continue its genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people – a genocidal onslaught which illustrates, yet again, the truth of Jean Paul Sartre’s assessment in November 1967 at the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal:-
“Against partisans backed by the entire population, colonial armies are helpless. They have only one way of escaping from the harassment which demoralises them …. This is to eliminate the civilian population. As it is the unity of a whole people that is containing the conventional army, the only anti-guerrilla strategy which will be effective is the destruction of that people, in other words, the civilians, women and children…”
During the Vietnam war, mainstream media were consistent in their support for US actions and the findings of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal against the US were dismissed as the contrived efforts of ‘socialists’ and ‘extremists’ – in the same way as, today, the main stream media pay scant attention to the documented indictment against Sri Lanka.
But the lessons of Vietnam were not altogether lost on those who failed to quell liberation movements despite having recourse to superior arms and resources. Michael Schubert writing ‘On Liberation Movements And The Rights Of Peoples’ pointed out in 1992:
“The French Chief of Staff Andre Beaufre wrote about his own experiences in Algeria and Vietnam in his 1973 German-language book ‘Die Revolutionierung des Kriegsbildes’:
‘The surprising success of the decolonization wars can only be explained by the following: The weak seem to have defeated the strong, but actually just the reverse was true from a moral point of view, which brings us to the conclusion that limited wars are primarily fought on the field of morale.’
In order for… states to quickly and effectively wipe out “revolt”, which could get out of hand despite technical superiority (read: better weapons) due to the political and moral convictions of the mass movement, it is necessary to make comprehensive analyses early on and to take effective action in the psychological arena. It’s no coincidence, therefore, that military and police circles seem to stress the benefits of ‘psychological warfare’…
The central aim of this defence approach is to destroy the morale of the insurgent movement.. to discredit it and destroy it using repressive means …, thereby preventing a mass movement from starting which could be hard to control with conventional means. Defaming the insurgents as “terrorists” and punishing them accordingly – thereby ignoring international law concerning the rights of people in war – is a particularly useful means…”
The National Post and Mr.Collacott would have their readers ignore the views of those, such as Jordon J.Paust that the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka is an international armed conflict..
Today, the National Post and Mr.Collacott would defame the LTTE as ‘terrorists’ and have their readers ignore the views of those, such as Jordon J.Paust that the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka is an international armed conflict:
“It is more appropriate to consider that the armed conflict (in the island of Sri Lanka) lasting more than a decade, in which the Tamil people are fighting for self-determination, has reached beyond an insurgency as such and implicates Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions… Article I (4) affirms that Protocol I supplements the general provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions applicable in case of an armed conflict of an international character, and that such include: “Armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self determination…..” (Jordon J.Paust, Co Chair, International Criminal Law Interest Group, American Society of International Law – Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Volume 31, Number 3, p 617 at p 619)
Mr.Collacott and the National Post would deny the right of the people of Tamil Eelam to rule themselves and would have their readers ignore the lawfulness of the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam to liberate themselves from alien Sinhala rule.
They would ignore the historical fact that the Tamil people and the Sinhala people were brought within the confines of a single state for the first time under British rule in 1833. They would ignore the legal principle of reversion of sovereignty and dismiss the views expressed by Mr.Timothy J. Moore, M.P. of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists in 1983 as a legal quibble:
‘…The proponents of Tamil Eelam argue that the northern and eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka coincide with the historic boundaries of the kingdom of Jaffna and argue a case that seeks to establish that sovereignty over these territories was never ceded to any conqueror and that, even if such concession had been made at any time in the past, the unilateral renunciation of links with the United Kingdom which took place at the assumption of office by the government of Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike in 1972 resuscitated the Tamil sovereignty which had merely laid dormant until then… In the abstract theory of international law, it would appear that the Tamils have at the very least, an arguable case, and possibly a sustainable one…’ (1983 ICJ Report on ‘Ethnic Violence, the Independence of the Judiciary, Protection of Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka – Fragile Freedoms?’)
Mr.Collacott fails to furnish evidence to support his allegations…
They would go even further in their efforts to defame the LTTE. Mr.Collacott asserts:
“While the Tigers have not committed outright acts of terrorism in Canada, they and their accomplices have been involved in a wide range of criminal activities in this country in addition to the extortion of huge payments from Tamils here. These include drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, passport forgery and fraud. They have also been a major factor in the spawning of Tamil street gangs in Toronto, which have accounted for 40 shootings in the past three years and five unsolved homicides.”
Mr.Collacott chooses not to furnish evidence to support his allegations – though it would seem that he has taken some care in the choice of his words impelled, perhaps, by the need to avoid the impact of the laws of libel. For instance, though he refers to the alleged actions of the ‘accomplices’ of the LTTE he is careful to refrain from naming them.
He concedes that ‘the Tigers have not committed outright acts of terrorism in Canada’ but leaves open the implication that the LTTE have committed some other type of acts of terrorism in Canada. However, he does not specify what those ‘non outright’ acts of terrorism are.
He asserts that the LTTE and their ‘unnamed accomplices’ have also been a major factor in thespawning of Tamil street gangs in Toronto but he fails to state that there is no evidence that establishes linkage between the LTTE and these street gangs.
Mr.Collacott appears to suggest that the criminal justice system of Canada is so incompetent that it has permitted the LTTE and (their unnamed accomplices) to involve themselves ‘in a wide range of criminal activities’ in Canada. Mr.Collacott appears to suggest that the criminal justice system of Canada is so incompetent that it has permitted the LTTE and (their unnamed accomplices) to extort huge payments from Tamils, and furthermore engage in ‘drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, passport forgery and fraud.’
If Mr.Collacott had evidence in support of the allegations that he made, many Tamils may take the view that the appropriate course of action would have been for Mr.Collacott to furnish that evidence to the Canadian Attorney General so that justice may take its course. Mr. Collacott presumably subscribes to the fundamental principle of any civilised criminal justice system that no one shall be punished without due process and without being given the opportunity to be heard.
Tamils will be forgiven, if they take the view that Mr.Collacott in his eagerness to discredit the LTTE, is willing to ignore the central tenets of the rule of law – and act as investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury, and journalist without even naming the individuals whom he accuses.
Given that which he had to say, he is at pains to establish his credentials as a neutral observer – and indeed, as a friend of the Tamil people…
Given that which he had to say, Mr.Collacott was, understandably, at pains to establish his credentials as a neutral observer – and indeed, as a friend of the Tamil people. He writes:
“When I served as Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1982 to 1986, the period in which civil war began in earnest, I urged the Sri Lankan government to redress Tamil grievances and worked actively to ensure that Canadian aid (and particularly our large-scale involvement in irrigation programs) was used to benefit the Tamils as well as the other races.”
Many Tamils, including the kith and kin of those who died in the organised pogrom of 1977, may well disagree with Mr.Collacott’s assertion that 1982 to 1986 was the period in which the civil war began in earnest. They may be more inclined to agree with Sir John Foster, David Astor, Louis Blom-Cooper, Dingle Foot, Robert Birley, James Fawcett, Michael Scott, who wrote to the London Times on 20 November 1977:
“A tragedy is taking place in Sri Lanka: the political conflict following upon the recent elections, is turning into a racial massacre. It is estimated by reliable sources that between 250 and 300 Tamil citizens have lost their lives and over 40,000 made homeless…(The Tamils) have now lost confidence in their treatment by the Sinhalese majority and are calling for a restoration of their separate national status… At a time when the West is wake to the evils of racialism, the racial persecution of the Tamils and denial of their human rights should not pass without protest. The British have a special obligation to protest, as these cultivated peoplewere put at the mercy of their neighbours less than thirty years ago by the British Government. They need our attention and support.”
Again, Tamils who were victims of the genocidal attacks of 1958 will be reminded by Mr.Collacott’s article, of that which Tarzie Vittachi wrote some 40 years ago:
“Among the hundreds of acts of arson, rape, pillage, murder and plain barbarity some incidents may be recorded as examples of the kind of thuggery at work…In the Colombo area the number of atrocities swiftly piled up. The atmosphere was thick with hate and fear. The (Sinhala) thugs ran amok burning houses and shops, beating-up pedestrians, holding-up vehicles and terrorising the entire city and the suburbs…
“Another Tamil officer, working in the same Government department was unfortunate. The thugs stormed into his house and assaulted, his wife and grown-up daughter in the presence of his little child. His mind cracked under the shock. In the French liner Laos which took the family away to safety in Jaffna he insisted on reciting large chunks of the Bhagavad Gita to the captain of the ship. All his formal education – he is a Cambridge scholar- had proved useless to him in the face of disaster. His broken mind reached out for the only solace a man has when his own ingenuity and ability have proved futile.”
“At Wellawatte junction, near the plantain kiosk, a pregnant woman and her husband were set upon. They clubbed him and left him an the pavement, then they kicked, the woman repeatedly as she hurried along at a grotesque sprint, carrying her swollen belly.”
“….What are we left with (in 1958)? A nation in ruins, some grim lessons which we cannot afford to forget and a momentous question: Have the Sinhalese and Tamils reached the parting of ways?” (Tarzie Vittachi: Emergency 1958 – The Story of the Ceylon Race Riots, Andre Deutsch, London 1958.
Mr.Collacott, Canadian Aid, Maduru Oya and the Dimbugala Priest…
But, even apart from the time frame of the civil war in the island of Sri Lanka, (and as to when it began in earnest), it appears that Mr.Collacott is somewhat doubtful about the ‘substance’ of the ‘allegations’ of persecution made against Sri Lanka. He takes the view that it is the LTTE which is trying to give ‘substance’ to these ‘allegations’. He says:
“Their (LTTE) bombs… have been designed … to precipitate a violent reaction against Tamils in order to give substance to allegations that they are being persecuted by the Sri Lankan government (a claim which, inter alia, has enabled large numbers of Tiger members and supporters to claim refugee status in Canada).”
Many Tamils will find it surprising that Mr.Collacott, as a ‘friend’ of the Tamil people, did not take the opportunity afforded by his article in the Canadian National Post to advert, even in passing, to Sri Lanka’s horrendous record of systematic violations of the rights of the Tamil people for a period of several decades.
Mr.Collacott claims that he ‘worked actively to ensure that Canadian aid (and particularly Canada’s large-scale involvement in irrigation programs) was used to benefit the Tamils as well as the other races’.
It is a ‘claim’ that will raise many questions in the minds of thinking Tamils. For instance did Mr.Collacott agree with the facts stated by 9 non governmental organisations in February 1985 at the United Nations Human Rights Commission and did he communicate that agreement in his ‘urgings’ to the Sri Lanka government to ‘redress Tamil grievances’:
“The President of Sri Lanka has announced his Government’s plan to colonise all Tamil areas with Sinhala settlers to reflect the nation-wide population ratio of 75% Sinhalese and 25% other minority ethnic groups. This is calculated to undermine the numerical strength of Tamils in areas where they have traditionally lived… In its recent report the Civil Rights Movement has drawn attention to the arming of civilians: “Civilians in the Trincomalee district have been given arms by police, ostensibly for their self-defence. Instances have been given reported of such individuals and groups using arms to terrorise persons of the Tamil community.”
Was Mr.Collacott aware that the irrigation programs were part of Sinhala Sri Lanka’s war for land? Did he agree with the facts as stated later by Sinhala Mahaveli Ministry Official, Herman Gunaratne in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 26 August 1990 or did the revelations come as a surprise to him?:
“All wars are fought for land…The plan for settlement of people in Yan Oya and Malwathu Oya basins was worked out before the communal riots of 1983. Indeed the keenest minds in the Mahaveli, some of whom are holding top international positions were the architects of this plan. My role was that of an executor… We conceived and implemented a plan which we thought would secure the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka for a long time. We moved a large group of 45,000 land hungry (Sinhala) peasants into the Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa districts of Maduru Oya delta.
The second step was to make a similar human settlement in the Yan Oya basin. The third step was going to be a settlement of a number of people, opposed to Eelam, on the banks of the Malwathu Oya. By settling the (Sinhala) people in the Maduru Oya we were seeking to have in the Batticaloa zone a mass of persons opposed to a separate state…Yan Oya if settled by non separatists (Sinhala people) would have increased the population by about another 50,000. It would completely secure Trincomalee from the rebels…” Sinhala Mahaveli Ministry Official, Herman Gunaratne in the Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 26 August 1990
What effect, if any, did Mr.Collacott’s ‘active work’ to secure that Canadian aid benefited Tamils as well, have on the somewhat more active work of the Dimbugala Priest and the Sinhala armed settlers in Maduru Oya supplemented by ‘the keenest minds in the Mahaveli Development Authority?
Paul Nallanayagam, Genocide’83 & Mr.Collacott’s ‘urgings’…
Mr.Collacott’s reticence about what it was that he ‘urged’ Sri Lanka to do and what effect that his ‘urgings’ had on those who ruled Sri Lanka is perhaps, not altogether surprising.
Mr. Collacott will remember that it was during his tenure of office in Sri Lanka, that Paul Nallanayagam, a Canadian citizen and President of the Kalmunai Citizens Committee, was arrested under the Emergency Regulations. Nallanayagam was charged with having ‘conspired to discredit and bring disrepute to the government of Sri Lanka by speaking false rumours’ about the notorious Sri Lankan Special Task Force (a Special Task Force, which is now, once again on a rampage in the East of Tamil Eelam). The Canadian High Commission was powerless to intervene effectively to secure the release of one of Canada’s own citizens – and it was left to the indefatigable efforts of Somasunderam Nadesan Q.C. to secure the acquittal of that particular Canadian citizen.
But, ofcourse, the Nallanayagam case was only a small part of the happenings in Sri Lanka during Mr.Collacott’s tenure of office as High Commissioner.
Mr.Collacott’s concern about the genocidal attack of 1983, is understandable. He writes:
“I visited the Tamil heartland in Jaffna immediately after the anti-Tamil riots in 1983 and again in 1986 at a time when no other high commissioners or ambassadors went there to demonstrate their concern for the Tamil population.”
However, many Tamils who suffered during the fateful days of July 1983, will want to know whether Mr.Collacott conveyed to the Sri Lanka government his agreement with the views of the International Commission of Jurists in 1983 that the violence against the Tamils amounted to genocide:
“… Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, acts of murder committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such are considered as acts of genocide. The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala rioters on the Tamils amounted to acts of genocide.”
Again, many thinking Tamils will want to know whether Mr.Collacott conveyed to the Sri Lanka government his agreement with the views of the International Commission of Jurists in 1984 that it was extraordinary that no attempt was made to find out the truth through an impartial public inquiry:
“But, what I find most extraordinary is that, to this day, there has been no attempt to find out the truth through an official, public and impartial inquiry, when the situation in the country cries for nothing less… I regard the appointment of such an inquiry as one of the most important steps for the Government to take in the immediate future.”(Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy of Errors – Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)
Tamils will also want to know whether Mr.Collacott’s ‘urgings’ extended to urging Sri Lanka to honour the pledge that Sri Lanka’s Ambassador had given to the UN Sub Commission in 1983 to investigate and punish the guilty.
“The Sri Lankan authorities….would leave no stone unturned to bring to justice all those responsible for killings, violence and acts of destruction, no matter who they were and regardless of their status, ideology or political alignments. There would be no exceptions.” (Sri Lanka Ambassador, Mr.Tissa Jayakody, at the Sub Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at Geneva, 22nd of August 1983)
Genocide is a crime which transcends national frontiers. Furthermore, there is no time limit within which a prosecution for genocide may be launched. Those who committed the crime of genocide during the Second World War continue to be hunted down today. Mr.Collacott may have lent some credibility to his claim to be a friend of the Tamil people, if he had made clear his stand on the question of bringing to justice those who planned and executed Genocide’83.
The harsh political reality was that despite Mr.Collacott’s ‘urgings’ and his visits to ‘demonstrate concern’, the Sri Lanka authorities continued to torture, continued to massacre Tamil non combatants – and kill Tamil Christian priests as well…
Tamils may also want to know whether Mr.Collacott (during his tenure of office as High Commissioner in Sri Lanka) ‘urged’ the Sri Lanka authorities to stop torturing Tamils and in particular whether he agreed with the views expressed by Mr.Timothy Moore M.P.. in 1983:
“Several instances were reported to the author of persons being hung upside down with a bag covering their head into which was introduced fine ground dried chilli powder. Evidence of the effect of this on the metabolism of the lungs was read by the author in the inquest depositions……the author accepts that it is the almost universal practice of the military authorities to physically assault and mistreat those persons who have been in their custody with the principal locations for that assault being the Elephant Pass army camp and the Panagoda army camp in Colombo…
…the author finds that this treatment is not only in breach of Article 11 of the Sri Lankan Constitution which states that ‘no person shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment’ but (that it) is also carried out on a systematic basis. This treatment is also in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Sri Lanka is a State Party after having ratified the Covenant… ” – Ethnic and Communal Violence: The Independence of the Judiciary: Protection of Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka – Fragile Freedoms? – Report of an ICJ Mission to Sri Lanka in June 1983 – Timothy J.Moore )
As a ‘friend’ of the Tamils, Mr.Collacott may have taken the opportunity afforded by his article in the National Post to disclose the content of his ‘urgings’, so that Tamils (including those in Canada) may judge for themselves, the weight of his declared concern for the Tamil people.
But then again it may be that Mr.Collacott was understandably concerned about the ineffectuality of his ‘urgings’ and it was this which led him to visit ‘the Tamil heartland in Jaffna … at a time when no other high commissioners or ambassadors went there to demonstrate their concern for the Tamil population…”
However, the harsh political reality is that despite Mr.Collacott’s ‘urgings’ and his visits to ‘demonstrate concern’, the Sri Lanka authorities continued to torture, continued to massacre Tamil non combatants in Chunnakam, in Tiriyai, in Iruthayapuram, in Akkaraipattu , and elsewhere – and kill Tamil Christian priests as well. And, many Tamils will regard Mr.Collacott’s silence on these matters as deafening.
The armed resistance of the people of Tamil Eelam did not just happen…
Mr.Collacott in his efforts to dismiss lawful Tamil armed resistance as ‘terrorism‘ chooses to ignore one of the essential elements of the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka – Sinhala chauvinism’s record of broken pacts and evasive proposals:
“One of the essential elements that must be kept in mind in understanding the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict is that, since 1958 at least, every time Tamil politicians negotiated some sort of power-sharing deal with a Sinhalese government – regardless of which party was in power – the opposition Sinhalese party always claimed that the party in power had negotiated away too much. In almost every case – sometimes within days – the party in power backed down on the agreement.” –(Professor Marshall Singer, at US Congress Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Hearing on Sri Lanka November 14,1995)
It was an essential element which Sathasivam Krishnakumar of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, recognised many years before Professor Marshall Singer’s 1995 statement to the US Congress Committee.
‘‘…Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has been institutionalised in Sri Lanka and today it has become more powerful than the politicians themselves. Indeed even if some Sinhala politicians seek to settle the conflict, Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism will seek to prevent such a settlement. This is the political reality that those who are aware of the Sri Lankan situation are well aware of. This Sinhala chauvinism which was nurtured by Sinhala politicians for their electoral advantage, has grown into a Frankenstein monster which now has the power to destroy and make politicians. This we understand very well.’’ (Sathasivam Krishnakumar, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, in an interview with Melbourne Community Radio CR3, September, 1991)
The armed resistance of the people of Tamil Eelam did not just happen. It came after several decades of oppression and a series of broken pacts and evasive proposals. It was a struggle which was legitimised by the freely given mandate of the people of Tamil Eelam in 1977. It was an armed struggle which was consolidated by the enactment of the 6th Amendment in the Sri Lanka Parliament on 4 August 1983 – an enactment which denied the Tamil people the right to campaign peacefully for an independent Tamil Eelam and an enactment which violated the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights:
“The freedom to express political opinions, to seek to persuade others of their merits, to seek to have them represented in Parliament, and thereafter seek Parliament to give effect to them, are all fundamental to democracy itself. These are precisely the freedoms which Article 25 (of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights) recognises and guarantees – and in respect of advocacy for the establishment of an independent Tamil State in Sri Lanka, those which the 6th Amendment is designed to outlaw…” (Paul Sieghart: Sri Lanka-A Mounting Tragedy of Errors – Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka in January 1984 on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984)
Mr.Collacott expresses concern about the fate of ‘moderate’ Tamil leaders, but in what lay their ‘moderation’?
“A particular trademark of the Tigers, and one that reveals their true character, has been their systematic murder of moderate Tamil leaders in an effort to ensure that the Tigers and their extremist supporters enjoy total dominance and control over the community.”
Mr.Collacott does not name these ‘moderate Tamil leaders’. Presumably, he did not intend to refer to the armed Tamil groups fighting alongside the Sri Lankan security forces in their genocidal war in Tamil Eelam. Be that as it may, who are these ‘moderate Tamil leaders’ and in what lies their ‘moderation’?
Everyone of today’s ‘moderate Tamil leaders‘ without exception subscribed to the manifesto of the Tamil United Liberation Front in 1977 and proclaimed to the Tamil people, ‘with the stamp of finality and fortitude that we alone shall rule over our land that our fore fathers ruled’:
“…There is only one alternative and that is to proclaim with the stamp of finality and fortitude that we alone shall rule over our land that our fore fathers ruled… The Tamil Nation must take the decision to establish its sovereignty in its homeland on the basis of its right to self-determination. The only way to announce this decision to the Sinhalese government and to the world is to vote for the Tamil United Liberation Front. The Tamil speaking representative who get elected through these votes, while being members of the National State Assembly of Ceylon, will also form themselves into the “NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF TAMIL EELAM” which will draft a constitution for the State of Tamil Eelam and to establish the independence of the Tamil Eelam by bringing that constitution into operation either by peaceful means or by direct action or struggle...”
The ‘moderation’ of the so called ‘moderate Tamil leaders’ lay in betraying that which they had solemnly promised the people of Tamil Eelam to do – and that, too, after having been given a mandate to deliver on their promises.
Their ‘moderation’ lay in refusing to recognise that an armed struggle is essentially political, and that for this reason the political cannot be counterposed to the military; and that an armed struggle cannot be directed from outside but only from within, by a leadership which accepts ‘its full share of the risks involved.’
Their ‘moderation’ lay in seeking to play the role of ‘mediators’ between the struggle and the Sinhala ruler – and in this way, separating themselves from the struggle, and at the same time, undermining it. Their ‘moderation’ lay in collaborating with a Sri Lanka government engaged in a genocidal war against the Tamil people and, by their actions, putting at risk the lives of those who remained committed to the struggle for an independent Tamil Eelam.
During World War II, there were many ‘moderate leaders’ in Europe who collaborated with the German occupying forces. During Hitler’s occupation, a Norwegian called Quisling collaborated with the Nazis – and his name has now become a part of the English vocabulary to describe a traitor. In the case of France, we had the Vichy ‘government’. These agents of the alien ruler, on the one hand, dispensed favours to sections of the populace and on the other hand, helped to identify and eliminate those who resisted alien rule.
In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala authorities have recruited, from time to time, Tamils to achieve similar objectives. Some Tamils become willing channels, through whom the Sinhala ruler dispenses favours to sections of the Tamil populace, as the price for their support for alien Sinhala rule – and ‘peace’. At the same time, other Tamils act as informers and identify those who continue to resist Sinhala rule. These Tamil informers wear hoods with slits for them to see through and shake or nod their head as suspected Tamil supporters of the LTTE are paraded before them. They have come to be known as ‘thalayattis’.
The responses of the LTTE to the activities of some Tamil elements who are co-operating with the Sinhala government, suggest that it is mindful, on the one hand, of the dangers posed by informers and collaborators, and on the other hand, of the difficulties of responding to such dangers, within the framework of a guerrilla movement without a stable judicial system.
It is not that the LTTE have not on occasion violated the humanitarian laws of armed conflict…but Mr.Collacott may want to consider some of the Readings on International Humanitarian Law…
But, that is not to say that the LTTE has always succeeded in its efforts to address these issues. It is not that the LTTE have not on occasion violated the humanitarian laws of armed conflict. They have. It is also true that means and ends are inseparable. ‘Humanising the armed conflict’ is therefore a necessary objective (and should be honestly supported). But the good faith of those who question some of the means adopted by the armed resistance of the Tamil people will be less open to question, if at the same time they do not deny the justice of the ends that the Tamils, as a people, are struggling to achieve.
Martin Luther King’s words in April 1963 are not without relevance:
“Over the past few years ….I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”
Again, Mr.Collacott may also want to consider some of the Readings on International Humanitarian Law:
“…American forces that tried to comply with the spirit of the standards of the law of land warfare found that they could not physically survive… To avoid extinction and to survive, the American-led guerrilla forces decided to take stringent measures. Through official orders it was announced that spies and informers, considered to be the main problem, would be controlled or eliminated….
….Giving these individuals legal or procedural rights that they might have been entitled to, was conditioned primarily by reality and was deemed secondary to the primary goal of simply staying alive. The action of the guerrilla forces was consistently conditioned by the fact that compliance with certain legal rules that might have been considered applicable would have resulted, from their point of view, in imminent death. The price of success for guerrilla operations was, simply stated, to destroy spies and informers…” (US General Donald Blackburn, who commanded guerrillas against the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II in proceedings before the American Society of International Lawyers, thirty years later, 70th Meeting, Washington, 1976 p.155)
US statement that “it is the international community that is the arbiter of who becomes states and who doesn’t become states” underlies much of that which Mr.Collacott has asserted…
Many Tamils will not be slow to recognise that the views expressed by Mr.Collacott are at one with the policy declaration made by US Under Secretary of State, Thomas R. Pickering at a press conference in Colombo on 29 May 2000:
“… I said tonight something I haven’t said before but which I fully believe in: that I don’t believe there is any international support that I can find for a new separate state of Eelam here in this island. So I think that while it is easy to dismiss diplomatic statements by governments as not having an effect, we are beginning to see, in fact, that it does have an effect… I think it is quite clear that it (an independent Tamil Eelam) will receive no recognition from anyone.
So, I mean, you could go home tonight and declare your house a separate state. The question of making it effective and functioning in dealing with the Sri Lankan authorities, should you intend to become a government beyond your house, would have its own problems.
So, I would say, you know, people try this from time to time, but in effect, it is the international community that is the arbiter of who becomes states and who doesn’t become states through a process of recognition and establishment of relations. At the moment, I see this as sort of becoming a dead planet, if that’s what it wants to be…”
US Under Secretary of State, Thomas R. Pickering, would liken an Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Tamil Eelam to that of ‘declaring your house a separate state’ and he adds somewhat patronisingly ‘you know, people try this from time to time’.
Mr.Pickering may not have fully recognised the impact that his remarks may have had on millions of Tamils living in many lands without a state of their own.
He failed to recognise that the struggle for an independent Tamil state is but a manifestation of the growing togetherness of a people – a growing togetherness, rooted in an ancient heritage, a rich language, a vibrant culture and given purpose and direction by a determined aspiration to live in equality and in freedom. After all, independent Tamil states (and in particular, the Tamil kingdom in Jaffna) were in existence several centuries before the US itself made its own unilateral Declaration of Independence (yes, people, do try it from time to time).
Mr.Pickering’s further statement that “it is the international community that is the arbiter of who becomes states and who doesn’t become states” helps to explain where he is coming from.
During the 19th century too, the states of the then ‘international community’ regarded themselves as ‘the arbiters of who becomes states and who doesn’t become states’. It was against this dictat of the then ‘international community’ (read ‘then colonial rulers’) that the freedom struggles of the colonial peoples gathered momentum in the 20th century.
Then, as now, existing states found common cause in resisting the struggles of peoples to free themselves from alien rule. India’s struggle for freedom did not have the acceptance of the international community. Neither did Indonesia’s struggle for freedom. But eventually, the ‘international community’ weakened by two world wars, found that they were no longer able to bear the cost of imposing their dictat on struggles for freedom.
US may need to realise that self determination is not a de stabilising concept and that it is the refusal to recognise the right of a people to free themselves from alien rule that will promote instability…
Today, the earlier colonial rulers and those to whom they ceded power, are finding common cause in the attempt to secure the artificial territorial boundaries bequeathed by the colonial rulers – territorial boundaries which had everything to do with the administrative convenience of the colonial ruler and little to do with national identities of those on whom colonial rule was imposed. To secure stability by maintaining the status quo is often a beguiling temptation.
The reasoning is not dissimilar to that which was urged a hundred years ago against granting universal franchise. It was said that to empower every citizen with a vote was to threaten the stability of existing state structures and the ruling establishment. But the truth was that it was the refusal to grant universal franchise which threatened stability. Rudolph C. Rÿser’s comments in the Fourth World Eye are timely:
“Self-determination is a right guaranteed under international law to all peoples seeking to freely choose their social, economic, political and cultural future without external interference. ..The principle is unambiguous in its application to peoples having the collective right to freely choose their own future. The right to choose is what the United States and other states like France, Britain and Canada seek to denyFourth World peoples…”
US Under Secretary of State’s ‘international community’ may eventually come to understand that self determination is not a de stabilising concept and that it is the refusal to recognise the right of a people to free themselves from alien rule that will promote instability. Self determination and democracy go hand in hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then the principle of self determination secures that no one people may rule another – and herein lies its enduring appeal.
Deploying the ‘terrorist’ tag to defame struggles for freedom will yield diminishing returns in an increasingly ‘politically awakened’ world – and at best will drive resistance underground…
Deploying the ‘terrorist’ tag to defame a struggle for freedom and to discredit it, will yield diminishing returns in an increasingly ‘politically awakened’ world – and at best, it will serve only to drive resistance underground.
The ‘terrorist’ tag is already widely seen to be a ‘political’ tag. It is used selectively to secure political ends. The ‘terrorist’ tag is not the result of a judgment by a competent court of law, on the basis of applying the law to judicially ascertained facts. The categorisation made by the executive wing of the US government, precludes the courts from themselves finding, on the facts, whether the LTTE is a terrorist organisation or not.
Judicial review of the action taken by the executive wing is limited to determining whether the executive had acted arbitrarily or wholly unreasonably. And, the courts in the U.S.A. have always shown a great reluctance to interfere with executive discretion in the area of ‘claimed’ national security.
Courts take the view that where ‘national security’ is threatened, executive discretion relating to the very life of the nation is involved and this is not a matter where the judiciary should supplant the view of the executive. It is said that the Constitution has empowered the executive (and not the judiciary) to decide matters relating to national security. Again, it is urged that the information on which the executive acted, cannot be made available to a court, to be tested by cross examination and a decision made according to law – because to do so would be to put at risk the national security apparatus of the state, which must function in secrecy.
Again, questions that many will ask is whether a state or an organisation which on occasionresorts to terror as a weapon, thereby become a ‘terrorist’ state or a ‘terrorist’ organisation? For instance did the USA bombing of Libya, a few years ago, (and more recently Afghanistan and Khartoum) render the USA a terrorist state? Or would it be necessary to establish that thedominant purpose for which the state or organisation exists, is the use of terror?
Is a state which stockpiles nuclear bombs, a terrorist state, because it seeks to use the threat of the terror of a nuclear holocaust to secure its political goals such as the preservation of democracy? After all, the nuclear bomb is the ultimate weapon of terror and it makes no distinction between combatants and non combatants. But, significantly, at the Rome deliberations on the International Criminal Court (in 1998), India’s attempt to include the use of nuclear weapons as a crime against humanity failed.
There is a need for the US to adopt a more principle centered approach to the struggle of the Tamil people – the old style ‘command – control’ method of leadership will not work…
There is a need for the US to adopt a more principle centered approach to the struggle of the Tamil people to establish an independent state. The old style ‘command – control’ method of leadership will not work.
The US government, as a government of a country that is regarded as the home of private enterprise, may need to start practising some of the leadership methods which the likes of Stephen Covey have long promoted to successful Fortune 500 companies.
To lead, you need to serve. To lead you need to win trust – and be able to structure win-win answers to conflict situations. You need to understand what ‘win’ means to each of the parties to the conflict.
” If you want to influence them, you also need to understand empathetically the power of their point of view and to feel the emotional force with which they believe in it. It is is not enough to study them like beetles under a microscope; you need to know what it feels like to be a beetle….” (Roger Fisher & William Ury in Getting to Yes : Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In ,1991)
If the US aspires to world leadership, it will need to recognise that leadership will not come by the display of military might and economic power. The US will need to articulate a bigger vision that encompasses the ‘majority world’. The US must be seen to address not simply its own interests but demonstrate by its actions that it is willing to serve the interests of all the peoples of the world. And that includes the peoples of the fourth world, compelled as they are to live within the patch work states left by their previous colonial rulers.
Political wisdom is not necessarily a function of gross national product and both Mr.Pickering and Mr.Collacott may want to revisit the words of Tamil Eelam leader, Velupillai Pirabaharan…
Political wisdom is not necessarily a function of gross national product and both Mr.Pickering and Mr.Collacott may want to revisit the words of Tamil Eelam leader, Velupillai Pirabaharan:
“We launched our struggle for self determination and political independence because of the systematic oppression of our people by the Sri Lankan state…
We are not chauvinists. Neither are we lovers of violence enchanted with war. We do not regard the Sinhala people as our opponents or as our enemies. We recognise the Sinhala nation. We accord a place of dignity for the culture and heritage of the Sinhala people. We have no desire to interfere in any way with the national life of the Sinhala people or with their freedom and independence. We, the Tamil people, desire to live in our own historic homeland as an independent nation, in peace, in freedom and with dignity…
…During our long journey towards liberation we have crossed rivers of fire. It is our commitment to the cause that sustained us during these violent upheavals. The cause we have charted to fight for, the right to self-determination of our people is right, fair and just. From the beginning up to now, we are resolutely committed to our cause… It is because of our firm commitment to our cause we have our importance, individuality and history…”
It is the firm commitment of Velupillai Pirabaharan and the LTTE to the Tamil struggle for freedom, that has given them their ‘importance, individuality and history’. It is not ‘ruthlessness’ but a stubborn willingness to serve the cause of their people that has enabled Velupillai Pirabaharan to command the loyalty and dedication of the Tamil people. Velupillai Pirabaharan did not create Tamil national togetherness. Rather, the growing togetherness of more than 70 million Tamil people, living in many lands, without a state of their own, has found strength (and pride) in the fearless and directed determination of Velupillai Pirabaharan. He has grown to become the living symbol of the will of a people to resist oppressive alien rule – and today, in the felicitous words of Anita Pratap, ‘the man is bigger than the myth’. Mr.Collacott (and, for that matter Mr.Pickering) should not be appalled.
National Post on Line, Canada, 13 June 2000