Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Printer-Friendly Version

Is Peace Feasible?

by Wakeley Paul, Esq.

Stunned by the fact that Mr Pirabakaran controlled the result of the election,  whereby the Sinhalese were to determine who their President should be, the Sinhalese/English press react with articles and editorials seasoned with resentment as well as concern.

The unitary constitution and a united nation

Realizing the  total unacceptability of Mr Rajapakse’s unrealistic  insistence on retaining the Unitary Constitution, the press recommend a duplicitous course of action for him to follow. They suggest that Rajapakse publicly renounce his election platform by abandoning his policy about the importance and sanctity of maintaining the Unitary Constitution.  They suggest that he carefully shift his position in order to convince the international community that peace, not the Unitary Constitution, is his number one priority. They advise that he pretend to the international community that he is ready for peace talks by talking of a united nation instead of insisting on a Unitary Constitution.

Is there  really any difference between the two?

The press hope that the international community, with their blinded opposition to a separate state, will be attracted by this change in terminology.  By this approach, they hope to accomplish two goals. 1.)Get the international community to lull the LTTE to engage in fruitless peace talks, and thereby 2.) give the President time to prepare his armed forces and his constituents for war.

Majority domination of minorities

The Sinhalese love to talk of satisfying the aspirations of all communities when seeking a solution to the ethnic tensions that divide this nation, when in fact all they are concerned with is fulfilling their own wishes of remaining the ruling power over every other community in every part of the island. They have consistently chosen to deny the very simple fact that the Tamils are indisputably the regional majority in the NE, despite the unforgivable Sinhalese effort to change the demography of the region through colonization. They cannot bring themselves to frankly recognize that their irrevocable  objective is to keep us Tamils and other ethnic entities under their control, while ours has been to free ourselves from that menace. How can one reconcile such utterly inconsistent policies?

As stated before, the Sinhalese press  suggest that Rajapakse should talk of a united country instead of an Unitary Constitution. This will no doubt appease the international community, who keep mouthing the formula that separation is out of the question.  Unfortunately, they fail to realize that a United Nation or a Unitary Constitution boil down to the same thing, namely,  uncontrolled Sinhalese control of the fate and future of the Tamils and others. 

Devolution vs autonomy

Mr Rajapakse made that clear by implication when he said that the most he was willing to grant by way of surrendering even a semblance of power to the Tamils under the concept of a “United Nation” is  to adopt the policy of  “Devolution of Power.” As pointed out by Chief Justice Sharwananda in the XIII Amendment case, Devolution was Constitutional under the Unitary Constitution, as it enabled the Central Parliament to withdraw whatever they devolve to anyone at any time.  What type of surrender of powers is that?

In short, Rajapakse's conception of a Unitary Constitution  and a United Nation are synonymous with each other. The question the international community should ask these Sinhalese journalists  and leaders is, what does their concept of a united country mean? Does it mean the opportunity for the Sinhalese to continue to control, and limit the ambitions, hopes and expectations of the Tamil youth? Or does it envisage granting to the NE sufficient autonomy to avert such repression while the NE. remains part of the same nation?

To the Sinhalese the proposals in the ISGA demanded too much autonomy. What does that signify? An obvious determination not to release the  Sinhalese hold over the Tamils? Whether it be under the guise of what is described as a United Nation or what can be described as a Unitary Constitution, the end result is identical, to deny the Tamils any right to determine their  own rights and obligations.

Sinhalese journalists hope for a tangible improvement in race relations by maintaining the right of the Sinhalese to retain Sinhalese supremacy, which has been the evil that has sparked the racial crisis in the first place. They refuse to recognize that the Tamils have every reason to seek autonomy based on the hideous history of Sinhalese discrimination that has dominated this nation since the Sinhalese obtained Independence from the British in 1948.

Multi-ethnic vs majority-dominated polity

The Unitary Constitution made this a Sinhalese dominated nation instead of a multi ethnic one. Unfortunately, the Sinhalese used their majority in the single parliament to illegally abolish the crucial entrenched protections the British provided for the other ethnic groups on the island.

The whole focus on “Federalism” is farcical, for, as Mr H.L. de Silva has vividly pointed out, Federalism can only succeed if the  parties trust each other. It  should be obvious to anyone, judging from statements from both sides, that neither side trusts the other.

The latest Sinhalese ploy is to get India, that fears a breakaway by Tamil Nadu, the Sikhs and the Kashmiris,  to intervene. Let them not forget that, when the Indians physically intervened under President Jayawardena, both the Sinhalese and Tamils resented that invasion. The then Prime Minister Mr Premadasa virulently opposed this foreign intervention. The Tamils fought and humiliated the Indian army. The Indians have never forgotten this and carry their resentment against the LTTE to this day. What kind of neutral intervention could we possibly expect from them now? In any event, can the Sinhalese trust the Indians any more than we do? The important question everyone has to ask is whether we should allow others to dictate to us what our future should be.  The Indians, as an unhealthily ambitious mini superpower with its intelligence service R.A.W running around our island in an effort to control events there, will love to do that. The sovereignty of both the Tamils and Sinhalese would be compromised thereby.

The rest of the international community, on the other hand, will most likely do all in their  power to avoid this, preferring a local leader to determine the island's future. The worry we Tamils have is whether that local leader will represent our interests, or those of the Sinhalese to the exclusion of those of the Tamils.

Ultimately, the question that arises is whether the Sinhalese people are ready to stop playing games by doing everything in their power to avoid facing the simple straightforward issue that faces us, which is, that they seek to continue to control our fate, while we wish to control our own.

Democracy with a permanent majority

The international community and the U.N. have recognized the right of minorities to overcome the unwelcome, overwhelming power of national majorities in East Timor, Northern Sudan and Bosnia. What is so different about Sri Lanka? The fact that Sri Lanka has elections? Those elections allow the Sinhalese to choose between two or more rival contenders who their leader should be. Does it permit the Tamils to have a real voice in determining who their leader should be? Obviously not. Do they regard these as free democratic elections from a Tamil viewpoint?

It is in this connection that the USA and Britain, engulfed as they are by the 9/11 syndrome, should realize that the LTTE has no connection whatsoever with Al Qaeda, nor does in anyway share its goals. The enemy of the LTTE is the Sinhalese armed forces, who are out to suppress Tamil aspirations for Autonomy on behalf of every successive Sinhalese government. It is nothing short of a freedom struggle to be freed from the rule of the self centered Sinhalese.

The deeper question is whether we can escalate the debate between the parties any further, considering how inconsistent the goals of each side are with the other. One demands autonomy, the other refuses to consider it. Are we not chaffing at threads in trying to pretend that there is anything that holds us together?

Assimilation or genocide the only choice?

There is an old saying that the best way to deal  with your enemy is to assimilate them, because you cannot kill them all. Can the Tamils possibly be assimilated? Unlike the multi ethnic societies of the developed world, we are an anti ethnic society, with little in common and little sympathy between the communities.

With the current standoff, war is inevitable, as neither side can offer a peaceful solution. It does not matter who fires the first shot. Neither side has any other alternative, unless the government, realizing that by all accounts we have reached a critical stage in the nation's ethnic crisis, is able to shy away from its standoff stance, come to grips with reality, and face the fact that the NE must be free of their stifling and unwelcome domination of the region.