Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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The Dilemma of the US, the LTTE and the Buddhist Ayatollahs

by Professor Saveri Amuthaputhiran, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, December 13, 2005, TamilCanadian

From the oppressed Tamil perspective the US Ambassador’s admonitions this week were as intimidating and threatening as the warning issued in August 1995 by a visiting UNDP representative in Jaffna to the Tamil civilians that the US will support the Sinhala military’s assault to conquer Jaffna. To the Sinhala officialdom this would have tasted sweeter than kithul honey. With callous disregard to the horrors unleashed in the past two weeks in the NorthEast of the island by the Sinhala militray in the form of cordon and search operations, gang rapes, arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances, the well-informed Ambassador has chosen to turn a blind eye to the military terrorism engulfing the densely populated Tamil cities.

The Ambassador deliberately aimed his words at more than 80 million Tamils living across the world from South Africa to Norway, including many South East Asian countries, and in that he knows that the majority of them are sympathetic to the Tamil Eelam struggle for separation. We, therefore, make a great effort to understand why the US representative is expressing his open antagonism to the 80 million strong, world’s Tamil communities in order to gain a foothold in Sri Lanka. Let us look at the recent history.

In June 1984, following the visit of J.R. Jayewardene to Washington, the U.S. used Israel as a proxy to provide military aid to Sri Lanka; in return the Jayewardene government granted limited diplomatic recognition to the Israeli State. The US also used South Africa under President Botha’s government as a proxy to supply arms and ammunitions to Sri Lanka. “The US derived direct advantages in return for these various services. Its navy was permitted rest and recreation facilities in Ceylon’s ports. The giant American aircraft carrier 'Kittyhawk' visited Colombo harbour for four days in November 1985 to check on the installations available for large warships. The US also obtained 1000 acres of land north of Colombo to establish a Voice of America Station to be the largest of its size outside the US. (for more on this see A.J. Wilson, Break-Up of Sri Lanka, p. 200ff.) The JVP, which is now welcoming American intervention, was up in arms then.

Even three years ago Colombo newspapers reported on March 21, 2003 “Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Colombo, after Friday's Jummah prayers, protesting the US-led war on Iraq. Government and opposition parliamentarians, including those from the Janata Vimukti Peramuna, took part in the protest, sources said.

They were carrying the anti-American placards. After prayer at the Dawataga Palliya Mosque near Town Hall in Colombo, protestors carrying anti-US banners and shouting slogans marched to Lipton Square. They burnt US flags at Lipton Square and marched toward the Maligawatta Mosque, the sources said. Parliamentarians from the Sri Lanka Fredom Party (SLFP), the Janta Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) participated in the protests. Participants included Mangala Samaraweera and M.A. Hisabulla of the SLFP, Wimal Weerawansa, Bimal Rathnayaka and Vijitha Herath of the JVP, Noordeen Mashoor of the SLMC and Western Provincial Governor Mr. Alavi Moulana.” Now the US Ambassador to Colombo must do his homework to identify that those who are with him are truly against his country.

Now the Ambassador must understand that neither the Tamils nor the LTTE is fighting a nation, a people or a government. They are fighting an ideology based on ‘one land, one faith, one language and one rule.’ This ideology reduces the other as an unwanted, secondary alien; mere cannon fodder. The Tamils are therefore fighting for dignity and self-respect, for freedom and justice. They also know that all weapons, including nuclear ones, supplied by the US can kill them. But in the end they will have Tamils’ dead bodies, not their dignity and respect.

It may be of interest to the US Ambassador to know that the very first political assassination of a prime minister in office in South Asia took place in Sri Lanka. It was not committed by a terrorist or by any designated member of a terrorist group. It was meticulously planned and executed by a Buddhist chief priest of an Episcopal rank in (Thero) 1959. The Buddhist Sangha was not added to the terrorist list. It will never be. The monk who killed S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was sent to the gallows. He was killed because he wanted to amend the 'follies' Bandaranaike was making to the Tamil community through a process of reconciliation. Today Buddocracy has replaced democracy in Sri Lanka. The buddocratic political rigour of the Buddhist monks is far more chauvinistic than the combined theocratic allegiance of the former Taliban and the post-Shah Iran with the Ayatollahs.

Now for the rest, I will quote verbatim some extracts of K. Ratnayake’s article “Sri Lankan foreign minister discusses war, not peace, in Washington.:

The direction in which the Bush administration is leaning is unmistakable. To "laud" the Colombo government for its "restraint," even as the Sri Lankan security forces are engaged in attacks, murders and repression, is only to encourage Rajapakse, the military and Sinhala extremists to go further. Rice's remarks come in the wake of a meeting last month of the co-chairs of the Sri Lankan donors group - the US, the EU, Japan and Norway - which showed a similar bias. Its statement urged the LTTE to "put an end to its ongoing campaign of violence" and warned of "serious consequences" if it failed to do so.

The Bush administration is no more committed to "peace" in Sri Lanka than it is in Iraq or Afghanistan. Having largely ignored the brutal 20-year civil war on the island, Washington only wants it ended now because the conflict threatens to destabilise a region in which US strategic and economic interests are growing. Not only is India an expanding source of cheap labour for American corporations, but South Asia is adjacent to the key resource-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

The Bush administration has been fostering a close relationship with India-a fact that was reflected in Rice's remarks last Friday. She told the media: "The whole South Asia region I expect to be very high on my list of priorities. Enhancing the relationship with India will be extremely important." President Bush is planning to visit India later this year. US support for the so-called peace process in Sri Lanka has always been a purely tactical means for gaining its ends. While US diplomats have insisted on the resumption of peace talks, there has been a steady stream of top US military officers through Colombo to enhance "cooperation" between the two countries. The Pentagon seized the opportunity following the 2004 tsunami to dispatch US troops for the first time to Sri Lanka, creating a precedent for future US military involvement in the island's affairs.

At present, with the US military embroiled in a quagmire in Iraq, the Bush administration is not in a strong position to plunge into a civil war in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, as the island slides back to war, US officials are obviously in the process of calculating their response. By turning a blind eye to the Sri Lankan military's provocations and berating the LTTE, Rice is adding more inflammable material to what is already an explosive situation. Rajapakse appears to have quickly worked out which way the wind is blowing in Washington. Last weekend he seized on the sinking of the naval vessel to markedly toughen his stance toward the LTTE. "It is a great mistake if anyone thinks that our decisions can be altered by means of terror. The LTTE should realise that we are not deaf and blind. If they think so, the time has come for them to give up such thoughts," he declared. Back to what the Ambassador said: "We want to make it clear. The LTTE will face a stronger, more capable and more determined Sri Lankan military. We want the cost of a return to war to be high," he said.

This is not the language of peace, but of war.