Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Non-States and Non-Events

by S.M. Lingam

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest." -- Harold Pinter

Some of the recent tragic events in Tamil Eelam have caused a sense of alarm and profound sadness among our Tamil people. But, when those sad events happened, the international community maintained a studied silence and ignored them with a callous indifference.Why did they behave in such a way? What happened to justice and fair play? If we want to learn from those incidents, gather strength and move forward, we have to get a deeper understanding of the prevailing geo-politics.   

Among the many tragic events, I want to mention only two events to stress and make clear my views. First is the case of the senior Tamil Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham,shot and killed at St.Mary's Cathedral in Batticaloa while attending the Christmas night Mass on December 25,2005. The second event, after a week, on 2nd January 2006, was the "execution style" killing of five Tamil students, all below the age of 20, in Trincomalee.

When these tragic and brutal murders happened, the so-called international community simply ignored them. Mr.Pararajasingham was murdered in a 'church' on a 'very holy occasion' - Christmas eve - in a holy place on a very holy night in a high security zone in Batticaloa town. Leaving aside the politicians, the God-fearing Catholic Church, its well-knit organisational bodies in and out of SriLanka, also failed to utter any word of condemnation. Maybe they had something to fear more than their God. For the premeditated and cruel murder of those five innocent Tamil students by the Sri Lankan security forces, there was not a murmur of protest or condemnation.The international community, the SLMM and others were so blind,deaf and mute!     

The reasons behind such behaviours were the geo-political interests of the international community. In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala-majority control a recognised nation-state, whereas the Tamil-minority have only a nation, but not a recognised state.

The Tamils are victimised by a nation-state formulated by our European colonial masters to suit their own interests and then imposed on us. To continue their hegemony and exploitation, the powerful Western nations want the status quo to continue undisturbed. Hence, the existing and compliant nations are allowed to have an unfettered monopoly of violence, and even their state-terrorism is explained away as legitimate law and order operations.          

As a result, in the current geo-political situation, only power and strength count. Whatever happens to the people of a non-state is a non-event. They are of no significance. Here we may note that Harold Pinter in his Nobel lecture [7 December 2005], referring to the crimes committed by the powerful USA in Central American countries, said as follows:

"It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."     ---- [1].                     

So it was a matter of power versus the powerless. If you belong to a powerless group, then whatever happens to you doesn't matter. It is as if it never happened -- that is a non-event.

Strength respects Strength      

To understand the real nature of this geo-politics, what Golda Meir - a former Prime Minister of Israel - wrote may be of much help. In her Autobiography she wrote:

"The world is harsh,selfish and materialistic. It is insensitive to the sufferings of small nations. Even the most enlightened of governments, democracies that are led by decent leaders who represent fine decent people, are not much inclined today to concern themselves with problems of justice in international relations. At a time when great nations are capable of knuckling under to blackmail and decisions are being made on the basis of big-power politics, we cannot always be expected to take their advice, and therefore, we must have the CAPACITY** and the COURAGE to go on seeing things as they really are and to ACT ON OUR OWN MOST FUNDAMENTAL INSTINCTS FOR SELF-PRESERVATION. So to those who ask, "What of the future?" I still have only one answer: I believe that we will have peace with our neighbours,but I am sure that no one will make peace with a weak Israel. If Israel is not STRONG, there will be no peace."     ----[2]     

We all know that Israel still continues to enjoy "the most favoured nation status" from the USA and its Western allies. Even then,Golda Meir complained so much about their plight. We can then use our imagination and insight to understand the far worse sufferings of the weaker nations and states in our present time.       

In the 1960s, when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India, her Principal Secretary P.N.Haksar advised her that India should produce nuclear weapons. Arguing for it, he told her, "If India is not strong and has no power, its concerns are likely to be dismissed as quibbles." To add strength to his argument P.N.Haksar used the following quote from the Oxford historian Lewis Namier:

"The weight of an argument greatly depends on him who uses it; that of the strong has "force" and carries "conviction"; that of the weak, if unanswerable, is called quibble and apt to cause annoyance."    ----[3].

Then Indira Gandhi agreed and said, "In this day and age if you want to be counted you have to be strong." As pointed out in a recent article, the father-figure of the Indian Nuclear Programme, Dr. Homi Bhaba also had the same view. I quote:

"Bhaba wanted India to be a Nuclear Weapons state.... He visualised a powerful India....... Bhaba was a believer of the dictum: STRENGTH respects STRENGTH and foresaw a role for the nuclear bomb in the security of the country; a concept Pandit Nehru did not share with Bhaba."     ----[4].   

So now India has become such a powerful country that even the USA and other Western countries are all rushing to become the friends of India.

The Role of the SLMM            

When the CFA was signed, an SLMM was established to monitor the implementation of the CFA. As a body created under the CFA, it is the bounden duty of the SLMM to treat both parties to the dispute, the LTTE and the GOSL, as equals. The Tamils expect that the facilitator Norway and the SLMM will conduct themselves in a strictly impartial manner In the past, Tamils have had many talks and discussions and signed many pacts with the Sinhala leaders, but none of them were honoured. After such bitter experiences, Tamils wanted to have an impartial third party mediators.

In such a situation,the behaviour of the SLMM, to say the least, is unsatisfactory. For example, in a statement to the BBC, after a firing at a GOSL helicopter on 17 December 2005, the SLMM said:

"As the small arms fire against the helicopter originated from an area controlled by the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], the LTTE must bear the responsibility for the incident".    ----[5].     

If the considered view of the SLMM is such, then what about the many attacks on and killings of unarmed LTTE cadres in "the GOSL controlled areas"? Did the SLMM ever had the courage to condemn the GOSL for at least one such incident among the many?                     

After a Claymore attack on the SL Navy personnel in Chettikulam, the SLMM said in its statement of 13 January 2006 as follows:

"Various actors in the international community have blamed the LTTE for attacking Government troops, but the LTTE has continuously denied any involvement. The LTTE claims that “the People” are behind the attacks on the military. SLMM finds this explanation unacceptable. It is safe to say that LTTE involvement cannot be ruled out and we find the LTTE's indifference to these attacks worrying." ----[6].       

If the LTTE's explanations for attacks in "the GOSL controlled areas" from which the LTTE had already withdrawn even their unarmed political workers, were "unacceptable" to the SLMM, then what about the GOSL's explanation regarding the attacks and abductions by the Tamil paramilitary groups in areas fully controlled by the GOSL? They are seemed to be "very acceptable" to these international ceasefire monitors? Anyway, it is heartening to note that, "after the Geneva talks," the head of the SLMM has mustered enough courage to speak the truth: "There is no doubt that such groups DO EXIST.The army should be TRUTHFUL about this issue". [Daily Mirror,1 March 2006 ]

The Way Out        

In an article entitled, "It is national sovereignty that has given China and India their edge" in 'The Guardian[UK]' of 17 September 2005, Professor Martin Jacques says:

"An independent nation-state remains the most important means by which peoples can exercise control over their own destiny. Without it, they are rendered impotent. With it, as East Asia has shown most clearly, an extraordinary transformation is possible. Much is made of the importance and virtues of democracy, but for developing countries, the most important form of democracy - whether their regime is authoritarian or democratic - is the right to control their own destiny.    ---- [7].

Here we must understand that these ideas are not only true for big countries like China and India, but also true for small countries like Singapore, Luxembourg, etc. It is the control over our own destiny that counts.        

In quote[6] above, the SLMM has inadvertently admits that they are guided and dictated by the "various actors in the international community" and that too only when "they have blamed the LTTE for attacking GOVERNMENT TROOPS." But as the impartial international ceasefire monitors who are well aware of the ground situations here, the SLMM should, by its actions and observations, guide the international community - the international community should be influenced by the SLMM and not the SLMM by the international community.        

As I have shown above in quotes[5] and [6], the SLMM issues hard hitting statements only when they have to blame the LTTE, but they are always soft on the GOSL. When the victims are the LTTE cadres or Tamil civilians, then both the SLMM and the international community remain silent - to them such victims are non-entities and those events are non-events. In fact,the Sinhala-dominated GOSL has had a state infrastructure for the last fifty- eight years and, therefore, the well-experienced GOSL ought to be more responsible and accountable for what happens in the GOSL-controlled areas.          

Engulfed by the mist of the 'maya' [illusion] created by the geo-political interests of the international community, or the "co-chairs", we must try to go beyond their advices, persuasions, pressures and veiled threats. As Golda Meir said:

"We cannot always be expected to take their advice, and therefore, we must have the CAPACITY and the COURAGE to go on seeing things as they really are and to ACT ON OUR OWN MOST FUNDAMENTAL INSTINCTS FOR SELF-PRESERVATION".    

**[Occasionally I have capitalized whole words and phrases for special emphasis].              


[1]Harold Pinter: Art,Truth & Politics; Nobel Lecture, 7 December 2005.
[2]My Life by Golda Meir;p.460. [G.P.Putnam's Sons, New York - 1975 First American Edition]
[3]The quotes and other related details are from: 'A Toast to India' by  Raj Chengappa, in    India Today International [North American Special Edition], 22 August 2005, - page 10. [4]'He believed that strength respects strength'    by Dr.V.S.Ramamurthy, 2 February 2006. [5] [6] [7],,1572204,00.html

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