Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Senseless Words and Inappropriate Deeds

by Sabesan, Australia

[An English transcript of a Tamil broadcast made on the  “Thamilkural” programme on August 7, 2006, 3CR Radio, Melbourne]

In light of the history of Singhalese hegemony, bloodshed and destruction, it is incomprehensible that external forces are still inclined towards the Tamils being coerced to drop their arms and join hands with the Singhalese in the holy matrimony of a unified state. If democracy means one man one vote, then in a country where extreme nationalism is the proven mantra for gaining power, there is no place for a minority community.

The acts of state-sponsored terrorism unleashed by the  Sinhala government of Sri Lanka are no longer being covertly conducted. Foreign countries and international organizations have expressed deep concern over the government’s indifference to the injustices being wantonly carried out against the Tamil people.

The Co-Chairs of the Sri Lanka donor community, the USA, EU, Japan and Norway, have jointly and independently expressed their indignation over the continuing atrocities occurring in Sri Lanka. They have urged both parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and resume peace talks. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan himself has expressed his concern and urged the Sri Lankan government to stop the war on Tamils. Similarly, Canada along with many other countries have cautioned the Sri Lankan government against carrying out war crimes and crimes against humanity, and emphasized the importance of restarting peace talks.

Furthermore, the Co-Chairs of the Sri Lanka donor countries, as well as the UN, have applied pressure to Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksha to establish an independent international inquiry into the slaying of 17 aid workers allegedly by the Sri Lankan army and to submit their findings to an international forum. They are also concerned about the vengeful food embargo imposed on Tamils in the aftermath of the war and have warned the government not to interfere with the free flow of food and medicine to the affected areas.

Another important aspect of the conflict that has attracted world opinion and been openly discussed among diplomatic communities is the idea of a homeland for the Tamils. Richard Boucher, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs has clearly and consciously stated in a recent press interview that There are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their homeland; in the areas they’ve traditionally inhabited.” Similarly, Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, Asia, has asserted the legitimate demands of the Tamils need to be respected. We are also appreciative of the fact that there are many countries supportive of the Tamil cause and who passionately urge the Sri Lankan government to settle the legitimate demands of the Tamils.

Hearing such assertions and reports that are favourable to the Tamil demands inspires optimism among Tamils, especially among those who are displaced in foreign countries.

Many foreign countries as well as various other world organizations have expressed their indignation that the peace process is being delayed by successive Sri Lankan governments. They urge the incumbent President of the Sri Lankan government to find an amicable solution to the ongoing problem through peace talks rather than a military assault. Above all, they have explicitly stated that the Tamils have a legitimate demand for self determination and self-rule in their homeland. Thanks to this international pressure, some political analysts have suggested there may be light at the end of tunnel.

However, we dissociate from such a sense of sweet optimism. More importantly, as we sceptically look at the Sri Lankan government’s senseless words and inappropriate deeds, we are duty bound to caution our people to be more alert and vigilant than ever during these testing times.

It is imperative to take heed of the standpoint of external forces who express their indignation over the failed approach to solving the national problem of Sri Lanka and are supportive of the legitimate demands of the Tamils. We have to made note of the fact that the some of these agencies propose an unacceptable condition for Tamil independence - that it be without the existence of the LTTE.

We are aware of the fact that some of the external forces are of the opinion that the Tamil people should not be supportive of the Tigers, that they should abandon the Tigers once a peace agreement is reached. It is incomprehensible why these external forces hold this contradictory view, one where they acknowledge that the Tigers are the only representatives of the Tamils who can have talks with the government, whilst also urging the Tamil community to abandon the LTTE afterwards.

Where were these external forces all these years? How dare they demand that the Tamils abandon the Tigers? Did they raise a finger against the Singhalese for the atrocities committed against the Tamils during many decades of oppression? Didn’t they support the so-called democratic Sri Lankan government year after year, supplying enough arms and ammunition to wipe out a minority community? One day history will say that the economic and military support provided by the very same external forces during decades of oppression of Tamils were instrumental for successive Singhala governments to commit more and more atrocities against the Tamils.

When the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka cried out against sustained oppression by the majority Singhalese and staged peaceful protests, they were ridiculed by Sinhala armed forces. Many were killed by Sinhala thugs and their properties were set on fire. As a result, there was an exodus of Tamils to foreign countries. The very same external forces that demand the Tamils to abandon Tigers now were supportive of the Sri Lanka government then.

Peaceful agitations by the Tamils went unheeded, so their protest evolved into armed conflict under the leadership of the Tigers. At that point the external forces were awakened and they realized that was a genuine grievance by the Tamils that needed to be redressed. Even then, for many years the external forces remained supportive of the two-faced hypocrisy of successive Sri Lankan Singhalese governments in their fight, the "war for peace," against the so-called terrorism. It appeared they simply praised the Lord and passed the ammunition.

There were instances when the Tigers were at a disadvantage and willing to make concessions, but the external forces failed to apply pressure on the Sri Lankan government to start a peace initiative. Instead, successive Sri Lankan governments were rewarded with more economic aid and military hardware. As such, Sri Lankan governments had a free hand to conduct their state-sponsored reign of terror to unleash, in effect, genocide. They were so trigger-happy that they even had the gall to term it as a ‘war for peace.’

The liberation movement of the Tamil Tigers did not merely resist the grand army of Sri Lanka, but also recaptured most of the land mass that belonged to Tamil-speaking people. They established an efficient civil administration in their region and defended their territories against the might of Sri Lanka army. It is at this point that external forces shot into action and initiated a peace deal between the two parties on an equal status.

Almost five years have elapsed since the cease fire agreement was signed, but nothing has materialized on the ground. Today, the very same external forces want the Tamils to disown the Tigers.  They try to explain that the Tigers need to disarm and accept the path of democracy and co-exist with the Singhalese. Failing disarmament, the Tamils should disown the Tigers.

The Tamils took up arms in the first place for the very reason that successive governments in Sri Lanka failed to upkeep the spirit of democracy, abusing the power handed to them by their numeric superiority. Agitation of the Tamils took a different shape after peaceful protests to win their rights were met by death and destruction.  Now, it is unreasonable for the external forces to demand that the Tigers drop their arms and accept the old form of communal democracy that has so badly failed the Tamil people. It cannot happen so soon and without any guarantee for the safety of the Tamils.

The democratic tradition of Sri Lanka is that of Singhalese Buddhist chauvinism. The constitution of Sri Lanka is against the welfare of the Tamils and does not safeguard the interest of Tamils at a national level. Professor S.A.D. Smith, considered a foremost authority on commonwealth constitutions, has condemned the constitution of Sri Lanka and termed it illegal. He is not alone in such condemnation. The assistant high commissioner of the U.K, Dominic John Chilcott has also stated that the constitution left behind by the British was not strong enough to protect the interests of minorities in the island. Prof. Smith condemned the governments of Sri Lanka for diluting the constitution further to discriminate against the minorities, particularly the Tamils.

In light of the history of Singhalese hegemony, bloodshed and destruction, it is incomprehensible that external forces are still inclined towards the Tamils being coerced to drop their arms and join hands with the Singhalese in the holy matrimony of a unified state. If democracy means one man one vote, then in a country where extreme nationalism is the proven mantra for gaining power, there is no place for a minority community.

It is naïve of the external forces to believe that the Tigers can simply disarm overnight and join hands with the Singhalese in a so called democratic stream. We believe that the external forces have some misconceptions about the ideology of the Tamil struggle and the reconstruction thereafter. One more question needs to be asked. Thus far have the external forces obtained any guarantee from the governments of Sri Lanka as regards to the well being of the Tamils? Nothing.

Did they put any form of pressure on the chauvinistic government to yield to the legitimate demands of the minorities? The answer is again an emphatic 'no.' Last February, the Rajapaksha government made a deal in Geneva to disarm the Karuna faction and has reneged on implementing it. Did any of the external forces object to such a breach of agreement? Never.

Up until now there has been no genuine attempt by external forces to apply pressure on the Sri Lanka Government to implement agreements that were decided under the terms of Cease Fire Agreements signed between the Tigers and the government of Sri Lanka. If the external forces had acted evenhandedly, the war today could have been averted.

It is customary for external forces to condemn and jeopardize a people’s uprising at a point when the sacrifice made by them begins to yield results. The great statesman, Nelson Mandela underwent the same trauma and his movement was condemned as terrorist organization not so long ago. Every attempt to isolate Nelson Mandela from his people made their bondage stronger and more and more inseparable because his cause was justified by his people.

Today, the external forces are making the very same mistake of trying to separate the Tigers from the downtrodden Tamil masses who have suffered decades of persecution and untold misery at the hands of Singhala army. An armed movement is sure to fail if they are not supported by the community for whom they are fighting. Therefore, one cannot understand why some want to separate the Tigers from the Tamils.

There are external forces who recognise the suffering of the Tamil masses and see the need for redress to these longstanding grievances, but remain adamant that the Tigers need to be disowned by the Tamils. It is like trying to stage Hamlet without the prince. If external forces propose such an inappropriate peace condition, the Tamil people will soon lose faith in them, just as they long ago lost faith in the Sri Lanka government.

We welcome involvement from external forces, their role in coming to the aid of the affected community and helping with the rebuilding process, but not at the cost of our identity or the self deterministic ideals for which Tamil blood has been shed. If this is not acceptable to external forces, they should stay out of the conflict. Our struggle shall continue until our just objectives are achieved. It is the struggle of the Tamil people. Our determination and the unity between Tamils and Tigers will triumph in the end.

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