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The Tamil Nadu Resolution and new possibilities

By Rajan Philips

On Wednesday, 12 November, the Tamil Nadu State Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Indian Government to persuade the Government of Sri Lanka to agree to a ceasefire with the LTTE and to commence negotiations to reach a political settlement. According to reports, the Indian Prime Minister handed a copy of the resolution to President Mahinda Rajapkase when the two met in Delhi. Mr. Rajapakse is reported to have turned down the request for a ceasefire agreement, while reiterating his commitment to a political solution and emphasizing his government’s efforts to deal with the humanitarian situation of the displaced people.

fort chennai

[Tamil Nadu State Assembly: Pic by: Media Ramu-Chennai]

President’s Rajapakse’s refusal to declare ceasefire is not surprising, but what is also notable is that there is increasing pressure on him to either bring the fighting to a quick end or to find an exit strategy while protecting the government’s military gains against the LTTE. The LTTE obviously wants a ceasefire right away while the government is insistent that the LTTE should surrender if it is serious about talking. It will be a while before the two parties dance their way to agreeing to do something other than unconditional ceasefire or total surrender. Until then, the war dance will continue.

The point of this article is that both the LTTE and the government are coming under not inconsiderable pressure to do something other than fighting. While the LTTE is facing mostly military pressure, the government’s difficulties, as I have alluded to sometime ago, are more non-military than military. More importantly, the Tamil Nadu resolution and its revived interest in the Sri Lankan matter raises new possibilities that could not have been anticipated only a couple of months ago.

It is not the content of the Tamil Nadu resolution that is significant; rather, it is the unanimity of its passage, the new level and nature of interest in Tamil Nadu, and the entirely different circumstances in which this interest is being manifested in contrast to the circumstances that preceded the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and the Thirteenth Amendment.

The fact that the resolution was adopted unanimously by all parties in the Assembly should not be taken by anyone in Colombo as an act of ganging up on the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka by the Tamil Nadu political class. On the contrary, the unanimity among the main political parties of Tamil Nadu marginalizes and shuts up those on the lunatic fringe of Tamil nationalism who cannot figure out where their Readers-Digest reading of the history of the Tamil Chola Empire ends and where the reality of their living begins. The same goes for the paranoid among the Sinhalese who react by conjuring absurd images of Tamil domination over all of Sri Lanka if the LTTE is not destroyed.

Tamil Nadu after the Thirteenth Amendment

Whatever misgivings there might be even among moderate Tamils about the adequacy of the Thirteenth Amendment, especially after the demerging the Northern and Eastern Provinces, it is the Thirteenth Amendment that is going to be the foundation and the framework for any future political solution. It is certainly the framework within which India can and will act in regard to influencing developments in Sri Lanka. Both the external influences of New Delhi and the internal dynamic between Tamil Nadu and New Delhi will be governed by the Thirteenth Amendment.

The plurality of support in Tamil Nadu for a political solution in Sri Lanka is predicated on the consensus around the Thirteenth Amendment. Anything short will be rejected by every Tamil Nadu Party (including both Regional and All India Parties), and anything excessively more will destroy the unanimity. Sri Lankan Tamil busybodies would do well to stop barking up the dead tree of self-determination and start persuading Tamil Nadu to become a facilitator and insurer of the formulation and implementation of a political solution centred on the Thirteenth Amendment.

There is nothing sinister or subversive about involving Tamil Nadu to find a positive resolution to Sri Lanka’s national problem. The Sri Lankan Government has appreciated the concerns in Tamil Nadu for the welfare of the Sri Lankan Tamils, but not the welfare of the LTTE. There are enough examples around the world for multi-party external involvement in resolving internal problems – to wit, the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, and the inevitability of multi-party involvement in any future resolution of the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Obviously, for the involvement of Tamil Nadu to be positive and productive, it should be acceptable to the Government of Sri Lanka and beneficial to all Sri Lankans and not just the Sri Lankan Tamils. The immediate benefit of involving Tamil Nadu, in my view, is in helping to draw the LTTE out of its political isolation and engaging it in the political process. As it is, positive international pressure for a political solution is asymmetrically applied, with only the government being pressurized while the LTTE is pressurized only negatively – by way of outlawing and restrictions on its operations. The government, being the executive committee of the state, has a bigger responsibility to take positive initiatives and is more exposed to inter-governmental pressure. But at some point, sooner rather than later, the LTTE has to join the political process; or, it should be brought into it. Who is capable of doing that?

Others more resourceful than I am might suggest a superior alternative, but I cannot think of anyone other than Tamil Nadu being able to undertake this task. I am not suggesting that Tamil Nadu will succeed where others have failed, but it is a shot worth taking. As I said at the outset, this possibility could not have been foreseen two months ago, but now that Tamil Nadu has got interested the way it has new possibilities are emerging.

The possibilities I am projecting here are not based on good will and willingness on the part of the government and the LTTE; although they are necessary, they are not going to be there at the outset. There are objective circumstances that are beginning to force the two parties to look at options other than fighting, or to undertake them while carrying on fighting. The LTTE will have a hard time turning down an offer of mediation from India and Tamil Nadu, based on a reasonable basis for a political solution.

The LTTE would seem to be keener than the government to have a ceasefire, but it must not hope for ceasefire conditions like the one it had with Ranil Wickremasignhe, Any new ceasefire will include more stringent conditions. As a minimum, the LTTE should make a commitment to political solution based on the Thirteenth Amendment. I am not saying that the LTTE is waiting for someone to suggest before doing it. But there is no one better equipped to put this to the LTTE than Tamil Nadu.

The government is much less keen about a ceasefire than the LTTE, and is therefore laying down the unrealistic condition of surrender by the LTTE. But the prolongation of the war and the deteriorating economy are becoming serious impediments to the government’s current war-only, war-at-any-cost plan. The costs of war cannot be borne indefinitely especially when the economy is getting into deep trouble, and the people will not hold their patience indefinitely. Someone or something has to give somewhere.

There will also be increasing pressure from outside, to end the war and work towards a political solution. The pressure will grow as the Obama Administration hits the ground running in January – to end the war in Iraq and look for an exit strategy in Afghanistan. The world’s priority is no longer fighting costly and endless wars against terrorism that characterized the Bush era, or cheering obscurantist struggles for self-determination, but waging war against the global economic crisis. That is the message from the G-20 Washington Summit of November 15, and there will be little enthusiasm for supporting anything different.

(This is a modified version of the article published in the Sunday Island of November 16)

5 Comments

As a demand to the just and fair demand of the sri-lankan tamil people for a fairer sharing of political power, devolution of political power was suggested as a political solution more than one and a half decades ago (in 1994). Also even during one of the the pevious peace talks between the sri-lankan government and the LTTE even a federal state was offered for the north, all rejected by the LTTE. Also today tamil is a national lanuage in sri-lanka equal to sinhalese. All tamil students learn their lessons in school in tamil. There is very vibrant tamil media, radio, tv and newspapers.

Let us look in contrast at what the LTTE has done last two decades, they have recruited forcefully 12,000 child soldiers, all tamil children from poor families, and sent them to the war front. Some have got killed as a result. I think recruitment of child soldiers is a crime against humanity and shame on those who condone this practise. When some brave tamil teachers in the north tried to stop this they were gunned down by the LTTE.

Almost the entire moderate tamil leadership in sri-lanka who actually wanted to talk peace including tamil politicians, intellectuals, MPs and citizens were gunned down and killed by the LTTE to the detriment of all sri-lankans. The LTTE has also killed thousands of tamil civilians who were against them.

In addition thousands of civilians both sinhalese, tamil and muslims have been killed by LTTE placing bombs in buses and other public places. Quite recently a bomb placed in a bus blasted more than 50 civilians to pieces including children. Which government in the world will look on while this is going on?

The LTTE uses bombs against the sri-lanka army in the north but smetimes they go off prematurely and it is almost always tamil civilians who get killed as a result and therefore a climate of fear is created. I blame the LTTE for these deaths.

The LTTE ethnically cleased the north of sinhalese and muslims in the 1990s. They attacked many sinhalese villages and committed some massacres in the 1990s. No government in the world would not give protection to its citizens under these circumstances.

Also in the 1990s the LTTE leader gave orders where 600 policemen were rounded up, taken to the jungles and massacred. Even today their grave has not been found. Which government in the world will tolerate such behaviour?

Due to the LTTE activities the economy of the north and east has suffered immensely for the last two and a half decades. Only now in the east under a wiser leadership of a breakaway group of the LTTE, who saw that the LTTE leader prabhakaran is a phycopath and therefore broke away from the LTTE, that the people of the east are finally seeing many infrastructure development projects taking place there and normalcy and democracy returning.

The LTTE walked out of five peace talks to date, rejected devoluion of power and it is they who restarted this pointless war each time. So who is to blame for the current war, the sri-lankan government or the LTTE?

One other thing of concern is that the LTTE gets 95% of its funding through extortion of the sri-lanka tamil diaspora in western countries and these countries should put a stop to this if they want to see peace in sri-lanka.

I strongly believe that the LTTE leader prabhakaran is a phycopath and he does not care about tamil people or anyone else and is incapable of doing so considering the damage he has done to the north east and the people there in particular.

Posted by: m | November 16, 2008 10:58 PM

The comment by m above seem to be by a person who does not know the history of the country. He does not realise as to how many agreemnets were torn aside by successive SL governments in the past. How much damage was done to the north. The government is the worst terrorist.

He also does not realise the hundreds of thousands of Tamils who have been made to live by the SL on streets in rain - some for thirty years. The aerial bombing of civilians by the army is worse than terrorism. He seem to live in utopia. If he sees the condition the north is in - he will realise - I hope.

The Tamils have tried every peaceful means to live in a unitary country, but rejected by successive SL governments, which unfortunately resulted in the LTTE.

Even the government side of the 2002 agreement was not enforced by the SL government. This is the reason, unless a solid reliable agreement is reached and enforced there will be no solution.

Posted by: Canaga | November 17, 2008 01:03 AM

Hi,

The question is very simple.

Have the Tamil people the right of self determination according to the international lows ?
Have one people the right to decide for him self?

If so, Tamils should be accepted as a Nation and they should have the possibility of costituting a State for their self gouvernance.

If not, you should accepte that any powerful army can invade any coutry or any people in the planet.

For exemple, SriLanka could be invaded by India, America, China or any other country which estimates that the Sri Lanka is threat for their existence.


Posted by: Sivaraman | November 17, 2008 04:25 AM

No one can support LTTE legally.NO ONE. Its illegal to do so.

The solution to SL lies in UN interfering , by UN, I meant its top member countries, and solving the situation. Tamils, Sinhalese are people, so peace should be achieved by law and not by war or stopping supplies.

Posted by: TT | November 17, 2008 04:55 PM

If Tamilnadu is invited and agrees to play a role in bringing peace to Sri Lanka, why not?

It was only recently President Rajapakse spoke in glowing terms about the Tamilnadu Chief Minister Shri M. Karunanidhi and I believe this is a welcome shift.

The question is are those in the far extreme of Sinhala Nationalistic politics mature enough to come to terms with such a refreshing reality?

Posted by: k. arvind | November 18, 2008 04:43 AM

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