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Will deterrent actions solve the Sri Lanka's political crisis

Point of view: by A.Rajasingam

Democracy is a Western concept that was introduced by the British to Sri Lanka with good intention whereby all sections of the community could take part without any discrimination as to race, religion, language, etc. However, Sri Lankan history has shown that successive governments have engaged in suppressing the rights of the minorities as from 1956 for political gains and changed the constitution thrice to suit their objectives of having the Tamils to be under their control without recognizing their rights. Their failure to resolve the problem without placing a meaningful federal solution had eventually led the minority to view the government as a foreign domination, giving rise to the birth of the concept of Tamil Homeland. As a result the presence of the ethnic issue emerged and continued until it took the form of terrorism and countered by State terrorism with the passage of time.

The marginalization of the Tamils began with the colonization at Minneriya, Sinhala Only Act and the Standardization. These type of measures of the Sinhalese politicians laid the foundation for the growth of violence in Sri Lanka which eventually gave birth to the rise of terrorism. Though terrorism means to inflict serious injury with the intention of creating an acute fear and despair in the minds of the people for a political or religious purpose, there is no definition for it. But the element of targeting the innocent people or non-combatants is always there in order to create a sense of insecurity and to destablize the government. Neverthless the Tamils were opposed to terrorism, given the fact that the Tamils are generally a hard working race and education was their asset.

When the legitimate aspirations are deliberately suppressed by the majority by the use military force, it is natural that racism becomes instrumental as the force behind terrorism. The root cause is inequality and when agitated, the State uses its military force to crush it, an act of State Terrorism, resulting in the destruction of lives and property. In a multi-racial country the right to self-determination is the right of people to freely determine their political, economic and social development within their national boundaries, without affecting the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. If a proper constitution is drawn like in the USA, Canada, India or Switzerland, self-determination could not be abused to encourage secession and terrorism. On the contrary there will be firm unity and mutual understanding among the entire people of the country.

The southern politicians boasts of Buddhism which preach the Buddhists to get rid of greed, hatred and delusion (which are considered as evils) in order to attain Nirvana. The Buddhist priests also tie the thread to the soldiers to win and conquer the hearts of the people with love and compassion. But it is regret to hear that Buddhism maintained silence when the Special Task Force (STF) commandos commited sexual assault on a 14-year-old Tamil girl and later assault her father and then torture her mother (social worker) before killing and dump her body in the well as punishment for complaining against the STF. This was an incident occurred at Wellaweli in Batticaloa. Moreover the manner of handling the dead female LTTE cadres and the persecution of innocent Tamils by the Sri Lanka Armed Security Forces, raises a question whether they are causing hatred among the communities, which appears to be the other side of preaching Buddhism.

As such, it is no wonder the government is reluctant to recognize the rights of self-determination to the Tamils. The government failed to establish a Confident Building Measure by winning the hearts of the Tamils by rejecting the calls for truce when an opportunity arose to build trust and limit escalation of hatred among the people in general.

The failure of the southern political leaders to realize that the out come of the atrocities committed by the Security forces, would turn on more than a million of Tamils living in foreign countries to battle it out on economic front such as boycott of purchasing Sri Lankan goods, stop traveling on Sri Lankan Airlines, etc. If so, the consequences of Sri Lanka's economy would be disastrous creating loss of employment and causing misery and poverty in the country, thus bringing everything to a standstill. As such, the possibility of a battle could be seen between the fire-power of the Security Forces and the will-power of the Tamils in the coming months.

Having liberated the area from the LTTE, there is no reason for the Government to place the IDPs in camps when those people have a place of their own. This is where the entire world watches what the Government intends to do with those people. In a democratic country when journalists and International NGOs are denied access, there is reason to believe that a systematic persecution of selected youths from these camps are carried out at an average of 30 a day and that such cruel treatment that are meted by these people amounts to a flagrant violation of humanitarian law. There is no guarantee for human life even if the IDPs are accommodated in the safe zones designated by the government. What is required is transparency of what the government is doing, which is possible if there is freedom of expression by the journalists and also by the international NGOs. Further having been a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the prolonged detention of these people appears to be continuing with slavery, a disgraced act of the 21st century.

The southern politicians should not resort to such low level of committing inhumane acts on innocent Tamils when the government politicians are unable to answer the merits of Federalism with sound reasons. The position of the southern politicians in maintaining Sri Lanka as a Unitary State eventually proved to be a failed State. The maintenance of its unitary character without recognizing the legitimate rights of the Tamils only ended in a heavy loss of lives and property.

In the circumstances, it is time to realize that Federalism can function well in bringing together an ethnically and regionally diverse citizen body (Tamils) within the confines of a single-nation state. Mention should be made that the basic federal formula-shared rule will succeed in striking a balance between unity and diversity and that Federalism is the highest form of decentralization. This is the answer when the Unitary system in Sri Lanka face many challenges to the legitimacy of unitarism. Federalism will out perform unitarism because it provides sufficient scope for regional political group to promote its own interests (not separation) independently without affecting the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Thus Federalism has the force of enhancing the legitimacy of the Unitary system by providing sufficient scope for regional developments desired by the people.

It is a tragedy that Sri Lanka is struggling within the tentacles of Marxist ideologies spread by the leftists and the Tamil Movements. Unfortunately the leaders of the Tamil Movements are also absorbed in the concept of the Marxist policies in their pursuit of their objective, at a time when Tamils were opposed to Marxist ideologies. Marxist ideologies failed to creep into the minds of the Tamils, though the late Kandiah won on sympathetic grounds only once. On the contrary the Communist Party won several seats in the Sinhalese areas at several times and now by the leftist-oriented JVPs which is a curse to the country.

Apparently the foundation of the Tamil Movements was built on the teachings of E.V.R.Periyar whose ideologies are rooted from communist ideologies. It is through violent force the Tamils were subjugated to those ideologies, but at heart they were liberals. The younger generation were brain washed and the suppressing attitude of the Southern leaders also aided the cause of the Tamil extremists. Today the Tamils are maintaining silence through fear because of the threats from the Tamil Movements. The Tamils are always for a liberal economy in view of their perseverance nature. It is a fact that Tamils love to work with the western ideologies.

When there is an available remedy of federalism, the strategy against the freedom fighters to focus on prevention, disruption and offensive action is not required to eradicate them. It remains to consider whether the freedom fighters had crossed the line of being terrorists. If the remedy of federalism is rejected by the freedom fighters and continue to target the non-combatants, State property and violate laws of other countries, deterrent action is unavoidable. The question to be thrashed out whether the LTTE had transformed into liberation movement is a different issue. The vital issue is the plight of the IDPs who were caught between the Security Forces and the LTTE and the guarantee for the safety of the IDPs who are to be accommodated in the so-called secured zones should gain priority.

However, as far as the southern political leaders are concerned they are opposed to federalism in any form. The southern political leaders always have the habit of saying “unacceptable” but their answers are not so sound for the rejection of Federalism to date. As the consistent appeal by India and the International Community has ended in a futile exercise, there is another option to form an Asian Union to tackle the problem of the fundamental rights of the minorities and terrorism in Asian countries. SAARC and ASEAN are regional Associations. Should there be a Continental-oriented Union similar to that of European Union, the prevailing tension can be reduced to a minimum. India, Japan and other countries embracing democracy can lead in forming an Asian Union with the blessings of the United Nations. Asian Union can have a Parliament of its own and also a Financial Institution on the European model so that the Asian Parliament can monitor the activities of a member country and apply pressure where discrepancy is shown and redress it.

4 Comments

There are valid points made by Mr Rajasingham, which cannot be disputed. There was discrimination against Tamils for several decades since independence, failed policies of language and education have frustrated not only Tamil youth
but also people of all communities, which resulted in two insurgencies inthe south. There are human rights violations and possibly war crimes against Tamil civilians committed not only by government forces but also Tigers which need to be investigated.
It is however, important to identify priorities for emancipation of people in the north and east. Firstly, we need an end to the war, and the only way to achieve this is defeat of LTTE, as they are not prepared to lay down arms. This can result in casualties among innocent civilians who are being used as human shields. Secondly, government,NGOs and aid agencies need to undertake the task of rescuing refugees, rebuilding the devastated lands and restoring normalcy & law and order, which needs time and considerable resources. Thirdly, there is a need to provide incentives to start business and industries re build homes, schools and importantly, restore English education, which is a passport to success of future generations. Finally, we need to address Constitutional reform, including guarantee of minority rights and greater participation of minorities in government. It is after having addressed all these matters, we can start a dialouge on devolution on basis of a Federal state. Transfer of power from central to regional governments will not address needs of people in the north and east at this stage. Transfering power from one set of politicians to another does not satisfy urgent needs of ordinary people. People in the south need to be convinced, that such changes are in the national interest, and will not adversely impact on security of the country and not fuel another insurgency.
It is also important to take action to heal the wounds of war over several decades, hatred and animosity built up between north and south. Tamils in the north are a traumatised people who have been isloated from mainstream life for too long. There is a culture of hatred instigated by a long period of war, confrontation and false assumptions about their grievences, built up by propoganda on both sides. Such a healing process can take a long period. I suggest government appoints an internationally supervised Truth Commission, to identify grievences, obstacles to peace, development and harmony in the country. Tamils have to change their mindset of being isolated and reclusive from mainstream society and to engage people and goverrnment in a positive and constructive manner. This has not happened for a long time since independence from colonial rule. There is a need for a new leadership to lead our people to the promised land of a united Sri Lanka in which all citizens have opportunities for a better life on the basis of equality and freedom of opportunity and not the separate state of Thamil Eelam.It is only then that we can expect genuine progress and prosperity. Our community has been hijacked by a group of rebles, who have extracted, billions of dollars from the diaspora utilised for a senseless war resulting in death, destruction of homes and hundreds of thousands left destitute. They have done so on the basis of perceived grievences, which on closer scrutiny, can be taken as misleading an entire community, where timely action to develop that part of the country with immense resources from the diaspora could have yielded unimaginable prosperity and better life for all.

Posted by: Tamil patriot | March 7, 2009 11:24 PM

The basis of ALL Tamil efforts including terrorism ideology of LTTE has been to get the following:

That is to RESTRICT the NON-TAMILS from entering so called Tamil Homeland in the Northern Province, Eastern Province and Puttalam district. This is the Tamil Homeland as identified today.

If you look at Sri Lanka you see more MULTICULTURALISM, MULTI-RACIALISM and varous world views in the so called "Sinhala Homeland" (That is Sri Lanka minus Tamil Homeland)....

YOu do not see the ethnic, religious and racial diversity in the so called Tamil Homeland ?

Are the Tamils Eelam inhospitable area to the non-Tamils. Why can't state owned land be settled by any group of people the by Government...

Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Ratnapura, Galle, Kalutara has Tamil and Tamil speakers...Thye settled their during colonial government times....The Sinhala locals were NOT consulted to see if they can be settled there or NOT.

Indian Tamils, Sri Lankan Tamils ALL are the same Ethnic group only defer by the time of settlement and method of settlement in Sri Lanka.

This is WHY the federal idea is flawed.
In the HEART of the FEDERAL ARGUMENT IS that:

Northern Province + Eastern Province + Puttalam District be given to Tamils and Tamil speakers as a geographical entity.

The LTTE movement is NOT about winning minorities their rights. IT IS ABOUT SECURING A PLOT OF LAND FOR THE TAMIL ETHNIC, WORLD VIEW GROUP WITHIN SRI LANKA.

Posted by: sinhala_voice | March 8, 2009 09:07 PM

There are a multitude of issues raised in this article and it is impossible to make specific comments in regard to each of them in this format.However the common theme that is present in almost all analyses by Tamil commentators is the desire to portray the problem as a creation of the Sinhalede Budhist establishment against a docile and helpless minority community.My honest belief is that if the Tamil people wish to seek a genuine and more importantly a lasting resolution to the problem there must take place reconciliation between all communities in districts where there is a substantial ethnic mix.This must occur not only in the North and the East but in the up-country and mid -country.It should also be canvassed in respect of the responsibilities of the Tamils in majority Tamil population areas with regard to the rights of the minority Sinhalese and Muslims and vice a versa in regard to Muslim majority areas.The problem is multifacted and for so long as the Tamils attempt to present it as discrimination against them and ignore the rights and aspirations of the other communities it would be impossible for any Sri Lankan Government to carry the majority through to lasting peace with the requisite legilation being enacted to assure the terms of any treaty.It is time for all of us to speak as Sri Lankans who have different needs rather than one particular community that has overriding demands over another.It is common knowledge among Sinhalese that the Tamil Card is one that is played for convenience and that there is not any sigle set of common interests that bind all Tamils all over the island.The key issue is how could Sinhalese,Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka peacefully co-exist democratically with other communities in various parts of the island nation.The broader Tamil communitiy's support for terrorism and perceived revenge over 25 plus years has left little or no trust in the Sinhalese that the majority Tamil population will not resort to it again at the first given chance.I cannot speak for the Muslims,but I would be surprised if they too would not have such concerns for their people who live in the North and the East.

Posted by: Luke | March 9, 2009 08:35 AM

Sri Lanka, like Sudan, is a "wild buffalo on a rampage". Both internally and internationally, both countries are arrogantly defiant on matters of safety, security, justice and the rights, of a section of their citizenry, who are repressed constitutionally.

Sri Lanka(SL) and Sudan resort to military solution to situations wanting a political solution. They know fully well that military force would kill more civilians, create more hunger, more displacements and make the situation more intractable. In other words, they deliberately prefer genocide under their militarys' watch than a political solution.

The recent history of SL and Sudan have parallels. Sudan refused to allow a UN force in Darfur, fearing exposure to rights violations. SL on the otherhand refused to allow UN Human Rights Monitors, denied access to their judicial system to a group of eminent persons appointed by the Commonwealth, Unilaterally called a Ceasefire Agreement brokered by the International Community in 2002 and recently turned down a request by Britain to assist with an experienced special envoy.

International Criminal Court(ICC), issued a warrant for the arrest of Omar Al bashir, the president of Sudan, last Thursday. He is charged with war crimes and rights violations for the genocidal events in Darfur. In retaliation, he expelled some aid workers immediately.

Also last week, Bruce Fein told a gathering in London that evidence for charges of war crimes and genocide, against Sarath Fonseka, the military commander, and Gotabaya Rajapakse has been presented to the US Justice Department.

Wheels of justice grind slowly but surely it does. ICC arrest warrent on Mahinda Rajapakse is also imminent.

Trust is earned. The performance of governemnt itself and the political institutions such as parliament, judiciary and the army diffuse trust. Political trust therefore relates to how people feel and think about any government and its politics.

For the past 60 years, the governments in Colombo have failed to gain the political trust of the people of North East(NE). Now the people of NE will not rust Colombo at all for their lives and future. Therefore, any internal solution for the prevention of genocide is impossible. It is criminal to handover victims to a genocidal state.

Regional Peace Keeping Forces have normally proved to be ineffective in solving humanitarian and genocidal problems because of their friendly relations of the heads of state in the region. They even give tacit support for rights violations, to receive support in return.

The failure of IPKF was mainly caused by the friendly relations of JR Jeyawardene, the then president, and Rajiv Gandhi. It interfered with peace keeping function. Violating the peace accord SL navy arrested about 21 LTTE combatants and Rajiv gave consent for the arrest within weeks of signing the accord.

Strangely, though Tamils are presently suffering unspeakable agony, murder, bombing, starvation and rights violations, none of the countries in the region have called these atrocities what they are - genocide.

Silence is support. Rhetoric of ceasefire is time wasting. Frozen UN action will result in more civilian casualties. realism is vital. Relief from the prsesnt genocide could come only by appropriate resolutions in the UN and multi national action.

The UN has a covenant obligation to intervene with meaningful measures until human tragedy is stopped. Establishing a genocide Tribunal for SL, posting UN forces, arresting war criminals and doing justice should be facilitated with utmost urgency. Calls for ceasefire by the UN has only caused more defiance, dangerous bombing and brutal starving of civilians.

Posted by: Sam Thambipillai | March 9, 2009 08:57 AM

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