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Home > International Tamil Conferences on Tamil Eelam Freedom Struggle > > Peace with Justice, Australia > The Tamil Position - Lawrence Thilagar

International Conference on the Conflict in Sri Lanka:
Peace with Justice, Canberra, Australia, 1996

The Tamil Position

Lawrence Thilakar
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - Central Committee

Mr. Chairman, fellow delegates and friends, I wish to begin by thanking the Australian Human Rights Foundation and the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations for organising this international conference on the conflict in Sri Lanka .

I sincerely hope that this conference would pave the way for peace with justice in the island of Sri Lanka.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and is deeply disappointed that the peace talks with the Kumaratunge Government collapsed in April 1995.

From the very beginning ,the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had their reservations about Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunge's sincerity of purpose. This was mainly on account of her parents SWRD Bandaranaike and Sirimavoe Bandaranaike whose anti-Tamil and chauvinistic political actions had a direct bearing on the Tamil struggle for self-determination. It was under the regimes of the Bandaranaike-led SLFP governments that the Tamil people were subject to a series of legislative and administrative acts designed to deny them equal opportunities in employment and education.

It was Mr. Bandaranaike who in 1956 introduced the notorious Sinhala Only act Also it was during the SWRD Bandaraianike regime that the state became directly involved in directing violence against Tamils to suppress Tamil protests. You may recall that it was the SWRD Bandaranaike Government which in 1958 was responsible for the first anti-Tamil pogrom. It was under Sirimavoe Bandaranaike's rule that the Tamil North East came under army occupation for the first time in 1961. It was also during the Sirimavoe Bandaranaike regime that the Standardization Scheme which blatantly discriminated and deprived Tamils of equal opportunities to University education was introduced. In 1972, the Republican Constitution introduced by the Sirimavaoe Bandaranaike regime ensured that Sinhala hegemony was made permanent further alienating the Tamil people.

It was these which finally drove the Tamil youth into taking up arms against the Sinhala regime.

Despite this, the LTTE was prepared to concede that Kumaratunge, unlike her parents was cast in a different mould. Her Western liberal education, the influence of her late husband Wijaya Kumaratunge (whom the LTTE trusted and respected) and her often well articulated appeals to the progressive forces were matters we could not ignore. We were also cognisant that Mrs. Kumaratunge was widely perceived as being different from other Sinhala politicians by both Tamils and Sinhalese alike.

Although she was not explicit about the basis on which she intended conducting her negotiations with the Tamil representatives, she nevertheless contested the election on a "peace platform" on a promise to "resolve" the conflict.

The peace talks collapsed because Kumaratunge simply failed to conduct them on an equal basis. I wish to reiterate this point because it is crucial that this is clearly understood. At no stage did the Sri Lankan Government seek to negotiate on the basis that the Tamil people are a distinct nation with a homeland of their own and an inalienable right to self-determination.

This inclination to negotiate on an unequal basis was made abundantly clear by Kumaratunge's choice of delegates. Whereas, the LTTE's delegation was led by its Head of the Political Section the Sri Lankan Government side did not include a single cabinet minister. The "unequal" approach was further evidenced by the Government's decision to open the Pooneryn causeway unilaterally having refused the LTTE's request that the Pooneryn Army camp is removed.

There was also the callous disregard on the part of the Government to the LTTE's request that the economic embargo on the north is lifted. Instead, the Sri Lankan Government continued to use the embargo as an instrument to pressure the LTTE during negotiations. The Sri Lankan Government persisted with its "unequal" and "unilateral" approach to negotiations and was dismissive of the LTTE's repeated warnings. It refused to review its hard-line position despite the LTTE having extended its deadline by three weeks.

The Sinhala politician's inclination to treat the Tamils unequally was clearly demonstrated again by the unilateral announcement of the so called "peace proposals" in August 1995- almost four months after the collapse of the "talks". It was clearly demonstrated once again when it was "watered down" further in the legal draft form in February 1996.

The reason for the Sinhala political establishment to refuse dealing with Tamils on an equal basis is the product of a chauvinistic mindset which believes that the entire Island belongs to only the Sinhalese.

The military approach therefore has to be seen as a decision taken well before the commencement of the peace talks. The "peace talks" were mainly conducted as part of the Government's war strategy.

One can see this in the commencement of Rivirasa 1 in the wake of the announcement of the "peace proposals" in August and the introduction of the legal draft immediately after the capture of Valigamam.

Kumaratunge's actions clearly demonstrate that she is dictated by Sinhala chauvinistic forces which seek a destruction of the LTTE and the imposition of a "solution"" of their own choice.It is in fact as part of the "war for peace" strategy that her uncle Anurudha Ratwatte is engaged in military operations while GL Peris is engaged in "constitutional engineering" to present a proposal that would marginalise the LTTE by hoodwinking the Tamils into thinking that the Government proposals have some merit in them.

Meanwhile, Lakashman Kadirgamer, Kumaratunge's foreign minister is engaged in the role of convincing the international community of Kumaratunge's good intentions and at the same time obtaining much needed military and financial assistance to impose the military solution.

The "White Lotus" movement has been specifically floated to whip up anti-Tamil hysteria and seek support for the war effort.

One thing is clear. Kumaratnge's strategy of "peace through war" will not bring peace. Instead it will only escalate the war and prolong the suffering of both the Sinhalese and Tamil people.

Let us also be clear about the Sri Lankan Government's strategy. The strategic objective of this war is to beat the Tamils into submission and then impose a "solution" that will maintain Sinhala hegemony.

This "solution" would call for the destruction of the LTTE because the LTTE will not permit Sinhala hegemony to be imposed.

Let us assume for a moment that the Government realises this objective. Where does that leave the Tamil people?

Surely it will not mean the end of Sinhala chauvinism which looks upon even limited devolution as unnecessary and compromising the position that the entire Island belongs only to the Sinhalese. On the other hand it can only further strengthen the hand of the chauvinists. The consequences of which would be the military occupation of the Tamil Homeland followed by accelerated colonisation and the eventual destruction of a distinct Tamil identity in the Northeast of the Island.

The end result would be nothing less than the complete annihilation of a distinct Tamil national identity in the Island of Sri Lanka. We will no longer be a "people". In the long term this war could therefore only be described as a war of genocide.

What is the LTTE Response?

This military approach by the Government will only escalate the war. The LTTE will do everything in its power to defend the Tamil people and their homeland against this onslaught.

The LTTE cannot be pressurised or made to accept under duress anything that does not meet the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people.

However, the LTTE is deeply committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. There are still possibilities to pursue a negotiated political settlement provided the Sri Lankan Government abandons its military approach and creates conditions for de-escalation of the war and the withdrawal of troops.

LTTE calls upon the international community to

(a) persuade the Sri Lankan Government to give up its militaristic approach and negotiate with the LTTE on an equal basis.

(b) play a mediatory role.

It is only then that we can realise a durable and just peace.



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