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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Conflict Resolution: Tamil Eelam - Sri Lanka > Broken Pacts & Evasive Proposals > Chandrika's 'Devolution' Proposals:1995/2001 >The Strategy Of Divide And Destroy - Adele Ann - August 1995

Chandrika's 'Devolution Proposals'

  The Strategy Of Divide And Destroy
Adele Ann

Inside Report, August 1995

President Kumaratunga, after much political prevarication, has placed her cards on the table and revealed her hand. Her approach to the national conflict in the island is unequivocal. It is, in short, the military option. Her attitude and approach to the LTTE preclude other options.

When it was announced that President Kumaratunga was to address the people of Sri Lanka on the 3rd of August revealing her programme and proposals to resolve the national conflict, the people of the Northeast entertained a hope that she would rise up to the occasion and reveal qualities of statesmanship by announcing radical measures to bring the war to a halt, calling for the resumption of a dialogue with the LTTE and present a comprehensive political framework that demonstrated a genuine attempt to satisfy the political aspirations of the Tamils.

But these lingering hopes and expectations were dashed and a sense of disillusionment griped the Tamils when the President declared her strategy of war against the LTTE under the cover of a set of political proposals, the significance of which lost its meaning by the Government�s announcement that it was determined and committed to the continuation of the war. The President�s approach to the national conflict has turned out to be a recipe for war and counter-resistance.

The most contentious and surprising issue in the Presidential address is her projection of the Tamil population as a dichotomous people. In her perception the Tamil people constitute a social entity to be approached in one way while the LTTE is to be dealt with differently. Bearing in mind this nebulous political bifurcation amongst the people in the Northeast, the President has deemed it both necessary and feasible to implement a dual approach to the conflict.

She has specifically stated that the political programme formulated by her group of advisers was addressed to the Tamil people only. She quite forthrightly and unrepentantly argues that her military forces are determine to prosecute the military option as a solution for the LTTE until such time that they are defeated, weakened or surrender.

It is obvious to astute Sri Lanka watchers that Mrs. Kumaratunga�s well defined dual approach to the national conflict is fundamentally flawed and liable to failure. Her attempt to politically marginalise the LTTE reveals rather inept reading of recent history, denies the history of the Tamil struggle and indicates an astounding misreading of the socio-political reality in the northeast.

To begin with the dual approach being adopted by the government to the national conflict has been tried and tested and proved to be a catastrophic failure. The Indian intervention of 1987 under the pretext of a peace-keeping exercise, slowly unfolded to reveal the dual approach similar to that of Kumaratunga�s. Based on a distinction between the LTTE and the people, the Indian army waged war and tried to militarily annihilate the LTTE while, on the other hand, attempting to impose an unpopular political solution on a resistant, hostile population. The outcome is history.

The Indians failed miserably to achieve both their objectives and the fourth largest army of the world�s biggest democracy was evicted from the island. One of the basic reasons for the failure of the Indian strategy was the conception that the political aspirations of the Tamil population and the LTTE were separable. If Mrs. Kumaratunga clings on to this flawed premise she too runs the risk of failure and her attempt to resolve this conflict will end up in the dustbin of history as a prime example of gross miscalculation and political misreading of the relationship between the LTTE and the people.

As the Indians realized and Mrs. Kumaratunga will undoubtedly do so with the passage of time, the opinion and the political analysis of decadent Tamil groups lounging around in Colombo and the advice of defunct Tamil politicians who have lost their political base will prove to be politically vacuous. Without the support, participation or co-operation of the LTTE in any political dialogue concerning proposals for a resolution to this conflict, programmes and solutions can exist in words only.

The people of the Northeast have extended their political, financial and moral support to the LTTE for two decades and the probability of the people abandoning them now, when 30,000 Sri Lankan troops are poised for military operations in the Jaffna Peninsula, is a fantasy of the alienated intellectuals in the South.

The LTTE�s armed struggle is not an abstract resistance campaign by a group of socially divorced or frustrated young people, but rather, is inextricably intertwined with the political and socio-economic life of the population. The emergence of armed struggle by the LTTE, two decades ago, is the historical product of national oppression and the failure of non violent struggles and the parliamentary agitation to redress the genuine grievances of the people.

The LTTE resistance campaign has been characterized by a history of constant expansion of popular support amongst the Tamil masses emerging today as a national liberation movement. While the TULF and other Tamil groups abandoned the Tamil people and betrayed the Tamil cause, the LTTE has lived and breathed, faced and fought the phenomenal trials and tribulations entailed in any struggle for freedom.

As the struggle deepens and consolidates, a desperate Sri Lanka state draws on all its resources in a frenzied effort to snuff out the flames of freedom. Nevertheless, the LTTE cadres have, indisputably, made incredible sacrifices during the prime of their lives, to preserve their homeland, restore the dignity of the nation and to break the bonds of national oppression.

Tamil voices in the South would lead many to believe that the LTTE is an unpopular organization, tyrannising the people and a military structure divorced from social relationship with the people. But visitors to Jaffna cannot deny the deeply entrenched relationship between LTTE and the people. All the elements of a State are set in place. The Judiciary system, economic structures, civil administration, immigration department, social welfare organizations, refugee and rehabilitation organizations, women�s centres, village development schemes are structures managed by the civil population that reach in one way or other into every home in the north in particular.

This massive national liberation structure is financially sustained by the people. The national defence fund is a classic example of people�s contributions to the LTTE for the purpose of resisting the army and preventing the military occupation of the homeland. Similarly, there is probably not one family who is not, in one way or other, related to an LTTE cadre. In this context the government�s attempt to draw a distinction between the LTTE and people is not only laughable but untenable.

Whether the President, her government, Sinhala intellectuals, journalists and the people themselves like it or not the LTTE has earned, emerged and is accepted as the legitimate representative of the Tamil people in the Northeast and without their participation, any programme put forward by the government of Sri Lanka is doomed to failure. In this context, all military operations by the State forces against the LTTE are tantamount to waging war against the people.

Apart from striking at the LTTE fighting force the military operations uproot the people, kill and maim civilians, destroy their property and usurp their land. The military option proposed for the LTTE by the government is inescapably a war against the people also.

The tremendous intellectual and political effort being made by Mrs. Kumaratunga, her government and advisors to deny the LTTE the rightful place as representatives of the Tamil people is a regressive strategy and a major blow to both the Indian and Sri Lankan governments� credibility. The Indian government implicitly recognized the LTTE as the representatives of the people when it offered a temporary administrative structure under the control of the LTTE as part of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. Mr. J. R. Jayawardena�s concurrence in such an arrangement is tantamount to recognition of the LTTE.

Mr. Premadasa in 1988 unofficially acknowledged the crucial role of the LTTE in any major decision making process when he negotiated with LTTE representatives and worked with them to send the Indian army out of the Island. Mrs. Kumaratunga's government�s dialogue with the LTTE can be seen in no other way but an acknowledgement of the centrality of the LTTE. Her setting out of a specific approach to the LTTE, albeit it is a military solution, is a backhanded recognition that the LTTE is the kingpin to the resolution of the national conflict.

Undoubtedly, the President has two central intentions in her mind by advancing her dual approach to this thorny conflict. At the local level, the President, by proposing a political programme to the Tamil people, aims at creating a schism between the LTTE and their political base.

In the highly unlikely event of such a happening the LTTE would be politically marginalised as non-representative of the aspirations of the Tamil people. In such a hypothetical situation, any action, particularly military action could easily be justified by the President and her government as necessary steps in the process of restoring peace.

Inextricably linked to the above thinking is the second concern uppermost in the mind of the President. By presenting a devolution package to the people the President aims to present herself to the world as a leader genuinely interested in peace and prepared to offer controversial concessions to the aggrieved Tamils in effort to settle this national conflict, while she in fact is able to carry on her intended objective of winning the war and militarily bringing the northeast under the control of the state. That the President is attempting to legitimise the military option is evident by her total rejection and exclusion of the LTTE from any future political dialogue.


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