Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home Whats New  Trans State Nation  One World Unfolding Consciousness Comments Search
Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings - Adrian Wijemanne > Secession, Nationalist Guerrilla Movements and Peace

Tamil National Forum

Selected Writings - Dr. Adrian Wijemanne

Secession, Nationalist Guerrilla Movements and Peace
[Text of speech at International Tamil Foundation]

12 June 1994


1. The 'secession' mentioned in the title of this address is the secession from alien rule of a people who regard themselves as having a distinct identity and occupy a space or territory which too they regard as their own. Human history is replete with attempts at such secession on every continent and throughout the centuries. Edward Gibbon in his celebrated 'The History of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire' chronicles the struggles of the `barbarian' tribes to throw off Roman rule. That, together with the corruption at the centre of that greatest of all empires, led to its decline and fall. So, secession has an ancient lineage and is not a newfangled thing. It is a natural feature of the human condition.

2. That secession should undermine empires which shackled together many disparate peoples is understandable. But it affected individual states as well where such states contained disparate peoples. The best example of this (and one which mercifully delivers you from the danger of being dragged through many centuries!) is this country itself. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was both an unitary state comprising the two main islands that make up the British Isles and also the mother country of a large empire. Secession undermined and finally broke up both the unitary state and the empire.

3. I wish to dwell on these two developments separately. The secession that broke up the mother country was that of the Irish people on the island of Ireland. The Irish people were ethnically different from those on the main island; for centuries they had been the principal occupants of the island of Ireland; they had a language and culture of their own uninfluenced by a long period of Roman occupation or rule; they had a different religion even though it was one of the three main traditions of the Christian family. In today's language one could say their distinctiveness was ethno-territorial, Linguo-cultural and religious. This may remind us of a similar distinctiveness with which we are all familiar nearer home.

4. Secession from the British empire also started very early – in the 18th century with the secession of the 13 colonies in North America which became the nucleus of the present-day United States. The process continued with the evolution of dominion status for the British populated colonies of Canada, Australia and New Zealand in the early years of this century. It was accelerated after the end of World War II by the tide of de-colonization which swept the colony of Ceylon too to independence with little effort and too little awareness of the consequences.

5. The secession of constituent nations affected not only the maritime empires such as the British but also the mainland empires of Europe – the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Ottoman empire. The seething nationalism that beset them was one of the factors that triggered the first world war. The peace of Versailles that ended the war dismembered these two empires and produced many new nation-states in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Near East.

6. Then, after the second world war secessions in the form of the de-colonization movement led to the break-up of the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese empires in Asia and Africa producing a host of newly-independent nations. The theory then was that the moral justification for secession was the right of self-determination for colonial states. The newly-independent states sought to draw the line at themselves, that is, the former colonies had the right to secession and its consequence, independence and sovereignty; but they denied that same right to the constituent nations within their states wherever such existed. This argument loses much of its force, however, in the light of the fact that the first wave of secession and independence was for the constituent nations of the mainland empires – the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman.

7. The tide of secession has swept away this feeble defence and, indeed, has swept everything before it. Secession has undermined and subdivided many newly-independent countries as well as the only remaining empire. The process has operated in, and continues in, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. In our own lifetime we have seen secession splitting up the Soviet empire into a large number of separate, independent, sovereign states. Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Cyprus have succumbed to secessionist movements and split up. The United Kingdom and Spain are wracked by wars of secession at the present time. It is the same in Asia –the newly-independent French and British colonies split up at independence itself or shortly thereafter by the secession of their constituent nations – French Indochina into three, the British Raj in India and the Malaysian Federation each into two. In Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India, wars of secession are in full swing. Pakistan split into two in 1971. In West Asia the state of Jordan is about to be riven by the secession of the Palestinian people.

8. In Africa there are many movements of secession from individual states. In Ethiopia a long war of secession ended last year with the establishment of the state of Eritrea. The Sudan and Morocco are beset by long-running wars of secession. the East African and Central African federations, constituted in the last years of British imperial rule, were undermined by the secession of their constituent nations producing six separate states – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda from the former federation and Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi from the latter. Somalia has split into two and the northern part is free from the dreadful turmoil in the southern. The island of Zanzibar may soon break loose from Tanzania.

9. In North America the secession of Quebec from the Canadian federation is the foremost item in the political agenda of that state.

10. The secession of peoples who regard themselves as nations from states within which they have been included by the colonization process is a worldwide phenomenon. It is the dominant political trend in the history of 20th century Europe, Africa and Asia. It is a centrifugal force atomizing and multiplying states. It is a necessary pre-requisite to the centripetal force that brings such totally independent nations to sacrifice some of their sovereignty and join in Unions such as the Benelux Union and the European Union. It is a great and sweeping trend in human history. To regard such a movement as an act of wickedness and bloody-mindedness is an exceedingly primitive reaction betraying an ignorance of the great historical movements sweeping through nations and states at this time. Nor is it simply a reaction to misgovernment or discrimination. It is far more profound than that and for that reason cannot be dispelled by remedial measures which right perceived wrongs. Indeed, many new states which have come into being after successful secessionist movements have thrown up governments far worse than those of the countries from which they have seceded.

11. The proper understanding of such movements and the comprehending of their true import has proved extremely difficult in every theatre in which they have appeared. But over time attitudes and even legal acceptance have evolved. The United Kingdom is an excellent illustration of this. The first response to secessionist movements – in the island of Ireland and in the 13 North American colonies –was outright refusal and war in support of that refusal. The next stage was recognition that such wars could not be waged successfully and the consequent acceptance of secession. Thus the 13 colonies gained their independence and became a separate state; in 1922 the Irish Free State gained its independence and became a separate state which 5 years later broke its allegiance to the British monarchy, became a republic and seceded from the British Commonwealth and has refused to rejoin it even after it ceased to be the 'British' Commonwealth and became the Commonwealth of Nations. The Irish have very independent ideas indeed as to what 'independence' means to them.

12. Since these events the attitude of both governments of every political stripe and of the British people as to the secession of any of the four nations that constitute the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has evolved considerably. It is now universally accepted that if the majority of any of these nations votes for secession and separation into an independent state there would be no let or hindrance to such separation. Indeed, referenda have been held in Scotland and Wales to ascertain the wishes of the people living there as to secession. In both cases the majority voted against secession. In Northern Ireland the central issue of current politics is secession. The two Unionist parties which command a majority in the province as a whole are opposed to secession and it is that majority decision that the British government backs with armed support today.

13. The public attitude and government policy towards secession was the same in both Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. If by majority vote a constituent nation within those states opted for secession it could do so. In both these countries there was a majority vote for secession and secession took place.

14. This change in attitude has gone further into the legal domain. The last constitution of the Soviet Union embodied the right to secession for its constituent republics which promptly availed themselves of that right and seceded. In the new constitution soon to be voted upon in Ethiopia the right to secession is entrenched for all the constituent nations of that country (bar one –the Oromo – who are scattered throughout the country and have no separate territory of traditional occupation).

15. On the other hand, in the two countries – India and Sri Lanka – in which attempts have been made legally to outlaw moves towards secession by amendments to their constitutions the futility of such a measure has been shown. In both countries it has not had the slightest effect and both are wracked by secessionist wars, India in three separate theatres simultaneously.

16. It is abundantly clear now that the secession of people who regard themselves as a nation and are currently included in a state with other nations is a matter which can be, and should be, dealt with by accommodation rather than by war. In the case of the British empire, because of Britain's experience inboth North America and Ireland, the post-World War II decolonization process was accommodated peacefully without war. The case was the opposite in the French, Portuguese and Dutch empires as none of these metropolitan countries had the same experience as Britain of an unsuccessful defence against a secessionist movement. So, in all three of their cases the post-World War II de-colonization was forced by war. These wars were of a very particular kind – they were guerrilla wars of national aspiration. Which brings me to the second part of my address to you today.

Nationalist Guerrilla Movements

There is no better school in which to learn about nationalist guerrilla movements than this very country in which we now live – the United Kingdom – however unlikely that may seem at casual glance. The great-grandfather of all nationalist guerrilla movements arose in this country and finally broke it in two. The long war of Irish independence is one of the darkest chapters of British history. There is virtually a conspiracy among British historians in refusing to explore its full implications and in laying bare its great lessons. Those lessons, however, are very well known to British politicians and to the governing class in this country from which they are drawn. The central lesson is that a war waged by a conventional army against a force of nationalist guerrillas on the latter's home ground could never be won. The conventional army of the state could never be defeated by the guerrillas; equally, it could not exterminate or overwhelm and bring to surrender the nationalist guerrillas who opposed it. That lesson has sunk so deep into the psyche of British politicians of every stripe, including the battle-hardened Mr. Ashdown, that even today they shrink from an open conflict with Serb guerrillas in the mountain fastnesses of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

18. The guerrilla war of the Irish nationalists on their home ground on the island of Ireland lasted 300 years. For most of this period the Irish population comprised around 2 million souls. The population of mainland Britain in the last century of the conflict was around 45 million. During much of that period Britain was leading the first industrial revolution becoming the strongest industrial country of Europe and it was also the mother country of the largest empire of the time. The disparity between the two combatants in material resources and military strength was enormous. Every British government strained every nerve to stamp out the successive 'Irish Rebellions'. The military pressure was supplemented by a succession of political concessions devolving ever-increasing extents of `Home Rule'. Neither the former nor the latter nor even the combination of the two was of any avail. The war continued – unwinnable and inescapable; there was only one way to peace – separation into two states. This was accomplished by the Treaty of 1922 entered into by the Lloyd George government. The mother country of the greatest empire on earth at that time was split in two. At long last the great travail was over and a peace was secured, imperfect though the arrangement was, that has lasted to this day. Separation ended war and ushered in peace – there was no other way.

19. And still our lessons from this country are not over. The nationalist guerrilla war in Northern Ireland, now in its 26th year, re-inforces the lessons of the past. The British army in Northern Ireland and the Ulster Defence forces together field around 110 troops to each IRA guerrilla. The Royal Navy enforces a stringent cordon sanitaire around the coast of Northern Ireland. The Irish Republic supports the British government fully in patrolling the long land boundary between the two countries. Britain spends £8.9 million per day on the effort. There is, nevertheless, not a glimmer of hope that the IRA guerrillas can be wiped out by military action; on the contrary, there is much evidence that they are better trained, better led and better armed today than ever before. It is in that knowledge that military action is being supplemented by political measures. The IRA fights for the secession of the six counties and two county boroughs that make up Northern Ireland from the U.K. and their joinder to the Irish Republic so that the island of Ireland as a whole could be one single state. As mentioned earlier, the majority (by a small margin) of the population of Northern Ireland oppose secession. The IRA is supported covertly by a minority of the population but yet it has been able to continue their struggle for over 25 years. Willy-nilly Britain is embroiled in a costly war which it cannot win and cannot end. It plays no small part in Britain's relative decline vis-a-vis its comparable Western European partners – France, Germany and Italy –all of whom are at peace. When the Channel Tunnel is functioning in a few weeks time and travel to the continent becomes more common this disparity will be glaringly and painfully obvious.

20. Few countries would leap at the secession of themselves with greater alacrity than Britain if only a majority of the population of Northern Ireland would vote for secession.

21. The lesson of the British experience in Ireland, both past and present, is crystal clear. Neither military pressure nor political concessions nor even a combination of the two can extinguish an uprising by a nationalist guerrilla movement. Peace can be had only by separation. There is no other way.

22. Nationalist guerrilla movements emerge when a nation's decision to secede is opposed by the empire or state from which the secession is to take place. From the earliest of times the normal reaction to attempts at secession was opposition. This was natural as all the empires of the past regarded themselves as trustees of a civilizing mission. The Roman empire provided law and letters to tribal peoples; the Holy Roman empire purveyed the Judaeo-Christian morality; the Arab empire the numerals and basic sciences which have enriched the world. Departure from their ambit was nothing but barbarous and had to be opposed. Such rationalisations existed in the case of individual states as well as a ground for opposing secession from them. One with which we are familiar is the assertion that Buddhism in its purest form could not be preserved unless a single all-island state occupied the island of Ceylon.

23. Opposition to secession removes the matter from the domain of politics to the arena of military conflict. It is a very special kind of military conflict, quite different to that between two states equipped with conventional armies. A guerrilla war is a conflict between a conventional army on the one hand and a guerrilla force latent in the population on the other. Guerrillas who engage in such conflicts are of two quite distinct types having quite different objectives. One type is guerrillas of an ideological motivation who fight to overthrow the regime in power and seize state power themselves in order to change the policies and practices of government and even to transform society itself. The best examples of this type are the Russian communist guerrillas led by Lenin and Trotsky and the Chinese communist guerrilla forces led by Mao Ze Dong. A quite similar case are the communist guerrillas led by Fidel Castro. In all three of these examples the guerrillas succeeded in their objective. In many more cases, however, such guerrillas have failed and been overwhelmed by the conventional forces of the state. The Che Guevarists in Bolivia; the Tupac Amaru (Tupamaros) movement in Argentina; the guerrillas in El Salvador; the May 21st movement in Colombia; Sendero Luminoso in Peru; the Naxalites in India; the JVP in Sri Lanka; the NPA in the Philippines – have all failed to achieve their objective and have been suppressed by the conventional military forces of the state. In Nicaragua the Sandinistas won power and exercised it briefly only to be defeated at the polls on the return to normalcy.

24. The other, and fundamentally different, type of guerrillas are those of a nationalistic motivation seeking to secede from an empire or a state and to set up a separate, independent, sovereign state for their nation. It is this type of guerrilla movement that is referred to in the title of this address. They emerge in response to opposition to secession and they aim to secure secession by military means. It is such nationalist guerrilla movements that have brought down empires and subdivided states. On occasion they have aimed to unite divided countries and nations as in Viet Nam. Perhaps the best example of guerrillas of this type are the Irish nationalist guerrillas who first fought successfully to secure an independent state for their people and still fight on to unite their divided country. The Algerian and Indo-Chinese guerrillas broke up the French empire after World War II. The Indonesian nationalist guerrillas did likewise to the Dutch East Indies empire. Nationalist guerrillas in Angola and Mozambique overthrew the Portuguese empire in extremely bloody conflicts. In Zimbabwe the nationalist guerrillas led by Mugabe (ZANU) and Nkhomo (ZAPO) overthrew the white settler government established illegally by Ian Smith and secured the independence of Zimbabwe both from British imperial rule and the settler usurpation.

25. Nationalist guerrilla movements have fought to secede from individual states as well. Bangladeshi nationalist guerrillas fought for the secession of the province of East Pakistan from the federal state of Pakistan and succeeded in found-ing the independent state of Bangladesh with Indian military support. In Cyprus Turkish nationalist guerrillas fought for the secession of the Turkish populated northern part of that small island from majority Greek rule and succeeded with Turkish military support. In Ethiopia the Eritrean nationalist guerrillas fought for 30 years to secure the secession of the province of Eritrea from the Ethiopian state and succeeded in 1993, establishing the new state of Eritrea. Palestinian nationalist guerrillas of the PLO and its satellite organisations have fought the state of Israel, with the help of their Arab neighbours, for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the last 6 years and last month secured the withdrawal of the occupying Israeli army from the Gaza Strip and Jericho. The eventual, and now inevitable, establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank will entail its secession from the state of Jordan of which it is now de jure a part. In Viet Nam the Viet Cong, the most celebrated nationalist guerrillas of recent times, fought for 10 years for the re-unification of their divided country and succeeded in 1974 when the US army which had propped up the puppet regimes in South Viet Nam withdrew. All these are cases in which nationalist guerrilla movements succeeded against conventional armies and established the independent states they sought for their nations.

26. There are many instances, however, in which nationalist guerrillas are still fighting the conventional forces of the state in pursuance of their objective of secession. The oldest of these conflicts is in Myanmar (formerly Burma) where several different tribal peoples are simultaneously waging several different guerrilla wars to secede from the Union of Myanmar. These conflicts date back to 1948, all of 46 years. The guerrilla war being waged by the Moro nationalist guerrillas on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines for the secession of that island from the state of the Philippines is now over 35 years old. As mentioned earlier the Irish nationalist guerrillas in Northern Ireland are now in the 26th year of their struggle, lacking though they are in majority support. The Sudan Peoples Liberation Front led by John Garang wages a nationalist guerrilla war now over 12 years old to secure the secession of Southern Sudan from the state of Sudan, the largest state on the continent of Africa. The guerrilla war of the LTTE to secure the secession of the north-east province from the state of Sri Lanka is due to complete its 11th year shortly. Of only slightly shorter duration is the guerrilla war being waged by Sikh guerrillas for the secession of the state of Punjab fromthe Indian Union in order to establish there the independent Sikh state of Khalistan. Similar wars rage in Kashmir and Assam. The Kurds fight guerrilla wars on three fronts simultaneously against three states – Iraq, Iran and Turkey in order to secure for their nation a separate, independent state of Kurdistan.

27. In all these cases there are two factors in common. First, the conventional military forces of the state fighting to preserve the status quo have failed to overwhelm the nationalist guerrillas. Secondly, military pressure has failed to force the guerrillas to abandon their goal of secession for a lesser alternative.

28. From all of the foregoing it will be seen that while the conventional military forces of the state have succeeded with very few exceptions in suppressing guerrillas of an ideological disposition, they have failed uniformly, without any exception, against guerrillas of a nationalistic persuasion. Wherein lies the reason for this difference?

29. In my view the reason lies in the systemic difference in the character of the two sets of guerrilla movements. Guerrillas of the ideological variety are, invariably, a group of highly educated persons, an avant garde in their society, holding theoretical beliefs with which the bulk of their people are not in sympathy. They do not have, therefore, the steady support of the great mass of the population within which they are located. Because of this the state is able to compete successfully with the guerrillas for support from the population and to generate guerrilla groups of its own – vigilantes if you will – who can engage the guerrillas in guerrilla warfare. Arrayed against ideological guerrillas are not only the conventional military forces of the state but also vigilante groups supported and organised by the state.

30. On the other hand, guerrillas of a nationalistic persuasion originate in quite a different way. The decision for secession is a widespread, general aspiration of their population. When the decision is opposed by the state guerrilla groups emerge as a reaction to that opposition and they espouse their nation's cause. They are the product of a widely felt nationalism within their society and so have widespread popular support. The state is unable for that reason to generate countervailing vigilante groups within that society and has only its conventional military forces to meet the challenge.

31. In the annals of guerrilla warfare worldwide Sri Lanka is unique as the only country which has experienced both types of guerrillas and that too within the comparatively short periods of the last 23 years. The two JVP insurrections were confrontations with guerrillas of an ideological disposition. Both were suppressed successfully – the first by the state's conventional military forces with some little Indian assistance; the second by the more common combination of state-sponsored vigilante groups backed up by conventional military forces.

32. In 1983 there commenced the confrontation with the second type of guerrillas – the nationalist guerrilla movement fighting to establish the state of Eelam in the northern and eastern provinces of the island, for which the overwhelming majority of the population of those two provinces had voted at the general election of 1977. That vote, which marks an irrevocable turning point in the island's post-independence history, led to the sequence of events which we have already seen to be so common in many parts of the world – opposition to secession by the regime holding state power, the resultant emergence of armed nationalist guerrilla groups, guerrilla warfare pitting the conventional military forces of the state against the nationalist guerrillas who finally boiled down to the LTTE. That conflict has lasted now for well nigh 11 years.

33. One would imagine that Sri Lanka's unique experience of the close juxtaposition of the two quite disparate types of guerrilla movements would facilitate a clear understanding of the systemic difference between the two and a consequent appreciation of the implications of the conflict with the nationalist guerrillas. This has not been the case. The Sinhala public and its `leaders' – who are really only followers of public opinion – seem to believe that both guerrilla movements are of a kind and can be dealt with in the same way. The crucial element of the success against the second JVP uprising – namely – the vigilante groups entrenched within the heart of Sinhala society which were able to ferret out and finish off the JVP are not available against the LTTE nor can they be generated within the north-east province. The Tamil mercenaries fighting alongside the Sri Lankan army are not quite the same thing for they are extraneous to Tamil society and are not entrenched within it. What the state in Sri Lanka is engaged in is a classic nationalist guerrilla war of secession which is as unwinnable and unendable as in all other theatres of such conflict.


34. Twice in this address I have used the phrase `unwinnable and unendable' in respect of wars waged by conventional armies against nationalist guerrilla forces. By 'unwinnable' I meant that neither contender could overwhelm the other and force it to sue for peace. That is how conventional wars end. By 'unendable' I meant that such wars could not be ended leaving the status quo intact i.e. the state or empire from which the secession was sought, intact.

35. However, all wars do end and are followed by a state of peace. It is instructive to examine how wars of the type that we are discussing have ended and what the quality of the succeeding peace has been for peace can be of very varying quality. All wars waged by nationalist guerrillas for secession from empires have ended with the establishment of separate, independent, sovereign states – from the 13 colonies in North America right down to the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique in the seventies of this century. In no case has the conventional armies of the empires assailed succeeded in overwhelming and exterminating the nationalist guerrilla forces. Those forces have become the standing army of the new state and many nationalist guerrilla leaders have become respected elder statesmen in the newly independent states. In all these cases the ensuing peace between the antagonists has endured. Indeed, in many instances very close and cordial 'special' relationships have sprung up as between the US and British governments and peoples and also between the Indonesians and the Dutch

36. The next group of secessions is not from empires but from individual states. Leading the parade once again is the United Kingdom under attack from Irish nationalist guerrillas to which we have devoted so much attention already. Then there are the cases of Pakistan, Cyprus and Viet Nam in the seventies. In the nineties Ethiopia and Palestine. In all of them peace was secured only by separation and the establishment of separate, independent, sovereign states sought by the guerrillas – the Republic of Ireland, Bangladesh, the Turkish Cypriot Republic, united Viet Nam, Eritrea and the nucleus of the Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and Jericho on the West Bank. In these cases too the peace between the former antagonists has endured – with UN assistance in Cyprus.

37. Irrespective of whether the nationalist guerrillas have sought secession from an empire or from an individual state, peace has been se-cured only by the establishment of the separate, independent, sovereign state sought by the guerrillas. It is because this lesson of history is so well known that in many cases secession and the establishment of a separate, independent, sovereign state or states has been effected peacefully before nationalist guerrilla movements emerged. Indeed, the peaceful de-colonization of the British colonies after World War II was due largely to the British experience in North America with the 13 colonies and in Ireland. Every peaceful secession – be it of Singapore from the Malaysian Federation in 1962 or the splitting up of the British Raj on the Indian subcontinent in 1947 or the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1992 or the division of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in 1993 bears the marks of that knowledge, namely, that if a nationalist guerrilla war of secession was allowed to commence the match, as they say, would be over.

38. It is instructive, also, to reflect on the fact that in none of these secessions, whether from empires or from individual states, were the nationalist guerrillas bought off by any kind of constitutional change whether it be devolution of legislative and executive powers to local or regional authorities or federal arrangements of whatever kind. This is because any constitutional change cannot, by itself, disarm and disband nationalist guerrilla forces and, since they cannot be eliminated by military force they persist as a permanent feature in the body politic. Then it is the body politic that changes to accommodate the military reality. There is no state with two contending armies permanently within it. There are then two states and the only question is how long it will take de fact to translate into de jure status.

39. How then is peace achieved in such situations? It comes about when peace becomes more important to the state defending the status quo than persisting with an unwinnable and unending war. States and the regimes which govern them require peace more than do nationalist guerrilla movements. The orderly governance of a state requires peace, especially now when the state has assumed ever-increasing responsibilities over the lives and well-being and economic production of their citizens. The progressively tighter integration of the world's economies necessitates a constant drive for increasing international competitiveness for which peace is a basic requirement. In the case of developing countries the imperative need to secure foreign investment capital decrees the need for peace. From all of these pressures nationalist guerrilla movements are exempt and none more so than those based on near-subsistence economies.

40. Equally important is the threat to the state's regime itself from the continuance of an unwinnable and unendable war. Funds which could be used for buying political support have to be diverted to military purposes. However much is diverted the demands of the military in a time of war are insatiable and generate a tense and stressful, even though publicly invisible, stand-off between civil and military authorities. Military expenditure which produces nothing for the market is highly inflationary and could lead to galloping inflation if the civil authority succumbs to military pressure for all the funds they ask and is compelled to resort to the printing press for funds.

41. In the mature liberal democracies of the West the relationship between civil and military authorities is well settled and the supremacy of the former, even in times of war, is unquestioned. In the newly-independent countries the relationship is still at an evolutionary stage and could be very fraught under the stress of war against a nationalist guerrilla force which is unwinnable. The escalation of military activity and the ballooning of military numbers present a potent threat to the civil authority.

42. In Sri Lanka these threats are compounded by a recent history of massive youth unrest due to an wholly inadequate response to the revolution of rising expectations. The huge drain of a continuing guerrilla war and its concomitant a burgeoning refugee population currently of over 600,000 persons estimated to cost around SL Rs.82- million per day preclude any credible and acceptable level of investment in infrastructural and economic growth which are the first elements in assuaging youth aspirations. The first tremors of a third wave of such discontent have already been registered on the political Richter scale of the south.

43. When is a point reached at which a state buys peace with separation? In the UK it was reached in 1922 after 300 years of fighting; in Ethiopia it was reached in 1993 after 30 years. The UK could endure such a long travail as it was the world's leading industrial power at the time and was also the mother country of the greatest empire – an unique combination absent in Sri Lanka. Since then the time-scale has shortened dramatically. The last 30 years in Ethiopia would have been much less had not the Mengitsu government been supported by the Soviet Union. In Viet Nam it lasted 10 years due to the massive intervention of the US.

44. In Sri Lanka the 11th year of the conflict is due to close later this month. The chosen strategy for economic growth – export-oriented screw-driver type industries founded with foreign private investment capital – produces a dichotomous society with a backward rural mass and an upwardly mobile semi-urban middle and lower middle class which has a vested interest in stable anti-inflationary economic conditions. The mass of the population outside the modernizing sector of the economy is an explosive mass which could go critical at very short notice or no notice at all. Peace is an urgent requirement for cutting back on military and refugee expenditure and diverting the funds so saved to modernizing the economy on a broad basis and staving off the latent explosive pressures that are building up.

45. The convergence of factors in Sri Lanka mandates peace so overwhelmingly that in my view it is a country which will fall at the shorter end of the time scale on which states beset with nationalist guerrilla wars buy peace with separation. These portents are re-inforced by the intrinsically pragmatic nature of the Sinhala polity. The Sinhala people and their 'leaders' have accepted the reversal of all of the principal policies by which they expected to be benefited since independence – the de-statification, disenfranchisement and eventual repatriation of the Tamil plantation worker population; `Sinhala only'; educational discrimination of the more blatant types; nationalisation and etatisme in general; the suspension of civil liberties on a broad front through `emergency' rule. No people in the region is more inured to radical changes and ignominious reversals than the Sinhala. Their genius has been to prosper and multiply and hold their ground despite a conspicuous lack of military success throughout their history. It is a genius that will re-assert itself before long.

46. I will conclude by saying that history does not repeat itself in any mechanical or predetermined manner. It only points the way in which mankind deals with similar problems in widely differing contexts. In the case of nationalist guerrilla wars of secession the finger of history points unmistakably to only one direction from which peace has, and can come – separation into two states.



Mail Us Copyright 1998/2009 All Rights Reserved Home