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Selected Writings - Dr. Adrian Wijemanne
Peace or war,
there is a price to pay for both
2 June 1996
1. The National Peace Council, judging that a long period of intensive warfare is now inevitable, has called for negotiations with. the LTTE. It urges that in this negotiation, unlike in negotiations in the recent past, there should be a serious engagement with the fundamental causes of the war. It is assumed that these fundamental causes are amenable to settlement by negotiation. The phrase "settlement by negotiation" carries in it the heavy connotation that the "settlement" will restore or preserve (depending on one's point of vantage) the single all-island state. That is the overriding end that must be subserved by peace. Peace is not the end in itself ; it is but an adjunct to a different end. If peace was the only end it could have been secured long ago. There is no peace because it is a secondary, subsidiary objective tacked on to the overriding objective which is the restoration or the preservation of the single all -island state.
2. The restoration or the preservation of the single all island state is possible now only by a military victory of the most sweeping magnitude, a victory based upon the extermination of the LTTE either by their unconditional surrender or by the killing of all or nearly all of its troops. No armed guerrilla organisation, fighting on its home ground for national secession and independence has ever been exterminated in this way in any part of the world. That alone is not the sole reason why this aim is impossible of achievement in Sri Lanka. The principal reason is the backing that the LTTE will receive from the indigenous Tamil people on the island and abroad (and eventually from the plantation Tamil people as well) as the war escalates in intensity. It is not inconceivable that the Tamil population of Tamilnadu too could eventually become indirectly, but significantly, involved.
3. No society or government embarks on such a war with a full knowledge ab initio of its implications or its magnitude. It is sucked into it in slow degrees. Every war commences with an absolute conviction that it will be of short duration. Mr.J.R. Jayawardene, supposedly our most astute leader, entertained serious hopes that the Tamil agitation in the peninsula could be suppressed in 6 months under the iron hand of General "Bull" Weeratunge; later, he and the late Rajiv Gandhi decided to disarm the LTTE in 72 hours. The present government came to power buoyed by great hopes of harvesting the peace dividend and now spends an all time record of Rs. 38 billion on the war. Since the capture of Jaffna in December '95 a considerable escalation of military activity has become essential. After the next- major offensive and the capture of some extents of difficult terrain even more military expenditure will become necessary. Eventually, civil government itself will become meaningless for lack of financial resources to carry out civilian programmes - perhaps already this stage has been reached.
4. There is a fundamental cause for this war as for all wars. That cause stems from the decision of the indigenous Tamil people living in the northeast to establish on their home ground a separate, sovereign Tamil state, thus dividing the island into two states. This was expressed in the Vadukoddai Resolution in 1976 by all their political parties in joint concourse assembled. It received an overwhelming majority of indigenous Tamil votes in the general election of 1977. 'The opposition of all Sinhala governments, from that day to this, to the implementation of that decision is the fundamental cause of the war.
5. There can never be peace on the island until that decision of the Tamil nation is implemented. War will continue for as long as it takes for that to be done. Any serious negotiation is possible only in respect of ways and means of implementing that decision and the establishment of rational. 'inter-state arrangements for the operation of inter-state infrastructure (such as railways, irrigation systems, post and telecommunication networks etc.) and security arrangements such as an extradition treaty.
6. Most Sinhala intellectuals and politicians cling to the forlorn hope that the Tamil decision for national independence in a state of their own can be bought off by a political settlement or by a combination of military pressure and a political offer. Nowhere in the world has this been possible in such situations. Recent events in Sri Lanka too have shown how futile such a hope can be. The armed nationalist struggle for separate statehood by the indigenous Tamil people has repeatedly killed at the embryo stage every offer of a political settlement within a single all-island state; the application of military pressure has only hardened attitudes and demonstrated the irrelevance of such offers and of that strategy.
7. The National Peace Council still reposes hope in the Union of Regions package based on a single all-island state. Such a state requires the exclusive monopoly of armed force within the state by the central government. This pre-supposes either the forcible disarming of the LTTE or the voluntary surrender of its arms - both equally fanciful scenarios. So far most discussion of this package has sidestepped this vitally important question.
Perhaps there Is an intuitive apprehension that this is not a question Capable of resolution in either of these ways or, indeed, in any conceivable way. It is time now to depart the domain of delusion and enter, perhaps for the first time, the bracing climate of realpolitik.
8. We must decide for ourselves whether we want peace or war. For each there is a price to pay. We can have peace and a certain prospect, of prosperity for the Sinhala people if we pay the price of recognizing the Tamil state in the north-east of the island.
We can have war which will exact a heavy toll of lives and economic resources, impoverish our people beyond present imagination, before long replace civil with military government and even so prove unwinnable in the long run.
No rational being will choose the. latter. But that is the course on which we are now embarked. It is time to cry halt, reverse ourselves, as we have done so often before, and opt for peace.
9. The National Peace Council's initiative, more progressive than that of many others in the war hysteria that grips the country now, unhappily clouds a clear perception of the stark realities that confront the Sinhala people. If it is serious about Peace, peace has to be the only and the overriding objective and not one devalued as an adjunct to the restoration.or the preservation of the single all-island-state.