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Ana Pararajasingham, Australia
International Community Can Help Forge Peace
23 July 2000
|.According to Satchithananthan Sathananthan ("International
community sharpens its knives against Tamils" published in
sangam. org-), the primary aim of the international community is ‘to
undercut the Tamils’ political support for the LTTE and emasculate
the military power of the Tamil national movement’. In support of
this argument he cites several clauses from the declaration made by
ministers of 51 countries and 211 international organisations in May
2003 in Tokyo, and the role played by ‘foreign’ intelligence
agencies in the defection of LTTE’s Eastern commander Karuna.
Sathananthan attributes the failure of this strategy to the LTTE’s political acumen, and the Sinhala leadership’s inability to grasp the helping hand proffered by the international community.
The same website also carries an article by Taraki who implies that the cease-fire was engineered by the international community to blunt the LTTE’s military advantage. In support of this assertion, Taraki, cites the case of Columbia, where the US had helped forge a cease-fire when the Government was at its weakest and then during the ‘truce; had ‘pumped massive military aid’ to enable the Government strong enough to turn tables on its opponents. The second example cited by Taraki is the case of El Salvador where a similar attempt had resulted in the FML (the most successful Third World Anti-State armed movement at that time) being thwarted from realising its goals through a "peace agreement’ implemented in 1992 under US patronage.
Given the credentials of both writers, (Sathananthan is a political scientist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge and a visiting research Scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University of International Studies; Taraki is the pseudonym of Sivaram who has written extensively on the armed struggle of the Tamil people for well over a decade), one needs to give serious consideration to the essential thrust of this argument, i.e. that the international community is pursuing a plan to weaken the LTTE and prop up Colombo. In other words, a strategy based on the premise that any concession to Tamils would only lead to a further destabilisation of the region. Sathananthan is quite explicit in this, pointing out that "They (comprising Norway, EU, US and Japan, plus India) are implacably opposed to conceding victory, even a semblance of it, to Tamils' armed resistance for fear that other revolutionary groups would be emboldened by the LTTE's success. The Indian State is especially nervous given the multiple armed struggles being waged in north, northeast, central and south-central regions of the country."
Any strategy that seeks the complete capitulation of the Tamils is doomed to fail. It will fail because the LTTE has not been lulled into a false sense of security and has remained alert. Should such a strategy be pursued, it can only result in further destruction and destabilisation (the very thing that the international community is supposedly seeking to eliminate) as the Island reverts to war.
There is, however, hope that the international community has not placed all its eggs in one basket. This is because there have been calls made from time to time seeking a viable and meaningful political solution that involves power sharing by re-conceptualising notions of sovereignty.
One of the options to consider is the suggestion by Tersita Schaffer, former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, who had this to say in an article dated 1 June 2000, published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS):
" The only chance (for peace) would lie in a much more radical approach to power sharing. A loose confederal structure, with some kind of explicit recognition of the Tamils as a collective group.
The CSIS is a US-based think tank which describes itself as ‘a public policy research institution dedicated to analysis and policy impact.’
Then there is the view expressed by UK-based academic Dr Sumantra Bose, author of States, Nations, Sovereignty (Sage Publications New Delhi, 1994) calling for "innovative and imaginative associative structures whereby the Sinhalese and Tamil people can peacefully coexist and freely associate and cooperate in certain vital spheres of common concerns"
Even as early as 1991, the creation of innovative and imaginative structures as a solution to the conflict had been voiced by journals such as Asiaweek. On 13 September 1991, Asiaweek wrote an editorial on Sri Lanka advocating a novel solution to retain Sri Lanka as one country while permitting the Tamil people their right to self determination. In the words of Asiaweek. "There are alternatives from ‘one country two systems’ to the confederal union of Sovereign Soviet Republics". "Autonomy" said the editorial "comes in many shades".
Given the current tendences for countries to seek greater cooperation by sharing sovereignty (the expansion of the European Union being the prime example), a viable political solution in Sri Lanka based on the voluntary pooling of sovereignty by the Tamil and Sinhala people may well be the path that needs to be encouraged by the International Community, - particularly by the EU, identified by Dr Sathananthan as one of the 4 core states.
The challenge is to persuade the Sinhala polity to accept this reality. As pointed out by Nadesan Satyendra, in " Sri Lanka - Tamil Eelam: Getting to Yes" (published in www.tamilnation.org & www.sangam.org )