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Ana Pararajasingham, Australia
On Mannikalingam's "A critique of
which was published by the Sri Lanka Government controlled Sunday Observer
15 February 1992
Manikalingam's article entitled "A Critique of the Tigers' Claim", published in the October 1992 issue of the Tamil Times, is carefully crafted to impress the reader as a paper based on logic and reason whereas the arguments put forward are essentially emotive in nature.Manikalingam manages to pass off as facts his own opinions without even the courtesy of a cursory examination of other theories/views explaining the same phenomena. Take for instance, Manikalingam's interpretation of L 1TE 's motives for the killing of the TELO leader Sri Sabaratnam. This is attributed to "political differences". There is just no mention (leave alone consideration) of the (now) well established theory that the LTTE's attack on TELO was essentially pre-emptive as TELO was perceived by the
LTTE to be a group being groomed by RAW to take on the LTTE at some later stage.
Then there is the unsubstantiated allegation that "they [LTTE] killed Rajini Thiranagama". Given that this is an allegation strenuously denied by the LTTE and the accusers (IPKF) and its local collaborators themselves have been charged by the L FIE as being responsible for the killing, and that the killing had occurred during IPKF occupation of Jaffna, and that during the time the Thiranagama home had been searched by armed men several times, and that Thiranagama herself is reported to have written a few days before her murder that the "local Indian army officer in charge is trying to trap me", Manikalingam's allegation simply reveals his own prejudice and little else!
The entire paper is replete with similar superficial arguments and inaccuracies. Oblivious to the realistic assessment of the situation in the historical and political context by well renowned authorities like Dr. Wilson (of the University of Brunswick and author of The Break- Up of Sri Lanka) who refers to the LTTE as the "authentic spokespeople for the Tamil people." , Manikalingam has given full vent to his own prejudices with no holds barred.
However, in presenting his own prejudices in the guise of logic and reason, Manikalingam employs techniques, which could only be described as remarkably clever though patently dishonest.
Firstly, he attempts to reach (the essentially Tamil) reader by identifying with the strong feelings of revulsion experienced by all Tamils over the internecine killings which have plagued the nation since the decimation of the TELO by LTTE in 1986, and then attributes this to the LTTE 's "violent suppression of alternative opinions".In this connection, Manikalingam is well advised to observe the conduct of those western liberals in reporting the "black on black" violence in South Africa.
In reporting the violence, the role of the South African Government as "agent provocateur" is not ignored. True, blacks are killing blacks and certainly ANC members are involved in these killings, but there is an understanding of ground realities as the reports seek to present the whole truth.
Secondly, he attributes to the L 11E claims which it had never made for itself and then proceeds to demolish them with understandable ease, claiming in the process a credibility he hardly deserves..
Thirdly, he ignores the violence perpetrated by all other parties to the conflict who are, in fact, responsible for more deaths of innocent civilians than the LTTE. (The IPKF estimated to be responsible for over 5,000, the Sri Lankan government perhaps around 40,000 Tamils in addition to the 60,000 Sinhalese in its suppression of the JVC-led Southern Sinhala rebellion).
In this Manikalingam has been as- sisted by the nature of the LTTE's killings. Whereas, the LTTE's vio- lence has been primarily directed at those perceived to be traitors to the Tamil cause, the violence of the oth- ers has been of the mindless variety reprisal and revenge killings.
This has made it possible for Manikalingam to identify the LTTE with the killings of individuals which clearly has a much greater impact than the massacre of the nameless by the IPKF and the Sri Lankan Government.
Fourthly, when confronted with the inescapable reality of the Sinhala regime's unwillingness to settle the conflict through political means and its inclination to pursue the military option, Manikalingam retreats into an incomprehensible logic that de- fies reality.
He does this by challenging the perception shared by an overwhelm- ing majority of Tamils (nationalists or otherwise) that "all Sinhala re- gimes are the same" - a perception which could only be described as being remarkably accurate in the light of recent developments!
The following quotes by Kautiliya, in the Sinhala owned Island, should leave one in no doubt as to what the Sri Lankan Regime is up to:-
"Consider the behaviour of the two major parties. Far from concentrating on the issue and possible "solutions", the UNP and the SLFP concentrated on each other, waiting for the first opportu- nity to pounce on the other as 'traitor to the Sinhala Buddhist cause'... and that is the truth ofthe Tamil issue." (6th December 1992)
"I doubt that the UNP-SLFP will put their signature to such a pact (involving a Federal form of Govern- ment), or if they do, it will be torn up before the next elections." (29th No- vember in an article entitled "Feder- alism -Sri Lanka's F word")
Then there are publications such as the one by leading lawyer H.L. de Silva arguing against the "Federal Alternative", clearly demonstrating that even the "moderate" members of the Sinhala establishment are un- likely to agree to a sharing of political power.
In this connection, perhaps, one should recall that it was Ernest Bev- in, a former Foreign Minister of Brit- ain who, by refusing to compromise, forced the Jews to fight it out and thus pass the test of nationhood.
Finally, Manikalingam manages the impossible by ignoring the one factor which has made the struggle unique in the recent history of the Tamil people: the commitment of an entire generation to a cause for which it is willing to die. (According to the LTTE, over 5,100 of its cadres including 348 women have died since the resumption of war against the Sri Lankan regime in June 1990.)
It is strange indeed for a paper which purports to critically examine the phenomenon of "Tigerism" to ignore a significant feature which differentiates the Tamil Tigers from all other Tamil militant movements - its commitment which has made its cadres prefer suicide (cyanide capsule) to capture. its leaders to undertake fasts unto death (Thillepan) and its troops to mount suicide attacks (Black Tigers).
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE "CRITIQUE"
The purpose of this paper is to critically examine Manikalingam's arguments in the light of the above and let the reader assess for him/ herself the validity ofthe claims made in the "Critique".
Perhaps one should begin this criticism of the Critique by defining the nature of the conflict, which, according to Satchi Ponnamablalam, a judge of the supreme court of Belize and author of the book Sri Lanka: The National Question and the Tamil Liberation Struggle, is between:-
"the Tamil people comprised in the Eelam nation occupying the northeastern parts of the country, whose interests are advanced, protected and defended by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a politico-military organisation of young Tamils under the leadership of its founder Velupillai Prabhakaran on the one side, and the State of Sri Lanka under the leadership of the President of therepublic, his ministers, his commanders of the armed forces and the men of the armed services employed by the State, in the name of safeguarding the territorial integrity of the State and avowedly defending and protecting the interests of the Sinhalese, particularly the SinhalaBuddhist people occupying the west, south and central parts of the country on the opposite side. It is a definition which I am sure even the Sinhala people will find hard to refute.
However, the "Critique" objects to the LTTE leadership for the following reasons:
In making these charges, Manikalingam employs the techniques outlined earlier in this paper with considerable skill.
THE "SOLE REPRESENTATIVE" CHARGE:
Manikalingam attributes this claim to the LTTE on the basis of 'any brief examination of the Tiger negotiating tactics at peace talks during the last five years".
Curiously, this "brief examination" is no examination at all, but two specific charges which Manikalingam implies prove his case!
2) The delays in announcing the formation of the interim Government and the re-opening of Police Stations and resumption of "colonisation" by the Sri Lankan Government during this period.
3) A fast unto death being under taken by Thillepan in protest
A brief examination of these two charges, however, should help evaluate the "Critique's" "Sole Representative" charge.
The first involves LTTE's alleged unwillingness to participate along with "other groups" in any peace talks and the second its alleged insistence on retaining absolute control over the interim council which led to the disagreement with the Indian Government.
On the question of peace talks, it ought to be noted that there have only been two occasions where the LTTE had the opportunity to participate in direct talks with the Sri Lankan Government.
The first, of course, was the historical "Thimpu Talks" and the second those talks with the Sri Lankan Government which the LTTE was engaged in between May 1989 and June 1990.
At Thimpu, the LTTE participated along with the other parties. Manikalingam acknowledges this. On the other occasion, there was certainly no question of "other Tamil Parties" engaging in talks as the talks were to seek the removal of the IPKF with whom these "other parties" had collaborated until then.
Manikalingam's assertion that the LTTE did not participate along with the "other groups" on the grounds that it was seeking "sole representation" cannot be sustained in the faceof the above.
The second point on which Manikalingam seeks to build his case is the claim that the IPKF-LTTE confrontation was the result of L Fib's insistence on sole representation. Now, is this true? If one is to recall the events of September/October 1987, it should become clear that the confrontation occurred following a series of events which culminated in the 17 L Fibers committing suicide in captivity when about to be sent to Colombo. These events are given below in chronological order:
1) The appearance of the "Tri Stare group (consisting ofthe several armed groups which RAW had cultivated as a counter balance to the L1 1B after the decimation of the TELO by the LTTE) in camps adjoining the IPKF. (The Australian of 8th September 1987, based on an AFP report, quotes the Government Agent for Vavuniya Mr Logeswaran confirming the free movement of armed members of rival Tamil groups.)
4) The arrest and subsequent suicide of 17 LTTE soldiers when an attempt is made to transport them to Colombo in blatant violation of the "amnesty" announced as part of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord.
It was these events which made the LTTE perceive the Indian intervention to be one designed primarily to secure the regional interests of India at the cost of the Eelam Tamil Nation and finally led to the confrontation with the IPKF. One only needs to read the long article by M.J. Akbar (author of India: The Siege Within) entitled "Why are we in Sri Lanka", published during February 1988 in India Today, to realise the accuracy of the LTTE perception.
According to Akbar: "The Lanka army's inadequacies provided us [India] with an opportunity to step in, which of course we did. We went there to ensure the objectives of both India and Sri Lanka. .. A new flag anywhere in the world is a dangerous thing; it breeds new ideas."
The suggestion that the confrontation was due to the "Tiger desire to have absolute control (not just majority control) of the interim council" is not only unsubstantiated but stands out as being based on nothing more than Manikalingam's own prejudice.
VIOLENT SUPPRESSION OF "ALTERNATIVE OPINIONS" CHARGE.
The second charge levied by the "critique" involves LTTE's "history of violent oppression of alternative opinions". This is an argument which Manikalingam raises but does not care to expand any further. Given that Manikalingam's "critique" is on "Tigerism", it is certainly surprising. Perhaps Manikalingam expects the reader to share his own prejudice and as such does not consider it necessary to explore this serious charge in any depth !