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TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM
Selected Writings - Karen Parker
"India's actions. . . uncharacteristically confused and
17 October 1987, Tamil Times
17 October, 1987
At the express request of His Excellency K. K. S. Rana, Consul General of the Republic of India in San Francisco, and in my capacity as a non-governmental representative (Human Rights Advocates and Disabled Peoples' International) at the United Nations, I address you regarding the situation in Sri Lanka.
Although the situation of armed conflict between the Indian Peacekeeping Forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has produced widespread accusations of atrocities and civilian hardships, and although my legal work focuses on the law of armed conflict (the Geneva Conventions and customary humanitarian law), it is not my intention to catalogue the events of the last week other than to say that atrocities have been committed by all involved and will be investigated by concerned people the world over.
This communication is to present issues for consideration so that hostilities can cease forthwith.
I begin by addressing some points of a geopolitical nature. First, I can make no sense out of India's actions: they have appeared uncharacteristically confused and precipitous. The Tamils, and particularly the LTTE, have represented the strongest pro-Indian faction in the whole of the region. It is unreasonable that India would willingly or intentionally discard or betray her traditional friends. Most importantly, the LTTE are indigenous to Sri Lanka. They answer to no other drum than their peoples' aspirations, safety and honour. Others involved in the tragic event of the last years may not be in that position. Finally, while India must weigh many factors in their foreign policy decisions, LTTE cannot and will not put any interest ahead of their people and cause. Ironically, I have always felt that India's interest in Sri Lanka is closely allied to the LTTE's.
It is also true that many forces, including several other nations with perceived high interest in the area, might be extremely unhappy with the Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement, Annexure and Letters of Understanding of July 29, 1987. I have feared that attempts may be made from outside to derail India and her exemplary foreign policy initiatives in Sri Lanka and elsewhere: South Africa and Namibia, Fiji, humanitarian aid and trade credits to Nicaragua, and the "Cuba motion" at the 1987 session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights immediately come to mind. Given the nature of events, I am convinced that these fears are justified in Sri Lanka. While I have been openly sympathetic to India when retaliatory measures such as arming the Sikh terrorists have been taken, I cannot remain sympathetic when apparent retaliation is answered by slaughter of innocent people in Sri Lanka. In my view, neither the LTTE nor the Tamil people are your enemy.
The first serious mistake made in the present crisis was the attempted transport of the LTTE members to Colombo. Given the years of distrust between the Tamils and the Colombo Government, surely some delay until some practical trust could be built would have been wiser. I urge you to analyse closely how, why and by whom that decision was made, particularly since those detainees had publicly stated that they would not reach Colombo alive.
The tragic and dramatic suicide was followed by atrocities in the Eastern provinces, supposedly explained as being at the hands of the LTTE in retaliation for the suicides, but reliably attested to have been at the hands of others. Surely you must agree with me that it made no strategic sense for the LTTE to engage in that action at that time, yet it made a great deal of sense for elements wishing to discredit the LTTE and the Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement.
Finally, the activities of some elements of the Indian army clearly do not appear to be in the best of interests of India. Nothing would better serve some elements both inside and outside of India than to discredit Indian foreign policy at home and outside of India than to weaken Indian international influence. In my view, the continuation of hostilities will lead to a serious if not fatal blow to India's international reputation.
Given the above concerns, I have remained in daily contact with representatives of the LTTE, with your diplomatic personnel in San Francisco and elsewhere, and with the Government of Canada. I suggested to the LTTE that another State might be useful to provide direct and reliable communication between them and India. I have maintained to the representatives of India and representatives of the LTTE my willingness to effectuate communication, regardless of whatever role Canada or another state may assume.
The first essential step to prevent actual atrocities and mutual accusations of atrocities is to agree to a cease fire. India's insistence on a pre-ceasefire surrender is not practical given the nature of the LTTE and their perceived role on behalf of all Tamils. If for no other reason, the LTTE will not announce a surrender because they cannot accept what would be viewed as a betrayal of the Tamil cause. While this position may be viewed as unreasonable and intransigent by outsiders, a ceasefire can only lead tofavourable results if carried out with mutual credibility and full respect for the honour and pride of the affected parties. On this point the situation with the LTTE is not unique. A ceasefire is a ceasefire and a surrender is a surrender.
Once the ceasefire is in effect, the LTTE will meet with Indian officials to arrange an orderly transfer of arms and the rehabilitation of India's role under the Agreement to guarantee the protection of the Tamil population. I have recommended to the LTTE representatives that a third party government such as Canada participate in at least the initial meetings and that the Sri Lankan government not participate until a later stage. The LTTE indicates that they accept the proposal.
Given the degree of mistrust and sensitivity of the LTTE to their perceived role as representatives of the Tamil people, it would not be therapeutic that the LTTE leadership to be viewed as being in the custody of Indian Government. For this reason, I have proposed and the LTTE has accepted in principle that they be sheltered by the International Committee of the Red Cross, or a combined team of the Indian and Sri Lankan Red Cross during the discussions following a ceasefire. Subsequent arrangements would be, of course, a primary topic of discussion.
Your excellency, I trust you accept my interest and comments in good faith. I remain available in whatever capacity I may serve to the cause of peace and justice for the Tamil people and the restoration of India to its rightful place in international affairs.
Your excellency, please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.
Attorney at Law
United Nations Representative for Disabled Peoples' International and Human Rights Advocates