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TAMIL NATIONAL FORUMWordsmiths and Reality
Editorial, Oru Paper, 15 February 2007
Politicians, like writers, preachers, and poets, are wordsmiths. They deal mainly in words, not in actions. If you wish to understand the present Sri Lankan political situation, you need to understand how politicians use words.
Lets, start with the "Southern Consensus."
Ever since the Tamils have started their struggle for peace with justice we have been told about the necessary southern consensus for a long lasting peaceful solution in the Island of Lanka. The Sinhalese have to agree among themselves what sort of solution the Tamils need- if you like.
We have been told about the same wisdom during the (now defunct) Norwegian led peace process too.
Initially it was the southern consensus among Mrs Kumaratunge led opposition and Mr Wikremasinghe led coalition government.
Later we were told about the necessary consensus between the current president's coalition and the opposition.
Much later, we were told that Sri Lanka being a five star democracy, all political parties of Sri Lanka haveto come to a consensus regarding a solution to the Tamils.
Thus six months ago, an All Party Conference and an advisory panel of experts were put forward by the current president.
After many discussions and study tours this advisory body put forward a proposal that suggested that Sri Lanka should not be only for the Sinhalese. This advice was quietly dropped by the government as soon as it was possible.
So where are we now in our consensus building exercise which has been going on since February 2001?
Up to four thousand Tamil civilians have been killed or injured. Over two hundred thousand Tamil people have been made refugees and have been driven away from their own lands. More than fifty thousand children do not go to school and are learning to live a life on United Nation's hand outs.
Thus it is very clear that southern consensus building regarding a peaceful solution is (as always) not a priority in Colombo.
This is because the only successful political tool any Sinhalese politician or party need in order to come topower, and later to consolidate power, is ethnic out bidding i.e. I will safeguard the Sinhalese nation from the marauding Tamils more than any other politician or party.
If a Sinhalese politician or party dared put forward a political proposal that challenged the dominance of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and make every one equal, then they would soon be looking for some other form of work.
Justice and the truth about the need for Sri Lanka to be constitutionally changed according to modern international governing standards etc may be bandied about occasionally in private, but it is rarely called upon for a public appearance in the South (as it is and will always be , politically suicidal).
Currently the only consensus the South has is that the Tamil resistance has to be crushed militarily before a southern dictated peace proposal is offered. So the reality is an all out war in order to 'liberate Tamils'. The international community has accepted this for many reasons. One of them is that they estimate the Tamil resistance as weak and possibly on its last legs. They have clearly bought the Sri Lankan Government's words of military and political victories in the Eastern theatre of war as reality.
Politicians, especially the Sri Lankan ones, being wordsmiths, are used to believing their own words. If they say something is successful, it is successful, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. Words and beliefs, however, are not always reality. A Confucian saying puts it quite well: "If you understand, the world is as it is; if you do not understand, the world is as it. is." Our words and beliefs do not have the power to affect reality. Reality can only be changed by actions. The best strategy is to disregard words and watch what actions people take.
The Tamils for example, have long known that creating facts on the ground trumps words every time. Regardless of what people have said through the years, they have put all their efforts and resources into defending their land. They continue to strengthen themselves in Vanni, despite having withdrawn from the East.
Whatever they say, they are, in fact, creating conditions on the ground that will make a viable Tamil Homeland a possibility.
So the moral of this tale, watch what people do, not what they say, and that applies to everyone.
The president, for example, says that Sri Lankan armed forces are succeeding in the war against Tamil Resistance. To know whether that is true or not would require, first of all, a definition of "success" and then an extensive trip to the Northeast to see if conditions on the ground meet the criteria for success. The president has gone to the East only once, for a photo opportunity. He flew in, spent an hour or two in a heavily fortified military base, and then flew out, never, so far, to return.