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TAMIL NATIONAL FORUMSleepless in Colombo
Editorial, Oru Paper, 7 May 2007
Life in Tamil Northeast has become unbearable for most of its inhabitants. Daily bombings, killings, arbitrary arrests and disappearances carry on as they have been since Mr Rajapakse and his brothers took over power in Colombo.
Night time strafing, shelling and bombing are nothing new for the Tamils of Northeast. The majority of them do not have the luxury of electricity and running water etc which most southern Sri Lankans take for granted. Thus all night uninterrupted cricket watching on big screens in stereo sound, in your nearest refugee camp in order to cheer cricket teams is an absurd claim.
Electricity getting cut off in the middle of the night is an unpleasant experience for most of us. Having to wake up from your well earned sleep in the middle of the night to the sound of gun fire must be terrifying. Watching young soldier boys firing wildly is a scary sight. Unable to answer your tearful children's anxious questions thus unable to reassure them, in your own home, is something most of us would never like to experience. Hiding under furniture while your life is in mortal danger from aerial bombardment must be petrifying. Thus for the cosmopolitan and affluent Colomboites last Saturday night must have been a nasty andunfortunate one, one has to agree.
It seems that Mr Rajapakse is so generous, he is so egalitarian, that he is making even his beloved Colomboites experience what ever he has asked the hapless Tamils of Northeast to experience day in day out.
As all these are happening in the name of freedom, democracy, good governance etc one has to be sure about the agreement of the international community with Mr Rajapakse's regime.
At this juncture, a serious analysis is needed to look at the Norwegian led peace process of 2002-2006. To start with, let us look at word appeasement. This word was used against this peace process which safe-guarded the lives and properties of the Tamils in the Northeast for four years.
Parties and individuals whose hearts simmered and continued to simmer with anti-Tamil hatred described the peace talks as "appeasement to the Tiger" in a well orchestrated campaign. Their contempt for the
Tamils' demand for a homeland which would guarantee their safety and security was so pathological they were determined to undermine the Norwegian effort. This sophisticated group consisted of rabid Sinhalese racists, Tamil ex-elites who lost their power because of their crass opportunism and treachery, and any Sinhalese politician who wanted to join the anti-Tamil political bandwagon in order to gain power.
These warmongers, chauvinists and the plain greedy, who wished to undermine any future peace process, continue to use the word "appeasement." Anyone who stands against their ambitions is and will be tagged with this term. In the lexicology of these anti-Tamil parties, it evokes British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's attempt to negotiate with the then German Chancellor, Adolph Hitler.
It is certainly the case that Hitler was a power hungry maniac and not the sort of man with whom one could usefully negotiate. But not all negotiation is equally fruitless. Before that incident, by the way, "appeasement" had a positive connotation, of "seeking peace."
The anti-Tamil parties' use of the term appeasement, however, turns it on its head. Taken seriously, the doctrine of "no appeasement" of theirs would mean Sri Lankan people are stuck in perpetual war, alwaysdedicated to gobbling up more of each other's human resources, wealth, and civil liberties,
It could never be possible to negotiate a truce between enemies. That would be "appeasement." It could never be possible to compromise. That would be "appeasement." It could never he prudent to withdraw troops from a failed war. That would be "appeasement." In other words, the anti-Tamil doctrine of "no appeasement, ever" actually turns you into a Hitler rather than a Churchill.
But we are not stuck perpetually in the late 1930s, and it is not the only exemplary period in history to which we can resort for our metaphors and our courses of action.
Tamils of Sri Lanka consider the Northeast as their homeland and history is with them in this. As far as they are concerned the Government of Sri Lanka is a colonial authority, occupying their land.
Thus the Sri Lankan crisis is clearly an odd sort of neo-colonialism, which can only ultimately be resolved by decolonization. Decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s was also denounced as "appeasement," but it was the only right course.
Britain gave up India (and Pakistan) in 1947. Was that "appeasement"? You may be assured that the British pro-colonialism parties saw it that way.
Without this sort of realism, Britain would have tried to keep India and there would have been a bloodbath. Likewise, any attempt by Britain to hold on to Kenya past the early 1960s would have led to even more violence than the Mau Mau and British reprisals (20,000 imprisoned, many tortured) had. And with decolonization, the Mau Mau and violence subsided.
You will note that you never hear that Britain "appeased" the Stern Gang, Irgun, Haganah, and other Zionist forces that engaged in terrorism in Palestine, when it departed that territory in 1948.
France "appeased" Lebanon and Syria by granting them independence in 1943. It "appeased" Morocco by giving it up in 1956 and Algeria in 1962. Britain likewise "appeased" all of its former colonies. The pro-colonialism parties in each of these imperial countries fought decolonization tooth and nail on the basis of "appeasement".
And very recently Sudan "appeased" its South and Serbia "appeased" Bosnia.
Problems do have solutions, and war is not always the best one. Sometimes the withdrawal of the occupying military forces itself solves the problem.
We hope the war mongers of Sri Lanka and those out side will take notice.