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Home > Tamil National Forum > Selected Writings - Victor Rajakulendran > Foreign Facilitation & Sinhala Psychosis
Selected Writings - Dr. Victor Rajakulendran
15 December 2000
After reading the feature article by Neville Ladduwahetty, which
Sinhala owned Sri Lanka "The Island" of 8.12.2000 , I thought I should
express my thoughts to the wider community that is interested in the Sri Lankan
The meeting between the Norwegian special peace envoy Mr. Eric Solheim and the LTTE leader Mr. Veluppillai Pirabaharan, and the LTTE leader's unconditional offer for negotiations with the Sri Lankan government under the aegis of the Norwegians, have started to send wake up calls to those who really do not want the Tamils in Eelam to live in peace with dignity.
These are the people who turned a blind eye all this time to the Sri Lankan security force's and police force's massacre of innocent Tamils, to the Sri Lankan airforce planes' bombing of schools with children and churches full of refugees, to the Sri Lankan security force's indiscriminate artillery shelling of heavily populated built up Tamil civilian areas and to the unnecessary loss of the thousands of poor Sinhalese youths in the so called "war for peace" of the Sri Lankan President.
These are the people who have now started shouting foul when
foreign governments have openly started persuading both parties to the conflict
to come to the negotiating table. These people are now gripped with the fear
psychosis that these foreign governments may eventually support the right to
self-determination of Eelam Tamils.
This fear psychosis was well expressed by Mr. Ladduwahetty in his article. He quotes the New York Times (Nov. 24, 2000) where Britain's deputy Foreign Secretary Peter Hain was reported to have stated that " Sri Lankan minority would be better off with greater autonomy and the right to self determination in their everyday lives".
Then Mr. Ladduwahetty questions -
"If it is unrealistic for the LTTE to abandon its goal of a separate state, what would be the likely outcome of autonomy with the right of self-determination even if limited to "their everyday lives"?
He continues to question -
"If the LTTE decides to extend their limited self-determination to secession, what possibly could Mr. Hain and others in the international community do about it"?
He goes on to say further that "Sri Lanka and Mr. Hain should instead look at Spain's experience with the Basques".
He argues that even though Spain's Basque Provinces were
granted enormous autonomy, because their final goal, as it is with the LTTE, is
an independent state, terrorism continues there unabated and let this be a
lesson for Mr. Hain, the international community and Sri Lanka.
There are some similarities between the Basque separatism of Spain and the Tamil separatism of Sri Lanka. However, vast differences also exist between these two kinds of separatism.
People in the Basque province speak Euskera (the Basque language) like the Eelam Tamils speak Tamil. Under the dictatorship of the fascist Franco, Basque people were subjected to political, economic and cultural suppression like the way the Eelam Tamils were subjected to, under successive oppressive Sinhalese regimes.
The establishment of ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatsuna - Basque Country and Liberty) was a reaction to the politics of the traditional Basque nationalist party PNV, which attempted to further the interests of the wealthy Basque bourgeoisie in agreement with the fascist Franco dictatorship.
But in contrast, the establishment of LTTE was in response to a call by the Tamil nationalist party TULF, to re-establish the independent Tamil state (Thamil Eelam), which the Tamils lost when the British colonised the island. The TULF called on the Tamil youths to come forward and fight towards this noble cause.
Therefore it is clear that in Sri Lanka, the whole Tamil
community was together when they initially asked for a separate state under the
leadership of Mr. S.J.V Chelvanayakam. He and his party, TULF, got the mandate
also from the Tamil people for this at the 1977 general elections.
After 20 years of armed struggle by ETA, following the death of Franco, a transition to democracy occurred in Spain and the famous "Statute of Guernica" was passed in 1979. This statute granted the Basque Country relatively extensive autonomy rights.
The Spanish government of that time headed by Felipe Gonzalez of the Socialist Party (PSOE) granted the Basques their own parliament, a regional police and judicial system and extensive financial autonomy. Also the Basque language (Euskera), which had been forbidden under Franco, was set on an equal footing with Spanish.
An additional clause in this Statute entitles the "Basque people" to demand back other "historical rights" within the framework of the Spanish constitution.
Although the Spanish constitution of 1978 explicitly does not provide for the independence of the Basque Country, this clause is interpreted by the nationalists, including the PNV, as meaning that the uppermost political objective must be the complete national independence of the Basque country.
It was against this backdrop that ETA continued its strategy of individual terrorism during the transition to democracy period, as well.
The socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez reacted by giving more powers and weapons to the police and intensified repression including the establishment of para-military death squads, which hunted down ETA members. Because of this repressive actions Gonzalez and his PSOE faced a "historic" election defeat in 1996.
For the first time since the end of the Franco dictatorship, the right-wing PP headed by Jose Maria Aznar, containing in its ranks numerous former vassals of the Franco regime, assumed power. Aznar continued the anti-ETA policy of his predecessors by attempting to solve the Basque question through police suppression.
In Sri Lanka irrespective of whether UNP or SLFP is in power,
the Sinhalese governments without attempting a "transition to democracy" policy
like that of Felipe Gonzalez of Spain, have increased the oppressive measures
against the LTTE and the Tamil people it represents.
By the late 1990s ETA had lost most of its support in broad sections of the population, and the police had smashed important ETA commandos. As a result, the organization changed its strategy. Together with other nationalist parties, including the PNV, the parliamentary representation of ETA the EH (Euskal Herritarrok - We Basque Citizens), passed the so-called "Treaty of Lizarra" in the fall of 1998.
This declaration contained the obligation to hold open, but exclusively Basque negotiations on the political future of the Basque country. In connection with the signing of this treaty only, ETA announced an unlimited, unconditional cease-fire. However, once the last remaining illusions regarding Aznar's willingness to negotiate Basque independence had disappeared, the nationalist parties declared in the fall of 1999 that the Statute of Guernica was revoked, since an autonomy arrangement would mean subordination to the Spanish central state.
Following this only, ETA announced the end of its cease-fire
in November 1999 and resumed its bombing and assassination campaigns.
Mr. Ladduwahetty by conveniently hiding this long story of the Basque nationalism was able to make a sweeping statement that "despite the extreme autonomy granted (to Basque Provinces), terrorism continues unabated".
In the Sri Lankan conflict Norway with the help of Britain, USA and the EU countries is trying to develop something similar to the "Transition to democracy" phase of the Basque conflict.
Many people like Mr. Ladduwahetty in Sri Lanka and some people in India have developed allergic reactions to these attempts. All these people have a lot to learn from the experience of the Spanish people.
If Felipe Gonzalez had acted wisely between 1983 and 1987 in the same way he had acted at the beginning of his term, taking into consideration the reasons why ETA was still not satisfied with what he gave to the Basque people in the form of extensive autonomy rights, Spain would not have to go through what it is going through now.
Even at this stage, if Mr. Ladduwahetty and others like him
intend to discourage Norway, Britain, USA who are trying to do something
to put an end to the Sri Lankan conflict, one can only imagine what their
reaction will be if and when a referendum among the Tamil people has to be
conducted by the United Nations to decide their own fate.
Mr. Ladduwahetty is attempts to prove that if the Tamils as Mr. Hain referred are "Sri Lanka's minority Tamils" then they are not entitled to the right of self-determination. He says that the international community does not recognize that minorities are entitled to the right of self-determination, limited or not.
He quotes the "Helsinki Declaration" of 1975 by the Conference on security and cooperation in Europe (CSCE) to support this.
He says that this document affirmed that "…the peoples referred to in the Helsinki Final Act are the whole population of each signatory state…" and "…by contrast, no right to self-determination is granted to any minority or ethnic group…furthermore, no right to secession is recognized…".
However, instead of directly quoting the Helsinki Final Act he only quotes from Antonio Cassese's 1995 "Self-Determination of peoples - A Legal Reappraisal" (p 287). In other words, Mr. Ladduwahetty has given only Antonio Casses's opinion on self-determination of minorities and ethnic group.
He has searched and found a like minded person to him on this issue and he has tried to fool his readers as if thesviews are the same as that expressed in the Helsinki Final Act. The whole Helsinki Final Act may be retrieved at http://www.balkanrecon.org/regionallnitiatives/StabilityPact/helfa75e.pdf .
This is a 67 page long document titled "Conference on security and co-operation in Europe (CSCE) - Final Act Helsinki 1975". The principles adopted in this conference are given in small chapters in this document. One will find the Chapter VIII on Equal Rights and Self-determination of Peoples on page 7:
"The participating States will respect the equal rights of peoples and their rights to self-determination, acting at all times in conformity with the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations and with the relevant norms of international law, including those relating to territorial integrity of States.
By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all peoples always have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development.
The participating States reaffirm the universal significance of respect for and effective exercise of equal rights and self-determination of peoples for the development of friendly relations among themselves as among all States; they also recall the importance of the elimination of any form of violation of this principle. (Underlining is by this author)"
Now the readers will see very clearly that Mr. Ladduwahetty has misinterpreted the Helsinki Declaration to support his argument as to what was decided by the countries of the present European Union in 1975.
Tamils only wanted to determine, as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference from Sri Lanka and India and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social and cultural development.
This is what has been denied repeatedly by successive oppressive Sri Lankan regimes, with brutal military force.
Tamils expect the EU nations, most of them were participants of the CSCE, to respect the equal rights and self-determination that the Tamils are demanding, for the development of friendly relations between people of the EU countries and the people of Thamil Eelam and also expect the EU nations to help to eliminate any form of violation of this principles by the Sri Lankan government or any other government.
This is why when there are signs that EU nations and other
nations in the west are beginning to show interest in the Sri Lankan conflict; a
fear psychosis is developing among people like Mr. Ladduwahetti. This fear
psychosis leads them to make a pre-emptive strike with the hope of winning the
western nations to their side.
This fear psychosis has been very vocally expressed by none other than the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar by lashing out at Britain's Junior Foreign Minister Peter Hain's comments, made when he visited Sri Lanka 2 weeks back:
"The LTTE, like the IRA, need to acknowledge that, whilst a Tamil kingdom constitutionally split from the rest of the island will not receive recognition by Europe, the USA or indeed India, the principle of self-determination… would be supported by the international community", Hain said at the time he visited Sri Lanka. "
Mr. Kadirgamar who did not comment on Mr. Hain's comments for two weeks has now 'suddenly' realised that the European nations may support the self-determination claim the Tamils have been demanding from Thimpu days.
Kadirgamar said on Thursday the 14th of December.
"I take rather strong exception to that statement (of Hain) because self-determination could very well mean the right to secession. The state of Sri Lanka cannot under any circumstances whatsoever, contemplate the possibility of a right of secession. As the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka I do not welcome statements made by people outside the country, even though they come from very friendly countries prescribing remedies for our problem. I find some of these remedies very academic. They are based on the experience of the other parts of the world which do not necessarily relate to us,"
At a time when the Norwegian backed peace initiative appears
to be coming into fruition, President Chandrika is in Europe calling the
European nations, especially Britain, to ban the LTTE and her Foreign Minister
lambasts the British Junior Foreign Minister Observers will naturally
question the Sri Lankan government's willingness to talk peace with the LTTE.
Another quarter, which shows an allergic reaction to foreign mediation and facilitation, is the JVP. It has demonstrated violently against the Norwegian efforts by burning effigies and the Norwegian flag. On Thursday December the 14th at the end of another demonstration against the Norwegian peace initiative the JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva declared that "we are ready to sacrifice our lives to defeat the so called peace talks brokered by the imperialistic Yankees and Britishers". He has now wowed to go house by house and tell the Sinhalese people to defeat this peace process.
Another person who has demonstrated his allergic reaction to foreign mediation and facilitation is Dr. Jehan Perera, the Media Director of the National Peace Council (NPC). He performs a dual role. In his position as the Media Director of the NPC he issues press releases about the peace initiatives expressing the views of the NPC. At the same time he writes articles in the newspaper "The Island" where he claims that he expresses his own view. In an article published on 27 November he says:
"The problem for the government will be to meet with the LTTE's pre-conditions for peace talks to commence. The three basic conditions of the LTTE are that normalcy should be restored to the Tamil areas through a cease-fire, that the economic embargo should be lifted and that the Sri Lankan army should be withdrawn from the north-east. Taken as a whole, these three pre-conditions would mean that the LTTE wants to gain the outcome of a successful negotiation at the very beginning itself".
He wrote this well after Mr. Eric Solheim declared in Colombo, on his return from the Vanni after meeting the LTTE leader, that the LTTE leader was willing to negotiate without any pr-conditions. Dr. Perera joined the other mischievous print media like "The Hindu" and "The Hindustan Times" to preemptively indicate to the world that what Mr. Solheim declared was not true.
However, the LTTE leader in his "Hero's day" speech confirmed that Mr. Solheim was correct and Dr. Perera was wrong.
The Sri Lankan government which was dragging its feet without
giving a positive response for 1 1/2 months, finally two days before the "Paris
Aid Consortium Meeting" declared that they are ready for unconditional peace
negotiations and these should be started without any delay as someone else was
The above mentioned reactions from various people who are not in favor of giving even a limited autonomy to the Tamils in Sri Lanka cast serious doubts about the genuineness on the part of the Sri Lankan government, in seeking Norway's help to act as a facilitator in the Sri Lankan conflict.
It now appears that the Sri Lankan government has invited the Norwegians out of compulsion due to the pressure from the European Union and the USA, like the late President J.R. Jayawardena had to invite the Indian Peace Keeping forces under pressure from the Indian government.
As long as the desire for peace does not come from the bottom of the heart of the Sri Lankan government, this time also the peace that every one in Sri Lanka seeks will be like a mirage again.