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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
Stalinís Antipathy and a Missed Opportunity in 1950s: An Opinion
12 March 2007
Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili, more commonly known all over the world as Joe Stalin (1879-1953), died on March 5th, 54 years ago. Iím not sure how many Sri Lankans (of all ethnic groups) still cherish the name of Stalin. In Tamil Nadu at least, the DMK leader Karunanidhi had named his son Stalin and this Stalin will be the future leader of DMK party.
When I studied the political events of 1947 to 1948 recently, after I contributed an eulogy to V.Navaratnam in last December, I came to realize that if only the political leaders of Eelam Tamils of the 1940s- early 1950s decades had sharpened their political antennae and taken the timely Ďassistí voluntarily provided by Soviet Unionís then strongman Stalin, how things would have worked out differently in the post-independent history of the blessed island.
In his book, ĎThe Fall and Rise of the Tamil Nationí (1991), Navaratnam had faulted C.Suntharalingam (1895-1985) for joining the Cabinet of D.S.Senanayake, the first prime minister, in 1947, of a soon-to-be independent Ceylon, and thereby forfeiting the opportunity to show to the international eyes that indigenous Tamils were not sympathetic with the ideology of Sinhalese majority. Though this is indeed true, in reading between the lines of past history, Iíd state that not only Suntharalingam, but G.G.Ponnambalam (1902-1977) and S.J.V.Chelvanayakam (1898-1977) also failed to read the cleavage lines handed in by Stalin. Though not denigrating the political acumen of the Tamil political leaders of 1940s, it may not be wrong in stating that they failed to Ďplay ballí with Stalinís idea.
A political Ďassistí from Stalin was no chicken scratch. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill gladly accepted Stalinís timely political Ďassistí to overcome the military machine of Hitlerís Nazis. Even his millions of detractors would never doubt that Stalin had iron will and implemented his will with iron boots. He could kick literally and figuratively anything which upset him. Stalinís Ďkickedí list was long; his political adversaries including the redoubtable Leon Trotsky, the skulls of his critics, the peasants who defied his fiat, and even newly independent nations. The newly independent Ceylon was at the receiving end of Stalinís firm boots of international diplomacy. But, unfortunately the political leaders of Eelam Tamils of 1940s-early1950s couldnít grasp the significance of Joe Stalinís political Ďassistí. Here is the story in brief.
Fact 1: Ceylon received its Independence from Britain on February 4, 1948.
Fact 2: Ceylon was admitted to the General Assembly of United Nations, as an independent nation only in December 14, 1955.
Fact 3: For seven years, Soviet Union used its Security Council veto vote to keep Ceylon out of UN.
Fact 4: The guy who made ultimate decisions for Soviet Union then was none other than Joe Stalin. Until he died in March 1953, he wouldnít allow Ceylon into the UN.
Fact 5: Why Stalin had such an antipathy to the newly independent Ceylon was somewhat of a riddle.
To the best of my knowledge, none of the academics or pontificating analysts had bothered to study, analyze and write about this interesting riddle. Lately, I think that I have found a plausible clue, by fitting the jig-saw puzzle blocks of spy games then operated by the Western bloc nations, which would have irritated the Soviet Unionís strong man. Iíll provide more details to substantiate my conjecture in the near future. Meanwhile, Iíll be more than pleased to admit if anyone can point out a published report by any scholar or analyst on why Stalin booted Ceylon repetitively out of UN entry.
Fact 6: Who were the nominal Eelam Tamil political leaders during Stalinís reign in 1940s and early 1950s? The three were, namely C.Suntharalingam, G.G.Ponnambalam and S.J.V.Chelvanayakam. All three, probably because of their British-based education, tutelage and political attitude, probably because of their dim-sightedness and may be because of their Ďclass interestsí, couldnít comprehend Stalinís antipathy to newly-independent Ceylon and failed to press the claims for a separate Tamil nation, when the Soviet strongman was antagonistic to Ceylon as an Ďindependent nationí which deserved a seat in the UN.
Character, Guile and Good Luck
If only Suntharalingam, Ponnambalam and Chelvanayakam had Ďplayed ballí not directly with Stalin, but with his antipathy to newly independent Ceylon, or at least had the nerve to catch the Ďpolitical ballí Stalin was kicking towards them, who knows that Eelam could have become a reality in 1950s! The New York Times in its obituary of Stalin (March 6, 1953), had noted that ďStalin took and kept the power in his country through a mixture of character, guile and good luck.Ē Character, guile and good luck are three separate ingredients which gelled neatly for Stalinís advantage. Same could be said of Churchill and Truman too. Both Churchill and Truman also had character, guile and good luck. But, can it be said that the three Eelam Tamil leaders of that era (Suntharalingam, Ponnambalam and Chelvanayakam) were blessed with character, guile and good luck? Iíd say that all three had character. Chelvanayakam was deficient in guile. While Suntharalingam and Ponnambalam definitely showed glimpses of guile in public arena, they could never use it to the advantage of Eelam Tamils. On good luck, Iíd say that when it appeared in front of them (via Stalinís assist), they simply couldnít recognize it.