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Selected Writings by Dr.S.Sathananthan
& the 'Peace Process'
[see also Tracking the Norwegian Conflict Resolution Initiative]
Sri Lankan Tamils took note of two recent events. The first one is the 23 August meeting held at Belmont, Massachusetts between Dr Subramanian Swamy, leader of India's Janatha Party, and so-called "eminent Sri Lankan Tamils". According to Dr Swamy's press statement, he has been "requested to convene in New Delhi an international seminar, on the current situation in Sri Lanka". His statement elaborated further.
Moreover, "discussions will also be held on the role of the international community, especially of US, China, Israel and SAARC countries." (Boston Globe, 25/Aug/04)
The second, apparently unconnected event is the appearance of a newspaper article titled "Ending the regional drift", published in India four days later. Its author, Dr Raja Mohan, is a foreign policy analyst who is close to the Indian establishment, and he accurately reflects its thinking. He lauded "the muscular message" New Delhi sent to the Nepal's revolutionaries; the intervention
Taking a well-worn leaf out of United States imperialism's duplicitous propaganda, he feels "India's muscle flexing" although necessary is not sufficient;
He recommended "a calibrated use of the full range of India's diplomatic tool kit" in order "for New Delhi to address the other crises that are staring it in the face" in South Asia (The Hindu 27/Aug/04).
Sound familiar? Replace "India" with United States (US) and "Nepal" with the name of any central or south American country that was a tragic victim of US gunboat diplomacy, which claimed to deliver democracy through the barrels of machine guns, the scenario of Indian intervention envisaged for South Asia would be sickeningly familiar. [see also India & the Tamil Struggle and Indian Expansion: An Outline - Dev Nathan, 1989]
The immediate crisis in Sri Lanka facing the Indian State as well as the core States - US, Norway, European Union (EU) and Japan - of the international community is not the success of the Tamil national movement, led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). On the contrary these States have been rattled by other four related developments on the island.
(a) The first is the so-called Karuna affair. Early this year, Sri Lankan and foreign intelligence agencies successfully manipulated the defection of a senior commander in the LTTE, Col Karuna, to the Sinhala regime in Colombo. The agencies schemed to foment a fratricidal conflict between the LTTE and the Karuna faction, which, they fondly hoped, would fatally undermine LTTE's military capability. However, Karuna and his rag tag followers collapsed like a house of cards. The Machiavellian manoeuvre to weaken Tamil nationalist armed resistance evaporated like the morning dew. Indeed, what has irked the four core States and New Delhi is that the LTTE not only survived Karuna's defection but in fact it emerged as a leaner, more cohesive and stronger organisation.
(b) The second development is that the LTTE demonstrated a high degree of political maturity. This unsettled the international community, which had not anticipated the change.
"Responding to a proposal by the leadership of the LTTE, the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking peoples, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka" (Page 1.).
(c) The third development is the LTTE's growing political legitimacy among Tamils. That is partly due to the two developments discussed above. The vast majority of Tamils are increasingly convinced that the persisting and chronic Sinhala duplicity and intransigence are the threats to peace and that they have and still do compel the LTTE to resort to armed resistance.
(d) The spreading political support for the LTTE is rapidly deepening because economic links between the organisation and the Tamil people are expanding. The LTTE is the largest employer in the NEP. It provides work and incomes to large numbers of Tamils who are employed in the Tamil administrative, judicial and security services, in rehabilitation and economic development programmes, and so on. In other words the organisation has a widening economic base among Tamils, who are fast developing a strong vested interest in defending the fledgling Tamil administration. So, in addition to its undiminished military strength, the LTTE has acquired more political power and set down deep economic roots among the Tamil people.
These developments have set off alarm bells among the international community. The four core Stares anticipated the Sinhala government would be intelligent enough to play along with the Oslo Declaration. States that intervene in political conflicts employ internal think-tanks that chart out a plan of action, alternative scenarios and contingency moves projected over several years into the future. We must be utterly clear that when Oslo initiated "talks" after the CFA, the Norway's plan of action must have covered at least a five-year period and tailored to achieve the strategic aim of the four core States. That aim is to undercut Tamils' political support for the LTTE and to emasculate the military power of the Tamil national movement.
Our grasp of the psychology of power and a knowledge of manoeuvres by the international community in other conflict areas - from Philippines to Northern Ireland - are sufficient for us to reliably anticipate what the four core states have in mind for Tamils.
(a) They cheerfully incorporated LTTE's proposal in the Oslo Declaration for two reasons. First they didn't expect the organisation to actually act on it. Second, they expected the Sinhala government would be politically astute enough to capture the moral high ground by proposing a federal structure for sharing power with Tamils.
(b) Then the government's proposal would have been held out to Tamils as proof that a political settlement can be reached through negotiations.
(c) An accompanying propaganda blitz would be designed to deceive at least a majority of Tamils that there is a change of heart in Colombo. It would then raise false hopes among Tamils that they could win their political rights without the LTTE-led armed resistance.
(d) There would be an implied threat in the propaganda. If Tamils do not accept LTTE is the obstacle to peace and jettison it, this last chance for a political settlement would be lost; they will confront the horrors of war.
(e) While attempting to mislead the Tamil people, the four core States intended to lure the LTTE into decommissioning weapons. For this, they planned to exploit the decline they anticipated in Tamil support (the "stick") to pressure the LTTE into entering a two-track negotiation, that is, "parallel progress towards a final political settlement based on the principles of the Oslo Declaration" Clause 18(d). The "carrot" was the offer to simultaneously consider the ISGA proposal. The core States attempted these shenanigans when they - especially Norway - know full well that LTTE had made it crystal clear as far back as in January 1995, and reiterated it in February 2002, that it will not negotiate a final settlement before the rehabilitation of Tamil people and normalisation of life in the NEP.
(f) In the Tokyo Declaration, the four core States set the trap with the enthusiastic approval of Ministers and representatives from 51 countries and 22 international organizations who participated in the Conference; they are parties to the Declaration. The trap is in Clause 18(j). It specified that the "international community" expects "agreement by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on a phased, balanced, and verifiable de-escalation, de-militarization and normalization process at an appropriate time in the context of arriving at a political settlement." This does not mean the Sinhala State will disarm. Not at all. But the Declaration suspiciously requires the LTTE - a so-called non-State entity - to unilaterally disarm. LTTE did not participate in the Conference and is not a party to the Tokyo Declaration.
(g) What is more suspicious is that Clause 18(j) requires LTTE to disarm "in the context of arriving at a political settlement". This flies in the face of the traditional, time-tested practice in which decommissioning of weapons takes place after a settlement is reached and it is done in stages linked directly to the successful implementation of the settlement. In other words, the impressive list of 51 countries and 22 organisations at Tokyo expect the LTTE leadership to cheerfully lay down weapons and blithely trust the Sinhala leadership!!!
(h) The Tokyo Declaration made no reference to the principle of internal self-determination. It glibly referred to the Oslo Declaration. But when it reiterated the basis of a political settlement, the Declaration recommended merely a "negotiated peace based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka" (Clause 9). So, we cannot avoid the conclusion that in Tokyo the international community deliberately backtracked on its previous Oslo Declaration.
(i) It is not difficult to imagine the rest. The Sinhala government would begin negotiations. But at an opportune moment it will demand that LTTE must decommission all weapons as a non-negotiable condition for completing negotiations. If LTTE refuses, as it obviously has to, then the four core States and the Sinhala government would paint the organisation as the sole villain in order to alienate it from the Tamil people and to justify unleashing the Sinhala army in the eyes of the Sinhala people.
In short the international community and the Sinhala State are plotting to impose an end to conflict without ensuring justice, without recognising the national rights of Tamils.
We have no illusions here. They are implacably opposed to conceding victory, even a semblance of it, to Tamils' armed resistance for fear that other revolutionary groups would be emboldened by LTTE's success. The Indian State is especially nervous given the multiple armed struggles being waged in north, northeast, central and south-central regions of the country.
In Sri Lanka, Tamil Quislings of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and of other assorted Colombo-based Tamil parties are engaged in their customary treachery. They keep calling for "talks"; but they have deliberately kept quiet about the trap international community has set for the LTTE in the Tokyo Declaration. They are desperately hoping that the Sinhala State would co-operate with the international community and entice the LTTE into "talks". The Tamil Quislings are greedily awaiting the day when the Sinhala State would disarm the LTTE through "talks", or by other means, and pave the way for them to continue to betray the LTTE-led Tamil national movement without fear of retribution.
But the international community overestimated the cerebral capacity of the Sinhala leadership. The above scenario hinged on whether it would propose a federal structure. But the Sinhala leadership, blinded by more than five decades of anti-Tamil hysteria, has been utterly incapable of carrying out this cosmetic ploy. This has shaken the four core States, which are forced to watch helplessly as the Sinhala leadership obstinately tramples their carefully crafted scenario into the mud and systematically pushes the LTTE leadership further up on to the moral high ground.
The other expectations of the core States too failed materialise. They hoped the prolonged cease-fire would undermine LTTE's morale. That has not happened. They expected the extended military stalemate would trigger divisions within the LTTE cadre. That too did not happen, despite the Karuna affair. Indeed the externally induced Karuna affair, far from shattering the LTTE, has in fact served to streamline and strengthen the organisation and its leadership.
Today the four core States fear LTTE's growing political credibility. The fear was palpable when the EU delegation met the organisation's representatives in the Vanni. The Delegation, representing the international community, lashed out at the organisation for killing members of the Karuna faction. But the delegation did not utter one word of criticism against the Sinhala government for engineering the Karuna affair or for assassinating LTTE cadres.
The EU delegation also accused the organisation of recruiting child soldiers. But the international community - including the four core States - looked the other way when the Sinhala State imposed the draconian economic embargo on the NEP through the decade of the 1990s and up to the 2002 CFA. During that period many thousands of Tamil children died tragically and needlessly because the Sinhala embargo starved them of basic food and denied them essential medicines. The disingenuous concern of the same international community now for the welfare of Tamil children is hypocrisy of the worst kind. And it is nothing more than an anti-Tamil plot to hamper genuine recruitment by the LTTE.
It is a rescue operation mounted apparently by New Delhi to salvage President Kumaratunga's sinking political credibility. In return it expects Kumaratunga will give India a pivotal role in addressing the conflict. The tactic employed is to caricature the LTTE as anti-democratic and the Norwegians as LTTE-lovers. The immediate objective is to draw attention away from the glaring Sinhala obduracy. Presumably this conference would be designed to send New Delhi's "muscular message" to the Tamils.
It is increasingly clear that New Delhi will support military action by the Sinhala government and that the international community will do nothing to prevent it. But this time, the indications are that first there will be a so-called "targeted use of force". That is, the Sinhala army will attempt deep-penetration decapitation strikes to murder the LTTE leadership using commandos/mercenaries trained by foreign intelligence organisations. Whether successful or not, the army intends to follow the strikes with large-scale operations to crush the LTTE.
Those who are keen on again setting the dogs of war on the Tamil people would do well to take a long hard look at Iraq. When the US and British armed forces were poised to invade Iraq US administration officials never tired of intoning that the two countries had assembled the most formidable military force ever seen in history. The Pentagon expected its far superior firepower to deliver almost instant victory. Today the same all powerful US and British forces are staring defeat in the face; they have been driven into the ground by the heroic Iraqi armed resistance.
Superior firepower is not the only reason US expected to win. Policy makers made other equally ludicrous assumptions. Since US is now the sole superpower, they thought, no other country would invite American wrath by providing succour to Iraqi revolutionaries. The background to this self-serving assumption is the grossly distorted view of the reasons for US defeat in Vietnam. Whenever Iraq is compared to Vietnam, US officials glibly reply that "the military situation was different in Vietnam." What they mean is that the Vietnamese National Liberation Army won only because of external support from the Soviet Union. The Pentagon and its think tanks are so incredibly myopic that they fail to see victory for the Vietnamese revolution was certain irrespective of external support. Soviet assistance at best accelerated the end; it never determined the outcome. The Vietnamese were bound to win, and did win, because of one important reason proved throughout history: the liberation movement had the support of the vast majority of its people.
That lesson of history went well over the heads of the US and British administrations. The international community and India in particular may find it useful to dwell on the lesson. Indeed New Delhi ought to have learnt it from the defeat of the so-called Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in the NEP.
The LTTE-led Tamil national movement has the unwavering support of the vast majority of Tamils. To crush the LTTE they have to first defeat the Tamil people. That is impossible.