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Tell the World What We Want
Tamil Information, 15 January 1985
The dynamic Madras evening daily NEWS TODAY carried in its issue of 17th December 1984 an editorial under the title "Enough is enough", which we are reproducing in full in our inner pages. If we can borrow a simile from Francis Bacon In his allusion to books that "some are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested", this editorial is one that deserves to be "chewed and digested" by all Tamils who are concerned about their future in that island polity of Sri Lanka. Editor T.R. Ramasamy has posed the one question that is most relevant to the critical situation in which the Tamils find themselves today: "Gentlemen, what exactly do you want?". A simple question, an embarrassing question, but a question that Editor Ramasamy has a right to ask, because he is speaking from our side of the fence!
How many of our so-called "leaders", how many of our militant groups, have given a clear answer to that question ? Do we want a Tamil Eelam, or an Eelam Revolution, or a "viable alternative" to Tamil Eelam
If it is going to be "viable alternative", what does that mean ? Does that mean District Councils, Provincial Councils, Regional Councils and Village Councils, or regional autonomy, special autonomy or Federalism 7 What do we want – Fish, Flesh, Fowl or Pure Veg. ? Who is going to decide how "viable" the alternative is – the oppressed people in their graveyard soil, or someone who lives in an air-conditioned room in Madras ?
Anyway, who gave anyone the mandate to ask for a "viable alternative to Tamil Eelam" ? The late respected Tamil leader, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, once 'called the "Father of the Tamil Nation", but whose name is rarely now mentioned by his trusted heirs, declared in January 1975, on winning the Kankesanturai by-election:
Where are these living lieutenants who stood beside him and cried hosannas when he said that ? Over one year later, in May 1976, a reconstituted Tamil united Liberation Front (TULF) passed a pious resolution at Pannakam which said that the "Free, Sovereign, Secular, Socialist State of Tamil Eelam based on the right of self-determination inherent in every nation has become inevitable in order to safeguard the very existence of the Tamil nation in this country".
Where are the living authors of that resolution ? Again one year later, in a bold peroration, the TULF manifesto addressed the Tamil people:
No prizes are offered, but guess what the alternative was ? A "viable alternative to Tamil Eelam" ? Fooling the Tamils and the world by holding talks for one year on what kind of Provincial Councils we want ?
Gentlemen, it is time we tell our friends, tell the world, and above all, tell our own people, what we want. And tell it publicly. Out with it, please. We are paying too heavy a price in terms of human lives, human miseries and genocide of the young Tamil generation, to go on playing political games. The people are in no mood to accept any more political careerism, any more jostling for leaderships, any more groupism, any more armchair theorising in the comforts of Madras, London and Lesotho. People are dying daily on their own soil, living in eternal fear and left to starve, denied normal life, denied freedom of movement, denied their harvest, denied their fish catch, denied everything that the Declaration of Human Rights upholds universally, and even denied the opportunity to complain, because left orphaned by their leaders they have no one to complain to.
Are we, even in this hour of crisis, so bereft of concern for our suffering fellow Tamils, that we cannot sink our personal differences and group approaches and proclaim with one voice that we stand unitedly and unequivocally for one objective and one objective only – the liberation of our people from Sri Lankan State oppression and the setting up of an independent proud Tamil Eelam ? It is our failure to spell out our objective that makes the world think that it is non-achievable. The Tamil man is known to survive many a crisis. What is left to be proved is that we can even triumph in a crisis.
Enough is enough - News Today Editorial 17 December 1984
It is time the various Tamil 'nationalist' movements in Sri Lanka clarify where they stand vis-a-vis a basic, fundamental issue. Only this will help others who sympathise with them, emotionally and ideologically, to draw the desirable line as to what extent they can go in order not to look sheepish afterward.
Let's take the Colombo talks being held in fits and starts with nuts and bolts strewn all around. The proposal for these talks was made by G. Parthasarathy, late Indira Gandhi's special envoy in the immediate aftermath of the 1983 July carnage of Tamils. The Colombo Government did not accept the proposal immediately. It required three visits by GP to Colombo to get the talks started.
When President Jayawardene came to Delhi in November 1983 he talked about two `provincial self-governing' councils for the Tamils. India welcomed it as' one step forward, despite the three steps backwards recorded by the ethnic killings earlier in July. The TULF leadership which had come into India with a semi-refugee status was persuaded to take part in the talks.
The talks which were originally scheduled to conclude within three weeks have been prolonged for about 12 months now. In the meantime, the Colombo Government officially organised the killing of Tamils in order to wipe out the stigma of unofficial killings by mobs ! The state killings everywhere are justified in the name of tackling real or imaginary terrorism. Mossad commandos, the British SAS agents, the CIA undercover operatives and the South African white brigades in non-battle fatigues were despatched to the northern areas along with special army and navy units. Jaffna was placed under near-continuous curfew which gave the excuse to the army and commandos to kill innocent Tamil youths including girls.
Action breeds reaction. The Tamil nationalists, pushed to the wall, had no option except to retaliate which they did. This gave more excuses for the Sinhalese army to place the Northern and Eastern parts under a virtual siege that amounted to starving the whole population. More vicious forms of suppression elicited more daring retaliation in the empirical cycle of nature's laws.
When the talks started in early January, the issue was one of finding out a political solution to the "chronic and persisting problem of Tamil grievances". This obviously excluded State-organised violence since no political solution could be sought in an atmosphere of all round terror. Therefore we can truthfully say that the character of the talks has changed in December from what it was in early January this year.
Three Tamil organisations stood invited to the Colombo conference. These were the Tamil United Liberation Front Which was the official opposition to the Government in the Colombo Parliament, the Ceylon Workers' Congress led by Thondaman who is a cabinet minister and the Ceylon Tamil Congress whose existence many are not aware of. Here the theory of exculpation stood out like a sore thumb. The various other Tamil nationalist organisations were excluded. It was a different matter that these would not have responded to the invitation, but the fact was they were not "recognised" and, therefore, were not invited.
Why was this so ? Evidently these organisations were not prepared to accept the basic premise of the talks, namely that a solution should be sought within the framework of Sri Lanka's unity and oneness, something unexceptionable in normal circumstances if the Colombo Government itself had not chosen to divide the nation-state into Sinhalese and Tamils nad had not armed the Sinhalese to set them against the Tamil minority whose only sin was heroism in the face of a most ruthless state-terror. That White Terror everywhere should have to be countered by Red Terror is the element and being of all liberation movements, born naturally or created by repression over long years. This was not understood by the Colombo Government. This was not surprising. But what was most surprising was that the parties represented, on invitation, at the Colombo talks pretended to condemn the state-sponsored -atrocities without giving up their participatory politics in what they themselves call a colossal deception or fraud.
We all know where the Ceylon Workers Congress, which claims to represent only the Estate Tamils of Indian origin, stands. Its leader is in the Jayawardene Cabinet and he can't disown collective responsibility for the State terror. But it must be conceded to the credit of Thoudaman that he is not dishonest. He clearly says that whatever happens a solution can only be within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.
What prevents the TULF, which has been hounded out of the Parliament itself on the oath issue from taking a clear stand, whatever it is ? Its leadership, we are sorry to say, is running with the hunted hare even though it is not exactly hounding with other crazy dogs. We would like to know what this TULF, mostly mentioned in India, is, whether it is fish or fowl, whether it is just a hare taking often to the dinner table on invitation by the hunters.
Let not our friends in the TULF think that we are being uncharitable or hostile to them. Far from it. We have carefully gone through the maze of statements issued by the TULF authorised spokesmen, some of which we have published in full to help the readers to understand what. they say. We went through these again before writing this piece. We found that the much-respected Amirthalingam, the TULF General Secretary, at one stage had gone on record to say that the DMK's demand for military intervention was 'not unjustified' and even represented "my own mood". Military intervention for what ? To preserve the unit of Sri Lanka at a time when it does not want the Tamil population at all for the reason of its now wanting the ethnic issue to persist or prolong ? Or is it for creating a Tamil homeland ? So far as we could understand even the DMK's election manifesto clearly spells out Tamil Eelam as the inevitable goal and claims that this can never be reached through round or square table talks.
At the latest 'round' in Colombo, President Jayawardene circulated the "draft law" for solving the problem as he sees it. This is based on the single pillar of his policy — neither separation nor autonomy as in India for the Tamil-dominated area. He calls it "participatory democracy". There is no point in going profoundly into the wording of this or that clause in the proposals, legally drafted or otherwise, until an answer is forthcoming from the TULF on whether or not it accepts this basic approach, namely, no separation, no autonomy, only the powerless powers of a district board.
We are being told that Amirthalingam is holding talks with the Colombo Government and seeking clarifications. This gives an impression that he accepts the basic approach, as outlined by President Jayawardene, and only wants peripheral improvements here and there. It is for him to clarify whether this impression is correct or not. Of course, we concede the basic proposition that it is not for anybody here to decide what the Tamils in Lanka should get and how.
And now comes the most important point. The dialogue with the Colombo Government can wait, because, willy nilly, that Government is determined to liquidate terrorism which is the bad name given to Nationalism fighting for a bare existence for Tamils on a hostile soil. More immediate is the need for dialogue among the Tamils themselves to evolve, by a democratic process, however painful it may be, to reach a consensus on the basic question — "what , do we want" ?
All great things must have a simple beginning unless they're a deception that is planted on both the oppressor and the oppressed. Calling somebody a cold-blooded murderer and joining him at 'some table' is bad enough for a normal human. When it is collectively done, it could be called 'a hangman's game'.
Neither revolution nor liberation is a tea party. It is sacrifice, courting death for a cause. The cause seems to be missing. Words uttered here, on this side of the Palk Straits should match deeds done there, on the other side of the same narrow straits. Risking repetition, we again pose the question: Gentlemen, please tell us what you want, where you stand. Please remember it is for You, You and You to decide. You can save a lot of embarrassment for your supporters who, we can't avoid saying, are being taken for a ride. Enough is enough.