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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka: Introduction & Index > Indictment against Sri Lanka - the Record Speaks

The Charge is Ethnic Cleansing

  • 15 October 1987, Tamil Times

The kaleidescope o f Sri Lankan history has been changing so fast
in the past few weeks, that it is difficult to keep a balanced point
of view, even from a distance.

The Peace Accord

First came the Peace Accord at the end of July when President Jayewardene reversed himself on several important positions which he had hitherto held. The man who was one of three State Councillors who opposed S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike's resolution, in the second State Council in 1944, calling for the replacement of English as the official language by both Sinhala and Tamil and instead demanded Sinhala Only; the man who had led the March to Kandy in opposition to the Bandaranaike - Chelvanayagam Pact and was instrumental in getting it abrogated, now signed an agreement to make Tamil and English as official languages along with Sinhala.

The man who was dead opposed to the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces now signs an agreement for their merger, even though subject to a referendum in 1988.

Peacekeepers become Oppressors

But the most spectacular development was the reversal of the role of the Indian Peacekeeping Force which had been greeted by the Tamils with garlands, hugs and kisses as saviours of the Tamils from Sinhala brutality and their changing into oppressors - even more brutal than the Sinhala army.

It is difficult to find a reason for this base treachery. One can come to terms with an enemy. But it is difficult to deal with a friend who has become an enemy. After all India had pretended to be a supporter of the Tamil cause. It had allowed the Tamil militants to virtually use Tamil Nadu as their base. It had trained and armed them. Now, it has turned its guns against the very people who had looked upon it as a saviour.

The Political Game of Rajiv & JR

The explanation for this Indian action, apart from the aim of bringing Sri Lanka under its control, lies in the fact that the interests of Rajiv Gandhi, no less than those of J. R. Jayewardene, demand that the revolution - any movement of the Tamils - be not allowed to succeed lest it set a 'bad' example. That is also the reason why the Super-Powers rushed in to support the Accord. All reactionary forces are eager to douse the flames of revolution lest the 'injection' spread to other countries in the region.

That, initially, India had supported the Tamil cause is undoubted and cannot be denied. But it would seem that it gave support to the Tamil militants with the aim of controlling and manipulating them against the Sri Lankan government.

Unfortunately for them, the Tamil Tigers did not prove pliable instruments. So they had to be suppressed!

That innocent Tamils caught in between were going to suffer does not seem to have entered the calculations of the Indians. India's image in the world stands besmirched. From pretending to be a supporter of liberation movements it has transformed itself into an oppressor of the Tamil national movement. Its troops are fighting on foreign soil and killing people in one of its important states.

The Tamil militant groups cannot be absolved of all blame for precipitating this situation. Quite apart from the question of whether better tactics could have prevented Indian military intervention, their strategy of putting all their eggs in one basket, of relying too heavily on Indian support, was hound to lead to disastrous results.

Here is an important lesson that all liberation movements must learn. They must not place exclusive reliance on foreign sources of support. They should have more faith in self-reliance. It is better to develop slowly over a long period than be inflated into a big force with foreign support. Because, if for any reason the foreign support is withdrawn, the movement will fall flat on its face. Whereas, if it had depended on self-reliance, it would be unshakable.

The blame for the present situation must also be shared by the progressive and left movement in Sri Lanka. It is the fact that the left movement betrayed the correct international principles it had once championed and fell into the mire of parliamentary opportunism and thereby alienated themselves from the Tamils that has been responsible for a good part of the mess we are in.

Parliamentary Democracy unsuited for a multi-racial society

In a multi-racial, multi-linguistic society, parliamentary democracy does not work. If they want to come to power through parliament, all parliamentary parties must seek to woo the majority and ignore the minority. They support not what is right but what would bring them to power with majority support. That is why it is correct to say that the Donoughmore constitution which gave us adult franchise and territorial presentation contained within it the seeds of communal dissension.

The extent of the degeneration of the left movement can be seen from the fact that the bombing of Jaffna brought forth no discernible protest in the south. When the Anthony Eden government bombed the Suez Canal in 1956, the British Labour Party organised huge demonstrations in London. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, there were demonstrations against it in Jerusalem. But, when the Sinhala air force bombed Jaffna, there was not even a whimper of a protest from the left parties in the south.

The left movement - except for small groups - failed to take up a principled, internationalist stand on the Tamil problem because it did not want to alienate itself from the Sinhala majority. The result was that it could not fight back the Communalism unleashed not only by the government but also by the SLFP and the JVP. It was this tragedy (to which the bourgeois leadership of the Tamils also contributed by their refusal to see the Sinhala left as an ally) that pushed the Tamils to look for allies and friends abroad in India, rather than draw closer to their natural allies in the left movement. It was tragic for both sides.

Unity of Progressive forces essential

Where do we go from here? I believe that the future lies in the unity of the progressive and revolutionary forces among both the Sinhalese and the Tamils. It is true that, at the moment, the signs are not propitious and the Tamils have a right to despair of any such hope. But, we must have faith and work perseveringly for such a unity.

Such unity must be built on the basis of the recognition of the right of self-determination of the Tamils. But, how the right of self-determination is to be exercised and in what form is a matter that can be discussed. The acceptance of the right of self-determination for the Tamils does not necessarily mean that they must separate. Lenin once said that the right of divorce does not mean that all married couples must divorce. It depended on the circumstances.

Solution to Ethnic Problem

In the interests of the future building of socialism in Sri Lanka for which the unity of the revolutionary forces of the Sinhalese and the Tamils is an absolute pre-requisite, we have a right to ask the Tamil people to

exercise the right of self-determination not in the form of a separate state but in the form of a federal state or full regional autonomy for the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces. By regional autonomy is meant full powers for the regional unit over all subjects, except such central subjects' as Defence, Finance, External Affairs, etc. It must include power over internal security i.e. the police, land and land settlement, i.e. colonisation.

While on the matter of a solution I must point out that a solution must he found to the vexed problem of colonisation. Colonisation is intimately connected to the question of nationhood. Without territory no people can develop as a nation. The claim of the Tamils to be a nation depends on the fact that they have occupied a contiguous territory in the North and Lot of Sri Lanka for a long period of time. cut them off from this territory and they will cease to be a nation.

That is why, starting with a D.S. Senanayake, all Shillala leaders have tried through state-aided colonisation schemes to colonise the Tamil areas with Sinhalese peasants. The diabolical aim was to convert a Tamil majority province into Sinhala majority province by altering the ethnic ratio. That is how the proportion of Sinhalese lip big in the Eastern Province rose from only 8% at the end of the second world war to its position of about 25%

The Tamil problem cannot be resolved without solving the problem of land and colonisation. Unfortunately, the Accord does not mention a word about this subject. The result was that the Jayawardene government hastened to take steps to intensify colonisation of the Eastern Province with Sinhalese peasants so that it could get a favourable result in the referendum next year which is to decide whether the merger was to continue or not. Equally, some sections of the Tamil militants tried to frighten the Sinhalese into leaving the Eastern Province. It was a fight for land.

The Tamils have no objection to individual Sinhalese buying land in Tamil areas and living there peacefully. What they object to is state-aided colonisation schemes under which large numbers of Sinhalese are transported to Tamil areas and settled as colonists. Unless this problem is solved, there cannot he any settlement of the Tamil problem.

The Tamil militants have courageously resisted the Sinhala armed forces for nearly four years. Now they are faced with a more powerful and a more brutal enemy. I applaud their courage in taking on such a powerful enemy. But they will need more than courage. They must follow correct tactics. They must win the sympathy of the world by desisting from unnecessary violence, particularly against innocent people - be they Sinhalese or Tamils. They must so behave that the world will demand that the Indian troops should stop repressing the Tamils.

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