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Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame of  Struggle for Tamil Eelam  > European UnionEuropean Union Declaration > Appeasement � A Failed Strategy

European Union & the Tamil Struggle

Appeasement � A Failed Strategy

R. Cholan
9 November 2005

�When you see your wife commit an offense, don�t rush at her with insults and violent blows... Scold her sharply, bully and terrify her. And if this still doesn't work, take up a stick and beat her soundly, for it is better to punish the body and correct the soul than damage the soul and spare the body... Then readily beat her, not in rage but out of charity and concern for her soul...�[i]  - Friar Cherubino (1450 AD)

S.Sivanayagam, Head Tamil Eelam Information Unit, 1984 - "Imagine a habitual wife beater who has been at it for twenty years. Imagine the little woman protesting arguing, screaming, grappling, and having come to the end of her tether one day, snatching the nearest kitchen knife to defend herself against further attacks. And then she says:'You have tormented me enough. It is impossible to live with you any more.' With that she files papers for divorce. If you were the judge, what causes would you attribute to the break up of the marriage? The Sri Lankan Government (as probably the habitual wife beater) attributes the causes to the wife snatching the kitchen knife and asking for separation! To any oppressor resistance to oppression is naturally the beginning of the problem..." -

The world has changed alright from the days of society approved �wife-beating� to the current state of disapproval, but during the course of this change there was a period when �appeasement� was tried. As human societies became civilized about this, they sought change by appealing to the goodwill of the errant husbands by way of advising women to mend their ways so they �don�t bring it upon themselves�. Appease the perpetrator and he will change was the strategy, one that we now know failed. Although we are not completely out of the woods on this societal scourge, meaningful change came about only when laws were enacted and used to punish the wife-beaters.

Now the international community is trying the same failed approach in Sri Lanka - of �appeasement of the batterer�, hoping the abuser will change. Tell the victims to mend their ways so that they don�t �bring it upon themselves�, and the abuser will change!

The European Union�s announcement [September 26, 2005] to ban LTTE leaders from travel to their countries, coupled with a threat to name them as �terrorists� in response to a shrilly but baseless allegation on the Kadirgamar murder, is a good example of this �appeasement�.

Accepting as true such groundless allegations, and then compounding the error by basing a major policy decision on it, is thoughtless and frivolous. It ignores the tenuous status of the peace process in Sri Lanka, a weakness that was brought on largely by the southern politics. In one stroke the EU announcement strengthened the spoilers and further undermined the already weakened peace process.

European leaders are not unaware that the dominant thrust of the southern politics today is to foil the Norwegian peace process. The loudest voices in the south, the JVP-JHU combine, now joined by SLFP�s Presidential candidate, are all stridently anti-peace. The JVP/JHU cabal has won every round against attempts at rapprochement with Tamils, be it the ISGA, P-TOMS agreement, or even on matters as mundane as the selection of a venue for talks, with hardly any opposition from the bulk of the Sinhala leadership (SLFP or UNP).

Ranil Wickremasinghe, widely perceived as pro-peace by the international community, now hiding behind semantics instead of confronting the anti voices is a clear indication of the dominant southern sentiment on this matter. His purposeful avoidance of the word �federalism� in his campaign (something he himself agreed to in December 2002), is a throwback to the Kotelawala somersault in 1956 on the language issue.

Indeed, nothing has changed from when it all started at Sri Lanka�s independence in 1948. All things harmful to Tamils � be it the Citizenship Act of 1948, or the Official Language Act of 1956, or the more recent military budgets to fight the Tamil rebellion � have pan-Sinhala political support. Any offers beneficial to Tamils become contentious, with those proposing such concessions being opposed, weakened and defeated. Nothing has changed in the last fifty-plus years.

It is also worth noting that in all these decades there has been no counterbalancing pro-peace movement of any significance in the southern civil society. The so called peace organizations in the south are nothing but apologists, explaining away the anti-Tamil stances of the Sinhala leadership, and never taking a strong enough pro-peace stand themselves.

A constant refrain we hear from these so called peace-activists is that the majority of Sinhala masses want peace. If this is so, why is it that these southern peace groups have not produced even one mass pro-peace rally, at least equal in strength to the numerous anti-peace rallies of the JVP and JHU? If what they say is true, they should have been able to mobilize a great and a recognizable pro-peace movement in the south.

Surely, the EU leaders who have sought to penalize the LTTE based on some groundless allegations know all this.

They must also know that this type of appeasement has never worked with Sri Lanka. Indian ambassadors trekking to Sri Lanka couldn�t stop the Citizenship Act or the Sinhala Only Act in the fifties. They couldn�t even persuade the Prime Minister of the time, Mr. SWRD Bandaranaike, to declare a state of emergency to stop the massacres of 1958.

The more recent promise of a US$ 3.5 bn development aid couldn�t persuade the Sinhala leadership to resume the peace talks. A similar offer to get the P-TOMS going didn�t have any effect either.

Appeasement doesn�t work with Sri Lanka. The wife-beating husband stopped only when it started to hurt. What will work with Sri Lanka doesn�t require elucidation.



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