Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame & the Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom> Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US & US Foreign Service Institute

THE STRUGGLE for Tamil Eelam

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US &
US Foreign Service Institute

Sanmuga Suntharam
14 February 2007

" Negotiations with the Sinhala government of Sri Lanka is like the familiar caricature of the man riding a donkey holding a rod attached to which is a string at the end which hangs a carrot just inches from the donkey’s snout. As the donkey moves to reach for it the carrot also moves. "Structurally" therefore it is impossible for the donkey to get the carrot unless it throws the rider off his back and grabs the carrot...

.... designating the LTTE as "terrorists" was a political FATWA and cannot be justified. According to the political manual of the Bush administration, it is not the actions of an organization that qualifies it to be called "terrorist" but the epithet is given first in order to condemn its actions later as terrorist behavior to suit the politics of US and its client states. Decisions to impose sanctions are made first and excuses are sought later to designate groups terrorists."

Part I

Mr. Bernard Gunatilleke, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US gave a long speech to the US Foreign Service Institute on October 31, 2006. A friend emailed the text of the speech taken from Asia Tribune.com on November 1, 2006 but it has been lying on my chaotic desk buried among the rest of the disorganized material until I discovered it a couple of days ago.

I do not recall anybody having responded to this performance by Mr Gunatilleke which is described by Asia Tribune in effusive terms as having "hit a home run" when he described the ‘myth’ of ‘traditional Tamil homeland concept’.

The Asia Tribune which gloats over the "home run" on its behalf should remember that he was performing unopposed and had the entire field for himself. The cheerleader will do well to remind itself that those students of diplomacy, which was the audience, are a discerning lot and would have known about Eritrea having separated from Ethiopia, taking away the entire coastline from the former ‘joint’ territory, also the Czecho Slovakia and indeed about the former Yugoslavia territory, about East Timor and certainly about the creation of the state of Panama Panama from Columbia by the US itself. They also know about how the US fought a ruinous war to keep Vietnam divided and how the Korean people are kept separate by stationing US troops. Students of diplomacy are already aware that in the politico-diplomatic arena "facts" are not the realities on the ground; they are custom-fabricated to suit the realpotik exigencies of the players.

Mr Gunatilleke starts his performance with a version of "history" of the island and it’s people - Sinhala leaders’ version of course. It is like the wolf’s history in the Aesop’s fable: A lamb is drinking downstream from a wolf when the wolf accused the lamb of polluting its water. When the lamb reasoned with the wolf that water flows downhill and thus cannot pollute the wolf’s part upstream the wolf said, "never mind that; years ago your grandfather had insulted my grandfather; that is good enough reason for me to kill you". And thus the wolf had the lamb for dinner.

Victors, dishonest or the strong write history to suit their aims. Mr Gunatilleke says "Arrival of immigrants from North India was said to have taken place around 483 BC. Repeated invasions by South Indians beginning in 205 BC ------".

If he is referring to a figure named Vijaya and the seven hundred criminals who, according to Sinhala mytho-history, were banished from a putative North Indian location, were shipwrecked and given abode by the Dravidian refuge inhabitants who were later duly murdered by the ungrateful alleged ancestors of the Sinhala race then according to Mr Gunatilleke’s terminology, they simply, arrived; but the South Indians, invaded!

Does he not realize that it was literally a hop, step and a jump in ancient days when the continental shelf met the island’s own and formed a land bridge to get to the island from the south of India and naturally the people from there would have occupied such a lush and convenient island long before the Vijaya’s brigands came from far away Northern India! In his breezily rush through his version of history he fails to mention a single word about the long standing Tamil Kingdoms in the North and East of the island which were aggressed and conquered by the Europeans and now occupied by the Sinhalese. A Freudian slip, perhaps.

"You know that Sri Lanka is a democracy", Mr Gunatilleke says flatly. Of course, we know better and to the contrary. Without being too semantic about it, an island cannot be a democracy; it is the totality of governance that constitutes a democracy. A place where every institution is in shambles, a government which by every known measure is a failure, cannot be a democracy simply by decree or pius asseveration alone.

Is it not a shame that despite the fact universal adult franchise was introduced in 1931 by the British, when the island was still a colony, as Mr Gunatilleke points out proudly as a first in Asia, the island is in such a bad shape? Indeed one of the first legislative acts of a free Sinhala dominated government of Ceylon, as the island was known at the time the British relinquished it to the natives, was to disenfranchise all the estate workers of Tamil origin! What the British giveth the Sinhalese taketh away! So much for Mr Gunatilleke’s boast about the island having seen the first with the universal adult franchise in Asia.

He also says "Despite the passage of time, we have been able to nourish democracy and hold periodic multi-party elections at local government and national levels". Is it not ironical that he uses the phrase "despite passage of time" as if he assumes that with passage of time the practice of democracy deteriorates rather than improves? Was it a premonition that is confirmed by the denial?

In fact for every year the Sinhalese have been in power, there has been a marked quantum diminution in the quality of democracy and except in form, even that only in some areas of governance, democracy there is an evanescent phenomenon. Yes, elections are held, many are killed in the process and many more injured, voting frauds are common place, elected members have no fidelity to principles on the basis of which they are presumably elected and play musical chairs among parties after elections; but invariably, Sinhalese are elected only on the basis of the promise of deprivation of rights of Tamils that they make at the hustings.

Like the religion the Sinhalese practice which they insist on calling, contrary to facts, Buddhism, this is the Sinhala concept of "democracy". Of course, democracy takes different forms in different countries but when the fundamental requirements such as freedom, fairness, justice, rule of law, are absent, glaringly so as regards the treatment of Tamil population, then it behoves on Mr Gunatilleke to call his country at best, pseudo democracy and not attempt to grandstand. Also, since democracy in the island is a myth, the man vaunted by Asia Tribune as the destroyer of myths is, to the contrary, proclaiming another myth (the myth of democracy) but the main myth is the one Sinhalese live and swear by - the Mahavamsa, the myth with a motive; that lives on.

Next Mr Gunatilleke talks about Human Development in the island. The glory of it! The shining example to the world! Go, tell the world Mr Gunatilleke, the truth, that the Tamil area is a vast refugee camp cum open prison, the only access to the North and the road to Vahari in the East blocked off, and the people in the North surviving on food supplied by India and those in Vahari on the point of death due to starvation. Crime and lawlessness are rampant, disappearances and murders almost like Bagdad’s.

He is waxing praise on the educational system but does not mention the many schools bombed out in Tamil areas nor those shut out to the students because the area where the schools are have been arbitrarily appropriated for the so called High Security Zone. No questions asked; no remedy provided. He also talks about "level playing field" (is it the levelling of Tamil schools?) palpably only for the Sinhalese but the hundreds of thousands of Tamil children who are in refugee camps, which are periodically shelled and bombed, have had their schools destroyed, are under nourished if they can get any food at all with the government’s blockade, have been shut out of the "playing field" he is talking about.

The question of unemployment, which Mr Gunatilleke thinks is the defect of the virtue of education, not bad government, is presumably irrelevant to the Tamil children because they cannot get an education in the first place! In this regard the following statistics starkly illustrates the Apartheid of the Sri Lankan regime towards the Tamils.

Tamil speakers by population 26%
Tamil speakers in the public service (400,000) 8.3%
Police Force Total 36,031
Tamils 231
Muslims 246

Wellawatte area (in the capital, Columbo) total population 29,302

Of which Tamil population 21,417
Police force total 156
Tamil speaking 6
Armed Forces almost completely Sinhala

(From Hindustan Times 2/12/06)

As far as health services are concerned, the government’s blockade makes the Tamil area hospitals almost defunct. To the Sinhala government of Mr Gunatilleke the unspoken aim is to depopulate the Tamil area by multiple means and deprivation of medical facilities is an egregiously efficient method.

"Robust Economy" is the next boast of Mr Gunatilleke. When the British left the island it was the envy of even countries like Singapore and Malaysia both for its general prosperity and the level of education. Look at it now! He did not mention that Sri Lanka is considered a "basket case" and almost all its foreign exchange is "earned" by women - thousands of "maids" working under abusive conditions in the Middle East and by the Tamil women-tea-pluckers living and working under appalling circumstances for just over a dollar a day! He does not mention the aid given by international consortiums which keeps the country "solvent".

Mr Gunatilleke starts his encomium of the island’s "robust economy" with the line "considering that Sri Lanka has been a victim of a vicious separatist armed conflict for almost 30 years—". What about the unchecked pogroms of the Tamils by the Sinhalese in 1958, 1971, 1977 and the mother of all in 1983? Victimizing Tamils was good for the economy? Or the JVP (which is now the soul brother of Mahinda) uprising? Maybe it is the war-economy with many billionaires in uniform that constitutes the illusion of robustness?

In violation of the cease fire agreement with the LTTE the government has since 2005 aggressed large extent of LTTE held areas which according to Mr Gunatilleke’s perverse interpretation, a stepping up of conflict by LTTE. I am at a loss for words to describe this mindset other than to say it is totally disingenuous. The peace process was a stalking horse for the government to procure billions of US dollars in arms and to strengthen its armed forces while the Tamils were lulled into a state of expectation of peace.

Even when Mr Gunatilleke discourses under what he calls "Policies that went wrong" raising anticipations of fair treatment of some aspects of the Sinhala governance over the more than fifty years of continuous selective deprivation of Tamil peoples’ rights he cannot transcend the Sinhala leaders’ mentality. Observe what he says:

"The language policy of the 1950's and the university admission policy in the 1970's were some measures taken by former administrations to address historic injustices faced by the Sinhala community under colonial rule-----".

This is pure extreme right wing Sinhala nationalist Shibboleth! Treating Sinhala speakers and Tamil speakers by the colonial government equal under the law was a historic injustice? Did the Tamils commit an injustice to the Sinhalese by getting an education? Does a historic nation seeking to use its language to deal with the government in a supposedly free multi-ethnic country where it has been an equal hitherto constitute an injustice to the Sinhalese? By construction taking away their right, ‘justice’ according to the Sinhala? Does not this accusation of "historic injustice" sound exactly like what the wolf said to the lamb in the parable mentioned earlier in this article?

Using the same device Mr Gunatilleke says "------the Tamil community who had hitherto enjoyed privileges especially in the field of education and employment----". This mode of thinking and acting which was called communalism (now racism) is typical of the Sinhala leadership. Is laboring at your books and succeeding in examinations a privilege? Did Tamils as a nation by acts of commission did anything to prevent the Sinhala nation from having the same "privileges"? There were great Tamil men of learning and wisdom such as Sir P. Ramanathan, Sir P. Arunachchalam, Dr. Ananada Coomaraswamy and Sir Muttucoomaraswamy who benefited the Sinhala community as much as the Tamils.

Sir P. Ramanathan braved the German submarines to travel to London during the World War I to plead the case at the Privy Council of the imprisoned Sinhala leaders and secured their release. Sir Muttucoomaraswamy translated the Buddhist scriptures from Pali to English and was instrumental in establishing the Colombo museum. Ananda Coomaraswamy’s scholarly service to Sinhala culture was immense.

But look at those with Tamil names who are/were truly privileged - Laksmam  Kadiragamar, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Neelan Thiruchelvam and Loganathan. They all went to prestigious schools, scions of relatively wealthy families and is Mr Gunatilleke or are his nationalist irrationalists complaining about their part in taking away Sinhala rights? Or take the case of "Douglas Devananda, who is privileged by the Sinhala government to kill Tamils at his "pleasure"!

The adoption of the republican constitutions in 1972 and then another version in 1978 were done not because, as Mr Gunatilleke is claiming without candor, "Sri Lanka too wished to be separated from the umbilical cord that connected the country with its colonial master" but, in truth, specifically to do away with the provisions, too few in any case, protecting the minorities enshrined in the constitution bequeathed by the British which the Tamil nation considered already majoritarian.

Will Mr Gunatilleke gracefully concede the fact that Tamil nation too wish to be separated from a truly heartless and barbarous "colonial" master the Sinhala ethnocracy and that eventuality is eminently desirable? A word about the "umbilical cord". GOSL is like an irresponsible child that wants to live by its own rules of conduct but still depends on remittance from parents by Western Union! The "umbilical cord" is in reality replaced by a "lifeline" of periodic subvention aid by foreign governments.

Mr Gunatilleke is also lamenting the difficulty according to the constitution of any political party securing a 2/3 majority, ostensibly, in order to help the non-Sinhalese. If these leaders can collectively and individually do so much harm to the relationship between the people with a constitution that does make a 2/3 majority infeasible it does not need much imagination to foresee what dire consequences will be in store if 2/3 majority is indeed secured by a Sinhala party.

"The party which is in the opposition----as a rule of thumb opposed whatever that was proposed by the ruling party". This is described as a "shortcoming" by Mr Gunatilleke without saying what of; certainly not just of the constitution which admittedly is deeply flawed. This "shortcoming" is much deeper. The only raison d’etre for any "political" process is, in the view of the Sinhalese leaders’, to liquidate the Tamils. It is more a "longcoming"!

The next issue he attempts to tackle with a rhetorical question is "Is it really an ethnic conflict?" In the pogroms of 1958, 1961, 1977 and 1983 all the killers were Sinhalese and all the victims were Tamils. When the government took over from the mob all the areas bombed were Tamil areas and all the victims were Tamils. As one Tamil leader pointed out, if one wants to know the Eelam territory just draw an imaginary line joining the outermost points bombed by the Sinhala government. In all these years of bombing, strafing and shelling by the government all the targets were Tamils. And all the protagonists in the freedom struggle are Tamils and 100% of the soldiers are Sinhalese.

Now, does one see a clear picture emerging? Yes, it is that the Sinhala government is waging an ethnicidal war against the Tamil nation. Mr Gunatilleke contends that there is no religious conflict between the Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist Sinhalese, but let me point out here that more than 150 Hindu temples have either been destroyed or damaged and that Buddhism had been accorded a status close to state religion in the constitution the ramification of which are still evolving.

Buddhist bikkhus are in the forefront of anti-Tamil agitation and are in close connivance with the army and the extreme Sinhala nationalists. Buddhists have politicized their religion to the extreme and incredibly, the bikkus have a political party of their own with representation in the legislature and the main platform of the party is (no prize for guessing!) Anti-Tamilism. Buddhists have been responsible for burning down many churches in Sinhala areas and bombing churches in Tamil areas. (Tamils have acted with extreme forbearance not to target any pure religious place of worship. Dalada Maligawa which had been the venue of victory celebration by the Sinhalese army was once damaged by the Tamils soon after the celebrations.)

However, for the Tamils the conflict is not a religious issue but for the Sinhalese everything that is of value to the Tamils is a target for destruction including religious institutions. One of first acts of violence by the Sinhala army in the Tamil cultural capital Jaffna was to burn down the main library and its irreplaceable Tamil manuscripts. A Tamil language conference was totally disrupted and nine participants were killed at about the same period.

Hence it is easy to see that the Sinhalese and the Sinhala army have been waging a war, very brutal, against the ethnic Tamils. In the 1958 pogrom by the Sinhalese a large number of up country Tamils (Mr Gunatilleke calls them Tamils of Indian origin, just like the Sinhalese; but "the other" Tamils admittedly, therefore are the autochthon of the island) were driven into a sugar cane plantation which was set on fire and as the hapless people ran for their life out of an opening the Sinhalese waited there with their machete and chopped them up to their hearts’ content! It is true that unlike the Tamils of NorthEast who were in the forefront of freedom struggle against the British and now are in a life or death against the brutal neo-colonialist Sinhalese, the up country Tamils are for reasons other than a lack of identification with the Tamil struggle, not overtly involved in the current conflict. But the undercurrents and potential are there.

It is at least not ‘politically correct’ to refer to the upcountry Tamils, "Indian Tamils" and to state, though it is politically expedient for the Sinhalese, that they "are a distinct group from the Sri Lankan Tamils-----." The Kandyan Sinhalese by origin (the last king of Kandy was a South Indian and the ancestor of Mr Bandaranaike was a Kandyan Tamil named Neelaperumal) habitation and the history of political division are equally distinct from the low country Sinhalese. The Sinhalese speaking group in Negombo are similarly distinct from the rest of the Sinhalese. The Ambalangoda-Balapitiya Sinhalese were Tamils until recent times. Mr Gunatilleke would not have the heart to call them "distinct".

During Mr Clinton’s term of presidency there was a popular slogan - "It is the economy, stupid". While having bankrupted the economy of the Tamil areas by bombardment, appropriation of valuable cultivable land, making industries defunct, driving away entrepreneurs, destruction of infrastructure, imposing stringent economic blockade and emergency regulations at will, Mr Gunatilleke and his government want the world to believe that the Tamils of NorthEast sought to live in Sinhala areas for the love the Sinhalese or simply because they were running away from the LTTE.

The lopsided economy of the island, historically had been concentrated from colonial times in Colombo, the capital of British Raj. It was an unforgivable act by the British who by making Colombo the administrative center for both the Tamil nation and the Sinhala nation in one stroke not only dissolved our distinctive ethnic symbol of our past glory that was the remnant of our kingdoms but also reduced us to "immigrant" workers by subsuming our capital under Colombo. Though Colombo was intended to be the capital of all the peoples of Ceylon the Sinhalese always had the natural advantage by its geographical propinquity.

The Sinhala nationalist (Is Mr Gunatilleke one of them?) forgetting the historic iniquity of the British making the Tamils trudge 200+ miles to come to their stolen and now merged capital, resent not only our fair share in the capital but considered it the casus belli that the Tamils found employment there. They forget that the least that the British could do to us for the dastardly act of diminishing our politico-geographic distinctiveness was to have given us a fair opportunity elsewhere.

A very important reason, which is a shocking reality that the GOSL does not want the world to know, is that the Sinhala areas, unlike the regular bombardment by the Sinhala armed forces of Tamil areas, are safe from bombs and shells and economically prosperous. (Many Iraqis have immigrated to US and UK since the war because of the devastation caused by the two countries not because of a kindred feeling towards them).

Therefore it is clear, looking from every argument, that the conflict is ethnic and quite certainly so, existentially. Ask the hundreds of thousand of refugees displaced by Sinhala bombers; ask the 40,000 Sinhala soldiers in the Jaffna peninsula alone, who constitute a constant nightmare to the 100% Tamil civilians.

Even if one pretends (as Mr Gunatilleke does) ignorance of all of the above facts there is one glaring example of the heartlessness and inhumanity of the Sinhala government towards the Tamils. It is the response of the government to the terrible devastation caused by the recent Tsunami. Nearly 2/3 of the loss of lives, destruction of homes and property and other losses happened to Tamils in their areas. Yet almost the entire aid given by international agencies was spent by the GOSL in areas benefitting the Sinhalese.

Whatever little help the Tamil victims got was given by voluntary organizations despite great obstacles placed on them by the government. The cruellest cut of all was when seventeen Tamils working for a French aid agency were murdered quite evidently by government soldiers in a strictly controlled area by the government armed forces. Also, recently the government froze the bank balances of the premier Tamil aid agency already licensed and approved by the government. To cope this all, in the governments crudest and most blatant act to keep its atrocities away from the eyes of the caring international community, Mr Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the UN and Mr Bill Clinton, then Special UN representative for tsunami rehabilitation were expressly denied request to visit Tamil areas affected by tsunami!

It is clear that the campaign by the Sinhala government against the Tamils is comprehensive, pitiless, long standing and enduring. It is simplistic to say that because not all the Sinhalese are out to kill all the Tamils that it is not an ethnic conflict. But is certainly true that all the areas bombed are Tamil areas, all the Tamil refugees are generated by Sinhala action and the armed forces are almost 100% Sinhalese. Therefore contrary to what Mr Gunatilleke propagandized, the Sinhala government is conducting a terrorist ethnic war against the Tamils while the LTTE is engaged in a freedom struggle against an unscrupulous enemy and its occupation forces.

Part II

Political FATWA

It is so convenient for Sri Lanka, as Mr Gunatilleke accuses, and self-righteous for the Indian rulers in the recent past to accuse LTTE in the suicide killing of Rajiv Gandhi. Tamils wish it never happened. But consider the existential circumstances and imperatives leading to the tragedy.

The Indian army that occupied Tamil North Eelam killed more than 7000 Tamil civilians (seven doctors, some nurses and patients in the Jaffna hospital among them) and raped many a woman and no action was taken against any of the soldiers by Rajiv Gandhi. The girl who killed herself witnessed some of the attrocities had enough indignation and anger towards Rajiv Gandhi to wish that he died along with her. To drag in LTTE as Mr Gunatilleke does is unnecessary and superfluous. Kannagi the great heroine of Cilapathikaram, forcefully demonstrated that the king erred grievously in executing her husband. The girl who took Kannagi, as her paragon chose her own path to make her point to suit the times and an unrepentant ‘king’.

Mr Gunatilleke is on thin ice when he imputes verities to totally politically motivated decisions. When the US, the most powerful nation with declared intention to maintain its hegemonic status in the world, makes a political pronouncement it is simplistic to say that it is out of moral considerations of right and wrong. The appellation "terrorist" is an offensive political epithet, as used by the US, and it is like one calling a man SOB because one who is calling is sleeping with that man’s despicable wife!

Just consider this: Taliban and Al Queda were friends of the US and were given $1 billion in arms when they were fighting the Russians; South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela was declared a terrorist and the Apartheid regime was supported by the US; the Kurdish freedom fighters against the oppressive Turkish government are "terrorists" but the Kurdish fighters against Saddam Hussain’s regime in Iraq were supported and now installed as rulers of autonomous Kurdistan! When a third world country like Sri Lanka thinks that it has politically identical views with an avowedly superpower there is something pathetically foolish about it. If freedom fighters are deterred by these insulting epithets there would not be a free South Africa, a free Kenya or a free France or a free United States of America, a free ----. The LTTE is fighting an inevitable war, a righteous war, imposed on them.

Mr Gunatilleke quotes the definition of "Terrorism" by the US which as I pointed out above is necessarily self-serving. I do not know why the US or for that matter any country bothers to define terrorism. Just call any group, if it is politically expedient, as US routinely does, a "terrorist" or whatever.

However, the definition quoted is

"----premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by SUB NATIONAL groups or clandestine agents, usually intended influence an audience".

Does the reader notice the insidious phrase "sub national" thus conveniently excluding all the horrendous acts of devastation, terror, wholesale slaughter which were and are perpetrated for political reasons or as an "extension of politics" planned and approved at the highest levels of governments of the US and UK against Iraq and by the GOSL against the hapless Tamils! No wonder Mr Gunatilleke is making common cause with the US as if "quoting the Devil". As the old saying goes "A lie goes round half the world before truth can put on its boots".

Self Determination:

Mr Gunatilleke makes reference to the UN General Assembly Resolution, the Charter of UN as well as the International Covenant on Human Rights palpably as a prelude to make a pre-emptive strike against the Tamil freedom movement to suggest, that of the people who struggle to be free Tamils are specifically unqualified because they choose to stand up against decades of senseless criminality against them. He states on his own authority, deliberately confounding cause with the consequences:

"However, it must be emphasized that none of these international instruments provide for or support the recourse to terrorism in pursuit of self-determination, and to secede form a state-----".

Why did he fail to mention the years of peaceful struggle before and after independence to get a fair deal for the Tamil nation, the Gandhian protests, the police brutality against them, the 1956, 1958, 1961,1977, 1983 pogroms of Tamils by the Sinhalese (until 1983 not a single Sinhalese was attacked or killed by a Tamil, all violence was by the Sinhalese against the Tamils), the Hitlerite unilateral dishonoring of pacts entered into with Tamil leaders and all the other hundreds of acts of violence and bad faith against the Tamil nation. Does he expect us to hold placards passively at street corners as the Sinhalese murder and maim us and confiscate our land and everything else?

When in 1958 a Hindu priest was burnt alive inside a temple by the Sinhala mob (another example of Sinhala Buddhist practice) Pirapakaran was a little boy and the incident made an indelible impression on him. Some refer to that as a defining moment in his life. The Sinhalese are so insensitive to the point of being stupid and growing callous and indifferent to the rights of non-Sinhalese and to their own lack of humanity that no civilized method can make them see reason. The Sinhala leaders’ political imbecility and their racially fundamentalist mentality will forever foreclose peaceful co-existence with the Tamil Nation in any politically interdependent relationship. Let me quote two presidents, both Sinhala of course, one in 1983 and the current president

"I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people ------ now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion ---- really if I starve the Tamil people out the Sinhala people will be happy." President J R Jayawardene, quoted in the Daily Telegraph, London, July 11, 1983.

"-------No Norway (Monitoring Commission), no federal constitution, no right to homeland, no self-determination, no nationhood for Tamils, no P-toms (Rehabilitation for Tsunami victims), no recognition as sole partner in negotiations and no Oslo (Norwegian capital) as venue for talks" - Mahinda Percy Rajapakse - current President.

Can any Tamil with an ounce of sense contemplate the likelihood of the Sinhala negotiating a mutually satisfactory political solution, and more importantly, honoring such agreed solution?

Homeland Issue:

When Mr Gunatilleke was talking about Self-determination he used equivocation and legal quibbles but about the homeland issue he talks the language of the Sinhala majoritarian nationalist.

Does Mr Gunatilleke imply that the various nationalities in the world occupy land in proportion to their population, from Sudan to Hong Kong? The land area argument is so ridiculous it is not worth commenting upon. About the coastline, as I alluded to in an earlier part, when Eritrea separated from Ethiopia, the latter lost its access to the sea. It is not as if Sri Lanka is without a coastline; it is simply the unavoidable shape of our homeland and the relational land/sea configuration. This is a testimony to the maritime nature of Tamil settlements as contrasted with the pastoral life of the Sinhalese. The breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls, spectacular mountains, the vast extent of tea gardens both mystically scenic and sustainer of the economy are all outside the Tamil Homeland. Tamils have no complaints about it. Do not forget that the Tsunami devastation was almost all along the Tamil homeland coastline!

Quite insincerely and sanctimoniously Mr Gunatilleke talks about "ethnic cleansing" by the Tigers of Muslims and Sinhalese from the Tamil Homeland.

I would like to point out to Mr Gunatilleke that not a single Muslim or a Sinhalese lost his life in the process of relocation whereas the Sinhalese "ethnically cleansed" by murdering 4000 Tamils in 1983 alone!! In the East Tamil homeland the GOSL systematically "cleansed" the Tamils of their land and habitation AND populated the land with Sinhala! This ethnic cleansing of Tamils goes on as I write this.

The Muslims were asked to leave Jaffna in the very early days of the insurgency for the safety of the Muslims themselves. Besides, the GOSL was planning to kill a few Muslims and place the blame on the LTTE and thereby cause ethnic conflict as it is doing now in the East of the homeland. Muslims would have nothing to do with the freedom movement and unlike the non-Muslim Tamils were not expected to bear the brunt of the crossfire between the freedom fighters and the GOSL. Even on hindsight relocation was the best ‘move’ for the Muslims. Once our homeland is secure it is only fair that the Muslims be invited back. As for the Sinhalese, the handful of them decided that it was wise to "go south"; with excellent economic sense.

But the ethnic cleansing and marginalization of Tamils in the eastern homeland had been meticulously planned and systematically carried out by the Sinhalese for a long time. One example: from 1880 to 1920 the ratio of Tamil population to Sinhalese in Trincomalee was 20:1. The Sinhala Maha Jana Sabha declared in 1920 that the Sinhalese should move into choice Tamil land. According to 1980 census the Tamil speaking population was 160,000 and the Sinhala population 86,000. "Demography is destiny" said Comte. Aware to this reality, the Sinhalese both insidiously and openly, by legislation and brute force displaced Tamils from their ancestral land and populated them with Sinhalese. While Tamil leaders were doing their usual betrayal of their people the Sinhala were stealing Tamil land. "Douglas" and "Sangaree" had predecessors, though shameful.

After so much of palter and cant at every step of his talk, as I have tried to show above Mr Gunatilleke’s reading of history is equally tendentious. To imply that our homeland was just a fictitious creation of a fellow called Cleghorn is insulting the Tamils. I cannot tutor Mr Gunatilleke history when I know he will refuse to be convinced. But still I would tell him to read more history than Mahavamsa at least for his own good.

Mr Gunatilleke’s contention that in the agreement between India and Sri Lanka, paragraph 1.4 recognized that "the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking peoples, who have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory with other ethnic groups" and therefore "cannot be the sole preserve of the Tamils" is intentionally flawed. "Sole preserve" is a phrase that is a mischievous invention by Mr. Gunatilleke.

The concept of homeland by the Tamils or by any other nation in the world neither excludes other nationalities from its territory nor does it mean, as a contrary, the presence of other communities within itself precludes a nation the right to a homeland. What is now Poland, contiguous to Germany, always had Germans. Newer nations such as Kosovo has substantial number of Serbs, Kurdistan has Arabs. One does not need to have to labor this universal fact to a diplomat.

And how revealing it is when Mr Gunatilleke poses the question "Should the rights of the Sinhalese and the Moors living in the Eastern Province be sacrificed in fulfilling the aspirations of Tamil Tigers to have a traditional homeland?"! The revelation is his tacit recognition by implication that the rights of Tamils have been sacrificed and continue to be sacrificed under Sinhala hegemony. Of course, this fact has been obvious for a long time; but the Sinhalese leaders like career criminals have not only got inured to the inequities perpetrated by them, but also invent alibi and dubious arguments to escape condemnation. When all the Tamils palpably suffer extreme discrimination resulting in ethnicide, frequently, the rights of Tamils are not considered sacrificed but when a few Sinhalese come under a Tamil government Mr. Gunatilleke conjures up visions of sacrifice by them!

In the same paragraph as the hypothetical sacrifice is mooted Mr Gunatilleke makes the astonishing statement: "If, for a moment, we forget about the recent history, that is when Tamils came to populate the Eastern Province in significant numbers and look at the current population distribution in that province we see that non-Tamils surpass the Tamils by a ratio of 6 to 4."

The mention of this statistic by Mr Gunatilleke, as the famed saying goes, qualifies as worse than a damn lie. The recent history is that the Sinhala governments created many government funded, government sponsored Sinhala ethnic enclaves to radically transform the existing ethnic demographic configuration - the relative strength of the ethnic groups vastly in favor of the Sinhalese. History, or prehistory, unequivocally, is that the East was entirely a Tamil people’s territory with profuse evidence of Dravidian culture above ground and below ground!

When Mr Gunatilleke insults the Tigers as "fascist dictators" it is, as when all insults are hurled, more often a manifestation of the distraught state of mind of the perpetrator than a factual description. For the record, there is great deal more probity in the administration of the Tigers than one could find in the Sri Lankan government, if it exists at all. Furthermore, let us not forget that the Tiger administration is in great peril from the continuing attacks from Mr Gunatilleke’s government with its avowed resolve to destroy the Tigers and it is to the great credit of the Tigers that they are able to have such an efficient and corruption - free administration in such as environment.

Is it not despicably hypocritical of a government that had ruled the Tamil nation under emergency laws since the ‘70's and now rules it under the even more oppressive "PTA" laws and would not even allow the hundreds of thousands of Tamil refugees to return to their lands (the homes have been destroyed) because the army decided that it needs them to keep its soldiers, to speak of undemocratic Tigers! Every day scores of ethnic Tamils are rounded up by the Sinhala government and locked up under the draconian laws making it transparently clear that these laws were enacted with the Tamils in mind. Tigers on the contrary have no such laws in the territory under their administration.

To my knowledge, of all the freedom movements around the world, Tigers are the most disciplined, most righteous and most principled. It stands, thus, in stark contrast to the GOSL.

What about the Tamils living in other parts of the country if a Tamil homeland were to be established by Tamil Tigers?, Mr Gunatilleke questions. Tamil Eelam will welcome them enthusiastically, is the short answer. Eelam will be stronger and prosper with the increased human resources, their talents, their investments and their other contributions. It is as simple as that. As to his dark and implied threats that the Sinhala mob will set upon the Tamils living in Sinhala areas in the event of the de jure formalization of Tamil Eelam, Tigers should take serious note of that. As the Sinhala mob indeed has a great propensity for it that is indeed an ominously real threat.

Next Mr Gunatilleke talks, very platitudinously and dismissively about Tamil "aspirations" and "grievances", respectively. To him, everyone has aspirations and that’s it. I hope he did not take aspiration to mean "the act of breathing in"! There is another meaning: a strong desire to achieve something high or great; also, an object of such desire. This, at least in principle, cannot be dismissed as possibly illegitimate or unjustified. It is a contradiction in terms. Aside from that, the Tamils "aspirations" are neither utopian nor at the expense of another. Our yearnings are to be free, for the restitution of our rights which have been continually attacked and an insurance, that they are not dependent on the vagaries of Sinhala mood and its manifestation in the form of the regular and periodic pogroms. When the Jews had similar grievances they formed the state of Israel in their ancient land; we, understandably do not want to wait for a holocaust of such magnitude.

Mr Gunatilleke’s attitude to coexistence with the Tamils, an attitude shared by the Sinhalese generally, is to deprive the Tamils not only their rights, but treat them like animals, hurting and killing them wantonly, and if they protest peacefully fire on them indiscriminately and tell the world that those killed were "terrorists" and make speeches in international forums that "our great president" is working on ameliorating the grievances; the Sinhalese have gone through this routine for more than fifty years. It is so simple!

A separate state therefore is a sine qua non; we cannot allow this steadily worsening cycle of abuse to continue as the Sinhalese have demonstrated to us that they have totally inadequate political wisdom, negative democratic temperament and total ignorance of statecraft to make it possible for a peaceful and prosperous co-existence. The more unitary a polity we have the more conflict, death, destruction and instability will be the order of the day.

In what reads like a script for a sitcom, Mr Gunatilleke says "It must be emphasized that President Mahinda Rajapakse has gone on record not once but several times that he is in favor of granting maximum possible devolution". As the American say "same old, same old". Does one notice that Mr Gunatilleke also says that "Rajapakse has gone on record not once but several times"! So have the other Sinhala leaders too; they go on record-like a broken record! The Sinhala leaders do not mean it seriously, the Sinhala people do not take it seriously, the Tamils wished naively it were a serious intention. Only the Tigers realized that it was totally deceitful and fraudulent; and how right they are!

Mr Gunatilleke’s reference to "Southern Consensus" and "devolve or share administrative power" through a democratic process is like asking a pack of wolves whether the sheep in the pen should be allowed to go free! "Devolving" is an elastic word, "possible" is a weasel word; and Mr. Rajapakse is in "favor". Put these together as Mr Gunatilleke has done in the quote above and one has a window unto the mind and "Chinthanaya" of Mahinda. All his talk about APRC and MOU with UNP, ostensibly to work out a definitive solution, besides being patently an eyewash is now seen to be deservedly fatuous for every move was in bad faith and thus the entire enterprise is in ruins. Nothing works except corruption and human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Negotiations with the Sinhala government of Sri Lanka is like the familiar caricature of the man riding a donkey holding a rod attached to which is a string at the end which hangs a carrot just inches from the donkey’s snout. As the donkey moves to reach for it the carrot also moves. "Structurally" therefore it is impossible for the donkey to get the carrot unless it throws the rider off his back and grabs the carrot. This is a paradigm of the Tamils’ condition and the behaviour of the Sinhala leadership. In the negotiating scenario with the Sinhalese the Tamils’ position is that of the donkey’s and the deceitful rider tantalizing with the carrot, which is the autonomy, is the Sinhala leadership. If the donkey thinks that the rider on its back is riding him on a trip in order to feed him the carrot clearly, it is going to be deceived. So with the Tamils and the peace negotiations with the Sinhala leadership. Tamils are taken for a ride!

Mr Gunatilleke is speculating on a "metamorphosis" of LTTE and points to "former militants now holding cabinet portfolios". The morphing of the individual he is referring to who is holding a cabinet portfolio is from that of a common criminal to an organized paramilitary criminal in the service of the Sri Lankan armed forces. Mr Gunatilleke’s government can have him and may even crown him as they propose to do. LTTE’s evolution has always been in progress, from a scrappy guerilla group into a formidable fighting force into a conventional army with a political division which, as mentioned earlier, runs an enviably clean and efficient administration. Maybe the GOSL administration can metamorphose into something like LTTE’s and emulate its probity in government.

It is standard practice in negotiating posture and parlance to portray the other side intransigent when this other side sees through one’s slick moves and thwarts them or refuses to be wheedled into. But in the case of negotiations with the LTTE the GOSL’s behavior is both pure chicanery and downright intransigence.

Mr Gunatilleke artfully omits to mention the pacts signed between the Tamil leaders and Sinhala Prime Ministers in 1957, 1965 which were publicly torn up literally. India/Sri Lanka pact of 1987 was not honored by Sri Lanka. In 89/90 the pact between Premadasa, the president of Sri Lanka then and the LTTE collapsed because of the failure on the part of Sri Lanka to abide by the provisions of the agreement.

In 94/95 LTTE unilaterally declared ceasefire and called for peace talks. The one requirement that the LTTE insisted upon as a prerequisite for the viability of the peace process is the return to normalcy in the occupied areas of Eelam and specifically the return of the homestead of refugees which were appropriated by the army. This condition has, hitherto, not been met. The GOSL has been clearly and obdurately intransigent for nearly twelve years.

The plight of Tamil refugees evicted form their homes (another case of "ethnic cleansing") is of no consequence to the heartless and morally blind rulers from the South. Despite this intransigent behavior (to quote Mr Gunatilleke’s verbatim) the LTTE continued to participate in the GOSL’s charade hoping for a "metamorphosis". However the LTTE cannot be taken for "suckers" like the Tamil political leaders earlier. Sinhala leaders before Kumaratunga simply tore up the agreement hence the Tamils knew what the status was; leaders since then just file them away as they indeed intended all the way. This practice is tantamount to daring the LTTE to make the government implement the provisions of the agreements - which is, provoking the LTTE.

Mr Gunatilleke wonders why the international community, (here he quotes Mr Burn’s intemperate statement about LTTE with approval) including the US, encourage the GOSL to engage in negotiations with the LTTE "despite their intransigent behavior". I have tried to show in the preceeding that the intransigence is totally in the behavior of the GOSL.

Perhaps the international community is fully aware of it. What the US says, for example for international consumption, and what it believes to be the truth quite often, are at variance as the whole world knows, when Mr Burns’ former boss, Colin Powell, so eloquently demonstrated at the UN about Iraq’s WMD! The US has to contradict itself because it knows that designating the LTTE as "terrorists" was a political FATWA and cannot be justified. According to the political manual of the Bush administration, it is not the actions of an organization that qualifies it to be called "terrorist" but the epithet is given first in order to condemn its actions later as terrorist behavior to suit the politics of US and its client states. Decisions to impose sanctions are made first and excuses are sought later to designate groups terrorists.

"How come the international community have overlooked the need to support and empower those Tamil political parties which are democratic and are at the receiving end by the Tamil Tigers?" bemoans Mr Gunatilleke. This is laced with cynicism and hypocrisy through and through. Remember the more than 50 years of "democratic" politics, the endless peaceful struggles by the Tamils, bad-faith agreements meant never to be fulfilled, the brutal treatment of the Tamils and their democratically elected leaders, the betrayals by the Sinhala leaders of every trusting Tamil politician? The Sinhala leaders have shown utmost contempt for Tamils’ democracy all along, they undermined it, subverted it, made it irrelevant and destroyed it.

According to the Sinhala lexicon "democracy" for the island is defined as rule of the Sinhala, by the Sinhala, for the Sinhala. When Mr Gunatilleke touts "democracy" for the Tamils he means this for that is how the island is ruled and has been ruled. Besides, how can the international community "empower those democratic Tamil political parties"? Does he mean by "those democratic Tamil parties" those which failed to get any support from the people even though much of the Tamil electorate was under Sri Lankan army occupation (or may be because of it)? Were not the 22 Tamil MP’s elected democratically by the voters?

Mr Gunatilleke concludes his speech with a suggestion of the "steps that need be taken if we were to focus on Sri Lanka tomorrow rather than today"-

Step I: There should be a commitment on the part of parties to the conflict that the conflict can be resolved only through negotiations and that it must be a democratic solution.

Response: Does it not sound familiar? Have we not tried this for nearly 40 years? What is new about this proposal? Remember what the word "democratic" means to the Sinhala leaders. Rather than saying conflict can be resolved only through negotiations (which has not happened in 50 years in our case) we should say that negotiations should be only for resolving conflicts, and not a tactic of procrastination.

To the GOSL negotiations is not just means for resolving conflicts but an end in itself - and endless end until the Tamil land is "democratically" colonized and the Tamils die out.

Step II: Parties should address all issues affecting all minorities, including the Tamils.

Response: Tamils are a nation, not a minority. The Tamils have struggled so long and sacrificed so much even as the minorities continue to spurn us and take the Sinhala side and commit violence against us, not to be told that the minorities are our problem. They are your government’s minorities, Mr Gunatilleke, and your government should find a solution for their problems, if they have any. So far they seem to be happy the way you treat them; so do not attempt to thwart the negotiations if you genuinely want them to succeed.

Step III: The APRC process should be fast tracked with a view to reaching consensus on political settlement within the shortest possible period.

Response: This as with any GOSL scheme has already bitten the dust through perfidy and bad faith.

Step IV: The latest round of negotiations commenced in Geneva on October 28 should, within a specific time frame, focus on substantive matters with a view to ending the armed conflict and achieving a political settlement.

Response: If the tears that Mr Gunatilleke so solicitously sheds for the Tamils are not crocodilian then he would agree with the LTTE that normalcy must be restored and the suffering of the refugees alleviated first before the undefined "substantive" matters are tackled. Do not hold the half a million refugees hostage so that GOSL can impose a political settlement. The INTRANSIGENCE of the GOSL on this matter is so cynical, heartless and purposeful.

Step V: In the process of negotiations for a political settlement, the Government should not overlook the moderate Tamil parties and Muslims in the parliament.

Response: Here we go again. Who are the "moderate" Tamil parties? The only outfit headed by a solitary Tamil MP outside the TNA is not a political party but a paramilitary organization which is part of GOSL armed forces. This particular MP was not even directly elected by the people and is alleged to have committed through his minions unspeakable crimes including serially multiple murders of innocent Tamils, men, women and children. This guy does not need representation in any political settlement. He needs to be brought before a criminal court.

As far as the Muslims are concerned there are Sinhala speaking Muslims and Tamil speaking Muslims. Among them there are Muslims who are supportive of the government violence against the Tamils, including those who are in the armed forces and those who sit on the fence and enjoy the fruits of the discomfiture of the Tamils and those who are supportive of the Tamil struggle. One cannot lump them all together and dictate a blanket political solution. Besides, the LTTE does not have to deal with or solve the problems of those who are on the side of the GOSL.

Mr Gunatilleke’s performance has been slick and plausible and tailored for an audience unaware of the realities in Sri Lanka. As Upton Sinclair is quoted as having said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding". One could substitute "career", "power", "income" or "position" for "salary" and statement will still hold true.



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