THE STRUGGLE for Tamil Eelam
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the US &
US Foreign Service Institute
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."
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
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
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
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
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
Like the religion the Sinhalese practice which they insist on
calling, contrary to facts, Buddhism, this is the
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
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
"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:
language policy of the 1950's and the
policy in the 1970's were some measures taken by former administrations to
address historic injustices faced by the Sinhala community under colonial
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,
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
of the republican constitutions in 1972 and then
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
ethnic war against the Tamils while the LTTE is engaged in a freedom
struggle against an unscrupulous enemy and its occupation forces.
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
(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
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
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
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".
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
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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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?
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"-
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
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
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
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
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
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.