By Dr. Rajasingham Narendran
Many analysts, some partisan, others neutral, from both sides of the Tamil-Sinhala and pro-LTTE – anti-LTTE divides have analyzed the recently concluded talks between the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam) and the GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) from various angles. Victory at Geneva has been claimed for both the GOSL and the LTTE by some. This has been described as a win-win situation, where there are no losers. Victories for the GOSL or the LTTE have been claimed by partisans with vested interests. This is a win-lose situation. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, provided the beholder has clear vision and is not wearing coloured lenses. Have the Tamils won? Has Sri Lanka as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious state won? The GOSL and the LTTE may have won or lost at these talks and those preceding it, but definitely the Tamils and Sri Lanka have lost.
The postponement of the war, which many feared imminent and stemming the loss of precious lives are the only gains that can be counted by the Tamils and other peoples in Sri Lanka. This may only be a temporary respite. The ceasefire agreement that many Tamils thought will transform their lives turned out to be a grand illusion. The LTTE has made Herculean efforts to subvert the ceasefire agreement and to prove to the ordinary Tamil people that they were incorrigible fools to have believed that the ceasefire was a positive turning point in their hopeless, miserable lives. The Tamils are now a people who are scared to hope and probably incapable of hoping. This is a terrible calamity as when a person or people lose hope, they cease to be human. The LTTE is determined to make the Tamils a ‘Hope-less’ people, as this would suit it best, in its pursuit of a fascist and undemocratic Tamil Ealam (some are beginning to call it rather perceptively ‘Tiger Ealam’). The talks in Geneva were not about the Tamils and their problems. They were about the LTTE, the GOSL and their problems and concerns. The Norwegians to my utter disappointment sided with the LTTE in claiming that the induction of children as soldiers or auxiliaries was not a violation of the ceasefire agreement, although the ceasefire agreement explicitly states that international law must be upheld.
In the absence of the Tamils and their problems being the central theme in these talks, they were like Shakespeare’s Hamlet without the prince of Denmark or to draw parallels from literature more familiar to Tamils, the Ramayana without Sitha, the Mahabharatha without Draupathy and Nala Wenba without Damayanthi. It was a drama without a plot or a central character. It was like a body without life. It was a show on which money and time were wasted. It was aimless, meaningless and useless as far as the Tamils in Sri Lanka, who have borne the brunt of the worst imaginable in the past three decades, are concerned.
It is time that the Tamils and their problems are made the centre-piece of any future discussions. We have skirted and gone around this central issue for too long. The LTTE should be talking about the Tamils and their problems. The GOSL should be talking about the Tamils and their problems. Every one in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Diaspora should be talking about the Tamils and their problems. This should be an all inclusive exercise on the Tamils and their problems in Sri Lanka. The international community should also make us talk about the Tamils and their problems, without being lured into the trap of talking about the LTTE, the GOSL and their problems. This would be democratic, decent, humane and sane. The LTTE is not the Tamils. The GOSL is not Sri Lanka or the Sinhala people. Both the LTTE and GOSL represent peoples and, the concerns and welfare of the people should be paramount in these talks. In the post-independence history of Sri Lanka, the welfare of the people has figured the least in the political ferment and this has led to the present calamitous situation.
The grave problems the Tamils confront today are centered on the LTTE and its actions. The GOSL and its actions are less of a problem to the Tamils at present. This is a sad reality that has to be accepted, confronted, dissected and resolved at the earliest. LTTE, the liberator has transformed itself over time in to the predator. The predator of old, the GOSL- hopefully has turned a new leaf permanently- has become a saviour of sorts. These are facts that have to be accepted and dealt, however bitter it may taste to many Tamils, if we are to resolve our problems quickly and pragmatically. We have to as a matter of urgency re-build our lives and our land, while reclaiming our culture. The damage to our psyche as individuals and a people has been immense and will take decades of painstaking efforts to over come.
The issues that need to be addressed immediately are:
1. A permanent renunciation of violence by the GOSL, LTTE and other militant groups.
2. The democratization of the political process among the Tamils.
3. The institutionalization of respect for Human rights and individual freedom.
4. The disarming of the LTTE and other militant groups.
5. The disbanding of all militant groups including the LTTE.
6. The dismantling of the GOSL military apparatus in the North and East.
7. An international peace keeping mission with wide powers and a military arm to keep the peace in the North and East, and protect civilians, until normalcy returns.
8. The return of rule of law and due process in all areas of the North and East.
9. Reform of the GOSL armed forces and police.
10. Induction of more Tamils in to the government services, police and armed forces.
11. Dismantling of the structures of governance established by the LTTE in the Vanni and parts of the East.
12. Immediate and massive investments in infrastructure (roads, highways, telecommunications, railways, airports, ports, power etc.,) development in the North and East.
13. Immediate and massive investments in health care, education, agriculture and industry in the North and East.
14. Initiation of an irreversible process of political reform in Sri Lanka, including constitutional changes that would ensure wide devolution of powers to the periphery and prevent the recurrence of the sadism, inhumanity and injustice of the past.
I hope these issues will be taken up at next month’s talks in Geneva and in the talks that would hopefully follow. The international community should convince if possible and force, if not, the GOSL and the LTTE to take up these issues.
All future talks should be structured to confront and resolve these issues. The participation at these talks should be widened to include Tamils other than those from the LTTE or TNA (Tamil National Alliance), the Muslims and respected representatives of the Sinhala people at large. The Tamil problem is a national problem and it should be tackled on a national basis. The goal posts should be identified as listed above and should not be changed during the game, as has been the recurrent practice over the past six decades.
Anton Balasingam has been quoted as uttering the following key words in response to Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando’s litany of allegations,” We will kill. That is our job. We do not deny it”. His candour is admirable. While defending the killings done by the LTTE during the course of the armed struggle, Anton Balasingham has opened a Pandora’s box, with reference to what is a legitimate killing. A person who kills in a war is a warrior and a hero to many. Anyone who kills intentionally an unarmed and defenseless person is a murderer. A person who kills indiscriminately is a terrorist, if not a lunatic. The lines between warrior, murderer and terrorist have been blurred in the LTTE. As many Tamils and others familiar with it neigh well know, the LTTE has also become a den of thugs, thieves (those who take what does not belong to them), kidnappers, extortionists, torturers, black mailers, forgerers and lately cyber-terrorists. The transformation from liberation fighters to criminals has been a gradual process and has now overwhelmed the LTTE. It has been a cancer that has destroyed the LTTE from within and has made it vulnerable to external onslaughts. This is a stalk reality that the LTTE refuses to acknowledge and remedy. Can the LTTE continue to represent the Tamils under these circumstances, when their problems are being discussed? They have forfeited the moral right to represent the Tamils almost totally, through what amounted to senseless political hara-kiri. In these circumstances, it is imperative that the Tamil representation be widened beyond the LTTE and their proxies (the TNA-Tamil National Alliance) in future talks.