Dr.A.R.M. Imtiyaz, of Colombo, Sri Lanka is a visiting scholar at the Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His articles have been published in several journals and presented in the international conferences on ethnicity. His primary research interest is in the study of ethnic conflict, both in Sri Lanka and in other countries.
He recently spoke to Iqbal Ali of popular Colombo Tamil Daily “Thinakkural”. Translation of the interview published on May 27th, 2007 is as follows:
Q: How do you view the current political developments in Sri Lanka?
A: After their independence, countries have failed to change the political realities of the post colonial period. And changes from modernization and resulting social pressures failed miserably as they were not adequately addressed by the political leaderships. We see the consequences of this in majority of the post colonization countries. In greater Asia – Sri Lanka, India and Middle Eastern countries face this while Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia in Africa stand out as examples of this situation.
The political status that prevails in Sri Lanka today can be easily understood through approaching this within principles of Political Science.
Q: In that case do you see the Freedom struggle of Tamil Eelam is a result of this political process?
A: Generally whenever political communities erroneously develop or create rules and regulations that favor only a particular ethnic group or religion it results in conflicts. This is like how a child will show dissatisfaction toward parents if there was imparity between the parents and other children of the family. In the same manner, an affected community will show its displeasure towards the government and its dominating ethnic group.
This is a common phenomenon of all political communities. Post independence, the ruling classes’ adapted pro Sinhala policies. The Sinhala only policy of 1956, 1972 Constitution, standardization in higher education, deliberate Sinhala colonization and ethnic cleansing of Tamils did not give any hope to the Tamils. In the same token these policies did not help to pave the way to create patriotism of the country, among all minorities. Contrarily, the pro Sinhala policies divided the people of Sri Lanka. They resulted in Tamil people to relying on the freedom struggle. The birth of deadly groups such as the LTTE is a consequence or child of such pro Sinhala policies
Q: The Government of Sri Lanka and International community consider the LTTE as a terrorist organization. In the meantime majority of the Tamils see them differently. How do you view the LTTE?
A: History will determine if an organization is a freedom movement or a terrorist organization. The duty of a Political Scientist is to observe and research a community. I can’t say anything regarding whether LTTE is a terrorist organization or not. But I can say one thing. When a society enforces policies discriminatingly, chances are higher for political organizations to rise. The affected people will not live peacefully wherever they live. This is demonstrated by the history of the world.
Q: The party in power SLFP, recently put forwarded District Councils as solution for the ethnic problem. However, the Tamil parties and Muslim Congress have rejected this proposal. What is your opinion?
A: The solution for the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka is to fulfill the aspirations of the minority communities. In this regard, the minority communities have already lost faith in the Sinhala dominated government. Particularly, the Tamils don’t count on the government or its other agencies. Even in bigger political communities “political confidence” is important. When an ethnic or religious community loses faith in the government, it results in “political tension”.
The only avenue to avoid this dangerous deterioration is creating mutual understanding and trust. How to do this? In accordance to the concepts of Political Science, power sharing could lead the way in winning the trust. The minority communities must be free to conduct their affairs in their regions through their representatives.
Everyone could see that Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s “District Council” proposal fails to meet this political mark. Therefore there is no hope that this proposal will help bring about a political solution. Proposals such as these not only will win the trust of the minorities but they will only help to further erode the trust in the government by affected minorities.
[Translated by K. Thirukumaran]