Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sri Lanka – A comprehensive view of the current situation

Sri Lankans must learn from history. For over 2000 years, Tamil Chieftains from South India have invaded Sri Lanka several times, and indeed temporarily occupied parts of the country. They were always beaten back. However, their remnants settled peacefully in the country. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorist group, which has close links to organizations in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu (meaning "the Land of the Tamils"), even uses the tiger emblem of those ancient Chola invaders of Lanka. The symbolism cannot be ignored. The patient aspiration to take over most, if not all, of Sri Lanka has never died, and in the last century, taken various guises such as the pre-independence 50/50 movement, the proposed merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces to form a "homeland" within a loose federation, and the terrorism perpetrated for the formation of a separate country called Tamil Eelam in a region of Sri Lanka that includes, and is bigger than, the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Thus, in dealing with the central issue faced, essentially the future of Sri Lanka as one island, one country, one government, we must consider the next centuries and millennia; not simply the issues facing the generations that are present today.

Who are the minority?

The Tamil community of Sri Lanka has significant interaction with the Tamil Nadu State. The Tamil language, culture, Hindu religion, geography, similar caste structure and inter-marriage bind them closely. Tens of thousands of people from Tamil Nadu came to Sri Lanka as illicit immigrants ("kallathoni") in the fifties to the seventies. Sri Lankan Tamils either escaping or even fermenting the violence in the Northern Province have been able to land in Tamil Nadu easily and live there more or less at will. LTTE cells, supply bases, training classes, and naval operations running people and arms operate freely, except for rare police raids.

Tamil Nadu politicians cannot survive unless they speak openly about Sri Lankan issues and in support of the positions of the WTM. Tamil Nadu MP's in the Lok Sabha are vociferous in their interference in Sri Lankan internal matters. Given that the homeland of Tamils exists in the form of Tamil Nadu, with a population of almost 70 million, one must question why another is needed in tiny Sri Lanka, unless the ultimate goal is amalgamation.

The Sinhala people of Sri Lanka have no such connection with India. The Sinhala are an ethnic group that is strictly a Sri Lankan mix of many ancient migrations from Northern India, other Asian countries and aboriginal people, with no current common language, religion, or intermarriage with India. Both have legitimate aspects that help their claim to be a minority.

Clearly, one cannot simply assume, as many NGO's and countries do, that the Sinhala need no protection of their rights, but that only the Tamils of Sri Lanka do so. Some would argue that it is the Sinhala who are an ethnic minority in South Asia, with no connections to any Indian State, and that they are the one's who require protection.

Aspirations of international Tamil organisations

We must not make the mistake of focusing only on one Sri Lankan terrorist group. The local terrorists, the LTTE, are controlled to a large extent, supported and nourished by the World Tamil Movement (WTM) an international organization that is similar to Al Qaeda, which spans Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and many other countries. The WTM is administered by the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC). The LTTE is the violent arm of the WTM. It is a truism that time is on the side of those who wish to unravel constitutional and political structures of nations. The WTM strongly believes, indeed knows, that time is on their side. The WTM and its partner the 'Tamil Nadu Liberation Front' have a plan to combine the so called Tamil Eelam with Tamil Nadu since it has realized that Tamil Eelam is not a viable economic entity. There is a significant body of literature on this subject. There is even discussion of annexing the Maldives as well as large parts of Indian States such as Kerala to form what they call "Greater ('Vishala') Tamil Nadu" (GTN). (See a map of the GTN in: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/ltte-maps.htm)

The above aspirations are not so unrealistic if one considers a time scale of centuries. Indeed in 1988 the LTTE revealed the plans for a GTN when it invaded and tried to take over the Maldives. A small "victory" in the present era, such as a federal constitution for Sri Lanka, will be seen as simply a stepping stone to further "victories" in future. It is much easier to dislodge a "state" from a federation, than a land area that has no politically recognized boundary. The push for Tamil Eelam will continue to occur over the next decades and centuries, regardless of any new constitution for Sri Lanka that is signed by current Tamil leaders. Any one who believes otherwise is very naïve and does not understand history. The large numbers of Tamils who reside in Sri Lanka and think otherwise are a helpless but significant minority that is terrorized by the LTTE.

The LTTE terrorist group

With direction, funds and intellectual support from the WTM, the LTTE has killed thousands of people of all ethnic groups including large numbers of Tamils. It invented suicide bombings, used over 250 suicide bombers to kill mostly civilians, trains other terrorist groups of the world, kidnaps Tamil children, has mastered human shield tactics, runs an arms smuggling and drug selling operation through WTM ships, and collects enormous funds from Tamils of the world. It has murdered almost all senior civilian Tamil leaders of Sri Lanka as well as many leading Sinhala politicians. It is banned all over the world. It will never support even a true short term peace. It has used every lull in the fighting, formal or informal, to further its cause and prepare for future terrorist activities. While it is active, it will never allow moderate Tamil leaders to negotiate an agreement. Its real leaders are anonymous leaders of the WTM, mostly professional Tamils from the West who arm the active terrorists, provide intellectual support, carry on drug and arms smuggling operations, provide legal assistance, and mount massive international disinformation and lobbying campaigns. Only the WTM can cause the LTTE to stop its violence. The moderate Tamil leaders of Sri Lanka cannot influence the WTM with its vision of Eelam and subsequently the Greater (Vishala) Tamil Nadu. It is a fundamental mistake to assume that the LTTE is in control and is simply supported by the WTM. In fact the WTM has a long term plan, funds and influence, and its terrorist arm is the LTTE.

Responsibilities of the Sinhala

The Sinhala majority of Sri Lanka made a fundamental mistake after Sri Lanka obtained independence from the UK, when it failed to a large extent in its stewardship of all minorities including sub groups such as Eastern Tamils.. The Sinhalese were misguided in trying to establish Sinhala as the official language of Sri Lanka. The majority has a responsibility to support the reasonable aspirations of minorities, even if the same minorities also make other unreasonable demands.

Attacks by Sinhala thugs on Tamil people

Body counts are not useful; nevertheless, it should be noted that the LTTE and other Tamil terrorist groups (the latter, by now destroyed by the LTTE) have killed in order of magnitude more Sinhala and Muslim and indeed Tamil civilians since the early eighties, in comparison to those killed by Sinhala thugs. It should also be noted that the majority of Sinhala people helped and protected Tamils in 1983 when such riots erupted in response to the first LTTE massacre of a vehicle full of soldiers. Tamil families are the witness to the support of the majority of ordinary Sinhala families that protected them at risk to themselves. The inability or unwillingness of the Sri Lankan Government of that time to prevent that violence is inexcusable. The 1983 incident, and the 1950's attempt to make Sinhala the official language are the two crutches that the WTM/LTTE keeps using to demand separation. I believe that Sinhala people, even the less educated classes, now recognize the foolishness and uselessness of such thuggery, as it is they who have had to prosecute the war through the "volunteer" armed forces. No current leader, group or political party would support such activities, given the price that has been paid, and the magnificent opportunity that was handed to the WTM/LTTE propaganda machine. Indeed, today's leaders of all parties would work actively to prevent such a situation. It is noted that there has been no violence from the Sinhala community for over a quarter of a century when they have been subject to suicide bombs and LTTE massacres of whole villages.

Role of international organizations and foreign countries

The international community has not fully recognized that the WTM is similar to Al Qaeda. They are not concerned about the long term prospects for Sri Lanka in terms of future millennia. Many of these countries and organizations, including the Indian Civil Service, have been infiltrated by the WTM. For them, a ceasefire together with a federal constitution for Sri Lanka, with a separate state for the combined North and East will be a superb solution! They will not be around to suffer the consequences when the next round of separation begins in a few decades, from the new vantage point of a "state".

Only the USA had banned the LTTE before September 11, 2001, even though front and leadership organizations such as the WTM and WTCC continued their work unabatedly. After September 11, 2001, others have done so too. Though even organizations such as the WTM are now in some difficulty Western countries have shown only half hearted interest in closing them down, due to their infiltration of political parties and organizations. Obviously, a major difficulty is that Sri Lanka requires development and military assistance from countries such as the USA and Japan.

A Tamil homeland?

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a homeland as "an autonomous state inhabited by a particular people", while the Merriam-Webster Dictionary says it is "a state or area set aside to be a state for a people of a particular national, cultural or racial origin". An examination of the concept of a homeland in the context of Sri Lanka shows how untenable it will be. Imagine a homeland of a combined Northern and Eastern Province "set aside" for Tamils to essentially "inhabit" and be "autonomous" within Sri Lanka. First of all the Sinhala and Muslim people in the Eastern Province will not accept such a concept of combining a Province, in which they are a joint majority, with a larger Northern Province dominated completely by Tamils. Secondly, the majority of Tamils who now "inhabit" areas outside the so called "homeland, will want to continue to do so. Indeed hundreds of thousands of Tamils have voted with their money against the homeland concept by buying real estate in the Colombo District. That also indicates that they have put the 1983 incident behind them. There is no chance that they will want to "inhabit" the "homeland". Nor should they have to go to the "homeland".

Thirdly and more recently, Eastern Province Tamil parties have come out against a merger. If the Northern and Eastern Provinces are the homeland of Tamils, are the rest of the provinces the homeland of Sinhala people? Muslims and Sinhala should be able to live freely in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Tamils should be free to live in all provinces of Sri Lanka, operating actively in their language. The WTM wants a "homeland" in a major portion of Sri Lanka where only the Tamil language, culture and governance etc is extant, while they also want full and complete rights in all other parts of the country. That is not a sustainable solution. The only real solution is for all people to be able to live freely and operate actively in their own language, and practice their own culture, in all provinces of Sri Lanka.

A referendum of course will not end in a meaningful finality: Sri Lanka cannot and will not endanger its sovereignty by allowing any third party to run a referendum. Thus a rejection of the joint sate concept will not be accepted by the WTM/LTTE on the convenient basis that the Sri Lankan Government rigged the election. On the other hand, the WTM/LTTE will do their best to rig the election by violent and other means. Thus a fair referendum will be impossible to hold. This is not stated from a view that a referendum should be held if it is possible to hold a fair one. The case has been made earlier that under no circumstances should a merger be even contemplated.

Basic human rights of individuals and society as a whole

In theory, human rights are guaranteed under the Sri Lankan constitution. However, given the national fabric has been torn apart since the 1980's by one of the world's most vicious terrorist groups, the LTTE, human rights in some cases have fallen into the cracks. That is no excuse and an independent judiciary, Attorney General, Police and elected leaders must ensure that human rights are guarded while also ensuring the rights of society as whole.

Take the example of a terrorist who has parked a truck bomb. The only information available is that the bomb will detonate in one hour and that it is designed to kill about a thousand people. The terrorist has been apprehended. Injection of a 'truth serum' has not worked. Physical punishment meted out will elicit the required information. How are the authorities to balance the rights of the terrorist, against the right to life of the 1000 people? There are no easy answers to human rights issues and the only solution is to make an honest attempt each and every time to consider the balance of rights.

Developed western countries, that are fighting a dirty war against the Al Qaeda under difficult circumstances, require our understanding. They must equally understand the problems facing Sri Lanka, a small developing country, as it struggles to find that balance while fighting an enemy with a worldwide network and organization. Sri Lanka's legal, governing and other institutions have not had the time to establish the traditions, just 50 years after 500 years of colonial rule, that, for example, a UK will have.

The future of Sri Lanka

In a forthcoming article, the writer will explore a possible future for Sri Lanka with ideas about a unitary country, active National language rights, new idea about Provincial language rights with asymmetry, Provinces with new rights as the unit of devolution, the key aspects to be controlled by the National Government, the Presidency, the military defeat of the LTTE, a renewed commitment to human rights, a truth and reconciliation commission, support for reasonable aspirations of Tamils, and a true multi ethnic armed force.

By S.C.WIRASINGHE, BSc (Ceylon), PhD (Berkeley), DSc Honoris Causa (Moratuwa)


  1. Grateful thanks to SC Wirasinghe and Mawbimalanka,

    This is a rare and worthy description of the conflict in Heladiva(SL) closer to the truth as it is.

    “Tamil Nadu politicians cannot survive unless they speak openly about Sri Lankan issues………..”

    Not they cannot survive but their pro-Tamil stance is 100% dedication in aiming for the eventual independent Tamil Nadu (Tamil Country). Tamilism is so strong the prime qualification has to be a full-blooded Tamil in Tamil Nadu for an important official appointment. We need to understand the justification of their agenda. Tamils are a great population of the world with 70 million Tamils of Tamil Nadu and over 30 million Tamils settled in host national countries like Heladiva(SL), Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, UK etc. But the Tamil nation of Tamil Nadu within the Indian subcontinent are not strong enough to free it from the Indian governance. Toward this ultimate goal our tiny Hela Island was found to be the convenient first step along with the focus of Tamil expansionism wherever possible. Our island became the prime target due to most of the past rulers being pro-Tamil who were installed by the parting then British cunning land robbers. These pseudo Sinhela rulers fobbed the nation as our leaders who are still attempting to support the insidious Tamil invasive terror trying to form a second Tamil Nadu out of our tiny indigenous island country, with its only 17 million Hela Nation. It is time to expose to the world that Tamil national struggle is justifiable and it can ONLY be waged in Tamil Nadu and not in a host national country like Heladiva. This will get the Tamil national struggle off our backs and stop their heinous attempt to get it at the cost of our extinction and our land being invaded. FOR THE TAMIL NATIONAL LIBERATION THE RESPONSIBILITY LIES SOLELY WITH THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT. One more factor which the Tamil entity is exploiting is the clause mindlessly entered within the UN constitution that minorities can have self determination if so wished. UN should be challenged on this clause as chaotic if every non indigenous minority in host national countries start to demand carving out additional countries for themselves, in addition to their lands of national origins left behind for pastures anew. Enter the zone of “invasion by migration”!!

    “The Sinhalese were misguided in trying to introduce Sinhala as the official language of Sri Lanka”.

    There was no misguidance in except that the official Hela (Sinhela) language policy was not carried through but halted due to Tamil pressure. This come down is due to the fact that after independence we never had our National Leaders but a bunch of racist pro-Tamil leaders garbed in Sinhela names due to intermarriage. Language is the backbone of a single Nationhood, more than one language will pave the way for multi-nationalism, an upside down political concept encouraged to breakaway, only allowed in our island country.

    “A Tamil homeland?”

    Homeland can mean where one is born or where one set up home. This rhetoric of the non indigenous Tamils in Heladiva simply means a Tamil sovereign national country. Fully justifiable for the sovereign National Tamil country, for which no lengthy debate is required when we have the most fundamental tangible self-evident fact of the glaring existence of Tamil Nadu (Tamil Country), though hidden within the Indian subcontinent. Because inviolable national sovereignty is an entitlement to ONLY the indigenous nation of a particular land and not for being born or set up home there irrespective of how many or how long they lived there. The only community in Heladiva who have a right to have a separate homeland if so wish are our indigenous Vedi generation. But they will not ask for it as they are our ancient Hela people and never will be a threat to us.

    “Basic human rights……”

    There is a gross error in human rights even within the international echelons, mixing up human rights with national rights. Human rights and civil rights are the rights entitled to non indigenous minorities in host indigenous national countries. Their national rights are intact in the lands of their national origins they left behind. Such rights like language, culture and religion of non indigenous minorities in host countries will prevail only within their private domain unofficially, without a threat in any form to the national sovereignty of the host nation. When these clear justifiable parameters are properly understood and learn to uphold our National Hela Sovereignty steadfastly, barking will surely stop and the world will stand with us as it can become their problem too.

  2. India has never given up the idea of annexing our motherland. Ironically it was Prabhakaran who when he found was used by Gandhi to invade us under the code name IPKF that he showed Gandhi blue stars in broad daylight so much so that the Indians dropped their amudes and ran. India is in competition with Tamil Nadu for annexing our country but Tamil Nadu is supported to the hilt by the infamous IC and that is why the IC is helping the LTTE to establish Eelam so that it could employ Prabhkaran to disintegrate the Indian federation.

    India has been a big headache to the West for quite some time because it knows that its standards of living will drop the day India could supply high tech material at a fraction of the price that the West can supply. To achieve their aim they will have to stop India's R&D program which they
    can easily do if she is disintegrated.

    For our part we should have the capacity to handle a mass invasion from Independent Tamil Nadu or India. For that our entire waters from Puttalam to Hambantota via Point Pedro will have to be under constant vigil in addition to the rest of the waters around the entire coast and the appropriate defence forces will have to be permanently established along the entire coast line.