Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Tamil leadership solely responsible for what happened to the Tamil people

Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Commission,
I am honoured and privileged to be invited to give evidence before this Commission on the historic and epic events of our time and I thank the Commission for giving me this opportunity.
Before I go any further I must congratulate the Commission for the progress made so far, particularly in giving the lie to its critics who dismissed it as not being credible as that of an international inquiry. The impressive and credible proceedings of this commission have once again debunked the cynical attitude common to some Sri Lankans who believe that the local products are never so good as the imported goods and services. I cannot see how three foreign gentlemen, sitting in far away New York, with a pre-determined attitude towards Sri Lanka, can investigate and report on the conditions in Sri Lanka based on accounts presented by questionable sources which have a notorious record of reporting adversely and negatively on Sri Lanka. It is predictable that the UN Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, -- knowing particularly the attitude problem of the UN panellists – will merely rubber stamp the prevailing judgment of the West denigrating the greatest historical movement in the living memory of Sri Lankans.
I wish to state categorically that the World alliance for Peace, which I represent, has implicit trust and faith in the integrity and the capabilities of the distinguished Commissioners to fulfil their mandate with honour. May I, therefore, begin by congratulating the Commission for its outstanding performance as yet another successful endeavour in telling the critics and the doubting Thomases that we can – yes, we can – handle our problems on our own, in our own way, without meddlesome foreigners trying to teach grandmothers how to suck eggs. The irony in all this is that these foreigners are preaching and imposing universal moral standards on us on the dubious principle that we must do what they say and not what they do.
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Panel we value and appreciate the advances you have made so far and we trust and hope that you will continue to do so to serve the nation which is in need of guidance to achieve the laudable and ultimate goal of reconciliation.
I am here today as the representative of the World Alliance for Peace in Sri Lanka (WAPS). It is a global net work, spread from Toronto to Melbourne, dedicated to combat the formidable anti-Sri Lankan forces damaging the image of Sri Lanka abroad. It consists of committed volunteers who are in the forefront of an international movement to protect, preserve and promote the good name of Sri Lanka. WAPS is an independent organisation which does not dependent for funds, or directions from of any government, either in Sri Lanka or elsewhere. WAPS operates on self-raised funds collected from patriotic Sri Lankans in the diaspora and I am proud to represent WAPS which is perhaps the only NGO consisting of Sri Lankans without any links to any government either in Sri Lanka or abroad or foreign funding agencies. It is does not pretend to be an non-governmental organisation like the NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR PEACE , OR THE CENTRE FOR POLICY ALTERNATIVE which are, in fact, linked either directly or indirectly to Western governments or their funding agencies.
Western governments and private funding agencies work hand in hand to finance local NGOs which are the hired agents to do their dirty work in crisis-torn or less developed countries like Sri Lanka. To the West it is cheaper to outsource their foreign policy agenda to hired hands in local NGOs because they have proved to be highly sophisticated agents who can push the Western political agenda on a cheaper rate than their costly career diplomats posted in Addis Ababa, Islamabad or Colombo. Western governments have openly admitted that NGOs are their “soft power” used effectively to promote their political agenda. It is, therefore, a misnomer to consider National Council for Peace or Centre for Policy Alternative or International Centre for Ethnic Studies , to mention only a few, as NGOs because they are, directly or indirectly, indebted to governments abroad. These NGOs also work closely with the diplomatic missions of the West which are the local arms of the Western governments. So if these NGOs are funded by Western sources, directly or indirectly linked to Western governments, and if they also work closely with diplomats of foreign governments, how can they be called non-governmental organisations? They act as the local arm of foreign governments. They dance to their tune because that is the only means by which they can keep their funds flowing from Western sources. If the local NGOs fail to promote a political agenda that is useful to Western sources then they go out of business.
One of the main aims of WAPS is to take on these NGOs both in Sri Lanka and abroad which are, by and large, anti-Sri Lankan political fronts of the West. Distinguished members of the Commission, it is my intention to focus exclusively on reconciliation for several reasons. 1) Reconciliation has been on the national agenda from colonial times where competing communities were vying with each other for power and territory and it continues to be on the national agenda to this day almost in the same format. 2) It is prioritized as the prime necessity of the day for us to move forward. 3) International and national pressures are mounted on this issue of reconciliation. 4) I believe reconciliation is also the primary objective of this Commission.
When we talk of reconciliation we mean essentially the reconciliation of the Sinhalese with the Tamil-speaking community that took up arms demanding a separate state. A notable – but mostly ignored – political fact is that the relations with the other two Tamil-speaking communities, the Muslims and the Indian Tamils, remained undisturbed at normal levels without either of them going to the extreme of demanding a separate state or taking up arms against the majority Sinhalese. This single political statistic is revealing because the Sinhalese who have been denigrated as extremists, chauvinists, anti-Tamil racists could never have succeeded in co-existing peacefully with two other Tamil-speaking communities if they are bad as they are painted to be.
This single political statistic also goes against the general accusation that the Sinhala majority has been the oppressor of the Tamil-speaking communities. This makes it abundantly clear that, despite differences and tensions, the Sinhala majority has been successful in maintaining harmonious and peaceful relations with two of the Tamil-speaking communities and had problems with only one Tamil-speaking community. This single political fact should speak more about the peninsular political culture with its mono-ethnic extremism than about the Sinhalese who had down the ages co-existed as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural and pluralistic entity.
The myths that dominate the political landscape have turned reality on its head. For instance, the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural and pluralistic Sinhala society is denigrated as racist or chauvinistic while the mono-culture of Jaffna which fought strenuously to preserve its mono-ethnic hegemony is projected as an exclusive haven of cultural superiority. The anti-Sinhala lobby manufactured an ideology to paint the Sinhalese as extremists and paint the mono-ethnic extremism of the Jaffna Tamils as the victims of Sinhala oppression. If, as they say, the Sinhala majority was oppressing the Tamil-speaking minority on the scale described by NGOs and allied propagandists of the Jaffna Tamil separatist lobby, wouldn’t all other Tamil-speaking communities have common cause to gang up against the Sinhalese? Besides, why did the Jaffna Tamil leadership fail to mobilize the other two Tamil-speaking communities in their political and military campaigns against their so-called “Sinhala oppressors”? Serious attempts were made by S. J. V. Chelvanayakam to form a pan-Tamil-speaking peoples’ front against the Sinhalese but he failed to get them into a common front against the Sinhalese.
If on the convincing mathematics visible to rational political analysts, the Sinhala majority had maintained harmonious relations with two of the Tamil-speaking communities, resolving differences without violence, why did the Jaffna Tamil leadership alone fail to maintain non-violent, harmonious relations with the other communities? Why did they drag their own people through a futile war into the abysmal depths of Nandikadal? What did they achieve? They went to destroy the Sinhalese whom they had demonized globally and in the end it boomeranged on them. Their violence turned inwards and they lost their entire leadership, they lost their kith and kin, and they lost their self-respect and dignity when they were forced to surrender to the fascist terror of a pathological serial killer. Now that we have gone through the worst phase the time has come for the Jaffna Tamil leadership to consider how the other two-Tamil speaking community leaders have succeeded in guiding their communities to constructive and promising ends and why only the Jaffna Tamil leadership failed? Why is it that reconciliation was possible with the other two-Tamil speaking communities and not with only one community in Jaffna?
The answer can be found in the intricacies and the complexities of peculiar peninsular political culture which dragged the Jaffna people from colonial times to mono-ethnic extremism. In summary it can be demonstrated that reconciliation with the northern leadership was doomed to fail because of their intransigence and extremist mono-ethnic ideology that refused to compromise anything short of their fancy state of Eelam.
Jaffna jingoism was the most destructive and counter-productive of all the political cultures of the Tamil-speaking communities. Their ideologues and intellectuals who rationalized the mono-ethnic extremism of Jaffna demanded that reconciliation should be based only on the terms dictated by the extremist agenda of the Jaffna-centric politics. This intransigence was one of the primary causes that led to the failures of any moves towards reconciliation.
Reconciliation has been viewed, argued and projected as a one-way process – i.e., the government of day should give in to the demands of only one Tamil-speaking community disregarding or marginalizing the aspirations, the historical grievances, and the needs of the other minority and majority communities whose main objective has been to co-exist in harmony with each other, sharing the land in common with all those who consider the entire 25,000 square miles, from Point Pedro to Dondra, to be their homeland without any divisions.
Successive governments have gone down this one-way track without any success. Every national, regional and international endeavour to bring about reconciliation failed because each move was aimed at appeasing the intransigent leadership of Jaffna. The Indian move to bring about reconciliation ended in assassinating Rajiv Gandhi. The Premadasa moves to reconcile ended in assassinating Premadasa. The Chandrika-Neelan move to produce a charter for reconciliation ended in assassinating Neelan and nearly getting Chandrika. The last major one-way attempt at reconciliation was when Ranil Wickremesinghe signed the CFA with Prabhakaran conceding almost the next best thing to Eelam. It failed because the Jaffna Tamil leadership, as usual, refused to accept it as the route to reconciliation.
Besides, the undeniable fact is that these reconciliatory moves, signed by the Tamil leadership, were approved by the Tamil people and their fellow-travellers in the NGO circuit. So what is the logic in saying that the Sinhala leadership had not made genuine moves at reconciliation? The Sinhala leadership had even gone as far as dismissing or marginalizing the aspirations and needs of other Tamil-speaking and Sinhala communities. Ranil Wickremesinghe, for instance, committed crimes against the nation when he authorized the supply of arms and ammunition, duty free, to the Tamil Tigers. He even put the Navy Commander, Wasantha Karannagoda, on the mat for sinking a Tamil Tiger boat smuggling arms and ammunition. He should go into the records of the Guinness Book for being the first prime minister in any part of the world who had pulled up his Navy Commander for defending the territorial integrity and security of the nation. It is the innocent youth in the Security Forces who had to pay with their lives to repair the damage done in the CFA.
However misguided he was Wickremesinghe’s actions prove that he was bending over backwards to appease the Tamil leadership – a task that was doomed to fail. Successive Sri Lankan leaders have gone out of their way – sometimes under international pressure – to reconcile with the Tamil separatists. But they never succeeded. Though the evidence is loaded against the Jaffna Tamil leadership for deliberately pursuing a military solution, refusing a negotiated settlement, it is the “Sinhala state” that is blamed for each failure to reconcile with the Jaffna Tamil leadership.
The Nordic peace-makers are on record saying that 95% of the terms and conditions of the CFA were violated by the LTTE. So who should take the responsibility for the failure to bring about reconciliation?
It was the Tamil leadership that decided to seek a military solution when they passed the Vadukoddai Resolution on May 14, 1976. It is this notorious Resolution that endorsed unanimously the decision to wage a war against the rest of the nation. Prof. A. J. Wilson, son-in- law of Chelvanayakam , the father of separatism and the man who posed as Gandhi, states in his biography that Chelvanayakam went through every word of the Vadukoddai Resolution. It specifically urged the Tamil youth to take up arms and never rest until they achieve their goal of Eelam.
So it is not the “Sinhala state” that adopted the military solution. Historical documents record that it was the Tamil leadership that deliberately and consciously decided to go down the path of violence. It was the Tamil leadership that provided the ideology to instigate the Tamil youth to take up arms. It was the Tamil leadership that financed the bullets, the guns, landmines, hand grenades, the boats and all the other firearms when the doors were open to them to negotiate like the other two Tamil-speaking communities. It was the Tamil leadership that gave the silent assent to the killings of Tamil leaders.
Having reneged on national, regional and international agreements, having rejected all reasonable offers for reconciliation, even those offers that came with international guarantees, the Tamil leadership and their fellow-travellers in academia, media, NGOs etc refuse to accept responsibility for the horrendous political crimes committed in the name of the Tamil people. Not surprisingly, the intellectuals, academics, NGO pundits produced volumes rationalizing their divisive politics and justifying Tamil violence by blaming the Sinhalese.
Blaming the Sinhalese is the most common feature of the Jaffna Tamil political culture. Jaffna-centric politics thrived on targeting the Sinhalese. It eventually turned into a cult of hate. The ultimate expression of this anti-Sinhala politics was encapsulated in the Vadukoddai Resolution. It is the most decisive document to come out of Jaffna defining their political goals, violent strategies and the cult of hate. It produced an ideology based primarily on the fictitious history and the concocted geography.
A whole new ideological industry grew round the Vadukoddai Resolution. The pro-separatist seminars, lectures, researches, publications were aimed at blaming only the Sinhala-Buddhists. The Vadukoddai ideology was designed to exonerate the Jaffna Tamil leadership from all blame and any analysis of subsequent studies will reveal that academics and public intellectuals never deviated one inch from the fictions and concoctions laid down in the Vadukoddai Resolution. In the end they blamed Prabhakaran also as a creation of the Sinhalese. If Prabhakaran was a creation of the Sinhalese his bullets should have been directed only at the Sinhalese. But why did he turn his guns first on the fathers of Vadukoddai Resolution which endorsed Tamil violence? Did the Sinhalese instruct him to target the entire Tamil leadership? If, as claimed, he came out of Sinhala violence, why did he target the innocent Muslims? What had they done to him? Why did he pluck Tamil children from the breasts of Tamil mothers? Was it the Sinhalese who prompted him to commit these crimes against humanity?
Demonizing the Sinhala-Buddhists was a necessary strategy to justify Tamil violence and extremist demands. At the root of Tamil violence and extremist demands was this Vadukoddai ideology which defined and laid down the road map to Eelam which, contrary to their expectations, ended in Nandikadal.
The Vadukoddai Resolution produced the Vadukoddai War which lasted 33 years and four days. It had a definite beginning (MAY 14, 1976) and it had a definite ending on May 18, 2009. I consider this as one continuous War and not as four Eelam Wars. The fact that Vadukoddai War see-sawed between low-intensity and high-intensity phases does not add up to four wars. It was just one continuous war led by the Jaffna war-mongers who deliberately declared war on the rest of the nation in the Vadukoddai Resolution.
This Commission and the nation at large are now engaged in working out modalities for reconciliation. There are many roads to reconciliation, ranging from state initiatives to organised activities at the grass root levels. Reconciliation is also not one-way traffic. It takes two to arrive at reconciliation. Reconciliation, it should be noted, is a process that begins in the minds. Breaking down the mental barriers, misperceptions, prejudices and fear-mongering are some of the essentials needed to bring about reconciliation. Above all, no reconciliation is possible if the ideology that led to the Vadukoddai War is left unchallenged.
Vadukoddai Resolution was not meant for reconciliation. It was meant to demonize the Sinhalese, rewrite their history to suit the agenda of Jaffna-centric politics and whip up anti-Sinhala sentiments to keep Vadukoddai violence at boiling point. In fact, when the Tamil separatist decided to go down the path laid out in the Vadukoddai Resolution they opened up two fronts: 1. The military front on the ground where the Tamil youth took up arms as stipulated in the Vadukoddai Resolution and 2. the ideological front which justified and fuelled the Vadukoddai War for 33 years. We have won the war on the ground. But we have yet to win on the second front -- the ideological front which is as formidable as the defeated military front.
The Vadukoddai ideology hangs like a Damocles sword over the head of the nation. The Tamil diaspora is driven primarily by the Vadukoddai ideology. That is their one and only reference point. The Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam is designed to achieve the goals of the Vadukoddai Resolution. Though the Tamil Tigers – the misled children of the Vadukoddai Resolution -- are dead the ideology is still alive.
Combating this ideology is a sine qua non for the nation to advance toward reconciliation. The primary task of the second front, which the government has not yet opened in any effective way, is to demolish the political myths and fictions woven round the Vadukoddai Resolution. No amount of legislation can win this ideological battle. It is going to be a battle for the hearts and minds of the people. Reconciliation is possible only when the minds are liberated from myths of divisive and violent politics embedded in the Vadukoddai Resolution. The removal of the Tamil Tiger terrorists from the political equation helps. But the ideology that fired them up continues to linger on in various shades and manifestations.
This is why the ideological battle has to be taken seriously and fought relentlessly like the recently concluded war on the ground. The common thrust of the anti-Sinhala ideology is based on the allegation of discrimination against the Tamils. Apart from the concocted historical and geographical fictions, Jaffna-centric politics has consistently accused what they called the ”Sinhala state” on grounds of discrimination. It is the rationale on which Jaffna-centric politics took to violence. This accusation has been accepted uncritically by the assorted pundits who found it very lucrative to toe this line.
It has become an integral part of conventional wisdom that hardly anyone dares to challenge it. I have no time to cover all the issues of discrimination raised by the Jaffna Tamil lobby. But let me deal with the main accusation based on the Sinhala Only Act. As a result of the massive propaganda the world has come to know this as the symbol of discrimination against the Tamil-speaking people. But the two other Tamil-speaking communities – the Muslims and the Indians – did not consider this as an issue on which they could take up arms or demand a separate state. What should be noted is that all the issues of discrimination were raised and pursued relentlessly, ending up in the Vadukoddai War, only by the Jaffna Tamils. Practically every one of the issues of discrimination raised by the Jaffna Tamil political caste/class – except the citizenship issue of the Indians – were irrelevant to the other two Tamil-speaking communities. This is one of the reasons why the issue of discrimination sounds so hollow. If two out of three Tamil-speaking communities pursued consistently a political programme of peaceful co-existence whilst gaining their rights by non-violent politics what was the justification of the Jaffna political caste/class to go all the way from Vadukoddai to Nandikadal?
Take the example of the Sinhala Only Act which is cited as the mother of all evil in Sri Lankan politics. It was not just the Jaffna Tamils but the entire Westernized, English- educated ruling class of all communities, including the Sinhalese, that rebelled against it. Even among the Tamils the language issue was confined essentially to the English-educated professionals, particularly those in the public service. The vast majority of the Tamils who lived among the Sinhalese had no problem with Sinhala as the language of commerce. When I grew up my barber, my corner store grocer, my thosai boutique man, my rickshaw man who took me to school, the botal karaya, -- you name it – were all
Tamils and they had no problem with Sinhalese. My mother who shopped for her jewellery at Sea Street had no problem in bargaining with the Tamil jewellers in Sinhalese. In fact, it was a problem confined only to the 6% of the English educated elite who resented and resisted their power and privileges being taken away by enthroning the language of the majority of the people. They were bent on retaining the colonial privileges which would deprive the 94% of the people to communicate with the language of their elected government in the mother tongue. Which democratic, or for that even a dictatorship, would continue in the unfair practice of running a government in an alien language? Is France run in English? Is England administered in Welsh? Is China run in Japanese? Why is it right for all other nations to run their governments in the language of the majority but not Sri Lanka?
But let me hasten to add that the Tamils also had the right communicate with their elected government in their mother tongue. And provision was made for it by S.W. R. D. Bandaranaike, the greatest Sinhala liberal leader who was demonized by the Tamil lobby as the sole author who deprived them of their rights. Bandaranaike did not overthrow the Tamil language. He only dethroned the English language. His mission was to redress the imbalances left behind by centuries of colonialism. The pendulum that swung to the West under colonialism was swinging to the East in all ex-colonies. One of the first rights of the people was to be governed in their own language.
When Sinhala Only act was passed Chelvanayakam went from kachcheri kachcheri urging the Tamil public servants not to learn Sinhala. This is typical of the narrow-minded, divisive politics of Jaffna-centric politics that took them eventually to Nandikadal. It is the duty of all public servants to serve the public and it was duty of all public servants to serve 75% of population in Sinhala. Chelvanayakam and the English-educated ruling class did not want to change the colonial practices. They were for retaining the status quo. In other words, Chelvanayakam wanted the public to learn the language of public servants instead of the public servants learning the language of the public. How fair is this by the public? In fairness to Bandaranaike, it must be stated that he made it compulsory for Sinhala and Burgher public servants to learn Tamil and even provided free classes in the departments for public servants to learn the languages of the public. It was this policy of democratizing the administration and making the administration accessible to the public without any language barriers that was vilified as a racist act by the “Sinhala state” against the Tamils.
Let us also not forget that it was the Sinhala youth that took up arms first on the cry of discrimination. They too raised the language issue but on a class basis. They said that English was the language of the ruling class that denied opportunities to the lower classes. The Jaffna Tamils took up the same issue on an ethnic basis and accused the Sinhalese of pursuing racist politics. Even the Marxist leaders eventually came to the conclusion that it was a class issue and not an ethnic issue. And despite all these allegations of discrimination on a language basis the nation is still run in English. The judiciary, the executive and the legislature are ruled by and large in English. Even the bulk of the evidence recorded in this commission is in English. So where is the discrimination if all three languages are used in running the administration to this day?
Let me highlight some key aspects which debunk this myth of discrimination. Distinguished members there are 192 flags flying at the UN. Of all these flags it is only the Sri Lankan flag that has given the Tamils a place of respect, dignity and honour. A flag is the highest symbol of any nation. When the President salutes the national flag he salutes the Tamils and Muslims also. So has “the Sinhala state” excluded the Tamils and given them a lesser status nationally or internationally? Take the case of currency – another symbol of national recognition. Every currency note gives Tamil it due recognition as an equal partner. So where is this discrimination? This place of honour is not there for the Tamils even in India – the ONLY homeland of the Tamils.
In what way have these unique symbols denied the Tamils of their rights, their culture, their identity? On the contrary, in building this nation have not the “successive “Sinhala governments” placed the minorities on equal footing at every critical level? This is confirmed by the fact that two Tamil-speaking communities have refused to join the Jaffna Tamils in their violent campaign against Sri Lanka. They had no reason to join hands because the issues of discrimination and other allegations were not valid. If the allegations of discrimination and oppression of the minorities were valid it would have been felt right across the board among the minorities. But it didn’t. They all spoke the Tamil language, they all faced the identical Sinhala majority and they lived in the same political space. Their refusal to join hands with the Jaffna Tamils on allegations of discrimination and oppression refutes conclusively the concocted allegations of the Jaffna Tamils.
As a result of the distorted ideologies of the peninsular political culture the nation was put through the most traumatic period in its history. The Jaffna Tamil political parties have survived in the past on this culture of blaming the Sinhalese. If they are to learn from history the one outstanding lesson they must accept is that there is no future in the ideologically misguided past. They have pushed their mono-ethnic politics to the extreme and they have lost. Their task now is to re-imagine their place in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious state.
But to sum up, their politics of mono-ethnic extremism will not end as long as their second front – the ideological front -- is left wide open. Reconciliation can be built only by abandoning the Vadukoddai ideology which has no future. Those who are still committed to this ideology have not grasped the geo-political realities that went against the Vadukoddai ideology. The Tamil leaders knew that the international community was against a separate state but they never told that to the Tamil people. They kept the illusion of Eelam alive for their own self-interest without any regard for the suffering of the Tamil people.
Let us not forget that in all this it is the Jaffna Tamil people who suffered most. The Jaffna Tamil leadership must apologise on their knees to the Jaffna people for leading them to Nandikadal. Jaffna deserves a more enlightened leadership that can save them from going down the same old route from Vadukoddai to Nandikadal. Blaming the Sinhalese is not going to pay them any dividends any more. They must take responsibility for manufacturing the Vadukoddai ideology that took them nowhere. No one asked them to pass the Vadukoddai Resolution. They did it on their own. No one asked them to drag the Tamil people, using them as a human shield, to Nandikadal. They alone must take full responsibility for what happened to the Tamil people. They must not only apologise but also promise their people never to take them down the path to another Nandikadal.>> Full Story