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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2584

Sri Lanka – From Here to Eternity

By Gomin Dayasri

Sri Lanka may win the battle against Tamil Tigers but not the war as “they have’nt got the Tamils on their side -N.K.Narayan, National Security Advisor (India)

India neither could defeat the Tamil Tigers nor get the Tamils on their side when the IPKF was around in the North and East. Defeated on both fronts in despair they left. Can Sri Lanka do both or undo the gallant work of the armed forces who have sacrificed so much?

An expression by the National Security Advisor but there is more to it –it reflects more the hopes of India than the thoughts of India. Yet it carries a message which needs to be addressed. The grievances of the Tamils require responses. It is not only the Tamils but should include other minorities together with the Sinhalese who are a provincial minority in two provinces, all of whom have exclusive grievances. Importantly, are they legitimate grievances? If so, it is imperative that relief must be forthcoming without hindrance.

It is not only the Tamils who face problems, so do the Muslims and the Sinhalese whom Narayan’s India has forgotten because they do not have a constituency such as the Tamil Nadu which props any cause of their brethren across the Palk Strait irrespective of the leadership they profess whether federalism or terrorism. Politically, Narayan has to pamper Tamil Nadu to keep the Congress in office, yet mindful that if secession tendencies succeed in Sri Lanka, central government of India will be in peril as it will serve as an impetus for their own terrorist and separatist movements, which are proliferating presently. India’s prescriptions for the neighbors are always primarily in the interest of India yet it contains a worthwhile message. Though most of the problems are endemic to all communities, after a 30 year war to display good faith of a caring majority the legitimate grievances of the minorities require priority attention in a nation building exercise. The Sinhala majority should give leadership to achieve these objectives to convince the Tamils of their sincerity.

It is the Sinhalese leadership that must be in the forefront of the struggle to attend to the legitimate grievances of the minorities, after the annihilation of the terrorists. It would be an ideal rejoinder to the cries of federalism which can lay the seeds to futuristic secession movements that will once again surface after the defeat of the present terrorists to breed fresh terrorism. Grievances of the minorities can be addressed forthwith without the tinkering of Constitution which is an impossibility to amend with provisions dealing with 2/3 majorities and a referendum. Therefore a pragmatic and a priority approach is paramount.

Tamils have watched the situation sitting on the fence to see who may win the final battle. True, many of the innocent Tamil people in the Wanni region are captive in the hands of the LTTE who manipulate them to suit their agenda. Majority of the Tamils preferred to live with the Sinhalese with whom they have many common identities or seek residence abroad, rather than under the yoke of the terrorists. Over the years they learnt life was more secure and comfortable with the Sinhalese than under the terrorists. They had no love for any government or terrorist but willing to switch allegiance to which ever side that emerges triumphantly for their own betterment. Those who went abroad desired to return triumphantly and supported the LTTE displaying the traditional expatriate mentality of “returning nobodies attempting to be some bodies” in their visionary state of Elam.

A telling characteristic was that the Tamils escaped from the clutches of the LTTE wherever possible to emigrate abroad or live with the Sinhalese. Still they cheered whenever the LTTE defeated the predominantly Sinhala dominated armed forces from afar, as being of common Dravidian stock (just as much as they would at the cinema) but cared not to live beside them- understandably it was toss up in a head or tails situation. Now that the security forces are forging ahead, few Tamils openly support the terrorists. Colombo’s elite society is no different; but more opportunistic. Tamils were under an element of duress, which the decadent Colombo’s commercial interests cannot plead in defense. Unless India’s intelligence services sourced, that the days of Prabhakaran were numbered, Narayan would not have gone the distance.

Our governments of the past and present - for which the Sinhalese voted overwhelmingly - have to share the blame. With the politicization of the administration from 1972, merit gave way to sycophancy and created a class of administrators who worked to the dictates of the political authority to whom priority was their electorate. They neither identified the legitimate grievances of the minorities nor found solutions for the identified grievances.

Worse, they have not given effect to the language provisions which are enshrined in statutes making it unquestionably a legitimate grievance. If there was insufficient funding, surely foreign financial and logistic assistance could have been sought and it would have been forthcoming. The prima facie the grievances of the Tamils can be identified but it requires attention as to their legitimacy which must be determined so that reliefs flow to the genuinely deprived. Otherwise as in the case of the Indian estate Tamils- the party they voted for held Cabinet portfolio under each successive government from 1977, unique in our political annals- but beneficiaries have been the CWC leadership and not the estate Tamils. It is a classic case of a community under the captivity of a monopolistic single party where relief does not percolate down to the people.

The identified itemized minority grievances as reflected in the experts’ committee report are as follows:-

1. Failure to implement language provisons enshrined in the law

2. Security Concerns

3. Acquistion of Land

4. Land and Water

5. Child Recruitment

6. Lack of development

7. Multi ethnic defense and police force

8. Lack of Employment opportunities

9. Rehabilitation of internally displaced persons

10. Inadequate infrastructural benefits

The majority of the grievances are common to all communities though there are some which attract only the minorities.

It is probable that after the defeat of the LTTE militarily, all those who opposed terrorism will have divergent views in settling the national issue. There would be many in the ranks of those leading the fight against terrorism with words who will desire to impose a federal solution Those who are tacitly assisting the terrorists with foreign funding will settle for a federal structure as a comfortable stepping stone to revive separatism. To them if Elam is not possible today, they will look to an Elam for the future and construct a road map that will lead to a distant Elam.

Presently knowing that Elam via Prabhakaran is a faded dream with the terrorists losing ground on all fronts- no more homage will be paid to the sun god and he would soon be disposable. His foreign aided local sponsors would now maintain a temporary low profile and search for issues in the interim such as corruption and good governance to come clean from the muck and dirt acquired on backing losing issues and unearth a leadership that will be amenable for their accommodation from where they can launch a campaign to usher the seeds of federalism. The realignment of the divergent groups may arise where common enemies will become common friends in the name of federalism. Search has to be for a new leader acceptable to India and the International Community knowing well the UNP in the present form cannot win the electorate. Presently, the Leader of the Opposition is more in peril than the Head of State in a possible ouster by the same forces that once brought him to power. With the defeat of the terrorists, to survive they have to strike fast and the immediate objective is the Leader of the Opposition the softest target for dismissal.

The prime issue is to ensure whatever solution is reached on the national issue, no legacy be kept alive for the revival of terrorism in the future. To do that requires reasonably satisfied minorities who have reasonable confidence in the government- requirement is immediate action by the government to win hearts and mind of the minorities on fast delivery that brings satisfaction and not mere empty words and political fanfare to satisfy cahoots.

Terrorism is a lurking fear in every country and can never be totally eliminated but there is an area where road blocks can be introduced to ensure that terrorism can be halted by legitimate means swiftly; by enabling constitutional and statutory provisions to halt a resurrection of terrorism and such preventive methods to eliminate terrorism if it surfaces again. J.R.Jayawardane bequeathed the Eastern Province to the terrorists; Premadasa provided arms ammunition money cement and shelter to the terrorists; Chandrika Kumaranatunga created financial structures with the PTOMS to fund the terrorists; Ranil Wickremasinghe gifted the CFA to the terrorists to strengthen themselves to launch more terrorist attacks on the State - so it only entrenched provisions that will stand as a guarantee to the State in a fight against terrorism in the future. If a federal constitution was installed such as the envisaged in the 2000 Bill of Chandrika Kumaratunga it would have been the launching pad for Prabhakaran to usher the State of Elam. It contains the ingredients to sow the seeds of secession.

Like it or hate it-Sri Lanka has to live with the 13th Amendment. India has realized it more than Sri Lanka as the architects of the legislation. With the experience of 19 years the Provincial Council system has proved to be a colossal failure yet it cannot be jettisoned due to an unworkable amending procedure. Still more in its reintroduction no room should be left for the resurrection of a rebellion and harmful provisions has to be cushioned. Nevertheless the grievances of the minorities cannot be assuaged with constitutional or legal provisions as experienced-it will satisfy only the political authorities or international community or aspiring terrorists. It requires for its fulfillment political will, necessary legislative instruments, speedy executive directives, judicial support, administrative integrity and ingenuity, a caring majority and a considerate minority.

- Asian Tribune -

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