"...... No one should underestimate the murderous damage done to Sri Lanka over the last 26 years by the LTTE, or the sheer hatred felt for its leadership. That is recognised in the international community, but while terrorist organisations work by killing people, democratic governments exist to protect them. That is why the fighting in Sri Lanka must end now. The LTTE is apparently cornered and trapped, having inflicted grievous suffering on the people of Sri Lanka, primarily Sinhalese and Tamil, but also Muslims... The fact that the LTTE is preventing civilians from leaving the combat zone says everything that we need to know about where its interests lie.." UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, UK House of Commons, 5 May 2009
Many Tamils (including those in the British Tamil Forum) will welcome Mr.Miliband's frankness in the House of Commons on 5 May 2009. They will welcome his frankness because it will make clear to them where the UK Government currently stands in relation to the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom. It appears that for Mr. Miliband the murderous damage done to Sri Lanka over the last 26 years was by the LTTE and not by a succession of murderous Sinhala Sri Lanka regimes - from President Jayawardene in 1983 to President Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike in 1995 to President Rajapaksa today.
Mr. Miliband chooses to be silent on the chilling record of the past sixty years and more - a chilling record which shows that the intent and goal of all Sinhala governments (without exception) has been to secure the island as a Sinhala Buddhist Deepa and that a Sinhala Buddhist nation masquerading as a multi ethnic 'civic Sri Lankan' nation set about its task of assimilation and 'cleansing' the island of the Tamils, as a people, by
- depriving a section of Eelam Tamils of their citizenship,
- declaring the Sinhala flag as the national flag,
- colonising parts of the Tamil homeland with Sinhala people,
- imposing Sinhala as the official language,
- discriminating against Tamils students seeking University admission,
- depriving Tamil language speakers of employment in the public sector,
- dishonouring agreements entered into with the Tamil parliamentary political leadership,
- refusing to recognise constititutional safeguards against discrimination,
- later removing these constitutional safeguards altogether,
- giving to themselves an authocthonous Constitution with a foremost place for Buddhism,
- and changing the name of the island itself to the Sinhala Buddhist name of Sri Lanka - appropriately enough, on the 'tenth day of the waxing moon in the month of Vesak in the year two thousand five hundred and fifteen of the Buddhist Era'.
Mr. Miliband chooses to be silent on the fact that when these attempts at ethnic cleansing were resisted by the Tamil people by non violent means and parliamentary struggle, Sinhala governments resorted to violence in 1956, in 1958, in 1961 and again in 1977 - a murderous violence directed to terrorise the Tamils into submission.
Mr. Miliband chooses to be silent on the fact that the rise of Tamil armed resistance was an inevitable response to Sri Lankan State terror and that this armed resistance was then met with the enactment of laws which were an 'ugly blot on statute book of any civilised country', with arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extra judicial killings and massacres, indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling, wanton rape, and genocide - together with press censorship, disinformation and murder of journalists.
And Mr. Miliband chooses to be silent on the fact that the impunity granted to Sinhala armed forces, para military groups, goondas and Sinhala thugs, exposes the encouragement, support and direction given by successive Sri Lanka governments for the crimes committed against the Tamil people.
Mr. Miliband chooses to be silent on the genocidal intent of the President Rajapakse regime - a genocidal intent proven by the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces under the President's command - and Mr. Miliband chooses to be silent on the murderous record of the Rajapaksa regime which has raped, murdered Tamil Parliamentarians, Tamil journalists, executed Tamil students with impunity, arbitrarily arrested and detained Tamil civilians, abducted Tamil refugee workers, orchestrated attacks on Tamil civilians and Tamil shops, bombed Tamil civilian population centres and displaced thousands of Tamils from their homes.
Mr. Milliband chooses to ignore the harsh truth that genocides do not just happen and that Mao Tse-tung's famous dictum that the guerrilla moves amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea has brought with it the counter guerrilla strategy of draining the sea.
"Against partisans backed by the entire population, colonial armies are helpless. They have only one way of escaping from the harassment which demoralizes them. This is to eliminate the civilian population. As it is the unity of a whole people that is containing the conventional army, the only anti-guerrilla strategy which will be effective is the destruction of that people, in other words, the civilians, women and children..." Jean Paul Sartre's Statement 'On Genocide' at the Second Session of the Bertrand Russell International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam, held in Denmark in November 1967
Mr. Miliband chooses to be silent on all this but he chooses to assert that "no one should underestimate the murderous damage done to Sri Lanka over the last 26 years by the LTTE, or the sheer hatred felt for its leadership."
Mr.Miliband says that 'the fog of war makes it difficult to be certain of the facts of the present situation' and that 'this is compounded by the lack of access for international agencies and the media.' But Mr.Miliband is quick to conclude (through the 'fog of war') that no one should underestimate the 'sheer hatred felt for the leadership' of the LTTE. He says that UN agencies 'lack any access to Internally Displaced Persons until the IDPs have already been through the preliminary "screening" process' but this does not prevent Mr.Miliband on relying on statements made by the same IDPs who presumably have gone through 'the preliminary 'screening" process' and who live in fear in concentration camps manned by the Sri Lanka authorities.
We are reminded of something which Harry G. Frankfurt wrote in his best seller on Bullshit -
"...One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.. Everyone knows this... Bullshitting is not exactly lying... The difference lies in the bullshitter's complete disregard for whether what he's saying corresponds to facts in the physical world. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."
Bullshiting is not exactly lying. The bullshitter does not reject the authority of truth. He simply pays no attention to it all. We are also reminded of something which Mamanithar Sivaram wrote in 2005
"A CIA regional analyst in Washington said in July 2001: 'containing the LTTE while stepping up pressure on the civilian population under its control by stepping up 'terror' bombing might create conditions for unseating Prabhararan'."
Mr.Miliband may persuade himself (and seek to persuade his audience) that the terror bombing by Sri Lanka has turned the Tamil people against Pirabakaran. But then again, Mr. Miliband may want to remind himself of something that Winston Churchill said in the 1940s during Hitler's blitzkrieg of London - 'it is in the places most bombed that I found the determination of the people to resist the greatest.' He may then see the force of reason in that which Frantz Fannon said in the Wretched of the Earth -
"..In the colonial countries... the policeman and the soldier, by their immediate presence and their frequent and direct action, maintain contact with the native and advise him by means of rifle butts and napalm not to budge.."
Mr.Miliband speaks of the need to win the peace. He is right. He is right to fear that the problem with war is always with the 'victor', because he (or she) has demonstrated that superior force pays - and, sooner rather than later, there will be those who will rise to show that they have learnt well the lesson that was taught. But, peace will not be won by refusing to recognise the justice of the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam to be free from alien Sinhala rule.
The Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom is lawful and it is just because democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people and therefore, no one people may rule another; and because the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam is about securing freedom from oppressive alien Sinhala rule.
Sinhala rule is alien rule because the Sinhala people speak a different language to that of the Tamil people; because they trace their history to origins different from that of the Tamil people; and because their cultural heritage is different to that of the Tamil people. Sinhala rule is alien rule because the political consciousness of the Sinhala people and the way they exercise their vote, is clearly determined by their separate language, by their separate history and by their separate cultural heritage - in short by their own separate Sinhala national identity . Sinhala rule is alien rule because no Tamil has ever been elected to an electorate which had a majority of Sinhala voters and no Sinhalese has ever been elected to an electorate which had a majority of Tamil voters. Sinhala rule is oppressive alien rule because the record proves and proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the practise of democracy within the confines of a single state has resulted in genocidal rule by a permanent Sinhala majority.
The Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom is lawful and it is just because it is concerned to secure the democratic right of the people of Tamil Eelam to govern themselves in their homeland and because it is about reversion of sovereignty - a sovereignty that the Tamil people enjoyed before the British unified the administration of the island of Sri Lanka in 1833. The Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom is lawful and it is just. Period. It is for this reason that today, though the charge is genocide, the struggle is for freedom. It is not either or. It is both,
But it is the justice of the struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam to be free from alien Sinhala rule that Mr.Miliband has, at the present time, signally failed to recognise.
Mr. Miliband has no difficulty in labeling an organisation that has resorted to armed resistance as a last resort against state terror as terrorist. He chooses to ignore the cautionary words of UN Special Rapporteur Kalliopi K. Koufa in June 2004 -
"The most problematic issue relating to terrorism and armed conflict is distinguishing terrorists from lawful combatants, both in terms of combatants in legitimate struggles for self-determination and those involved in civil wars or non-international armed conflicts. In the former category, States that do not recognize a claim to self-determination will claim that those using force against the State's military forces are necessarily terrorists. ....The controversy over the exact meaning, content, extent and beneficiaries of, as well as the means and methods utilized to enforce the right to self-determination has been the major obstacle to the development of both a comprehensive definition of terrorism and a comprehensive treaty on terrorism." Terrorism and Human Rights Final Report of the Special Rapporteur, Kalliopi K. Koufa, 25 June 2004
Do we not deliberately obfuscate when we conflate the two words 'terrorism' and 'violence'? Is it that there are no circumstances in which a people ruled by an alien people may lawfully resort to arms to to liberate themselves? And if there are such circumstances what are those circumstances? Was the circumstance that it had become a pernicious habit for Tamils to be killed, maimed, robbed and rendered homeless a sufficient circumstance?
"Communal riots in which Tamils are killed, maimed, robbed and rendered homeless are no longer isolated episodes; they are beginning to become a pernicious habit." Paul Sieghart - Report of a Mission to Sri Lanka on behalf of the International Commission of Jurists and its British Section, Justice, March 1984
Was the circumstance that 'every time Tamil politicians negotiated some sort of power-sharing deal with a Sinhalese government - regardless of which party was in power - the opposition Sinhalese party always claimed that the party in power had negotiated away too much', a sufficient circumstance?
"...One of the essential elements that must be kept in mind in understanding the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict is that, since 1958 at least, every time Tamil politicians negotiated some sort of power-sharing deal with a Sinhalese government - regardless of which party was in power - the opposition Sinhalese party always claimed that the party in power had negotiated away too much. In almost every case - sometimes within days - the party in power backed down on the agreement..." Professor Marshall Singer, at US Congress Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Hearing on Sri Lanka November 14,1995
Again, though Mr. Miliband has no difficulty in labeling an organisation that has resorted to armed resistance as a last resort against state terror as terrorist, Mr.Miliband finds difficulty in labeling President Rajapaksa's war on the people of Tamil Eelam as genocidal. Mr.Miliband claims that 'the fog of war makes it difficult to be certain of the facts of the present situation'. Many Tamils will wonder whether it is the 'fog of war' or the fog created by the countervailing strategic interests of the trilaterals (US, EU and Japan), India and China in the Indian Ocean region, that prevents Mr.Milliband from seeing that which the world has seen for the past several months.
We said that many Tamils (including those in the British Tamil Forum) will welcome Mr.Miliband's frankness because it will make clear to them where the Government which he represents currently stands in relation to the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom. But that is not to say that Tamils not only in the United Kingdom but also in many lands and across distant seas, would not have welcomed an equal frankness from UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband about the strategic interests that the tri laterals (US, EU and Japan) appear to be concerned to secure in the Indian Ocean region - and which strategic interests appears to lead them to deny the justice of the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom.
"The Indian ocean region had become the strategic heartland of the 21st century, dislodging Europe and North East Asia which adorned this position in the 20th century.. the developments in the Indian Ocean region were contributing to the advent of a less Western centric and a more multi-polar world." Donald L. Berlin, Head of Security Studies, Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Honolulu, Hawaii
Clearly it was a perception of these strategic interests (reflected in the uneasy balance of power in the Indian Ocean Region and in China's String of Pearls strategy) which led President Rajapaksa's China leaning political constituency to plaster the walls of Colombo with posters to greet Mr.Miliband on his recent visit -
The posters were not a one off. They were not an aberration. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General of the Sri Lanka Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) wrote on 6 May 2009 in the State Controlled Sri Lanka Daily News that "Mr. Miliband Prevaricates". On 8 May 2009, Don Wijewardene wrote in the Sri Lanka State Controlled Daily News on How the West lost Sri Lanka -
"An important factor Western countries have overlooked in their manipulations is that unlike in those days, when there was no alternative to Western aid, now there are other donors who are willing and able to step into the breach. As Jeremy Page of the Times noted China's aid to Sri Lanka jumped from a few million dollars in 2005 to almost $1 billion last year, replacing Japan as the biggest foreign donor. By comparison, the United States gave $7.4 million last year and Britain just £ 1.25 million. Beijing also appears to have increased arms sales significantly to Sri Lanka since 2007, when the US suspended military aid over the same human rights issues. According to Jane's Defence Weekly in April 2007 Sri Lanka signed a classified $37.6 million deal to buy Chinese ammunition and ordnance for its army and navy. It is not China alone that helps Sri Lanka: there is Japan, Russia, Iran, Libya and Vietnam in addition to India and Pakistan. "
And on 9 May 2009, Lucien Rajakarunayake wrote in the Sri Lanka State Controlled Daily News on the Double Standards in Washington -
"...The entire record of the United States on the current situation with regard to the Sri Lankan Tamil civilians is one of double standards. This was best seen earlier this week when more than 100 Afghan civilians were killed and many more injured, when the US military carried out air attacks on Afghan terrain where they believe fighters of the al Qaeda are sheltering. At a meeting with the Afghan President Karzhai in Washington US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that America 'deeply, deeply regretted' the reported deaths. That is all. Whether 'deep regret' is repeated thrice or a hundred times like a mantra, it does not take away the sheer brazen nature of the US action, the tragedy that has taken place, and the total disregard for the safety of Afghan civilians, especially non-combatant women and children, in carrying out its aerial attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan..."
We have said it before and we say it again. There are two ongoing conflicts in the island of Sri Lanka. One is the conflict between a Sinhala nation masquerading as a Sri Lanka 'civic' nation and a Tamil Eelam nation seeking freedom from alien Sinhala rule. The other is the conflict between the trilaterals (US, EU, and Japan), India and China in the Indian Ocean region. The harsh political reality is that each of the three seek to resolve the Sinhala/Tamil conflict in such a way that embeds their own presence in the island of Sri Lanka.
" We have a very comprehensive relationship with Sri Lanka. In our anxiety to protect the civilians, we should not forget the strategic importance of this island to India's interests,... especially in view of attempts by countries like Pakistan and China to gain a strategic foothold in the island nation...Colombo had been told that India would "look after your security requirements, provided you do not look around". "We cannot have a playground of international players in our backyard."" Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, 23 October 2008
Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena
with Wang Gang, Political Bureau, Communist Party of China, Central Committee 9 April 2009
The West for its part seeks to use the current humanitarian crisis faced by the people of Tamil Eelam to embed their own presence in the Indian Ocean island through 'humanitarian intervention' and 'development aid'. For instance, the recent White House call that 'international aid workers should have access to all sites where internally displaced persons are being registered and sheltered' is directed to embed the physical presence of the international community in Sri Lanka and exclude the influence of China and manage the influence of New Delhi in the Indian Ocean region - it has little to do with securing freedom for the people of Tamil Eelam from permanent alien Sinhala rule.
Here, the words of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt about Nicaragua dictator Anastasio Somoza come to mind "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." It seems that for the trilaterals, the question (at least, for the time being) is not whether President Rajapaksa is 'a son of a bitch' but whether President Rajapaksa cannot be flattered/persuaded/pressurised/cajoled/threatened to be 'our son of a bitch'.
The West knows that if they do not avail themselves of the 'window of opportunity' caused by the current humanitarian crisis (a crisis to which they contributed by providing aid and military assistance to the murderous Rajapaksa regime), they may be faced with an even more recalcitrant President Rajapaksa in the years to come. The memories of Saddam Hussein whom the West supported in Iraq's war against Iran are too recent to be forgotten.
Said that, we would imagine that President Rajapaksa will play for time and take care to tell each of the international players privately that he himself remains their 'best bet'. It is not unlikely that he will pose to each one of them the pregnant question: 'If not me, who?' At the same time, as the murder of Lasantha Wikrematunga and the systematic suppression of the media show, any nascent Sinhala opposition to the current Sri Lanka regime will be put down ruthlessly.
And so in addition to blandishments about aid, IMF loans, threats of charges for war crimes, calling for press freedom, facilitating regime change in the Sinhala South, and making appeasing public statements to the Rajapaksa regime, the West (as well as India) would like to retain the Tamil card as a way of pressuring President Rajapaksa to fall in line with their own(though not always congruent) strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region.
But the West knows that the LTTE is committed to an independent Tamil Eelam and may not be a willing tool to simply advance the strategic interests of the trilaterals and/or India, if the asking price is that the LTTE should renege on the 1976 Vaddukoddai resolution of the Tamil United Liberation Front and give up the Tamil Eelam struggle for freedom from alien Sinhala rule.
So the West and India, each seek to build an alternate Tamil 'leadership' which will be more amenable to do each of their bidding. Hence the frenetic efforts of each to promote an alternative Tamil 'leadership' (or even a 'reformed' LTTE without Velupillai Pirabakaran), the passionate exhortations to the genocidal Rajapaksa regime to 'win the peace' by offering 'devolution' which that alternative Tamil 'leadership' may then pass off as the 'post genocide' resolution of the 'conflict' together with ofcourse 'development and humanitarian aid' - and, crucially, at the same time embed West and/or India presence in the island.
The International Crisis Group whose Board included Lord Patten of Barnes Co-Chair, Crisis Group Former European Commissioner for External Relations Former Governor of Hong Kong Former UK Cabinet Minister Chancellor of Oxford and Newcastle Universities, Ambassador Thomas R Pickering Co-Chair, Crisis Group Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Russia, India, Israel, Jordan, El Salvador and Nigeria Vice Chairman of Hills & Company and Gareth Evans President & CEO Former Foreign Minister of Australia. spelt it out more than an year ago in February 2008 -
"So long as there is widespread support for separatism and militancy in the diaspora, peace in Sri Lanka will be hard to come by... Stronger political and legal pressure should be applied to the LTTE outside Sri Lanka...Western governments' policies on Sri Lanka should consciously include attempts to open up political space within their Tamil communities for non-Tiger political voices. Those governments with significant Tamil populations should engage representative civil society groups directly, ... (whilst) actively guarding against any intimidation of anti-Tiger Tamil groups... The Tigers should also be required to take some real steps towards transformation before being accepted as a negotiation partner. Such moves, however, may well require new leaders (of the LTTE). Peace supporters should consider setting a deadline for renunciation of a separate state, after which they would actively pursue prosecutions of current LTTE leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.... Countries should develop step-by-step benchmarks for progress towards revoking the terrorist designation - in part to encourage Prabhakaran's removal..."
But what if, despite the best efforts of the so called international community, no alternative Tamil leadership is forthcoming? What if no alternative Tamil leadership is forthcoming because the Tamil people know that if the armed resistance fails they will be left only with pleaders, petitioners and mercenaries who will be able to secure some crumbs from their master's table only for themselves and their hangers on. After all the Tamil people know that even with the Indian army actually in place in Sri Lanka, India was not able to deliver anything more than the comic opera reforms of the 13th Amendment directed to secure a constitutional frame which would enable a permanent Sinhala majority to manage and rule the Tamil people more effectively than before.
".. Under the 13th Amendment power will continue to reside in a Sinhala dominated Central government, within the frame of an unitary constitution. The 13th Amendment is intended to secure a constitutional frame which will enable a Sinhala majority to manage the Tamil people more effectively than before. It has created Provincial Ministers who will not exercise executive power but who will have executive power exercised 'through' them!. At the same time it has created a Provincial Governor appointed by the Sinhala President who will exercise executive power in respect of provincial matters - a Provincial Governor who is also the administrative head of the provincial public service and who has control of the Provincial Finance Fund. And the 13th Amendment has created a Provincial Council without control of planning, without control of the provincial budget, without control of police and public order within the province, without control of disposition of state land within the province, without control of higher education and whose remaining meagre legislative powers are subject to the over riding will of the Central Parliament. Finally, the provisions of the Provincial Councils Act itself may be amended from time to time by a simple majority of members present and voting in Parliament" 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka Constitution - Devolution or Comic Opera?, 1988
What if the Tamil people have grasped (not simply understood, but actually grasped) the truth of that which Sathasivam Krishnakumar said in June 1991 -
" Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has been institutionalised in Sri Lanka and today it has become more powerful than the politicians themselves. Indeed even if the Sinhala politicians seek to settle the conflict, Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism may try to prevent such a settlement. This is the political reality that those who are aware of the Sri Lankan situation are well aware of... This Sinhala chauvinism which was nurtured by Sinhala politicians for their electoral advantage, has grown into a Frankenstein monster which now has the power to destroy and make politicians. This we understand very well..."
What if the Tamil people have grasped the truth of that which Sinhala academic, historian K. M. de Silva said in 1996 -
"...In the Sinhala language, the words for nation, race and people are practically synonymous, and a multiethnic or multicommunal nation or state is incomprehensible to the popular mind. The emphasis on Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhala Buddhists carried an emotional popular appeal, compared with which the concept of a multiethnic polity was a meaningless abstraction..." - Sinhala Historian K. M. de Silva in Religion, Nationalism and the State, USF Monographs in Religion and Public Policy, No.1 (Tampa, FLA: University of South Florida 1986) at p31 quoted by David Little in Religion and Self Determination in Self Determination - International Perspectives, MacMillan Press, 1996
And if no alternative Tamil 'leadership' which will turn traitor and renege on the Vaddukoddai Resolution is forthcoming, what are the options that will be left for West and/or India? Will either of them walk away from Sri Lanka and leave the island to the murderous Rajapaksa regime in partnership with China? Or will the time come when the West and/or India may be compelled to recognise that their own strategic interests demand that they support the Tamils to establish a State of their own. It was perhaps fear of the latter which led Comrade Wimal Weerawansa, Propaganda Secretary of JVP to declare in China in 2007 -
"China must take leadership against the intentions of western imperialist powers to create an Israel in South Asia by dividing Sri Lanka"
And, coming to think of it, it may be the same fear which led President Rajapaksa's China leaning political constituency to plaster the walls of Colombo with posters to greet Mr.Miliband on his recent visit -
As for UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband, he may want to return to the words of wisdom of his predecessor in office, Lord Palmerston more than 150 years ago -
"We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow." - British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston (1784-1865)
And so say we all. It is not that constructive ambiguity is without its uses. We live in a world where every action brings its own reaction and reality may have to be grasped in the elusive interplay of opposites.
"..Foreign Ministers and diplomats presumably understand the permanent interests of their country.. But no one can foresee clearly the effects of even very simple facts as they pertain to the future. The Rajah of Cochin who in his resentment against the Zamorin permitted the Portuguese to establish a trading station in his territories could not foresee that thereby he had introduced into India something which was to alter the course of history. Nor could the German authorities, who, in their anxiety to create confusion and chaos in Russia, permitted a sealed train to take Lenin and his associates across German territory, have foreseen what forces they were unleashing. To them the necessity of the moment was an utter breakdown of Russian resistance and to send Lenin there seemed a superior act of wisdom..." Sardar K.M.Pannikar, Indian Ambassador to China from 1948 to 1952, and later Vice Chancellor, Mysore University in Principles and Practice of Diplomacy, 1956