TamilWeek, Dec 4 - 10, 2005
The endless games we play

By: Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

Sri Lanka had come to the crossroads with regard to possible solutions to the
Sinhala-Tamil and Majority-Minority conflicts in the months preceding the
presidential elections, and has chosen to take a reverse direction with the election
of Mahinda Rajapakse as the new president, which anyone with foresight would
consider unwise. While wisdom based on knowledge and experience of the past
and the immediate present dictated we eschew the politics of the past, which
alienated the minorities and brutalized and stunted our nation, we have chosen
through circumstances beyond our control, to re-trace a path that was the curse
of Sri Lanka. Whether Sinhalese or Tamils, we seem incapable of being wise,
mature and grown up, and choose to be permanent adolescents- petulant,
emotional, immature, arrogant, mean and impetuous, when ever a critical decision
that would decide our national progress confronts us. Our politicians
(conventional, militant and monk) enjoy playing their endless games, which have
no profound goals but are very successful in keeping us engaged, cheering or
jeering on the side lines. What a shame!

A seriously flawed presidential election victory, malevolently engineered by the
LTTE, that does not represent the national consensus has been gleefully
accepted as valid, because it represents the outcome desired by a class among
the Sinhala people, who belong to the extreme and vociferous fringe and to whom
Sri Lanka can only be a Sinhala (or is it Sinhala-Buddhist!) nation. Prabhaharan
having successfully engineered this election outcome has added insult to injury by
painting the entire Sinhala people with the chauvinistic label in his recent ‘Heroes
day’ speech! Prabhaharan and the LTTE are being aided and abetted in their
efforts to achieve Thamil Ealam, by the short- sighted chauvinistic elements in the
Sinhala polity. The postal votes cast at the presidential election, were a clear
indication of the mind set of this class and to a large extent identified some
elements that constitute this class- public servants of various categories and
members of the armed forces and police. This group among the Sinhalese also
includes other elements that have benefited from the communal politics in Sri
Lanka since 1956. There are of course the large majority of the Sinhala people
who owe allegiance to various political parties, on the basis of their economic
circumstances, social background, personal and group loyalties, and political
inclinations, and not on the basis of crass communal or racial bias. These people
represent the silent majority that is rarely heard and is not given the opportunity to
clearly identify the issues of concern to the nation and discuss the merits of
alternate solutions. This silent majority truly represents everything that is
wholesome and good in the Sinhala people, but is unfortunately tainted by the
antics of a vociferous and mean minority. The politically dominant minority among
Sinhalese are the entrenched chauvinists and are the elements that stand in the
way of resolving the Sinhala-Tamil and Majority-Minority problems in Sri Lanka.
This group will be recorded in the annals of Sri Lankan history as the short
sighted and narrow minded men and women who made it possible for the LTTE or
its successors in kind to achieve their sinister goals in the future.

The JVP, which had revolutionary origins, but lacks a modern outlook and broad
mindedness in its approach to the so-called ‘National problem’ in Sri Lanka, has
become a major obstacle to resolving this problem. The LTTE and the JVP-JHU
combine are the flip sides of the same coin! The JVP’s goal is to expand its
political base and grab political power, come what may. Having failed in two brutal
armed rebellions, the JVP has adopted a confuse, confound, infiltrate, debilitate
and overwhelm strategy to achieve its objectives. In this process, it has resorted
to scare mongering and adopted archaic policies on issues of critical importance
to Sri Lanka. It is pretending to be in the vanguard of an all encompassing Sri
Lankan nationalism that is non-existent and has been long forgotten, in order to
forestall the Tamils and other minorities being offered a meaningful stake in Sri
Lankan affairs. Tamils are not the LTTE and the LTTE is not the Tamils. Any one,
who does not realize this, is deaf, dumb, stupid and blind! The JVP is deliberately
confusing and confounding the problems of the Tamils with those specifically
concerning the LTTE, with the able assistance of the JHU. Convincing Mahinda
Rajapakse to opportunistically adopt policies that were a reversal of the
consensus that was being slowly and steadily forged, amidst a lot of difficulty, on a
federal system of governance for Sri Lanka, was one such instance of the
destructive tactics being adopted by the JVP. The JVP claim that a federal solution
would imply that the Tamils would control a third of the national coastline posing a
threat to Sri Lanka, is bloody nonsense. If the Tamils are equal citizens in Sri
Lanka, what is wrong in their occupying and claiming a third of the coastline as
their homeland or traditional areas of habitation? Aren’t Yala and Wilpattu,
sanctuaries (areas of traditional habitation) for our wild animals! Is the JVP
implying that it is ready to swap traditional homelands of the Sinhalese in the
Deep South with those of the Tamils and Muslims along the coastline in order to
secure Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity and negate the concept of traditional
homelands for the minorities? Should genuine concerns about LTTE malafide
intentions prevent a solution being offered to the Tamils on the basis of historical
realities? Are the JVP and JHU interests served better by keeping the LTTE
relevant in Tamil affairs? Are the LTTE, JVP and JHU partners in a grand design
for Sri Lanka? The last presidential election and its contrived outcome force me to
raise these questions.

The Unitary Constitution deigned by the Soulbury commission that was
bequeathed to independent Ceylon by the British had the features- bicameral
parliament, right of appeal to the privy council, section 29-A guaranteeing against
discriminatory policies, independent public services commission, etc., - necessary
to forge a united nation of the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and others
within a unitary Sri Lanka that the JVP and Mahinda Rajapakse rather belatedly
desire now. Unfortunately the Soulbury constitution was tampered with, maliciously
manipulated and sabotaged at every turn since independence by the Sinhala
ruling elite, and then replaced by unitary constitutions that entrenched Sinhala
majoritarian politics, without any of the safeguards demanded by the minorities.
(Even the redeeming feature of a nationally elected executive president in the
current edition of the Sri Lankan constitution has been rendered impotent by the
recent machinations of the LTTE). This was compounded by the colonization,
citizenship, Sinhala only, standardization of marks, sacred cities and other similar
policies adopted by successive Sri Lankan governments to marginalize the Tamils
in the national polity and foist immense suffering on them. The Tamils were forced
to realize the futility of trusting the Sinhala ruling elite to be fair, honourable,
decent, civilized and democratic in the four decades that followed independence.

The reaction from the Tamils was the peaceful demand for a federal constitutional
arrangement to share power by the Federal Party (Thamil Arasuk Katchi) in the
first instance, followed by the violent rebellion by the Tamil youth demanding an
independent Thamil Ealam, subsequently. When the Tamils, after decades of
unbelievable suffering in every facet of human life, that were compounded by the
brutal civil war, are now ready to accept a federally constituted Sri Lanka and give
up their demand for an independent Ealam, with the encouragement of the
international community and the impetus of the growing disenchantment with the
LTTE and its modus operandi, it is obnoxious and insulting to be belatedly offered
equal rights within a unitary Sri Lanka by Mahinda Rajapakse, our new president. I
hope some elements in the Sinhala polity are not under the impression that the
Tamils are incorrigible imbeciles. Federalism has been anathema to the ruling
Sinhala elite throughout, irrespective of whether there was/is a realistic threat of
territorial dismemberment or not. Their unwillingness to give up the absolute
power they exercise over the minorities in particular and the nation as a whole is
being disguised in strident nationalistic jargon that can find resonance among the
unthinking and uncritical masses, and permits them to even risk the likelihood of
ultimate territorial dismemberment. The seeds of territorial dismemberment of Sri
Lanka have germinated in Kilinotchi and are rapidly taking root. Unless immediate
and urgent remedial action by way of a federal constitution is resorted to, this
process will become irreversible in a very short time. The LTTE is working single-
mindedly on this objective, even at the risk of alienating the Tamil people. The
LTTE is going to be proven right by the antics of the JVP, JHU and possibly
Mahinda Rajapakse, at a time it is losing its credibility with the Tamils. The bottom
line as far as the Tamils and Muslims are concerned must be extensive devolution
of power in Sri Lanka, under a well thought out federal constitution. The only
choice is between a federal constitution that is desired by a vast majority of Tamils
and Muslims or the Thamil Ealam desired by the LTTE. The Sinhala polity has to
make its choice right now. The Rajapakse’s, Weerawanse’s, Amarasinghe’s,
Rathana Thera’s, Wickremasinghe’s and Prabhaharan’s will come and go, but the
Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims will always be in Sri Lanka and have to find a
mechanism to live together and side-by-side, sharing the bounties of our mother
land equitably. Tamils are not interested any longer in being the ball in the games
that some elements among the Sinhalese and the LTTE play without any concern
for their desires, pain and suffering. Are there Sinhala people on the other side
who will help us be free of both the Sinhala and LTTE tyranny and oppression? Is
this a foolish and futile hope?

I had the occasion to view on television a discussion program in the days
preceding the presidential elections in which Vasudeva Nanayakara participated.
Vasudeva Nanayakara is undoubtedly a rare individual among Sinhala politicians.
He mentioned in Sinhalese that to solve the Sinhala- Tamil or the Majority-Minority
problems in Sri Lanka, there should be ‘Hondha Hitha’ - Good intentions (English)/
Nalla Manam (Tamil). This is the best medicine that has been prescribed for our
national malady. The major players on the political scene, the Sinhala political
elite and the LTTE, lack the good intentions required to solve our problems. The
conventional Sinhala political leadership is obviously not interested in solving the
problems of the minorities in Sri Lanka, of which they are well aware both in terms
of the problems and acceptable solutions. Every opportunity that arose to resolve
the problems was sabotaged and squandered intentionally throughout our post-
independence history. The obvious intention was to delay solutions until the
Tamils become a pliant and insignificant minority. This will not easily happen.
Those who will succeed Prabhaharan and his merry men in the LTTE would be
much worse and there will not be any reasonable Tamils left to talk with. The
successors of Prabhaharan and his ilk are being groomed in the refugee camps
and, nurseries and orphanages run by the LTTE right now. A generation of Tamils
is also growing up in the north and east, alienated from the rest of the island and
indoctrinated by the LTTE. I can foresee what is in store for Sri Lanka, the
Sinhalese and the Tamils, if no satisfactory solutions are found within a united Sri
Lanka as a matter of urgency. The time for games is over. The decent, educated,
cultured and honourable Tamils, who have a fondness for Sri Lanka and retain a
vision for a united country, are yet around, although few and far between and fast
ageing. It is time the honourable and honest elements among the Sinhalese, who
are a majority, reach out to these men and women to arrive at a satisfactory and
long lasting solution to our problems, before it is too late.

The LTTE has become suicidal for all intents and purposes. It is digging its own
grave deeper and wider with every move and tactic it is choosing to deploy to
continue its hold on the Tamils. The failure of the LTTE to capitalize on the Indian
intervention to resolve problems was forgiven by the Tamils, because of their
resentment at the brutality unleashed by the IPKF. However, the historical
opportunity inherent in the current peace process to resolve the problems within
the context of a united Sri Lanka, with international facilitation and
encouragement, if missed, due to the machinations of the LTTE, will not be
forgiven by the Tamils. The LTTE because of its highhanded, authoritarian,
violent and obnoxious behaviour has ceased to command the respect and
affection of a majority of the people it claims to represent. It’s claims to leadership
now solely rests on violence and its ability to unconscionably and indiscriminately
use it. This type of power will not last long if an effective alternate leadership
emerges among the Tamils. The LTTE especially following its malevolent
interference in the presidential election process in the north and east, has earned
the wrath of all right thinking Tamils, for having closed a possible window of
opportunity to resolve our problems, however tenuous it may have been, for its
own selfish reasons. A wide swathe among Tamils perceives this as an act of
treachery by the LTTE that could foist on them the pains and tribulations of a new
war. Given its hidden agenda and growing alienation from mainstream Tamil
thought and desires, the LTTE cannot any longer claim the moral right to
represent the Tamils. The LTTE should not be given the space to play its usual
games with the Tamil people, under the pretext of fighting Sinhala misrule. The
Tamils have to seek a new leadership to represent their interests and long-term
welfare, sensibly, honourably, decently and democratically, as a matter of priority,
urgently.

Tisaranee Gunasekera (Asian Tribune of 01/12/2005) in an article titled ‘ The fate
of the Tamil Nation’ has stated, “ It should be obvious. Vellupillai Prabhaharan and
his terrorism are god sent gifts to those Sinhala- Buddhist supremacists who do
not accept the ethno-religiously pluralistic nature of this country and who do not
really want to share power with the Tamil people. So long as there are child
soldiers and political assassinations, so long as there are suicide bombers and
election boycotts, these elements have the ideal excuse to oppose any
meaningful devolution of power to the Tamil people. --------. If the Tamils are led
by non-violent, democratic and internationally accepted leaders, their chances of
success would be much greater. The anti-devolution forces in the South would run
out of reasonable sounding excuses and the world will put greater pressure on Sri
Lanka to devolve greater power, faster. Call it maximalism; call it greed. By
whatever name it is every bit as self destructive as destructive. In politics it is
important to know when to stop”. She is absolutely right and has said it quite
eloquently. However, what she has said is applicable in equal measure to the
Sinhala-Buddhist supremacists (I would call them chauvinists!) and their antics.
The ‘cause and effect’ dilemma imbedded in the question whether the chicken or
the egg came first, is applicable to the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinists and the LTTE
as well. The LTTE and these Sinhala- Buddhist chauvinists feed on each other
and thrive in each other’s existence. The game could not be better for them. Are
we going to permit this game to be played forever? It is time to put an end to this
game once and for all. The ‘Hondha Hitha’ medicine has to be taken in large
doses as prescribed by ‘Doctor’ Vasudeva Nanayakara by all peoples of Sri Lanka
immediately.
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