TamilWeek Feb 26, 2006
How the Tamils view the Geneva talks

by K. Arvind

The great tussle "what and when to talk" was overshadowed
by the shrill debate spearheaded by the fringe cousins JVP-
JHU "where to talk." Though the equally obstinate LTTE
screamed "Oslo or nothing" after much haggling, the
Lundsteadt-Nick Burns tongue lashing, the GoSL and the
LTTE agreed to meet in Geneva. This sit-down after about 5
years to examine once again if both sides can live
peacefully within a single country. There is visible euphoria
of raised hopes among the large number of ordinary,
peaceful Sinhalese and Tamils that Geneva may bring the
much hoped enduring peace.

After all this is the grouping that takes all the flak whereas
those at the helm on both sides, who claim to be leading for
them to enjoy the fruits that flow from the misery of war. But
this large section of the people nor much of the elite, the
academics and the well informed either are unaware or
chose to play down the fact the talks are not about future
peace per se but more on whether the CFA has satisfied the
two sides so far; what the weaknesses are and if the CFA
should be amended to bring in better - and hopefully, faster
results. What is significant so far from the time the CFA was,
signed is that both sides have their own share of complaints
against the agreement. The Tamil side have not hidden the
fact they are thoroughly disappointed and consider Geneva
as one, more attempt to "fool the Tamils and buy time until
the Sri Lankan armed forces are militarily superior to foist a
solution down their throats".

They further point out the gradual pull-out of the forces from
the seized homes and productive agricultural land of
thousands of innocent farmers - forcibly taken away under
the HSZ pretext and the assurances under the CFA to
restore them - have not been honoured. The economic
development expected to trickle from the agreement to raise
the quality of life and standard of living (If the millions of
Tamils in the North-East remains unaddressed. Tamils to
whom their veedu (home) and ur (village) are precious and
sacrosanct - are now, in the case of the larger number,
without both. No home and no village is their sad lot. Finding
temporary refuge in the South only brings them tension and
the suspicious eyes of the majority for the sin of being born
either in the North or East, being hauled up by the Police on
various alleged charges and further misery.

This is the grave tragedy facing the Tamil people,
something those governing from Colombo for years have
not been sufficiently sensitive to or understand. President
Rajapakse seems to be a sincere man but the question is
are there sections of the armed forces outside his control?

He talks peace and the language of accommodation - but
those close to him in army fatigues talk of nothing but war.
Look at some of the widely publicized brutality committed
against the Tamils in the past few months - the brutal
murder of those five Varsity candidates in Trincomaiee, the
slaughter of civilians in Mannar, humiliating 900 odd Tamils
in Colombo by herding them like cattle in Gestapo style at
midnight to Police Stations on the pretext of their not having
NIC’s - which many of them produced, Some of the ladies in
their night-dresses - which even their Sinhala neighbours
found disgusting.

Of course, this would have satisfied the sadistic tendencies
of some uniformed high-ups with warped minds - but not the
more decent sections of the government. Is this why a lie
was introduced that many of those taken were Sinhalese
and from the underworld? To give this a dressing of reality
some hardcore criminals from the Wanathamulla area were
grabbed - under the eyes of State TV cameras.

As can be predicted, with the return of the 1987 scenario,
the Kallathoni journeys have sadly re-commenced - from
here to India. Tamils have begun to reluctantly leave the
shores of Lanka to the grim, hopeless camps of South India
- purely for means of safety and to eke out a living. This is
the plight of the Tamils of the North find Pact, if the
government chose to care. A government, whose duty is to
provide protection, safety and the basic means for a section
of its own people - either chooses to look aside or simply
does not seem to care. Tamil ears, once again, recall the
unsympathetic boast of a Sinhala leader now no more:
"Tamils have to take care of themselves" meaning their
Constitutional head has washed his hands off them. And,
look at who has gladly come in and bridged the gap to save
the Tamils? No better example of "from the frying pan to the
fire." The Government side, whom the other side prefers to
call as the "Sinhala government" - claim the LTTE was
conspiring to gain time under the agreement to
surreptitiously arm themselves for a final assault against
GoSL to establish Tamil Eelam.

The fact is both sides are not altogether wrong and cannot
be faulted either for their perfidy, Since the 80s the war and
preparations to further war has been going on by both
warring entities - either openly or surreptitiously, This is to
be expected as the saying goes "By all means, talk loud for
peace -but keep the gun powder ready" The fault has been
of the State in that it has done little to bring the war to a
conclusive end - other than the derogatory NATO - endless
talk and trying to get the better of the other side by deceit
and cunning.

The contribution of the government so far has not been one
that creates room for much hope to emerge from Geneva.
The somewhat indecisive President Rajapakse, in the run-
up to the preparations for talks, stood firm against a Muslim
official presence and even is reported to have said, "The
Muslims will have to be part of the Sinhalese and sink or
swim with us". He was unwilling to upset the LTTE whose
position always has been the main talks must be between
the main players of the internal war - the GoSL and the
LTTE and once an agreement is reached the LTTE will
subsequently address Muslim issues with their leaders,
From President Rajapakse’s perspective, bringing in the
Muslim representation question will only give the LTTE one
further excuse to avoid talks. However, to satisfy Muslim
concerns, the President went one step further and
suggested he would include eminent lawyer Faiz Mustapha
PC in the government delegation. Mustapha, after all, is
legal advisor to the late SLMC leader Ashraff as well as to
Rauf Hakeem and Ferial Ashraff. He is also widely
acceptable to Muslims all over the Island. So far so good.
Now suddenly comes the news that the President,
characteristically it would seem, has changed gears under
pressure from Eastern Province Muslims and now invites
Muslims to nominate their favourites creating false hopes of
a separate Muslim delegation. How the LTTE would react to
this is not difficult to guess. The sudden change of stance
by President Rajapakse will only reinforce, in the eyes of the
international community keen to see peace in this country
that Rajapkse is indecisive, vulnerable to pressure tactics
and totally unpredictable - a reputation he can do without,

"Confidence building measures" is an important component
on the part of governments. In conflict ridden societies to
win hearts and minds of the other side. Rajapakse, or for
that matter GoSL so far, have little to show the world they
have done their lot. If the impressive build-up of armed
forces by extremely costly war gear and equipment GoSL
proudly proclaimed to the world on February 04, was
matched with infrastructure development in the North East
the Tamils would have reason to feel, after all their
suffering, there is some hope for their future. The world
would have taken notice.

If President Mahinda Rajapakse is to maintain the image
that he tried to create in India as the man for the moment to
break the Sri Lankan impasse, among other things, he will
have to show a record of substantial rehabitatory relief work
in the Tsunami-affected in the North and the East; ensure
infrastructural development there to commence immediately
show action in the HSZ matter without the interference of
military hawkish advisors around him who have made no
secret of the fact they believe only in a military solution
whereas the President makes the country and the world
believe he is for a peaceful solution.

The Tamil people have suffered far too much and for too
long, The utopia they painted in young Tamil minds is now a
long and desolate Sudukaadu (Graveyard). The Sinhala
government and people - and more have learnt their lesson
too and openly accept war is no longer the solution. As the
late Premadasa was to say, "Give up Eelam and I will give
you Ellaam (everything"). In addressing a different theatre
Bob Dylan sang "the times they are a-changing" that in
many ways brought the end of another dirty war - that in
Vietnam.

In fairness to the LTTE they have displayed some flexibility
in climbing down from the earlier "Eelam or nothing"
demand. Their cadres too have made their supreme
sacrifice by the thousands. Young Tamil mothers plead for
their areas to be peaceful once again where the gun yields
to the plough so that they can lead normal lives again;
where their children call go to school like children in other
parts of the land. It is time the mass transition of Tamil wives
becoming young widows come to an end. The LTTE must
come half-way and win the confidence of the world that they
are ready to sacrifice a lot for peace.

It is now time the climate is created for the Tamil people to
exercise democratic rights to run their own affairs, chose
their own political institutions and the return of every Tamil
and Muslim to their own precious veedu and ur. War-
weariness of the Tamil people has reached its zenith to the
extent Anandsangaree, whom many Tamils with an LTTE-
inclination considered in suspect terms is now finding
increasing acceptance with his language of moderation,
accommodation and peace. Not because these Tamils were
wrong and Anandasangaree is right but simply because, like
the Sinhalese, the Tamils have had enough of war. It is time
each and every single actor in this great tragedy look afresh
at the future and make Sri Lanka a land where all her
children can live in peace and dignity - where the language
and culture of all our communities is respected and the
resources of the state are available for their development.

[Courtesy: Island]
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