TamilWeek Apr 23, 2006
Are Kumar David's hopes too sanguine?

by Ajith Samaranayake

Kumar David in his essay last week has done well to take the bull by
the horns and pose the question in his own words why the LTTE has
a substantial degree of support among Tamils despite the fact that
there is no semblance of democratic and human rights in the land of
the Tiger.

He recognises that there are sensitive Sinhalese who sympathise with
if not support the Tamil cause but concedes that they themselves are
baffled by this apparent contradiction. And underlying it one feels is a
residual feeling of nostalgia for the gulf between a time when old
Samasamajists like my old comrade Kumar of our mutual Kandy days
looked forward to a grand alliance between Sinhala and Tamil
Marxists and the future one-party state of the LTTE's fondest hopes
to which this today has deteriorated.

Since Kumar writes partially in the hope of inviting a response may I
as a 'sensitive Sinhalese' I hope butt in but with little hope of being
understood by the generality of my community. As Kumar rightly
points out the Tamils see the LTTE as their champions in the face of
the military onslaughts and human right repressions of the
majoritarian Sinhala state since Independence beginning with the
disenfranchisement of the plantation workers of Indian origin and
stretching through the Sinhala Only Bill, Colonisation of Tamil areas
and the attacks on the Tamil people from 1958 to 1983, actions of
both UNP and SLFP Governments.

It was this Tamil identification with the Tiger (the archetypal Chola
symbol) which made the LTTE the 'boys' and Prabhakaran 'Tambi' in
those halcyon days before the Tiger's began clawing down their own
rival groups.

But let us go back a little to a more hopeful time when the LSSP and
the CP saw a socialist future where the Sinhala and Tamil masses
would walk under one banner to the New Jerusalem. In fact it was the
CP which made some headway in this direction by getting into
Parliament MPs such as P. Kandiah while that quixotic communist N.
Sanmugathasan organised the depressed classes to storm the Hindu
bastions of the Brahmin classes.

Something of this idyllic Sinhala-Tamil solidarity can be seen in A.
Sivanandan's monumental novel 'When Memory Dies' while the best
ideological argument for such solidarity was of course 'Which way for
the Tamil-speaking people?' written by Kumar's older comrade V.
Karalasingham in the 1960's.

These Utopian hopes however crumbled in the face of both Sinhala
majoritarianism and the Brahminical politics of the Federal Party. (The
Tamil Congress was merely a cypher). The LSSP and CP did not help
matters either when in coalition with the SLFP from 1965 they raised
the infamous 'masala vadai' line in chagrin because the Federal Party
had joined the UNP in the so-called National Government of Prime
Minister Dudley Senanayake.

But yet after the United Front Government was formed with such high
hopes in 1970 I recollect with some nostalgia Kumar and I penning an
article for the LSSP's 'Janasathiya' (we met at Hotel Surasa in Kandy)
seeking again to revive that old Sinhala-Tamil Socialist nexus. But
little did we realise then that 'Thambi' was already preening himself for
the act.

It is perhaps not within Kumar's ambit to answer the question why
Socialist Solidarity was superseded by Tamil nationalism (now
decayed into autocracy) but one suspects particularly after the
experiences of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc that
nationalism is a much more potent force than the Marxist prophets
envisaged. But what I am sceptical as against Kumar is about how
prepared the Sinhala establishment will be to grant the highest
degree of autonomy to the Tamils or go into new constitutional
arrangements particularly if the unitary state has to be
re-conceptualised.

Kumar may be correct when he says that secession (that spectre
which haunts the Sinhala psyche) will only be possible with
international support and Indian complicity (which he dismisses as an
impossibility with the LTTE's culpability in the Rajiv Gandhi murder)
but we have learnt from bitter experience that old fears die hard and
ancestral spectres are not easily exorcised by any cabal of conflict
resolution experts, peace merchants or sadhus.

As Kumar says the JVP and the JHU may have lost much of their clout
as a result of the local elections but their influence when it comes to a
crunch can not be discounted. And surely there is a kind of inverse
chauvinism when Kumar talks of 'some fireworks from the Tigers
costly in military lives' (rather cynical that) which he sees as the
reason for President Rajapaksa's supposed 'backsliding.'

He is also too sanguine if he expects the President to place the
unitary, federal options let alone asymmetrical devolution on the
negotiating table in the face of continued provocations by the LTTE
(or is it fireworks?) and the mealy-mouthed utterances of Mr.
Balasingham.

This is why the 'shackles' of Kumar's description are by no means
removed for the whole resolution of the National Question revolves
not round the Colombo regime but the quasi-state rotating round
Prabhakaran who shows no sign of relenting.
[Courtesy: Sunday Observer]
The Tamil
and the
Tiger

by Kumar
David