By: Dr S Sathananthan
The Sinhalese regime unleashed the genocidal war against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka first in the east and now in the Vanni region and incarcerated tens of thousand in grotesque concentration camps (sanitised as “welfare” centres). In the process President Rajapakse and his bearded advisers (including fossilised anglophiles) catalysed the unprecedented radicalisation of expatriate Tamil communities and reinforced the central and indispensable role of the LTTE-led armed resistance to secure rights of Tamils in their homeland. The deliberations at the London Conference of the World Tamil Forum (25-26 March 2009) bought out this crucial fact in sharp relief. The proceedings vividly illustrated the verve with which radicalised second and third generation expatriates – the supposed “lost” generations – have resolutely coalesced, burying differences, to defend the Tamil National Movement. All 45 Tamil delegates from 22 countries unanimously endorsed the Conference Resolution recognising that “the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are the authentic representatives of the Tamil people.”
The treachery of the International Community (IC) also galvanised expatriate Tamils, who earlier had politely lobbied officials and diplomats in primarily the West European and North American governments to garner support of the Movement. The governments in turn lobbied the expatriates. Diplomats in particular assured Tamils western liberal democracies fully appreciated their grievances and are only too willing to help but, feigning regret, they added the LTTE’s militaristic image has alienated the non-violent liberal constituencies in their own countries to whom they are accountable. If only, they continued seductively, the LTTE could politically engage with the Sinhalese leadership, through a ceasefire and negotiations, then western governments could carry their respective public opinion and champion Tamils’ rights. The ludicrous implication of this containment gambit is western governments act altruistically; the obvious bait in it is political recognition for the LTTE-led Tamil National Movement.
We, as members of the Action Group of Tamils in Colombo (AGOTIC), had witnessed similar duplicity by Nordic and British diplomats in Colombo too, when the Sinhalese armed forces suffered debacle after humiliating debacle in the late-1990s and in 2000.
Influential Tamils, including key expatriates, who swallowed hook, line and sinker liberalism’s shibboleth of re-establishing ethnic harmony through a negotiated political settlement – reinforced by farcical Gandhian non-violence – are said to have intervened through LTTE’s Anton Balasingam. They implored the leaders to enter a negotiating process and present a credible political face so that Tamils, especially expatriates, would be better place to lobby for international acceptance and support. Their pivotal role was one among the major factors that induced the LTTE to sign the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) and propose a federal alternative at the December 2002 Oslo Conference.
The consequences have been little short of catastrophic. The IC did not reward the LTTE for its political participation. On the contrary, while presiding over the CFA and subsequent “talks” between the Sinhalese regime and the LTTE, the allegedly impartial International Community or, more precisely, the Co-Chairs comprising US, EU, Norway and Japan (with India playing second fiddle behind the scenes), cynically funnelled military aid to tilt the balance of power in favour of the regime and gave the nod to decapitation strikes by commando units – so-called Deep Penetration Units – against the LTTE under cover of “talks”. They deliberately excluded the Organisation’s leadership from the meeting in Washington DC on 14 April 2003 and divided the LTTE from within by enticing “Col” Karuna to defect. And the Co-Chairs maintained a deafening silence as the Sinhalese armed forces attacked the LTTE and Tamil people from 2006 to January 2009.
The IC’s treachery was anticipated by Dharmaratnam Sivaram (Taraki). “Modern states”, he observed, “don’t think of totally destroying insurgent movements. They aim to weaken and keep them within a tolerable level.” Where counter-insurgency has failed, “containment, is the means by which one uses political means to stop a guerrilla organization that shows a clear capability to collapse a state”. Containment therefore “’locks’ an insurgent movement into a political mode usually using the bait of political recognition through talks” and compels it “to indefinitely postpone or, rather, put on hold, the timetable of its war strategy…This gives a wide range of opportunities for the state and its backers to strengthen the state’s military and get massive infusions of foreign defense aid and assistance – which are otherwise stymied during the war due to regular exposures of human rights violations.”
Sivaram held up the FMLN in El Salvador as the classic example: “The US got the FMLN to talk just as they were poised to overrun the country, but nothing happened in the talks. Example two: the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines. It was the largest insurgent movement in the 1980s. Then they started talks with the Philippine government. Now they are split, weakened, their membership has dwindled, and they are f****d. And who is facilitating the talks? Norway. The coincidence is remarkable.” He pointed out that “the US during the Cold War developed them as a listening post. Norway is a US handmaiden”. He underlined “the example of the Nagas separatist movement – who have been locked in talks since 1997. What India could not achieve by fighting them for 50 years they achieved by locking them up in talks.” The “Sri Lankan army in 2001, when things were not going well, had come to a point where it could only think of containing the LTTE because it had lost its offensive capability with the failure of Operation ‘Rod of Fire’ (Agni Khiela) [in April 2001]…The Sri Lankan government’s approach”, emphasised Sivaram, “boiled down to a strategy of containing the LTTE by engaging it in talks.” And “peace talks are a very important component of a containment strategy”, which incorporates the deceitful and reactionary conflict resolution lobbies and peace brokers – collectively known as peaceniks – in Sri Lanka.
The Co-Chairs’ betrayal of the Tamil National Movement enraged Tamil opinion, which was further incensed by the occupation of Kilinochchi on 2 January 2009 and the US Embassy’s 7 January statement bluntly rejected negotiations between Colombo regime and the LTTE, claiming the latter has been designated a “Terrorist Organization” since 1997. The duplicitous U-turn exposed the so-called “talks” the US had orchestrated and Norway fronted under the 2002 CFA as a containment strategy, also confirmed by the Co-Chairs’ 3 February demand, made with Norway’s connivance, that LTTE must decommission weapons and accept amnesty offered by the regime.
The IC’s manoeuvre to manipulate expatriate Tamils now lies in shreds. That they do not trust the amoral Co-Chairs to deliver was evident in the palpable consensus at the London Conference that in future Tamils must back the LTTE unconditionally and to the hilt.
The expatriate UK Tamils demonstrated the new resolve on 6 April. In a refreshing departure from the older generation’s meek delivery of toothless petitions, the radicalised younger generation boldly flouted law by launching protest action without prior police permission, blockaded London’s Westminster Bridge for several hours and brought traffic to a standstill around the Parliament; many courted arrest by waving the proscribed LTTE’s flags and clashed with the police. “The younger generation of the diaspora,” explained a combative 17-year-old Tamil woman, is “disillusioned over the elder’s faith in the IC governments, [and] has taken to the streets now”. A man added: “we invite our North American Tamil brethren, [who] show…enthusiasm [for] legal procedures, also to take to streets demanding the US government…bring…the war to an end”. As if on cue, expatriate Tamils in Melbourne, Sydney and Ottawa produced similar muscular responses to blockade sections of their cities. By most accounts the new radicalism is spreading fast: on 12 April expatriate Tamils reportedly broke into the Sri Lankan embassy smashing widows and breaking furniture.. LTTE’s Yogaratnam Yogi captured on 12 March the near-universal disgust among Tamils for the Co-Chairs and, by extension, the IC, when he contemptuously castigated the Norwegian and Japanese representatives: “Erik Solheim [and] Ysuhi Akashi…received our hospitality, ate at our table [but] are now waiting for the day Tigers will be completely wiped out”. The UN Secretary General refused on 7 April to call for a ceasefire or humanitarian pause in the fighting; in effect the IC condoned genocide of Vanni Tamils, confirmed Yogi’s assessment and vitiated its own legitimacy.
The Delhi establishment, rattled by the burgeoning support for the LTTE in Tamil Nadu, dredged up a “LTTE threat” to Congress Leader Sonia Gandhi while confessing “there is no substantive intelligence” to back it up. It is transparent disinformation to discredit and undermine the pro-LTTE movement. Not intimidated by Delhi’s machinations, MDMK General Secretary Vaiko bluntly warned “India would not remain one country” if the war against Tamils in Sri Lanka is not stopped forthwith.
What is relevant here is a historic convergence: expatriate Tamils, overwhelming sections of those in Tamil Nadu and, of course, Tamils (excluding Quislings) in Sri Lanka have emphatically made it clear they will accept only LTTE’s leadership and that the resistance will go on no matter what. If those who gloat over the “debacle” in Anandapuram expect Tamils to then pick up their marbles and go home, they are abysmally ignorant of Tamil psyche steeled through decades of war and so will be sorely disappointed.
The Rajapakse regime’s unwise military adventure may yet further strengthen the Tamil National Movement.
Dr S Sathananthan
15 April 2009