Man of peace, next to his handiwork
Prabhakaran’s speech this year was whiny above all. He blames the Sri Lankan government for the resurgence of war when it was, in fact, a path that the LTTE chose. From February 2002 to 2006 the LTTE has committed 3,535 violations of the cease-fire to GoSL’s 169. The most common were child recruitment and disappearances. They assassinated Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister at his home, prevented citizens of the North and East from voting, and cut off water to 30,000 farmers. They have also engaged in extortion of expatriates and assorted unsavories. I could understand Prabhakaran saying these brutalities were in the service of something. However, in his speech he portrays himself as a lily-white sun god while he has so much blood on his hands. Perhaps Tamils deserve a separate state. I don’t know. There is however, less chance of that when they are led by a despotic terrorist, a pioneer of child recruitment and suicide bombings, and paraiah to all nations of the world. He has taken a bad situation and made it much much worse, and yet he has the nerve to deny all responsibility.
Six years have passed since we dedicated ourselves to find a solution to the ethnic conflict through peace talks. In this long time span, has a solution been found to the burning Tamil national question? Was there any visible change in the mindset of the Sinhala leadership that continues to inflict unrelenting cruelty on the Tamil people?
In a word, yes. I’ll be the first to say that the Sri Lankan polity can be chauvinist bastards, but there is also a diversity of opinion and cooler heads seem to be winning out, even in the midst of terrorist attacks. According to Frederica Janz, ‘On March 9, former minister and UNP national organizer SB Dissanayake told a news conference that a war in the country will be inevitable if the government drags its feed on the national quesiton and insists on a solution within the unitary form of government.
He told journalists that the JVP and JHU were engaged in a futile hair-splitting, theorizing exercise insisting on retaining the so-called unitary character of the government when, in reality, the Sri Lankan government had already lost its unitary status with the devolution of power under the 13th amendment which provides for the Provincial Councils.’
The JVP and JHU are, also, no longer part of the governing coalition, which is now the SLFP and UNP. Are they saints, hell no, but that’s a big change from before. Sri Lanka also doesn’t kill people who dissent from the current state of things, so there is potential for even more change. It is pitiably slow, but like the US and Civil Rights, a change is going to come.The LTTE, however, has remained monolithic in its opposition to all dissent, killing any Tamils who raise their voices too high. Of course, the more bombs explode in Colombo, the more emboldened the Sinhala extremists get. I’m not saying that this in anyway justifies the de facto embargo on the North and East. All I am saying is that Prabhakaran knows this will be the reaction, yet he has still sent the suicide bombers. That may be his strategy, but to now complain is just appalling. You brought this on the North and East. I know you don’t let people there vote, but at least be honest with them.
The Sinhala government has unleashed a two pronged war, military and economic, on our people. Our people are subjected to unprecedented assaults. Arrests, imprisonment, and torture, rape and sexual harassment, murders, disappearance, shelling, aerial bombing, and military offensives are continuing unchecked. At the same time our people are subjected to an inhuman economic embargo on essential items including food and medicine.
The A9 is closed and that is bad. The TRO is shut down and cannot provide whatever tangential services it does. That is also bad. There is great suffering in the North and East, food and fuel shortages and worse. That is terrible and I wish the GoSL would do more about it. However, this shut-down comes in the midst of numerous suicide bombings in Colombo and attacks as far South as Galle. Almost weekly claymore mines are found entering the city and Sri Lanka is under attack. The LTTE also collects at least Rs 5 million per day from illegal tax on the A9, almost none of which goes to social service, the bulk going to weapons to make the situation worse. The TRO, too, was founded by the LTTE and it is questionable where the money goes. While the LTTE is attacking Sri Lanka the nation has clamped down, and there are consequences. You cannot attack a nation and expect them to become more open to you, yet Prabhakaran is still crying foul. The A9 was open before you deployed suicide bombers again. Either be honest with your people and say things are going to get worse before better, or don’t start the damn war again.
Even after the ceasefire, negotiations and the five years of patiently keeping peace, the dividends of peace have not reached our people. Instead our people are faced with unbearable burdens in their daily lives. Thousands of our people have been forced out of their homes and are languishing with disease and hunger in refugee camps. No one should expect that this Sinhala government which is denying food and medicine to our people to the extent of starving them would show compassion and give them their political rights.
Under the cease-fire the A9 was reopened and checkpoints in Colombo taken down. The Sri Lankan government still provides basic health and education services to the North and East, because the LTTE is purely a military outfit. Despite the fact that they do little to address the ‘basic problems’ of the North and East, they have illegally taxed and stolen 28% of the GDP of the North and East from 1996-2002 (Strategic Foresight). The North and East has the worst access to water, electricity, telecommunications and roads in the country, but that is not because GoSL prevents it. It is actually because the occupation by the LTTE prevents government services from reaching those areas, and because they take significant amounts off the top to buy more weapons.
The more suicide bombers the LTTE sends, the greater the military presence in the North and East. When the LTTE sends suicide attackers to Galle and on buses of Navy soldiers returning home, then the North and East get more isolated. When they kill Tamil dissidents and leaders in the streets of Colombo, you get more checkpoints. Perhaps this has a purpose, perhaps the goal of a separate state is worth it. However, denying that the LTTE is directly responsible for the decline of the North and East is simply dishonest.
The Sinhala nation is refusing to broaden its thinking and take a new approach. The Sinhala nation remains mislead by the mythical ideology of the Mahavamsa and remains trapped in the chauvinistic sentiments thus created. Unable to free itself from this mindset, it has adopted Sinhala Buddhist chauvinistic notions as its dominant national philosophy. This notion is spread in its schools, universities and even its media. The domination of this Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism is preventing its students, intellectuals, and writers from stepping out of and thinking free from its domination. This, unfortunately, is preventing the Sinhala nation from undertaking a genuine attempt at resolving the Tamil national question in a civilized manner.
By civilized does he mean abducting children, sending suicide bombers, and murdering dissidents like Kethesh, EPDP members, and Lakshman Kadirgamar? Tamil Eelam is built on a mythical Tamil state as well, rather than the real island we’re trying to hold together. There is a lot of Sinhala Buddhist chauvanism, I know. But there is also a diversity of opinion in Sri Lanka, and statements from the government are often measured and just. The actions may be very different, but Sri Lanka at least does not behave with absolute tyranny and brutality towards dissidents. If you want to resolve things in a civilized manner, why didn’t you let Kethesh live? Or for that matter, Neelan or Kadirgamar? Why did you kill Rajiv Gandhi and Rajani Thiranagama? Why did you force the Muslims out of Jaffna and ethnically cleanse numerous villages for your Tamil State? Or at the very least, why don’t you try to work things out democratically and let people vote? Also, who are you to lecture about chauvinism and a rigid national philosophy when you literally kill all dissidents and advocate a one-party state?
During the six years when we kept peace, we were sincere in our efforts.
To this I need only add that the the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission is accepted by both sides to monitor violations of the cease fire agreement. From February 2002 to 2006 the LTTE has committed 3,535 violations of the cease-fire to GoSL’s 169.
The Wickremasinghe government that refused to solve the humanitarian problems facing our people, secretly worked to marginalize our movement on the world stage. Even before setting up a working administrative structure in the Tamil homeland, it conducted donor conferences to obtain aid for the south. By failing to facilitate our participation in the donor conference held in Washington, it marginalized and humiliated our movement. As a result we were forced to stay away from the Tokyo conference. The Wickremasinghe regime did not stop with this. It plotted to trap our freedom movement in an â€˜international safety netâ€™ and destroy us.
The LTTE has done enough to marginalize itself on its own. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was a start. The extortion and threats to expatriate Tamils is another. The pioneering use of suicide bombers is another welcome addition to the world. To quote Janz again, ‘In late 2005 Human Rights Watch claimed the Tigers had launched an aggressive and systematic fund-raising drive in Canada and parts of Europe to pressure individuals and business owners to give money for what they called the “final war”… People were told that if they did not pay the requested sum, they would not be able to return to Sri Lanka to visit family members. Others were warned that they would be dealt with or taught a lesson, the rights group said’.
Furthermore, the LTTE is not a nation or an elected government. They are an armed force that spends the vast majority of its money on salaries for their leaders, arms, and international propaganda and lobbying efforts (Strategic Foresight). To have them sit at the same table at a donor conference makes about as much sense as seating Al Qaeda. And, by ‘international safety net’ I think Prabhakaran is referring to the recent banning of the LTTE by Canada and the EU. The LTTE is also banned by the US, UK and more. Now, either those nations could all be wrong, or Prabhakaran could have been posturing again. If you want to use terrorism to achieve and end, then tell your people what the consequences are. Just don’t act surprised that nobody likes you.
It was at this time that the Sinhala nation elected Rajapakse as its new President. Like the Sinhala leaders of the past, he too is putting his hopes in a military solution.
Just to note, Prabhakaran voted for Rajapakse as well. On election day, despite prior promises, the LTTE banned all citizens in occupied areas from voting. The people in the North and East were polling overwhelmingly towards Ranil, and could have swung the election. However, as DBS Jeyaraj reported, “While posters and leaflets calling for a boycott were widely circulated a systematic campaign of violence and terror also commenced prior to the poll. A series of explosions took place. In Jaffna grenades were thrown at five EPDP party offices on the eve of polls. Grenades and bombs were also thrown at Police patrols, army sentry posts, vehicles etc. A youth was tortured and beaten to death publicly at the Hindu College grounds. In Batticaloa a sub – post mistress who allegedly refused to hand over polling cards was brutally hacked to death.. A climate of terror prevailed.
This terror continued from the early hours of the morning on election day. Bombs were thrown at Govt offices, polling booths, security posts and vehicles. Tyres and palm fronds were set on fire at key junctions and roads. Roadblocks were set up.Youths roamed streets looking out for potential voters. The LTTE motor cycle squad patrolled roads. People on the roads were threatened. Many old people going out to vote were assaulted. Vehicles including buses were stoned or set on fire. Civilian voters and officials were injured in deliberate grenade attacks on polling stations. A few people returning after voting were set upon. One man had his inked finger cut off. The message was unmistakably clear – Dont vote.”
However, Prabhakaran still cynically exploits the elections and complains that the same time. This final war is a strategy, funded, decided and voted on by Prabhakaran himself. And yet he lies that his hands are clean.
The Rajapakse regime hopes to decide the fate of the Tamil nation using its military power. It wants to occupy the Tamil land and then force an unacceptable solution on the Tamils. Due to this strategy of the Rajapakse regime, the CFA has become defunct. The Rajapakse regime, by openly advocating attacks on our positions, has effectively buried the CFA. The Rajapakse regimeâ€™s attacks have expanded from land to sea and air. It has given a free hand to the paramilitary groups to kill at will. It has occupied Mavilaru and Sampur blatantly breaking the terms of the CFA.
Again, in terms of the CFA agreement, the LTTE has committed 3,535 violations of the cease-fire to GoSL’s 169. In fact, the LTTE assassination of Kadirgamar and cutting off of water to 30,000 farmers preceded any military escalation. Again, maybe that was your plan Prabhakaran, but don’t feign surprise.
How could the peace talks move forward when the peace delegation is made up of people who proclaim that they will wage war and hold peace talks at the same time? How can trust be built? How can peace be arrived at like this?
Right back at you. If you are sincere about peace then stop violating the cease-fire and attacking Sri Lanka. Become a legitimate political party and participate in the hard slog of democracy. If, however, you choose war, extort funds for war, recruit children for war and assassinate leaders in war, at least have the dignity to stop complaining. I know the GoSL sucks and has sucked, but it can at least move forward in a democratic and diverse way. The LTTE under Prabhakaran, however, seems committed in war and even worse, in absolute denial of the destructive path he has chosen.