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Lost opportunities for the Tamils

[DailyMirror, Sunday, 1 February 2009 20:19 No Comment]

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has almost been militarily defeated. The fate of its leaders and the remaining cadres is not clear. It seems only through a miracle that the LTTE would bounce back and capture at least one or two districts in the north to wield its rule in them as they did earlier.


Even if the outfit would bounce back and roll back the advances of the security forces it would take decades for it to bring the areas that were under their control back under their rule. However, it is more likely to be  wishful thinking on the part of the LTTE and its allies to anticipate another comeback by the rebels given their present setback.


The LTTE or for that matter the separatist movement did not come to being in a vacuum. Also  separatism was not created in one man’s mind. It has its own origin, history and evolution. During the initial stages of the secessionist movement even the intelligentsia among the majority Sinhalese sympathized with it. The leftist movement including the JVP with some of the present JHU leaders in it justified the demand for secession with the Marxist theory of “Self determination of nations” in the early eighties of the last century.


They too reasoned the Tamil struggle to the disfranchising of Tamil estate workers in 1949, Sinhala Only Act in 1956, Standardization of university entrance in 1963 and the alleged state sponsored Sinhalese colonization in traditional Tamil areas in the north and east by various development projects under various governments. The Tamil armed groups then had the backing of Tamilnadu as well as the Indian Central Government. Indian Central government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi provided them with money, weapons and military training in  the eighties. 


They drew a great amount of sympathy from the international community that they managed to get a resolution recognizing Tamil Eelam passed in the US Massachusetts House of Representatives in June 1981.


They now have lost almost all. India , the US , Canada and 25 countries in the European Union have designated the LTTE as an international terrorist organization. Australia and Malaysia are considering banning of the outfit. The organization has lost control of almost all the lands it wielded power in the north and the east.   In a situation where the LTTE is now in, it is natural  for anyone to recall the good old days when the outfit had ruled the roost and the opportunities that Tamils lost in the search for a real solution to the ethnic problem. Indeed the LTTE and other Tamil organizations and political parties lost too many chances for the resolution of the ethnic problem in view of a lack of political will on the part of the governments as well as the intransigence of the LTTE and other Tamil groups.


One would see five major opportunities where Tamil leaders could have won political as well as administrative powers so that they could look after their own affairs except those powers considered to be detrimental to the unity and territorial integrity of the country. First and decisive among them was the Indo Lanka Accord of 1987 which even changed the nature of the Sri Lankan state.It was a time when India under Indira Gandhi had virtually subjugated  President JR Jayewardene’s government in Sri Lanka by displaying its readiness to intervene in the internal matters of Sri Lanka by military means. India sent a flotilla of ships to the Sri Lankan waters and Indian planes violated the Sri Lankan air space to remind the island neighbour about her hegemony in the region before the Accord. 


After displaying her military might India forced a “political solution” down the throat of the Sri Lankan Government. Though it was far below the expectations of the Tamil armed groups the provincial council system introduced through Indo Lanka Accord shifted the nature of the Sri Lankan state from a unitary form to a basic federal form. Also it gave the opportunity for the Tamils to look after their own affairs in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Had the LTTE accepted it, Tamils could have run the amalgamated two provinces with the blessings of India .


One important aspect that was ignored throughout by the LTTE and its allies was that India would not allow anyone to establish a separate Tamil state in the northern part of Sri Lanka which might become a base for the secessionist elements in its southernmost state of Tamilnadu. Therefore the Tamils in Sri Lanka lost a major opportunity in respect of their demands in 1987.


Two other opportunities were given by Presidents Ranasinghe Premadasa and Chandrika Kumaratunga for the Tamil leaders to rule over their own community through peace talks. Even the LTTE’s ideologue Anton Balasingham at the opening of the LTTE courts complex in Kilinochchi in 2003 said they could have accepted the famous “package” offered by President Kumaratunga. But it was too late.


The golden opportunity that was offered by a Sri Lankan government to the Tamil leaders for a resolution was the Norwegian sponsored peace process under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is true that the very nature of the peace process agreed upon by the two parties laid an “international safety net” and created a vast rift in the military machine of the LTTE which was a major cause for its present predicament. But the Wickremesinghe government was too amenable then for the Tamils to win over a lot except for a Tamil Eelam.

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