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A new style LTTE begins to take shape

[Lakbima News, Monday, 29 June 2009 07:06 No Comment]

Subsequent to the LTTE’s promise in May, following its military debacle, to “silence its guns” and switch to political methods, a significant second step has recently been taken. If it holds firm to these promises and expectations, then, we may be entering a new era, a third phase, in post-independence Tamil nationalism. I am referring to an announcement on 16 June by Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, who I have not heard of before, the “Coordinator of the Committee for the formation of a Provisional Transnational Government (PTG) of Tamil Eelam.” The announcement has received the imprimatur of Selvarasa Pathmanathan, better known as KP, the LTTE’s “Head of International Relations” and probably its current de facto leader.

About two years ago I predicted that a transformation of the LTTE’s ideology and strategy was inevitable in the light of changing local and international conditions, only to be met with derisive laughter by those who cannot see beyond their noses, or maybe by most people. Several months ago I also pointed out that with the impending obliteration of both armed and democratic Tamil nationalism at home, the leadership of the Tamil movement would, for a period, pass to the diaspora; not many agreed with this either. Events, however, have borne out both.

What the announcement says

18-2 The LTTE announcement does not say that the PTG has been formed; rather, a committee has been established to make proposals and report back by the end of the year. Nor is it clear that a decision has been made to secede from Sri Lanka and attempt to form a separate state – note for example the use of the word “Transnational”, not Transitional. The implications of Transnational is that Tamil people in Lanka, as well as the one million or so in the diaspora, will be drawn into a consultative process; this bears out both my predictions.

The announcement, now widely circulated on the internet (Google ‘Tamil Transnational Government’ for links), tasks the committee with duties enumerated in nine points. A summary of the important ones is as follows. The Thimpu Principles (recognition of the Tamils as a ‘nation’ meaning a people with a distinct identity of their own; the homeland concept; the right to self-determination) has been crafted in. That is, not withstanding obligatory mention of the Vattukkotai Resolution, the question of secession has been left algebraic, something to be determined later depending on how the national question evolves.

One of the nine points goes a long way towards accepting the separate identity of the Muslims, replacing their crude subsuming under the gross title of “Tamil speaking people” during the Prabhakaran era. Another point calls for partnership with the TNA, hopefully replacing the master-vassal relationship that typified the Prabhakaran era. Some other guidelines too implicitly reject the methods and strategies of that era; for example emphasis on democratic consultation and an appreciation of the importance of international diplomacy.

Doubters will want to see practical actions and results, not verbalising, before they believe any of this. Considering the huge damage that the LTTE has done to the Tamil cause (and to itself) on all these points, naysayers are right in demanding proof in palpable forms. This is an uphill task the new-LTTE will have to address if it wants to win credibility. The PTG’s role in rehabilitation, a huge need for Wanni Tamils today, is not mentioned, though protection of the IDPs from abuse is addressed.

The Editorial Board of Tamil-Net posted what to my mind is the most astute commentary to issue from within the Tamil nationalist movement on the new development; see (http://tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=99&artid=29596). A few extracts are essential.

“The need of the time now is the metamorphosis of the infrastructure into a democratic and inclusive transnational government of Eezham Tamils to strengthen the diaspora socially, economically and culturally; to achieve the goal of independence and sovereignty of Eezham Tamils in the home country and to meet the international challenges internationally.”

“However, the process of this noble venture is not a hasty affair. For a smooth beginning, primarily it needs consensus of the existing infrastructure, and to become inclusive it needs the consensus of the circles outside of it also. It needs a strong foundation, careful planning and step-by-step implementation. The existing infrastructure has a greater responsibility in the metamorphosis from command structure to representative structure.”

“It is also advisable to create as many as possible grass-root democratic organizations among Eezham Tamils, vested with specific tasks to face the different facets of the current misery. Such grass-root institutions are helpful in sustaining and safe guarding the democratic nature of the superstructure of transnational governance. If successful, and if the time demands, the transnational government can also become the government in exile.”

Anybody who knows how to read between the lines will get a pretty shrewd idea of what is being said. Whether this promise, or more precisely this recognition of the challenges of democracy, will translate into action needs to be watched.

The critical question for the LTTE is, will it be able to retain the allegiance of the majority of Tamils and succeed in winning them over to its new line, or is the LTTE finished politically, as its is militarily, a spent force, a has been? What now is the attitude of the people in Wanni concentration camps to the LTTE after the torments they have suffered? The reason why, despite its abominations and follies, the LTTE won and held the allegiance of the mass of Tamils and the youth in the past was because it stood up and fought against oppression. However, first the Tamil people, and now finally the LTTE itself, have come to realise that obsessive militarism and pointless terrorism paved the way to disaster.

Theoretical struggle

The LTTE has a monopoly of Tamil support in the diaspora, but the diaspora includes a multitude of nutcases who do not understand the transition now proposed; they want to fight to the finish over the bodies of other people (most recently the Wanni Tamils). The challenge the new leadership faces is to win the theoretical struggle over the intellectually infantile ultra-nationalists in the diaspora and secure its line in sharp political debate in Leninist style. Is the new leadership up to the challenge? I don’t know. But if the reformed LTTE is not up to this challenge then I do not see any other entity on the horizon capable of providing leadership to the Tamil nationalist ‘cause’. The quislings? Forget it! If the Tamil and Muslim communities do not regard themselves as minorities with distinct identities of their own, well that’s fine by me; no skin off my Marxist back.

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