The Vellahla Hindus and Catholics believe that God is not only on their side but he belongs exclusively to them. By his disgraceful act Bishop Ryappah asserted that even Holy Mary belongs exclusively to the Tamil Catholics — and that too only to the Catholics who live in Evil-laam. In the traditional Jaffna culture the low-castes were not even allowed to drink water from Vellahla wells. V. Anandasangaree said that he had the right to protest against Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike when she opened the first Tamil University in Jaffna. But under the political master of Sampanthan and Sumanthiram he could not even step into Killinochchi, his electorate. So what protection did the Tamil political leaders give the Tamils in Jaffna? Have they ever shown a capacity to use power to protect their own people? Didn’t they glorify the powers of Prabhakaran who in the name of Ponguthamil liquidated persecuted, tortured and incarcerated Tamil dissidents?
TNA and Tamil Tigers
If the TNA joined hands with the Tamil Tigers and turned a blind eye to all the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Prabhakaran how can they be trusted with police powers when they are still in cahoots with the agents of the Tigers both abroad and at home? Handing over police powers to them will be like the Tamil parents handing over their daughters to the Tamil Catholic priests in Valayar Maddam Church in Mullativu. What is more, when the Vellahlas persecuted the low-castes for centuries why did the Tamil community fail to produce one single leader who dared to take on the Vellahlas? Some Tamil leaders paid lip service but which one acted decisively to protect the low-castes from the iron fist of the Vellahlas? So what benefits will there be for the Tamils, if power is devolved to the TNA stooges of Prabhakaran?
Devolution, incidentally, has been by and large, a demand confined to the Jaffna Tamils. The dangers of devolution were demonstrated in the two historical experiments. Virtual state powers, including that of the police and land, were devolved on the Jaffna Tamil leadership under (1) the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and (2) the Ceasefire Agreement. In the CFA Ranil Wickremesinghe not only handed on a plate police, military, naval and air force powers but also treated the LTTE as a partner on par with the state. Even after granting all these powers what protection did the Tamils of Vanni receive in the post-CFA phase? Both experiments ended not only as political disasters but also as threats to the fundamental rights, freedoms and security of the Tamil people in the north and the east, India and Sri Lanka.
The irony is that the more the Jaffna Tamil political class were armed with devolved powers the more they turned against the Tamil people. The theory was that the Tamils will be liberated only if they are given more powers, preferably self-determination. But each time their powers were increased they grabbed those powers with both hands turned against their own people and the other communities. It was with these increased powers that the Tamil Tigers “killed more Tamils than all the other forces put together” (V. Anandasangaree and S. C. Chandrahasan). Besides, the prevailing pop theory also argues that peace and reconciliation can come only when the powers are devolved to the Jaffna Tamils. The reality is that the increased powers were used to destroy all chances of peace and reconciliation. Not even the regional and international guarantees of quasi-state powers resulted in peace or reconciliation. In Wickremsinghe’s CFA the Tamils got more than police and land powers. Did the disastrous CFA bring any benefits either to the Tamils or to the rest of the nation?
In fact, it can be argued that the Jaffna Tamils faced the most disastrous and persecuted period of their history under the increased powers devolved to the political masters of the Tamils.The arbitrary and authoritarian manner in which the shadowy state of Velupillai Prabhakaran used power to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity stand out as proof of the dangers of devolving any excessive law enforcement power to any political entity in the north. Take the example of the TNA MPs when their “Sooriya Devan” was running Evil-laam. They cannot deny that they were unaware of what was happening to the Tamil people under their “Sooriya Devan”. Why is it that they never uttered a word in defence of the Tamil people and spoke only in defence of Prabhakaran — the worst political criminal known to the Tamils?
Besides, who was it who protected the TNA MPs when Prabhakaran was ruling the Tamils? Was it Prabhkaran’s cadres or the Sri Lankan forces? If the central forces were not there who would have given protection to Sampanthan & Co? Even when Sampanthan & Co went on bended knees, virtually worshipping Prabhakaran, they were more comfortable and secure with the Sinhala police force than with the Tamil Tigers. What dignity and self-confidence did they have when they were crawling on their knees to Prabhakaran? In which of the two regimes do they feel that they are members belonging to the civilized human race and not some dispensable factotums of a fascist dictator?
Another telling example is that of Mrs.Mangayakarasy Amirthalingam who returned home after 21 years. One of her missions was to make a special trip to Kegalle to personally thank the Sinhala bodyguard, Nissanka Thibbotumunna, who risked his life in serving her husband, Appapillai Amirthalingam, the leader of the TULF. She and her son, Dr. Bahirathan, hugged and thanked the police officer for shooting three of the Tiger killers in attempting to save her husband’s life. In between tears, she asked: “If they (Tigers) were fighting for the Tamils why did they kill my husband?” Why indeed? Where was the security for the Tamils under the Tiger “liberators”? And weren’t the Tamils secure more under “The Sinhala Governments” than when they were under Prabhakaran’s Evil-laam? Would the killing of the Tamil husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, girls and boys have occurred if the Vadukoddai Resolution did not legalize and authorize the excessive powers granted to the Tamil youth to take up arms? The total political experience of the Jaffna Tamils indicates that arming the Tamils under Tamil leadership is inimical to Tamil security and peace. It is worse than handing razor blades to monkeys.
With all its infirmities and with all the political violence that erupted in the south and the north, it is possible to conclude that all communities has had the best available (please note, not the maximum) protection under the centralized forces. Under the immense pressures of the trying conditions, with the fascist violence of the south and the north attacking the state simultaneously at times, the political and military forces at the centre maintained a commendable balance to retain (1) the democratic framework, however defective it may have been, and (2) to restrain the law enforcement authorities (i.e., the military and the police) to be within legal limits, however flawed they were.
Despite all its lapses, it was the overriding powers of the centre which served the security needs of all communities.
When, for instance, V. Navaratnam, MP, took the image of Arumuka Navalar, the father of fascist Vellahlaism, around Jaffna the low-caste protestors stoned the image and threatened the procession. The centre had to quickly send police reinforcements from the south to restore law and order. Then again, when C. Suntherlingam was tried in Jaffna courts for slapping a low-caste man for daring to enter a Hindu temple a Muslim judge had to be sent from the south the preside over the proceedings fearing that the Vellahla judges would take the side “the caste fanatic” (Prof. Bryan Pffafenberger). Last but not the least when the 300,000 Tamils were forcibly dragged by Prabhakaran to serve as his human shield it was the forces of the centre that liberated the helpless Tamils fleeing the fascist grip.
But the Tamil propagandists remember only “1956” and “1983” because these dates are politically advantageous to perpetuate their anti-”Sinhala government” myths. All in all, it must be conceded that both sides committed excesses against the Tamils. On top of that the IPKF too committed excesses against the Jaffna Tamils. But the finger is pointed only at the “Sinhala governments”. On balance, it can be argued that the protection given by the centralized forces has served the welfare and security of the Jaffna Tamils more than that of the Tamil leaders who abandoned them when Jaffna was under the hegemony of the all-mighty Vellahlas and the Tamil Tigers, both of whom persecuted, tortured and decimated the Tamils more than any other force in Sri Lanka. No other community or state has committed violent crimes against the Jaffna Tamils than their Tamil political masters. The Jaffna Tamils, both at home and abroad, intransigently refuse to accept this historical reality because they fear that their anti-Sinhala myths on which they survive will be vitiated and, consequently, they will have no leg to stand on to the face the public.
The history of Jaffna is the history of violence perpetrated against the Tamils by the Vellahlas from feudal times to 1976 and the Tamil Tigers who took over from the Vellahlas in the post-Vadukoddai phase (1976 – 2008). It was not the Tamils but S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who had the political will and the courage to challenge the entrenched caste system and to break up the cast-iron hierarchy of the Vellahalas by passing the Prevention of Social Disabilities Act of 1959. It was the central government of Bandaranaike that first elevated and enshrined Tamil in the statue books of Sri Lanka. It was the “Sinhala government” that rescued the Jaffna Tamils from the fascist grip of Prabhakaran and restored normalcy to the north and the east. It was the Sri Lankan Police that protected the Tamils challenging the Vellahlas blocking the Tamils from entering their sacred site to worship their God. It was the diplomatic thrust and the arming of the Tamil Tigers by President Ranasinghe Premadasa that clinched the drive to get rid of the hated IPKF which was the primary goal of the LTTE and the people of Jaffna at that time. Besides, if the “idiotic” Tamil leadership (Prof. Kumar David) did not mislead the Tamils into the path of violence would not Jaffna be sharing the peace and prosperity of another Singapore in the north? What have the Tamils gained by their excessive demands and the brutal violence used to achieve what Bandaranaike called “the outrageous” demands?
In short, the Sinhala sun must shine for the minority buds to blossom in Sri Lanka. I write this not to boast. Nor to strike a triumphal note, I write this to focus on the symbiotic relationship that is vital for the security and the progress of all communities. I write this also to emphasize the need to develop and maintain a realistic majority-minority relationship at all times for competing communities to find their place in each other’s domain and the nation as a whole. If one community tries to pull down the other then it is inevitable for communities to go down as seen in the futile Vadukoddai war. On the contrary, look at the joint efforts in cricket. It was the tireless efforts of Robert Senanayake and Gamini Dissanayake that paved the way for all communities to get together and beat the world. We thrive in each others success. The minorities blossomed in the space opened up by the majority. No one won in the Vadukoddai War, least of the Vadukoddai Tamils who launched it.
One of the failures of the Jaffna psyche is their tendency to withdraw into abysmal denial. This endows them with the delusion of being indispensable geniuses of the world. But what is the reality? Take, for instance, the mentality of the TNA or the TGTE which pose as if they are the God-given Einsteins to the problems of mankind. With each move they have made so far they have only sunk deeper into Nandikadal.
In practical terms the issue of police powers raised by TNA boils down to one simple question: how can the TNA MPs, who lived and thrived under the police protection of “the Sinhala governments” and never dared to raise a finger to protect the Tamil people from the fascist tyranny of Prabhakaran, ask for decentralizing of police powers knowing that they lacked the moral and the political will to handle law enforcement powers to protect the Tamils? Before raising the ghosts of “1983” the Jaffna Tamils should look inward and ask on what rational grounds can the TNA and other allied agents explain the barbaric violence of Tamil Prabhakaran against the Tamils in the “post-1983” period. The Tamils who try score points on “1983” lose them hands down because their leaders have committed war crime and crimes against humanity against their own people. If Prabhakaran and his gang were living today they would, for sure, be sitting in Hague facing an international tribunal.
By any standards, the systemic and perpetual crimes committed by the Tamil leadership against the Tamil civilians throughout the feudal and modern times far exceeded the sporadic violence of the lunatic fringe of the Sinhala community? If the violence of both are put on scale to measure whose crimes would weigh heavier on which side will the scales come down — the Tamils or Sinhalese?
Even after conceding the sporadic lapses and excesses of the forces of the central governments it is apparent that the Tamils had a better deal in all respects under the “Sinhala governments” than under their self-proclaimed liberator. It was the power of the centralized — not powers grabbed by Prabhakaran — that finally rescued the Jaffna Tamils herded as a human shield to protect Prabhakaran. Even when the Vellahlas passed the infamous Vadukoddai Resolution it was not to save the Tamils of Jaffna. They did it to ride on the backs of the Tamil youth for the Vellahalas to gain power and rule the peninsular for ever. The Vellahlas and Prabhakaran manoeuvred and manipulated the Tamils to consolidate their positions, privileges and powers. Their politics was based on the assumption that the average Tamil is there to slave for them. Prabhakaran is the unmistakeable example of Tamil crimes against Tamils. He began his career by shooting at point blank range on an unarmed Tamil civilian in 1995 and he ended his career by shooting the unarmed Tamil civilians running away from him to find a new life under the Sri Lankan forces. Can the Tamils descend to any depth lower than this? Is this the highest symbol of Tamil culture that is advertised in Tamil stamps?
In any case, where did the Tamils turn to as a last resort? Who was it who gave a helping hand to the Tamils of Jaffna when they were fighting the IPKF? Above all who rescued the Jaffna Tamils when Prabhakaran was shooting at them in his last days? UTHR reports paid the highest tribute to the Sri Lanka forces for going out of their way to treat the Tamil IDPs humanely. So did other INGOs like ICG.
Their inhuman indifference to the suffering of the Tamils not only questions their morality but also their capacity to govern or enforce law and order among their own people. The cruelties inflicted on the Tamils by the Tamils make them inexcusably guilty in the eyes of the world. They stand as one of the most barbaric breeds known among the civilized communities. Since this is the known record, can the Jaffna Tamil leadership be trusted with increased powers to protect the Tamils? Besides, who is going to give the TNA activists protection if at a future date (Absit omen!) the rag-tag Tigers win the northern provincial council and grab all the Police powers? The abuse of the powers of law enforcement by Prabhakaran and his ilk is the most compelling argument not to trust the Jaffna Tamils with greater devolution of power. For instance, which sensible Tamil would agree to hand over police powers to Pillaiyan, a former child soldier in Prabhkaran’s cadres now presiding as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province?
However, in the main, it is the demographic composition that negates their argument for 13 +. There are more Tamils outside the northern province than inside Jaffna. If the argument is that Tamils need a Tamil force to police the Tamils who is going to police the majority of the Tamils outside Jaffna? According to Sampanthan, Tamils will be satisfied only if they have their own police unit. No other substitute will be acceptable. So how is this arrangement going to satisfy the majority of the Tamils outside his province? Is his next demand going to be a separate police station for every Tamil outside Jaffna for them to obtain justice ? Or is he going to demand that the Tamils in Matara should go to Point Pedro to lodge their complaints? Besides, what special benefits can the Tamils of Jaffna derive from having a Tamil police unit under Sampanthan which a police unit in the Central province can’t deliver to a Tamil in their jurisdiction? Since there is only one law to be enforced from Dondra to Point Pedro what is the necessity to have two kinds of police units — one for Sampanathan and another for the rest?
Or is Sampanthan going to write special laws to Tamils which only his handpicked policemen will be able to read and implement? This seems to be another version of Fr. Emmanuel threatening to write a special theology for the Jaffna Tamils, as if God has granted exclusive divine laws for the Jaffna Tamils. A separate Tamil unit could only add some pomp and glorify Sampanthan & Co, but not to the Tamil people. It will also help to manipulate and boost their power bases. Worst of all, they could use this devolved power to get even with their Tamil rivals and suppress and oppress them as they have done in the past. In short, there is no special benefit that devolved powers can bring to the Tamil people by establishing a police unit under a Tamil Chief Minister in Jaffna.
Giving additional powers to Sampanathan & Co is not going to solve the problems of the Tamils, or the Tamil-speaking people. Problems of Tamils are inextricably linked with that of the Sinhalese, Muslims and Indian Tamils. It is the collective effort of communities under one law that can lift us all up. The TNA would never have dared to demand any powers to protect or strength the security of Tamil people from Prabhakaran. All powers were vested in him and no one could demand any devolution of power either to democratise his regime or to bring the Tamil administration closer to the people. They also know that if they demanded increased powers to run, for instance, the east they would be pushing daisies underground by now, rather than shouting from political platforms. All powers were concentrated in the hands of Prabhakaran and they justified it as a symbol of Tamil strength. They also glorified the dictatorial powers he wielded to decimate and oppress the Tamil people.
Today the manacled TNA MPs stand as liberated people. All the rights that were taken from the Tamils — including the right to travel freely the length and breadth of the nation — in the Vadukoddai War period have been restored. Nevertheless, if they had the power to keep Prabhakaran alive they would have done it, just to make them feel more important than what they are. They would have been joined by NGO pundits like “Paki” Saravanamuttu who, incidentally, was flying desperately, from one Western capital to another, in the last days of the war to save Prabhkaran, all in the name, of course, of peace and human rights. His argument, in essence, was that peace can be restored only if the West moved in with all their power to stop the war — a move aimed directly to save Prabhakaran and his forces from extinction. In the last days he was so busy flying in and out of transatlantic capitals that in the end he would have accumulated enough frequent flyer points to fly at least ten times round the world.