Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithiripala Sirisena cannot be seen as the greater evil and the lesser evil respectively, says Professor Jude Lal of Trinity College, Dublin, in an interview to TamilNet on Wednesday. The democratic rights of the Tamils and the democratic rights of the Sinhalese are not the same as the so-called Sinhala pro-democracy campaign claims, the director of Centre for Post-Conflict Justice at Trinity College argues, underlining the fact that the promise of democracy by the so-called Sinhala pro-democracy campaigners has totally and radically different meanings for the Tamils and the Sinhalese: It means good governance for the Sinhalese and continuation and furtherance of subjugation for the Tamils, he says. The TNA is being used by USA, UK and India to reinforce Sinhala hegemony in the name of democracy, Jude Lal told TamilNet.
“The Tamil people need to resist both MR and MS, but also those political elements within the Tamil people who contribute to such a hegemonic agenda,” Jude Lal said in his interview.
“If the common candidate of the opposition wins the election – it will signify the next stage of the genocidal process against the Tamil people. It will mark the beginning of the final stage of the Genocide,” the Asia Editor of Alternative Sud opined.
“This is when the US/UK, the real architects of the genocide of the Tamil people, by pushing away the Rajapaksa regime, which has been identified internationally as the public face of the massacre in 2009, will oversee its replacement by ‘fresh new faces’ who will take on the baton to give a new lease of life to the continued torment of the Tamil people,” he said.
“It will also bring the US/UK closer to claiming its military prize by undermining the Chinese influence – which had been brought in by Rajapaksa in a desperate attempt to avoid his regime being disposed of like a dirty rag after its usefulness is over. This is why Rajapaksa is projecting the election campaign as a choice between China and the USA, Professor Jude Lal said.
“If this is the democratic dilemma for the Sinhala polity let them resolve it if they think that they can do so, but let Tamil people have no part in it.”
“The Tamil people are survivors of a colossal massacre, who have a collective will to self-determination. This collective will to freedom can only be effectively expressed at this moment only by totally distancing themselves from the racist electoral competition of the Sinhala society and polity, which is highly backed by the international powers who maintain the unitary state,” he further said.
Full text of the interview follows:
TamilNet: This election is projected as an important step for democratic advance for everyone living in the island. Does more democracy for the Sinhalese lead to better conditions for Tamils to win their democratic rights?
Professor Jude Lal: Tamil people will know from bitter experience that their democratic rights are not advanced by the free expression of Sinhala popular feeling.
Every Tamil will know that the majority consensus feeling amongst the Sinhala population during the anti-Tamil pogroms in 83 or Mullivaikkal in 2009 had been one of jubilation – at the subjugation and brutalization of the Tamil people and their rights. The expression of the ‘democratic’ consensus of the Sinhala people in the island has hardly ever bided well for the Tamils. We cannot address this question without examining the historical process.
The Sinhala consensus became an obstacle to Tamil people’s democratic rights well before the island got ‘independence’ from the British in 1948.
The possibility for a principled unity between the Sinhala and Tamil people did exist during the latter part of the 1920’s. This was when the vibrant ‘Jaffna Youth League’ called on the ‘Colombo Youth League’ to form a progressive anti-colonial alliance against the British rule.
But, with a carefully calibrated British plan to give democratic rights to the people in the island by facilitating a Sinhala majoritarian mindset, they were able to destroy the possibility of a real democratic unity between the Sinhala and Tamil people.
The British managed to incorporate even Sinhalese leaders with progressive credentials to their scheme. By successfully internalizing British interests in Sinhala population the British were able to control the Tamils (who could have connected the population in the island to the rising Indian independence movement) and thereby provide a stable military base to protect their colonial interests in the Indian Ocean.
This mechanism, set into motion by the British, where the expression of Sinhala people’s collective will invariably undermining the rights of the Tamils, continued to thrive after ‘independence’. And as the ‘democratic’ consensus of the Sinhalese became more and more antithetical to Tamil people’s democratic rights the resistance based on the right to self-determination developed. We all know the terrible violence and racial pogroms that were the Sinhala answer throughout the decades of non-violent protests by the Tamils.
And as the Sinhala consensus supported the British architectured unitary state structure – the Tamils in the north and east made a clear democratic expression to leave it and form an independent state in 1977. The democratic voice of the oppressed Tamil people was met with brutal violence with the full consent of the majority of the Sinhala people. The collective political will of the Sinhalese and the democratic aspiration of Tamils were clearly diametrically opposed to each other.
The democratic rights of the Tamils and the democratic rights of the Sinhalese are not the same as the so-called Sinhala pro-democracy campaign claims.
The Sinhala majority wholeheartedly justified the massacre of the Tamil people in getting rid of the LTTE.
The others (particularly the Sinhala liberal and progressive intelligentsia who supported the peace process) keep silent about these massacres out of fear of Sinhala chauvinists. They justify their fear by calling their silence as pragmatism.
In effect, the promise of democracy by the so-called Sinhala pro-democracy campaigners has totally and radically different meanings for the Tamils and the Sinhalese. It means good governance for the Sinhalese and continuation and furtherance of subjugation for the Tamils. Establishing rule of law for the Sinhalese and maintaining and increasing militarization in the Tamil homeland.
Let us look at the agreement made between the common candidate and the JHU. Freedom of information is promised only to the extent that it does not hinder national security interests, which are associated with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Sinhala state.
In this sense, democracy is being built and will be built on the graveyards of the Tamil people, like the British White settlers built the biggest democracy in the world in the USA by annihilating the native Indians. Majority of the those Sinhalese in the so called pro-democracy campaign not only wholeheartedly supported the massacre of Tamils but also continue to support the on going structural changes and have clearly expressed to do the same in future. How can then the democratic rights of the Tamils and Sinhalese be the same?
What is the core of the electoral battle between MR and MS? Each is trying to demonstrate to the Sinhala constituency who is more patriotic, meaning who is more prepared to impose Sinhala hegemony over the whole island and maintain the unitary state.
In essence, it is a competition to show who is ready to be more racist and who is more prepared to crush any move by the Tamil people to self-determination. This competition has engulfed the Sinhala society more and more in an abyss of racism and militarism. It is because of this abyss that MR and MS cannot be seen as the greater evil and the lesser evil respectively.
As I said at the beginning this phenomena is not new to Tamil people. What is new here is that it continues even after a massive massacre of Tamils and the Sinhala polity is seeking support from the Tamils again for a regime change with false promises. It was this competitive racism that has been resisted by the Tamil people for decades with thousands of lives. Therefore, by joining the MS, TNA under the pressure of India and USA is contributing to reinforce Sinhala hegemonic politics. They are leading the Tamil people backward, rather than leading them forward. The TNA is being used by these powers to reinforce Sinhala hegemony in the name of democracy. The Tamil people need to resist both MR and MS, but also those political elements within the Tamil people who contribute to such a hegemonic agenda.
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TamilNet: Do you mean to say that there is no clear division between MR and MS campaigns as claimed by the so-called pro-democracy groups?
Jude Lal: Yes, there is no clear division from the perspective of the Tamil people. Why then there is a division within the Sinhala polity? Is it a division between those who want to highlight massacres of Tamils and those who deny it? No, not at all. It is a division created by the question ‘who are the real owners or stakeholders of the military victory over the LTTE’. Is it the Rajapaksa family or the security forces and the rest of the Sinhala polity and the society.
MS, in fact, publicly stated that he was the defense minister during the last week of the war in May in an attempt to gain credentials for military victory.
Even the Sinhala liberal and progressive intelligentsia in the so-called pro-democracy campaign, who once opposed a military solution to the National Question during the 1990s and in early 2000, are totally silent about mass atrocities committed against the Tamil people. To put it bluntly asking the support from the TNA to back MS means asking to support the military victory.
However much TNA talks against denial of memory of massacres of Tamils, in effect their opposition becomes impotent by supporting MS.
The Tamil polity has been asked to support an agenda that erase the memory of the massacre, an agenda that attempts to destroy the Tamil collective political will to self-determination. This is what exactly those global actors the UK, USA and India plan to do, and want to do. This is another well-calculated step of on-going genocide which is being taken with the consent of elite Tamil national polity… The Tamils are being asked to choose between two candidates who maintain and promise to continue the same genocidal policies and the process. This choice is projected as a democratic election. A totally misleading and ethically and politically indefensible question has been posed to the Tamils: Is it MR and MS? This question does not have an iota of acceptance of the collective rights of the Tamils as well as a recognition of mass atrocities committed against them.
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TamilNet: So are you saying that the expression of Tamil people’s democratic rights and those of the Sinhalese have always been in contradiction since the 1920’s?
Jude Lal: No. But it was only after several decades of armed struggle by the LTTE had broken the UK/US military paradigm that this possibility arose. By demonstrating the ability to fight the Sinhala armed forces to a standstill, the LTTE in 2000 initiated a peace process attracting international actors that opposed the war paradigm of the US/UK. Encouraged by powerful forces from within the EU, Sinhala people made a historic break with the military ethos that had been imposed on them and voted for peace talks with the Tamils. This opened up the tantalizing possibility for the Sinhalese to opt for sharing sovereignty with the Tamils through negotiations. The period of the peace process provided the chance for the Sinhalese to escape the straitjacket imposed by those who wanted to maintain the usefulness of the island as a military post. It is only as a unitary state that Sri Lanka can function as an asset optimum for war fighting and projection of military power – like for the USA’s ‘pivot Asia’ strategy. Sharing of sovereignty between the Sinhalese in the south and the Tamils in the north and east would undermine the island’s usefulness in a war fighting scenario. Especially so, as the Tamil political movement had long proclaimed that the strategically valuable north and east of the island should be part of an Indian Ocean zone of peace and opposed stationing of foreign military bases (See page 12 of the Political Programme of the LTTE).
But the fact that even under continuous pressure from the US/UK axis the peace talks continued for several years was testimony for the possibility that the Sinhalese could envisage sharing sovereignty with the Tamils. It is evidence that the Sinhalese could imagine replacing coercive bond of the unitary state with voluntary connection based of mutual respect and understanding. But in a similar way to the 1920’s the Sinhalese could not withstand the intervention of the external powers – the US/UK now instead of the UK then.
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TamilNet: Does this not bring up the possibility that the opposition candidate in the elections tomorrow could open up the possibility for the Sinhala masses to revert to position it took during the peace talks?
Jude Lal: No. Because the fundamental political positions taken by the opposition is designed to prevents this from happening. By proclaiming complete allegiance to the unitary state structure, by defending and justifying the genocidal onslaught in Mullivaikal – the opposition is riding on the Sinhala supremacist politics.
The JHU, the main architect of establishing the politics for the war to commence during the peace talks is a leading force within the opposition. In fact, it is JHU, which is running the election office of MS. It is the JHU and the JVP, which aligned themselves most clearly with the USA and the UK during the peace process. These selfsame forces, who were the most strident warmongers during the Rajapaksa period, are now supporting the common candidate.
If the common candidate of the opposition wins the election – it will signify the next stage of the genocidal process against the Tamil people. It will mark the beginning of the final stage of the Genocide. This is when the US/UK, the real architects of the genocide of the Tamil people, by pushing away the Rajapaksa regime, which has been identified internationally as the public face of the massacre in 2009, will oversee its replacement by ‘fresh new faces’ who will take on the baton to give a new lease of life to the continued torment of the Tamil people. It will also bring the US/UK closer to claiming its military prize by undermining the Chinese influence – which had been brought in by Rajapaksa in a desperate attempt to avoid his regime being disposed of like a dirty rag after its usefulness is over. This is why Rajapaksa is projecting the election campaign as a choice between China and the USA. If this is the democratic dilemma for the Sinhala polity let them resolve it if they think that they can do so, but let Tamil people have no part in it.
Respecting the memory of those who offered their lives in thousands means to start reliving the principles of politics that Tamils people have learnt through so much of suffering and pain for decades. They are not victims who can be used in regime changes that maintain the Sinhala hegemony as masterminded by the UK, USA and India. The Tamil people are survivors of a colossal massacre, who have a collective will to self-determination. This collective will to freedom can only be effectively expressed at this moment only by totally distancing themselves from the racist electoral competition of the Sinhala society and polity, which is highly backed by the international powers who maintain the unitary state. Such an effective distancing will take the political struggle forward empowering the Tamil people more and more… That is true democracy for the Tamil people.