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October 29, 2008

Majoritarianism Unmoved

By Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu

The Up Country People’s Front leader and minister in the Rajapakse regime P.Chandrasekeran is to face a disciplinary committee appointed by President Rajapakse on statements the minister made in Parliament in support of the Tamil Nadu stand on the current conflict including calls for a halt to military operations.

The committee is to be headed by the Prime Minister and will include the Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva and the Government Chief Whip Dinesh Gunawardene. The key charge against Minister Chandrasekeran is that of violating the collective responsibility of the cabinet.

The collective responsibility of the cabinet is a trusted convention of the Westminster system of government and one that is pulled out in our context for political convenience, even though our system of government departed from its Westminster moorings decades ago.

The executive presidency in the Westminster system vitiates the practical effect of the convention since it is a law unto itself that has made all other institutions of governance — cabinet and legislature included — mere rubber stamps.

Only the judiciary

Currently, it is only the judiciary that is holding out and bucking this trend, giving rise to mutterings about it overreaching itself. It is worth noting that in the Westminster system the head of government is the Prime Minister who is primus inter pares — the first among equals.

Holding to the convention of collective cabinet responsibility even though our system has moved away from the Westminster model is by no means a bad thing. At the very least it will make for some coherence and clarity in government policy and underscore the option of resigning rather than mouthing off, if and when a minister disagrees with his/her colleagues on an issue to the point that he/she cannot defend the collective decision of the cabinet.

The point, this column would like to make though is a different one and it relates to the double standards of the regime on the question of cabinet responsibility and more besides.

This column has dealt with the offensive utterances of the Army Commander and the JHU Leader, Champika Ranawaka, Minister for the Environment. They pertained to deeply insulting, distorted and damaging remarks about the history of this country and the identity of the peoples who inhabit it.

Paramount concern

These remarks, like those made by Minister Chandrasekeran, were made in the context of armed conflict, when the imperative of national unity and reconciliation should be of paramount concern and not just to those who purport to govern us, but to everyone who cares about the future of this country.

The Army Commander and Minister Ranawaka got off without any censure or even disclaimers by the government one serves and the other is a member of. In the case of the Army commander, few if any apart from this columnist, drew attention to his egregious contravention of the fundamental tenet of civil – military relations in democratic governance pertaining to the prohibition on service personnel, however senior, making political pronouncements.

The failure of the regime to censure them leaves one with no other conclusion than that their remarks in effect reflect the policy of the regime. Chandrasekeran may well pay the price for not being one of them and for allowing himself to be amongst them.

And as for his remarks in support of Tamil Nadu agitation against the war — surely they are perfectly acceptable within the context of a functioning democracy, and yes, there is a case for throwing Bagehot and the conventions of the British Constitution at him.

Unity and reconciliation

It would have been infinitely more apposite, a boost for confidence in national unity and reconciliation and, one must confess, fun, if this was done to the ministerial Mahavamsa and his habitual spewing of hate, hurt and harm. Perhaps they should all and with no exception, do Sunday School with the Poo-Bahs of the Peace Secretariat, if only that institution was more than a misnomer!

And talking of titles, it is reported that Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, MP has been appointed the head of the military wing of the TMVP. Apart from his other distinctive credentials or should one just say features, this should make him the only member of the Sri Lankan parliament who is also the official head of a military wing of a non-state actor.

Admittedly, there is some confusion here since Muralitharan insists that he is still leader of the TMVP. Whatever the true position regarding the leadership of the party, that there is a distinct problem here does indicate the precarious nature of political stability in the liberated east.

Armed hostilities

Karuna men and Pillayan men are increasingly enmeshed in, not just political rancour, but armed hostilities against each other. And the Rajapakse regime seems to be presiding over an eastern reawakening to another bloody war rather than economic boom.

That there could be rich pickings for the LTTE in a Karuna-Pillayan fight does not require rocket science to discern. The Rajapakse regime should think long and hard about its policy in the east and its commitment to the 13th Amendment. It is not fanciful to entertain the possibility of either Karuna or Pillayan or both returning to the LTTE fold simply because the centre is unwilling to get serious about devolution.

On the other hand, Pillayan could be turned into a Perumal and much against his will and better judgement. Neither outcome will provide the liberation of the east or honour the sacrifice made by all communities in 2006 and 2007.

What is clearly missing in all of this is an inclusive vision for national unity that clearly and unequivocally demonstrates the jettisoning of majoritarian democracy and in its place the celebration of the pluralism and diversity in and of our country. This war is not about this. Basil Rajapakse is quoted in an IANS news report of October 28 as saying with reference to the regime’s objective of "isolating" the LTTE leadership from the people:

There are a few things the government is doing. Suppose if there are two fishes (sic) in a bottle, either we can take the water out or the fishes out. The government is doing both.

Looks like the lion symbol is to be replaced by that of an empty bottle! [courtesy; the morning leader.lk]

This land doesn’t belong to me or to you

By M.S.Shah Jahan

It was mid 1975. He was my neighbour — a popular guitarist in the city and a Malay Muslim married to a Burgher woman. He came to say good-bye to me on the eve of his migration to Australia.

While I was wondering to myself what this senior musician in his evening of life could do down under, he, finally, at the door, shaking my hand said, "This country will never come right." I was thunder struck.  


Jawaharlal Nehru and Lee Kwan Yew

 

It was a few days after the UNP came to power in 1977. He and I were waiting at Galle Road, watching the convoy of buses, taking Tamil residents of Colombo South to the harbour to be put on a ship to "Eelam." After a year or so he, a young Tamil Christian of Indian origin with a good education, also came to bid good-bye. He said he was migrating to Canada. "It is better to be a second class citizen in a first class country, than a third class citizen in a third class country," he said. It was like a phrase quoted in the UN. I was speechless.

In January 2008, my Londoner friend cum relative whose father was buried in Colombo, angrily said, "if I were off loaded I would have held up the aircraft informing my lawyer" and he poured out more. Also he joked about the comedy staged in the Rupavahini studio by a minister. In brief he tried to convince me, yours is a third class country led by third class leaders. I kept mum.

A third class country

Is ours really a third class country? Before Independence we were only next to Japan in economic strength while Nippon was a super power in the east battling with the British and invading China. Our rupee against the Japanese yen in the last 25 years has weakened by 10 times. Why?

Wasn’t it Lee Kwan Yew’s promise ‘to make Singapore another Ceylon’ when he faced his first general election in 1959? Today he says ‘no country should follow Sri Lanka’s model.’ The Lion city now belongs to the first world and probably in a few decades would become the first in the world.

But did anyone ever give thought to why a Chinese populated state has an Islamic symbol of crescent and five stars on its national flag and sings the national anthem "Majulah Singapura" — "Onward Singapore" in Malay language by law, although there exist authorised translations of the lyrics in English, Mandarin and Tamil?

Well, this land belonged to the Sultan of Johore. Malay states of Indonesia and Malayasia, getting together, could have ousted the democratically elected Singapore’s Chinese government and placed it under Malay military rule. But Singapore was already facing a communist insurgency instigated by rebel Maoists. Therefore it was ignored.

Battered Korea

Battered Korea was much way behind us after the Korean War in 1950. Today our youths scramble to get jobs there, and it is said, for the Eastern youths Korean jobs cost Rs.275, 000, as Lord Skanda granted 500 numbers to the CM who passed 100 to "the Sultan." This is how democracy works. Let the East develop. Let every one prosper too. Besides, with a highland VIP for "English jobs," 10 Northern youths were said to be snake bitten even after offering each 15 cans of melamine free milk. Alas!

Neighbouring Maldives was junior to us in tourism until the 1983 riots. Today we have put up an advertising board in Hullulle airport asking tourists to visit the "Paradise." The whole world is in India from Rolls-Royce motor cars to Rolex watches. For the price we pay here for over 2000 cc vehicles one can buy a Rolls Royce in India. It is said ¼ of world’s most expensive watches are now sold there.

Why is Sri Lanka so antiquated?

"The question of domination by the Sinhalese would never arise," said the ‘Father of the Nation,’ Don Stephen Senanayake addressing Jaffna Tamil businessmen in 1937. Of course this is the ultimate cause for all the backwardness of this country from the time of the Elara –Duttugamunu conflict.

The Mahavamsa

Well, recently a venerable made a statement that ‘even the one who came from India was a Sinhalese.’ If we go by Mahavamsa, he is right as Vijaya was the son of Sinhabahu whose father was the legendary Lion who kidnapped the beautiful Suppadevi, Princess of Vanga (today’s Orissa) and fathered twins — a son and a daughter who were named as "Sinhabahu," since he had Lion’s hands and legs, and "Sinhasivali."

But Prof. Wijeyanayake from London wrote in the Sunday Observer of November 17,1996: "The origin of the Sinhala race is in Lanka. There is no scientific evidence of Indians originating in India who speak Sinhalese." If so where is the root of the so-called ‘only organic race of Sri Lanka’? It is true the Sinhala language; a blend of Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil and Malayalam was not spoken in any part of India.

Some historians quote the origin of the Sinhala language from the 4-5th century. Rev. S. Gnanapiragasam said — "There are more than 4,000 Tamil words in the Sinhala vocabulary. If the Sinhala vocabulary is stripped of all the Tamil words there will be no Sinhala language." One thing is certain that the Sinhala language and the Sinhala race never travelled together hand in hand.

Besides, in Lanka there is no lion in the forests only tigers, and if professor Wijeyanayake is also sticking to the lion story, who was the woman enticed? If not where was the origin of the Sinhalese under his theory? What is the venerable’s answer to him?

Rebel Vijaya

Further, it is said that rebel Vijaya cohabited with a non-human Yakkini Princess Kuveni who bore him a son and a daughter. Later he deserted her to the central mountain part of Lanka, and her children are said to have given rise to the Vedda community. Prince Vijaya then got down a ‘Panduva’ (Pandya in Tamil) Princess from Madurai, Tamilnadu for him and she was accompanied by many maidens who were taken by his ministers and retainers.

Mahavamsa says Lord Buddha visited Lanka and converted the Yakkos in Mahiyangana to Buddhism and Vijaya arrived in Tambapanni on the day that the Tathagata lay down between the two twinlike sal-trees to pass into nibbana. Doesn’t that mean that the Yakkos were the first Buddhists of this island and not the Sinhalese?

As Vijaya had no sons his brother Sumitta’s son Prince "Panduvasdev" from India succeeded to the kingdom of Lanka and subsequently married an Indian Princess Buddhakachchana, daughter of a King named Panda, from an ancient Royal family, a cousin of the Buddha.

Birth of the Sinhala Race

If so, does the birth of the Sinhala race start from Panduvasdev with his North Indian Princess who were maternal grand parents of Prince Pandukabhaya fondly known as "Aba" — an illicit child of Princess Unmada Chitra and Deega Gamini — on whose life story a movie is currently running in the country?

According to a chronicle, "the great Raja Raja Cholan I, and his great son Rajendra Cholan I, defeated all of the Sinhalese kings and sub-kings who ruled over Sinhala kingdoms on the island and brought the entire island under South Indian Tamil control. The Sinhala king Mahinda V and his family were captured and taken to Chola Naadu. Tamils ruled the entire island for the next 37 years (1018-1055)."

Jawaharlal Nehru, in his "My discovery of India," writes "there are numerous records of the Cholas having braved the waves of the oceans and established cultural and commercial intercourse with foreign countries, and left their impressions in those countries. Will the minister, who is ignorant of Indian and Ceylon history, who said "Tamils were allowed to take refuge when the Moguls were invading them in India," take note?

Inflammatory speech

When the late G.G. Ponnambalam claimed in his inflammatory speech, attacking the Sinhalese and the Mahavamsa in Nawalapitiya in 1939 that most of the Sinhala kings, including Vijaya, Kasyapa, and Parakramabahu, were Tamils, it led to the first Sinhala -Tamil riots, which engulfed Nawalapitiya, Passara, Maskeliya, and even Jaffna.

A true Buddhist must keep in mind that Lord Buddha was born a Hindu. All those Indian kings who came here according to the Mahavamsa were of Hindu faith. In brief Hinduism is the mother of Buddhism. Therefore it is the duty of Buddhists to respect Hindus and Hinduism.

As far as Muslims are concerned, the Middle Easterners visited the region before the advent of Islam. Yemen was one of the oldest centres of civilisation in the Near East and between the 12th century BC and the 6th century AD it was part of kingdoms that controlled the lucrative spice trade in this region.

When the world is about to learn that white Americans may not defeat a black-and-white American with an "Arab" name for an epic making victory, Lanka is still embroiled in communalism without change. "Love the country and obey the law" has no place here. The result is; "Jack fell down and broke his crown. And Jill came tumbling after."

This land of Tambapanni belongs to Kuveni and her people, not to me or to you — descendents of "Indian visitors." [courtesy: The Morning Leader.lk]

LTTE Air Wing Strikes Again

By B. Raman

The air wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried out two attacks within an interval of about 90 minutes on a military target in the North and an economic target in Colombo on the night of October 28,2008. This is the seventh operation by the LTTE's air wing since it went into action in March last year.

Tamilnet, the pro-LTTE web site in the English language, which has again been giving battle front news after being silent on this subjectfor some days last week, reported as follows on the LTTE air attacks of October 28: " The LTTE carried out an air attack on the Thallaadimilitary base, the main artillery and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) launchpad of the Sri Lanka Army in Mannaar around 10:30 p.m.,dropping three bombs on the base. The Tiger aircrafts then proceeded to Colombo and dropped two bombs on the Kelanitissa power station,while Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) bombers were searching for LTTE aircrafts in the skies over Kilinochchi between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m.The SLAF aircrafts were flying over the suburbs of Mullaiththeevu and Puthukkudiyiruppu with para lights focused on the ground from 1:30a.m. on October 29. An SLAF reconnaissance aircraft was continuously circling over Vanni from 11:00 p.m. Immediately after the Tiger airraid on the Thallaadi garrison, the SLAF fighters were circling over the suburbs of Kilinochchi, Iranaimadu, Visuvamadu and Murasumoaddaiareas between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. The SLAF aircrafts were using para lights in their search mission over Vanni. Civilian sources said theTiger aircrafts flew back to Vanni over Mannaar. " It did not specifically mention the safe return of the aircraft to their base.

However, www.puthinam.com, the pro-LTTE website in the Tamil language, carried the following official announcement purporting to befrom the LTTE: " At 10-20 PM on Tuesday night, Air Tigers of the LTTE bombed the Thallaadi military base in the Mannaar region. Themilitary base sustained heavy damages. Many were killed and injured. At 11-45 PM on Tuesday the Air Tigers carried out a successful attackon the Kelanitissa power station in Colombo. After carrying out these strikes, the aircrafts returned safely to base."

Pro-LTTE sources have tried to give the impression that more than one LTTE aircraft were involved in the two attacks. The report of theReuters correspondent claimed that only one aircraft was involved in the attack on the military base.Sri Lankan military sources have alsospoken of only one aircraft being involved in the attack on the Colombo power station.Pro-LTTE sources have claimed that the same aircraftor aircrafts, after dropping the bombs on the military base in the Mannaar area, flew to Colombo to bomb the power station. The militarybase attacked is about 250 Kms to the north of Colombo. Would the aircraft or aircrafts, which must have been carrying at least two bombseach, have had sufficient fuel to be able to take off from the Vanni region, bomb the military base, fly to Colombo, bomb the power stationand then return to their secret base?

Pro-LTTE sources have claimed that there were many fatalities and severe equipment damage in the military base, but according to Armysources, there were no fatalities and very little equipment damage.Only one security forces personnel was injured, they claimed. The powerstation admitted the death of one of its employees due to shock when the bomb or bombs fell. The administrative buildings and the coolingsystem sustained some damage resulting in a fire, which was put out by the Fire Brigade. Pro-LTTE sources have claimed some damage tothe turbines, but there are so far no reports of any serious disruption of the power supply in Colombo.

The attacks were tactically successful in the sense that the aircraft involved in the two attacks reportedly returned safely to base afterdropping the bombs on the targets without being intercepted by planes of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) or without being hit and broughtdown by the anti-aircraft defence. But their strategic significance is limited since they do not appear to have caused any damage of aserious nature. However, the attacks could have a psychological significance in maintaining the morale of the LTTE cadres and itssupporters in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and in the overseas diaspora.

These attacks and the earlier strike by two officers of the Sea Tigers, one of them a woman, on two commercial ships used by the SriLankan Army for carrying military supplies to the Sri Lankan troops in the Kilinochchi area at the Kankesanthurai port on October22,2008, show that the LTTE's command and control is functioning well despite the losses suffered by it on the ground in the Vanni region during thecurrent ground offensive by the Sri Lankan Army.

Military analysts have commented that since the LTTE started using its air wing in March last year, it has been emulating the tacticsfollowed by North Korea during the Korean war of the 1950s. The tactics consisted of using small planes to surprise and embarrass theSouth Korean and American Air Force planes without achieving any strategic objective. Since the LTTE started using its planes,only in twoinstances were substantial human fatalities and equipment damage inflicted. The first was during the raid on the Anuradhapura trainingbase of the SLAF in October last year and the second was during the attack on the Vavuniya military base on September 9,2008. Both theseraids were conducted jointly by the LTTE's planes from the air and suicide cadres from the ground. It is the suicide cadres on the ground,who caused the fatalities and most of the equipment damage. The role of the aircraft was essentially psychological, meant, inter alia, todivert the attention of the ground personnel of the Sri Lankan security forces . But the combined operations carried out successfully didshow good qualities of co-ordination between air-borne and ground-based cadres. Whenever the LTTE planes have operated alone and notin conjunction with ground-based cadres, the results achieved were not significant operationally.

Aircraft operating alone without support from ground-based elements can cause substantial damage to an economic target if the bombsare powerful enough and the bombing is precise. The LTTE has carried out two bombings of economic targets so far----one against somepetrol storage tanks in Colombo last year and the other against a power station in Colombo on the night of October 28. In both instances,the bombs were not powerful enough to cause serious equipment damage and the bombing was not precise. As a result, these twobombings failed to cause any economic dislocation.

The latest strikes like the previous ones once again highlighted the weak night operational capabilities of the SLAF and the weak anti-aircraft defences. They were neither able to bring the planes down through anti-aircraft fire, nor able to chase the raiding planes and force them down nor identify the place of landing of the LTTE planes as they returned to base and strike them from the air. It is reportedthat SLAF planes were patrolling in the air at the time of the return of the LTTE planes, but they failed to locate their landing place and strike at them as they were landing. The aircraft managed to land safely and ground-based technicians of the LTTE's air wing managed todismantle them quickly and shift them to their intended place of concealment. (29-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

October 28, 2008

Impact of Monsoon Rains on Eelam War

by Col.R.Hariharan
 
Indra, the god of war in Hindu mythology whose chariot thunders across the rain clouds, must be smiling as the torrential northeast monsoon rains brought the Eelam War in Sri Lanka to a near halt last week. The northeast monsoon, the main source of rainfall in Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka, intensifies during the months of October and November and peters out in December. The average monthly rainfall in the peak period is about 300 mm.

The entire domain of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north will be affected by monsoon rains at least for the next five to six weeks. And rains in rough terrain with poor communication are the night mare of troops on the offensive. They make the axes of advance a mess of slush and mire. Equally they could ring death knell to troops manning the defences as well, as rains often flood the bunkers and weapon pits. Thus the tempo of war is likely to be subdued with intermittent spurts of fierce activity during sunny spells. Needless to say, the plight of the population displaced by the ravages of war and caught in the open or under makeshift arrangement would be terrible. Even political protests against the war could be dampened due to heavy rains as it happened in Tamil Nadu.


The defence spokesman in Colombo blamed the wet weather for the security forces' failure to carry out the much awaited capture of Kilinochchi. The heavy rains had made troop movements slow and difficult, he said. However, the Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka appear to have factored in the weather in his plans; as his troops claimed to have eaten into some more of the LTTE defences in three fronts when the rains gave way to some clear weather now and then. The security forces reported making some progress beyond Nachikuda in the Task Force I sector; 57 Division also succeeded in capturing parts of LTTE defences around Akkarayankulam on way to Kilinochchi. In the Mullaitivu east, 59 Division also made progress ahead of Janakapura capturing Gajabapura. The LTTE also appeared to be ready to overcome adverse weather and fight the advancing troops.

How far does weather really affect operation when it is in the crucial 'breakthrough' phase? Generally in monsoon rains slows down offensive operations of both warring sides, reduces fire power, hampers close air support, and eats up more time in carrying out every task. And the ruthless justice of weather equally applies to both sides. Thus in the active monsoon period both sides would probably spend more energy to retain their tactical advantages in mire and slush and than fight a high intensity war. In other words the war will be a slow crawl through the mud with fights moving from bunker to bunker.

During monsoon rains three factors – the weather, terrain and troops morale – together affect the soldier. Even when it is not raining and the skies are overcast visibility becomes poor. This makes combat management difficult. Heavy weapon and artillery fire at long ranges become less reliable. Artillery observers will also find it a little more taxing to bring down accurate fire. Mortar bombs are less effective in mud and slush. Air reconnaissance and air transportation are also affected. Close air support for land operations become more difficult.

Though modern fighter aircraft fly above rain clouds, sorties could become fewer as met conditions are favourable for shorter periods only. This applies to support from gun ships as well. More over, ground support operations for aircraft and artillery maintenance, and loading, replenishment of ammunition etc. become more cumbersome. These limitations will apply more to the security forces as they have greater fire power. For the LTTE, spotting and shooting down of aircraft from ground becomes more difficult unless missiles are used. In order to compensate lesser fire support the security forces will be required to use more troops on the offensive. That could translate into more casualties.

Similarly monsoon weather also affects naval operations along the coast and inshore areas as war ships prefer to be out in the high seas than face the turbulence on the coast line. Visibility in monsoon seas is poor. This could affect naval operations in support of troops operating along Mullaitivu coast. The lighter Sea Tiger craft are probably better placed to sneak in closer to naval ships taking advantage of monsoon conditions Landing of troops by sea also becomes tricky and time consuming. This could reduce options available to the security forces in offensive against Pooneryn.

The second aspect is the terrain in bad weather which invariably decides the winner and the vanquished. When the down pour comes, roads are inundated and tracks get flooded; muddy paddy fields could become deathtraps of tanks and trucks. Seasonal streams turn into rapids. Though modern armies have their own engineer units to construct bridges and roads, the havoc caused by rains could outstrip their capability. As vehicles get bogged down, labour units will have to be mustered to carry vital battlefield requirements. Overall the terrain conditions make both launching of attacks and counter attacks equally time and resource consuming.

The third and more important factor is the cumulative effect of bad weather and terrain on morale of fighters. Prolonged operations with long marches through slush and mud in wet weather sap the strength, efficiency and demoralize the troops. Thus even a small setback could have high impact on the psyche of troops. Troops become more vulnerable to mines which get shifted due to the flow of rain water. Fording of even small streams could become tricky when they turn into deep currents. With the weather playing truant, battle field evacuation of casualties becomes difficult both by land and air. During the offensive troops caught in the open will find it more difficult to dig down. Overall the security forces are probably at a slight disadvantage over the LTTE which is fighting probably from well drained bunkers.

However the LTTE would also find the weather restrictive in fighting a classical defensive battle. Pulling back to fall back positions before reinforcing the next line of defence can become a costly exercise. The LTTE would also find the same problem as the security forces in preparing new defensive positions. Its plans to counter attack could also flounder in the face of adverse weather conditions with problems of mobility, support fire and casualty evacuation. It would also face problems of logistic support in meeting battle field needs. Its combat engineering resources are marginal and mostly improvised. That will have its own positive and negative fall out.

Both sides will find it more difficult to carry out deep penetration and commando operations. For the security forces, problems of mobility by air, sea and land could reduce the range of Special Forces operations. Special boat operations would also become more risky. This has relevance if Special Forces are to be used for operations in Pooneryn with naval support.

Assessing military operations in Vanni when the weather is fickle is a difficult proposition. However, considering the overall setting of the battle zones, any northern offensive of 53 and 55 divisions will perforce be restricted to a narrow frontage along Muhamalai-Elephant Pass axis as the lagoons and marshy land on both sides of would be water logged. Particularly the approach along Nagarkovil salient would become unsuited for operations. The Task Force I offensive towards Pooneryn could make better progress than the offensive of 57 Division towards Kilinochchi. Task Force II operations towards A9 highway between Mankulam and Puliyankulam would also probably make some more progress though it will be across the grain of the terrain. 59 Division dominating the area between Gajabapura and Nayaru lagoon in Mullaitivu east would probably make slow progress only. In this difficult terrain the operations will be time consuming with a lot of jungle bashing by foot soldiers.

Given these conditions, whichever side can maintain better morale and ensure effective leadership at platoon level is likely to succeed. The security forces have more troops, larger options, better technology, more victories and lesser casualties to help their morale. On the other hand, the rains and the LTTE have managed to stall their advance to Kilinochchi. The LTTE on the other hand is fighting a battle of survival with a highly motivated band of cadres. Perhaps it will be more realistic to assess the impact of poor weather on the morale of troops on both sides after they are exposed to say three more weeks of intense fighting in wet weather.

The looming possibility of Indian 'intervention' and its political aftermath in Tamil Nadu and India would have had its impact on both the warring sides. Prabhakaran in his interview to Nakkeeran a Tamil weekly has expressed his happiness at the protests in Tamil Nadu. He has said these sentiments added to the LTTE strength. On the other hand the clear statement of Indian Foreign Minister Pranabh Mukherjee on India distancing itself from the Eelam War would have warmed the hearts of the security forces. Thus the confrontation is now literally eyeball to eyeball. And it will depend upon who blinks first. The weatherman is perhaps unwittingly better suited now to assess the course of operations more accurately in the near future as it is interwoven with good weather.

October 27, 2008

Remembering Sri Lanka’s Nightingale: 30th Death Anniversary of Rukmani Devi

Soon after her birth, with the retirement of her father from the Ramboda Estate, the Daniels family moved to a residence in Cotta Road in Colombo.

She had four sisters and one brother - Mabel, Florence, Helen, Sarojini and Fredrick. She was the second in the family. Her father after shifting to Colombo was employed at the Imperial Chemical Pharmacy in Colombo Fort.

Today, October 28, is her 30th death anniversary. She received her education at St. Clare’s College, Wellawatta and St. Matthew’s College, Dematagoda. She was highly talented that she participated in Christmas Carols at the age of seven when she was a student of Chandraleka, a teacher at St. Matthew’s College. Chandraleka was the wife of the well known artiste, J. D. A. Perera, and was her mentor in singing.

Rukmani was picked to perform the main role in a Christmas play ‘The Cobbler’s Wife’, which was presented by the St. Clare’s College.

At the age of twelve, she played the role of Sita in the stage play ‘Ramayanaya’, staged by Walter Abeysinghe. Some of the other plays she took part in were Mayawathi, Janaki Haranaya, Rohini, Hangala Appu, Rajddrohiya, Sirisangabo, Keekaru Birinda, Kadavunu Poronduwa, Avatharaya, Peralena Iranama, Maly Yahanawa, Onna Babo Ethninniya, Wes Muhunu and Sivamma Dhanapala.

Her first recording was a duet ‘Siri Buddha Gaya Vihare’ with the famous singer H. W. Rupasinghe Master in the gramophone era, which brought her fame and fortune. The song was recorded on His Master’s Voice - (H.M.V.) disc in 1939.

The Daniels family shifted from the Cotta Road residence to Moratuwa and later to Negombo. There she met young Eddie Jayamanne when they were playing in the stage play ‘Avatharaya’. They met each other and commenced a love affair with the hope of getting married. As Eddie had no proper employment or source of income, the parents of Rukmani Devi opposed their marriage and filed action before the then District Judge of Colombo D. R. F. Dias. E. B. Wickremanayake, Q.C. appeared for Eddie, the plaintiff-petitioner seeking permission of court to marry Rukmani then at a tender age. The judge is reported to have said: "Go to the closest Registrar’s office and get married. You are the Charlie Chaplin of Ceylon marrying the Nightingale of Ceylon". They were married on February 18, 1943 at the Wellampitiya Church and later settled down in their own house named ‘Jaya Ruk’ in Negombo.

Eddie, the comedian, had an older brother, namely, B. A. W. Jayamanne, a prolific playwright of the time and Director of the Minerva Amateur Dramatic Club of Negombo. Rukmani joined that institution as a songstress. The founder of the club B. A. W. Jayamanne guided her not only in her career but it was through him that she met her future husband Eddie.

She proceeded to India by train in 1946 with the Minerva Group to act in ‘Kandavunu Porunduwa’. She acted as the main actress in that film and she was also the playback singer. She became the first and foremost actress in the field of Sinhala cinema at a time when women were not even allowed to go out of their homes without a chaperone.

At a time, when the local cinema industry was in its embryonic stage, it was the veteran superstar Rukmani Devi who enlivened the silver screen with her matchless performances.

The drama ‘Kadavunu Poronduwa’ was a product of the Minerva Group, which went to the Madurai Studio in Madras to film it and was directed by Jothis. The popular lyrics were composed by Hugo Fernando. The film was first screened at the Kingsley Cinema on January 21, 1947 in the presence of a distinguished gathering with the Leader of the House in the State Council D. S. Sennayake as chief guest.

When Queen Elizebeth II visited Sri Lanka, Rukmani Devi was introduced to her as the celebrity artiste of the times.

A veteran film journalist A. D. Ranjith filling a void in the literature of Sinhala cinema, traces her life, since her birth up to her demise. Her life, works and presence on stage and screen is indelibly inscribed on tapes, discs and films, journals and above all, in the loving lasting memory of Sri Lankan filmgoers and lovers of music. Her lifespan was almost that of the history of Sinhala cinema in the formative stages in the mid-Twentieth Century. Graduating from the stage where she performed for Minerva Theatre Group, she was the only actor-songster in the Sinhala cinema who could be identified and talked of with admiration and gratitude.

With a string of success to her credit, she gracefully matured from teen-lover on stage to youthful lover and loving mother in cinema. Since the day she played the role of Sita in ‘Ramayana’ she never looked back until her demise under tragic circumstances on October 28, 1978 at Tudella, Ja-ela when she was returning from Matara after attending a musical performance. Her van collided with an oil Bowzer of the Petroleum Corporation.

She was born a Christian although at the launching of her important events in life, she obtained the blessings of the Sangha. She had the novel ‘Maraka Pimma’ in her possession at the time of her death. A Buddhist monk, prior to her death, had predicted that she would meet with a fatal accident and warned to be extremely careful.

Rukamani Devi was the first local cinema actress with the launching of the first Sinhala film ‘Kadavunu Poronduwa’ (Broken Promise) screened on January 21, 1947. Her film career covered a period of three decades and she acted in around 90 films. She possessed an inborn talent for singing in many forms as the theme demanded.

She engaged in double acting in ‘Umathu Vishvasaya’ as mother and daughter in 1952. Stanley Perera is the only film actor living today with whom she acted. She also opened a Cinema Industrial Company named Jaya Ruk. ‘Siriyalatha’ was the first film produced by that company and screened on June 27, 1957. It was in ‘Kavata Andare’ that both Rukmani and Eddie acted as husband and wife for the first time.

‘Magul Poruwa’ was the film in which she acted a main role for the last time, in 1967. Gamini Fonseka for the first time acted with her in ‘Daivayogaya’. The last song she sang was to the film ‘Ahasin Polowata’ - ‘Doi doi doi, written by Ausgustus Vinayagaratnam and Lyrics by Nimal Mendis.

She acted for a film for the last time in her life was to ‘Sakvithi Suwaya’ and it was a scene of a death. It was with Derick Silva that she sang a song to a disc, for the last time. She sang with Eddie Jayamanne, her husband for the last time in a musical programme at Uyanwatta in Matara, one day prior to her death.

Singers who sang with Rukamani Devi were H. W Rupasinghe, Hugo Fernando, Stanley Mallwaarachchi, S. S. Veda, Aruna Shanthi, Dharmadasa Walpola, Mohideen Baig, H. R. Jothipala, Sisira Senaratne, Susil Premaratne, W. D. Amaradeva, Milton Perera, Milton Mallawarachchi, C. T. Fernando, Felix Anton, Drick De Silva, Victor Ratnayake and Neville Fernando.

Her lyrics were by Nandana Kithi, Benedick Fernando, Lawyer Charles Dias, Hugo Fernando, Herbert M. Seneviratne, Karunaratne Abeysekera, Chitrananda Abeysekera, Wimaladasa Perera. K. D. K. Dharmasdasa, Sunil Ariyaratne, Sri Chandraratne Manawasinghe, George Leslie Ranasinghe, Ajantha Ranasinghe, Augustus Vinayagaratnam, Sarath Wimalaweera.

In 1955 at the ‘Paataka Tharagaya’ conducted by the ‘Dinamina’ she was selected as the best actress with a majority of 16, 221 votes.

At the ‘Deepasika’ awards ceremony conducted by ‘Lankadipa’ she was selected as the best actress of ‘Kela Hada in 1956.

She was selected as the best background singer for the song ‘Doi doi putha’ in the film’ Ahasin Polowata’ at the first Presidential Awards Ceremony held in 1976. She won the ‘Rana Thisara’ award at the ‘Sarasavi’ Awards Ceremony held in 1979. It is unfortunate that she was not living to receive that award.

 

October 26, 2008

Pirabhakaran ‘Returns’ To India

By P.C. Vinoj Kumar

IN 2002, THEN chief minister Jayalalithaa arrested Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) founder Vaiko and other politicians for their support to Sri Lanka’s Tamil rebels. Six years later, the situation is utterly reversed, with the public mood in Tamil Nadu swinging radically in favour of the rebels. Recent local surveys by two of the state’s leading media houses, the New Indian Express and Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan, have found overwhelming ground-level support for the Sri Lankan Tamil liberation movement and for rebel leader, Velupillai Pirabhakaran. With reports of increasing Tamil casualties in the island country, public sympathy for Pirabhakaran and his outfit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), has only been strengthened

In spiralling protests across the state last fortnight, effigies of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse were burnt in many places, as were copies of the English daily, The Hindu, for its alleged pro-Sinhala stand; the paper’s office even came under attack in Coimbatore. Students boycotted classes, lawyers stayed away from the courts and the Tamil film industry staged a massive rally in Rameswaram on October 19. Political parties, their eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, were forced to take up the Eelam cause. State MPS belonging to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Congress, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the CPI, CPM, and MDMK threatened to resign en masse if the Centre failed to pressure Sri Lanka into calling a ceasefire. With the standoff threatening to bring down the UPA Government (which has 16 DMK, five PMK, 10 Congress and two MDMK rebel MPs), the Indian Government is in contact with Colombo to find a face-saving solution.

Meanwhile, in Salem district, about 375 km southwest of Chennai, LTTE supporters are celebrating in Kolathur. “Just because a member of a family has killed someone, you don’t pull his pictures out of the family album. He still remains part of the family. Pirabhakaran is part of our families. We are proud of him, he is a freedom fighter,” says Kolathur Mani, leader of the socio-political outfit, the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK). Pirabhakaran’s photos adorn the walls of many houses and shops in the Kolathur area’s villages. Locals say if the LTTE chief were to contest the local assembly seat, he would win hands down.

The Kolathur town panchayat comprises about 10 villages, which together have a population of around 75,000 people. About 2,000 of Pirabhakaran’s cadre trained in one such village, Kumbarapatti, in the 1980s. “The boys were here for about three years. The village people provided them food and shelter,” says Balasubramaniam, who did small chores around the camp. “The LTTE boys were well-disciplined. Many had suffered under the Sinhalese army. There were boys from affluent families, who had lost all they had and who had seen their mothers and sisters raped before their eyes.”

In these villages, it hardly matters that Pirabhakaran is an accused in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, or that the LTTE is banned in India. Many have named their children after Pirabhakaran. Housing colonies have been given the names of LTTE martyrs: Suba Thamilchelvan and Dileepan. Last year, villagers collected over a tonne of rice for the Eelam Tamils when Thamizh Desiya Iyakkam leader Pazha Nedumaran appealed for relief materials. In Kumbarapatti stands a bus shelter built in memory of Ponammaan, the LTTE camp in-charge whose helpful ways earned him the villagers’ love. “The LTTE had an old, battered Willys jeep, which they used to buy provisions from the Kolathur market. Ponammaan used to offer the jeep to help transport sick people to hospital,” recalls local resident Dhandapani. The shelter was built in 1989, when Ponammaan died in Sri Lanka; two years later, the villagers fought back when Congressmen damaged the structure after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. “They asked them if they had ever seen Rajiv or eaten with him. Ponammaan was in their midst for three years and had shared their joys and sorrows,” says Mani.

IN 2006, NEARLY 500 schoolchildren from the area took out a procession protesting the Sri Lankan air attack that killed 60 children in an orphanage. “These protests are spontaneous because the Eelam Tamils are our brothers and sisters,” says Balakrishnan, otherwise known as ‘Tiger’ Balu for his diehard espousal of the LTTE cause. His shop, the Tigers’ Auto Electrical Works, has the LTTE logo on its signboard: a tiger’s head ringed with bullets. “I am an LTTE supporter,” declares medicine-seller Nallathambi. “My whole family admires Pirabhakaran.” Madhu, who runs a saloon named after LTTE leader Dileepan, turns emotional. “I am prepared to give the Tigers any kind of support. We supported them before, and we will continue to do so.” he says.

Kolathur remained a hotbed of LTTE activity even after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991. In 1993, Kiruban, an LTTE cadre who escaped from custody while being transported to the Trichy court, was said to have gone underground in Kolathur for a while before he slipped out of the country to Eelam via the sea route. The car he had hijacked to flee the police was found burnt near Kolathur. In 1994, PDK leader Mani was detained under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act on charges of aiding the escape of an LTTE convict. He was arrested again in 1995 for his alleged links to the dramatic escape of 43 LTTE cadres from Vellore Fort through a 126ft-long underground tunnel they had dug. Villagers said some of the escapees hid in the Kolathur forests before they fled to Sri Lanka.

Till a couple of years ago, many in Kolathur received LTTE publications such as their monthly bulletin Erimalai. The magazines stopped after the war intensified in Sri Lanka. But people here kept themselves abreast of the happenings in Eelam through the Tamil Eelam Television, a two-hour daily broadcast put out by the LTTE. “The half-hour news bulletin gave an accurate account of the happenings in Eelam. But there have been no transmissions for the last six months,” says TS Palanisamy, a Kolathur quarry owner. It is suspected that the Tigers’ transmission tower has been damaged in the conflict. With locals alleging biased coverage of the war in the Indian media, many tune in to international radio stations instead. VCDs on the conflict are also available in some places.

With pro-LTTE passions running as high as they do here, none of Tamil Nadu’s political parties would want to be seen lagging when it comes to a show of hands for Prabhakaran’s army. What that means for the UPA, the Centre has only a few days more to test.

Courtesy: Tehelka

Sri Lanka Commits Itself Firmly To India On Political Process In Pranab-Basil Meeting

India has decided to send around 800 tonness of relief material to Sri Lanka for the affected civilians in the North, a joint statement issued by the Sri Lankan and Indian governments said today.

The decision was conveyed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s special envoy Senior Advisor to the President Basil Rajapaksa during his visit India today. He held discussions with Indian External Affairs Minister, National Security Advisor and Foreign Secretary.

[Before talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Special Adviser Basil Rajapaksa in New Delhi today-pic courtesy: Dinamalar]

The joint statement said;

“The Indian side appreciated deeply the initiative of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to send his Special Envoy. The discussions were positive and constructive and centered around a range of issues.

India conveyed its concern at the humanitarian situation in the northern part of Sri Lanka, especially of the civilians and internally displaced persons caught in the hostilities and emphasised the need for unhindered essential relief supplies. Mr. Rajapaksa briefed the Indian authorities of the efforts by the Sri Lanka Government to afford relief and ensure the welfare of the civilian population in the North. He assured that the safety and wellbeing of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is being taken care of.

As a gesture of goodwill, India has decided to send around 800 tonness of relief material to Sri Lanka for the affected civilians in the North. The Government of Sri Lanka will facilitate the delivery. Both sides agreed to consult and cooperate with each other in addressing these humanitarian issues.

Both sides discussed the need to move towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island including in the North. Both sides agreed that terrorism should be countered with resolve. The Indian side called for implementation of the 13th Amendment and greater devolution of powers to the provinces. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa emphasized that the President of Sri Lanka and his Government were firmly committed to a political process that would lead to a sustainable solution.

Both sides agreed to further nurture the democratic process in the Eastern Province. Mr. Rajapaksa briefed the Indian side of the large development effort underway in the Eastern Province.

With regard to issues relating to fishermen, in view of the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions involved, both sides agreed to put in place practical arrangements to deal with bona fide Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line and to continue discussions on the proposed MOU on development and cooperation in the field of fisheries.

Discussions in New Delhi during Mr. Rajapaksa's visit were characterized by a spirit of constructive engagement on both sides. Both Governments will remain in close touch”.

Kilinochchi: A Stalingrad In The Making?

by B. Raman

In pursuance of my article titled "Kilinochchi: The Spectre of Stalingrad", I have been in receipt of many messages---- some complimenting me for drawing attention to the Battle of Stalingrad and others pointing out previous references to it by some LTTE cadres. I do not claim any credit for originality. For some months now, there have been reports from West Europe claiming that pro-LTTE elements in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora have been buying up all the books on the Battle of Stalingrad available in the local bookshops. This reminded one of a pre-1994 report from the British and others that pro-LTTE Tamils in their countries were spending a lot of money buying up books on flying and aircraft maintenance and that Flying Clubs in the UK and Switzerland had reported that some Sri Lankan Tamils were learning flying.

In recent months, some persons , who have been following the fighting in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka closely, have been referring to Kilinochchi as a "Stalingrad in the Making".Rediff.com, the well-known Indian news web site, had also referred to the Stalingrad precedent in a report on the reactions in Tamil Nadu. The question is not whether Kilinochchi would turn out to be a Stalingrad-in-the-making. Most probably not. The question is how the LTTE's mind works and how it tries to draw lessons from history. It is surprising that the Sri Lankan authorities, despite their having an inflated Deputy High Commission in Chennai---- which one fears meets the intelligence requirements of Sri Lanka as well as Pakistan---were not aware of the perceptions in Tamil Nadu.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Indian strategy in full circle: Is taming the Tiger, is to tame the Lion?

Abstract: The issues facing the Tamils are many, mainly due to three reasons. One, they are struggling without a proper political leadership. Two, their economy has deteriorated leaving the ordinary people in dire straits, while their neighbours are improving; three, we have always been reactive than proactive with our Indian neighbour and, have consistently fail to understand its political-behaviour, stands and the policies and, importantly our Tamil brethren. We briefly explore the present situation and suggest that we should move our agenda forward with a leadership to match it. For this purpose, we also suggest five principles the Tamil political parties and militant groups must adhere to, based on empowerment of our people as the practical and philosophical parameter.

By Ravi Sundaralingam

It seems from some angles that there is no hope of a resolution for the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka at least from the Tamils point of view, for the moment. The propaganda by the Sri Lankan media, picked up and amplified by the foreign news agencies is convincing enough that the war by the Sinhala state against the LTTE has become a great success and seemed moving towards a decisive phase. The ground situation tells us that the LTTE has abandoned large chunk of its de facto Tamil state and dispersing into the jungles, in a phased withdrawal, enduring only the necessary and calculated number of casualties. It is true, faced with the Sri Lankan military arsenal in terms of quality and quantity, an army one of the largest in the region, and at present the ‘international license to go after the Tigers’, LTTE would be militarily defeated if they stood up and faced their enemy, but why should they?

As for the LTTE it would want us to recall the comebacks it has made, against the Sinhala army and another time out-manoeuvring the mighty Indians, and so expect the Tamils to abide by them, but can they afford to? Anyone closely observing these LTTE comebacks would have noticed that every one of them was at great costs to the concept and strength of the Tamil struggle. The differences among the Tamil communities are now fully exposed and exploited by the state to its advantage, and each comeback has forced more of them to seek safety and economic life elsewhere, mainly in the Western province. Many dejected and desperate Tamils now live in Puthalam in large numbers among the Tamil speaking Muslims, who were callously ejected by the Tigers from Northern Province. The catchment areas and the age group have been dwindling for Tiger recruitment, as the people desert their lands. These military successes have also brought in the attention of the leading international powers, they in reality want to curtail the ascendance of the LTTE more than their concern about its terrorism, hence the banning of the organisation and its arms and freezing of its assets.

Whatever the Tamil peoples reasoning, hopes and real expectations are, the regional reality check has dawned on the combatants reminding them that the prevailing condition in the region is called India. The question is not whether India can establish its regional control euphemistically referred to as regional security, but what do the Sinhala state and the Tamils in Ceylon will get out from it, and give up for it? Until now, there is no doubt, it is the Tamils who are paying up front for something they are forced to buy without even knowing what it is, and it is a fact that it is the Tamils who have been suffering in the murkiness created by the policies of the Indians and the misconceptions and actions of the Tigers.

There are certain maxims in life, though not precise as in science, like the 2nd law of thermodynamics (it asserts that efficiency of any machine cannot ever reach 100%), which cannot be rewritten. One such edict teaches us that the art of fighting a war is not winning a few battles, but the war to win over the losing rebel army and the people who support it, otherwise one could only be contemplating genocide like the Anglo-Saxon invaders’ approach to the natives in Australia, Canada or USA.

The Americans as the superpower have been trying to disprove this historical truism, despite own failures in Vietnam, Indo-China, South America, and now Iraq and in Afghanistan, one of the poorest in the world where the richest, the Americans, believe the meaning of civilisation is being fought. Perhaps, because of their Anglo-Saxon roots and colonial heritage, USA and its Western allies still believe that with just the military might and the willingness to use it, and some control over resources they can institutionally subdue anybody of people anywhere.

Their want of trying is an affordable exercise to them, and even in failures they have their success, as they return the people they are fighting against to stone age by the carnage they generate to such an extent, even valuable resources the natives possess become totally useless for their immediate purpose; just watch the disintegration of the Iraqis. For countries like Sri Lanka however, fighting a war means only a war within their borders, as they are never going to be a power to project it over any other, even countries of the size of San Marino, nor have such a history to boast. Their pride, bravado, identity, and history are all about the fights with the tribes next door and exerting their numerical power over the smaller nations and minority communities within their territories, presented to them by their colonial masters.

The espoused economic reasons by the apologists, as in the case of Sinhalese, for invading into the lands belonging to the smaller nations and minorities, and turning colonisation as legitimate state policy tell us the failure of these people as innovators and masters of their economies; primitive in their inception, and not surprisingly primitive in ambitions. These utter failures become palpably obvious even to the ardent or secret anti-Indian Lankan, when India is flying its mega-size rocket to start off its long-term program of space exploration, Pakistan is filing in for bankruptcy and fighting a war within and with the invading Americans and Afghans to preserve the state and define its meaning; and Sri Lanka, well it has reached yet another orbit of hyperbole, undeterred by the noises rising from its giant neighbour. For such countries and nations learning this basic truth about wars, in our modern times, can only come through enforced experience.

Sri Lanka will soon learn this truth, as for now it wants to glorify itself by addressing the Tamils as the vanquished and the Sinhalese as the masters of the island by pursuing a military solution to the island’s ethnic crisis. To this extent its propaganda aims to use its recent military victories as a psychological tool with the sole purpose of convincing the Tamil communities, mainly those living abroad, that they should give up their support for the struggle. Amid all the propaganda of Mahinda’s Sinhala government, the claim that it has defeated the LTTE is the most dubious, but the lack of any offer of a political solution is critical. In such circumstances the call for the surrender of the LTTE is not aimed at LTTE, but at the Tamil communities, and the talk of an end game is aimed at squaring the circle with Indians.

It is sad that Sri Lanka has consistently failed to truly understand and accept that the Tamil grievances as real and are due to it peoples’ fallacious understanding of the island history and its oppression of the Tamil communities. The rise of the LTTE and its dominance of Tamil politics may have complicated and exasperated already existing problem, but the defeat of the LTTE certainly will not mean the elimination of the fundamental problems; the national question and the democratic rights of its minorities. Presenting the Tamils struggle and the LTTE as one and the same has only benefited the Sinhala chauvinist state and we can see the reasons why it wants to persist with that claim. Military defeat for a militarist outfit like the Tigers might only mean the inherent failure in their military strategy, and if more, their basic demand for a separate state for the Tamils, Tamil Eelam. Does this mean that Tamils are now have to come to terms with the ‘reality’ that the island belongs to the Sinhalese, because they are the dominant and victorious people as the xenophobic Sinhala leaders or some of the Tamil quislings began to suggest? Defeat or not for the LTTE, the Tamils have all the reasons to continue with their struggle against the Sinhala state, but in what form?

Indian strategy

Many amongst us will slate India saying that it does not possess a consistent policy towards Sri Lanka and its ethnic crisis. While this may be true in part in its assertion about the national question, only a fool will say that India did not know its own interest in the island. India has intervened many times in Sri Lanka, militarily and politically: every time to save the state, which it had decided is part of its regional interest, a policy that is consistent and hasn’t changed a bit despite its support for the Tamil militancy in the eighties.

Indian policy makers follow the ancient philosophical position comes tradition of the Kshatriyas, like the great teacher Drona in Mahabarath. For whom the concept of a state is not how it is constituted, but what was at the beginning and, how and who should change it. It is like a big land bought with trees, bushes, animals and birds, and the question is how you go about making a living off that land while making a home within it, with minimum change possible? Drona wasn’t and wouldn’t have been concerned whether Dharmar or Duriyodana represented the state, or what it meant, but the state itself had a meaning.

In a caste driven society with a clear consciousness about tribal, national, regional distinctions those who are the counsel for the Indian state, perhaps, feel that they alone are responsible for keeping “things together” for the politicians to change them in their great wars, whatever that may be along the timeline. “Keeping things together” means there can be interference to change the dynamics, but there can be no interference to change the aggregate or overall content at the outset. Keeping things together in India means preserving the power of the state irrespective of its meaning, not allowing anyone or people to take overall control such as to dictate terms to the political institutions of the time, which can go through changes in a time allowed ‘natural’ way: evolution and not revolution. An exemplification can be found in the extremely contrasting modes of Great Asoka’s approach to his people yet, the underlying theme for a certain type of dynamics, via good conduct, and the aim to preserve the state run through both of them; one, according to him, his desire to create, ‘the hell on earth’ to extend and preserve the state power, and two, convinced by the Buddhism and of its view on non-violence and sanctity of life, his direction to the state’s officials to erect pillars carved with its main teaching all over his state, and to create an army of state-informers to ensure people behave accordingly. For those unfamiliar with the great Indian epics from North or South, its history, and with no intimate or respectful relationship with its people, all these will sound contradictory in terms and logic: “absolute nonsense”.

Indian policy at work has always that basic tenet of our argument: India, “interferes to preserve” than “interferes to destroy” that doesn’t mean it is averse to changes. In Sri Lanka, India intervened to preserve the state, which it perhaps considers as an envelope that hold ‘something inside’ or ‘things together’. It came in to save the state from the JVP attempts to overthrow it, but was willing to save its leadership when they were at the point of extinction and later work with them to alter the dynamics within the state. It supported the Tamil militancy to prevent the state being overrun by alien influence, according to its own definitions, but will support the state against the LTTE to prevent the tigers dictating terms to the state entirely by military means. It argued and worked for the preservation of a Hindu-Monarchy in Nepal, but once it realised the same can be achieved, probably in a more effect way, accepted the Maoist and their allies, without much of a fuss.

Though Indian policy making hasn’t deviated from this basic belief, in the manner it has been advocating its action has gone through considerable changes, mainly due its ever improving self-confidence. In this sense at the beginning of it interference in the Sri Lankan crisis India perhaps, had self-doubts about advocating anything concrete philosophically and sociologically to the Lankans, while it has so many historical questions itself. Regional interests then strictly guided Indian policies, while they were also going through adjustments due to global changes, and of its concern to the reactions in Tamil Nadu. And allied to these policies, an element of aggression was also added as a policy in order to enforce them. The lack of self-confidence can always be detected by the aggressive mannerism and violent tendency, and not allowing any room for discussions or diplomacy: another social maxim that applies to peoples and individuals. Whether in Thimpu, Bangalore or Delhi no quarters were given to the Sri Lankan or Tamil sides for too much discussions, as the overall outcome in each case was predetermined.

It is noticeable, even at its lowest confidence level India was mindful not to give the Tamils the equal parity with the established state, instead entered into a bilateral agreement on their behalf. We don’t see the possibility of a change in this policy even though we have been consistently arguing for a tripartite agreement between India, Sri Lanka, and the Tamils. Then again India is not the same that went into a bilateral agreement on behalf of a people belonging to ‘another country’ and sent it troops to supervise its enactment. It is a confident middle class India, recently emboldened by its nuclear deal not just with the USA, which not so distance past imposed sanctions in protest against India’s atomic tests, also with the French who are American’s competitors in the business even before the US Senate ratified the 123 agreement. In other words, India has all the reasons to believe it has the full licence to impose its will in the region.

If Indian policy makers are steadfast about the sanctity of a state, irrespective of its constitution, they are equally determined how the changes can be made to it. The cliché, “no military solution to a political crisis” repetitively mentioned in every communication, one feels carries the same weight as India’s willingness to save the Lankan state. India has confirmed its personnel are with the Sri Lankan army, its generals routinely visit the fronts, perhaps even share ideas, provides satellite images to the state, trains and equips its army, helped to deplete LTTE’s military supplies and to destroy its storage deports in the high seas, and even said to be the cause for the decline of Tiger’s navy. It was in part responsible for the splitting of the Karuna faction from the LTTE, and tactically accepted the de-linking of the Eastern province, in contrary to its demand in the Indo-Lanka accord, just to discredit LTTE’s demand for sole-representation and its de facto state. Beyond its military and diplomatic support for the Lankan state, it has been providing financial aid to Sri Lanka, at crucial times, all this has built a factor of trust and reliability as far as the Sri Lankan state is concerned.

When collectively viewed it seems India has decided that in order to have a solution to the island’s ethnic crisis, the LTTE has to be brought to size, for which it feels the time is right. That means there will be room for the Tigers only as a guerrilla force and not a conventional force threatening to militarily dismantle the Sri Lankan state, or in a position to dismiss all other political factors and factions as irrelevant ‘traitors’. Does this preclude all possibility that the people of the island, Sinhalese or Tamils have forever lost their right to change the nature of the state? Or do they need the Indian’s consent to do so? As far as the Indian policy makers are concerned, they don’t see the contradiction in an armed struggle against the state, but how it argues for a new augmented state, but does this suffice for the citizens of another country? How can Indian policy makers demand or impose a condition that their own citizens would not accept?
At present this seems this only a theoretical and spurious debate for a small people caught up between a fire and a storm, and has no consequence to their predicament. There are those who spend their time counting the few countries that have escaped the clutches of such regional or global conditions; Kosovo and East Timor are the two often mentioned Abkashia and South Osscestia are two more additions to the list. What they fail to see, these are born out of special circumstances, which evolved due to global changes in geo-politics based on economic developments. Can anyone actually see the likeness, between our situation and any in the list above let alone the likelihood of our circumstances changing into such momentous conditions?

On the other hand, if there is no conventional military threat to the Lankan state, India can question the need for the state for such an arsenal and personnel, and therefore can demand a scaling down, which will put and end for the need of alien military aid.

If our information and calculated speculations are confirmed facts, then this logical reasoning can be extended, and we can confidently suggest that India will continue this process to reign in the Sinhala state and bring them down into their spectrum as well. The trust and reliability they have built with them, along the Indian idea of a state, and the economical interdependency built over a long period, which will become stronger in the developing global economic scenario, may be tools India feels that can help to fine-tune a state already in transition with the 13th amendment. If need be, there is always the excuse of the Tamil Nadu factor and the support for Tamil militancy, which can be used to knock a few ideas the Lankans have into shape. But, are they enough to make a state, which is primitive in its construct as much as in practice to behave the way and yield a solution to the ethnic crisis, at least as much as the India wants? We have serious doubts about this as a concept or proposition, as much as we recognise the basic aims of the Indian policy makers, especially those in Delhi. But, how do we approach them or have a dialogue to convince them of their misconceptions about Sri Lankans? If some of the Tamils feel that their own mother has mugged them, having imposed the leadership of LTTE on them one can understand a sense of proportion in their argument.

Question of a leadership than leaders

During our current phase, some of our intellectuals have started to write and profess their newfound wisdom: “Tamils are exposed”. And those recently parachuted into the ‘struggle’ without a bit of knowledge of our struggle or India or Tamil Nadu, suddenly feel overcome by the talk of differences among the Tamil communities, and they desperately want to poly-fill those social cracks patently obvious and laid bare for everyone to see. So, they utter their immortal words, “the Tamils are now exposed as a consequence of the defeats the LTTE has suffered”.

What these people with opaque eyes don’t see, their preset minds will never comprehend is that ‘it well and truly happened a long time ago’: exactly when the Tamils were forced to accept the leadership of the LTTE. Is this a rhetorical statement and no more? Well think about it, if India is promoting or allowing an organisation, with one-man leadership, willing to commit atrocities beyond the call of duty, with an utmost commitment to a separate Tamil state, which it has said it will never allow as it penetrated the Tamil militancy with the offer of military assistance, what were they thinking about? Did it mean India accepted even as early as that, it has to accept the inevitability of an LTTE like natural born killers to become leaders of a separate state in their backyard? If these thumb-screwing intellectuals, doubling up as sofa-generals are still persisting with their borrowed military theories like dodgy second-hand car dealers, that the Tamils can assert military superiority over the numerically vastly greater, internationally recognised state, then how can anyone blame the leadership of the LTTE, which doesn’t know anything other than absolute violence to understand the scale and the insurmountable task it faces? However, they continue to spin out their dreamt up scenarios of economic collapse and self-destruction of the Sinhala political system, new global conditions with the election of Obama, and collapse of the capitalist system worldwide. According to these soothsayers, when an opportune time arises the LTTE, even if they are left with only 300 members (Remember Granma Crossing; were there 5 or 9 revolutionaries with Castro?), would prevail against all odds, armed with only clubs and machetes. However, they conveniently forget that even if one such fantasy should come close to be true, there is always India to close the doors on them: it will not allow the military defeat or the economic or social collapse of the Sri Lankan state. This is not something we like or wish, but our observation about the regional reality.

Tamils started to be exposed when the Indians realised that we are as many peoples among Tamils as the number of militant groups landed on their shores; when these groups competed with each other for the patronage of the Tamil Nadu political parties, and showed their preparedness to kill amongst and talk and do nothing but violence. Tamils were exposed when India was able to promote the petty and innate ambitions, and naked aggression of these groups as a ploy to pre-empt a politically united national framework to evolve, finally allowing for the eradication of every group by a process of, Indian influenced ‘natural selection’. Tamils were exposed when Indian strategists decided that they should not and shall not allow a Tamil leadership that can develop a democratic decision making process within itself as a group and outside as a people, so that there is political directive all the time, especially at difficult times. The evidence for this can be seen every time LTTE begins to lose militarily, wherein its voice begin to fade and Tamils sink into the darkness filled by empty slogans and noise of the outsiders, the so called supporters. We may ask, if Tamils were not exposed as early as that, why do we need the Tamil Nadu politicians to raise their antics to save them, or plead for the India or the international community to come to their rescue, whenever we feel the LTTE is losing or not getting the attention from anyone to our plight?

Worse still are these people’s expectations of the LTTE. Real Tigers for all their faults are humble enough and knew where their weaknesses lie: in their assumptions about peoples, nation, and humanity, and socio-economic expectations, but pursued them regardless because they truly believed in their military capabilities, and believed that it alone will overcome all their deficiencies. If the international conditions, particularly the Indians weren’t prevailing they could have even established some military supremacy over the Sinhala army momentarily, like the Eritreans during a brief period over the Ethiopians. However, no other Tamil militant group would have chosen the military path as it did, and would have ever produced men and women of valour as the LTTE. The individual feats at the fronts, the pain and endurance, the enormous sacrifice they are ever so willing to make are marks of the LTTE that have been etched on our people’s history despite the noise of their enemies, mainly their own creations.

But, the sad truth is that these victories and sacrifices were never translated into anything tangible over the long period the Tigers had taken control of the Tamils’ lives, and their bogus supervision over our peoples’ destiny. It is this fact above all else, their voracious killing spree and suppression of opponents and discussion, total disregard for human kindness and humanity, proves that the military prowess alone and, unfortunately their great sacrifice, mean nothing in the international arena. Tamils’ military superiority over the Sri Lankan state can only be established in a bubble, when the international community restrict the Sinhala state’s vigour and ability to fight. When these true facts are known, when the ordinary men and women, in most cases teenagers, of the LTTE have laid their lives without questions, to expect them to continue with their sacrifices without any positive results, is the most treacherous of crimes. These expectations of the LTTE by the so-called supporters are nothing but an absolution and abandonment of their own self-responsibilities, and it is beyond humane beliefs. It is time, instead of the pretentious support for the LTTE, just by giving some money and parroting the slogan for Tamil Eelam, some of these people should put their heads above the parapets and be counted. Don’t forget, the present phase was brought about the LTTE’s decision to select Mahinda as the Sinhala President over Ranil, it is alleged, after receiving sack full of Dollars from Rajapakse family.

Tamils are exposed, yes, because of the Indian interference, misadventure of the LTTE and their persistent believe in a failed military strategy, false belief in a nation without the thought of building one, and many other subjective conditions we can list, but most of all they are exposed because of the lack of leadership, a fact Tamils must rectify if they are to advance.

If we are correct in our understanding of the India’s Lankan policy, we are not entirely convinced of its ability to deliver. There is always the nagging feeling, what if the Sri Lankans call it a bluff and go for a military solution despite Indians’ wishes and their actions to prevent it? If the USA can come around to make a nuclear deal with the Indians, despite their protestations of their nuclear ambitions only a decade ago, why can’t the Indians accommodate the Sinhala state, because they have to, after demolishing the Tamils of Ceylon as a people with traditional homelands and as a sizeable minority to maintain ethnic pluralism in the island? Obviously, we do not know of all the tools and parameters India may have to control the actions and activities of the Lankan state.

If the Indian council in Delhi is entirely soundproof to the cries of pain and foul of our long-suffering people in Ceylon, and willing to wipe the history and the memories in their dealing with the Lankan state, then they might even be prepared for the sacking of the Tamils as a people in the island and accept what the Sinhala chauvinists want. Then, they would have accepted a change beyond redemption, contrary to their basic belief we have highlighted; the dynamics in the island no more, only a static position would be the result. Would India sincerely prefer the imposition of such a scenario and its implications on itself?

However, we as a people suffering under Sri Lankan oppression, and the unfulfilled promises of the Indians and their policies have no need to search for the answers or thrust them. Meanwhile, though as Tamils we will feel enraged and argue about the moralities of these actions, we also know they are as unproductive as thrust in others. What we should not forget is our responsibilities towards our people, and try to adopt our efforts with an understanding of these Indian actions in a regional context and the underlying theme within them. It is with this knowledge we can survive this atrocious phase to continue with our peoples struggle for full democratic rights. For this we need to construct a leadership for all times, and a socio-political strategy allied to an armed struggle if necessary in which all our peoples can be fully take part, and have a sense of belonging.

When in our community have questions about leadership, it is often misunderstood and taken as sly remarks against one or another leader. Individually and collectively they all fail to understand it is about a collective decision making process as leaders of different communities and groups, and within their own groups and communities. Because of our economic underdevelopment these two positions are often in conflict and confusion ensues. However, we can transcend beyond these barriers, if the intellectuals and community leaders, especially among the Expatriate communities, play their roles responsibly, without primitive partisan views and unintelligible theoretical responses.

Can there be an acknowledgement that asking for more sacrifice from any particular group and our eternally suffering Tamil speaking communities is inappropriate and is a horrid way of shirking of our responsibilities? Can we accept, whether we like it or not, we are now exposed than ever, without the support of anybody in the international communities, other than our Indian brethren for better or worse? Can we accept that there is no nation to talk about, unless we are prepared to build one and defend it for the benefit of all those live in it? Can we also understand, despite our wishes, there are international and regional conditions that cannot be changed by us alone, a small aspiring people without a nation and any international support beyond empty words, and diplomatic jargons and double-talk? Our choice in some sense simple enough: one, we persist with our hope that the LTTE will alone deliver; two accept that Sinhalese reign supreme in the island and surrender to the chauvinist power as an inevitability; three, we accept there is India and the regional reality it brings therefore, work with it to advance our cause without getting entangled in philosophical discourses. But, if we are to make any choice that we can call it our own, then we need to build a leadership that can understand and articulate our ever evolving internal and external conditions with the responsibility it deserves. If such a feat is possible, it could have only come through the understanding and acceptance of the following principles.

The leadership of the Tamils must accept that the,

Sri Lankan state has to be fundamentally reconstituted to accommodate the aspirations of all its peoples,

fundamental tenets of the Thimpu principles in its entirety must be enshrined within the new constitutional framework,

full implication of their regional responsibilities,

nation building is more important than the assumption of a nation, therefore, empowerment of our people as communities and individuals are the immediate priorities, and

action program must incorporate the content and the concepts of all the five points, with an inbuilt priority given to the fourth point, above.

We hope that those feel that they are born leaders and those in the front for the limelight forever playing the second fiddle as supporters of our peoples’ struggle are responsible and courageous enough to take our call for discussion further in a constructive manner

Ravi Sundaralingam is the Academic Secretary of ASATiC and can be reached at Academic_secretary@gmail.com

October 24, 2008

Will There be a Mother of All Battles for Kilinochchi?

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein captured the world’s imagination with his prediction about  the ‘Mother of all battles’ in 1991 after seizing  Kuwait.

The much-awaited mother of all battles turned out to be damp squib. It was a case of beginning with a tremendous bang and ending in a pathetic whimper.

Recent hype  in sections of the media about  the seizure of Kilinochchi preceded by  a  fierce battle, brings back memories of the mother of all battles that never occurred.

If current politico – military realities are taken into account all indicators are that the anticipated mother of all battles for Kilinochchi may not take place after all.

Multiple factors such as the serious concern evinced by New Delhi about the safety and security of Tamil civilians, the onset of North – Eastern monsoon rains, the defensive measures set in motion by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the   pragmatically flexible military approach adopted by the Sri Lankan armed forces  are leading to a  dicey situation where  Kilinochchi’s fate  could be uncertain.

Kilinochchi was a fast developing town in the Northern mainland until the ethnic conflict escalated. The town lies alongside the Jaffna – Kandy trunk road known as the A – 9 Highway

It was earlier part of the Jaffna administrative district. Kilinochchi was re- demarcated as a separate administrative district with Kilinochchi town as its capital.

The name Kilinochchi is derived from “kili” meaning parrot and the tree “ nochchi “ (vitex negundo). Kilinochchi district is a sprawling agrarian region extending even into the Jaffna peninsula in the form of Pachchilaipalli AGA division.

Although Kilinochchi is a separate administrative district, it is also an electoral division forming part of the Jaffna electoral district when it comes to polls.

It could be seen therefore that the name Kilinochchi refers to the town, administrative district, electoral division and in a general sense the outlying region.

In recent times, Kilinochchi shot to fame when it became the de – facto administrative “capital” of LTTE controlled territory in the North.

 Kilinochchi itself was wrested back by the tigers from Government control in 1998 through phase – two of the LTTE military operation codenamed “Oyatha Alaigal” or ceaseless waves.

The ceasefire agreement of February 23rd 2002 saw a period of relative peace.

[click to read article in Daily Mirror.lk]

 

Sri Lankan Identity in a Time of Siege

By Dayan Jayatilleka

“All along the watchtower, princes kept the view"-  Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

Though it may seem otherwise at first blush, the agitation in Tamil Nadu is not helping the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka . It is hardening majority opinion on the island and serves as a reminder of the existential threat posed to the Sinhalese from across the narrow Palk Straits. It is likely to make the Sinhala majority warier about the degree of autonomy granted to the Tamil majority Northern periphery, susceptible as it may be to the pull factor of Tamil Nadu sentiment given the extreme physical proximity.

While Colombo’s political commentariat had concluded that the agitation in Tamil Nadu was the avoidable result of Sinhala chauvinism stimulated or tolerated by the Rajapakse administration, it was left to Malini Parthasarathy, respected voice of the educated and highly sophisticated Tamil Nadu elite, a director of the 130 year old Hindu newspaper, and observer-commentator of Sri Lankan affairs since the 1980s, to name the agitation for what it was: Tamil chauvinism.  Her editorial was followed by a longer statement by N Ram Editor in Chief of the Hindu, and editorial comments in other respected Indian newspapers which extended the critique to identify the phenomenon as pro-LTTE Tamil secessionism.

Malini Parthasarathy and N. Ram quite rightly pointed to President Rajapakse’s pledge to implement the 13th amendment, and the initial action – the electoral process-- taken in the Eastern province as sufficient evidence, on balance, of the excessive and unwarranted nature of the Tamil Nadu reaction.

While I have been an early and consistent advocate of speedy, substantial devolution of power both for its intrinsic merits as well as for its strategic value in neutralizing external hostility and maximizing much needed external security cooperation, it would be ridiculously a-historical to attribute the agitation in Tamil Nadu to the paucity of devolution or the provocative nature of certain remarks made by elements of the Southern polity. Certainly those remarks were misplaced, ill-timed, foreseeably provocative, and will prove utterly unsustainable in the post-November 4th (US Election) historical context.

Tamil Chauvinism across the Silent Sea

However, it would take a bout of amnesia or intentional falsification to forget that Tamil Nadu agitation – featuring the same cast of characters – was an important factor during the Indian Peacekeeping Force operation against the LTTE and in support of the 13th amendment. Wounded IPKF soldiers in Tamil nadu hospitals found themselves less well-treated than the LTTE wounded who had been smuggled across. The slogan of the IPKF as an Indian People Killing Force originated in Tamil Nadu, as did the rumors of Tamil girls being raped by IPKF soldiers. Tamil Nadu support for the LTTE provided the atmosphere in which the EPRLF’s K Padmanabha and his entire Politburo were murdered in a machine gun assault in an apartment block in Chennai, for which no one was arrested under Chief Minister Karunanidhi. Indeed the entire propagandistic narrative which justified the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi was shared and disseminated by Tamil Nadu chauvinists.    

MG Ramachandran was able to play a role in catalyzing Operation Poomalai (the famous “parippu drop”) aborting Operation Liberation of the Sri Lankan armed forces, notwithstanding the fact that Colombo and Delhi had been negotiating seriously on devolution at least since late 1985 when Colombo agreed to the province as the main unit of devolution, through the November 1986 proximity talks at the Bangalore SAARC summit, the Natwar Singh Chidambaram mission of November 1986 and the easing of fuel restrictions on Jaffna in April 1987. In short there was an ongoing process of bilateral negotiation on devolution, when Tamil Nadu was still able to play a negative role.

Tamil Nadu pressure prevented the IPKF from going flat out against the LTTE. As tellingly, the latent Tamil Nadu factor was able to prevent Indian assistance to Sri Lanka to counter the LTTE’s Jaffna offensive of 2000, notwithstanding President Kumaratunga’s pluralist discourse and manifest willingness to radically restructure the state. In an interview given to Nirupama Subramanian of The Hindu, President Kumaratunga was to express her grave disappointment.

The Tamil Nadu factor prevented Delhi from signing a Defense agreement with Sri Lanka when it was mooted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, whose commitment to a negotiated, non-military solution was obvious to the point of excessiveness.

My point is this: Sinhala chauvinism does exist and plays a negative role but not everything is the fault of Sinhala chauvinism. There is such a thing as Tamil chauvinism, which has an autonomous existence, and poses an abiding threat to Sri Lanka as a single country. This is also a factor in the birth and sustenance of Sinhala chauvinism. However, it is not necessary to adopt a narrow Sinhala chauvinist stand to combat Tamil chauvinism. In 1987, one of our most pluralist politicians, a well –read Buddhist and master of the Sinhala language, Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa released through Godage publishers a book called Golu Muhuda, (‘The Silent Sea’, a reference to the surrounding Indian Ocean) celebrating Dutugemunu’s struggle for national liberation against what he saw as Indian Tamil invasion. It was at the same time that he authored a Preface to the official Soviet publisher’s Sinhala translation (by Janadasa Peiris) of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and had it published in the Sinhala language Lake House press.

All Along The Watchtower

The discourse of the agitations in Tamil Nadu (and now Karnataka), which involves threats to cross the waters in support of their Tamil co-ethnics, must serve as  salutary reminder and warning, as must the hate speech in the cyber spaces of the Tamil Diaspora. This little island has powerful enemies with aggressive, expansionist impulses. The state is threatened and has always been threatened by an enormous horde across the waters that hates us Sinhalese. While Sri Lanka belongs to all of its citizens whatever their ethnicity or religion, while all those citizens have equal rights irrespective of ethnicity and religion, while this island is the homeland not only of the Sinhalese, it is the only homeland that the Sinhalese have. It is where we are coming from and the only place we have to go back to. It is where for better or worse, we belong. It is who we are. Though it does not belong only to us, it is the only place that really belongs to us and in the final analysis, the only place we really belong to. It is not only ours, but it is ours. We must protect it and ourselves, for no one else will. We are unique but we are not superior to anyone else. The fact that our uniqueness does not confer intrinsic superiority does not mean we must forget our uniqueness. It is only on this island, in this combination of space and language that we can be comfortable in our uniqueness. We have our own special destiny, though this is not a destiny superior to that of any other.

We must protect ourselves and our home. Given the dangerous environment we shall always exist in – and for this we must thank Karunanidhi, Vaiko, Ramdoss and the claque of Tamil Nadu filmmakers for reminding us – this island will always have to be something of a fortress with its ramparts and watchtowers. This means that autonomy will have to be finely calculated so that it makes the Tamil people sufficiently comfortable to be integrated into Sri Lanka but is not so excessive as to permit interaction with Tamil Nadu. Devolution must be centripetal not centrifugal. Too little as well as too much devolution can act in a centrifugal rather than a centripetal fashion.


[Sen.Obama under clear blue sky at a campaign event in Philadelphia Oct11, 2008. Pic: NYtimes.com:More Pics]

Before Barack, After Barack: The Obama Age

The reminder or realization that Sri Lanka will always have to be something of a fortress state is in no way a commendation of the ridiculously narrow minded and backward sentiments that are being aired by those who see themselves as Sinhala nationalists.  A fortress cannot survive without supplies, at odds with its changing environment. If Sinhala ultra-nationalism laments the impending victory of Barack Obama (whom I supported in print, way before the Democratic nomination) while the world welcomes it, there is something wrong with Sinhala nationalism, not with the rest of humanity. A Barack Obama victory will tilt the balance between ethno-nationalism and republican civic nationalism in favor of the latter. Ethno nationalism, often antiquarian, holds that an older or majority ethnic or ethno religious community has some greater claim over or ownership of a given territory while modern civic (and especially but not exclusively republican) nationalism holds that every citizen has equal rights and equal ownership of that country. (The Sri Lankan state as defined by the Sri Lankan Constitution is a Republic, and the Constitution is the supreme law to which we all owe allegiance).

When General Colin Powell, Jamaican-born former Chief of Staff of the US Armed Forces and US Secretary of State endorsed Barack Obama last week, he gave as one of his reasons his disgust that John McCain had not responded appropriately to an ignorant heckler in a Republican crowd who had shouted that Obama was a Muslim. (As is well known Obama is a Christian who often quotes the Scripture in his speeches). Colin Powell said that Senator McCain should have responded “so what if he is?” and went onto to tell the TV audience about how moved he was about US Muslims dying for their country while fighting against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq. He concluded that he looks greatly forward to the day that the USA has a President of the Muslim faith.   

In case some Sinhala chauvinist were to scoff that this is good and fine for the USA a  new nation of immigrants unlike one with an ancient civilization, one may have to remind them that India, with a 5,000 year civilization and a history that produced the Buddha, Asoka, Gandhi and Nehru, has a population that is 85% Hindu, but a Prime Minister that who is a Sikh (2% of the population), had a President who was a Tamil speaking Muslim (when India had an adversarial strategic equation with an Islamic state), and a pre-eminent politician of Italian Catholic origin. The commonality of values and notions of citizenship between the world’s most powerful democracy (the USA ) and the world’s most populous democracy ( India ) will be cemented by an Obama triumph. Sri Lanka cannot survive as one country unless it forges a single sense of identity a sense of nationhood which shares those values of inclusion, equality, merit and absence of ethnic or ethno religious discrimination.

Especially with the Tamil Nadu factor next door, Sri Lanka can stay united only if its Tamil citizens feel equal citizens and partners of this country. Any sense of suffocation due to insufficiency of autonomous political space; of alienation – which is unavoidable when there is a discourse of discrimination and intimations of inequity (“organic”, “visitors” , “majority ownership”) – leaves room for external attraction, manipulation and intervention. A contented integrated household is an entity which can maintain the friendliest and most productive relations with its neighbor. Only a household with unhappy inhabitants can be subject to manipulation by neighbors, and often will be. A house divided cannot stand, and a house which practices or permits discrimination cannot but be divided.             

(These are the strictly personal views of the author)

The Video/DVD/VCD Rousing Emotions in Tamil Nadu

There is passionate emotion in Tamil Nadu for the plight of Tamil civilians in the Wanni. This has led to widespread demonstrations all over the Tamil majority state and even threatens to bring down the Congress dominated central government in New Delhi.

An important factor in this emotional upheaval is the widespread circulation of an audio – visual video cassette and CD/DVD about the trials and tribulations faced by innocent Tamils in the Wanni.

For the benefit of readers who want to view an English version of the powerful Tamil documentary, in 2 parts:

I of 2

2 of 2

Tamil Nadu sympathy and concern for their kinsfolk in Northern Sri Lanka has reached dizzying heights after viewing this 32 minute documentary.

One reason for DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s recent empathy for the Tamils of Sri Lanka is due to the emotional trauma he underwent after being shown this documentary by daughter Kanimozhi.

“What is the use of being here if we cant put a stop to this” he had reportedly lamented.

New Delhi Policy For Sri Lanka Must Change course in Sri Lanka

by M.S.S.Pandian

A recent issue of a Sri Lankan newspaper has published excerpts from the memoirs of Neville Jayaweera, a distinguished civil servant who once headed the Ceylon Broadcasting Corporation. The excerpts deal with his appointment as the government agent in Jaffna in the Tamil-majority Northern Province in Sri Lanka in 1963 and his encounter with N Q Dias, permanent secretary of defence and external affairs, whom Jayaweera describes as "the most powerful public servant around".

As Jayaweera recounts, Dias instructed him that his brief in Jaffna was to enforce at any cost the Sinhala Only Act which disenfranchised the minority Tamils of their linguistic rights and handicapped them educationally. Dias knew the consequences of such acts of discrimination against the Tamils. He predicted to Jayaweera in 1963 that within 25 years, there would be armed rebellions by the Tamils against the Sri Lankan state, a prediction which no doubt proved right. Yet he did not want to address the rightful concerns of the Tamil minorities but sought a military solution to the possibility of a future armed rebellion by the Tamils. Jayaweera notes, "The centrepiece of Dias's strategy to contain a future Tamil revolt was to be the establishment of a chain of military camps to encircle the Northern Province..."
 
Dias also laid out a strategy to legitimise his plan for military camps around the Northern Province. That is, to present the military camps as a means to prevent illegal immigrants from India and to contain smuggling from Sri Lanka to India. Remarkably, smuggling and illegal immigration continues to be themes employed both by India and Sri Lanka to legitimise their actions even today. In the 1980s, "it was this iron pincer around Jaffna's neck that served as the Sri Lankan army's bulwark against the Tamil militant groups".
 
The 'Dias paradigm', which is to deny the minorities their rights and suppress their protests militarily, is sure to warm the hearts of xenophobic militarists everywhere. But it ultimately did not work. The Sri Lankan state's militaristic approach has failed both in finding a solution to the Tamil question and in containing the armed rebellion of the Tamils. Instead, it has only increased the misery of all in the island nation, in particular the Tamils.

The Sri Lankan state believes that it can vanquish the LTTE in the current war. What will be the meaning of such a victory even if that happens? It can only be a victory bringing extra cheer to the Sinhala hardliners. The Sri Lankan state has already achieved most of what it wants to. Tamils in Sri Lanka have been reduced to refugees in their own country. A substantial number of them have migrated to far-flung places as refugees.
 
The demographic balance of the once Tamil-majority Eastern province has already been altered by state-sponsored colonisation of land by the Sinhala peasants. Going by past record, the Sri Lankan state will pursue its majoritarian goals with new vigour if the LTTE gets defeated.
 
After all, it took away the rights of the Tamils even when they followed peaceful Gandhian forms of protests under the leadership of S V J Chelvanayakam. India's role in all this is dubious. It has been training Sri Lankan military officials. It has also been supplying radars in the name of defensive military hardware. And, now it is clear that Indian technicians are aiding the Sri Lankan army in the very theatre of war. The miserable plight of civilian Tamils in Sri Lanka has already caught the attention of Tamil Nadu.
 
Significantly, the broad sentiment in Tamil Nadu this time is not merely against Colombo but against New Delhi as well. It is widely perceived in Tamil Nadu that New Delhi is collaborating with Colombo in authoring the misery of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
 
Tamil Nadu had a history of demanding secession from the Indian Union. Yet, over time, it has chosen to integrate itself fully with the national mainstream. If New Delhi does not change course in its Sri Lankan policy, it may plant the seeds towards a reversal of such history. That will be India's misfortune. [courtesy: Times of India]

October 22, 2008

"Mahason" Death Squad Threatens Human Rights Lawyers

A large number of people comprising courts registrars and lawyers appearing in human rights cases have received threatening letters from an organization calling itself the “Mahason Balakaya” or Mahason battalion.

The Sinhala word 'Maha sona ' means 'big graveyard and the word 'Mahason' means 'the ghost that brings death'. The popular myth is that anyone will die when Mahason strikes.

The “Mahason Force “ claims to represent the interests of those who have lost their lives and those who have been maimed at the hands of terror.

On October 21st an announcement was received by registrars of all courts and a number of human rights lawyers by a group that calls itself the Mahason Balakaya (Mahason Battalion).

The notice threatens death or other serious physical harm to any lawyers who appear for any suspected terrorist in any court in Sri Lanka. The lawyers who appear for such persons are referred to as traitors, who should be treated in the same way that the terrorists treat their enemies. In the present context the vast majority of those who are charged under anti-terrorism laws are Tamils.

Following is an English translation by "TransCurrents" of the original notice in Sinhala.

To the enemies who are supporting and defending terrorists

Innocent citizens of our country have been subjected to cowardly killings by cruel terrorists for three decades. These terrorists who have cut up and killed innocent children, pregnant mothers, farmers and other innocents, and are today on the verge of being defeated by the heroic forces, are resorting to exploding bombs and planning to do so, to kill innocent civilians in several places.

Thousands of innocent civilians have up to date been caught up in the cruel terrorists bombings and been killed. Thousands have also lost their limbs and eyesight. There is no one to speak up for their fundamental rights or take up their cause.

While that remains a fact, the minute these brutal terrorists who planned and executed the above mentioned attacks are arrested we are aware that there are “traitors to our race”( jathidrohi) who come forward to defend their fundamental rights and to speak up for them.

Aren’t those who attempt to free the arrested terrorists who kill unarmed, innocent civilians by the hundreds of” traitors to our country” ( desha drohi). We have in our possession the names and addresses of these people who trample underfoot the nation, who are the enemies of our beloved motherland and innocent people and who have betrayed their profession for the payments and bribes they receive amounting to lakhs.

We have determined, in the name of our motherland, to mete out appropriate punishment to all those who defend and speak for the cowardly terrorists who are attempting to break up our motherland and kill innocent people. Even today, there is room for these unpatriotic persons, who have for money, betrayed their race and been involved in unpatriotic activities. In future, we shall not hesitate to subject any unpatriotic person who “appears” (peni sitina) for a terrorist to the same treatment that the terrorists have inflicted on our innocent civilians.

The unpatriotic who support terrorists

Recall the faces and bodies of the innocents who died, lost their limbs and vision at the hands of the terrorists! Be aware that we will reduce you to that same state in the name of the race!

On behalf of those who died and have become disabled at the hands of the terrorists.

Mahason Balakaya

According to a statement released by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) –“ This notice comes at a time when there are several well-known cases where suspects have challenged the charges filed against under anti-terrorism and emergency laws as being baseless. At the same time many cases also come before the Supreme Court by way of fundamental rights applications regarding the forced deportation of persons from Colombo and other Sinhala areas and arbitrary forms of registration imposed on Tamils arriving from conflict regions to safer areas. The Supreme Court has made several interventions in order to protect the rights of these persons.

Under these circumstances the notice of death threats announced against lawyers who appear in these cases could come from sources which are linked to the agencies that investigate into alleged offences under anti-terrorism laws and other arbitrary acts that are undertaken for the purported purpose of keeping terrorists away from other areas. As all these activities come under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence it will be this ministry that will must come under the greatest suspicion about such notices.

This announcement may also be seen as a direct threat to the Supreme Court itself since the Supreme Court in recent months has given many judgements against the government, among which are matters relating to the protection of minorities. If the lawyers can be intimidated from taking cases to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court would not have the occasion to intervene into arbitrary forms of deprivation of rights under the pretext of national security by agencies of the state.

Sri Lanka in the past has seen many formations of death squads which act under various names. There were many such squads in the period from 1986 – 1990 when there were counterinsurgency activities against the predominantly Sinhala JVP. One such group named the Black Cats left a tremendously chilling impression in the minds of people. During this period the number of disappearances has been estimated officially to be around 30,000. It is now well established that these death squads functioned under the country's security forces and police during that period.

The re-emergence of such death squads is a frightening reminder of the extreme loss of the rule of law in the country. Such death squads in the late 1980s were used against all political opponents of the regime as the reports of the Commissions on Enforced Disappearances clearly demonstrates.

It may not be a coincidence that there was a grenade attack on the house of a well-known human rights and anti graft lawyer, J.C. Weliamuna on the 27th September, 2008. Had both grenades that were thrown at the house exploded Mr. Weliamuna and his entire family might have been killed. Despite of the intervention of the Bar Association no one has been arrested for this attack. For further details please see:

It is the duty of the government to investigate and to arrest the persons who have been sending such death notices under the name of the Mahason Balakaya. However such investigations will not happen if the government itself is directly or indirectly linked to this initiative. It is only through pressure from everyone, including the political opposition in the country, civil society and the international community, that this threat can be exposed and eliminated”

Meanwhile there is strong suspicion that the “Mahason Force” is linked up with death squads operated by the Sri Lankan armed forces in the North and east. These killer squads described as deep penetration units (DPU) or Long Range Reconnaissance patrols(LRRP) were referred to in glowing terms as “Mahason Balakaya” amid defence circles.

The following excerpt that was posted in defence related websites a few years ago and circulated widely throws some light on the matter.

Several years ago (just before the CFA agreement was signed), mysterious incidents began to happen in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controlled territory. Unexplained claymore mine explosions took place near tiger safe houses and sometimes even inside their own bases. Some of these explosions targeted senior LTTE leaders. One bomb exploded near a safe house which was used by the LTTE leader himself. Tiger air wing leader (who was the right hand man of LTTE leadership at that time), Shankar was killed in one such explosion. Terror spread through LTTE bases and the most surprising thing was that no one knew what was going on. Even the media, who always had inside information about everything, couldn’t explain these mysterious incidents. It was speculated that the cause of these explosions was an internal conflict of LTTE.

Little did the tigers know (and the media) that a deep penetration unit of the Sri Lankan army had infiltrated tiger defense lines and were operating deep inside enemy territory. These elite units were known as the LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol or "Digu Dura Wihidum Balakaya" in Sinhalese). They were better known in the military by the name "Mahasohon Brigade". Mahasona is a fierce demon who is mentioned in Srilankan folklore. This unit was so named because it gave LTTE what Mahasona in folklore was famous for; the element of fear. Activity of this unit was one of the main reasons tigers agreed for peace talks.

All was well until a traitor to the motherland named Kulasiri Udugampola, driven by greed and political powers, raided LRRP safe house in Millennium City. He released a list of names of those who were involved in the operations which the media published without hesitation. This helped the LTTE to hunt down the heroic units one by one, under the cover of the CFA. More than 80 LRRP personnel were assassinated by the LTTE. For the next 6 years, there was no news of this unit making it an element of the past.

Now let's zoom back to the present; few days before the mass ground troop movement to the recently captured Vakarai region began. During one night, 10 different claymore mines exploded in 10 different locations in then LTTE held territory, targeting regional leaders and tiger foot patrols. This caused the LTTE regional leader Swarnam (wounded by an airstrike) flee into the jungles of Trikonamadu. After Vakarai, several unexplained explosions went off in rebel bases in the north. Several more claymores struck sea tiger base supply routes. LRRP has returned.

Reformed LRRP unit is now a part of 3rd Special Forces regiment. Since reformation, it's been able to carry out several successful strikes at critical tiger movements not only in the east but even 25kms inside rebel held Mullathiv jungles. There is no doubt that the tiger leaders are already feeling the fiery heat of the “Mahason brigade”.

Unleashing ethnic extremism

by T. Sabaratnam

I wish to take your mind back to January 1939 when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the leader of the Sinhala Maha Sabha, declared at a public meeting in Balapitiya, “This is our country. I am prepared to sacrifice my life to save my country.”

G.G. Ponnambalam replied in the State Council, “This is our home. We are inhabitants of this country and we have as much right to have permanent and vested interests in the country.”

Sensing the danger of this clash, C. Suntheralingam, then president of the revitalised Jaffna Youth Congress warned, “Communalism on one side provokes communalism on the other, which in turn serves as an excuse for the growth of a more malignant brand of communalism.”

Please substitute the modern phrase ‘ethnic fundamentalism’ for ‘communalism’ and you will find Suntheralingam’s warning still appropriate. Sinhala fundamentalist position, expressed in recent weeks have generated an equivalent and opposite reaction - Tamil fundamentalism.

Most of you are aware of the Sinhala claim that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese and the reaction that erupted among the Tamils and the Muslims. The debate has now spread to Tamil Nadu and several speakers at Sunday’s demonstration of the Tamil film industry at Rameswaram claimed that Sri Lanka belonged to the Tamils.

Tamil poet Vairamuthu told the massive crowd that Sri Lanka was part of the ancient Thamilakam (Tamil country) and Vijaya and his followers, the founders of the Sinhala race, were intruders. “Now they are claiming the island for themselves and are trying to push out the Tamils, the original inhabitants.” He also exhorted the Tamils to join hands and ‘fight to the last man’ to help the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Film director Vijaya D. Rajendar backed up Vairamuthu’s claim and added that they who assembled at Rameswaram formed ‘the Tamil brigade’ and another film director Seeman issued a warning to the Sri Lankan forces saying, “if atrocities against the Tamils continue, be warned that we will cross the sea and come there.”

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in his daily column in Murasoli, the official organ of the DMK, recorded on Monday his appreciation of the film industry’s support for their Tamil brethren in Sri Lanka. He had also exhorted the Tamils to express their unity by joining the state wide human chain demonstration of the Tamil emotion scheduled for yesterday (Tuesday) evening. He wrote, “My eyes will be searching for those Tamil souls that will array in strength in support of our brothers and sisters suffering in Sri Lanka.”

Karunanidhi who had been whipping up Tamil emotion for the past two weeks, had been instilling in the minds of the Tamil people that “Sinhalese army is killing the Tamil people.” The Tamil media in Tamil Nadu is following suit.

As Suntheralingam pointed out 69 years ago, Tamil fundamentalism is provoking Sinhala fundamentalism. Anyone reading the Sinhala newspapers and listening to the Sinhala radio channels will realise it. I am worried that this type of tit-for-tat fundamentalism will only worsen the situation and make it difficult for the government to come up with a solution to the ethnic problem.

Sinhala fundamentalists should take note of three developments. The first concerns the sentiments of the Tamil in Sri Lanka. Minister P. Chandrasekaran’s letter to Karunanidhi, expresses his support to his campaign for the rights of the northern Tamils, whose lives are in danger due to the ongoing military operations. The Sinhalese extremists who are calling him a traitor should realise that he had only expressed general feeling among the Tamil people.

Apart from the pain of mind the Tamils are suffering, because of the plight of their brethren in the Wanni, they are continuously harassed and made to feel that they are not equal.

The other two developments concern Tamil Nadu. The movement to get the Indian Government to lift the ban on the LTTE is growing. Pattali Makkal Kadchi leader Dr. S. Ramadoss told the media in Delhi that, the ban on the LTTE should be lifted and called it a freedom movement. He said, “The LTTE is fighting for the freedom of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka who are subjected to untold suffering.”

The next, concerns the growing support for the creation of Tamil Eelam. The main slogan shouted at the Rameswaram demonstration was: We will create the state of Tamil Eelam. Most of the pro-LTTE supporters are dinning into the ears of the Tamil people that, Tamil Eelam exists in the Wanni and they should rise in union and safeguard it.

Film director Bharathiraja told the Rameswaram meeting that he was there. “It is a just and Free State where women decked with jewellery could walk the streets alone, even in the night.”

Next week is going to be crucial. Tamil Nadu’s deadline to get its parliamentarians to resign from Parliament ends next Wednesday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would do everything to avert that situation.

And Karunanidhi has shown signs that he would not precipitate a crisis for the central government. It looks like he would keep on pressurising the prime minister, but would not precipitate his downfall. On Monday he wrote in his column in Murosoli (mentioned above):

“I am happy that the Sri Lankan regime allowed the distribution of food materials to over 230,000 suffering Lankan Tamils in the (war-torn) northern part of the island, after our central government’s proactive intervention. This shows that our efforts did not go in vain.”

India is expected to tell Colombo to come up with a political package. Karunanidhi has told the central government that the right of the Tamil people to live in Sri Lanka as equal citizens should be ensured.

Will Sinhala fundamentalists permit the government to do it? [courtesy: thebottomline.lk]

How did Tamils come to Lanka?

by Ilaya Seran Senguttuwan

Minister Champika Ranawake – that wise man of the JHU who appears to have a superior opinion on almost everything under the sun - is reported to have said last week “Tamils came here after being chased away by the Moguls in South India .”

This is pretty thick stuff and a new one from Ranawake. His Chintanaya mentor Nalin de Silva gives another twist when he says the Tamils first came to Jaffna 400 years ago with the Dutch for Tobacco cultivation.

There will be many more gems from the Minister in the future as there were in the past. Mr Ranawake must re-hash his studies in Indian history and get to learn pronto the furthest Moghul presence reached the South was no more than today’s Andra Pradesh and Karnataka – both non-Tamil States.

It is well known Ranawake owes his position in government inter alia for spewing racial and religious hatred over a period of time. Unless the President restrains him this reincarnation of KMP Rajaratne, RG Senanayake and Cyril Mathew can cause incalculable harm to the country - as Mathew did.

I am reminded here of what Disraeli had to say of Gladstone in their days “He is inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity.”

Yesterday, a popular Tamil daily here quoted popular Indian academic and Tamil Poet Shri Vairamuthu as follows - on the occasion when leading figures in the film Industry in Tamilnadu took to the streets in sympathy with the large number of suffering Tamils civilians in the Wanni -

“The ancient Tamil was born on the sacred earth that is part of what is now called Sri Lanka . Today in the soil of his birth unarmed men, women, children are killed by the thousands from the ground, the sea and the air mostly by deadly automatic weapons. Thousands have perished thus while the Indian government has watched helplessly. Bombs are rained on them indiscriminately. For sometime now every effort is made to remove him (Tamil) from his original soil. What is Sri Lanka now is part of the lost landmass of Lemuria that went under a massive quake of the sea in times long past. There is historical evidence to this. There is going to be an election in Sri Lanka next year. The Buddhist Sinhala supremacists there are convinced if conditions are created to remove the Lankan Tamil by then the Sinhalese will win handsomely and the menace of the Tamil will be overcome for all time. This is what has been happening there for some years now although the Rajapakse government tries to fool the world with all kinds of mis-information. We Indians cannot stand and watch innocent Tamils killed in this cruel manner”

I am only quoting what poet Vairamuthu is reported to have said – without comment. Clearly, there is a fear what is now happening in the Lankan Tamil areas is a planned effort to decimate Tamils from Lankan soil. This is why the militant organizations here gained emotional support from Tamilnadu - Prabhakaran not excluded - to offer resistance against this alleged genocide.

October 21, 2008

Tactical aspects of the Eelam War

Col R Hariharan 

There is a lot of excitement as the Sri Lanka security forces are inching towards Kilinochchi from the southwest on multiple axes. The political tensions in Tamil Nadu over the plight of Tamil civilians in the war zone have added a bit of nervous expectation in Sri Lanka to the war scene.  Broadly the security forces have enlarged the forward line roughly by eight km on the west of Kilinochi, isolating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) stronghold of Nachikuda on the western coast. Task Force 1 which had bypassed Nachikuda, captured Manniyankulam and Vannrikulamon its advance along the A32 route to Pooneryn. Thus the LTTE access to sea routes to Tamil Nadu from the northern Mannar coast will probably come to an end shortly with these developments.

The57 Division, earlier locked in battle at the key road junction of Akkarayankulam (which leads to Kilinochchi in the north and the A9 highway in the east), has "pierced" its defences. According to the security forces this was the last of the LTTE strong points defending Kilinochchi. It has not been a cakewalk to the security forces as the LTTE had put up some resistance at selected places. The breakthrough in Akkarayankulam, in particular, has come after a lot of blood shedding. The defence spokesman has admitted losing '33 soldiers during the clashes in the weekending Sunday Oct 19th; 48 were injured and three were missing. This was perhaps one of the biggest losses suffered by the security forces. On the other hand the LTTE appear to have lost 12 cadres. 

However, overall the LTTE had not been able to inflict such losses more often as the security forces advanced. While this could be for reasons of tactical withdrawal, it is clear that the LTTE efforts so far have lacked strength and firepower required to blunt the offensive. Though the fall of Kilinochchi looks imminent, in tactical terms its capture might not be essential. In any case, it would probably come within the security forces' heavy machine gun range in the coming week, making it untenable for the LTTE to hold. Capture of Kilinochchi, the LTTE's administrative capital till recently would certainly be a big loss of face to it. For President Rajapaksa it would add yet another feather in the cap after the 'victory' in the east. And that could make him politically stronger than ever before.  

As the Task Force-1 advances to Pooneryn, it would be possible for the security forces to create an anvil extending from the western coast to Kilinochchi so that the hammer of 53 and 55 divisions operating along northern frontlines could be brought down upon the LTTE strong points in the crucial Elephant Pass/Nagarkovil bottleneck. The skirmishes reported in Muhamalai on Oct 16th were probably a probing attempt of the security forces for such an offensive. This option would also provide relief to 57 Division troops which had been on the offensive for three months now. A northern offensive could make the LTTE fight within a narrow strip with only one exit route open on the east to LTTE's Puthukkudiyiruppu defence complex.  

If and when that happens, the LTTE domination of the A9 highway would probably end. It would also render both Nachikuda and Pooneryn defences meaningless unless the LTTE can quickly launch a counter stroke. But the moot point is does the LTTE want to launch such an offensive west of A9 highway at all? Their defensive pattern so far would indicate such an intention might not be there at all.  

This is only one of the many ways in which this operation can be progressed. With the imminent fall of Kilinochchi, the Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka has more options now than ever before. The monsoon is on and close air support could become tricky and mobility and visibility would also be affected. But weather gods are neutral and affect both sides. As the war in Wanni would involve jungle bashing, at best monsoon would slow down the operation on both sides and not stop it.  

Understanding the LTTE strategy 

So far in the areas west of A9 highway, the LTTE's conventional defence strategy appears to be based upon a series of strong points with bunds and ditches stretching for miles between them. The bunds along the expected axes of advance have been constructed to slow down the advancing troops and attack them at selected points when they try to break through the obstacle.  

This is a strategy of the First World War vintage that became obsolete with the advent of increased battlefield mobility, greater depth and density of fire power, and enhanced battlefield reconnaissance capabilities. Unless the bund is protected by fire power and layers of obstacles, modern armies can reduce their effectiveness with no great difficulty.

In modern conventional warfare the technique has morphed into mobile defence based upon strong points that dominate the gaps between them with hard hitting armour based mobile teams. This technique is useful when a large area is to be defended by smaller number of troops as in the case of the LTTE. This strategy if successfully applied would lead to a lot of bloodletting and discourage advancing forces from launching the main offensive.

The LTTE had perhaps adopted defences based on strong points for this very reason. It was fighting against an opponent who outnumbered it by at least ten to one. On hindsight, last year the LTTE probably allowed a comparatively free run to the security forces to occupy areas south of road Vavuniya-Mannar along the Mannar coast so that the troops would be drawn into fighting the strong points further north. After that starting with Adampan in May 20008 there had been a series of LTTE strong points - big and small - forming layers of defences –Adampan-Nedunkandal-Andankulam, Madhu-Palamipiddi-Periyamadu, and so on.  

But the LTTE had neither the required mobility nor fire power to dominate the gaps between the strong points to stop the security forces that had superior mobility, fire power and numbers. So probably it took recourse to constructing miles of bunds between strong points. And the security forces have been breaking the inadequately defended bunds regularly. Moreover, the LTTE strategy had seeds of failure as the axes of advance from south to north fanned out over increasingly larger gaps between strong points as the war progressed without a matching increase in troop strength. This is borne out by the LTTE inflicting heavier casualties on the security forces only when their axes converged on Kilinochchi.

The LTTE's performance so far has demonstrated the limitations of insurgency forces in carrying out conventional operations. Being light outfits with limited artillery support they were better suited to tackle company level tactical operations. In order to maximise the impact of conventional operations of insurgents, guerrillas have to be employed in tandem to hit rear areas and gun positions to destabilise the conventional opponent. The LTTE had not been able to carry out such commando strikes effectively so far in Eelam War-4.

During the war in Elephant Pass in 2000 the LTTE was able to overcome its weakness in conventional capability through superior battlefield leadership, high morale, and psychological advantage against the opponent who lacked them. The security forces then lacked the single mindedness of purpose they are showing now. In the Eelam War- 4, clear convergence of political and military focus on military objectives untroubled by other issues has resulted in the relentless pursuit of the LTTE.

The overconfident LTTE leadership is probably paying the price now for ignoring the two important developments in the security environment since the last Eelam War. These were the impact of Karuna's defection and the subsequent loss of east, and the qualitative and quantitative improvements in the Sri Lanka armed forces. This overconfidence of the LTTE gave the security forces a head start when they launched the offensive. The self defeating technique of suicide bombings has also deprived the LTTE of potential junior leaders, though they brought short lived glory.

Future portends

The tactical conjectures discussed so far might be of interest only to military minds. The question in everyone's mind is probably 'when' – in what time frame –Kilinochchi would fall and the A9 highway would open. It is not easy to answer this question. And there are always the imponderables of battlefield that affect the best laid plans.

The security forces had entered Kilinochchi district on July 31, 2008. They appear to be in no hurry to rush forward to overcome the LTTE strong points as they advance. Instead they have focused on inflicting maximum casualty on the LTTE. They have neutralised only those LTTE strong points that mattered on the way and by passed others. This perhaps tied down the LTTE to hold on to all its defences in anticipation.

But now as fall of Kilinochchi looks imminent, political and humanitarian crises are building up in the horizon. These could take the time plan for conduct of war out of the hands of the military. So far President Mahinda Rajapaksa appears to have given full freedom to Gen Fonseka to progress the operation in his own fashion. President Rajapaksa is coming under increasing pressure from India, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is facing flak from his Tamil Nadu coalition partners. So both the President and Gen Fonseka might decide to speed up the operations to get the A9 highway opened up and bottle up the LTTE within the Mullaitivu district. This could result in the security forces suffering more casualties than they had bargained for. On the other hand it would give a semblance of normalcy and relieve some of the pressures on the President. Of course it would reduce the plight of displaced civilians caught between the warring sides in the area.

The other question is how will the LTTE respond now as its domain is shrinking? In the past the LTTE had leveraged the criticalities of India-Sri Lanka relations to its advantage to survive and rise up once again to carry the battle another day. Can the LTTE, with its hands tainted with the blood of Rajiv Gandhi, go back to the same ploy?  It is true there is loud public outcry in Tamil Nadu against the sufferings of Tamils in the war zones. But at the same time it is equally true that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has made it clear that this sympathy should not be equated with sympathy for the LTTE.

Of course the easiest option for the LTTE is to inflict maximum possible casualties, cut loose, and pull back its assets deep into the Wanni jungles. Then lie low for a while, shed the conventional uniform and go back to the guerrilla mode. That would mean further suffering and agony for everyone with more suicide bombings, blasts and mayhem everywhere including areas outside the war zone. A more logical thing to achieve a win-win situation would be to sit with Tamil politicians, evolve a face saving political formula to find a democratic solution. But can Prabhakaran, whose strong point had never been logical reasoning, pull such a surprise? I doubt it. And I like millions of others would be happy if he proves me wrong.   

Kilinochchi: The Spectre of Stalingrad

by B. Raman

The Battle of Stalingrad is considered the bloodiest battle with the largest battlefield casualties in the history of conventional warfare. Under a carefully worked out plan, the Soviet Army inveigled an advancing and over-confident Nazi Army into Stalingrad and then inflicted severe casualties on the Nazi Army. Many of those Nazi soldiers whom the Soviet Army could not kill were killed by "Gen. Winter". The entire Sixth Army of the Nazis was trapped by the Soviet troops with the help of "Gen. Winter" and destroyed.

As the battle began on July 17, 1942, the Nazi Disinformation machine worked overtime to tell an unsuspecting German people that the fall of Stalingrad and the collapse of the Soviet Army were imminent. The German people waited with bated breath for the news of the fall.  "Within two days", they were told. Two days became two weeks. Two weeks became two months. Two months became seven months. The battle ended disastrously for the Nazis on February 2, 1943. This marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi dreams in the Second World War.

Is one seeing a mini version of Stalingrad in the battle for Kilinochchi, the current headquarters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)? It is difficult to say on the basis of the scanty information available from the battle front. From even this scanty information, two things are clear: Firstly, the Sri Lankan Army, which senses victory against the LTTE, has been doing well, but not as well as it claims to be. Secondly, the LTTE has been doing badly, but not as badly as projected to be by the disinformation machine of the Sri Lankan Army. The LTTE has shown that there is still a lot of fight left in it---- and a lot of intelligence and innovative thinking.

But intelligence and innovative thinking alone cannot win wars without resources and the wherewithal. The LTTE is deficient on both counts. But it has shown itself to be as resilient as the Taliban in Afghanistan and as fiercely-motivated. In 2003, the Americans thought and claimed that they had finished the Taliban once and for all. Their facile assumptions proved to be wrong. The Taliban came back----as if it has risen from its much-proclaimed grave--- and has been moving forward relentlessly. Neither air strikes by the most powerful Air Force in the world nor heavy artillery strikes by the most powerful Army in the world have been able to stop its advance.  Reluctantly, senior NATO military commanders in Afghanistan have started admitting that the war against the Taliban is unwinnable and that one has to search for a political solution with neither victory nor defeat for either side. It has not only become unwinnable unless the Taliban commits some serious tactical mistakes, but is also likely to become increasingly unaffordable thanks to the financial and economic melt-down in the US and the rest of the world.

The LTTE is calculating that if it can keep fighting against the Sri Lankan Army for some more months, a prolonged war against the LTTE could become as unwinnable and as unaffordable for the rulers of Sri Lanka as a prolonged war against the Taliban for the NATO powers. The rulers of Sri Lanka are living in a fool's paradise if they think that China and Pakistan would come to their rescue if the Government of India stops assisting them under pressure from public opinion in Tamil Nadu. The Pakistani economy is on the verge of a collapse. Even the Chinese were reluctant to help out their time-tested friend as they call Pakistan, as President Asif Ali Zardari found to his dismay when he visited China recently. The Pakistan Army is reeling under one set-back after another inflicted on it by the Taliban. To think that the Pakistan Army would rush to Sri Lanka to spite India would be the height of stupidity.

The Chinese, who are increasingly worried over the impact of the recession in the US on their manufacturing industries, which are heavily dependent on the US market, are hugging tight their foreign exchange holdings. They were reluctant to make any definitive commitment of help to Zardari. They are even showing a decline of interest in further developing the Gwadar port project. In a world beset with the most serious economic crisis it has known since the Great Depression of the 1930s, everybody, including China, is interested in saving every dollar and cent he can. Nobody wants a foreign adventure, which might drain off their depleting resources. If the Sri Lankan Army thinks that China would try to rush in if India stops helping, it is in for a disappointment.

The LTTE is calculating that if it can keep fighting against the Sri Lankan Army for some more weeks, "Gen. Monsoon" and "Gen. Recession" could put an end to the pipedreams of the Sri Lankan Army of a definitive victory over the LTTE.

Will its calculations prove right or will they be belied? Whatever happens, one thing seems likely there is going to be no definitive victory or no definitive defeat for either side in the on-going war. [saag]


October 20, 2008

A different view of the conflict

By Tahnee Hopman and Myanthi Peiris

There is a strange thing about war; being so much a part of our lives, the impact of 20 years of conflict has left most Sri Lankans strangely immune to the violence now almost synonymous with our culture.

The war has left a far more lasting and negative impact though – particularly on the Sri Lankan youth.

"For people in our age group who have not known a country free from war, it can be very depressing to look around at Sri Lanka now. It restricts our freedom, but that is not the biggest problem," says 20-year-old Safra. "For me, the most significant problem is the anger in the minds of the people which will inhibit them from moving on towards a better future even if the army defeats the LTTE and the war is "won" that way. As long as people refuse to forget the past or put it behind them, nothing will change. I'm sometimes curious to see what the country would have been, had it not been torn apart by war from 20 years. I'm sure we could have been so much more than what we are now."

Most young Sri Lankans like Safra, feel deprived at not knowing the country their parents and grandparents knew. The most difficult thing to face right now is the helplessness that war brings – that feeling of not being able to see a solution. Is the military strategy the only option left now, or would negotiations still be possible? While they agree that the army appears to be successful, living in constant fear and watching innocent civilians fall prey to attacks by the terrorists makes them feel that our country is not really progressing towards achieving peace.

"I believe our country is in a transition period – we are fighting an old war. Though the military has gone beyond achieving what they thought they could have in terms of winning the war, I think that is not the answer," says a student studying at a leading girls school in Colombo. "As a youth having being born into a country that is fighting a war I look forward to a brighter future and the opportunity of being able to look into the eyes of the so called enemy and not see a difference."

These are the hopes of the young people of our country today. "I believe that in order to win this war we need to get foreign assistance and support," says 19-year-old Chathuri "I think what is lacking the most is the leadership and the responsibility in our leaders to direct our country down the correct path. "
Though most of these young people were positive in their outlook about the situation in our country and its progress, there were those that believed that our country is not really making any progress.

All this fighting is for freedom, but one person's freedom is not another person's freedom," said 20-year-old Nihili "so in that sense, there would be no real victory or successful outcome to be expected from this war."

“In contrast, some youth give credit to the government for the military solution to the conflict. "A few years ago, recalls Samuditha (20), "I did not believe that war was the solution to our problems. But now, with so many unsuccessful attempts to conduct peace talks and establish a stable ceasefire agreement, I think differently. Due to the brilliance and the dedication of are armed forces we have won so many battles and defeated the terrorists in many areas. All Sri Lankans should appreciate government's efforts in trying to put an end to the war. I don't condone violence, but right now, I feel that our only option is to fight the terrorists and end the war."

Despite a few conflicting opinions, they all agree that what we're fighting here is a pointless war- no more an ethnic conflict but a political power struggle that citizens have become embroiled in against their will.

Summing up that thought Shaziya (20) says "For me, war is nothing but a vicious circle, where everyone just blames each other. I would say that both parties have a point; or at least they used to. But it has bee quite a while since they lost sight of all reason. And now, we're simply victims of a vicious circle.”

Hearing these thoughts of the youth of our country, we realise that the horrors we so dearly wish to avoid literally surround us and it is a simple reminder to everyone that we ought to work to together and strive to bring back peace in our country and make a difference.

"I think that from what we can see, the military strategy implemented by the government has improved but I don't see it as a real solution to the ethnic conflict because of the cost at which we fight for a unified State and for freedom," says 21-year-old Devon. "The cost is innocent lives, and that, is immeasurable. As much as in a military sense, we seem successful, there has to be another solution. Right now, all I see is petty politics and personal agendas."

Continuous attacks, ordinary innocent civilians killed, and it seems nothing for those who are responsible for these deaths of others, as they continue to reject the ideas of compromise in favour of prolonging this doomed struggle. All Sri Lankans have only one hope now- the hope that the violence and bloodshed and the resultant fear and trauma will end.

Today as fighting rages in the North, it isn't easy for us to reflect on the future of our country. econciliation will need time and great patience. A conflict of nearly two decades isn't going to be forgotten overnight, but no doubt if we work together as one nation to bring about peace in our own little way, we can make a difference.[courtesy: the sunday times.lk

I, The Convert

My conversion was not a change of religion; it was a change of heart

By Anand Mahadevan

I was born a Brahmin and am the grandson of a priest whom I dearly loved. I am educated and my current professional standing indicates that I am reasonably intelligent. I am also affluent and my income would put me distinctly in the upper middle class bracket. I guess that would make me high-caste, rich and smart. In other words, I am not a tribal, or poor or dim-witted. And yet, I chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

The world would call me a convert to Christianity. I have no problems with that, though I see my faith more as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ than as a religion. And for the record, I can truthfully claim that no one financially induced or threatened or deceived me into converting to Christianity.

I am fiercely proud of my national identity as an Indian and I am completely at peace with my cultural identity as a Hindu. I retain the name my parents gave me. My wife, who also shares my faith, continues to go by her Hindu name. We have two children and we have given both distinctly Hindu names. In fact, many of my colleagues and acquaintances who may happen to read this column are likely to be surprised. They have no inkling about my faith, for I generally don't go about announcing it. But if someone does ask me the reason behind the joy and hope that is everpresent in my life, I am always delighted to share it with them.

I write this piece to make one point—that my conversion was not a change of religion but a change of heart. To explain this, I need to go back to my childhood in Chennai, similar to that of so many other Tamil Brahmin boys like me. My grandfather, every bit the virtuous priest, had enormous influence over me. I absolutely adored him and as a toddler, always clung to him. He too loved me to a fault. There was no wish of mine that he would not rush to fulfil. But even in my early, formative years I was unable to relate to the religion he fervently practiced. Later, in my school days, I once spent my summer holidays with him in Trichy. Memories of dawn walks with him, for the ritualistic dip in the Cauvery river, cow in tow, are still fresh in my memory. I learnt many shlokas, some of which I still remember. But I never understood any of it and none of it helped me connect with God.

When I was 19, a Christian friend with whom I used to play cricket invited me to his house for prayer. If he had invited me to a pub, or party, I would have gone too. At his home, he and his sister prayed for me. It was a simple yet delightful conversation with God that lasted all of five minutes. I don't remember it verbatim, but they articulated a prayer of blessing on my life, future, career and family. It was a simple affair—no miracles, no angels visiting. All they did was utter a deep human cry out to the creator God and His only son Jesus Christ. When they said Amen, I felt in my heart a desire to follow Jesus.

It was a faith encounter with God that I shall not even attempt to understand, rationalise or explain. I simply accept it. It is my faith. It is what I choose to believe. That evening I did not change my religion, for in reality I had none. Hinduism was my identity, not my religion. It still is.

The Christianity I acquired that evening is not a religion. On the contrary, it is an intensely intimate relationship with Jesus. Over the past fifteen years, I have come to know this Jesus even closer. I know Him as the pure and sinless Son of a Holy God. And I know Him as a dear friend to whom I pray and talk to every day—about my career, my dreams, successes, failures, finances and even my sexuality.

If I read a good book, watch a good movie (Rock On is terrific, mate), or eat a good meal at a new restaurant, I would naturally tell my friends about it.In Jesus, I have discovered a truly amazing friend, guide, leader, saviour and God. How can I not tell all my friends about Him? And if anyone does listen and he too comes to believe in Jesus, I am delighted. The world would call it a conversion; I call it a change of heart, like mine.

But I would never force anyone to listen to me, leave alone financially induce, coerce or con him into believing. That to me is pointless and against the very grain of my faith. But I do have a constitutional right to practice my faith and to preach it without deception, force or bribery. It pains to see such basic rights of mankind being cruelly violated every day in this great Hindu nation.

God bless India.

(Anand Mahadevan is the editor of Outlook Business.)

[courtesy: Outlook India]

October 18, 2008

Intelligence in India's Sri Lanka War

by Col R Hariharan

Introduction  

A review of India's military intervention in Sri Lanka (1987-90) now after two decades has the benefit of hindsight. During those two decades a number of global developments have enlarged the concept of strategic security. As a result, Military Intelligence (MI) has undergone changes in form, content and expectations.

When Indian forces operated in Sri Lanka, the Cold War confrontation between the Soviet Union and the U.S. was at its peak after the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. The US-Pakistan relations were perhaps at the closest, making India's Pakistan-centric security focus more acute. Only two months before signing of the India-Sri Lanka Agreement (ISLA) in July 1987, Operation Brass Tacks, in which the two countries almost went to war, had concluded. Indian army suffered from this Pakistan-centric preoccupation and Indian army had to pay a price for it in Sri Lanka.

 

[Col. R. Hariharan, at a symposium in Colombo, Aug 2007]

Viewed in the overall context of India-Sri Lanka relations, India's war in Sri Lanka might be termed as Indian state's reactive military response to a largely internal political situation in Sri Lanka that affected India's interests also. Unfortunately, at that time the nation did not have a structural frame work to plan, conduct and monitor such overseas response. There was no integrated body with accountability to take informed decisions on national security issues. Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) was the only forum to carry out this task. During the Sri Lanka operations, a Core Group was formed to look after the day to day issues. This empowered group functioned under the Chairmanship of the Minister of State, External Affairs. 

Sri Lanka operation was India's first -ever overseas force projection. Before that Indian troops had operated overseas only as part of United Nations forces. For the first time all the three services were involved in an overseas joint operation. Perhaps it was also the first time Indian army was drawn into a counter insurgency operation for which it had either planned or prepared in advance. To cap it all, the counter insurgency conflict involved operating in urban as well as jungle settings.  

Communication technology was just making its early breakthroughs. The battlefield competencies of armed forces were yet to benefit from them. The MI did not enjoy the advantages imparted by information technology and its applications. It was essentially a HUMINT and COMBATINT operation.    

MI had limited organic HUMINT capability and what little was there was focused on Pakistan. By modern standards, the then available ELINT and SIGINT resources would be considered primitive. However, over the years the MI had gained certain amount of expertise in HUMINT operations and interrogation in counter insurgency setting. The divisional intelligence units deployed in insurgency affected regions were the main sources of this expertise.

When the Sri Lanka army's crackdown on Tamil militants reached a critical stage in Jaffna Peninsula around April 1987, Directorate General of Military Intelligence (DGMI) moved a small MI team  to Chennai to cover Sri Lanka. It had very limited capability. Thus till Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was inducted into Sri Lanka, this MI team was DGMI's sole organic source of intelligence. Of course, it had access to some of the inputs of the external intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and the counter intelligence service Intelligence Bureau (IB). The IB had been keeping a watchful eye on the activities of thousands of Sri Lanka Tamil refugees present in Tamil Nadu. It also had very good knowledge of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)'s activities in Tamil Nadu. However, the DGMI had no access to the Tamil Nadu State Police (Q Branch) which was yet another rich source of intelligence on Sri Lanka Tamil militancy.   

Intelligence before the outbreak of war  

Southern Command based in Pune established the Operational Force Commander's Headquarters (OFC HQ) at Chennai to for the task of overseeing the operation when India decided to send troops to Sri Lanka to help implementation of the ISLA. As soon as the ISLA was signed on July 29, 1987, opposition to the Agreement snowballed in Sri Lanka threatening the stability of the regime of President JR Jayawardane. 54 Infantry Division (less most of the support arms) was hastily despatched to Sri Lanka in the first week of August 1987 as a show of support to the President and the Tamils. The Southern Army Commander as the OFC had an ambiguous mandate on Sri Lanka. As a corollary 54 Infantry Division also was not given a clear role at that stage.  

The DGMI attached a dozen Tamil speaking Intelligence Corps officers and NCOs to the OFC HQ at Chennai to assist the OFC. The attachment of the MI team was fire fighting measure as it had neither exposure to Sri Lanka nor had a briefing on its task. The team moved to Jaffna (Palali) in the first week of August, a few days after 54 Infantry Division arrived there. The OFC HQ assigned no specific task to the MI team except to 'keep an eye' on the happenings there. The team was provided no functional resources 

The MI team tasked itself to study and understand the environment in north-eastern Sri Lanka. It familiarized itself with the terrain, and important personalities and decision makers among militant groups notably the LTTE. The team forwarded its reports directly to DGMI under whose command it operated. There was very little intelligence input from either DGMI or from civil intelligence agencies to either OFC HQ  and as a result 54 Infantry Division had only marginal information.  

From September 1987 onwards the LTTE showed marked reluctance in implementing the ISLA refusing to surrender of the arms it held. As the IPKF task looked a long haul, DGMI moved 57 Mtn Div Int & FS Company to Palali to augment MI resources in the island. Tamil speaking officers and NCOs were posted to man the unit. 

The Divisional Headquarters in Palali perhaps due to the confusing command and control structure of the MI team did not use it. In fact the Divisional Headquarters kept the MI team out of all its interactions and political parleys with the LTTE. The Division Headquarters also did not project specific intelligence requirements of any kind to the MI team. For reasons not very clear, the services of the MI team were never used during the Division's operational planning process prior to the Jaffna operations. (According to the RAW, the Army Headquarters also did not take the RAW into confidence or sought its advice prior to the Jaffna operations). Thus the Division launched the Jaffna operation on its own steam. 

Intelligence during the operations 

Only after the Jaffna operation commenced and troops were rapidly inducted from mainland, the Division asked the Officer Commanding, 57 Div Int & FS Coy to brief the troops prior to their induction into the war zone! Similarly, as the operation progressed, the intelligence unit was tasked to interrogate suspected civilians and prisoners.  

There was no advance planning at either the OFC HQ, or the Divisional HQ for screening of civilian population or holding prisoners. This was in direct contrast to 1971 operational experience in eastern theatre when we had meticulously planned in advance the handling and interrogation of prisoners. Short duration training was also imparted to NCOs from infantry units on combat interrogation. This resulted in the failure to gain tactical information through interrogation in the early stages of operation.  

However, by the time Jaffna operations ended, the force level of IPKF was increased with the induction of two more divisions. The command and control structure of the Advance Headquarters of the OFC at Chennai was also streamlined. In addition to the 57 Int and FS Coy, another intelligence unit was specifically raised for the IPKF operations and inducted. The unit had both intelligence acquisition and interrogation capabilities. The unit had its headquarters in Chennai; one team and an interrogation centre each from this unit were deployed in Vavuniya, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. 57 Int and FS Coy provided the intelligence cover for 54 Div sector including Kilinochchi. Both the units served under the command of Col GS (Int) of the Advance HQ OFC.  

Communication intelligence was provided by the SIGINT detachments and EWCP. Though they were under Army Headquarters, they worked closely with forward troops and provided accurate real time information.  

The RAW after its initial false start, improved its linkages with the Advance HQ OFC,  after the Jafffna operations commenced. From then onwards, the Chennai RAW unit maintained close touch with the Advance HQ OFC, and provided valuable inputs particularly on political developments in Sri Lanka. Though RAW provided up to date information on overall developments, it could not provide specific information on the LTTE's military capabilities or cogent assessments on their likely course of action.   

Despite the MI officers enjoying excellent rapport at the senior level, both the Q Branch of the Tamil Nadu State Police and the IB at Chennai provided no information to the IPKF throughout the period of operation. Their information resources on the LTTE activities in Tamil Nadu could have helped the IPKF in planning and conduct of its operations. Thanks to the vehement opposition of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party to the IPKF operations, the Tamil Nadu government issued no formal orders to the Q Branch on sharing of information relevant to the IPKF. The IB fared no better. It usually fobbed off our requests saying that they had no military information, though political information had a lot of relevance to IPKF operations. 

MI performance: Army Headquarters level  

There was practically no intelligence sharing between the three services intelligence wings at the functional level in Sri Lanka. Perhaps the confusion in the overall command and control equation among the three services was the reason for this aberration. The DGMI also probably did not identify and articulate its needs to the other two services.

 

The DGMI had built no intelligence assets on Sri Lanka before the ISLA. It is surprising that this requirement was not visualised, despite India's close political involvements there since 1983. This was only symptomatic of the lack of mission clarity that had marked Indian army's foray into Sri Lanka. Thus DGMI could not provide timely information to the forces in Sri Lanka either during the political parleys with the LTTE or before Jaffna operations. However, once the role of the IPKF was crystallised, the DGMI rose to the occasion. It made available maximum possible intelligence resources within the first few months. It also assisted in recruiting Sinhala knowing Tamils migrants from Sri Lanka to help MI and SIGINT units. 

But the biggest failure of the Army HQ and the DGMI was in their inability to change the Tamil Nadu government's negative attitude not only on information sharing but also in taking follow up actions requested by the IPKF on specific LTTE activity in the state. During the entire period of operations, the LTTE had an unprecedented freedom to operate with impunity in Tamil Nadu despite being at war with Indian state. This not only exposed the troops traversing the state to potential LTTE threat but reflected the callousness with which the whole operation was treated. This created a great feeling of insecurity among Tamil sources, who felt the MI did not have enough "influence" to ensure their security even at home. This lack of confidence affected MI's performance. 

The DGMI's also showed its inability to provide down assessments to the IPKF, even though it received regular inputs from RAW, IB and other agencies at the Army HQ. Similarly the HQ Southern Command GS (Int) also failed to provide useful assessments or inputs, presumably because it had no operational responsibility. The absence of such top down assessments handicapped the MI planning and collection process at the Advance HQ OFC. The DGMI could have helped the IPKF to assess the situation better with appropriate and timely inputs on developments at home that had impacted MI's intelligence operations in Sri Lanka.  

MI performance: OFC MI  

At the field level, OFC MI had set itself the task of keeping abreast of three strategic developments that could destabilise the IPKF operations. These were: the acquisition of MANPADS by the LTTE, contacts between the LTTE and the Marxist Sinhala militant group Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) operating in other parts of Sri Lanka, and collaboration between the LTTE and elements of the Government of Sri Lanka. In all the three aspects, the OFC MI all along kept abreast of the developments. Despite the initial glitches of command and control and limited resources, the MI units in Sri Lanka made some positive contributions. Their assessments were generally more accurate than any other national intelligence agency. 

OFC MI had used the period of troubled peace from August to October 1987, to create useful assets both within the LTTE and among influential pro-LTTE elements in Jaffna and Trincomalee. These assets came in handy when the operations started. They provided valuable inputs on political and strategic moves of the LTTE as well as Sri Lanka government. During the IPKF's consolidation phase, after Jaffna was cleared, the OFC MI's was able to provide useful information on movement of LTTE pistol groups within Jaffna and in eastern Sri Lanka. It also provided clinching evidence of collusion between elements of the Sri Lankan government and army, and the LTTE. These helped us to understand the changing operational environment and assess the depth of the emerging equation between the Sri Lanka President and the LTTE. 

Generally frontline troops had high expectation of tactical intelligence from OFC MI units. To certain extent these were met wherever close coordination existed between the MI elements and troops, notably in Jaffna, Trincomalee, and Batticaloa sectors. Unfortunately this could not be achieved fully in Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts where the jungle terrain made HUMINT operations difficult. Troops in those areas had to depend upon their own combat intelligence. However, the front line infantry units lacked adequate intelligence awareness to successfully carry out combat intelligence tasks. On the other hand, Para Commando units showed excellent response and added some 'muscle' to MI operations conducted with their help. And naturally their operational performance was far superior to regular infantry units.  

The OFC MI established useful links with Sri Lanka's National Intelligence Bureau (NIB). Though some of the NIB information was misleading, it helped in understanding the official line of Sri Lanka. The OFC MI had to maintain constant vigilance against NIB efforts to thwart its operations, particularly in the year 1988-89.  

Communication and electronic intelligence produced valuable inputs. However, such information was not validated adequately due to paucity of intelligence staff. In future operations of force projection such inputs are likely to increase enormously. In order to get the overall picture, intelligence staff at the formation level would require better training to evolve realistic assessments combining HUMINT, ELINT and SIGINT inputs.

There was practically no input from Air and Naval Intelligence sources. Presumably MI failed to seek specific information from them. Navy could have been useful particularly in gaining information on the LTTE's supplies from Tamil Nadu across the Palk Strait. MI did not fully tap the Tamil media both in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka that were rich open sources of information. 

Coordination with civil intelligence agencies 

Coordination between the MI as the user and the RAW as the provider had always been one sided. The RAW usually did not meet DGMI's military intelligence requirements in a usable form. Presumably RAW's own priorities were different from those of the armed forces. Ideally when the IPKF was inducted, the RAW had the capability to produce a comprehensive handbook on Sri Lanka containing all the information forces required. Probably the DGMI did not project such a requirement nor did the RAW anticipate it. This speaks for the limited coordination that had existed between the Army and the RAW. However, after initial hiccups on this count in Sri Lanka, the RAW – Army cooperation improved once the Advance HQ OFC was created.  

Though over a period of time, some form of top level agency coordination emerged in New Delhi it never percolated down to formation level in Sri Lanka. At present interaction between the Army and RAW counterparts is based only on personal equation established between the two in the absence of standard operating procedures for information sharing. Thus officers on both sides grow up in a culture of denial rather than sharing. Perhaps we can take a leaf out of the Japanese industrial management practice of forming Small Group Activity for the user and producer to understand the user's problems to evolve workable solutions.  

As far as the IB was concerned, internal political intelligence appeared to be their focus. Functionally in critical internal situations in India the IB representatives had been forthcoming in sharing information of military interest. However, this does not apply to IB's political intelligence sharing with the army even in counter insurgency situation in India. However, in the case of counter insurgency operations in Sri Lanka, the fine line dividing political and operational intelligence got blurred. Perhaps the IB was not able to appreciate this need for forces operating in alien environment. That would explain its reluctance to share information of any kind relating to Sri Lanka with the IPKF.  

The failure of the State police machinery to share intelligence relevant to the IPKF represented the dissonance in our national security perceptions. The failure of the Tamil Nadu Home Department to act in the interest of national security for political reasons had kept up the morale of LTTE fighting with our forces in Sri Lanka. This has been well documented in the Jain Commission report. The precedent set by Tamil Nadu Government during the IPKF operations on this count taking roots now in the political culture cannot be ruled out. To avoid a similar contingency arising in our future overseas operations, it would be prudent for the armed forces to handle with more alacrity by demanding clear mandates in advance with clear guidelines and responsibilities. 

Intelligence in overseas operations of the future 

The IPKF operations in the early stages were hastily conceived, inadequately planned and executed because there was a lack of role clarity. This was mainly due to the absence of an empowered national decision making body on national security at the government level. Similarly there was an inadequate framework for conducting combined operations overseas at the joint services level. Remedial action has been taken since then to address these limitations, though they might not be wholly satisfactory as the Kargil war had demonstrated. However, it is likely to improve as the nation gradually gains more experience in handling strategic security issues on a global perspective. 

Intelligence on a real time basis will be the catalyst of success of armed forces in future overseas operations. MI will be required to meticulously plan and be ready to meet the intelligence requirements in overseas operations before and after the induction of troops. As sources of information have enlarged in scope and width, MI should be in a position to provide reasonable assessments in real time to forces operating in battle fields dominated by larger force levels, great mobility and high fire power. This would require a greater degree of intelligence integration of MI with its counterparts in other services as well as civil intelligence agencies. Thus there is an urgent need to integrate this need in perspective planning of operations for such contingencies. 

To achieve such readiness, MI will require clear policy formulations applicable to the three services as well as civil intelligence agencies, better integration and coordination of inputs and assessments through a structured mechanism. It will also require coordinated advance planning by all the intelligence stakeholders at various levels.  

Over the long term, MI will also have to build its own expertise in areas of potential operational interest. Ideally, a defence university will be the appropriate forum to create such knowledge banks. In the absence of such an institution, repositories of knowledge can be created in selected academies of excellence like university departments of defence studies so that there is continuity of effort.  Intelligence Corps officers should be encouraged to specialise in regions or countries of national interest. Unless MI plans and evolves such an integrated intelligence matrix, success in future overseas operations will come only at great cost of men and material.  

Military intelligence is a specialised job that requires the application of military knowledge to understand the information needs of the battle field and provide useful assessments to the fighting forces. In future operational environments, MI staff will be required to make real time assessments to assist operational decision making. No doubt the quantum jump in communication and information technology provides useful tools for the MI to meet this requirement. However, much of its success would depend upon the training imparted to intelligence staff to be technologically savvy in keeping with the dynamics of the emerging battle field needs.

With the nation poised to emerge as a regional power in the near future, MI has to transform itself into a technology driven organisation to meld TECHINT, ELINT, SIGINT and HUMINT inputs to meet the requirements of force projection overseas. Focus on intelligence management rather than mere information management has become the order of the day. That will remove the aberrations of intelligence acquisition and coordination at all levels and contribute meaningfully to operational planning and execution.

This article is based on a presentation made at the seminar "Indian Experience in Force Projection" organised by the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS) at New Delhi on September 15 and 16, 2008 

(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90)

October 17, 2008

Delhi Dermarche more important than Tamil Nadu Tempest

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Twenty – one years ago on February 10th 1987 the Indian Government led then by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi issued what was called a Demarche in diplomatic parlance to the Government of Sri Lanka under President Junius Richard Jayewardene.

A demarche is defined as a formal diplomatic representation of one government’s official position, views or wishes on a given subject to an appropriate official in another government or international organization.

Demarches generally seek to persuade, inform or gather information from a foreign government. Governments may also use a demarche to protest or object to actions by a foreign government. [Click here to read full article~in DailyMirror.lk]


Indo-Lanka Equation: Time for a Trade-Off

By Dayan Jayatilleka

“I will kill Osama Bin Laden. I will smash Al Qaeda”

 

 - Barack Obama (2nd Presidential debate, Oct 7th 2008)

 

The time has come for a trade-off, a grand bargain. We must hold fast on the military offensive while conceding on the political. We must concede on the political so as to be able to preserve and safeguard the ongoing military effort.

Let me back up a bit and explain my point.

 

Sri Lanka faces twin tasks: to complete the military offensive against the Tigers crowning it with victory and to secure the time and space to do so without external interference and pressure. The latter is even more pressing than the former. Without fulfilling the latter, we would not have the conditions necessary to complete the former task.

 

The objectives are territorial unity, integrity and sovereignty. We have to complete our offensive to reunite the territory and re-establish territorial integrity, while safeguarding national sovereignty.

 

The challenge facing Sri Lanka today is to preserve the political, diplomatic and strategic space necessary to complete the military campaign to defeat the LTTE. Plainly put, it is to avoid a replay or a variation of a 1987 scenario, in which a potentially decisive Sri Lankan military thrust was aborted by external intervention, itself catalyzed by sub-regional political pressure.

 

How to best manage relations with India , in this complex situation? On the one hand, Sri Lanka must decide on what is absolutely fundamental to it and stick to that determinedly, against whatever odds and whatever the outcome. On the other hand, it must be flexible enough to concede and sacrifice on issues other than those core interests.   

 

What is of fundamental interest is the strategic and security issue. The overwhelming bulk of the Sri Lankan people want to see the war fought to a successful end. We cannot and must not compromise on the goals, timing, intensity, weapons and tactics of the war. We must not declare a ceasefire and enter talks with the Tigers unless Prabhakaran and his commanders surrender and are brought to justice before the courts. We must not blink and must be willing to offer asymmetric resistance in all dimensions to all who would abort our military’s effort to bring peace and unity to our little island home.

 

However, no perspective can be judged patriotic unless it is also realistic. What is the reality? As I have said before it is this: The Tamils matter far more than the Sinhalese to Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu matters more than Colombo to New Delhi . New Delhi matters far more than Sri Lanka to every capital in the world. The other reality is that New Delhi has overwhelming military superiority over Sri Lanka , and Sri Lanka has no one who will or can countervail that absolute military superiority. 

 

That being the case, how to best balance Sri Lanka ’s vital interests with India ’s mounting concerns? This is where my suggestion of a trade-off comes in. Calling off, or pausing, or lowering the intensity of the military operations is tantamount to letting Prabhakaran off the hook.  This ensures that he will continue to kill and will blight the future of another generation of Sri Lankans. The war must be stopped when the democratic Sri Lankan state has won. This is true of any state fighting any terrorist movement—whatever the underlying cause of those movements—anywhere in the South Asian region. South Asia needs a clear victory against terrorism, somewhere, anywhere in the region. Compelling a legitimate state, a durable democracy at that, to abandon or slow down the military struggle against a separatist terrorist army or militia anywhere in our region, damages the anti-terrorist and anti-separatist causes and emboldens terrorism everywhere in the region. 

 

That being said, Sri Lanka simply must be willing to trade off the political for the military, or to put it more accurately, it must be willing to trade off secondary political aims for primary or core political concerns. The core political concern is the unity and territorial integrity of the Sri Lankan state and its sovereign right in matters of internal war and peace. The secondary political consideration is the internal structural arrangements of the Sri Lanka state, as pertains to center-periphery or majority-minority relations. I refer of course to the issue of devolution of power and autonomy arrangements for the Tamil people.

 

Realistically, we have to help Delhi help us, which means help Delhi with Tamil Nadu. Devolution is all we have to offer, if we are to safeguard the ongoing military campaign. It is true that any devolution package cannot be fully implemented while Prabhakaran is still in business. This after all is what happened to the Indo-Lanka Accord.  But we can chart the contours of a constitutionally feasible devolution, do so within a compressed time frame and clearly commit to it, so that there is transparency about the postwar order. India and the world must know the political outcome of the war, and must be reassured that the result will not be Sinhala “rulership” over the Tamils. This will help Delhi stave off Tamil Nadu pressure.

 

We are at a crossroads. President Jayewardene suddenly found himself confronted with a choice: either risk the decimation of Sri Lankan military assets at the hands of a vastly superior external force or capitulate, call off the war, sign on the dotted line. We know what he did and what resulted in terms of a Southern backlash and civil war. If President Jayewardene had a choice he would have signed the Indo-Lanka accord and agreed to the 13th amendment before the airdrop and not after it. Had he done so before, he would not have had to abandon the military operation, and we could have gone on to win the war.

 

There are those who will oppose and resist any and all concessions and compromises, military and political. Almost to a man and a woman these are elements that have no knowledge or comprehension of international and strategic affairs. That learning disability is deadly dangerous.

 

We have to decide between, on the one hand, the basic interests of the Sri Lankan state and its military, and on the other, the ideology and prejudices of Sinhala chauvinism. National interest and national security or majoritarian ethnic ideology? That is the choice facing us.

 

                                                     *************

 

                             (These are the strictly personal views of the writer.)

October 16, 2008

‘I am committed to political solution and ending Tamil civilian hardships’

by N. Ram

President Rajapaksa: After clearing LTTE-held territory, I’ll sell it to the South



Cautious optimism: President Mahinda Rajapaksa

Chennai: “I am firmly committed to a just and enduring political solution” to the Tamil question in Sri Lanka and “am clear that there are no military solutions to political questions,” President Mahinda Rajapaksa told me in a telephonic conversation from Colombo on Thursday morning.

Addressing the humanitarian situation of displaced people and civilians affected by the military conflict in the Wanni, he reiterated that his government was doing its utmost to meet their essential needs: “We are sending them food. We are feeding the LTTE, in fact, we know that 70 per cent of the food sent by the government goes to them.”

Going into some detail on the complexities of the situation, and certain problems that had cropped up in coordinating the relief work with United Nations agencies and international NGOs, Mr. Rajapaksa reiterated the assurance he recently gave to the All Party Conference that “all hardships faced temporarily by our brothers and sisters in the North will be brought to an end in a short time.”

The Sri Lankan President, who has had discussions with High Commissioner Alok Prasad and adopted a conciliatory attitude, will be sending a special envoy to New Delhi in the near future to explain the overall situation and meet the concerns expressed by India in an October 6 demarche.

As for the relationship between the ongoing successful military operations and the political solution, Mr. Rajapaksa made the point that the solution had to be given to the Tamil people, not to the LTTE: “What is the use of giving a solution to terrorists? They are not giving up terrorism.” As recently as October 11, in his address to the All Party Conference, the Sri Lankan President called on the LTTE “to lay down their arms and surrender and enter the democratic political process.”

By all credible independent assessments, the LTTE has taken a battering as never before, faces a crisis of morale, and is confined to its strongholds in Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi districts. “As soon as we clear this territory,” Mr. Rajapaksa explained, “let the people [of the Northern Province] decide [in an election].”

Mr. Rajapaksa pointed out that he had entrusted the All Party Representative Conference (APRC) with the task of evolving a consensus among political parties and democratic stakeholders in order to find an acceptable solution to the ethnic conflict. Such a solution could go beyond the 13th Amendment provided the parties could ensure a two-thirds majority in Parliament for the required changes to the Constitution.

The 13th Amendment, the Sri Lankan President reminded political India, was what “India introduced to our Constitution.” It was not implemented earlier on account of “opposition in the South” but in the Eastern Province “we have shown we are interested in implementing it.” Elections were successfully held after all parts of the Province had been cleared of the LTTE’s military presence without any civilian casualties; he had appointed Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan as Chief Minister despite his being in a minority; and the new Chief Minister (a former LTTE child soldier) was “doing very well.” More than 1000 Tamil police officers had been recruited for the Eastern Province and some of them had been trained in India.

President Rajapaksa expressed cautious optimism that once the LTTE-held areas in the North were cleared by the Sri Lankan security forces and the APRC came up with its final set of recommendations, “I will sell that to the South and implement it.” If it meant changes to the Constitution, he would need cooperation from the Opposition so that a two-thirds majority could be ensured.

Take firm action against those who menace freedom of expression: N. Ram

Statement by N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu on three incidents targeting The Hindu and freedom of expression by pro-LTTE and anti-social elements in Tamil Nadu

October 16, 2008

“On behalf of our 130-year-old newspaper, its 3528 employees, and four million readers, I wish to strongly condemn the illegal acts of mischief and violence in Coimbatore and Erode by activists of the pro-LTTE fringe group calling itself the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) along with a handful of anti-social elements.

“These unruly and illegal acts were an expression of intolerance of the newspaper’s criticism of pro-LTTE and pro-Eelam chauvinism in the Tamil Nadu political arena. In our considered editorial assessment, these chauvinistic, pro-separatist tendencies are deeply inimical to the interests of the Indian people. Hearteningly, the overwhelming majority of the people of Tamil Nadu, who do not want a replay of the propaganda campaigns and violent activities of the terrorist Tamil Tigers in one of India’s most peaceful States, firmly oppose these chauvinistic tendencies. This is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that, post-1991, even the small pro-LTTE parties have not dared campaign on a pro-LTTE platform in any State or general election.

“The latest act of mischief and violence against our newspaper occurred around 5 a.m. on Thursday, October 16 at the Erode Bus Stand. A group of about half a dozen persons raising pro-LTTE slogans invaded the point of distribution, assaulted the person in charge of this distribution point, indulged in filthy slogans and threats, distributed hand bills extolling the LTTE, snatched 2400 copies of The Hindu and 390 copies of Business Line, doused them with petrol, and set them on fire. Thanks to the vigilance of our staff and the outrage of hawkers, two of the culprits were apprehended on the spot. The police have registered a case at the Erode Town Police Station under Sections 147, 323, 294(b), 285, 427, 506, and 506(i) of the IPC and arrested the leaders of the group, Kumaragurubaran, 42, district organiser of the PDK, and M. Jayakumar, 30, of the ‘Tamil Desiya Podhu Udaimai Katchi.’ The police are on the look-out for the other culprits.

“Earlier, on Tuesday, October 14, there were two incidents targeting our Coimbatore office on LIC Road. Some activists of the lawyers’ group of the PDK demanded that The Hindu reverse its editorial stand against pro-LTTE and pro-Eelam chauvinism, burnt some copies of the newspaper, and attempted to march to our office. The police effectively prevented them from doing so, thus preventing possible violence, and registered a case under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly) and 285 (negligent conduct with regard to fire or combustible matter) of the Indian Penal Code. The second incident, involving about ten persons, including PDK activists and law college students, was more serious. The group marched towards The Hindu office in Coimbatore, two persons sneaked through the police cordon, and tried to scale the iron gate and force their way past our staff and security personnel. One of them hurled a stone, which fortunately caused no injury or damage. The police arrested ten persons, who were later released on bail, and registered a case against this group under Sections 147 (unlawful assembly), 285, 447 (criminal trespass), 336 (act endangered life or personal safety of others), and 506 (i) (criminal intimidation) of the IPC.

“While we are satisfied with the response of the police in Coimbatore and Erode to these criminal acts – which constituted a threat to the physical safety of our journalists, non-journalistic staff, and others working for us, and to freedom of expression, guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution – we would like the police as well as the Tamil Nadu Government to take stronger action under the law of the land against the extremist fringe outfits and the individuals, including lawyers, behind these illegal acts.

“We expect the police and the State government to monitor and pursue seriously the prosecution of these cases, so that exemplary punishment under the law of the land is meted out to those who menace freedom of expression in the cause of a banned terrorist organisation.”

The dangers of Tamil chauvinism

by Malini Parthasarathy

The latest campaign in Tamil Nadu masterminded by a desperate LTTE must not be allowed to undermine the sound policy decision upheld by successive Indian governments since 1991 to stay out of Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.

Time appears to have stood still for most Tamil Nadu’s politicians who seem completely insulated from the complex ground realities that mark India’s new political landscape. India’s political establishment and civil society are anxiously grappling with the enormity of the horrific new threat to Indian society — terrorism — fast becoming an everyday reality on the streets. But oddly enough, seemingly oblivious of the contradiction, political parties in Tamil Nadu, led by the MDMK and the PMK, have recently plunged into high-pitched activity aimed at garnering support for the LTTE, a deadly terrorist organisation.

These parties have launched a campaign in the State ostensibly to express solidarity with the Sri Lankan Tamils trapped in the war zone in northern Sri Lanka but the timing of this campaign which appears to have materialised overnight, is a dead giveaway. The Sri Lankan army, just two kilometres away from the LTTE’s administrative capital, Kilinochchi, has successfully encircled the Tigers and their leader who are virtually trapped in their bunkers. For the first time in years, the Sri Lankan government appears to be on the brink of a major success in its battle with terrorism. There is now the very real prospect of the capture of the elusive LTTE chief, Velupillai Prabakaran, who is behind the assassination of a former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi.

Tamil Nadu’s politicians clearly have different standards for India and for Sri Lanka. It would appear that they accept that battling terrorism in India and saving Kashmir from Islamist jihadis are important national tasks but not so in Sri Lanka which has been menaced for more than two decades by the LTTE. It was the LTTE which pioneered terrorism in South Asia and produced two generations of suicide bombers who have claimed numerous high-profile victims. For far too long have the legitimate aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils been held hostage to the hegemonic ambitions of the LTTE chief Prabakaran who has consistently sabotaged all attempts to find political solutions to the ethnic conflict.

When Pakistani generals and Islamist militants characterise the separatist uprising in Kashmir as a “freedom struggle,” the collective Indian national consciousness is understandably outraged. Politicians in India are rarely exercised over concerns that the human rights of innocent citizens are often trampled upon in police action against terrorists or their perceived accomplices. There is indeed a broad-based political consensus behind the Indian state when it takes strong steps to root out terrorism.

It is therefore all the more incongruous that the political parties in Tamil Nadu, including the ruling DMK and its principal challenger the AIADMK have decided to work themselves into a frenzy over the alleged violation of the “human rights” of the Sri Lankan Tamils in the context of the military action against the LTTE. Evidently, the game plan of the LTTE and its supporters is to rally Tamil chauvinist sentiment and translate that into pressure on New Delhi to signal its disapproval to Colombo, thereby weakening its moral authority in the eyes of the Sri Lankan Tamil community.

There is a strong sense of déjÀ vu, listening to the rhetoric and speeches of leaders in Tamil Nadu, whose understanding of the Sri Lankan political situation is mired in a time-warp, their images of the ethnic conflict drawing primarily from scenes of two decades ago, particularly the flashpoint of 1983, when the Wellikada prison massacre highlighted dramatically the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamil community and brought thousands of refugees to Indian shores. But after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian national psyche recoiled from a continued engagement with the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis.

Since the 1990s, New Delhi’s policy has been to acknowledge the terrorist character of the LTTE and the imperative of a military confrontation with that organisation, while continuing to offer moral encouragement to Colombo to find a political solution that would provide a framework to empower the Tamil community. Meanwhile, India made clear its utter repugnance for the LTTE by banning it not just because it was involved in the murder of Rajiv Gandhi but because it viewed the LTTE as a terrorist movement that would continuously strive to stimulate the secessionist sentiment in Tamil Nadu as long as Sri Lanka continued to have ethnic strife.

The situation in Sri Lanka itself has undergone profound changes since the 1980s, when it was easier to conceptualise purely political solutions and rule out military responses to the violent dimensions of the conflict. At that point in time, it was indeed possible to sideline the militant groups of Sri Lankan Tamil politics by engaging the political interlocutors in the Tamil community such as the urbane leaders of the TULF, notably Appapillai Amirthalingam, who recognised the key to political empowerment lay in the democratic process. But with the ruthless elimination of every credible interlocutor in the Tamil community by the LTTE which insisted that it was the sole representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils, the space for a political solution has narrowed over the years, rendering null and void the several exercises seeking a devolution of power to the Tamil community.

Yet the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution which was a consequence of the Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement of 1987, envisaging devolution of power to provincial councils has become a touchstone for the resolution of the ethnic conflict. The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has made it clear that he remains committed to a political solution of this sort. In a meeting with the All Party Representative Conference (APRC) last Saturday, Mr. Rajapaksa emphasised that it was the duty of the Sri Lankan state “to ensure to the Tamil people of the North the same democratic rights as enjoyed by the people in all parts of the country.” He also took care to explain that the military action against the LTTE was against terrorism and not against the Tamil community.

The Sri Lankan President has acquired unprecedented political space for his military campaign against the LTTE. Several factors including the rebellion of the powerful LTTE commander Karuna and the fact that there is now in place an elected provincial council in the Eastern Province have rendered irrelevant many of the points in the earlier Sri Lankan Tamil political platform. That there is a credible and workable political solution now in sight has made it easier for Colombo to launch military operations against the LTTE. It is indeed the sovereign right of Sri Lanka as it is of India to eliminate any terrorist organisation that poses a fundamental threat to its survival as a nation.

The parties in Tamil Nadu which have strong ties to the LTTE such as the MDMK and the PMK are in the forefront of this new campaign which has sprung to life overnight after decades of silence. Their rhetoric is dated and wearily familiar. The MDMK’s Vaiko, brimming with moral indignation, has lashed out at the Centre for allegedly sending military assistance to Sri Lanka which was “unleashing a genocidal attack on the Tamil race”. Likewise the PMK’s leader S. Ramadoss has alleged that “the situation on the island threatens to eliminate the entire Tamil race”.

That the LTTE’s shadow lurks behind this new campaign is evident in the demand of Dr. Ramadoss that the Union government recognise the “Eelam Tamils struggle for their rights.” There is also an implied acceptance of the LTTE’s claim to be the only authentic representative of the Sri Lankan Tamils in the declaration of Dr. Ramadoss that the LTTE is “acting as a fortress for ethnic Tamils.”

As the LTTE has presumably calculated, this binge of competitive chauvinism has compelled Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to up the ante on this issue, adding for good measure, his own dramatic assertion that unless the Centre cooperates in stopping the attacks on the Sri Lankan Tamils, not only would the Sri Lankan Tamils perish but so also would the “Tamils in Tamil Nadu.” The strategic design behind the campaign to “express solidarity” with the Sri Lankan Tamils that is now under way in Tamil Nadu should not be underestimated.

For the last decade or so, New Delhi has successfully resisted the various attempts made by the LTTE and its supporters in Tamil Nadu to force it to intervene in the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis. If New Delhi were to express its disapproval, even implicitly, of Sri Lanka’s sovereign right to recapture its own national territory from the LTTE, it would weaken the moral authority of India’s own actions in regard to its struggle against terrorism and the separatist agitation in Kashmir. This latest campaign in Tamil Nadu masterminded by a desperate LTTE must not be allowed to undermine the sound policy decision upheld by successive Indian governments since 1991 to stay out of Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. [courtesy: The Hindu]

LTTE-Time to be carefully buried

By: Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

The on-going onslaught by the Sri Lankan armed forces on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Vanni and its continuing success has brought forth reactions from a multitude of players. The die-hard LTTE supporters are no doubt shell-shocked, but yet not sufficiently to withdraw into their lairs.

These die-hards are hoping for miracles to restore the LTTE to its former glory as the deluded ‘Naked Emperor’.  Among these die-hards are many, who sincerely believe the LTTE holds the key to resolving the problems of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the establishment of an independent Tamil Eelam would be the only solution.  They have a right to believe in what they do, although we may disagree with them. It is for us to convince them otherwise.  The Sri Lankan government and the Sinhala polity are duty bound to convince all Tamils there can be better alternatives to Tamil Eelam and the deep blue sea.  This is also a moral imperative.

There are however a fewer, but a significant number of die-hards among the Tamils- largely of the lumpen- type, who have thrived on the power bestowed on them by the LTTE to harass, torment, kidnap, brutalize, kill and fleece ordinary Tamils to fill not only the LTTE ranks and coffers, but their wallets as well.  These are the elements who are orchestrating various events, particularly in Europe, to collectively shed crocodile tears for the innocent Tamil civilians caught –up in the ongoing war.  These elements have a vested interest in the success of the LTTE and care for the LTTE more than they do the Tamils.  The suffering Tamils are the ‘Beggar’s wound’ they display, when required, to promote the interests of the LTTE and their own.   Such die-hards are the scum churned in the wake of the tragedy that engulfed the Tamils over the past three decades.  They should be treated with disdain and utter contempt by everyone interested in the welfare of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the nation at large.

There are of course the various Dravidian political parties in Tamil Nadu, who are ever ready to voice their sympathies for the Tamils in Sri Lanka, when the going gets tough for the LTTE.   These political parties have scant understanding of the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and do not comprehend the LTTE and other Tamil militant groups have become a bigger problem for the Tamils, than the Sri Lankan governments ever were.  Some of these political parties may be genuine in their ignorance or confusion, while others are either in the LTTE pay or are using the LTTE and the travails of the Tamils in Sri Lanka as a cats paw for other gains.  I wonder where their concerns were when the LTTE deliberately, calculatingly, cunningly and quite cynically messed-up every God-given opportunity, including the Indian intervention in 1987, to resolve the problems of the Tamils in Sri Lanka in a pragmatic manner and schemed to instigate war and heap more miseries on them.    

Let me beg these Tamil Nadu politicians and political parties not to sacrifice the Tamils in Sri Lanka at the alter of their ambitions, ignorance or venality. Please understand our problems and help us resolve them peacefully, if you can.  However, do not think the demise of the LTTE is the end of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The LTTE is not the Tamils and it never did truly represent us. It does not represent us at all now.  This may sound a cop-out and an opportunistic stance at this juncture. But it is true.  The LTTE and other militant groups rode the grievances of the Tamils to become over time their main tormentors. The LTTE has been the curse bestowed on us by God, for whatever sins we may have committed as a people! The current war was brought on by the LTTE, because it did not empathize with the plight of the Tamils and their pleas for peace at any cost.  The LTTE and the other surviving Tamil militant groups are a cancer that has to be excised immediately from the affairs of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.  The Sri Lankan government is doing us Tamils a favour by trying to destroy the LTTE. We will not be able to do this without the help of the Sri Lankan government.   Whatever may be our grievances in Sri Lanka, especially with regard to the manner in which we were governed in the past and are dealt with in the present, at this juncture, we have to be thankful to President Rajapakse and the Sri Lankan armed forces for trying to put an end to the LTTE menace.  It is a historical congruence of necessity, uniting us as peoples.  This war has to be fought to a finish, to end all such wars in the future.

The United National Party’s (UNP) call for talks with the LTTE at this juncture, is rather baffling.   The UNP is either stupid, insane or is playing the often seen political game, as parties in opposition are wont to in Sri Lanka.  The LTTE must be decimated now. This should be the principal demand of the Tamils at this juncture, if they are to have the chance to survive as a people in Sri Lanka. Yes, we are sorry for the plight of the innocent civilians caught in the midst of this war.   Many of us knew and warned this would be the inevitable result of the path the LTTE chose to take during the much lamented ceasefire.  However, the LTTE refused to pay heed to these concerns. If the LTTE is not eliminated or marginalized now, the agony of these hapless people will never end.  Let the present agony of these people-however tragic this may be- be the last the Tamils in Sri Lanka will ever suffer on this scale. If the LTTE cares for these much abused people, it should let them move en-masse into government held areas, as already requested by the government, instead of holding them hostage to its designs. Let the United Nations agencies arrange for their safe passage. If the government harasses and refuses to care for these people once they move into government held areas, then it should be a matter of utmost concern to all human kind.  The war became necessary and inevitable due to actions of the LTTE and they and they alone are to be blamed for the consequences being visited on the people in the Vanni.  This war, whatever the yet to be identified long term intentions of the government may be, is a war being fought by the Sri Lankan armed forces on behalf of every Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese, against what has become a national menace, transcending the communal divide. This war may be the turning point in the history of Sri Lanka, as it has transcended narrow parochial concerns and elevated itself to a national and all encompassing level. The UNP should look beyond this war and offer concrete solutions to the problems of the Tamils and act to bring about national reconciliation, even if the credit for ending the LTTE menace goes to President Rajapakse. He deserves it.

Finally, the noise from the extremist fringe among the Sinhala polity is becoming more shrill, strident and menacing.   It is this fringe that created the conditions for the Tamil militancy and the birth of the likes of the LTTE.   The impending demise of the LTTE, has inebriated this group sufficiently to proclaim all Tamils (and other minorities)   imports, to be tolerated by the Sinhala- speaking natives of the land.  This is fortunately an improvement on their earlier stance that all Tamils should become Sinhalese to be Sri Lankans or leave the Island! This is also despite the well known fact that a significant number of Sinhala speakers today are very recent imports (in terms of the long history of Sri Lanka) from South India and of Tamil origin, including the ancestors of Army Commander Sarath Fonseka!  The Tamils can be proud that an army commander of Tamil origin is leading an all- Sinhala army successfully against the LTTE!  The army commander may even be a distant kin of Prabaharan, if caste affiliations of old are considered!  The irony in this turn of events makes me laugh, amidst all the gloom.

Speaking and working in English does not make me an Englishmen. I am yet a Tamil, literate in English. This applies to many Sinhalese too, even if they have forgotten their mother tongue-Tamil.  The rabidly extremist fringe among the Sinhalese, have a right to voice their opinions, however undesirable and obnoxious these may be. However, it is unfortunate that their noise is disproportionate to their numbers and their concerns garner disproportionately greater attention than the opinion of their quieter, saner and reasonable compatriots.  Amidst the cacophony of these noises, the more mature, saner and wiser voices such as those of Dushy Ranatunge (see article, ‘Sri Lanka is a Republic, not a Sinhala Country’- Sri Lanka Guardian of 9th Oct’2008) I hope would receive greater attention.

I  remember hearing as a youngster a friend of my father  proclaiming that someone should be ‘Carelessly shot and carefully buried’. This should apply to the LTTE too, for the heinous crimes it has committed against a people, it claimed it was leading towards liberation  but instead force-marched to perdition.

“ Walli Noekkaan Waaipana Seiyaan Palli Noekkaan,

Panbillaan Pattraarku Inithu ‘-  Thirukural (Tamil)

“It will be gratifying to consider someone who has not learnt the laws of righteousness, not acted righteously, been immune to condemnation of his despicable acts and is without culture, an enemy.”- Translation mine.

Sri Lanka's Eastern Province: Land, Development, Conflict

Report by International Crisis Group

Sri Lanka’s government must address the security needs and land-related grievances of all ethnic communities in its Eastern Province or risk losing a unique opportunity for development and peace.

Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province: Land, Development, Conflict, he latest report from the International Crisis Group, says Sri Lanka’s government must devolve real power to the new Eastern Provincial Council, end impunity for ongoing rights violations and work to develop a lasting political consensus on issues of land, security and power sharing with independent representatives of all communities.

“The Eastern Province needs development”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “It also urgently needs political and administrative reforms. Without those, economic development could actually worsen existing conflicts”.

The Eastern Province is Sri Lanka’s most ethnically complex region, with roughly equal numbers of Tamils and Muslims and a sizeable Sinhala minority. It has seen some of the worst of Sri Lanka’s inter-ethnic violence. By mid-2007, a government military campaign had driven the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from portions of the east they had controlled for more than a decade. The government promised to restore democracy, devolve power and develop the province economically.

The removal of the LTTE has brought benefits to all three communities. But tensions between Tamils and Muslims remain high, aggravated by the flawed and ethnically divisive provincial council elections in May 2008. The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP), an armed LTTE splinter group now in power on the provincial council, remains accused of widespread extortion, abductions and killings. Many Muslims and Tamils also fear the government plans to “Sinhalise” the east through development projects that will bring in new Sinhala settlers. Sinhalese in some parts of the province continue to have their own security concerns that warrant careful attention.

To build confidence among all three communities, the government should develop transparent policies on security, the fair allocation of state land, the legitimate protection of religious sites and the equitable distribution of the benefits of economic development. Sri Lanka’s government should invite opposition parties to join a regional peace process to discuss the grievances of the three communities and seek consensus on viable forms of power sharing at all levels of governance.

“All parties, including the government, must eschew the politics of ethnic division”, says Donald Steinberg, Crisis Group Deputy President for Policy. “Good faith negotiations to empower the local population are essential for long-term stability in the region”.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Sri Lanka’s government must address the security needs and land-related grievances of all ethnic communities in its Eastern Province or risk losing a unique opportunity for development and peace. Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese all feel weak and under threat, and recent ethnic violence could easily worsen. The government must devolve real power to the newly elected provincial council, end impunity for ongoing human rights violations and work to develop a consensus on issues of land, security and power sharing with independent representatives of all communities, including those from opposition parties.

The province is Sri Lanka’s most ethnically complex region and has been at the heart of post-independence conflicts. It features a Tamil-speaking majority split equally between ethnic Tamils and Muslims, as well as a sizeable Sinhala minority who mostly moved there from the south under state irrigation and resettlement schemes. Lying at the intersection of competing Tamil and Sinhala nationalisms, the east has seen some of the worst of Sri Lanka’s inter-ethnic violence and remains at risk for more.

For Tamil nationalists, the province is an integral part of the Tamil homeland, but has been subject to deliberate state attempts to change the ethnic balance and undermine its Tamil character. The October 2006 Supreme Court decision to separate the Eastern from the Northern Province, temporarily merged under the terms of the 1987 Indo-Lanka accord, and subsequent provincial council elections in May 2008 were a major blow to Tamil nationalists. For Sinhala nationalists, the province should be equally open to all Sri Lankans, and its hundreds of ancient Buddhist sites and rich Sinhala cultural heritage should be defended and preserved. The east is also home to an emergent Muslim nationalism, largely a product of Muslims’ insecurity relative to Tamil armed groups and the Sinhala-dominated government.

The east remained tense throughout the 2002-2006 peace process, with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) killing many dissenting Tamils, forcibly recruiting children and continuing their harassment of Muslims. The east grew even more tense in March 2004 when the LTTE’s eastern military commander, “Colonel Karuna”, split from the Tigers and formed the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP). The next few years of guerrilla warfare between the northern Tigers and Karuna’s forces, with government support for the latter, contributed to the collapse of the ceasefire. The massive death and destruction caused by the December 2004 tsunami led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands and increased conflict over scarce land.

The government relaunched military action against the LTTE in July 2006. After a year-long campaign that saw large-scale destruction and the displacement of almost 200,000, mostly Tamil, civilians, the military forced the LTTE from their last stronghold in the east in July 2007. The government immediately promised restoration of democracy, devolution of powers to local and provincial politicians and development for the province.

The removal of the LTTE has brought benefits to all three communities. Development projects have begun and the economic benefits of relative peace have been felt by all communities. Recent violent clashes between Tamils and Muslims, however, are a sign of underlying insecurity aggravated by the flawed and ethnically divisive provincial council elections of 10 May 2008. Violence, intimidation and rigging significantly damaged the credibility of the results, which saw government parties win a narrow majority of seats. Their victory was due in large part to their alliance with the TMVP, which remains armed. Far from a champion of Tamil rights, the TMVP is a crucial part of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign in the east and is credibly accused of abductions, extortion and political killings of Tamils. The province’s new chief minister and TMVP deputy leader, S. Chandrakanthan, has so far worked well with pro-government Muslim ministers, but many Muslims continue to distrust the TMVP’s intentions and see it as maintaining the LTTE’s aggressive approach to Muslims. The July 2008 return to Sri Lanka of TMVP founder Karuna has further added to tensions.

Both Tamils and Muslims suspect the government plans to “Sinhalise” the east – through development projects that will bring in new Sinhala settlers, environmental regulations that will remove public lands from use by Muslims and Tamils and the recovery of ancient Buddhist sites. Development plans for Trincomalee district, in conjunction with a high security zone that has forced some 8,000 Tamils off their lands, are objects of particular suspicion. In Ampara district, there are serious tensions between local Muslims and Sinhalese, with the government ally and Sinhala nationalist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) accused of working against Muslims interests.

The unilateral nature of the government’s initiatives in the east encourages these fears. The acceptance of the de-merger of the north and east, the appointment of a new Sinhalese-dominated provincial administration, the major role of the military in civilian affairs, development plans that promise large-scale changes to the east, local government and provincial council elections – all have been imposed from Colombo. There has been little input from independent representatives of Tamils and Muslims, who constitute the clear majority of the province.

To build confidence, the government must quickly fulfil its promise to devolve real power to the Eastern Provincial Council. This should begin with – but go beyond – maximising devolved powers allowed under the Thirteenth Amendment, which established provincial councils but has yet to be effectively implemented anywhere in Sri Lanka. In addition, the government needs to work out common and transparent policies on a range of issues currently dividing the communities: physical security, the fair allocation of state land, the legitimate protection of religious sites and the equitable distribution of benefits from economic development. While the government needs to make the first move, opposition parties should express their willingness to engage in good faith negotiations. The Eastern Province needs development. It also urgently needs political reforms. Development without accompanying political and administrative reforms risks aggravating existing conflicts.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Government of Sri Lanka:

1.  Devolve maximum power and provide adequate financial support to the Eastern Provincial Council by immediately making the necessary administrative and legal changes, as outlined in draft interim proposals submitted by the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) in January 2008, to enable the consistent and workable implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment.

2.  Grant police powers to the Eastern Provincial Council only after the Constitutional Council is functioning and has appointed a new National Police Commission.

3.  Ensure the security and nurture the confidence of the three communities of the Eastern Province by:

a) demilitarising the TMVP and integrating those cadres not credibly accused of human rights violations into the police and the security forces, while affording TMVP officials and office holders effective police protection; and

b) enforcing the law fully and without political interference, preventing further political killings and abductions and bringing to justice the perpetrators of major cases of human rights violations in the east, including the January 2006 killing of five students in Trincomalee, the August 2006 murder of the Action contre la faim workers in Mutur, the September 2006 murder of ten Muslim workers in Potuvil, and the February-March 2008 organised sexual assaults of women in Akkaraipattu.

4.  Invite opposition parties, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and civil society representatives, with guaranteed protection, to join a regional peace process to discuss the grievances of the three communities and seek consensus on the future of the east and viable forms of power sharing at all levels of governance.

5.  Address continuing land disputes and their underlying causes by:

a) establishing a land task force with independent representatives from all three communities and from development agencies to survey existing land disputes and allegations of Sinhalisation, clarify the rights of various parties involved and, to the extent possible, resolve ongoing disputes;

b) creating divisional-level land committees, composed of representatives from the government, opposition parties, civil society and donors, who would monitor and mediate land disputes on an ongoing basis;

c) ensuring that any process of registering and distributing abandoned, forcibly seized or newly opened state land (a land kachcheri) is administered in transparent and equitable ways with consultation from all three communities;

d) establishing the National Land Commission called for under the Thirteenth Amendment to formulate national policy on land use and development in the north and east and propose comprehensive legal reforms designed to ensure greater transparency and equity in the use and allocation of land;

e) devising transparent and equitable rules for the acquisition and distribution of land near archaeological and sacred sites; and

f) reducing further the size of the Mutur East-Sampur high security zone (HSZ) to make possible the resettlement of as many displaced residents as possible, and guarantee fair compensation and/or replacement land, with adequate infrastructure and livelihood opportunities, for those unable to return.

6.  Ensure economic development in the east is equitable and inclusive and perceived as such by all communities by:

a) making a public commitment not to allow development to alter significantly the existing ethnic balance of the province;

b) assuring that the economic benefits of development are shared evenly by all three communities;

c) consulting widely with local communities and with representatives of opposition parties to ensure that development work responds to local priorities and to address widespread fears among Tamils and Muslims that development will lead to the “Sinhalisation” of the east; and

d) adopting preferential hiring for local workers in all development projects and ensuring that local businesses receive maximum possible benefits of development.

7.  Adopt administrative structures and governance practices that assure all three communities their concerns are being fairly considered by:

a) ensuring that the provincial administration reflects the ethnic composition of the province at all levels of the civil service;

b) ending all executive appointments of retired military or police personnel to positions of civil administration in the Eastern Province;

c) de-ethnicising the divisional administrative system, beginning by rotating divisional secretaries (DS) between locations and ending the practice of having the DS be of the same ethnicity as the majority of the division; and

d) considering the adoption of an executive committee system for the Eastern Provincial Council and a system for rotating the position of chief minister between representatives of the three communities.

To the President of Sri Lanka:

8.  Establish immediately the Constitutional Council, as required by the Seventeenth Amendment, and request it to nominate new members for all independent commissions.

9.  Request the APRC to conclude its deliberations quickly and free from political interference and promptly finalise constitutional reform proposals.

To the Constituent Parties of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC):

10.  Conclude deliberations quickly and publish final proposals for legal and constitutional changes necessary for effective devolution and power sharing.

To the United National Party (UNP):

11.  Rejoin the APRC, insist on maximum devolution through the full and coherent implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and state publicly willingness to support in parliament reasonable devolution and power-sharing proposals that go beyond the Thirteenth Amendment, once these are submitted by the APRC.

To the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province:

12.  Prevent the extortion, abduction and intimidation of Muslims in the Eastern Province, take punitive action against offenders and publicly disclose such actions.

To All Opposition Political Parties:

13.  Express willingness to join a government-sponsored, provincial-level peace process and land task force.

To the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP):

14.  End once and for all recruitment of underage cadres, demobilise those remaining members who are below eighteen and end all illegal activities.

To the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE):

15.  Cease all political killings and attacks on security forces in the Eastern Province.

To the International Community, in particular India, Japan, the U.S., EU Member States, Norway, Canada, Australia and Switzerland:

16.  Request the government to announce its timetable for making the legal and administrative changes necessary to achieve maximum devolution under the Thirteenth Amendment and continue to stress the importance of constitutional changes and power sharing that go beyond the Thirteenth Amendment.

17.  Assist the government in the demobilisation and reintegration of TMVP fighters, including a process to ensure that no TMVP members credibly accused of human rights violations join the security forces.

18.  Actively support and defend the work of independent civil society organisations in the east, especially women’s groups, human rights advocates and those working for inter-ethnic accommodation.

Click for Full Report

http://www.crisisgroup.org

 

October 15, 2008

The Martyr Bomber Becomes a Goddess

By Prof. William Harman, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Full text of talk delivered by Prof. William Harman at Iinternational Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo on September 23rd 2008:

The Martyr Bomber Becomes a Goddess:

Women, Theosis, and Sacrificial Violence in Sri Lanka 

I am extremely grateful for the extraordinary privilege extended to me to address this distinguished body. For years I have heard wonderful things from fellow scholars of South Asia about the International Center for Ethnic Studies in Colombo, and little did I expect that I would be granted an opportunity to make a presentation before you. I would not be honest if I did not say that I appear here with some hesitation. It is likely that most of you here know more about my topic than do I. I am very much an outsider to what is happening in Sri Lanka, though I have been captivated by the works of several scholars who have tried to shed light on the tragic conflict with which the citizens of this country live every day. What I have to offer, then, is derivative. I invite you to correct me, and to assist me as I seek to understand how the tragedy of civil warfare could have enveloped such a remarkable country as this. I am grateful to Mr. P. Thambirajah whose gracious and informative email correspondence has brought me here and assisted me with the details of finding both lodging and colleagues in Colombo. And I am deeply grateful for your indulgence as I do my best to offer a perspective from beyond your shores.

I will be speaking about female martyr bombers in the civil war here. It is a strange topic to select, but it is one that interests me immensely. It would take sometime for me to say why the topic attracts my attention, but a few words will, I hope, suffice. First, as my venerable teacher Mircea Eliade once said, “The scale makes the phenomenon.” The very scale of female bombers is remarkable in Sri Lanka. Worldwide, in other struggles where female martyr bombing occurs, about 8% involve females. In Sri Lanka, that percentage is considerably higher, anywhere from 30% to 40% according to estimates offered by various agencies. A second reason I am interested is because much of my scholarship has focused on village goddesses in Tamilnadu, and I have been struck by how the activities of these goddesses suggest elements found in the stories of female martyr bombers. I will say more about this shortly. Finally, I grew up learning that one of the most admirable attributes of a person who is committed to a cause is that such a person would be willing to offer his or her life in defense of  a particular commitment. Yet, at the same time it strains my sense of what is right, proper, and just to know that martyr bombers are willing not simply to take their own lives, but also the lives of innocent civilians who are considered “collateral damage.”

Perhaps most important, I want to make it clear that my analysis at this point has occurred in a context in which I have sought primarily to understand rather than to judge the events surrounding the activities of these women. I do not advocate killing and I do not endorse murder. But I do not begin with the assumption that these women are crazy or evil. Such a perspective, while tempting, is motivated by what I would call a lazy hermeneutic. These women are human beings acting out of a sense of commitment to principles for which they are willing to give their lives. Whether we agree with those principles or not, it will be impossible to understand these events by simply dismissing these people and their motives as insane.

And what good will understanding these women do? Hopefully, it will allow us to bring an end to the tragic loss of life involved in these bombings: the losses among innocent victims of these activities and among the actual women who do the bombing, who themselves are also victims of this conflict. Circumstances are clearly tragic when women  -- as well as men – reach the point of feeling they must sacrifice their lives in order to accomplish a particular purpose. 

Well before female martyr bombing became a morally and religiously sanctioned strategy to respond to perceived oppression in Palestine, Israel, Iraq, and Chechnya, it had become a routine tool in the civil war waged between the government and the Sri Lankan Vitutalai Pulikal Tamil Ilam, that is, the Liberation Tigers of  the Tamil Homeland, abbreviated as LTTE M uch has been written about what Stanley Tambiah has termed this “fratricidal conflict,”2 but two of the most dramatic developments since 1983 have been the routinization of martyr bombing and the participation in martyr missions by Tamil women in these martyr attacks. It is with this issue that I am especially concerned in this paper.

The most internationally visible example of Tamil Sri-Lankan female martyr bombing involved the assassination of the Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991. I shall argue here that the increasingly frequent occurrence of deliberate and pre-meditated female bombing/martyr events primarily in Sri Lanka emerges out of a South Asian context of a set of powerful and pervasive traditional notions about the nature and role of women.

1987 marked the period when women became formally active agents in the organized insurgency: this was the period when the Tigers developed a fleet of hit-and-run attack boats that were light and fast and manned (so to speak) by cadres of women whose lighter body weight gave the boats greater maneuverability. Several of these boats launched deliberate group-martyr missions. But it was not until May, 1991 that the first prominent  female martyr bomber grabbed international attention. Her name was Thenmoli Rajaratnam . She detonated an explosive device in southern India, in the town of Sriperumputur as she was bowing in mock reverence to touch the feet of the Prime Minisher Rajiv Gandhi, who was on the electioneering stump. 16 others perished in this campaign event preceding parliamentary elections. The Tamil-speaking southern portion of India had long offered illicit support to the cause of the Tamil Tigers, but Rajiv Gandhi saw an opportunity to insinuate Indian power into Sri Lankan affairs by sending a peace-keeping force to mediate between the Tamil and Sinhala factions. Reports of widespread abuses by Indian forces soon surfaced in the Tamil community. Thus, the Tigers did not want Rajiv to be re-elected, lest he send the Indian forces once more.

Stories, often exaggerated, about the supposedly sophisticated and daring Rajaratnam immediately began to circulate: she, like several other of the female martyr bombers, was said to have been raped in Sri Lanka by Indian army troops. Once a woman is raped, in the traditional South Asian context, her future is sealed: no self-respecting man will wed her and a family will never be a possibility. And so, the stories claimed, she “married” , if you will, the cause of Tamil liberation. Gradually, after years of  training, she decided to become a martyr bomber. So vividly did she capture public imagination that a famous Tamil film was produced based roughly on the few facts known about her.  This film, called “The Terrorist” celebrated the valor and courage of female martyr bombings, and received a wide international showing.

The fact that this film represented in India so positively the exploits of someone much like the person who had murdered the Indian Prime Minister, and 16 other innocent Indians, suggests a certain predisposition to exalt martyr bombing, or, rather, to exalt a female who perpetrates a martyr bombing. Indeed, there are some basic elements in Tamil culture that suggest how such a woman might be glorified to the point of being deified. This could be one of the reasons why nearly 40% of all Tamil Tiger martyr bombings are executed by women. There are, of course, strategic reasons as well: traditionally, women are regarded as less threatening and less dangerous than men, and so are able to gain access to sensitive or protected targets with greater ease. And in a culture where bodily searches of women by men are considered tantamount to molestation, concealing explosives becomes much easier for women.

But there are certain basic cultural norms found in Tamil society which promote the notion that a woman’s body is the repository both of special powers as well as of special responsibilities when it comes to constructing and influencing a society in which justice and prosperity prevail. A female has the capacity to be the ultimate personification of virtue, justice, fidelity, and health. Unfavorable conditions mitigating against her cultivating these virtues and threatening the promotion of these qualities  risk the wrath of an almost magical force virtuous women are understood to cultivate and nurture in their bodies, a power called karpu. The more virtuous a woman, the more powerful is that karpu, and the greater danger it becomes to compromise that virtue. For this reason, dedicated, chaste women who for the sake of justice and righteousness suffer unjustifiably, are imbued with a power to reverse injustice and oppression, especially after their deaths, when they become deified as goddesses.

In becoming a martyr bomber, a woman becomes much more than simply a martyr. She becomes a goddess, reborn after her death to a new and higher calling, with fearful powers to avenge evil, oppression, injustice, and corruption. The religious culture of South Asia, whether Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jain, or Sikh places extraordinary emphasis on conduct regulated by vows. Most often, those vows are promises made in public to a sacred figure. Women who become martyr bombers  almost always do so by making a vow to do so, either to a deity or to the movement, or to both. They are accorded respect and honor – similar in many ways to that accorded animals set aside for religious sacrifice. In this liminal state they lead a disciplined, celibate life dedicated to a single purpose. Preparations for the event are understood as part of a physical, spiritual, and psychological discipline.

I deal here with what has to be a decidedly blood-and-guts phenomenon in which human beings blow themselves and others to bits in a deliberate and calculated way. Given the elemental nature of the topic, I move now to specifics inasmuch as I am able to do so. The particulars I have to offer come primarily from the Tamil culture of southern India, though there is widely verifiable evidence that the same particulars we will find on the ground in Sri Lanka.

Throughout Tamil culture, and especially in Sri Lanka and Tamilnadu, we find widely worshipped goddesses whose powers and images Tamil people invoke and respect. Narrative accounts about these goddesses can, on occasion, become models for Tamil womens’ understandings of themselves and of how they should function in society. The stories of these goddesses provide, if you will, a logic and a framework for apprehending how Tamil women might take charge of things under duress.

The first goddess is Mariyamman. Her shrines can be found throughout the northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka, in much of Tamilnadu (India), and even in such places as Paris, Hamburg, and rural Michigan where migrating Tamils from Sri Lanka have constructed temples. The stories about Mariyamman vary widely, but nearly all of them have a central theme. They speak of how a once-human, but now divinized female, was somehow deceived, mistreated, irresponsibly cared for, or downright abused. In nearly every case, the abuse was perpetrated by males who should have protected or cared for her: her husband murders her, a priest rapes her, a brother marries her off to someone he knows to be inferior. As a result of that abuse, and her stoic willingness to endure it, the woman derives from her sense of righteous purpose and dignity a superhuman strength and ferocity. Mariyamman deserves in no way such treatment. Her purity, or karpu, empowers her to return from the dead as a powerful spirit seeking vengeance and justice on those who have wronged her and women like her. In many cases, she literally explodes in anger, destroys the always male figures responsible for her  mistreatment, and dies herself in the conflagration. She then becomes a goddess who must be worshipped fervently. She insists that her followers be willing to sacrifice considerable energy and blood in their worship of her. Firewalking, excruciating pilgrimages that involve rolling one’s body on the ground for miles, and submission to the insertion of sharp metallic lances into one’s flesh are just a few of the many demands she makes.

I will not belabor the ways in which Mariyamman could easily be seen as a role model for the female martyr bomber: a virtuous person submits to a violent blazing death that is necessitated by injustice. Resurrected in the form of a goddess, she now demands a devotion from her followers that reflects and embodies their willingness to sacrifice, as well.

A second goddess whose narrative history serves as a model for Tamil women is named Pattini. Her shrines can be found in much of Sri Lanka; she is actively worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists on the island . Though her roots are in India, she is far more popular and her shrines are far more visible in Sri Lanka. She has become, in fact, one of the  more visible goddesses of Sri Lanka. Her story comes from a Buddhist document dating to the 5th century called the Cilappatikaram.  In that document she is introduced to readers as a woman named Kannaki, married to a man named Kovalan. Kovalan, however, fell in love with a courtesan named Madhavi and frittered away all his money on her. Despondent, Kovalan returned to his chaste wife Kannaki, who forgave him and took him in without question, displaying the quality of chastity that would eventually provide her with such remarkable post mortem powers. She gave him one of her family treasures, a precious golden anklet, which he was instructed to take to the city of Madurai and sell there so that he could  refinance his trading business. But in trying to sell the anklet, Kovalan was framed by a goldsmith who claimed Kovalan stole the anklet from the local Pandyan dynasty queen. Hauled before the King on this mistaken charge, Kovalan was immediately beheaded at the King’s order. When Kannaki found out about this unjust murder, she flew into a righteous rage. She appeared before the king, produced the paired duplicate of the anklet Kovalan was said to have stolen, thus proving definitively that the anklet Kovalan tried to sell was not stolen. She then  cursed the King and his entire court to a fearsome death. Her righteous indignation took on new power when she she ripped off her left breast, threw it in front of the palace, thereby (and somehow) causing a massive conflagration that consumed her, the King and his court, and eventually the entire city. As the city burned to the ground, Kannaki was assumed into heaven, becoming the goddess Pattini. Today, as a goddess, Pattini is understood to be a powerful instrument for justice. Her worshippers pray to her for healing, retribution, and assistance at times of difficulty. One of the most common ways to approach her, to enter her world in worship, is to flirt with injury and death by walking on fire. While her temples dot the landscape in Sri Lanka, there are fewer in India., but there is a major carved stone statute of Kannaki/Pattini about 20 feet high on the marina of the beach in Cennai (Madras). The statue of Kannaki  holds up that jeweled anklet as she denounces the Pandyan King in an inscription on the base of the statue that comes directly from the epic ballad.

The images and narratives associated with the two major female deities worshipped by Tamils in Sri Lanka share some basic characteristics: pure, chaste women have both suffered enormous injustices at the hands of uncaring, callous males. They finally erupt in righteous anger, destroying themselves and their persecutors. Then, they live on as goddesses to whom people pray for protection and assistance, and especially for the rectification of injustice.

Female Tamil martyr bombers reenact in strikingly parallel fashion the careers of these two goddesses.  The mythic traditions of these two goddesses are traceable to the 5th century for Kannaki and at least the 15th century for Mariyamman. I can only be impressed by the fact that some of the most visible tactics for guerilla campaigns in South Asia find their roots in religious traditions describing how women might experience apotheosis. The extent to which women and those who assist them, deliberately and self-consciously invoke the memories and names of Mariyamman and Kannaki  remains to be seen. Discussions with female martyr bombers who have taken a secret oath to give up their lives are very difficult to arrange. But I maintain that these religious traditions provide for them models, implicit support and acceptance, and encouragement if not inspiration. Mariyamman and Kannaki are the forebearers of the tradition of martyr bombing in South Asia, and provide a cultural context in which martyr bombing is understood, accepted, and lauded by those dedicated to the cause of the Tamil Tigers.

Womens’ bodies and Martyr Bombers 

In the media coverage of the civil war in Sri Lanka Tahira Gonsalves has noted a particular concern with the appearances of the bodies of women who have enlisted as combatants in the struggle.3

Normally, she claims, …”women are expected to conform to gendered stereotypes which cast them in roles of the demure and passive nurturer, linked to the land, nation, and culture. However, in the context of war, these stereotypes are often thrown open and women are forced to or volunteer to play “mens’ roles.”

Female Tamil combatants in the Sri Lankan civil war have frequently attracted the fascinated attention of media and government because they are perceived to have given up their essential “femaleness,” represented by the female body adorned in a flowing sari, wearing bangles, necklaces, toe rings, makeup, and fragrant flowers in their long hair. As trained combatants, female Tamil Tiger army recruits have become much more “male,” wearing combat boots, battle fatigues, no makeup,  their hair either tightly braided or cut short beneath their standard issue military caps. Their training is rigorous, with few concessions made to the traditional  notion that women are unable to endure physically demanding exercises. They are taught to kill rather than to preoccupy themselves with what is considered quintessentially female, giving birth.. The values of fertility and beauty, normally prized among women, are eclipsed by the ideals of ferocity and intimidating violence.

The leader of the Tamil Tiger cadres, Prabaharan, has insisted on a relinquishing of gender identities among the soldiers who serve under him. In his speech given on International Womens’ Day (1992), for example, he spoke of “…the need to eliminate male chauvinistic oppression, violence, the dowry system, and casteism (p.166)”.4  (p. 166).He exhorts them to live lives of strict celibacy, and to regard each other as brothers and sisters. But it is the women for whom the gender transformation is greatest. In terms of customary roles and dress they must relinquish their feminine identities.  In general, in the Tamil culture – as in much of South Asia – the body of a woman is considered to be “fungible,” which is to say that womens’ bodies are understood to be able to incorporate and sustain basic changes in their gendered and ancestral identities. Inden and Nicholas have written about how a woman, at the event of marriage, becomes the “half-body” of her husband.5 She takes on the physical properties of her husband’s clan, eats the food common to her husband’s extended family, worships the new deities of her husband’s house, and in so doing assumes a physical transformation initiated by the ceremony of marriage and sustained by a new lifestyle. In Tamil culture, women are seen as the mediators between lineages, for they can move from one to the other in a way men cannot. Traditionally when they marry they transfer their residences to the homes of their husbands. When they bear children, those children become members of the family lineage into which she has married.

This “fungibility in bodily substance” (if I may call it that) suggests how these Tamil women who take on male roles and appearances as foot soldiers can then assume another major change when they are selected to become elite martyr bombers. Nearly all women who become martyr bombers first train as combat recruits, as foot soldiers in the Tamil Tiger army. Having undergone this radical change in identity and in appearance, they are then called upon to change once more. The quintessential female martyr bomber must once again effect a transformation. She must become the epitome of the South Asian female. She forsakes any hint of the militant male, and becomes effective as a martyr bomber only to the extent that she becomes once again, in appearance, at least,  the feminine, retiring, unthreatening, sari-clad female. Indeed, the Tamil Tiger strategy in designing the explosive belt to be worn on the torso has sometimes sought to make women appear to be pregnant. One of the more recent martyr bombings occurred in April, 2006 in the Sri Lankan Army Headquarters Hospital when a Tamil woman who had visited earlier for neo-natal care, strapped onto her body a belt of lethal explosives and detonated them inside the hospital compound. Eight were killed and 26 were seriously wounded, including Sri Lanka’s top-ranking military officer, General Fonseka. Interestingly, the Tamil Tiger propoganda wing insists vehemently that the martyr bomber was pregnant at the time. The Sri Lankan government  denies this. Little independent evidence supports either position, but the heated public information debate is revealing. If a pregnant woman commits an act of martyr bombing, the act takes on an air of forceful intimidation. A woman willingly gives up her life and the future life of her unborn child in dedication to the Tamil Tiger cause. This kind of resolve and self-sacrifice on the part of  a woman, a woman who, by all appearances, is doing what real women do, i.e. nurture and give birth) call attention to the seeming determination and dedicaton of those enlised in the cause of the Tamil Tigers. It suggests that all the normal rules of military engagement are suspended and that no strategy and no sacrifice in this war is unthinkable. Here, strangely enough, the words of the late Janice Joplin seem to echo: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” When a woman, possibly a pregnant woman, can perform a martyr mission, she and her trainers have been released, are free,  from all normal constraints, and what some would call basic humanity, and they have done so in unthinkable ways.  The very act invites fear, awe, dread, and disgust. Much easier it is to face women dressed like and acting like men on the field of combat. 

The final transformation a female Tamil martyr bomber’s body undergoes is from human being to goddess. Reports I have read indicate that of the shrines constructed in honor of martyr bombers, those built in memory of women-become-goddesses are more often frequented by worshippers, and are more enthusiastically worshipped than are shrines to male martyr bombers. For females the transition  from human to goddess is  more natural, much easier to accept and to affirm. I believe this has much to do with the perceived fungibility of the female body. In Tamil villages, both in India and in Sri Lanka,  most village shrines traceable to human apotheosis are associated with female deities. When a heroic woman dies, let us say in childbirth, she may be enshrined in the village into which she has married. But it is also possible that an ancillary shrine will be constructed in her natal village, and in some cases, in villages into which she might have married.  Shrines for male heroes (See Blackburn’s study) are more unusual, but hardly ever do these shrines migrate outside the village and lineage into which the men are born. A males’ transition into a deity is usually slower and always much more spatially limited. A male body is always less fungible.

As we look at how Tamil women become martyr bombers, we see in this process a reprise of several notions about the female body in South Asia. (1) Womens’ bodies are capable of becoming the ultimate cultural custodians of justice, virtue, and purity in society. When women are virtuous they accumulate extraordinay powers to protect themselves and the society in which they live. (2) When virtuous women perceive that they are violated or betrayed (and this includes the violation of their husbands, sons, daughters, and larger social circles) they have the capacity to erupt in violent, fiery destruction wreaking havoc on the usually male forces threatening them. (3) Womens’ bodies are especially sensitive to  transformations involving gender, lineage, and spiritual status. This transformative “fungibility” enables them to adapt to the requirements of guerilla warfare, to do mens’ work  when needed, and to become goddesses when their inspiration and protection can become a resource for those who continue the struggles required of the still living.

Please click here to print an MS word file of this speech, with foot notes
Dr. William Harman: william-harman@utc.edu


October 12, 2008

Understanding Each Other's "Concerns"

By Col. R.Hariharan

[This up date may be read in continuation of article from Aug 2008 titled "Sri Lanka: War, peace and relations across the Palk Straits"]

The tragedy of the Fourth Eelam War is that it is going along well trodden path of wars of earlier vintage. So as the Sri Lanka security forces knocked on the doors of Kilinochchi, the undeclared capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the rhetoric of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi reached a new high. He spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 6, 2008 to highlight his concern at the growing plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka due to the ongoing war and requested New Delhi for action.

The prime minister assured him of support and action. MK Narayanan, National Security Advisor, summoned Sri Lanka Deputy High Commissioner to convey India's concern and unhappiness at the growing casualties of unarmed Tamil civilians as a result of military action. Later the Indian High Commissioner to Colombo met President Rajapaksa to apprise him of India's concerns.    

At a public meeting later, Karunanidhi gave an ominous warning to the coalition government in Delhi  He said "…If the war in Lanka continues, Tamils here will not remain silent. In such a situation the Indian government should co-operate with us. If Sri Lanka transgresses the warning we would have to consider if this government (in Tamil Nadu) should continue." The chief minister did not explain how "sacrificing" his office would help increase the pressure on Sri Lanka to end the war. However, as he has very limited option to bring pressure on New Delhi, his veiled threat to quit office was perhaps his way to do it. His support continues to be important as the coalition government in New Delhi is delicately poised.  The Left withdrew support after the nuclear deal and the Samajwadi Party, which had voted for the government on the same issue, is sending conflicting signals of its support.

But as the war is closing on Kilinochchi and civilians are at peril, Karunanidhi's utterances are more than mere politics.  Almost all political parties in Tamil Nadu have rallied to the cause of Tamils trapped in the war zone in the north. Though Karunanidhi and leaders of other political parties differed in their perspectives, unmistakably they were expressing the sentiments of Tamils everywhere over the safety and well being of civilians in the north. This should not be trivialised as a political gimmick because the Sri Lanka is not a mainstream "vote catcher" issue at present. But if the situation worsens and the refugee inflow increases in Tamil Nadu, the sentiments could harden, though they might not be in the same scale as 1983.  This widespread sympathy in Tamil Nadu is for Tamil population and does not translate itself in support to the armed actions of the LTTE, though its make-believe world might think so.   
It is not only Tamil Nadu or India that is concerned at the worsening plight in Vanni. Britain has expressed its concern over the developing humanitarian crisis.  British Minister for the Department for International Development (DFID)  Shahid Malik has offered to fund the movement of humanitarian aid to the people affected by war in the north.

Sri Lanka's leadership has shown a clear understanding of the delicate situation in which Indian government is placed in handling the Tamil issue particularly when the Tamil population is at the receiving end. On the one hand the Indian government has to respect the genuine humanitarian concerns of a section of its population; on the other hand it understands the compulsions of the Sri Lanka government in going to war against the LTTE just as India had done in 1987. President Rajapaksa had stated in the past that he understood India's political compulsions in shaping India-Sri Lanka relations.

But understanding the Indian position does not answer the India's concerns. After India's expression of concern, the President spoke of his political efforts at making peace and called upon the LTTE to lay down arms at a meeting of the All Parry Conference. It is doubtful whether the APC, which has woken up from hibernation, carries any credibility among the people as a vehicle for evolving a durable solution for peace. The APC's failure in its task and the increasing emphasis on militarism in Sri Lanka does not augur well for the country.  Even as the much heralded "final victory" against the LTTE is in the horizon, proposal to increase armed forces strength to 200,000 is reported to be under consideration. This continued over emphasis on armed forces can only foster a culture of militarism. And a large Sinhala dominated army will be of growing concern to all minorities and peace lobbies who are debating the question "what after Kilinochchi."  

The increasing public expression of Sinhala nationalism by people in power further adds fuel to the fire of suspicion about the ulterior motives of the government in furthering a military agenda. Is it to re-impose a status quo of Sinhala domination or is it to usher in an equitable democracy after the war for everyone?  A case in point is the recent interview given by Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka, the architect of Sri Lanka armed forces victorious march against the LTTE so far. For sometime now, the Army Commander had been strident in asserting the Sinhala majority sentiments that originally planted the seeds of insurgency in Tamil minds.

In his interview to the Canadian daily National Post, Gen Fonseka said "I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people…We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country…We are also a strong nation … They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things." If this is the essence of the present war against LTTE, it can only be interpreted as a war against not only the LTTE but also Tamils and even Muslims as well. Surely, the Army Commander does not want such an interpretation. Does he? But in an insurgency situation, when we talk of "winning hearts and minds of the people" the General's statement is not the way to go about it. It is no wonder that almost all political parties have condemned the Army Commander's statement as untenable.

It is not only the Sri Lankan government that has to share the blame for the loss of lives of Sri Lankan civilians – Tamils, Sinhalas and Muslims. The LTTE is equally responsible for continuing the war and generating hatred, death and mayhem. Even as MK Naryanan was conveying Indian concerns about Tamil civilian deaths to the Sri Lankan envoy, the LTTE dirty tricks department was at work. A suicide bomber blasted the former Army chief of staff  Maj Gen Janaka Perera, his wife, and 26 others to death on the spot at Anuradhapura, the temple city. Over four scores of others were injured. The retired general, widely respected for his victories against the LTTE in an earlier edition of the war, had been a leading light of the United National Party (UNP). It was a truly tragic moment for Sri Lanka.

Not content with the killing of the retired General, a LTTE suicide bomber made an abortive attempt  three days later in the outskirts of Colombo to kill Maithripala Sirisena, Minister of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services Development, and also the General Secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party. However, the minister managed to escape with minor injuries while four others were also injured. The suicide bomber was killed in the blast. .

Such targeted killings by the LTTE are no sign of it being ready for any more talks of peace than the Sri Lankans. They require to be condemned equally if not more vehemently as they are targeted against individual civilians unlike Sri Lankan air strikes which are area weapons. (Of course, to the dead it makes no difference  what weapon was used or what was the intention.)  

Curiously the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's statement on Tamil civilians' plight was made after the LTTE's killing of Gen Perera and 27 other civilians – including Sinhalas, Tamils and Muslims. Sadly, the Chief Minister's statement made no reference to the meaningless and wanton killing of civilians, let alone condemning the LTTE. Thus the Chief Minister's statement lost a bit of legitimacy with this omission.  To the ordinary Sri Lankans, India's expression of concern at the growing casualties of unarmed Tamil civilians due to military action, when the LTTE had just killed a war hero and 27 civilians, probably looked ill timed and facile. Sri Lanka's share of India baiters believe India has an ulterior motive in its bid to help Sri Lanka build a plural democracy. For them India's silence on the LTTE's mindless killings, speak more loudly and clearly to reinforce their beliefs.

Perhaps it is time for India to do more than issuing demarches and statements of its concern, while it is business as usual for both the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE. That does not mean the heavy handed 'Big Brother talk' with Sri Lanka, either. Sri Lanka is a friendly power with a lot of goodwill for India. But at the same time, Sri Lanka should not take good relations with India for granted as the basis for forcing a military solution. Both sides have to mutually reinforce a move towards bringing peace in the island nation. And equitable justice for Tamils is germane to it.

India unfortunately does not give the impression of doing enough to alter the course of events. India has to bring the LTTE on track, much as it might abhor. Because it is not enough if Sri Lanka is ready for peace; is the LTTE ready? The LTTE has to prove that it genuinely wants peace, and not as a ploy to buy time for the next war as in the past.  

The failure of Indian intervention in Sri Lanka in 1987 came as a result of building too much expectation among the Sri Lankan Tamils.  It ended up promising too much and delivering too little. Both India and Sri Lanka had a share in its failure to take it to the logical end of lasting peace. Both nations do not appear to be learning from their past. Understanding each other's concerns is not enough. It is high time Sri Lanka and India started meaningfully interacting with each other to bring peace, than merely count bodies to decide for whom they should shed tears.

October 11, 2008

Fonseka made immature by the Chinthanaya?

By Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne

When I was in the sixth standard at Ananda College, I used to believe that Sri Lanka belonged to the Sinhala people. My parents lived in Matugama, a predominantly Sinhala area.The Mahawamsa and its associated Sinhala mythologies were then, very real to me. I extrapolated my little world and assumed that the island of Lanka was full of Sinhala people from Point Pedro to Devundara. I also thought that all the other national and religious groups were here only on short visits or for work and that their lands were situated far away across the sea. I am sure that many of my classmates thought the same about Sri Lanka. This must have been the thinking in the minds of all the little boys in the sixth standard at Ananda. I understand that General Sarath Fonseka was also at Ananda, perhaps a decade after. Hence I won’t be surprised if the mindset of the general in his early days was also like mine.

Irrational world

Fortunately for me, I was a student of Kotagama Wachiswera Thero who pulled us out of the irrational world of mythology and bigoted thinking. Then there was Thanabalasingham who widened our thinking by introducing us to the treasures of Western literature. Of course, there were others who guided us into rational thinking and to the natural law of conditional thinking. I am sure that a Tamil boy of the same age living in Jaffna, studying at Hindu College and worshipping Thirukkural, must have gone through the same thought process. In general all of them matured to become decent men who served this country according to their social class orientation. It was the same with the Muslims and the Christians. I am yet to meet a Dravidian fanatic who claims that Sri Lanka belongs to the Dravidians, the descendants of the mythical Ravana. Of course there is the claim for Eelam, the Tamil homeland. However, even the most extreme map leaves a fair amount for the Sinhalese. In any case, the claim to Eelam will become a reality only if internal self determination is denied to them totally. Unfortunately General Sarath, an old Anandian had not got the opportunity to mature out of his sixth standard mindset. Perhaps I am wrong and he was inducted into this immaturity by the Mahinda Chinthanaya. If so, it means this is the thinking of the ruling elite and General Sarath has only been honest by saying so in public. In that case no one can say he is not a straight forward man!

We could laugh it off really, if this was a joke made in a private conversation. But apparently General Sarath has said this in public - in Canada. In a sense his statement is a slap in the face of the government that is trying hard to cover up its Sinhala chauvinism. Even Mahinda’s friend Manmohan Singh will not be able to contain the pseudo Dravidian revolutionaries in South India. Though they claim to be students of Periar, neither Karunanidhi nor Jayalalitha is going to accept the heritage of Ravana and drop the Aryan tradition of Rama. Nevertheless they both will have to resist the new avatar of Aryan Rama in the form of General Sarath. On the other hand, the world over, not only socialists but also consistent democrats will have to rise up against this new Aryan Sinhala general. Even Obama may not be happy with this guy’s hegemonistic thinking. 

Sri Lanka is a Republic, not a Sinhala country

by Dushy Ranetunge

Ven. Ellawala Medhananda thero’s comments about Sri Lanka being referred to as a Sinhala country are interesting.

But the interpretation of what was meant by the term "Sinhala" then and now should be made clear.

Today the word "Sinhala" has an ethno-linguistic meaning, similar to the word "Tamil".

But in the past, and for most of our history, the word "Sinhala" had a completely different meaning, similar to Chola, Pandya, Kerala, Kalinga, Sinhala etc. referring more in terms of a Royal house/kingdom.

Under this Royal umbrella, the people would have identified themselves under various tribes, clans and castes. For example the people who built Buddhist structures in Tissamaharama would not have identified themselves as "Sinhalese", but as "Nagas" or some other tribe, as Magama and Kelaniya were known ancient "Naga" settlements. Tissa we are told is more a "Naga" name than a "Sinhala" one.

The Mahavamsa refers to the Naga’s defending the Western gateway into Anuradhapura and sitting on a throne, equal in size to the Sinhala king.

Dutugemunu carried the Royal standard of a Lion, but this Lion flag did not signify an ethno-linguistic race, but the Royal house, under which various tribes would have united. This perhaps enabled a Tamil Buddhist Velu, also known as Velu-Sumana to fight under the Lion flag, together with many other tribes such as the Nagas.

This concept also enabled "Sinhalese" generals to fight in Elara’s army and for "Sinhalese" people in Anuradhapura to love and respect Elara as a just ruler. Of course they were not "Sinhalese" people in today’s sense, but various tribal inhabitants of Lanka, identifying themselves under the royal patronage of Elara and Dutu Gemunu.

This concept also enabled "foreigners" from South India and "Catholics" to sit on our throne as the "Sinhala" king enabling present day tribalists to misinterpret the meaning of "Sinhala" and to celebrate these "foreigners" and "Catholics" as champions of the "Sinhalese" ethno-linguistic identity.

So we have a "Tamil" Perumal who become a "Sinhalese" Sapumal, a "Sinhala" champion who invaded Jaffna and built the magnificent Nallur Kandasamy Kovil in Jaffna. A Buddhist monk even wrote Sandeshayas to his glory. Even to this day the Kattiam at the Nallur Kandasamy Kovil mentions his name as "Sri Sangabo, Buvanekabahu".

Don Juan of Austria, a baptized Catholic is also celebrated as the "Sinhala" champion, Vimaladharmasuriya I of Kandy. He was married to the Catholic, Donna Catherina, the Empress of Kandy and the mother of Rajasimha II, another champion of the "Sinhalese" who besieged Portuguese Colombo. His brother Prince Kumarasimha was also known as Xavier Kumara Banda, a baptized Catholic.

Significantly, the Mahavamsa refers to "Lanka" rather than "Sinhale". "Hela" or "Sinhaladvipa", terms which are given disproportionate publicity for mischievous reasons, by present day tribalists, who are trying to give a particular tribe in Sri Lanka some kind of pre-eminence.

This same evolution of the word "Sinhala" from a Royal/kingdom identity to a narrow ethno-linguistic identity has taken place with our flag.

The Lion flag is the royal standard of the Sinhala royal identity and not of any ethno-linguistic Sinhala tribe. The Kings of Sri Lanka carried this Lion standard and they, and the Lion flag, commanded the loyalty of all the many races and inhabitants of Lanka.

But since the demise of the Kandyan Kingdom and the rise of tribal nationalism in Sri Lanka, the relatively new concept of the Sinhala ethno-linguistic identity has taken sole possession of the Lion flag as their own flag, excluding all the other peoples the Lion flag represented previously as the flag of the Royal house.

So today we have to accommodate the other inhabitants of Sri Lanka, outside the Lion flag in terms of a green and an orange strip.

From the time of Dutu Gemunu to Sri Vickrema Rajasinha, the Lion flag also represented those who are represented today by a green and an orange strip.

The evolution of the identity of the Lion flag is the tragedy of Sri Lanka, of alienating some inhabitants of Lanka based on the new European concept of ethno-linguistic nationalism. Europe has defeated its demons and moved on, while we are still stuck in old outdated nationalist concepts of a colonial era.

The concept that from the moment that Vijaya landed, we were one cohesive group of inhabitants identifying ourselves as of the Sinhalese tribe, living in Sinhale or Sinhaladvipa is a mirage, far away from reality.

Being an island, Sri Lanka had a constant stream of settlers, from various nationalities and tribes, enriching our culture and nation. DNA testing may prove that most of us, including our present political and military leadership are of South East Asian, South Indian and European descent.

The passport that Rev. Ellawala carries identifies him of not as being of Sinhale, Hela or any other classification based on a particular tribe, but as a citizen of Sri Lanka, a republic, which functions on the foundations of equality and citizenship and not of any particular tribe.

The constitution of Sri Lanka and parliament functions on this basis.

The concepts of Hela, Sinhale, etc as narrowly interpreted by present day ethno-linguistic tribalists never existed in our 2500 year old history. Those who advance such misguided theories share the limelight with the likes of the KKK, the British National Party, the National Front and even Adolf Hitler.

Germany for Germans and the Jews for the gas chamber? No … no … we are more respectable, so we will let the Jews live among us, as equals, but remember, Germany for Germans.

It is incredible that at a time that we are fighting to defeat Tamil Eelam, some others are advancing perceptions of a Sinhala Eelam, "Sinhale Ueber Alles".

For those who are confused let me gently remind them that we are not living in Hela or Sinhale, but in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, constituted under law under the concept of equality and citizenship.

Renewed support for Sri Lankan Tamil cause in Tamil Nadu

by B. Raman

There have been signs of renewed support for the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils across the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu, except from the Congress (I), which continues to adopt an ambivalent attitude. This support has come not only from the traditional supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but also from other parties such as the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) of M.Karunanidhi and J.Jayalalitha of the Anna DMK, the main opposition party. Even the Tamil Nadu branch of the Communist Party of India (CPI) has come out in support of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

[Tamil Nadu Chief Minister addressing a rally in Chennai, on 6th October calling for Indian Government intervention to seek a political solution in Sri Lanka-pic: Thinamani.com]

Karunanidhi, who is generally not given to using strong or emotional language, has given emotional expression to his anguish over what he perceives as the continuing policy of the Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa of suppressing the Tamils. He has conveyed his concerns to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and stressed upon him the need to take up the matter strongly with Rajapaksa in order to stress upon him the importance of finding a political solution to the problems of the Tamils. He has convened an all-party meeting in Chennai on October 14,2008, to work out a common political approach to the Government of India.Jayalalitha has expressed her support to the right of self-determination of the Sri Lankan Tamils, but made it clear at the same time that her support to the Tamil cause should not be misconstrued to mean any change in her policy of strong opposition to the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.

It would be incorrect to view this renewed support as dictated by electoral considerations in view of the elections to the Lok Sabha which are expected in the next few months. Despite the increasing concern in Tamil Nadu over what is perceived as the anti-Tamil policies of the Rajapaksa Government, the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is unlikely to play any role in influencing the voters. Economic and internal security issues are likely to play a predominant role in the elections .

It would be equally incorrect for the LTTE leadership to view this as indicating a softening of the hostility to the LTTE after its role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May,1991. The attitude towards an LTTE led by Prabhakaran continues to be as negative as it has always been since 1991. Any wishful-thinking by Prabhakaran that he and others who were responsible for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi are likely to be rehabilitated in the eyes of vast sections of the people of Tamil Nadu, who are now hostile to them, will be belied. All political leaders except some die-hard supporters of the LTTE, who have taken up the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils with the Government of India, have made it clear that their support is for the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils and not for the LTTE headed by Prabhakaran.

The LTTE has been gratified by this renewed support for the Tamil cause and has been playing it up. However, there is no evidence to show that either the LTTE or its supporters in Tamil Nadu, who are in a small minority, had any role in this renewed support. This support has been triggered off spontaneously by heightened concerns over the policies of the Rajapaksa Government and by the statements of some officials serving under him such as Lt.Gen.Sarath Fonseka, the Chief of the Sri Lankan Army, Gothbaya Rajapakse, his brother, who is also the Defence Secretary, and Rohitha Bogollagama, the Foreign Minister, as well as by sorrow over what is perceived in Tamil Nadu as the double-faced policy of the Government of India on the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils and over the lack of interest shown by Manmohan Singh in taking up the issue more vigorously with the Rajapaksa Government.

The continuing use of indiscriminate air strikes by the Rajapaksa Government against the Tamil civilian population in order to intimidate it into stop supporting the LTTE has come in for strong criticism. The closing of the doors by it for a political solution reached through talks with the LTTE has added to the anger in Tamil Nadu against the Rajapaksa Government. As the Sri Lankan Army presses its offensive to re-capture the territory still under the control of the LTTE in the Northern Province, increasingly disturbing statements have been coming from officials such as Fonseka highlighting the rights of the Sinhalese majority and playing down the legitimate rights of the Tamil minority. All these developments have caused concern in Tamil Nadu that under the pretext of crushing the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, the Rajapaksa Government, whose policies are seen as largely influenced by Sinhalese hawks, is seeking to crush the Tamils as a community by exploiting the favourable ground situation and the lack of interest in the international community in the developments in Sri Lanka. Very few in Tamil Nadu take seriously the assurances of Rajapaksa that after neutralising the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, his Government will initiate political measures for meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people.

At the same time, there has been a perceptible disenchantment in Tamil Nadu over what is seen as the lack of interest shown by Manmohan Singh in the problems of the Sri Lankan Tamils. He is being compared unfavourably with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, who took a keen interest in the problems of the Tamils and did not hesitate to take up the matter strongly with the Governments then in power in Colombo. This disenchantment has turned into shock following reports of two Indian radar technicians being injured when two planes of the LTTE's air wing bombed on September 9, 2008, a Sri Lankan military base in Vavuniya, which has been co-ordinating the military operations against the LTTE.

The Government of India had repeatedly assured the Government of Tamil Nadu that it would give only non-lethal military equipment to the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, which could not be used in offensive operations against the LTTE. It had justified its supply of radars to the Sri Lankan Air Force on the ground that these radars were meant for use to protect strategic targets in Colombo against LTTE air strikes. There was initial opposition in Tamil Nadu's political circles to the supply of even the radars, but ultimately they were reconciled to it.

The information that the radars supplied by the Government of India were actually being used in the frontline areas and that two Indian technicians were helping the SLAF in their maintenance added to the concerns in Tamil Nadu and created a suspicion that New Delhi was not telling the truth to the Government of Tamil Nadu about the extent of the Indian assistance to the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their operations against the LTTE.

The fact that despite the entreaties of Karunanidhi, who has been a loyal supporter of the Manmohan Singh Government, the Prime Minister did not directly take up the concerns of the people and the political leaders of Tamil Nadu with the Rajapaksa Government and that he left it to M.K.Narayanan, his National Security Adviser, to handle the matter has further damaged the image of Manmohan Singh in the eyes of sections of the political class of Tamil Nadu.

The revival of support for the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils is still largely confined to the political class. This has not yet found vigorous articulation among large sections of the public. It would be unwise to interpret this as indicating that public support for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause remains limited and can be managed.

Any fresh humanitarian disaster consequent upon the military offensive in the Northern Province could create in Tamil Nadu a situation similar to what had prevailed in the 1980s when Tamil Nadu became a rear base for supporting the struggle of the Sri Lankan Tamils against the Sinhalese. If this happens, any success of the Sri Lankan Army in its current operations to crush the LTTE might see only the end of one phase of the Tamil struggle and the beginning of another.

It is important for the Government of India to show a more visible and vigorous interest in working for ending at least the ruthless air strikes against the Tamils and for ensuring that the Tamil cause is not lost sight of. The Sri Lankan Government has every right to press ahead with its counter-insurgency operations in order to restore the Government writ in the areas now under the control of the LTTE, but its use of air strikes and its perceived indifference to the legitimate concerns of India and other members of the international community should not be accepted. [SAAG]

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

October 10, 2008

Six Days In Vanni: A Personal experience

by A Catholic Visitor

On the 30th of September, I traveled to Kilinochchi through Oddusuddan, Puthukudiyiruppu. This is not the regular A9 road which we travel from Vavuniya to Kilinochchi. It is the road A34 which turns towards Mullaitheevu at Mankulam from A9.

Fortunately, this time I got a lift by an Ambulance from Omanthai; it is 70 km longer rather than the normal rout to Kilinochi.

This time I stayed at Kilinochi. I had a discussion with several people including priests about the needs of our suffering displaced people. I agreed to arrange for the provision of the foodstuff for around 2,000 families.

I went to purchase foodstuff on the 1st of October to Kilinochi and Tharmapuram, but could not find such amount of foodstuff in both places. On the same day around 10.30am, there were aerial attacks just 1km away from us near the Kilinochchi hospital. Two civilians were killed and another 13 civilians injured due to this aerial attack.

Following day on the 2nd of October, a Cooperative Society agreed to provide foodstuff for the 2,000 families. In the same day, I saw foodstuff from 26 UN lorries being unloaded at Tharmapuram (out of the 51 lorry convoy to Vanni). I heard from the GA of Kilinochchi that the foodstuff from the 26 lorries would be enough just for a week.

While we were coming from Vaddakachchi to Kilinochchi on a motorbike, motorbike, we had a terrible and risky experience. An aerial attack took place just 200 yards away from us. Immediately we pushed off the motorbike and jumped into the drain and managed to escape from the attack by God's grace. A few feet away, I found a piece of iron had fallen next to me on the road, but fortunately, I was not injured.

In the evening of 2nd October, caritas Vanni – HUDEC and JRS, two Church based humanitarian agencies, who had remained in the Vanni even after INGOs and UN left on orders of the government, had to vacate Kilinochchi. The Catholic Church in Kilinochchi did likewise. Artillery and multi-barrel shelling that night made it fearful and terrible. We spend the whole night without sleeping and with fear of what will happen in the next minute. Despite all night shelling and multi- barrel attacks, the people were fleeing to the east of Kilinochchi area towards Mullaithivu by their tractors, two wheel tractors run by kerosene and cycle as well. The price of a liter of kerosene is Rs.330.

Bank of Ceylon – Kilinochchi branch also shifted from Kilinochchi to Tharmapuram, but they were waiting for their mobile service from Vavuniya for money.

During my stay there, the distribution of Tarpaulin sheets was done by our priests for the neediest people.

Following day on 3rd of October I left to Mannar by kerosene motorbike. While we were coming and approaching to Vaddakachchi I saw some people staying on the road and looking at the air. Then we too stopped the motorbike and joined them watching at the air the aerial attacks on Kilinochchi. And we also saw that people were flocking like cattle on the road towards the east of Kilinochchi area.

On the way to Mannar, I visited the HUDEC office which had relocated. They have started their work in the temporary shelter. It was more than 20 days since they have received the last mail by post.

There is very poor attendance in the Vaddakachchi and Tharmapuram area schools due to fear of aerial attacks. People are unable to go for any work as they are being displaced continuously and facing lot of problems by the displacement. Food, water, sanitation and shelter shortages are the most critical problems that they are facing in their new displaced places.

Mannar and Kilinochchi priests are moving with the people and staying in the temporary huts with displaced people.

Time is right for Bhanu to defect and save lives

Analysis of the Sri Lankan Conflict

by Shanaka Jayasekara

The recent battlefield success of the Sri Lankan Security Forces has dramatically changed the ground realities and dynamics of the Sri Lankan conflict. The Tamil Tigers have been dislodged from areas they dominated militarily for many years in the North and East of the island. According to latest reports over the weekend (4-5 October) the Security Forces are less than 4 km south of Kilinochchi, which is considered by the Tamil Tigers as the de-facto capital. The fall of Kilinochchi will have symbolic value to the Sri Lankan government. However, in terms of strategic value the Paranthan junction 5km north of Kilinochchi will be the jewel in the crown. The fall of Paranthan junction will cut supply routes to Tamil Tiger defence localities in Poonaryn, Elephant Pass and Muhamalai. If the Sri Lankan Security Forces can take control of Paranthan junction preferably before the onset of the North-East Monsoon the Tigers will have to re-draw the forward lines and be restricted to areas around the hinterland of Mullaitivu. If the NE monsoon sets in before the Security Forces reach Paranthan junction it could lead to scenes reminiscent of operations around Giants Tank in February 2008 in which the Security Forces faced adverse weather conditions inhibiting any progress till the end of the NE monsoon rains.

The success story of the Sri Lankan Security Forces has been built upon the combination of six critical events coming together at the right time over the last twelve to eighteen months.

a) For the first time in the history of the Sri Lankan conflict, the Sri Lanka Navy embarked on deep sea missions pursuing Tamil Tiger merchant vessels in international waters. The success of the Navy in completely destroying nine merchant vessels of the Tigers between March to October 2007, is in my opinion the single most significant factor that changed the tables on the Tigers. The supply chain capability of the Tamil Tigers was completely destroyed crippling the induction of weapons and supplies. Many have argued that the tide changed for the Tigers with defection of the Eastern Commander Karuna Amman. While this paved the way for improved intelligence on Tamil Tiger procurement and logistics operations, the destruction of the nine merchant vessels by the Navy is by far the crucial game changer.

b) The defection of Karuna Amman as the Eastern Commander and disbanding of young combatants in the east set the stage for the complete eviction of the Tigers from the Eastern Province. The expulsion of the Tigers from the East has prevented the Tigers from opening up a new theatre to thin out the Sri Lankan Security Forces engaged in the North. The inability of the Tamil Tigers to open up several fronts has greatly assisted the Security Forces to concentrate on the Northern battle ground.

c) In the recent fighting the Sri Lankan Security Forces favoured a strategy of capturing coastline on the North Western and Eastern coast. This strategy of progressing along the coast had a twofold impact on the Tigers, firstly it constrained the supply channels especially regular inflows from India, and secondly the Sea Tigers became redundant due to the lack of operating space. Furthermore the Tigers had always expected the Security Forces to advance along the A9 highway (MSR) and much of the Tiger defences were constructed at Omanthai and surrounding areas along the A9 highway. The Tigers had not anticipated a coastline assault.

d) In May 2008, the Tamil Tigers suffered a significant blow to the command structure. The Overall Commander of ground operations Balraj died due to illness. Balraj was the senior most military commander within the Tigers with overall command over all infantry units. His demise created a major vacuum in terms of military planning for the Tigers.

e) Over the last twelve months the international network of the Tamil Tigers has been significantly disrupted in five key fundraising countries. In the United States, FBI operations busted two procurement cells and also arrested the head of Tamil Tiger fundraising in New York. The US Treasury also clamped down on fundraising activities of the TRO. In France the arrest of 17 Tamil Tiger operatives completely unraveled the fundraising and fund transfer operations in France. The arrest of head of Tamil Tigers activities in the UK and two others has curbed overt fundraising activity. The death of a key activist and three arrests in Melbourne and Sydney has disrupted the Australian operation. The banning of the Tamil Tigers and the WTM in Canada has disrupted fundraising operations in Toronto. The authorities in Switzerland and Denmark are also pursuing investigations on Tamil Tiger activities at present.

In addition to the setbacks to fundraising activities, the Tamil Tiger propaganda machine also faced major problems in Europe. The Tiger satellite TV channels were shut down in France and uplink facilities for satellite broadcast were terminated in Italy, Serbia and Israel. The Tamil Tiger satellite TV channels are facing stringent scrutiny of content by Telecom regulators in Europe.

f) with regard to the international community, there is a sense of “LTTE fatigue” globally. The argument is that the Tamil Tigers had a run for two decades without achieving much for the Tamil people. Leader of the Tamil Tigers Velupillai Prabakaran will remain intransigent to any alternative other than a separate State, therefore the current situation may open up opportunities for moderate Tamil opinion to be heard and have a place at the table.

Furthermore, the international community has also been otherwise engaged over the past twelve months with a devastating cyclone in Burma, earthquake in China, elections in Zimbabwe, elections in Pakistan, Georgian conflict, an assertive Russia, nuclear aspirant Iran, Iraq/Afghanistan, US presidential elections and the financial meltdown in US/Europe for little Sri Lanka to get much attention.

The combination of these six factors coming together at the same time has had a devastating blow to the Tamil Tigers. This together with the re-energized Sri Lankan Security Forces have steadily advanced into Tiger dominated areas. The new offensive divisions and special forces created by the SL Army have demonstrated superior ground tactics in the current fighting. The fall of Naddankandal and Illuppaikkadavai is testimony to innovative ground tactics adopted by the Security Forces that baffled Tiger defences.

It is unlikely that the Tigers will be able to mount any major reversal to the offensive operations of the Security Forces. At present the Tigers have hedged all bets on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi in India to save them from the Security Forces onslaught. Recently politicians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) a proxy of the Tigers agreed to the annexation of Kachchetivu island by India, which is comical given the Tigers are fighting to establish a separate State of their own. The Tigers are counting on Karunanidhi to flex political muscle with the central government in India for Indian intervention to save them from collapse.

If the Sri Lankan Security Forces are able to reach Paranthan junction within the next 3-4 weeks before the monsoon rains set in, the senior leadership of the Tigers will need to re-assess their own future and that of the young combatants. The Security Forces presence in Paranthan junction will also increase the vulnerability of Prabakaran. It is suspected that the primary hideout from which Prabakaran operates is approximately 10 km east of Paranthan, interior from the Paranthan – Mullaitivu Road. In the past DPU teams have not been able to access these areas north-east of Kilinochchi and also had limited human intelligence from such high security zones. With the displacement of combatants and civilians into these areas there will be better human intelligence on such localities and provide cover for DPU teams to operate.

The Tamil Tiger military hierarchy consists of five senior commanders namely Pottu Amman (intelligence), Soosai (Sea Tigers), Bhanu (Overall Ground Ops), Jeyam (Western theatre) and Theepan (Northern theatre). In addition, the Political unit, Finance unit, KP department and the International Secretariat provide supporting roles. In a “Post-Paranthan Scenario” (PPS) the options for the Tigers are limited, they can continue fighting with the loss of lives, or transition to a political entity. Both Prabakaran and Pottu Amman are political liabilities given the indictments by the Indian courts for the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Sea Tiger head Soosai cannot gain the confidence of infantry combatants. Theepan lacks a charismatic personality and not popular within the group. Jeyam is originally from the reconnaissance units and not from infantry. He is also the junior most member of the inner circle. Some have suggested that Charles Anthony the eldest son of Prabakran is being groomed to take over the leadership, unfortunately age and maturity are not in his favour. The only plausible option to save the lives of young combatants is for Bhanu the overall military commander of ground units to defect and disband all units under his command. This will provide an opportunity for options other than Prabakaran’s separate State to have a real chance at a political process. Bhanu is well regarded within the organization as the artillery expert who inflicted the highest number of casualties among the Security Forces over the years. At present he is placed in the right position and commands the confidence of the rank and file to take a decisive decision and prevent further bloodshed to his people and have a real chance at peace.

The Tamil diaspora has been informed in advance of the heroes day theme this year, the theme is expected to be “our land may be taken but our aspiration cannot be defeated”. The international secretariat of the Tigers has sent out instructions to country representatives to organize the largest ever gathering of Tamil people in each country on 27 November to astound Western media and politicians. The theme indicates the Tigers have shifted from a real territorial model as seen in past heroes day speeches which used terms such as defend, attack and de-facto administration to accepting a virtual reality model.

(Shanaka Jayasekara is Associate Lecturer, Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (PICT) Macquarie University,Sydney, Australia)

October 09, 2008

Sinhalese, Tamils and the LTTE

By K. Arvind

Contrary to the popular perception in Southern Sri Lanka, Tamils in the North-East have always had a somewhat lukewarm attitude towards the LTTE. With the passage of time, the faith and attitudes of the Tamils towards the movement progressively cooled. Today the bulk of support for the LTTE is found in the few thousands in the organizational structure within Sri Lanka and the die-hards in the diaspora - many of whom relying on diaspora contribution for their own livelihood. Lankan Tamils both here and abroad for long have established they are a law-abiding and peaceful people. Their contribution to the religious, cultural and political wealth of the country is there for all to see. Denial of their language rights; refusal to allow them to run their own affairs; insufficient funds for infrastructure development and investment in their areas; attacks on civilians and their property and generally the imposition of the “you” and “we” syndrome drove Tamil civilians – largely the young - into the waiting arms of militant youth organizations – the dominant of whom being the LTTE. Unlike in earlier years, visible opposition to the LTTE has been growing for sometime in the Tamil diaspora – in Britain and USA specifically. The North London Temple issue is one clear example of the challenge to the LTTE leadership in the diaspora.

The many political parties and militant groups opposed to the LTTE within the island is evidence there has been a substantial opposition to them for long. The recent arrival of about ten diaspora Tamil-speaking activists – patently opposed to LTTE objectives – at the invitation of GoSL is yet another example the unrivalled leadership the LTTE enjoyed among the Tamils overseas is now a thing of the past. The estrangement that began with the Prabakaran-Uma Mahesaran gun fight at Pondy Bazaar in Chennai continued to be expressed in various forms and degrees at different times. When Kittu was encouraged to take a leading role whatever shades of unity that existed between the main groups cracked. He was responsible for the brutal killing of many TELO cadres during those years. The Tamil people who expected their militant youth to fight for them against the State’s brutality were shocked at the internecine feuds where the flower of Tamil youth were snuffing each other out. Among the hundreds of youth Kittu sent to their early graves were a large number of young men and women totally unconnected to the TELO.

Anyone related or connected to whom Kittu suspected to be either TELO sympathisers or against the LTTE were summarily executed – including non-combatant older men and women. Although Mahattaya was a long time and loyal LTTEer close to Prabakaran - with many astounding battle victories to his credit - he was executed because he was merely “suspected” of passing information to RAW. It is more likely Mahattaya fell out in a leadership struggle involving Pottu Amman and others. Such aberrations are not uncommon in fascistic organizations in other theatres of internal conflict. While originally LTTE cadres were proud of their culture of discipline in the nascent militant body - particularly in regard to liquor, smoking and celibacy - Prabhakaran was the first to break rules when he fell deeply in love with a woman cadre – whom he forced to become his wife. He broke another rule later which exposed his hypocricy. While he insisted all Tamil families should sacrifice a boy and girl (where available) from each family at the age of 13, his children were despatched for higher British education.

Many committed LTTErs were now becoming cynical about the sincerity of the leadership and the direction the liberation struggle was taking upon itself. VP’s sole decision to take on the IPKF was resisted by many serious fighters including Mahathaya, Yogi and Rahim - to mention three names. Even Anton Balasingham was reported to be against this decision. The need to fight the IPKF lost a large support base in the Indian government and the people of India. Many Lankan Tamils too were opposed. By far the biggest faux pas was the decision to kill Rajiv Gandhi – purely for egoistic reasons. This event blackened the name of the LTTE amongst ardent supporters in India, Sri Lanka the diaspora. Both major failures lost very powerful friends in India and created influential enemies in New Delhi and Tamilnadu. By the time the mid-1990s arrived almost all decisions were taken entirely by Prabhakaran.

Thamilchelvam and Balasingam were merely mouthpieces and “yes” men speaking to the media locally, in India and the world. While ordinary Tamils - emotionally sympathetic to the LTTE because of the physical suffering they were subject continuously at the hands of the forces and in the South –believed the LTTE will secure a safer, peaceful home to live as decent human beings - Eelam or whatever; now that the Sinhala government did not have their good in their agendas anymore since 1956. The growing strength of the LTTE both locally and in the diaspora did not yield a qualitative change to the better of the suffering Tamils. They were beginning to realize the organization was descending into a fascist dictatorship. Under the LTTE grip they were many fold worse off than under the Sinhala State apparatus. The killing of brilliant Tamils like Rajini Thiranagama, Padmanabha, Neelan Tiruchelvam shocked the Tamil people among whom were LTTE supporters. Many Tamil academics like the Nithiyanandans fled for their lives more from LTTE terror than from SL forces.

Tamils were gradually beginning to realize Prabhakaran – seeing that the armed struggle was not going his way - was now only concerned about his well-being and the safety of his own family, kith and kin. Douglas Devananda puts it succinctly “Prabakaran knows only too well he cannot live in a peaceful Sri Lanka. He has killed and harmed too many. He is safer in a climate of war than of peace. And so as long as he lives the Tamil people are condemned to suffer.”


The Lankan Tamil struggle began in the early 1950’s when modern Sinhala nationalism
was born on the accidental convergence of four major events in the post-independent history of this country (1) fired by SWRD’s defection in 1952 from the UNP to form the SLFP on a communal-political base that was to rupture the existing delicate communal equilibrium in the country for all time (2) the publication of the Sinhala Buddhist Commission Report in 1954 (3) the high-profile Buddha Jayanthi in 1955. An ancient culture and religion - forcibly kept down by the barrel of the gun by three 3 different invading imperialist powers (4) In such an environment it was inevitable SWRD rode on the crest of a wave when the 1956 General Elections came - now dubbed “the Sinhala Buddhist Revolution or Ape Anduwa.”

Some aberrations in this tremendous release of energy was inevitable. Paradoxically, Tamils happened to be at the receiving end. They found themselves under siege from Sinhala nationalism and realized their access to resources and political accommodation that was somewhat equitable earlier will be under threat from the emerging forces who by the nature of being a coalition of contradictory forces were acting in confusion and disarray. They (Tamils), therefore, entrusted their future through the parliamentary path to elected leaders SJV Chelvanayagam, Amirthalingam, Sivasithamparam et al to secure justice, fair play and equal access to resources and career opportunities.

The Pan-Sinhala government refusing to appoint even one Tamil Cabinet Minister between 1956-1965 (whereas there were several from 1948 to 1956) was a wound deeply ingrained in the Tamil psyche. Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government of 1970-1977 continued this collective punishment on the Tamils albeit the single and cosmetic appointment of a Colombo political unknown - Architect Chelliah Kumarasuriyar - to the insignificant Ministry of Posts in 1970. In the nature of the altered political climate the Tamil leadership of Chelvanayagam - then to be followed after his death - by Amirthalingam and Sivasithamparam could not secure much benefit to help Tamils or develop the North and East. The credibility of these leaders therefore, was lost because they could not deliver on the growing expectation of the politically-conscious Tamil people between 1955-1980. On the other hand, the politically-fired youth militants - inspired by the romantic rhetoric of a Tamil identity unleashed by the DMK in adjoining Tamilnadu - lead by popular and charismatic EVR, Annadurai, Karunanidhi et al - seemed to assure success through the extra-parliamentary path – the dreams of a Separate State through a just liberation struggle. The wounded pride of Lankan Tamils suffering largely from the Sinhala Only indignity and the anti-Tamil wave of the 1956 Sinhala electoral avalanche was now ready to give the youth a try – and then we had the LTTE whose performance, it was to be seen in later years, brought further doom to Tamils. The thinking in the South, on the other hand, is changing as of recent times. Even the anti-Tamil, chauvinistic JVP finds it necessary to have Tamils in their front ranks.

The pseudo-nationalist JHU is prepared to make way to Ananda Sangaree in Parliament. Ranil’s 2001-2004 government listed over 624 infra-structure projects in the North-East as an initial commitment valued at US$170 million under the SIRHN programme. This was a good beginning the LTTE should have accepted if they had the interest of the Tamils in their priority. Instead they walked out of the talks disappointing not only the Tamils but Norway, Japan, USA and the EU - all waiting to rebuild the Tamil areas. The LTTE should not have walked away in Oslo. They could have used Oslo as a starting point to secure benefits for the Tamil people. Those countries in the international community friendly to Sri Lanka would have used their influences to gain more resources for the rebuilding of Tamil areas only if the LTTE stayed in the talks.

Tamils were beginning to change their opinion of the LTTE as their champions. The seeds of Tamil nationalism that had originally a peaceful parliamentary base was seen to have been hijacked by fascists in the name of liberation. Curiously, as years went by the “defenders” unleashed the greatest harm on their own people and became the “perpetrators.” What is the position of Tamils today? Nearly 300,000 IDPs are living like cattle weathering rain and sun living under trees. They have not only lost their veedu (home) and their sacrosanct Ur (village) but their precious self-respect as well. Tamils, therefore, cannot be blamed if they are no longer prepared to barter their future to Prabhakaran’s custody, benefit and ego. The time has come for the Lankan Tamil to map out their collective future.

If Sri Lanka is to take a place as a democratic society in the community of nations – which we adorned earlier - she must vigorously and objectively invest entirely on a peace agenda – this time for real. The North- East must get a massive injection of infra-structure, investment, industries and the necessary wherewithal to stand on their own. If Agriculture, Fisheries and Salt industries – mainstay of the Jaffna economy - are initially strengthened with GoSL funds Jaffna will soon find its own feet. Besides, the increased output of fish, rice, onions, chillies, vegetables etc will bring down the cost of living to the delight of the government and people. In spite of this growing optimism there is a school of thought that Tamils and Sinhalese cannot live together as before after all the blood-letting and deep wounds of the past many decades. Defence Advisor Kotakedeniya – the brains behind the Vavuniya Bus fiasco and others in the police and army have established this several times earlier by evicting North-East Tamils from the South with the oblique suggestion “you don’t belong here.” Today every Tamil in Sinhala eyes is a suspect – and that includes the elite and professionals in Colombo some of whom having lived here for over 100 years. The fact is, as the Chief Justice himself commented, these innocent Tamils are in Colombo on legitimate work - getting visas, travel documents, making travel arrangements etc., The Lodges they stay in file reports with the Police daily. Yet they were “chased away.” The scenario is about to be repeated again going by reports Defence Secretary Gothaba Rajapakse is toying with ideas no different - now that over 6,000 Tamils from the North-East now in Lodges here are a “security risk” to him and the government. One hopes this will not end up as a tragic inhuman farce again.

If Sri Lanka is to escape the inevitable disintegration that is fastly becoming a reality, the only way out is to create conditions for the hundreds of thousands of Lankan Tamils now in the diaspora and the South to return to a habitable North-East where their physical safety and that of their property and economic well being are assured through tangible programmes - preferably under international supervision. Like Belgium, like the earlier Cyprus and the present Mainland China Sri Lanka can still produce a society that will ensure the country remains whole and free of conflict. The key to this lies in the hands of the Sinhala polity and leadership. The LTTE will find history by-passing them if the South discovers, at last, her political posture in unambiguous perspective.

Serendipity and Ingratitude: The Mahinda Miracle and Janaka Perera’s Assassination in Retrospect

by R.Venugopal

The course of this conflict has seen many unlikely bed-fellows, serendipitous twists of fortune, and actions that led to very unforeseen consequences. When the dust settles and the history of the present is written some day, it will have to record the extraordinary debt that the Rajapakse clan and its retinue bear to their nemesis, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Janaka Perera's assassination yesterday morning, (presuming it was by the LTTE), is yet another example of the extent to which the ruling clan's hegemonic grip on power is beholden to the Tigers.

How so? Well, first of all, let it be clear that this is not a conspiracy theory. Despite their reputation for Machiavellian manipulation, it is most unlikely that the Rajapakses are consciously complicit in this latest outrage, although they have nevertheless benefited. Neither is it likely (the cult of martyrdom notwithstanding) that the Tigers could have fully predicted the consequences of their actions, or that they would have wished such terrible ingratitude upon themselves from those that they have done so much for.

For example, could the Tigers have predicted that the assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar in August 2005 would have cleared the path for Mahinda Rajapakse as UPFA's presidential candidate? Perhaps, but who knows? What is known for sure is that the JVP – who provided the manpower for Mahinda's election campaign - would never have supported Mahinda over Kadirgamar. They lobbied hard for Kadirgamar to be named as prime minister in April 2004, and made their displeasure known when it was Mahinda who won. There is no doubt that if Kadirgamar were alive, he would also have benefited from the support of the incumbent, Chandrika Kumaratunga. With a President Kadirgamar ruling the roost and Chandrika lurking about, the Rajapakses would have been relegated to little-ness and less.

Having thus cleared the path for Rajapakse to become the unopposed UPFA candidate, the contributions of the Tigers towards his ascendancy did not stop there. Given the razor thin margin of his victory, there is no doubt that it was their enforced election boycott of north-east Tamils that won Rajapakse the throne. This is not to resurrect the Tiran Alles-payoff- theory, which has inexplicably faded from the media eye since Alles's arrest and release last June. Regardless of the truth or untruth of that case, what we know for sure is that the Rajapakses reaped rich benefits from that particularly ignoble episode in mass disenfranchisement.

The history of the Rajapakses in power since then has been one of the most remarkable political success stories in contemporary times. Despite weak electoral arithmetic, dismal international relations, and fickle electoral partners, they have enjoyed the kind of masterful command of the political realm that has no precedent since perhaps the early years of the J.R. Jayewardene presidency. This unusual success bears much to two factors.

The biggest asset that the ruling family possesses is the war. The successful prosecution of the war has placed them in an unassailable electoral position that has neutered the opposition by denying them any space to rally and mobilise. Despite the LTTE's calculations that the election victory of the JVP/JHU-backed Rajapakse would by default improve their own international standing and perhaps support for a UDI, they forfeited any such benefit through their own actions in that period, which earned them first the anger, and later the fatal indifference of the international community.

The assassination of the sitting foreign minister during a cease-fire in August 2005, the Makkal Padai attacks of November-December 2005, the failed suicide-attack on Sarath Fonseka in April 2006, the attack on the Pearl Cruiser in May 2006, the bewildering walkout of the Tamilselvan entourage from the Oslo talks in June 2006, followed immediately by the Kebithigollewa massacre of 64 civilians – all helped greatly in hastening the collapse of the peace process, and in restoring some measure of international sympathy for the Rajapakses. It not only helped to airbrush out a series of terrible atrocities against Tamil civilians during the first half of 2006, but it actually made the ruling family's headlong rush to war seem measured, moderate, and restrained.

Secondly, the political survival of the Rajapakse camp depends heavily on the continued malaise at the heart of the opposition UNP. Everyone in the UNP, even the closest allies and friends of Ranil Wickremasinghe will admit privately that there are quite literally no prospects of a UNP victory under his leadership - but they have irrationally been stuck with him for 14 long years. Yet, desperate circumstances give rise to desperate changes, and the UNP might still have shaken themselves out of their torpor in time for the next elections.

And this is where the LTTE has once again provided yeoman service to the Rajapakses. By assassinating a UNP war hero, i.e., a potential future leader and winning contender like Janaka Perera (as with Lucky Algama before), what the LTTE has done, whether by default or design, is to deepen the paralysis within the UNP, keeping them rudderless, weak, and shorn of winnable candidates. This terrible act of vengeance – aimed perhaps at settling the distant historical scores of Eelam Wars II and III – will go down in history as having contributed serendipitously towards the stability and prosperity of the Rajapakses, and thus to their benefit in the prosecution of Eelam War IV.

October 08, 2008

Sri Lanka: Canada's attention is overdue

By Kshama Ranawana

If the declared purpose of successive Sri Lankan governments has been to ensure the unity of the island nation, then recent events seem to aim at achieving just the opposite.


[Kshama Ranawana]

On Sunday, September 21, ethnic minority Tamils hailing from the north and east of the country and living in the South Western region were required to register themselves with the police. The ruling this time was specific to those who had lived in the South during a five year period or less and was described by police as a census of Tamils living in the western region.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s comments on the exercise were more candid. He was quoted in The Nation: “Anyone remaining in Colombo without a proper reason should head back to the north and east, since it will create a threat to the security situation.” Certainly, this is a contradiction of the country’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of movement.

Police estimated at least a 100,000 people of Tamil origin had moved to the south of the country in the past five years, most fleeing the economic deprivations and excesses of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the war zones. A total of 10,820 registered themselves that Sunday. With the government forces reported to be knocking on the LTTE stronghold known as the Vanni, authorities claim LTTE cadres could move south along with the civilians and carry out retaliatory attacks.

Registration of Tamils visiting the south and its environs has been in practice for nearly a decade, in a nation which has been battling a war with the LTTE who seek an independent state, Eelam in the north of the country where a majority of the Tamils live. Despite the practice, the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse has begun a more aggressive sweep and search of areas populated by Tamils outside the north and the east of the country, as well as in places termed “High Security Zones”. Those suspected of having links with the LTTE or whose identification does not satisfy the authorities are often kept in detention.

In June 2007, scores of Tamils living in lodges in the capital of Colombo to attend to business, medical or personal matters were rounded up and bussed back to a border point, an act which drew the ire of civil society groups and others calling for a negotiated settlement to the ethnic conflict. It resulted in the Supreme Court issuing a directive that such arbitrary actions be stopped.

In a country where the best of facilities are available in the Western region, where the administrative and commercial capitals are located, it has become a necessity for its citizens to travel to Colombo to attend to most of their personal or business needs. To suggest that Tamils visiting the capital should return to their respective homes in a bid to ensure the safety of the rest, would then necessarily mean that the government accede to the demand of a Tamil homeland.

As Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, of the independent think-tank The Centre for Policy Alternatives, told the Washington Post newspaper, "At the end of the day, you are only instilling some sense of second-class citizenship and deepening a perception of discrimination."

This perception was underlined by the Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka when he told the National Post recently that he does not believe minorities have a right to make demands. "I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese (majority) but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people," he said.

"We being the majority of the country, 75 per cent, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country. We are also a strong nation. They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things."

The conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils began nearly 25 years ago and stems from agitations that have been simmering for more than five decades for parity of status between the two communities. The mostly Buddhist Sinhalese make up nearly 75 per cent of the 21 million people. Tamils make up around 18 per cent. Following the conflict scores of Tamils have left the country, many moving to Canada.

The situation has been cynically exploited by leaders of both groups and ordinary people, whether they be Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, have been the worst affected.

The LTTE, who claim to be the chosen liberators of the Tamil people, expect them to conform to their regulations; children are abducted and used as cannon fodder, while even the elderly are often pressed into battle. Those wishing to even temporarily travel outside the area require a pass from the LTTE, and if a family needs to travel, at least one member must remain at home. Funds sent in by relations living outside are almost always taxed to fatten the LTTE war chests.

On the other hand, civilians from the north and the east are also required to obtain travel permits from government forces, produce police reports and register themselves; carrying such valid documentation, though is in no way a guarantee of being above suspicion.

The recent escalation of the war has resulted in nearly 200,000 Tamil civilians being trapped in the conflict zone, easy prey for the LTTE who even on earlier occasions had no compunction in using them as human shields. And could Tamils trust a regime where comments of its Army Commander and Defence Secretary reveal its ideological beliefs?

While Canada and many other nations have banned the LTTE and somewhat blunted its power over the Tamil diaspora, the international community’s attempts to raise the issue of human rights with the government of Sri Lanka has only resulted in its snubbing them and aligning itself with Iran and China.
Perhaps Canada, which is home to the largest Tamil community in the West, could give serious thought to Liberal Party Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae, who states on his website that Canada’s aid and diplomacy “need to be focused on a renewed push for a ceasefire, for a demobilization of the conflict and a commitment to parliament democracy, the rule of law and human rights.” Rae wants Canada more engaged, not “a Canada on the sidelines or a Canada wagging its finger 10,000 kilometers away.” [courtesy: Rable News]

Attacks against civilians must cease

In the wake of this morning's suicide bombing, Amnesty International calls again on all parties in the conflict in Sri Lanka to comply with their obligations under international law to protect civilians.

A suicide bomber killed at least 27 people, including retired Major General Janaka Perera, the United National Party leader (the country's main opposition party) of the North Central Provincial council, in northern Sri Lanka. The explosion occurred in a civilian area of Anuradhapura town during the opening of the United National Party office. Civilian deaths included MTV reporter, Rashmi Mohammed, aged 31, with at least 60 other people injured, including a child.

The government has accused the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of the attack. The upsurge in hostilities between government security forces and the LTTE in the last year has seen a dramatic rise in attacks by the LTTE targeting the civilian population. The LTTE has not responded to the current allegation.

All parties to the war in Sri Lanka are legally bound to obey the rules of International humanitarian law, also known as the laws of armed conflict or the laws of war. These rules have been developed in order to mitigate the effects of such conflicts. They limit the means and methods of conducting military operations. They oblige combatants to spare those who are not taking active part in the hostilities, such as unarmed civilians and combatants who have been wounded or captured.

Amnesty International calls on the LTTE and government security forces to immediately and unconditionally stop any direct or indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Such attacks are prohibited at all times and constitute war crimes and urges the international community to support the call to establish an independent, international monitoring presence on the ground without delay.

Background

Since the end of the ceasefire in January this year, the Sri Lankan military has launched a major offensive to reclaim areas of the north and east previously controlled by the LTTE. Restricted access for the media and independent monitors to conflict-affected areas means it is impossible to verify the extent of casualties.

As a result of recent fighting over 220,000 people are displaced in the Wanni in northern Sri Lanka including 30,000 schoolchildren. On 9 September the government issued an order for United Nations (UN) and non-governmental aid workers to leave the war-torn northern Wanni region. Since 29 September the government has allowed some international UN workers to accompany food convoys into the Wanni but humanitarian access remains limited.

October 07, 2008

Sri Lanka: Sources of Hope, Reasons for Optimism

By Dayan Jayatilleka

While I worry and agonize about the country and its prospects – a habit of decades—I refuse to succumb to the pessimism that seems to consume most commentators writing in English on Sri Lankan affairs. 

That pessimism and negativism stems from two broad sources. Insofar as several are pacifist “civil society” liberals as distinct from Realist or pragmatic liberals (such as Barack Obama), they lament the Sri Lankan armed forces military drive and the prospects of a Sri Lankan military victory over the LTTE, preferring a ceasefire and negotiated solution between the two belligerents. These critics have been joined by Sri Lankan commentators who mistakenly see a parallel between the policies and ideology of the Rajapakse administration and those of the Bush administration. Not only do they confuse an internal war of self–defense and reunification against secessionist terrorism with a war of aggression against a sovereign country, their perspective is very far from the pragmatic liberalism of the Obama ticket.

 

My guarded optimism stems from a Neo-Realist perspective. Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe, a far more astute academic and analyst than activist in political or civil society (a book edited by him is in the UN Bookstore here in Geneva ) used to resignedly term me a Realist, during the many debates and discussions we had at public seminars on conflict in Colombo . He was not referring to realism in the common or garden sense, but in the precise sense of the well known perspective on world politics; one that is focused on the centrality of power and the state. He was only partly correct, because I would fit more strictly into the school of Neo-Realism , which combines the perspective of power and the state with the recognition of the importance of ideas, ideology and non-state actors. There is a more recent scholarly tendency with which I would be even more comfortable, which calls itself Ethical Realism (e.g. Anatole Lieven), except that it is a trifle too self–congratulatory since the best of the modern Realist thinkers such as Hans Morgenthau and Reinhold Niebuhr, dealing as they did with questions of nuclear weapons and war after Hiroshima, wrestled heavily with questions of “just war” ethics and power.

 

The central vice of Sri Lankan cosmopolitan liberalism-progressivism is that it has no equivalent of the Obama-Biden US Democrat perspective on National Security. Any one with even a cursory acquaintance of the US Presidential election campaign will be aware that Senators Obama and Biden have attacked the Republican candidate on national security issues, pointing out that a needless war on Iraq had undermined the necessary war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Why necessary? Because it was these forces that attacked the USA on 9/11 and still intend to do so if they possess the capability, while Iraq had nothing to with 9/11. The Democrats have criticized the Republicans for being diverted from the task of “capturing or killing” Osama Bin Laden, tasks which they have pledged themselves to achieve (the terms are from Senator Obama’s first debate, echoed by Senator Biden in his Veep debate). In his dramatically delivered concluding speech at the Democratic convention Senator Obama accused war hero John McCain of saying he will “go through the gates of hell after Bin Laden” but of not being “ready to go to the mouth of the cave he (Bin Laden) is hiding in”. Rightly or wrongly, wisely or imprudently, Senator Obama reiterated in the first face-to-face Presidential debate, his pledge to take out Osama Bin Laden if “there is actionable intelligence” that he is in a location across the Pakistani border; if “he is in the cross hairs…and the Pakistani authorities are not going to do the job”.

 

An authentic Lankan liberal or social democratic stand would weave its secular criticisms into a resounding endorsement of the Rajapakse leadership for “going after” with a view to “capturing or killing” Velupillai Prabhakaran for the latter’s repeated attacks on the Sri Lankan state and society, his repeated return to war abandoning negotiations, and his serial murders and maiming of Sri Lankan leaders of all ethnicities.  

 

Some enlightened and literate Sri Lankan commentators (“erudite but not analytical” as Regi Siriwardene once opined of Kumari Jayawardena in the pages of the Lanka Guardian), Sinhala and Tamil, in their legitimate concern over recrudescent Sinhala chauvinism, have even raised doubts as to whether the ongoing war is a just one, and go on to equate, implicitly or explicitly, the warring sides.

 

Even if one concedes that there is a Sinhala hegemonic striving or project resurgent or lurking in the wings, that is not the, or even a criterion for the assessment of the just or unjust character of a war. The almost uniquely diligent research of Noam Chomsky unearthed the Grand Area Planning documents of the USA which as early as 1940, thought through the World War and “forward planned” out the post–war order as one that would permit US capital free mobility throughout the world, dismantling its rivals, fascism and the old colonial empires. Chomsky sees these documents as the foundations of US hegemonic foreign policy to date.

 

However, neither the hegemonic project that arguably under-girded the US intervention in the Second World War, nor its heinous tactics at the closing, namely the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nor indeed the resurgence of Great Russian patriotism, nor the reprehensible conduct of some Red Army soldiers in the counter-onslaught through Germany, can reverse History’s verdict of the Allied war as a Just War.

 

The Second World War remains a just one because of the aggression by the enemy (Poland, Pearl Harbor, Operation Barbarossa), the nature of the enemy—Fascism—the impossibility of a negotiated solution given that nature, the undesirability of a negotiated solution which would have entailed an accommodation with or surrender to an enemy of that character (History reviles Munich), and the far greater price that humanity would have paid had the enemy won, given the character and conduct of that enemy. These are the very same factors that render the ongoing war of the Sri Lankan state against the LTTE, a Just War, whatever the subjective strivings and motivations of its various actors.

 

While I am on the matter of the subjective strivings of actors, I must add that I know of hardly any military chief in any ideological system anywhere in the world that did not hold more hawkish, hard-line views, narrower and less nuanced than those of the political leadership. That seems to come with the territory: the rough and ready military ethos, the practice of war, and the imperative need to motivate the rank and file soldiery. (Gen. David Petraeus, PhD, is a notable exception). So long as it does not translate itself into state policy, it should not be taken as the key indicator, though it must of course not be ignored or swept under the rug.

 

The pessimism, negativism and hostility of most commentators stem from concerns over the unresolved Tamil ethnic/nationalities Question, the revival of Sinhala and Tamil nationalism, the nature of the postwar/post conflict order, the economic prospects, and the quality of domestic governance. While I recognize the salience of these issues and legitimacy of these concerns—and have in my writings cautioned of the need not only of “Winning The War” but also of “Winning the Peace” – a Neo-Realist perspective tells me that the best we can hope for is a situation of checks and balances, of the balance of power, of tenuous equilibrium. My analysis is that powerful factors, objective and subjective, will balance out, resulting in an equilibrium which may not be the best of all possible syntheses but will keep us from plunging over the precipice into the beckoning darkness.

 

One man’s or woman’s problem is another’s solution. Every problem identified by critics and commentators is in fact a solution to another problem. There are several problems that have been identified as plaguing Sri Lanka , though partisan and ideological polarization is such that few analysts identify all these as problems: the Tiger threat, Sinhala and Tamil ultra-nationalism (in whichever order), issues of domestic governance and living standards, Sri Lanka ’s external relations, the crisis of education. Of these, in any society the equivalent of the Tiger threat to security and territorial integrity would be considered the most serious and pressing. The Tiger threat is the most pressing in that it challenges the most basic attributes of the state (territory, monopoly of violence) and causes the gravest physical damage, loss of life and financial resources to society.

 

We are at “the beginning of the end” for the LTTE, as Secy/Defence, Gotabhaya Rajapakse has put it. I cannot see how one cannot regard positively, the real –though not irreversible or inevitable--prospect and probability of military victory over the LTTE and the overcoming thereby of the most proximate and pressing problem the country has faced in its contemporary history. Whatever it recommends to us (and hypocritically preaches the exact opposite to the Pakistani government), the West would be mightily pleased if it were to achieve our degree of success in Afghanistan .  We have also shown ourselves to have more resolve in relation to the Tigers than our giant neighbor who has not brought to justice, Prabhakaran, the man who ordered the murder of a former Prime Minister and grandson of a great founding father.

 

A Neo-Realist reading also acknowledges that the fight back against the Tigers and the probability of victory is in great measure owed to Sinhala nationalism. Therefore what is seen as a curse by many cosmopolitan commentators is actually a mixed blessing. While the Sri Lankan state is prevailing over the Tigers, it is dishonest not to recognize that the strength of Sinhala nationalism, or Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, has been the main driving force of this performance insofar as it is the main motivational well spring for the largely Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lankan armed forces. A Realist or Neo-Realist would recognize as utopian the assumption that it could have been otherwise for a drive to victory rather than to fruitless negotiations. To illustrate, it is the Soviet Union that broke the back of the Nazi German army in Stalingrad , but one of the driving forces of the Red Army’s performance was the renewal of Great Russian nationalism (thus the Great Patriotic War) under/by Joseph Stalin. I say Sinhala nationalism has been the main (as distinct from sole) driver because there is another factor in the mix which Sinhala nationalists fail to give due credit to: the Eastern Tamil rebellion led by Karuna; the anti-autocratic striving within Tamil nationalism.

 

The strength of Sinhala nationalism will balance off yet another danger to the wellbeing and welfare of Sri Lanka ’s state and society. This is the political, social and electoral challenge posed by the ultra Right, the neo-liberals who during their two years in office practiced the kind of market fundamentalism that has led to the meltdown of the US financial system. These neo-liberals are also neo-compradors who will sell out Sri Lanka ’s sovereignty and territorial integrity at the slightest opportunity, already proved their propensity for the appeasement of Tiger separatism. They will, if elected, generate a powerful populist Sinhala chauvinist backlash of a neo-fascist character. However, given the image and character of the current leadership of the bloc of the UNP and SLFP Right,  and the UNP’s collaborationist fifth columnist “antiwar” ideology (Vajira Abeywardena, MP told The Island recently that the war cannot be won), strong Sinhala nationalist revulsion will probably prevent their election to office or assumption of power by extra-parliamentary means. That then is the second positive feature of Sinhala nationalism.

 

The third is as bulwark against external interventionism. This can emanate from two sources: Tamil Nadu and the West. A Neo-Realist reckoning would recognize that there are people, elements and forces in Tamil Nadu which hate the Sinhalese and support Tamil Eelam. As a mere glance at websites would demonstrate, this is also true of the bulk of the Tamil Diaspora. These are permanent threats to Sri Lanka which have to be squarely faced. Sinhala identity and consciousness is a powerful defensive factor when facing these existential threats.

 

The Tamil Diaspora may combine with Western antipathy to Sri Lanka ’s patriotic, anti-imperialist Presidency, to urge interventionism. Bob Rae, a prominent personality of Canada ’s Liberal party has written to the Canadian Prime Minister criticizing him for non-advocacy and non-pursuit by Canada of the “Responsibility to Protect” with regard to Darfur and Sri Lanka . Sri Lanka is not a fragmented and failing or failed state, nor is it a state which been independent only briefly and intermittently as has Georgia . Here, for better or worse, the nation came before the state, giving the   nation-state an organic and historical core. Any coercive external intervention will sooner or later come up against that fact and its powerful contemporary reassertion as consciousness and armed agency. 

 

The fourth positive feature of Sinhala nationalism is as a check on Tamil ultra-nationalism, just as Tamil nationalism will be a check on Sinhala ultra-nationalism.

 

Contrary to the hopes of some and fears of others, populist Sinhala nationalism will be unable to semi-permanently mask the internal weaknesses and dysfunctions that trouble us. The end of the conventional/semi conventional mid-intensity military challenge to the Sri Lankan state will at one and the same time bring to the surface matters of domestic policy and governance, exacting an electoral price, the prospect or postscript of which will propel corrective change.           

 

Reciprocally, Tamil nationalism will act as a check on Sinhala ultranationalist strivings and projects. Electoral democracy will be both agency and arena of these checks and balances. Though the current administration, given the political reality of its coalitional character, has been less than strident on devolution, it has preserved (one may say restored) and actually reactivated the basic unit of devolution and autonomy, the Provincial Councils. Tamil local nationalism and anti-despotism in the form of the Karuna rebellion, and Sinhala nationalism as a motivator of the Armed Forces’ rollback of the Tigers, combined to make this re-opening of democratic space possible. That is a historic achievement and cannot be minimized because the Government has not filled this cleared space with devolved power.  Sinhala ultra-nationalist preferences notwithstanding, the Provincial Councils constitute a “floor” below which the administration and the Sri Lankan state will not and cannot go. Nor should it go too far above this floor, beyond autonomy: as Bolivia and Ecuador remind us, excessive autonomy can be the launch pad for reactionary, even fascistic secessionism. 

 

In postwar conditions, the competitive character of electoral politics among Tamil parties will necessitate sensitivity to Tamil aspirations and a more or less accurate reflection of them, be they primary ones of welfare and development or of collective identity or a mixture of both.

 

At the same time, Tamil and Muslim representation at all levels of the polity through elections on the basis of proportional representation provide an automatic enabler of devolution, insofar as the Sinhala candidates and parties will vie with each other for minority votes and the support of minority parties. If sufficiently strong, the minority parties could unite conditionally with a mainstream Southern party to successfully press for a brand new Constitutional architecture. As for fantasies of the restoration of the first past the post electoral system which takes for majority hegemony, all that the minority parties have to do is vote against it in parliament, blocking the needed two/thirds majority.

 

Electoral competition reflecting the pressures of pent-up wartime social demands, the needs of postwar reconstruction and participation in the world economy, combined with the renewed availability of foreign investment and tourism, will provide the propellant and prosperity needed for domestic improvement and reform.

 

Finally, what of Sinhala ultra-nationalism, chauvinism, or hegemonism? While on the one hand Tamil ultra-nationalism especially in the Diaspora, overestimates the international factor and underestimates the internal factor; the national, domestic and demographic power realities of the island of Sri Lanka , on the other hand Sinhala ultranationalists have no understanding of the external factor, the international realities and Sri Lanka ’s overall strategic environment. Just as Sinhala nationalism will prevail over the Tigers and hold in check Tamil ultra-nationalism, Rightwing neo-liberalism/collaborationism, and external interventionism, Sinhala majoritarian supremacism in its Parliamentary forms and extra-Parliamentary fantasies will be held in check and countervailed by the realities of power including the power of ideas, i.e. by soft power and hard power.

 

The latest issue, Sept/Oct 2008, of the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine, published by the Carnegie Endowment has the following to say in its main feature:

 

“…Otto von Bismarck once famously predicted that the most important geopolitical fact of the 20th century would be that the United States and Britain spoke the same language. Now, the values shared by United States and India may emerge as the most important geopolitical fact of this century”. (Foreign Policy, Sept/Oct 2008, page 32).

 

The story notes the formation of a US-India military alliance, the treaty to share nuclear materials, and projected military sales to India over the next decade which total US $ 100 billion ( yep, that’s a hundred billion).  

 

Sri Lanka cannot sustain itself on the very doorstep of this grand geopolitical fact if it attempts to translate the values of Sinhala chauvinism into policy practice. Any Realist or Neo-Realist analysis tells us that an asymmetry of the values of Sinhala chauvinism and the Indo-US alliance, compounding and compounded by the spillover effect in a part of India -- Tamil Nadu -- of Sri Lankan Tamil ethnic grievances, can end only one way. If on the other hand, Sri Lanka realistically modifies its mindset, undertakes a “mind-shift” to fit into or be compatible with those shared values, the prospects of catch up and lift-off are enormous. This “most important geopolitical fact”, this massive reality of ratios of power, holds true whether or not there is a change in Washington in less than a month’s time. Such a change will sharpen and accelerate the process I refer to above.  That possible change, a Revolution of Reason at the heart of the international system, the USA, will embody and globalize a new Zeitgeist which will not only reveal the ideology of archaic majoritarianism as absurdly nonsensical but will render it utterly unsustainable. Time – and space—are running out for both Tamil Tiger terrorism and Sinhala chauvinist hegemonism. The only problem is that it’s a bit of a race – and the pun is intended.

October 03, 2008

Civilians of Wanni are wretched of Lankan Earth

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Franz Fanon’s famous phrase “wretched of the earth” is quite applicable in the Sri Lanka of today to the civilian population inhabiting the northern mainland known as the “Wanni”.

More than 200,000 internally displaced persons trapped in territory that was/is controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are in existential terms the wretched of the Sri Lankan “Wanni” earth. [click – for full article]

October 02, 2008

Fear for safety: J.C. Weliamuna, human rights lawyer and His Family

Amnesty International Action Appeal:

Human rights lawyer J.C Weliamuna and his family survived a grenade attack on their home in the capital, Colombo, on 27 September. He has since gone into hiding, as he remains at risk of further attack.

The grenade attack came at 11.40pm as J. C. Weliamuna, his wife and two sons, aged four months and two years, were asleep. The grenade exploded on the balcony of their bedroom though luckily they were not harmed. However, the explosion caused extensive damage to their home. Police found a second, unexploded grenade in the compound of the house and which they managed to defuse.

[TI Sri Lanka Gallery: Mr.J.C.Weliamuna, Executive Director of Transparency International Sri Lanka, lighting the traditional oil lamp at the opening of an event-file pic]

J.C. Weliamuna is the head of the Sri Lankan branch of Transparency International, an international NGO which campaigns against government corruption. On 23 September, the NGO published a report naming Sri Lanka as 92nd out of the list of 184 corrupt governments around the world. He also represents a number of citizens, who claim that state officials have violated their “fundamental human rights” under the Sri Lankan Constitution.

In September, J.C. Weliamuna had been the legal representative in a case involving serious police malpractice which was heard by the Supreme Court. As a result, the court ordered an investigation into police intimidation and the filing of false charges against his client. At 1.30 pm on 30 September, a man forced his way into J. C. Weliamuna’s offices. He gave the name of an unknown person he claimed to be looking for. However, staff in the office believe he was really looking for J. C. Weliamuna.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

During 2008, at least 5 human rights defenders have reported receiving death threats, often in the form of threatening phone calls. The threats have been intended to stop them from speaking out on human rights issues. Attacks on journalists have included stabbings, abductions and ill- treatment as well as targeted killings. The Sri Lankan authorities have failed to prosecute any perpetrators for attacks on Human Rights Defenders in 2008. The latest attack on a prominent human rights lawyer sends a chilling message to anyone prepared to stand up and expose human rights violations.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible:

- urging the Sri-Lankan authorities to protect J.C. Weliamuna and his family, who survived a grenade attack on
27 September 2008, using all measures deemed appropriate by J.C. Weliamuna himself;

-calling on the authorities to order a full and impartial investigation by a competent authority into the attack, publish the results and bring those responsible to justice,

- asking them to ensure that human rights defenders are able to continue their legitimate work without fear of harassment or intimidation.

APPEALS TO:

His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
SRI LANKA

Fax: 011 94 11 2446657
Salutation: Your Excellency

Hon. Sarath N. Silva
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Sri Lanka
Superior Courts Complex
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA

Fax: 011 94 11 2435446
Salutation: Dear Chief Justice

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
Ministry of Defense
Ministry of Defense, Public Security, Law and Order
15/5, Bauddhaloka Mawatha,
Colombo 03,
SRI LANKA

Fax: 011 94 11 254 1529
Salutation: Dear Minister

Jayantha Wickramaratne
Inspector General of Police
Sri Lanka Police
Headquarters
101/1 Kew Road
Colombo 2
SRI LANKA

Fax: 011 94 11 244 6174
Salutation: Dear Inspector General

COPIES TO:

Ambassador JALIYA WICKRAMASURIYA
Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
2148 Wyoming Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 232 7181
Email: slembassy@slembassyusa.org