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Articulating Ethics and Politics: A Leftist Engagement With The Present

"Assuming the LTTE finished is fantasy masquerading as fact"

By Qadri Ismail

Che Guevara once said: “if you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are my comrade.”

The distillation of a lifetime of agitation, intervention, reflection, this statement, the opposite of a soundbite, pithily articulates ethics with politics. We’ve known, at least since Aristotle, that the two are inextricable, yet distinct.

Che links them together in exemplary leftist fashion. If one understands ethics, following Levinas loosely, as deference to the other; and politics, following Derrida equally loosely, as a calculus about the possible; then Che’s formulation insists that, while the leftist might not (be able to) act upon every injustice, she must be moved. Narcissistic indignation is called identity politics.

Che Guevara, Argentine-Cuban Revolutionary Speaks to CBS-TV's "Meet the Press" on December 13, 1964 (AP Photo).

[Che Guevara appeared on Meet the Press at CBS Television on December 13, 1964-AP]

When the leftist acts, she cannot be deterred by considerations of difficulty, of (im)possibility. They get overdetermined by the ethical imperative, the banal necessity, to resist injustice, oppression of the other. Not the political calculation whether resistance might be fruitful. Necessity, as opposed to choice, characterizes leftist action.

In other words, the leftist is not and has never been a realist. Revolutions, national liberation struggles, campaigns against patriarchy were not inspired by opportunists. Neither is the Tamil struggle for justice in Sri Lanka. The legitimacy of that struggle doesn’t stand or fall by the record – the abysmal, atrocious record – of the LTTE.

And yet, as one writes, many on the left, thinking the LTTE in the past tense, advice the Tamils to adopt a “realist,” that is to say mendicant, position regards the Rajapakse regime: reconcile with the actuality of its overwhelming power. Take what you can get. In effect, surrender.

As one writes, that same regime continues to bomb, from air and ground, the tiny territory still in LTTE hands. It kills between 10 and 20 Tamil civilians every day, maims dozens of others. Many little children are now amputees. They might be safe if the LTTE, unconscionably, does not hold them as human shields; even, horribly, shooting those who try to flee. But that is no alibi for this government’s brutality.

Yet, as one reads, one finds no indignation, no outrage, from sections of the left. There is, of course, the mandatory, parenthetical – pathetic – gesture of concern about civilian casualties. But the brutality of this government, it appears remarkably enough, should not shape our response to it. Only the “fact” of its assumed victory.

Take, as symptomatic instance, a recent position paper by Sumanasiri Liyanage. It expresses with clarity a position held by many about “the post-LTTE era.” But assuming the LTTE finished is fantasy masquerading as fact. Its record suggests resilience, not oblivion. Weakened, broken as the guerillas are – they’ve never been so unpopular, even amongst their own – there’s nothing inevitable about their disappearance from our politico-military terrain. Regardless, the leftist commitment to the justice of the Tamil struggle is not bound to the fate of the LTTE.

Liyanage’s undeniable commitment to peace with justice has been established over decades, with great consistency. I have admired his many thoughtful interventions, especially in the last couple of years. But, now – and this is said with loss, not anger – he effectively whitewashes the regime. Arguing that “revolutionary” constitutional change is “unlikely” – the word litters the article – he advances realistic “reform” as the position we should all adopt. One could ask, in response: if U.S. slaves had considered the likelihood of ending their captivity, if they had realistically calculated their chances against the overwhelming power of the white establishment, would they have rebelled? Unlikely.

Incredibly, Liyanage doesn’t once identify the Rajapakse regime as responsible for any – not a single – part of the horrible Sri Lankan present. The “JVP and Hela Urumaya…[are] the main advocates” of exclusivist nationalism. The SLFP, it would appear, doesn’t share this ideology, is innocent of blame.

As one writes, the Rajapakse regime has announced plans to house Vanni Tamils in specially constructed detention camps for up to three years. These camps will include schools, hospitals and banks. The populace inside will be held captive, policed by the military. The Rajapakses, brazenly, have even approached the U.N. and other international NGOs – the same organizations its spokespeople routinely slander – to fund these centers akin to concentration camps.

Given the career – brief, but consistently exclusivist – of this government, one doesn’t need to be an astrologer or political scientist to foresee the next stage of the plan. Over the past two years, led by the JHU’s Champika Ranawaka and Basil Rajapakse, the regime has systematically alienated Muslim land in the east. Sinhala settlers cannot be far behind.

There is little reason to doubt that the Vanni territory, once denuded of Tamils, will also be colonized with Sinhalese. This is the Rajapakses’ “final solution” to the national question: make the Tamils politically irrelevant. Physically eliminate any resistance, even the non-violent. Concentrate the rest in camps.

In this regard, the only moot question is whether Sinhala nationalism, which has systematically followed such a strategy since D. S. Senanayake in the late 1940s, learned this from Zionism – or whether the Israelis copied the Sri Lankan example. Not coincidentally, the two states have been co-operating openly since the mid-1980s. Mahinda Rajapakse, opposition M.P., may have been a champion of Palestinian rights, a progressive, in those 1980s; his regime is comparable to the Israeli state.

In such a context, advocating reform would be to debate how many Sinhalese should be allowed to colonize the north. Not whether colonization should occur in the first place.

But “reform” and “revolutionary change” are not the only alternatives. Resistance – the unyielding demand for peace with justice – is another. Liyanage, however, frames his position with canny rhetoric. Reform, after all, sounds realistic, possible, even reasonable. Naming its alternative revolutionary – spin worthy of U.S. conservatives, the (white) guys who call universal health care “socialism” – is delegitimizing. For, in the worldview fabricated by George W. Bush, that Liyanage reproduces, perhaps unwittingly, a synonym for revolutionary is terrorist.

Yes, the LTTE could be accused of terrorism – if one finds the term productive. Among national liberation organizations, its brutality is unmatched. Its record is too well known to require iteration here. A powerful case could be made that the LTTE and its leadership must face trial for war crimes. But, surely, an equally powerful case could be made about leading figures of the government.

On the other hand, if one advocates engagement with the regime, shouldn’t one also advocate the same with the LTTE? Ideologically, both embody exclusivist, extremist – if not totalitarian – nationalism. Both equate dissent with treason. Gotabhaya Rajapakse actually said this to BBC television, following the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge. The LTTE has systematically assassinated resistant Tamils, including K. Padmanabha and Rajini Thiranagama. The only difference is that the LTTE’s brutality extends for decades. Simply put, it has killed, intimidated, devastated more. But considerations of number should not determine leftist ethics.

Liyanage knows this. He refers to the Tamils and Muslims as “numerically small nations,” desiring not to other the Tamils and Muslims by calling them “minorities.” Yet he cannot frame his position outside the logic of number. For, one could ask, after Derrida: at what number does a nation become small or large? Would we also need a cage for the medium-sized? Would the Chinese be extra-large? Is there some secret book of rules, available only to social scientists, with the right answers?

More importantly, does it matter? Does their number have anything to do with the fact that we’re moved, appalled, outraged by the oppression of the Tamils – or the Palestinians, for that matter? Should indignation not serve as the launching pad of our response?

The argument for engagement, for reform, is an argument for accepting the continued domination of the Tamils and Muslims. It negates the very basis of the Tamil struggle, for peace with justice. Even worse, it provides the Rajapakses with an alibi. For, one must ask: given that the president himself turned the consensus within the APRC, for greater devolution, into acceptance of the status quo, what are the chances of this regime, even minimally, reforming the state? Unlikely.

The stagist argument – finish the LTTE first, then attend to Tamil “grievances” – is, at best, counter-factual, presumptuous. Both about the LTTE, that it can’t re-emerge; and the regime, that it will suddenly, miraculously, turn democratic.

But what are the chances of the Rajapakses, who cannot countenance journalistic resistance – witness the murder of Wickrematunge, the continued imprisonment of J. S. Tissainayagam – suddenly becoming democratic? Is it “realistic” to expect this regime, which refuses to honor the 17th amendment, to discover the virtues of constitutional governance? Or, as Jayadeva Uyangoda begs, Mahinda Rajapakse to display “statesmanship”? You know the answer.

The Sinhala left has a long, impressive, honorable record on the question of social justice. Despite being woefully underfunded, we can boast of free universal health care and education through university. The United States cannot. Despite the best efforts of J. R. Jayewardene, in the 1980s, our trade unions thrive. They even strike every now and then. Without the left, this would not be the case.

On the national question, however, the organized left, with the rare exception of a Vickremabahu Karunaratne or Sarath Muttetuwegama, has been a paragon of complicity with Sinhala nationalism. It bears iteration that the same Colvin R de Silva, who said with astute prescience in 1956, that establishing Sinhala as the only official language would lead to separatism, sixteen years later effectively instituted Buddhism as the state religion. The militant Tamil resistance was inaugurated that same year, 1972. Then, as now, members of the CP and LSSP adorn the cabinet.

Just last January, after the murder of Wickrematunge, after the rampages of this regime against Tamil and Muslim civilians, documented over three years, an old leftist – I don’t have the heart to mention his name – told a mutual acquaintance: “Mahinda is basically a progressive.”

Surely, the task of our intellectual left must be to hold these positions to account, not make them role models!

Our task is to insist, and keep insisting, that there cannot be a just peace in Sri Lanka without radical – not reformist, or revolutionary, but radical – constitutional change. (Revolutionary change, a complete, total break from the past, is impossible – even conceptually.) A form of confederalism, if that’s what it takes; which accounts for Muslim, as well as Tamil demands.

The equality of all citizens, including those outside the northeast, must be institutionalized in something like a bill of rights. As importantly, the symbols of the state must signify such equality. This means no special status for Buddhism. And redesigning the flag, which as it now flies reproduces – with its dominant, armed, scary lion and two miserable stripes for the minorities – Sinhala nationalist dominance.

This will take a long struggle, but reform – surrender to Sinhala nationalism – takes us down a dead-end. This will involve rethinking the tired clichés about peace we’ve inherited from social science, conflict management. This entails much labor, patience, anger and frustration, but we must abide by our convictions, not yield to our most conformist instincts.

Edward Said once told me, when I asked of his vocal opposition to the Oslo accords, that they could only lead to the continued subjugation of the Palestinian people – while providing Israel with the alibi of commitment to peace. Despite tremendous pressure, mostly from the PLO, he refused to yield his position. Refused, that is, to settle for mere reform.

The point is not that he turned out to be right. He was no realist. Rather, after a lifetime of agitation, intervention, reflection, he had conviction. He understood that the leftist, when confronted with surrender or resistance, doesn’t have a choice. Like Che, Said knew how to articulate ethics with politics.



Posted by: Dexter | February 28, 2009 11:46 PM

The author has effectively responded to the regime's barbarian apologists--Jayatilleka, Wijesinha, et al, though he was focusing mainly on Sumanasiri Liyanage.I think the repeated references to 'ethics' is particularly fitting to those who have been raving about 'Fidel's ethics.'

There is no doubt that Tamils, espeically the people in the Vanni, are facing a catastrophe and the Tigers are partly to blame for this. But the Tamil resistance against this Nazi regime and its supporters will go on.

Even Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who has been a progressive on Tamil issues, has aligned himself with the criminal Mahinda Rajapaksa, though he differed with him on some issues. I am not sure if he is the "old leftist" who called Rajapaksa a progressive.

Posted by: Expatriate | March 1, 2009 12:57 AM

"The equality of all citizens, including those outside the northeast, must be institutionalized in something like a bill of rights. As importantly, the symbols of the state must signify such equality. This means no special status for Buddhism. And redesigning the flag, which as it now flies reproduces – with its dominant, armed, scary lion and two miserable stripes for the minorities – Sinhala nationalist dominance."

Dear Mr. Qadri Ismail, please give some us examples of Muslim countries as a model to follow.

Posted by: Jaya | March 1, 2009 03:42 AM

Under the leftist garb, what Mr Ismail demands is a surrender of Sinhalese to Tamil & Muslim racism. He has already declaraed land in East as Muslim. Not sure what leftist theory can be used to substantiate the argument that the land in the North is Tamil, the land in East is Muslim and the land in the rest of the country is for all (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burger et al).

Peace with justice can commence when all who claim title to real estate in Sri Lanka, declare their primary allegiance to Sri Lanka. When a SL Muslim lights crackers in Colombo when Muslim Pakistan cricket team beats multi cultural Sri Lankan cricket team, a legitimate question arises as to where their loyalty resides and a threat perception is already created. It might provide an answer to your bewilderment as to why Sinhalese leftists may have been cautious in the nationalist front.

It may also be useful, if Mr Ismail turns his attention to the evolutionary process of the conflict and why majority of the population decided to install a "brutal" regime and is willing to make sacrifices to keep the regime in power.

Posted by: Hela | March 1, 2009 04:47 AM

I'd like to see a single line - and I mean it literally - from Che which supports, synmpathises with or justifies an ethnic secessionist struggle in an independent sovereign Third world state, or, come to think of it, in any state. On the other hand I can think of plenty of lines denouncing such struggles and reiterating the need for the territorial unity and integrity of newly emergent postcolonial states.

Try as a sample, Che's New York General assembly speech of December 1964. Meanwhile somebody had better figure out why the strongest justification of Sri Lanka's struggle at deat the recent UN Security Council briefing by John Holmes cames from the Ambassador of Vietnam.

Posted by: Dayan Jayatilleka | March 1, 2009 05:17 AM

‘No special status for Buddhism. And redesigning the flag’
Authors’ above contention for such radical changes undermines the basic norms of Sinhala nationalism and will be treated as advocating treason against predominantly Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka. Since independence every Sri Lankan Government endeavoured to eliminate the traditional homeland concept of the minorities through forced colonization.

In fact the long drawn ethnic conflict is basically a deep rooted struggle since independence against such segregation. However, it was the Indian constitutional experts who proposed the provincial councils as an amicable alternative between the traditional homelands by the minorities and the right of colonization by the majority.
I believe that the political journey after the post war Sri Lanka shall begin with the implementation of 13th amendments and no more.

Sinhala nationalists may now celebrate the triumph of re-capturing the lost territories and marginalizing LTTE but their voices will be irrelevant in the post war political process as the provincial council system is already enshrined in the constitution and effective implementation will be closely watched by India and International donor countries. MR Government will then find it difficult to drag its feet by delaying its implementation in the North and East Provincial Councils. However, it remains to be seen how MR will handle the extreme Sinhala nationalists who will obstruct any reasonable devolution of power to the minorities.

Rajapakse brothers may be executing Welfare ‘Detention’ Centres for Tamil for 3 years. But GOSL will have to face immense pressure from the International donors and India against such ‘unconstitutional detention’ of its own citizens. It will put Sri Lanka in line with countries like Israel for restricting the free movement of civilians. With the soaring negative balance of payment and dwindling foreign exchange reserves of the country MR Government will eventually succumb to the international pressures and it is our hope that Vanni population will be freed and resettled sooner than later.

Posted by: Nakeeb M Issadeen | March 1, 2009 05:18 AM


Liyanage knows this. He refers to the Tamils and Muslims as 'numerically small nations,' desiring not to other the Tamils and Muslims by calling them 'minorities.'

Tamil legitimate struggle also calls other ethnic groups minorities. Unless you wish you lable yourself a 'Muslim person of the Tamil nation', you are also nothing but a minority in Tamil legitimate struggle as well. Sorry to burst your bubble

Posted by: Panhinda | March 1, 2009 05:54 AM

Most Sinhalese do not think its a war over Tamils. However, if there are Tamils who think this way, its in their interest to see that LTTE ends in a way that may not look less as a defeat. LTTE give up weapons first and then enter negotiations. Its still humiliating. However, there will be some dignity left as they can claim they tried to get something for Tamils.

Posted by: Panhinda | March 1, 2009 07:44 AM

Qadri's interesting piece annoys the pseudo leftists like Dr. Jayatileke.

If the whole struggle of the Tamil national movement in Sri Lanka put in context, it represents a struggle for self determination and autonomy. The majority Sinhala has always oppressed them using their constitutional and coercive means.

Dr. Jayatilke's perspective is personal and a bias one. Because, he speaks with power. since he possessed state power or serves it, his judgments are always corrupt. If Dr. Jayatileke truly lets his reason awake he would have a free judgment. Lenin supported all the nationalist struggles in the world.

The repeated play of historical domination of the Sinhala ethnic group over the Tamil ethnicity was tried with military means by Piripaharan. No leftists would advocate violence. But Cuba was created through a violent struggle. The amount of the violence or the nature of it could be questioned. However, as a social phenomena violence has been instrumental for freedom fighters at times. The LTTE's violence is a response to the power of highly militarized Lanka.

The Premadasa's violence which Dr.Jayatileke openly advocated was against the leftists who wore Ches's photo in their shirts. Then, violent means cannot be contested on their nature. Are you pro-violence or anti-violence? that is question. Sri Lanka has not been genuine in non-violent means.

Then Tamils could not be cheated for ever. If Che were alive, he would be in Wanni jungle, and as Dr.Jayatileke could be the advocate of Premadasa. But Che was not a pseudo leftist.

Posted by: ajith samaranayake | March 1, 2009 01:39 PM

It does not always follow that "Leftists are not realists" On the more principled side was Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew - a student of Harold Laski, left of centre, and influenced
by Laski like many other young scholars of that time from the Colonies.

Harry Lee chose the other side of the spectrum for his political journey - and very successfully too - to the good of millions of Singaporeans and the region. Many of our current political leaders came to the Capitalist side from Left politics (some from the extreme Left) - though crass and shameless opportunitists; realists - nonetheless. NM, Colvin, Leslie, Pieter, Bernard too...The legitimacy of the Tamil struggle should not be defined by the chequered history of the LTTE. Remember, it preceded the LTTE
by decades. The fascist LTTE was to hijack it much later....

As to the writer's advise "reconcile with the Sinhalese of overwhelming power..Take what you can get" is woefully lacking in principle and can be interpreted as an affront to the Tamil struggle. To speak this language and in the same breath speak of Castro and Che is oxymoronic. It goes against the grain of the supreme sacrifice made by thousands of Tamil youth for a better, more just tomorrow in the Tamil Nation in Sri lanka.

The Tamils (don't mistake this with the LTTE) are pragmatic sufficiently to fall back to reconciliation but with due dignity and justice. Not in the terms insensitively suggested similarly by Army's Sarath Fonseka - put in euphemistically by Uyangoda that the Tamil future is dependent on Sinhala magnanimity. In other words "take the crumbs falling from the Sinhala table." There is no room for such chicanery in the Tamil tradition. This indignity is a non-starter to any Tamil worth his name...

To claim there was no Sinhala outrage to crimes against Tamils is to forget the fearless and principled stand of men like Dr Wickramabahu Karunaratna - among others. Vasu N was uncompromising as well for long until he felt prey to Mahinda's seduction of high office through the usual underworld dirt like that cantenkerous M.P-Deputy Minister - with Doctorate and claims to Parakrama Bahu (Tamil boy, eh?) and all.

Sumanasiri Liyanage is yet another decent Sinhala academic who will find his place in the history of this country - for standing up to the truth, justice and fair play against racial-religious bigotry. It is men like Liyanage who should be called upon to be in a Committee to recommend Devolution and the much-clamoured Amendments to the Constitution to take us out of our deep and decades-long impasse....

As to the Writer's comments on the "Final Solution" to the Tamil question of the Rajapakse Bros Inc (with able support from Sarath Fonseka's 200,000 man army, the Buddhist clergy and the Sinhala chauvinists) Tamils are aware the process has been unleashed against them years ago surreptitiously - and now in the open. How else do you think Tamils are now the 2nd largest ethnic group in Trincomalee? Compare this to the statistics 5-10 decades ago. Engineered State-sponsored Colonisation of Tamil areas is on the ascendancy under cover of the "War" The Muslims are now screaming only when their land is stolen by Sinhalese encroachers.

Even the millenia-old Puliyamkulam has now become PuliyamKULAMA. The North East is littered with many such names in the Post-1956 period. Not only tamil villages were named after the late Gen. Janaka Perera (Janapura)
and after his wife's too. Tamil Manalaru is now Sinhala Weli-Oya. These are only a few instances of the stealing of Tamil land. And, the Tamils are called names by some Sinhalese for Sri Lanka's troubles...As to the Muslim future in Sri Lanka, by now the signals to them should be fairly clear.

They can no longer feel they can benefit from the misery of State-inflicted pogroms on Tamils and their assets such as in July 83. They (Muslims) are now targets too, which is why the Islamic parties are going into coalition with Tamil parties. They have "seen the coming colours" far too often since the 80s. The eventual coming together of Tamils and Muslims in political unions is by no means a threat to the country or to the Sinhalese - something which the Muslim political leadership should reconsidere.

It is a healthy sign towards a stronger and united pluralistic Sri Lanka. It is only Sinhala chauvinism that will oppose this joining of forces. Indophobia will be brought into confuse the gullible Sinhala voter... We are with the Writer in that more harm is done to the Sri Lankan whole by the imposition of a "Special Place for Buddhism" insensitively
crafted in Colvin's 1972 Republican Constitution. Today this Clause is an orphan.

Apologists to Colvin such as Nihal Jayawickema and Tiss Vitharna say it was forced on Colvin by senior Ministers of PM Mrs Sirimavo B. Her apologists say they have nothing to do with this and it was all Colvin's mischief.Oh! La la. It has in no way helped the vast Buddhist majority in the country either - except it has massaged the ego
of some of the leaders of the twisted lot from the Sinhala supremacist lobby.

The sooner it is done away with the better for the country - including to hundreds of thousands of patriotic Sinhala Christians. They are Sinhalese too, are'nt they? Sri Lanka will never be able to justify this clause in any international fora....Ethics and politics is a desirable and delightful mix but rarely found in the developing world.

That includes socialist Cuba whose birth was accomplished through the sacrifices of that romantic and immortal revolutionary - Che Guevera, the Argentinian. Castro sent in thousands of anti-Batista pro-Fidel Cubans to prison and death after he came to power merely for the crime of dissent. Where is ethics here? This revolts against all known principles of democracy and makes Castro nothing but a fascist autocrat. It certainly is not a just world out there...

As good friend Prof Bruce Pappferrer, the Australian academic and keen student of Lankan politics, was to comment a few years ago "Order has emerged from societies that have undergone prolonged chaos and injustice. Who knows in the Lankan case, if and when this happens there will be reason for all Sri Lankans - Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and other - to smile and perhaps sing" How I wish the good Professor's prediction turns to reality soon.


Posted by: ISS | March 1, 2009 03:39 PM

powerful piece Mr Ismail and one that I find hard to argue with.

Jaya, I am not sure what Muslim countries have to do with any of this. If you want an example of a secular, multi-cultural, liberal Muslim State, you could try the largest Muslim state in the world, Indonesia. As for legally respecting the rights of minorities and not putting religious symbols of flags, Syria, Jordan, Bangladesh .... shall I keep going..?

I do not think that situation is capable any more of redemption from within and whatever triumphalist policies the regime tries to implement, a solution imposed from outside may now be the only option IMHO.

The reality is that in this day and age there are limits on the doctrine that sovereignty allows unfettered power for the State to do what it pleases. Even the USA has had to bow down to this reality following on from its debacle in Iraq. It has not been able to get its way despite its enormous military power (when one remembers back to the grand plans of the neocon architects of that debacle back in 2002). If this is true for America, it will be even more the case for a small country like Sri Lanka.

Posted by: Amrit | March 1, 2009 04:00 PM

The post war proceedings are already drafted...

India being just a spectator with small pro & back statements to lankan government due to political pressure from tamilnadu... else tamilnadu may become another 'tamizhezham' issue for india in future. becoz already TN people is being denied 'national rights' from all adjacent states in water issues... so India wont allow lankan tamil issue to add more fuels to TN people rather than behave opposite srilankan government if need..

world & TN people wants peaceful life for tamils in lanka..

India wants the same but not under LTTE's sole armed domination... as long as there is LTTE.. lankan tamils not going to get the 'real' democracy even if lankan govt offered 'tamizheezham' just for a case. bcoz LTTE does not like democracy for tamil people but only for themself to rule the region forever. To tell proof , they have even erased all other tamil representatives for that. So it is sure LTTE wont allow 'real' democracy. so India wants "NO LTTE" condition in lanka.

secondly, India wants to retaliate LTTE for killing itz leader in own land, itz a personal status issue like WTC collapse and the aftermath for USA. So India wont like LTTE.

India strategically moving behind the scene, Erasing LTTE in cost Lankan military sources to achieve the first goal... and then india would wait for lankan government to deny 'real equal rights' to tamils. We guess Lankan govt going to do the same as India expects. Here comes next move from India to pacify itz Tamilnadu people.... launch the army into northern lanka and do 'bangladesh' again but this time more strategically appointing some temporary indian diplomats till there we create 'free political feelings' amongst tamilians and then get back the diplomats & military from there. rest will be keenly watched from delhi... Itz clear diplomatic move for long term solution..

now everything is in hands of Lanakn govt... if they deny 'real equal rights' for tamils after war... then they will have to face another military action but this time from mighty India and then loss of itz territory for 'tamizheezham'. Will Lanka can stand against both..? People know the answer...

as a tamilian & indian we all expect peaceful & equal life for Tamils in lankan land... we are not against Lanka... but we will pressure our India to make military intervention if lanka denies rights for tamils after war... we are waiting...

Posted by: Shravan | March 1, 2009 06:35 PM

this is the big mistake of people who claim they understand the tamils problems LTTE is not for tamils freedom or tamils right. they are the first and fore most problem for the tamils to get the equal right if you follow the conflict from the start they were the problem for the tamils to earn the world support for our equal right and LTTE was extreamly helpfull for the govt to equate the tamils equal right strugle to terrorism.

the second point is in the modern era no conflict has been won by terrorism but the LTTE cannot survive without it among the tamils or in srilanka or in the world the leaders are wanted by interpol and in this circumstances LTTE has become a hinderence to the tamils right. third point is LTTE has eleminated the leaders of tamils now we have only rehabilitated terrorist as the tamils leaders it will take some time for the world to evaluate their true colours but as long as LTTE exist these leaders trained instinct will show up the head on and off that will delay the leadership maturation

the most important point is LTTE has reached a point of no return from tamill eelam an unrealistic goal which will indefinitly postpone the tamils right

and the last point is in agreement with the theme of the wrighter which is there are diehard tamils for the tamils right they are now doment, due to LTTE, will showup their rightful place and stratergy to win the equal right for not only the tamils it is for every citizen .

in conclution i will say the first step to the tamils right is elemination of LTTE

Posted by: seen | March 1, 2009 08:04 PM

Many Sinhala people are infatuated with the idea of demise of LTTE is imminent.

We Tamils steadfastly support our freedom fighters without blinking our eyes. Lankan political history has taught a hard lesson for our future Tamil leaders that we don't trust Sinhala leadership with our future. Time has long passed trusting your inept leadership.

We Tamils will fight for permanent separation from Sinhala rulers, It may take thousand years or few months but our goal is unassailable after long suffering from Sinhala rulers. Our soil may be changed as red with our blood but We Tamils will never submit to your injustice. Only to punish the oppressors of humanity:that is clemency;forgive them is barbarity.

The rigor of tyrants has that rigor a its sole principle:that of government is based on beneficence. We Tamils will never stop fighting the evil Governments of Sinhalese even Sun runs out of its helium and hydrogen in billions of years. You Sinhala elite can have fantasy dreams forever but you will never live in United Srilanka with Tamils peacefully.

Posted by: sivanesan | March 1, 2009 10:04 PM

"The equality of all citizens, including those outside the northeast, must be institutionalized in something like a bill of rights. As importantly, the symbols of the state must signify such equality. This means no special status for Buddhism. And redesigning the flag, which as it now flies reproduces – with its dominant, armed, scary lion and two miserable stripes for the minorities – Sinhala nationalist dominance."

Dear Mr. Qadri Ismail, please give some us examples of Muslim countries as a model to follow.
Posted by: Jaya | March 1, 2009 03:42 AM

I had a friend named Gautamadasa, who used to be in the Sri Lanka Foreign Service, but I never irrelevantly criticised or questioned him on any Buddhist behaviour in Sri Lanka. I also used to talk to a man called Pieter Keuneman in the old days, but never raised the question of the Revolt of the Netherlands with him.

Posted by: Ernest Macintyre | March 2, 2009 03:48 AM

Dear tamil people,
You waged a war against Sri Lankan army maintaining a defacto state acquiring all the benefits from Sri Lanka government. Now you loose the war, Why can not LTTE accpet they lost and release all the civilions? You know you are talking from two toungues and there is no genocides or concentration camps in SL? Do you think by repeating these words you can prove these? When LTTE wins you harp a different tune, When they loose another one, Do you think people are idiots to believe your media manipulations. Sooner you relaise LTTE is a goner Better you are, Otherwise you will end on a pile of self immolaters or queue for antidepressents, Sri Lanka is one country for everybody to live in haromony respecting each others as brothers, It is not for someone to piece it into racially demarcated boundaries. Learn to live with it or get out from SL, Go to west and live like a second class citizen. May be you can create your Eelam in Canada? They are so tolerent of you.

Posted by: Janaka Gunaratne | March 2, 2009 03:53 AM

World has been watching the Srilanka a terrorist country, run by best criminal mind government murdereing more than 80000 with corps buried, or burnt alive. watching the whole minority being wiped out. lots and lots innocents named as tigers and gets arrested, murdered, woman and including underaged gals in mass amount getting rapped and murdered, in out of prisons. more than 80000 dead, continuing to die, of these bomb, churches/temples, schools , hospitals, in no fire zone area. Blocking all international community from going to the affected area to hide the truth. bombing media from preventing from exposing the truth, journalists, and humanatarian aid personals, minority politicians murdered these ruthless, barbarians of the government forces continue to murder in mass amount, children with amputed legs, hands, with shattered body parts all over the place. blocking all medical aids and innocents including children getting their body parts amputed due to lack of medicines., food, to the affected area. These srilankan army forces were trying to solicit underage gals in Haiti when they went as peace keepers and got caught by the media. they thought they could get away like the do in there homeland. these evil forces even don't mind killing their own kids to hide the truth. Lots of their own people, journalists murdered who were exposing the truth. Lot of journalist live in fear, and most left country due to death threats by these government forces. Governments who give criminals high posts / in their group/law enforcement so to hide all criminal/genocide against a race. Government forces continue to buy weapons from terrorist countries from the donated money which were for the affected area people for the purpose of slaughtering /wiping out whole race. now international community comming to senses of the evil nature of the srilankan government

Posted by: rita | March 2, 2009 09:41 AM

Thank you Qadri Ismail for this memorable quotation of Che Guevara
“if you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are my comrade.”
He is a real revolutionary and a comrade of the oppressed.
His blood boils with fury whenever he encounters an oppressor.

A revolutionary will never be a realist, but a dreamer.
Dear Dayan If there is oppression Che would have definity supported ethnic secessionist struggle in any so called independent sovereign third world state,But where is your independent sovereign state?
Don’t you know that all nations in Africa and in fact all third world countries were the creation of western imperialism –that includes India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Separatism is not a dirty word.
Sri Lanka is an artificial entity – a divided country with no hope

Posted by: Sri | March 2, 2009 12:02 PM

I don't understand why the example to follow should be modeled on a muslim state.

Posted by: eesan | March 2, 2009 08:04 PM

wow, qadri. you are my hero. i am awed by your tenacity and your commitment to remain true to justice, to be able to see and think about an ethical solution in this moral morass with this murderous government and the ruthless self-serving LTTE. thank you for your faith and clarity. it's the only thing to hold on to right now, it seems.

Posted by: Anjali Chen | March 4, 2009 01:18 PM

Very interesting article...even though we dont agree completely with LTTE tactics, we have got serious suspicion on srilankan governments commitment to peace. The issue is not war between LTTE and srilankan govt, but the core discrimination against minorities in srilanka, which is embedded strongly in their socio-economic structures. Unless and untill you dont address that there will be hundreds of liberation movements and thousands of people will get killed. So Rajapakse, plz wake up and actwith little maturity...........

Posted by: Venkat | March 4, 2009 11:23 PM

where can I find Sumanasiri Liyanage's position paper?

Posted by: sumathy | March 6, 2009 02:20 AM

Good article and applaude the writers courage. I also read some of the comments. I noticed the usual retoric by some sinhalese nationalist, especially about muslim countries etc. That as usual was childish, and the sooner we get rid of these childish feelings, the sooner we will have a peaceful country.

Posted by: Mohan | March 13, 2009 10:28 AM

Please don't give us "ideal" solutions, such as "we should all learn to live in peace". We already know that, but provide for path from here on so we can get to the promised land of peace and tranquility, all this considering we have 2 militant regimes at each others' throat to contend with.


Posted by: MUS | March 15, 2009 01:55 PM

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