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As Sri Lankan citizens we must resolve the Tamil National question amicably

By Sumanasiri Liyanage

So many things have been written on the Report of the Expert Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. Should I litter the already crowded discourse space with another piece?

I thought I should not do so unless I had a peculiar dream in which a small vendor friend of mine on the Kandy pavement who passed away about six months ago posed me an apt question. His question read like this: "Had the war against the LTTE reached its last phase in May 2011 rather than in May 2009, what kind of response would Sri Lanka have expected from the US, UK and France?"

This counterfactual question tries to situate Sri Lanka in the current world political context that is characterized by the simmering Arab revolution and imperialist intervention. With the expert report, the spokespersons of the Sri Lankan government have come forward to add two nice words into their usually barren political discourse, namely, anti-imperialism and national reconciliation.

On the other hand, the TNA leader has expressed that he and the TNA welcome the expert report and agree with its content. However, he has not explicitly stated that he and the TNA agree with the comment of the report on the LTTE position, though politically incorrect is understandable and I will come to that issue later.

War is a crime, a crime against humanity. This general rule is universally applied to every war that was waged by states, political groups etc. In this sense, war crime is a misnomer as there has been no war without criminal acts executed by the contenders. When I was writing this note, the Associated Press has reported that the U.S. drones fired five missiles at a house in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border today, killing at least 22 people. Does the UN and human right vocabulary include this in the category of war crime?

In the last phase of the Sri Lankan conflict, we all know many people, naturally many of them are civilians were killed. Of course, it would have been better if the two parties in Sri Lanka would have resolved their conflict without killing or harming people, civilians or combatants. That is the kind of world that we should build. However, many, including states and political groups believe that wars are unavoidable. Wars, like nationalism, have pragmatic value and may be justified by instrumental rational logic of nation-state. I cannot envision a crime-less war. Hence, the whole logic underlining the UN expert panel report is absolutely incorrect and the attempt reflects internationally accepted hypocrisy.

I do not subscribe to conspiracy theory. However, one thing is clear. Since the beginning of the last stage of war, there has been a conspiracy by the West led by USA, UK and France against Sri Lanka. Do Anglo-American imperialists engage in conspiracy?

The newspaper, The Independent, has recently revealed the conspiracy between the British government of Tony Blair and the major oil companies prior to the Iraqi invasion. However, this is what Blair said just before the invasion: "Let me just deal with the oil thing because... the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyze it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons..." ( Since the Sri Lankan government refused to obey the ‘orders’ of the West during the last phase of the war, these government seemed to be determined to ‘punish’ Sri Lanka by other means. The US and UK blocked the Sri Lankan government’s request for a 1. 9 billion dollar loan from the IMF. Finally, it was granted after sometime, as I heard, because of Indian intervention. Hence, there is no doubt that the real cat’s paw behind the report is Western imperialism.

We have seen that in the event of Egyptian Revolution, Ban Ki Moon acted just as puppet of the US government, reiterating what Secretary Hilary Clinton said the previous day. So, the report should be rejected not only on the ethical ground I outlined above, but also as a measure of resistance against Western hegemony, Negri and Hardt’s argument notwithstanding.

Does it mean that there is no issue here to be reckoned with?

Minister G. L. Peiris’s argument that the report would disturb the process of reconciliation that has been unleashed after the termination of war is absurd. The government has begun to talk about reconciliation and all other goodies to Tamils when it cannot withstand the pressure. The government has done nothing substantial to resolve the Tamil national question that cannot be reduced to the construction of roads and other infra-structure facilities.

The Minister must be well aware that there is no process to be disturbed. That is why I said although the decision of the TNA is politically incorrect (even from the Tamil nationalist perspective), it is understandable why the TNA took such a decision. Talk to any Tamil person either in Sri Lanka or the Tamil diaspora, they might welcome the report not just because they are keen to know the truth about what had happened in May 2009, but because the Government of Sri Lanka has not done anything meaningful to address the root causes of the conflict.

We have now reached a critical moment. Irrespective of the pressure coming from Western powers, as Sri Lankan citizens we should be determined to resolve the Tamil national question amicably. Such an effort needs concrete measures that cannot be reduced to diplomatic ball rolling. As far as the report is concerned, Sri Lanka can handle that issue aligning with India and getting the support of China and Russia and other developing countries.

As the responses to the Expert Panel Report have shown, Sri Lanka is still a divided country. In order to address this deep rooted issue, in my opinion, the political elite should immediately take four steps. No delays! No rhetoric, but concrete actions. The steps include:

(1) Establishment of Northern Provincial Council with full powers given in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and handing over all development and reconstruction projects in the province to the provincial council;

(2) Enactment of a Bill or Rights prepared by the Ministry of Justice;

(3) Lifting emergency regulations and restoration of elementary rights of people and

(4) release of political prisoners, including SarathFonseka.

On the basis of that, Sri Lanka could develop a new political culture and that would provide a basis for a just society. This is how we can defeat the subjugating attempts of the ‘empire’.


Only when the educated Sinhala people start to voice their love for other people in the country like this gentleman Sumanasiri Liyanage
will God's grace fall on this country. Otherwise this country will be doomed. Sri Lanka will move towards Damnation at an exponential speed.

Posted by: sri | April 24, 2011 08:46 PM

Dear Sir,

Quote : ) Establishment of Northern Provincial Council with full powers given in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and handing over all development and reconstruction projects in the province to the provincial council;

After 30 years of war with desth and destruction of nearly 150000 people and millions worth property damage and many to loose their limbs, you still haven't get out of this so called Majority ruling mentality.

After all you still feels like that Eastern province is not part of Tamil "Homeland".

Federal Solution is amicable and SUSTAINABLE ( remember that any solution forced on anyone needs to be sustainable for the peace to last) only the Majority accepts that

1) There exists a problem ( which seems a fiction to many)

2) There exist a problem belongs to both Eastern and Nothern Provice as a whole ( Problems exist in other Provicial level is a diffrent issue and more or less with developmental and educational as oppose to Eastern and Nothern are partly Due to language)

3) There exist two distinct language and culture ( Here again I like to stress that it is not Relegion and it is the language that is the fundamental problem and religion should never mingle with the politics- ever)

For the record, I don't justify the Violence by the LTTE and have not contributed a penny to them. They are qually responsible for the missery of the Tamil people.

Sudan president was charged with the Genocide but it seems the world is not looking seriously to implement the ruling after he agreed to host a referendum and things looks promising now and peace looks sustainable then ever before.

Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.” -- Chinese proverb

The only way to eliminate the violence against humanity is to eliminate the fundamental problem.

Posted by: Namasthe Sam | April 24, 2011 09:06 PM

Who are the people who falls under the category of "WE " ? Who decides who are the political prisoners including Sarath Fonseka ?

Even the national government formed at the independnence exluded sections of the community to fall outside "WE" and lost the head start in democracy in Asia.

Even if UNF led by SLFP and TNA agrees to embrace we, will it last without international guarantee ?

Empahasis on "WE" but talk about Middle East problems. Who is going to be the Abraham Lincoln of SL island is is the issue and not who is the of Dute Gemmunu of current Sinhala Nation SL.

Posted by: anonymous | April 25, 2011 05:41 AM

A lone and consistent voice for reason, justice and genuine reconciliation. Certainly this "Govt has done nothing substantial to solve the National Question" is known far too long and wide. If I may, it is just not the Tamil National Question but the National Question itelf affecting every man, women and child in the country. Or is it like SWRD, CBK and Ranil the regime wants to do something to solve or at least cause a dent in the matter - not because it loves the Tamils and peace more but because the love for uninterrupted power for family is far too tempting - but powerful sources within the country rather allow the country to go ablaze than move forward together in peace.

The points suggested are eminently reasonable but it will eventually have to be the Tamil-populated lands of the North East and not just the NP only. The list should also include the early restoration of all houses, lands and other assets seized under the illegal HSZ scheme. That the war is long over makes the denial of this collective land-grab by the State irrelevant. What, one might ask, is the need for HS Zones when there is no threat to security at all now - thanks also to the Rajapakses and the Fonsekas.


Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | April 25, 2011 06:48 AM

Dear Sumanasri

Why cannot we say let tamil people decide their own fate?.

Dont you think it is morally wrong to suppress the voices of an ethinic minority by giving some simple solutions like provincial councils?.

You dont talk about the Eastern tamils - are they a different breed?

Posted by: Vicks | April 25, 2011 07:50 AM

There is much that I agree with this polished presentation from Prof Sumanasiri Liyanage.

Each soverign state 'STATE' whether it be US, UK, France, Russia, China, Equitorial New Guinea or Sri Lanka defines itself with boundaries, immigration , emigration, welfare and employment legislation, conducts its respective governance to combat the threats against its statehood, collection of taxes, movements against secession. In this prcess when problems develop to the level of cancers with bombs blasting in buses, bombs falling on city centres in all parts of its territory by a terrorist movement funded from overseas with massive organisational skills, counter movementstoo will have to be equal if it is to have any chance of success.

I am still amazed, how the tiny Sri Lankan government achieved this feat against odds set by billionnaires operating from Western capitals.

Personally I am of the opinion that Northern Provincial Council should be no different from the Southern Provincial council. The depleted populace, infrastructure need resuscitation, ethnic cleansing over many decades should be redressed, primitive caste ridden culture of the North need s a total revamp. One has to accept that traditional political parties may not have the vision to accomplish this as there is little evidence of FP or its successorsrs taking positive action to build a free and fairsociety within Jaffna.

I would rather trust theverdict of courts as to whether General Fonseca is a political prisoner.

Many lessons on this can be learnt from Western nations - as to how Fascism was defeated and eliminated from Germany both East and West by allied forces. Today Aryan supremacy is believed in Germany, or the numerically small sections of collaborators of Poland, France, Norway etc. only by tiny minorities.

Posted by: Tissa Wije | April 25, 2011 08:59 AM

Further attempt to solve the so called question will lead to further bloodshed.So the status quo is better than a new solution.

Sumanasiri is simply succumbing to the pressure mounted by the UN.These people will act the same way when faced with a threat in their personnel life.

92% of the people does not want any solution.Even if a new solution is reached,the passing of the bill will be near impossible.

Only thing is make tamils equal citizens by other means in the constitution,rather than giving Kappan to TNA.

Posted by: PP | April 25, 2011 10:19 AM

The steps you propose 'to develop a new political culture' must include a public apology by President Mahinda Rajapaksa for injustices and crimes committed against Tamil people not only by his regime but also by successive government since Independence and pay reparation for the victims, particularly during the last phase of the war and initiate an internal independent inquiry with internatinal observers and institute judicial proceedings against those who committed crimes. You cannot ignore the elephant in the room and talk about amicable settlement. The Tamil people in Sri Lanka have been wronged, maimed, killed and decimated as a people. They have been subjugated by the Sinhala-dominated state and their demand for equal political rights continue to be denied and their attempts to secure accountability of their lost ones are being denied by the politico-military authorities. If their so-called protectors and liberators proclaim to the world that not a single civilian had been killed during the war is it wrong for them to seek help from wherever they can get it, be they imperialists or whatever?

Posted by: cyril | April 25, 2011 01:03 PM

I totally agree with this writer:

"Talk to any Tamil person either in Sri Lanka or the Tamil diaspora, they might welcome the report not just because they are keen to know the truth about what had happened in May 2009, but because the Government of Sri Lanka has not done anything meaningful to address the root causes of the conflict"

Hopefully Rajapakse's get the message.


Posted by: aratai | April 25, 2011 03:23 PM

Hei,there,the various Rajapakses,and the ex-Trotskites running the country:

Posted by: rajan karalsingham | April 26, 2011 10:39 AM

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