Photo courtesy news360.lk

Professor Urmila Phadnis the late doyenne of Lankanology in Indian academia was utterly discerning when she concluded over two decades ago in her last book (‘Ethnicity and nation-building in South Asia’) that Lankan Tamil ‘sub-nationalism’ was unique in the region in that it alone displayed an ‘autonomist-secessionist continuum’.

It was with shock and dismay that I found that the keynote speech of R Sampanthan at the 14th Convention of the ITAK in May 2012, echoes in significant respects those of Velupillai Prabhakaran, to the extent that that there are near-identical passages. Here is a single sample:

“The world does not revolve around the axis of justice. The freedom struggles of persecuted communities are not measured on the scales of justice. Global powers that preach of Democracy and Human Rights are themselves not the epitome of justice. We do not expect governments around the world and international organizations that support them to take pity on us, sacrifice their interests, and ensure that our rights are given to us.” That’s Mr. R Sampanthan, at the ITAK 14th Convention, May 2012.

Now ladies and gentlemen, here’s Mr V. Prabhakaran: “We are fully aware that the world is not rotating on the axis of human justice. Every country in this world advances its own interests. It is the economic and trade interests that determine the order of the present world, not the moral law of justice nor the rights of people. International relations and diplomacy between countries are determined by such interests. Therefore we cannot expect an immediate recognition of the moral legitimacy of our cause by the international community. That’s from the Maha Veera day Address of November 1993.

Mr Sampanthan, the most prominent local leader of the Northern Tamil community, which exists a few miles away from the sub-regional landmass, reiterates his party’s commitment to achieving with the support of the international community, the same ‘soaring aspirations’ that could not be achieved through armed struggle. He asserts—some would say confirms—that ‘the international community’, through its current stance, may open the space for the achievement of that goal: “…The current practices of the international community may give us an opportunity to achieve, without the loss of life, the soaring aspirations we were unable to achieve by armed force.” (R. Sampanthan, speech at ITAK 14th Annual Convention, Batticaloa, May 2012, Colombo Telegraph)

Plainly the ‘soaring aspiration’ is that of Tamil Eelam. He calls for the restoration of the degree of sovereignty that the Tamil people are said to have enjoyed over 500 years ago, prior to the advent of colonialism.  This refers to a completely independent political existence. “…Up to 500 years ago, the Tamil people established their own governments, and governed themselves.  Our party symbolizes a time in history…during which our people had their own sovereign Tamil governments…Our fundamental objective is to regain our community’s Home, its historical habitat and its sovereignty. The symbol of the House symbolizes this unshakeable aim…”  (Ibid) 

If the world were to be re-ordered by restoring the status quo ante of no less than half a millennium; if every minority of roughly a million people or a small fraction of a country’s citizenry, were to demand this right and seek its exercise, the world would be plunged into anarchy, chaos, bloodshed. This project cannot be entertained.

Mr Sampanthan’s transparent declaration of tactics could have been critique or caricature penned by a Sinhala chauvinist, and had it been authored by a Sinhalese, would have been dubbed ‘racist stereotyping’ (even by me). “…The softening of our stance concerning certain issues, and the compromise we show in other issues, are diplomatic strategies to ensure that we do not alienate the international community. They are not indications that we have abandoned our fundamental objectives…In other words – we must prove to the international community that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka… Although the issue at hand is the same, the prevailing conditions are different. The struggle is the same, but the approaches we employ are different. Our aim is the same, but our strategies are different. The players are the same, but the alliances are different. That is the nature of the Tamil people. Although we still have the same aim, the methods we use are now different…” (Ibid)

How then is one to apply the policy of containment to the Tamil secessionist temptation? It is far too risky to transfer provincial powers through an election to a party which openly declares that it not only dismisses the 13th amendment as solution; but also dismisses the unitary state as a framework and actually believes that a solution is not possible within a united Sri Lanka. It strategizes to convince the world community of that fact. In short it hopes to convince the world community that a solution for the Tamils is possible only outside a united Sri Lanka, i.e. in a separate, independent state. If such a party takes power in a Provincial Council it will doubtless feel impelled to push for more from the outset; to create situations of tension and confrontation while it uses the Council as a base for external recognition, which it will doubtless obtain from some quarters and to some degree. The Council may become a beachhead for external forces. If Colombo dissolves an adventurist provincial administration some external elements (such as a legislative assembly of co-ethnics in the sub-region) may recognise the boundaries/borders of the dissolved provincial unit as a basis for an independent state or transitional administration. This is how the former USSR and Yugoslavia broke up.

Similarly and conversely, it is imprudent in the extreme to abolish the existing Constitutional provisions for autonomy, unless it is as part of and superseded by an agreement with all parliamentary parties, including crucially, the main Tamil party. Here we are speaking of a successful outcome of the hoped-for Parliamentary Select Committee process. Unless that happens it is imperative to retain the status quo and avoid the deadly mistake that Milosevic was tempted to make, namely the constitutional revision that abolished the autonomous status of Kosovo which the Tito Constitution had provided. The Serbian ultranationalists regarded Marshal Josip Broz Tito as a (Croatian) Communist who had given away the historic rights of the majority Serbs. In pushing through the reversal of the autonomous status of Kosovo as a province of (within) Serbia, they lost their country a few years later and experienced the state of Yugoslavia forcibly shrunk through externally supported secession and military intervention, to Serbia alone.

The doctrine of containment of Tamil proto-secessionism has necessarily to consist of strong positive reforms. There must be a serious change in the nature and functioning of our state and society through a purposive shift to a policy of integration (not assimilation), the recognition and practice of pluralism, equal rights, non-discrimination, multiculturalism and meritocracy. Enlightened self-interest dictates enlightened reform.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Dayan,

    “The doctrine of containment of Tamil proto-secessionism has necessarily to consist of strong positive reforms. There must be a serious change in the nature and functioning of our state and society through a purposive shift to a policy of integration (not assimilation), the recognition and practice of pluralism, equal rights, non-discrimination, multiculturalism and meritocracy. Enlightened self-interest dictates enlightened reform.”

    You are absolutely right. You should to also change your commitment to the 13th amendment. The 13th amendment-particularly in reference to the Provincial Councils- has to be drastically revised or replaced. The ‘take it or leave it’ stance advocated by you in a comment elsewhere in groundviews.com with reference to the 13th amendment, would not contain the ‘Tamil proto-secessionism’ you refer to here.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • After reading this, the previous article by Dr Dayan Jayathilleke, and careful retrospective analysis of all his past analysis on the topic, I think Dr Jayathilleke deserves to be respectfully acknowledged, that he had the foresight on now obvious ‘autonomist-secessionist continuum’ in Tamil politics all throughout. It has certainly been an eye opener for me and probably to many Sri Lankans like me, who were optimistic about NE Tamils taking the democratic stream.

    As for Dr Jayathilleke’s recommendation for policy reform, may I stress ‘recognition and practice of pluralism, equal rights, non-discrimination, multiculturalism and meritocracy’ should mean that the Sri Lanka dismantle all barriers to equal opportunity (mainly adoption of a tri-lingual policy), establish separation of power, and a secular constitution too.

    Thank you

  • Candidly

    My guess is that the reason for the similarity between the speeches of R. Sampthan and V. Prabakharan is that the former wrote the speeches of the latter.

    • Sanjayan

      Candidly, I’m replying to you with what I already asked Dayan about because I thought the link he drew between prabaharan and sampanthan, based on that paragraph, was unwarranted. As I said before:

      It is misleading to link sampanthan’s ideas with prabaharan’s based on the paragraphs you have cited. Both paragraphs are what you could find in an “international relations 101? class. Many in Sri Lanka pointed to the hypocrisy and self-interested motives of the international community when the UNHRC resolution was being moved. As such, the paragraphs from both sampanthan and prabaharan’s speeches could well have come from a speech by the JHU or NFF.

  • Patriot

    To Summarize,

    If the government does not implement the 13th amendment, the TNA will resort to it’s “end-game” strategy, which is a non violent protest/civil disobedience campaign, that wil result in a crackdown by the GOSL, which will, in the post May 2009 SL, cause an international intervention, paving the way to secession.

    On the other hand, if the GOSL does implement the 13th amendment, the TNA and other “interested parties” will use the “dissolved provincial unit as a basis for an independent state or transitional administration” which will ultimately lead to secession.

    I’m beginning to see why many in the Diaspora argue that Tamil Eelam is inevitable.

  • Sanjayan

    Dayan,

    1. It is misleading to link sampanthan’s ideas with prabaharan’s based on the paragraphs you have cited. Both paragraphs are what you could find in an “international relations 101” class. Many in Sri Lanka said the same thing when they criticised sections of the international community when sections of it moved the UNHRC resolution. They pointed out that those sections did not truly act based on justice since they ignored their own war crimes (ie:do not rotate on the axis of justice); they also said that those countries only moved the resolution because of the pressure of Tamil diaspora lobbies/constituencies(ie:served their own interests). The point being, the paragraphs quoted don’t demonstrate a link in ideology between the two – they may as well have been from a speech by the JHU or the NFF.

    2.Is it clear that Sampanthan is referring to Eelam when he speaks of “soaring aspirations”? I don’t think it is. In fact a lack of clarity is the major failing of his speech, brought about by the tension running through it. On the one hand, immediately after assuring the delegates that the ITAK has not abandoned its “fundamental objectives”, he says, perhaps as a statement of that objective:

    “Our expectation for a solution to the ethnic problem of the sovereignty of the Tamil people is based on a political structure outside that of a unitary government, in a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil people have all the powers of government needed to live with self respect and self sufficiency.”

    This is clearly anti-Eelam and anti-separatist. But, admittedly he seems to contradict himself when he next turns to speak on the international community:

    “We must clearly prove to the international community that the Sri Lankan government, which has delayed for so long in giving the Tamil people their rights, has never made any genuine effort to do so. In other words – we must prove to the international community that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka. We must be patient until the international community realizes for itself that the effort we are involved in is doomed to fail. To put it more strongly, the international community must realize through its own experience, without us having to tell them, that the racist Sri Lankan government will never come forward and give political power to the Tamil people in a united Sri Lanka.”

    Then, after this he says (addressing the Sinhalese):

    “We have clearly asked for a solution within a united Sri Lanka, and we are committed to the achievement of such a goal. This solution must be reasonable, acceptable, realistic, and permanent. We are prepared to offer our cooperation and service to those committed to the achievement of such a solution.”

    There is no clear indication here of what exactly it is he wants. Asked for clarification in today’s sunday times (http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120603/Columns/political.html) he said:

    “I am for a united, undivided Sri Lanka where all the people who inhabit can live with equality and justice.”

    The speech seems contradictory; I don’t know that one can reconcile the two views. Perhaps in that case one should look at the context in which the speech was made? All recent statements by the TNA/ITAK, its elections manifesto, and indeed the statement of the author of the speech after the fact are anti-separatist. On that basis, perhaps they should be given the benefit of the doubt, and held to continue to be aiming at a solution within a united Sri Lanka? If not, what are we to make of the countless statements expressly rejecting a separate state made by the TNA/ITAK/Sampanthan, including the one reported today?

    • wijayapala

      Sanjayan

      The speech seems contradictory; I don’t know that one can reconcile the two views.

      Here’s my explanation from a few days ago:

      There is an alternative explanation for this glaring contradiction in Sampanthan’s speech: ITAK is suffering from a very similar form of schizophrenia that it had from its origin in 1949. It doesn’t know what it wants, and therefore both the Tamils and the Sinhalese can only guess what it is struggling for. Based on this reading of the speech, one should not fear ITAK but rather pity it and the Tamils whom it claims to represent. Sampanthan’s words point to the futility in seeking an elusive “political solution” for national reconciliation, because it clearly does not exist.

      Unlike Dayan, I do not smell a Tamil separatist conspiracy. Rather, I interpret Sampanthan’s lack of consistency in his message as a sign of the Tamil polity’s fragmentation and lack of cohesion. In acting as the Tamils’ representative, Sampanthan is simultaneously trying to win both the Tamil moderates and the separatist extremists. With this fragmentation, there will be no viable “political solution” because there will always be a section of the Tamil polity that will reject it.

      • Sanjayan

        sounds plausible, wijayapala. hopefully someone directly asks him to explain the apparent contradiction.

        it’s interesting to think about though, since sampanthan isn’t known to “shoot from the hip”. Plus, this wasn’t a random speech somewhere, it was at the ITAK convention, and the TNA has released it in all three languages. Sampanthan knew that his speech would be read and analysed by the whole spectrum of political opinion. Why then would he let such a glaring contradiction?

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Sanjayan, we’ve been there, done that and got a whole wardrobe of T shirts from the first negotiations between the LTTE and Premadasa right down to the CBK- Ranil years and the PTOMS, ISGA etc. We’re accustomed to the Balasingham double-speak and frankly, so are the Indians and the Norwegians. It seems to be a habit that’s caught on and lives on.

      Let’s not try that game of explaining away what’s in plain English. The ‘soaring aspirations’ which couldn’t ‘be achieved through armed struggle’? Through armed struggle, mind, not the years of satyagraha. That’s not Tamil Eelam?

      Yeah, right.

      Go tell that to whoever’s left of the Sudu Nelum boys and girls.

      • Sanjayan

        Dayan,

        Just to restate 1, isn’t it misleading to link the ideology of sampanthan with prabaharan on the basis of those paragraphs?

        I wasn’t trying to explain it away, but trying to understand it in the context of everything said before and after the speech. Assuming arguendo that I was trying to explain it away though, why is it impermissible to explain away the plain english addressed to the international community, and yet permissible to explain away the plain english re a solution in a united sri lanka in the other parts of the speech, and indeed in other statements by the TNA/ITAK/sampanthan?

      • Dayan John

        Dear Dr. Dayan,

        All of us are taking bits an pieces of the speech and trying to prove our respective case’s are n’t we doctor ?. Actually, that’s not such a bad thing and we need to continue engaging with each other. At least ITAK has stimulated this discussion amongst us.
        However, for a moment if we were to detach ourselves from the unalienable strings we all have to operate with, we would see the REALITY AS OF TODAY as regards to national reconciliation. To make things simpler allow me to put it in point form.

        A. As you Very correctly Imply, Dr. Dayan, The aspirations of the ITAK and TNA are suspect.They could be asking for one thing and having in my another.

        B. Sampanthans argument of the power sharing arrangement of 500 years ago, is a strong one. Except for brief periods, totaling aprox 90 years of our 2500 year history, the Island has been ruled by different kings, Chieftain, Warlords and Emperial agents,etc, in various parts. The Dutugemunu’s and Parakrambahus et all, did bring all these rulers under one flag, but that was never a sustainable arrangement and did not last long. The point I’m trying to make is Sri Lanka is so diverse in it’s environment, culture and demographics,etc, that achieving a synergic “Nationhood” has and will always be a Challenge.

        C. Today it is my humble opinion that a majority of Sri Lankans want to be one nation, and that it is quite possible, and infact would be the ideal.

        So if this is the reality, What would be the cost of creating “One Sri Lanka”? To my thinking, we must shed our sentimental/ Romantic notion of the traditional Sri Lanka, and realistically move towards a new nation, sacrificing some of our deep-rooted images. One such indoctrination every Sri Lankan kid goes through is the idea that the Mango Shaped country of Sri Lanka was one country, where from the times of Wijaya the, Capital moved from Aunradhapura to Polonnaruwa to Dambadenya,Yapahuwa, Gampola and Kandy. Which gives the child the impression that for at least 2500 years, the Mango shaped Lanka was a Unitary state under one king, underone flag in one Capital. How misleading, what of the 03 kingdoms of Kotte, Seethawaka and Raigama and What about Sankiliyan & Vanniyan Kings in Jaffna, and Pararajasingham the last king of Jaffna.
        No School going child knows about the existence of a Kingdom in Jaffna.
        Is n’t there some thing really wrong in our brain washed psyche ?.

        Here’s the NUTSHELL: It is not impossible for SL to be One country, but it will require power sharing,and Yes, Police and Land powers to the North & East provinces, a change of attitude of all communities, the Proper dissemination of History. But all of this will come at with a HUGE RISK. THE RISK OF SECESSION. Every man and woman, boy and girl will have to think, talk and act right, if the danger on separate state is to be mitigated.
        It’s Risk we have to take if we are to progress.
        Over to you all….

      • Sanjayan

        what do you think of this?
        http://www.dailymirror.lk/opinion/19231-i-am-prepared-to-compromise.html

        sampanthan being interviewed, and questions being asked about many of those paragraphs quoted here

      • georgethebushpig

        Dear Sanjayan,

        Thanks for sharing the Sampanthan’s interview in the Daily Mirror. How is it that many of us “got it” in the 1st reading but Dr. Jayatilleke was unable to comprehend something so basic? Is it the problem that I referred to in the following post http://groundviews.org/2012/05/31/on-the-nonsense-of-being-united-andnoror-unitary/#comment-45038 or is it something more sinister?

        Mr. Sampanthan even refers to Dr. Jayatilleke’s biased writing and cautions him of going down the Ms. Kunanayakam road. Of course Mr. Sampanthan has forgotten that Dr. J was the one who inaugurated that road! I wonder what kind of grovelling one must have to do to get back in favour with da Prez? The head honcho must have very shiny boots!

  • rita

    Civilised humanity : devolution of power to various extents for those who seek to live apart to various extents.
    Uncivilised inhumanity : physical(pogroms), legal(constitution) and psychological(army of occupation) crushing of those who seek devolution AFTER intolerable oppression

  • rita

    Dayan
    You are Rajapakse’s proxy to write a series of articles to ward him off from attacks for failing to give devolution of power. You have a never-ending job:
    “If I make any devolutionary concessions to the Tamils, it will be curtains for me” – http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers46/paper4558.html

  • Kuththuvilakku

    Mr. Sambanthan did his best to please the many political parties in the country and the three or four major groups of Tamils in the Diaspora. If that was not enough he tried to please the countries he is in touch with and the UNHRC. He made a sambar of it all that no one like. I doubt whether he likes it himself let alone ITAK.
    May be he tried to make a quilt with pieces given by every Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim groups and the IC. It is too big to fit anyone’s bed. It is gaudy and heavy.
    If he could have taken the best thread from the pieces of cloth he got, making sure that they are strong but flexible and compatible to make a whole, attractive and functional quilt, he could have risen to be the statesman which Sri Lanka has not seen for a very long time and there is no one in the horizon to fit the bill. Sad.

  • DJ, wittingly or unwittingly, misrepresents Sam’s statement when he says that he (Sam) believes in a solution outside united Sri Lanka. It is quite clear that Sam does not believe in a solution within unitary state and he is committed to finding a solution within ‘united undivided Sri Lanka’. Then he goes onto say that they should ‘prove to the international community that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka’. Surely, he must have grounds to prove to that. Have not the Sinhala leaders created the grounds and continue to do so for Sam to make a case to the international community?

    The policy of containment of any secessionist trends should be to address the cause of such trends. A matured democracy would counter such trends by meaningful devolution of power and Sri Lanka’s national interests would be best served by proving to the international community that the Tamil people are enabled to realize their rights within a united Sri Lanka, i.e, by implementing meaningful develotion of power to the Tamil people within their historical habitat.

    DJ’s stance as stated somewhere else to effect that a house should be built but should not be leased out until agreeable tenants are found borders on Sinhala nationalist ideology and shows scant disregard to the dignity of the Tamil people who have an equal claim to the land. They and their representatives should not be treated as tenants; they are the owners of their land and they are quite capable of building their own houses once they have the power to do so. And the Sinhala leaders should treat the elected representatives of the Tamil people as equal partners in reconstructing a united Sri Lanka. That is the enlightened way.

  • Agnos

    Let us put some context to understanding Sampanthan’s speech: the elected leaders of Sri Lanka remain war criminals; they continue to indulge in abductions and extrajudicial killings; more than 3 years after the brutal war, the larger Sinhalese polity says Tamils have no grievances, that they already have equal rights, and insists that Tamils should continue to live in a unitary Sri Lanka in a subservient position, where the Sinhala language and Buddhism will continue to enjoy constitutionally protected primacy, and where the government can arbitrarily dispossess, arrest, detain, or disappear Tamil people at will.

    None of that is worth getting exercised over; after all, thousands of Tamils were slaughtered in the name of counter insurgency, what is just another abduction and killing of a Demala?

    But an aging Tamil leader who has no choice but to go through the charade of talks with war criminals because of the oppressive power they enjoy, as well as pressure from international community, decides to speak some truth to power, and presto, look at how people are exercised!

    What Tamils need today is not a condescending political solution from war criminals and their sycophants. They need justice, dignity and security. As long as these are missing, Tamil people will continue to articulate their aspirations; while the majority of Tamils do not want secession in their hearts, they know from experience that the Sinhalese polity at large will not even agree to a substantive political solution within a united Sri Lanka.

    How will people who say the 13th amendment is already too much, ever agree to federalism, for instance? Tamil people at large have no illusions about it; it is only the international community that continues to indulge in wishful thinking about the GoSL. It is that point that Sampanthan is articulating. And if Sinhalese polity doesn’t prove that deeply held conviction among Tamils wrong even at a late stage within a reasonable time, Tamils are entitled to think aloud about secession as long as they remain steadfastly non-violent. Sampanthan is simply implying—

    1. Talks with the GoSL has remained a charade because the GoSL is a regime of war criminals that simply wants to continue the status quo.
    (Though some Sinhalese say the JHU is a fringe party, the Rajapaksas have embraced them and point to their opposition to political solution to maintain the status quo. And the Sinhalese polity does not get exercised about it; rather, it continues to support this criminal regime with gusto.)
    2. ITAK as a responsible party should still counsel patience and try to work out a solution within a united Sri Lanka even if it is Tamils’ belief that the GoSL will never grant anything substantive even within a united Sri Lanka; saying secession will remain a longer term option is to just to tell the hardline elements that though they may have truth on their side, they shouldn’t do anything violent out of frustration, and still give the Sinhalese polity and the international community a chance.

    Given this context, I see no contradiction in Sampanthan’s speech, no forked tongue, as some are implying.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Only some people are exercised, Agnos? You obviously haven’t read the editorials on the subject of the speech and Tamil politics, in three mainstream English language Sunday papers– the Sunday Times, the Sunday Island and the Sunday Lakbima. That’s liberal-conservative elite opinion in Colombo. How exercised do you think the vast majority (and I do mean vast, given the new census stats) of citizens will be?

      When ‘an aging Tamil leader’ makes the kind of radical statements that Martin Macguiness does not, and keeps pleading for patience while he’s doing so, then you know that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

      Even the Sinn Fein does not speak of ‘internal self-determination’ or indeed of federalism.

      The rejectionism reflected in the speech (‘the 13th amendment is not a solution…a solution is not possible in a united Sri Lanka’) bodes ill.

      • Daniella Samuel

        The present Governtment wants to project to the world that there are exteme tamil elements in Sri Lanka and they even want the tamils to take up arms again – little bit here and there, something that they can contain. This is why there was someone arranged to hold a tiger flag on the May day celebration in Jaffna. THis is why they have done absolutely nothing to solve the ethnic issue. Why, we may ask…well then they can hide behind terrorist problem for all the blunders they are making in the economic front. And they can also tell the international community which has turned against them,(something they didn’t bargain for when they won the war) ‘look we have extreme elements to deal with’. So, locally and internationally, a not too violent, but a slight violent tamil community in Sri Lanka will be for their advantage. Reading Dayan’s article makes me wonder whether he has been asked to work towards that end?? He takes one comment by Sampanthan and goes to such length to bring out this agenda of the state. Sadly, all of us – sinhalese, tamils and muslims stand to lose by this strategy. Most of us cannot see it, because we don’t look beyond our small ethnic outlook.

  • Nelum Bandara

    rita

    There was something like the following in Mahinda Chintanaya I:

    ”The doctrine of containment of Tamil proto-secessionism has necessarily to consist of strong positive reforms.”

    But the only problem is that we have too many curtains:

    ”The government’s Action Plan, on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations, which was submitted in secrecy to the US recently, should be tabled in parliament, the UNP has told the Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa” – Speaker urged to table Govt’s Action Plan on LLRC proposals to US, Zacki Jabbar, 1 June 2012, http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=53398

  • Leela

    What ‘late stage’ Agnos is talking about, Tamils have been talking secession even the 1920s. According to DBS Jayaraj, an unknown man named Visvalingam had first mooted for the division of Sri Lanka which he called ‘Elom’ in the 1920s. Surely, Tamils couldn’t have had grievances when British were the rulers. Like you Agnos now, Jayaraj too says not many Tamils took notice of secession at the time. That’s a twist of the truth: It’s not because; “… majority of Tamils do not want secession in their hearts ….” as you wrote above. But because separation was not in their favour at the time for Tamils held over 50% of all jobs in Sri Lanka at the time and moreover they were the ruling class next to British Raj.

    At the time, Ramanathans and Ponnambalams were thinking that Vellalahs were the intelligent and the ruling class of future and Sinhalas the ‘modayas’. So much so, GG Ponnambalam couldn’t keep it to himself. He boasted; “The great Sinhala kings are Tamils. The Sinhalese were a nation from the hybridization of small class of people from the north India. They were a nation of hybrids without history.” And that caused Tamil-Sinhala riots in Nawalapitiya in 1939 to start. That is long before Bandaranaike gained power in 1956 and the riots in 1958. Now you can see Agnos who and what started the first riots for you people to feel insecure even now.

    Getting back to my earlier point, to preserve the Tamil Vellalahs grip at the time, Ramanathans asked one extra seat for Jaffna Tamils in the south in 1920s, and the Ponnambalams asked 50-50 in the 1930s, and so called thantai Chelva asked federal in the 1940s and 50s and upped it to separatism in 1950s – 70s and finally urged the youth on May 14th 1976 to take up arms and never to lay it down until Eelam is won. If you follow dates and the sequences it would be obvious that Tamil aspirations are what brought about grievances to them, not visa versa.

    And Pirapakaran terrorised this nation for thirty years to realize that aspiration. He had 342 human bombs blast our buses, trains and public places to kill and maim thousands of young, old and the sick. I am not bothered whether JHU is a fringe party or not, what mattered is JHU and other progressive parties had paved the way to elect Rajapakse as President with the sole aim of eradicating LTTE. Now that there are no refugee camps, no detainees, no check points, no barricades you are not happy.

    Unlike when he waved the flag, Sambandan is at least honest this time round. He said; both unitary and united is not satisfactory to him; 13A is not sufficient; he wants Sinhalese polity to meet ‘soaring aspirations’ that Tamils couldn’t get through war. If that is the case giving 13A minus, or 13A, or even 13A plus won’t do. Sure they’ll take whatever is given and use those powers to agitate for more. I say give nothing. When I say give nothing, I mean none of the above. Devolve power at village level and share legislative power at the centre. And the long term solution is the proven solution of assimilation and not integration. Isn’t that what those European leaders demand from minorities there. How can we do it? Well, this has to be discussed at length.
    Leela

    • wijayapala

      Leela,

      Elsewhere you said that you could not distinguish between a Colombo Tamil or Sri Lankan Tamil or Indian Tamil etc. Now you are singling out the Vellalas. Did you not earlier say “Tamils are Tamils?” Could you kindly explain your sudden enlightenment of the diversity in the Tamil community?

      Ramanathans asked one extra seat for Jaffna Tamils in the south in 1920s, and the Ponnambalams asked 50-50 in the 1930s, and so called thantai Chelva asked federal in the 1940s and 50s and upped it to separatism in 1950s – 70s and finally urged the youth on May 14th 1976 to take up arms and never to lay it down until Eelam is won. If you follow dates and the sequences it would be obvious that Tamil aspirations are what brought about grievances to them, not visa versa.

      I have a question to ask you: when someone like GG Ponnambalam says stupid things about the Sinhalese (that reveal a great deal of his own mental state), are Sinhalese justified in retaliating against the entire Tamil community with violence??? You surely are aware that the Kandyans in the 1920s also had “grievances” that led them to blather about federalism, Kandyan nation and so forth. How come there were no anti-Kandyan riots? Why was it that only the Tamils were punished when their leaders said dumb things?

      Given your interest in timelines, you are aware that Tamil militancy hardly posed a threat to Sri Lanka until the 1983 riots, after which thousands of Tamil youth joined the various armed groups and really began the civil war. If not for Black July, the civil war would have never began and Prabakaran would eventually have been caught or killed (like his right-hand man Charles Anthony). Also the Sinhalese did not go on a rampage after far worse provocations like the Anuradhapura massacre. If we had self-discipline back then, we should have at least the same today and not overreact to what Tamil politicians say.

      And Pirapakaran terrorised this nation for thirty years to realize that aspiration. He had 342 human bombs blast our buses, trains and public places to kill and maim thousands of young, old and the sick. I am not bothered whether JHU is a fringe party or not, what mattered is JHU and other progressive parties had paved the way to elect Rajapakse as President with the sole aim of eradicating LTTE.

      You forgot to mention that LTTE played the greatest role in electing MR to the presidency by preventing northern Tamils from voting. You also forgot that for every LTTE bomb blast in the south, the LTTE murdered 100 Tamils who did not properly worship Prabakaran or who said the wrong thing. So instead of weeping with your Sinhala self-pity, it might help to have a little empathy for the Tamils who have suffered far worse than us by the hands of other Tamils.

      • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

        Wijepala,

        Well said! What Leela has articulated is how many Sinhalese interpret history. It needed airing. Your reply is apt.

        It is not the Sinhala and Tamil people per-se who are to be blamed for our present circumstances, but our-joint- inability to produce ‘Quality’ leaders. The Ramanathans,Ponnambalams, Chelvanayagams, Amirthalinghams and Sambanthans, were/are no better or no worse than a whole sequence of so-called Sinhala political leaders we had/have. They are in fact too numerous to list here!

        As recalled recently by Santhaseelan Kathirgamar, only the likes of Handy Perinpanayagams and his colleagues in the Jaffna Youth Congress could be described as true nationalists with a vision for Sri Lanka. They were far in advance of their times and their contemporaries. Unfortunately, they and their ideals, were overwhelmed by third rate men and their ideals died with them. Sri Lanka is the poorer for this.

        Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      • Leela

        Yes, regardless where they live, I insist Tamils are Tamils. For example; Tamil Nadu Tamils being divided in to various casts and religion doesn’t mean only some of them are Tamils. They are all considered Tamils. Same rule should apply for Indian Tamils as well as Malaysian Tamils, UN Tamils, Colombo Tamils, Batte Tamils, Jaffna Tamils and few Tamils who live in my home town. I have seen them sobbing the day that Pirapakaran was killed. Besides, they all speak the same language and revere same heroes. Weera Pandiya Katta Boman is an epic hero for all of them. So, Tamils regardless where they live are a one society.

        I emphasized Vellalahs above because they were the circle of power then, and Ponnanbalams and Ramanathans happened to be Vellalahs, and Vellalahs are the ones that induce racism in to not so educated Tamil society at large to win elections by demagoguery.

        Let’s be honest Wijayapala, ‘soaring aspiration’ of most of the seventy million or so Tamils all over the world by far is for a Tamils country. When DK protagonists misarably failed their separatist project in India they shifted the emphasis of that aspiration to ‘Elom’ or Eelam in little Sri Lanka. Today, one need only follow what Karunanithi and Jayalalitha says to understand the depth of it.

        When LTTE and Pirapakaran had been wiped out, Sinhalese expected Tamils to settle down for a peaceful living. We didn’t think of what I wrote above then. When Tamils kept on demanding what demanded in 1920s, we realized they do not understand what they can get and what they cannot. When Diaspora Tamils started their new LTTE under different names; TGTE, GTF, BTF etc and tried to reignite the Waddukkodai declaration in the form of a guerrilla war we knew Tamils are on new roadmaps to reach the same goal.

        As for your question ‘are Sinhalese justified in retaliating against the entire Tamil community with violence?’ The answer is emphatic ‘no’. We should embrace Tamils as part of us. But giving in to ‘soaring aspiration’ cannot be the answer. And that ‘Kandyan nation’ demands were an old hat; it no longer exists in our vocabulary. We should find a way for Tamils in Sri Lanka to follow suit. To make it success we should keep racist Tamils out.

        As for 83 riots that started after LTTE killed 13 soldiers, and follow up turmoil and mayhem triggered with the ban on JVP, most of us lay full blame on JRJ. I am positive such incidents would never take place ever again in Sri Lanka. We want not la Libya but peaceful Sri Lanka.
        Leela

      • wijayapala

        Dear Leela

        Thank you for your reply. I will answer your points.

        Tamil Nadu Tamils being divided in to various casts and religion doesn’t mean only some of them are Tamils. They are all considered Tamils.

        Anthropologists who have done field research in Sri Lanka have observed that low-caste Tamils often refer to high-caste Tamils simply as “Tamils,” as if implying that the low-castes themselves are not Tamil or less than Tamil. How would you explain that?

        I have a secret to tell you (don’t tell anyone): the Tamils like any other category of people only get a sense of ethnic unity as “Tamils” only when confronted with non-Tamils. That is why Tamil nationalism generally has been weaker in Tamil Nadu compared to Sri Lanka: Tamils are the majority in TN but a minority in SL. The Sri Lankan Tamils in particular only got really nationalist after things like Sinhala-Only and anti-Tamil violence.

        Have you ever been to Tamil Nadu?

        Besides, they all speak the same language

        Do you speak Tamil? I ask because if you were to say yes, I would then ask whether you speak Sri Lankan or Indian Tamil. These two categories of Tamil are sufficiently different that often Indian Tamils will not understand the Sri Lankan dialect. Sri Lankans do better in understanding the Indian dialect only because it is used in all the movies, but often they will not understand the patois spoken in Chennai.

        In fact, when Prabakaran met with Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s, often Balasingham would use the Sri Lankan dialect to give Prabakaran advice because Rajiv’s Indian Tamil translators would not be able to understand it!

        When DK protagonists misarably failed their separatist project in India they shifted the emphasis of that aspiration to ‘Elom’ or Eelam in little Sri Lanka.

        I have one small question for you: how come none of the Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups allowed any Indian Tamils to join?

        When Tamils kept on demanding what demanded in 1920s, we realized they do not understand what they can get and what they cannot.

        What did they demand in 1920s? The “Eylom” of 1920s was spoken by one man but was not accepted by the masses.

        When Diaspora Tamils started their new LTTE under different names; TGTE, GTF, BTF etc and tried to reignite the Waddukkodai declaration in the form of a guerrilla war we knew Tamils are on new roadmaps to reach the same goal.

        If they have the same goal, then why are they divided into different and even competing groups?

        As for your question ‘are Sinhalese justified in retaliating against the entire Tamil community with violence?’ The answer is emphatic ‘no’. We should embrace Tamils as part of us. But giving in to ‘soaring aspiration’ cannot be the answer.

        I am opposed to devolution myself, but even I have to admit that the anti-Tamil violence that we failed to stop had strengthened the devolution movement. As long as the Tamils do not get a guarantee that they will no longer be the victims of this kind of violence, they will harbor separatist goals for their safety.

      • Nithyananthan

        Thanks again to you, Mr. wije. By your excellent response with elaborate explanation on existing realistic differences between the two Tamils, you have relieved many of us from the pains of responding to Madam Leela. With high appreciation to you and GV for latter’s service and objectivity. Nithy!

      • Leela

        My dear Wijayapala,
        We both can go on and on questioning the answers and/or answering the questions on pros and cons of (to put it the way you like) legitimacy and rationality on ‘soaring aspirations’ of Tamils. I am getting tired of it. So, let me conclude my side like this: you guys first tried to get it (soaring aspirations) from the British Raj through conniving ways but failed. When the British left you demanded it through so-called peaceful means (satyagraha). When that failed you tried to get it through outright war. Since that too is buried in Nanthikadal, you lot are trying to manipulate to get it through external intervention, now.

        There is one thing that you lot does not understand; those pseudo international lot and India that you think will bring your ‘soaring aspirations’ have their own aspirations and changing game plans to get it. If Rajapakses show for awhile that he is dancing to their tune, your game is over. hi hi.
        Leela

  • rita

    Leela: ”Now that there are no refugee camps, no detainees, no check points, no barricades”

    ????

    Mmmhhhh…. some eyes see differently from others:

    Reply by Groundviews to nelum:

    Why don’t you read Marisa de Silva and the account of Jaffna published in The Hindu quoted in 3 years after the end of war: Official statements vs. reality. Also read the comments by students in Jaffna University in Jaffna students speak on military intimidation. A TNA MP has expressed his views over the degree of military control here. Col Hariharan notes on 27 May,… – http://groundviews.org/2012/06/04/gotabhaya-rajapaksa-on-ethnicity-in-northern-sri-lanka-post-war/

  • Candidly

    If the first folly in Mr Sampanthan’s ITAK speech was his apparant declaration to revive the aim of a separate Tamil state, the second was his total failure to suggest any practical steps to ameliorate the suffering of the Sri Lankan Tamils of the north in the post-war period.

    In the North of Sri Lanka are concentrated tens of thousands of war-widows, children without fathers, disabled people, people without adequate accomodation, families without bread-winners, etc. Mr Sampanthan has nothing practical to say about helping and guiding ordinary Sri Lankan Tamils from the north with these burning problems.

    Given this environment of the corrupt and impractical thinking of the north’s traditional and dominant political leadership, it should not be too difficult for realistic and practical-minded men and women to come forward and provide Sri Lankan Tamils from the north with the pragmatic and rational leadership they now need.

  • Velu Balendran

    Take it or leave it. Obsolete fossilised ideas have no place – a refreshing the view from the youth.

  • georgethebushpig

    Dear Dr. Jayatilleke,

    I see the menu of the day is reheated left-overs: lukewarm sambar and stale iddly.

    Did you start another thread because the discussion wasn’t going your way in your “Breakout Strategy” article? Did Dr. Narendran, Bira and Sanjayan’s excellent insights on the 13th Amendment (your proposed bridge to nowhere) and the fallacy of comparing Prabhakaran and Sampanthan a shocking and dismaying turn towards the truth?

    In the spirit of consuming stale leftovers let’s try this again: “soaring aspirations” is the achievement of self determination. “Internal self-determination” refers to achieving greater autonomy of one’s own affairs within a united country (territorial integrity of the state is not compromised). If this outcome is not forthcoming then “external self-determination” (secession) will be the only path left to be followed… once again. The call for secession in the past was a response to failed attempts at gaining self-determination. The militant approach also failed in achieving secession and its consequent “soaring aspirations” of self-determination. This is the sequence of argumentation that Sampanthan put forward and not the spin you gave it. The responsibility and the power lies almost singularly with the GOSL for neutralizing the secession option.

    As our own home-grown-elder-academician and sane counsel, Prof. Gananath Obeyesekere has argued, what was and is still needed, is a “massive show of goodwill” towards the Tamil community so that they can feel secure in their knowledge that they never will be the casualties of racist policies ever again. Dr. Narendran, Bira and Sanjayan are echoing the same sentiments… more power to them/us/we,I&I.

    • Dayan John

      Well said Georgethebushpig (I hope you will change this name)

      I could n’t agree with you more, and I’m thinking the Good Dr. DJ has been corenered by you. But knowing him he will dig deep into his intelect and knowledge and come out with somethng, and he will keep on doing it as long as he is on the payroll. But the ground realities in SL will be the same.

      So dear george….. please keep it rolling and keep enlightening us all.

    • Nithyananthan

      As usual your imprint is glowing bright; it’s an excellent response, Mr. GETP. Thanks, Nithy!

  • Dear friends!

    All of you have written a lot!

    But, first of all, the Root Cause of the problems of Lanka has been the Sinhala – ‘Theravada’ Buddhist nationalism based on false and imaginary doctrine: “Aryan” – Sinhala – Sinhalese – ‘Theravada’ Buddhism – Lanka with one – to-one correspondence.

    From 1850s, Sinhala ‘learned’ like James d’Alwis, Anagaraka Dhammapala and others and foreigners like Annie Besant and others started formulating Sinhala – ‘Theravada Buddhist nationalism based on false and imaginary doctrine: “Aryan” – Sinhala – Sinhalese – ‘Theravada’ Buddhism – Lanka with one – to-one correspondence. Please read “Buddhist Popular Lectures” – Annie Besant, 1908, Madras and other publications.

    The Paragraph – 28 of the UN Panel Report also confirms this. It states:

    “After independence, political elites tended to prioritize short-term political gains, appealing to communal and ethnic sentiments, over long-term policies, which could have built an inclusive state that adequately represented the multicultural nature of the citizenry. Because of these dynamics and divisions, the formation of a unifying national identity has been greatly hampered. Meanwhile, SINHALA-BUDDHIST NATIONALISM GAINED TRACTION, ASSERTING A PRIVILEGED PLACE FOR THE SINHALESE AS THE PROTECTORS OF SRI LANKA,AS THE SACRED HOME OF BUDDHISM. THESE FACTORS RESULTED IN DEVASTATING AND ENDURING CONSEQUENCES FOR THE NATURE OF THE STATE, GOVERNANCE AND INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS IN SRI LANKA.”

    The UN Panel Report thus emphasizes that the ‘ROOT CAUSE’ of the problems of Lanka has been its SINHALA BUDDHIST NATIONALISM based on the SACRED DOCTRINE: SINHALA – SINHALESE – BUDDHISM – LANKA with ONE TO ONE CORRESPONDENCE.

    ‘Sacredness’ is purely IMAGINARY!

    Anyway, what the UN Panel identified as the Root Cause’ of the problems of our country was further confirmed by the LLRC appointed by the HE Rajapakse.

    The Paragraph 8.150 of the Commission says:

    “The Commission takes the view that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people. The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance.”

    Though the LLRC has spoken about the ‘Root Cause,’ it failed to analyze and find out correctly and state WHAT CAUSED THE GENUINE GRIEVANCES OF THE TAMILS!

    On the other hand, the LLRC Report INDIRECTLY JUSTIFIES the VIOLENT SEPARASTIST AGENDA OF THE TAMILS!

    Under ‘The Different Phases in the Narrative of Tamil Grievances’ the Commission has highlighted in para.8.163 of its Report that:

    “The decisive rift in the inter-ethnic relationship came first with the riots of 1958, then in1977, and culminating in what is known as ‘Black July’ of 1983, and the heinous failure of the then Government to provide adequate protection to Tamil citizens. The problems pertaining to the Tamil Community and their grievances cannot be fully addressed without a fuller understanding of this culture of violence that marred the relationship between the Sinhala and Tamil communities.”

    Thus, the LLRC indirectly accepts that the “CULTURE OF VIOLENCE” was introduced in the country NOT BY THE TAMILS, BUT BY THE SINHALESE AND IT WAS INDIRECTLY CATALYZED BY THE GOVERNMENTS OF SRI LANKA.

    Though the LLRC Report does not mention specifically WHAT CAUSED THE GENUINE GRIEVENCES OF THE TAMILS, i.e. the real ‘ROOT CAUSE’ of the problems of Lanka, it has come out with some recommendations that would eradicate to great extant the Sinhala – ‘Theravada’ Buddhist nationalism if implemented fully.

    For these reasons only, the Sinhala Ruling class and the GOSL has consistently refused to implement the recommendations made by the LLRC appointed by HE Rajapakase! For these reasons only the Sinhala Theravada Buddhist say that by appointing LLRC HE Mahinda Rajapakse has put hanging rope round his neck!

    While dragging the process of finding a durable political solution, the GOSL and its armed forces has been been engaged in the process of implementing some preliminary programs in the NORTH AND THE EAST that would assist the future implementation of the Sinhala – Theeravaada Buddhist nationalism! Here only destroying “Saivaite’ temples, erecting Buddha statues, building Buddhist temples near the existing Saivaite temples etc. on one hand and taking over of the lands at specified places by the Armed forces, building new settlements for the families of the armed force personnel, interference in local administration etc. etc. come!

    Unless the Sinhala nation rejects in words and deeds its Sinhala ‘Theravada’ Buddhist nationalism based on false and imaginary doctrine “Aryan” – Sinhala – Sinhalese – ‘Theravada’ Buddhism – Lanka with one – to-one correspondence, ‘Tamil nationalism’ will continue to exist and no political solution would be possible!!

    Thua, in Dayan’s words: “The doctrine of containment of Tamil proto-secessionism has necessarily to consist of strong positive reforms. There must be a serious change in the nature and functioning of our state and society through a purposive shift to a policy of integration (not assimilation), the recognition and practice of pluralism, equal rights, non-discrimination, multiculturalism and meritocracy. Enlightened self-interest dictates enlightened reform.” !!!!

  • alex fernando

    Interestingly the authors recommendation is for state reform. Don’t think anyone will argue with the objective, the issue is how it should be achieved. The international community has a road map for that reform which is certainly a good start.

  • Nalliah Thayabharan

    In 1931 the Vellalar attacked the lower castes for hiring drummers for funerals. The message of the Vellalars was clear – no low castes could hire drummers for funerals! Do Tamil speaking Sri Lankans need to be reminded that they did not allow low castes to enter any place that Vellalar frequented? Yet when a government directive on “equal seating” emerged violence broke out in 1929 against low caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankan sitting on benches as previously they had to sit on the floor! This was how Tamil speaking Sri Lankans treated their own!Continuous petitions were written pleading the Government to cancel the directive. Ponnambalam Ramanathan went to request the Colonial Office in London to encode caste into legislative enactments.

    It was S.W.R.D Bandaranaike who opened the doors for low caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans to attend schools & temples – places that were taboo to them by their own Tamil speaking brethren.
    The Social Disabilities Act No. 21 was passed in the parliament in 1957 giving lower castes of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans the right to attend schools & temples as the part of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike’s plan was to penetrate into the “low caste” votes of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans.

    No sooner Vellalar realized the dangers of SLFP led by S.W.R.D Bandaranaike courting the low caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans, Vellalar devised their response. It was to create the best division possible. A rift between the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans and Sinhala speaking Sri Lankans which would strike better success than low caste-Vellalar divisions among Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. It is important to note that the satyagrahas, the tarring of Sinhala letter “SRI” on vehicle licence plates launched by the Veluppilai Chelvanayagam led Federal Party and G.G Ponnampalam led Tamil Congress – both Vellala high class political parties happened a year after making Sinhala the official language. Why did Federal Party and Tamil Congress not cry foul over the Sinhala Only Act in 1956 but oppose the Social Disabilities Act on 1957 with such venom? It is because Tamil speaking Sri Lankans wanted to deprive their own.

    Similarly, when the Srimavo led SLFP Government introduced university standardization in 1973 those that opposed were those who were against equitable distribution. The schools in thirteen out of twenty two districts did not produce a single engineering or medicine student until 1974. Students from Colombo and Jaffna who had been privy to education opposed opportunities that would be enjoyed by students from Batticaloa, Vanni, Ampara, Mannar, Monaragala & other less developed districts. While the composition of the ethnicity did not change entrance, for Tamil speaking Sri lankans it meant not only the Vellalar but lower caste Tamil speaking Sri Lankans too would gain university entrance. This was why Vellalar opposed the 1973 university standardization introduced by Srimavo led SLFP Government.

    Tamil speaking Sri Lankans who cry “discrimination” may like to recall how in the refugee camps during the 1983 riots Vellalar refused to share common toilet facilities with the low castes and a lot of problems arose inside the very camps housing only Tamil speaking Sri Lankans!

  • Anpu

    TNA Leader MP P. Sampanthan’s Speech in Parliament, August 22, 2012
    http://sangam.org/tna-leader-p-sampanthan-mps-speech/