Human Rights, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance

Four things done, Four things undone: The self-immolation of the LTTE Part 2

A Brief Preface
Some of my friends were worried that through the previous articles I may have inadvertently ‘’caught the tiger by the (ir) tail’. They have requested me to take care physically (I don’t from whom?). This is besides the 270+ emails flooded into my inbox, and the indicator of 1800+ (if it is true) readers of the article within three days even with some embarrassing evidence of my repeated indiscipline in proof reading. (My apologies)                               

The death of democracy in SL is so deep that it shivers even to present with a mere journalistic commentary on the question of present and future of peace and justice in a land once called paradise, now poisoned(?)

Before I try to chart the four things ‘Undone’, let me make a confession if I am entitled to.

My writing is not in any absolute or abstract sense, even in its wildest (mis)interpretation is to support or justify the current war. No war, defensive or offensive is justified when/if it fails to mobilize, operate and produce meaningful and definite democratic nuances. This Gotabhaya model of war commanded by the Rajapakse regime, unlike all other previous wars, is fought with the dreadful disregards to the minimum standards of warfare which even the detestable bandits of Bush permitted in Iraq. This operation ‘end games’ possibly will go down in the history as the most indiscriminate internal  bombing by any state air force against its own people. Truth of the civilians is the first genocide of this war. Otherwise how will the MoD justify the ban on any non-state journalists even when they are southern Sinhala Buddhist? Never mind the humanitarian agencies, and similar, the Colombo command planned and fought this war in the most barbaric manner until few hours ago, when they realized the pressure from the West is serious. We see the signs when Ambassador Dr Jayathilake once again roaring and wielding his -now somewhat rusted- anti west sword with ‘… my country’ nationalist rhetoric. As a postwar past- time let Mr. Victor Ivan, or Mr. Veliamuna of TI demand the GOSL to publish the total number and the weight of the bombs carpeted over Vanni since 2007.

But are we not part of a civilization that is saturated in the Mahavamsica Chinthana psyche?  Where according to both acceptable translations: (George Turnour and Mudliyar Wijesinghe, 1837 Chap. xxv: i-v on pg 99-100, and Welheim Geiger 1912 Chap. xxv: i-vii on pg 170-171) even the sacred relic of Buddha was used as a weapon or at least part of the weaponry to slain the Demalas because it is to ‘bring glory to the doctrine’ an endeavor protected and blessed by the Bikkhus, the venerable ministers of the Damma. What a (re) turn of history?

My main attempt is to trace an answer how did the once so promising legitimate struggle of the Eelam Thamilar end up like this in this juncture of its history?

Four things undone: The self-immolation of the LTTE
1.    Eelam Thamilar Vs Thamil Eelam?

The struggle for the legitimate rights of the Thamil nation within the state of Sri Lanka, in its post 1983 military form of the campaign designed the imagined of the future in a far too narrower sense than its earlier non-violent versions. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the Thamil issue meant the issues relating to all Thamil speaking people whether they lived in the North, East or in the Hills. (Often including the Muslims) The tireless efforts of the Ponnamblam brothers, to incorporate the Thamilar of Indian Origins (or the I.O. Tamils as the NGOS have abbreviated them) as part of a greater Thamil nation is clear in the history records. When one of the very first decisions by the rule of ‘Jathiye piyaa’ D.S. Senanayike was to de-franchise the Malayaha Thamilar, there was vociferous opposition from the Thamil Polity (except for GGP). This ‘united’ effort to architect a common Thamil struggle for the rights was visible even at the Thimphu Talks. (Refer to the 5 points of Thimphu demands)  And the reciprocal response was serious part of the politics of late Saumiyamoorthy Thondaman, when the politics of the hills was undivided.  Loku Thonda (as he is referred to in the southern political circles) was unashamed of this stand be it with MGR or JRJ in the support of the LTTE and his open admiration of young Mr. Pirapaharan.  Yet, that did not continue with the flamboyant Arumoogam the grandson. The political clout and stubborn stature commanded by ‘Periya Sami’ with Colombo administrations was replaced by the mere opportunistic bargains of material rewards by his grandson popular for his prodigal lifestyle. The Malayaha Thamilar were more inward looking to solve their existential issues than to imagine a future with politics of self determination. Here the politics of LTTE failed to implant a social urgency in the hills. If not how could one justify the silence and the passive observer status of the Malayaha Thamilar even while they are the most exploited and enslaved section of the minority in Sri Lanka since 1820s. The political ideologies of LTTE failed to build a brotherhood in the hills even while they were benefiting from MGR, a Kandy born Malayalee Chief Minister of a 60 million Thamilar.  What made the LTTE to (mis) treat the Vadakaththiayans, Columbaans and the other Thamilar in their struggles for the Thamilar? Beyond currently the Kolywoodian cinematic affiliation from Thamil Nadu directors’ forum and its firebrand speakers such as Seeman, Ameer and Cheran, the LTTE did not work hard to win the hearts, minds and the political imaginations of the ‘other’ Thamilar in Sri Lanka. The Thamil Nadu ‘’actors’’ should have genuinely been worried about their distant descendants in the hills of Sri Lanka as much for the cultural cousins in Vanni.  LTTE’s disregard for the liberation of a wider Thamil nation is a question that begs some serious answers. Now, whether this is due a socially constructed anthropological arrogance of the Vaddamarachchi version of the Thamil liberation or any other reasons, let that be a research topic for future a social scientist on Sri Lanka. But this model of fractionalization and skeletonizing the struggle as an exclusive crusade by a socially elitist Thamilar undermined and became a self trapping paradigm that one serious hemorrhage that LTTE could not cure. Except for the occasional bright smiles of the late (Brigadier!)  Su. Pa. Thamilselvan, the LTTE engagement and incorporation of the Malayaha Thamilar in the struggle for the rights of the Thamilar will always remain as an overarching political black hole.  The LTTE by in its exclusiveness continuously diminished the ability of the ‘other’ Thamilar to imagine, Eelam, be it a separate state or an exclusive region as their possible future land of freedom. The rather latter-day efforts of Mr. Mano Ganeshan are only far cries in a jungle when no one is listening or responding.  Furthermore that is too little, too late. The failure to forge any united Thamil political front is the major undone task of the LTTE in its struggle. I wonder why there is no youth from the Malayaha Thamilar to fast unto death demanding a cease fire. Perhaps fasting is not a political act for them. Instead it is part of their daily practice under the bonded labourer life in the colonial line homes for centuries. Colombo would have preferred to compromise than to have sandwiched between two of wars. A military war in the north and another Economic war in the hills. The role and the strength Malayaha Thamilar could have contributed to the Thamil national struggle in Sri Lanka is a discovered and under studied area in modern politics. (This I suppose in different degrees, is valid for the failure to work with the Muslim and other liberal Sinhalese as well)

2.     UNLEARNING 9/11
Even after some seven years, it is a very sexy thing among the contemporary western academia to begin one’s essay with a reference to the events of 9/11. This is because, beyond the desire to dramatize the possible readership, the event in any calculation is the single most powerful act by a non state actor that shuddered, the very foundation of the security of a postBerlin West. The question of empirical securitization of a given society has never moved such a paradigm since the conceptual debates between the Copenhagen, Frankfurt and the Aberystwyth Schools. The four thousand odd nuclear arsenals still mounted by the Russians in the direction of the West was a far lesser possibility but a much known threat than the little known Al-Qaida and its possible power to mobilize a whole new Arab/Islamic world in the name of Islam and a holy Jihad in any eventual clash of civilizations. There was unprecedented unity amongst the western states in addressing and acting against this depthless danger. Few weeks later, addressing the Russian Duma, Professor Ulrich Beck, one of most acclaimed and published social scientists and a senior member of the faculty of LSE  argued so profoundly ,

September 11, 2001, will stand for many things in the history of humanity. Among these, no less for the failure, for the silence of language before such an event: “war,” “crime,” “enemy,” “victory” and “terror”—the terms melt in the mouth like rotten mushrooms (Hugo von Hofmannsthal). NATO summed up the alliance, but it is neither an attack from the outside, nor an attack of a sovereign state against another sovereign state. September 11th does not stand for a second Pearl Harbor. The attack was not directed toward the U.S. military machine, rather, toward innocent civilians. The act speaks the language of genocidal hate that knows “no negotiation,” “no dialogue,” “no compromises,” and lastly “no peace.”

An extended pedagogy and annotated bibliography are available on the topic how the west interpreted and mobilized its support on the so called global war on terror (GWOT) thesis.  The west was united in one non negotiable conclusion: it would not allow any non state actor to become this powerful with their arms and terror tactics. Unfortunate for the LTTE, fortunate for the GOSL and most certainly lamentable for anyone who expected to establish the rights of the Thamilar pursuant to the military campaign led by the LTTE, none of these changing realities of the west was big enough to the ever supportive largely lower middle class transnational Eelam Thamil Diaspora. In their western rat-race lives, there was no luxury of time, or collective intellectual efforts to imagine alternatives. Even if there was capacity amongst the academia once responsible for the architecture of the ISGA, what level of direct influence, they may have enjoyed with the high command is questionable. All one could observe was an ailing ideologue in Dr Balasingham and the diminishing favour in the power corridors of the western diplomatic world. Richard Boucher who became the hardened opponent of the LTTE after it refused to participate in The Tokyo summit made sure that wires to the west from Vanni were terminated one at a time.                             

By early 2006 when Colonel Gotabhaya Rajapakse was drawing his plans, the return to war decision by the LTTE had irritated far too many western power blocks. While it was arbitrary, highly selective and even a bias decision, the act of banning the LTTE in the EU followed by the Conservative Harper government in Canada was possibly the biggest cluster bomb that dropped on the international terrains of the LTTE. LTTE has never been a threat to any single western state. To its credit, the LTTE during its 30 years of campaign has not intentionally hurt a single European even while they were passengers at the Katunayaka International Airport when it mounted a dramatic attack. Ambassador Dr Jayathilake is right, at least for the wrong reason:  the west has a hypocritical diplomatic double standard. It is proven beyond doubts. The EU welcomes a separated state like Kosovo but bans the LTTE which has never threatened any western interest. However, the end day summation of these events was the LTTE, once favourite ‘rebels’ of the western popular media became the representatives of ‘Tamil Tiger Terrorism’. In the eyes of the many western analyses, the return to fights by the LTTE after the much published and deliberated CFA, ISGA and the Geneva trips was unacceptable.  The vengeful Indian diplomatic machinery was sleepless until it convinced the EU, and Canada to ban the LTTE. With this single act, the Indians managed to starve the LTTE copper leaving it dry and unable to finance new purchasing in an ever tightening international arms market. (Read Jane’s Security and Terrorism Monitor 05/Sep and 27/Oct 2008). For the LTTE, capturing the new arms of the SLA has been one of the main sources of supply of weapons which did not take place as there were no major battles since 2002. Even then, with this double negative impact, No single Diaspora individual or a group was either close enough, or brave enough to convince the high command, that had somewhat comfortably isolated itself between Killinochechi jungles and Mullaitheevu beaches. The once modern LTTE refused to change and soon became a political démodé (c)aged in its own stubbornness.

3. Tsunami: Internal and External
On 24th March 2004, Su Pa Thamilchelvan, at his Killinochchi head office consoled Mj. Gen. Tronde Furuhovde of the Norwegian army and visiting head of SLMM that there was no North- East split in the LTTE. However, that was a public lie that his smiles could not hide. By February the biggest intra fight that turned as the internal tsunami to devastate the LTTE ever, was moving on the tectonic plates of identities, first on a personal then on the regional basis. (Colonel!)  Karuna Amman (KA) was a king of its own territories. Under his belt, he had some guerrilla military victories that impressed even veteran conventional soldiers like Gen. Satish Nambiar, who has served as UN field commander in Yugoslavia in 1992 and an advisor to GOSL. Karuna Amman shot to the fame in the eyes of international military observers overnight with his incredible strategic attack on the Elephant Pass garrison, one of the biggest men and machinery loses that SLA has ever faced. Karuna Amman besides (Colonel!) Pottu Amman (PA) head of the Tigers Organization of Security Intelligence Service (TOSIS) was the only LTTE member who could visit the C4 main camp site, the filed command office of the Supremo, with his weapons loaded. He was a possible heir to the crown in the LTTE kingdom.  But things had changed.                                               
In his letter to the Thalaivar on the 4th March, KA presents his grievances. He asks for a free inquiry against the allegations set by his possible competitor PA, and pleas for a total restructure of the organization and most notably advices not to go to war at that juncture.  But by the morning of 6th March via an official communiqué from Killinochchi, the LTTE expelled KA from his command. The inability to settle an internal dispute of this once so disciplined and loyal organization and losing an unmatched assert like KA, was possibly the first silver bullet that LTTE shot in its own chest.  The departure of Col. Karuna Amman with his 6000 members was not only the biggest challenge that LTTE did not manage to win, Further his transformation as Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan , and possibly the commanding officer of a ‘Karuna (Rathna?)’ anti -LTTE  brigade within the SLA was the  beginning of the end that LTTE could not undo.  The role played by now Minister of National Integrations,  V. Muralitharan in narrowing  his one- time commanding officer and best friend in the battle field to a mere five sq.m. area will be a novel plot equally thrilling as a Harry Potter series.                                   

If this was not enough, the lucky time clock of Thesiya Thalaivar Mr. Pirapaharan started turning backward. Within less than ten months, was the nature made Asian Tsunami which besides the Galle district did its most demolishing act in Mullaitheevu. No one except for the few TRO members knew the real human and material cost in the inner lands of Vanni. One Indian report suggests that the Tsunami within 30 minutes did what the SLA could not do for 30 years. Destroying, at least 60 per cent of the vital military infrastructures of the LTTE. This cannot be without some truth when comparing to the way the LTTE fighting machinery fell from January to April 2009. Except for a few left behinds, the SLA for its claimed gallant has not displayed any of its captured weapons of national pride.      

This double tsunami, one self- made other nature, washed away the foundations of the modern LTTE built over a period of 25 years with more blood than tears of its Maveerar. Why did LTTE fail to prevent its present self destruction? Future historians will have to arrange this puzzle at least as neat as the countless tomb stones in the many Thuil illams (sleeping abodes) where memories of the LTTE boys (and girls) who gave their dear lives even before reaching 20 years and perhaps never had the opportunity to travel beyond their training camps and battle grounds, waiting for an answer.

4     Negative Negotiation
In the minds of any LTTE observer there remains a question to which we will never be able to find an answer. Why did the LTTE, with all these signs of on its road still decided to travel towards the trap that so eminent yet avoidable? President Rajapakse has twisted all his toxic critiques for his benefit in the same manner he has managed to manipulate the polity of the modern Sri Lanka. He split the UNP, then the JVP, put Podi Thonda and Chandrasekan to permanent political anaesthesia. He politely buried Chandi Champika under the ever mounting garbage of the country.   He promoted splits within splits in the SLMA/NUA/DUA. Once formidable Ashroff led Muslim politics is now limited the inner clubs of Mr. Hakeem.  This happens in such manner no one except for the staff of the parliament exactly knows who belongs to which party.  He had made the Sangha happy ( even if it means to offering Benz cars)    Way back in 2001, a close friend of mine from Matara, while having lunch on the banks of   Chandika wewa, told me that Mahinda has such a powerful Handahana (birth chart) that when he becomes president in 2012 no one will be able to shake him. It appears President Rajapakse has even manipulated his own Handahana. He is well in command, at least as far as the southern, particularly among the urbanite identity searching Sinhala Buddhists. are concerned. For them, President Percy Mahendra Rajapakse has become the flag bearer of their once lost national pride from London to Melbourne. He who started as an ordinary Hambanthota  Haadaya, now like the long line of kings of Mahavamsa has restored the Sinhala Jaathaya, Baumika Akandathawaya and got the Para Demala Koti on their knees.  Mr. Mano Ganeshan appears to do wrong calculations when he challenges PMR to a general election. At any near future election the one who has to worry is not PMR leading the PA but Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe for his own (remaining) political future. Because, the UNP’s efforts to deal with the Tigers on equal parity is considered as a compromise made on the non-negotiable unitary sovereignty of Sinhala Buddhist state of Sri Lanka. PMR wanted to manipulate the LTTE too. He even reluctantly facilitated few rounds of talks. The SLAF chartered the top brass of Vanni back and forth. The LTTE’s second command had the (last?) political chance to be on Western soil and feel the reality.  Staying in power is more important than dying with uncompromising theoretical stands seems to be the political mantra of the president. An empirical lesson in politics, the LTTE seems to have refused to learn in its history. Why did the LTTE who knew, more than any outside analyst of its own weakness and strength as well as the opportunities and threats fail to learn how to stay in power? Is refusing to realize the changing realities, the biggest undone thing of LTTE?                                

Contrary to the propagandist claims by the agents of Colombo from Geneva to Gangodawila, the current military defeat should not be the surrender of the struggle for the rights of the Thamil nation in Sri Lanka. It also should not be the glorious victory of the primordially narrow nationalists of the south, rather an opportunity for both nations of the divide to redraw the future rules of engagement. Now, as it has always been, the decision whether that engagement is a liberal democratic framework or an illiberal nationalist battle cry is largely in the hands and minds of the Sinhala South who constitute a permanent majority. Because freedom cannot be the feeling one wins at the end of a war rather it is the spirit that keeps you at war.