Colombo, Human Rights, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Trincomalee, Vavuniya

End of the LTTE and future of the Tamil Struggle

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which claimed to be the sole representatives of Tamil people, one of the most feared and considered as one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world is vanquished. LTTE guerillas who once considered them in an equal footing with the SLA are silenced with their first and second rung leaders all killed. One of the bloodiest civil wars ended with all the due recognition given to the political will and determination to engage devoid of dithering in the face of the pressure of the IC and courage of Sri Lankan armed forces. People are in a jubilant mood relieved to have got rid of fear and destruction of war. That is one side of the story. IC and all the vested parties have their eyes wide open over the issue of the massive humanitarian catastrophe and on the way how the GoSL is going to handle RRR stages. Apart from that, world is also watching how the GoSL is going to handle the main root of the Civil War: political displacement of the minorities from the centre. With the assumption that it is important not to alienate the average Tamil in the post-LTTE context, this article attempts to open a discussion on the political future of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Monday afternoon, around 2.15pm, a wave of exploding crackers blew up the neighborhood. At once, the realization stuck that the state television had broadcasted the most anticipated news: death of the LTTE leader and the end of the LTTE. After a couple of minutes, a Tamil friend while chatting through Gmail Chat wanted to know whether I am celebrating the victory of SLA and when told him ‘no’, he accused me of being untruthful and went on telling me about unreliability and brutality of GoSL, ineffectiveness of Tamil politicians such as Sambandan, Anandasangaree and Devananda. He was desperate, worried and concluded that the future of Tamils is bleak.

The end the LTTE can result positively as well as negatively to the Tamil struggle. To take the bad news first: Tamil struggle experiences a reverse transformation to a minus-square one position (worse than the ground situation of 1983). Today, unlike in 1983, Tamils are without an adequate number of Tamil political leaders and activists due to fratricidal wars between Tamil militant groups, LTTE’s policy of eliminating dissidents and due to the onslaught of the dissent by the current government. Even the few existing Tamil politicians have become irrelevant in the face of the ordinary Tamils because of their alliance with the majoritarian government in power. Tamils are left without a voice. There is a massive vacuum in the Tamil political sphere. Predicament in 2009 is worse than that was in 1983. Sinhalese nationalism is in full force at present and virtues of multi-party democracy are washed out, hence weakened by the drives of Sinhalese nationalism. Danger of overlooking Tamil aspirations, imposing a mutilated version of the 13th amendment as the answer to underlying political issues and substituting political displacement of Tamils with a development discourse is far greater in 2009 than it was in 1983. In future, attempts would be made to comply and conform Tamil politicians within the unchallenged hegemony of the Sinhalese. In future, it would be considered wise to cooperate.
Even though these days may seem dark, there is some light glimmering at the end of the tunnel. Absence of the LTTE creates substantial political space for new ideas and agendas to blossom representing Tamils, Muslims and other ethnic minorities. Those of who feared the antipathy of the LTTE can move forward without any hindrance. Tamil politicians in hiding can go to their constituencies and carry on with their political work. Local government elections are bound to take place in future in Northern areas. Although PCs and Pradeshiya Sabhas are with many flaws, given the fact that they are implemented for good or for bad, they would be ideal platforms for newcomers as well as veterans in politics to emerge/re-emerge within their constituencies. The Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillaiyan along with SLMC recently opposed to pass the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Bill on the grounds that it caused injustice to the minority communities while other PCs passed resolutions approving the bill. It is a good sign. Pillaiyan shows a big potential in Sri Lankan politics assuring that he is not the ‘conform and comply’ type unlike his erstwhile party-man Karuna Amman. Above all, recognition of the need to have a political solution is greater unlike in 1983 when the ruling government declared that they will sort out the matter in couple of weeks.

If the ethnic majority is ready to learn from past mistakes, defeat of the LTTE is another momentum for peace in the positive sense. All along, opportunities for negotiations for a political settlement were rejected on the grounds that the LTTE does not have a genuine interest in peace. That obstacle is removed now. It is time to speak, suggest and listen and make way for a gradual transformation of the munificence of the South demonstrated in the provision of humanitarian relief to a willingness to offer due autonomy to minority groups. Problem at hand is that we are still grappling with the solution, not knowing what this desired political solution really is. Discussions over the All Party Conference died down with the commencement of the humanitarian offensive. It is late to start a discussion, but not too late. We must all remember that the solution is not just like the magical portion which promises to kill all ills like Federalism/Indian model. There should be a serious discussion with the participation of people from all spheres of the society because the solution sought ought to be sustainable and acceptable.