Colombo, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Post-War, Vavuniya

The fate of Internally Detained Persons and the future of freedom and democracy

There is much  controversy over the fate of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), whom I wish to refer as internally detained persons. In essence, this controversy revolves around the nature of the LTTE, the counter-insurgency strategy of the GOSL, and its criminal effect on over 200,000 detainees. The question of the fate of some 10,000 Tamil political prisoners who are yet to be charged, also hovers in the background. To get some rationality and clarity on these issues, we should raise and answer one fundamental question.

Do the Tamil people who consider the North-East as their areas of historical habitation (homeland) constitute a nation? This question cannot be resolved by piling up archaic archaeological or historical evidence. It is not a question of who came first.  The fact is that the modern Tamil nation has been forged through six decades of political struggle, including nearly three decades of armed struggle, at the cost of immense sacrifice and suffering, against systematic discrimination, national subjugation and violent suppression by the State. If we go by archeological and historical evidence, then the United States would belong to the American Indians, Australia to the aborigines, and Israel would simply lose its right to exist. Modern nations and nation states were forged either through colonial conquest, military aggression and occupation, or by oppressed nations fighting for national liberation, as throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa. Recognition of the political status of the Tamil nation remains a cardinal principle for solving the National Question in Sri Lanka. The Sinhala nation will be dignified by according recognition of the Tamil nation, along with the Hill Country Tamil nationality and the Moslem nationality. This recognition will not diminish, but enhance the political status of the Sinhala nation, and create the democratic foundations for building national unity and reconciliation.  Besides, this supremacist-militarist ideology and politics only serve to deceive the oppressed and exploited Sinhala masses, who will continue to drown in a sea of poverty, indebtedness and degradation. This ideology and politics as concentrated in the political agenda of the present regime will drag the country into even more anarchy, chaos and terror, while the powers that be shall continue to feast on the spoils of blood, profit and plunder.

The fact is that the demand for recognition as a nation had been raised as far back as the 1940’s, when the Tamil national leadership felt that it was to be effectively marginalized and subordinated by the Sinhala hegemonic Comprador ruling class, under the neo-colonial state rigged up by the British. The fact is that the demand for recognition as a distinct nation came to be endorsed by every single Tamil political party and organization that signed the Vadukkodai Declaration in 1978. The immediate background for this assertion was the adoption of the 1972 Republican Constitution, which relegated the Tamil nation to a subordinate status and the Standardization policy which clearly discriminated against Tamil students from accessing university education. Following the police intervention against the International Tamil Literary Congress in 1974 resulting in the death of 12 delegates, the deliberate sabotage of the Jaffna DDC elections by the state and the subsequent burning of the Jaffna library, the LTTE, and several Tamil youth organizations, initiated an armed political struggle to gain recognition of the status of the Tamil nation. The truth is that they resorted to armed struggle only when every other constitutional/ political means to advance the cause of the Tamil nation had been blocked by the state. This was after the adoption of the 6th Amendment, which simply outlawed the demand for a separate state, which had been mandated by the majority of the Tamil people, and the flagrant sabotage of even the cosmetic District Development Councils elections offered by the State. The LTTE is a product of this intensifying discrimination and violent suppression of the Tamil nation, carried out by every successive government, and now crowned by the present Mahinda Chintanaya regime. Its demand for recognition of Tamil statehood and nationhood is an aspiration shared by all self-respecting Tamils.  All those who love this land and its people, who stand for truth and justice, all genuine patriotic-democratic  forces will continue to struggle for a political solution that recognizes the dignity, equality, security, autonomy and democratic freedom of all the diverse nations, nationalities and communities of Sri Lanka. This is the only way to build a united, independent and democratic Sri Lanka. This is the only way to overcome the politics of division and separation.

The war against the LTTE waged by the present regime was defined as a war to eliminate ‘separatist terrorism’. However, in effect and purpose, the war has been waged to eliminate the political status of the Tamil nation, along with the military liquidation of the LTTE. As a consequence, Sinhala supremacy and hegemony has come to be entrenched as the official state ideology and political policy-as never before. The underlying principle of this ideology and politics is that there is but one, and only one, nation, and that is the Sinhala-Buddhist nation, which alone has the exclusive right to form a state, while all others are to be regarded as aliens. According to this definition, there could be no sharing of state power, except perhaps, on a purely cosmetic administrative basis. Given that the war has been waged on this premise, the regime cannot now compromise on this principle, without provoking violent resistance by the militarist-chauvinist camp which it represents , including within the armed forces. This is the reason that the regime is unable to present a political solution. The irony is that it is this very same ideology and politics of Sinhala supremacy that led to the demand for a separate state in the first place, and rained division and destruction upon our Land and people.

The regime is being besieged by an insurmountable political crisis, an engulfing economic crisis and a volatile moral crisis of legitimacy, for which it has no solutions, except to intensify state repression against any and all resistance. The oppressed masses, including the Sinhala masses have come to recognize the true nature of this corrupt and arrogant Capitalist dictatorship. The regime is facing increasing resistance by the working class, students, graduates and others. It is being seriously challenged by new contenders to the throne in the person of  General Sarath Fonseka, who is also revered by the same Sinhala chauvinist-militarist camp, including within the ranks of the armed forces. The UNP and JVP are also seeking common ground to resist the regime. Under these circumstances, the regime can only survive by intensifying its Sinhala supremacist-militarist-terrorist agenda – at all cost. It can survive only by manufacturing and magnifying the threat of an imminent resurgence of the LTTE, backed by an international conspiracy of traitors to the ‘motherland’, and, on this basis, maintaining the triumphalist war hysteria and relentlessly pursuing its supremacist-militarist-terrorist agenda. This process of creating and magnifying bogeys serves to displace all other burning issues such  as the unprecedented rotting, rampant corruption and abuse, the abysmal failure on the economic front and intolerable burdens heaped on the people, the spiraling crisis of human rights and the damning humanitarian catastrophe. Given these insuperable contradictions, the regime hopes to maintain some degree of legitimacy and popularity by perpetuating myths and creating bogeys. It  survives by manufacturing the bogey of an international conspiracy being hatched by traitors to the motherland. The regime needs to magnify these myths and bogeys as a basis to increasingly militarize and politicize the social and political order, as the one remaining way to maintain its iron grip on state power.

This is one of the reasons why the regime will not release and resettle the internally detained persons, who will continue to languish in the swamps in utter misery, degradation and insecurity. It is patently clear that there is no justification for detaining children, aged, sick and disabled other than to maintain the process of militarization, under the guise of hunting and eliminating the LTTE. If de-mining is the obstacle, just simply on humanitarian grounds, launch and intensive international project to de-mine these areas. Permit us, as citizens of this country, to visit and talk with, and share the suffering and grievances of these detainees, who are an integral part of our human family. Let the independent media and the Opposition have access to these detainees, so we can witness and testify, and serve the cause of truth and justice. Why the enforced militarization and perpetuation of a humanitarian catastrophe, which brings such shame on, and which defiles, all of us. This enforced militarized detention is part of the political agenda of the regime. The release of these detainees is bound to intensify the issue of human rights violations and war crimes- if the truth gets out by those who witnessed and suffered its worst consequences.

So, there will be no acceptable compromise political solution under this regime, even within an undivided country, for which we stand. There will be no immediate release and resettlement of the internally detained Tamil citizens. There will be no justice for Tissainayagam. The war against the free media and against freedom and democracy will only intensify. Beyond that, this process will succeed only in planting the seeds of separatism more deeply and on even more fertile soil, drenched by blood and nurtured by such human sacrifice and suffering.

All those who cherish freedom and democracy, who are nurtured by the milk of humanity, who stand for the unity and integrity of this country, should unite to resist and defeat the supremacist-militarist political agenda of the regime. Equally, they should struggle to ensure that this regime is not replaced by a very same supremacist-militarist coalition of political forces. It is time for the people to think independently of the terms presented and enforced on us by a parasitic and defunct ruling class and advance towards a profound, radical democratic transformation of the prevailing State and political order, where the diverse nations, nationalities and ethnic-religious communities shall share this land as their undivided and inseparable homeland.