By Eelaventhan Manickavasakar – Former Member of Parliament – Sri Lanka
The ethnic problems of Eelam Tamils which birthed in 1956 due to the political insane frenzy of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike who legislated the ‘Sinhala only’ act and inaugurated the subsequent turmoils in the Sri Lankan politics. The hidden agenda of Sinhalisation, Buddhisitation and militarisation proceeded unabatingly supported with state sponsored communal riots in 1958,1977,1981,1983 and the genocide in 2009.
With ‘Mahawamsa mindset’ deeply embedded , all party talks, peace agreements and proposals were discarded or breached due to opposition from the Sinhala-Buddhist feelings of opposite parties. There was hardly any political leader who took steps in the interests of all Sri Lankan citizens. All were clutching the chauvinistic sentiments to grab the political crown.
Sadly, this scenario is still continuing and will continue unless and until some external forces interfere to restore proper thinking and sanity to the Sinhalese political leaders.
As far as the Tamils are concerned, they are still the second class citizens always at the mercy of Sri Lankan Govts and the security forces. Their sufferings are immense in short, they underwent all kinds of treatment, a human person can be subject to: killings, torture, rape, displacements. Deaths by starvations, loss of life and limbs, widow hoods, orphans, mental illness, Traumas, massacres, degrading treatment etc. The writer of this article is a victim and a witness to the above tortures especially my arrest and torture under the prevention of terrorism act in 1979.
When the Tamil political leadership resorted to non-violent struggles they were easily crushed by the security forces, while the armed struggle, a justifiable weapon, was decimated byMahinda Rajapaksa with the assistance of 22 countries including India.
Currently the Tamils are back to square one with TNA being the sole Tamil political force to obtain justice for the Tamils. The million dollar question now is : Is it possible for them to deliver it and is it possible by them to deliver it. Sadly the answers for both questions are simply ‘no’ and “negative”.
The TNA, a mixture of different political parties with its leaders having divergent views and often conflicting opinions, is struggling to choose the right and practical path to liberate the Tamils from the oppressive hands of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Govts. The senior leaders of TNA,Sampanthan and Mavai Senathirajah who were once championing the solution of Thamil Eelam, have now given an undertaking to uphold the Sri Lankan constitution and give up the cause of Thamil Eelam. They are surely bound by the laws enacted by JR who made it an offence of treason, if any person calls for separation of Sri Lanka or Thamil Eelam. However T.N.A has the right to agitate for referendum and the right to self determination as endorsed and allowed in the U.N Charter. TNA is also facing the pressurising restraints of India which hangs on to the 13th amendment so as not to displease the Sri Lankan Govt while ignoring the immense sacrifices of Tamils during the past 60 years.
It is to be noted that this 13th amendment was already rejected by the TNA as its is an empty formula of devolution of powers.
Coming to the current situation in Sri Lanka a change of Govt from dictatorial to democratic features is now in power, thanks to the support of Tamils who voted for Maithiri only to inflict revenge on Mahinda for his inhuman treatment of Tamils during the war. Tamils do not have much faith in Maithiri who as a minister remained in Mahinda’s Govt and watched the genocide of Tamils, faithfully and loyalty to Mahinda.
Maithiri, appears as a good and humble person. But for the Tamils, “Appearances are deceptive”. It has to be noted that, Maithiri has so far during the election or after becoming the president has not openly stated his position regarding the Tamils problems nor indicated his intention to solve it once and forever. As such , he cannot be relied upon to deliver the goods for Tamils. Furthermore, he has to be a president, listening to or even dictated to by the other parties and groups in his alliance of convenience.
It appears Ranil has been assigned the task to deal with the Tamils issues. Ranil’s past record is not clean as he was instrumental in the destruction of Chandrika’s devolution proposals in 1994 which looked better than the previous ones. It is only hoped that Ranil is now more matured politically and acts in the interests of a nation and not succumb to the ‘ Sinhala- Buddhist-Mahavamsa mindset’. However, a word of caution is necessary as far as the present Govt including Ranil.
Ranil and Maithiri and company are determined top avoid accountability for the security forces and protect them from any prosecution by outside sources, like UN. However, UN is proceeding with its investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity with its final report due on March 28th for submission to human rights council. Undoubtedly, the report will not free Sri Lanka and the military machine from any crimes. In this situation, Sri Lanka is facing the prospects of punitive measures from the world body and/or individual states like U.K, U.S.A, etc.
It is therefore natural for the current Maithiri Ranil and Mangla Trio to take placating measures, to delay or even derail the UN commission’s report with false and empty assurances, like devolution of powers, some eye-pleasing acts of reconciliation like shifting or reducing security forces, or allowing some re-settlements of Tamils and vacating the homes occupied by the military.
Above steps are only measures to remove their illegalities and restore the snatched rights of affected Tamil civilians.
The international community and UN have already learnt many bitter lessons from Sri Lanka and it is hoped that they will not fall for another tantrum of Sri Lanka during the coming months. As far as tna is concerned, they have to get into practical action and steps to advance the political agitation and fight. A hopeful waiting game with Maithiri or Ranil is as good as a dead game as the previous bitter lessons and experiences are nothing but eve-openers, and bad precedents. The entrenched Sinhala domination over the minorities is an unassailable stance in the political thinking of Sri Lankan Govts, as evidenced in the past, and it will be foolish to expect it to change for good in the future.
It is clear that at present, Maithiri’s Govt has given to priority to haul Mahinda’s empire to dock for the wrongdoings, bribery and corruption etc and dusting out the stained offices occupied by his family and favourites. This cleaning process is expected to put an end to the political career of Rajapakses.
This is expected but the surprising calamity in this cleaning up is the Tamils problems which is left, in Limbo untouched and allowed to be frozen without any attempts to solve them. Obviously this is the most serious problem which is now internationalised due to the inconsiderate attitude of lack lustre and power hungry politicians whose interests are focused on winning elections and not on winning the hearts and minds of the Tamils.
Maithiri is fore warned that if he and his companions fail to grab the present opportunity with the goodwill of international community, they will be providing another just opportunity for the Tamils to resort to armed struggle which the world community wont object or prevent.
It is the hope of all Sri Lankans particularly the traumatised Tamils, that the promised good governance will not end with measures like returning homes and lands to dislocated Tamils, which were illegally seized, but include the swift release of Tamil political prisoners languishing in Jails, keeping the soldiers inside barracks, stopping Sinhalese settlements but above all to offer a dignified, just permanent solution which allows the Tamils to manage their own affairs in the North and East with minimal interference from the centre.
*M.K. Eelaventhan – Former Member of Parliament – Sri Lanka