Futile calls for a political solution

by Dr. Mahinda de Silva

(November 04, Collombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Currently, the media is full of calls for a political solution to the ‘ethnic’ problem. They come from a group, which over the years has advocated a federal solution to the problem, and which I will refer to as the Federal Lobby(FL).

The FL includes India, the International Community (‘Co- chairs’), ‘moderate’ Tamils viz. those who do not espouse violence to attain their political goals, and, of course, the ‘peace’ NGOs.

The latest such call of note was from the irrepressible American Ambassador Blake. The federal solution constitutes devolution of political power to the Tamils, in the territory which includes the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This area is claimed as an area of ‘historical habitation’ of the Tamils, where they will have the right of ‘self determination’.

Though eminent historians and scholars have established the mythical nature of this ‘homeland’, Tamil politicians and ‘intellectuals’ such as Rohan Edirisnghe, a pundit from the Centre for Policy Alternatives, have considered it an important fact in the case for federalism, asserting that this myth was ‘an article of faith’, and was hence not debatable. They profess to reluctantly accept LTTE terrorism and militarism because it gives a sense of dignity to the Tamils and implicitly because it is a means of achieving their political goal.

However, some moderate Tamil intellectuals writing in the media do, in fact, candidly claim a ‘symbiotic’ relationship between ‘Tamils’ and the LTTE.

The Tamils of the Eastern Province are a different group in many respects from those of the North, and have separate interests and do not wish to be united with the North in a federal or other union. Moreover, political realities in the NE region have undergone major changes in recent times.

In addition to the Karuna split, which weakened the LTTE, after Rajapakse’s assumption of the Presidency, the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been demerged by the Supreme Court, courtesy the JVP; the LTTE has been routed in the Eastern Province and democratic elections have been held, making the aspiration for an autonomous Tamil homeland in the merged Northern and Eastern provinces, untenable.

Till the events following Mavilaru and the continuing military rout of the LTTE, the Federal Lobby (FL) and, indeed, the GOSL accepted the LTTE’s claim to be the ‘sole representative’ of the Tamils. The prevailing theory, which was widely disseminated by the FL, and accepted by both major parties in the South, was that the LTTE could not be defeated, the war was ‘unwinnable’, and a federal solution was needed to end it.

Politically, the LTTE is patently not the ‘sole representative’ of the Tamils. However, since it is the main protagonist in the war, the FL suggests that a political solution which the organisation could accept, be offered to them to end the war, even though this would mean a federal state in the North and East controlled by a fascist ,

armed, terrorist organisation. Anyone who is not totally ignorant of recent history must be aware that the LTTE has rejected proposals by the GOSL tantamount to federalism, such as were the devolution proposals of August 1995 and later the draft constitution of September 2000.

In this, the ‘Unitary State’ was to be replaced by a ‘Union of Regions’, and Regional Councils were to have exclusive executive and legislative power in respect of a ‘Regional List’. Not only was there no Concurrent List as in the 13th Amendment (or some power sharing arrangement with the Centre, which is present in any power sharing agreement anywhere in the world), but the list included an independent police force and judiciary.

Again, after three months of negotiations following the Oslo accords, the LTTE quit negotiations, Balasingham, the LTTE’s chief negotiator, stating it had all been a "waste of time".

It then took an active part in defeating the ‘federal candidate’, Wickremasinghe’s presidential bid. In the LTTE Leader’s Heroes’ Day speech immediately after the Presidential election, Prabakaran gave the government a three month deadline to offer an ‘acceptable’ solution to the North-East problem, and the LTTE increased its propaganda and fund raising abroad, leaving no doubt that the LTTE leader was determined to establish a separate state by military means and terrorism.

One must also remember his order to his cadres, at his press conference in the Wanni in 2002, to kill him, if he ever departed from the goal of Eelam.

In conclusion, it is clear that the LTTE has consistently rejected political solutions, and anyone who suggests one at this juncture must be abysmally ignorant of the history of this conflict, and its current realities. One can only assume that the only other reason apart from this ignorance, for calling for a political solution before the LTTE is defeated militarily, is that it is a last desperate attempt to revive this terrorist organisation, thus keeping alive the dream of achieving Eelam by force of arms.
- Sri Lanka Guardian