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Betrayals and Transcending beyond LTTE

By Ravi Sundaralingam 

Part I: Basic Tenets:

(June 08, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) “The world without the LTTE is a good place to live in”, deceptively deceitful bellicose of a phrase that booms out of the abyss created by the killers on both sides, and their apologists in the land of serendipity, Sri Lanka.

Deceptive, because it gnaws into our senses totally destroyed by the cruelty of the LTTE, offering a false sense of security

Deceitful, because the Tamils as a people are totally defeated in every sense and stand naked in front of the entire world behind barbed wires, open to all form of abuses that can be easily hidden underneath the tarpaulin sheets that cover their demolished sense of beings.

Bellicose, because (1) it doesn’t even have a façade of any international norm enshrined within and it offers no more tangible solution than what turned out to be the false dawn promised by the LTTE,

LTTE defeated itself long before the blueprint for its military defeat was hatched elsewhere. We would go further by saying that they were set up for their eventual downfall even as they were propelled to the fore.

Any set-up needs compliance, which inevitably relies on skewed reasoning and concepts about each other, and the LTTE as the weaker partner in this madness, fell foul on all accounts. If so, can any serious and honest searcher of reasons place the entire responsibility solely on LTTE? Why the LTTE, purely as a military outfit, took its anti-Indian positions is understandable even if not acceptable. But, what can we make of the responsibility of the Tamil ‘intellectual community’?

The Tamil nationalism has raised serious discontent about India and of its intentions among the Tamil speaking communities. At first hand, no one would discount or belittle any strategy if and only if it could deliver; (1) restore the full democratic rights, and (2) ensure their long term socio-economic prosperity. Even if we were to ignore the conditions placed on all the groups when India intervened, the anti-Indian positions would have worked if placed within a proper strategic consideration. Now with time they were proven to be mere sentiments devoid of any regional and international perspective or strategy

In this context, the LTTE was as much a victim, just as the vast majority of the Tamil masses. The intellectual community living far removed from our homelands should bear the greater responsibility for this mishap than the LTTE. We are saddened when there is willingness to accept American interests in far away places like Afghanistan as well as in its backyard, we find it difficult to accept the Indian interest in our region, which in turn the Indian policy makers against the LTTE and eventually, against our struggle itself.

Purity and absolute freedom

Much has been written, and no doubt, more words will be spilled about the rise and fall of the LTTE.

Two points are relevant as they serve as references to the future of the Tamils and their struggle for human dignity and survival.

They are,

1. The need for the sole-representation of a people by a single organisation.

2. Purity and discipline of that organisation as the rationale and functionale of that organisation.

As far as the LTTE is concerned which of these two predetermined the other is a matter for an eternal debate, and true, they are intertwined in weaving the concept of the image of a leader and an organisation. Unlike other groups, LTTE didn’t waste time talking Marxism or other liberation philosophies, but believed its military actions spoke for its ideology, for which it had a firm strategy: protracted war to establish a de-facto state, again and again until the Sri Lankan state concedes.

These two fundamental beliefs woven together produces the basic tenet- that if the Tamils are to be liberated, then people cannot be left under various groups but brought together. They can be filed into a rank by the forcefulness of Tamileelam argument and military actions to enforce its progress. Purity of the organisation should be the corner stone for the road to freedom.

For us, “betrayals are the consequences of failed promises therefore, promises are potential betrayals.”

The LTTE committed ‘suicide’ by their understanding of (1) the Tamil speaking communities in the island, (2) their fundamental disputes with the Sri Lankan state opposed to Sinhala people, (3) our struggle within the regional context with an international perspective, (4) the scope and prospect of its proposals, (5) its actions of internal-terrorism, i.e. to murder Tamil leaders of other groups, (6) its actions of external-terrorism to murder Sinhala leaders and an Indian Prime Minister, (7) and the misplaced trust in a unrealistic conventional military strategy, (8) the falsified military strength to overwhelm a state machinery aided and abetted by the entire world, particularly India and China, (10) a leader and leadership of a liberation struggle, and (11) its callousness in the use Tamils lives as part of political strategy, holding them hostages until the ‘bitter-end’.

Would any serious commentator simply list the LTTE as abject failures? There were positives too.

1. It was the LTTE, unlike any other group, taught us there are young men and women exist among us, who will put their lives to the fire in the hope of better lives for others.

2. It was the LTTE, as the self-proclaimed army of a vastly outnumbered Tamil people, fought a conventional war successfully for so long, keeping the huge Sinhala army at bay. Eventually, only to be defeated by the combination of the entire world, particularly India and China.

3. It was the LTTE, which made the Sinhala state concede that there was another self-administrating exclusive entity within its natural borders, through its MOU, attested by more than 35 countries of the International Community, which provided the Monitoring Force to maintain peace between the separated Tamil speaking and Sinhala entities.

For all their failures and brutality, which we have no hesitation in describing as betrayals, these three achievements alone will place the LTTE and its fighters in the pantheons along with all other Tamil heroes forever.

Apart from alienating its own people by its shear brutality and engendering justification for counter-brutality, the LTTE was guilty for not seeing the opportunities available and when it did for choosing the wrong option on every occasion.

Having decided to go it alone, away from the clutches of the Indians, an admirable effort on its part if it had been successful and sustainable; the only result its supporters could have expected, it palpably demonstrated its incompetence and lack of political acumen in its failure to translate any tangible political outcomes out of its historic achievement, the MOU agreement.

Eelam and India-centric view

There is always confusion about India-centric view of the region versus any support for the policies of the Indian government of the day. Between the global position of the Asian people South Asians in particular, and the positions of a particular people or community within that domain and their right to fight for their full democratic rights. Confusions that ensue those with steamed glasses and coloured vision, and self-image of some grandeur.

Can we afford to suffer such fools prerogatives?

Our view of India is very firmly centred on its people, and that all of us, every community and tribe in South Asia belong to the same lineage we consider it to stem from India, whether it has grown into Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

From these geographical, genealogical, historical and now developing economical linkages we can only foresee their future prospects inextricably linked for better or worse, beyond their tribal prejudices. Moreover, our ‘revolutionary’ labels reminds us of our responsibilities to the historical consequences of colonialism and the neo-colonialism of the globalised era, and the commitment to every community in the region, while considering our right to hold view opposed to our right to achieve the full democratic rights appropriate for our people in their various stages of social transformation.

India-centric view is not to promote India’s view of our people or their understanding of our rights, but to ensure we achieve the absolutely minimum targets in our long journey to reach a meaningful relations with our Dravidian Sinhala brothers, who are at a different state of social transformation.

Then there is the confusion about our definition of Eelam, and commitment to our peoples’ needs, within a regional and Sri Lankan context. It is an anti-thesis to Tamil nationalism and Tamileelam, which confuses some of the Indian intellectuals just as much the Sinhala establishment, personified Gen. Sarath Fonsehka, with his comment to “take the war against the ‘Eelamists’ outside the island”. The fact we need to qualify these positions terminology virtually every time is not attempt to parade our wit or courage, but indicative of the lack of finesse among the intellectuals on both sides of the conflict.

What evidence do we have to justify our views about the ‘collective’ of our South Asian community of peoples, when all we see is chaos and mayhem surrounding India and the same malaise surfacing among many ethnic communities against the states, including India? Particularly when those surrounding China are steadily progressing towards economic and social stability? A question all of us in the region should address sooner than later.

Would the betrayals continue?

Commentators and policy makers exist to interpret situations and develop scenarios; it is for ordinary person to endure them and seek ways to adopt and survive.

Many Indian intellectuals argue with sincerity that the Tamil speaking communities are an asset in their assessment. So it is true, that money is unavoidably an asset to a gambler who is prepared to pawn his daughter for some hard currency.

Yet, our experiences tell us otherwise, first they were set up by the imposition of the LTTE, then using them to wipe out of their leadership and drive away the middle classes, so that final coup de grace could be delivered with LTTE’s destruction.

So the desired result: Our people are now without a leadership firm enough to stand up to the challenges our people face.

Having brought the LTTE to the fore and bringing its end, India has inevitably has taken the destiny of the Tamil speaking communities in the island in its hand, without their consent. The question upper most in our minds is, “What would they decide, a slow death or survival and revival of their fortunes?”

For all the goings-on, going forward, backward and in all directions of the Indian diplomats, we see no tangible proposals that dignify the Tamil speaking communities or India’s gravitas, except our people caged behind barbed wires with the few Indian doctors sent there to feel their pulse.

Having accepted the Sri Lanka’s argument about ‘terrorism’ against the LTTE, would the International Community allow a people to disappear in modern times?

With the knowledge of our short term and ancient history in mind we, India-centric or anti-Indian, have the right to question, “would India commit the final betrayal of the disorientated and dismembered Tamil speaking communities?”

The killings of the LTTE leadership and the massacre of its ‘soldiers’, in reality our precious youth has brought a bloody end to the ethnic carnage for the present.

A famous Taoist saying goes, “every disaster brings in a promise of an opportunity”. To this we may add, “every opportunity can be made into a disaster’ from our experience, if we are to behave as we have done before, reacting than being considerate and proactive.

For the first time we are witnessing a kind of debate taking place among the members of the LTTE. That it has to happen, only after a tragedy itself spells out our predicament.

We will continue as always, with the best interests of all the communities in our hearts and minds in the best of our tradition, in our limited capacity by offering advice and ideas, and support to anyone who cares to consider them for their full worth..

The following passages are for serious thoughts for everyone involved with the ethnic crisis and its process with sincerity and a strong commitment to the principles of conflict resolution. It takes more than courage to accept ones own mistakes and assessment of a process, which one propagated with strong conviction and arrogance.

Part II: Our Assessment and Suggestions

What do we see as the objective political conditions that are facing the Tamil speaking communities today? (We avoid their socio-economic situations for later date.)

We observe,

1. The Tamil political landscape under the LTTE, because of its advocacy and the Sri Lankan government supported paramilitary reaction to it, has been devastated with only a semblance of hope of repair.

2. The ‘liberation struggle’, sometimes even referred to as ‘revolutionary struggle’ has damaged all social, civic, and economic pillars of the communities in the North and East, without ever replacing them with viable alternatives.

3. The elected Parliamentarians, the members of the loosely held Tamil National Alliance (TNA), and the Provincial Council Government run by Pilaiyan are the only two internationally respectable institutions that are available to the Tamil speaking communities at present.

4. These two institutions and the personnel attached to them are still under great physical threat and danger.

5. There is a need for consensuses and an agreement on a minimum of understanding of all our peoples’ aspirations and requirements, in the North, East and Upcountry.

6. The military defeat of the LTTE, the main component of the armed conflict waged by the Tamils has removed it as an objective strategic tool to achieve the belongings and the rights associated with them, for a foreseeable future.

7. The expatriate communities have shown themselves to be a force, but proven to be inadequate as a tool for change, because of their support for an organisation than the struggle, an organisation rejected by the International community, particularly India.

8. India no longer wants to be seen or act as a partisan supporter for Tamil demands in the island. It was the chief prosecutor of the war against the LTTE.

9. The strongly held view that the relationship between the Indian and Sinhala establishments, as a strenuous one, has to be dispensed with.

10 The purported support for the creation of Tamileelam from the Tamil Nadu politicians is neither helpful nor constructive to the resolution of the ethnic crisis. In fact, a more serious and sensitive role to assure the Sinhala masses and their leaders will be more convincing to secure a solution on behalf of their brethren.

11. The Sri Lankan state has not shown its willingness to sort out the root causes of the ethnic crisis. Even the APRC recommendation of limited package of devolution waits the now victorious ‘Sinhala Consensus’.

12. There is a strong desire among the International community, including India, to bring a solution to the national question that has blighted the lives of so many thousands, both Sinhala and Tamil Speaking.

13. Tamil speaking community leaders expressing satisfaction at the military defeat of the LTTE, the ending of a military feud with a Tamil’s armed group, cannot be interpreted as the pronouncement of the natural end of their ‘separate’ dispute with the Sri Lankan state.

14. The non-separatist concept of Eelam, the political demarcation of all the Tamil speaking people, i.e. the socio-political cultural identity, objectively singled out by the Sri Lankan state by its acts of atrocities against every community, up until to the recent event know as the ‘bitter end’ is still the most constructive political proposal to solve the ethnic crisis once and for all.

15. All practical reasons and conditions defined and described above leaves the Tamil speaking communities with no other option but to continue with their struggle; for their very survival, through non-violence means the only avenue open to them at present.

These observations lead us to conclude that,

I. There should be a comprehensive regional settlement to the ethnic issue in the island, involving the representatives of the Tamil speaking communities, including those in the upcountry, and the good offices of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Sri Lanka, and India.

II. The settlement must address the historical fears of the Sinhala communities regarding India and Tamil Nadu on one hand, and the historical and evidently obvious fears of the Tamil speaking communities in the island regarding their belongings and rights as peoples of the island, based on the principles of devolved government and delegated governance.

III. The settlement must address the security concerns of the region, primarily that of India and, as a consequential historical concerns also that of Sri Lanka and, economic concern of every community in the region.

IV. In this sense, development should given equal parity to security in any comprehensive settlement for the region.

Interpreting our four suggestions above

1. The Tamil speaking communities are a distinct body of peoples, traditionally belonging to the island, now called Sri Lanka.

2. They have equal rights to their belongings, just as Sinhala communities in the island.

3. Their aspirations are in harmony, and not in conflict, with that of any other community living in the island, and in the region.

4. Tamils speaking communities in the island have a particular dispute with the Sri Lankan state, which divides the belonging and rights of the people along linguistic and religious line.

5. Tamil speaking communities can find a solution to their dispute with the Sri Lankan state, within a unifying constitutional framework.

6. Thimbu principles and the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord serve as references to the regional settlement, and the MOU and the Oslo-Accord provide the backdrop, the international setting, for such a settlement.

7. Any such solution should be based on peace, justice and prosperity to all the communities in the island, and cannot be based on the military or political or psychological subjugation or at the expense of any community.

8. All those people living in the island must have proper democratic representation at the civic as well as executive levels. Tamils speaking communities have been long suffering without them.

9. Every political group and parties in the North and East and Upcountry must adhere to the fundamental principles of democracy and be prepared to represent every member of the communities despite their linguistic, cultural and religious differences.

10. The ethnic strife in the island has historical perspective that goes beyond the geographical boundaries of the island. Historically, the Southern states of India, particularly Tamil Nadu, and recently India have been partly the cause to the anxieties and thereby to the crisis in the island.

11. India and Tamil Nadu owe it to all the peoples and communities in the island and work towards, provide assurances, and guarantee a lasting solution to the ethnic crisis.

12. These assurances must take the shape of a comprehensive package of development and long term commitment to cater for all the peoples in the Southern tip of the South Asian region.


Tamil communities everywhere have gone though a period of strong, aggressive advocacy and no consultation. They were asked to support not participation, even the political decisions on their behalf are kept secret, except at the last hour when some of their help was needed when all hell had broken loose.

Shouldn’t those responsible, supporters and advisers are alike, should take time away to look at their hitherto unsuccessful roles and proposals? Couldn’t the Tamil speaking communities everywhere have a break away from their bludgeoning method of ‘convincing’ to take stock of their assets and of future participation, before agreeing on a strategy?

We have apparently come to an end to the mayhem, which has killed the lives of more than 60,000 young men and women from all the communities and 100,000 Tamil civilians, maimed another 100,000 or more Tamils and Sinhalese, including civilians, and making virtually the entire Tamils more dependent on others for mercy and hand-outs.

We also had the misfortune to witness the perversity of the Sinhala state, hitherto the bastion of Sinhala chauvinism killing the Tamils held hostage, and the hostage takers, the LTTE allowing, aiding and also participating in their bloody deaths, in the name of liberating them, both laying claim for the ownership of their allegiance and souls, to the ‘bitter-end’.

Still no one have come forward to apologise for their false prophecies and predictions, rammed down our throats, and the willingness to account for the enormous number of deaths and destruction they have helped to cause.

As for us, who has the focus even at this difficult juncture, the first step is to take proper look at ourselves and take stock of our assets and engage in a process of consultation among us.

In the meantime take every possible steps to legitimise our claims over our belongings and rights over them, while strengthening our democratic credentials though the available political institutions.

Above all, redouble our commitment to our people and their struggle most of whom are now either behind barbed wires or prisoners in their own homes.

(The writer is a London based expatriate Sri Lankan Tamil and the The Academic Secretary of ASATiC. He can be reached at E-Mail:- academic.secretary@gmail.com)
-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

ydes said...

What an incomprehensible harangue!The writer,obviously sincere in his intention to say something constructive, has not managed to put down his thoughts clearly-so commenting on this article is well nigh impossible!

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