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Sri Lanka’s trauma

By G.S. Bhargava

(June 04, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) That the LTTE (Lanka Tigers for Tamil Eelam) has been the most ruthless and blood thirsty terrorist outfit has been known. (Eelam can be roughly translated into homeland).

A unique feature of its lethal repertoire, as prescribed by the Sanskrit text — sama, dana, bedha, danda — or besides war fighting with no holds barred, tactics like persuasion of non-conformists, overcoming the enemy by argument and dividing enemy ranks.

India as the nearest and largest neighbour of Sri Lanka has been the target of all these methods of warfare.

Velupillai Prabhakaran founded the LTTE in May 1976 and the incumbent Sri Lankan President, Mahinde Rajpakse, significantly, announced its elimination in May 2009, in other words after 33 years of strife and bloodshed.

It is a tragedy, wrapped in rapacity and megalomania, to paraphrase Churchill in a different context. Compounding it has been the tendency of the combatants to live in the past. They have been concentrating on vanquishing the enemy, rather than promoting the welfare of the people and the country.

It is significant that notwithstanding 36 years of internal strife and severe blood letting, Sri Lanka has a better per capita GDP of $ 4, 300 as against India’s $ 1016. Of course, being a smaller country with a population of only 22 million might have helped.

Generally, the Sri Lankan record of human development indices has been better, indicating higher resourcefulness and greater capacity for resilience; as also, the flair for overcoming the ethnic divide. That Muthai Murlitharan of Tamil origin is the ace spin bowler in the Sri Lankan cricket team is an instance in point.

The LTTE, as stated, is a pariah but what about the record of the Sri Lankan leaders? It is not lily white either. In fact, it is difficult to say who, between Solomon Bandaranaike and Junius Richard Jayawardene, is a worse culprit.

Bandaranaike broke from the relatively conservative United National Party or UNP — ‘Frank’ Moraes who started his celebrated career as editor in Sri Lanka, would call it Uncle Nephew Party — to form his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

In a populist drive to promote his party he brought about the Sinhala only law, formally called the Official Language Act, in 1956. It meant condemning the nearly 15 percent Tamil population to second class citizenship. Ironically, since the UNP was pro-American, the tendency in Indian Leftist circles was to acclaim Bandaranaike.

Compounding the situation, Junius Richard Jayawardene — he quit Christianity to become a Buddhist — replaced the prevailing Westminster style parliamentary democratic system by the presidential form of government, making himself the country’s first executive president, with sweeping powers, far more extensive than those of the French head of State or even the US President.

The upshot was that Tamil had become a symbol of minority oppression. The Tamils were boxed in, without any opening for ventilating their case. The presidential form in the name of stability shuts out dissent.

From the Tamil side, C.N.Annadurai, E.V. Ramaswami and Rajaji rose to the occasion. Annadurai, who was then a member of the Rajya Sabha, announced that Tamil Nadu had given up its demand for secession! India being a parliamentary democracy, there was scope for such give and take. The presidential form of government would not allow it.

Meanwhile, Jayawardene who had made himself the executive president, visited Morarji Desai, the Janata Prime Minister, in Delhi in 1977, ironically claiming shared affinity to Gandhian principles with Morarji! His alibi was that he needed the draconian authority to fight the LTTE.

Like all bullies, Jayawardene caved in when Rajiv Gandhi, in 1983 ordered the Indian Air Force to drop supplies to the besieged Tamils in Jaffna. He quickly lifted the siege of Jaffna and signed the India-Sri Lanka accord of July 29,1983.

Instead of pursuing the gains of the July 1983 accord, Rajiv Gandhi embarked on the Tughlakian venture of the Indian Peace Keeping Force or IPKF in 1987. One hundred thousand Indian troops in different formations were dispatched to Sri Lanka for the supposed purpose of bringing the ethnic conflict to an end ultimately to facilitate the establishment of an autonomous Eelam within Sri Lanka.

In the result, however, both the Tamils and Sinhalese resented the presence of foreign troops on their soil and combined to resist them. The then President, wily Ranasinghe Premadasa and duplicitous Velupillai Prabhakaran objectively collaborated to see the IPKF out by 1990, that, too, after heavy casualties of both officers and men. Of course, the LTTE killed Premadase too, not long afterwards.

Meanwhile, the government shifted its offensive to the north into areas previously controlled by the Tamil Tigers, including their de-facto capital Kilinochchi, main military base Mullaitvu and the entireA-9 highway leading the LTTE finally to admit defeat on May 17, 2009.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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