By Our Swiss Correspondent
(December 03, Zurich, Sri Lanka Guardian) The three distinct Tamil-speaking political parties in Sri Lanka – indigenous Tamils, Muslims and Indian Tamils – met in Switzerland from November 20 – 22 and they all agreed to disagree and meet again to discuss how they could work together.
It was hosted by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Tamil Information Centre (TIC) in London invited the Tamil parties to the first meeting of Tamil-speaking parties. Each participant was paid $3100 as expenses.
When the conference opened Minister for Social Services, Douglas Devananda, representing the Eelam People’s Democratic Party, objected to the presence of Swiss Foreign Ministry officers, saying that they were invited by TIC and foreigners should not intervene in the domestic politics of Sri Lanka.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) representatives struck a discordant note by trying to discuss the coming Presidential elections. Suresh Premachandra of Eelam People’s Revolutionary Front
raised the issue of self-determination. This was followed by Gajendra Ponnambalam of the All-Ceylon Tamil Congress, talking about two nations.
They were rebuffed by Douglas Devananda, Dharmalingam Siddarthan, People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam, and Arumugan Thondaman of the Ceylon Workers Congress, representing the Indian Tamils.
Devananda emphasized the need for a political solution within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.
These divisions were confirmed when Devananda, Siddarthan and Thondamana returned to Sri Lanka. All three have pledged their support to President Mahinda Rajapakse in the coming Presidential election due to be held on January 26, 2010.
The joint communiqué issued at the end of the three-day meeting also confirmed the failure of the parties to agree on a common agenda. In a laconic statement the parties said:
“We, the representatives of the political parties of the Tamil-speaking peoples unanimously:
Affirm the historic meeting enabling an exchange of views, and express a full commitment to a common forum among representatives of all Tamil-speaking peoples;
Recognize 'Tamil-speaking peoples’ comprise three distinct peoples: Tamils, Muslims, and Tamils of Indian origin;
Respect the distinct and separate identities, interests and positions of the parties;
Recognize and affirm the need for unity and consensus among the Tamil-speaking peoples while acknowledging differences with regard to some issues and the paths to pursue them;
Commit to the engagement by all segments of society towards a just and durable political solution through a dignified, respectful and peaceful process;
Agree and commit to continuing our dialogue.”
The conference was organized under the title of “The role of the elected representatives of Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim population in a process of national reconciliation, reconstruction and reform” with the clear objective of forming a broad front of the three distinct Tamil-speaking communities. But political commentators pointed out that it was a failure.
The organizers behind the conference were the Tamil Information Centre (TIC), the International Working Group on Sri Lanka (IWG) and the Initiative on Conflict Prevention through Quiet Diplomacy (ICPQD) at the University of Essex.
Some participants suspect that though it was hosted by the Swiss to put up a show of neutrality the real hand behind it was that of the British. The British government is making covert moves to dabble in Sri Lankan politics in a big way. Des Browne, the special Envoy of Britain, made a surprise move to get together the Tamil diaspora in Australia. Last month the British High Commission in Canberra invited all Tamil parties to meet Des Brown at the British High Commission.
Some Tamils are highly suspicious of British moves to manipulate Sri Lankan politics through the Diaspora. Britain was also in the forefront of the latest move to obstruct the next Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans generally resent British interference in the domestic politics, particularly on humanitarian grounds. A leading political commentator told Uthayam, weekly news paper based in Melbourne: “British hypocrisy is well-known in the Commonwealth. The ex-colonies are still facing the consequences of arbitrary British acts like drawing the Mc Mohan line across the Himalayas which led to the Indo-China war. Besides, Britain massacred Sinhala rebels and decimated the male population in the Uva Rebellion. There were no males to cultivate the land for ten after the search-and-burn policy to quell the rebellion. Britain also flattened Dresden in World War II when it fire-bombed the city. In all 130,000 Germany civilians were killed in that indiscriminate bombing when it was clear that Hitler was defeated. That is how Britain ended the war in Germany. The Americans ended World War II by dropping the atom bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima when the Japanese were about to surrender. Their history is full of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They can’t point a finger at others because four fingers are pointing at them.” -Sri Lanka Guardian
By Our Swiss Correspondent