An open letter to Dr. Jehan Perera of the National Peace Council in Sri Lanka
Strategising for what is possible or justifying the expected refusal by the Singhalese government to grant autonomy to the Tamil Nation?
I was thoroughly disappointed and dismayed to read a feature article by you titled “Strategising For What Is Possible After The Paris Meeting” that appeared in the chauvinistic electronic newspaper “The Lanka Academic,” (September 2, 2003 EST, USA,Vol.4.No.149, http://www.theacademic.org/feature/062460618069357/index.shtml ). Firstly, I did not expect a person of your calibre holding a responsible position in the National Peace Council (NPC) to contribute to an electronic newspaper that always relishes in publishing chauvinistic articles and news that are detrimental to peace in Sri Lanka. This newspaper also publishes concocted stories to mislead the people. The latest example, which one can still find on the site, is the news story telling us that the LTTE Political Wing leader Thamilchelvan has landed in Trincomalee in an airforce helicopter to talk to the local LTTE commanders about dismantling the controversial Kurangupanchan LTTE camp. When this news appeared in the site Thamilchelavn was still in Europe and all the other media were covering his meetings with various European dignitaries.
Secondly, I did not expect
you to go down to the level of others that write in that newspaper, to
write something contradictory to your supposed role in the NPC.
This even made me wonder whether you have decided to quit your
position in the NPC.
Dr. Perera, in your article you
have quoted what one of the members of the LTTE’s negotiating team,
Karuna Amman, said after the recent Paris Consultations.
He was quoted by you as having said “Our proposals are firm,
novel and very clear. They
fulfill the aspirations of the Tamils.”
You described this as an “up-beat sense and that comes from a
job well done would suggest that the LTTE’s constitutional affairs
committee has skillfully developed a strong position that it will put
before the government.” This statement generated fear in you, the same fear that may
be arising among like-minded Singhalese who are not willing to share
power with the Tamils equally. This fear caused a knee-jerk reaction in
you and set the foundation for your arguments that followed in the rest
of your article.
You have agreed that the LTTE
made a major concession at the peace talks in Thailand by publicly
dropping its demand for outright independence and agreeing to try and
find a solution under the concept of federalism.
You have quoted what Karuna Amman said in Tamil after the Paris
you missed what Anton Balasingam said in Tamilin Europe soon after the
Thailand peace talks. He
said in Tamil “Paripooranamana Suyadchi ella nangal kedkiram, enkay
tharadum parpam.” He
said the LTTE is asking for an autonomy that is complete in nature and
he questioned whether the Sri Lankan government could grant that.
You cannot have forgotten the way Anton Balasingam’s lengthy
explanation at that time about the “internal self-determination”
concept as the basis for the Federal solution they are seeking.
If you have followed all these things closely and carefully you
would have expected that the LTTE would only compromise on a very high
degree of autonomy to be satisfied with a Federal set up.
My expectations are that what must be provided, at least to the
Tamils, what has been worked out by the International Community (IC) for
the Bosnian conflict. Because
of the same IC’s involvement in the Sri Lankan conflict, it is
reasonable and justifiable for anyone to expect at least that amount of
autonomy to be granted to the Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka, too.
All this time in the current peace process, there has been no
discussion on this issue. Through
the discussions now on the Interim Administration (IA), LTTE has been
compelled to spell out what they are expecting from the Sri Lankan
government. This is why the
LTTE constituted their Constitutional Affairs Committee (CAC) and have
come up with their parameters for an IA that will lead to a final
solution that will satisfy the aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people.
Dr. Perera, you are trying very hard through this article, to portray to the IC and the innocent Singhalese public that the LTTE agreed to the simplest Federal solution in Thailand and now they may be trying to reverse that concession they made in Thailand to sacrifice their demand for a separate state and compromise on a Federal solution. Dr. Perera, you and I and the IC are well aware that the reversal of the Sri Lankan Security Force’s conquest of Jaffna peninsula and large parts of the Wanni by the LTTE was the only thing that compelled the Sri Lankan governments to agree to the IC’s request that they negotiate a political solution with the LTTE. We also know that only the debacle at Elephant Pass triggered the current peace process. Dr. Perera, you would not have missed the article written at the time of this debacle by Teresita C. Schaffer, a former US Ambassador in Colombo who is now the Director, South Asia Program at the Washington based “think tank”, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). As you know, the CSIS advises the US Government on international affairs. The article was titled “Sri Lanka: The Battle For Jaffna” (http://www.csis.org/saprog/sam22.html). In that article Schaffer says: “In the longer term, the prospects for Sri Lanka’s fragile peace efforts have been badly undercut. Reviving them will require a much more radical approach to power sharing than the government has been willing to consider in the past.” She also recommended at that time: “The only chance would be in a much more radical approach to power sharing. A loose confederal structure, with some kind of explicit recognition of the Tamils as a collective group within it and with stronger guarantees of their inclusion in power at the national level, might be more successful. Two draft Canadian constitutions proposed that certain legislative changes would require a “double majority” of both English and French-speaking parliamentarians; an analogous provision might be useful. Obviously, this type of radical departure would be intensely controversial in the Sri Lankan political mainstream. But half measures will only prolong the country’s agony.”
If Amb. Schaffer is expecting
this kind of a solution, how can a person holding an important position
in the NPC expect the LTTE, and for that matter the Tamils, to accept a
simple Federal solution like the one you and the Singhalese politicians
are imagining to impose on the Tamils?
Do you think that, if the LTTE comes up with a proposal like the
one Ms Schaffer has recommended, the US or the IC is going to oppose it?
You know the answer for this well and that is why you decided to
write this article with the hope that you could change the LTTE’s
thinking. This is why you wrote this article well before the LTTE put
the final touches to their proposal.
But, Dr. Perera, I feel sorry for you because you have not yet
understood the LTTE completely.
Dr. Perera, it is good to
hear from you that the Singhalese masses are not listening to the
anti-peace sentiments of the JVP. However,
your assumption that “it is unlikely that the Singhalese public, and
also the Muslim one, will be willing to cope with the types of demand
that the LTTE is likely to make of the Sri Lankan government in terms of
an interim administration,” looks well intended to give the IC a
distorted picture of the LTTE’s thinking.
You have made assumptions about what LTTE is going to ask and how
the Singhalese and Muslims are going to react to this.
Then you are trying to put your assumptions as the background and
say: “Given this background, it can be expected that the LTTE’s
maximalist-oriented proposal for an interim administration will be
difficult for the government to deliver at this time.”
You then justify your conclusion by supporting it with the
cohabitation problems between the Prime Minister and the President and
the vulnerability of the government to being sacked by the President.
Dr. Perera, you are expecting the LTTE to adjust to the
government’s plight and modify their demands.
The LTTE is looking after
the interests of the Tamil-speaking people and they should not worry
whether there is going to be Ranil Wickramasinghe or President Chandrika
at the helm. They are not
going to prepare two sets of proposals, one for a weaker government and
another for a stronger government.
Not that you do not know this, but you expect to precondition the
LTTE to minimise their demand so that the Sri Lankan government (SLG)
need not share too much power with the Tamils.
Dr. Perera, you have also
implied that a “renewed confidence” has emerged within the LTTE
“in engaging with the international community.”
In the period prior to and just after the Tokyo donor conference
all that LTTE complained about the IC was that they were not treating
the LTTE as equal partners with the SLG and were trying to take sides with the
SLG to force them to do things the way they like.
But the LTTE never hesitated or showed reluctance to engage the IC
leaders whenever these leaders wanted to meet them.
I hope you have not confused how President Chandrika dealt
with the IC at that time with what the LTTE has done.
Last but not least is
your attempt to drive a wedge between the LTTE and Anton Balasingham.
Under the sub-heading “Balasingham’s Spirit” you have tried
to tell the world that all the decisions taken for the LTTE at the
negotiating table thus far had been taken single-handedly by Anton
Balasingam. By doing this
you have only exposed to the world your lack of understanding about one
party to this conflict. Dr.
Perera, most of the observers like me know that the LTTE hierarchy
operates like the Holy Trinity. Leader
Prabakaran, Anton Balasingham and Thamilchelvan all speak in unison.
They do not take decisions separately.
Therefore, if Balasingham had been moderate in taking decisions, it
only reflected what the LTTE’s thinking was at that time and not Balasingham
alone thinking moderately. Most
of the mischievous journalists have been using the opportunity that
Balasingham is unable to actively participate in deliberations due to
his poor health, to slander the LTTE hierarchy as trying to sideline
him. After the Paris
meeting Thamilchelvan, in an interview to IBC radio, clarified this
matter and called opportunistic misdemeanours like yours political
Dr. Perera, by writing this
article at the wrong time in the wrong place, you have demonstrated that
you have a side to take in this conflict.
is fair enough for everyone to take sides.
But, if you want to hold on to your position as one of the
directors in the Norwegian-funded NPC this, in my opinion, is in conflict
with the interest of the financiers of the NPC.
Therefore, it is high time for the Norwegians to re-evaluate the
situation and make some hard decisions in the near future.
Dr. Victor Rajakulendran
Hon. Jan Peterson, State Secretary, Norway
Hon. Jack Straw, Foreign
Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London
Hon. Javier Solana, Secretary
Mr. Colin L. Powell,
Secretary of State, US Department of State, Washington DC
Ms. Yoriko Kavaguchi, Foreign
Mr. Yasusi Akashi, Japan Special Peace Envoy to Sri Lanka, Japan