Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
Some Simple Notations within the Margins
by Revd. Chandi Sinnathurai
This writer had been reading three books by burning the midnight oil. The Will to Freedom; Animal Farm; and War and Peace. The latter book is by Anton Balasingam and the first is authored by Adele Balasingam.
Since this writer’s return from Vanni he had been much exercised in altering the perceptions of people regarding the Tamil Struggle. The fundamental guiding principle of such conviction is that a liberation force must never be allowed to be branded as a terror group. At a recent conference (on socio-political theology), two senior ‘stiff-upper-lip’ bureaucrats approached this writer, just a few minutes prior to taking the podium: 'You mustn’t say what you are planning to say' – that was the advice given in no uncertain terms. When asked to elaborate, one of the bureaucrats retorted in suppressed anger: ‘Do you know that the Tigers are a proscribed group?’ At one time in history, this writer protested, Christians too were a proscribed sect!
It is with much discontent and cynicism that this writer took up the task to devour the above-mentioned books on the Tamil resistance. Adele gently opens an emotional window and helps the reader to view the human travail within the Tigers and also the immense suffering of the dispossessed nation. The pages roll with ease into absorbing chapters. This writer will not be alone in forming a very high respect for this "Aussie turned into a Tigress ‘Auntie.’ " Adele quite rightly attacks the curséd caste system, among other social ills, while making astute remarks on some feminist issues. This writer was disappointed, however, that Will to Freedom, while speaking of Mr. Pirabaharan as a complex legendary leader, makes no attempt to make in-depth commentaries which would have helped to unpack the complexity of this indomitable spirit.
The calibre and timbre of this couple, Adele and Anton Balasingham, mark them out as dynamic thinkers with moral undergirding in the context of a host of duplicitous politicians. This character no doubt makes the pair irreplaceable for Tamil liberation.
This writer has never had the chance before to read any writings by the Balasinghams. In fact, this writer was less than impressed with Anton Balasingham when he was portrayed in the international media as being a palliative factor in Tiger policymaking in order to settle for a federal solution rather than an independent state. It is with this critical bias that War and Peace was approached.
Balasingham exposes the genocidal intent of the state and eloquently explains the "communal holocaust" that was unleashed repeatedly against the Tamils. One wonders why the Tamils do not have a National Holocaust Day in honor of the wounded memories of the Tamil nation.
It was during the Jaffna peace talks, Balasingham reveals, that the invasion of Jaffna was secretly planned. He points out, "While the Tamils suffered extreme humiliation and hardships, the Kumaratunga regime celebrated the conquest of Jaffna… an event that had deeply wounded the soul of the Tamil nation" (p338ff.). At this point, in the wee hours of the night, one becomes confronted by painful emotions.
Balasingham explains the hidden scheme of the State: "The secret agenda underlying the Jaffna peace talks became transparent and assumed the reality of a brutal war against the Tamil nation." ( p338)
Another crucial point is made here about the constitution: "I could foresee the two major obstacles," Balasingham underscores, "the government might confront in the future in seeking a reasonable solution to the Tamil issue. The first is the Sri Lankan constitution and the second is the Presidency." He highlights the impossibility of arriving at a resolution within an "entrenched majoritarian constitution." (p384)
A crucial explanation to this writer's question was found at last: "Pirabaharan operates his concepts within the overall framework of the right to self-determination, with its internal aspects." (p.403) A substantial regional autonomy and self-government will be favourably considered on the basis of our right to internal self-determination. When such internal emancipation is denied, we have no other alternative other than to secede and form an independent state. Balasingham gives an intellectual exposition to Pirabakaran’s thinking in terms of aspects, "the internal and the external elements of the right to self-determination." (p.404; pg1)
Balasigham completes the final chapter on the Norwegian Facilitated Peace Talks with a penetrating observation. "Wickremesinghe’s grand plan of an ‘international safety net’ as a containment strategy against the LTTE made the Tamil Tigers cautious and suspicious of international entrapment via the peace process." (p. 465)
This writer’s discontent is yet to be dissipated. The Tamils must urgently find a way to slide out of this limbo: we cannot settle in a nascent state as some have suggeted. The ground reality would suggest that the limbo is only a tricky peace trap! Our cultural capital, Yarlpannam, ought to be liberated from hegemonic powers. The only other logical option for us to survive lies in the open secret: external self-determination. One cannot make the argument more cogent than this. Let us face it – the Sinhala state is not interested in peace. Enough is enough.
To conclude with some lines from Orwell’s satire: "There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran: ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL. BUT some animals are more equal than others."
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The Will to Freedom and War and Peace are published by Fairmax Ltd., England
Posted October 11, 2005