Ilankai Tamil Sangam
Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA
THE ACTION GROUP OF TAMILS (TAGOT)
15 June 2004
Kumaratunga prepares to unleash the Sinhala army
The current political developments and war preparations in Colombo flow naturally and logically from the Sinhala President Chandrika Kumaratunga's unparalleled anti-Tamil jingoism during her first term (1994 - 1999).
In The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT) Press Release of 25 November 1999, we warned: "During the past five years, President Kumaratunga metamorphosed from a docile 'peace dove' seeking a political solution into a grotesque 'war dragon' breathing Dharma Yuddha (Holy War). She anointed her Dharma Yuddha with a potent symbol of Buddhist worship, the Sudu Nelum (while lotus), to legitimise it as a Buddhist Holy War against the non-Buddhist Tamil people. This Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism is unprecedented in post-Independence history of the country."
However, Kumaratunga, her PA Government and her Sinhala army suffered a string of humiliating military debacles inflicted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Perhaps the most impressive operation by the LTTE is the destruction of the sprawling Elephant Pass army garrison.
We in TAGOT are absolutely certain that Kumaratunga and her SLFP are today still steeped in their anti-Tamil chauvinism and that they have not forgiven the LTTE and, by extension, Tamils for their past military defeats. They are obsessed over acute delusions of achieving military victory over the LTTE and dominating the Tamil Nation.
During March/April, while the cease-fire agreement is in force, Kumaratunga and her Sinhala army (together with foreign intelligence agencies) engineered the Karuna Affair to weaken the military capabilities of the LTTE.
Almost simultaneously Kumaratunga is conspiring to disarm the LTTE. She has developed a great affection for two-track talks. She justified her insistence on parallel talks by quoting the 2003 Tokyo Declaration, although she knows very well the LTTE did not participate in the Conference and so was not a party to that Declaration.
The Declaration provides insights into the strategy crafted by the Sri Lanka Government together with its international backers. Two provisions of the Declaration are especially relevant to us. They are the following:
(a) Clause 18(d): "Parallel progress towards a final political settlement based on the principles of the Oslo Declaration." Clause 18(d) deliberately ignored LTTE's longstanding demand - a demand that the four co-chairs of the Tokyo conference are fully aware of - that the reconstruction and rehabilitation in the North East Province (NEP) must precede negotiations toward a political settlement.
(b) Clause 18(j): "Agreement by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE on a phased, balanced, and verifiable de-escalation, de-militarization and normalization process at an appropriate time in the context of arriving at a political settlement." Clause 18(j) requires LTTE to decommission weapons "in the context of arriving" at a settlement. This is in stark contrast to the normal practice of decommissioning weapons after a settlement is reached. A phased decommissioning of weapons by LTTE would then be linked to a parallel phased implementation of a political settlement by the Government.
Clause 18(j) makes decommissioning of weapons by the LTTE a condition for continuing negotiations. In other words, the ploy is to reduce and eliminate LTTE's military capacity during the course of negotiations.
The British Government similarly had tried - but failed - to deceive the IRA into disarming before a lasting settlement was reached in Northern Ireland.
In Sri Lanka, TAGOT detects at least three reasons why Kumaratunga and her international backers prefer this Machiavellian strategy. First, if the LTTE's military power is diminished as negotiations proceed then the military parity would be rretrievably eroded by the time the crucial concluding stages are reached. This would give the Sinhala army a clear military advantage over the LTTE. Kumaratunga can then freely manipulate the terms of a settlement to the Government's advantage together with the anti-Tamil Buddhist right wing.
Second, if the LTTE were to reject Kumaratunga's dictate, the army's superior military power could be unleashed to crush the organisation. Kumaratunga intends to blame the LTTE for the renewed hostilities and induce Tamils to turn against the LTTE, which is the bankrupt Sinhala tactic of divide and destroy.
Three, a confederal system is the only constitutional basis for a final and lasting settlement within a united Sri Lanka that ensures the national rights of Tamils. However, despite their rhetoric about "peace", Kumaratunga and her international backers are opposed to a confederal system. They view Tamils as a "minority" and therefore not entitled to collective, national rights.
Almost all foreign governments that are sponsoring Kumaratunga are themselves busy manipulating and controlling their own so-called "minorities". Politicians in those governments come by and large from the respective majority nation in each country. Their national interest is to defend the international system of States. They are committed to defeating any internal military challenge to any State anywhere (except of course liberation movements they support for geopolitical advantage). In Sri Lanka they naturally collude with the Sinhala politicians and support the Sinhala government to crush LTTE's military power.
So the covert intention of Kumaratunga and her international backers is to manipulate the "talks", to corner and, if necessary, coerce the LTTE and Tamils in general to settle for what the Sinhala government is willing to offer. Weakening the LTTE by trapping it into decommissioning weapons is an integral and essential tactic in this strategy.
Norway achieved precisely this objective in Palestine by neutralising the Palestinian Liberation Movement through the 1993 Oslo Accord.
The verbal diarrhoea that a political settlement in Sri Lanka would respect democratic principles and ensure human rights is the sugar coating; it is the illusory consolation offered to Tamils that constitutional safeguards would be introduced to protect them from the ravages of Sinhala domination. But such constitutional safeguards are irrelevant to securing national rights; and Tamils know how Sinhala governments neutralised even the rudimentary protection for individual rights in successive constitutions.
3. Kumaratunga is strategizing to shift the balance of military power in favour of her Sinhala army. So she wants to conclude a Defence Co-operation Agreement (DCA) with India. In early June, her Foreign Minister attended the wedding of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Deputy General Secretary MK Stalin's daughter in Chennai. The obvious tactic is to placate the DMK and pre-empt it from opposing the DCA since it is an important member of the Central Government in New Delhi. That she also welcomes the growing defence links between the Sinhala army and the United States army is well known.
The President's primary objective is to strengthen the armed forces. Because, she and her international backers plan to unleash the army when the LTTE understandably rejects the unjust demand to decommission weapons during negotiations.
Kumaratunga's immediate need is to amend the Constitution or enact a new one within the next 19 months in order to extend her political career beyond December 2005. Therefore she is very likely to attempt extra-Parliamentary manoeuvres in the name of "national security" to continue in power. Launching a military campaign in the NEP and fanning the resulting political crisis is one way to manufacture conditions that would justify the grab for further power.
Politically naive "liberals" and Kumaratunga apologists are more active than before. Many argue that it is better to allow her to make constitutional changes - invoking the Doctrine of Necessity - and stay in power rather than risk another war. These "liberals" seem to be pathetically unaware that in Pakistan Gen Zia-ul-Haq used the same Doctrine to extend and entrench his rule that led to more violence.
Others suggest that Tamils should support constitutional changes in a pragmatic bargain to win Tamil rights: Tamil parliamentarians, so the argument goes, could force President Kumaratunga to enact a federal constitution and in return for supporting her to continue in power. Anyone who knows anything about Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist politics knows this tactic is hogwash.
A bizarre twist here is the hilarious advice to the LTTE to educate the Sinhala people. "Talks on core issues" so the argument goes, "present a unique opportunity for the LTTE to enlighten the island's Sinhala community on the progressive nature of a future state structure that would be capable of accommodating Tamil self-rule and power-sharing." The unfortunate implication is that the Sinhala people are abysmally low in intelligence; that they are so unintelligent that they have been utterly unable to grasp the basic features of power-sharing although they have been widely debated for the past half a century.
We in TAGOT think otherwise. We are convinced that the Sinhala people are intelligent, that they know precisely what the issues are. And the vast majority of them are clearly opposed to power sharing as demonstrated in the 2004 parliamentary elections. We elaborated on this point in great detail in the TAGOT Press Release of 20 April 2004.
The insidious allegation behind the advice, to educate the Sinhala people, is that the LTTE and Tamils in general share the blame for Sinhala ignorance. TAGOT has no comment on the subject.
The LTTE is quite correct in rejecting parallel talks on "core issues" since the intention of Kumaratunga and her international backers is to link the decommissioning of weapons with the setting up of the ISGA in the NEP. But Kumaratunga apologists dishonestly allege that "the LTTE has failed to articulate a convincing case showing how parallel talks on core issues would undermine negotiation of its ISGA proposals. Indeed," their argument continues, "any sensible person will be baffled" why Kumaratunga's demand for two track talks and LTTE's insistence on the step by step approach of setting up ISGA first and then negotiating the "core issues" are "viewed as irreconcilable."
TAGOT is not at all baffled. Nor is the critical Tamil intelligentsia within and outside the country deceived by Kumaratunga's blatant duplicity.
The attempt by President Kumaratunga to telescope the establishment of the ISGA into a discussion of "core issues" is an unprincipled machination to undermine the LTTE's proposal for an interim structure and to justify a return to war.
The Action Group Of Tamils (TAGOT)
Dr S Sathananthan Ph D, Secretary
Posted June 16, 2004