Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

The Tamil Question in Sri Lanka

Part 4

by Padraig Colman, The Agonist, June2, 2010

There is an immense amount of talent among the Tamil diaspora. It would be good if substantial numbers of them could return to Sri Lanka and help rebuild their nation rather than picking over the scabs of grievances, however recent, and fomenting further unrest by encouraging separatist militancy. The President has not been proactive in the past about the APRC proposals. It would be a better use of the public relations skills of the Tamil diaspora to exert pressure to implement the APRC proposals rather than continuing a possibly bloody quest for the chimera of Tamil Eelam.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – Tamil Grievances in Sri Lanka.

As a genuinely detached and impartial observer of the Sri Lankan political scene I get flak from all sides. I refuse to be suckered by battalions of straw men into defending a position that I do not hold – I will not adopt the position of Sinhala nationalists who claim that Tamils in Sri Lanka have never had anything to complain about. Neither will I accept that the Tamil Tigers were simply freedom fighters defending an oppressed minority.

Someone calling himself ‘Maham’ says about an article I wrote for Le Monde diplomatique: “A highly prejudiced and one-sided article. The Tamils have been continually ill-treated by the racist Sinhala majority. They never wanted to give the due political rights to the Tamils. From 1948 for about 30 years Tamils fought for their rights in a peaceful way. Take the case of the Bandaranaike — Chelvanayagam Pact and the Dudley Senanayake - Chelvanayagam Pact and what happened to them? Both the pacts were dishonoured by the Sinhala leaders. When the peaceful methods failed to achieve anything, then to save the Tamils from the Pan-Sinhala army and its terrorism, as a last resort the Tamil youths took up arms.”

Someone calling himself ‘MahamahaRaja’ is clearly not a Tamil. Reacting to the very same article, he tells me: “Tamils have not faced any ‘discrimination’ in Sri Lanka. Wanting colonial era privileges to be maintained for them, in the home of the Sinhalese into which they were brought like slaves, which they achieved through unwavering servitude and sucking up to their colonial white masters, is UNACCEPTABLE! Do some research before regurgitating terrorist propaganda.”

To state baldly: “Tamils have not faced any ‘discrimination’ in Sri Lanka” avoids the question: “Why did Tamil separatism become a powerful enough force to almost topple the state and to lead to a civil war lasting 30 years at the cost of 100,000 lives?”

Alaska Progressive accused me on Open Salon of being biased against “Tamils” whom he thinks “are an oppressed minority fighting for independence... The claim they are terrorists is biased as a Tamil can claim the Sri Lankan government are the terrorists, just with a better military.”

Well ... up to a point Lord Copper. One might argue that Tamils are an oppressed minority (which Tamils?) and evidence could be presented on both sides of the argument. But Alaska Progressive conflates the terms “Tamils” (not a homogeneous group, many Sri Lankan Tamils are far from oppressed; many are obscenely rich and influential; 40% to 70% of them live outside the “Tamil homeland”) and Tamil Tigers. There is pretty well universal agreement that the LTTE was one of the more vicious terrorist groups ever known and they were banned in most countries.

Blame the Brits

Alaska Progressive adopts the knee-jerk reaction of blaming the British. He seems to be confused in a similar way to MahamahaRaja. Ceylon was given independence in 1948 without having to fight for it. After 62 years perhaps some of the blame might be allocated to Sri Lankan politicians. Many Sri Lankans look back with fondness to the days of British rule and say that things were better when the country was a colony.

As an Irish citizen, I am well aware of the crimes of the British Empire.

See http://padraigcolman.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/ethnic-cleansing-in-ireland/ and

http://padraigcolman.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/obama-tortured-by-british-shock/

However let us build a correct case against the British and get the facts straight. Alaska Progressive gets it wrong when he focuses on the British practice of importing indentured labor from south India. The British did indeed do this but the plantation workers were not generally recruited by the Tamil Tigers. The British have a lot to answer for but bringing in Tamil slaves has nothing to do with the fight for a Tamil homeland. The Plantation Tamils’ homeland was in South India and it was Sri Lankan politicians who tried to send them back there (like Jefferson sending slaves ‘back’ to Africa even if they had not been born there). Different kind of Tamils, AP! Real life is complex. Plantation Tamils did (and do) have grievances but they are generally addressed through their trade unions rather than through terrorism. Thanks to the vagaries of the Sri Lankan economy and electoral system the Plantation Tamils’ unions are not without influence.

Britain’s main contribution to conflict in Sri Lanka is the perception that they favoured an educated Tamil professional elite to the detriment of the Sinhalese majority.

AP says that I give only a “cursory” account of Tamil grievances. I will here try to redress that perception.

Tamil grievances – yesterday

Although there had been many events leading up to it, the immediate cause of the long and bloody civil war occurred in July 1983, “Black July”. Over many years there had been incidents where ill-disciplined police or military had carried out savage reprisals, rather in the manner of the Black and Tans in Ireland, on innocent Tamils. July 1983 was a paradigm shift in terror. Thirteen soldiers were killed by the LTTE. Anti-Tamil riots ensued and lasted for ten days with property being destroyed and up to 3,000 people being killed and 200,000 displaced.

These horrific events left an indelible mark on the Tamil psyche. Atrocities were perpetrated on innocent Tamils all over the country and many fled to the north for refuge. Those who could afford to fled abroad, from where they provided ongoing financial support for the LTTE.

There were also reports of incredible courage shown by selfless Sinhalese people trying to protect their Tamil friends and neighbours.

Michael Roberts, a Sri Lankan historian and anthropologist, looked back on these events from the perspective of 25 years: “The militant movement for separation gathered thousands of new Tamil recruits and a rejuvenation of commitment among most SL Tamils, as well as a wave of support in international quarters. Sri Lanka also received pariah status on the world stage.”

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka has not been able to enjoy to the full its recent victory over terrorism because this pariah status lingers on with the Tamil diaspora finding sympathetic hearing in the west.

The pressure for violent Tamil separatism had been building mainly from 1956. Sinhalese-Buddhist activists helped Solomon Bandaranaike and the SLFP win the elections of 1956 and were determined to claim their reward by making the new government honour its pledges to elevate Sinhala to the status of the sole national language. Many Sinhala students only had unemployment to look forward to and resented the fact that coveted government jobs required a fluency in English which they did not have. Bandaranaike was not untypical of a tradition in Sri Lankan politics of employing high-flown rhetoric in the pursuit of electoral success without necessarily intending to do much to fulfil promises once in power.

A group of about 200 Tamils gathered on Galle Face Green for a silent peaceful protest against the SLFP’s legislation to make Sinhala, spoken as a first language by 70% of the population, the only official national language. The police were given orders not to protect the protesters and anti-Tamil mobs were allowed to take the law into their own hands. Violence spread from the Green to the whole country. The death toll in the riots of June 1956 was 150, small, perhaps, by the standards of ethnic violence elsewhere in South East Asia, but this first violent encounter between Tamils and Sinhalese in modern Sri Lankan history was a shock to the system and many thought it could have been avoided. The warning was not heeded and further wounds were suffered and continue to be endured to this day.
Perhaps in something of a panic, Bandaranaike tried for reconciliation by providing, through the Tamil Language Act, for Tamil to be used for administrative purposes in the north east. The government tried to appease Tamils by modifying the language policy, only to arouse the wrath of the Sinhala activists. In the riots of April 1958, the death toll was higher, around 600. The government was persuaded to back down from the compromise it had agreed with the leader of the Tamil Federal Party, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, whereby concessions should have been made on language, on devolution and on colonisation of Tamil areas by Sinhalese.

In Being a Tamil and a Sri Lankan, Professor Karthigesu Sivathamby wrote: “If I may not be misunderstood by my non-Tamil friends, what happened in post-1956 Sri Lankan politics was not so much the implementation of Sinhala as the sole official language, but Sinhalisation of the entire administration and political machinery. The Tamils were prepared to learn Sinhala and there were in Jaffna Buddhist monks teaching that language in the better-known schools. The Muslims also learnt Sinhala. It was, however, not the use of the Sinhala language, but the insistence on Sinhalising the staff and the geographical areas which made Tamils and Muslims hold on steadfastly to their north eastern areas and identities. When they were threatened in the areas where they were working and had established themselves as its people the slogan of the Traditional Homeland began gradually to emerge”.
Although he identified himself with Sinhala Buddhist nationalism Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk. This symbolised the disappointment with Bandaranaike of the extreme elements of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. His wife pressed ahead with discriminatory language policies and her successor, JR Jayawardene, instituted constitutional changes which undermined democracy and further weakened the position of moderate Tamil politicians.

In a ham-fisted attempt put right what was seen as an unfair advantage for educated Tamils in education and the professions and a cynical attempt to win votes, further grievances were created. Professor Kingsley de Silva has astutely commented that The Sinhalese are a majority with a minority complex and the Tamils are a minority with a majority complex.

Sinhalese-dominated governments contributed to the worsening situation by stupidity and cupidity and many acts of commission or omission. The first Republican constitution, which was adopted on May 22 1972, marked the beginning of a new phase of ethnic conflict because it consolidated the status of the Sinhala language and elevated Buddhism to the status of “foremost among religions”.

Section 29 of the Soulbury constitution which gave some protection to minorities was abolished. State policies were decided in a cabinet where Tamils were not represented and so Tamil parties could not influence change.

Sri Lankan Tamils saw the new constitution as a legalistic mechanism for excluding them from full recognition within the nation of Sri Lanka. They began to move away from campaigning for protection of their minority rights, towards assertion of the right to self-determination.

Tamils had been so dependent on state employment that a quota system which made entry to the professions and to scientific and technical education more difficult for them caused a great deal of bitterness and frustration. The reduction in admissions was so severe that it was felt as a loss of rights rather than loss of privilege.

In 1979, the people of Jaffna were further alienated by a state of emergency and a counter-insurgency operation by the army. The LTTE targeted Tamil policemen, informers and government supporters. In revenge for the killing of a Tamil UNP candidate and many policemen, the Jaffna Library, home of 90,000 volumes and many rare manuscripts, was burned to the ground, it is alleged, with government collusion.

Sinhalese youth might feel alienated from a system which embodied class privileges. Indeed they felt this strongly enough to mount two bloody uprisings which threatened to topple the state. Tamil youth had the added alienation of being made to feel like ethnic outsiders. These intelligent and disaffected young men added a volatility and violence to Tamil politics and helped to form an ideology of separatism.

One can understand why frustration with peaceful politics led to violence but one also has to question whether the horror unleashed was proportionate to the grievances. Almost a year ago, the LTTE was on the verge of certain defeat but Prabakharan would not give up, perhaps hoping that pressure from other countries might save him. Civilians turned on the LTTE who attempted to forcibly recruit men and women in the Puthumatalan area. Several LTTE cadres were killed and many injured. This incident occurred when the LTTE attempted to forcibly recruit a young girl, despite her protests. According to civilians who escaped from the area, the LTTE had dragged the girl and torn her clothing until she was almost naked. This incident had incited her relatives and people in the vicinity who then attacked the LTTE cadres. At least six vehicles in which the group had come had been set on fire by the angry civilians. Later the people surrounded an LTTE political office in the area and set it on fire too. Later, in retaliation, a group of armed LTTE cadres came to the area and indiscriminately attacked unarmed civilians, killing and causing injuries to several of them in the presence of the humanitarian agencies working in the area.

In Outlook India Ashok Mehta, (Major General (retd) former GOC of the Indian Peace Keeping Force) wrote: “The LTTE’s principal handicap has been Prabhakaran. Because of him, the Tigers missed several opportunities for a political settlement—from the devolution package to even better offers later from president Chandrika Kumaratunga and prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Chasing the chimera of Eelam, Prabakharan became a liability.”

Mrs Rajeswari Balasubramaniam is a writer and human rights campaigner who lives in the UK. She was one of 21 members of a group called “Tamil Diaspora for Dialogue" who arrived in Sri Lanka last year and appealed to LTTE leader Prabhakaran for the release of innocent civilians trapped in the No-Fire Zone. Mrs. Balasubramaniam said that it was time for the LTTE leader to rethink how productively he could have used his abilities by creating a new Tamil community through the democratic path.

"We Tamils who have borne the brunt of suppression, oppression, battered and bruised over the years must forget the past and think anew. We know that it is not easy to forget the past after what we went through was hell for many years it is not easy but you have to forget the past". She continued, “Those members of the Tamil Diaspora who are especially beating the war drums from the cool comfort and safety of their homes in foreign capitals around the world must think anew and learn to live in a united Sri Lanka where all could enjoy equal rights".

DBS Jeyaraj, wrote: “The Tamils need to remind themselves that the LTTE, despite its prolonged campaign, has ultimately achieved nothing for the Tamil people. If the LTTE had converted the military strength it once enjoyed into bargaining power at the negotiating table, Sri Lankan Tamils would have been much better off. It did not and in the process has brought misery and despair to the Tamil people.”

Having said all that, the end of the war brought further grievances. The government forces were accused of shelling hospitals and killing innocent civilians. Around 300,000 civilians were held in refugee camps which were called welfare camps by the government and extermination camps by more extreme elements of the Tamil diaspora.

(See http://agonist.org/padraig_colman/20090826/sri_lanka_s_displaced_people_part_3)

The word “genocide” was bandied about, to which President Rajapaksa responded: why would he be spending taxpayers’ money on feeding refugees and providing medical care if he wanted to wipe out the Tamil race? The government said that the LTTE were using civilians as human shields.

Tamil grievances – today

The language issue exacerbated divisions from 1956. Today, Tamil is on a par with Sinhala as an official language but this needs to implemented and Tamil-speaking officials need to be recruited quickly to the public service throughout the nation. Tamils have been queuing up in Jaffna to join the police force in the north.

Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, says that the Tamil community needs reassurance after a spate of extortions, kidnappings and murders targeting Tamils during the war. A "confidence-building measure would be to ensure the physical and mental security of Tamil citizens living throughout the country".

A grievance in the past was “colonisation”. Some argued that the central government, under cover of developing “bare land” was engaged in a process of Sinhalese settlement similar to the Israelis in Palestine. Such settlements by Sinhalese, assisted by the government, allegedly had a sinister agenda of infiltrating the Tamil “homeland” and diluting Tamil representation. Economic regeneration and re-integration needs to be handled sensitively. Reconstruction should not just be for the profit of southern business. This danger is epitomised by reports that the people of the north are not unanimously overjoyed by being gawked at by tourists from the south.

In the early 1980s before the war, agriculture and fisheries accounted for more than 50% of the economy of the northern region of Vanni, said Muttukrishna Saravananthan, an economist and lead researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development [http://pointpedro.org/] in northern Jaffna District. Thirty years of war have devastated the economy of the north and east. The de facto state operated by the LTTE did nothing to improve or even maintain the infrastructure.

The government was criticised for keeping refugees in camps. It is now being criticised for releasing them because they have no homes or jobs to go to and there is till a danger of mines.

India is applying pressure to have the 13th amendment of the Constitution revived in order to bring devolution of power to the north and east. The president claims that he is planning to do this but not everyone thinks it is a panacea.

Rajavarothaya Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said that he was confident that the government would solve the national problem in a constructive manner although he did not believe that the 13th Amendment was the solution.

The position taken by Dayan Jayatilleka (former ambassador to the UN and admirer of Fidel Castro) and others is that devolution under the 13th Amendment is essential to prevent future unrest. Columnist Malinda Seneviratne believes that any form of federalism or devolution risks continuing fragmentation and that economic development will be the main factor in reintegrating the north and east into the rest of the nation. “If minority grievances going unheeded leads to political unrest and violence then it is in the interests of those who voted for Rajapaksa and the UPFA to have such grievances addressed. My only demand was that grievance must be undressed of the frills called myths, legends and fantasies”.

DBS Jeyaraj wrote in the Sri Lanka Daily Mirror on 24 April 2010: “Whenever demands or proposals are put forward to devolve more powers so that the Tamil and Muslim peoples of the Northern and Eastern provinces could have a greater role in administering their areas of historic habitation, one of the standard responses is to point out that more Tamils and Muslims live outside those two provinces. It is also an incontrovertible fact that the greater part of Tamils of recent Indian origin described generally as Upcountry Tamils or Plantation Tamils or Hill country Tamils reside in the seven Sinhala majority provinces...The crucial question is whether these Tamils living outside the Northern and Eastern provinces enjoy political representation in Parliament and Provincial Councils corresponding to their numerical strength in the seven southern provinces...The stark reality of general election 2010 is the decline of Tamil political representation outside the north and east.”

It is worrying that Tamils are under-represented in mainstream politics and this could lead again to frustration and a return to arms.

The 17th Amendment would benefit the whole nation not just Tamils as it provides human rights protection and curbs on the powers of the police.

Tomorrow?

So far, a separate Tamil state no longer seems to be on the agenda of anyone committed to actually living in Sri Lanka, although elements of the diaspora might still entertain such fantasies. As Jeyaraj wrote: “The future and well- being of the Tamil people are inextricably intertwined with that of Sri Lanka and its people. All future efforts to secure rights and share power have to be within the unity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of Sri Lanka.”

Members of the formerly militant and armed separatist parties mentioned above have condemned the setting up of a “Transnational Government” abroad.

Douglas Devananda of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) : “The parliamentary elections held recently have proved that there was no room for hardliners in the Tamil political scene. People in the country and the Tamils from the North and the East at large wish to live in peace forgetting their past horrible experiences. The cry for separatism has done enormous damage to the Tamils in the country. Unlike previous leaders, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is bold enough to deal with issues which pose a threat to the unity and integrity of the country. The country has tremendous confidence in President Rajapaksa. Therefore, when the whole country is looking towards a bright future, extraneous forces which cannot digest the healthy political developments in the country have now embarked on an idiotic move called `Transnational Government’. I am confident that the selfish action of a handful of LTTE proxies is not going to take them anywhere. Hence the Tamils abroad and in Sri Lanka should be cautious of these sinister moves to destabilise peace that prevails in the country”.

The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangaree said, “The intended ‘Transnational Government’ by the LTTE proxies is sheer stupidity. The elements opposed to the people’s co-existence in the country are all out to create another racial calamity for their existence abroad. People such as V. Rudrakumar in the USA and his allies in other parts of the world are trying to continue with their ulterior motives to destabilise the peace created in the country after three decades”.

Leader of the People’s Liberation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) D. Sitharthan said, “Even after people gave their verdict in the North and the East at the parliamentary polls sidelining the TNA, the LTTE proxies are trying to deceive the people abroad and in the country by coming out with gimmicks such as forming a ‘Transnational’ government abroad. When the LTTE was active there were people who were thriving by showing themselves as supporters of the outfit. However, with the annihilation of the LTTE those who supported it are finding it difficult to survive. Therefore, they are resorting to all sorts of stunts to revamp their activities. Foreign Governments should be cautious of those elements and ensure that their sinister moves are curtailed”.

Rajavarothaya Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said that he was confident that the government would solve the national problem in a constructive manner.

Is there hope for the future?

Some companies who are investing in the north and east are giving priority to finding employment for former inmates of the IDP camps. The government has been rehabilitating former Tigers and providing education and counselling for former child soldiers forcibly recruited by the LTTE (http://mondediplo.com/blogs/rehabilitating-the-tigers).

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is giving returning families seeds, tools, poultry and other assistance worth over US$670,000 for the next planting season.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a $150 million emergency loan to the government to support the reconstruction of infrastructure, restoration of essential services and revival of livelihood opportunities in war-affected regions.
The Indian government is financing the reconstruction of rail links between the north and east and the rest of the country.

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka said several banks are opening branches in the region to facilitate economic activity. Banks currently operating in the region have also committed to grant new credit facilities in the northern and eastern provinces, amounting to $493 million in 2010 and $616 million in 2011.

Government authorities have begun to distribute boats and engines that were recovered during the fighting. [http://defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20100504_07] The government imposed fishing restrictions during the conflict, but they are gradually being lifted.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has begun helping to repair and rebuild irrigation channels, access roads and agro-wells. UNDP spokesman Tahseen Alam said these initiatives, focusing on agriculture and fishing, should help jump-start the local economy. "The aim is for these industries to become self-sufficient without relying on external aid".

In Why Truth Matters Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom write: “There is a reason that truth and reconciliation commissions are called truth and reconciliation commissions. The truth is prior and is a condition of the reconciliation; if the truth is not on offer, then reconciliation is not possible. If rhetoric is allowed to edge truth and truth-seeking out of the way, it will become difficult to get the truth on the record”.

The President has announced the establishment of a commission to investigate possible war crimes during the closing months of the conflict. Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch is not impressed, seeing it as a ploy and delaying tactic to deflect efforts by the UN to conduct an investigation.

Support for Constitutional Reform and a United Sri Lanka.

The President of Sri Lanka established the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) to draft a set of constitutional reforms that would enhance the democratic rights and freedoms of all it’s citizens so as to ensure long-term stability and growth. Dr Colin Irwin of the University of Liverpool with his Peace Polls made an important contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process. He has been surveying reactions to the APRC proposals throughout Sri Lanka.

The report on the latest survey were published a few days ago. The key findings were:

• The preliminary APRC proposals have gained more Sinhala support after the war so that they are now equally acceptable to the Sinhala, Tamils, Up-Country Tamils and Muslims.
• Although the majority of Tamils and Muslims across Sri Lanka want a unitary state a significant minority of Tamils from the Northern Province still want to keep the ‘right to secession’. However most of them will give this up for the complete ‘package’ of APRC reforms.
• The President, political and religious leaders can all influence support for these preliminary APRC proposals but although Eastern Tamils will follow their politicians on this issue Northern Tamils ‘Don’t Know’ how to respond to theirs.
• Although all communities strongly support language and fundamental rights Tamil concerns about the special status of Buddhism has increased after the war as a political issue.

Irwin comments: “Throughout the years of similar negotiations in Northern Ireland there was a considerable lack of understanding of what was really going on in Northern Ireland in the USA. There many Americans of Irish descent continued to support the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and their aspiration for a united Ireland with little knowledge or appreciation of the power sharing arrangements being negotiated under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. Similarly, it seems to be the case that the Tamil diaspora are not fully aware of the efforts of the APRC to find a constitutional solution to their country’s problems. In contrast to the detailed APRC proposals tried and tested here (i.e. in the Peace Poll survey) the members of the Tamil community around the world were recently provided with the following statement in what they called a Tamil Referendum:

‘I aspire to the formation of the independent and sovereign state of Tamil Eelam in the contiguous north and east territory of the island of Sri Lanka on the basis that the Tamil speaking people in the island of Sri Lanka make a distinct nation, have a traditional homeland and have the right to self determination.’”

This “referendum” produced a combined result of 99.68% for the Tamil Eelam proposition and only 0.32% against.

As a scientist, Irwin is not impressed with this “referendum”.

“It was very important that the Belfast Agreement was put to the people of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (the South of Ireland) in a referendum to give the peace agreement political legitimacy. In that referendum held on May 22nd 1998, 71% of the people of Northern Ireland voted ‘Yes’ and in a public opinion poll conducted on behalf of the parties in the negotiations, just 2 weeks before the agreement was signed by the British and Irish governments on Good Friday 1998, 77% said they would support the agreement. The opposition of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who were able to get their members to vote against it, can explain the drop of 6% between the results of the poll and the referendum. So the poll was very accurate.

The results for the test of the APRC proposals in Sri Lanka are certainly as good as if not better than the results for the Belfast Agreement poll, and in Northern Ireland the people there were able to make peace on the strength of those results. Hopefully, now that the elections are over in Sri Lanka the new government will take steps to bring the APRC proposals into constitutional law. With effective implementation all the people of Sri Lanka can reasonably expect to share in all the benefits that will inevitably flow from the peace and stability that these reforms can bring.

Referendums that only offer the options of independence for Tamil Elam or the status quo can’t achieve this. Neither of these two options is what is wanted in Sri Lanka now. The people there are prepared to move on. However, it remains an open question as to whether or not the political leadership in Sri Lanka will take this opportunity to resolve the ‘national question’ once and for all.

As far as the people are concerned this door is open. Given the unprecedented electoral mandate handed to the President and his government by the people they are now in an exceptionally strong position to lead them through.”

It is a gargantuan task to rebuild this nation after 30 years of war. The economy has been ruined and it will cost a lot of money and effort to put it right. Sri Lanka has great potential. As Irwin puts it: now is the time for Sri Lankans of all races to be “taking their rightful place as a prosperous, vibrant island nation in a region of the world where economic success can only be held back by instability or despotism.” There is an immense amount of talent among the Tamil diaspora. It would be good if substantial numbers of them could return to Sri Lanka and help rebuild their nation rather than picking over the scabs of grievances, however recent, and fomenting further unrest by encouraging separatist militancy. The President has not been proactive in the past about the APRC proposals. It would be a better use of the public relations skills of the Tamil diaspora to exert pressure to implement the APRC proposals rather than continuing a possibly bloody quest for the chimera of Tamil Eelam.