then there was one and only one
President Rajapakse’s maiden visit to India and his talks
with Indian leaders inevitably produced a feast of commentaries
and analyses in the Sri Lankan and Indian media.
seems to have chipped in with vigour and enthusiasm in keeping with
the festive season. Journalists, academics, peace keepers, war mongers,
budding diplomats, budded diplomats and strays like some of those
on the Rajapakse bandwagon to the Dhammadvipa. Sorting out the paddy
from the husk, as it were, was as time consuming and a sure recipe
for neuralgia as discarding the unwanted after an orgy of celebration.
it must be admitted that there were some interesting thoughts that
emanated from both sides of the Palk Strait. Some contributors had
studied every word that dropped from the lips of our leaders and
their aides with such microscopic care that an interesting issue
came to light.
Sri Lanka’s leaders in more recent months have been talking
of a “unitary” state and the international community-
whether it be the Co-chairs or the EU- have made mention of a “united”
joint statement issued after the India-Sri Lanka dialogue referred
to an undivided Sri Lanka. Here are the relevant paragraphs. “
India reiterated its support for a process of seeking a negotiated
political settlement acceptable to all sections of Sri Lankan society
within a framework of an undivided Sri Lanka and consistent with
democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights.”
on the statement talked of a political settlement based on devolution,
openness, transparency and inclusivity…….. in an undivided
and democratic Sri Lanka.”
some commentators spotted the word “undivided” they
vectored in on it like a one-man air force. Their concern? Was undivided
a category or status below united? Did it mean that our closest
neighbour and regional super power that once preached the “Indira
Doctrine” of limited sovereignty on the lines of the Brezhnev
doctrine in the heyday of the Soviet Union, was not particularly
concerned about a united Sri Lanka?
I don’t know how those semantically-inclined would treat the
degradation that is sort to be imposed, but I would think one should
consider the “ground reality” as writers now prone to
military parlance, might say.
by united is meant a country in which every community-ethnic or
religious- would lie in brotherly love after a political settlement
has been reached, that would be over ambitious, if an understatement
might be permitted. The fissures are too deep, the suspicion and
fears too instilled, to be cured by a political settlement which
maintains the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka
that appears to be the aim of India and the western nations.
would take two or three generations following any meaningful and
acceptable solution to breed that kind of society. Perhaps this
is to read too much into the use of the word “undivided”.
Perhaps it is to see more than a grain of sand in a grain of sand.
is not an undivided Sri Lanka more realistic, as it stands today,
than a united one if by united is meant what has been described
There is a more compelling issue that unfortunately has not been
pursued with the necessary diplomatic and political skills in the
last few months when the tide of international opinion has been
ebbing from the LTTE and flowing towards Sri Lanka, largely because
the Tamil Tigers have thumbed their noses at this so-called international
particular line should have been pushed hard after most international
observers at last November’s presidential election chastised
the LTTE for depriving the Tamil people in the north of their fundamental
right of casting their vote. However much the LTTE claimed that
it was the Tamil people who decided by their own volition to boycott
the election, there is little doubt when one reads the reports of
the election observers- the European Union and even the Commonwealth
group- that few take this argument with any seriousness.
theories have been advanced on why the LTTE decided not only to
boycott the election but also impose its will on others. Whatever
they are, there is a fundamental reason. The LTTE abhors free and
open elections, or for that matter any form of elections unless
it can control them and gain heavily from them.
pluralism, particularly political pluralism, is outside the experience
of the LTTE leadership and a condition it will not accept because
it implies the existence of other voices, other shades of opinion.
The sole representative of the Tamil people wishes to remain permanently
both India and the international community, especially the EU, have
time and again underscored the need for a democratic and pluralistic
society in Sri Lanka following any negotiated settlement.
Indo-Lanka joint statement made this very clear when it referred
to a political settlement “consistent with democracy, pluralism
and respect for human rights.”
is only the most recent of nations or international groups to do
Last December 22 the European Commissioner for External Relations
Benito Ferraro-Waldner in an open letter to protesting Tamil groups,
said that the international community has repeatedly “called
on both parties to put their house in order. For the LTTE, this
means renouncing violence, stopping political killings, putting
an end to child soldier recruitment and allowing political pluralism
in the north and east of Sri Lanka.”
are issues that my predecessor Chris Patten stressed when he met
with Mr Prabhakaran in November 2003. I raised them again when I
travelled to Sri Lanka last March.” Despite these very clear
statements on the need for political pluralism has the LTTE paid
course not! The simple answer is that Mr Prabhakaran and his close
associates cannot and will not survive in an open society where
democratic values such as the right to dissent and to do so publicly
If the international community eschews all the rhetoric on pluralism
and studies closely the rise of the LTTE, they would realise that
it was not through open political contest or by selling their ideology
in the market place that the Tigers emerged as the predominant group.
The history of the LTTE is a past of eliminating all other shades
of opinion, from elected parliamentarians to other armed militants.
when western chanceries advice Sri Lanka to offer a viable, acceptable
solution, they blithely ignore that whether it be a federal system
or even a separate state, democracy and political pluralism will
not be characteristics of that society.
Perera, who some foreign media refer to as an independent analyst,
once wrote an article headlined “The lesser seen political
side of the LTTE” in which he said how democratic values were
being sown in the Wanni and that “the voice of democratic
coexistence can be expected to be heard within the upper echelons
of the LTTE.”
absolute piffle. The world heard it on November 17. The last man
standing is Velupillai Prabhakaran because all the others have been
killed. Democracy is eliminating political opponents at the ballot
not with the bullet.
the western world understands that much. Or are they swirling in
a world of their own, the inner self comforted by Jehan Perera’s
promise of Tigers acting like domesticated pussy cats.