The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

22nd September 1996



Sivasithamparam replies to Mahindapala

No cow dies of being cursed by a crow.

Personal abuse is the last weapon of a person who is bereft of all arguments. Mr.Mahindapala has come to that state. Small men, in order to attract attention to themselves, indulge in abusing great men. Mr. Mahindapala has abused Sir. P. Arunachalam, Sir P. Ramanathan and now the much respected Bishop Rev. Kenneth Fernando. There is a proverb in Tamil" No cow dies of being cursed by a crow."

At the outset, I wish to correct some wrong facts:-

1. He accuses me of jumping into the fray. He has conveniently forgotten that it was he who dragged my name in his first letter replying to Mr.Wirasinghe. He must be now regretting that he ever dragged my name unnecessarily in the context of his reply to Mr.Wirasinghe.

2. He asserts that I was in All Ceylon Tamil Congress when the citizenship Acts were passed. He is absolutely wrong. I was not in the A. C. T. C. when those laws were passed. Despite the red herrings in the form of the A. C. T. C. he draws across the trail, it is an incontrovertible fact that the citizenship laws and the consequent snatching of the votes of the plantation Tamils were passed by the U. N. P. Government under Mr. D. S. Senanayake. The U. N. P. made thousands of plantation Tamils lose their votes and while their population was counted to carve out seats, they had no votes and these seats went to Sinhalese. I repeat I made no contribution whatsoever to pass such palpably unjust laws.

He accuses me for joining the Federal Party to win a parliamentary seat. I never joined the Federal Party. I am a member of the Tamil United Liberation Front which was formed by the Tamil Congress and Federal Party and the Ceylon Workers Congress coming together. Further there was no need for me to join the Federal Party to win a parliamentary seat because I defeated a Federal Party candidate in three elections-March,1960, July ,1960 and July,1965.

He accuses the Tamil leaders of intransigence in solving the Tamil problem. The Tamil leadership has always been willing to compromise without sacrificing the basic rights of the Tamil people. Let me quickly go over the history of the last 50 years.

Mr.G.G.Ponnambalam (Snr) demanded balanced representation. Lord Soulbury did not give it. Although the representation was much less than what he asked and even much less than the so-called estimate of 53 to 47, he joined the Cabinet of Mr. D.S.Senanayake in a gesture of what he called responsive cooperation. The reward he got was his being unceremoniously dropped from the Cabinet by Sir John Kotalawela.

Later Mr. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam planned a massive satyagraha in support of four demands. Prime Minister Bandarnaike negotiated with Mr. Chelvanayakam, entered into a pact and Mr. Chelvanayakam gave up the Satyagraha. Within days of the, pact being signed, Buddhist priests performed satyagraha outside the Prime Minister's house and compelled him to tear up the pact.

Mr. Dudley Senanayake obtained support of the Federal Party by entering into another pact with Mr. Chelvanayakam but this pact also ended up in the waste paper basket. Mr. Mahindapala, I repeat what you asked me - are you still reading but more important - do you understand?

I can go on with President Jayewardene promising to summon an all parties conference to redress Tamil grievances - and forgetting about it when he got elected. Being compelled to make Tamil also an official language and merrily going on entrenching Sinhala. Tamil leaders are honorable men to whom their word is their bond.

Mr. Mahindapala, keeps on repeating ad nauseam the so-called offer of 53 to 47. Even the meanest intellect can understand and appreciate the difference between an offer by the Board of Ministers of a representation of 53 to 47 as between the majority and the minorities and an assessment by interested parties of a possible 57 to 43 representation on the basis of the delimitation of electorates. As I pointed out earlier this assessment proved to be completely wrong in the first elections and at every successive elections.

I deliberately refrain from responding to the challenge on the caste question of an irresponsible person like Mr. Mahindapala because I do not wish to offend the susceptibilities of the Sinhalese people for no purpose. His excuse for dragging the caste question was my assertion that the Tamils were being oppressed. Instead of denying and proving my assertion wrong he replies that the Tamils are oppressing the minority Tamils. By doing this, he indirectly admits the oppression of the Tamils but charges that the Tamils are also oppressing. Following Mr. Mahindapala I don't wish to say that there is caste among Sinhalese and similarly there is caste among Tamils. I have said it already and I repeat we are ashamed and we are doing our best to undo the evils of the past generations. He quotes some unknown Professor of an equally unknown University. But the relevant question is in which year was this learned Professor in Jaffna. Conditions were bad at one time but they have improved considerably over the last many years.

To conclude, Mr. Mahindapala accuses us of being intolerant of views of other people. He must not judge others by his standard. His conscience and Mr. Siriwardana will tell him as to what he did when he was editor of the Observer.


Iraq the target; Islam the enemy

Desert Storm, a famous victory, did not help President George Bush win a second term, the ultimate aim of every American politician who has made it to the top, the White House. President Bill Clinton who defeated Mr. Bush by concentrating on the domestic, the economy most of all, is so certain of victory on Nov. 5 that he has decided on a low-risk foreign adventure which could at this stage, bring only plus points.

And so that perfect "stage villain" Saddam (pronounced Sad-Damn) gets a stellar role. But is Iraq the real target? Or is it Iran, the home of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, now perceived as the real enemy, not godless communism, which has lost its universal appeal and congregation? (A Muslim party came first at last week's polls in Bosnia, in the Balkans; for Christian Europe, too close for comfort).

If Iran is the main enemy, then Iraq's Saddam Hussein who fought a long, costly war with revolutionary Iran, may still have his uses. Besides, both countries are oil producers, and oil is ultimately the name of the game. The terrorist attack in the Saudi capital where the American presence has a high visibility was surely an early warning.

Russian concern

Though now the defunct superpower, Russia has been the patron and partner of Saddam Hussein's regime for quite a long time. The ruling Baath party does have some ideological ties with more orthodox socialist and communist organizations. Thus, this statement by the authorities in Baghdad:

"The Revolution Command Council decided to suspend (for sometime) our military reaction to the American armed aggression by their imposition of the parallels which have no legitimate basis in international law and the Security Council resolutions".

The spokesman added that this decision came in response to the initiative of the Russian leadership, to the desires and attitudes of other friends which denounced the American military aggression... The suspension (for sometime) of our national reaction to the American hostile conduct is meant to give our friends in Russia and all other friends the chance to put things in their proper order in accordance with international law and in a manner that protects our rights and sovereignty over our homeland."

The last sentence of the Revolutionary Command Council's communiqué invites the attention of all observers of this crisis, a crisis which is certainly not over. "If the Americans continue their aggression after the said date by firing at our forces, our forces will retaliate upon fire."

Is this bluff? Can Iraq take on the might of the sole superpower? Of course, the US will probably legitimise any military assault on Iraq by United Nations resolutions. Right now, the UN and most plainly its Secretary General, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, a former Egyptian diplomat, is on a collision course with the US Inspite of all its mounting problems President Yeltsin's illness is the latest Russia is particularly alert these days to Washington's attitude to the UN

The Iraqi statement includes a direct reference to President Clinton and his motives. Far from a protective concern for the Kurds, it is his pre-occupation with the November elections that has prompted Mr. Clinton to play the tough guy abroad.

Scene shift

The scene moved to Turkey, a NATO member, a steadfast US ally. The object of the American exercise now is to unite the two Kurdish groups, the anti-Saddam Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Mr. Jalal Talabani which Baghdad claims is financed by the US (the CIA has been mentioned in the press) and the pro-Saddam Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Baghdad also suspected that the PUK had been formed (or infiltrated) by the CIA. This view is put forward rather boldly by Dr. Uday Bhaskar in the Times of India. He is a senior fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis in Delhi.

Meanwhile oil prices rose to US dollars 23.50 the highest since 1991, that is from the last Gulf War.

Oil and Islam

Oil and Islam can prove a dangerously explosive mix. In Algeria, an oil producing country a radical Islamic party which was winning the elections was robbed of its victory largely by an army that has strong links with western Establishments. The Mossedeghists, the Nasserists, and the Baathists (in Iraq and Syria) are in fact passionate nationalists, says Prof. Ghassan Salame, director of the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.

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