Sri Lanka: Flogging The Tamil Eelam Issue – OpEd

By Col. R. Hariharan

May Day celebrations in Sri Lanka this year saw an unusual sight. R Sampanthan, the septuagenarian leader fighting for Sri Lanka Tamil rights and president of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), standing shoulder to shoulder with the United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, waved a Sri Lanka flag to the cheers of a massive crowd in Jaffna celebrating the May Day.

A few years back Sampanthan would have paid with his life for this act of “indiscretion” when he had to kowtow Prabhakaran and dance to the tune of the leader of the LTTE.

Sampanthan’s act was symbolic of the TNA’s moves to forge a political alliance with the UNP to press home their agenda for securing an equitable role for Tamils in the united Sri Lanka. Sampanthan’s show of unity with the UNP was in keeping with TNA decision taken after some deliberation. Even the two aspirants for the TNA leadership mantle – Suresh Premachandran and Mavai Senathiraja – are reported to have hosted a lavish dinner in Jaffna for the visiting UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

To quote from Lakbimanews, TNA MP M A Sumanthiran described the first ever joint May Day rally held in the Jaffna district, as ‘a resounding success.’ “We were able to join hands with the people from the South and hold a successful May Day rally in the North. We are also confident that the people of the North and the South would be able to walk together in the future by joining hands with each other. That was the loud message given to the rest of the country and to the world at this rally,” averred MP Sumanthiran. Are the Tamil Nadu leaders hearing this?

The report further said the MP observed that thanks to the Gurunagar May Day rally held jointly by the UNP and his party, they had also been able to highlight the pressing concerns of the Tamil people to the government and the outside world.

He added: “There are many issues that are plaguing the people here. The cost of living is very high and the salaries drawn by the masses are insufficient. There are scores of unemployed youths here, and the resettlement process is still not going ahead smoothly. Despite 3 years having lapsed, the situation in the North is yet to improve. So far the government is stalling in their bid to find a solution to the national issue.”

Sampanthan’s May Day political debut came even as M Karunanidhi, theoctogenarian leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and out of office Tamil Nadu chief minister, was flogging the issue of creating an independent Tamil Eelam as his latest political slogan. It illustrated how far removed are Tamil Nadu political leaders from their counterparts in Sri Lanka in understanding the ground realities in Sri Lanka.

When the Tamil Nadu leader who carries the sobriquet “Kalaignar” (artiste) dusted up the idea of supporting the cause of independent Tamil Eelam recently, in flowery statement he reminded everyone that the DMK had advocated the idea of a separate Tamil Eelam as early as 1983. He said the DMK general council meeting of on August 27, 1983 had stressed that “a separate Tamil Eelam shall be the only remedy and permanent solution.”

“At a public meeting on the Marina sands the next day,” he said, “if Indian Army entered Sri Lanka to create a Tamil Eelam, the Congress could rule the State and the DMK would not make efforts to come to power for the next 10 years.”

What he forgot to mention was what he and the DMK did for furthering the cause of an independent Tamil Eelam in the 30 years thereafter, in which he was Tamil Nadu chief minister for five times (1969–71, 1971–76, 1989–91, 1996–2001 and 2006–2011).

His statement called for a referendum on Tamil Eelam on the lines of those held South Sudan, Bosnia, Montenegro and East Timor. And he wanted to further the cause of an independent Tamil Eelam through peaceful, democratic means. An astute politician, he must be fully aware of the impracticality of the suggestion as it comes after the failure of an armed struggle for thirty years in which thousands of lives were sacrificed.

So it is not surprising Vaiko, the leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (MDMK) and perennial supporter of the LTTE and Tamil Eelam in Tamil Nadu, questioned the competency of the DMK leader to talk of Tamil Eelam.

One needs to put Karunanidhi’s “independent Tamil Eelam” statements in perspective. The issue is the latest political ploy in his desperate political battles on two fronts: the internal battle of his siblings over leadership succession, and the battle of survival after the rout of his party at the hands of his bête noir Ms Jayalalithaa, leader of the rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the last Tamil Nadu state elections. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand the logic behind his Eelam call now, as it comes thirty years too late.

Even in playing up the Eelam card, the DMK leader is way behind Ms Jayalalithaa. Despite her avowed objection to Tamil terrorism, when news of the plight of Sri Lanka Tamils in war zones and allegations of atrocities committed on them started trickling during the run up to the parliamentary poll in 2009, Ms Jayalalithaa came out in strong support of Indian intervention in Sri Lanka.

She wanted India not only to halt the war, but to help Tamils gain Tamil Eelam. Speaking at a public meeting she said: “If a government that listens to me is formed at the Centre, I will take action for the despatch of the Indian army to the island nation and create a separate Tamil Eelam.” Since then she had been taking the lead in keeping New Delhi under pressure on Sri Lanka Tamil issues, particularly on hauling up Sri Lanka at the UN for alleged war crimes against Sri Lankan army.

However, it should be remembered that the late MG Ramachandran, the founder of the AIADMK and mentor of Ms Jayalalithaa, was the patron of the LTTE in the early days. But he took a hands on interest in the Sri Lanka issue and fully supported Indian intervention after the signing of the Rajiv-Jayawardane accord in 1987, though the LTTE was lukewarm to it.

But much water has flown in the Palk Strait and Kelaniya river since then. Decades of armed struggle waged by one of the world’s deadly terrorist groups led by Prabhakaran has failed. Sri Lanka’s Tamil leaders of ability and charisma have been eliminated in the fratricidal struggle of LTTE. The few leaders left alive have not been able to articulate in one voice either an agenda or leverage their political strength.

Given the changes in Tamil demography and spread within and without Sri Lanka in the last three decades, such unity cannot be expected. But the reality is that even after three years since the war ended Tamils affected by the war are yet to fully enjoy the benefits of peace. They are still undergoing the pains of rehabilitation and reconstruction. An independent Tamil Eelam is far from their minds; their immediate goal is to get back to a life of dignity, and make up for the years lost in the conflict.

The idea of an independent Tamil Eelam itself appears to have been shelved from the minds to Tamils in Sri Lanka. This was amply brought out by Rangarajan, CPI(M), a member of the Indian parliamentary delegation, which had met a cross section of Tamil leaders and war affected people during their recent visit to Sri Lanka. He said no Tamil leader or party expressed support for the idea of Tamil Eelam; on the contrary they wanted to be part of united Sri Lanka.

Somehow Tamil Nadu leaders particularly of the Dravidian parties, in their scramble for scoring political brownie points, appear to be oblivious to these problems faced by Sri Lanka Tamils. Their ideas appear to be frozen in post-1983 situation focused on creating a Tamil Eelam. They seem to think that their prescription for furthering their own agenda is also good for Sri Lankan Tamils. Actually the Tamil Nadu leaders’ pronunciations, which used to command a lot of respect among Sri Lanka Tamils, stand terribly discounted in the Island now because they are losing relevance for them.

The political fulminations on Tamil Eelam erupting from Tamil Nadu serve only the overseas remnants of the LTTE squabbling among themselves to recover their clout among the Diaspora. They also keep alive the Tamil Nadu bugbear in Sri Lanka politics to be effectively used by the ruling coalition and opposition parties in Colombo for their own ends. They provide legitimate levers for the anti-India lobby in Sri Lanka to stoke sentiments inimical to Indian interest.

Tamil Nadu leaders have to study and understand the changes that have taken place in the political firmament of Sri Lanka and adopt suitable strategies if they genuinely want to help Sri Lanka Tamils. If they cannot, they should confine their effort to consolidate and channelize the goodwill of the people in India to help speedy rehabilitation Sri Lanka Tamils affected by the war. Otherwise they will be distancing themselves further away from reality and that is not going to help Tamils of Sri Lanka.

(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E- mail:[email protected])


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15 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: Flogging The Tamil Eelam Issue – OpEd

  • May 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm
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    Lets Sri Lankans settle their issues. Tamil nadu should worry about their problesam in their areas

    Reply
    • May 7, 2012 at 10:55 pm
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      “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
      — Martin Luther King Jr.

      Our flesh and blood in a tiny island are being persecuted on grounds of race and religion, what do we do, oh yes, like you said, “Lets Sri Lankans settle their issues. Tamil nadu should worry about their problesam in their areas.” What a pathetic attitude to fellow human beings, to fellow Tamil people no less.

      The ground reality in Sri Lanka is that the treatment of Tamil people is monstrous and gruesome. Just read report by Amnesty International called “Locked away sri Lanka’s security detainees” to know the truth. This is from an independent worldwide organisation, unlike the Sinhalese propaganda that is spread now.

      Reply
      • May 8, 2012 at 10:17 am
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        Eric Edward-Selvaraj. Amnesty International has been bought by the diaspora LTTE in the US, UK, EU and Canada from the millions of dollars they collected from the white supremacists. They are not independent but utterly corrupt when money is mentioned, talks and laughs. There was a terrorist curse in Sri Lanka for over 40 years.
        The international organisations and the international community must either come to Sri Lanka to see the actual ground reality or just mind their own business, without telling Sri Lanka how to govern that country.

        Reply
  • May 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm
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    The moment India gets off Sri Lanka’s back on 13A, 90% of the problems will be solved. Col. Hari Haran should know that by now and but he doesn’t have the backbone to admit it.

    Reply
  • May 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm
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    Sri Lankans are finally happy, prosperous, and free from fear of terrorism, and free from fear of their children being abducted by terrorists. Tamil Nadu politicians have used Sri Lanka as a target to distract Tamils in TN from the real issues: corruption, poverty and starvation. The Indian government has decided to kiss-up to their western masters, and we Sri Lankans wish them luck.

    Please leave Sri Lanka to re-build and develop on her own.

    Reply
  • May 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm
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    Only way to find out if the Eelam dream is still on is to do a referendum. Simple as that not to imagine or guess its on or not. Well done colonel you juss proved you work for RAW.

    Reply
  • May 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm
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    mr sampanthan did the correct thing by voicing the stand he was prepared to accept a solution to tamils within a united lanka.he was very couregeous to take this stand,though he would be criticised by certain extreme elements.this is statesmanship.the sinhala leaders must appreciate mr sampanthan and reciprocate by negotiating to give tamils their rights to live in peace and dignity within a united lanka.

    Reply
  • May 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm
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    Dear Vis8

    You are absolutely spot on. The bankrupt West want allies to counter the threat of the rising world power China, and they are using India in that effort. The Indians are fast becoming the Pariah of the SARCC block as it appears now. The Sri Lankans enjoy peace, prosperity and stability and we shall never let any power distabilise us again. The White masters are upset and revengeful as Sri Lanka finished off the LTTE as they have lost the chance of manipulating us through their proxies. This is the backdrop for selective calls for investigation of human rights abuses, when calling for such investigations are conveniently fogotten or swept under the carpet in case of abuses committed by the Western nations, the US and their puppies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Libya, Syria.

    Reply
  • May 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm
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    Col. Hariharan taking aim at Karuna is logical but Karuna’s points on need for eelam cannot be ruled out. Sinhalese seem to be showing the world that they cannot treat Tamils equally and in this scenario, there is no option left except eelam in order for Tamils to exist in sri lanka. Ground realities changed because of India’s support to sinhalese and now India realizes its folly. I am sure Col. Hariharan realizes this fact. Ground reality can change in Tamils favor if India as opined by Col. Hariharan in an article he published a few weeks after LTTE got decimated, where he mentioned that India may even contemplate another LTTE if sinhalese dont mend their ways!

    Reply
    • May 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm
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      Wake up. No country treat minorities equal. Look at blacks, Hispanics and the Asians in the west. So, you think they will get an Elam for them selves if asked? Did you hear what the Australian Prime Minister say to the Muslims? Now that the Tamils are known for terrorism Sri Lanka should proceed cautiously with this group.

      Reply
      • May 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm
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        Injustice to Blacks is peanut compared to Tamil holocaust where 70000 civilians were murdered in cold blood. Satellite images are available with some countries.

        Asians in the west are living like kings. Visit California and see for yourself.

        Good example is India. India has the largest muslim population in the world and they are not discriminated and in fact, Dr. Abdul Kalam is a great example of how muslims are in India and their great contributions for all Indians.

        If sinhalese cannot work out a solution for Tamils, look how Indian states manage and learn!

        Reply
  • May 7, 2012 at 7:17 pm
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    Yes,!!!! may be India is contemplating another LTTE to teach a lession to Sri Lankan, but do not forget how Indira Gandhi had to pay for her mistake by creating LTTE at that time.Goes around comes around.Her own son was killed by her own creation and she was killed by another.Sri Lankans
    are so lucky that even very powerful India cannot hurt hurt her.

    Reply
  • May 8, 2012 at 1:58 am
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    Tamilnadu politicians in whatever Party ,have done nothing to alleviate the so-called distress of the Tamils in Sri Lanka , except talk ,talk and talk.
    Tamil politicians on both sides of the divide ,play games for the benefit of themselves ; not the Tamils. The Sri Lankan Tamils are too wise to be
    fooled now by their antics! The advice to the Indian Government and the Tamilnadu politicians is simply
    this . Leave the problems ,whatever they be, in Sri Lanka , to be settled by the GOSL ! That is a
    sovereign Nation ,as is India .We don`t poke our
    noses into Indian affairs . Why for heaven`s sake
    cannot the Indians leave this country ,alone .We
    are quite capable of sorting our internal problems
    out . It is the outside meddling that compounds
    the issues !!!

    Reply
  • May 8, 2012 at 11:32 am
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    Hariharan forgets the IPKF dubbed “indian peoples killing force” which was sent by Rajiv Ghandi and fought the LTTE and killed even doctors in jaffna hospital.
    But for the IPKF the LTTE would have established a province for tamils.
    Rajiv got hammered by a sinhala soldier & killed by LTTE for his unnecessary intrusion.
    His partymen “miraculously” escaped by standing far from him at Sriperumputhoor.How did they know?

    Reply
  • May 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm
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    And every body lived happily thereafter!

    Reply

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