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Sri Lanka And Its Broken Promises: Time For India To Re-Examine The Issue – OpEd

By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

It is hard for a man to keep a straight face and tell a lie but President Rajapakse manages to do it every time he has to face the Indians and the International community about devolving power to the Tamil NorthEast. He just did it again when he had breakfast with Sushma Swaraj on the last day of the Indian delegation’s visit to Sri Lanka.

There is now a huge confusion as to who said what. Sushma says Rajapakse talked about devolution and mentioned 13th +Amendment and Rajapakse through the Island denies he said that: “The Sri Lankan government on Monday strongly denied a statement attributed to Indian Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj, that her delegation had received an assurance from Mr. Rajapaksa on his commitment to the 13th Amendment, and his readiness to go even beyond it.”

Raising the matter of the continuing saga of Rajapakse saying one thing to Indian officials and then totally denying the statement when they have gone, under the headline “No assurance from Rajapaksa, says Sri Lankan daily,” R. K Radhakrishnan of the The Hindu, opines on Rajapakse’s promises “This is an exact replay of what happened with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in January 2012. Soon after Mr. Krishna met the President, the Indian side released to the press, a statement, which said the President had agreed to the implementation of the 13th Amendment (which grants some powers to the provinces) as a means to cater to the hopes and aspirations of Tamils in the Northern Province. Then, too, there was no briefing from the government side. A day later, the government’s preferred newspaper, The Island, quoting the President, said he had not discussed 13-plus with Mr. Krishna.”

This clearly illustrates the sad spectacle, the tale of “Broken Promises” that Tamils have experienced under successive Sri Lankan governments and in this case under the Rajapakse regime.

When is India going to Re-Assess?

Rajapakse talks about a home-grown solution to the question of power-sharing but nothing will ever grow on parched earth; when there is a lack of will, nothing will come to fruition. This is a profound reality that India must begin to recognize. How much longer is India going to wait for Sri Lanka to deliver on its promises?

It has a been a history of “Broken Promises” will show how utterly disingenuous Rajapakse is when he told Sushma that “he can’t force” the TNA to join the Parliamentary Select Committee for “talks”, as though this time round he has under his belt a magic formula that’s going to work wonders.

It is surprising that Sushma and the Centre still believe Rajapakse’s statements and continue on the path of no return, with Sushma calling on the TNA and (the UNP) to join the “talks” emphasizing to all that “until and unless the Parliamentary Select Committee works, the deadlock will remain.”

It blows the mind that Sushma is still placing her faith in Rajapakse and wants him to “persuade the TNA to join the talks,” believing that Rajapakse is ready not only to concede the 13th amendment but would go beyond, meaning, granting “more than devolution” (that’s a new one – I have heard of “maximum devolution” once mentioned by Rajapakse), and that he is convening a Parliamentary Select Committee to “discuss” it.

Sushma hasn’t studied Rajapakse when she commented that he must be persuasive with the TNA. Rajapakse doesn’t lack powers of persuasion, only that he is, on the contrary, not short in that department. It may seem that Sushma, like everyone before her, has succumbed to Rajapakse’s powers of persuasion.

Believing Sri Lankan governments has been India’s folly.

This is Déjà Vu over and over and over again. How many Indian leaders and ministers has Sri Lanka fooled?

This was a worry for most Tamils when news came of the Indian delegation’s visit to Sri Lanka which was reflected in the withdrawal of AIDMK nominee by TN Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. (The DMK nominee also withdrew at the 11th hour), the concern being that Rajapakse would manipulate events in his favour and it will be “an eye wash” and she was right.

“Talks” are good – but when promises are broken time and time again, there inevitably comes a stage when certain ultimatums should be given. It’s time that India gave that ultimatum to Rajapakse.

The TNA leader R. Sampanthan in his response to the position of the government of Sri Lanka at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) armed with facts, figures, events and quotes uttered by Rajapakse and his emissaries, examines the history of “Broken Promises”, amounting to a virtual dossier of facts, illustrating in no uncertain terms how hypocritical Rajapakse is and how his assurances to Sushma Swaraj ring hollow down to the very core.

Let alone the history of “Broken Promises” since independence, the TNA leader goes on further to examine the course Rajapakse has taken in hoodwinking the world before and indeed after the war and to fob off such irritants like India and the international community who keep insisting that action be taken towards genuine reconciliation that’s based on a lasting political settlement.

Just three years ago, when under Rajapakse’s command the Mullivaikkal massacre took place when forty thousand, possibly much more, perished and the UN appointed panel later found credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity which many believe amounted to genocide, Rajapakse issued a “Joint Statement with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon which Sampanthan reminds, “explicitly contained a number of assurances relating to a promised political solution.”

Since that carnage, such assurances have been repeatedly made by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, Rajapakse’s emissary at the UNHRC for the benefit of the international community. In the 11th session Samarasinghe glorified the virtues of a home-grown solution: “We have always said that the only durable and lasting solution is a political process which addresses the socio-economic and political grievances and expectations of our citizens through a home grown process acceptable to all sections of our multicultural society. The efforts in this direction Mr. President have already commenced.”

Similarly Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister, GL Peiris and his Indian counterpart have from time to time issued joint statements “on the on-going dialogue between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil parties,” and more recently, in his dossier of “Broken Promises”, Sampanthan quotes Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna who at a joint press conference with G L Peiris, on 17, January 2012, subsequent to meeting with Rajapakse, had expressed faith in the so called “dialogue process”: The Government of Sri Lanka has on many occasions conveyed to us its commitment to move towards a political settlement based on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and building on it, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers. We look forward to an expeditious and constructive approach to the dialogue process.”

The harsh reality of this high drama played out by Rajapakse and his emissaries is contained in Sampanthan’s expose of the truth of what really happened at these 8 rounds of futile chatter where the Sri Lankan government “reneged” on its promise to respond to TNA’s proposals: the reality is that bilateral discussions commenced between the government and the TNA in January 2011 and continued for over a year without progress, consequent to the government reneging on its own commitment to respond to the TNA proposals made in February/March 2011.

But the futility of the whole “dialogue process” was beginning to emerge when the Sri Lankan government broke its promise for the umpteenth time when the government delegation at the bilateral talks went back on the agreement that “consensus” reached by both parties at this level would be then presented to the Parliamentary Select Committed (PSC) instead went on to “introducing a precondition that the TNA nominate its members to the PSC for the continuation of the bilateral talks.”

It is relevant and important that Sampanthan’s account of events of what was agreed upon at the bilateral talks be studied for a clearer understanding of how Rajapakse has steamrolled the process by withdrawing his delegation in violation of the agreements made and why the TNA finds itself portrayed as the villain, the reluctant participant of the reconciliation process when the contrary is true.

Agreements made at the bilateral talks between the government delegation and the TNA including events there after and how the government delegation withdrew are explained chronologically by Sampanthan:

  • It was agreed that a number of past proposals for constitutional reform, including the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Report, the 1995, 1997 and 2000 Proposals for constitutional reform and the majority Report of the multi-ethnic APRC experts committee appointed by the President, be brought into the negotiation process
  • It was also agreed that the consensus reached between the TNA and the government delegation at the bilateral talks would be presented to the Parliamentary Select Committee [PSC] as the position of the government or as the joint position of the government and the TNA; and that the TNA would participate at the PSC on substantial consensus being reached at such bilateral talks.
  • The said agreement was recorded in the minutes of the bilateral talks of 16 September 2011, stating: “once agreement was reached with the government delegation at these talks, which can be placed before the PSC as suggested, they [TNA] would join the PSC process.” These minutes were confirmed at the meeting held on 20 October 2011.
  • However, in January 2012, in direct violation of the said agreement, the government unilaterally withdrew from discussions with the TNA, introducing a precondition that the TNA nominate its members to the PSC for the continuation of the bilateral talks. This was not only in violation of the agreement arrived at, but would also have nullified the opportunity of arriving at a measure of consensus at the bilateral talks.

This is nothing new. If there are any doubts lurking in the minds of the Indian people, Sampanthan’s dossier of “Broken Promises” would serve as a testament that there is little hope of a satisfactory “home grown solution” ever materializing.

To say, finding consensus and for that matter finding a “Southern Consensus” at the Parliamentary Select Committee is a near impossible task, is an understatement, and the world is again going to bear witness to a charade. There are substantive issues that need addressing, serious issues that have proved elusive thus far: the vexed question of the extent of the political settlement; whether it would be at par with what the state governments in India enjoy; whether police and land powers are “in” or “out” and what then is meant by 13A+ (that’s been rejected by Rajapakse time and again but has been resurrected according to assurances given to Sushma and again been now denied by him). But the TNA as Sampanthan has always said is ready for the long haul if only a measure of consensus was reached at the bilateral talks. It’s a shame that it didn’t happen.

India did assist Sri Lanka in the war. When concerns were raised by Vaikho and conveyed to Manmohan Singh in 2006 and by Karunanidhi to Sonia Gandhi in 2007, both (Vaikho and Karunanidhi) were given undertakings that they were “defensive weapons” and would not be used against civilians. Rajapakse did break India’s trust entirely; allegations are that Indian hardware including chemical weapons were used in the massacre of the Tamil civilian population.

Having prodded India to dilute the US sponsored UNHRC resolution by securing the clause that any advice from the UN to implement the conditions in the resolution could only be given at the consent of Sri Lanka, Rajapakse must be now secretly contemplating the prospect of escaping a war-crimes prosecution in lieu of an undertaking to India that he would reach a political settlement with the Tamils which India wants; a political settlement that he can continue to fudge. Rajapakse must be chuckling at his ability to out maneuver the Indians albeit with a little help from his brother Gotabaya. .

Then there is the “China factor”, Rajapakse it seems has had both China and India competing for his affections and time will tell at what cost to India.

This then is the sad truth and will be the sad fate of the Tamils if India does not change its policy of mollycoddling Rajapakse. Hopefully a new chapter will begin where India will begin to be less trusting and more demanding of Rajapakse.

India’s trust that the PSC would work is misplaced in the backdrop of the history of “Broken Promises”. I can imagine how the PSC process would work. Sri Lanka will be going round in circles, when a repeat of the shenanigans in the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) deliberations will be acted out again. The APRC met 128 times for three years minus the UNP which refused to attend and minus the TNA which wasn’t invited and therefore not party to deliberations, the formal report of which never saw the light of day although was later leaked to the public by some members.

How much longer is India going to wait for Sri Lanka to deliver on its promises?

The Sri Lankan government’s procrastination serves well its political agenda and that of Rajapakse’s. Sampanthan articulates his fears well in his address to parliament: “Moreover, the trajectory of the government’s conduct indicates that, if given time and space, that time and space will be utilized to pursue the agenda that the government has brazenly undertaken despite assurances to the contrary. That agenda entails the silencing of the democratic voice of the Tamil people, the entrenching of power at the centre and the transformation of the linguistic, cultural and religious composition of the North and East so as to negate the need for a political solution.”

It’s time India understood Rajapakse. It’s time India reviewed its position.

(The views expressed are author’s own)

About the Author

SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

29 Comments on "Sri Lanka And Its Broken Promises: Time For India To Re-Examine The Issue – OpEd"

  1. President Rajapaksa is misquoted in the Indian press. What the president always said was that he is willing t o discuss 13 plus or minus in the PSC and if the PSC agree that he would grant it. He never said that he will give 13 plus or minus. In fact he can’t, Sri Lanka is not Rajapaksa’s private property. Any changes to the constitution have to be approved by parliament and people.

    Meanwhile we are fed up with Indian interfering in the internal affairs of our country. Why not let Pakistan interfere in Kashmir? You have the right to take a tough stance against Sri Lanka and we have the right to get closer to China.

  2. May be the Indian MPs are lying! Why always suspect Sri lankan politicians? India is a country who created LTTE and lied about it. Who can trust India?

  3. The principle of ‘inclusivenesss’ is unfortunately not understood by Sri Lankan leaders or the masses they consistently mislead. This is also a reflection of the level of decency and culture in practice in the country. Sad, for such a resplendent island and an otherwise beautiful and friendly people!

  4. The article presupposes that Shushma is telling the truth and that Rajapakshe is lying. THis is just a prejudice; supported by Sampanthans so-called broken promises taken as the truth. That again is his interpretation.

    Sri Lankan is a sovereign country. However much India wishes that it is part of theirs, it is not. So Sri Lanka is not naswerable to India. It has the right to take its decisions as events unfold. Every country does that: India promised Sri Lanka and the whole world that it will not support country specific resolutions and then it reneged in that promise., It is Indias right to do so. Sri Lanka enjoys similar rights too. Although we there was a common agreement with the UN, events that have unfolded subsequently do not help that process.

    Tamil Diaspora are hell bent on divining the country: setting up Eelam with the with the helpp of UN. Indias Tamil Nadu has just revived an organisation to create ealam: Karunanidhi is saying his unfulfilled dream is to create Eelam. Sri Lanka knows giving police and land powers to a province is a stupid thing to do; Tamil Nadu can easily separet that province out the moment that happens. India is not an innocent country. It dropped parippu when it wanted and came to help LTTE which it trained.
    It is naive to believe Sri Lanka will trust fully such a dishonest neighbour; Sri Lanka will have to play its politics and ensure that it remains an undivided country.

    This article is part of the Indian game plan. Tamil nadu is waiting for the 13+ to come into being so that they can militarily help the Northern Province to separete to create Ealam. Getting the 13+ is the first point of the plan. To do that Sushma comes, Krishna comes, These article are written as if to establish that Sri lanka is doing the wrong thing. If indians are cunning, Sri Lanka has to be cunning too.We will defeat this game plan, at UN, through diplomacy and militarily too. Sri Lanka will remain one country.

    Unfortunately, because of these game plans of India, TamilDiaspora and others, Sri Lankan Tamils to some extent suffers. But certainly they are better off than Tamils in India, itself, contrary to what those Indians and sampanthans try to present.

  5. India needs to just concentrate that terrorism is not grown in India like the LTTE did with training camps and arms supply. The same things they accuse Pakistan of doing to India. As long as India monitors THEIR country and leave Sri Lanka to resolve its own, all should be fine. After all India did not resolve the LTTE insue in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka resolved it themself, so why should they now be answerable to India. If India is not satisfied with the living standards of Tamils, they can have them move back to India.

  6. What is inclusiveness when Sinhalese can’t live in Jaffna but Tamils can live in the south.

    • Brother Shandy, have you forgotten the days of Sinhalese bakers in Jaffna and Tamil shopkeepers in Matara? Have you thought about what caused the change? India bashing is one thing. Introspection to build a better country is another.

      • “Have you thought about what caused the change? ”

        Yes, LTTE suicide murdering and terrorism.

        • Have you thought about what gave birth to the
          LTTE? Please take a moment to think brother….

          • You mean the birth of the terror group LTTE?

            A good lesson for every one on the consequences of choosing violence to solve problems. Remember the old saying ? “one who live by the sword die by the sword”

    • 1) Rajapaksa told March Manmohan 13 plus later denied
      2) Rajapaksa told Ban Kitchen Moon 13 plus
      3) Rajapaksa told Krishna 13 plus
      4) Rajapaksa told Indian delegation 13 pluz
      5) GL Peris told Hiller Clinton 13 plus

      So who is lying??

      Remember all 5 are very well educated people.

      Now you can make your own judgements.

  7. Who the **** India to review Sri Lankan internal politics. India has done enough damage to Sri Lanka by grooming the LTTE, which turned around to bite them. If India did not interfere by dropping their Dhal (Parippu) packets when SL got the LTTE backed into a corner, lot of lives would have been spared. India should concentrate their efforts on India. To start with, build enough toilets for your citizenry.

  8. India and Indians… mind your own business, please…. there are thousands dying daily due to starvation, and these type of “articles” clearly show the intent of the Indian politicians and their media stooges to distract the real issues in India.

    Tamils’ real homeland is Tamil Nadu, home to a hundred billion brainwashed extremists.

  9. Perfect analysis of eelam Tamils’ fears, problems and India’s deeds or misdeeds. Only solution for India is to support an eelam in Sri lanka that will be deterent against Chinese misadventure as well!

  10. Susantha Navaratne | May 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Reply

    India is a country not to be trusted.What ever they say India was not a friend to Sri Lanka neither a Big brother.They all ways work with sir Lanka for their own interest.So our Dear President ask them to fly a kite or just ignore them.If you are brave enough give trinco base to Americans so India will shut there mouth for ever

  11. Why does Eurasia News keep publishing SAAG articles. They are pro Tamil anti Sri Lankan. For a balanced presentation Eurasia News should publish at least one pro Sri Lankan article!

  12. Can we believe that the very professional Indian foreign service can be fooled so many times by Rajapaksa? Is’nt it more likely that India is going along with the Rajapaksa lies to keep the Tamil Nadu politicians satisfied? The Tamil Nadu politicians – who are no angels – also know it is a lie, but appear to be satisfied with India’s efforts to keep their voters happy.
    The circus goes on.

  13. The article written by Usha Sri Skandarajah are facts and no one can dispute it. Now Leave alone India, the International Community is watching. Sri lanka is talking bravery thinking that China is on its side. The next step would be a serious one and would be imposed by the International Community. If Rajapaksa is not willing to implement the 13th amendment and share power with the minorities in a united Sri Lanka, then the alternative would be a call for a seperate state as declared by the then Tamil Nadu Leader Mr.Karunanithi. The government is trying to subjucate the Tamils by keeping 60,000 armed troops in the North and East.It has come to a stage of two races in conflict in a small country which the government is reluctant to solve.The ball is in their court.

    • Rajapakse has no right to implement any amendment whether 13th or anything else. It is the Sri Lankan people who should decide. He has to ask the people first. Those amendments the author is talking about are outdated. This is a new era, the situation and the landscape has changed.
      Only way there could be any power sharing is if the UN charter a resolution requiring all member countries adhere to a devolution of power to their minorities, similar to what the Tamils are asking from Sri Lanka. This include minorities of countries like US, UK, France, Canada, Australia etc.

  14. Indians and Indian politicians have a credibility deficit around the world. India is supposed to hold a referendum on Kashmir, and UN resolution was passed in 1948. Did they hold that referendum? Sri Lankans should never trust Indian politicians. Tamil would be better off if they completely sever all links with South India and unite with the Sinhala majority.

  15. I would like to respond to Mr. Mil. All those countries you mentioned do not treat their citizen based on their race or religon. The rule apply same to all even though we are not white Christian and were not born in those countries. What a shame on you to write some thing like this, please think twice. We Tamils were born Sri Lankan and treated 2nd class in our own country.

    • Mr. Shan, Where do you live? If you live in any of these countries and think they don’t “treat their citizen based on their race or religion” you need to visit a psychiatrist. Read, look around and educate your self before writing in public forums.
      Why not ask for devolution of power to all minorities in your country of domicile. And while at it ask for the other demands you are making from the SL government too.
      By the way, if these countries are so accommodative of the minorities (as you say) whats wrong in implementing a UN charter on minorities? Won’t that enhance minority power and well being?
      Don’t tell me you are against such an UN charter?

  16. Bro Mil, You are talking about the consequences of LTTE’s actions and I cannot agree more with you.

    However, you have not answered my question – What gave birth to the LTTE?

    If the root cause is not understood, Sri Lankans will we not continue to live in the dark ages. If the cause is not dealt with and removed, will we not continue to stumble … and fail to realize the great potential of becoming a true ‘miracle of Asia’.

    • Here is the answer. LTTE was born by a MINORITY of misinformed, brain washed and brainless criminal Tamils who thought violence would help them achieve their selfish goals.
      Here is my questions to you; Do you still support this terror group? Do you think terrorizing innocent Sri Lankans (Tamils & Sinhalese)will help your cause?

  17. It is time Sri Lankans realize that getting their knickers in a twist about India’s motives and hypocrisy will not move Sri Lanka forward.

    Sri Lankans must have the courage and humility to look inward . . . Identify and resolve deep-seated problems. Until conditions for a truly inclusive society are created, the sustainable wellbeing of all peoples who call it their motherland, will remain, but a far fetched dream.

    • Jay,
      You need to realize that every minority in every country has their problems. It is not unique to Tamils. In fact the Tamils resorting to terrorism made things worse. They have lost the trust of most Sri Lankans. Sri Lankans do not want to ever repeat what they went through during the past 30 years. What you need now is to win back the trust of the people. Things will work out then. Using the west biased UN and the corrupt Indian politicians are not short cuts for winning the trust of Sri Lankans and for cause of Tamils. The diaspora should use their money and energy to start business ventures in the north and help Tamils. Why not take over Sri Lanka economically? This is not the time to separate countries but to unite and work together.

      • Mil, I am happy that you express a noble goal . . . blessed are the peacemakers . . . Unite we must, which for some strange reason is not on the agenda of politicians and religious zealots. Ordinary citizens such as us must not fall prey to manipulators.

        30 years have been hell for all citizens of the country. You (and perhaps a majority from the majority community) assume that all Tamils are LTTE supporters or sympathizers. It is a conclusion similar to what many Tamils mistakenly reached after being massacred by state sponsored hooligans in 1983, that the entire Sinhalese population is barbaric. You and I know that is far from the truth.

        I would imagine that you may not be old enough to understand the history of broken political promises to the Tamils by leaders from the South. Please ask the older generation about who broke trust and lost credibility.

        It is time for bygones to be bygones. It is now up to articulate citizens such as yourself to impress upon the Government to stop playing games and get on with a genuine effort at national reconciliation. When the diaspora sees positive actions rather than negative behavior such as land grabbing, which is rampant today, I would be very surprised if they pass up great investment opportunities. It is upto you and me to be balanced and objective and as you said unite for a better future!

  18. 13A was not a requirement of the people of Sri Lanka. Not the Sinhalese or the Tamils. It was the forced intervention of PM Rajive Gandhi.In fact it was fiercely opposed at the time.13A was the Sri Lankan part of the 1987 peace accord Sri Lanka was forced to sign by India. India also had a part to perform under that accord. It was to disarm all the militant parties and bring them in to the democratic political main stream. Sri Lanka for its part Amended the constitution(13A)merged the north and the east,held elections for Provicial councis including the northeast PC.
    India meanwhile failed miserably to execute its commitment. It was India that broke the promise first!! Then after Mr.Gandhi’s assaination India conveniently followed a so called hands off policy. When Sri Lanka got about to do what the Indian’s should have done but failed,to do to keep its promise they again conveniently forgot the hands off policy and started pulling Sri Lankas leg,remember M.K.Narayanan’s regional power high handed talk! Sri Lanka had a terrible menace to get rid of and would even have made a deal with the devil to achieve it. It is under these circumstances that 13A+ came to be. India without being so irrational should come to its senses now and allow Sri Lanka to resolve its problems.
    India never really understood the actual ground situation in Sri Lanka or may be they pretend so and try to thrust a useless solution down our throat in order to keep the festering wound open which in turn will keep the door open to interfere.
    India has no more role to play in Sri lanka and the best it can help is by keeping its hands off.

  19. Tamils cannot expect anything positive from India unless, the current congress government changes. However, India voted for UNHRC resolution because resolution calls to implement SriLanka’s own report.

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