By S. V. Kirubaharan
Reading this headline, extreme Singhalese may say, ‘another……. paving the way for a separate state’, extreme Tamil nationalists may say, ‘another one going against the independent state’, but the wisest from both communities may say, ‘the right thinking at the right time’.
Twenty five years ago on 29th July 1987, when the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the Sri Lanka President J. R. Jayawardene signed the Indo-Lanka accord, it was a day of mourning in the South of Sri Lanka, a day of confusion in the North and East and a miraculous day for India, especially for the Gandhi family. In the South, half of Colombo was on fire. The majority of the people, politicians, the then Prime Minister, many cabinet Ministers and the present President were angered by India. The people of the North and East were in the dark, knowing nothing about the Indo-Lanka accord. At the same time, it was a miraculous escape for the Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi who was attacked by a Sri Lankan Navy soldier with a rifle in an attempted assassination. Fortunately the heavy blow which landed on Gandhi only injured his shoulder, while he was inspecting the guard of honour in Colombo. If the Navy soldier’s strike had hit as planned, today’s history of Sri Lanka would have been very different.
I read with interest the recent articles by Col. R. Hariharan and Major General Ashok Mehta entitled ‘25 Years On, IPKF…..’. Both served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force – IPKF in Sri Lanka. Their articles spoke about the shortcomings and pessimistic views of the Singhalese and the Tamils towards the Indo-Lanka accord. In both articles wrong terminology was used to indicate the status of the Tamils in Sri Lanka! But one cannot expect military personnel necessarily to use the correct political terminologies. If Tamils in Sri Lanka are ‘minorities’, there would have been no Indo-Lanka accord and no third party mediation or involvement.
After Mullivaighzal, I have written articles about the Indo-Lanka accord. In my article of 8 June 2010 which appeared in the ‘Sunday Leader’ under the title, – “Tactful diplomacy will bring durable solution”, I said, “If we continue to fight among us, in a few years time, we will lose our identity in Sri Lanka. At the moment Tamils are not in a strong enough position even to call for negotiation. Therefore we should be united to be strong and need a friendly state that will support the right to self-determination.”
Both Mehta and Hariharan agree that the Indo-Lanka accord was more strategic than a mere diplomatic initiative. Col. Hariharan was clear that “The Agreement did prevent Sri Lanka from providing any foothold for the U.S. However, it failed in finding a permanent solution to the Tamil issue…..” Major General Ashok Mehta says that, “Three years ago, with India’s passive and active help, Sri Lanka finally disarmed the LTTE through a comprehensive military defeat but the ethnic question, the rationale for ISLA and IPKF, remains unresolved;……..India was drawn into a trap to do Colombo’s dirty work.”
Considering these facts, India has to admit that it has an unfinished un-accomplished task to attend to – a political solution to the Tamil ethnic problem in Sri Lanka. Also it needs to be recognised that concerning any decision about the Tamils in Sri Lanka, India proceeds at a snail’s speed.
As said by Ashok Mehta and Hariharan, if the Indo-Lanka accord was for strategic reasons worked out to prevent US stepping into Sri Lanka, how and where did the Indian decision-makers see the involvement of China in Sri Lanka? Was this an oversight on their part? If so, can we consider that there are Indian decision-makers working for Chinese interests or those of Chinese allies? During the peak hours of the war against the LTTE in Vanni, we heard that few decision-makers objected to Indian support for Sri Lanka and Mahinda Rajapaksa influenced Sonia Gandhi via her relatives in Italy. Was this also a strategic interest?
China Doesn’t Support Self-Determination
Unlike India – China doesn’t support any ethnic group in exercise of their right to self-determination, whereas they prefer to dominate countries as a whole. India supported the independence of Bangladesh, is in solidarity with Tibet and supported a few other nations. I do agree that the Kashmir issue is unresolved and it is a checkmate between Indian and Pakistan. It is worth noting that exceptionally China supports the Palestinians as do many other UN member states.
When we look at the political struggles in other nations, namely ANC – (Umkhonto we Sizwe – MK), of South Africa and the situation in Northern Ireland (IRA), we see that they were accused of several high profile bombings and killings. For example the killing of Lord George Mountbatten, the bombing of the Conservative party conference in Brighton with the intention of assassinating Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, etc. But neither the South African apartheid government nor the British government ever used these as a pretext to say that many years of insurgency or terrorism cannot be solved in two or three years. Of course, they settled their political problems in a respectful manner.
When it comes to the Tamil question we see a stark contrast! Sri Lanka uses pretext after pretext to prevent a political settlement and India has forgotten its commitment, having given hope to the Tamils by signing the Indo-Lanka accord.
Now three years have passed since Mullivaghzal. The President who told the International community that the Tamil political problem would be settled as soon as terrorism is wiped out, took no initiative, not a single positive step, to settle the long bloody conflict. On the contrary, today the President, his government and the security forces are busy colonising, militarising, buddhistising the Tamil hereditary land, the North and East. They are also encouraging the worst human rights violations by the security forces and the paramilitary in those areas.
Sri Lanka Spying For China And Pakistan
It is obvious that no Sri Lankan government will find a viable political solution to the Tamil question in the Island. A thousand years after Lord Buddha lived, the religious text “Mahavamsa”, written in Pali language by a Buddhist monk conveyed the political message that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists only. Therefore the Buddhist hierarchy is never willing to give equal rights to the Tamils in the island. Of course, the Mahavamsa has been discredited and is considered fiction by various scholars.
In Sri Lanka, if one looks closely at the 1971 JVP uprising, they clearly understood that the Chinese had been waiting for a long time to swallow-up Sri Lanka. Who filed the case against the merger of the North East in the Supreme Court? Which country is the ally of this party?
There is another serious question, why do Sri Lankan armed forces need to be trained in India today? Regarding this situation, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms Jayalalitha is right in her declaration that Sri Lankan forces should not be allowed to undergo any training program in any part of India. In fact, Sri Lanka is spying internationally, including in India, for China and Pakistan. The news item given below speaks volumes:
“The state-run China Radio International’s Tamil radio station, the most popular of its more than 60 international channels, marked its 49th anniversary here on Sunday announcing plans to expand its presence in India by launching broadcasts on local FM radio stations……CRI Tamil has listeners in Tamil Nadu, the rest of India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia and also in Europe and the United States. (excerpt) The Hindu of 30 July 2012 http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article3700333.ece
Therefore, in order to accomplish unfinished work and to fulfil promises made to the Tamils in Sri Lanka, India should take steps to implement the Indo-Lanka accord at the earliest. In my article in the ‘Sunday Leader’ on 24 July 2011, under the title “Will India Take Sri Lanka to the World Court?”, I said the following: “All these three issues– the breach of the Indo-Lanka accord, the claim to Katchchathivu and the killing and harassment of Indian fishermen, are leading to international friction and could endanger the maintenance of international peace and security in that region. Therefore, the Indian authorities can report this breach of the Indo-Lanka International agreement, to the UN Security Council – under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, articles 34, 35 and 36.” …..“The breach of the Indo-Lanka accord is a breach of international agreement, and will in this sense be a case similar to the one between former Yugoslavia, Republic of Macedonia and Greece”. (excerpt) http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2011/07/24/will-india-take-sri-lanka-to-the-world-court/
It is to be noted that this article threw many, from top to bottom, into panic in Sri Lanka. Individuals from various ranks from the South, applied pressure on certain individuals, preventing me from writing further articles.
I hope that serious Indian decision-makers will carefully consider the right path to implement the Indo-Lanka accord without any further delay. Every minute that India delays, the regional superpower and economic power which seeks a permanent seat in the UN Security Council will be forced to a status like Hong Kong and Taiwan. Taking revenge for a killing, or accusation of a killing, of a Prime Minister doesn’t mean that India should gamble its strategic interest, to become a colony of another.
War Memorial in Colombo!
I am astonished to note that Ashok Mehta still finds it difficult to understand the smart agenda of the Sri Lankan regime. Mehta agrees that India/IPKF was drawn into a trap to do Colombo’s dirty work. If so, why does he praise the war memorial to the IPKF in Colombo? This was constructed during the peak hours of the war in Vanni, only in 2008 by a President who said in 1988, “Indians are going to occupy this land. They are going to take over this land. Already there are 100,000 soldiers in this country. Our fear is that they might come to down south and they may occupy this area. What will happen to us? And we will have to be another part of India!”……………….. (excerpt) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9WZQZ9JoK4
Major General, this war memorial was constructed neither to the IPKF nor to India nor in good faith. It was constructed to remind every Sri Lankan or the people in the South to be cautious of India. India didn’t construct anything for the IPKF because they do not want the people of India to be reminded of India’s unfinished, unaccomplished mission in Sri Lanka.
I take this opportunity to remind Ashok Mehta that on 15 August 2010, when the Indian Ambassador to Sri Lanka participated in the first official memorial service at this war memorial, not a single Sri Lankan government representative attended this memorial service, a fact which was observed widely.
In the same 1988 interview given by Rajapaksa, he referred to the JVPers as “Patriotic boys”. The JVP was terrorising, abducting, torturing and killing – academics, intellectuals, professionals, security forces and Buddhist monks. But the hypocrisy of President Rajapaksa and the majority in the South branded the LTTE as terrorists and the JVP as “Patriotic boys”! Which law in this world would justify this racist view? In the same way, Sri Lanka is willing to be friendly with or to be colonised by China. I presume that the Mahavamsa and Mahinda chinthanay will allow this because China is a Buddhist country.
Another good example of institutional racism in Sri Lanka is when one compares the situation of the captured detainees of the JVP in 1971 to the Tamil detainees or LTTE after Mullivaighzal. Most of the JVPers who were involved in the 1971 uprising were brought to justice – ‘Criminal Justice Commission – CJC’ within 15 months of their arrest or surrendered. Within a period of five years, all the JVPers were released unconditionally and offered amnesty, including the JVP leader who had been sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. Also the ban on the JVP was lifted.
When we look at Tamil prisoners or the LTTEers, there are detainees in various prisons held without charge for more than a decade and after Mullivaighzal the situation is worse. Even today, after 3 years, no-one knows who is in detention, who has been killed or disappeared and the exact number of ex-combatants captured or surrendered. Of course the government propagandists read out various figures in international arenas but these figures vary and are unreliable.
Implement the agreement
If India wants to retain pride and dignity, their international agreement with Sri Lanka has to be implemented at the earliest, at any cost. If reluctant to do this, they will regret in coming years.
I take this opportunity to request Tamil nationalists to use all viable methods and diplomacy to safeguard the people in the island. This action should not be counterproductive to the people’s livelihood but should save them and the land. If this is done, the future generation or a change of geopolitics can address the matter of destiny.
The paths presently available have the support of the international community. Ignoring these paths and selfishly trusting in mini conferences and meetings with persons of non grata will put the people on the ground once again in deep trouble. I am not appealing or advising anyone to give up their political ambition, ideology or destiny, but reminding everyone of the realities and the present possibilities.
Enough is enough, let’s get into action.
The opinions are the author’s own