By Ravi Sundaralingam
Immense excitement and euphoria followed among the Tamil Expatriate Communities when the LTTE was given the status of being the Lankan Tamil Leadership and taken to the capitals of Western Countries by the Norwegians.
After the demise of the LTTE, Tamil MPs were taken to see Switzerland and other European countries, bringing joy to their hearts and satisfaction to those receiving money form the sponsors of these events, and the rest of the Tamil population desist to express their happiness.
Now, TNA members are taken by Beijing to Autonomous Guangxi region when there is much less optimism as a sense of hopelessness beginning to engulf the Tamil communities.
Such turn around in the fortunes and, emotions in a short space of time may be difficult to take. However, they have no choice than to get to grips with the underlying trends, which may help to readjust our attitudes towards the Sri Lankan state, international community, and India.
Proud LTTErs convinced each other, that wasn’t much difficult, and ordered the rest to accept the ‘diplomatic stroke that outplayed Indian strategists’ by bringing in the Scandinavian Master Peace Makers to South Asian theatre.
They were convinced of Western support for their course, even when they were being banned, accounts frozen, and their leading fund-raisers and enforcers harassed, arrested and put in prisons. Only for them to realise India was instrumental in bringing in the Norwegians, to deliver yet another opportunity come death nail to the LTTE, which neither its paramount leader or expatriate intellectual community of supporters made sense or grasped.
Thus, the major part of the Norwegian Project was completed when the LTTE was violently and mercilessly dismantled at a huge cost to the Lankan Tamil population.
Whether this cost was purposely extracted from Western perspective can be left for some debate.
The answer whether they actually cared for the dying, must be obvious to all of us.
As for the Indians, ‘problem eliminated is a problem solved’.
Having demolished the Lankan Tamil population down to degrading level, if there were a major Tamil issue in the future, it would have to be with its own Tamil population in Tamil Nadu, the parameters of which are within Delhi’s control at present.
Confirmation of the completion of the Norwegian part of the project can be deduced from the statements by the project’s coordinator Mr. Erik Solheim, who once doubled up as the LTTE’s chief mourner to receive the condolences of the many thousands at Balasingam’s funeral. These were made, during a book launch (Still Counting….) in London Queen Mary College last month, in the presence of two other Western experts on our matters of life and death.
While doing so, he also managed to anger many LTTErs commenting on the zero knowledge in international politics the organisation had. It is surprising to see some them still find this information shocking, when they are at least beginning to relate their misfortunes to the murder of the Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi.
Then, Solheim should have known better, having had a very close relationship with “DR”. Anton Balasingam, the “only Tamileelam Minister” according to the deceased LTTE’s ‘brilliant strategist’, and purveyor of puerile jokes and foul language on heros-days.
His confirmation towards a closure for the Norwegian project came in three parts, by his
(1) Apportioning the blame on the LTTE for the death of the 100, 000 or more (according to those sharing the stage with him), and
(2) dismissal that such a colossal toll of deaths cannot be considered genocide (the massacre of the 8,000 in Srebrenica is), and
(3) instruction that the Tamils should support the TNA.
His participation, gave him the opportunity to deliver these conclusions come policy statements, expecting the audience to be largely Tamils. Naturally, the aim was to condition the Tamil Expatriate communities of their future direction, and even to disguise a kind of warning to those who dare to think differently.
Anyone understood the underlying process even before the Norwegian arrival or those knew of their part in the eventual downfall of the people, who struggled against their states in different parts of the world, would have predicted as much even before Mr. Solheim uttered his latest famous words on Sri Lankan matters.
Thereby, the connection and the demand for attention are drawn to the second part of the project, (i) primarily to dismantle the LTTE international network, along with any other remaining Tamil activism, (ii) reassure the Sri Lankan state, military about their worries on human right issues.
Lumping together the legitimate Tamil struggle with that of LTTE was a deliberate ‘mistake’ started by the Indians, no sooner than the Thimbu talks finished in 1985.
The asymmetric zero-dimensional leadership structure, its lack of any ideological understanding or commitment naturally made it the suitable candidate to tarnish the image and the basis of the Tamil struggle, and demolish other groups one by one. LTTE’s ‘organisational capacity’ as ‘enforcer’, willingness commit atrocities, also lent itself to this process of thinking.
The second phase of the project, is purported to be to break up the LTTErs capacity to (i) launch another violent campaign inside Sri Lanka, and (ii) continue arguing for a separate state in the island.
However, the real target must be any residual militancy outside the LTTE and/or fight left among the Tamil communities to take the struggle in a different direction, say in a realistic campaign for “Human rights” of the massacred. For they know LTTErs are moribund, and “human rights” in their mouth is incongruence therefore, stillborn arguments.
Even before the international community gave the ‘go ahead’ for the final slaughter, having equipped the Sri Lankan authorities with multiple rocket launchers, bombers with pilots, intelligence and other logistical support, having the entire international community agreed to a single objective, ‘elimination LTTE’, the respective countries where the Lankan Tamil Expatriate communities are vocal and active were brought under their supervision, and eventual control.
Such was their ability to convince, even after the demise of their beloved LTTE, knowing the West, East and the 3rd world had either sold weapons or supported the Sri Lankan military efforts, the die-hards were willing to inaugurate their new campaign groups for ‘Human Rights’ from within Western parliaments or houses closer to seats of powers.
No sooner Mr. Solheim made his conclusions, apart from the usual unintelligible noises suggesting he was only fulfilling Indian biddings, the GTF announced that it was to leave ‘foreign affairs’ to the TNA.
It doesn’t mean that Solheim came, saw and conquered, and that Tamil expatriate communities are stunned into walking dead.
It is just that as a coordinator for his part announcing his confidence about the next phase, provided the rest in the international community complied with whatever they had agreed in principle.
Syria point to the past
Could there have been an international collective, coordinated will against the LTTE? What are the circumstances that decide such a rare occasion?
Ever since the ‘Arab Spring’ the US and the West have been able to increase their assets and influence in the Middle East, contrary to popular expectations. Rather than relying on shaky, autocratic families with corruption and state-sponsored thugs as socio-political base, deals were made with emerging Sunni Islamic forces that have realistic strategic perspective of their region. As true global power, US would not relinquish its assets anywhere, without gaining something more worthy.
This may not be maxim for all some argue, citing India as an example. They argue that India gambled away its assets in Lanka, in the hope of obtaining a bigger global stake from US or because of its lethargy and, sheer ability to wait for anything along its way just because it is huge, and nearby.
It is in fact, difficult to explain away how India allowed the slaughter of more than 40,000 Tamils (now 100,00 according to Solheim, and co-book launchers), as a global power sitting only 18 miles away, with allegedly seven million of their brethren in Tamil Nadu to cause trouble.
However, we have always countered this ‘soft-belly’ argument, pointing out that India is neither the country Gandhi envisaged, with morality and civil societies high on its agenda nor a country Tamil Poet Bharathi imagined, “with the willingness to destroy the entire humanity if there just one voice of pain is heard from any corner of the world”.
It is as they say a real India, where alleged murderers and thieves share the same political parties, national and state parliaments, to loot the national assets using laws enacted in the parliament and political connections, and willing to murder anyone who challenges. It is the real India argued for by those many “research institutes” paid for by the corporate houses, for whom humanity is counted in dollars to be deposited in Swiss Banks.
Therefore for them, ‘there are no solution to the Tamil Problem, Tamils are the problem’, demanding a very modern real solution, Germanic if you will, if you modern intellectual.
Furthermore, the accusations India faces in Kashmir, and the criticism it receives from within about its handling of the affairs of the Adivasis, who feel they are being destroyed and their belongings plundered, make it difficult to assume the moral authority required against any of its neighbours.
Neither the US nor the West is confused by to these problems. Irrespective of their history, past and present, slavery, genocide, extra-judicial killings, etc, they pursue a single philosophy that the democracy they know would suffice to satisfy almost all expectations.
Therefore, for the West the questions about identity and belonging are a temporary phase of collective confusion, in the 3rd world, as they could not afford them.
Syria as a case in point for our purpose here, where a collective international will is required, and will be organised in public, not as the secretive deals in the case of Sri Lanka, but most of it played out in front of the media for all its worth.
As a country it was never truly part of any Arab alliances and formations. Multiethnic nature, with more than 25% of Alawites, Christians, and others resisting the Sunnis, the prime movers for change in the Middle East, give a different dimension to the conflict.
This argues for the impossibility of organising the opposition to Assad regime into a single file.
Unlike the North African states, the strategic interest in Syria means many poles; China, EU, Gulf-States (read Saudi Arabia), Turkey, Russia, and US, in no particular order of importance, are all in it, along with the Jihadis to create more confusion.
This argues that no one group is going to determine the outcome.
Therefore, any solution can only be that is agreed by all, at least in principles, first and foremost that no one, among the external powers / the local ethnic communities is a clear winner.
If the international community wants to ensure no clear winner emerged in Syria, in Sri Lanka it intension was exactly opposite. It clearly wanted the state, if necessary the Sinhala community became the winner.
Guangxi Zhuang -Next phase for Tamileelam ?
We have been hearing it.
Chinese are everywhere, in Lanka. There are so many of them, even highway directions are in Chinese. The Rajapakse Family is in Chinese pocket, making a $1½ billion each year for the family consortium for mortgaging the country to them.
Now to crown it all TNA, the ‘sole representatives’ of the Tamils, are being enticed by the Chinese to visit and study ‘the working of an autonomous region in China, not to the restive autonomous region of Tibet, but Guangxi Zhuang.
Most of us subscribed to the ideals of Marxist philosophy are always impressed by terminologies, which meant to have serious intellectual content. So, the Ethnic Republics and Autonomous Regions Stalin and Mao declared, fills our hearts with glee pounding at an unreal rate.
Now to see members of TNA, not known for their Marxist credentials, on a mission to study the success of building ‘socialist market economy’ with ethnic pluralism, an opportunity never attained for years of loyalty to phraseology. The excitement grows further when seeing the list of Federal party members hand picked by the Lankan authorities and its octogenarian leader Sampanthan, because of its possibilities.
Except for the socialists among us, Tamils would have hardly heard about an autonomous region in China, let alone understand the fantastic opportunity our Tamil leaders have earned. At the same time, even for our pretence we cannot deny our affliction due to the trivial propaganda by the evil Western media and India about China. These have inevitably perverted our perceptions of Mao’s ‘cultural revolution’, Ping’s “socialist market revolution’, the scenes in Tiananmen Square where lone man stood in front of a tank, etc.
Mao’s generosity towards all peoples constituted China in such a way to accommodate everyone and among them the Han Chinese.
As a Marxist-Leninist and great admirer of Stalin, Mao adopted the ideals of right-to-self-determination for all peoples by allowing for people seeking specific ethnic identity to have their own “organs of government”, by that he meant the Communist Party, and “right to self- government”, by that he meant party bureaucracy.
Both are, of course obliged by constitution to “safeguard the unification of the country and guarantee that the constitution of self-government of autonomous regions should safeguard and develop a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance between ethnic groups”.
The first to enjoy this privilege, the ‘Inner Mongolia Autonomous region’ was declared as early as in 1947, even before the New China was established (1949), in the “liberated zones”. It was followed by the establishment of Xinjiang Uygur in 1955, Guangxi in 1958, Ningxia Hui and Tibetan in 1965 making five autonomous regions of China.
The visitors will learn from their hosts in Guangxi, the best thing about autonomy in peoples’ China, it doesn’t simply recognise the uniqueness of an ethnic people, but it also requires them to recognise the uniqueness of those migrating into their ‘autonomous’ territory, as autonomous people.
So much can be said about ethnic autonomy, by those observing the sprit of freedom that had spread throughout China like wild fire. Now the country has 155 autonomous areas, 30 prefectures, and 120 autonomous counties, and the Han population spread all across China almost evenly.
Guangxi, it is said means a wild vast expansive land, is a mountainous terrain on the border of Vietnam, in a sense comparable to the unruly nature of the North Western Frontier provinces of Pakistan. Guangxi once belonged to the Zhuang people, whose language related to the Mon-Khmer language family, particular to Southeast Asia and India.
Chinese civilisation preceded almost all others by a few millenniums, and our visitors will note the unification and pacifying process towards a single political entity as China started in the centuries BC, and, there were many efforts by northerners to pacify the Zhuang.
Yet, what they could not do, the construction of the Ling Canal in the 250 BC, linking the Xiang and Li rivers achieved, by opening up the land for immigration, a feat comparable to the rail link to the Tibetan Autonomous region.
However, large-scale immigration brought more unrest and there were many rebellions against Hans and Mongolian Dynasties. These lead to Nong Zhigao establishing an independent Zhuang kingdom for a brief period in the 11th century.
Thus, Chinese hosts have chosen the destination for their Tamil visitors very consciously it seems, knowing they represent a people, who had just gone through pains, deaths and mayhem during the past three decades of wars and repression.
Incidentally, the pacification of the Zhuangs during the Ming Dynasty saw the deaths of several thousands between 11th and 15th centuries AD, more than 20,000 deaths alone were recorded in the battle of ‘Big Rattan Gorge’ (1465).
Yet, the region remained unruly. Stories of many rebellions and uprising continued up until the late 1920s, until the Guangxi Pacification Army was established, and Han immigrants (Hans 60%, and Zhuang now 32%) playing a crucial role in elevating Zhuang economy to higher socialist standards.
We hope the Tamil visitors will pay attention to all these successes, with a positive frame of mind.
However, they should be mindful about their intellectual responsibilities, unlike the Russo-/Sino-philes, when they are announcing their exciting discoveries and travel stories.
Onus is on us
Guanxi visit is an exercise to bring accommodation between the victors and the destroyed.
It will fulfil part of the criteria, which allowed for a collective decision three years ago, and put in motion the basic tenets for the next phase intended for Lankan Tamils by the international community.
If there is a collective will among the international community to see a ‘solution’ in Sri Lanka, we will see more pieces of the puzzles slotting into places.
So we may hear more from the West and even squeaky noises from India about “human rights” abuses in the island, which eventually becoming muted and generalised into nothing specific about the issues related to the last phase of the war against the LTTE.
These criticisms would be about the nature of the Lankan government, not about the legality of the state, but the illegality of the way the repression is conducted.
We will also be distracted by interventions from the likes of South Africa, a power that could not marshal African votes against Sri Lanka in the various UN stages, but expected to have the reach deep inside a Indian strategic zone.
Should we worry about how South Africa handles human right affairs, how it uses Apartheid laws to shoot down striking miners and blamed them for the provocation for the shooting, or its handling of the “Human Rights” issues in Zimbabwe, whether it were the massacres in Matabele land or the rule of it old allay century old Mugabe? As Tamils we should just remind ourselves about our affair with Norway.
Human Rights and Justice must mean respect for human life and hope in humanity.
It could not simply about blaming one or two individuals for a collective decision by the international community.
One cannot establish vegetarianism simply by blaming the butchers or banning the slaughterers working in abattoirs, when there is a craving for meat and very little respect for lives.
If we, as Tamils have the respect for the slaughtered, shouldn’t the TNA and others be campaigning and collecting their names of those perished in those fateful days in May 2009, village by village rather than demanding others?
Shouldn’t we try to understand why a struggle that promised so much shrivelled into a war of nerves between the international community and a group, which had no concept of ‘Human Rights’? And, how good and the educated among us became slaves to its words, willing to accept its brutalities against the Muslims, Sinhalese, and worse still, against its on kind?
Shouldn’t we try to understand, why Tamils are urged to become alienated from the rest of the Lankan communities in order to share the island resources and exercise their rights over their belongings. And, why we fail to see the Tamil, Sinhala, or Muslim, if they are in the dry zones, they share the same fate and are pitted against each other rather than working together?
Above all, we must ask ourselves what are we doing to survive, live, and prosper as a people?
With these as motivations travel we must into the unexplored parts of our minds, to the Muslim and Sinhala villages nearby, and travel more to the villages in our homelands.
Perhaps, these may make us realise a simple truth, “we may find what we need, if we look for what we have lost than looking for something better.”
The author can be reached at [email protected]asiatic.org The views expressed are his own.