I am not trying to explain how the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka happened and the different perspectives to its root causes. I am only going to talk only about how I perceive it. I was born in 1972 in the village of Mahawilachchiya (in Anuradhapura District of Sri Lanka) bordering the Wilpattu National Park. Velupillai Prabhakaran, who went on to create and lead the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – L. T. T. E.) and waged a bloody war on all communities of Sri Lanka) got his first human target late Mr. Alfred Duraiappah, an SLFP MP in 1975. I was just 3 years old by then. When the real terrorist War in Sri Lanka broke out in 1983 I was an 11-year-old schoolboy. Therefore, I can remember most of the sequences and developments of the ethnic war after the infamous “Black July” in 1983 into a fully-fledged civil war, that hampered the development of Sri Lanka into a possible regional economic power by dragging the country down literally to the Stone Age.
Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka)
apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential
election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the
frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.
Everyone was complacent that Sri Lanka gained durable peace with the annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists by mid-May, 2009. Nobody anticipated peace to come for good that soon with the end of a bloody war that lasted for almost three decades. In most parts of the world where wars ended in the recent past, for instance, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. even though so-called “dictators” and jihadists were wiped out, still suicide bombers, car bombs, surprise attacks, prevailed big time. And they continue to this day whereas in Sri Lanka, from the day the terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed and his bloody terrorist organization declared that “the guns were silenced,” not a single suicide attack or bomb was blasted. So, I used to describe this situation among my foreign friends who asked if Sri Lanka was safe to travel, “Yes, buddy. Sri Lanka is perfectly safe. No bombs explode anywhere in Sri Lanka now. If anything explodes over here, it would be popcorns,” with great pride. Alas! Cowardly attacks on Catholics and Christians on Easter Sunday this April by Muslim terrorists changed the whole complex of the social fabric of Sri Lanka. The peace achieved after much sacrifice done by literally the whole nation shattered into pieces within a course of a few hours in a single day.
Gota is considered as the most successful official in the whole history of the war against Tamil Tigers. Nobody expected him to win the war in just three years which had already dragged for more than 25 years. Everyone (well, at least except Professor Nalin De Silva and I) thought the war was unwinnable and we won’t see peace coming during our lifetimes or that of our kids. But Gota got everything under control and hence the whole credit for him. But the 4/21 Jihadist attack on devotees showed how fragile the national security had been and how easily the security establishments took things for granted so much so that even the clear warnings issued by local and foreign intelligence services were grossly ignored resulting mass scale casualties. Everyone shared the sentiment that if Gota was in power, this wouldn’t have happened. So, peace-loving Sri Lankans, which I guess a heavy majority of the citizenry, would want to give Gota another go, even with his flawed track record of alleged human right violations, corruption and unleashing terror on media personnel and media institutions. So, he has a big chance of winning the presidential election this November beating his younger counterpart. having said that, one must remember that in politics, 1+1 does not always give the mathematical total of 2. So, it is better to expect the unexpected on November 17th, just in case.
The public opinion is that whenever a UNP government came into power since the Tamil Tiger terrorism started in 1983, national security was at stake and it even worsened during the periods where Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister. The gross killing of members of the intelligent units and informants was the norm of the UNP led governments. Betraying the very people who risked everything for the motherland by exposing them in public was something that cannot be expected during even peacetime, let alone during a bloody war. Yet for all, frankly speaking, to secure the support of the ethnic minorities, the UNP found appeasing terrorists and separatist elements more useful than the national security of the bellowed motherland. Sajith cannot escape saying that he was not party to this. He was very much a member of the ruling party every time this happened and his late father, Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa has earned the bad name as the first Sri Lankan president to reward the Tamil Tigers with a large number of weapons, cement and an undisclosed amount of monies. Even worse, it was him who ordered some 600 plus policemen to surrender to the Tamil Tigers ultimately resulting in them being killed in cold blood. So, when it comes to national security, Sajith is way below Gota. But with the way the curious case of ethnic minorities manipulates Sri Lankan politics, Sajith is way ahead of Gota in terms of garnering voted from ethnic minorities as he has been able to win the support of extremist elements of both the Muslim and Tamil alliances. Especially the Muslim leaders who are dead scared of the ordeals they will have to go through due to their alleged links to the Muslim terrorists who were involved in the Easter Sunday attacks will do their best to convince their constituents to vote for Sajith so that they won’t be prosecuted, or disturbed. This is why I mentioned above that the logic of 1+1 does not always give the result 2 in politics.
Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka)
apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential
election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the
frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.
In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This post deals with the MINORITY SUPPORT for the two candidates. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VI – LEGACYfor the previous post. The next area, the NATIONAL SECURITY, would be dealt with the post Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VIII – NATIONAL SECURITY.)
Sri Lanka being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and a multicultural society, minority support plays a key role in a presidential election. This was well displayed during the 2015 presidential election to a great deal. So, if you want to become the president of Sri Lanka, you have to woo the ethnic minorities to you. Unfortunately, what keeps happening is the main two parties promise the things they cannot deliver and once a party wins, the minorities feel they are cheated because the winning party won’t be able to keep the promises due to the objection of the opposition, religious establishments and pressure groups. Fair enough, but why don’t the minorities also learn not to ask these two parties the things that they cannot do? No one learns.
If Gota loses this presidential election, it will mainly be due to the
minority votes. Most of the Tamils in the North and the Tamils and the Muslims
in the East won’t vote for Gota for obvious reasons. Radical Tamils think it
was Gota who wrecked the LTTE and killed its supreme leader Velupillai
Prabhakaran, the “Sun God” of the ethnic Tamils. In the case of the Eastern
Muslims, the recent Easter Sunday Attacks created an anti-Muslim sentimentality among the general
public of all faiths. They expressed the view that if Gota was the Secretary to
the Ministry of Defense this type of a heinous attack wouldn’t have happened. And
the Muslims at large believe that a future Gota administration would not be
easy for the Muslims as Gota would go an extra mile to eliminate the radical
Muslim elements in the country and that would mean even the moderate Muslims
will have a hard time. This feeling is kind of reasonable with the way the present
government acted in the wake of the April massacre. Their lukewarm attitude to
a carnage of such magnitude might make such attacks possible in future too. If
Gota comes to power terrorists would find it very difficult but the Muslims
will have to pay a price (of being searched and their cultural sensitivities
If Gota doesn’t get the minority support, which I don’t think he would, he will have to get an amazingly big majority from the Sinhalese voters. Gota has been able to get the support of Mr. Arumugam Thondaman and his Ceylon Workers’ Congress but Thonda doesn’t enjoy the sole power in the Hills as some breakaway groups have left him and formed new parties or alliances. Besides, you can’t trust Thonda as well since he has kept changing camps as a habit, mostly by ending up with the winning side. So, Gota has to work hard to retain Thonda and also try his best to woo the minority votes from the North and the East before it is too late. With my experiences being in the North most of the last year and the East this year, I find the moderate Tamils and Muslims are of the view that a return of Gota will ensure stability which will result in economic development in the two provinces. Having said that, it is too early to predict if this sentiment of the Northern and Eastern people will convert to votes for Gota.
This is where Sajith has the upper hand. Traditionally, the UNP has been accommodating the ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka even before the Independence. Minorities have held high positions within the party hierarchy and also in the UNP cabinets whenever they were in power. The SLFP being a late comer to politics as a breakaway fraction from the UNP and the former’s slogan being the controversial “Sinhala Only Act” alienated the Tamils and the Muslims from the party I guess. Sajith will go to any extent to get the minority support, which he has already successfully done to ensure his chances in the final battle. He already has been able to secure some fractions of the Estate Tamil powerhouse by ironing out political deals with them. But he can’t be complacent about their support as some political surprises that could come out of the blue might upset his apple cart at a crucial time. It happened during 2005 edition of the presidential race, didn’t it? Who can say such a maneuvering won’t happen in two weeks’ time?
For most of you, this could be stale news. But I thought of writing this piece even at a later time after Vijayakala Maheswaran’s controversial speech. My first hand experiences in the North since June this year made me write this piece. Being 6 months in the North on and off (at least 3 weeks per each month) won’t be enough for me to come to a right conclusion about the subject but I would report what I saw. I don’t speak Tamil but can manage with the little English I know and sometimes in Sinhala as I found many people I meet in the North can speak some Sinhala. Besides, I think I am good at the universal language, the sign language
I have no connection or whatsoever with the then State Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs, Ms. Vijayakala Maheswaran. I even didn’t know if such one ever existed before her speech came to the limelight. But with all those hullaballoos about her “controversial” speech at Veerasingham Hall Jaffna on July 02, 2018, I thought of reading the full English translation of her speech “for the heck of it.”
Apart from the controversial and illegal part of “reviving the LTTE,” I don’t find anything wrong in what she talked in the rest of her speech. Ms. Maheshwaran must be really lucky not to be in jail for talking about reviving a ruthless terrorist outfit that dragged the country back to the Stone Age, literally. If this speech was made in any other sovereign state, she would have been counting the bars in a cell by now. But Sri Lanka is a funny country with funnier constitution which is less funny than a Kushwant Singh’s sarcastic column! I would refrain from making any comment about judiciary here as, at this age, I don’t have much time left to be in a secluded cell for several years. I have better things to in my life.
About child abuse/rape/killing which Ms. Maheshwaran talks, she is right. It is true these were not committed by the Sri Lankan military but mostly, the people of the neighborhood were the perpetrators. (There are some allegations that Ms. Maheshwaran herself tried to save one such accused of the high school girl Vidya rape and subsequent killing being, I don’t know.) What I do know is that the post-LTTE era has compromised the rigid law and order which had been implemented in the North by the terrorists. So, naturally, maybe the people might think that the “known devil” was better.
It was the same with the extensive substance abuse by the youth and the men at large in the North. The LTTE was trafficking drugs to sustain their organization but they did not sell them in Sri Lanka, well, at least not in the North. Drug trafficking was one of their main ways of illegal fundraising to the so called “liberation struggle” but they ensured the drugs would not make their way to the North. But now, after the conclusion of the bloody war, one can read from the press that large hauls of drugs are being captured by the police and the Special Task Force (STF) in the North and East. I myself have seen numerous times the youth spend hours under street lights in Jaffna just loitering till late hours of the night. I cannot see what they do but I just have a friendly word or two and find most of them are intoxicated. I don’t think this happened during the LTTE era.
Terrorism should be condemned at any level, but didn’t the women in the South themselves kind of “approve” the rigid jungle laws implemented by “Deshapremi Janatha Wyaparaya” – the terrorist unit of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) for that matter? People, especially women, love to see the men being controlled at least by a terrorist outfit if the authorities cannot do their job any better?
I am not a legal expert. But as everyone knows damn well, atrocities were committed from both sides during and the immediate aftermath of the war. There is no point in harping on these forever. A government military has to abide by the international ethics of war no matter how hard it is. They will be forced to retaliate when the opposite happens from a terrorist group. But this is why a state military is trained how to become a professional military. One cannot justify an illegal retaliatory action a state military commits by pointing at a ruthless terrorist or guerrilla group’s heinous acts. This is where the state military has to draw the margin. A terrorist organization has the luxury of ignoring international war ethics. This is why they are called “terrorists.” So, the better thing to do is to forgive and forget. There are allegations and reportedly, hard evidence too, of atrocities committed by both the military and the terrorists according to what I read, hear and see. So, why not we go to a South African model Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which all parties are pardoned and integrated to the society? It is never too late, even after 9 years of conclusion of war.
I am not the best person to comment on Ms. Maheshwaran’s complaint on Thenmaratchi not being named as a separate district. The same is requested for Kalmunai by the Muslim politicians. My personal view is that there are more sensitive things to pay attention on at this stage rather than creating more divisions on demands of this nature. First, let us work on what we can agree, and then the rest. Let’s not complicate things anymore. Enough damage has happened for three decades and let’s forget some of not-so-important issues.
Maybe I am wrong, but I cannot rule out the possibility of a long term plan by the authorities to weaken the youths and the men in the North by getting them addicted to drugs and then their “possible” revival with an armed struggle could be foiled in a cheaper way. This happened to the Chinese under the British rule during colonial times. The British got a huge Chinese population addicted to opium, a mainstream intoxicating drug of the time in mid 1800’s. This is historically known as Opium Wars which compromised China’s territorial sovereignty and cost them the island of Hong Kong. It could happen here too. But, then again, I have never seen any Sri Lankan leader designing such long term plans for anything good or bad. They just want to see the results before the next election comes after 5 years and reap the cheap benefits by that time. So, long term planning is the last thing one could expect from such shortsighted leaders I guess.
Nanda Wanninayaka – (Column 02 on November 10, 2018 – From Palmyra Peninsula) (This was originally written a couple of months ago but I was deliberately waiting till a General Election or a Presidential Election was called to publish this piece. Now that the first option has come into effect, here I publish it.)
I am not trying to explain how the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka happened and the different perspectives to its root causes. I am only going to talk only about how I perceive it. I was born in 1972 in the village of Mahawilachchiya (in Anuradhapura District of Sri Lanka) bordering the Wilpattu National Park. Velupillai Prabhakaran, who went on to create and lead the Tamil Tigers (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – L. T. T. E.) and waged a bloody war on all communities of Sri Lanka) got his first human target late Mr. Alfred Duraiappah, an SLFP MP in 1975. I was just 3 years old by then. When the real Civil War in Sri Lanka broke out in 1983 I was a 11-year-old schoolboy. Therefore, I can remember most of the sequences and developments of the ethnic war after the infamous “Black July” in 1983 into a fully-fledged civil war, that hampered the development of Sri Lanka into a possible regional economic power by dragging the country down literally to the Stone Age.
I never expected this futile war to end during my lifetime or during that of my son’s for that matter. But, thanks to the former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and the brave armed forces, the police force, the Civil Security Force and the citizens at large who sacrifices the unimaginable, the war ended for good on May 18, 2009, before my son celebrated his first birthday. What a relief? Endless attacks on civilians in so-called “border villages,” heinous acts of killing civilians in public transportation systems, constant bomb blasts inside almost all high security zones, suicide attacks on dignitaries, air raids on Colombo etc., kept the whole nation anxious and alert and the people were tormented for almost three decades. War was that horrendous and it was a welcome decision that the former President Rajapaksa took, to take the Tigers head on, not from the tail like the other ineffective and cowardly leaders did since 1975. Mr. Rajapaksa sent the Tigers to the right place, the dustbin of the “bloody” history. This is why former president commands a lot of respect – despite the fact that he was allegedly corrupt and violated human rights – from the people islandwide, especially the people who were directly affected by war. Me being a person who comes from a so called “border village” – Mahawilachchiya – a farming settlement inside the government controlled area but on the edge of LTTE’s haven, i.e., the sprawling Wilpattu National Park from three sides of the village, I have every reason to praise Mr. Rajapaksa for his daring act of taking a stern decision to finish the terrorists’ war with counter war, if not counter terrorism.
I know a lot of atrocities must have happened during the war, especially towards the last few days of the war. There could have been killing civilians, raping women, robbing valuables from fleeing civilians, etc. During the ancient wars, this was called “the spoils of war.” Killing men, raping women, enslaving children, looting treasure were part and parcel of war. It is true that the modern-day wars should be fought by keeping with the human rights accords, etc., with least damage to the civilians. But this is the last thing one could expect during a war. There are no such things called “war crimes” for what happens during a war. War itself is a crime and the smart thing to do was (and is) to take every effort to prevent a war, not to let a small misunderstanding to grow into a national issue and develop into a full-scale war like the late president Mr. J. R Jayewardene and his successors did. What I believe is there is nothing glorious about a winning a war, especially if it is fought with your own countrymen. The most glorious thing is to live in peace with every ethnic groups.
In fact, the 3-decade-long rancorous war was not Tamils’ war or Sri Lanka’s war. It was by no doubt India’s war. The hitherto peaceful, studious, hardworking Tamil boys and girls were dragged into a bloody civil war by India against their own fellow citizens in Sri Lanka. It was India’s disastrous foreign policy against her neighbors that was turned into an ethnic war during the late Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. With India’s secret spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW,) she misread the political situation in Sri Lanka and manipulated it into a full-scale civil war. As I see it, (I strongly believe I am right) Indira did not like the newly elected Sri Lankan president J. R. Jayewardene’s Open Economic Reforms that opened up the door for investors in the West that could create a rapid economic development in the island nation. The open economy could have easily made Sri Lanka the economic powerhouse in South Asia, just like Singapore did in the South East Asia. Mr. Jayewardene enjoyed a huge mandate of 5/6ths of enormous majority in the parliament and he only wanted a vicious Indira Gandhi to upset his apple cart and that of the country. And she was up to it and absolutely successful at that. (India would sarcastically brush off this claim stating that India was already a super power and Sri Lanka was not a significant player when it comes to the former’s economic realms to wash her hands-off Sri Lanka’s misfortunes.)
India, being a more leftist patriarchy with a soft corner to Soviet Union and the rest of the communist world, was a far slow economy with her ill-advised “License Raj” approach to domestic production of goods and services, was upset when she came to know that Sri Lanka had an open minded and a futuristic leader in the capacity of J. R. Jayewardene who had stronger links with the White House than with the Rastrapti Bhawan or Kremlin for that matter.
It is customary and “politically correct” to a Big Brother like India to harass a tiny island nation like Sri Lanka if the former takes the latter as a threat economically or otherwise. It happens elsewhere too. The USA – Cuba, Ukraine – Crimea, China – Hong Kong, etc. are the living examples to prove my point.) But being politically correct does not necessarily mean it is the right thing to do. Besides, fostering terrorists has been compared with nursing the serpents for the time immemorial by the visionaries and Mrs. Gandhi was so irrational not to understand that universal truth and decided to turn the Tamil boys who were very peaceful and committed to whatever work they took on to a terrifying terrorist outfit in the name of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE.) Let us not discuss how the LTTE crushed its brotherly terrorist outfits to be the so-called sole representative of the Tamils here.
Mrs. Gandhi used its southern powerhouse (Tamil Nadu) lead by M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) an actor-turned stupid politician who did not know much about politics than being the emblematic knife-wielding movie hero he was cracked up to be on the silver screen. He knew pretty well that it was easy to change the mindset of the Tamils in Tamil Nadu who were docile enough to treat their sly political leaders (especially actor turned politicians) as demigods.
The result, my friends, was MGR’s Tamil Nadu becoming the cradle of Tamil Tigers with the full blessings of Mrs. Gandhi. And the lambs to the slaughter were the poor Tamil boys in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Later the whole Northern and Eastern Provinces were infected by the deadly terrorism. Sri Lanka, being such a promising country with a lot of economic and other developmental opportunities, went to the labyrinths of endless terrorism as a result.
If Mrs. Gandhi believed in self-governance and promoted it, she should have offered Khalistan, the de facto nation that the Sikhs fought for, on a platter. But she didn’t. Instead she spearheaded a brutal war that killed both the terrorists – yes, I call anyone who breathes the air of a country and drinks its water and eats its fruits and fights for parts of the same land terrorists – be it Tamil Tigers, Sikhs, Tamils, Talibans, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, etc., whatever – and the civilians in Punjab saying that their claim for a Khalistan was illegitimate. How can she advocate self-determination for Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka and say no to the Sikh terrorists who claimed more or less the same for the same reasons? She went ahead with the controversial attack of reducing Amritsar’s Golden Temple, the holiest place of worship of Sikhs, almost to rubble (and finally paid for it by being brutally gunned down by two Sikh bodyguards of her own security cordon.)
Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination should have reduced the calamities in Sri Lanka if a smart and visionary leader succeeded her. Unfortunately, it was her own son, Rajiv Gandhi who had nothing but the being son of the slain Mrs. Gandhi and the grandson of late. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru as the only qualifications to rise to the thrown – ascended to power in the aftermath of this avaricious woman’s death and later went on winning the General Election also by a big margin, mainly of sympathy votes, something the subcontinent is cursed with. Mr. Gandhi resumed from where his mother left and went onto reinforce the support RAW, India’s notorious secret service was providing for the Tamil boys in the North and East of Sri Lanka. (For documentary and pictorial evidence just read Professor Rohan Gunaratna’s Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India’s intelligence and Shenali Waduge‘s articles on the subject. Just rummage through the web and you would find scores of them). If you think these two authors are biased for the fact that they are Sinhalese and Sri Lankans, read the books written by some of the Indian journalists, ex-diplomats assigned to Sri Lanka, ex-RAW personnel, ex-military high ranking officers, etc. and those of the independent sources to see how foxily Mr. Gandhi manipulated and escalated Sri Lanka’s cursed civil war.)
Proving the theory of proverbial nursing serpents, Rajiv Gandhi was paid with what he richly deserved, being blown into pieces by a Tamil woman who was allegedly gang-raped by India’s forcibly-sent Indian Peace Keeping Force – (IPKF,) on the former’s way to make it to the PM’s chair once again at a victorious election rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. (Don’t think I am happy to hear that these unscrupulous politicians paid for what nasty things they supported. I feel for every human soul, but one should be human enough to deserve such a sympathy. Being part of or masterminding massacres of civilians or even soldiers or terrorists for that matter, is no trivial matter. There are better ways to solve regional politics without resorting to the devastating terrorism.)
See what happened to the then internally stable Pakistan after creating Talibans to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan with the US money. See what happened to Afghanistan after the creation of Al Qaeda by the United States who also fought for American interests in Afghanistan. See what happened to Iraq, Libya and Syria after the advent of the ISIS terrorist outfit that was allegedly created by the United States. They all turned back and waged war on their very creators.
So, after a lengthy explanation, let me come back to the title of this essay. “Does Sri Lanka Really Need a Federal Solution?” A big NO, is my one and only answer and I won’t change this for any reason. Why? I am no political analyst or an expert on political science. The only academic qualification I have to talk about political science is the mere “C” pass I obtained for Political Science at high school level. All the rest comes from my own experiences and extensive reading about politics.
Sri Lanka does not meet any of the criteria that a federal state requires. We are a small island nation with enough access to any part of the island within a couple of hours. We don’t have the divisions some other countries have within ourselves, i.e., Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. We were living peacefully and our cultural heritage and religious beliefs are very close to each other and we share the same faith or reverence to places like the Adam’s Peak, Kataragama and Nallur rather than fighting each other to claim the ownership of those holy places to each ethnic groups like it happens with Jerusalem in the Middle East. Christians, Jews and followers of Islam are fighting for it while we harmoniously climb Adam’s Peak holding hands with each other respecting each other’s beliefs that it is their respective holy messengers’ footmark that lies up there.
I have seen how so-called intellectuals, both local and international, bring about various logic to prove that Sri Lanka needs a federal solution to solve its “nonexistent” ethnic issue. All three communities in Sri Lanka suffer because of the corrupt governments and corrupt politicians we keep electing. We are discriminated not because of our race. All three communities suffer because of the dirty politicians’ shortsighted decisions. Rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. Rather than treating each other enemies, we should understand that it is our poverty and ignorance that these politicians manipulate and we should unite and fight them, not ourselves. All three races are equally ill-treated by successive governments since the Independence in 1948. Those governments included politicians from all three communities and they held high offices in them. The only thing they did was looking after their own welfare rather than that of the citizens’ whom they were voted in by.
There are talks of how bags of dollars changing hands in the process of advocating a federal solution to Sri Lanka but I have no proof. At least nobody paid me to write this piece. I am not a big fan of Professor Nalin de Silva. But I do believe in at least two of the many theories he kept advocating. What he said long before the things got worse and complicated in Sri Lankan polity was
He said something to the effect of,
There is no solution other than a military solution to fight the terrorism and the military can definitely defeat the terrorists in Sri Lanka.
If the government kneels down before the terrorists and agrees to create a separate state for Tamils (Eelam,) from the next day onward, there would be an endless border war.
He was (and is) correct. Without an official state, the Tamil Tigers had an almost conventional army, a sizable navy and a tiny air force, something that no other terrorist organization in the rest of the world ever had. Imagine what could have happened if they had a federal state that would definitely upgrade itself to a legitimate sovereign nation, how strongly the Tamil Diaspora and the West pumped money and technology to initiate and sustain an unending border war. Sri Lanka would have been the “Israel of the Indian Ocean” and the chaos would have kept going in Sri Lanka till humans started civilizations in Mars!
Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India’s intelligence – Rohan Gunaratna
Much has been written by many Indian and Sri Lankan writers about the Sri Lankan civil war and India’s role in it. But Professor Rohan Gunaratna’s book, “Indian intervention in Sri Lanka: The role of India’s intelligence agencies” stands out among them as it provides a good account of the civil war from the inception till the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the then Indian Opposition Leader. (A second time candidate for Prime minister).
The book provides solid evidence of how India manipulated Sri Lanka’s civil polity by creating, funding, training and arming the various groups of Tamil youths by re-naming them as freedom fighters. Sri Lanka opened its economy (which was a closed one hitherto) to the whole world, especially to the West and with the high literacy rate she boasts of, Sri Lanka had all the ingredients to become the next Singapore in the region, but India thought otherwise. They were busy with persuading frustrated Tamil youths to terrorists who could go at length to kill their own people let alone the enemy. The Tamil youths were converted into members of the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit, the LTTE.
Professor Gunaratna has accessed the photo evidence of Sri Lankan youths being trained in India, even in Uttar Pradesh, let alone Tamil Nadu. Indira Gandhi started the heinous scheme which was taken forward by her son, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who paid the price by being blown up by the very terrorists whom he helped. Apparently the alleged suicide bomber was said to have been gang raped by the so called Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) soldiers whom Rajiv Gandhi forced the then Sri Lankan president J. R. Jayawardene to accept into Sri Lanka.
The book extensively details how the then Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Mr. Jyotindra Nath Dixit masterminded the ugly coup to intervene in Sri Lanka’s political sphere unethically. The unfortunate thing is that most Indians do not believe this and they have been brainwashed by the Indian government and the media with the story that Sri Lankan President requested Indian Premier to send its forces to fight Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil terrorists.
Prof. Gunaratna has done a lot of research to infiltrate into the LTTE to find facts about the most ruthless guerrilla outfit in the world. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the undisputed leader of the LTTE, fires his first bullet to kill Alfred Duraiappah, then an MP for Jaffna from the SLFP. Since then, the former never looked back. Professor Gunaratna gives a detailed account on how the LTTE was formed and how its cofounders were killed by the LTTE itself for it to gain supremacy over the other Tamil militant groups.
Though we blame the LTTE for all the bombings and mass killing today, the book reveals that some of the bombings in Colombo were done by the other Tamil militant groups such as TELO, PLOTE, EPDP, EPRLF, EROS, etc.
Having had the opportunity of interviewing the VIPs from both Sri Lankan and Indian governments, Prof. Gunaratna has firsthand knowledge about how politics worked between Colombo and New Delhi. Characters like Jyotindra Nath Dixit, M. G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi had gone beyond the accepted diplomatic boundaries to enable the LTTE become a powerful force against the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL.) The late President J. R. Jayawardene’s West oriented policies also played a big role here. He should have been more diplomatic with the Indian leaders and solved the problem.
The failure by President Jayawardene to quell the Black July riots in 1983 that killed a few hundred Tamils in Sri Lanka lead the Tamil Nadu and the Government of India (GOI) to be more sympathetic to the militant groups. The latter made use of this sympathy to become stronger politically and militarily. Subsequently, military training camps to train the militants mushroomed in India. Rather than the Indian High Commission, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the intelligent agency of India took care of the relations between the two countries.
Professor Gunaratna details how the deteriorating relations between the two countries resulted in India violating Sri Lankan airspace and subsequent forced Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF.) It was ironic that the IPKF happened to fight the LTTE, who had been trained by the GOI, itself.
Professor Gunaratna also describes how series of peace talks were held between the militants and the GOSL, starting from Thimphu, Bhutan to the Hilton Hotel, Colombo and how the LTTE sabotaged each opportunity to come to a compromise by getting what they wanted. The biggest betrayal of all was the attacking the GOSL forces after allegedly obtaining money and weapons from the then president Ranasinghe Premadasa. This angered him a lot and he appointed Ranjan Wijeratne, the energetic UNP Chairman as the Minister of State for Defense. Having foreseen the impending threat to the LTTE by the minister, they were able to remove him from the scene by using a remote controlled car bomb. Had he survived the attack just like Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa did, the story of the LTTE would have been different.
India’s attitude to Sri Lanka took a different turn after Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister was brutally killed by an LTTE suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur, India in 1991. The LTTE was proscribed in India and the GOI was more helpful to GOSL. The book ends there.
I feel Professor Gunaratna’s book is factually correct to a great extent, but the downside is that it has some grammatical errors. This may cause a credibility issues in the minds of some readers. I hope this could be rectified in any future reprints.