Dayan Jayatilleka replies to Mahinda Gunasekara on "July ‘83"

I find Mahinda Gunasekara’s response to my critical retrospective on July ’83 an amazing a mixture of the illogical, the irrelevant and the incorrect. He makes much of the Vadukkodai Resolution and the provocative political propaganda of the TULF. This comes from a man who lives in Canada, where Quebecois nationalist politicians have not merely toyed with separatism, but have frequently resorted to referenda to test the waters.

Gunasekara may have noticed that no mobs descended on French Canadians and beat, hacked or burnt them to death as a result of such "provocation"! The same, I might add, is true of Scottish nationalist sentiment which verges on separatism. No Scots have been lynched as a result. My point is very simple: The peaceful expression of political sentiment, however unpalatable, must never result in a violent response. The response could be political, ideological and legal, but never bloody.

Gunasekara also avoids the obvious fact that the forerunner of July ’83, namely, the riots of 1958, was almost two decades before the Vadukkodai Resolution and the attack on the 13 soldiers. If the same thing happens under widely different contexts, then logically it is not the context, but something else which underlies the phenomenon.

The attack on the 13 soldiers cannot be regarded as a legitimate causative factor for the simple reason that a terrorist attack on soldiers cannot be responded to by attacks on unarmed, uninvolved civilians. The response should be military retaliation against a terrorist target. The IRA bombing campaign in London did not result in murderous mob attacks on fellow UK citizens who happened to be Irish.

Confusing consequence with cause, Mr. Gunasekara writes of "the Tamilnadu State Government and the Central Government of India in secretly training, arming and funding Tamil militants at military bases in India to destabilise Sri Lanka", which is total nonsense. While a few retired Indian police and military personnel of Tamil origin were hired by the Tigers to provide training before July ’83, there isn’t a single credible source, journalistic or scholarly, Sri Lankan, Indian or Western that speaks of Indian or Tamil Nadu Government training for Tamil militants prior to the events of July ’83. Not a single training camp was in existence in India before July ’83.

The decision to train and arm Tamil militants was a direct result of and response by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to July ’83. This is overwhelmingly confirmed by all the serious literature, which is voluminous, on the subject.

Finally, Gunasekara, who has chosen to live under a liberal federal system, urges a system of power sharing on Sri Lanka, in which the district is the unit, scrapping the arrangement made under the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th Amendment. He should pause a while to reflect on how the Indo-Lanka Accord came to be, and why Sri Lanka has reiterated its commitment to the 13th Amendment.

The defeat of the Tiger insurgency requires regional and international cooperation, and that cooperation in turn requires a political reform which is acceptable to those from whom we seek that vital assistance. Nothing below the 13th Amendment is acceptable to any non-Sinhalese – the Tamils, the Indians, the world at large. There are simply no takers. Any attempt to dilute the 13th Amendment will result in India either turning a blind eye to LTTE re-supply or worse, taking active measures to prevent a Sri Lankan military victory as in 1987.

In such an event, the admirable Mounties of Mr. Gunasekara’s chosen home will be unable to help us.

Dayan Jayatilleka

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