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Colombo politics vs. Col. Karuna Which 13-A betrays the Tamil people?

Two recent news items reported about two kinds of "betrayals." When Erik Solheim said, "I can understand the level of desperation among the Tamils in Norway. But, I can’t cause miracles," the Tamil militant Aravinthan in Oslo "felt" that "through procedural failures, the Norwegians have brought in discredit to the whole idea of international peace brokering" (TamilNet, 4/7/2009). In Colombo, as reported by Zacki Jabbar (The Island, news 4/8/2009) Mano Ganeshan accused ‘Col. Karuna’ of having the Tamil people for telling that "the full implementation of the 13-A was not necessary." Norway fishermen were in the Jaffna seas frp, the late 1960s, a fact I came to know when I visited the KKS cement factory in the early 1970s. Sinhala people had reasonable suspicions of Norway’s bias toward an Eelam from the start of its invited involvement in peace-manufacturing. Hence, one can ignore police-Tamil clashes in Oslo, Toronto or in London.

But the statement by a Colombo Tamil politician about a Hindu Tamil from a village in the Batticaloa Area cannot be ignored. With the Tamil Diaspora and some retired Sinhala people living in Colombo asking recently for a "Tamil Obama," "attacks" on ‘Col. Karuna’ have special significance because he represents the non-western, non-English-speaking Tamil leadership, who escaped from the GG Ponnambalam-SJV Chelvanayagam-authored Tamil separatism trap after fighting for it with guns and bombs. Yes, Mano Ganeshan learned his Sinhala in the past but ‘Col. Karuna’ is learning it now for a noble reason. ‘Col. Karuna’ is the only famous Tamil politician (sole representative!), who framed the problems of Tamil people as a problem common to all non-Colombo people of Sri Lanka by stating, "Give us what Colombo gets." This was what the JVP said in 1971 and the Youth Commission Report repeated in 1991. Col. Karuna is the first public Tamil to embrace a language-blind path of people empowerment and regional development.

13-A: the elephant and the blind men

In the hands of the Colombo politicians, 13-A has become a case of the elephant and the four blind men. Different people blinded by their political agendas and personal biases touched it, labeled it and interpreted it differently. For example:

1. Full implementation of 13-A

This is what Mano Ganeshan wants. He says Karuna betrayed the Tamil people by stating that full implementation of 13-A was not necessary.

2. 13-A minus

Karuna reiterated that the police and land powers were not necessary in implementing 13-A.

3. 13-A with land and police powers

Two or three government ministers previously clarified what they meant by full implementation of 13-A.

4. 13-A plus

Dayan Jayatillke has a theory of 13-A plus. This must be the same as 1 and 3 above. I do not know exactly what he meant by it.

5. 13-A as a good beginning

So many Tamil "moderates" express this opinion. For them 13-A is a step in the right direction to a future Tamil Federal unit (or a separate state).

6. 13-A is not a good beginning

Some Tamils, especially the Tamil Diaspora, think that Rajiv Gandhi could not give sufficient autonomy to Tamils by 13-A. They expect an Indian F type 13-A from the start itself. Thus it covers 1, 3, 4 and 5 above.

7. Forget 13-A!

This was what Prabakaran said. This was what the Thimpu demands stated and P-Toms and ISGA repeated later. This group wants a status beyond the Indian F so that they can resort to a UDI if they so decide at a future date (GOSL agents at the Oslo Meeting who addressed Balasingham as "His Excellency" thought Prabakaran had changed from an Eelam to an F solution and celebrated it in Colombo as a paradigm shift!).

8. 13-A in demerged North and East

Two separate PCs will kill the idea of a Tamil homeland in the East.

9. 13-A as a white elephant

For the seven southern PCs 13-A gave a white elephant that they did not ask for. 13-A provided a nursery ground for old politicians to train their kith and kin on how to get into politics.

10. 13-A as humiliation of Sinhala people

Forced by India on a helpless president. Sinhala people consider 13-A as a national humiliation. Until this 13-A is totally removed there will never be satisfactory peace in Sri Lanka.

11. 13-A as a temporary arrangement

All the above positions can be considered temporary steps depending on the good or bad motives of the people behind them. The Mahinda Chinthanaya-based approach of using 13-A as a temporary, stop gap arrangement until such time that a home grown constitution is developed is the most pragmatic approach to meet the urgent need of helping the Tamils who suffered for 30 years under the iron boot of Tamil dictatorship. They learned a bitter lesson by placing their faith on guns and cyanide pills.

Sinhala chauvinists and Tamil betrayals

For the past 70 years Sri Lankan politicians from Colombo have been caught in two types of labels. Even though the ordinary Sinhala people had nothing to do with it the Colombo writers and most Tamil politicians branded Sinhala people as chauvinists and extremists. On the other hand Tamil politicians in Colombo who took the separatist path blamed any Tamil who was willing to work with the ‘Sinhala’ governments as a "traitor." G. G. Ponnambalam despite his fifty-fifty demands and non-Hindu background worked with the ‘Sinhala’ government and got three large industrial factories located in Tamil areas, Cement factory at KKS, Chemicals at Paranthan and Paper at Valachchenai. Imagine, instead of attacking him, if SJV Chelvanayagam decided to join with him, and together worked with the ‘Sinhala’ government to develop the country? So much of misery and Tamil agony could have been avoided 30 years ago! Mano Ganeshan is trying to use the same tactics to sling mud at ‘Col. Karuna’ because he still has the failed separatist mindset.

Why Col. Karuna has more wisdom

The 13-A introduced to Sri Lanka in 1987 the 1935 Government of India Act plan of communal representation (the two India concept). A language based regional demarcation is sure recipe for disaster in a country where one group is claiming a traditional homeland in an actual or mythical region. Even if 13-A is implemented, the decision to give police and land powers is the most dangerous aspect of this short-sighted, Indian-sponsored project. It was a quick solution to Rajiv Gandhi and the Indian RAW but a nightmare or a real, proverbial tiger’s tail for JRJ and Sri Lanka. In India, the central government experienced painful trouble when the Tamil Nadu police favored the Sri Lankan Tamil terrorists who attacked the IPKF soldiers were hiding in Tamil Nadu safe houses. Despite clear evidence provided by the central government Tamil Nadu police did not act to arrest these anti-Indian terrorists. Even in the area of education, because it is a state function, Hindi as India’s official language project was hampered by Tamil Nadu resistance. Hindi could not be taught in Tamil Nadu schools for a long time. Tamil Nadu was the only state to obstruct Hindi as the unifying official language of India.

Hence, when ‘Col. Karuna’ says that police and land powers are not needed, he has removed a basic problem found in the 13-A scheme. If the need is to help Tamil people, not Tamil politicians, that need is on basic economic development, providing basic human needs, peace, human dignity and freedom from terrorism. To do that there is no need for police powers. The southern seven PCs are failing not because they do not have police powers. It is the top to bottom corruption and criminalization of society that must be tackled. In trying to work with the government in a way beneficial to his people ‘Col. Karuna’ is actually helping Tamil people. Maybe he is betraying the Colombo Tamil politicians who thrive on the beggar’s wound called Tamil separatism or the illusive phrase of Tamil aspirations.

Col. Karuna and the Mahinda Chinthanaya

By rejecting the most suspicious elements in the 13-A and by formulating Tamil issues as common issues applicable to the entire country ‘Col. Karuna’ was able to win the confidence of the Sinhala people (think of the Sinhala Marikkar in 1956) just like what the late Lakshman Kadiragamar and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle did in the past. ‘Col. Karuna’ is ahead of them because he is a Hindu Tamil who does not support the Tamil homeland myth. He is ahead of them because he is not interested in an Indian F solution. A Tamil politician cannot become a national politician unless he adjusts his actions and philosophy. By his changes and his open decision to learn Sinhala Col. Karuna became closer to the Mahinda Chinthanaya action programme (MCP) than any other Tamil politician. The Tamil people are also now happy with what is happening in the East under the MCP. Therefore, Col. Karuna has a better future in Sri Lanka than the Colombo Tamil politicians who have agendas tainted with separatist dreams knowingly or unknowingly. No one is perfect and we must give Karuna a chance. Why so many others hate Karuna is understandable.

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