President’s policy statement and Sampanthan’s amnesia



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by RAJEEWA JAYAWEERA


During the two-day adjournment debate on the policy statement delivered by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan’s outburst had more holes than a target sheet in a firing range (and Swiss Ambassador Hanspeter Mock’s charge of the abduction, molestation, and interrogation by unknown persons of embassy minor employee Garnier Banister Francis aka Sriyalatha Perera).


It needs to be stated at the outset, Sinhala leaders erred at the time of independence. The Tamil language could have been granted Regional language status and used for administration in the North and in that part of the East with indigeneous Si Lankan Tamil people, similar to the Indian model. In India, Tamil language is one of the many official languages but used only inside Tamil Nadu. The next mistake was the unilateral rescinding of the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact in 1957 under pressure from the ultra-nationalist Sinhalese and the Saffron robed brigade. Regional Councils for the North and East with Tamil as administrative language would have satisfied the Tamil leaders of the day. Then came the abrogation of the Dudley-Chelvenayakam Pact in 1968. The 1983 Pogroms and the absence of the rule of law will be to the eternal shame of the entire Sinhalese community.


The TNA leader begins by attributing a substantial portion of the country’s "neck-deep" debt to the avoidable war resulting from "not honouring commitments made to moderate Tamil leaders."


In 1994, former President CBK offered the entire Northern Province for ten years to Prabhakaran without elections. It was rejected by the LTTE Supremo outright. Notwithstanding an assassination attempt on her life, she offered Prabhakaran Regional Councils in 2000. They went way beyond the Provincial Councils in terms of devolution. It was rejected once again by the LTTE leader before it was defeated in parliament by the UNP/JVP opposition. The LTTE initially agreed together with the UNF government on the Oslo Declaration, which envisaged federalism but subsequently rejected it. The TNA leader forgets, had his former leader Prabhakaran accepted any one of these offers, deaths, destruction, and the debt would have been much less.


Did Sampanthan even once, call upon Prabkharan publicly, to accept such offers on the basis of a "united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka," his mantra since May 19, 2009?


The Tamil leader does not dispute, Sinhala Buddhists "are in the majority" in the country. He continues, "But, that does not mean that everybody living in this country is in a subordinate position. There are other people in this country who have their own civilization and traditions and who have lived in this country at least as long as anybody else. I refer in particular to the indigenous Sri Lankan Tamil people who have historically inhabited the North and the East."


Sampanthan has failed to define "subordinate position."


Over 50% of Tamil people live outside the Northern Province. 30% live outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The Tamil language has the same official status as the Sinhala language in the Tamil North and Sinhala South. Schools with Tamil as the medium of instruction and Hindu Kovils of worship are found all over the remaining seven provinces. Tamils have attained the highest positions in the land, excluding those of Head of State and Prime Minister, which they need to contest and be elected. Tamil people have the unrestricted liberty to purchase property in any part of the country, including in the most exclusive residential areas in the capital. They are the second largest community after the Muslim community in the Colombo district. The so-called majority community ranks No. 3. Sampantha’s deputy has a lucrative law practice in Colombo. A strange subordinate position indeed!


The TNA leader claims, "Our intention is not to confront anyone, but to cooperate with everyone in such a manner as to resolve the issues facing the country amicably." The poisonous 13 points list of demands in return for Tamil support to any agreeing Presidential candidate was a cunning ploy. Even an imbecile would realize, no Sinhalese candidate could/would accept it. It enabled the TNA to tell its people, Sinhala politicians are not willing to meet any of their demands. So much for his efforts towards reconciliation. The plan boomeranged. It contributed to electorally uniting the majority community as never before.


Had the TNA advised Tamils in the North and East to vote according to their conscience, its leaders could legitimately expect a dialog with President Rajapaksa. The TNA leader has claimed, 85%, the Tamil people, "on our call voted against him: he could not capture their vote."


Gotabaya Rajapaksa receiving nearly seven million votes won handsomely, thus debunking the theory, the referred 85% (around 1.5 million) were kingmakers. They are a minority to be treated fairly and justly. Their rights and privileges need to be enshrined in the Constitution by way of a Bill of Rights. No more, no less.


Sampanthan should prove his claim of TNA being the representatives of the Tamil people by securing 85% of the Tamil vote in the forthcoming Parliamentary election.


The TNA leader has referred to a merged North-East Provincial Council. Article 2.3 in the Indo-Lanka Agreement requires a referendum to be held by December 31, 1988. The people in the Eastern Province would decide if North and East would remain a single or two separate units. The ethnic composition of the Eastern province as per the 2011 census is 39% Tamil, 37% Muslim and 23% Sinhalese. Despite most Muslims being Tamil speaking, the TNA has no right to speak for the Muslim community. They along with the Sinhalese will not give the required simple majority for the merger of the two provinces. Therefore insisting on the North and East merger will prevent moving forward and is a non-starter.


President Rajapaksa, during his visit to India, stated, devolution has been granted in the Constitution. The 13th Amendment is all about devolution and implemented purely to satisfy the Tamil community. He also clearly stated the unacceptable aspects of the Accord.


Sampanthan has quoted former President Mahinda Rajapaksa verbatim of his assertions at the All Party Representative Committee – APRC – and the Multi-Ethnic Experts Committee on July 11, 2006.


That said, what did Sampanthan himself assert till May 2009 other than declaring the LTTE, "sole representatives of the Tamil people?" That while being a Member of the Sri Lankan Parliament enjoying salary, perks and privileges from the Sri Lankan State?


Then comes the icing on the cake. The TNA leader makes two references to "The military defeat of the LTTE is also substantially attributable to the assistance of both India and the international community to achieve that objective. The said commitments need to be honored. They cannot be reneged upon."


The assistance given by the USA and to a lesser extent by India in the last several years of the conflict is undeniable. The intelligence assistance provided helped the Sri Lankan navy to destroy several LTTE weapons shipments at high seas, thus weakening the terrorists considerably.


But why does Sampanthan so deceitfully leave out both the Indian involvement and inaction of the international community, so relevant in this narrative?


India’s role in the birth of Tamil terrorism in Sri Lanka is a matter of record. It nurtured, financed, housed, armed, and trained Tamil terrorists from Sri Lanka. No amount of self-aggrandizement, handouts, credit lines, rail tracks, and overweight locomotives can erase this historical fact. India is also solely responsible for prolonging the conflict, resulting in death and destruction for 22 additional years by compelling the Sri Lankan State to call off Operation Liberation in Vedamarchchi in 1987.


Sampanthan is quick to remind of Sinhalese leaders of reneging on agreements.


He nevertheless is silent of India (GoI) repeatedly reneging on its obligations from day two of the Indo-Lanka Accord. It failed to ensure a cessation of hostilities and surrender of all arms by militants within 48 hours as required in Article 2.9. GoI also failed in Article 2.14 in which it ‘underwrote and guaranteed the resolutions.’ The initiators of the Accord reneged on Articles 2.16 (a), (b) (c), and (d) relevant to actions to be taken in the event of any militant group not acting in the framework of proposals for a settlement. LTTE terrorists continued to operate out of India despite Article 2.16 (a) stipulating the prevention of the use of its territory for activities prejudicial to the unity, integrity, and security of Sri Lanka. The LTTE had been neither disarmed not its cooperation secured even by the time the IPKF withdrew on March 24, 1990. Newly elected President Premadasa would not have armed the LTTE had GoI not reneged on Article 2.9 and also departed when requested.


Sampanthan does not seem to understand, delivering on agreements is obligatory for all parties and not limited to Sri Lanka.


For the likes of Sampanthan, having foreign boots on our soil is not a concern, so long as it helps their agenda.


The USA designated the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. The UK proscribed the LTTE in March 2001. European Union countries did not do so till as late as 2006. Front organizations continued even after that.


These nations refused to sell weapons and ordnance to Sri Lanka to defend its territorial integrity. Funds collected by Tamil diaspora continued to be laundered and diverted to LTTE coffers, a fact confirmed by veteran Sri Lankan Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar while addressing the Royal Institute of Foreign Affairs at Chatham House in London on April 15, 1998


Sampanthan laments, "The military defeat of the LTTE is also substantially attributable to the assistance of both India and the international community to achieve that objective."


The unvarnished truth is different. India did considerable damage to Sri Lanka. The passivity of the international community in Western Europe concerning the LTTE differed drastically from their efforts to eradicate the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Those who sing hosannas for India and the international community would do well to remember; "The military defeat of the LTTE is also substantially attributable to the assistance of both China and Pakistan.


Genuine friends assist when necessary, with no strings attached. They ask for no commitments and dealt strictly with the legitimage government.


Rajavarothiam Sampanthan’s selective amnesia is telling.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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