TNA’s response disingenuous, selective and promotes polarisationMarch 23, 2012, 8:28 pm
by Arun Tambimuttu
SLFP organiser for Batticaloa
This refers to and is a response to a statement released by the Tamil National Alliance on March 14, 2012, which refers to Sri Lanka, makes a critique of her history, the conflict, processes of reconciliation and ends with a call for action by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The document alleges that the Government of Sri Lanka has serious issues with regard to telling the truth and keeping its promises, outlines what the TNA believes are broken promises relating to political settlement, discusses the conduct of the war and allegations of human rights violations and calls for UNHRC action. The document raises some important issues that are of concern to all Sri Lankans, but is found lacking in moral weight and is suffused with inaccuracies and part-truths and is conspicuously silent on the considerable progress made on all these issues.
I write as a Sri Lankan Tamil and as someone who has suffered on account of the conflict. I was a victim of physical torture by the LTTE when I was only 13 years old. I was shot in my ankle, kidnapped and imprisoned. My supposed crime was being the only child of a democratically elected representative of the Tamil people!
A few months later, they killed both my parents (SAM TAMBIMUTTU, MP for Batticaloa and KALA TAMBIMUTTU), in front of the Canadian High Commission in Colombo.
I write also as someone concerned about all citizens of Sri Lanka and because I consider the TNA statement too important to reject without comment, particularly since distortion of reality impedes and not fosters reconciliation and national integrity in the aftermath of a brutal and bloody conflict that held the entire country to ransom for 30 long years. This statement addresses the core issues articulated by the TNA, in order to set the record straight and advance the interest of reason over rhetoric and provides a necessary preamble that places the TNA in its historical context. I sincerely believe that this will provide the logical platform for a) assessing the true weight of the TNA statement, and b) restore sanity to the debate on Sri Lanka’s post-war efforts at reconciliation.
The TNA came into being as a political formulation consisting of parties and groups that had resolved to act as the LTTE’s proxy in Parliament and other forums, a fact reflected in its first election manifesto in 2004. The TNA not only recognized the LTTE as ‘The sole-representatives of the Tamil people’, but kept a conspicuous silence about all crimes against humanity and all acts of terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE from the time it came into being, until the LTTE was militarily defeated. Even today, when referring to the past, the TNA refrains from condemning the LTTE, apart from cursory and tokenistic references.
The TNA leadership has never condemned the numerous atrocities committed by the LTTE including but not limited to the following:
The brutal suppression of Tamil voices opposing the LTTE, through intimidation, assassination of leaders, parliamentarians and political activists such as Raviraj and Ketheeh Loganathan among many others, and massacring of cadres (in the case of other militant groups) and party activists (of parties in the democratic mainstream).
The assassination of Tamils elected to office even before the TNA formally came into existence — those in local government bodies, provincial councils and parliament. [This includes the leader of the TULF, Appapillai Amirthalingam and other noteworthy parliamentarians and human rights advocates, such as Neelan Thiruchelvam. The TNA leader, R. Sampanthan, it must be noted, although a Member of Parliament (1977–1983 and 2003 to date) and a Politburo Member of the Federal Party and the Tamil United Liberation Front, never once condemned any of these assassinations.
· The ethnic cleansing of Muslims from the Jaffna Peninsula and the innumerable attacks on Muslims and Sinhalese villages in the Eastern Province.
· The attacks on places of religious significance, such as the Sacred Bo Tree in Anuradhapura and the Sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.
· The summary execution of over 600 unarmed policemen who had surrendered to the LTTE.
· The brutal killing of over 147 Muslims within the precincts of four mosques, in Kattankudy.
· The butchery of over 100 Sinhalese civilians, including infants and toddlers in Batticaloa town.
· The abduction and forced recruitment of children for combat purposes by the LTTE.
Apart from the above glaring omissions which seriously compromise the moral right to point fingers, it cannot be stressed enough that the TNA is not the only Tamil political formation in the island and does not represent the entirety of Tamils, either in the North and East or the rest of the island. Moreover, on the issue of accountability, the TNA has, by omission and commission, been complicit and an accessory after the fact of every single transgression by the LTTE, including child conscription, political assassinations, suicide bombings and other attacks on civilian targets, as well as other acts of terrorism.
The TNA, even while pledging allegiance to sovereignty, has always advocated separatism. Its commitment to reconciliation and peace are highly questionable, in light of political statements by key leaders contending that it has chosen a strategy of creating the conditions that could facilitate the division of the country.
Notwithstanding the above, I continue to acknowledge the TNA as a legitimate political entity entitled to preferences and opinions and therefore worthy of engagement in the spirit of democracy and decency and hence make the following observations on its lengthy though repetitive and slanted statement that is replete also with factual inaccuracies and misleading representations.
TELLING THE TRUTH AND KEEPING PROMISES
The TNA’s complaints regarding discriminatory legislation, largely refer to matters that have long since been corrected. In particular, the reference to the Soulbury Constitution and Section 29(2)(b) and (c) are no longer relevant with the issue of equality of citizenship being effectively resolved in the 1978 Constitution in the Chapter on Fundamental Rights, a correction that the TNA (as a party and as individuals), has consistently and numerously invoked in order to obtain redress from the justice system. This includes, interestingly, numerous occasions where TNA lawyers have sought and obtained release of suspected LTTE members. The TNA and its lawyerly leaders seem to have conveniently forgotten the fact that fundamental rights legislation, essentially makes for class action suits, which effectively means that the kind of affirmative action envisaged in the Soulbury Constitution can in fact be realised through judicial intervention.
Similarly, the anomalies pertaining to language have long since been corrected and corrections enshrined in the constitution. I note that while implementation of the same in administrative matters has lagged in certain instances, the situation has improved over the years and has gathered momentum subsequent to the end of the war.
It is unfortunate that the TNA has chosen to leave out these developments in its statement, but more seriously, this omission is reflective of a deliberate objective to deceive and mislead. It is, ironically, deceitful and untrue and therefore, mischievous and irresponsible.
THE ISSUE OF POLITICAL SETTLEMENT
The TNA has commented at length on ‘the non-implementation of the 13th Amendment’. In this regard, I make the following observations:
Almost immediately after the 13th Amendment was passed, the LTTE (of which the TNA became a proxy with its key leaders having largely toed the LTTE line from the late 1980s), rejected it, complaining that it fell short of the aspirations of the Tamil people and launched a brutal campaign to assassinate members elected to the North-Eastern Provincial Council.
Full enactment of the 13th Amendment was rendered impossible thereafter due to a) LTTE choosing the military option, b) the LTTE reneging on several rounds of talks to negotiate a settlement.
The principal obstacle to the implementation of the 13th Amendment was the LTTE and by extension and proxy, the TNA.
It was with the end of the war that a semblance of normalcy returned to these areas.
Significant improvements in resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction needed to take place before conditions conducive to the holding of elections could take place.
With necessarily gradual demilitarization, resettlement of displaced persons, minimum degrees of reconstruction including infrastructure development (necessitated by the considerable destruction wrought, in particular, by the LTTE), elections have been held for local government bodies in the North and East and for the Eastern Provincial Council. Elections for the Northern Province are to be conducted shortly.
The TNA, while failing to acknowledge the LTTE’s role in hampering these processes and developments, refuses also to acknowledge the new ground realities, including vast changes in demography as well as the new political aspirations of all communities. In fact, meaningful devolution in a manner that is acceptable to all communities (as recommended by the LLRC) has a better chance of succeeding now, simply because its main objector, the military wing of the LTTE, is no longer part of the political equation.
The TNA does not mention the important statistical fact that 54% of Tamils of Sri Lanka live outside the Northern and Eastern
Continued on Monday
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