Why not use it to secure a country that belongs to all rather than Eelam for some? Sampanthan’s change of strategy:
Posted on July 3rd, 2012

By Dr. M. A. Mohamed Saleem  Courtesy The Island

July 2, 2012, 6:57 pm

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The TNA leader R. Sampanthan’s recent speech at the 14th annual ITAK convention has raised a lot of public interest. After many years in the political arena and a mouthpiece of the LTTE, Sampathan used the Batticaloa platform to remind that his group was still relevant, active and invigourated, particularly after the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka. People should not therefore discount him and his group as a spent force. His speech comes at a time when the young Tamils generation is beginning to question the old guards: some more openly while others tacitly, calling for a new strategy and leadership to advance Tamil cause given the changing socio-political realities and circumstances in the country and internationally. Changing Eastern Province political climate over the past six years has diluted ground aspirations compared to the time when this province remained merged with the Northern Province to demand a separate Tamil homeland. Mr.Sampathan’s speech served a purpose; recharging confidence among the party members and sympathizers within and outside the country that he is still strong to occupy the leadership.

Outside Unitary Lanka

What his party aspires for is now clear when Sampathan said “Our expectation for a solution to the ethnic problem of the sovereignty of the Tamil people is based on political structure outside that of a unitary government, in a united Sri Lanka in which Tamil people have all powers of the government needed to live with self respect and self sufficiency. We believe that only within such a structure of government Tamil people truly enjoy the right to internal self-determination that is their inalienable right”

Immediately, Sampanthan also spoke of “The position that the North and East of Sri Lanka are areas of historical habitation of Tamil speaking people cannot be compromised in this structure of government”. What is more confusing is the context in which he used Tamil speaking people (in which Muslims presumably are also included) and Tamil People. From his assertions “Any solution to the ethnic problem concerning the Tamil people must be acceptable to the Muslim community of Sri Lanka” and ” The structure of government in Sri Lanka must also allow the Muslim community to fulfill their social, economic and political aspirations” one gets the impression that not all component groups of Tamil speaking people will be in the structure of government that the Tamil people desire to truly enjoy the right to internal self-determination which is considered their inalienable right. By this Sampanthan seems to advocate separate arrangements for Tamil speaking people (i.e. Muslims) outside that of the Tamil People. What happens if any arrangement only with the Tamil people in the North and East is unacceptable to the other Tamil speaking people? What happens if arrangements that will enable internal self-determination as in Sampathan’s proposal is not acceptable to the Muslims? Has there been any discussion on common positions between the Tamil people and the Tamil speaking people and, if so, what are they and when did this happen?

Muslims also discriminated

Like the Tamils, Muslims in Sri Lanka are also a minority, and they too periodically have complained about being marginalized and discriminated. However, Muslims had not taken the position that only North and East are areas of historical habitation but always maintained that they too are rightful citizens of this country. Therefore, they are entitled for equal rights and treatment constitutionally accorded to any other citizen wherever they choose to live. Historically, while maintaining religious identities, Muslims have blended with other communities socio-culturally. In spite of long years of cordiality between the Muslims and Tamils, the LTTE did not hesitate to declare Muslims unwanted in their “ƒ”¹…”homeland’.

Given the vast Tamil exodus in the past seeking refuge and citizenship in other countries “”…” a practice that continues even today in spite of stringent legal barriers and life threatening circumstances- the number of Muslims in this country, as of now, may even outnumber the Tamils. Nonetheless, Muslims will be very uncomfortable with an arrangement that Sampanthan is calling for; self determination someday that he hopes for with or without the international support.

Betrayed by Muslim politicos

Muslims of this country do appreciate Sampathan’s concern for them. Almost every Muslim member elected to parliament has deserted promises made to the voters and joined the government to toe its policy lines, even supporting constitutional amendments meant to perpetuate power and control by one group. As such, genuine grievances of the Muslim community are now underplayed or unattended to. Unfortunately, Muslim parliamentarians have repeatedly shown an affinity to cross over to other political camps for personal gains, and the Muslim community may have to put up with such representatives for a long time to come. Under these Circumstances, Sampanthan’s plea for Muslim interest is a welcome development. However, given LTTE hostility towards Muslims, bitterness and trust deficit between the Tamil/Muslim communities arising out of events like the expulsion of the Muslims from the Northern Province, massacre of worshipers inside mosques, confiscation and demolition of Muslim villages and properties, besiege of Muslim villages and civilian displacement from time to time as it happened in Muttur 2006, heavy sale taxation and boycott campaign against businesses with Muslim ownership, outright objection to the inclusion of Muslim representation in the post-CFA peace talks and TNA’s silence when it could have diffused tension between the two communities do not give credence that there is now an attitudinal change and Sampanthan’s concern for Muslims is genuine. Such goodwill positions had been bartered in the past between TNA and SLMC, and no one took them seriously then and no one will take them seriously now.

No one doubts Sampanthan’s intent and commitment to serve the Tamils. Also, there is no doubt that the Tamil community has suffered. Some argue that the Tamils had their prime time under the British, and because of the socio-development disparity caused during pre-independence other communities had some catching up to do. However, post-independent government strategies to achieve it were discriminatory and largely benefitted one group. Violence as a strategic choice by the Tamils to rectify post-independent discrepancies in governance caused even greater human suffering and impeded development throughout the country. What seems important today is to reconfigure our thoughts and actions to move away from a position of hurting stalemate and concentrate all energies rebuilding this country for all. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

No hate attacks

A country focused on reconciliation and rebuilding cannot allow hate attacks on people and their places of worship. Land grabbing, kidnapping and proliferation of symbols of one religion in places predominantly inhabited by followers other faiths are now on the increase. Continued and strong military presence in war affected areas, increasing crime and breakdown of law and order, pervasive corruption and waste of public resources go unabated. After the war, child abuse has become a menace everywhere. These are not positive signs for a country on a recovery path. Anti-social activities and hate crimes were once blamed on the insurgents but, such crimes are now being openly used with impunity to solidify party positions or frighten dissidents. These may have contributed to hardening TNA position as prospects of a home grown solution for Tamil grievances fade, while the government seems to harden its position to ensure that terrorism cannot raise its head again and separate homeland cannot be justified on the basis of group-affinity numerical strength.

Consider other options

Time has come to consider other options, and starting from a ground zero is one of them. This will mean everyone in this country to openly accept that mistakes have been made by all sides and make a fresh commitment for a new Sri Lanka, laid on a foundation which will truly internalize and respect ethnic diversity, freedom of worship, meritocracy ensuring the best person for the right job, rewarding professional excellence, independent public service, judiciary and law enforcement agencies, revised legal systems and penal codes to facilitate justice even to the weakest and strengthen deterrence and civic consciousness that encourage corporate responsibility to ensure safety and security of the present and future generations. All post-independent constitutions had provisions but, we couldn’t use them effectively to shape a country that belongs to all. Thus, without an attitudinal change, no new constitution will lead to a better Sri Lanka. Can Mr. Sampanthan adopt his new strategy – a ground zero option – in which the past is put behind, and the demand is to concentrate on rebuilding the country with stringent constitutional safeguards against misuse of governance in order to deny equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens. Can the government reciprocate this demand in good faith, and carry along with it the majority community, particularly its hardcore that sharpens its saber against the minority every now and then? As the legislators and those in the executive arm have benefitted immensely by propagating dysfunctional system of governance for so long there may be resistance for any change? What will it take to make the attitudinal transformation to accept a ground zero strategy?

The world entrusted the politicians far too long to determine destiny of the respective countries. Politicians have arrogated in their positions, and left the people astray in moral, financial, territorial and environmental crises. It will take a rare kind of visionary leadership to rebuild a country but it can only happen if there is genuine willingness to build a more caring and integrated society. Dasaraja Dharma may have been practiced in the past and, unfortunately today, Sri Lanka does not have it.

3 Responses to “Why not use it to secure a country that belongs to all rather than Eelam for some? Sampanthan’s change of strategy:”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    “A country focused on reconciliation and rebuilding cannot allow hate attacks on people and their places of worship. Land grabbing, kidnapping and proliferation of symbols of one religion in places predominantly inhabited by followers other faiths are now on the increase. Continued and strong military presence in war affected areas, increasing crime and breakdown of law and order, pervasive corruption and waste of public resources go unabated. After the war, child abuse has become a menace everywhere.”

    Rubbish!

    Taking of child abuse! It happened in the 6th century in Saudi Arabia too.

    e.g. Ayisha was an 8 year old Muslim girl when she was molested, abused and raped by a VVIP.

    These are facts I hope we have the right to say facts STILL because SL has not fallen to the low level of FATWA against FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

    Looks like these jokers are MAKING USE OF Sambanthan’s racism to get their own racist WAHABI demands.

    Tough luck with that. That too has a MILITARY SOLUTION.

  2. Leela Says:

    Leave out crowing like “… Muslims will be very uncomfortable with an arrangement that Sampanthan is calling for…” and “… attitudinal change and Sampanthan’s concern for Muslims is genuine”, what interests me is the writers statement; “Like the Tamils, Muslims in Sri Lanka are also a minority, and they too periodically have complained about being marginalized and discriminated.”

    Would the writer please list out for what and where Muslims are being marginalized and discriminated in Sri Lanka in comparison to marginalization and discrimination of minorities in Muslim majority countries?
    Leela

  3. AnuD Says:

    Probably, what Sampanthan is doing and the words that Shiv Shankar Menon used in his brief to media has some relation.

    I think, Sampanthan is playing the game that India wants. In other words, India wanted Sampanthan to say in that way. Menon also used the word “UNITED instead of Unitary because, if they want only the 13th amendment implemented in full, they can not talk about a UNITED Sri Lanka because, even after 13th amendment full implementation it is unitary state. I think, I am correct. It is simply a bullying game of the Sri Lankan govt.

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