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THE EXTINCTION OF THE SINHALA NATION

By Douglas Wickremaratne

Introduction

The past few decades have seen many countries disintegrate and sovereign nations have been reduced to almost extermination. Some examples are, Afghanistan was a sovereign country for centuries. In 1979 the country had a very stable administration. However the past two decades have seen internecine warfare, followed by interference from superpowers under many pretexts and is today reduced to rubble.

A few decades ago, Somalia had a vibrant economy, with local production. In view of its strategic importance Russia and the USA wooed it, showered it with grants and loans. Getting used to live beyond its means, depending on loans, the rulers neglected their agriculture, livestock and industries because they found it easier to buy their food and consumer requirements with cash obtained on loans rather than the harder way of maintaining production. The Russian economy crashed. With Russia out of the scene, no loans or Aid were forthcoming from the West and the economy crashed. Regional warlords waged war among themselves and the country has seen no central government since 1991.

Cyprus a British colony, gaining independence in 1960 had a population which comprised 78% Greek Cypriots and 18% Turkish Cypriots. In 1974 the Turkish Cypriots wrested 40% of the land to be their own and they declared it the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The fate that befell the above sovereign countries encapsulate what is now happening in Sri Lanka. It would be nave to think that all is well. In actual fact the country is disintegrating into a number of regions. If the Sinhala people who amount to as much as 74% of the population continue to be divided on political lines, their extinction is not far off. While Somalia illustrates what has happened to our economy - we need a billion dollars a year from somewhere to keep things going, the predicament of the Greek Cypriots also illustrates what is likely to happen.

Though the LTTE currently claim the North and the East, their actual aim is to wrest the entire island. A document that was distributed in London in 1977, issued by the TULF: 'An Appeal to the Nations of the World from Eelam Tamils of Sri Lanka: Tamil Separate State of Eelam will Dawn' states The Sri Lanka Thamils have made a resolute stand to establish a separate state to meet the aspirations of the Tamils in the world at large. It is with this idea that the LTTE has ethnically cleansed the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This statement also illustrates that their aim is eventually to wrest control of the entire island. The LTTE aim is not to find a homeland for the Tamils of SriLanka. Far from it, their plan hatched as far back as 1977 is to establish a homeland for all the Tamils in the world.

Can the claims of the Tamils be justified?

The LTTE bases itself on the theory that the Eastern and Northern Provinces including the Jaffna Peninsula and the Wanni is the homeland of the Tamils.

The LTTE has been following a policy of ethnic cleansing of Jaffna and the Wanni, chasing away the legitimate people who have lived in the area for centuries. All the villages in the Dry Zone- the Wanni where colonization schemes were established, were earlier inhabited by Sinhala people. Professor Nalin De Silva has shown how when applications were called for settlement in Iranamadu, there was not a single Tamil applicant. (Divayina:March31,2002).

Gamini Iriyagolla has quoted the famous report on Forest Administration in Ceylon by FDA Vincent, published as a Sessional Paper XLII of 1882: to show how ethnic cleansing took place even before the LTTE: The gradual spread of the Tamils down the coast, especially the Eastern and the fact that nowhere except in the Northern Province and Tamankaduwa, do they form more than coastal settlements are both striking. Wherever the Tamil or the Mohomeddan comes to settle the Sinhalese is driven back to the forest where he earns a precarious existence by chena cultivation and by hunting. (Iriyagolla):

Colombo has been increasingly colonized by Tamils today. If Colombo had the enforcement of the Tesavalama Law that is currently in force in Jaffna, this colonization of Colombo could not have taken place. In actual fact the Tamil minority has always been at an advantage. Professor Nalin De Silva has repeatedly challenged anyone to show the so called grievances that are touted.

In actual fact the LTTE has had to gun down their Tamil leaders like Amirthalingam, the leader of the TULF and three Mayors of Jaffna, This is only to mention a few of their assasinations to bring the law abiding Tamil people under their subjugation.

The 2001 Election Voting has been analysed by Neville Laduwahetty and the voting clearly indicates that the LTTE cannot speak for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. In his words:

An analysis of the voting pattern in the northern and eastern provinces shows that only 37% of the electorate voted for the TULF/TNA. Taken separately by Provinces 51% voted for the TULF in the Northern Province while only 31% voted for the TULF in the Eastern Province. The opposition in the Eastern Province to the TULF and through them to the LTTE is consistent as in 1977. By electoral district, 55% and 45% voted for the TULF in the electoral districts of Jaffna and Vanni respectively, while only 17%, 35% and 48% voted for the TULF in the electoral districts of Digamadulla, Trincomalle and Batticaloa respectively. (The Island December 11, 2001)

These facts indicate that the claim of the Tamils for the Northern and Eastern Provinces as their homeland is totally unfounded.

The Memorandum of Understanding

As Kohobanwickrema states the MOU was not agreed upon by the Government of SriLanka before the LTTE leader signed it. In his words, The document that the Norwegian Ambassador took with him to the Vanni was a draft MOU; the concerns of the Government in relation to the draft had to be discussed with the LTTE and appropriate amendments made before a final document for signature was prepared. Not waiting to discuss the concerns of the Government or make any concessions, Prabhakaran signed the draft document.:

The MOU is fatally flawed and not valid in law because according to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. In the words of Presidents Counsel H.L. de Silva:On the question of the primary responsibility for the defence of the country being vested by the Constitution in. the President and the obligation to obtain her prior consent in entering into the ceasefire agreement(MOU) with the LTTE and the failure even to acquaint her with its provisions prior to the Norwegian Government obtaining the signature of the LTTE leader, I think this omission is a breach of duty and a clear violation of the Constitution and the Agreement is fatally flawed on that account.

Presidents Counsel S.L.Gunasekera has indicated how the Prime Minister's signing the MOU is an explicit acknowledgement by the Prime Minister of the non existent right of the LTTE to rule those parts of the country as well as a promise of a formal partition of the country according to boundaries to be drawn up by Norway within 30 days.

The MOU entered into between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE is totally weighted in favour of the LTTE and the sovereign nation is reduced to the situation of vassalage. One of our eminent lawyers, President Counsel H.L.de Silva has said that No independent country in the World has made a surrender of its sovereignty. in this manner. He has referred to the fact that the determination of any violation of the Agreement does not lie in the hands of the Government of Sri Lanka but rests firmly and unambigously in the hands of a foreign national appointed by the Norwegian Government. One must understand that it is this Norwegian Government that not long ago financed and organized the RedBarna colonization of the Wanni with Tamils from the hill country in Sri Lanka in a most clandestine manner.

The Government and its armed forces though provoked several times by the LTTE Cadres have not broken any of the MOU conditions. But the LTTE has broken the MOU conditions repeatedly- by extortion, abductions, abducting underage children and conscripting them into their armed forces. The LTTE has not allowed the A9 highway for all traffic. The Monitors and the Norwegian Government representatives have so far failed to get the LTTE to adhere to the MOU.

The LTTE has been allowed to engage in political activities in the areas under the control of the Government. They have been permitted to send 50 unarmed cadres within the first month , increased to 100 and removed altogether thirty days later. This enables LTTE cadres to go anywhere in Sri Lanka, while no one from the Government or the Sinhala people can go to the Tamil areas without their approval. The Government has not got similar powers to tell the people in the LTTE areas of the political ideology of democracy and human rights which we uphold. The LTTE has already held Political Rallies in the Government held areas in Vavunia, Jaffna, Nuwara Eliya and Trincomalee and have already opened up political offices in Vavuniya, Jaffna, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. At the Rally in Trincomalee town the Sri Lankan Police watched while all traffic arrangements, demonstrations and the city administration were handled by the LTTE and this Government allowed all the school children and government servants to be forced by the LTTE to participate at the Rally. The Armed Forces have been instructed to avoid confrontation and their easiest method is to allow the LTTE to do as they please. While the Armed Forces of the country are held in barracks and held on a leash as far as the LTTE activities are concerned, the full force of the Armed Forces are unleashed on peaceful demonstrations in Colombo- like the demonstration of the unemployed graduates recently where dozens of the unemployed and their parents were mercilessly attacked. Is this the justice the people voted for at the election? Oppression of the Sinhalese and complete freedom to LTTE?

Democratic Governance

The Prime Minister has invited the LTTE to come into mainstream democratic politics. The Norwegian Government as well as the NGO that support the LTTE should remember that the LTTE is a facist administration that knows of no democracy. The LTTE rules with the gun and has murdered all Tamil leaders including three Mayors, Amirtalingam, the leader of the TULF, Tamil Members of Parliament. The LTTE has also has also cleansed Jaffna and the Wanni of peace loving Tamil people, who have been forced to seek refuge among the Sinhala people or proceed abroad.

The MOU is totally partial and advantageous to the LTTE . It is not a legally valid document and the repeated infringements of its provisions by the LTTE exposes the partiality of the Norwegians.

The Interim Administration of the Northern and Eastern Provinces The LTTE is demanding that the Northern and Eastern Provinces should be handed over to them for two years, even before the negotiations commence. Many people have pointed out that it is absurd to hand over the North and the Eastern Provinces to the LTTE due to the fact that the LTTE has not renounced terrorism, the fact that the LTTE is a military rebel group and they currently forcibly occupy only the Districts of Mullative and Kilinochchi.

The population of the Eastern Province comprises all three ethnic groups, in almost equal amounts. The population of the Trincomalee District comprised 137,000 Muslims, 112,000 Tamils and 104,000 Sinhalese. Of the 11 AGA or Divisional Secretary Divisions, the Tamils are a majority only in two of them, while the Sinhalese are in a majority in five and the Muslims in four. Thus including Trincomalee within an administration area for the Tamils is totally unwarranted and is most unreasonable.

As has been pointed out by Neville Laduwahetty, Even the Tamil voters in the Eastern Province who are peremanently concentrated in the District of Batticaloa did not give a mandate to the TULF because only 32.5% of the electorate in Batticaloa voted for the TULF although it had a 71% Tamil population (1981 Census). Furthermore in the entire Eastern Province only 27% voted for the TULF. The fact that 73% opposed the TULF and its agenda at this election denies the LTTE the democratic authority to incorporate the Eastern Province in core issues such as homeland or self-determination in any interim administration.(The Island:April17,2002)

The term 'mandate' is a much abused term in Sri Lankan politics.

What is the administrative ability that the LTTE has shown upto now. The LTTE has murdered five Government Agents, three Mayors of Jaffna, the leader of the TULF, assasinated Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, President Premadasa of Sri Lanka and many others. Very recently, after the UNF Government commenced the ceasefire, just before the signing of the MOU, the LTTE abducted the Divisional Secretary of Batticaloa and held him prisoner for a fortnight. That officer when he was released decamped to Colombo, even vacating his post,

The Tamil people in the areas they have established control are harassed, money is extorted from them, their children are abducted with the result that the people are compelled to leave the area and go to Colombo or other parts of the country to live among the Sinhalese. It has been documented that after the signing of the MOU, Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil people living in Government held areas adjacent or near LTTE held areas are being subjected to harrasment, extortion and abduction under the nose of the Sri Lankan Armed forces, who have been instructed not to confront the LTTE.

The LTTE has systematically chased away the Sinhala and Muslim people who have lived in the area for centuries.

Can the LTTE be depended upon for any promise?. At the President Premadasa Peace Talks, the representative of the LTTE, no less a person than Anton Balasiingham agreed that the police personnel that manned the police stations in the Batticaloa area, should be handed over to the LTTE for safe passage to Colombo. On this specific undertaking given to the President of SriLanka, 670 policemen surrendered only to be walked to their graves and murdered in cold blood. This illustrates the responsibility and dependability of the LTTE.

Handing over any area to the LTTE for an interim administration means that the entire population in the area will be held in the firm grip of military control. Even the Tamils in the area will be harassed.

Can any democratic country which respects the rights of the people, which respects human rights even think of handing over any area to a group of rebels who rule with the gun. It is morally wrong for the Sri Lankan Government to even consider giving an area to the LTTE for their military control. This would certainly not be considered a prudent move by any democratic country.

If any area is given to the LTTE for an interim administration, it will be the cornerstone of the proposed independent EELAM.

The LTTE is insisting that the first item on the agenda at the proposed talks in Thailand would be the Interim Administration of the Eastern and Northern Provinces. It will be only afterwards that a negotiated settlement is discussed. Should it not be that an interim administration should be decided on only after the negotiated settlement is reached. If an interim administration is allowed before a negotiated settlement is reached, how can the interim administration be stopped in case the negotiations fail. Once an interim administration is allowed it will never be possible to take back the administration.

What is happening today is that the LTTE is shrewdly getting the Government to agree to their demands one by one before the full peace talks are held. At the rate that the Government is being forced to give in on an interim administration and possibly de-proscription there will be nothing left to negotiate for a settlement.

The history of Peace Talks

The LTTE has again and again reneged on its promises. President Premadasa engaged in peace talks for over a year. The LTTE that came for the talks were hosted lavishly and even paid over a million rupees a day.(See Rohan Guneratne's books)

In 1995, President Kumaranatunge engaged the LTTE in peace talks for over six months. While each side was required to give notice of withdrawing from peace negotiations, the LTTE reneged without notice, attacking the army and sinking two ships while the armed forces refrained from defending themselves as they were not made aware of the cessation of the ceasefire.

It is evident from the above that the LTTE demands cannot be justified. The Tamils in Sri Lanka total to only 18.1% of the total population, of whom the vast majority live away from the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Current Situation

At the Press Conference on April 10, the LTTE had stated that any solution has to be based on the Thimpu Principles-the recognition of the Tamils as a distinct nationality, recognize the North and East as the Tamil homeland and cede to them the power of self determination. These were summarily rejected at the Thimpu Talks. The insistence on these three principles indicate that it is a futile exxercise to proceed to peace talks aimed at a negotiated settlement because any settlement based on these three principles tantamounts to the establishment of an independent EELAM State.

In actual fact the LTTE representing easily less than 5% of the people of the country(most of the Tamils live outside ) is holding the entire country and the sovereign Government to ransom by the power of the gun.

Conclusion

The MOU takes the Government of Sri Lanka blind-folded towards suicide.Sri Lanka is also guilty of attempting to legitimise international terrorism. During the past three months the LTTE has been found to have brought in arms and armaments on five occasions and last week the Indian Navy caught semtex being smuggled from India to Sri Lanka by LTTE cadres. It will only be a matter of months for the LTTE to reorganize itself and attack.. It is hoped that the armed forces of the Government will be prepared for this eventuality which is looming large near our very door.

One cannot but agree to the words of Malinda Seneviratne:

We are today a nation besieged by a bunch of terrorists and a gang of new colonial masters. We once again have on our soil white men who preach 'prularity' to us while enjoying citizenship in a country that has made the evangelical Lutheran Church the state religion, white men who have not abandoned their historical 'mission'- that of colonizing, converting, destroying cultures, ripping apart communities and extracting profit..

. Sri Lanka wants peace, but not a peace that will exterminate the Sinhala people. The UNF Government scored a victory at the 2001 election, but this did not amount to a mandate for peace at any cost. An election manifesto contains broad policies and though every democratic party envisages peace, an election victory does not mean that the sovereignty of a country can be sold lock stock and barrel to a group of terrorists.

If the Government agrees to the dictates of the LTTE and the covert overtures of the Norwegians in the current manner the Sinhala people will very soon- in the coming decade itself- find itself barred within tribal homelands like the Red Indians in the USA and the aborigines in Australia.

References.

H.L.de Silva, 'An usurpation of the President's power in the defence of the Republic,' in The Island, March 9, 2002
Nalin De Silva, American Interventi on and the SLFP, in Divayina, March 31, 2002
S.L.Gunasekera Thoughts on the Ceasefire Agreement, in The Island, March 20, 2002
Gamini Iriyagolla, The Eastern Province, Tamil Claims and 'Colonization' in The Island,July 2, 2000
S.Kohobanwickrema, 'A Lost Referendum as 52.38% of Tamils live outside the North and East Provinces, in The Island, Dec15, 2001
S Kohobanwickrema, 'Prabhakaran Traps the Norwegians', in The Island, March4, 2002
Neville Laduwahetty, The Message in the 2001
Election, in The Island, December 11, 2001
Malinda Seneviratne, 'The MOU Capitulation: deciphering the known, the unknown and the in-between' in The Island, March 4, 2002.


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