It refers to Black July. But it forgets to note that at that time, IGP Rudra Rajasingham (1982-85) was a Tamil; Attorney General, Shiva Pasupathy (1975-88) was a Tamil; and Central Bank Governor W. Rasaputram (1979-88) was a Tamil while S. Sharvandan, also a Tamil, was the Chief Justice from 1984-1988
t is sad that the Tamil political leadership is not learning from their misadventures in the past. The “genocide” resolution that was passed by the Northern Provincial Council is a calculated act to whip up ethnic frenzy in a country that is going through a democratic transition, trying to reconcile with its past and reform its democratic institutions. It was a calculated act because the resolution had been put on back-burner after it was first tabled in October last year by NPC hardliners. Then, R. Sampanthan, the TNA leader himself cautioned NPC members against dabbling with contentious issues, claiming that the TNA hierarchy would decide on those matters of national importance. The official position of the TNA on the resolution was articulated in a statement issued by the party at that time.
It said “it would be improper and inappropriate for the Northern Provincial Council or any other political body to make pronouncements in the form of resolutions or otherwise on matters of evidence and law currently being considered by the OSIL (OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka).
It argued that such a resolution “would undermine the due regard, respect and right to independent functioning properly due to the OSIL” and that the “TNA will continue to encourage members of the public to make submissions on matters of law and evidence to the OSIL through proper and appropriate channels.”
It also noted: That the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka did not find credible allegations of the crime of genocide, presumably because there was no or insufficient evidence of the dolus specialis (specific mental element) of the crime of genocide within the temporal scope of their mandate.
However, the immediate reasons were less earthy than what were stated.
TNA’s reluctance to push ahead with the resolution then was that it would not be taken kindly by the previous administration and repercussions would not be nice. The strategy of the previous administration was to marginalize the TNA to the extremes of redundancy, irrespective that it was the elected representatives of the Northern Tamils. For the previous administration, perceived national security concerns overweighed other concerns.
The TNA did not want to give any more reasons to the then regime to tighten its grip in the North. Now the new government has relaxed restrictions and appointed a civilian governor. The TNA instead of reciprocating stabbed the new Government in its back.
Second, Sri Lanka is bound to be more vulnerable to external pressure under the new administration than it was under the previous regime.
The previous regime, which lately became scornful of the West thought it was safe with its new international partners. The Western backers of the resolution could not implement any drastic measures of the OHCHR report, without completely losing out on Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa administration was determined to move further towards an emerging rival block within the international system. It had gradually scaled down its cooperation with the West.
On the contrary, the new administration yearns to revive ties with the US and the EU and its realignment of foreign policy makes it vulnerable to external pressure. The TNA is exploiting this particular vulnerability of the current administration to advance its incremental maximalist agenda. Perhaps, this should be reason for the government to rethink its rush to realign its foreign policy loyalties.
Sadly though, the mainstream Tamil politics, let alone its fringe groups, has a historical problem with cooperating with the mainstream Sinhalese politics for a greater national agenda. The problem lies in the nature of communal aims of the Tamil politics, which has thrived in ‘ethnic bidding” to win elections. Their Sinhalese counterparts are equally guilty of this strategy. However, Sinhalese politics has matured since then -- leaders varying from R. Premadasa, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickeremesinghe genuinely attempted to negotiate peace. However, Tamil political dispensation, which was monopolised by the LTTE during the past two decades had aims which were too maximalist leaving no room for any sane Sinhala political party to reach a compromise. The TNA seems to be treading on the same self destructive path; it is self destructive not so much for Mr Sivajilingam and Ms. Ananthy , but for the Tamils as a community.
The genocide resolution itself -- let alone its resort to the controversial term of genocide -- is a misleading historical account of selective reading of the independent history. It narrates a series of events dating back to 1956. The world was not perfect those days, nor is it now. (It was a time that the United States had Jim Crow laws in place and grotesque spectre of lynching was common in the American South).
It refers to Black July. But it forgets to note that at that time, IGP Rudra Rajasingham (1982-85) was a Tamil; Attorney General, Shiva Pasupathy (1975-88) was a Tamil; and Central Bank Governor W. Rasaputram (1979-88) was a Tamil while S. Sharvandan, also a Tamil, was the Chief Justice from 1984-1988.
So, it seems Sri Lanka had waged its ‘genocide’ on Tamils, while many of its highest public offices were held by the Tamils themselves. That should be one hell of a ‘genocide.’
Later Shiva Pasupathy became an advisor of the LTTE, while IGP Rajasingham went to become Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Indonesia and died at the Colombo police hospital in 2005.
By the time the Tamil militancy sprang up in 1983, Tamils accounted for one-third of Sri Lanka’s legal service, administrative service, charted accountans and surveyors. What happened since then is a different story and could well illustrate the repercussions of the self destructive path taken by the Tamil militancy, which was initially fostered by TULF’s old guard with the myopic objective that it could intimidate J.R. Jayawardene’s increasingly authoritarian government into submission.
The problem with the Tamil politics has more to do with its effort to perpetuate and maximalise disproportionate historical advantages that the Tamils enjoyed during the colonial rule. Those concerns date back to the Northern boycott of the first State council elections in 1931. While the Jaffna Youth Congress, a Gandhian-inspired independent movement which led the campaign to boycott argued that Donoughmore Commission recommendations fell short of self rule, the traditional Tamil elites were more concerned about losing their privileged status to newly empowered Sinhala masses. Those concerns later led to G.G.Ponnambalam’s demand for 50:50 representation for minorities.
Though Tamil nationalism, like any of its counterparts is primordial, it has, periodically, been whipped up by the mainstream Tamil political leadership who had been driven by electoral considerations. In 1976, on the eve of the general election, TULF passed the Vadukkodai resolution, pledging to struggle for a separate state, and then swept the Northern electorate in the general election of 1977. And it provided covert support and overt legitimacy for Tamil militant groups, again to intimidate the Sinhalese-led government to submission. And the monster they nurtured, Velupillai Prabhakaran took the Tamil struggle to its extreme end, resorting to zombie sacrifices of Tamil youths for his megalomaniac ambitions.
Tamil leadership should blame themselves for bringing Tamils into their current pathetic state of existence. While there are serious structural problems with the Sri Lankan State and Tamils have real grievances, none of that warrant the extremes that the LTTE took the Tamil struggle and grooming and deploying the largest number of suicide bombers in the second half of the 20th century.
However, even the mainstream Tamil political leadership is not prepared to accept this self evident reality. That may explain the absence of any mention of the LTTE, an egregious terrorist group that killed thousands of Tamil dissidents, including some of its former mentors and many thousands of Sinhalese and Muslims.
Also, political calculations of the resolution are obvious. With a general election scheduled after April, the TNA is appealing to the divisive attributes of Tamil nationalism. This is a losing strategy. The failure of the TNA leadership, Mr Sampanthan to wade off the resolution, and Mr Wigneswaran’s enthusiastic backing of the resolution are proof that it is not just a work of the fringe section of extremists. Sivajilingam and Ananthi Sasitharan, the wife of the ex-LTTE leader of Trincomalee, can easily be relegated to margins. Instead, the TNA leadership seems to be fostering extremism that brought the Tamils to doom. At the same time, they have given a field day for Wimal Weerawansa, and possibly help the return of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Those are however of secondary importance.
What is of primary importance as of now is that the government should watch out. In the past, it did not take a long for the words of extremism to translate into deeds.