By H. L. D. Mahindapala
After the end of the longest war in Asia in the 20th century, after the end of the longest war in Sri Lankan history, after the decimation of the Tamil leadership in the democratic mainstream, after the killing of India’s prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, which boomeranged on the Jaffna Tamil leadership,
after the assassination of some of the leading Sinhala leaders negotiating for peace, after the massacre of babies and pregnant mothers in all communities, after throwing forcibly recruited Tamil children into a futile war violating international humanitarian law, after the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the north, after the slaughter of Muslims at prayer in Kathankkudy, after the end of the needless bloodshed, after the end of fear, tensions and uncertainties, it is the duty of all moral beings who had lived through the 33-year-old war which began with the declaration of war in the Vadukoddai Resolution passed on May 14, 1976, to ask one obvious question: was the Vadukoddai War declared in the Vadukoddai Resolution necessary?
By and large, wars are considered necessary to achieve well defined political goals. The Vadukoddai Resolution defined it as a means to achieve Eelam, a separate state under Jaffna Tamil hegemony. If, however, the Vadukoddai War failed to achieve what they set out to achieve by what reasoning, logic, politics or morality can the Vadukoddians justify a futile war? Should not the current Tamil leadership in the Tamil National Front, who were an integral part and parcel of this needless war apologise, however late it may be, to the Tamil people for the folly of their fellow leaders who lured and led the Tamil people like the Pied Piper of Hamelin to the beguiling tunes of a separate state until they all drowned in the Nandikadal Lagoon?
Besides, has anything been achieved that non-violent negotiations could not have achieved? After throwing all the fire power, the man power, and dollar power ($300 million annually, according to Jane’s Weekly) the Tamil leadership is forced now to come back to the negotiating table. If so why did they deliberately decide to go down the war path knowing that jaw-jaw is always better than war-war? Why did they take the circuitous and bloody route from Vadukoddai to Nandikadal to come back to the negotiating table?
Also on the way to Nandikadal did the Vadukodddians have to commit the war crimes and the crimes against humanity against their own Tamil people – let alone the other communities? Ultimately, who is going to be held accountable for the crimes committed by the Tamil leaders of Jaffna against the Tamil people – let alone other communities -- in the name of the Tamil people? Who is going to be answerable for crafting, endorsing, financing, directing, internationalising and leading the Vadukoddai War that came out of the Vadukoddai Resolution? Would this nation – particularly the Jaffna Tamils -- be in the plight they are in today if the Jaffna Tamil leadership took the alternative path of democratic negotiations non-violently like the other Tamil-speaking communities, however tardy it may have been?
When the Jaffna Tamil leadership decided to engage in a military solution, abandoning the non-violent process of negotiations, it was a huge gamble. No one assembled in Vadukoddai on May 14, 1976 and passed the Vadukoddai Resolution knew what the final outcome would be. The elderly fathers of the Vadukoddai Resolution were relying on the Tamil youth to grab power from “the Sinhala state” through violence (since they couldn’t get a separate state through negotiations) and deliver it into their hands for them to rule the Tamils. They failed to calculate that like most wars the Vadukoddai War could go either way. Nor did they have a strategically calculated political or military plan to achieve their goals other than whipping up anti-Sinhala phobia to divert attention from their failures to solve problems arising from endemic feudalistic stagnation. For their electoral survival they continued to raise expectations of the Tamil people to an unattainable illusion. In the end they fell into the graves they dug for the Sinhalese.
Only Sen. M. Tiruchelvam, questioned the viability and the necessity of a military solution. The story as told in The Broken Palmyrah runs like this: “Tiruchelvam a senior member of the TULF who was in Colombo at the time the resolution for a separate state was adopted and sensing trouble asked Mr. Amirthalingam “What is the meaning of this?” Mr Amirthalingam replied that this resolution was adopted under pressure from the youth, and that when the time comes to negotiate with the government, a compromise can be reached. But it can be safely assumed there was no viable plan to fight for such a state. Having promised Tamil Eelam, the TULF kept on saying they had a secret plan...”(p. 16 - The Broken Palmyrah, University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna.)
But it was too late. S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, the father of Tamil separatism, had gone through every word of the Vadukoddai Resolution with a fine comb and endorsed “the choice of words”. (p.128 --S. J.V. Chelvanayakam and the Crisis of Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism 1947-1977, A Political Biography by A. J. Wilson). But did they know what they were doing? Or where they were heading?
Amplifying on the aggressive and arrogant attitude of the Vadukoddians ‘The Broken Palmyrah’ said: “The Tamil bourgeois leadership had to adopt the slogan of Tamil Eelam, the cry for a separate state for their political existence. But they had no concrete programme. Of course the Tamil nationalists could not pull the Eelam rabbit out of the parliamentary hat. The leadership had put forward a cry that they knew could never be fulfilled in a constitutional way, and Eelam had never been practicable with their class’s economic integration and dependency on the south.
“They kept the people under an illusion, by such slogans, calling the TULF leader Chelvanayakam, the Mujibur of Eelam, and even hinted at taking arms from the election platforms. Critics of these slogans were called traitors to the “cause”. Tamil nationalists like their counterparts had a sense of superiority. Their historical build up from the feudal past was equally mythical and romantic. They were feeding their electorates and the youth with images of valour, preservation of race, language and a history heavily loaded with anti-Sinhalese, pro-Indian ingredients. They attributed their high levels of literacy and education to their superior intelligence, as opposed to the Sinhalese, whom they claimed were lazy and less intellectually inclined. The anger that the old guard Tamil leadership felt against the Sinhalese domination was due to their perception of themselves as rulers in the past, now enslaved by an “alien people.” (pp 338-9)
The Vadukoddians, though pressured by the increasing militancy of the Tamil youth -- a force generated by the active encouragement of the fathers of the Vadukoddai ideology -- were also buoyed by the usual political arrogance and cocky Jaffna jingoism that led them to overestimate their power and underestimate the capacity of the south to respond to their challenge. Tamil youth militancy and the Vadukoddai ideology of the Tamil elders led by Chelvanayakam grew side by side, running parallel to each other. Both thrived on a symbiotic relationship. They were so close that Velupillai Prabhakaran’s initial Tamil National Army which morphed into LTTE and the Vadukoddai Resolution were born and institutionalised within one month of each other in 1976. Prabhakaran established his para-military unit in April 1976 and the Vadukoddai Resolution was passed in May 1976. This sealed the fate of the northern Tamils. The Tamil seniors and juniors both agreed to wage a war hoping that violence alone would bring them Eelam.
In fact, the battles that see-sawed from time to time held the nation in suspense with imported theories and formulas designed in the airy-fairy heads of academics and NGO pundits prescribing solutions that never took off the paper on which they were written. Even after thirty years of war (i.e. in 2006 shortly after Mahinda Rajapaksa won the election thanks to Prabhakaran’s boycott of presidential elections) the war-mongering children born of the Vadukoddai Resolution were determined to pursue the goal of Eelam defined in the Resolution not knowing what the end was going to be. The nation had reached a critical point where failed theories had to be replaced with a pragmatic solution that would end the 33-year-old Vadukoddai War.
Zig-zagging history has this unerring knack of picking the right man to execute the tasks of critical times. It was at this point of time that President Mahinda Rajapakse, the Commander-in-Chief, decided that enough was enough. He was the only Sri Lankan leader who gave unswerving leadership to meet the challenge of the north with a single-mindedness that resisted all forces, local and foreign. With his able General Sarath Fonseka he fought on all fronts, from opening the sluice gates of Mavil Aru (July 2006) to Nandikadal (May 2009), non-stop. The Jaffna Tamil leadership fought for 33 years, with intermittent stop-starts, and ended going nowhere. Within three years the Commander-in-Chief and the General put an end to war which practically all pundits said was unwinnable.
The preamble to the Vadukoddai Resolution sets out the background that led them to take up arms. Historians and social scientists have exposed the fictitious history and the concocted geography outlined in preamble written by an inspired mono-ethnic mythomaniac. Whatever the wild hypotheses contained in the Resolution and whatever the perceived provocations cited in the Resolution the ultimate question after Nanandikdal boils down to the morality of deciding on a military solution as the only way out when other Tamil-speaking communities opted wisely for non-violent negotiations.
Since the Vadukoddians initiated violence and relied primarily on violence to achieve their political goals there is no doubt as to who should be held solely responsible and answerable to the consequences of their fateful decision. No democratically elected state in a multi-ethnic nation (in Sri Lanka all minorities were represented in the highest decision-making process in the Cabinet) could be expected to lie down and die, surrendering to a military challenge posed by a peripheral minority with a majority complex. Besides, separatism and violence are inseparable. Providing national security by quelling non-state violence disturbing peace, law and order is also the raison d’etre for the existence of a state. If a state fails to provide security to the nation then it loses its rationale for holding or being in power.
On this basis, the Sri Lankan state had the legitimacy to engage in a counter terrorist war to meet the military offensive launched by the Jaffna Tamil leadership. Both sides locked horns over who should rule what territory. But the Vadukoddians who launched their separatist War ended by blaming only one side – the Sri Lankan Security Forces. And that too for the conduct of the last stages of a 33-year-old war which was roughly five months, from January 2009 to May 2009.
A range of moral and political issues cropped up from the time frame in which the conduct of the war was judged. Unlike other victorious nations the accusations against Sri Lanka began within days after May 18 – the last day of the Vadukoddai War. The Sri Lankan forces had hardly any time to put down their guns when the accusations came flying in like bullets.
Switzerland, backed by the EU, was the first to move the first resolution against the GOSL. The GOSL announced the end of the Vadukoddai War on May 19, 2009. The UNHRC in Geneva summoned a special session to consider the EU-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka on May 26. What prompted a special session within eight days of ending the Vadukoddai War? Why the indecent hurry? Why also pick only on Sri Lanka? Are they the guilty ones in the international arena?
There were many actors – including the Indians -- in the Sri Lankan theatre of war. How come only the Sri Lankan forces were put on the dock at the UN?
To be continued.