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“Erstwhile Terrorists Meticulously Transformed Into Today’s Heads of States”

(A response to Globe and Mail Editorial)

 

By V.Thangavelu

 

This refers to your editorial “Dividing Sri Lanka mean rivers of blood, The goal of the Tamil Tigers is illegitimate and unattainable” (Globe and Mail May 29,2000).

The editorial lacked evidence, it lacked depth, it lacked balance and it lacked style and it is very unbecoming of a newspaper like the Globe and Mail.  It is a mystery how the editorial board allowed such a vituperative, invective, blatant and biased editorial to slip through to print.

 

The tenor, tone and the style of the editorial easily fits a newspaper practicing yellow journalism!  The mud-slinging against the LTTE bordering on lunacy is unworthy of a newspaper like Globe and mail. All journalistic ethics and propriety have been thrown overboard in your scramble to discredit the LTTE. It is no exaggeration to say that this editorial could have easily emanated from one of the Sinhala racist owned newspapers like The Island, The Times or the government controlled Daily News all published in Colombo.

 

Your sweeping and bombastic claim that “The recent military success recorded by Tamil separatist rebels may give the impression that they are on the verge of realizing their dream of an independent Tamil state. That impression is false. The quest for a Tamil homeland is a futile, self-destructive struggle waged by a ruthless terrorist group in pursuit of an unattainable goal” reflects the typical Whiteman’s mindset about armed National liberation struggles of oppressed people against their oppressors. This exactly how the Whiteman opined about the armed national liberation struggle of the black African National Congress (ANC)  against white apartheid! Margaret Thatcher of imperial Britain and Ronald Reagan of capitalist USA refused to join the UN imposed sanctions against the apartheid regime on the spurious grounds such sanctions are counter productive!

 

The editor of Globe and Mail may rant, bark like a dog and swear that the quest for an independent Tamil Homeland is “ a dream” “futile”, “self-destructive” “unattainable goal”, but history is replete with many examples of people realizing their dreams of countries and states. Pakistan, Bangladesh, East Timor, Croatia, Bosnia, Eritrea, Slovak, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia are classic examples of  such dreams blossoming into nation states! 

 

The armed struggle of the Tamil people is not for a separate state. It is for the restoration of the Tamil Kingdom status quo ante, which existed for centuries before it was conquered by colonial powers like the Portuguese, Dutch and the British.  To be more precise the present armed conflict is a legacy of British imperialism, which erased the borders between the Tamil Kingdom and the Sinhalese Kingdom(s) for administrative convenience. The editor Globe and Mail should do his homework properly before he rushes like a fool into territory even angels will fear to tread.

 

You state that “Even if Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran manages to seize the entire north and east and declare independence, the international community is unlikely to recognize a would be country run by terrorists”, but then don’t be too sure!  When UNO was founded there were only about fifty states. Now it has 190 states, a four-fold increase, and I assure you the skies will not fall and the earth will not shake if one more is added to the number! After all a country’s borders are man made and not divine. Throughout history borders have been drawn and redrawn repeatedly.

 

As for your obsession to call the LTTE “terrorists”, my answer is one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter or patriot or both.  What distinguishes a terrorist organization and a national liberation movement is mass support and LTTE enjoys mass support. To deny this is to deny the truth. In any case it is the opinion of the Tamils that count and not that of  the editor of the Globe and Mail.

 

There are numerous examples of erstwhile terrorists meticulously transformed into today’s Heads of States and received with red carpets and military guard of honour! The Globe and Mail posturing on terrorism is sanctimonious humbugging and one of double standards.  Has the Globe and Mail conveniently forgotton that Israel Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were both wanted terrorists by the British?  Menachem Begin  as leader of the illegal Irgun Zvai Leumi underground movement was  responsible for blowing up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, resulting in 91 deaths and countless wounded.   Yizhak Shamir as part of the ruling triumvirate of the Stern Gang authorized the 1944 assassination of Britain’s Lord Moyne and the 1948 murder of the United nations mediator Count Bernadotte.   Is Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State who authorized the assassination of Salvador Allende, Socialist President  of Chile a terrorist? Closer home, going back a little bit to past history, George Washington was proclaimed a wanted terrorist by British during American War of independence!

 

 

The editor of Globe and Mail accuses the LTTE of bombing office buildings, but did not US and NATO bombed Serbia’s radio and television stations with smart bombs?  Is their one law for NATO and US and yet another for the LTTE? I can multiply the examples hundred-fold, but unfortunately space will not permit me to do so.

 

You seem to be unduly worried about the Tamils living in the south more than those living under the jack-boot of the Sinhala army in the Northeast! As you surmised the Tamils in the south will immigrate to the new state and live with dignity and self-respect unlike now living in fear among the majority Sinhalese. As for Muslims in the Northeast they will enjoy equal rights and privileges with the Tamils in a secular state. They speak the same language as the Tamils and they will preserve their religious identity. About Buddhists – those who were forcibly settled in the Northeast since 1948 by the Sinhala governments to change the demographics have to vacate their illegal homes. These are details, which can be worked out through bilateral or multilateral negotiations between the Tamil and the Sinhala governments.

 

Your editorial unwittingly helps to foster the illusion that moral arguments against the war might eventually win the day.  They cannot, because the primary (well-hidden) dynamic behind the Sri Lankan government’s genocidal war against the Tamil people is racism towards Tamils. The Sri Lankan government’s number one priority is to militarily cripple the LTTE so that it can impose

and perpetuate its hegemonic will on the Tamil people and continue to rule them. And the devolution package which you seem to think will give “wide-ranging autonomy to the Tamils” is totally misplaced. since it does not meet the aspirations of the Tamil people. President Kumaratunga’s devolution package is a ploy to hoodwink the donor countries and hide her real intention to defeat the LTTE militarily through her infamous “War for Peace” campaign.  The devolution package strategy is designed to break-up the Tamil homeland and perpetuate Sinhalese domination over the Tamil people.   The editor Globe and Mail fondly hopes President Kumaratunga’s devolution package will provide “security and self-government” to Tamils not knowing that it is a cosmetic exercise to tinker with the present unitary and theocratic constitution.

 

Like the Globe and Mail, the Western governments too, led by the US, have vested interest in defending the current status quo in Sri Lanka. There is big money to be made from the Kumaratunga administration’s willingness to sell off Sri Lankan assets at rock-bottom prices. For many western profiteers, the death of Tamils is well worth tolerating while so many goodies are up for grabs. That is one very obvious reason why western diplomats can be seen expressing such confidence in Chandrika’s sincerity, (despite the stark reality that Chandrika’s five years reign is a curse and an unmitigated disaster for the Tamils),  to achieve “Peace through War”. 

 

Again, the intermittent and the half-hearted calls for talks with the LTTE by diplomats no longer washes with the Tamil community, who know full well they are being treated as expendable pawns in the amoral scramble for economic gains.  No wonder then that a future Tamil state in the Northeast remains a “dream”  “futile” “destructive” and “unattainable goal” to these vested interests.  Meanwhile, morality and high principles are cited and a crusade is launched against the bogey of “terrorism” and “terrorists” to justify their own selfish agendas. To the Globe and mail and the West, true democratic values by themselves, like the right of self-determination,  are irrelevant.

 

But if one looks at the wider picture, this has not been the approach of West to all freedom struggles.  Didn’t they change their stance, for example, vis-a-vis South Africa and Bosnia, at some stage, and even help people there achieve peace with justice?  They did, but only when they realised that the freedom struggles in those countries could not be defeated, and that further

escalation of conflict would jeopardise their own interests in those regions. Until the inevitable victory of a freedom struggle becomes crystal clear, they tend to find ways of helping ruling oppressors to crush the struggles of the weak and the down-trodden oppressed (unless of course the ruler himself, like Saddam Hussein, constitutes a threat to their own interests.) people.  The same logic is being applied to Sri Lanka. As long as the West thinks the possibility of crushing the LTTE exists, and as long as the Sinhalese government’s determination to murder Tamils persists, the West will find ways of backing it, in word and deed.

 

Finally your claim that “ Any attempt to solve the troubles is Sri Lanka must be premised on the assumption that the country is indivisible and the realization that dividing it would mean rivers of blood” is pure fantasy. You are mistaking the symptoms for the disease. You seem to be under the illusion that a "united” Sri Lanka is now flowing with milk and honey and not rivers of blood! Sri Lanka is already flowing with rivers of blood, mostly that of the Tamils, because Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinists want to keep the WHOLE country to themselves. The only sensible way to stop the hemorrhage and stop the rivers of blood flowing is to revert to the boundaries that existed before 1833. The LTTE is engaged in a national liberation struggle, which is recognized as a legitimate mode of struggle under international law. Equally the Tamil people of Tamil Eelam are entitled to the right of self-determination under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the two major international human rights treaties (Sri Lanka has ratified these Covenants and treaties). 

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states

 

Whereas it is essential, if mankind is not to be compelled

to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny

and oppression, that human rights should be protected

by the rule of law .....’(UDHR 3rd preambular paragraph).

 

It is time the editor of Globe and Mail come to terms with reality instead of living in a make-believe world of his own creation!  (Courtesy: The HOMELAND (English edition of Namnadu Tamil Weekly, Toronto- June 08/06/2000)