May 19, 2009

Sri Lanka post-LTTE

Dr. Subramanian Swamy Tuesday , May 19, 2009 at 14 : 57

The outcome of the recent elections in Tamil Nadu has been the defeat of the most faithful of the LTTE touts in India. These financial orphans of the LTTE have been thoroughly exposed because Tamilians do not care for the LTTE, contrary to media projections. The common joke today is that 'Puligal' (Tigers) have been reduced to 'Eligal' (Rats) because they (the LTTE) have had to hide in holes in the ground to try save themselves.

But the end of the LTTE does mean the end of Sri Lanka's human rights crisis. The Sri Lanka crisis is the consequence of a festering wound from the past, which however fortunately, is neither malignant nor cancerous. The wound that has festered had been originally inflicted by the tactics of the British imperialists when to administer the colony that Sri Lanka had become, they relied on the Tamils of the island for the purpose, and also brought to the plantations indentured Tamil labourers to exploit the fields.

But, instead of sincerely brokering peace between the Tamils and Sinhalas to rectify justified grievances, the Indian government under the leadership of Mrs. Indira Gandhi decided to train the Tamil militants including the LTTE in various camps in India.

But the LTTE was a disloyal renegade from the very first day. The irrationally jealous Prabhakaran leading the LTTE snared in the Jaffna jungles and got the leaders of other militant Tamil outfits assassinated, and soon in the vacuum, the LTTE emerged as the main and dominant militant organisation. In the classic pattern of guerilla organisations, the LTTE began to spread using the weapons of narco-terror and by buying influence using monetary means. The LTTE ferried Saddam Hussein's illegal shipments of crude oil in their tankers using Panamanian and other dubious flags, drug-running for Afghans and Thais, weapons trade for the Sicilian mafia from Palermo in Italy and even antique smuggling for the highly placed in India. It became, through the ill-gotten funds, a purchaser of weapons in the grey and clandestine markets. The Tamil diaspora whose families were in Jaffna were subject to extortion, while some others romanticised their proximity to the 'leader' and paid handsomely for it later. Indian politicians, academicians, journalists, lawyers, and retired diplomats began receiving donations for speaking up for the LTTE and for denouncing the opponents of the LTTE.

Rajiv Gandhi tried to rectify that. The Indian government dispatched a 100,000 troops to the northern areas of Sri Lanka to safeguard the Tamils and get implemented on the ground the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord signed by Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister and Jayewardene as President of Sri Lanka. The LTTE disinformation machine by now well established went on an over drive with salacious stories of the atrocities of the Indian army. Their Indian stooges held rallies and published booklets within India to discredit the IPKF. Rajiv Gandhi, by now beleagured by the Bofors scandal and the betrayal of the new President of Sri Lanka, Premadasa who had entered into a pact to fund the LTTE, agreed to withdraw the IPKF in a phased manner. However, RG lost his party's majority in the elections to Parliament in 1989, and his successor V P Singh whose allies openly supported the LTTE, immediately withdrew the IPKF. The LTTE, thus, was portrayed in the anti-India media as having "defeated" the world's third largest army, and thus acquired a larger than life image. It used its hero status with a vocal minority in Tamil Nadu who were the LTTE's large financial beneficiaries to build a network of supply chains within the Tamil Nadu state. They had access to hospitals for their injured cadre, supply of diesel, kerosene, and medicines for the Jaffna supporters, small arms manufacture units in Coimbatore, uniform stitching factory in Erode, and a modern wireless communication centre in Trichy. The second rank leaders of the LTTE traveled freely within the state in cars using the ruling DMK party flags to evade the police.

But the situation changed soon enough. The V P Singh government got toppled in 1990, and a government headed by Chandrashekhar took office. This author was the senior-most Minister in that government and also perceived as the architect of the new government formation. Rajiv Gandhi extended his party's support to the government. Within two months in office and under my supervision, the DMK government in the state was dismissed on the ground that there was collusion of the Chief Minister with the LTTE. The LTTE supply chain was thereafter destroyed.

The problem worsened for the LTTE with the declaration of mid-term elections to Parliament. The media hype, whether it was genuine, misinformed, or contrived disinformation, made out that Rajiv Gandhi would return with a majority in the elections, and become Prime Minister again. Having learnt of Rajiv Gandhi's unguarded remarks that he would "fix" the LTTE once he returned to office, Prabhakaran set into motion a plan to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi.

But Prabhakaran needed to obtain two things, to carry out his assassination plan successfully. First was to ensure that RG came to Tamil Nadu to be accessible to the LTTE assassins, and second, some people (as allies) highly placed in India, and so powerful that the blame for the assassination would not be pinned on the LTTE.

These two pre-conditions were understandable since trusted Tamil-speaking LTTE cadres could not move around secretly and freely anywhere in India except in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. Hence the assassination had to take place in Tamil Nadu.

But more importantly, seeing the popularity amongst Tamils of Chandrashekar government's decision to dismiss Karunanidhi's state government, the LTTE could ill-afford the stigma of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. They had to have a powerful clique in India that could divert the investigative agencies from pursuing the LTTE as the suspects in the assassination.

The Rajiv Gandhi assassination is an important question of national security for Indians because the LTTE was a foreign terrorist organisation that killed our leader in our country, merely stating that because his policies were not to the LTTE's liking he had to be killed. Can we be safe if we allow such a terrorist organisation to strike roots in our neighbourhood and have a terror infrastructure than can vitiate the democratic politics of India with money, narcotics, and plain murder?

The LTTE from day one has been part of the problem of the Tamil-Sinhala conflict, and not a part of the solution. Part of the problem is the inability of the Sinhala majority to share power with the Tamil minority. Such a sharing can be best done in a Constitution with sufficient devolution --by replacing the present unitary Sri Lankan one with a quasi-federal Indian type or fully federal US type.

Tamils and Sinhalas are one people. They have the same DNA structure. There is thus no ethnic difference between them. They all had originated in the Indian mainland and today speak sister languages, Sinhala and Tamil, with a large vocabulary in common with Sanskrit and Pali, both Indian languages. Their scripts have both evolved from the Brahmi script. Thus, there is no fundamental linguistic difference either. Their religions, Hinduism and Buddhism believe in the same distinguishing and fundamental theology of darshan, re-incarnation and karma. In fact, Buddhism began as a reform movement of Hinduism and these reforms have been absorbed by Hinduism. Hence, there is also fundamentally no religious difference between a Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Hindu.

The two communities grew apart during the colonial period because the Tamils had access to the British imperialist invaders, due to their earlier contacts with them on the Indian mainland. This gave the Tamils professional and educational advantages. The Sinhala majority upon getting independence used their brute majority to try and close the gap by undemocratic equalisation procedures and denying power to the Tamils by adopting a unitary constitution that had no safeguards for the Tamil minority. This of course backfired, in fact has landed Sri Lanka in to spiraling crisis.

The way out today, consistent with India's national security aims, is for Sri Lanka to immediately adopt a resolution in their parliament to implement a devolved constitution, and for India to assist liberally Sri Lanka since the LTTE insurgency menace is now finished off. The US, China and Israel, nations which can contribute for the implementation of this solution, must back India in this intervention. A word of praise for the resoluteness of President Rajapakse would also not be out of place. India must formally honour him for putting an end to the organisation that killed Rajiv Gandhi and so many democratic-minded leaders. At this hour I remember also Gamini Dissanayake who was murdered by the LTTE merely for promising us Indians that if he came to power in the Presidential Elections he would extradite Prabhakaran to India.

(The author is a former Union Law Minister)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done on this good article. Please continue with your views on a regular basis.