APRC is nothing but the reminder of a Tamil proverb
By Satheesan Kumaaran
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sri Lankan politicians are still living in the make believe world of old myths created in ancient times. The President wants to prove himself in life what his name portrays, "Mahinda", believed to be the son of India's great King Ashoka responsible for spreading the message of the Buddha in India and Sri Lanka. The five-page All Party Representative Council (APRC) recommendations are not meant to end Sri Lanka's national problem, rather a piece of paper meant to placate neighbouring India, and to hoodwink the other countries of the world. The final APRC report was not developed by constitutional experts, but designed by the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa with claims to being a human-rights-lawyer-turned politician, and his brothers. The APRC recommendations are nothing more than a reminder of an old Tamil saying comparing it to the vampire that climbed the drumstick tree (Murunga) once again!

The current Constitution was first adopted in 1978, but was amended in 1987 with the insertion of the 13th. Amendment following the Indo - Sri Lanka agreement. It resulted in the merger of the northern and eastern provinces into one administrative unit and paved way for the creation of creating the Provincial Council for the Northeast under Varatharaja Perumal as the Head now under the protection of Indian security forces in northern India. Perumal was antagonistic to the Eelam struggle. Of Indian origin, he was able to secure his appointment through the Ambassador Dixit who wielded a dominant influence over President J R Jayawardene. The present ruling party, SLFP, protested against the Indo-Lanka agreement in 1987 because it was signed between the United National Party, which was the ruling party under late J.R.Jayawardene, and the late Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. The SLFP including Mahinda Rajapaksa branded the accord as a betrayal of the Sinhala nation. The provisions enacted in the Constitution were not fully implemented because LTTE opposed it claiming that it did not fulfill their demands. The moderate Tamil politicians said that a Provincial Council would not end the ethnic conflict because it was no alternative to the Tamil demand for separation. Last year the present ruling alliance clandestinely reversed administrative arrangement of the North-eastern province merger with the connivance of the Supreme Court due to the absence of any legislative arrangement. The Sri Lankan Supreme Court rendered the 1987 Accord null and void. While the Tamils did not react to the Sri Lanka's court ruling because it was not meant to fulfill the demands of Tamils, they were nevertheless dismayed to hear of the dismantling of the merger of traditional Tamil homeland by the Sri Lankan superior court without listening to their side of the story, a denial of natural justice.

The Tamil Tigers are waging a war to liberate the Tamil homeland from the occupation of Sri Lankan armed forces. The LTTE has sacrificed over 20,000 cadres in the war with the Sri Lankan and Indian armed forces since they began their military campaign. Over 80,000 innocent Tamils have perished. The war has resulted in nearly two million Tamil-speaking people fleeing their homes to seek refuge in either refugee camps within the country or elsewhere.

The Tamils will never accept the APRC proposals. If the Sri Lankan government implements the proposals, it will be a total failure and further deepen the conflict. No permanent solution can be found without the agreement of the representative of the Tamils, the LTTE. The APRC proposals are an utter waste. It is now clear that Rajapaksa used the APRC as a fašade, taking one and half years and 63 sittings to recommend the 1987 agreement provisions, to keep the nation and the international community guessing until such time as he thought he would destroy the LTTE and then force the 13th. Amendment proposals down the throat of the Tamil people thus absolving himself of any blame from the Sinhala chauvinists that he agreed to give the Tamils more than what in their view the Tamils "deserved". The proposals did not include new ideas, but rather the same version of the Indo-Lanka agreement of 1987. The recommendations will definitely help Mahinda Rajapaksa government in Colombo and the Manmohan Singh government in New Delhi because they want to hoodwink the international community for the time being. The Indian Ministry of external affairs spokesman Navtej Sarna said in a statement: "To the extent that the APRC proposals contribute to such a settlement, they are a welcome first step." How ludicrous. This is like what the ministers in the Hans Anderson's tale of the Emperor's New Clothes said, when they came back to report to the king about the invisible new clothes that the swindlers were spinning although they could not see anything, lest they be considered stupid, for only stupid persons, according to the swindlers, would not see the new clothes. The APRC recommendations have also come at a time when the Sri Lankan government is under great pressure from the international community to initiate peace talks. It is not the Tamil Tigers, but the Sri Lankan government that on January 16, 2008 unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire agreement monitored by the Scandinavian countries. It is evident that the Sri Lankan government is trying to deceive the international community to show them that they are not at war with the Tamils and that they are doing their best to end the ethnic conflict. For India, the central government cannot survive in power unless they get regional support, especially the support of DMK and other southern political parties. These political parties will exert pressure upon New Delhi to save the Tamils from Sri Lankan military attacks, and could eventually exert pressure upon the centre to recognise the declaration of Tamil Eelam. It has been India's view that it does not want Tamils in Sri Lanka to receive their fair share of powers and advocates a solution within the unitary form of government. India is also aware that Sri Lanka will not listen to India when and if Sri Lankan armed forces launch attacks against Tamils which would mean political instability for New Delhi. There are many other reasons for India to urge Mahinda to go back to the old version of their own work.

If the Sri Lankan president, implements the 13th amendment provisions, he will make a horrendous mistake. The APRC was chaired by none other than Rajapaksa's own appointee, minister, Professor Tissa Vitarana. It is pathetic that India immediately came to support it - when India knew very well it was the one that drafted it in 1987, and that the Tamils in the Northeast would never accept something that did not fulfill their demands for liberation. However, the LTTE emphasized during peace talks that they would consider any mode, especially the Canadian (quasi-federalism) and Swiss (Confederalism), to bring a permanent solution to the ethnic conflict. Other than that the Tamil would not accept. This is the political reality on the ground and would definitely keep the island together without allowing Eelam as a separate independent sovereign State. It is pathetic to note that the APRC report said: "The APRC is of the view that conditions in the Eastern Province are conducive to holding elections to the Provincial Council and that elections should be held immediately. Conditions in the Northern Province are far from being peaceful. A free and fair election in the North will not be possible in the near future. Hence, an alternative arrangement is required in the Northern Province to enable the people of that Province to enjoy the fruits of devolution. As it is not possible to hold elections in the North, the President could make an appropriate order to establish an Interim Council for the Northern Province in terms of the Constitution."

APRC committee has proven themselves as weak pragmatists because they may not have known the ground realities in the north and east. North and east are directly or remotely controlled and influenced by the LTTE. The Sri Lankan military could proclaim that they are controlling the east, but this is not the case. The Tamil Tigers could launch military operations anytime in the region and, in reaction, the Sri Lankan government would appoint another committee similar to APRC to study another report for the sake of fooling the international community. Despite their claims the government is not capable of creating a conducive climate in the north or the east, especially the Jaffna peninsula. The government itself is struggling to protect its 40,000 or more armed forces trapped in the peninsula and save them from the LTTE military operations in the future. There one soldier for every ten civilians. The Sri Lankan government should keep in mind that the LTTE did not cause harm to the trapped soldiers in the peninsula, but there is no guarantee that it would not happen in the future. In 2002 the Sri Lankan government had to seek the assistance of U.S. and India to secure their safe passage, but LTTE did not allow anyone to escort them unless they promised that they would not be dropped in Tamil areas, especially in the Trincomalee in the east. Countries like India had to intervene diplomatically to bring the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government to peace in order to protect the lives of the Sri Lankan armed forces stationed in the Jaffna peninsula. Rajapaksa should bear in mind that the armed forces are still in the north, and he would not want to see the LTTE causing heavy causalities among the Sri Lankan armed forces. For the LTTE, it is a matter of hours because they have better knowledge of fighting the Indian infantry forces in the north and east of Sri Lanka. After three years of war with the Indian armed forces, the LTTE sent the Indian armed forces out of Tamil areas in Sri Lanka creating a conflict with India as Vietnam did to the U.S.

The President is trying to set up a five-member Interim Council for the North - three from the Tamil community and one each from the Muslim and Sinhala communities. Douglas Devananda, who was once planted as militant as head of the EPDP by then government to neutralise the LTTE and other militant groups in the north and east, now turned-politician, a government minister, would be one of the senior members of the Interim Council for the North. Devananda and his party, EPDP, are seen as traitors to the Tamils. The EPDP is involved in killings, kidnappings and torture of Tamils. The EPDP members roam the streets of the Tamil homeland along with the Sri Lankan armed forces. There is no doubt that Devananda and his militants will be loyal to the Sri Lankan government as long as he remains prominently in power. From time to time had he moved from one militant group to another and then finally formed the EPDP group with the support of Indian armed forces. He has committed crimes in India and was involved in the killing in Tamil Nadu and wanted there for murder and yet the Indian government gives him the red carpet treatment during his frequent official and unofficial visits to India. Devananda has survived many attacks of the LTTE for betraying his homeland for the sake of power. He will be a great candidate for the Sri Lankan government as show piece in the drama to be screened by Rajapaksa.

It is really sad to read the statements of some of the members of the 14-member APRC including the statements of Western People's Front (WPF) and Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) who did not endorse the recommendations because they were not intended to end the ethnic conflict. Rather, they said that the proposals were an 'eyewash' and would not be acceptable to Tamils. They revealed that it was none other than government minister and the chairman of APRC, Vitharana, himself who signed the APRC proposals on behalf of all the parties including the WPF and LSSP. Although, EPDP is added in the list among the 14 parties endorsing the report, the EPDP is not considered representative of Tamils. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won almost all the seats in north and east and, yet, they were not included in the APRC. The Tamil Tigers controlling vast territories of the north and east were not privy to the APRC deliberations. The APRC did not even seek the opinion of the LTTE on the matter, and so, the Tamils have completely rejected the APRC proposals.

The present main Opposition party, the UNP, which made the 13th Amendment in 1987, and the third largest political party in parliament, the JVP, are also not participants in the APRC. These parties, indeed, would not allow the proposals to materialize politically. It is the vision of the JVP that the Sri Lankan government should be given instructions to immediately wipe out the Tamil Tigers of their existence in Sri Lanka. They think that the problem of the Tamil national question will be neutralized if the LTTE is wiped out. It is their view that the Tamils have no grievances and they could easily nullify the agreements or the amendment to the 13th Constitution as they did last year to "demerge" the north and the east through the superior judicial court of Sri Lanka.

In this context, it is not known how the honourable Mahinda Rajapaksa is going to end the national problem of the island. More importantly, political and diplomatic observers wait to see how the international community takes the APRC report as a credible end to the ethnic conflict. The report, however, shows that it is nothing but a reminder of the Tamil proverb that it is like the vampire that climbed the drumstick tree once again! Observers, like this writer, expect that the vampire from the tree should not be destroying hundreds or even thousands of lives, whether they are the lives of Tamil-speaking people or Sinhalese. Lovers of peace do not want to see further deaths. It is, however, certain that that the APRC proposals are not going to bear any fruit at all for any of the communities in Sri Lanka. The government is spending its resources on the benefits of some individuals for an unnecessary report and, unless the Sinhala politicians understand the root cause of the ethnic conflict, it is inevitable that a long-lasting solution can only be found through peaceful means. The dreams of Sinhala politicians and the Tamil traitors hungry for power will never materialize. However, it will rebound to their own destiny. What goes around will come around.

(The author can be reached at e-mail: satheessan_kumaaran@yahoo.com)

Source: Midweek Review (The Island)