BOMBS AND TALKS
(1998 September 16)
The UNP and the TULF have said that the bomb attack at Nallur, Yapanaya last week was a clear signal to the government that it should resume unconditional negotiations with the LTTE. According to the UNP MP Mr. Tyronne Fernando "the government must listen to reason before more people die in violence". Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, the TULF MP has said "They (LTTE) are the key players and must be part to whatever proposed settlement". (The Island Sunday Edition 13th September 1998).
It appears that the UNP has two "types of reason". Neither Mr. Tyronne Fernando nor the UNP advocated
any talks during the period 1987-90 with the JVP. I cannot remember the British High Commissioner, the American
ambassador or the Norwegian ambassador attending any workshops in Wadduwa or anywhere else on the JVP crisis and
assisting the government and/or any non governmental organisation to import so called experts on conflict resolution
and drafting agreements. There were neither the media pundits who called the JVP insurrection a JVP war 1 or a
JVP war 2.
The difference between the two situations is that the JVP took up arms to capture state power while the LTTE wants to set up a separate state in the Eastern and the Northern provinces carved out by the British. It appears that a war situation results when an armed organisation demands state power in part of the country but not when an organisation claims state power over the entire country. According to these 'enlightened' people the government should have talks only in the former case. Also the foreign diplomats tell us that only in the latter case the members of the organisation become terrorists. Perhaps if the JVP claimed state power only for the Southern province carved out by the British they would have been treated with more respect by the diplomats, the media pundits and the 'main' political parties. Even then they should have been very careful not demand state power for the Ruhuna as (i) it was not a creation of the British and (ii) Ruhuna extends up to Tirikunamalaya.
The UNP claims that the government has already written to the LTTE on talks and that they (UNP) would like to see that talks are unconditional. The President has stated that there would not be any unconditional talks with the LTTE. I am not sure whether Ms. Kumaratunga is 'political naïve and imagined that unconditional talks means going into the conference room with a blank agenda' as mentioned by the Sunday Island columnist Nayana (in general and not particularly in the case of Ms. K) but the President has decided that it is not good to have unconditional talks with the LTTE.
In any case the majority of the Sinhala people are against having talks with the LTTE unconditionally or conditionally. It has to be emphasised that the Sinhala opinion is not represented by the NGO members and other such creatures who begin with "enlightened" statements like 'I am a Sinhala Buddhist but you know I am of the view……." . These "Sinhala Buddhist but" (SBB) people thought and claimed that they represented the Sinhala opinion on the G. L. - Neelan political package but by now even the western diplomats should know what the Sinhala people thought about the package.
Anybody who knows anything about negotiations and discussions know that people do not go into discussions with blank agenda. Any leader of a student union will tell you about the fall back positions and other intricacies associated with talks. More important than these is the most fundamental question that comes up in negotiations. What are you going to discuss? What is the problem that you are going to discuss? One does not go into negotiations even without knowing what one is going to discuss. I am not having in my mind the question of defining very clearly the nature of the problem. Once the problem is known, the other details such as modalities and fall back positions can be worked out, provided that there is some problem to be discussed.
The problem in Sri Lanka is different from that in Northern Ireland not only historically. However history is important, as the present problems are creations of the past. Whatever the Post Modernists have to say there is no present moment without a past and a future. It is with respect to history that problems of this type are defined finally. The manner in which the negotiations are conducted and the constitutional devices employed are secondary however important they may be.
When the British, who cheated the Sinhala people in 1815 by signing the Udarata Convention with no intention of honouring it, are eager to assist us with bringing down "experts" from Northern Ireland to "help" us with so-called constitutional devices in solving a problem they have created, the Sinhala people are worried, to say the least. When the so called Good Friday agreement turns out to be something that has effectively retained Northern Ireland within the English empire all that the Sinhala people can tell the High Commissioner politely is "no thank you".
In Northern Ireland the problem is one of giving independence to that part of Ireland, which the English (British) have been ruling after manoeuvring with their "unwritten constitution". The problem is well defined and the English (British) are trying hard to cling to Northern Ireland with their proven "diplomatic" skills.
What is the problem in Sri Lanka? The Tamil racist parties themselves admit that there are no masters and servants and that there are no grievances. According to them the Tamils have only aspirations. The present aspiration of Tamil racism is an Eelam. The LTTE wants to achieve this in one step while the successors to the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (Lanka Tamil State Party) or the so-called Federal Party likes to realise it in two steps, going through a Federal state first. These parties from Thimpu days have insisted on certain non-negotiable conditions, which amount to accepting Eelam. The non-negotiable conditions do not constitute the fall back position of the Tamil racist parties but their launching pad. Perhaps the NGO's and the western sponsors of Tamil racism have a knowledge of the fall back position of the LTTE.
As far as the Sinhala people are concerned, there are neither launching pads nor fall back positions in respect of talks with the LTTE. One simply does not negotiate on the aspirations of the Tamil racists.
In order to justify their aspirations the Tamil racists have created a mythical history, which cannot be substantiated with any historical or archaeological evidence. The question is whether the Sinhala people should agree with a government or an opposition that wants to negotiate with the LTTE on the constitutional devices that should be adopted in order to help the Tamil racists to achieve their aspirations. Any negotiations with or without the help of the British or some other party, and with nor without conditions amount to this. The Sinhala people, not the SBB variety, will never agree to such negotiations. As far as the majority of the Sinhala people are concerned there is no problem to discuss. If the Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis or any other community living in London come out with some political aspirations will the English (British) agree to have negotiations with them?
However the British have taken a keen interest in discussions with the LTTE. Last year Dr. Liam Fox was in Sri Lanka and he got the President and the Leader of the Opposition to exchange letters on some procedural matters in connection with negotiations with the LTTE. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is very keen to see that the government adheres to this 'agreement'.
In a few days Mr. Wickremesinghe will be leaving for the USA ( Ranil's Visit to USA) ostensibly to raise funds for the UNP. There he is expected to meet members of the New York Tamil Sangham, regarded as a front organisation of the LTTE. He has also given an interview to "Sanjeevi' a magazine section of the "Udayan' newspaper published in Jaffna, where he has said that while in the opposition he would talk to the LTTE to bring about a ceasefire. However this is in contradiction with an earlier report according to which the UNP is of the view that the previous talks with the LTTE failed because of the ceasefires. These contradictory positions indicate that the UNP has no grasp of the situation and is only acting according to the whims and fancies of Tamil racists and their sponsors.
The UNP, it appears, is now very keen to end the "war". Unfortunately for the UNP there is no "war' to end. What they say is that they are really interested in stopping the military operations against the LTTE, which has taken up arms against the state so as to establish a separate state and fulfil their aspirations. In other words the UNP is interested in having unconditional talks with the LTTE in order to give more and more powers to the provincial council in the Eastern and the Northern provinces thus paving way for an Eelam. The so-called war can be stopped only in one way. That is by defeating the LTTE militarily.
The UNP and the TULF leaderships state that the last week bomb explosion was a clear signal to the government to start unconditional negotiations with the LTTE. But Mr. Anandasangari, the vice president of the LTTE speaking to the Rupavahini said that he did not know who was responsible for the bomb attack. Without 'knowing' the organisation responsible for the bomb attack the TULF talks of signals. The TULF, which is responsible for the creation of the LTTE, is now being attacked by their adored "boys". However they are not in a position even to say that their members are being killed by the LTTE. Together with the UNP all that they can do is to look for 'signals' which they think will at least guarantee the survival of their leaders living in Kolomba.
The bombs, if at all, send signals to the TULF. It is the TULF, which should talk to the LTTE. Those English educated Tamils who misled the generation of Prabhakaran, with their mythical histories, homeland concepts, Tamil nation concepts and rights of self determination should have the courage to tell their "boys" that the agony was started by the British and that they themselves were used by the British against the Sinhala people, first by inducing them to ask for equal representation in the Legislative Assembly. They should tell their "boys" to lay down arms and to learn to live with the Sinhala people, retaining their identity as Tamils. Would the SBB people in the NGO's arrange some workshops, preferably with the participation of the three diplomats who went to Wadduwa, to give courage to the TULF leadership?