Daily Archives: December 19, 2006

Norway Govt. Key Partner Attacks Sri Lanka

By Walter Jayawardhana

Jon Hanssen Bauer at the Balasingham memorial in oslo lighting a candle

NORWEGIAN GOVERNMENT’S KEY COALITION PARTNER ATTACKS SRI LANKA AND PRAISES BALASINGHAM RAISING DOUBTS ABOUT THEIR NEUTRALITY AND FAIRNESS AS PEACE FACILITATOR

The Deputy leader of Norway’s Labor Party, a key member of the ruling coalition government of the country has come up with extremely pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) statements attacking the Sri Lanka government that would make them disqualified to be the peace facilitators in the current Sri Lankan dispute, many have pointed out.

According to a report published by the Tamilnet news website the deputy leader of the Oslo Labor Party, Ivar Christiansen attacked the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and praised terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and his advisor Anton Balasingham as peace promoters.

Ivar Christiansen was quoted having said that the peace deal only failed due to hard core Sinhalese. Ivar Christiansen is also at the forefront of Norway’s interference with Sudan alleging that they were using chemical weapons and the country should be divided.

Tamils trusted Balasingham, Christiansen reportedly said according to the Tamilnet, with their destiny in the peace process. But due to the hard core Sinhalese the peace deal failed and only a shaky ceasefire continues. Sri Lanka’s President Kumaratunga and her successor Rajapaksa rejected the concept of a Tamil homeland and self-determination.

“Balasingham had the full confidence of Prabhakaran. Although he lived in London with his wife for many years, he was continually in contact with the homeland. Unfortunately he died before he could experience peace in Sri Lanka.”

LTTE member Yogarajah Balasingham is Oslo’s, Municipality Council member elected on the ruling Labor Party’s ticket. He also joined his deputy leader in eulogizing the late Anton Balasingham at the memorial ceremony.

Jon Hanssen Bauer who represented the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Oslo memorial meeting for the late Anton Balasingham said it is through the dead LTTE leader he learned much about the plight of the Tamils.

Hanssen Bauer was quoted by the Tamilnet and many analysts said if he learned much about the plight of Tamils from Balasingham he could not have heard about much of the plight since much of that plight and agony was caused by the LTTE itself.

First of all, they pointed out, the majority of learned men and democratic leaders among the Tamils have been assassinated by the Tamil Tigers and Hanssen Bauer would not have heard the whole truth about them from Anton Balasingham. Balasingham approved the killings and once told a heroes day meeting in London that they could not wait to garland their rival, EPDP leader Douglas Devananda. That was said in reference to the garlanding of Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE suicide bomber at Siriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, India.

Bauer was quoted having said, “Anton Balasingham was a theoretician. I had great pleasure discussing with him the key thinkers in Europe and relate their philosophy and approach to the peace process in Sri Lanka,”

Nowhere in his eulogy it was said by him that both he or his dead friend Balasingham had any knowledge of a more ancient Eastern philosophy of the sub-continent that could be applied to the Sri Lankan problem.

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Escaping Refugees exceed 16,000 at Batticaloa and Valachchenai

By Walter Jayawardhana

The number of refugees escaped from Vakarai reaching the Sri Lanka government held towns of Batticaloa and Valaichchenai has now exceeded 16,000 said NGO sources in Batticaloa.

Ignatius Sylvester a worker for Refugees International said local NGO’s and UN NGO’s are cooperating with the government to run refugee camps in and around the Sri Lanka government administrated towns of Batticaloa and Valachchenai. He said the number of refugees has now increased  to more than 16,000 who have escaped from the LTTE administrated Vakarai. It has been estimated that there is a daily inflow of 2000 refugees a day, other sources said.

Syvester said while the refugees are flowing endlessly to the government administered areas there is also heavy downpour of rain in the area.

The Provincial Secretary Chelliah Punyamoorthy is working very closely with the NGO’s to make the refugee life comfortable as far as possible reports said. Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Army has opened a camp at Rideetenne to register the refugees and provide any medical needs they wanted immediately until they could be transferred to a hospital. Army vehicles have been used to transport the refugees arriving at Rididtenne.

The providers for refugees could not obtain all the schools they wanted to house the refugees temporarily due to the ongoing GCE ordinary level examination. But the examination centers are in big schools in the area. All small schools from Valachchenai to Batticaloa have been converted to temporary refugee centers the NGO sources said.

Earlier a special examination center for refugee children were to be opened at Valachchenai but the effort had to be abandoned due to the circumstances Eastern Province educational sources said.

Unlike earlier, more and more people were seen using roads instead of jungle paths now eyewitnesses said.

Many fleeing refugees had to walk across lagoons in water up to the neck keeping their children on their head army sources said. Lt. Wasantha Jayaweera at Rideetenne said during the last three days nearly 10,000 refugees went through their checkpoint. He said the refugees were threatened not to go by the LTTE but still they proceeded. 

NGO’s and the Sri Lanka government administrators were busy erecting toilets and providing pure drinking water to the refugees in the camps.

A realist critique of the Lankan crisis

by Dayan Jayatilleka

What the political, policy and intellectual responses to the Sri Lankan crisis lack is a Realist reading. A Realist reading would be distinct from those of idealists of liberal-left persuasion and ideologues of narrowly nationalist inclination.

Realist case for Devolution

A realist would advocate devolution not so much because of its intrinsic desirability and merits, but as a strategic imperative. This would be completely distinct from those who see devolution or autonomy as something to be offered (except as a diplomatic ploy) to the LTTE; a product whose consumer would be Prabhakaran. That is a mistaken notion shared by both idealists and ideologues.

The idealists feel that a sufficiently generous devolution package could bring the Tigers around. They ignore the fact that had the LTTE been in the least interested in devolution, federalism or even its own ISGA (except as a demand), it would not have murdered Neelan Tiruchelvam, boycotted the Tokyo donor conference and sabotaged Ranil Wickremesinghe’s presidential bid. The LTTE’s fear of devolution is at least equal to the JVP-JHU’s antipathy towards it!

The idealist and painfully na`EFve supporters of autonomy are joined by opponents of generous devolution in the assumption that such reforms are meant for the LTTE. These ideological antagonists of devolution oppose it because they are horrified at the prospect of the armed LTTE enjoying such powers. What they fail to understand is that the question does not arise, and in any event, can be easily prevented from arising. No entity which has not undergone a verifiable process of decommissioning (apart from those who have been issued arms by the State for their self-defence) should be permitted to contest an election, and only those elected by majority vote would form the provincial council.

None of this means that the quantum of devolution needs be cut back as its opponents argue. All it means is that safeguards must be built in, which is easily done. Not even a fully federal state allows power to be assumed in any of its component territorial units, by an armed militia.

Devolution is for the Tamil people and the non-Tiger Tamil political elements. It is needed to drive a wedge between the Tamil people and the Tigers. It is needed to strengthen the Tamil moderates.

The tough-minded Realist defence and advocacy of devolution and regional autonomy for the Tamils would be based on the following factors:

1. The distinction between federal and devolution/autonomy models of self rule. Contrary to demagogic assertions, none of the Expert’s Panel reports are for federalism. The suggestion to be silent or agnostic on the unitary/federal tag, is no subterfuge, but follows the example of Nelson Mandela’s South African constitution (and the spirit of the Soulbury constitution). It is also in keeping with President Rajapakse’s injunction not to be obsessed by such labels.

 2. The widespread resort to ‘self -rule’ as a counter-insurgency measure to thwart or retard full independence – British colonialism’s experience with home Rule for Ireland in the 1920s through to Sri Lanka, being cases in point. Regional autonomy would be a brake or solvent of the drive for a separate, sovereign independent Tamil country, i.e. Tamil Eelam. I know of no counter-insurgency practitioner or theorist who does not argue or some reform entailing self rule and alliance with locals of the area.

 3. The use of provincial autonomy as a necessary device to maintain unity in diversity. How else could the Roman Empire or for that matter the Catholic Church, have functioned?  Local elites MUST be coopted as allies, and that can only be done by conceding adequate political space. As happened to the IRA with the granting of Home Rule, Tamil nationalism would be split if regional autonomy were granted and there would be a civil war between the moderates/realists and the hardline LTTE. This would be true not only of Tamils in Sri Lanka but also in the Diaspora, and Tamil Nadu. No one in the international community would sympathise with, much less support, the separatists who would, in the context of autonomy, be regarded as fanatics. The entire world community would support the moderates. The war would then be not one of the Sinhala state against the Tamils, as it is now portrayed, but manifestly one of the Sri Lankan state plus the Tamil moderates, against the LTTE fundamentalists. Better still it would be a war of the Sri Lankan state in support of an allied with the Tamil moderates in order to push through a reformist solution, not "impose Sinhala Buddhist hegemony". 

 4. Given that we are never going to have a truly ‘melting pot’ society as in the US or republican citizenship as in France (no headscarves but no crosses in schools either), the only possible solution remains space at the periphery. If I may be permitted a detour, the Sinhala chauvinist critique of multiculturalism is simply misplaced. It borrows from the Western conservative or neoconservative argument (Dr Gunadasa Amarasekara recently quoted Prof Samuel Huntington on Anglo-Saxonism) but is wildly inappropriate, because the Western conservative critique is directed at recent migrant cultures/subcultures. The Sri Lankan Tamils of North and East are by no means recent migrants. They are a long standing, deep rooted constituent and co-owner of this island. What we must prevent is the break up of the country based on the single ownership of the North-east. But we cannot deny the Tamils right to co-ownership, and such recognition is the only means to prevent separate ownership. Even the hill-country (‘malayaha’) Tamils are not such recent migrants as are, say the African and Arab migrants in France, the Turks in Germany, or South Asians in Britain. The hill country Tamils are almost as old as most American families in the USA. (Colin Powell came to the US from the Caribbean at 16).   

 5. The economic and strategic danger of refusing to accommodate widespread international pressure for federalism or generous devolution. What of Tamil Nadu dynamics? What if India doesn’t patrol the Palk Straits at a time when arms and explosives are already being smuggled from Tami Nadu to the LTTE? In 2008, it is likely that the US Democrats will win the elections as will the British Labour party under Gordon Brown. Not only are these parties of liberal-progressive persuasion and therefore more sympathetic to minority causes (Brown is Scottish); they have been infiltrated at the grassroots by LTTE sympathisers in the Tamil Diaspora. Sri Lanka will probably experience a decisive international shift against her and in favour of the Tigers, in such a context. This leaves just next year to implement an adequate package of devolution and defeat the Tigers. 

 This then is the Realist take on devolution.

Balance of power

All politics is about power. The wise politician attempts to balance power and virtue/ morality/ethics, because moral superiority is not only intrinsically valuable, it is a source of the augmentation of power. The lesser politician ignores the moral-ethical dimension and attempts to rule and resolve crisis only by political and military power. The na`EFvely idealistic politician attempts to dispense with the power dimension and simply do the right thing, irrespective of the balance of forces. Such politicians inevitably fail, and usually die violently.

Mahinda Rajapakse was presented with a JVP, which had grown exponentially thanks to the policies of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the grant of 30 seats by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Anura Bandaranaike announced at a Town Hall rally that it was continuation of the bloc he forged in 1987. Mahinda also faced the Bandaranaike conspiracy to continue on office fraudulently for a third term and deprive him of nomination. This was compounded by the collusion between Chandrika and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Today the restorationist attempt by the Bandaranaikes continues, while international – Indian and Western – pressure mounts. Rajapakse has had to lean on the JVP and use it as a pressure group just as Ranasinghe Premadasa did during the Indo-Lanka Accord and after, right up to his reluctant declaration of emergency in 1989 as President. Premadasa faced the same forces: the old elite, collusion between the elitist of both major parties, and external pressures. Had the JVP permitted it, his collaboration would have gone much further; it did not, purely because of the JVP’s armed fanaticism and maximalism.

A Realist critique of the Rajapakse presidency would not rest on his relations with the JVP, but rather, on the fact that he is not being ‘Bonapartist’; he is not balancing sufficiently – not juggling sufficiently dextrously – between the JVP/JHU on the one hand, and the pro-devolution forces on the other. Ranasinghe Premadasa was adept at that as were JRJ albeit only after 1986, and CBK almost throughout except for her disastrous last year (which saw the tilt against Karuna, and the PTOMS).

Outrageous Analogies

The truly Realist reckoning would also support the military efforts of the Sri Lankan armed forces. The Realist analysis recognises the specific character of Sri Lanka’s war and is not cluttered by incorrect analogies. The island’s North-east is not Northern Ireland. That conflict was a residue of the world’s longest running colonial war, given that Ireland was England’s first colony, dating back to Cromwell. Nor is the Tamil case similar to that of East Timor, which annexed by the invading Indonesian army in 1975, as Portugal (in the throes of revolution) relinquished its colonies.

The Sri Lankan army in the North and East of the island is NOT the US army in Iraq, a place in which it has no business. The US has invaded and occupied an independent country thousands of miles away. It had by contrast waged a legitimate war against Iraq in 1991, the first Gulf War, when it spearheaded the effort to roll-back Iraq’s invasion of another independent state, Kuwait. Its invasion of Iraq was illegitimate, imperialist and doomed to fail (as I predicted in print at the time).

The US is in trouble in Afghanistan today not because of anything amiss with the ideology of its troops. The war in Afghanistan was a just war, in retaliation for 9/11, and the Taliban’s refusal to stop hosting its perpetrators al Qaeda. The US scored an impressive success in Afghanistan with new tactics (approximated today – minus the Predator drones – in Vaharai by the Sri Lankans who are using the air force, navy, army and Special Forces while in alliance with the Karuna guerrillas). The US is beginning to fail in Afghanistan solely because of the stupidity of the massive diversion of resources to the Iraqi theatre.

The Sri Lankan army in the North-East is not the Israeli army either. The Sinhalese did not return to the island in large numbers in the 20th century as the Jews did to Palestine after the Balfour declaration! The Lankan state has not invaded another state and occupied their lands, as the Israelis did with all its neighbours, most recently Lebanon.

The Sri Lankan state and armed forces are not imperialist or colonialist any more than the LTTE is a national liberation movement. Sri Lanka is an independent, sovereign and democratic state fighting a war against a separatist army which uses terrorism and suicide bombers.

The structural character of agency rather than actions – who more than what – determines the character of war. The Allies firebombed Dresden (in retaliation for the Blitz on London) and committed the atrocity of dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This does not make them a moral mirror image of their Nazi enemy any more than the burning down of most of Georgia by General Sherman’s armies made the Unionists the moral equal of the separatist, slave owning Confederates. Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel’s cities, deplorable though they were, do not efface the character of Hezbollah as a legitimate resistance movement against foreign occupation and invasion.

Nothing can make the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces or state, the moral equal of one another. However, this is not to be confused with international perceptions which can in turn affect the battlefield situation. We should not indulge in any violations of humanitarian law, NOT because that will actually make us the moral equal of the Tigers. Nothing can achieve that. We should not violate humanitarian law for two other reasons: firstly, it is wrong. Secondly, we can be widely perceived (misperceived) as morally no different from the enemy, by the world at large. This perception can translate itself into policy which can affect us adversely.

Fareed Zakaria, editor of Foreign Affairs, while recommending a radically new policy on Iraq, summed up the Realist creed: we must not base ourselves on what we like [things to be], or what could have been or what could be, but on what the situation is. What the situation is internally, is that Sri Lanka has a polity that is ‘overdeveloped’ (the late Urmila Phadnis), and a democracy that is ‘highly pluralistic’ (International Crisis Group); Mahinda Rajapakse is the elected president and is resisting the LTTE; the Sri Lankan armed forces are the main force in the fight against the Tigers and no army fights for anything other than its country, its nation , however broadly or narrowly that is understood ( which in turn depends on demography, culture, history, geography); the main military ally in that war is the Karuna militia which has no interest in a single permanently merged North-East as currently configured; no political reform is possible over the heads or behind the backs of the majority of voters and the Sinhala people can be won over to greater devolution of power to the provincial councils but not to federalism or the Indian model. 

For all these reasons a Realist reading would, broadly and on balance, tilt towards Mahinda Rajapakse and the Sri Lankan armed forces, combining the advocacy of devolution with support and solidarity. -The Island

Musings on April Queen

Ex-President Chan-drika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is reported to have said at an SLFP meeting at Attanagalle recently that she will return to power in April. (A wag says April 01 will be the ideal day for her coronation!) She has let the cat out of the bag. That she was flirting with the idea of making a comeback after retirement was on the grapevine. Immediately after she had to leave office, one year earlier than she expected, due to a constitutional Duckworth-Lewis, she tried her best to prevent the SLFP Presidential candidate Mahinda Rajapakse from winning. She colluded with the UNP and it was rumoured that she was planning to re-enter Parliament on the National List either as Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader under a UNP president. If that was her plan, then it went awry with the victory of her bete noire Rajapakse.

Then she wanted to retain the SLFP leadership but, as we said in these columns, the party which produced the all powerful Executive President had no room for two centres of power. She, out of her frustration, refused to see the political reality and therefore found herself stripped of the party leadership unceremoniously in the end. She was piqued beyond measure. It was unfortunate that she couldn’t come to terms with the situation and graciously step down like her predecessors, JRJ and DB, without facing humiliation and cutting a pathetic figure.

Now, she must be trying to avenge what she was subjected to. Hell hath no fury like Chandrika scorned! She is reported to have told her Attanagalle supporters that according to her horoscope, her return to power was inevitable. Horoscope is a document which is more precious to Sri Lankan politicians than even the Constitution. Remember, Chandrika once derisively called the Constitution bahubootha viyavasthava (nonsensical constitution). But, has any politician ever called his or her horoscope bahubootha kendere? Not to our knowledge! As much as the hoi polloi worship politicians, politicians pay homage to astrologers some of whom have become eminences grises. The influence of astrologers is not limited to politics. In 1995, as we reported, Operation Riviresa, (which took Jaffna back), was postponed by weeks on the advice of astrologers! Knowing the credulity of politicians, Chandrika may have thought of resorting to a psy-op to rebuild her support base by disseminating rumours of her latest raja yoga.

Interestingly, a famous UK-based astrologer predicted before the last presidential election that President Rajapske would lose! (Even some SMS surveys predicted a landslide win for the UNP!) Before the 1994 Presidential Election, the UNP claimed an Indian astrologer had predicted that nothing could prevent Mr. Gamini Dissanayake from becoming the President of Sri Lanka! After the tsunami disaster of Dec. 2004, we were not short of astrologers predicting another tsunami in quick succession. So much for astrological forecasts! Lies, damn lies, SMS surveys and astrological predictions, one may say. (One is reminded of that gem of a short story by Narayan, An Astrologer’s Day, which makes interesting reading for one and all.)

Never mind horoscopes, Chandrika’s modus operandi, constitutional constraints etc, what has she got to offer to the people again? There is no need, as it is said in this country, for squeezing a bag and feeling the contents therein after having unpacked it. Chandrika is a bag that has already been unpacked and clearly seen. She will have to repackage herself if she is to be attractive to the people once again. First of all, she will have to counter the serious allegations against her and clear her name, whether she really intends to re-enter politics or not, out of her respect for her illustrious parents, against whom not even their worst enemies could level allegations of corruption.

When President Bush appointed John Bolton to the UN, the US press raised objections and one newspaper said though it had quarrels with the Bush administration over the appointment, it was some solace that ‘the problem’ had now been confined to the UN. Many Sri Lankans may have thought likewise when Chandrika got her UNESCO appointment. But, will our problem be confined to the UN? The reports that UNESCO is reviewing her appointment must be rather disturbing to those who thought UNESCO had relieved them of Chandrika. Through her involvement in politics, she has sullied the image of UNESCO and given that world body enough reason to suspend her appointment. But, will UNESCO help Sri Lanka by retaining her and keeping her engaged in some other part of the world?

-The Island Editorial

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