The 25th Anniversary of a National Tragedy, its aftermath and Lessons for The Future

By: Rajasingham Jayadevan

A painful homage to our dear ones

INTRODUCTION:

Twenty five long years have gone by since the Indo- Sri Lanka agreement was signed by the late Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India and the late J.R.Jayawardene, the then President of Sri Lanka on 29th July’1987.

The intense involvement of India in Sri Lanka, which commenced after the calamitous and inhuman July’1983 anti-Tamil riots, reached its zenith on this day.

The Sinhalese at large were seething at what was obviously being thrust down the throat of an unwilling Sri Lanka, while the Tamils at large welcomed it as bitter medicine the country had to take for what it had inflicted on its Tamil minority since independence in 1948. The ‘Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF)’ landed in the north and east of Sri Lanka soon after.

The Tamils were joyous and very hopeful. They felt to the last person that their forlorn prayers had been finally heard by the Gods. Tamil women blew ’Flying Kisses’ at passing Indian troops, while the JVP was taking advantage of the wide and deep seated Sinhala resentment, to set in motion its second rebellion.

An agreement to resolve the so-called ‘Tamil Problem’ in Sri Lanka had further widened the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority divide. It was ironic the IPKF that came in with an acronym for ‘Indian Peace Keeping Force’ was compelled to quit the island in 1990 with the same acronym standing for ‘Innocent People Killing Force’ bestowed by angry Tamils.

It was also ironic that most Sinhalese and Tamils rejoiced at the departure of the IPKF. India had become the common enemy and temporarily united a feuding people, as did the Tsunami later in December’2004.

The 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan constitution enacted as a consequence of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement, had the Provincial Council (PC) system as an instrument for devolution of power at its core. This was unacceptable to large sections of the Sinhalese who had been taught to fear devolution for the Tamils over several decades by their politicians, intelligentsia and politicized monks.

The 13th amendment bestowed on the Sinhalese institutions they did not need or demand, in an obvious attempt to hoodwink them into believing that the Tamils were not being granted any special favours. The peripheral issues addressed in the agreement on the status of the

Tamil language were incorporated into the Sri Lankan constitution and were acceptable to the majority Sinhala polity.

It is unfortunate that even these constitutional provisions remain largely unimplemented to this day. However, the PC system introduced by this agreement was flawed and a baby unwelcomed by most Sinhalese and by those who claimed to be leading the Tamils-the TULF and the LTTE- when delivered. The concurrent list on distribution of powers between the centre and the provinces and the role of the governor in a PC were fatal structural flaws.

There was a cunning legal sleight of hand built into the PC system. What one hand gave the other was designed to take away! The government at the centre had the power to pick and choose the subjects it would grant the PCs. The inbuilt loop holes permitted the centre to whittle down specific subjects allocated to the PCs in the name of ‘national policy’. The centre had the option of taking over subjects in the concurrent list to further limit the scope of PCs.

These structural weaknesses in the PC act have permitted successive governments at the centre to emasculate the PCs over the past two and a half decades. The PCs ability to exercise their powers independently was also heavily circumscribed by the powers granted to the governors. A situation was created where a PC could be rendered totally ineffective, if it tried to assert itself, contrary to the wishes of the government at the centre.
The PCs were made poodles of the government at the centre by design. This was not the type of devolution the Tamil politicians were demanding on behalf of the Tamils. The PC system was forced on Sri Lanka and has been a hypocrisy and charade from its very inception, because it was not what was needed to resolve the so-called Tamil problem, within a highly centralized political system in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has drifted towards greater centralization since the PC system was instituted! The PC system could have worked in the north and east, only if the IPKF as an instrument of the Indian government was present there for decades! This was an untenable situation. The PC system was an incompatible graft that has been rejected at large by Sri Lanka.

It is being kept barely alive to this day to placate India and the international community- the immune suppressants in this instance. The enfeebled and useless PC system is the only achievement of decades of the struggle for self governance in the name of Tamils.

The Tamil honeymoon with the IPKF and India was short lived due to machinations of the JRJ-Premadasa governments; LTTE intransigence, short sightedness and sinister manoeuvring; and the utter foolishness of the Indian politico-diplomatic-military establishment.

The supposedly good and unimpeachable intentions of India were land mined as a result. To cut a long story short, the IPKF launched its military offensive against the LTTE on 10th October’1987. The long awaited tide the Tamils had wished for had reversed and the Tamils in the north and east became the victims of the brutal war between the LTTE and IPKF.

The Sri Lankan government backed the LTTE with money and arms, and President Premadasa praised Vellupillai Prabaharan as fit to lead the national army! The LTTE became the heroes of the Sinhalese overnight!

The other Tamil militant groups became the ‘keeps’ of either the IPKF or the Sri Lankan army. The LTTE had of course been trained by India and had demanded and received monthly dollar payments from the Indian government from the advent of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement until the war with the IPKF.

OUR FAMILY:

My mother, brother and gardener were killed by the IPKF on the morning of 16th October’1987. Their encounter and the painful experience of my brother Dr R Narendran to dispose the decaying bodies were aptly reflected in his ‘Open letter to the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’ and the memories of their deaths are irreconcilable and painful for us live with.

Thousands of other Tamils also were killed, raped and brutalized during the IPKF-LTTE war. The LTTE heartlessly provoked the IPKF to kill and retaliate against fellow Tamils in the single minded pursuit of their goals. The IPKF walked into many LTTE traps with their eyes open, but with their brains dysfunctional.

The LTTE acted with a purpose and the IPKF reacted stupidly as expected by the LTTE! The Tamils were effectively alienated from the IPKF and India by the LTTE tactics. It took several years for the discerning Tamils to understand the modus operandi of the LTTE.

We as a family were very shocked at the meaningless murders of our mother, brother and the gardener, and the callous manner their bodies were left to rot for ten days. My eldest brother-Dr.Rajasingham Narendran- has yet not been able to cry for them because of what he saw on the 10th day after their deaths.

He was beyond crying, because what he saw was beyond normal human responses. For those of us living, the memory of our loved ones and the manner in which they died are a constant daily memory lurking in the background over the past twenty five years. This memory has permitted us to empathize with those who have suffered similarly or worse in the subsequent years.

The innocence (almost to a fault !),intelligence, culture, simplicity, lack of an ego and selfishness, courage, generosity, ability to forgive, fortitude in the face of adversity and character to keep her equanimity in the face of immense problems, were characteristics that stood out in our mother. She gave her love and effort without expecting anything in return. Her love was tangible but never proclaimed.

She was a great human, a caring daughter, an exemplary wife and a mother who has left her indelible stamp on us. She was not the epitome of perfectness, but was quite near it. She showed us by example how to be moral humans and defined for us what is right and what is wrong.

She was a mother who let our father define for us the larger/higher aspirations in life, transcending the mundane. She would have been a ‘great’ grandmother too. She has been our example in the past twenty five years. She has stood us in good stead in both her life and death.

Our late brother was meticulous in what he did and had a natural empathy for those in need. His interest in agriculture was immense and his aspirations centred on it.

We as a family had come to depend on him for many things in our affairs. He was a brother, who has left a large void in our lives and a man of much potential the Tamil community and Sri Lanka lost. We wish he had lived long enough to prove his worth. Our late brother’s two children, who were less than three years old at the time of his murder, are young adults now and the tragedy in their lives has made them wholesome and resilient human beings.

They have become individuals we are proud of. We wish they had the time to know him as a father and a man. Our sister-in-law has faced up to this tragedy and subsequent challenges with fortitude and today, finds much joy in what her children have become. We have seen the best and the worst in people.

We have learned the best and the worst are not limited to any grouping of people and that these labels describe what manifests from us, as individuals, under certain circumstances. We have faced many serious problems in subsequent years and have dealt with them in a manner, we do not regret.

Time heals, though memories do not die. Memories continue to teach us lessons and guide us through life as it unfolds. The next generation is taking over the baton from us now and I am sure they will carry this story and the associated memories to the generations that follow them. It is a lesson learned that should remain with what is becoming a much larger family for as long as it can.

It is yet a pleasure to hear those who knew our mother and brother in life talk good of them, not in platitudes, but out of genuine appreciation. Theirs was a life worthily lived.

THE TAMILS:

Tamils are much worse off today than they were at the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka agreement. However, they are much better off today than they were on 18th May’2009 – the day Eelam war IV ended. It is a tragedy that a people with a reputation of being intelligent, pragmatic, down to earth and peaceful have been led by the ‘False Hope’ peddled by their leaders, India and the media.

India peddled the PC system and the hope that it will lead to something substantial and enduring in terms of the political rights of the Tamils as a distinct minority community within Sri Lanka.

India knew the solution being offered was seriously flawed structurally and gave the implicit impression the presence of the IPKF would ensure its implementation in the spirit intended. India had foolishly forced JRJ to swallow a medicine he did not want and knew the Sinhalese did not want.

Indian military might forced JRJ to concede and do what he did not want. He vomited a substantial portion of the medicine as soon as possible and his successors have followed his example! The old fox designed the PC system in such a manner that it was vulnerable and doomed to fail. India was a party to this charade and legal sleight of hand.

The Indian Solicitor General of that time was supposed to help draft the 13th amendment and PC act. Did he? If he did, how did the PC system become flawed to the extent it is? Did India connive with the JRJ government to placate the Tamils, in the face of implacable Sinhala resistance to devolution for the Tamil majority provinces?

India also forced the LTTE to accept the Indo-Lanka agreement and the 13th amendment, including the PC system. The LTTE did not take kindly to the Indo-Lanka agreement and its outcomes, because of they were meaningless and contrary to its avowed and uncompromising goal of an independent Tamil Eelam. They were also averse to India holding the trump card.

The TULF which worked hand in glove with the Indian government in bring forth the Indo –Sri Lankan agreement, withdrew its support, either due to its fear of the LTTE and/or because its saw the flaws in the PC system proposed. The PC system has been reduced to a tragic comedy since and remains a straw many who had initially rejected it, cling on to it as the only ‘Construct for devolution’ available, after decades of debate, disputes, bloodshed and gore.

Those who reached for the stars with their demand for Tamil Eelam are today demanding a straw in the form of a PC! The Tamils, who reposed much hope in the ability of India to deliver, have a right to believe they were cheated by India, their politicians and militants, to this day.

Both Rajiv Gandhi and Ranasinghe Premadasa, the key players in the IPKF episode were blown to pieces by LTTE suicide bombers. The Indo-Sri Lankan Agreement lay in tatters. It had no meaning for Sri Lanka, India or the Tamils. India was angry at what the LTTE had done to their young and promising leader with the Nehru heritage.

She was not interested in pushing the implementation of the 13th amendment and the PC system. She has continues to pay lip service to this day to a cause her military intervened to promote. India had learned a bitter lesson. The LTTE proudly boasted that it had fought the world’s fourth largest army. The GOSL was glad that India was off Sri Lanka’s back and that they had undermined the Indian intervention successfully.

The Tamils of Sri Lanka were no longer the concern of anyone, least of all the GOSL and the LTTE. The Tamil National Army formed by the Indians on the eve of their withdrawal from Sri Lanka, exposed thousands of young Tamil youth for decimation by the LTTE. Only the parents and relatives cried for these conscripted youth. They are a largely a forgotten statistic today.

Can India yet again force a solution on Sri Lanka? Her youthful Prime Minister was assassinated by the LTTE for his efforts to implement the Indo-Lanka agreement. He was nearly killed by a Sri Lankan navy rating during a honour guard on the day he set foot in Sri Lanka to sign the agreement.

Many Sinhala politicians boycotted the signing ceremony and many others were bussed in amidst high security. The second JVP insurrection broke out as a result. The only positive contribution of the IPKF was to permit the withdrawal of Sri Lankan troops from the north and east to fight the JVP in the south. Once the JVP was defeated, President Ranasinghe Premadasa demanded the IPKF withdraw. With the withdrawal of the IPKF his honeymoon with the LTTE came to an end.

Almost all Sri Lankan governments have been averse to devolution, irrespective of the governing party or coalition. Chandrika Bandaranaike’s government was the only exception and her efforts (1995-2000) to fashion a new constitution with substantial devolution of power to the periphery were sabotaged by the LTTE, TNA and the UNP. This was also an opportunity lost.

She had created the conditions in the Sinhala polity to accept extensive devolution, but subsequently subverted it with the opportunistic alliances she formed with short sighted political objectives.

The Norwegian sponsored ceasefire agreement between the GOSL and the LTTE was signed on the 22nd February’2002, with international backing and much fanfare. I played a key role in bringing back Anton Balasingham to London from the Vanni, in order to facilitate the formulation of this ceasefire agreement.

The Tamils once again were very hopeful and sighed with relief. They were hopeful that the ceasefire supported by some of the big players internationally, supervised by a Scandinavian Monitoring Mission and promised funding (US $ four billion) for the development of the north and east was manna from the heavens. It however was doomed to fail by events orchestrated largely by the LTTE.

The GOSL too unfortunately or deliberately projected the image that they had laid a very clever peace trap for the LTTE. This confirmed LTTE fears about Sri Lanka’s intentions. Despite the five rounds of futile peace talks around the world, the agreement collapsed in January’2008, when the GOSL withdrew from the agreement, in retaliation for escalating provocation and the Mavil Aru episode. The Monitoring Mission recorded 3830 violations by the LTTE and 351 violations by the GOSL from Feb’2002 to May’2007.

The TNA which had declared that the LTTE was the sole representative of the Tamils did not have the guts to even protest at the LTTE violations, which augured the outbreak of Eelam war IV, the most violent and brutal among all wars fought and hurt the Tamils the most.

It was the final war that destroyed the LTTE roots and trunk in the island, leaving a few leaves and branches scattered within Sri Lanka and around the world. The Tamils were once again cheated of an opportunity to resolve their problems with international assistance and pushed further into a deep, dark hole.

Hopelessness among the Tamils is capital that Tamil politicians cannot afford to lose. Much has happened since the Indo-Lanka agreement, the IPKF episode and its aftermath. Tamils have become a community that has had its back bone broken.

They are not in the numbers they were once. They have lost their prosperity, life style, culture, social norms and educational standards, in addition to the visible calamity that has affected them.

They are a people who have paid a price in terms of lives lost, blood spilled and gore suffered, and of course multiple displacements, homelessness and loss of livelihood. Most have been ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ for long years and have returned to their old or new locations for residence, without the degree of help and assistance required.

There are also a people who have been deprived of the means and tools for livelihood. They are a people with many widows, orphans, maimed, brain washed and poorly educated youth and psychologically affected among them. They are a people who need help, assistance, guidance and counselling for a very long time.

The Tamils are also largely a people without an enlightened leadership, who can guide them through a period of much travail into a better if not, bright future. They are a people living in the 21st century, but thrown back to an existence as in the dark ages.

There is no leadership to offer them the pragmatic vision, objectives and institutional framework to deliver a life that befits the 21st century. They are yet forced to place their hopes in a bunch of politicians, who yet are talking in terms of the calamitously flawed and failed 13th amendment and its pluses and minuses, out of sheer habit and a serious deficit in alternative ideas.

They are politicians who refuse to learn the lessons of history. What was perceived as largely unacceptable at its advent has become the only straw that keeps these politicians heads above water. This is because the waters are yet not deep enough, despite the calamity that has befallen the Tamils, to drown them.

The Tamils today are a people who fear to hope. Many things they had hoped for and were promised were never delivered. They have been forsaken by their country, their leaders, their own kind and probably their God/s. They have been the victims of political chicanery and violence of the worst sort. They have been violated and others have been violated in their name.

They are the hapless victims of fate. There was nothing wrong with their hopes. They had every reason to hope. However, there were many things grievously wrong with how these hopes were projected and translated into action by their leaders- both elected and imposed, and how these were perceived by the Sinhala polity and the GOSLs.

This sad situation persists to this day. Sri Lanka’s failure was not to understand that Tamil hopes were centred on preserving their dignity as a community and their aspirations as human beings.

Unfortunately, their leaders today are intent on perpetuating the dark clouds of hopelessness, while not permitting even a small candle light of hope to shine!

Every glimmer of the light of hope at the end of a dark tunnel they have travelled so far is being doused promptly, to keep alive the hopelessness. This hopelessness is the capital many Tamil politicians thrive on and hence need to perpetuate r their own survival. It is a tragic situation.

SRI LANKA:

It is unfortunate that there are many in Sri Lanka today, who refuse to learn the lessons of history. There is a powerful Sinhala lobby averse to devolution of political power to the Tamils and hence in the island. They have reasons to fear that this could lead to a renewed cry for Eelam.

However, this fear is not totally justified because their predecessors have been averse to devolution even before the demand for Eelam was voiced. If their fear is the proximity of Tamil Nadu and the dangers it poses to Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity, then the answer lies in not denying the Tamils devolution, but reinforcing their loyalty to this country.

The Sri Lankan state and the Sinhala polity have miserably failed to pursue the latter option, but have actively promoted separatism, through short sighted policies, opportunism and lack of political ethics.

The unofficial ban on singing the officially sanctioned Tamil version of the national anthem that has come into being since May’2009 is an example of the stupidity and short sightedness that characterize many decisions of the GOSL.

Sri Lankan post-independence history can be divided into a pre- IPKF and post- IPKF phase. The IPKF phase provided an opportunity to take the bitter medicine thrust by India, as necessary to cure Sri Lanka of a self-sought debilitating disease established in the Pre-IPKF phase. It was an opportunity to resolve the minority issues or the ‘Tamil Problem’ once and for all.

The JRJ government chose to highlight how it was an innocent victim of Indian high handedness -a raped virgin bride- instead and fuelled resentment against the Indo-Lanka agreement. Instead of undermining the PC system in its design and implementation, the JRJ government could have designed a system that was objective, efficient and had the safeguards against separatism.

The JRJ government could have also told India that it was adamantly against devolution and proposed effective power-sharing arrangements at the centre along with effective covenants to protect minority rights and security.

The JRJ government had a 5/6th majority in parliament to do what was right! It however preferred to follow the same old destructive path and fertilized the emergence of the LTTE as a formidable, but demonic force on the Sri Lankan scene.

The Interim council initially proposed for the north-east, if allowed to come into existence and work as intended, by the LTTE and JRJ, would have paved the way for a more effective PC system. However, both the LTTE and JRJ government did everything in their power to sabotage the possibility.

The TULF and the LTTE had the opportunity to use the presence of the IPKF and the active Indian involvement to get the PC system to work as best as it could, effectively, within even the faulty framework.

If the PC system had been made to work effectively for at least one term, with Indian prods and pressures, it would have become a trustable institution and norms and precedents would have been established. This would have led to the possibility of amending the PC act, to correct its structural faults and scope.

The Indian government by promoting the cause of the EPRLF in the North-East PC undermined the faith of the Tamils in the system. The attitude and actions of the Premadasa government and reactions of Varatharaja Perumal’s PC further shook the foundations of the system and undermined it further.

The Indians were playing ‘God Father’ to a group that had no popular mandate and were elected under dubious circumstances. This played into the hands of the LTTE and gave it a third life (The Indian intervention had given it a second life at a time the Sri Lankan forces were poised to smother it).

The anti-Sinhala and anti-Muslim stance of the IPKF in the east, further fuelled Sinhala and Muslim fears about Indian intentions and dangers inherent in the PC system.

In the post-IPKF era, the second golden opportunity for the Tamils and Sri Lanka arrived in the form of the Chandrika Bandaranaike constitutional reform proposals of 1995-2000. However, the Tamils led by the LTTE and its shadow the TNA failed to take advantage of them and opposed them outright.

They failed to realize that these proposals were yet the best put forward by a GOSL and had considerable backing from influential sections of the Sinhala polity and a war weary Sinhala population.

They were aiming for the skies, because their dream of an independent Eelam was a tangible objective at that point in time. They forget the proverb,”A bird in hand was worth two in the bush”! The UNP of course played the usual role as an adversarial opposition and tore the proposed draft on the floor of the parliament to bits, to symbolize their opposition. This was unpardonable, as the party had previously agreed to support these proposals.

In the post-IPKF era, the Norwegian sponsored and internationally supervised ceasefire agreement was a third golden opportunity presented to the Tamils and Sri Lanka to find a lasting solution to their problems and put a stop to the fear, violence, deaths, bloodshed and mayhem. However, the LTTE and the TNA which had become a poodle to the LTTE, failed to seize the opportunity. Instead, the LTTE interpreted the circumstances as an indication of Sri Lanka’s weakness and inability to pursue the war any further.

The LTTE assumed that it was quite close to attaining its goal of Tamil Eelam and plunged head long into equipping itself for the final war. It did not pursue the peace option honourably and contrived situations to embarrass the Norwegians and the supportive international community. The GOSL preferred to allow the situation to drag on, knowing very well that the LTTE was losing both Tamil and international support.

The ceasefire agreement became a charade soon after its advent and became more so, with each passing day thereafter. Unfortunately, the Tamils in the north and east had very little say in what was unfolding and were not the main concern of the LTTE, the TNA or the GOSL.

The third golden opportunity was lost, when Eelam war IV broke out in 2006 and reached a grand finale on the 18th May’2009. The Tamils once again paid a very heavy price as a result of the foolishness of and lack of pragmatism in their leadership.

The manner in which Eelam war IV ended is a high water mark in the history of Tamils and Sri Lanka. The LTTE has been destroyed as a fighting force and relevant entity. This signalled a major shift in GOSL thinking with reference to solutions. The proposals of the Tissa Vitharana led APRC (All Party Representatives Committee) were perceived as irrelevant in the context of the LTTE being defeated and destroyed.

There was no compulsion or context any more for the GOSL to concede anything it did not want. I have my doubts as to whether this perception was warranted. The ‘Tamil problem’ yet needs solutions and the country yet needs constitutional reform. The APRC proposal may yet hold the keys to a satisfactory solution.

The TNA has been given an opportunity to resurrect in a new form and with a new vision, consonant with the new circumstances the Tamils and Sri Lanka are in. The TNA should accept that they were a party to a vicious war and bear its share of the blame. The FP, TULF and TNA should take responsibility for kindling false hope among the Tamils with their foolish rhetoric.

The TNA should take responsibility for both its and the LTTE failures to take advantages of many golden opportunities that came their way over the long years. The TNA should also accept the three decade old LTTE led wars for Tamil Eelam, have changed the political environment in Sri Lanka forever, though many acts of Sri Lankan government and reactions of the FP and TULF seeded the LTTE phenomenon.

The TNA acted as a proxy to the LTTE and this yet makes it a suspect party in Sinhala perceptions. It is imperative the TNA acts in a manner that removes the taint of the past. The TNA should start reading the script from the pages of a new book. The TNA should acknowledge the progress made in the post-war years while pointing out deficiencies and failures.

They should deliver progress to the Tamils, instead of the destruction they and their predecessors have delivered in the past. Can the FP, TULF and the TNA claim credit for anything substantially positive they have achieved for the Tamils throughout their history of political dominance?

The TNA has to study how the Muslim community and the so-called Indian Tamil community have found their place within Sri Lanka, without sacrificing the identity or communal rights. The time for confrontational politics was over with the defeat of the LTTE.

The time for a problem solving and non-confrontational approach has come. The hope to play the role of King/Queen makers in Sri Lanka and bargain for political concessions failed in the past and will now and in the future. The objective of both the TNA and the government should be to bring the diverse communities together as citizens of this country.

The TNA and the government should not fail the Tamils and Sri Lanka once again. It is imperative that they work together silently and effectively to resolve the outstanding problems of the Tamils.

The dream of an independent Tamil Eelam has become a nightmare for most Tamils living in Sri Lanka. However, the lives of most war affected are yet also a nightmare, though differently. The Sri Lankan government has to acknowledge that there were many war-related civilian deaths, because of the brutal nature of the last war.

It has to investigate instances of deliberate murder, rape and other abuses by the armed forces brought to its attention and punish those responsible after due process. Civilian deaths happened and it is an indisputable fact, though the numbers pedalled are disputable.

A mechanism should be established to effectively help families that have lost a bread winner, to the war, irrespective of their affiliations and communal identity. The Sri Lankan government has an opportunity to address Tamil aspirations to equal rights; equal opportunities; security of person and property; adequate leeway for self-governance in matters of concern to their community in areas where they predominate; and participation in governance and decision making at the centre.

It is incumbent on the Sri Lankan government to restore the Tamils their dignity and place within Sri Lanka. A new formula to address the new circumstances of the Tamils and Sri Lanka has to be found, and if already envisioned, presented to the people. The government has done much by way of investments in infra-structure in the north and east, either directly or indirectly with international help in the past three plus years.

The IDPs have been released from the camps, though their housing and livelihood needs yet remain to be addressed in an effective manner. The on-going distribution of state land to landless Tamils of the Vanni on a mass scale is a welcome development. The war against the LTTE and separatism has been won by the GOSL, but the Tamils have yet not been won over.

The Tamils should be proud that they are Sri Lankans and be committed to her welfare, irrespective of where they live. Sri Lanka should become the home they love and the home they miss. The Tamils cannot be forced to feel this way. The conditions must be created for the Tamils to feel this way. We have yet not trodden this path adequately as a nation.

The Tamils too should come forward to forgive the past and tread a new path. Tamils should not continue to feed on the witch’s brew of past memories and imagined grievances. The decisive end of Eelam war IV, has presented the fourth golden opportunity for Tamils and Sri Lanka and this should not be missed by both and messed up by the GOSL or the TNA. In the past three and a half years, we have come a long way, but there is a greater distance to traverse yet. There is no room for complacency yet.

CONCLUSIONS:

It is also a cruel joke that some Tamils and almost the entirety of the Tamil political leadership yet pin their hopes on India to deliver what it largely reneged 25 years back. They want India to perform miracles to remake something- the PC system- that was conceived by rape, deformed at birth, malnourished and further crippled/ disabled during its life.

They yet lack the courage and wisdom to say, “To hell with it”.

The north and east merger, which was a temporary political manoeuvre under the 13th amendment, has been dismantled and the east has a separate PC now. The east will never again be part of a merged North-East province. The recent PC elections in the east prove this.

Further, the north, where the demand for devolution and separation originated and sustained throughout the past sixty years though various devices and players, is the only province without a PC. The manner in which the PCs in the other eight provinces function is a blatant example of the near zero-devolution they represent and their uselessness. Is it hard for the Tamil politicians to openly reject the PC system as it is today, without continuing to kindle false hopes?

If the northern PC is activated under these circumstances, it will further widen the communal divide. Is it honest of India to yet talk in terms of the 13th amendment, its full implementation and even pluses? Is it realistic for the TNA and India to expect GOSL to concede something that it is clearly averse, under the present circumstances?

Should other options/alternatives be explored?

Should not the proposed ‘Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC)’ become the forum to discuss and debate these other options? The PSC may be the mechanism to deal with the post-war circumstances and issues.

The Tamils and other minorities should be given a constitutional place to participate in governance at the centre.

The Tamils, other minorities and the provinces should be given a mechanism to articulate, supervise and direct affairs of concern to them. Could these be achieved only through devolution? Can the same objectives be achieved through other more centralized mechanisms?

Is there a possibility to swim with the tide to achieve these objectives? There should be a constitutionally recognised covenant to protect the rights and security of every citizen and every community.

There should be a ban on communally oriented divisive politics. What are the mechanisms that would bring these about?

What do the government and the other political parties think are solutions to the so-called Tamil problem? We have not heard of these yet. When they are heard, would it not be easier to understand and judge merits and demerits?

Why should the TNA not present in detail what it seeks? Why not seek a consensus among all parties on what should be done, to ensure that what is finally decided becomes a reality?

It is time the Mahinda Rajapakse government spells out in clear terms the place and role of Tamils and other minorities within Sri Lanka as citizens and communities. It is time also to spell out unambiguously the role the Tamils and other minorities will effectively play in the political structures in Sri Lanka.

It is time for the Tamil polity and the TNA to reformulate a realistic vision for the community and present it in a manner that is not adversarial or counterproductive.

This would be our best tribute to the lives sacrificed and the heavy price we have paid over several decades. The foolishness, vitriol and viciousness in our national politics have to come to an end.

The dream, vision and specific objectives for a united Sri Lanka and her diverse communities must be brought to the fore and explained to the people. It is also imperative the Mahinda Rajapakse government restores good governance and rule of law in the whole country in a fast paced but step by step manner.

This would also resolve many problems confronting the minorities. It is also imperative that the Mahinda Rajapakse government depoliticizes the government services quickly and make it a disciplined mechanism of delivery of government services to the public.

This would also contribute to resolving the other problems confronting the minorities.