CLASSIFIED | POLITICS | TERRORISM | OPINION | VIEWS





 .
 .

 .
 .
.
 

OPEN LETTER TO THE VISITING US CONGRESSMEN

Dear Congressmen,

We Sri Lankans domiciled abroad are delighted that you have decided to visit Sri Lanka which can have a decisive impact on the future of Sri Lanka as well as America's global war against terrorism. Your visit will be considered as another proof of the new ties developing between Sri Lanka and America, drawing both nations closer to each other. We, therefore, thought it prudent to forward the following for your consideration in the interests of both America and Sri Lanka.


1) One of the critical threats to global peace stems from separatism which in turn breeds terrorism. Separatism and terrorism, therefore, are inseparable. The future of world order, and consequently that of America as the prime force in maintaining world order, depends on the constructive approach of the international community, led by America, to contain or defuse separatist forces. Without a cohesive approach to this threat to global peace the international community will not be in a commanding position to manage the separatist crises that will continue to bedevil international policy-makers. In your visit to Sri Lanka you will be able to witness the destructive and the destabilizing power of separatism which is not different from what is happening in other armed separatist movements.

1.a) A common factor that characterizes separatist movements (taking Sri Lanka as a prime example) is their intransigence that does not leave any room for reasonable compromises or negotiated settlements. For instance, the regional super-power India intervened and introduced the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement with the consent of the Tamil parties in the democratic stream. But the LTTE (better known as Tamil Tiger terrorists) undermined it by assassinating the Tamil leaders who signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement and targeting the Tamils who rejected their violent politics and entered the democratic main stream. Tiger terrorists have continued their policy of killing off dissenters of their own Tamil community, despite the Norway-brokered Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) which was meant to guarantee freedom of political action without fear of assassination by the Tigers. The latest prominent Tamil victim since the CFA was signed on February 22, 2003 is the Deputy Leader of the EPRLF (Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front), Thambirajah Subathiran (alias Robert) on Saturday, June 14th at 6:15 am at the party office in Jaffna. The Indian negotiated settlement and three subsequent peace talks with the Sri Lankan government failed due to concerted violent attacks to undermine the peace agreements - a practice which is being pursued to this day.

1.b) The deliberate undermining of the CFA by the Tigers has cast serious doubts about the process as well as the future outcome among all layers of the perceptive public. Opinion polls conducted by independent NGOs since the signing of the CFA have revealed that the failure of the Tigers to observe some of the basic conditions of the CFA has led to (a) an erosion of faith in the peace process; (b) a dramatic decline in the credibility of the Scandinavian Peace Monitors because of their appeasement approach as against a professional strategy and (c) the verifiable conclusion that the Tigers are not genuinely interested in resolving differences through internationally accepted norms of negotiations and consensual and pluralistic compromises.

1.c) In violating the terms and conditions of the CFA, Tigers have been intentionally delivering signals to the Sri Lankan government and the international community declaring that they do not rely on negotiations to achieve their goal. The Tigers have exploited the 18 months since signing the CFA as a convenient period of transition for them to smuggle arms to reinforce their military capability and dictate terms from a position of strength, to forcibly recruit child soldiers from Tamil parents forcing some mothers to commit suicide, to assassinate political rivals, to kill members of the Sri Lankan government's security forces - all of which conforms to the pattern of the past failed negotiations leading to unilateral declaration of war by the Tigers. The Daily Mirror, a leading Sri Lankan newspaper, summarized the current situation when it documented the following: "During the sixteen months of ceasefire and MOU over 50 members of Tamil democratic political parties and over 30 members of the intelligence sector have been systematically executed in the North and East as well as in Colombo and the suburbs. The government appears to be mesmerized by whipping up euphoria for the peace process and the support it gets from the International Community, but somehow the LTTE does not appear to be taking the government along with it." (The Daily Mirror, June 28, 2003)

2) The most significant aspect of the CFA signed on February 22, 2002 is that, unlike previous failed ceasefire agreements, it comes with the backing of the international community. In fact, the government of Ranil Wickremesinghe depends on this international "safety net" to put pressure on the Tigers to work within the conditions laid down by the CFA until a final a solution is thrashed out with the consent of all parties. But by brazenly violating the terms and conditions of the CFA the Tigers are thumbing their noses at the international community. It is signaling to the international community that they do not derive their power from the international community like the Sri Lankan government but from the barrel of their guns. This is a message that took on a menacing form after America refused to extend an invitation to the Tigers to attend the preliminary aid conference held in Washington on April 14, 2003. Retaliating to this action of America, which cannot go outside its laws by inviting terrorist to sit with them, the Tigers pulled out of the peace talks and rejected all invitations extended by the international community to attend the subsequent aid talks held in Tokyo, once again demonstrating that compromise and the rule of law are concepts that they refuse to read or respect. This retaliatory action of the Tigers is an insult to America's role as a super power overseeing global peace and stability. Will the Congress, the Senate and the Presidency bow down to the Tigers? The Tigers now find themselves hoisted by their own petard. After initially internationalizing the Sri Lankan issue and openly canvassing the intervention of the international community they are finding that the new role of their invited political guests is circumscribing their power to pursue politics of violence. They especially despise the US support for the peace process in Sri Lanka. They treat with contempt the refusal of US and India to reward suicide bombings and illicit arsenals as bargaining chips in the negotiations. They are brazenly challenging the right and the commitment of the international community, led by US, to constructively contribute to a negotiated settlement that will be acceptable to all communities. Their current tactic is to get the international community out of their hair. First they invited "mother India" to save them and when they found it was not to their liking they manoeuvred to get them out. They are adopting the same tactic against the international community. Every action taken so far by the Tigers confirms their patent belief that they can destabilize Sri Lanka through terror tactics and force America to keep out of Sri Lankan politics.


3) From the American perspective, it would be a humiliating defeat if it rewards the Tiger blackmail by changing the current US engagement in Sri Lanka. Having come this far into Sri Lankan peace process it would be a double defeat for America if it does not pursue a pro-active role in pressuring the Tigers to accept compromises that is in accord with the aspirations of all the communities seeking peace: it will be a defeat not only in its war against terrorism but also in America's commanding role as the prime actor in maintaining international law and order. Can the American law-makers accept this humiliating defeat at the hands of the Tamil Tigers? Can they watch the Sri Lankan democracy, however flawed it may be, crumble under the threats of Tamil Tiger terrorism? Can they ignore the Tiger politics of violence and surrender to their uncompromising demands? Curiously enough, the demand for the creation of a separate racist enclave is made by a dwindling minority of Tamils in Jaffna. In 1983 they constituted 12.5% of the population, i.e. approximately 2.2 million people. Since then over 700,000 have left the country, mainly in the guise of refugees. That leaves only 1.5 million of Tamils in Sri Lanka of whom 65% lives in the South with the Sinhala majority. The rationale for the creation of a separate racist enclave loses its validity because the majority of this 65% will not migrate to live under the fascist, one-man rule of Velupillai
Prabhakaran.

4) Finally, America's doctrine of "regime change" reached its peak in Iraq. America's arguments for "regime change" were based, inter alia, on the protection of human rights, liberal values, democratic norms and threats to global peace and stability from terrorism. President Bush has extended this doctrine to Liberia as well and asked for a "regime change". Without debating the pros and cons of this doctrine of "regime change", it is necessary to point out that it will have serious implications for global peace if it is applied haphazardly and/or selectively. If this doctrine has inspired America to give the lead in protecting its professed values then it poses a critical question to the American law-makers: why should America exclude the most deadliest terrorist regime that has no respect for human rights, nor respect for democratic norms, no respect for pluralism, no respect for Tamil children forcibly recruited into "baby brigades" and no respect for its own Tamil people who are being tortured, taxed and executed brutally at the whims and fancies of Velupillai Prabhakaran - a political criminal who is wanted by Interpol, Indian and Sri Lankan law-enforcing authorities? Continued engagement in Sri Lanka will be the most compelling argument to convince world opinion that America's fight against terrorism is not an excuse to protect its economic and political interests but an unarguable commitment to safeguard timeless and borderless principles of humanity and human values.

In view of the factors outlined above, the legislators of America have to seriously re-evaluate the course of action available to them. America and its coalition of the willing donors have given the lead in pledging massive aid. That is commendable. America and its diplomatic allies hope to keep the present CFA alive and kicking though all signs indicate that it will not go anywhere. Currently the talks are stuck in the process than in the final solutions. The tactic of the Tigers is to put the cart before the horse by stalling the process and to prevent a consensual solution that is not their liking.

It has managed to twist the arm of the Sri Lankan government to virtually grant them a de facto state without any reciprocal confidence-building measures that can come from the (1) laying down of arms or at least offering to do so or to offer as a first step, and in reciprocity to verifiable government overtures, to inventorise their illegal arsenal; (2) renouncing of violence to achieve political goals; (3) an unambiguous declaration of abiding to accept a political solution that is acceptable to all communities with, as the Prime Minister says, "one army, one Navy, one Police, one judicial system and one constitution"; 4) cessation of hostilities to demonstrate convincingly their commitment to the peace process by adhering to the conditions of the Ceasefire Agreement; and (5) adherence to basic principles of human rights and democratic norms.


Leaving all other factors aside, the political instability generated by the gross violations of (4) and (5) do not augur well for the peace process or a future solution. Therefore, the choice for the international community falls into two main categories: 1) pressure the Sri Lankan government to keep on conceding more and more in the hope of appeasing Velupillai Prabhakaran, the little, tin-pot Hitler hiding in the jungles of Sri Lanka - a tactic which has not succeeded so far and will not succeed in the future given his commitment to his separatist goal; or (2) to reverse its non-productive policy of appeasement and take firm action to curtail the aggressive military capabilities of the Tigers. Their refusal to attend the aid talks in Tokyo indicate that the lure of money is not an incentive for them to join talks and progress towards peace. Their history is an unrelenting record of relying on their coercive power to humiliate and subjugate their own people to toe its political line without dissent. Unrestrained by international humanitarian laws they have with impunity dragged children out from schools and their parents arms to fight in Prabhakaran's war against all other communities, including the dissenting Tamils. Disregarding their agreement to honour the internationally endorsed CFA they continue to smuggle arms, to hood wink a group of exceedingly naive Scandinavian Peace Monitors who lack the technology and the political will to verify the wanton violation by this Tamil terrorist group (as defined by the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted after the 9/11 carnage in New York ), to terrorize the Tamil populace, to eliminate its political rivals, to raise funds and launder its through bogus front organizations, to manipulate vote banks of Tamils in Western democracies like Canada, UK, USA and Australia - all of which will not lead to peace but a perpetuation of terrorism on a scale not witnessed in Sri Lanka before.



It is futile to dream of peace if these fundamentals are not addressed. Four peace processes before have failed because it was believed that a solution could be imposed from the top by negotiating with the Tigers. If there is a lesson to be learnt from all the failed peace processes, including the current one, it is that a militarily capable Tigers can never be won over at the negotiating table. The Tigers will continue to exploit Western ideologies, constitutional formulas, the rhetoric of liberalism, fund-raising bases in Western democracies, etc., as tactics to postpone the day of reckoning, knowing that the longer they drag it the better it is to weaken the will of the international community and the Sri Lankan government to achieve their goals.


It is abundantly clear, therefore, that any more pussyfooting around by the international community is not going to produce a solution that could bring stability and peace either to the Sri Lankan nation or to the South Asian region. If the American goal is to combat terrorism in all its deadly manifestations then there is a contradiction in focusing only on Osama in Afghanistan while rewarding a Polpot or Milosovich crouching in the Sri Lankan jungles. Punishing ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and rewarding dissent cleansing and ethnic cleansing in Jaffna and the eastern province will not be conducive for regional peace and stability.


Besides, diplomatic, economic and political tinkering at the top is not going to have the desired result at the ground level as seen in Sri Lanka. Therefore, the international community must seriously consider whether there are other appropriate alternatives that can directly target the military capability of the Tigers to prevent talks from sliding to a dead-end with disastrous consequences to the war-weary people of Sri Lanka. If the Tigers are allowed to blackmail the elected government in Sri Lanka and the regional power India, it will make a mockery of the international regime, which the US law-makers have so painstakingly built around the UN Security Council Resolution 1373, following the savage attack on the Twin Towers of New York.


At this stage, the deployment of American ground forces to intervene may be premature. Besides, the risks of human losses may be politically controversial. However, while Sri Lanka is not directly linked to American interests, South Asia is - and, geo-politically, Sri Lanka stands at the pivotal point of the gateway to South Asia. A positive option available is the introduction of a naval cordon to monitor the movement of Tiger ships smuggling arms. This is a sine qua non for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and others because they are mandatory, not recommendatory. Besides, throwing a naval cordon would not only be less risky but will also have a direct positive impact on the peace process. Perhaps, this could be a joint operation with the navies of SAARC/ASEAN region. It can be a logical follow up to the Cobra Gold Exercise This would not only send a clear signal to the Tigers that their political intransigence will have military consequences but also sever its supply lines without which it cannot survive on the ground.


This option to be effective must be backed up by a build-up of the Sri Lankan security forces. An international naval cordon backing a beefed up ground force will not only demoralize the militant forces but also be a serious threat to its military capability.


The primary task, therefore, is to reduce the military capability of the Tigers not through direct confrontation on the ground but through a safe and distant presence, a long range strategy packed with power. Anything short of this will never pressure the Tigers to work out a reasonable solution acceptable to all communities. Talks have been stalled in the past because neither the Sri Lankan government nor the international community has addressed the issue of dismantling the well-oiled killing machine of the Tigers. Its intransigent drive to override the aspirations of all other communities and attain a hegemonic political status for Velupillai Prabhakaran, "Asia's latest Pol Pot" (New York Times - June 25, 1995) is based essentially on its killing machine.



It is plain as daylight that the Tigers will have no inclination, nor rationale to negotiate a settlement as long as it has its killing machine intact. There is no known record of Prabhakaran yielding to external pressures because he relies entirely on the internal strength of his killing machine. His only strategy from the day he shot in to the limelight with the cold-blooded murder of the former mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Duraiyappah in 1975, has been violence. Neither his personality nor his political ideology places him in a comfort zone outside his gun. The critical issue confronting the international community is whether it will go that extra mile to dismantle or weaken the Tiger killing machine, or hope against hope that it could reform an unrepentant political recidivist whose penchant for killing his opponents range from Rajiv Gandhi to his own Tamil people. If the international community pins its faith on plodding along hoping that palliatives and softly-softly pressures can deliver them the peace they expect, then it could be guaranteed that South Asian regional peace will be doomed in
the foreseeable future.



Wishing you a happy and fruitful sojourn in Sri Lanka.



Yours sincerely,

Prof. Emeritus Wijesiri Danthanarayana

University of New England, New South Wales, Australia.

Prof. Janek Ratnatunga,
University of Richmond, Virginia, USA.

Dr. (Mrs) Olga Mendis, OAM (Order of Australia Medal),
Victoria, Australia

Dr. Dhananjaya Jayasekera, Victoria,
Australia.

Dr. Gamini Jayasinghe, Queensland, Australia

Dr. Sunil Amaratunga, Queensland, Australia

H. L. D. Mahindapala, Editor, Ceylon Observer (1990 - 1994), Victoria,
Australia.



 


BACK TO LATEST NEWS

Copyright 1997-2001www.lankaweb.Com Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Reproduction In Whole Or In Part Without Express Permission is Prohibited.