AN APPEAL FOR SANITY
By S. MakenthiranMississauga Ontario Canada
Dear Editor, Lankaweb
I am constrained to write to you after I found that you had been fair enough to publish two articles, highly critical of your website - mine and that of Das Samuel and the readers' comments. I am writing this to you as a Tamil of Sri Lankan origin. Although we happen to hold different views, exchange of ideas will be fruitful. I must state that I am no longer a Sri Lanakn citizen. I am a proud Canadian Tamil, but I love my country of origin. It was once a peaceful and prosperous country, which I did no want to leave. I am sad to say it is now in shambles.
Cannot we make a fresh start in a small way to get out of the rut in which the two communities - Sinhalese and Tamils - are now trapped. As of now, the media from both sides are embroiled in so much of hostility, that the whole exercise is counter-productive. To start with, the Sinhalese have sent in their representatives to Parliament and the Tamils have sent theirs. Whether we like it or not, the two sides have to come to terms and we have to accept the popular will of both communities..
As far as I can see, there are two non-negotiable factors. The Sinhalese will never willingly agree to a break up of Sri Lanka to concede a separate Eelam. The Tamils will never agree to a unitary form of government under Sinhalese domination. They will never give up the autonomous status, and accept a unitary form of constitution, if they are to be part of one united Sri Lanaka. So much blood has flowed, that neither party is going to give in. Let us face it, there is a de facto government in most of Northeast, but not de jure. In other words, to use the legal terminology in family law, there has been a separation, but not a divorce yet.
The question is how can the two parties be brought back together and allowed to live peacefully in one country. Either or both parties indulging in rhetoric or abuse will not help to solve the problem As a senior Sri Lankan Tamil, my conviction is that the solution has to be a truly federal state within a united Sri Lanka. It has to be a federation, where the central government controls defence, foreign affairs and currency, while all other functions including policing and internal security are controlled by the province. There has to be a full decentralization and autonomy. I do not know what your thinking is, but as an informed Sri Lankan, I would like to hear your opinion.
I am wondering whether someone from the Sinhalese community cannot endeavour to influence Sinhalese public opinion in this direction. I do not think that the Sri Lankan government can defeat the LTTE without terrible loss on both sides. Even if the Sri Lnakn army were to advance into LTTE held territory, the Tamils will wage a devastating guerilla war as is happening now in Iraq.
You as the editor of a pro Sinhala web, can make a start in a small way if you are convinced of my line of thinking. You can avoid columnists writing offensive articles that can only infuriate Tamil feelings. The pro Tamil media will have to do likewise. What is going on is increasing the animosity. Writers like Tisaranee Gunasekera, Mahindapala, Dayan Jayatilake and Walter Jayawardena must do some sole searching.
While in the short term, the LTTE will hold sway over the Northeast, elections will have to be held ultimately within a time frame for the Tamils to choose their representatives. As of now the Tamil National Alliance has to be accepted as the representatives of the Tamils, and they fully support the LTTE. At this point in time, the Tamils will have to present a united front. Elections for the Northeast Provincial Council in course of time will be unavoidable.
There is no way, Tamil parties working with the Sri Lankan army can be acceptable to the Tamils. The unpalatable fact, in my opinion is that Devananda, Karuna, Kadirgamar and Anandasangari are not going to make an impact on the Tamil electorate. Any attempt to boost these personalities will lead to violence and exacerbation of the volatile situation. Neither the Tamils nor the LTTE are going to come to terms with these groups, whom they consider traitors. They have to be discarded if peace is to be ensured.
The Tigers have fought their way to the present position they hold and it is not going to be easy to make them give up their hard won victories. Nor can you expect the Tamils and the Tigers to give up their arms and surrender their fate to the likes of JVP, JHU and Sinhala Urumaya. The Tamils and the Tigers have to be given iron cast guarantees to come to terms. Negotiations have to be between the Srilankan government and the Tamils represented by the LTTE and TNA.
There is no alternative to the Norwegian mediators. It would be puerile to expect any country that has banned the Tigers to act as mediators. A mediator has to be a party that has not taken sides. Maligning the Norwegians is totally destructive. Their departure will only benefit the war mongers.
There is absolutely, no place for the extremist JVP, JHU, or the Tamil factions working with the government. No agreement can be reached when all parties want to have their way. However, it is my belief, that the third community, Muslims have to be brought in at some stage and their interests safeguarded. But no one should be allowed to become spoilers and create deadlock. If the misguided JVP, JHU and the extremist Sinhalese Budhist elements continue to be adamant, war will become unavoidable, and the possibility of a break up of the country may be the result.
You will have to take a bold stand against the extremist Sinhalese elements. There is no need to drag religion into politics. Budhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity have to be given equal respect. No religion can be given priority in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. Religion is entirely a matter for the individuals and not the state.
So also Tamil will have to be recognized as the official language of the Northeast, while Sinhalese will be the official language in the seven Sinhalese provinces. In all parts of the country, people should be guaranteed the opportunity to transact business in Sinhalese or Tamil languages. I believe that English, which is the virtual world language should be the link language between the three communities and external dealings. Hence, like Singapore, Sri Lanaka should recognize three languges - Sinhalese, Tamil and English. The use of English will help the nation to progress with the rest of the world. A good example is Canada where both English and French are equally recognized.
Trust me, most Tamils will stand by Prabaharan and will fight for the cause he has espoused. Tamils in the early days of the independence never wanted separation. If at the time of independence, the Tamils held a higher proportion of government jobs, that was because Tamils, especially Jaffna Tamils, looked upon government service as their main industry. Tamils wanted to be part and parcel of Ceylon in their own interests. The Sinhalese leadership made the biggest mistake of undermining the unity of the country, by keeping the Tamils out of the public services, army and the police, and trying to force the Sinhala language down their throats. Ceylon was doing well when the British left. I am convinced that the Sri Lankan leaders from D.S. Senanayake to Chandrika Kumaratunga, who had the power, have ruined the country, due to their selfish policies. Irreparable damage has been done
Sinhalese cannot point fingers at the Tamils, adopting a superior and holier than thou attitude, because they are in a majority, and still expect the Tamils to accept their domination. The voice of the majority is not the voice of God. National or regional majority communities have to satisfy the minorities to avoid friction and conflict.
Writers have every right to express criticisms, but adjectives and abusive words, and distortion of facts have to be avoided. The Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims have to be treated as equals; no second class citizens.
Mine may be a voice in the wilderness. Nevertheless, I venture to make these suggestions
I would request you to publish this letter, give your opinion on my
views, and invite readers' comments.
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