Tamils won’t go against India’s strategic interests - MP

[TamilNet, Friday, 03 December 2004, 14:17 GMT]
‘The desire to draw limits on the Tamils’ right to self-determination makes the Sri Lankan State align itself with any power that is willing to play along, even to the extent of blatantly seeking the interference of super-powers that would compromise, and put in jeopardy, the strategic interests of India’, said Mr. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Tamil National Alliance MP for Jaffna, speaking on the committee stage debate on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Parliament Friday. The Tamil people won't allow themselves to be used to upset the strategic balance of South Asia, the MP said.

“The Tamil Nation has no intention of working to undermine the interests of any foreign power. At the same time, we have no desire to align ourselves with any power. It would be in the interest of all those who wish to maintain this strategic balance in the region, to ensure the recognition and the existence of a strong and stable Tamil Nation”, Mr. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam.

The following is the full text of his speech:

“Mr. Speaker,

I thank you for allotting me time to speak on the committee stage debate on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sir, many commentators on the Foreign Policy of the government’s of Sri Lanka have lamented about the need for consistency. The thrust of the arguments of the critics has been that, with the coming into power of every new government, the Foreign Policy of the previous government is discarded and the new government makes significant changes.

Changes that result in the re-alignment of foreign allies, which as a result creates uncertainty, not only in how foreign powers perceive the Sri Lankan state, but also in the Sri Lankan state’s approach towards these powers. This criticism is sometimes even made by outgoing Sri Lankan governments of new governments that take office.

As I see it Sir, I believe that these criticisms are unfounded, and are in fact misleading, as they only depict a very superficial understanding of the game at play. Whilst I am prepared to concede that on certain minor issues, that I like to call “peripheral issues”, this might be the case. This certainly cannot be said of, what I call the “core issues” of the Sri Lankan state’s Foreign Policy. What then are these core issues?

The Core Issues of the Sri Lankan state’s Foreign Policy Sir, in sharing my views, on what I consider to be the true intent of the Sri Lankan state’s Foreign Policy, I am mindful of the fact that I am in an enviable position of being able to be frank, even to the extent of being blunt. I am in a position to argue against critics in a way that no Minister will be able to, for fear of being politically incorrect.

The truth is Sir, there are two cardinal rules that have been followed by consecutive Sri Lankan governments, regardless of which-ever party that formed government. The first of these rules is the “effective undermining and marginalization of the Tamil National struggle for self-determination” politically. The second being the need to “secure and strengthen the Sri Lankan state, both financially and militarily, so that the Balance of Power shifts in its favor when dealing with the Tamil Nation, in order to force the Sri Lankan state’s agenda on the Tamil Nation”.

First rule of the Core Issues The steps adopted for the effective political undermining and marginalization of the Tamil National struggle for self-determination has evolved over the years. Initially, governments chose to project the situation as one of Tamil chauvinism - A minority community living within the Sinhala Nation that is Sri Lanka, which is suffering from an unacceptable majority complex.

However, history argued against this approach. Not only does history prove the existence of the Tamils as a distinct Nation of People from that of the Sinhalese; with its own language, traditions, cultures, territory and legacy, but that since the departure of the British, the Tamil Nation that is numerically smaller, had been oppressed by the larger Sinhala Nation.

With the Tamil National struggle making the transition from non-violence, to challenging the Sri Lankan state militarily, a parallel transition took place in the Foreign Policy of governments. The old crude approach, gave way to a more sophisticated one that tried to hide the still overriding desire to undermine and marginalize the Tamil struggle for self-determination.

This new approach, initially tried to project the Tamil military struggle as one of pure “terrorism”, which eventually was fine tuned to artificially draw a distinction between the militants and the civilians. The militants, according to the Sri Lankan state, had to be pursued with a military solution, whilst the Tamil civilians needed to be pursued with a political solution. The direct result of this was the formulation of the “War for Peace” policy.

This latest policy resulted in a concerted effort to project the LTTE as “terrorists” that needed to be isolated world wide by a comprehensive Ban. This policy of countering so called terrorism also enabled the Sri Lankan Foreign Missions in many countries to begin gathering information on expatriate Tamils through the creation of Special Intelligence Units. These Units continue to focus heavily on countering and preventing Tamil expatriate agitation against the Sri Lankan State.

Sir, this two pronged approach of artificially distinguishing between the LTTE and the Tamil civilians suffered a fatal blow in the year 2000/2001. The tremendous increase in the LTTE’s military capability, as evidenced by the military reversals suffered by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, along with the sweeping victory of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) at consecutive elections, effectively destroyed this two pronged strategy.

There came into being an un-questionable parity between the Sri Lankan State and the Tamil Nation. This conveniently brings me to the second cardinal rule of the Foreign Policy of Sri Lanka.

Second rule of the Core Issues Sir, this second cardinal rule centres along the increasing realization by Sri Lankan governments, that whilst no stone will be left un-turned in trying to destroy the Tamil National struggle for self-determination, this seems very unlikely to succeed. It has now dawned on the governments to take “damage-control” measures. The parity, or the Balance of Power that has come about between the protagonists to the conflict, must somehow be shifted in the favor of the State of Sri Lanka, in order to draw limits to the right to self-determination that the Tamil Nation seeks.

This naked desire, will lead the Sri Lankan State to align itself with any power that is willing to play along. Even to the extent of blatantly seeking the interference of global super-powers that would compromise, and put in jeopardy, the strategic interests of the regional super-power. It was such moves that were the underlying factors that resulted in the Indo-Lanka Accord. The Accord’s primary purpose being to re-establish the strategic balance in the region, as evidenced by the letters of exchange prior to the signing of the Accord.

What critics of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy should understand is that, whilst the nature of the relationships with foreign states may differ and fluctuate from time to time, the underlying policy that creates these fluctuations, is in fact the firm and consistent policy of the Sri Lankan State to undermine, and hopefully destroy the Tamil National struggle.

Tamil Nation’s approach Sir, all that I have just mentioned, only goes to prove yet again, the refusal of the Sri Lankan State to accommodate the Tamil Nation. It works on the premises that, the Sri Lankan state can only survive through the non-recognition of the existence of the Tamil Nation. Ironically, it is this very same philosophy that has projected the Tamil Nation as an entity separate from that of the Sri Lankan State to the external world. How else can one explain the fact that Sri Lanka’s Foreign Policy argues against the interests of, its so-called “own people”?

In this background Sir, the Tamil Nation has been forced to develop our own policy to deal with the external world. We have over the years clearly demonstrated this policy, both in word and deeds. The primary focus of this policy has been to explain to the world what our National struggle is all about - we are only concerned about realizing our National political aspirations one way or another.

The Tamil Nation has no intention of working to undermine the interests of any foreign power. At the same time, we have no desire to align ourselves with any power. Our approach is one of Non-Alignment in the truest sense of the word. However, what all concerned parties must also realize is that we have never, and we will not allow ourselves to be used to upset the strategic balance of the region.

In fact, I wish to conclude by saying that it would be in the interest of all those who wish to maintain this strategic balance in the region, to ensure the recognition and the existence of a strong and stable Tamil Nation.

I thank you Sir”.

 

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