Opinion Article

Sri Lanka and International Community

[TamilNet, Sunday, 24 June 2007, 18:05 GMT]
Nation, nation-state and nationalism are manifestations of a psychological phenomenon, experienced collectively by a group of people. It is a feeling of attachment and identity that comes naturally. Nationalism cannot be dictated to unwilling sections of the peoples of a country, whoever may come forward guaranteeing the territorial integrity of that country. Such guarantees may be meaningful when one nation invades others, but not when there is a genuine struggle for freedom within a country.

Atlantic Charter
Churchill and Roosevelt at the rendezvous for signing the eight-point Atlantic Charter.
A key principle of the Atlantic Charter, signed in 1941 between the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, envisaging the Post-War World, was the right of the people to choose the form of government under which they will live. Giving guarantees of territorial integrity to an oppressive state, which go against the oppressed section of people of that country, is forgetting the lessons of history.

As a nation-state, Sri Lanka is a miserable failure. The roots of its failure lie in the way the Sinhalese and Tamils understood the concept of nationalism, introduced to them through colonial legacies and the way the constitutional foundations were laid by the British. It was the British colonialism that experimented with a united Ceylon in 1838. Five colonial constitutions from 1838 to 1945, resisting opinions for federalism, helped only for the escalation of the divide. The genesis of the political divide is around hundred years old.

DS - Soulbury
Lord Soulbury [seated] inaugurating the parliament of Ceylon after Independence in 1948. Even the insignificant minority safeguards guaranteed in the Soulbury constitution of 1945 were removed when Sri Lanka became a Republic in 1972.
Bandung Conference
Bandung 1955: Non-Alignment had a bearing on Indo-Ceylon Relationship and the Tamil question.
After independence, the dominant fear for the Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism was possible Indian reaction to persecution of minorities in Ceylon. There was a time when all sections of Tamils looked upon India as their saviour. The Sinhala politicians effectively played international cards such as participation in Non-Alignment and relationship with China and Pakistan, either to deceive India or to keep her at bay on the ethnic crisis. Falling prey, Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri had to sacrifice the interests of even the Tamils of their own Indian origin.

Indira Gandhi was the first Indian leader to recognize the Tamil struggle. The foreign policies of the J.R. Jayawardene government could have been a reason to it. The mishandling of the issue by Rajiv Gandhi regime, once again partly due to the deceiving ways of Sinhala politicians, resulted in spoiling all possibilities of resolving the crisis within the region. India no longer is in the position of policing South Asia.

It is now no secret that powerful countries have entered into Sri Lanka’s conflict in the garb of International Community. They guarantee to buttress the territorial integrity of an erring and collapsing state, pledge significant amounts of money, equate a domestic freedom struggle with international terrorism and equate the human rights violations of the oppressed with that of the oppressors.

From the outset, the very framework adopted by them, in dealing with the Sri Lankan crisis, cast serious doubts on the neutrality and intentions of the International Community.

Is the nomenclature IC a smokescreen for an alignment of oppressors? Is it really powerful enough to resolve the hangover of the redundant concept of nation-state or just twists arms with the weakest sections of humanity? Does this IC endorse ethnic cleansing? Does it consider the concept of freedom struggle outdated in contemporary times? The leading member of the IC won't be existing today, had there been no war of independence for its emergence. Is there any double standard employed by the IC in endorsing some, but negating other freedom struggles? Does it guarantee a united Sri Lanka just because the present government is prepared to sell out the country and its resources? Are we entering into a New Colonial Order, implemented by the followers of Samuel Huntington? These are questions that are raised in the media circles currently.

Co-chairs meet in U.S, November 2006
The Co-Chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference on Sri Lanka Peace Process, met last in the U.S in November 2006. [L-R] U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns, Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim, Japanese Special Envoy Yasushi Akashi and European Commission Director General for External Relations Herve Jouanjean
The phrase 'International Community' has become a Mantra, chanted every now and then, in the Post-Cold War era. What we witness in one part of the world, ie., the very birthplace of old nations and new nations, is redefined nationalism. The rhetoric of the day in this part of the world, are postmodernism, deconstruction, cultural identity, cultural pluralism and freedom to choose one’s way of life. But, in another part of the world, we find the IC busily trying to salvage a colonial creation and a wreck of a nation-state that has no respect for plurality. The so-called IC has the responsibility of proving its credibility to the people it deals with, however humble and weak those people might be. If disillusioned with IC, such small formations may not be able to resist themselves to look for alternatives.

The term International Community itself is a matter for deconstruction. It still has 'national' in it, despite the fall of nation-states. It may perhaps to mean that they represent Governments and the ruling world. But, we are reminded of a larger phenomenon today— a Global Community, armed with the Information and Communication Revolution, silently, but not sheepishly watching everything and everyone. This Global Community is the real Big Brother of the 21st century.

The phenomenon of LTTE is more important for analysis than the organisation itself. This phenomenon is the manifestation of a deeply hurt and bleeding society. Any flaws on the part of the LTTE have to be dealt with by that very society and not by others. It is fair for the IC to give a chance to the LTTE and the Tamil society to prove their credibility.

It is perhaps time for the LTTE to extend friendly hands to Tamil Muslims, former militants of various organizations and like-minded people; recognizing their roles and sacrifices and forgetting all bitter legacies of the past.

Anyone who think that by hiring outsiders they can get rid of the phenomenon of Tamil nationalism, are making a mistake. It is very difficult to imagine how those who connive with a government like that of Mr. Rajapaksa are ever going to defend themselves to the posterity.

Mahinda Rajapaksa
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa
The Sri Lanka government and its ministers are engaged in a propaganda that the Tamil rights will be restored once the LTTE is militarily defeated. They highlight this agenda as a pre-condition which only can convince the Sinhala masses for a political solution. This deceptive propaganda seems to be having some effect outside. The sophisticated deception of the seasoned Sinhala elite, when it comes to the Tamil question, is sure a new experience for outsiders. Those who live with it, know better.

Thinking of constitutional reforms to resolve the national question of Sri Lanka, we are reminded of colonial times when it was said that every time Mother Britain decided tailoring a new dress for its colonial child, the child outgrew it. The Tamil question has attained full adulthood now, running a parallel government and having conventional forces of land, sea and air, achieved entirely through self effort. However, Mr. Rajapaksa is in no mood to offer any dress to Tamils. He thinks he can settle the matter by offering an old-styled undergarment—a loincloth of the size of what he uses to display around his neck.

The reality today is that anyone who harbours a wish to see a united and prosperous Island of Sri Lanka has to first concede Thamizh Eezham and allow Tamils to build the state peacefully. It is possible that in a matter of a few years, the Tamils and Sinhalese may forge unity once again, but this time a strong bondage, reinforced with self respect.


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