United Nations and the Tamils issue:
Moves by a few Western nations to take up the ethnic conflict to the United Nations Security Council with a view to bring about a resolution, is a welcome move. The conflict in Sri Lanka has reached the critical stage, where the United Nations Organization has to intervene to bring about a mutually acceptable frame-work resolution to end the crisis in the country.
Already, the Sri Lankan government has internationalized the ethnic conflict, whilst claiming the conflict as an internal matter. The contradictory posture of the Sri Lankan government is a deleterious calculated move to desist the international community showing interest in the sorry plight of the Tamils.
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge in her last appearance at the 53rd General Assembly of the United Nations, held in September 1998, drag the issue of the ethnic conflict to floor of the UN General Assembly. In her address, she declared, My Government is firmly committed in redressing ethnic grievances peacefully through political discussion and negotiations in which leaders of all communities, political parties and other groups participated. Only the LTTE - (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), chooses to prowl the path of violence resorting to terror to achieve their goals which they alone espouse. She went on, as usual name-calling and leveling charges against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).
Since the Presidents declaration in the General Assembly, nearly two years have elapsed, but still the President could not bring about a peaceful resolution to ethnic conflict. The Tamils has no representation in the UN Organization. Unfortunately, to date, UN failed to devise the necessary mechanism, to get the other side of the story, to put the record straight.
Sri Lankan government, relentlessly seeks military and arms' assistance from numerous countries, to subdue the Tamil Tigers. According to reports, numerous countries have come forward to supply arms, air-crews, military personnel in the pretext of advisors, other technical staffs and training facilities. Thus, those countries are getting directly involved in the ethnic conflict, well aware of the fact that, their involvement amounted to aiding and abetting the genocidal onslaught against the Tamils, a nation which struggles to exerts it right of self-determination.
Arming states involved in ethnic cleansing amounts to the re-entry of the cold war epoch in a new version. Earlier the world breathed the sigh of relief that the cold war ended, but by supplying arms and ammunitions and providing training facilities to countries involved in unjust wars, world is alarmingly reminded of the continuance of the cold war culture. Though the world begins to witness less and less of the war between states, but it becomes apparent that, far more people have been killed recently in civil wars and ethnic cleansing, undertaken by states against its own people and by those people who struggle establish their own identity by means of self-determination.
Sovereignty - the inalienable rights of the people.
When the question of UN intervention arises, Sri Lankan government emphasizes the issue of Sovereignty, to prevent such interventions by the UN Security Council. So far the Government has successfully shadow-boxed to prevent the conflict issue being discussed, but as situation worsens, the issue warrants UN Security Councils immediate intervention and focus.
Recently, Lakshman Kadirgamar, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister was asked by a weekly English spreadsheet in Colombo (Sunday Times) about moves to get the UN Security Council involved in the ethnic conflict.
(Question) But Mr. Minister, we understand there are moves to bring a resolution at the UN Assembly by a Western nation to discuss the Sri Lankan situation?
In reply, Lakshman Kadirgamar said as follows:
(Answer) Well. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the debate last year at the General Assembly saying the time has come when sovereignty is not paramount, and that it will have to yield to human rights. During the debate the West was in favor of the UN Secretary Generals position, but Russia, China, Central Europe, Non-Aligned Nations, ourselves, we were dead against it. Now we have a situation in Siera Leone, which is much worse than ours. The British have come in. A UN peace-keeping force is there and its an un-holy mess there. But this has wetted appetite of some powers. The Chinese and Russians will not allow the UN Security Council getting involved in Sri Lanka. This our internal situation - We appreciate the help of friendly countries, but we must maintain our dignity and self-respect however small a country we are, whatever difficulties we have got ourselves into. Our position still is that sovereignty is paramount.
Though the Foreign Minister replied, he avoided the pertinent question and replied about sovereignty, which was not raised. It is important to note that, he had not denied of the move by a Western nation to bring up the Sri Lankan issue to the UN Security Council. Foreign Minister also has failed to take cognizance of an important aspect about Sovereignty, that means, an independent political authority or supremacy of authority, which flows from the inalienable rights of the people.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1842), the third President of the United States of America (1801-1809) said, All men are created equal and independent and from the equal creation, they deserve rights - rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The Constitution of Sri Lanka (adopted on 22 May 1972) states: Chapter 1 - The People, The State and Sovereignty:
3 In the Republic of Sri Lanka, Sovereignty is in the people and is inalienable.
Again in the current constitution -The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka - 1978: Chapter 1 - The people, The State and Sovereignty:
3.In the Republic of Sri Lanka the Sovereignty is in the People and it is inalienable.
Sovereignty flows in drops from every individual in a country, which subsequently confluent and converges into the iron grip of a government. Therefore, it becomes apparent that the sovereignty is vested with people and the state has no authority to usurp the inalienable right inherent with the people to fight a section of the people. If a section of the people in a state, shows outwardly their discontent with the form of government adopted, they have every right to openly exhibit their displeasure, dissatisfaction and resent. Also they possess the inalienable right to seek for secession. The so called sovereignty claimed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs is of non-existence in nature, when an ethnic group disclaimed their Sri Lankan nationality and posits with a distinctive nationality - The Tamils.
Millennium Report by Koffi Annan
On 4 April 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan outlined his vision of the United Nations in the 21st century - a world body that would use smart sanctions to punish dictators, while sparing innocent civilians. The proposal contained in a Millennium Report, represents Koffi Annans untiring effort, yet to shape the future of the United Nations, as an institution that safeguards the rights, interest and well-being of the people and not the states.
The 57-page report, according to Kofi Annan is a, Attempt to present a comprehensive account of the main challenges facing humanity as the world enters the 21st century, combined with plan of action for dealing with them. He further commented about his report, That may sound absurdly ambitious, but if the United Nations does not attempt to chart a course for the worlds people in the first decades of the new millennium, who will?
The report acknowledged that, the United Nations has not kept up with changes in the international order. To bring the United Nations up to date, Koffi Annan wants it to focus on the people, rather than on the member governments that has traditionally been its constituents. This would allow it to side with citizens against governments in Kosovo-type cases.
He said that, he hopes the report would stimulate debate among world leaders who will meet for two days in New York, starting 6 September 2000, to develop a long term future agenda for the United Nations. Relevant excerpts of the report of Kofi Annan, who dealt severely the belated argument raised by Lakshman Kadirgamar regarding Sovereignty, under sub-para. C. Addressing the dilemma of intervention, is as follows:
215. In my address to the General Assembly last September, I called on Member States to unite in the pursuit of more effective policies to stop organized mass murder and egregious violations of human rights. Although I emphasized that intervention embraced a wide continuum of responses, from diplomacy to armed action, it was the latter option that generated most controversy in the debate that followed.
216. Some critics were concerned that the concept of humanitarian intervention could become a cover for gratuitous interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Others felt that it might encourage secessionist movements deliberately to provoke governments into committing gross violations of human rights in order to trigger external interventions that would aid their cause. Still others noted that there is little consistency in the practice of intervention, owing to its inherent difficulties and costs as well as perceived national interests - except that weak states are far more likely to be subjected to it than strong ones.
217. I recognize both the force and the importance of these arguments. I also accept that the principles of sovereignty and non-interference offer vital protection to small and weak states. But to the critics I would pose this question: if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica - to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?
218. We confront a real dilemma. Few would disagree that both the defence of humanity and the defence of sovereignty are principles that must be supported. Alas, that does not tell us which principle should prevail when they are in conflict.
219. Humanitarian intervention is a sensitive issue, fraught with political difficulty and not susceptible to easy answers. But surely no legal principle - not even sovereignty - can ever shield crimes against humanity. Where such crimes occur and peaceful attempts to halt them have been exhausted, the Security Council has a moral duty to act on behalf of the international community. The fact that we cannot protect people everywhere is no reason for doing nothing when we can. Armed intervention must always remain the option of last resort, but in the face of mass murder it is an option that cannot be relinquished.
Recently, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) of Tamil Nadu, India, at its emergency meeting appealed to the United Nations to intervene and help to create an independent Eelam, so that war in the island would come to an end. This appeal of the PMK is not without precedent.
The creation of the State of Israel ( in Hebrew Medinat Yisrael, Arabic: Dalwat Israil, Latin: Israel - area 7992 sq.miles not including 7000 sq.miles of occupied territories including Syrias Golan Heights in the north, West Bank of Jordan in the East and Gaza Strip in the South-west formerly administered by Egypt, is an important milestone that deserves deeper analysis of its implication at this point of time.
Britains inability to reconcile the conflicting demands of the Jewish and Arab communities led the British government to request that the "Question of Palestine" be placed on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly (April 1947). A special committee was constituted to draft proposals concerning the country's future. On 29 November 1947, the General Assemblys proposal to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish, one Arab. It would involve in effect, recognizing UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the vote that had served as a birth certificate for the State of Israel. The UN resolution helped in the emergence of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, when the British Mandate came to an end, but the Arabs rejected the resolution.
Later, on 14 October 1974, the United Nations General Assembly resolved in favor of inviting the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to join in the discussion, as representatives of the Palestinian people, in the General Assembly. It was the first opportunity the PLO ever got to present the case of the Palestinian people to the world on record. The PLO was a banned organization in the United States of America, however Chairman Yasser Arafat (Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini is his name in the university record; born in Cairo to the Palestinian parents on 4 August 1929. Yasser is the nick name, but in Arabic it means - care-free or easy going; also he is called: Abu Ammar) visited New York and addressed the UN General Assembly.
When he entered the General Assembly to address in his drab fatigues, bone colored jacket, dark glasses and the ever present checkered keffieyeh - head dress, folded as ever in the shape of Palestine, the members gave him a standing ovation. Once positioned at the UN lectern, he made use of the unparalleled opportunity to bring the grievances of the Palestinians to the worlds attention.
Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighters gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. .. I am a rebel and freedom is my cause, proclaimed Yasser Arafat in his maiden address in the General Assembly, on 13 November 1974, which reverberated all over. This goes to proof that already precedent has been set by inviting the PLO to attend as representatives of the Palestinian people to the UN and to participate in the discussion that dealt on the Palestinian issue.
The debate on the Palestinian issue lasted for nine days in the General Assembly. The crowning movement arrived on 22 November 1974, when the General Assembly adopted two resolutions - endorsing the right of self-determination for the Palestinians and granting to the PLO, the observer status in UN institutions.
The international community is aware that the Tamils opposes the social and political system prevalent in the island. They have successfully challenged the Sri Lankan governments claim of sovereignty for the past 51 years. The issue of sovereignty is under dispute, as the Tamils have overwhelmingly rejected the overlordship of the government. Earlier, they registered their rejection through passive and democratic channels. Once the moderate politician failed then, the Tamil militants took up the challenge through armed conflict that they consider it an extension of the political process.
Sri Lankan tragedy.
Legal suppression, social discrimination and the military subjugation unleashed, tested the limits of theirs restrains to clamor against controls. Finally, through armed struggle they have challenged and disputed any claim over them, ultimately resulting in the demand for a UN Security Councils binding frame-work resolution, mutually acceptable to both parties to the conflict.
This is Sri Lanka today, a story of human tragedy. How much more pain the Tamils should endure due to Government's impalpable policy of "War for Peace" Daily the electronic and print media bombards with gory details of the on-going military campaigns. It is nauseating to witness a government elected to safeguard the people, adopts genocidal measures to annihilate a section of the community.
War is a cruel campaign of almost unrelieved barbarity. Some political thinkers speak of just and unjust wars. In real terms, there is no such things as just and unjust qualitative distinction in any war. Once a war is proclaimed, the enemies are identified for subjugation, conquest and enslavement. A war is a calamity and a social disorder, where the state unleashes violence to compel the opponents to subdue to the states armed machination. In the light of the above definition the proclamation and continuance of war against the Tamils and the Tamil Tigers are the reflection of the innate aggression in the Sri Lankan leadership.
War in Sri Lanka is a search for political glory, where the spoils of victory seem to be the major motivation. Recently, Chandrika Kumaratunga in a clarion call to the Sri Lankan troops, declared, Your stirring spirit is born out of patriotism and the great urge to liberate the motherland, I am sure, will not waver before any power on earth. I know that you possess the capability and the determination to defeat the enemy. Chandrika Kumaratunges declaration draws to the memory, the statement made in the Chamber of Deputies on 8 March 1918, by Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) the two times Prime minister for France -- 1906-1909 and 1917-20. My home policy? I wage war. My foreign policy? I wage war. Always everywhere I wage war.
Dispossession of the Tamils.
Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is the byproduct of the majoritarian chauvinistic ethnocentricity. This was the very President in 1998, unceremoniously disclaimed the originality and descent of the Tamils, but today she is claiming to fight to safeguard those very Tamils she earlier dispossessed.
The word original has driven home the political theology of the contemporary Sri Lanka, thus opening up an age-old controversy anew, by no less a person other than the President of the country. Original means, pertaining to the origin or beginning, also archaic - the source or cause from which something arises.
The word came into political focus, when the Sri Lankan President was on an official visit to South Africa, and when she replied to the South African state television interlocutor, They are wanting a separate state - a minority community, which is not the original people of the country-, a clear reference to the Tamils. Subsequently, Sri Lankan state-controlled television Rupavahini, reproduced the same interview, in its evening 10 Oclock, English news, on 5 September 1998.
By a statement of this nature, it was alleged that, the Sri Lankan President, has indecorously dispossessed the Tamils their indigenous propensity and originality, thus arousing the masses to the awareness of the oppressive nature of certain events in the history, that this statement would tend to generate. Further it was alleged, that the statement seeks as its primary task, the awakening of the Sinhalese masses from apathy, in order to settle a score with the Tamils. Statement, considered a dereliction of truth, portrays that, desperate people resort to desperate measures, accordingly, for ambivalence and split personality.
Shibboleth of this kind, was nothing new forthcoming from the Sinhalese leadership. During the last fifty-one years of the post-independence era, emotive claims of ethnic nationalism emerged to the forefront, as the government led by the leaders of the Sinhalese community, proceeded to implement a fully biased ethnic political agenda. Since 1948, the moderate Tamil leaders have made persistent effort to claim their rights through the accepted democratic norms, but only to be met with political chicanery, failure and suppression by organized ruthless ethnic violence unleashed with a sickening regularity.
In 1948, nearly one million Tamils in the up-country were disfranchised and made stateless and voteless. Sinhala language and Buddhism were given the foremost place, and the government obstreperously unleashed legal terrorism in the beginning, to be followed by the ethnic upheavals, to the present military adventurism, to subdue the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils. Unfortunately, utterance of the President, is another form of a design, to discriminate the citizens into original people and non-original people, suspected a continuation of an age long historical anachronistic ploy, reintroduced with innuendo and malice to create majority ethnocentrism.
A countrys history usually begins with the origin of the country. Sri Lankan historians failed to record the origin, the geographical pattern and the study of the human evolution in the country, considering the changes that took place in shaping the present geographical structure and its people. The study of the historical- geography is essential to shed light on the origin of the country, that separated from India and became an insular land-mass.
The Sinhalese base their pre-historic reference on Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, the two earliest ecclesiastical chronicles, compiled in Pali, written with a certain mission, to narrate how the people were proselytized as Buddhists and its propagation. Dipavamsa, compiled in its extant form, between the beginning of the fourth and the first third of the fifth century AD, aimed to set forth the history of the coming of Buddha to the island, propagation of Buddhism, the arrival of the relics and the Bo tree, and the coming of Vijaya, along with his band of 700 men. In the second stanza of Dipavamsa, the anonymous author demanded: Listen attentively to me, which inspires joy and delight, which causes serenity and gladness of the mind, which comprises many various forms.
Similarly, the Mahavamsa compiled by, Mahanama, (AD 496-513), a monk of the Mahaveera chapter. Whilst Dipavamsa presented the first clumsy redaction in Pali verses, Mahavamsa was the new treatment of the same old subject. End of each chapter, the priestly author concludes Compiled for the serene joy and emotion of the pious. However, Mahavamsa made killing a virtue in defence of Buddhism and in its eulogy of the victories of the Sinhala king over the Tamil king, resulted in viewing passionately the Sinhalese - Tamil relationship, as one of perpetual conflict and confrontation.
The History of a country has to begin from certain definite date. Priestly authors who compiled Buddhist chronicles, began with the demise of Buddha and the landing of Vijaya with his men. Also, they inserted unashamedly a prediction in the mouth of Lord Buddha, to raise the importance of the Island - Vijaya, son of king Sihabahu is come to Lanka from the country of Lala, together with seven hundred followers. In Lanka, O lord of gods, will my religion be established, therefore carefully protect him with his followers in Lanka.
The Buddhist chronicles failed to give details of the ancient history of the country, but offered how the Sihala (Sinhala people), the so called immigrant race from North India, came into existence, due to the totemic origin of Vijayas father Sihabahu.
This resulted in the emergence of a chimera, an unrealistic imaginary notion that, Sinhalese being the sons of the soil and all others, non-Buddhists and the non-Sinhalese, are allowed to live on a temporary basis, by a concession granted by the arrogant master race. Conveniently the Sinhalese historian distorted the fact that Tamils lived in Sri Lanka which was called Ihlam, an independent political entity up to 1621. Let it be known that, the present conflict is to retrieve the very status of that sovereign independent political entity and the traditional homeland of the Tamils.
Mediation and facilitation:
To recall to memory, Dr.G.S.Dhillon, the leader of the Indian delegation to the 42nd session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, summed up the plight of the Tamils in the following words:
The blatant killing of innocent civilians, through ground, naval and air actions are beginning to look like victimization of the entire community of Sri Lankan Tamils by the Sri Lankan Security forces. Attacks on innocent civilians have been repeated too often with ever increasing severity. They have been picked up on mere suspicion, brutally tortured, some even killed. These allegations against the Sri Lankan armed forces are still relevant.
India in 1987, tried to mediate the conflict and later facilitate and guarantee a peaceful resolution, but unfortunately it has failed miserably when it ordered its soldiers to turn their guns against the Tamils and Tamil militants for whom they earlier claimed to have come forward to safeguard. Now, Norway has emerged to broker peace. So far it is not clear the role Norway intends playing? It is still unclear, whether Norway would come forward, either to mediate, or to facilitate and guarantee the peace in the Island, where the protracted conflict looms.
Presently, India, even United States of America have expressed their willingness to mediate in the ethnic conflict, if in case both parties to conflict, request for mediation or facilitation. This shows the growing concern of the international community regarding the deteriorating situation, at a sickening speed, with deadly regularity. Whatever said and done, without any prejudice to these great nations, taking into consideration the very fact that Sri Lankan government for the past 51 years has failed to honor any of its pledges to the Tamils, therefore any peace mediation has to be based on a basic framework resolution, mutually acceptable, coming from the UN Security Council as a binding resolution.
Those countries, which come forward to mediate or facilitate have to play their role openly without setting any pre-conditions. Recently, the Indian leaders said that India would continue to work for a negotiated settlement within the framework of the Sri Lankan constitution. India stressed that New Delhi would not offer to broker peace between the LTTE and Colombo unless asked for by both the parties. India also asserted that LTTE would not be accorded recognition, even if it established control over the Jaffna peninsula. India's offer with numerous pre-conditions, reflected its attitude to impose it's will and not its openness in solving the problem. Already the Sri Lankan President announced of her proposal to adopt a new constitution aimed at devolving powers. Therefore it is unclear of what India is trying to drive at by stating of a negotiated settlement within the framework of the Sri Lankan constitution.
Before the escalation of the war, Norway tried to put together a plan aimed at bringing the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government to the negotiating table. Erik Solheim, who leads Oslos peace initiative said: "We will find a political solution which devolves power and is also democratic. He further added, "We also have to discuss this with India. We can't have a permanent solution without having an understanding with India." United Nations Security council has to come up with a resolution to formulate a frame-work agreement to settle the conflict conclusively. In the event, any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council decides to block such a move in the Security Council, using their veto powers, it would amounts to their inconsiderate, imperious inhuman attitude to the genocidal campaign unleash against the Tamils.
Political quagmire continues:
As the war in the Jaffna peninsula continues, cracks have begun to appear in Sri Lankan leaders' position on the war in the north with the Tamil Tigers with leader of the opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe clearly indicating that he believes the imminent loss of Jaffna to the LTTE means doom for President Chandrika Kumaratunga's government.
The government, which has grown increasingly sensitive on the state of affairs in the North, is desperate to halt the Tigers advance at any cost unmindful of the deadly consequences. Desperateness has marred any justifiable rationale behind Chandrika Kumaratunges the continuance of the war.
Politicians' efforts in Colombo are now shifting to a post-war scenario, in which the only hypothetical certainty is that an independent Tamil state in the north-east would not be recognized by India or any other country. Any how political experts are of the opinion that, the situation might change once a clearer picture emerges, when the war is brought to an end.
Therefore the LTTE at some point would have to negotiate, and they would likely do so from a position of strength, having taken over Jaffna. The practical question arises whether such negotiations with the Sri Lankan Government directly would bring about any substantial resolution. Political experts beliefs that a third party mediated negotiation based on a mutually accepted frame-work resolution adopted by the UN Security Council might be the best way out for any workable resolution to the conflict.
In conclusion, if in case the Sri Lankan government fails to recognize the harsh realities and refuse to compromise, then there is the danger of war spilling to other parts of the Island, other than the north and east, where death and destruction would be greater than what is being presently experienced.