A Per­ma­nent So­lu­tion?

The strug­gle for a sep­a­rate Tamil Ee­lam con­tin­ues

Southasia - - Contents - By Maria Sai­fud­din Ef­fendi

Whether the puni­tive ac­tion against the Lib­er­a­tion Tigers of Tamil Ee­lam (LTTE) can en­sure pos­i­tive peace at so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic lev­els was among the most im­por­tant ques­tions raised af­ter the killing of Vellupu­lai Parb­hakran by the Sri Lankan army. Af­ter nearly three decades of be­ing con­flict stricken, Sri Lanka is cur­rently go­ing through a tran­si­tional phase.

Dur­ing the tran­si­tional phase of any con­flict, a so­ci­ety as­sumes slow progress and de­vel­op­ment in ev­ery sphere; pol­i­tics is no ex­cep­tion. The coun­try is fac­ing chal­lenges and risks at var­i­ous fronts. In­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment agen­cies are con­duct­ing post­war peace build­ing pro­cesses. They are fund­ing and sup­port­ing on­go­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and ini­tia­tives for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of war vic­tims as well as the re­con­struc­tion of a war torn so­ci­ety.

To en­sure a long last­ing peace process, it is per­ti­nent to stream­line un­in­ter­rupted and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, fur­ther the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process to re­move eth­nic para­noia amongst all groups and have a vi­able and cul­tur­ally sen­si­tive peace-build­ing pro­gram in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. Fol­low­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions of al­leged war crimes, re­build­ing the in­ter­na­tional im­age of Sri Lanka is also crit­i­cally im­por­tant. How­ever, more press­ing is­sues such as the re-in­te­gra­tion of the LTTE in the so­cio-eco­nomic sys­tem to pre­vent them from re­cu­per­at­ing their mil­i­tary strength, pose a se­ri­ous risk and chal­lenge to the Gov­ern­ment.

In the back­drop of Op­er­a­tion 2009, ex­pec­ta­tions de­vel­oped for a quick mech­a­nism to ad­dress and re­dress the eth­nic griev­ances of the Tamil mi­nor­ity. The lack of po­lit­i­cal will to dis­cuss and ex­per­i­ment dif­fer­ent op­tions, in­clud­ing the grant­ing of to­tal au­ton­omy or cre­at­ing Tamil Ee­lam through a ref­er­en­dum un­der UN aus­pices, frame the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal sce­nario of Sri Lanka.

Since the be­gin­ning of 2012, In­dian lead­ers have been vis­it­ing the coun­try to gauge and dis­cuss the po­lit­i­cal scene. In­dian Min­is­ter for Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs, S.M. Kr­ishna vis­ited the coun­try in early 2012 fol­lowed by In­dian Op­po­si­tion leader, Sushma Swaraj, who re­cently vis­ited Colombo and dis­cussed var­i­ous is­sues in­clud­ing the 13th amend­ment (for more power shar­ing in the prov­inces).

Since In­dia hosts a size­able Tamil com­mu­nity, it is gen­uinely con­cerned for a bet­ter and fea­si­ble con­flict man­age­ment process to ad­dress Tamil de­pri­va­tions. The In­dian ex­pe­ri­ence of peace­keep­ing in the is­land coun­try does not serve as pleas­ant mem­ory amongst the In­dian Gov­ern­ment or the mil­i­tary.

Karunanidhi, former chief min­is­ter of Tamil Nadu, has said that a ref­er­en­dum, con­ducted by the UN, to es­tab­lish the Tamil Ee­lam is the only so­lu­tion. He ar­gues that a num­ber of coun­tries have gained recog­ni­tion through the UN and post war Sri Lanka is no dif­fer­ent. This par­tic­u­lar state­ment raised eye­brows in In­dia as to how an al­ready dis­sat­is­fied Tamil com­mu­nity in Sri Lanka could chal­lenge the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of the two coun­tries. The Tamil tigers are known for their tac­tic to lay low, re­gain their mil­i­tary strength and hit back with greater force. Keep­ing strate­gic and ge­o­graph­i­cal purview in the scene, In­dia is more in­ter­ested to an­tic­i­pate and sup­port a fed­eral so­lu­tion un­der uni­tary per­spec­tive to cure eth­nic and so­cio-eco­nomic ills of Sri Lanka.

At home, there is pal­pa­ble un­rest among the Tamil mi­nor­ity as the war crimes are con­sid­ered a ques­tion of geno­cide. Given the bit­ter past, the Tamil com­mu­nity has lost all hope and trust in a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to their prob­lems. To them, any per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to their griev­ances is noth­ing short of an in­de­pen­dent state called Tamil Ee­lam; an au­ton­o­mous en­tity that will bring an end to the neg­a­tive peace Sri Lanka is cur­rently en­dur­ing.

On the con­trary, the Sin­hala dom­i­nated Gov­ern­ment is nei­ther talk­ing about im­ple­ment­ing the 13th amend­ment nor has it of­fered any power shar­ing pack­age to Jaffna, the cap­i­tal of the North­ern Prov­ince of Sri Lanka. Re­view­ing the state­ment by former Chief Min­is­ter of Tamil Nadu, the Sri Lanka gov­ern­ment does not wish to sur­ren­der its na­tional in­ter­ests by hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum or de­cid­ing the fate of the Tamil mi­nor­ity through or un­der UN aus­pices. In any case, a fed­eral so­lu­tion within a uni­tary frame­work sounds fa­vor­able.

Re­gion­ally, any so­lu­tion out of ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity or fed­eral ar­range­ment would not be wel­comed by any South Asian state. Un­for­tu­nately, all eight states are tur­moil prone and serve as a hot­bed of in­ter­nal cri­sis, civil war and se­ces­sion­ist el­e­ments or in­sur­gen­cies. If the Tamil mi­nor­ity is given the priv­i­lege to hold a ref­er­en­dum or is given a UN spon­sored so­lu­tion then Kash­mir, the seven states of north­east In­dia, the Maoist move­ment in Nepal, in­ter­nal strife in Bangladesh and Afghanistan and in­tra-state con­flicts in Pak­istan will no longer re­quire the fed­eral and uni­tary sys­tem of their re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments.

The econ­omy, for­eign re­la­tions, in­dus­try, agri­cul­ture, gov­er­nance and the build­ing of state in­sti­tu­tions are sec­tors where a newly formed state has to fo­cus all en­er­gies sans dis­rup­tion from the sub-eth­nic or sec­tar­ian groups.

Hav­ing dis­cussed the op­tions of a Tamil Ee­lam at the lo­cal and re­gional level, a fed­eral ar­range­ment, devo­lu­tion pack­age and power shar­ing mech­a­nisms in the north east of Sri Lanka may prove as a breath­ing space to the suf­fer­ing Tamil com­mu­nity. While it may not serve the pur­pose of se­cur­ing a sep­a­rate en­tity, this move will buy the gov­ern­ment some time. Maria Sai­fud­din Ef­fendi is As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor for Peace and Con­flict Stud­ies at the Na­tional De­fence Univer­sity.

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