predicament of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.
Militancy played a positive role sometime back in the history of the Tamil national movement in Sri Lanka. The armed struggle of the Tamil youth achieved a paradigm shift in the Sinhala south and worldwide, a change that could not be achieved by their predecessors through Gandhian methods of political protest. By late 1980s the Sinhalese and the world recognized the Tamil grievances and aspirations and accepted sharing of power as the solution to the Tamil national question.
Unfortunately, the Liberation Tigers thrust themselves into the helm of the Tamil national movement by physically eliminating the more progressive alternatives hitherto existed in Tamil politics. The Tigers were the most fanatical zealots of the Eelam vision. In an interview with Cheythi Alaika’l, an Australian Radio Broadcast, which was aired on June 04, 2008, K.V. Balakumaran says “Thamil Eelam is not a hastily concocted concept. It was conceptualised before 1948, it developed gradually overtime...” The Liberation Tigers’ fixation with an unwinnable Tamil Eelam has resulted in many lost opportunities for the Tamil nation and continues to devastate a people.
By not cutting a deal with Colombo for meaningful autonomy to Tamil areas of historical habitation when they had an opportunity, with their military assets intact, in late 80s (1987 Indo-Lanka Accord), mid 90s (CBK’s Peace Package) and with the onset of the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement, the Tigers have greatly contributed to the suffering of the Tamil people. Ironically, the Liberation Tigers have put the Tamils at the mercy of the Sinhala political establishment.
With the demise of the Tiger power in Sri Lanka, certain political analysts predict a shift in the centre of Tamil politics to the Tamil diaspora. Whether this prediction is accurate or not, unlike the past subordinate position of the Tamil diaspora vis-a-vis the national Tamil political leadership, the former will come to play a crucial role in determining the future trajectories in Sri Lanka.
Recently I met a former politburo member of the EPRLF in a Western metropolis. The cold winters of the Western Hemisphere have not yet been able to put out the flames of the Tamil struggle in this man. He sorrowfully narrated how Tamil politicians have become pawns of inimical political agendas and underscored the importance of Tamil unity at this juncture. His wish is to see all Tamil political parties and groups with roots in the North and East of Sri Lanka sitting down together to formulate the Tamil political agenda for the post-war period. How practical this man’s wish is anybody’s guess.
In principle, I agree with his idea. However, a number of points should be taken into consideration in formulating such an agenda. First of all, it must be a realistic and pragmatic political agenda. All communities in Sri Lanka have witnessed enough dead bodies and misery and the new Tamil politics should be a part of the solution that will end this human suffering.
The post-war Tamil political agenda should not get carried away by old exclusivist and separatist currents. Any solution to the Tamil national question will invariably have an impact on the Muslims and the Sinhalese. Hence, the reasonable concerns of these communities should be taken into consideration in formulating such a Tamil political vision.
The new Tamil politics should move away from unilateralism and collaborate with the Sinhala south in sincerely exploring the possibilities and capacities for a common future in a united Sri Lanka. The secessionist military movement is dead. If the Tamil political society care for the wellbeing of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, it is imperative that they collaborate with Colombo. However, Sinhalese should realize that equality, security and the recognition of Tamil identity in the form of meaningful autonomy in Tamil areas will be non-negotiable from the Tamil point of view in any future political accommodation.
My friend lamented the metamorphosis of Dayan Jayatileka, the onetime inspiring Sinhala revolutionary who collaborated with the radical EPRLF. I reminded him how Sivaram alias Taraki became a Tiger at the end. These two individuals aptly illustrate the tragedy of Sri Lanka: the ethnic polarization. Any hope for Sri Lanka lies in solidarity among the diverse people that makeup the island.