By H. L. D. Mahindapala
Hopefully, the expected return of Robert O. Blake Jr., the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, to Sri Lanka should augur well this time because he is armed with critical information in the Country Report on Terrorism, 2010, published by his own State Department. There are three critical facts relevant to Sri Lanka in the report: 1. The LTTE is regrouping in India, 2. The LTTE’s international network of collecting funds is still functioning in Western bases and 3. the funds are for procurement of arms.
These facts contained in the annual survey of global terrorism for 2010 have serious consequences for Sri Lanka’s peace and stability. (See pages 231 – 232).
In guarded phraseology, the Country Report on Terrorism also states that the LTTE agents derailed a train in Tamil Nadu in June. In Germany, according to the Report, six Tamils living in Germany were arrested for blackmailing and extorting funds for the LTTE. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The latest report also states that two LTTE members, who were part of a credit card fraud ring, were caught in Bangalore. The head of this global operation is in Malaysia (Daily Mirror – August 31, 2011). Clearly, the LTTE global network is carrying on business as usual under the very noses of the big powers that threaten to take action against Sri Lanka for ending terrorism and restoring normalcy – a feat they have yet to achieve.
Blake also must be aware that India has extended the ban on the LTTE on the basis that the LTTE was re-grouping and posing a threat to VVIPs. The Additional Solicitor General Amarjit Singh Chandhioke asserted that the government has adequate material to ban the outfit and cited several pro-LTTE articles and speeches delivered by its supporters in recent times. He told the one-man tribunal of Justice Vikamjit Sen: “The LTTE remnant is regrouping in India and posing as a threat to the VVIPs…” (PTI - Nov 1, 2010, 09:02 p.m. IST)
The facts revealed by India and America hang over Sri Lanka like a Damocles sword. These are, of course, serious developments that challenge not only Sri Lanka but also America, the nation leading the battle against global terrorism, and India, the “strategic partner” of America in the East. Both countries have been plagued by terrorism and both monitor terrorism around the globe because there is all the likelihood of one man’s “freedom fighter” also becoming the other man’s 9/11 in USA, or 7/7 in UK. The question that arises from these reports is simple: now that the two big powers are fully aware of the LTTE re-grouping in their backyards what action will they take to either neutralise or eliminate the LTTE remnants?
If Blake and the State Department are concerned about combating terrorism this re-grouping of “LTTE remnants” must be weighing heavily on their minds. So is he stopping over in Sri Lanka to lecture on what it ought to do to please America and India? Or is he transiting to explore ways and means of helping Sri Lanka for doing exactly what America and India would have done if they were faced with the identical situation? These two “strategic partners” cannot risk turning a blind eye to LTTE remnants raising their terrorist head in their neck of the woods. If they do they will be giving Sri Lanka an additional reason to reject them as unreliable partners/guarantors of national and/or regional peace and stability, and look towards other nations further afield for protection – a trend that would inevitably undermine the geopolitical interests of both powers.
Both India and America will be fully aware that the operations of the Tamil diaspora detailed in their reports have the potential to spread terrorist cancer through their global network until it eats surreptitiously into their own system. (Example: Rajiv Gandhi). The LTTE remnants operate overtly and covertly in Western and Indian bases because they provide safe havens to collect money, arms and whip up fabricated human rights issues to terrorise Sri Lanka once again. Sri Lankans have a right to demand that the Right to Protect (R2P) civilians should begin with these big powers acting decisively to nip Tamil Tiger terrorism in the bud.
Their moral and global duty is to prevent terrorism taking root in their home bases. If they continue to provide safe havens in their backyards to export terrorism then they cannot point an accusing finger later at the states targetted by terrorists exploiting their resources, their platforms their lapses in law and in policing terrorist bases. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1373 they are legally responsible for taking action to prevent such activities. International laws against terrorism are instituted because states targetted by foreign-based terrorist alone cannot combat terrorism. All states plagued with global terrorism depend on the other members of the international community to monitor, prevent and crack down on all terrorist operations that, in one way or another, threaten global peace and stability. The Country Report on Terrorism has highlighted the regrouping of the LTTE in foreign bases. How much longer will they wait, blaming Sri Lanka, before they honour their responsibilities?
The regrouping of LTTE remnants abroad takes a serious turn when it is linked to the latest statement of R. Sampanthan, the parliamentary leader of TNA, who “welcomed wholeheartedly for the first time the political role played by the Tamil diaspora and its commitment to the Tamil struggle,” (Tamil Net – August 22, 2011). Sampanthan also threatened “for the first time that TNA was pondering on “alternative ways”” to talks (ibid). This sounds as if the Jaffna Tamil leadership is once again preparing to take the Jaffna Tamils back to the old politics of the Vadukoddai Resolution which ended in Nandikadal. The Tamil Net report also states that the TNA is also in the process of forming committees with members drawn from the Tamil diaspora. The import of this clear: LTTE remnants” in the diaspora are linking hands with TNA to use foreign bases to destabilise Sri Lanka.
These provocative statements indicate that the TNA, which was the obedient political arm of the LTTE, has not learnt its lessons from history and is willing to go down the brutal path of the LTTE, irrespective of the human costs to the Tamil people. So will America and India allow “LTTE remnants” to use their backyards as frontlines to terrorise Sri Lanka once again? Or are both (America and India) coming to Sri Lanka to use the threat posed by the Tamil expatriates as a bargaining chip to force Sri Lanka to concede more than what India gave in the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement?
India, no doubt, is under domestic pressure to extract more from the Sri Lanka to appease only one community – the Jaffna Tamils – while maintaining that there is a vital necessity to work out a formula that should address the aspirations of all communities. India’s task of balancing its act of catering to its domestic and Sri Lankan constituencies is not easy. But why should Sri Lanka pay for India’s inability to cope with LTTE problems which were created by India in the first place?
In any case, Sri Lanka has come a long way to appease the insatiable demands of the Tamil Oliver Twists. But it can go only thus far and no further. Giving into the never ending demands means either becoming a colony of India, or giving the victory to the Tamil Tigers who lost it in Nandikadal. What is more, each time the Jaffna Tamils decide to play Oliver Twist India can’t be jumping and ask how much more do you want. This can’t go on forever. Both Sri Lanka and India must now agree that enough is enough. Besides, there is no guarantee that granting more is going to bring an end to the demands of Tamil Oliver Twists.
The failed Indian adventure which imposed the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, backed by the IPKF, is the most convincing historical example to make the foreign interventionists realise that a formula dictated to appease only one community in a multi-ethnic nation is not going to work or last long, especially in the post-Prabhakaran period where extremist demands will not contribute to communal harmony or durable peace. Despite this it seems as India and America are moving in tandem to strike at one single base from two different angles: both aim to force Sri Lanka to give into the extremist demands of the TNA.
The repeated electoral victories of President Mahinda Rajapaksa confirm that neither the government nor the vast majority of the nation are ready to appease one minority that will keep on pressuring and manipulating India, America etc., to gain Eelam or something near to that. This is not in the political agenda of the major Sri Lankan parties except TNA. It also seems that the international actors are also playing a game of their own making use of the LTTE threats to push Sri Lanka into a corner on human rights issues. This is not only farcical but also runs against their patent interests. In the emerging new world order the primary objective of both India and America is to prevent Sri Lanka from gravitating towards China. If so they are going about it the wrong way. Their threats, interventions and pressures will only force the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to go into the arms of China.
India and America are playing a dangerous game which is going to backfire on them sooner or later. Tightening the screws on Sri Lanka has not brought the gains expected by India and the West. Besides, India’s heavy investments and geopolitical interests will not be served by pandering to the “LTTE remnants”. For instance, India’s fence-sitting on the current move to push for international inquiry into the last stages of the war will not be conducive for peace, progress, or national reconciliation – a sine qua non for the construction of a peaceful future. Vindictive politics will never bring reconciliation or justice. Besides, the Darusman report, on which the “LTTE remnants” demand justice, has been shredded to ribbons by objective analysts. It may serve the big powers to use the big stick with the backing of the big lie, like the way Colin Powell’s report to the Security Council served to invade Iraq – an illegal and immoral act. But the Sri Lankans who will be asked to swallow and later pay for the big lie, will never accept it.
In any case, the Sri Lankans still have the option to expand the terms of reference of the LLRC to include the war crimes committed by IPKF in Jaffna. True, there is no one left from Prabhakaran’s camp to be tried. But Gen. Ashok Mehta, the Commander of the IPKF forces, is among the living. He too is accountable for the crimes committed by the IPKF – and they are a plenty and well-documented with witnesses to testify against the IPKF. Will India send its IPKF forces to face the LLRC? Will Gen. Mehta answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Colombo?
These are some of the issues that Blake should mull over before he steps into the Sri Lankan minefield. His defence, of course, will be that Sri Lanka should observe international standards. That’s a fair argument. But there is a huge lack of clarity on what the international standards are? There are the standards set in the text books and the standards set by the two big democracies in the world. For instance, would Blake accept as an international standard if the Mahanayake in Kandy offers President Rajapkasa a glorious peace prize and in accepting that the President delivers a resounding rhetorical speech at the Pattiripuwa and then flies home to Colombo only to send drones the next day to bomb the hell out of Jaffna in the name of combating terrorism? Or will India accept as an international standard if the Sri Lankan air force drops parippu on humanitarian grounds to the Maoists – the biggest threat to India, according to India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh?
Neither America nor India has the holier-than-thou right to lecture on principles of human rights or justice to other democracies fighting terrorism – the deadliest scourge of our times. More than the criteria set in international humanitarian law their own experiences in combating terrorism should guide them in judging other democracies facing identical threats from fascist dictators dependent on terror for their survival. Besides, to act on a questionable report written by a panel of experts who had prejudged Sri Lanka even before they could receive evidence is not a credible or acceptable norm in serving justice or international humanitarian law.
With all its infirmities Sri Lanka has shown a remarkable capacity to resolve its own problems. It has even won an unwinnable war. Recorded history affirms that foreign interlopers had only worsened her problems. So who needs history to repeat its tragedies again and again?