| by Izeth Hussain
( April 11, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The main focus of this article is on 13A, but I must first make some clarifications. In the course of the recent Parliamentary debate on the US Resolution more than one Opposition member claimed that the fate of Sudan which suffered the breakaway of South Sudan could befall Sri Lanka as well. The analogy is a totally misleading one. Sudan was never a single entity in the pre-British past. It was put together by the British for their administrative and other convenience without the slightest regard for ethnic and other factors, as part of the entirely arbitrary redrawing of the map of Africa by the Western imperialists in the nineteenth century. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has always been known as a single entity right through history, under names such as Taprobane, Serendib, Zeilan, Sailan, Ceylon, and of course for most of the time as Lanka. Even the name Eelam designated the totality of the Island, not just the part claimed by Prabhakaran. A comparable case is the island of Cyprus, which was known as a single entity from ancient times. I suspect that that is an important part of the reason why the international community will not accept the division of Cyprus, even though the de facto breakup has lasted for almost forty years. Sri Lanka could break up. It will leave the rest of humanity with an uneasy conscience that an enormity has been committed.
The other difference that makes the analogy a totally misleading one is that Sudan failed to defeat the Southern rebellion at the military level whereas the LTTE has been comprehensively defeated at that level. I am going into all these details about the misleading Sudan analogy to establish one firm conclusion that is of the greatest importance to the future of Sri Lanka: an ethnic rebellion can succeed in establishing a separate state only if the dominant ethnic group acquiesces in it, or it cannot defeat the rebellion at the military level. For illustration we can take the last two cases of successful separation, namely Eritrea and Sudan. Neither was historically a single entity and the dominant ethnic groups could come to acquiesce in separation partly for that reason, and neither could succeed in defeating the rebellion militarily. Sri Lanka on the other hand has been established as a single entity down the millennia and I cannot imagine the majority of the Sinhalese ever coming to acquiesce in a breakup. Also, the LTTE rebellion has been defeated, and furthermore it can be safely inferred that no Tamil rebellion can succeed by itself in the future. The conclusion to be drawn is that no amount of devolution, a federal or even a confederal arrangement, will lead in Sri Lanka by an ineluctable linear progression to a breakup. Only foreign intervention will make that possible. Therefore, we might as well try out 13A. We might as well try it out precisely to deter foreign intervention.
I will now pass on to a problem that has perplexed me, the problem of accountability: the West wants us to seriously investigate war crimes allegations and at the same time to take steps towards ethnic reconciliation. Surely the one is incompatible with the other. The TNA leader Sampanthan’s statement in Parliament seems to throw some light on this problem. But I must first cite material from the statement of the LSSP and other Left Parties which appeared in the Sunday Island of April 8. It points out that the second Channel 4 Video made out a case to implicate the President, the Defense Secretary, the Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, and General Shavindra Fernando, among others, in the commission of human rights violations by claiming they deliberately targeted civilians. Later, charges can be filed against them in the International Court of Criminal Justice under Clause 15 of the Rome Treaty. I would read that in conjunction with the following in Sampanthan’s statement in Parliament, published in the same issue of the Sunday Island: “The solution has to be Lankan-led. Persistent emphasis on accountability from outside may jeopardize the larger goal of reconciliation by giving a fresh thrust to Sinhala nationalism”. He seems to be suggesting with finesse that at the present stage the emphasis should not be on accountability over alleged war crimes. The campaign on war crimes can be expected to be intensified if our Government shows itself to be unserious over implementation of the LLRC recommendations. The war crimes allegations are therefore a weapon meant to be used against the Government if and when it seems necessary.
I now come to the problem of 13A. First of all we must note that the game plan of the West has come to be widely understood. The Government will be judged on whether or not it implements the LLRC recommendations, which seems a plain and straightforward position. Not at all, because the LLRC recommendations are so wide-ranging that the Government can be easily faulted on one ground or another. It all depends on the wishes of the powerful countries that have put Sri Lanka in the dock. We must recognize also that the Government could have a difficult, perhaps even an insuperable problem, over the culture of impunity: there seems to be a group or groups, evidently beyond Government control, which can with impunity commit horrendous crimes. Anyway, it all depends on those powerful countries which can arbitrarily declare the Government guilty and proceed to impose crippling sanctions, try to engineer regime change, and make the President and others internationally hunted men. All that is in accord with the New World Order, which as I have been arguing in earlier articles can easily slide into the New Imperialism. The best way out for the Government seems to be through implementation of 13A.
It is up to the Government to work out ways and means of convincing the Indian Government that it is really in earnest about the full implementation of 13A, on which it has been making proclamations for almost three years. I have no suggestions to make about those ways and means. I will therefore conclude this article by pointing out that the failure to find a political solution to the ethnic problem can have disastrous consequences: the possible breakup of India and the possible breakup of Sri Lanka. To show that I am not being fanciful I will quote from Dixit’s book Assignment Colombo. He wrote, “But India should not get directly involved in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka except when Sri Lankan developments pose a direct and immediate threat to the security and territorial integrity of India.”
Dixit gives the following account of a conversation he had with President Jayewardene in the course of the negotiations that led to the Peace Accords: “He ended the conversation with a rhetorical question. ‘What in your opinion would India do? What do you think will happen to Sri Lanka if I do not listen to Rajiv Gandhi’s advice?’ I indulged in diplomatese. I said: ‘Sir, the consequences of your ignoring Rajiv Gandhi’s advice would be unpredictable and uncertain, and responsibility for such a situation will entirely rest with you and the Government of Sri Lanka.’ Jayewardene was not going to allow matters to rest in such obfuscations! He said: ‘Dixit be precise. Tell me what you personally think will happen when you talk about “unpredictable consequences”.’ I said: ‘You will forgive me for saying this Mr. President, the unpredictable consequences may be LTTE asking operational support from Tamil Nadu and it might end up with the breakup of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka may not remain a united country.’” The only comment I will make is that we can be sure that Dixit was reflecting the views of his Government.
( The writer can be reached at Izethhussain@gmail.com )