Thimpu Talks - July/August 1985
A Brief Note on the Thimpu Talks
David Selbourne, Ruskin College, Oxford
- from the Tamil Times, August 1985
It is evident that one of the most difficult points for commentators to
grasp - and large numbers of Tamils also - is that the Sinhalese, as I have maintained
since I first began to write on Sri Lanka, have no intention whatever of reaching a
'negotiated' settlement with the Tamils.
So that not only was it a folly for Tamil representatives to take part in the Bhutanese
charade with the absurd and scoundrelly Hector Jayawardene in the first instance; it is
also humiliatingly wrong for Tamil spokesmen, now, to be wringing their hands over the
'military solution' which Colombo allegedly prefers to the path of a political settlement
of the Tamil problem.
Such analysis is based on entirely false premises, (and entirely understandable wishful
thinking). For the bitter truth is that a military solution - that is the random butchery
of Tamil civilians, men, women, and children - is the politics of Colombo; they have, and
intend, no other. Of course, the rationalist Tamil and non-Tamil alike, finds it hard to
credit that this could be so; we would not be human ourselves if we were unable and
unwilling to attribute human instinct and intentions even to our most intransigent and
Yet, I state as an axiom, based on my knowledge of the parties - cheap criminals and
pariahs beyond the pale of morality - that the Sinhalese politicians who presently
misgovern what used to be Sri Lanka, do not intend, cannot embark upon, and will not
concede, any real measure of devolution to the Tamils.
A hoax and pantomime
So that the first elementary steps to understanding the meaning of Colombo's actions
(and they are as crude as their authors) are to recognize that even Sinhalese talk of
negotiation, let alone its substance, is a hoax; that the cycle, or circus, of
inter-ministerial visits and jaunts between Delhi and Colombo has throughout been a
pantomime, comic if it were not so tragic; that there is no real distinction to be made
between the intentions of the melancholy Jayawardene and the intentions of the mafioso
Athulathmudali - with his bottle of acid hidden among the many Tamil skeletons in his
cupboard - or any of the other third-rate crooks and liars who preside over the suicide of
the island; and that disenfranchising, terrorizing, disqualifying, looting, expelling, and
killing the Tamils are the governing purposes of Colombo's realpolitik.
There is no need to put any finer point upon it; indeed, in order to match Tamil
realpolitik to the demands of the moment requires that there be no illusions about what
the Tamils are facing. Liberal sentiment and the liberal media, self-serving Congress
acrobats in Delhi, the cynical Sinhalese working towards their final solution, and Tamil
'leaders' dreaming of the presidency of Eelam, will of course go on talking in solemn
terms of negotiation, shuttle diplomacy, devolution, Annexure C, the bona fides of the
parties and the rest of it. But the whole of it whatever its form, does not have the
meanings which normal expectation seeks to attribute to such activity.
What, then, you may ask, is real in the situation? Three things: - the need of
Colombo to fill its begging bowl (for alms and arms) at the servants' back door of the
Western mansion; - the need of Colombo's bankrupt politicians to preserve their skins and
their offices, and to keep their hands in the till of the island's exchequer; and - above
all, the insatiable urge to punish the Tamils for their past and present 'misconduct.'
And if you can fit a 'negotiated settlement' of Tamil demands (for a sufficient degree
of self-determination to protect their own lives, liberties, and properties) into such a
context, you deserve an Olympic medal for the gymnastic effort, or honorary membership of
the Magician's Circle.
The truth is quite the other; but, unhappily, only those who are free of humane
illusions can know it. In such a terrible circumstances, the agony of the Tamils, and the
self-destruction of the Tamils will continue.