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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

The Tamil Times and 'a War on the People'

15 September 1990

"... Concerned as it is for the well being of the Tamils of Eelam, the Tamil Times will, hopefully, come to recognise that at a time when the Tamil nation in Eelam is fighting a battle for survival against the armed forces of a rampant Sinhala chauvinism which seeks to conquer and rule, there is an urgent and imperative need for Tamils everywhere to strengthen the Tamil cause and not to undermine and weaken it... Guerilla wars do not necessarily brutalise - they may purify, strengthen and free a people, and each one of us can do that which we can to this end...The Tamil Times fails to recognise that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are themselves but a manifestation of the stubborn will of the people of Tamil Eelam to live in equality and in freedom; that the people of Tamil Eelam cannot be separated from their feelings of national solidarity; and that therefore, the Tamil people cannot be separated from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who, today, represent the force of that solidarity..."

Comment by tamilnation.org on 24 September 2007 - Today for the 'Tamil Times' (which is no longer published) , we may read 'some Tamil journals' of the same ilk with a similar agenda; for 'President Premadasa', we may read 'President Rajapakse' and for the '1989 Premadasa talks' we may read the 'Norwegian sponsored Peace Talks'.


The Tamil Times editorial of the 15th of June 1990, entitled 'A war on the people', merits careful consideration not only because of its captivating title but also because it appears that the Tamil Times would have its readers believe that it has been overwhelmed by its concern for the well being of the Tamil people.

The editorial declares that the war that broke out in the North and East of Sri Lanka, in June this year and which continues to rage today is 'a war on the people' and that once again the Tamil people are 'at the receiving end'.

The Tamil Times is concerned about 'the plight of the civilian population' in consequence of the 'war that has broken out between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the government' of Sri Lanka.

The editorial adds:

'The present war, that the government and the LTTE had declared on each other, we fear, offers a worse prospect than ever before. And the people do not deserve it.'

According to the Tamil Times 'the LTTE leadership had, not so long ago, been proclaiming their belief in the sincerity of President Premadasa' and President Premadasa's 'government would appear to have conceded the three basic demands of the LTTE, namely the dissolution of the North East Provincial Council, holding fresh elections for this Council and the repeal of the Sixth Amendment'.

Sri Lanka - LTTE Talks: 1989/90 - A report by Bradman Weerakone, Adviser to Sri Lanka President Premadasa...

"...There was also the practical problem of how free elections could be held at all in the North East even if the NEPC was dissolved but this was never a matter of serious discussion between the two parties. Why were these critical political issues left to drift and not addressed in the decisive and speedy manner that was one of Premadasa's characteristics? I am now increasingly inclined to the view that he simply did not want to do so. ...His (President Premadasa's)  fourth and final option could have been straight out of Machiavelli or more likely Kautilya. That was that after the IPKF was out of the country he would turn the refreshed and renewed Sri Lankan forces on the weak LTTE, rout them completely, eliminate Prabhakaran and reestablish law and order, good governance, peace and prosperity over the North East and the whole of Sri Lanka. I am inclined to think that in his final grand design this last option would have been very appealing..." more

In the view of the Tamil Times, the government of President Premadasa, had taken meaningful steps in regard to the dissolution of the existing provincial council and was making 'serious efforts' to repeal the 6th Amendment, and the Tamil Times concludes that 'in this context, unless there are some other more important reasons about which the people had not been made aware, the present war and its tragic consequences are a callous imposition upon a people whose agony and suffering do not seem to matter very much in the minds of those who have launched this war.'

But, what are the true underlying reasons which led to the conflict in June - reasons which the Tamil people are well aware of, but which have somehow escaped the attention of the Tamil Times.

Was the Tamil Times unaware that in any negotiating process with an opponent there is a need to trust and there is also a need to seek verification of that trust at each stage of the negotiating process?

Was the Tamil Times unaware of the open declaration made by Mr. Velupillai Pirabaharan, the leader of the LTTE, during an interview reported in the Sunday Times of the 8th of April 1990 that 'we have not given up our demand for self determination or independence'?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that in May this year the Premadasa government had commenced negotiations with the quisling EPRLF rump despite protests from the LTTE? Was the Tamil Times unaware that this quisling EPRLF rump had apologised to the Premadasa government for having made a unilateral declaration for independence?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that the Premadasa government was seeking to use this quisling EPRLF rump as a counterpoise to the LTTE at the negotiating table?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that the LTTE had consistently refused to surrender its arms as a condition precedent to participating in the provincial elections?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that President Premadasa was dragging his feet on the so called 'three basic demands' re the dissolution of the provincial councils, the holding of fresh elections and the repeal of the 6th Amendment, until the LTTE laid down its arms?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that the Sri Lankan government would not have commenced negotiations with the LTTE if it had not been armed?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that the armed struggle of the Tamil people was a response to the failure of successive Sinhala governments to treat the Tamil people fairly and justly and to request that the Tamil people should surrender their arms before a settlement of the conflict was to play into the hands of Sinhala chauvinism?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that the Premadasa government had increased the strength of its armed forces in the North and East during the months of May and June?

Was the Tamil Times unaware that the June war was forced upon the people of Tamil Eelam and that the Liberation Tigers of Eelam have been compelled to defend the integrity of the Tamil nation in Eelam?

There is a further aspect to the matter. The view of the editorial writer of the Tamil Times that the people of Tamil Eelam were the unfortunate victims of a war between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, echoes President Premadasa's claim that his government is engaged in a war against the LTTE and not against the Tamil people.

It appears that both President Ranasinghe Premadasa and the editorial writer are at one in their efforts to distinguish and separate the Tamil people from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Whilst President Premadasa's pronouncements may be understood as the 'divide and rule' policy of a Sinhala government which seeks to conquer the people of Tamil Eelam, the views of the editorial writer of the Tamil Times are not so easily understood.

Readers of the Tamil Times may well ask themselves why it is that after nine years of uninterrupted writing on the Tamil national liberation struggle, the Tamil Times has not yet recognised

that the Tamil nation has taken firm root in Eelam as a response to decades of oppression by successive Sinhala governments;

that the growth of that Tamil nation has been fertilised by the blood of thousands of martyrs; that the Tamil nation in Eelam has the inalienable right to self determination;

that the right to self determination means nothing without the right to secede; that the right to secede means nothing without an army which can secure and protect the exercise of that right in practical terms; and

that today the Tamil nation in Eelam is engaged in an armed struggle against the Sri Lankan government to secure recognition of its right to self determination.

It appears that the Tamil Times continues to make the same mistake that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made when he declared at a public meeting in Tamil Nadu on the 21st of December 1987 that 'the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam represent no one but itself' and that the LTTE is a 'small outfit of 1500 to 2000 persons'.

The Tamil Times editorial concedes that the LTTE has achieved a 'dominant position' in the 'north-east'. But, at the same time, the editorial remarks that the LTTE has 'not gone through an electoral process to prove their representative status'.

According to the Tamil Times, the LTTE may be in a 'dominant position' but the LTTE does not represent the Tamil people - 'it represents nobody but itself'. Ergo, the war is a war between the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka and the war is a 'callous imposition' by the LTTE (and the Sri Lankan government) on the Tamil people! The sequential logic though clear, is gravely flawed.

The Tamil Times fails to recognise that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are themselves but a manifestation of the stubborn will of the people of Tamil Eelam to live in equality and in freedom; that the people of Tamil Eelam cannot be separated from their feelings of national solidarity; and that therefore, the Tamil people cannot be separated from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who, today, represent the force of that solidarity.

It is the refusal of the editorial writer of the Tamil Times to recognise the existential reality of the Tamil nation in Eelam and the force that it generates, that leads him to take the view that the present war is a callous imposition on the Tamil people, rather than a war by the Tamil people in the defence of their nation.

The Tamil Times makes the sweeping generalisation that 'experience throughout the world has shown that guerilla wars have an inherent capacity to last for decades, brutalising the people that are affected by it and bleeding the country and its economy'.

The Tamil Times appears to forget that 'experience throughout the world' has also shown that guerilla wars have been instrumental in bringing freedom to a people who have been oppressed by the rule of a brutal alien ruler. Guerilla wars do not necessarily brutalise - they may purify, strengthen and free a people, and each one of us can do that which we can to this end.

Guerilla wars do not necessarily last for decades - on the other hand they can quickly put an end to decades of oppression by an alien ruler. The cyanide capsule in the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is evidence enough, that it is much more than a piece of political rhetoric to say, that it is not for glory or riches or honours that a people fight but only for liberty which no human will consent to lose but with his or her life.

Concerned as it is for the well being of the people of Tamil Eelam, the Tamil Times will, hopefully, come to recognise that at a time when the Tamil nation in Eelam is fighting a battle for survival against the armed forces of a rampant Sinhala chauvinism which seeks to conquer and rule, there is an urgent and imperative need for Tamils everywhere to strengthen the Tamil cause and not to undermine and weaken it.

Perhaps, the moment of truth has come for the Tamil Times to declare unequivocally, whether it supports the national liberation struggle of the people of  Tamil Eelam or not. And hopefully, the Tamil Times will recognise the relevance of the words uttered by the leader of another people many years ago:

"...We are one people - our enemies have made us one... Distress binds us together, and, thus united, we suddenly discover our strength. Yes, we are strong enough to form a state and a model state. We possess all human and material resources for the purpose..." (Theodor Herzl on the Jewish Nation)

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