Four Nobel Prize Winners, George Wald of USA, Malread Corrigan-Maguire of UK, Ilya
Prigogine of Belgium and Jan Tinbergen of Netherlands presented a 'peace plan for Sri
Lanka' to the Sri Lanka Government and to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in early
The basic proposal of the 'peace plan' was that the Sri Lankan government and the
LTTE should invite the United Nations Secretary General to send a special envoy to mediate
a negotiated settlement.
This agreement could include the following provisions:
(a) A ceasefire verified by the United Nations. Precedent for such intervention is
found in Security Council Resolution 186.
(b) The establishment of buffer zones through mutual agreement by the disengagement of
military forces in selected areas, such as parts of the North and East.
(c) UN observed elections in the North and East.
The peace plan also argued for a federal form of government as a way of satisfying
the 'aspirations in the North and East'.
The peace plan was initiated by the World Council for Global Cooperation in Toronto,
Canada. The four Nobel Laureates have won prizes in their specialities.
Prof. George Wald was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1967 for his insight in discovering
the underlying chemical processes of human vision. An awowed pacifist, he campaigned
against the Vietnam war and all forms of nuclear testing. He also served on the Peoples
Tribunal established in 1985 to inquire into the genocide of Armenians by the Turks.
Ms. Mairead Corrigan-Maguire of Northern Ireland won the award in 1977 for her efforts
to end the violence in Belfast between Catholics and Protestants.
Prof. Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1977 for widening the
scope of thermodynamics. He was born in Moscow at the start of the Russian Revolution. At
the age of four, his parents fled with him as exiles and wandered through Lithuania and
Germany before settling in Belgium.
Prof. Jan Tinbergen won the prize in 1969 for Economics. He has been a pacifist since
his youth. As a matter of conscience he refused to serve in the Dutch army.
Sri Lankan President D.B.Wijetunge's immediate response was an attempt to play down
the significance of the Peace Plan. He reportedly told a foreign news correspondent in
Colombo that the peace plan did not have any official status because it was from a non
However, President Wijetunge and his government have enough political savvy to know
that a peace plan supported by four Nobel Prize Winners, and that too, residing in four
different countries, did not materialise from thin air.
The state controlled Sri Lanka Sunday Observer of 8 August 1993 carried a photo of
the UN Secretary General Mr. Boutros Ghali together with Ms. Mairead Corrigan-Maguire and
Mr. James Nicholas, the International Secretary of the World Council for Global
Co-operation. The message of the photograph was not lost on the Sri Lanka Government.
Sri Lanka knows well enough that it cannot pursue its war against the Tamil people
without foreign aid and the support of aid donors.
At a recent school prize giving function, President D.B.Wijetunge declared:
''The ongoing war costs the government a staggering Rs.25 billion every year Government
spending allocated for education was Rs.15 billion. The government could have increased
spending on education if not for the prolonged North-East war. As an immediate end to the
war is not in sight the government has to allocate another Rs.25 billion next year as
At the same time the General Secretary of the opposition DUNF, Mr.G.M.Premachandra was
all for the direct 'gung ho' approach and urged the Government to stop everything else for
sometime and use all the resources at its command to go ahead with the north-east war.
In a statement to the press he said:
''Mrs.Bandaranaike (of the SLFP, the other Sinhala opposition party) had also urged the
government to take this course of action. The government should give first priority to
this conflict. If anyone is willing to do this, DUNF will support such action to the
This, ofcourse, was the familiar Jeff and Mutt act of Sinhala politics. In this
instance, President D.B.Wijetunge played the soft spoken reflective Jeff. DUNF General
Secretary Premachandra was the tough talking brutish Mutt feeding Sinhala chauvinism with
that which it wanted to hear.
Unsurprisingly, the Sri Lanka government rejected the Peace Plan suggested by the four
Nobel Prize Winners and rejected any UN intervention. The state controlled Daily News gave
prominence to the strong opposition by the army top brass to any UN intervention. In tones
reminiscent of ex President J.R.Jayawardene, the Sri Lanka government responded to the
International Secretary of the World Council for Global Co-operation:
''As you know, Sri Lanka is a country with a strong democratic tradition. Governments
have been elected by universal adult franchise since 1931. Therefore any proposed solution
to the present problem has a chance of success only if it is acceptable to the generality
of the people. Such a solution can emerge only through an internal political process. ''
President Wijetunge's reference to Sri Lanka's 'strong democratic tradition' must have
raised eyebrows in Geneva where, in February this year, 15 non governmental organisations, including the World
Confederation of Labour, declared at the UN Human Rights Commission:
"...the armed struggle of the Tamil people for self determination, arose as a
response to decades of an ever widening and deepening oppression by a permanent Sinhala
majority, within the confines of an unitary Sri Lankan state... it was an oppression which
included the disenfranchisement of the plantation Tamils, systematic state aided Sinhala
colonisation of the Tamil homeland, the enactment of the Sinhala Only law, discriminatory
employment policies, inequitable allocation of resources to Tamil areas, exclusion of
eligible Tamil students from Universities and higher education, and a refusal to share
power within the frame of a federal constitution."
The true nature of Sri Lanka's 'strong democratic tradition' was exposed by the
comments of Senator A.L.Missen, then Chairman of the Australian Parliamentary Group of
Amnesty International, in the Australian Senate in March 1986 :
"Democracy in Sri Lanka does not exist in any real sense. The democracy of Sri
Lanka has been described in the following terms, terms which are a fair and accurate
description: 'The reluctance to hold general elections, the muzzling of the opposition
press, the continued reliance on extraordinary powers unknown to a free democracy,
arbitrary detention without access to lawyers or relations, torture of detainees on a
systematic basis, the intimidation of the judiciary by the executive, the
disenfranchisement of the opposition, an executive President who holds undated letters of
resignation from members of the legislature, an elected President who publicly declares
his lack of care for the lives or opinion of a section of his electorate, and the
continued subjugation of the Tamil people by a permanent Sinhala majority, within the
confines of an unitary constitutional frame, constitute the reality of 'democracy', Sri
Again, whilst President Wijetunge was insisting that a 'solution can emerge only
through an internal process', the Leader of Sri Lanka's Delegation to the UN Sub
Commission on Protection of Minorities was not averse in seeking some outside help to
further that 'internal process'. He declared in Geneva on 11 August:
''It is the view of the Government of Sri Lanka that international isolation and
rejection of the LTTE would certainly force the LTTE to reassess its position.''
His further complaint that ''the mediatory efforts of the government of India ''
were rejected by the LTTE was seen by diplomatic observers as an attempt to reinforce the
bridges Sri Lanka is now building with New Delhi as a counterpoise to the influence that
foreign aid donors may seek to wield.
The belligerent tone of Sri Lanka's statement may have reflected the support that it
has received from New Delhi to block international recognition of the Tamils' right to
Both Sri Lanka and India appear to have been concerned that in February this year, 15
influential NGOs called upon the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva to (a) accord open
recognition to the existence of the Tamil homeland in the North and East of the Island;
and (b) recognise that the Tamil population in the North and East of the island constitute
a 'people' with the right to self determination.
On that occasion, Sri Lanka's Representative resorted to bluster, dismissing the NGO
statement as 'baseless propaganda'' and threatened that any action that the Commission may
take to recognise the Tamil homeland and the Tamil right to self determination will 'put
the future of the Tamil population living outside the Northern and Eastern Provinces in
Now that President Premadasa is no more, New Delhi's links with Colombo have grown
closer. It believes that it can go back to its influential old friends, ex President
J.R.-Jayawardene and Gamini Dissanayake with their links in the Sinhala Buddhist Goigama
The trouble of course is that J.R. is no longer President and Gamini has not yet become
one. But New Delhi reasons that its clout, as a regional power, will be an influential
factor in determining the outcome of the next Presidential stakes in Sri Lanka. Even
without Gamini, Ranil (plus the Wijewardene family including JRJ) may also do as well, so
far as New Delhi is concerned.
At the sametime New Delhi also knows that without the Tamil struggle to keep Colombo
off balance, Colombo may, in the end, tilt towards its aid donors. After all it was to
prevent that tilt and to push Colombo towards New Delhi, that New Delhi and its agents
secretly and later, openly gave material assistance to the Tamil guerilla movement in the
That support, ofcourse, stopped well short of recognising the Tamils' right to self
determination. Apart from any constraints that the international frame may have imposed on
its freedom to so do, New Delhi also feared that such recognition of the Tamil struggle
may have a domino effect on other struggles for self determination inside India.
Then Indian Foreign Secretary, Romesh Bhandari (reputedly, the bull who carried his
own china shop with him) put it bluntly to the Tamil delegation at Thimpu in 1985:
''How can we recognise your right to self determination? If we do that then we will
have to recognise the right of each of the provinces of India to self determination.''
New Delhi's preferred policy is to maintain a foot hold in the Tamil cause through a
merged NorthEast Provincial Council and also secure Sinhala support by taking a stand
against Tamil self determination. Its message to the Sinhala political leadership is:
'If you do not play ball, then we will back the Tamil struggle - however, we will do
all we can to help you play ball with us, even if that means having a Sinhala appointed
executive governor for the Tamil province(s)''
It is to put this policy into effect, that New Delhi needs Tamil quislings willing to
play the supporting puppet role in the North-East - and Sinhala agents who will do its
bidding in Colombo.
To this end, New Delhi has Provincial Council Chief Minister-in-Waiting, Quisling
Varadarajah Perumal ever ready and willing in the wings in Orissa, as well as the rump of
the TULF and other sundry Tamil quislings hanging around for crumbs in Colombo.
But the supply of 'credible' Tamil quislings may be running out. New Delhi may
believe that with the Chengleput show trial against the leader of the LTTE being kept on
the boil, it has yet another lever to wield at the appropriate stage.
Be that all as it may, this month, individuals and organisations sympathetic to New
Delhi, including a representative of a Tamil quisling group surfaced in Geneva and were
busy lobbying against a draft Sub Commission Resolution which recommended:
'' that the Secretary General consider invoking his good offices with the aim of
contributing to the establishment of peace in the island of Sri Lanka, through recognition
of the existence of the Tamil homeland in the North and East of the island and recognition
of the right of the Tamil people in the North and East of the island to freely choose
their political status taking note of the principles of self determination enshrined in
the UN charter and UN covenants.''
The tactic of the lobbyists was to suggest an alternative watered down resolution
excluding the invitation to the UN Secretary General.
That new Delhi's foreign policy is directed to minimise, if not exclude UN (code for
US) involvement in Sri Lanka and generally in the Indian Ocean region may be
understandable. That new Delhi is intent on pursuing Foreign Secretary Dixit's celebrated
'calibrated' approach to making New Delhi's own deals with the US and the West, and in
this way enhance New Delhis's influence on the world stage is also understandable. But the
extent to which New Delhi, which is not a super power, can act like one is another matter.
The tragedy of New Delhi's foreign policy is its continued myopic refusal to
recognise that support for the Tamils' struggle for self determination will lead not to
the break up of the Indian Union but to a strengthened free association, of the peoples of
the Indian region.
It is a tragedy that appears rooted in the weak political leadership at the helm of
affairs in New Delhi, concerned only with 'short termism' and lacking the political vision
to grasp the political force generated by struggles for self determination.
However, notwithstanding the international frame and the deals that may be struck from
time to time between the contending 'powers that be', and notwithstanding the sayings of
Sinhala political Jeffs and Mutts, political observers have welcomed the basic proposal of
the Nobel Prize Winners' Peace Plan viz. that the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE
should invite the United Nations Secretary General to send a special envoy to mediate a
This is regarded as an important first step in any move towards peace in the island.
The terms of the joint invitation by Sri Lanka and the LTTE would also have provided the
terms of reference for the UN intervention.
But in the run up to the next Presidential elections scheduled for end 1994, and the
pivotal role of the Sinhala army and its Goigama Buddhist political backers, it is not
surprising that President Wijetunge should prefer to persevere in his efforts to keep
western aid donors happy with talk, whilst at the same time securing New Delhi's
assistance to isolate and weaken the LTTE and in this way 'manage' Tamil resistance.
Here, in the words of the LTTE International Secretariat Press Release of 16 August
1993, ''the Parliamentary Select Committee mechanism provides the Sri Lanka government
with a useful cover of 'reasonableness' for international consumption, enabling it to
avoid direct talks with the LTTE and also continue its genocidal military operations
against the Tamil people.''
But it is a moot point as to how long tactics such as these will be effective in the
face of continued determined resistance by the Tamil people led by the LTTE. The words of
Sri Lanka's own Cabinet Minister Thondaman in a press interview on 23 March 1992, should serve as a
useful reminder to the Sri Lanka government:
''If you mean defeating the LTTE, it could in my opinion be equated to defeating every
single Tamil in the North-East. One thing is clear. You cannot isolate the LTTE from
the rest of the Tamil people. Wiping out the LTTE means wiping out the Tamils.
there are Tamils there will be a LTTE hard core. Remember that the LTTE... is seeking to
express the aspirations of the Tamil people... In the context of the Tamil people, it is
ultimately only the LTTE that is holding the fort.''
Martin Woollacott's comments in the Guardian of 23 August on the Bosnian war will also
help to focus the minds of everbody on the priorities of the real world:
''Nobody involved in this war, in fighting it or in trying to stop it, was born
yesterday. What matters most.. is territory, what matters secondly is international
legitimacy, what matters thirdly are constitutional arrangements...''
The last word may be, appropriately, left to Velupillai Pirabaharan who said in
''It is the Sri Lanka government that has failed to learn the lessons from the
emergence of the struggles for self determination in several parts of the globe and the
innovative structural changes that have taken place.''