Towards a Just Peace or Just a Peace Offensive?
The Sri Lanka government delegation led by Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga's
Secretary, Mr.Kumarasiri Balapatabendi arrived in Jaffna on 12 October 1994 for talks with
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
The other members of the four member Government delegation were Mr.Lionel Fernando, one
time Jaffna Government Agent, Mr. Navin Gooneratne and Mr.Rajan Asirvatham. None of them
were Sri Lanka Ministers or members of the Sri Lanka Parliament.
The LTTE delegation to the talks was led by Mr. K. Karikalan, Deputy Head of the
Political Section of the Liberation Tigers. The LTTE delegation included Mr.S.Elamparuthy,
Political Organiser, Jaffna District, Mr.A.Ravi, Head of the Department of Economic
Research and Development and Mr.S. Dominique, Head of the Department of Public
Mr.Karikalan told a press briefing after the first round of talks that the LTTE would
participate in the talks with an 'open mind'. He said that this was the message of Tamil
Eelam leader, Velupillai Pirabaharan and added that the LTTE was prepared to go on with
the talks even without a ceasefire.
A Reuter report added that officials in Colombo have indicated that the Sri Lanka
government delegation for the second round of talks may not be the same as those who went
for the first round.
And elements of diplomacy
Sardar K.M.Pannikar, Indian Ambassador to China from 1948 to 1952, and later Vice
Chancellor, Mysore University, wrote in Principles and Practice of Diplomacy in 1956:
|''The public habit of judging the relations between states from what appears in the
papers adds to the confusion. It must be remembered that in international affairs things
are not often what they seem to be. ..
A communique which speaks of complete agreement
may only mean an agreement to differ. Behind a smokescreen of hostile propaganda
diplomatic moves may be taking place indicating a better understanding of each other's
''Foreign Ministers and diplomats presumably understand the permanent interests of
their country.. But no one can foresee clearly the effects of even very simple facts as
they pertain to the future.
The Rajah of Cochin who in his resentment against the Zamorin permitted the Portuguese
to establish a trading station in his territories could not foresee that thereby he had
introduced into India something which was to alter the course of history.
Nor could the German authorities, who, in their anxiety to create confusion and chaos
in Russia, permitted a sealed train to take Lenin and his associates across German
territory, have foreseen what forces they were unleashing. To them the necessity of the
moment was an utter breakdown of Russian resistance and to send Lenin there seemed a
superior act of wisdom...''
''Sri Krishna, when he was being requested by Yudhistra to go as a special envoy to the
Court of the Kauravas, was asked by Draupadi what his purpose was in undertaking so
hopeless a mission. He replied,
'I shall go the Kaurava Court to present your case in the best light; to try and get
them to accept your demands, and if my efforts fail and war becomes inevitable we shall
show the world how we are right and they are wrong so that the world may not misjudge
All the secrets of diplomacy are contained in this statement of Sri Krishna...
'If my persuasion fails', said Krishna, I shall proclaim to the world your innocence
and their crime. I shall make the world understand that you are fighting only for your
There are but few cases in history where both the parties to a conflict do not claim
to have been forced into a defensive war.Whether the world accepts such a claim depends
entirely on the success or failure of diplomacy.
In the case of the Pandavas, Sri Krishna's diplomacy was supremely successful even to
the extent of causing dissensions among the Kaurava generals...''
The desire to tell the Tamil people that sunshine had moved into
their lives may be understandable
Sri Lanka helicopters which rained down bombs on the Tamil people have now taken to
dropping leaflets. It appears that some of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's advisers
believe that where bombs failed to quell Tamil resistance, leaflets may succeed in
advancing the peace process.
In the days before the Sri Lanka government delegation's visit to Jaffna for the first
round of talks on October 14, tens of thousands of leaflets, in English and Tamil, were
dropped by Sri Lanka army helicopters all over the peninsula. The leaflets proclaimed that
'sunshine had moved into the lives of the Tamil people'' in the form of 28 items that had
been taken out of the banned list, including foreign soaps, audio cassettes and medicine.
The leaflet ended by giving some seemingly 'altruistic' advice to the Tamil people:
'However dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that if peace negotiations fail to
take place or take place and then fails, it is you who would suffer most. So what you have
to do is to prevail upon the LTTE to keep negotiating with the government, until peace is
The desire of some of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's advisers to tell the Tamil
people that sunshine had moved into their lives in the form of foreign soaps, audio
cassettes and medicine may be understandable. But many Tamils may well have wondered at
the veiled threat that it was they who would suffer most if negotiations break down. After
all it was not as if the war had not taken its toll of Sinhala lives and of the Sinhala
economy. Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga herself told the Sinhala people during her
Presidential TV campaign speech in early November:
''To continue the military effort much longer we require thousands of more soldiers.
Would you agree to compulsory conscription of all youths - I repeat - of all youths
irrespective of who their parents are over the age of 18 years as is the practise in all
war torn countries? How do you propose to find sufficient funds for the crying
developmental needs of the nation while the country's income is massively poured out
incessantly into the war effort?''
The veiled threat may have even led Tamils in the peninsula to reflect that though
'gift' horses should not be looked in the mouth, there may be a need to be wary of Greeks
when they come bearing gifts. In October 1987, the IPKF too resorted to the tactic of
dropping thousands of leaflets, telling the Tamil people about the goodwill mission on
which they had come. Future events will reveal the extent of RAW's influence within
President Chandrika Kumaratunga's circle of advisers.
Some of President Kumaratunga's advisers seem to believe that the
peace process will be advanced by separating the Tamil people from the Liberation
Meanwhile, it seems that some, at least, of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's current
advisers believe that the peace process will be advanced by efforts to separate the Tamil
people from the Liberation Tigers. Deputy Defence Minister Anuraddha Ratwatte speaking to
the Sinhala Sri Lanka Army at Palaly camp in Jaffna during the week ending 9 September
'' There are many (Tamils) who do not want this war. Such people must be encouraged.
That's why we decided to partially lift the embargo. '' (Report in Sinhala owned Sri Lanka
Sunday Island, 11 September 1994)
Two weeks later, Deputy Defence Minister, Anuraddha Ratwatte, added, with unconscious
''We have much esteem for those (Quisling) Tamil militants who have joined the
mainstream. We must encourage the LTTE also to do the same.'' (Sinhala owned Sri Lanka
Sunday Island, 18 September 1994)
The Defence Correspondent of the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Sunday Times writing on 13
November 1994, after Chandrika Kumaratunga's victory in the Presidential polls, was
somewhat more explicit:
''What are the options Ms.Kumaratunga has of dealing with the LTTE insurgency?
Essentially, she will be forced to negotiate with the LTTE as that is the only way she
could govern Sri Lanka. She should adopt a multipronged approach. As proposed by security
specialists, she should continue to negotiate but keep the pressure on the LTTE by
pressurizing the army to walk into Jaffna."
"She should restructure the armed forces with more innovative and daring men
replacing those who stick to the conventional rules of fighting an unconventional enemy.
She should empower the north-eastern Tamils through a series of constitutional reforms
that will weaken popular Tamil support for the LTTE. The strongest card the leader can use
is the India factor - the fact that India will bring Pirabaharan to trial for the
assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.''
Further, RTF writing his Security Report in the Sri Lanka State Controlled Sunday
Observer on 13 November 1993 was at pains to emphasise the 'consultative' role of the
armed services and the importance of the new President maintaining close links with them:
''Analysts feel that the ascent to the Presidency by Mrs.Chandrika Kumaratunga, who
consulted the security forces personnel before lifting the embargo on some of the items
not being sent to the North, would create a better working atmosphere for the forces if
she was to maintain a close link with them.''
The peace process is simply a continuation of war by other means,
with the objective remaining the same - the annihilation of the LTTE
It appears therefore that to some of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's advisers, the
peace process is simply a continuation of war by other means, with the objective remaining
the same - the annihilation of the LTTE. Their blinkered vision prevents them from seeing
that the Liberation Tigers are not separate from the Tamil people. They refuse to
understand that, in fact, the Liberation Tigers simply embody the determined spirit of
Tamil resistance to decades of oppressive Sinhala rule.
They refuse to understand the political reality that Sunmantra Bose spelt out in the Lanka
Guardian of 15 October 1994:
''The Tigers have proved to be an extraordinarily formidable and resilient organisation
over the past decade. Today they control some 85% of the north .... where they have
established a de facto state with its own police force, judiciary, taxation structure,
education department, transportation system and information and broadcasting networks.
They have also consolidated significant popular legitimacy by aggressively opposing
various social ills and inequities, such as caste oppression and the subordination of
effective Tamil opposition to the LTTE remains almost non existent... also,
because a sorry record of criminality, 'collaboration' and opportunism has debased the
anti LTTE groups in the eyes of the Tamil population. As an Indian Peace Keeping General
found in Jaffna 'Eelam has taken firm root as an idea and the LTTE was firmly established
in the consciousness of the Tamils.. (as their) sole saviour, fighter, hero and
Peace, like everything else, comes in different sizes and
but what does justice mean?
Peace, like everything else, comes in different sizes and shapes. There is the peace of
the graveyard and the peace of servile surrender. There is the peace of appeasement and
peace with honour. There is also lasting peace - lasting because it is just. But what does
justice mean? An empty platitude devoid of meaning? A meaningless cliche meaning anything
and everything? A useful weapon in the politician's armoury of rhetoric? High sounding
morality which serves to cloak the pursuit of mean political advantage?
What does justice mean ?
Was it just that in 1956 the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike government passed the Sinhala only law?
Was it just that the then Sinhala leader of the Opposition, J.R.Jayawardene should have
campaigned against the 1957 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact which had made provision for
one regional council for the north-east?
Was it just that he should have declared that 'the time had come for the whole Sinhala
race to fight without giving any quarter to save their birthright'?
Was it just that Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike subsequently abrogated an
agreement that he had solemnly entered into with the Tamil leader, Mr.S.J.V.Chelvanayagam?
Was it just that in 1958, peaceful Tamil protest at these actions
of a Sinhala dominated government was met with physical assault, rape and killings of
hundreds of Tamils ?
Was it just that in 1958, peaceful Tamil protest at these actions of a Sinhala
dominated government was met with physical assault,
rape and killings of hundreds of Tamils by Sinhala goondas often led by Sinhala
politicians, so much so that Tarzie Vittachi was impelled to write: 'What are we left
with.. a nation in ruins and a momentous question: Have the Sinhalese and Tamils reached
the parting of ways'?
Was it just that in 1961, the government of Mrs.Srimavo Bandarainaike crushed a peaceful Satyagraha campaign by sending
the Sinhala army to Jaffna?
Was it just that the then Sinhala leader of the Opposition, Mrs.Srimavo Bandaranaike
campaigned against the Dudley
Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Agreement of 1965 which provided that land grants in the
north-east should be made firstly to the local landless?
Was it just that the Dudley Senanayake government reneged on the Dudley
Senanayake-Chelvanayagam Agreement of 1965 and scuttled the District Councils Bill which
sought to devolve some minimal powers to district authorities?
Was it just that the coalition government led by Mrs.Srimavo
Bandaranaike rejected the proposals for federalism submitted by the Ilankai Thamil Arasu
Katchi leader, Mr.S.J.V.Chevanayagam in 1971?
Was it just that the coalition government led by Mrs.Srimavo Bandaranaike rejected the
proposals for federalism submitted by the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi leader,
Mr.S.J.V.Chevanayagam to the Constituent Assembly in 1971?
Was it just that the new 1972 Republican
Constitution should change the name of the country to (Sinhala) Sri Lanka, declare
Buddhism as the state religion, and do away with the safeguards for minorities enshrined
in section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution?
Was it just for the Srimavo Bandaranaike government to introduce 'standardisation' of admissions to Universities in
Was it just that the armed resistance of the Tamil people against decades of oppressive
rule was met with the 1979 Prevention of Terrorism Act - an Act which was described by the
International Commission of Jurists (British Section) as an 'ugly blot on the statute book' of any civilised
Was it just that a genocidal attack was launched on the
Tamil people in 1983? Was it just that no impartial inquiry was ever held to identify
and punish those who were responsible for the careful planning and implementation of this
Was it just to impose on the Tamil people the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka
Accord, entered into behind their backs?
Was it just to impose on the Tamil people the 1987
Indo Sri Lanka Accord, entered into behind their backs?
Was it just to impose on the Tamil people in 1989
Provincial Councils with a Sinhala Governor and without control of planning, without
control of the provincial budget, without control of police and public order within the
province, without control of disposition of state land within the province, without
control of higher education and whose remaining meagre legislative powers are subject to
the over riding will of the Central Parliament?
Was it just for the Moonesinghe Select Committee in 1993 to
offer 'federalism' with 'a nod and a wink', within the confines of an unitary state and to
devolve on the North-East the same powers as the seven Sinhala dominated provinces in the
rest of the island - provinces that had at no time struggled for autonomy leave alone self
Was it just for the Moonesinghe Select Committee in 1993 to deny the existence of the
Tamil homeland in the North-East?
If all this was just, then justice would be an empty platitude
devoid of meaning
If all this was just, then justice would be an empty platitude devoid of meaning. So
much so that it would be pointless entertaining hopes of securing a just peace by talking
with those who continue to insist that all this was just - because to them, justice means
everything and nothing.
But justice is not an empty platitude. It is the cry for justice that led thousands of
young Tamils to give their lives, and continue to give their lives, in a struggle for
freedom from oppression.
It will be idle and wrong to dismiss the cyanide capsule in the hands of the Liberation
Tigers as a simple minded willingness of a suicide to die. As the late Sathasivam Krishnakumar once remarked, a liberation fighter values
his life even more than an ordinary civilian - certainly not less. But his willingness to
give up that which he values so highly is but a measure of a fierce determination that
cries out: 'I will not lose my freedom except with my life.'
It is the willingness to suffer to bring about change which has
made Velupillai Pirabaharan and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam the undying symbols
of the Tamil struggle for justice
It is this determination and this cry which has found an answering response in the
hearts and minds of the Tamil people living in Tamil Eelam. It is this determination and
this cry which has found an answering response in the hearts and minds of thousands upon
thousands of Tamils living as refugees and wandering nomads without a land, in many lands
across the globe.
It is this thyagam, it is this willingness to suffer to bring about change which has
made Velupillai Pirabaharan and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam not simply the leaders of the Tamil people but also the undying symbols of the Tamil
struggle for justice.
A meaningful peace process cannot begin without understanding not only the Tamil mind
but also the Tamil heart. It will be futile for any of President Chandrika Kumaratunga's
advisers to believe that the peace process will be advanced by demonising the LTTE or by
trying to isolate the LTTE from the Tamil people.
And here, let it be said that it is not enough to simply tell the Sinhala people that
the war in the North-East cannot be continued without conscription. It is not enough to
tell them that the war in the North-East is draining economic resources and hampering
It is not enough to tell them that the war is unwinnable. It is necessary to tell them
that the war against the Tamil people is not only unwinnable but also that it is unjust -
and that it is unwinnable, BECAUSE it is unjust.
That it is unwinnable not because the Sinhala security forces lack the requisite
resources or for that matter the necessary skills but because the spirit of a people
resisting alien rule of their homeland cannot be suppressed.
'Sinhala thesam should understand that a solution to the Tamil
question cannot be found by resort to war'
In the words of Tamil Eelam Leader, Velupillai Pirabaharan,
'Sinhala thesam should understand that a solution to the Tamil question cannot be found by
resort to war and by military suppression of the Tamil people.' (BBC interview, September
That, then is the bottom line.
So long as the Sinhala people believe that a military solution remains an option should
talks fail, so long as they believe that they can conquer the Tamil homeland and rule a
people against their will (perhaps through quislings and collaborators), so long will they
fail to see the need to talk to the Tamil people on equal terms.
So long also will they fail to see the need to recognise the existence of the Tamil
people, as a people, with a homeland and with the right to freely choose their political
So long also will they fail to see the need to structure a polity where two peoples may
associate with each other in freedom. So long also will they fail to see the force of
reason in that which 17 non governmental
organisations told the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 50th Sessions in February
|'' There is a need to recognise that the deep divisions between the Sri Lanka
government and the Tamil people cannot be resolved by the use of force against Tamil
resistance. The Tamil population in the North and East of the island, who have lived from
ancient times within relatively well defined geographical boundaries in the north and east
of the island, share an ancient heritage, a vibrant culture, and a living language which
traces its origins to more than 2500 years ago.
...Before the advent of the British
..., separate kingdoms existed for the Tamil areas and for the Sinhala areas in the
island. The Tamil people and the Sinhala people were brought within the confines of one
state for the first time by the British in 1833. After the departure of the British in
1948, an alien Sinhala people speaking a language different to that of the Tamils and
claiming a separate and distinct heritage has persistently denied the rights and
fundamental freedoms of the Tamil people. ..
It is ...our view that the Secretary General should consider invoking his good offices
with the aim of contributing to the establishment of peace in the island of Sri Lanka
through respect for the existence of the Tamil homeland in the NorthEast of the island of
Sri Lanka and recognition for the right of the Tamil people to freely determine their
It is said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to relive it. The peace process in the island of Sri Lanka will be
furthered only by learning the lessons of the past. Justice is not an empty platitude
devoid of meaning.