"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
 
- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

A Question of Peace

13 November 1999

A Sinhala visitor to this website (from Washington, D.C. USA) wrote on 27 October 1999:

"Given the lack of information available from the Sri Lankan government on the on-going Sinhalese-Tamil conflict, your web site was a great find. Thank you for putting all those documents together. I personally would like to see a complete record of the war, including human rights violations... committed by the Tamil side. Hopefully, people like us, people who are interested in the peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka and throughout the world, can help bring an end to this horrible threat to both the Tamils and the Sinhalese. Hoping for peace in Sri Lanka."


Many Tamils will share the Sinhala visitor's  hopes for peace in the island of Sri Lanka. At the same time, they will be mindful of the cautionary words of the Prussian military strategist Clausewitz  more than a hundred years ago:

"The would be conqueror is always a lover of peace, for he would like to enter and occupy our country unopposed. It is in order to prevent him from doing this that we must be willing to engage in war and be prepared for it." - Clausewitz quoted in Philosophers of Peace and War, edited by Professor Gallie

It has to be said that the struggle of the Tamil people is not simply about securing peace. After all, if it was simply a matter of securing peace, the Tamil people  may have been well advised to accept the Sinhala Only Act without protest. Again, if it was simply peace that they sought, they may have been well advised to accept  Sinhala colonisation of their homeland, standardisation of admission to Universities and submit to the attacks of 1958, 1961, and 1977, without protest.  And, today, they may be well advised to support President Chandrika Kumaratunga's  genocidal 'war for peace',  accept Sinhala rule of the Tamil homeland  - and secure peace.

But, the armed resistance of the Tamil people is  not about securing 'peaceful' Sinhala rule. It is not about changing the character of Sinhala rule. It  is not directed to securing 'benevolent' Sinhala rule. It is not directed to securing  'fair and just' Sinhala rule. After all, the British too offered to rule fairly and justly (and even benevolently) but this did not prevent those on whom the British sought to impose their alien rule, struggling for freedom.

The struggle of the Tamil people  is about freedom from alien Sinhala rule. Sinhala rule is alien rule because the Sinhala people speak a different language to that of the Tamil people;  because they trace their history to origins different from that of the Tamil people; and because their cultural heritage is different to that of the Tamil people

It is Sinhala rule, because the undeniable political reality is that the political consciousness of the Sinhala people and the way they  exercise their vote, is clearly determined by their separate language, by their separate history and by their separate cultural heritage - in short by their own separate Sinhala national identity. During the past several decades, in the island of Sri Lanka, no Tamil has ever been elected to an electorate which had a majority of Sinhala voters and no Sinhalese has ever been elected to an electorate which had a  majority of Tamil voters. The practise of democracy within the confines of a single state has resulted  in rule by a permanent Sinhala majority.

If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people then it must follow, as night follows day, that no one people may rule another. Democracy and self-determination are two faces of a single coin. The struggle of the Tamil people is rooted in their democratic right to rule themselves.

It is a struggle for self determination which the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have led with tenacity and determination over the past several years. And  their thiyagam has found an answering response in the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of Tamils living in many lands and across distant seas. Raj Swarnan has given expression to the feelings of many in a moving  poem in Tamil:

உங்கள் உடல்கள் சாய்ந்ததால்
எங்கள் தலைகள் நிமிர்ந்தன..
இன்று..
நாங்கள் வெறும்
கவிதை பாடிக் கொண்டிருக்கிறோம்..
நீங்களோ..
காவியமாகி விட்டீர்கள்..

That most Sinhala people will be unable to read the poem in Tamil (leave alone empathise with the sentiments that the poem expresses) will serve to underline the separate cultural, linguistic and historical identities of the two peoples who live in the island. It  is a divide that will not be bridged by Sinhalese and Tamils talking to each other in English. It will be bridged only by an independent Tamil Eelam associating with an independent Sri Lanka in equality and in freedom.

In so far as the allegations made against the LTTE in respect of violations of  humanitarian law are concerned, we do in fact,  include links to the reports of the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna Branch) which links appear in the section titled Human Rights & the Tamil Nation. And, that which is stated  in the introduction to the UTHR reports will bear repetition here:

"The struggle of the Tamil people for self determination is rooted in that which is right and just - and will be strengthened, not weakened by an open examination of  the issues that confront it. The Tamil struggle for freedom has no need for a 'media censorship' of the kind imposed by the Sinhala dominated Sri Lankan government from time to time - a media censorship which has served as a cloak for the continuing genocidal war waged by the Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka government against the Tamil people.... But the good faith of those who question some of the means adopted by the armed resistance of the Tamil people will be less open to question, if at the same time they do not deny the justice of the ends that the Tamils, as a people, are struggling to achieve."

Those who deny the right of the people of Tamil Eelam to freedom from alien Sinhala  rule and those who deny the legitimacy of the armed resistance movement, would have the Tamil people turn their backs on the LTTE, ignore decades of broken pacts and evasive proposals, and continue to make impotent pleas for 'human rights' and 'justice' from Sinhala dominated Sri Lanka governments who have systematically oppressed the Tamil people during the past several decades. 

Admittedly an armed struggle is not a carte blanche to kill. But, having said that, neither is an armed struggle an afternoon tea party. The section on  Readings on the Humanitarian Laws of Armed Conflict  (at this website) will help to focus minds on some of the issues that inevitably arise as a war becomes total. Additionally,  it may be useful  to remember the words of  Richard Swift in the New Internationalist:

"Unsavoury regimes these days hire the best talent available to spruce up their international image... The PR technique is simple enough: minimise the human rights abuses, talk about it as a 'complex' two sided story, play up efforts at reform... If possible, it is best to put these words in the mouth of some apparently 'neutral' group of 'concerned citizens', or a lofty institute with academic credentials."  (Richard Swift, New Internationalist, in Mind Games, July 1999)

Yes, the Tamil people do yearn for peace. An independent Tamil state can and will live in peace with an independent Sri Lanka. And, the Tamil people led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will negotiate with Sri Lanka the terms of  that  association - and there is everything to negotiate about.

Eriteria, Kosovo and East Timor show that the struggle of the Tamil people for an independent state is not unique. And here, there is a need, particularly for those 'who are interested in peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka and throughout the world' to accept the unfolding political reality of the  fourth world. The words of Lila Watson come to mind: "If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time... But, if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."


"We are not chauvinists. Neither are we lovers of violence enchanted with war. We do not regard the Sinhala people as our opponents or as our enemies. We recognise the Sinhala nation. We accord a place of dignity  for the culture and heritage of the Sinhala people. We have no desire to interfere in any way with the national life of the Sinhala people or with their freedom and independence. We, the Tamil people, desire to live in our own historic homeland as an independent nation, in peace, in freedom and with dignity."

- Velupilllai Pirabaharan, Leader of Tamil Eelam

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