Protect Tamil Dissidents Like These As If They Were Your Own Mother.

The University Teachers for Human Rights' co-founder, Dr. Rajini Thiranagama, was assassinated by the LTTE in 1989 

I have been visiting the University Teacher for Human Rights (Jaffna) web page recently and I think it is one of the best Sri Lankan sites on the web. The writing is lucid and engaging, the arguments are cogent, and the articles I have read on it seem to be a hundred per cent in line with my own point of view on the ethnic conflict.The Sinhala extremists will mistakenly label it a LTTE apologist site, the Tamil extremists will label it traitorous, but I find it is one of the most rational, informed, insightful and (dare I say it?) wise points-of-view I have come across.

Plus, it’s written bloody well.

I checked out the article on Kethesh Loganathan because a close friend used to work with him and was very upset by his death. I am reproducing it below because, well, it just deserves to be reproduced and read in its entirety by everybody interested in this conflict. I hope you find the time to read the entire thing, and are convinced enough to visit the website, which in my opinion, is an invaluable documentation of Sri Lanka’s modern history. (The article on the events of July 1983 is particularly interesting).

Ketheeswaran Loganathan and the Tamil Dissidents’ Dilemma

Ketheeswaran’s assassination fell on the first anniversary of Lakshman Kadirgamar’s. Neelan Thiruchelvam’s seventh was less than a fortnight earlier. Ketheeswaran follows a long list of committed Tamils who desired that their community would enjoy peace with dignity within a united Sri Lanka. They all knew that despite the reasonableness of their cause this was an uphill task. Current developments give us ample insight into why this is so and might so remain for decades to come.

The LTTE-intelligence related web site Nitharsanam devoted 7 lines to the killing of Kethees. It began, “Infamous traitor of the Tamil race Ketheeswaran Loganathan was shot dead a short while ago. Known as Tamil Betrayer Kadirgamar Junior, he was deputy head of the government Peace Secretariat…” This derisive snigger is the stamp of the killers, their very nature and their values that are the antithesis of decency and true heroism. The implicit boast in the killing and its timing is that this organisation can and would pick off its unarmed opponents at will, should they persist in giving hope to the people.

As for hope, this killing of one individual comes amidst a massive humanitarian catastrophe in the North-East, and its significance is prone to easy misrepresentation at popular level, which is also a significant factor in the timing. The humanitarian catastrophe throws into relief the institutional incapacity of the Sinhalese dominated State to respect civilian life and property of minorities in the North-East. Following the mainly government shelling of Muslim-dominated Mutur town, refugee camps of the Tamil displaced and places of refuge such as churches where civilians gathered during confrontations, have been relentlessly bombed or shelled. Inevitably the Muslim civilians are caught between the duplicity of both the security forces and the LTTE.

Take the experience of the twice or thrice displaced in the last 4 months from a camp of about 1500 families south of Mutur: “When the planes bombed I ran, barely looking behind, I saw the dead scattered like fish on a dry tank bed.” No LTTE military facility was nearby nor could its cannon threaten Trincomalee harbour from there. There are literally hundreds of such testimonies. Amidst such suffering where the final civilian death tolls might rise to several hundred, what is then the relevance of the Ketheeswaran, Kadirgamar, Thiruchelvam and what is presented as a handful of other dissidents? The answer is literally, everything.

There are also other testimonies coming from experiences victims and that is why, however many of its people the LTTE kills, the dissident phenomenon shows no signs of abating. Both in print and in interviews with refugees, one hears a good deal of spontaneous dissidence. People question the LTTE’s right to attack the Army in a manner that places civilians at risk, often using them effectively as shields; its strategies that deliberately contrive civilian casualties and its by now well known incapacity to agree to any political settlement that obliges it to respect human rights.

In conversations among ordinary people they are well aware of the hypocrisy. When LTTE functionary Daya Master had a heart ailment, they appealed to Kethees’ Peace Secretariat, which arranged for urgent medical attention. According to well placed media reports in Colombo, children of LTTE functionaries used their privileged contacts with the Government during the peace process to send their children abroad for a Western education, while the young at home were being dragged from their mothers and seasoned as cannon fodder. Why were then Ketheeswaran and other dissidents traitors?

The dissidents knew well that fascism, hypocrisy, criminality and systemic reliance on assassination were natural outgrowths of the LTTE’s past choices coming from intolerance and egomania and a total rejection of common morality. They also knew that the Sinhalese polity was the root cause of this phenomenon acquiring a totalitarian grip over the Tamil people. Meanwhile Tamil dissidents with clarity of mind faced a constant thinning down of their ranks. There was absolutely no room for them to talk to the Tamil people, give them hope and to form mass organisations. If they chose to remain in this country, they were condemned to lead fairly lonely lives in Colombo with just a few friends who gave them some space to articulate their ideas.

Lonely Battles

It is the universal conviction of dissidents that only a political settlement that offered the Tamils and Muslims peace with dignity would undermine the LTTE’s grip. The cause of the Tamil-speaking people of the North-East was articulated more than 50 years ago by S.J.V. Chelvanayakam of the Federal Party and more urgently after the intolerance signalled by the Sinhala Only Act of 1956. His demands were for an end to discrimination on the basis of language, and a working recognition of the home of the Tamil-speaking people – the Northern and Eastern Provinces – so that the cultural and linguistic character of the region would be protected without prejudice to the rights of the Sinhalese.

Such a demand would have seemed fair and necessary in most parts of the world and, many would argue, sanctioned as a basic right in UN covenants such as the ICCPR and ICESR to begin with. Instead of addressing the basic issue, which became also one about Tamil security, we have spent 50 wasted years on hair splitting arguments about national sovereignty, homeland and differences between federalism and separatism. The basic issue became so confused among the Sinhalese that writers often tended to dwell on pros and cons without reaching any finality. Meanwhile there have been deliberate attempts backed by the State to solve the problem by violence and attrition particularly in the East. This lay at the root of the problems in Trincomalee this year that precipitated the resumption of war.

The Sinhalese polity had two choices. One is to treat the Tamils as a fifth column to be degraded and marginalised by a mixture of violence, attrition and deceit. The second is to trust them, take the plunge into federalism and build up a relationship of amity. Tamil dissidents have held that the latter is the only course that could keep Sri Lanka united.

After Chandrika Kumaratunge became president, there seemed to be an opportunity for Tamil dissidents to contribute towards pushing the second option. Neelan Thiruchelvam MP contributed actively towards drawing up new constitutional settlement. A. Thangathurai MP used the thaw to obtain resources for the badly needed rehabilitation of displaced Tamils in Trincomalee District. Both were killed by the LTTE. The Kumaratunge government’s initial commitment to a political settlement also enabled some dissident Tamils to contribute towards this objective through the state media. To the Tigers they were simply all traitors.

What the Tamil dissidents did not have is a mass organisation, only ideas and their commitment. Their fate thus became subject to changing illusions and volatility, both in the Sinhalese polity and also the NGO community in Colombo. After President Kumaratunge’s attempt to push through a new constitution in August 2000 was undermined by the UNP at the 11th Hour by allying with the chauvinistic opposition, Kumaratunge’s People’s Alliance abandoned the urgency of a political settlement and tried to compete for the chauvinist vote. Among the consequences were the Bindunuwewa massacre of young Tamils at the rehabilitation centre in October 2000 and attempts to cover it up, followed by communal violence against Muslims in Mawanella in early 2001.

Ranil Wickremasinghe’s UNP in collusion with a number of influential NGOs by late 1999 advocated a novel notion that since the LTTE had no interest in a political settlement, the way forward was to appease the LTTE, keep it quiet and let the rest of the country outside the North-East get on with economic growth and donor aid. Violation of human rights, not a novel idea in Southern politics, was to be winked at. This was the basis for the 2002 Norway-brokered ceasefire agreement, which literally signed the death warrant of hundreds of Tamil dissidents.

The UNP’s calculation was that the Sinhalese voters would be grateful for ending open warfare. It took little account of the LTTE’s past behaviour and that its provocations and habitual preparations for war would make the Sinhalese voter nervous. The result was, with tactical help from the LTTE, the election of Mahinda Rajapakse as president in 2005, whose government was hamstrung by its extremist allies, the JHU and JVP. On the one hand the Government had to show a nominal interest in a political settlement of the minority problem because of pressure from the international community and India. On the other, the extremist JHU and JVP influence was strong in the Defence Ministry, and the Government’s human rights record particularly in the North-East took a downward spiral.

First there was nervousness in the South about the government forces being able to hold their own in the face of signs that the LTTE would resume open hostilities. Then early spring of this year saw new global strictures against the LTTE led by its banning in the EU and Canada, owing much to active voice of Tamil dissidents and supported by the US and India. In the same breath, the Western nations and India placed also the Government on notice demanding that it put forward a political settlement. Extremist elements in the Government urged by the JHU and JVP misread the signals and took the new spate of strictures against the LTTE as a cue for military adventurism to fulfill their ideological dreams in the East, ignoring the demand for a political settlement.

Warnings by the international community were met with an outburst of xenophobia with a strong anti-Tamil tinge, placing the country once more on the threshold of anarchy. A disturbing development was the presence of the Patriotic National Movement with its secretary Wimal Weerawansa of the JVP in Jaffna on 22nd July to address the security forces. The JVP’s constant refrain in recent months has been that there is no ethnic problem, but only a terrorist problem; and that foreign agencies, the UN and Norway are on the side of the terrorists. The latter is an oversimplification that fails to ask how outsiders would be struck by the Sinhalese polity’s long and dismal record?

50 years after 1956, President Rajapakse found himself in a position similar to that of the SLFP’s founder, Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, a vacillating tool of extremist elements that had helped his rise to power. This leaves Tamil dissidents with no role except to sit back and wait for the violence and illusions to exhaust themselves.

The lack of a clear perception of self-interest and a love of deceptive shortcuts did not allow the Sinhalese polity to take Tamil dissent into constructive partnership, with a clear long-term vision of the good of all Sri Lankans. Tamil dissidents were useful when campaigning for global strictures on the LTTE. Tamil human rights activists were useful when violations by the LTTE were a closely guarded secret that few dared to talk about. But today violations by the State too are hidden under a veil of terror, so that people are mortally afraid to come forward as witnesses. Does the South have the same space for human rights activism that many fought hard for during the decade prior to the 2002 CFA?

In joining the Norway-UNP bandwagon of appeasement of the LTTE, rather than building a robust human rights infrastructure and culture that entailed challenging the elimination of Tamil dissidents, the progressives in the South surrendered their capacity to resist repression.  On the political front, the JVP and other extremists, who claimed to care about the human rights of Tamil dissidents during the years of ceasefire and who praise the Tamil Lakshman Kadirgamar for being useful in articulating Sri Lanka’s case abroad, have conveniently forgotten that he also constantly pleaded for a federal solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka.  Tamil dissidents, who struggled for the rights and aspirations of their community, have found few genuine friends in the South, be it be among the “progressives” or the “chauvinists”.

Ketheeswaran’s Place in the Tamil Saga

Ketheeswaran was consistent in his dedication to the welfare of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. In the early 1980s which saw growing communal violence directed at Tamils it was natural for a decent left oriented Tamil with an intellectual bent to join the EPRLF, which he did. The struggle he joined was destroyed by the LTTE in 1986. After very difficult times for his people, Ketheeswaran found openings for his interests in justice and a political settlement among Colombo-based NGOs. He strongly objected to the degradation of human rights in the 2002 ceasefire agreement and on occasions was almost alone in voicing his concern over the conscription of children in the Colombo NGO fora, which Norway, the NGOs and the Government wanted to downplay. Erik Solheim was quick to mark him out as an adversary.

Ketheeswaran never forgot that he had been a militant. He stayed on in the EPRLF and left it only in 1994 after differences with an individual who too later left. His background enabled him to easily make the transition to activism in civil society. He was constant in his concern that other militants too should be given the means and opportunity to come out into civil and political life. He pushed for the Norwegian initiated peace process to address this cause for all militants including from the LTTE. But after the Karuna split the Norwegians pinned the label ‘paramilitary’ on all non-LTTE groups and this effort came to a standstill.

Ketheeswaran wanted the Norwegian initiated process to go on, but became very upset and utterly disillusioned when the LTTE started a campaign of political killings, culminating in the assassination of T. Subathiran of the EPRLF in June 2003, a man he had known as a fine and committed human being.  Kethees’ writings and analyses became critical for dissenters who challenged the Norwegian approach to the peace process. This approach, while lax on human rights and democracy, looked for quick fixes as some crude arrangement convenient to the Government and the LTTE.  Kethees was neither a romantic nor a mere analyst. Where possible he collaborated closely but quietly in challenging the forces opposed to human rights and democracy, whether it be the LTTE, the Government or the Norwegian facilitators. Unfortunately for him and his security, he became isolated even within the INGO and NGO community in Colombo that had been his home turf. His insistence on ensuring human rights in the peace process and his opposition to appeasement of the LTTE to the detriment of the people, resulted in his being further isolated, and to his peril, singled out and labelled a critic of the LTTE or simply ‘anti-LTTE’. 

Kethees would not be silenced, he voiced his own concerns about human rights and the primacy of a political settlement in a series of articles under the pen name Sathya in the Daily Mirror. The earlier Peace Secretariat headed by Jayantha Dhanapala had kept itself above the local political fray.  When the Rajapakse presidency committed itself to a political settlement and offered Ketheeswaran the position of deputy head of the new Peace Secretariat, Kethees sought the opinion of his dissident friends. All were concerned for his security, but if the President was committed to a political settlement, many felt that it would be good for a Tamil to be in that position to push both a political settlement and human rights concerns. They were thinking of the Peace Secretariat as a body that could advise the President while keeping above the political fray. After his death and given the current reality where his fears are coming true, some of his NGO colleagues have expressed agreement with him. Had they done so four years ago, his cause would have developed the critical mass that would have minimised the danger to his life.

In time both the Government’s human rights record and its commitment to a political settlement began to look dubious as the Defence Ministry and the President’s allies, the JHU and JVP, began pushing him in their direction and he seemed to be caving in. The Peace Secretariat was being driven into a partisan role. Kethees constantly on his own asked his contacts for independent information on human rights violations and was determined to pressure the Government from within. Kethees knew about the plight of the 17 ACF workers stranded in Mutur. When the news of their killing came out on 6th August, Kethees was upset over his helplessness in the situation and was convinced that the Army was responsible. Six days later he was killed. As a person playing the role of a conscientious civilian he felt that he did not need security and had declined offers of it. He died another Tamil dissident caught up in fateful developments beyond his control.

When will the Sinhalese polity learn? While there is nothing sacrosanct about a united Sri Lanka after 50 years of dreary misgovernment in the North-East, most Tamils know that separation will result in the diminishment of all of us. We would go down as peoples who had so much in common, but could not muster enough tolerance and humanity put aside fond nationalist myths and live together. When will the Sinhalese polity learn that the dwindling numbers of Tamil dissidents who are picked up and dropped to suit the momentary whims of those in power are the last hope of a united Sri Lanka? There will be no united Sri Lanka after the fantasies of the JHU and JVP. 

When will the Tamil expatriates learn to think responsibly about a force that has five times in 20 years presided over Jaffna being overrun or massively destroyed and civilians evicted and killed without any end in sight? They would easily do it five times again in the next 20 years simply for the egomania and survival of the leaders. When will they learn about a force that has tortured and killed thousands of dissidents and has only to show as its achievements thousands of vanished youths and children it used as cannon fodder and covered up its crime by flattering them with rows of martyrs’ tombs? In the context of today’s humanitarian catastrophe, the hapless people living in the LTTE controlled areas, long abused by the LTTE whom they cursed, are being callously attacked with government missiles. A number of children are among the injured in the Vanni receiving very rudimentary care in Killinochchi Hospital. Whether they were conscripts or school children, the Government dismisses them as cadres under training. In representing their plight the LTTE today carries no credibility internationally. This places on Tamil dissidents the responsibility to speak on their behalf.


35 thoughts on “Protect Tamil Dissidents Like These As If They Were Your Own Mother.

  1. I must say UTHRJ is probably the only site I trust around 90%, I’m amazed that they have managed to get their information for so long without getting knocked off completely. Have you read broken palmyrah? I would highly recommend that…luckily found a copy at Barefoot once…

  2. I read the whole article, was more than convinced to visit the website and am very sure that I will be a frequent visitor to it.

    Hopefully I will be able to convince one or two sinhalease and tamil freinds of mine to visit it and read the contents.

    And I agree with you completely when you say,
    “it is one of the most rational, informed, insightful and (dare I say it?) wise points-of-view I have come across.
    Plus, it’s written bloody well.”

    Thanks for the link!

  3. Machan Niroshan if you do that it’ll be more than your fair share. If we can each share these rational opinions and collections of information with colleagues/friends who may not be converts to the cause of negotiated peace, we are doing this country a huge service. We are oft accused of doing nothing but writing….but sometimes it works. The trick is for this writing to infiltrate the masses. We can but try. Keep trying.

  4. you should check out Aachcharya’s blog, he had (what i thought was) a good post on Kathesh’s death:.

    i used to really like UTHR, & read it often (& still do), but a couple of reports that came out at the beginning of the year made me question their credibility. One piece of info was retracted after much criticism & their ‘source’ had ‘disappeared’, and the other report I knew beyond doubt to be false. Both instances were picked up by the media to whitewash crimes allegedly perpetrated by groups aligned to the government. I’m sure they didn’t do it on purpose, i guess when their info is based on village gossip & confidential sources, you can’t always guarantee the credibility of it. However, it’s better than not saying nothing at all – i just think it sucks when people use their reports to excuse the killing of innocent people.

  5. It’s a well known fact that the SL government is behind UTHRJ. Typical demented guilt tripper mentality. Why should anyone protect Tamil dissidents as if they were your own mother. You are really dreaming if you subscribe to the notion that most Tamils are simply oppressed by the LTTE and do not support its crimes. Tamils, not just in Sri Lanka but also in other countries such as India, Malaysia, Singapore etc are very consious of their ethnic identity. Many of them may not want to live under an LTTE administration (just as I wouldn’t want to live under JVP/JHU) but they wouldn’t mind having their own excusive state in the Northeast and being able to live in Colombo and other areas outside the Northeast in the meantime. These so called dissidents are nothing but bankrupt intellectuals financed by the Sri Lankan government. They have no support or respect in the Tamil community nor do they have any influence on the Sinhalese politics. JVP’s contemptuous dismissal of Anandasangaree’s proposal on federalism clearly shows this.

  6. JustMal,

    Would be glad to know how you came up with the following
    “Tamils, not just in Sri Lanka but also in other countries such as India, Malaysia, Singapore etc are very consious of their ethnic identity. Many of them may not want to live under an LTTE administration (just as I wouldn’t want to live under JVP/JHU) but they wouldn’t mind having their own excusive state in the Northeast and being able to live in Colombo and other areas outside the Northeast in the meantime.”

    The UTHRJ has been around for some time and they have been critical of both sides as and when necessary. I’m sorry but I don’t think the GOSL has ever been smart enough to engage in effective propaganda. It would have been anathema for them to criticize themselves even if it meant gaining credibility. You give them far too much credit! As for your sweeping generalisation, a lot of Tamils do want self rule true, but anyone with intelligence would realise that that doesn’t mean separate state. I have within my own family a wide spectrum of views, from LTTE supporters to me who abhors them. But not one of them, I repeat, not one of them want to live in an independant Eelam. And what is the problem with wanting a federal state anyway? Wouldn’t the Kandyans want a federal state within a united Sri Lanka? A referendum there would be extremely interesting. People like Neelan Tiruchelvam and Kethesh aren’t bankrupt individuals as you say. There are those that Thondaman (without the intellectual tag) etc but not them. I would say they are probably a more courageous and a hell of a lot more smarter version of me. They didn’t agree with the LTTE neither did they pretend the GOSL was lilly white (which it definitely isn’t and if you believe it is, then you are delusional). As a result, they were sadly misunderstood as traitors by Tamils and viewed with suspicion by Sinhalese such yourself. I suppose you can never please anyone…

  7. Nah.. The Kandyans definitely wouldn’t want one now. Technically I’m half Kandyan. The Nuwaraeliyans might want one perhaps.It’s true that most Tamils would not want to live under the LTTE in a seperate Eeelam. However, they would like to live in multi-ethnic Colombo or Kandy and have their own exclusive Tamil country in North and East. I mean if I were a Tamil wouldn’t I like my people to have their own little homeland? It doesn’t mean I want to go there and live under a despot, but I would support it all the same.

    It’s not a question of need or desire. A child may want so many things and may throw tantrums when these things are not given. That doesn’t mean he’s going to get all those things he cries for. I’m not interested in what Tamils want – seperate, federal or confederal. They are not going get it in MY country no matter how much you twist and twirl. If I was a Tamil of course I’d view them as traitors.

    I don’t think the government is lily white. In fact I don’t care what colour it is. Many of these dissidents are being bankrolled by the government. Their criticism of the government is dishonest and just strong enough to feign impartiality. They are good as tools of propaganda but nothing else. It’s dangerous to let them actually develop any influence at all. The best thing to be done is to use them for a while, then let the LTTE kill them and use their deaths against the tigers.

    For the Sinhalese, the best course of action is to push Tamils to extremism. In order to do that, moderates should be eliminated. It’s not that hard because the LTTE would take care of that if the government could remove their security for just a little while. When the Tamil movement comes to a position where it has no intellectuals and loses its ability to negotiate and compromise, and is led by a bunch of illiterate psychopaths, that would be our victory. An extremist fanatical movement is easier to eliminate by war than a moderate one.

  8. just mal,

    your strategy is fuelled by some optimism over the military victories in the past few months.

    A)what makes you think the LTTE will only get weaker, when it has been repeatedly seen that they fight hardest when pushed to the brink.
    B)I’m happy you’re just an expat kid trying to through anarchist ideas around to impress a woman or two.

  9. In my opinion, this war is unwinnable by purely military means. While military tactics can be used temporarily by both sides to weaken the other’s negotiating position, I cannot envision how either side can achieve outright victory militarily.

    Just Mal – The biggest problem I have with your position and ideas is that I believe they are incompatible with a permanent solution to the ethnic conflict. What exactly is your solution to Sri Lanka’s problems? Please define the problem first. It would also be interesting to see how you briefly describe your vision of Sri Lanka after your proposed solution has been implemented.

  10. sorry to butt in, but it’s fairly clear that Just mal would want a country where the Sinhalese rule and the minorities just die off, and if that fails, they are killed. That would be the ideal right,just mal. This is of course assuming his arguments are logically consistent.

  11. I’m not an anarchist. But I believe in the pure balance of forces. Sinhalese should try their best to get what they want and the Tamils should do the same. At the end there would be peace, justice and sustainable equilibrium. If you try to play for the other side or sit on the fence that would upset the equation.

    What I say is certainly not balanced, fair or just. I’m only interested in Sinhalese aspirations. Tamils should be interested in theirs. Neither would get all of what they want at the end, but both groups would both get what they deserve.


    X would be the equilibrium if S and T are the extremes. However, if the Sinhalese peaceniks want X0 from the beginning (by proposing a solution as you say) and the Tamils still want T, the result (x1)would be somewhere between X0 and T and would not be just or fair.

    Raison d’etat achieved by realpolitik. Bismarck and Kissinger in one. Command vs free market politics. Play for your own team. Let the nature take its course.

  12. Just Mal – Rational actors acting in their own self-interest don’t always lead to the best outcomes.

    What you put forward in answer to my question was highly theoretical based on books. What worked for Henry Kissinger and Bismarck won’t necessarily work for us.

    Are you able to apply those theories in the context of the Sri Lankan situation? What should the government do? How will this lead to a permanent solution? What will Sri Lanka be like under the permanent solution you advocate?

  13. Just Mal the fact that you “don’t care about Tamil aspirations” says alot about you… and unfortunately reflects the views of a whole host of others. When you get off your whole “us vs them” attitude and actually give a shit you may just begin to understand why we are in this mess in the first place…

    Here’s a bit of advice (although you’ll probably ignore it):

    Try saying ‘Sri Lankans’ as opposed to just ‘Tamils’

  14. Permanent solution? rofl my poor naive friend… There’s nothing permanent in this world. Everything is transitionary. There would never be a permanent solution to any problem. The best any solution could achieve is period of time of relative peace and economic growth.

    Balance of power is not a hypothetical concept. It was an idea developed with thousands of years of human experience and empirical knowledge.

    Different people have different ideas about what the problem is. There would never be a solution acceptable to all of them. The government should do what any government should do. Protect its interests, strengthen its power and try to survive.

    I would like a situation where Sinhalese are at an advantage over other communities. Others would like the same for their communities. Many ngots and peaceniks who come from a leftist (=anti-libertarian) philosophical background believe that the onus is on the Sinhalese (and the government dominated by them) to reach out to other communities, make concessions and all that. We would like no such responsibility. Our sole aim should be the promotion of our interests. If the Sinhalese try to propose a solution that’s a compromise between the two extremes, the Tamils would still argue from an extreme position and demand further compromise.

    To put it simply, I would like the government to crush down the LTTE militarily. I would like the Sinhalese to have more politcal clout, and I would like the government to be dominated by the Sinhalese. I wouldn’t want to concede any homeland for Tamils or Muslims, and I would like the Sinhalese to have special rights and privileges. The laws of regression to the middle, survival of the fittest and natural selection dictate that all my goals would not be fulfilled in whole, but most of them could be reached to some extent.

    I believe that the LTTE could certainly be beaten in the battlefield. Brute force, technological superiority and sheer numbers will ultimately win the battle for us. The only reason it hasn’t been defeated is because everytime they are down we agree to their ceasefire offers and help them rearm. Assassinating Prabhakaran would create a number of factions within the LTTE that would compete with each other for power with no ideological backbone or politcal aspirations. Thamil Selvam cannot replace the Sun God. Right now there is an unprecedented juxtoposition of events and circumstances that would let us finish the LTTE once and for all.

  15. Just Mal here’s your theory right back at you. When the LTTE came forward with the ISGA proposals the Govt, not so politely, asked them to fuck off.

    LTTE came with T, and the GOSL – instead of going in with S, and thereby, arriving at X – told them to come back with X1 or X0. A practical example of where your theory fails in the Sri Lankan (can you say S.r.i. L.a.n.k.a.n?) context. A derivative of that very same situation also occurred on the holiday to Switzerland or whichever place they had the last round of talks.

    It is our (Ravana, T, Aadhavan, Ben Dic (hee hee)) that we are proposing X. Unfortunately to S and T, X looks like T or S, depending on whether you are S or T.

    So it’s all a bit fucked innit? Mate.

  16. X could not be achieved by negotiations because as you rightly said, “Unfortunately to S and T, X looks like T or S, depending on whether you are S or T”. X is not a solution written down in the piece of paper. It’s a state of affairs in the country where there’s a balance of power and relative peace. In fact I do not want X. I want S. X is an outcome of the balance of power that I cannot prevent, and have to accept because I would not have an alternative.

    For example, S would be a situation where all the Tamils get killed, assimilated and otherwise non-existent as an ethnic group and the whole country is under Sinhalese hegemony. While that would be desirable for me, I know it is not practical. I don’t know what X would be. It could be two parellel states, or a federal union or it could be a unitary Sri Lanka even without provincial councils. X would not be a permanent solution and would continuously evolve and adapt to suit the circumstances. For all we know, there might not be any Sinhalese or Tamils left in a few centuries. The problem is that X cannot be achieved in the negotiating table where two parties (govt and LTTE) are deemed to be equal partners, which doesn’t reflect the ground reality (that the conflict is not bi-lateral and has many stakeholders and the power distribution among the parties concerned is assymetrical).

  17. “I would like the government to crush down the LTTE militarily. I would like the Sinhalese to have more politcal clout, and I would like the government to be dominated by the Sinhalese. I would like the Sinhalese to have special rights and privileges”

    And I would like Jessica Alba to return my calls… but it’s not going to happen mate (if only because she’s a dirty little tease).

    Get used to the idea that Sri Lanka is not your country, it just isn’t, you may like to think so but then you would be wrong, it’s ours as well. Look it’s clear that have to deal with an obvious inferiority complex I mean who else would want everything you have stated… no one… well no one who doesn’t live in a fucking fantasy world.

    Grow up machan and live in the real world.

  18. Just Mal,

    There are several problems with your approach.

    Firstly, rational actors pursuing their own self-interest do not always lead us to the best outcomes. There is such a thing as market failure. Your idea that it is suitable to apply libertarian economic principles to find a solution to the ethnic conflict in this ad hoc fashion is misplaced.

    Secondly, while your approach may be suitable to describe, and perhaps even understand, a historical political outcome between countries, its applicability in determining the best course of action in a live and internal conflict such as ours is highly questionable.

    Thirdly, your approach calls for an us vs. them labelling to take place. And, victory is determined within the resulting two-dimensional plane with the Sinhalese Sri Lankans at one end and Tamil Sri Lankans at the other. In your model, victory is detemined only in relation to the other. This is ridiculous, because it implies a zero-sum game. In the real world one person’s victory does not need to be another person’s defeat. Poetically, your interpretation of the siutation is as two dimensional as your diagram.

    The balance of power solution (X) has been a stalemate situation for the last twenty-seven years. X has been characterized by low economic growth, destruction of capital, lack of personal freedoms, and regular injury or death related sorrow on both sides. This situation has all Sri Lankans worse off. Sri Lanka’s place as one of the most promising countries in Asia has eroded into the sad situation it is in today. Sri Lanka’s ranking as a country has slipped and our neighbours who were once trailing behind us have over taken us, and indeed are still in the process of overtaking us. We are all worse off due to the ethnic conflict.

    If you label the axes differently, Sri Lanka versus India for example, I think it is clear that economic prosperity is our only hope of mainitaining our sovereignty versus India in the long term, and failing to see ourselves as primarily Sri Lankan while engaging in petty ethnic squabbles is only going to accelerate our assimilation into the sub-continent. This will well and truly be the end of the sovereign state that you so obviously wish to preserve at all costs.

  19. Just-Mal:
    I don’t particularly like or agree with your use of “Sinhalese” or “Tamils” as the two opposing factions in all this, but I’m using the same terminology in an attempt at clarity.

    What I say is certainly not balanced, fair or just. I’m only interested in Sinhalese aspirations. Tamils should be interested in theirs.

    Try Prisoner’s Dilemma – a classical example of why self interest in single party’s aspirations is unlikely to get anyone a better deal. The classical prisoner’s dilemma has a payoff matrix which illustrates my point. If Sri Lankans collectively don’t hang together, then we may well hang separately 🙂 The question is probably better put this way = do you value getting a better deal for the “Sinhalese” over screwing the “Tamils” over? The prisoner’s dilemma indicates that you get the best deal with cooperation rather than applying a jackboot 🙂

    Also, ref

    I believe that the LTTE could certainly be beaten in the battlefield. Brute force, technological superiority and sheer numbers will ultimately win the battle for us.

    I am not so sure that the LTTE can be defeated as easily as you say they can be. To take one of your three factors, superiority in numbers only make a difference on a conventional battlefield, not against insurgents. Even otherwise, if numbers were all that mattered, China would have invaded Taiwan years ago 🙂 I’m not here to offer my 2 cents worth of military strategy however (so this is mostly offtopic) – but I’m willing to show counter examples for all three of your points if you think it’s in any way pertinent to the discussion at hand.

  20. Why don’t any one consider about the tamils feeling. All though some do, but most think they are terrorists. So, that means that I am even one of them. Which is quite embarasing to be named like that.

  21. China would invade Taiwan within hours if it declares independence.

    I don’t see any reason why the war could not be won. The only reason the LTTE hasn’t been defeated is because successive governments have agreed to ceasefires and peace talks everytime the LTTE is down.

    Sri Lanka government uses many unconventional methods such as LRRPs, death squads, Tamil paramilitary groups, torture camps etc to counter LTTE’s terrorist tactics. We have a distinct advantage in conventional warfare as well, and this is what’s important when it comes to acquiring territory from the LTTE hold.

    Battling insurgents is only important when consolidating newly acquired territory. For this, the government can use mass terror tactics that it used against the JVP in the late 80s. Anyone even remotely connected to the LTTE should be summarily executed, preferably their bodies left in the public to create a fear psychosis against collaborating with the LTTE. These methods were very successful against the JVP.

    I also think it’s important to assassinate VP, which would cause the LTTE to break into different factions at war with each other. There’s no leader within the LTTE who could replace VP. The only way war could be won is by not stopping it when we are winning. We would be forced to agree to ceasefires if the LTTE remains to be cohesive entity with a clear political agenda. It could be transformed into a cluster of weak factions that battle for the mere sake of the battle if VP is out of the picture.

  22. Just Mal,

    So, apart from your insistence that the war can be won militarily despite 24 years of it that teach us otherwise, do you have any arguments to counter my response my last response above?

    Even if you could win the war, why would you want to win it at the cost of the mass killing of your fellow Sri Lankans? The pointlessness of seeing victory purely as a Tamil vs. Sinhala thing is explained in my last response. You conveniently ignored that.

  23. I’ve heard news that Karuna’s forces have been swelling in number. People I know in the East speak of unbridled child conscription. The guy also seems to have a lot of money and people are getting paid handsomely for information and to join. The Indian economy is doing really well these days you see…

    Karuna is probably the most talented, accomplished and brutal military commander in the island. Added to this he is extremely ambitious and very very very well connected. I know that it is still early days and that there are an abundance of theories going around on this guy. I think the next decade will see the emergence of Karuna as a potent force in the military theatre of the NorthEast. I just hope that Karuna is smarter than India and does not let himself be used in their dirty game…

    Just Mal, Karuna is essential to the Government’s success. When do you propose he be killed. If you wait too long, he might get a little too powerful for the Government’s liking and we’ll all be at square one once again.

  24. Good point, Aadhavan. I thought getting Karuna involved in this was a bad idea from the start. It’s easy to get two parties to agree. It’s harder for three. Of course, that’s assuming that both parties are credibly committed to a peaceful solution, which seems an unlikely assumption to make at the moment. 🙂

  25. Justmal: Let me try counter examples, point by point. Apologies in advance about the length of the comment.


    The LTTE has 15,000 (if figures are to be believed), the SL Army has 150,000. Factor in the STF and other forces and 200,000 sounds more realistic. However, the military is committed not only to fighting a war but also defending key installations and strategic assets. No one wants the airport to get attacked again, obviously enough. Nor the harbour. Nor Temple Trees. Now we’ve diverted forces into a defensive posture where they do not directly affect the battlefield.

    Our supply lines need to be patrolled and protected. Every time the LTTE blocks off an anicut, we must dilute our force concentration further in order to wrest control back. Every time the LTTE diverts forces away from strong points of our choosing, they can walk away. Can we do the same?

    We have easily 50x the number of strategic assets as possessed by the LTTE. We have a 15x superiority in numbers. You do the math 🙂 Like it or not, we are primarily in a war of containment. No military planner worthy of the name would bet a country on winning against the LTTE and leave strategic assets unguarded. I’d actually argue that the LTTE has effective numerical superiority over us.

    Also, you were arguing numbers, right? China has the largest standing army on the planet. So, are you telling us that numbers are no longer enough now? That there needs to be a strong provocation before China will act, even with vastly superior numbers? 🙂 I think you just made my point.

    Battling insurgents is most emphatically not about controlling new ground. Were you not paying attention when troops repeatedly repulsed infiltration attempts into the Jaffna peninsula? We’ve had Jaffna since 1995 (or thereabouts). New ground? Hardly.

    Technological superiority

    This worked so stunningly well for the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Americans in Baghdad, eh? 🙂 Regardless, the kfir jets (which constitute perhaps our sole remaining technological advantage) cannot control territory nor project force. For this, we need troops on the ground. Anti-tank rockets + shoulder launched SAMs + mines + IEDs are a problem for conventional forces, regardless of technological superiority.

    Brute force

    The LTTE has two things the JVP did not. Pressure groups overseas is one. The other is the whiff of a 1983 repeat. The terror tactics you propose are less likely to be successful if governments overseas apply pressure. SL still relies on a lot of foreign aid to prop up the economy.

    Assuming I’m in complete agreement about the need to assassinate VP, who gets to pick the short straw? 🙂 (I would also like world peace, two chicks at once and a pony for my birthday. Oh, and T – Jessica A. is not returning your calls because she’s talking to me)

    We talk peace (I think), because nobody rational wants a scorched earth policy to take its place. What you suggest may win us a battle over the LTTE, but at what cost? I’d suggest that nobody in their right mind would want to get into a crapshoot with the LTTE and run the risk of losing everything.

    To finally bring this long rambling post back on topic, providing an alternative, moderate voice to people who are genuinely disenfranchised splinters the LTTE just as effectively as going Barbarossa on the north and east and running around floating corpses down the Mahaweli. That, I would suggest, is the UTHRJ (and Ravana’s) thesis.

    Now, I want the last 45 minutes of my life I spent typing this comment to be refunded. Thank you 🙂

  26. “Oh, and T – Jessica A. is not returning your calls because she’s talking to me)”

    Since sloppy seconds is your thing it’s cool with me… enjoy… I just wanted my watch back 😉

  27. “To finally bring this long rambling post back on topic, providing an alternative, moderate voice to people who are genuinely disenfranchised splinters the LTTE just as effectively as going Barbarossa on the north and east and running around floating corpses down the Mahaweli. That, I would suggest, is the UTHRJ (and Ravana’s) thesis.” – now that statement I would agree with wholeheatedly, but I think VP still has to be assassinated, he has zero incentive to bring his party into the political mainstream. Even if all (moderate) Tamil aspirations are met, he and his hardcore supporters would probably not agree and still continue fighting.

    A political LTTE is imho impossible with VP at its helm. Also bit off topic but regarding selling federalism to the general public, I’m sure most would be on board if it was couched in the terms of allowing the whole country to develop, as opposed to the retarded Colombo centralism that we see now. (I’m hoping that makes sense, considering today’s a very early Monday morning)

  28. The LTTE is now getting weaker, as I believe and Government is taking control of LTTE held areas, like Sampoor, Trincomalee. Now, if Karuna has to join the government forces, the SLA would be more strategic and powerful. Which is a great advantage for the government and they will have power. At the same time, we Tamils can;t live wirhout LTTE.

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