Key to struggle is to change outlook of powers: Gajendrakumar
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 11 February 2015, 00:04 GMT] Equal to the war crimes, there is an outlook crime of the powers involved in the island that was responsible for the genocide and is responsible for the on-going genocide of Eezham Tamils. Whether changing the outlook is possible through edification or through challenging the concerned powers? Whether changing the outlook is going to be the major issue in the future decades of the Tamil politics? When TamilNet-Palaka’ni interviewer Haydn Howard asked these questions to Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam last week, his reply was “Yes I think that is the key.” The outlook in question doesn’t come from lack of knowledge, Gajendrakumar said, naming US-dominated West, India and China as actors primarily involved. It is certainly not going to be through education, it is something that has to come through a struggle, he said.
As long as we understand what is going on and educate our people sufficiently I think we can challenge them in their own game, he further said, stressing on a struggle and leverage coming from the people concerned.
What is going to matter is that, we have Interests [national], and those interests are permanent. We will not compromise upon them under any circumstances. And if we can have international actors who can recognize that, recognize the facts that we also have interests that won’t be compromised, then I think that the relationship which we can build with those very same actors will be on a much more meaningful and in deeper footing. We are committed to that position, Gajendrakumar said.
“There is an tendency amongst those who are detractors within the Tamil polity itself, who would try and make out that when we take up an particular position which is critical of, say regarding India or the west, in how they deal with Sri Lanka and the Eelam Tamils. Particularly when we criticise them regarding their dealing with Eelam Tamil issue, there is a tendency to try to point out that this is black and white, in the sense that if you are criticizing, then you are anti-this or anti-that. I don’t think this will last long, if we can show our people what the truth is, if we can educate them on what is actually happening, I don’t think that we are anti-this or anti-that will matter,” Gajendrakumar added.
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When asked what is his party’s programme in preparing Eezham Tamils as a nation to rule themselves, by bringing in political structures and grassroot infrastructure, Gajendrakumar replied that “If we believe that we are a nation, then we must start behaving like a nation.”
Elucidating on the current limitations as well as the space for democratic political organisation and mass struggle, Gajendrakumar said, “The question is whether we can mobilise it to a point where we create sufficient leverage so that the Sri Lankan State also takes us seriously. I think that is the key. I believe that they will have to take us seriously, if we are prepared to actually take ourselves seriously with regards to the fact that we are a nation.”
Full transcript of the Palaka'ni interview with Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam follows:
Haydn Howard: It seems that equal to ‘war crimes’, there is also something of an ‘outlook crime’, which was responsible for the genocide and the on-going genocide. Is there any political programme in your party, edifying this outlook or, if not possible, confronting it, instead?
Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam: As far as our party is concerned, our view has always been that the international community as such – whichever aspect of it or grouping you want to look at – When it comes to Sri Lanka it is fully versed with regards to what the Tamil people face.
Since the departure of the British from Sri Lanka, there has been a systematic genocide that has been taking place. Whichever member of the international community you may belong to, it is not something that those particular actors don’t realize. They are not stupid. This matter has been going on for the last at least 65 years. All Tamil leaders, regardless of which party affiliation they come from, have at various crucial moments, not only told our own people, and described what is happening to the Tamil people as genocide. They have at crucial stages come out with very powerful written documentation, in the form of resolutions, party declarations, declarations in the sense that the entirety of the Tamil people endorsing – all very clearly stating that this is genocide.
That the Sri Lankan state has been pursuing the genocide is something that is well known. It is not a new phenomenon. Degrees have varied and its execution has varied in various ways.
When you have International actors, who are not ignorant but are fully versed with what is going on, continuing to support a State despite what is happening, as far as we are concerned, this is not due to ignorance. When there is no ignorance how much you can do by way of trying to convince them, is a question mark.
I don’t believe there is a question of lack of knowledge.
Then it becomes quite obvious, that there is a certain agenda that is running. Our Party’s position has always been that international actors that back the Sri Lankan State, back it blindly, because they need to pursue their own interests.
And if that happens, that means that when genocide is taking place, certainly when a structural genocide is taking place today, then those actors also, by the virtue of them doing it (supporting Sri Lanka) with the knowledge, are complicit.
Our view is that then there is no question of convincing them to do otherwise, it is the question of needing to look at them as being part of the issue. In that case we need to come up with a strategy to counter that, it is certainly not going to be through education, it is something that has to come through a struggle.
I am not sure whether I would use the term ‘confront’ but certainly challenge is something we should do. And that is the role of our party, we think.
Howard: Do you think that change is possible through edification or through challenging the powers responsible for the current international outlook in order to change the way the Tamil national question is addressed?
Ponnambalam: If you look at what has happened in the recent past in Sri Lanka, our view has always been that there is a geopolitical struggle that is taking place with Sri Lanka at its centre. It is a struggle in which primary actors involved are the US-dominated West, India and China.
It is this grouping that is struggling to someway to get leverage over the Sri Lankan state. In such a scenario, in order to bring the Sri Lankan state into their particular spheres of influence in their own way of thinking, these various actors have used various forms of leverage on the Sri Lankan state. One of the primary leverage, and probably the most effective, is the Tamil issue.
So you would have, at various stages, various actors involved: for example in the 1980’s, it was a period during the cold war, it was a time when India was aligning with the Soviet Union. And when the United States was showing a lot of interests in Sri Lanka, there was a cold war based around Sri Lanka also, in which the primary actors were the USA and India. At that stage when it suited India’s purpose, the Tamil struggle was used as leverage; the Tamil liberation struggle was armed and strengthened in order to create leverage over the Sri Lankan state.
And when the Sri Lankan state came and fell in line, in the form of coming and signing the Indo-Lanka accord, through its annexures India was able to secure its interest. That very same actor, that is India, basically told the Tamil people, now it is time to pack up and go home. Forget your struggle, your issues now must be put to rest and there should be no room for struggle.
So, that scenario is there, when it suits them they have used us as leverage, when it suits them they keep quite. And they behave in the complete opposite. When it suited them they used the fact that Tamils are being oppressed and that genocide is going on, several Indian prime ministers, including Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have at various times used the word genocide in their own parliament to describe what is happening to the Tamils, way back in the 1980’s.
This is not out of ignorance. That is my main point. Those very same actors, when they signed the Indo-Lanka accord, turned around and said to Tamils that now everything is okay, now you just have to get on with your life. But we know, since then, that the process of genocide has continued against the Tamil people.
I think the only way we can move forward, is by realizing what is happening, and educate our people primarily, because our people is that leverage. They need our politics on the one hand and they need to contain the politics on the other hand, so it revolves around our politics. And as long as we understand what is going and educate our people sufficiently I think we can challenge them [the external powers/outlook crime] in their own game. And through challenging them we can create the leverage for ourselves. I believe that is the main thing we need to do.
Howard: So, changing the outlook is going to be the major issue in the future decades of the Tamil politics?
Ponnambalam: Yes. I think that is key.
There is an tendency amongst those who are detractors within the Tamil polity itself, who would try and make out that when we take up an particular position which is critical of, say regarding India or the west, in how they deal with Sri Lanka and the Eelam Tamils. Particularly when we criticise them regarding their dealing with Eelam Tamil issue, there is a tendency to try to point out that this is black and white, in the sense that if you are criticizing, then you are anti-this or anti-that. I don’t think this will last long, if we can show our people what the truth is, if we can educate them on what is actually happening, I don’t think that we are anti-this or anti-that will matter.
What is going to matter is that, we have Interests [national], and those interests are permanent. And that we will not compromise upon them under any circumstances. And if we can have international actors who can recognize that, recognize the facts that we also have interests that won’t be compromised, then I think that the relationship which we can build with those very same actors will be on a much more meaningful and in a deeper footing. We are committed to that position.
Howard: While, you claim Self-Determination for Eelam Tamils, what is your political programme in preparing them as a nation to rule themselves, especially for bringing in political structure and building infrastructures at grassroots levels as well as in the higher levels?
Ponnambalam: First and foremost, we believe that we are a nation in our own right, and as such by extension we believe that we are entitled to the right to self-determination. Those are inalienable rights. Those are not rights that could be compromised under any circumstances.
Regarding to what form that right is going to take, and in what form are we going to exercise those rights is up to our people.
Our issue is that we need to educate our people and create those conditions for them to exercise those rights.
Primarily, if we believe that we are a nation then we must start behaving like a nation.
If that is the case we need to start creating power structures in a manner where we can build a power centre for our nation.
In politics, as far as I am concerned there are only two forms of power. One is the power of arms and the other is the power of the people.
As a democratic party that works within a democratic space that is severely restricted in Sri Lanka because of certain legal constraints, for example, we have legal constraints saying that we can't talk about a separate state, we can't talk about this and we can't talk about that. There is Prevention of Terrorism Act, which is the most draconian law, which is still operative as normal law.
Under those circumstances there are certain limits to which we can work in a safe environment.
But, within those safe environments, where we don't throw our people into unnecessary jeopardy, we believe still we can achieve a lot in building these structures of our nation, purely democratic, no one can make allegations against us with regards to our motives. Those are rights no can deny. And if someone tries to deny that, then we will be in a position to expose the duplicity with these people who talk about democracy, rule of law, good governance – all these clichés, because these are merely clichés when they come to Tamil people.
We believe that we have to build those action plans that we can put into practice through which we can create a power centre. That power centre can only come through people’s power. People’s power can be mobilised through mass struggle. I also believe that people’s power can also be mobilised through creating a de-facto power centre.
For example, in our homeland, in areas that we recognise as our homeland, if we can create a situation of our own Assembly, where even though it is under the control of the Sri Lankan State structure, where you have various elections that take place for various institutions. When those people are elected, under albeit a Sri Lankan State structure, those elected representatives are people of our own choice. It is our people who are voting. Those people can de-facto start congregating and actually discuss amongst ourselves, through which we create an Assembly of our own. That is not illegal. Those spaces are there. The question is whether we can mobilise it to a point where we create sufficient leverage so that the Sri Lankan State also takes us seriously. I think that is the key. I believe that they will have to take us seriously, if we are prepared to actually take ourselves seriously with regards to the fact that we are a nation.