Feature Article

Real war is just beginning, get involved: Brian Senewiratne

[TamilNet, Friday, 19 March 2010, 18:47 GMT]
“Despite my involvement over many years, I was taken aback by the result,” writes Brian Senewiratne on the overwhelming mandate for Tamil Eelam in the referenda of the diaspora in several countries. The time for federation has long since gone. Until the Tamil areas are separated from the control in Colombo there will be neither peace nor prosperity in the island. If there is a genuine referendum in the Tamil areas of the island the ‘yes’ vote might be 100 percent and Delhi will have to duck for cover if such a ballot is taken among the 70 million Tamils of Tamil Nadu, he writes. According to him this major crisis of global dimensions, the genesis of which lies in British colonialism, and the global fall-out in resolving it, demands global response. The real war, not in a military sense, is just beginning. Loss of hope has achieved nothing and the ray of hope is the Tamil youth, he says.

Further excerpts from the 48-page paper titled "Diaspora referenda on Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka," by Dr. Brian Senewiratne follows. The 78-year-old Dr. Senewiratne, a renowned physician and an Australia based Sinhala expatriate is a member of the Bandaranaike family and is a long-time defender of the Eezham Tamil cause.

On Tamil referendum:
I have never seen such a result in any poll on any subject anywhere in the world. To say that the overwhelming number of expatriate Tamils want a separate State, Tamil Eelam, would be a gross understatement. Despite my involvement in this over many years, I was taken aback by the result.

Dr Brian Senewiratne
Dr Brian Senewiratne
It is a colonial construct [the State of Sri Lanka] that has failed. All that the Tamils are asking for, and what these current Referenda have endorsed overwhelmingly, is that this failed colonial construct be dismantled.

Let us throw in the 70 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu, conduct a ballot there and let us say they all voted “Yes”. Do you think Delhi would remain impotent? I doubt it. Delhi will duck for cover, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) – the ‘Indian CIA’, notwithstanding

I would love to see a Referendum done where it matters – the Tamil areas in the North and East. Not a ‘Referendum’ with Rajapakse’s hoodlums, in uniform or not in uniform, or his Tamil ‘helpers’ standing around to note who votes ‘yes’ and who votes ‘No” to report back to their ‘Master’. I mean a genuine Referendum, with the Sri Lankan Armed Forces out of the area, and Rajapakse’s henchmen such as Karuna, Pillayan and others of their ilk, removed from the area. The ‘yes’ vote might well be 100%.

On the futility of federal solution:
I believed then (in 1945), even more so now, that until this irresponsible and disastrous British Colonial construct is dismantled, there will be neither peace nor prosperity in Sri Lanka. The product of this dissolution can be called “Eelam”, or anything else, but administrative power to run the Tamil areas, must be taken out of Sinhalese hands.

A few days after the ballot in Norway (98.95% voted for a separate Tamil State), Erik Solheim, the Norwegian Minister, who had more than a little to do with the well-functioning de-facto State of Tamil Eelam (before it was smashed by the Sri Lankan ‘government’ in 2007-09), advocated a Federal solution to the crisis. The Honourable Minister is living in the past, as are some so-called ‘moderate Tamils’ in Sri Lanka and abroad. The time for Federation has long since gone.

For a Federal set-up to work in Sri Lanka, the Tamil (Federal) State must have some confidence in Colombo. Unless the Tamils are mad, I cannot see them having any confidence in Colombo.

What the Rajapakse regime has shown, and shown very clearly, is that anything built by the Tamils, will be destroyed.

Dr Rachel Joyce, the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Harrow West was more realistic. Here is what she said:-

“It has been my long-standing view that the only true path to peace in Sri Lanka is with a political settlement with the creation of Eelam being the only solution that has a strong chance of long-term success”.

On the opposition to Tamil referendum:
My interest is to meet the 561 (0.28%) of Tamils who voted “No”, and ask them what solution they had in mind. The options are limited: 1. To continue the status quo, and go on, as they have since Independence, being second class citizens, now probably third class citizens. 2. The Tamils could, of course, throw it all in and ‘become’ Sinhalese. 3. To crawl under the table and pick up what their Sinhala masters at the table will toss at them. 4. Hope to get a Federal State from the generosity of the ruling Sinhalese. Federal solution exists only in the minds of the ignorant (such as some of those who voted “No” in the Referendum, some so-called Tamil ‘moderates’, and others such as Erik Solheim and many foreigners, who have no idea of Sri Lanka’s disastrous political record).

In Canada, I was told that leading Tamil media carried out a vicious campaign against the Referendum. Their claim was that the information (presumably of a massive ‘yes’ vote) would reach the Sri Lankan Government and jeopardise any travel prospects of the voters to Sri Lanka.

I was interested in the stance adopted by the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) – a group I have worked with for years.

About the same time as the Canadian Referendum, there was a secret meeting in Vienna attended by sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil elite (many of whom I have met). They discussed “Internal Self-determination, the Thimpu Principles” etc.

I would advise those who have organized these Referenda, to retain their cool, and not be swayed, discouraged or threatened by these ‘spoilers’.

The ray of hope – Tamil youths: The British Referendum, unsupported by the Tamil visual media establishment in the UK, relied on the youth.

Indeed, the Vaddukottai Resolution, about which this Referendum is all about, specifically addressed the youth in its closing paragraph:

“And this Convention calls upon the Tamil nation in general and the Tamil youth in particular, to come forward to throw themselves fully into the sacred fight for freedom and to flinch not till the goal of a sovereign state of TAMIL EELAM is reached”.

On viewing the crisis as ‘colonial’ and as a British responsibility:
The blame has to be laid full square at the feet of the British Colonial masters, and the mediocrities they sent to sort out the mess in Ceylon, and who created a bigger mess - Colebrooke and Cameron, Donoughmore, Soulbury and a string of very mediocre people as Governors of Colonial Ceylon. They are the people who set the stage for the Sinhalese ‘leaders’ to do what they did.

Britain simply has to accept responsibility. A start will be for Britain to apologise to the Tamil people.

Colebrooke-Cameron ‘Reforms’ of 1833: these so-called ‘Reforms’, introduced by the British, for their administrative convenience, which had resulted in a serious and disastrous developmental neglect of the periphery, and which had done more damage to the country than anything else the Colonial British did.

The existence of these separate settlements [of Tamils and Sinhalese] were clearly documented as early as 1799 by Sir Hugh Cleghorn, the first Colonial Secretary of Ceylon, in his famous “Cleghorn Minute”:

“Two different nations, from very ancient period, have divided between them the possession of the island: the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior in the Southern and Western parts from the river Wallouve (now Walawe) to that of Chillow (now Chilaw), and the Malabars (another name for Tamils) who possess the North and Eastern Districts. These two nations differ entirely in their religions, language and manners.”

Despite the crucial Minute sent to the Colonial Office by Cleghorn, Colebrooke decided that the three separate “Kingdoms” [Kotte, Jaffna and Kandy] should be abolished and power centralized in Colombo.

The Donoughmore Constitution – 1931: The British had a chance to undo the damage done by the thoroughly irresponsible Colebrooke-Cameron ‘Reforms’.

The All Ceylon Tamil League rightly pointed out that abolition of communal representation coupled with universal franchise would mean “death to the minorities”.

The major mistake that the Commissioners, in their ignorance, made was to assume that Ceylon was one nation. The reality was that it was one country (or a politico-geographic entity), with two nations (Sinhalese and Tamil), and five communities (Indian Tamils, Sri Lankan Muslims, Indian Muslims, Burghers and Malays).

The most powerful case for a Federal set-up put to the Donughmore Commission, came, not from the Tamils, but from the Kandyan Sinhalese. I refer to this because it applies in no small measure to the Tamils. Here is what the Kandyan National Assembly memorandum demanded: “Ours is….a claim of a nation to live its own life and realize its own destiny….We suggest the creation of a Federal State as in the United States of America….A Federal system….will enable the respective nationals of the several states to prevent further inroads into their territory and to build up their own nationality”.

The Kandyan submission to the Donoughmore Commission is very relevant to the problem facing the Tamils today, and to the recent Referenda.

The 1840 Ordnance made it virtually impossible for a Kandyan peasant to prove that his land was his (just as it might be impossible for the Tamils who have owned land in the militarized North to prove that they owned the land).

The Soulbury Constitution [1948 ignored the crisis by saying] "the evidence submitted to us provides no substantial indication of a general policy on the part of the Government of Ceylon of discrimination against minority communities".

Have the Tamils lost their sovereignty to a Sinhalese majoritarian State post-1948?
That is an easy one, which I can answer in a word, perhaps two – “Most certainly”. The accusing finger cannot simply be pointed at Britain. Sri Lankans have now had more than 60 years to undo the damage that Britain has done. They have done the opposite, and have done far more dreadful things to the Tamils than the British would ever have done.

[The safeguards of the Soulbury constitution were illegaly removed in the 1972 Republican Constitution.]

The makers of the new ‘Constitution’ (1972) had achieved their objectives: 1. To enable the government to do whatever they wanted to the minorities (discriminating against them in education, employment or whatever). 2. To make Sri Lanka (changed from ‘Ceylon’) into a Sinhala-Buddhist nation.

[The 6th Amendment to the 1978 Presidential Constitution disenfranchised Tamils on the national question.]

The 6th Amendment (8.8.1983), made in the wake of the 1983 Tamil massacre by Jayewardene’s hooligans, murderous Cabinet Ministers, and Buddhist monks, was the Prohibition Against Violation of Territorial Integrity. It means that you cannot advocate a Separate State in Sri Lanka, by acts within or outside Sri Lanka.

There is now an attempt to even deny a historical fact –that there was ever a sovereign Tamil Nation. The logic is simple. If there was no sovereign State, then one cannot be accused of denying sovereignty! That is the new Sri Lankan logic.

War and genocide twisted as terrorist problem:
There are, in fact, three separate, but inter-connected ‘activities’:

  1. A war between the Armed Forces of the Sinhalese people (the so-called ‘Sri Lankan Army’ is 99% Sinhalese) and the Armed Forces of the Tamil people (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE).

  2. A series of anti-Tamil pogroms launched by a succession of Sri Lankan governments to crush the Tamil people into submission – to accept multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious, multicultural Sri Lanka as a Sinhala-Buddhist nation.

  3. International manipulation for the control of the Indian Ocean, for which there is no better place than Sri Lanka.

What could be done with the Tamils, 18% of the country?

  1. They can be driven out of the country. 1.3 million already have been, and others are fleeing (if possible). There are, however, still some left.

  2. They can be made ‘non-people’ ie refugees, which has been done. There are today some 500,000 ‘Internally displaced people’ ie refugees, almost all of them Tamil, in Sri Lanka, and another 70,000 in Tamil Nadu.

  3. They can be made to ‘Disappear’. Sri Lanka today has the 2nd highest incidence of involuntary disappearances in the world, second only to Iraq. Most of them are Tamil men.

  4. They can be killed. That is Genocide. Some 80,000 (probably many more) Tamils have been killed.

That business was genocide.

The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines Genocide as an act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Where the Tamils In Sri Lanka are concerned, that ‘part’ is the part that lives in the North and the East.

There are also different types of genocide. ‘Educational’, ‘Cultural’, ‘Economic’, and ‘Religious genocide’, which is the intention, backed by the act, of “destroying in whole or part the education, culture, religion or economy of an ethnic group”. The GOSL is guilty of all of these.

What has been happening to the Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka, is not a ‘Tamil problem’ or a ‘Sinhalese problem’, but a major human rights problem which has global dimensions and a global fall-out. It therefore demands a global response.

Human Rights violations can no longer be claimed to be an ‘internal problem’. That is why the world acted against Apartheid, an ‘internal affair’ of South Africa. There are numerous other examples. Sri Lanka cannot claim to be the exception.

Loss of hope has achieved nothing
I am not asking you, as Churchill did, to “fight on the beaches, fight in the fields, and in the streets” etc. I am asking you not to adopt a defeatist attitude since it will get the Tamil people nowhere.

Dr Brian Senewiratne
Dr Brian Senewiratne
I am not asking you to start another fight in a military sense. But there are, today, more than one way to skin a cat.

The real ‘war’ is just beginning. The ‘conventional war’, if you want to put it that way, might be over, but the ‘problem’ that led to the war has not been settled.

“We are after all in exile”. So was Charles de Gaulle when the Nazis invaded France. So was Nelson Mandela. I might add that it is because you are in exile that the responsibility to do something is even greater. If more than a million people living in the most powerful countries in the world are unable to do something, then there is something radically wrong with them, or the methods they use – perhaps both.

I must draw attention to the fact that such an ‘excuse’ might be acceptable in a country such as East Timor, where the expatriate East Timorese are few and not that well educated. But the situation with the Sri Lankan Tamils is entirely different. I know of no liberation struggle anywhere in the world where those struggling for justice have such a powerful expatriate community.

Get involved was the concluding advice of Brian Senewiratne to Tamils.



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