Friday, December 28, 2007

Sri Lanka: Call to make 2008 "The Year of Victory"

By Dayan Jayathilaka

This report is presented for information only and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mike Hitchen Consulting

We are about to step into 2008, the 60th year of Sri Lanka's Independence. It shows every sign of being a decisive year. Indeed it must be made so. Sixty years after independence is the right historical and psychological moment to resolve the major problem facing Sri Lanka. That is the reunification of this small island. Sri Lanka's natural borders must be its political boundaries. Its armed forces must enjoy the sole monopoly of violence throughout its territory. Whatever its internal arrangements, the country must be one, single, indivisible political entity.

What does this mean in concrete terms? It means that the LTTE must be eliminated as a military challenge to Sri Lanka's unity and territorial integrity. This in turn means that the Tigers must no longer be an armed force capable of rivalling Sri Lanka's armed forces. The LTTE must no longer exist as a parallel army. This entails the destruction of the LTTE as a fighting force; the elimination of its leadership, its armed cadre and military assets. This would create the opportunity for the LTTE to convert itself into a democratic political formation, provided it accepts that any solution to Tamil political grievances and identity issues must be pursued peacefully and democratically within the parameters of a single, united Sri Lanka.

This objective is both imperative and feasible. It is imperative because any sustainable progress requires the elimination of the enemy armed force and its capacity for instant destabilisation. The varied futures envisaged for the country by leaders as diverse as Presidents Jayewardene, Premadasa and Kumaratunga were thwarted by one factor: Prabhakaran. Sri Lanka can move forward only if it eliminates the obstacle in its path. Its economy can grow in a sustainable manner only if military expenditure levels off and is progressively reduced, and more fundamentally, if the national market is reunified, which means the reunification of the national territory as a single space. After decades of armed conflict punctuated by ceasefires and internationally mediated negotiations, the elimination of Jonas Savimbi was the key to peace and prosperity in resource rich Angola.

The war can be won. We are at a rare moment in our country's history in which we enjoy a favourable confluence of factors: a President (and Defence Secretary) with political will and determination; an experienced and respected military leadership; massive popular support; high military morale; increased recruitment; high performance on the part of all three armed services. Those who make the most facile parallels with the Bush administration, Iraq, Afghanistan and all points of geography and history would do well to ponder the statistical fact that after a quarter century of military conflict, the Sri Lankan people are not about to throw in the towel and bring the boys back home, for the simple reason that the boys are fighting precisely for their home, and therefore a massive 84 % percent of a huge 75% of the island's people, a massive majority of the majority, support the President's war effort. So too does a significant (under the circumstances) segment (20%) of the main Tamil minority. The war is now a People's War.

That is also the secret of the Govt's success in defeating the Budget conspiracy: no party or formation which bases itself at least in part, on a nationalist or patriotic appeal, can afford to be seen to topple the Government at the expense of the war effort and to the benefit of the LTTE. This is also why the Govt does not have to succumb to every slogan of the more extremist or radical nationalist forces but can negotiate if not from strength, certainly not from inferiority.

2008 must then be designated as our Year of Victory. Certainly the war cannot be won by solely military means, but let there be no illusions: a war can be won only by primarily military means. The main, central and decisive effort in the coming year must of necessity be military: in a war, the armed struggle is the main axis and 'motor force of development' of the historical process. All else is utopianism. However the war effort must be supported by politics and diplomacy.

Prabhakaran will attempt a replay of 1987, when he successfully leveraged the external factor (at the time, sub-regional, i.e. Tamil Nadu). Today it will be pressure from those countries which have a large, electorally significant Tamil Diaspora, which plays a role more like the notorious Miami mafia than the Jewish lobby. These Western states seem determined to prevent the military victory of the Sri Lankan state over the Tigers, and seem to prefer the survival/existence of the Tigers as a military entity. Sri Lanka cannot afford to be deterred by these pressures, and sacrifice its future. Any student of the Cold War would recognise the use of the instrument of Human Rights and so-called 'dissident civil society' by the West, to penetrate and undermine regimes and states. Sri Lanka cannot make the mistakes of Gorbachev (the latter years) and Yeltsin, be tranquilised, have its sovereignty penetrated, be weakened and dismantled as countries. Sri Lanka cannot be oblivious to the use of the slogan of "humanitarian crisis" to dismantle the former Yugoslavia. Today the West stands ready to ignore the UN resolution that reiterates that Kosovo is a part of Serbia, and to recognise Kosovo as an independent state.

The anti-Sri Lanka campaign will accelerate next year as Sri Lanka makes headway in the struggle to overcome the Tigers. The West, preceded by the Western-dominated media, will howl about a "humanitarian crisis", and brandish the policy of R2P ('Responsibility to Protect') at us as we close in on Prabhakaran's bunker. However, in our case R2P is ultimately something of a paper tiger. It works in a context such as the former Yugoslavia, a country put together in the post-war years from the most diverse components (in bold, laudable experiment by Tito). Sri Lanka is not a failed or failing state. It is a continent too far for an imposed R2P to be sustained. It is located in Asia, has a distinct cultural identity and a decisive homogeneous majority, a consciousness of a continuous existence as a state entity, an educated and militant youth population. And no part of Sri Lanka hankers after EU membership!

The coming anti-Sri Lanka campaign must be blunted by three counter-thrusts.

We must rebuild our national defences by rejuvenating our National Human Rights Commission and/or creating new and credible institutions headed by internationally respected Sri Lankans. It must be recognised however, that human rights violations will drop off drastically when the war is over, when the enemy has been defeated - just as human rights violations in the South of Sri Lanka dropped off sharply when the JVP had been militarily defeated. The re-enfranchised Tamil people will swiftly recover their rights in a peaceful environment where the highly competitive politics of Sri Lanka's proportional representation come into play.

We must devolve power to the North and East, swiftly and sustainably. This means, as a first step, reactivating the 13th amendment, as proposed by Douglas Devananda. The weight of the Indian state upon the Sri Lankan and the reluctant cooperation of a Government with a 5/6ths majority in parliament, could not secure in 1987, the "Indian Model" so beloved by certain Tamil moderates. The 13th amendment is as good as it gets, and any improvement will have to await a more favourable parliamentary balance of power, with a drastically altered mass consciousness.

(Faced with the stark choice at a referendum of deleting the term "unitary" from the Constitution, I do not see the majority of Sri Lankans, voting "yes"). A realist solution would aim to protect the 13th amendment from further roll-back as was threatened earlier this year. Mr Devananada's Tamil rivals may depict themselves as more pro-Indian than he, but it does not suit India's interest to have a pro-Indian Tamil politician who is so unacceptable to the Sinhalese that he winds up in India, a la Vardarajahperumal! Devananda is a Tamil politician who is loyal to Sri Lanka and close to India; therefore able to act as a bridge.

He is the only Tamil politician who will accept a solution within the existing Constitution, and is also the only Tamil politician trusted sufficiently by the Sinhala South, to be permitted to hold a significant measure of power in the strategically sensitive North. Like the 13th amendment, Mr Devananda is also as good as it gets. Reactivating the 13th amendment in the present day translates itself into an interim administration in the Northern Province and early Provincial elections in the East.

Our foreign relations must be consciously reoriented, and foreign policy must turn for inspiration to "Kadirgamar Chinthanaya". Those Sri Lankans whose natural tendency is to ask " how high?" when the West says "jump", as well as those whose knees knock at the thought of Western cutbacks, neither recall the history of Sri Lanka's own foreign policy nor understand contemporary international relations. It was in the 1950s, in response to the Rubber-Rice Pact between China and Sri Lanka (under a UNP administration!) that US Congress passed the Hickenlooper Amendment cutting aid to our country- yet we did not waver, still less wilt.

As for those who would counter that the Socialist camp existed at the time as an option, it is to be recalled that the "moment of uni-polar hegemony" has passed its zenith or is in crisis, and we live in the period of the Iraqi debacle, the revitalisation of Russia, the rise of China and tendencies towards multi-polarity. Under President Rajapakse, Sri Lanka has already embarked upon a diversification of its dependence. To avoid a tedious debate on foreign policy, for which I have no time, working as I am at one of Sri Lanka's global FDLs here in Geneva, I would only remind the incorrigibly negativist and the defeatist that Sri Lanka's finest foreign policy thinker the late Lakshman Kadirgamar had already, in the last stage of his tenure and life, publicly signalled the geopolitical/geo-strategic reorientation of Sri Lanka's external relations. I advocate a return to that emergent thrust, within an overall Realist policy of power balancing, especially multi-polar power balancing.

Until this war is over and won, our foreign policy has to be the handmaiden of strategy, an overall strategy whose primary goal and objective must be the unification of the state through the military defeat and destruction of the secessionist-terrorist enemy, the LTTE. Foreign policy must be defence-driven, rather than the other way about. It cannot be oriented towards those states that have large Tamil lobbies and which instrumentalize human rights hypocritically to prevent our victory. It must be oriented towards precisely those states, blocs and tendencies which are uninfluenced by such lobbies, and are in favour of combating that which China refer to as "the Three Evils: Separatism, Terrorism and Extremism".

In our 60th anniversary year Sri Lankans would do well to be inspired by the words of Fidel Castro, a product of another small island nation in the tropical sun. In his 700 plus page autobiography My Life (2007) Fidel Castro says "Those who don't respond, those who don't fight, those who don't combat, those people are lost from the beginning, and in us, you'll never find that kind of person."

Source: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.