Sri Lanka can't escape blame for killing of Tamils
Over the years, Colombo has given New Delhi the impression that Sri Lanka is working out an arrangement whereby the Tamils would enjoy autonomy within...
Over the years, Colombo has given New Delhi the impression that Sri Lanka is working out an arrangement whereby the Tamils would enjoy autonomy within the country. This hope got a fillip when the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was eliminated in a war which lasted for decades and ended four years ago
SRI Lanka and India, although separated by a channel, have never got along well. It is like the UK and France centuries ago when they were at war with each other all the time. Both Colombo and New Delhi are really distant neighbours. Their mistrust in each other is so deep that one attributes all types of motives to the other. Yet all their enmity is not over the territory or policies but on the discriminatory treatment meted out to Tamils living in Sri Lanka. Over the years, Colombo has given New Delhi the impression that Sri Lanka is working out an arrangement whereby the Tamils would enjoy autonomy within the country. This hope got a fillip when the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) was eliminated in a war which lasted for decades and ended four years ago. But President Mahinda Rajapaksa dashed all hopes when he said during the Independence Day address last month, ruling out any kind of political autonomy to the Tamils who are concentrated in the northeastern province. To New Delhi, President Rajapaksa's statement has come as a rude shock but it still believes that he would ultimately fulfill his assurance that he remains fully committed to facilitate the "13th Amendment plus" to solve the ethnic issue. In the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution of 1978, introduced in the aftermath of the India-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, there is a provision for regional autonomy to the country's tightly-held unitary system of governance. It is regarded as an acknowledgement of the political aspirations of the Tamils. The rejection of autonomous status is endorsed by all-powerful Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the President's brother. He has gone further and called for a repeal of the 13th Amendment, clarifying the government's true intent as far as the Tamils aspirations were concerned. The government has already undone the merger of the northern and eastern provinces and has twice held elections to the eastern province, installing there a government of its choice. President Rajapaksa has said that it was not practical for Sri Lanka to have "different administrations based on ethnicity. The solution is to live together in this country with equal rights for all communities." Obviously, nothing special for the Tamils was ever in his reckoning. But by finally being honest about his policy, Rajapaksa has merely reaffirmed the majority Sinhala community's aversion to the 13th Amendment, historically looked upon in Sri Lanka as an Indian diktat. Following the accord, a Tamil-dominated provincial government was set up in the north but it was never allowed to function normally even by the LTTE and its various militant Tamil opponent groups. The premature death of the provincial government was ensured by the fierce war between the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the LTTE that ended with the departure of the IPKF in mid-1990 and the resumption of the war with the Sri Lankan armed forces. The Rajapaksa government may delude itself by scrapping the 13th Amendment. Colombo has ended once and for all the question of the Tamils' autonomy. This is a wrong inference. Tamils and the intellectual community are waiting for the promise made to be implemented. The Sinhalese have no other option. They will have to satisfy the aspirations of the Tamils sooner or later. Colombo has to deal with yet another storm which is brewing. It refers to the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan army. The world should be grateful to Channel IV of the UK which brought the massacre of Tamils to light. They were killed after the LTTE had surrendered and the war was over. President Rajapaksa tells so many lies that it is difficult to know when he speaks the truth. The President has denied that the Army killed LTTE chief Prabakaran's 12-year-old son Balachandran. "Had it happened, I would have known (it). It is obvious that if somebody (from the armed forces) had done that, I must take responsibility. We completely deny it. It can't be," he said. But this is his explanation. Allegations that neither the Sri Lankan Army nor the LTTE was paying any attention to the horrendous sufferings of civilians intensified with further intelligence that at least 40,000 civilians had been deliberately shelled by the Army, caught as they were in the so-called no-fire zones declared at that time. Somewhat to the surprise of the international community, the Army Court of Inquiry stuck to the already discredited claims of the military campaign having been a "humanitarian operation" with its objective having been "zero civilian casualty." The commanders, the court claimed, at all times "obeyed� directives from the higher headquarters with regard to No Fire Zones (NFZs) and even when the LTTE had fired from NFZs, commanders refrained from firing at such NFZs. If this was factually correct, then why is President Rajapaksa opposed to an international probe? Even the UN-appointed committee was not given visa to visit Colombo. New Delhi is still waiting for Colombo to tell the truth and face it.