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Act Now plays with wrong script on Lanka

Developments in Southern Sudan have prompted the UK-based NGO Act Now to push for a referendum in Sri Lanka on the lines of that in South Sudan for the establishment of a separate Tamil Eelam.

Following a lecture by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Oxford Union, Tim Martin of Act Now is reported to have asked the speaker whether he would push for a Sudan style referendum in Sri Lanka. Act Now was one of the key organizers behind the move to threaten the Oxford Union into submission and compel it to withdraw its invitation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to address it in December 2010.

The main role of Act Now appears to be of blowing up the number of civilians alleged to have been killed in the final months of the military operation to defeat the LTTE. Calling for a Sudan style referendum, Tim Martin has referred to an alleged massacre of over 40,000 civilians from January to May 2009, when the LTTE kept using the Tamil people as human shields.

Sudan style referendum

Rajiv Gandhi Robert Blake Tim Martin

Ban Ki-moon did not question the source or accuracy of the Act Now figure of 40,000 civilians killed, when the UN estimate of such deaths, which yet awaits verification and confirmation, is in the range of 7,000. The UNSG reportedly said he shares the concern of Act Now spokesman Tim Martin at what took place in Sri Lanka, but had not rejected the idea of a Sudan style referendum here to serve the interests of the defeated LTTE.

Electoral system

It is necessary for Ban Ki-moon and others to be reminded that the Sudanese referendum came after long negotiations between the Sudanese Government and the Southern rebels and an agreement reached under the auspices of the UN to hold such a referendum. The reality here is quite different. The LTTE did not engage in any serious negotiations with the Government, although plenty of opportunity was given for such talks. It also reneged on the Cease Fire Agreement signed at the urging of Norway and used the CFA to increase its strength while carrying out over 4,000 serious violations of the CFA.

The LTTE did not allow the people of the North and East, especially the Tamils, as well as the Sinhalese and Muslims, to participate in several elections that were held when its armed cadres had control of most of this territory. It is more than laughable that those who Act Now for the LTTE in UK and other parts of the West, appear to have forgotten the LTTE's contempt for the representative electoral system and now, call for a referendum in areas from where the LTTE has been wiped out.

The reality in the areas in which they would like to hold a Sudan style referendum is much different to what they would seek to show the world. The people of the North and East of Sri Lanka have participated in two national elections and freely voted for parties and candidates of their choice, from the governing party and Opposition. They have elected members to Parliament and to local authorities. They are participating in the democratic process, never before allowed by the LTTE, without any demand for separation or a referendum to achieve it.

Also, the political parties that represent the Tamil people today, without the force of arms, have clearly declared that they do not seek a separate Tamil state of Eelam and are prepared to discuss constitutional changes within a single united Sri Lanka. One wonders as to whose interests these organizations claim to represent in calling for bizarre situations such as Sudan style referendum in Sri Lanka.

Indo-Sri Lanka Pact

The North and East of Sri Lanka are separated by an order of the highest judicature of the land. And, in case the LTTE hacks have forgotten the facts, the de-merger and restoration of separate Northern and Eastern Provinces was made possible because the LTTE reneged on the key clause in the Indo-Sri Lanka Pact of 1987, when the merger of the two provinces and a referendum in the East only, was agreed to on condition that LTTE disarmed. The LTTE failed to carry out this pledge, especially given to Rajiv Gandhi and thereby lost all rights to have the North and East merged.

It will be interesting to ask Tim Martin and Act Now what conditions they would have in any area where they hope to hold a Sudan style referendum in Sri Lanka? Is it an area where power rests with gun-toting terrorist cadres with a separatist dream? Is it an area where children are compelled to carry arms for the cause of terror? Is it one where mothers are forced to rush their young daughters into marriage for fear of them being conscripted to the killer suicide cadres of the LTTE? Is it where extortion by the terrorist cadres is rampant and the food and medicines sent to civilians by the country's government is forcibly taken for the needs of the terrorists?

It is good if Ban Ki-moon and Act Now also shared some concern about these facts and took note the observations that former US Ambassador in Colombo, Robert Blake has made about the LTTE intransigence in refusing to abandon its human shields, which led to heavy casualties in the final days of the LTTE. Also worthy of note is a previous US Ambassador Teresita Schaffers recent statement that she rules out American backing for a Tamil Eelam, with no mention of a Sudan style referendum.

 

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