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
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.
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.