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Sampanthan’s Batticaloa speech, an utter confusion

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This perplexity in this speech seems to be a result of an attempt to pacify both the extremism still prevails among Tamil people, as among other communities, and the present day reality.
 By M.S.M.Ayub

“Our acceptance of this position does not mean ……that, in the event our right to internal self-determination is continuously denied, we will not claim our right under international law to external self-determination.”

“We must prove to the international community that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka.”

These are two separate sentences excerpted from the speech made by Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, the Leader of the Illankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) at the 14th convention of the ITAK that was held in Batticaloa last week.  What would one gather from these two separate sentences taken together? In one sentence he says “we must prove to the world that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka.” And in the second sentence he says that if the Tamils did not get a solution within a united Sri Lanka they would fight for a separate State (external self-determination).
Does he suggest that the Tamils must prove to the international community that they will never be able to realize their rights within a united Sri Lanka so that they would justifiably be able to fight for a separate State again? 

No, he doesn’t, given some other parts of the same speech. Addressing the Sinhalese people at a certain point during his oration Mr. Sampanthan says “The solution we propose for the achievement of our political aspiration will not undermine the sovereignty of other people. It does not hide a devious agenda seeking to divide the country.”  He also says to the Sinhalese people “We have clearly asked for a solution within a united Sri Lanka, and we are committed to the achievement of such a goal”, provoking one to pose a question as to whether he tells one to the Tamils giving a totally different picture to the Sinhalese. 

Already this question has been raised by some well-known writers and sometimes the Tamils might respond to this question in the affirmative while the majority of Sinhalese would definitely oppose it. With a view to strike a balance between these two extremes one might say that the sovereignty here is nothing other than the right to look after a community’s own affairs within an undivided country.

The usage of wordings and the ambiguity in Mr. Sampanathan’s speech remind us the similar ambiguous statements by the LTTE leaders. Here is an ideal paragraph extracted from an interview by the LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran with a veteran Indian journalist, Anita Pratap which was published in the Indian magazine, “Sunday”  far back as 1984.

“It is wrong to call our movement “separatist”. We are fighting for independence based on the right to national self-determination of our people. Our struggle is for self-determination, for the restoration of our sovereignty in our homeland. We are not fighting for a division or separation of a country but rather, we are fighting to uphold the sacred right to live in freedom and dignity. In this sense, we are freedom fighters not terrorists.”( Sunday Magazine,  March 11-17, 1984).

Does the ITAK approve the armed struggle to win the rights of Tamils? That is another ambiguous issue touched upon by Mr. Sampanthan in his speech. Here he disapproves and approves the armed struggle in two sentences in the same paragraph of his prepared speech. “The rise and fall of the LTTE taught us that regardless of how strong such a movement may be, or how just its demands may be, it is not realistic for the Tamil people to resort to violent political struggle.  Further, a struggle that runs counter to the values of the international community, built only on military might, will not prevail.” The phrase “Only on military might” does not exclude military might.

This perplexity in this speech seems to be a result of an attempt to pacify both the extremism still prevails among Tamil people, as among other communities, and the present day reality.

DM

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