The Role of Expatriates in the Resolution
of the Sri Lankan Problem
by Victor Gunasekara
A Paper presented to a Meeting of Australian Groups
concerned with the Sri Lankan Crisis held in Melbourne
on 7 September 1985 on behalf of the
Queensland Association for Sri Lankan Unity
1. The Sri Lankan Crisi and the Expatriates
The crisis in Sri Lanka has now assumed sucha proportion that it threatens to destroy the very existence of the nation. What started an agitation by sections of the Tamil population of Sri Lanka on specific political issues has now assume the character of a victual civil war which has brought death and destruction to the fair island of Sri Lanka ona scale never though possible even a few years back. The economic achievements of the alst few years have been put at riswk, and progrss in certain sectors of the economy, like tourism, virtually brought ot a halt. The social fabric of the nation which for several centuries had shown the rare spectacle of ethnic amity in a region of the world known for its racial and religious divisiveness, has been severely shaken, if not actually rent asunder.
All this has resulted from the activities of small groups of terrorists who have resorted to violence to achieve their objective of the creation of a separate state to be arve out of the territory of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankann government has not been able to effectively contain this movement, let alone eradicate it. The Sri Lankan problem could not be confined to the domestic arena to which it properly belongs because of two aspects which have characterized this problem from its very inception. These are:
(a) The involvement of India. The separatist terrorist have been able to establish secure operationa bases in India, mainly in the State of Tamilnadu, because of the accommodating attitude of the former Prime Minister of India Mrs Indira Gandhi. After her assassination there has be perceptible shift in emphasis in the Indian attitude to this problem under the new Prime Minister Mr Rajiv Gandhi.
(b) The activities of expatriate Tamils.
It was the expatiate Tamil community [Note 1]
that provided the ideology, most of the leadership, and much of the financial resources for the separatist movement. They worked out the strategy, and kept up the morale and enthusiasm of the rebel groups. They introduced the principles and practices of international terrorism to the conduct of the campaign by the Tamils, prepared the groundwork abroad for the favourable reception of the Tamil claims by the foreign media, voluntary bodies, etc., and even in some cases by foreign political authorities.
The Sri Lankan government has not been successful in controlling these two external influences operating on the Sri Lankan problem. Partly as a result of this failure to control these foreign aspects of the problem, the authorities in Colombo have not been able to control the internal situation as well. The gaining of the initiative in the fight against separatist terrorism is absolutely essential if the Sri Lankan problem is to be resolved satisfactorily. This is true even if the solution will ultimately be brought about through a process of negotiation. Whichever way the problem confronting Sri Lanka is looked at, the tackling of these two foreign aspects is an absolute necessity for the ending the ethnic turmoil in Sri Lanka.
At the present moment [August 1985] some slight progress seems to have been made on the first of these two foreign factors. For the first time India has taken a few correct steps. But whether the Indian Prime Minister will be able to "deliver the goods" and end the support which the terrorists are receiving in India, without expecting Sri Lanka to make "concessions" which involve the grant of the essentials of the separatist demands, is something that has yet to be seen. A few comments on this aspect of the problem will be made later in this paper; meanwhile we must turn our attention to the second of the foreign aspects identified earlier, an aspect which sadly seems to be neglected in the thinking of the authorities in Colombo.
The same process which led some Tamils to seek employment and residence in foreign countries, also led other Sri Lankan groups to do the same. Thus while some expatriate Tamils took up cudgels against the very land that gave them their sustenance and their education, and sought to destroy it, there were others who were grateful to the land of their origin and were willing to serve it in its hour of need. This awakening came late, nearly a decade after the militant Tamils commenced their campaign abroad, and it has still not touched many sections of the Sri Lankan expatriate community. But it should do so, and it will eventually happen. It will then be possible to catch up on a decade of neglect during which time the cards were progressively stacked up against Sri Lanka.
There are several explanations for the belated response of the "patriotic" Sri Lankan elements (whq will be referred to hereafter* as "Lankophiles"). Firstly either as representatives of the majority of Sri Lankan community at home, or those who thought like them, they felt secure in the belief that because the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Sri Lanka were against the division of their country, Sri Lanka's position as a unitary, democratic and multi-racial nation was unassailable. Secondly they felt that as immigrants to new countries they should not "import" the problems of the old country, and that other Sri Lankan groups would do the same. On both these they were to be dissappointed. As for the first they soon learned that mere numbers would not ensure that majority wishes prevail, unless democratic institutions also prevail. But with separatist terrorists resorting to the gun, ballots and the language of reason and negotiation became ineffectual against bullets. As for the second, they soon found out that the "militant" Tamils were not going to honour the traditional practices of immigrants, but were carrying their real or fancied grievances with them, and were hell-bent on working for the destruction of their ersthile homeland. Thus the Lankophile expatriates have been sucked up into the Sri Lankan problem, whether they like it or not; but many of them are unsure how they can be of help.
2. Dealing with the External Aspects of the Problem
It took a long time before the implications of the external dimensions of the Sri Lanka problem came to be recognised by both the government and the public in Sri Lanka. Of course if there were no such complications the solution of the problem would have been that much easier, and it could have been tackled purely as an internal problem. This was essentially the experience with the insurrection of 1971. The rebels then had no external support, and no foreign pressure groups to plead their case, and no sancturies to retreat to. In these circumstances the government's pleas for military and other help received a prompt response from the most diverse of quarters. The rebellion was swiftly put down.
Perhaps this experience of 1971 generated a measure of complacency amongst Sri Lankans. The first signs of trouble connected with the new rebellion were ignored. When moderate Tamil politicians were systematically exterminated by terrorists the signs were not read -their executions were treated as ordinary murders. When the first rebel groups were assembled in Indid not enough pressure was brought to bear on the Indian government to nip it in the bud. And the first attempts of Tamil expatriates to turn world opinion against Sri Lanka was written off as futile exercises and no measures were taken to counter them.
Behind all these was the fundamental delusion that Sri Lanka had powerful friends abroad. The claim was made by successive governments of all political complexions that the whole world would come to Sri Lanka's aid. The economic aid which Sri Lanka received, and such expressions of world sympathy seen in the international response to natural calamities like floods were misinterpreted. Sri Lanka had followed a bi-partisan policy of neutrality, which itself was not wrong. But neutrality requires a great deal of self~reliance in the matter of national defense. Thus while everyone applauded the neutralist policy, no one was prepared to pay for it by developing a self-reliant defense capability, at least equal to the task of full internal security.
So when the crunch finally came, and the terrorists launched their military campaign to tear the nation apart, Sri Lanka was caught unprepared. Not only did she not have any armed forces competent enough to deal with the problem, but was also shown to be quite friendless in the world. Very few nations rendered any substantial military assistance against a rebellion which was based in a neighbouring country. To make matters worse the groundwork laid down by the Tamil expatriate propagandists were yeilding the terrorists immense support. The full might of the foreign press, and the international voluntary bodies concerned with human rights and the like, were used to prevent the Sri Lankan authorities taking any effective measures to end the terrorist campaign even if they had the will and the competence to do so.
On top of this was an enormous complacency in Sri Lanka both in political circles and amongst the public. The hope was entertained ' against all evidence to the contrary, that the nation's afflictions are minor problems that would some how or other go away. When the areas of Tamil preponderance virtually passed into the control of the rebels, and the terrorists were making forays into marginal non-Tamil areas, committing acts of genocide with impunity, there was a tendency to treat them as happenings on a distant planet. Even attacks launched in what were incontestably "Sinhalese areas", when terrorist gunmen ran amok in cities in the North~Central province, and even Colombo saw several terrorist outrages, the complacent attitude of some continued. The typical response of many Colombo dwellers still is: "All is quiet here, there is trouble only in Jaffna!". [Note 2]
The first attempts to deal with the foreign aspects of the problenr were confined to diplomatic efforts. Whatever be the effect they could have had on the Indian involvement, they were quite ineffective in containing the Tamil expatriate campaigns against Sri Lanka. The small size of Sri Lanka's diplomatic establishment, the,incompetence of many of its diplomats (quite a number of whom were political appointees), the prominent place given to Tamils in the diplomatic service, all guaranteed that the diplomatic effort would fail in this area.
But there is a resource that Sri Lanka can easily deploy. This is the body of Lankophile expatriates, who can effectively counter the terrorist propaganda. Their presence in the most unexpected places means that they can work at the grassroots level and counter what is going on. Of course countering the head start which the terrorist propagandists have received will require much effort, and the results of the Lankophile expatriate involvement will not be immediately apparent. Furthermore it will be one of the cheapest strategies for Sri Lanka to adopt.
In spite of this it appears that some criticism is voiced in Sri Lanka against the involvement of Lankophile expatriates. This campaign is probably launched by the agents of terrorism, some of whom languish in surprisingly high places. Sri Lankan expatriates should not be disheartened by this misinformed and ill-intentioned criticism, but should press on, if necessary using their own resources. The insularity of much of thinking in Sri Lanka prevents many Sri Lankans from appreciating the full measure of Sri Lanka's grave plight. The expatriates with first hand experience of what is going on in the world, and with access to a wider variety of news sources, can offer valuable advice to the Sri Lankan authorities.
Given that Lankophile expatriates have an essential role to play in the resolution of the Sri Lanka dispute the question arises how this could be done. So far some expatriates have sought to make their personal contribution on an individual basis. Such isolated activities have proved ineffective, and they have largely gone unnoticed. The answer is that the Lankophile expatriates should constitute themselves into organisations specifically dedicated to the tasks they have to perform. We shall refer to such an organisation of Sri Lankans dedicated to the specific tasks of dealing with the crisis in Sri Lanka resulting from the activities of separatists by the general term "Sri Lankan Unity Group" (SLUG). This paper will be concerned largely with the issues involved in the structure, the objectives, the activities of a SLUG. The appendix to this paper contains the constitution for such an organisations, which could be the basis of discussion by interested Sri Lankans wishing to constitute themselves into such an organisation.
3. Organizational Aspects of a Sri Lankan Unity Group
Given that the best way in which Lankophile Sri Lankans can make a contribution to the resolution of the Sri Lankan crisis is through the formation of organizations ("SLUGs"), the first set of questions that will arise will relate to the appropriate structure of the organisation
and the relationship to other bodies. Some of the issues relevant to this problem will be examined in this section.
(a) Relationship to the Sri Lankan Government
A crucial question that arises is the relationship which an expatriate Sri Lankan Unity Group should have with the Sri Lankan Government. The SLUG is not an instrumentality or an arm of the SL Government. It should at all times maintain its distance from the home country. In
particular the SLUG should not consider itself bound to support whatever policy the SL Government follows. It is only insofar as the current policy is in line with what the SLUG considers to be the
appropriate policy to follow in the face of the separatist insurgency should there be support to the Government of the home country.
It must also be remembered that the Sri Lankan Unity Group (or SLUG)
will be made largely of expatriates from Sri Lanka who would no longer
be Sri Lankan citizens but, say, Australian citizens. Not being current
Sri Lankan citizens they would not have the same right to intervene in
Sri Lankan affairs that Sri Lankans would have. Sri Lanka being a
democracy its Government would have the support of its people.
Thus any action in support of what the Sri Lankan Government is doing is
appropriate as it would be something which is endorsed democratically by
the Sri Lankan people.
The problem will arise if the current policy
of the Sri Lankan Government is no longer compatible with the
thinking of the group. In this case any actions which the
Group will do which is contrary to what the Sri Lankan government is
doing would amount to an unwarranted interference with the policy of
the democratically elected Government in Sri Lanka. In this
situation the Group will have to renounce and activist role.
However a non-activist role may still exist, in studying the problem
and offering its advice to anyone interested.
(b) Relationship to "Sri Lankan Societies"
First of all the SLUG should be independent of existing "Sri Lanka Societies". Such societies have been established in many parts of the world. Their primary objective has been social. This is an essential and laudable function and these Societies should be allowed to provide the services in this area that they are providing. Many such Societies have rules in their Constitutions requiring political neutrality, and of course the major function of a SLUG could be construed as "political" in the normal sense of the term.
Furthermore Sri Lankan Societies have sometimes resulted in dividing Sri Lankan communities rather than uniting them. Their structure, with a -heavy emphasis on office bearers and committees, has sometimes led to an unseemly scramble for office. A SLUG should be more interested in activities, rather than office bearers. The actual achievement of results is more important than the apportionment of credit. The highly volatile nature of the problem which which the SLUG is concerned with, means that personnel and strategy may have to be changed at short notice. There is no time to wait for AGMs and the like to institute a change in strategy or office bearers.
It is to be hoped that the SLUG will obtain the co-operation of' the local Sri Lanka Society, but even if such co~operation is not forthcoming the SLUG should have organizational capability to continue on its own. What~ is said in relation to Sri Lanka societies would also apply to other organizations like Ethnic Broadcasting Groups, social clubs, and the like, into which Sri Lankans may be organized.
(c) Relationship to Sri Lankan Authorities
The SLUG should be organized independent of the instrumentalities of the Sri Lankan government. These include the local Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. There are several reasons for this. The SLUG should not be perceived to be an arm of the Sri Lankan government (which it is not); it should at all times have the freedom to analyse developments in Sri Lanka, and international developments regarding the Sri Lankan problem, in an impartial manner, and according to its perceptions; finally it may have to make constructive criticism of the government itself. Indeed the SLUG should take whatever actions are necessary in the light of its own interpretation and perception of the problem at hand.
Of course one would expect that the most cordial relations would exist between the diplomatic representatives of the Sri Lankan government and the SLUG. Such co-operation would lie mutually beneficial. There are areas where diplomatic protocol might make it mori. appropriate for the SLUG to issue a statement or undertake an initi-,itiv(~. On the other hand the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission could be of great assistance to the Group.
The SLUG should naturally not be allied to any political party or interest group in Sri Lanka, or outside. Some Sri Lankan political parties have established branches among Sri Lankan expatriates, but the SLUG should operate independent of such branches.
(d) Name of Group
The SLUG should choose an appropriate and distinctive nar-ne. In view of the need for national and international liaison it might be better if a similar name is adopted by all SLUGs. One suggestion is that the name chosen for the SLUG give prominence to its objective of promoting unity of Lanka and teh Lankan. A good name would be "The XXXXX Association for Sri Lankan Unity" where XXXXX is the area in which most of the members of the Association normally reside. The appropriate territorial coverage of a ch association should neither be too large, nor too small. Preferably it should correspond to prevailing usage with respect to naming and jurisdiction of other associations. In countries which are large Federations, as e.g. Australia or Canada, the individual States could be the appropriate units. In unitary states large cities or regions (e.g. London or Midlands in the U.K.) could be the appropriate units of association. Where the territory covered is large, either in number of Sri Lankans or in territorial extent, branches or sub-groups could be organised.
(e) Eligibility for Membership
The only requirement for membership should be the acceptance of the unqualified unity of the nation of Sri Lanka, with the framework of a unitary state. This definition could be made flexible to cover devolution in local matters like education, health, regional development etc., but should not include the devolution of lypolice powers" or "immigration powers". Such a devolution could be termed as "co-operative devolution% as against the type of devolution which has ben requested by the seperatist elements in Sri Lanka.[Note 3]
Naturally no person should be debarred from membership on the ground of race, religion, etc. All associations have some whetting of membership applications, which normally have to be approved by an appropriate committee, and this procedure should apply to the SLUG. A SLUG will have to exercise some care that it is not "infiltrated", but because it will operate within a relatively small community, a great deal of information would be known about its potential members.
As with all organizations there should be provision to disqualify persons who behave in such a manner as to bring discredit to the Group, or seek to undermine its objectives.
(f) Organisational Framework
This is a most crucial question on which the group would have to make a careful decision. Broadly speaking two alternatives are open. The first is a highly structured organisation with clearly defined office bearers, a clear distinction between the Management Committee and the General Membership, and generally clearly demarcated duties and functions and lines of command. The second is a loose structure, with a minimum of designated positions, or no designated positions at all, and the management committee operating on the principle of collective responsibility. These will be termed the tightly structured and the loosely structured alternatives respectively. But, of course, intermediate positions are possible.
Whether the organization is tightly or loosely structured will depend on the situation at hand. If there are people willing to accept responsibility for positions like Chairman, Secretary, etc. on a regular basis then the tight organisational form would be appropriate. While this has the advantage of having definite persons who could be identified with the organisation, it has the disadvantage of giving the structure too much of a rigidity. Some organizations dedicated to unity have specific positions reserved to representatives of the different ethnic groups. This is well and good if these positions are all taken up; but it could be embarrassing for the SLUG to have unfilled positions reserved for particular ethnic groups! The fact is that some members of Sri Lankan minority groups may not be willing to accept such positions even if they are in overall agreement with the objectives of the Unity Group.
loose form of organization can avoid many of these problems. Such an organization could operate on the principle of collective responsibility. Meetings could be chaired on a rotation basis, or the chairperson could be elected for the particular meeting. Specific functions, like secretarial duties or editorship of publications or financial responsibility, could be allocated to individual persons who could be termed Secretary and the like only for the delegated task. In general the group as a whole would determine which individual(s) would be responsible for each nominated task.
In brief the loose structure will avoid many of the problems which the constitution of a regular Society will entail, but there are specific disadvantages also associated with it.
(g) Financial Aspects
An organization like a SLUG would need access to a fair amount of financial resources if it is to be effective. The opponents of the unity of Sri Lanka have shown themselves to be extremely competent in raising vast funds for their anti-Sri Lankan activities, both amongst themselves, as well as from various sources. The whole world now knows the narcotics smuggling in which Tamil terrorist groups have engaged in, especially in Europe. In addition one cannot completely rule out that the anti-national elements are in receipt of funds from governments hostile to Sri Lanka.
Compared to this a SLUG will have to rely only on the voluntary contributions of its members and well wishers. A nominal membership fee will have to be specified in the constitution of the group to meet basic organizational overheads, and to ensure that membership involves a minimum financial commitment on the part of members. But the bulk of the finances of the SLUG will have to come from the donations of members. Some fund-raising activities could be organized, but the primary aim of the group is not to raise funds, but to carry out its urgent tasks.
4. Defining the Objectives
The objectives of the SLUG should be defined with care. While the main objectives would be obvious, it might be necessary to spell them out with some precision at the very commencement of the group as it could avoid some misunderstandings later on. The main issues in this area are the following.
(a) Unity of Sri Lanka
The maintenance of the unity of Sri Lanka must be the primary objective of the group. Unity here means not only the unity of the people irrespective of ethnic or religious origin, but also the territorial unity of the nation. Indeed without territorial integrity there is no real possibility of maintaining unity of the nation in any other sense. This objective must rank paramount in the declared objectives of the SLUG.
(b) Material Assistance to Sri Lanka
By material assistance to Sri Lanka is meant the grant of gifts, either in cash or kind, to Sri Lanka for purposes associated with the current crisis. It could range from contributions to the National Defense Fund to the despatch of medical supplies for those injured in the course of the civil unrest.
There could be two views on the subject. One of the activities of the anti-Sri Lankan expatriates has been the transfer of massive sums of money to fund the terrorist campaign in Sri Lanka. The SLUG would find itself in a difficult position to combat this if it itself organises the transfer of funds for defense purposes. Even though the destination of the funds in the two instances are quite different - to finance terrorism in the one case, and to help a legally constituted authority in the other - it could be subject to misconceived criticism, and the energy of the organisation could be diverted to the task of defending the rationale of such actions for the benefit of an unsympathetic Press. These awkward problems could be avoided if the energies of the SLUG are exclusively devoted to the foreign dimensions of the Sri Lankan problem. It is here that the SLUG can make a unique contribution, and the limited reources of the group could be used in this exclusive area.
This does not mean that expatriate Lankophiles should not make contributions to assist Sri Lanka in its hour of need. This can and should happen. But it should be done individually by the persons concerned. not in an organized way through the SLUG. There may be a case for establishing a separate group which is devoted to this task independent of the SLUG, or the established Sri Lanka societies could be the charnel for this type of aid to Sri Lanka if they are for humanitarian purposes.
(c) Combatting anti-Sri Lankan Activities
By anti-Sri Lankan activities are meant activities directed at spreading false information about the situation in Sri Lanka, the attempt to persuade foreign organizations or governments to act in a manner injurious to Sri Lanka, etc. The anti-Sri Lankan expatriates have over the years become veritable experts in this type of activity. Their success is evident in practically every sphere we turn our attention to.
The countering of such activity must rank high on the activities of the SLUG. How this could be done will be discussed when we consider the specific activities of the SLUG. At this stage all that need be said that this objective should be clearly specified in the articles of agreement of the SLUG.
(d) Dissemination of correct information
The SLUG should be the source for accurate information about the problem in Sri Lanka. In the intital stages it will be more a question of correcting the misinformation that has been spread about the problem over the years by the anti-Sri Lankan expatriates.
Paradoxically it is not only non-Sri Lankans who have an erroneous conception of the Sri Lankan problem. There are many well-meaning Sri Lankans who feel that they should not be involved in the Sri Lankan problem once they have become expatriates. It must be pointed out to them that they cannot shirk their responsiblities entirely in this manner. Many of them received education and training in Sri Lanka, and have relations and friends over there whose welfare would depend on the way the problem is settled. Their own position as Sri Lankan expatriates could be affected adversely by the way Sri Lanka is perceived by the media and the people of the country to which they have migrated. Thus the heightening of the awareness of ex~Sri Lankans who are indifferent to the Sri Lanka problem is an important objective of a SLUG.
(e) Expression of Opinion
The SLUG should reserve the right to make independent assessments of the situation in Sri Lanka, and assess the policy pursued by the Sri Lankan government in this regard. It should issue statements making clear its thoughts on this matter, to the government and people of Sri Lanka, to Sri Lankans resident abroad, and to foreign authorities and the world public in general. As mentioned earlier the Sri Lankan authorities and public tend to be too insular in their thinking on the problem, and seem at times to harbour illusions about certain aspects of the problem. The SLUG could make some valuable input to the proper perception of the proble if it makes its own views known to all those involved with the problem.
This would require some degree of consensus amongst the members of the group. Thus before any statements are issued they should be discussed within the group so as to obtain the necessary consensus.
(f) Specific objectives
It is questionable whether a SLUG should pursue specific objectives. In general it might seem advisable to avoid specific objectives, especially objectives of a nature that should be pursued between governments. In the course of its activities the SLUG would seek to sway opinion in official as well as non-official circles, but the activity in this area should be to pre-dispose these persons and bodies to do the right thing by Sri Lanka when they have to act on this matter. But specific initiatives should not be urged, e.g. relating to the kind of "aid" that could be given to Sri Lanka. It is, of course, quite appropriate to point out general inconsistencies in the conduct of official policy, e.g. to Sri Lanka as compared to other countries, or to argue against specific demands made on governments by separatists, e.g. relating to the suspension of aid to Sri Lanka.
5. Activities of a Sri Lankan Unity Organisation (SLUG)
The activities of a SLUG will be determined by the nature of the objectives it sets for itself. These activities will center on on the need to influence those persons and groups whose actions have some bearing on outcome of the stuggle in Sri Lanka. Some of the more specific groups that are are relevent in this respect are the following.
The lobbying of members of parliament, ministers, parliamentary committees, etc., is an established procedure in democratic societies. Indeed it could be argued that unless the appropriate lobbying is done certain matters will not be dealt with at all. Modern parliamentarians are subject to such a degree of lobbying pressure that they have hardly any time to take initiatives on their own.
The opponents of Sri-Lankan unity had commenced on the process of lobbying governments quite early in the piece. Indeed they have even hired highly-paid lobbyists to put their case forward. Some success through this procedure has been recorded, especially in the United States. Even in Australian considerable ground has been gained through this procedure.
It was only recently that the viewpoint of those speaking for the unity of Sri Lanka has been placed before parliamentarians and authorities in the major Western countries. In some countries it has still not been done. Many of those in holding public positions who have been approached have expressed surprise at the case againt separatism had not been placed before them sooner. Some have even taken this silence to mean that no valid "case" against separatism exists! Some Sri Lankans seem to think that their interests in this respects are looked after by its diplomatic representatives. Sadly this is not necessarily the case, and the evidence is that in some cases even avilable channels are not being used by the diplomats of Sri Lanka. In these circumstances the SLUG as an established flethnic group" in the community could put its position before the appropriate political authorities.
Attention should not be confined to the representatives of the political party in power. Opposition groups have also to be briefed on developments in Sri Lanka, especially on the international implications of the Sri Lankan problem.
Second only in importance to the political authorities is the media. Indeed some would argue that it comes first in a democratic society. Anyone perusing the media in any Western country cannot fail to be convinced that sofar that those who stand for the unity of Sri Lanka seems to have "lost" the propaganda war.
Sri Lankans should view this as the loss of a battle which has never been fought. The SLUG should devote its energy to combatting biased and prejudiced views as they are expressed in the written and the electronic media. Every article giving incorrect information, or showing obvious bias should be protested to. Even though the individual letters may not be published it is possible that the combined weight of the letters protesting against this misrepresentation could at least have a restraining effect on the stream of separatist-oriented newsreports and comments.
Journalists should be approached and individually briefed. Such personal contacts could go a long way in predisposing media representatives. While some Sri Lankan groups have gone to the extent of taking paid advertisements, such a course of action should be avoided as far as possible. News reports which appear other than as advertisements have greater effect.
One handicap that has to be overcome is to establish an accurate flow of news from Sri Lanka. As it is most of the Sri Lankan news originates in Madras, and after a false news report is given world publicity the Colombo authorities begin correcting it. But the damage is doneg and the correction do not have the effect desired. Instead Colombo should send out accurate information to the world press, and to expatriate groups, so that these could be used in news chanels controlled by these groups.
(c) Voluntary "watch-dog" Organisations (NGOs)
By voluntary "watch-dog" organizations are bodies like Amnesty International, World Council of Jurists, etc. who have consistently presented reports unfavourable to Sri Lanka.
Some of these bodies have been infiltrated by separatist agents, especially at the local level. At other times government and other representatives working on these bodies have been lobbyed by the separatists to present reports favourable to them.
Sri Lankan authorities have been consistently berated by these bodies even though the violations they are alleged to have done pale into insignificance before the deeds of the terrorists. These facts have to be highlighed to those concerned, and if they do not consider them, to the world public.
(d) Religious bodies
Religious bodies exert some influence in Western countries, even though their influence should not be exaggerated. Now most of the Church bodies have generally adopted a position hostile to the unity of Sri Lanka. They have tended to lean more towards the Tamil separatists. One has only to look at the resolutions of the World Council of Churches on this question to appreciate the lack of perspective adopted.
The reasons for this state of affairs is complex, and need not be analysed here. But a SLUG cannot entirely afford to ignore this aspect. It might be necessary for the SLUG to establish a sub-committee to examine this problem and to device an appropriate strategy so that church bodies could adopt a more reasonable stance on this question.
(e) Educational and community organizations
These are also sources of influence in Western society, and they have been utilized by the separatists to spread their views on the subject. Thus schools and universities should be made aware of the case for the unity of Sri Lanka, and appropriate material on the subject distributed.
Community organisations include bodies as varied as trade unions, and Lions Clubs. All these provide opportunities for a SLUG to make an impression. Any progress made there, in howsoever small a manner, could pay surprisingly high dividends.
So far the activities have been viewed as influencing target groups. But in this task the SLUG should have access to a series of carefully prepared documents. Some excellent work is available from Sri Lanka, e.g. the publications of the Society for Ethnic Amity, Colombo. may be mentioned in this connection. There is also information issued by Government departments in SRi Lanka especially on terrorist atrocities.
But many of this is not written with specific groups in mind. The tasks of a SLUG are much more specialised, and phamphlets should be written which seek to explore particular dimensions of the problem, especially those relevent for the country or region concerned.
The authorities in Sri Lanka could help in providing more information on which the phaniphlets could be based. There are many research institutions in Sri Lanka. Their services should be harnessed to this task which should have national priority.
6. National and International Links
Once a sufficient number of SLUGs have been established on a local or regional basis, their affliation first into a national body and then into an international body would be a logical development.
The national organization would be located in the National Capital, and will have the all-important task of acting as a clearing house for the efforts of all groups in the country concerned. Besides as the National or Federal Government would be located where the national organisation of the SLUGs is located it will have important tasks in this connection. Without a national centre there could be duplication of efforts. Information could be exchanged, and various research efforts undertaken.
It has already been mentioned on the need to compile a series of publications relevent for the country concerned. The various SLUGs could be given responsibility to research specific themes and produce booklets on these. Then they could be exchanged between the individual groups, and distributed to target individuals and groups in the diffrent jusrisdictions covered by the various SLUGs.
Other national activities could include co-ordinated protest movements, co-ordinated lobbying activities, and exchange of information on the activities of anti-SRi Lankan groups.
An international organisation could also be set up. Given the international nature of the activities of the separatist terrorists, it is important that the Unity Groups should also liaise on the international level. One activity to which high priority should be given to is the establishment of an international Sri Lanka Awareness Week. During such a week all SLUGs in whatever part of the world they be organized, should mount an awareness campaign to highlight the consequences Sri Lankan separatist terrorism.
Separatist terrorism assumes various guises in various lands. It is important that information of its multifarious activities are exchanged between Sri Lankan groups, and successes and failures in countering the menace discussed. By such a mutual interchange of information it may be possible ti improve the effectiveness of the national and the local Sri Lanka Unity Groups.
Finally there is the question of the relationship of SLUGs, whether organised on the national or international levels, with the authorities in Sri Lanka. There could be a ,mutually beneficial relationship, with the Sri Lankan expatriate being supplied with the relevent information on an organised basis, arid the world Sri Lankan expatriate community giving the Colombo authorities the benefit of its independent analysis of the Sri Lankan problem especially as it is seen from abroad.
7. The Indian Dimension
From whatever point of view the Sri Lankan problem is looked at the role of India in it has been crucial. Unfortunately the Sri Lankan authorities have not been able to tackle this in the most appropriate way.
By whatever canon on International conduct it is judged India's part in playing the host to terrorist groups directly engaged in hostile acts against a sovereign neighbouring state cannot be justified. It violates all norms of international conduct, and if it is considered a normal course of conduct it would soon reduce international relations to the law of the jungle.
Yet Sri Lanka has not sought to focus international attention on this problem. There is no way that Sri Lanka can resort to force against India.
But there is a kind of "force" that Sri Lanka could have used to bring the Indian authorities to see sense. This is the force of world opinion, and it could have been used with the help of the expatriate Sri Lankan community abroad. The Sri Lankan groups could have launched world~wide demonstrations to highlight the highly irregular conduct of the Indian authorities, and this would have put India on the defensive, especially as India itself is afflicted with a separatist problem. By Sri Lanka's failure to exploit this the Indian authorities have been allowed to pursue what is essentially a double sided policy.
The fiction that is maintained in Sri Lanka that it is only the Madras state that is harbouring terrorists will not stand scrutiny. In terms of international law Madras State is not a sovereign state; only the central government of India is. It is not that India cannot control developments in Madras: it has the complete legal power, and the ability to do so if it wants. Its persistent refusal to do so makes it culpable in terms of international conduct, perhaps even in terms of international law.
What India has sought to do was to use the terrorists to make Sri Lanka a client state of India. It seems to have succeeded in doing just that. By insisting that Sri Lanka negotiate with terrorists it has given legitimacy to the separatist terrorists. Its most significant action against the terrorists upto the present time (August 1985) has been the so-called "deportation" of two terrorist leaders from Madras. One of this was supposed to be a British citizen, and wad deported to the U.K. Why a British citizen was allowed into Madras State in order to organize an armed insurrection in Sri Lanka is never explained. The second deportation. that of a Sri Lankan terrorist, has proved to be even more farcial. He was deported to the United States even though he was not a citizen of that country. and when he insisted on being returned to India this had to be done. Then the deportation orders were rescinded because of agitation in Madras. This alone should make it clear that Mr Rajiv Gandhi is no more able to go against the wishes of Madras than was his mother.
It is not clear what concessions are been planned at Thimphu. According to some reports the Indian authorities have suceeded in obtaining what could be termed "separatist devolution" for the Tamil rebels. According to this the Northern and Eastern provinces are to be conceeded to them, with full police powers. Such a solution is a thin disguise for Eelam. The Sri Lankan Tamils living in these two provinces constitute only 8 percent of the population of Sri Lanka; they will in effect control 26 percent of the land area of the country, which is the extent of these two provinces! If this concession is granted under Indian pressure a grave injustice will be perpetrated against the rest of the
people of Sri Lanka.
8. Summary and Conclusions
The Sri Lankan problem, which could have been solved much simply if proper action had been taken at its incipient stages, has been allowed to develop until it has become an intractable problem. What has happened cannot be altered. What those interested in the well-being of Sri Lanka have to consider is what needs to be done now if the problem is to be solved with fairness to all parties concerned.
There are basically two options, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. One is to let India "solve" the matter for Sri Lanka. The other is to take stock of the current position and embark on a new strategy. The former seems to be the favoured solution as far as the Sri Lankan authorities are concerned. If this is the only strategy that Sri Lanka can follow then the outcome is not likely to be in the best interests of the country. As we have seen India has played a role in this problem which has violated all the rules of the international game - and has got away with it. If it is to capitalize on the fact that it has encouraged terrorists on its soil, and impose a solution on Sri Lanka which at the very least would concede "separatist devolution" to the Tamils, then the cause national unity would have been irretrievably lost.
There is still time for the second option to be tried. The pursuit of this option need not necessary involve aborting the Thimphu peace process. Such a process could continue provided that it finds a solution within the framework of a "co~operative devolution". But the second option could be pursued even without India's co-operation.
The essence of the second option involves the mobilization of all the resources of Sri Lanka to put an end to terrorism. Internally it would require a massive reallocation of resources for the military effort, perhaps by postponing "development". Iflass support should be mobilized by taking the issueof national unity out of the arena of party politics in which it had been allowed to linger too long. A national government composed of all who oppose terrorism, with national unity as the major item on the agenda, should be established. Once these measures are in place then the internal preconditions for the solution of the problem would have been established.
Then the external aspects have to be tackled. It is here that the expatriate groups will play their role as described in the paper. They should be prepared to sacrifice some of their effort, time, and money for this purpose. When the full force of the Lakophile expatriate presence is made felt then the external front would be consolidated.
With the internal and the external strategies working at tandem the problem could be solved. India could be brought to realize that its policy of encouraging Sri Lankan terrorists on its soil, and then capitalizing on their presence to make Sri Lanka a client state is not one that will work. Sri Lankans abroad should impress upon political authorities in Sri Lanka the need to follow this double pronged strategy. The costs of failure in this area great, and the risks are monumental
It might be worthwhile to contemplate the scenario of failure, either the direct grant of Eelam, or some substitute for it like Federalism or separatist devolution. Not only will 30,11 of the country and 60% of its coastline fall into the hands of those who are sworn to destroy Sri Lanka as we have known itg but the means to do so will be placed at their disposal. It is well-known that a pact exists between the pseudo-Marxists of the JVP and the terrorists. When Eelam is realized military bases will be established for the JVP guerillas there, and the people will face a new peril. It is quite possible for the JVP to play the role that the Khmer Rouge played in Kampuchea. If this scenario were to eventuate we would even see Pol Pot type death camps established on the soil of Sri Lanka.
With defeatism rampant in Sri Lanka the expatriates have a responsibility to shake their compatriots from their death-wish and their stupor.
1. It must be emphasized right at the outset that it is probably only a small minority of Tamil expatriates who are engaged in anti-Sri Lankan activities. In this respect they probably mirror the Tamil community in Sri Lanka itself. But for some reason, either due to fear of reprisals or otherwise, this majority of Tamils (if it is indeed a majority) has remained silent. In the face of this silence we might technically be justified in refering rather loosely to Tamil views, activities, etc., but it must always be kept in mind that this strictly applies only to the "militant" Tamils.
2. Incidentally the correct attitude which Sri Lankans should take to these "distant" happenings was given some twenty-two centuries earlier by the twelve-year old prince Duttha Gamani. When his mother asked him why he was sleeping all curled up he replied:'"Gangaapaaramhi damilaa, ito go.thamaahodadhi, katham pasaaritango 'ham nipajjaamiV' (Mahavams) xxii, 85-86). ["On the other side of the great river are the Tamils, on this side is the great ocean, how can I lie with outstretched limbs?"]. Gaamani was referring to Tamil invaders, now we have Tamil separatists, but both are alien to the body politic of Sri Lanka.
3. For a discussion of the meaning of these terms, see QASLU Factsheet No. 4, Sri Lanka: the Solutions Examined.