Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarian, M.A. Sumanthiran during a recent event in Jaffna had pointed out that India’s guidance was a must for the aspirations of the Sri Lankan Tamils to be fulfilled.
India’s involvement in the country’s 30-year war continues to evoke mixed emotions and responses from the various segments of society. While some are of the view that another country should not interfere in our issues, there is also a view that the problems can only be solved with India’s involvement.
There is also the view that it was India’s involvement through the 13th Amendment that had aggravated the situation in Sri Lanka. However, the question that needs to be asked now is whether Sri Lanka really needs the guidance of India to solve its own problems?
Those who belong to the majority community might feel that Sri Lanka can solve its own issues. But a minority community which feels victimized might think otherwise.
The reason is quite obvious. The Tamils do have their issues and have demanded that they be solved. Their demands, pertaining to self-determination and equal rights, and numbering many more, are yet to be addressed.
The issue of the Tamils goes beyond the war. What started in the 1950’s snowballed into a fully fledged war in the 1980’s causing political instability in the country for decades. The war was not the problem. The war was only a reflection of the bigger problem, which remains unresolved.
It was expected that governments in power after the end of the war would address the core issue and thereby work towards a durable solution. However, no solutions have been reached with regard to the ethnic question.
In addition to the solution to the National question, there are also the day to day problems faced by the war affected people. The issue of the missing persons, the detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), livelihood issues, problems faced by women headed households, the release of privately owned lands occupied by Security Forces back to its owners, and many more have cropped up in the post-war scenario.
At this juncture, the affected people will look outside for help if their own Government does not take their woes seriously. As far as the TNA is concerned, it has always looked to the international community, especially to India for help or advice. On the other hand, India has been advocating the implementation of the 13th Amendment, which came about through the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord in 1987.
Even the TNA has been calling for its full implementation. Therefore, Sumanthiran’s statement where he says Sri Lanka needs India’s guidance to solve the problem makes sense.
India’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife happened for many reasons. India had also played a major role in training many of the militant groups including the LTTE, apart from being the chief architect of the 13th Amendment.
Since then, India’s involvement became inevitable especially after losing its Prime Minister to a suicide bomb attack.
During the final phase of the war, the TNA, the Tamil Diaspora, and even the LTTE were looking to India for its intervention and stop the war. Even Tamil Nadu called on the Central Government under Dr. Manmohan Singh to press the Sri Lankan Government to stop the war. Politicians, artistes and activists in the State took to the streets calling the Centre to push for the war to be stopped. While some openly supported the LTTE, others genuinely spoke for the people who were trapped.
Despite the continuous persistence of Tamil Nadu, the Central Government of India did not get involved too much in the issue.
Things have changed drastically eight years after the war. It is high time the Tamil politicians depended on India for interventions. Sri Lanka’s problem has been in existence for decades, and India’s involvement has not solved the problem at all.
India did play a role in drafting the 13th Amendment. It can call on the Sri Lankan Government to implement it fully. But it cannot do much beyond that. By now, the Sri Lankan politicians should have come to understand this.
We have tried many things in the past, and we have failed. It is time that Sri Lanka looked at its issues objectively and tried to work on a pragmatic approach to solve the issue.
India’s expertise could be obtained, but we should not wait until it gets involved in the process.