Americans are good at power-play, and their spoken word oozes power.
Yet, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland’s ultimatum that “if they do not, there’s going to be growing pressure from the international community for exactly the kind of international action that Sri Lankans say they don’t want” on probing ‘war crimes’ has not found many takers inside the island-nation.
Even before the Government, it is the political Opposition that has reacted – and has resorted to competitive accusation against the United States, and the western bloc by extension. It is not only about sovereignty issues, and related electoral mayhem that may await political parties that the average Sri Lankan concludes is ‘unpatriotic’. It is also about the current US rating in international affairs, flowing from the dollar-crisis.
Given the global context, this also needs to be contrasted with the even more recent offer of “firm support” from China “in respect of all issues touching Sri Lanka’s interests at international level”. The promise came when President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on a ‘non-State visit’, met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo in Beijing.
The Tamils back home and the TNA otherwise should appreciate the ground reality. Not only is the political Opposition on the home front divided and dis-spirited internally as the UNP has been for years now, they also make common cause with the Government on issues of sovereignty and national honour. The global scene, at best, had always got for the Tamils brownie points, as now, but has not worked in their favour in the past.
It is easy to condemn the LTTE for its terrorist methods, which made the world unfriendly to the Tamil cause after 9/11. The temptation now may be to wage a political war on the international arena, given the current governmental mood in the West. The political opinion in neighbouring India, and not just in the southern State of Tamil Nadu, too sounds favourable. How all this would help the Tamils back home should be the question that the TNA should be asking itself.
It does not end there. Two episodes in Europe in quick succession and public pressure may have already begun mounting on Governments and politicians to review their approach towards asylum-seekers and refugees – unconnected they still may be. The ‘Norway killings’ and the ‘London mayhem’, which spread to other British towns without fail, have the potential of doing to all refugee-class people in their midst what labour-centric restrictions on immigration had done in the past.
The TNA seems confused about setting a three-point condition for the Government to answer before returning to the negotiations table. Unless it is a strategy to confuse the Government, their publicised positions on participating in a Government-proposed Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) has only confused their supporters and sympathisers even more.
The TNA leaders cannot be telling different things to the Diaspora and their domestic constituency, either. The Government needs to acknowledge that those sections of the political Opposition that had stayed away from the APRC had expressed reservations on the PSC, too – and act accordingly.
It may be time the TNA re-visited its agenda and re-prioritised the items, for engaging the Government and the rest of the Sri Lankan polity. Putting Police and Land powers ahead of delimitation still stemmed from a pre-war mindset. In the post-war era, the TNA should have moved away from ‘power-devolution’ to an all-encompassing canvas of ‘political solution’.
It may be easy for the TNA to continue harping on a ‘Sinhala mind-set’ as being behind the current criticism of the West, and as reflective of their reservations to treating Tamils as equals. That does not explain why two leaders of the Tamil-speaking Muslim polity, namely Rauff Hakeem and Rishad Baiduddin, both Ministers, should be talking about power for, and rehabilitation of their people, at around the same time.
The TNA is the dominant political party of the Tamil-speaking people in the North and the East. The Alliance does reflect the aspirations of the local majority. That does not mean that the ‘other side’ that had averaged 30 per cent and above in four rounds of elections since the presidential elections (January 2010) does not exist.
It is easy to dismiss the votes and seats bagged by Government-friendly Tamil parties in the North as coming from the ‘theevus’ – islands off the mainland North. Those who know their Sri Lankan Tamil politics well also know the traditional insinuation involved in such references to the ‘theevu’. The TNA needs to be ware lest the ‘theevus’ should do to them what the East did to the LTTE.