The outcomes of
Notably, with just over a week to go before the polls,
This is all well and good. But the problem in
To begin with, the Tamil-speaking Northeast accounts for less than thirty seats in the 225-seat Parliament. The Sri Lankan Parliamentary system is thus not intended as a mechanism for resolving contradictions in society, but is deliberately geared towards the perpetuation of Sinhala majoritarianism. Any constitutional change, moreover, needs a two thirds majority – and a popular referendum. And the one thing the Sinhalese are united on is not sharing power with Tamils. Since independence from
Secondly, the state has since shortly after independence been restructured to serve Sinhala interests, which include weakening and dismantling Tamil and Muslim socio-economic capacity. At a basic level, the state civil service has largely been purified of Tamils, especially in its centres of power. The military has been entirely Sinhala since well before the war began in the eighties.
The point of repeating these often-made points is to underline the irrelevance of looking for opportunities for ‘peace’ in gradual changes from within, and especially, in the outcomes of
Especially in this context, but as ever, the Tamil political parties matter little to the island’s internal dynamics. Thus, even if a free and fair election was possible in this violent ethnocracy, the only purpose served by the Tamil people electing any representatives to
In this context, rather than engage in hair-splitting debates over possible constitutional models or the definitional nuances of ‘nation’, ‘nationalities’ and so on, aspirant Tamil representatives should, in seeking (re)election, firstly, make clear what the Tamils’ legitimate political aspirations are and, secondly, focus on concrete strategies to secure decisive action by the international community. If they can’t, or won’t, such representatives are not fit for purpose.
Even after sixty years, intensified Sinhala repression has only led to intensified Tamil resistance. This cycle will not be broken from within, but from outside the state’s political and constitutional system. All Tamil actors, including those surviving as extensions of Sinhala rule, know this well. The Tamil armed struggle (the LTTE, lest it be forgotten, was not the only armed movement to emerge) was a vehicle of extra-parliamentary politics.
As conflict-sites all over the world have proved time and again in recent decades, the smothering of armed resistance by overwhelming state violence is no bar to its reignition, especially when no meaningful peaceful means to address grievances and achieve aspirations are available. In other words, as Clauswitz put it, war is the continuation of politics by other means. His dictum also underlines the idiocy of referring to situations such as today’s
In short, amid Sri Lanka’s ongoing, even deepening, conditions of racialised oppression, international exhortations or demands that Tamils renounce and do not resort to violence are meaningless without concrete, and decisive, external action to defend them and secure their rights against Colombo’s chauvinism.