Tigers in exile - Where and for
concept of a government in exile is well recognised. Resident in a
foreign country and operating under the assumption that they will, one
day, return to their native country and regain power. A key ingredient
of such a government, therefore, is that, the foreign country is willing
to accommodate its aspirations and activities within their soil.
Clearly, this announcement of a so-called ‘transitional’
government, concedes one important fact: despite all the brouhaha about
the final stages of the war against the LTTE, within various
international fora and human rights organisations, there does not appear
to be a single country willing to accommodate the Tigers- or what
remains of them.
But such calls do have the potential of attracting unwelcome
support. We have the final days of the Eelam war to remind ourselves of
the massive international lobby arraigned against the Government of Sri
Lanka, due to active lobbying by the Tigers. These forces only need a
straw to cling to, and this ‘transitional government’, non-existent as
it is, may be just such an incentive for the do-gooders in the
international community to get a foot in
A seemingly innocuous statement appeared in the media this week,
announcing the possibility of what was termed a ‘transitional
government’ for Tamils in Sri Lanka. The ‘concept’ first appeared in the
pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) website Tamilnet, from where
it was subsequently picked up by the wire services.
The announcement, strangely, had no declared authorship; it was more
of an appeal published in the form of an opinion column by the Tamilnet
website, but the Tigers’ ‘head of international relations’, the
notorious criminal Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias ‘Kumaran Pathmanathan’
alias ‘KP’, appears to have been the source behind the proclamation.
KP was to tell the BBC that, “it was a necessary move to advance ‘the
struggle’, as the people wanted such a homeland and self-rule and that,
a committee headed by an exiled Tamil lawyer, Rudrakumar Viswanathan,
was being formed to help the process.”
The Sri Lankan Government, basking in the afterglow of the crushing
military victory over the LTTE, has made its response to the ‘concept of
a transitional government’ known: “it is not worthy of a reply” was
Colombo’s emphatic retort, adding for good measure, that it was more
keen on apprehending KP.
The concept of a government in exile is of course well recognised.
The best current example is the Central Tibetan Administration of the
Dalai Lama, set up way back in 1959, and based in Dharamsala, India,
which claims to represent the people of Tibet, although the disputed
territory is physically governed by China.
Governments in exile reside in a foreign country and usually, operate
under the assumption that they will one day return to their native
country and regain power. A key ingredient of such a government,
therefore, is that, the foreign country is willing to accommodate its
aspirations and activities within their soil.
Clearly, this announcement of a so-called ‘transitional’ government,
concedes one important fact: despite all the brouhaha about the final
stages of the war against the LTTE within various international fora and
human rights organisations, there does not appear to be a single country
willing to accommodate the Tigers- or what remains of them.
The announcement of the so-called ‘transitional government’ was
followed by yet another admission by the Tigers: ‘confirmation’, if one
was ever needed, that Velupillai Prabhakaran was indeed dead. The LTTE’s
“head of external affairs”, Arivazhakan, who had earlier disputed claims
that the Tiger chief was no more, confirmed in a media statement on
Thursday, that he had been killed.
While it is therefore obvious that the LTTE is now a spent force, the
announcement of a ‘transitional’ government should not be taken lightly
by Colombo. It is common knowledge that only a few months ago, the LTTE
was not only a ruthless terrorist organisation, it was also a
multi-million dollar business empire that had vast amounts of funds at
its disposal. Most of the infrastructure that was required to run the
business end of this operation was based overseas- as a result, it is
reasonable to assume that it is still intact.
The overseas resources that were at the disposal of the Tigers in
their heyday, are therefore, still available to their handlers, and it
is to resurrect these assets that this ‘concept of a transitional
government’ is being floated.
It is the so-called ‘Tamil Diaspora’ that kept the LTTE well financed
throughout its three-decade-long terror campaign. While many Tamils fled
the North and East of Sri Lanka to seek greener pastures in countries
such as the UK, US, Canada, France and Australia, they assuaged their
consciences by filling the Tiger coffers with dollars- some of it of
their own accord, others coerced into contributing towards the ‘cause’.
The remaining hierarchy of the LTTE is now keen that this flow of
funds is not interrupted. Deprived of any semblance of a ‘struggle’ in
Sri Lanka, and with the possibility of a re-emergence of the Tigers
being remote in the near future in this country, they are desperately in
need of an activity to keep the morale and the momentum going; hence the
call for this virtual non-entity of a ‘transitional government’.
But such calls do have the potential of attracting unwelcome support.
We have only to reflect on the final days of the war against the LTTE,
to remind ourselves of the massive international lobby that was
arraigned against the government of Sri Lanka, due to active lobbying by
the Tigers. These forces only need a straw to cling to, and this
‘transitional government’, non-existent as it is, may be just such an
incentive for the do-gooders in the international community to get a
Sri Lanka would do well instead, to convert that ploy into a
motivating factor towards devising a political solution to the ethnic
issues that plagues this country. This is no easy task, as the moderate
Tamil political parties themselves are realising: they have been unable
to come into any kind of agreement regarding contesting the forthcoming
local elections in the North.
The ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is adopting a
two-pronged strategy here: it is encouraging the participation of Tamil
political parties in the democratic process, but at the same time, it is
also wooing individual politicians to join the mainstream Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP), its most celebrated recruit being Vinayagamooorthy
Muralitharan alias ‘Karuna’.
Forging a Tamil consensus on any kind of devolution for their community
will be doubly difficult, but it is a challenge that the Government must
rise to, and it must do so without further delay, because, once the
euphoria of winning the war dies down and the focus of international
attention shifts elsewhere, there will be little to inspire Colombo into
working towards a political solution.