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This is my Nation


Tigers in exile - Where and for what?

The 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 foot in.

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.

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