The ITAK’s Thirteen-point letter – are we going back to Batakotte?
By Chandre Dharmawardana.
According to news reports (e.g., Island 18-Oct.-2019), the “Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi”, a constituent party of the “The Tamil National Alliance” (TNA) has hurled a 13-point request letter into the political arena of the presidential stakes, even though the prospective president has been shackled by the 19th amendment crafted by the Jayampathy-Sumanthiran cabal.
It should not be forgotten that parties constituting the TNA backed the LTTE in its heyday and were the political facades of Prabhakaran’s Terror campaign, even though their very own colleagues like Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran had been murdered in cold blood by Prabhakaran. Those acts have never been condemned by the TNA. The terrorism of the LTTE is ignored and the tigers are adulated as “Freedom Fighters”.
Amirthalingam, the highly respected leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) midwifed the separatist Vaddukkoddai resolution for an “exclusive Tamil homeland”. Ironically, according to medieval Sinhalese records, Portuguese and Dutch texts, Colonial maps, as well as British-era documentation, Vaddukkoddai was known as “Batacotte” well into the end of 19th century. No “Vaddukoddai” is mentioned in colonial or early Tamil sources. The name board of the American Seminary school showed the name “Battikotte” as sanctioned by the Tamil scholars of the era. The place name signified a garrison town, i.e., a fortification (“kotte”) for soldiers (“Bhata”) defending the North against possible south Indian offensives.
Amirathlingam lapsed his seat in parliament after the 1976 Vaddukkoddai resolution, but returned to parliament accepting the Indo-Lanka accord of Rajeev Gandhi and JR Jayawardena. Since neither India, nor the LTTE, complied with even the major terms of the Rajeev-JR accord, the agreement stood null and void. Nevertheless, JRJ heeded Amirthalingam and implemented the provincial councils even without the sanction of parliament.
Although Mr. Sampanthan and other TNA leaders collaborated with Prabhakaran, the war-winning Rajapaksa government did not treat them as de Galle had treated the Vichy collaborators of Hitler. Instead, the TNA was main-streamed into parliament. A Northern Provincial Council was created after the fast-track de-mining and infra-structure development that stunned Western observers; they had expected no progress given the 2008 economic downturn. The TNA hand-picked Mr. Wigneswaran, an upper-crust Karuvakaaddu lawyer to anoint as the chief minster of the North.
Mr. Wigneswaran’s rule of the North did little for the locals, and failed to spend the money allocated to the NPC! Instead, Mr. Wigneswaran erected statues of “King Cankili” known for his massacres of Tamil converts to Christianity in the 15th century. Re-stating history and commemorating LTTE-suicide fighters were more in the line of these politicians.
The most notable act of the Northern provincial Council under Wigneswaran was the resolution claiming that all Ceylonese and Lankan governments since 1948 followed genocidal policies against Tamils, even though the Tamil population had grown by a factor of three during the period, at a rate superior to that of the Sinhalese, even with massive immigration of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans since the 1983 pogrom directed at Tamils, following the assassination of 13 soldiers by Prabhakaran.
Given such a back-drop, it is not surprising to find that Mr. Wigneswaran drafted the 13-point document which harks back to the Vaddukkodai resolution, as if nothing what ever has happened since 1976!
Most of the propositions are classic Vaddukoddai verbiage:
1. Acceptance of the political aspirations of the Tamil Nation;
2. Recognition of the merged Northern and Eastern Provinces as the historical habitat and the traditional homelands of the Tamil Nation;
3. Acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the Tamil Nation and
4. Realisation of the fact that the Tamil People under the provisions of International Law are entitled to the right of self determination accordingly the creation of federal rule in the merged Northern and Eastern Provinces would be our considered Political standpoint.
Mr. Wigneswaran knows the “Thesavalamai” law. A land owner cannot act against the wishes of his neighbours. Colombo, the southern neighbour of the purported “historical habitat” of the Tamils, does not agree to elam. Colombo had thirty years of negotiations and battles, and it finally decided on a militarily settlement (e.g., see Shamindra Ferdinando, http://pdfs.island.lk/defence/defence.html). The Northern neighbours (India and Pakistan) also oppose a Tamil eelam in their doorstep. So all neighbours of the purported “historical Tamil habitat” object to these propositions that Mr. Wigneswaran now wants acted upon in three months!
The Tamil claim to an exclusive “traditional homeland” is not supported by historians ( see e.g., Roberts: Tamil nationalism: Journal of South Asian Studies, n.s., Vol.XXVII, no.1, April 2004, available at https://dh-web.org/place.names/posts/rob-ajwilson.pdf, or K.M. de Silva, ‘Separatism and Political Violence in Sri Lanka’, G. H. Peiris, ‘Twilight of the Tigers’, OUP ). It is not history, but the current status that matters, when a majority of Tamil speakers live in the south, among the Sinhalese and the Moors. As to who were the majority in the North when Ceylon became a crown colony of the British, the colonial records, and especially those of Captain Percival who lived in Jaffna from 1800 to 1820 are unequivocal that the Moors were the dominant group, while the Tamils and Sinhalese formed minorities. In fact, it may be that the Jaffna peninsula then was ethnically more like the Eastern Province today.
How can the ITAK claim a sovereignty over the Eastern Province, where even the TULF in its heyday in 1977 did not get an electoral mandate? Why does the ITAK assume that the Moors of the East, or the Sinhalese of the East wish to be in Ealam, simply because the Tamil leaders seek it?
If merging of provinces is to link regions occupied by Tamil speakers, then the central hills, Colombo and Kandy should also be included – or is that a future step? The ITAK-led group has forgotten that there are more Tamil speakers in the south than in the regions claimed within Wigneswaran’s wigwam.
ITAK-led group requests that:
“The expropriation of lands and areas of religious worship by Government Departments including Archaeology Department, Wild Life Department, Forests’ Department must forthwith be stopped. Those lands and places of worship already expropriated through these Departments must be freed from the effect of the Gazette Notifications which so expropriated them”.
Should we, by the same logic, reverse the Tamilized names of the North to their original names (e.g., Vaddukoddai becomes Batakotte)? Thousands of place names have been identified even by 19th century Historians like K. Velu Pillai in “Yalpana Vaibhava Kaumudi”, and confirmed by contemporary historians like Karthigesu Indrapala (for details, see https://www.dh-web.org/place.names/).
The Wigneswaran group has also requested that:
“(a) Full fledged independent impartial International mechanisms through the International Criminal Court /International Arbitration Tribunal must be set up to inquire into the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity and Genocide committed during the final stages of the war.
(b) The Prevention of Terrorism Act must be withdrawn.
(c) All Tamil Political Prisoners must be freed unconditionally”.
What is surprising and contradictory is that Mr. Wigneswaran who claimed a genocide since 1948 now wants to investigate war crimes limited to just the final stages of the war. It was fought for a political purpose. Tamil political prisoners or any indicted war criminals should be freed only if found NOT guilty by the courts.
The ITAK letter claims that “the Moragaskande Irrigation Scheme is indulging in planned Sinhala Colonization in the Vanni Region”. It also says that “priority must be given to those belonging to the Northern and Eastern Provinces in Governmental and Private Sector job opportunities in the said two Provinces”.
So even the private sector has to fit into Mr. Wigeswaran’s ideology of Tamil exclusivity. Singapore’s iconic leader, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, introduced rules to avoid creating mono-ethnic enclaves, and pursued a vigorous multiculturalism that proved successful in ensuring ethnic harmony. Dr. Sebastian Rasalingam, an anti-LTTE Tamil writer, has also supported increased Sinhalization of the North, and Tamilization of the south (see: Sri Lanka Guardian, June 2011, http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2011/06/sinhalization-of-north-and-tamilzation.html). G. G. Ponnambalam also said that the whole of Ceylon is the homeland of the Tamils (and so, of the other communities as well).
The well-to-do Tamils of the “homeland” migrate to Colombo, and go abroad when richer. So government-encouraged migration to the North is needed to counter such population shifts.
The LTTE did not want the Yal Devi. The ITAK-led group does not even want Mahaweli water, even though a shortage of water and a climate catastrophe are facing the peninsula. The rising sea level will salinate and destabilize the limestone aquifers while global warming and arid conditions will have serious effects. However, the ITAK is determined to turn even a sinking ship towards elam
By Chandre Dharmawardana.