'The Czech model is not an option at all'

Published : Jun 24, 2000 00:00 IST

R. Umanath, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) spoke to S. Viswanathan in Chennai on June 11 on the pro-Eelam political parties in Tamil Nadu. A former member of Parliament and the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, Umanath has been a close observer of the developments in Sri Lanka and their impact on the State. Excerpts from the interview:

Certain Tamil Nadu-based constituents of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre, particularly the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), have stated that they favour the Centre's Sri La nka policy but at the same time justify their support to the cause of "Tamil Eelam" as their "party line". They appear to think that the crux of the Central policy is against military intervention by India. Your comments.

That India will not send its Army to Sri Lanka is only one aspect of the Centre's stand on the current phase of the crisis in the island. The MDMK and the PMK have a different line of thinking on the other aspects of the strife. Prime Minister Atal Behar i Vajpayee has been repeatedly saying that India will not send its Army to Sri Lanka. That is because of political compulsions. They (the Prime Minister and the NDA) want to please these parties in order to stay in power. There is a consensus in the coun try against sending the Army to Sri Lanka but all are agreed on extending other kinds of assistance, including humanitarian aid. The Centre's stand was clearly spelt out in Parliament by External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh. "The Govern-ment of India will be guided by its continued commitment to a negotiated peaceful resolution of the conflict, within the framework of Sri Lanka's unity and territorial integrity; a united Sri Lanka where all communities can realise their aspirations."

The leaders of the MDMK and the PMK say in Delhi that they support the Centre's decision, but in Tamil Nadu they actually mobilise people against the government's stated policy. They state that these are their personal views. They address meetings every day and say that they support the Centre's stand of not sending the Army to Sri Lanka. At the same time, they also speak of an independent Tamil Eelam. This is contrary to the Centre's position. That is why there is that slight distinction.

I am not considering it as a mere expression of opinion. It is mobilisation of people. Normally a politician who agrees with the decision of the government, of which he is a part, will mobilise people to clarify the government's stand, educate them on it and get it implemented. What are these leaders doing? They are mobilising people against the implementation of the government's decision. Their real stand is what they declare in Tamil Nadu. But in order to hang on to power they support the government's stand in Delhi.

The government notification on the extension of the ban on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) appeared in The Hindu (June 10 and 12). The notification contains a serious statement. It says the LTTE's militant pursuit of Tamil Eelam, anti-India p osture and terrorist acts are threats to our sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. It is a sharp statement. I say this because what leaders such as Vaiko, Ramadoss and Karuna-nidhi do is not merely double-speak. They are in fact gambling with the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of India. When they differ in Tamil Nadu with the government's position - supporting the LTTE, which is seen as a threat to our sovereignty, territorial integrity and security - they are also by implica tion mobilising people against India in favour of an anti-Indian force and in that process they are encouraging separatist forces in our country. What they do here has a direct implication. We still consider them to be secular parties and we want them on the side of national unity and national security. But, on this particular issue they are playing the Trojan horse inside the Central government.

You mean only the MDMK and the PMK, or the DMK too?

All the three parties. The MDMK and the PMK do it bluntly while the DMK does it in a subtle way. For instance, in the Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi wondered how the LTTE, which is resorting to the killing of the leaders of Tamil org anisations, could protect the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils. He showed the first demarcation in that. Now he speaks of separation. Whose demand is it? Only the LTTE stands for Tamil Eelam to the last. On the one hand, he says the LTTE cannot protect the Tamils' interests and, on the other, he is propagating the cause for which the LTTE has taken up arms. What else does he speak? He also stands for that. So, while demarcating from the LTTE he says that they have killed the Tamil leaders, but he is also actually propagating the demand of the LTTE - a separate Eelam.

About his suggestion for a Czech model solution...

He is now giving a new explanation. He says first he mentioned quasi-federalism and confederalism. And then the Czech model. He says that though he spoke of several options, they (the media) have taken only one (the Czech model). The Czech model - that i s separation - is not an option at all. For the past 17 years the war is going on only for that purpose. How can it be an option? That is ruled out. In the heart of hearts he is for a separate Tamil Eelam. But because elections are coming he wants to kee p himself on the right side of the people. And also, because Vaiko and Ramadoss are going hammer and tongs (on Tamil Eelam) he wants to compete with them. That is why he advocated the Czech model. How can it be an answer? He is misleading the people and that must be exposed.

As far as Sri Lankan Tamils are concerned, the problem is very real. It is a tragedy, because they are treated as second-class citizens. Tamil is not recognised as an official language. The past governments went back even on their legal commitments. Then they brought in "the Sinhala only" policy. That made matters worse. Then came the genocide of Tamils. What do they do? We should see the problem in its totality. They (the pro-LTTE parties) are repeatedly talking about genocide.

But what they do not say is that there were opportunities to bring about a breakthrough. One of them was the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987. Although there are some grey areas in that agreement, it stopped the genocide and the Army was withdrawn to the barracks. All these cannot be underestimated. The accord accepted, for the first time, that Sri Lanka is not a Sinhala-only country but a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual state. The government has committed itself to this description in th e agreement. And, also for the first time, there was a commitment that Tamil will be accepted as an official language along with Sinhala and English. Then there were regional councils and many other provisions. Although there were some grey areas, if onl y the LTTE, which was also a signatory to the accord, had cooperated to implement it, there could have been a breakthrough and by now the minority Tamils could have come a long way in attaining equality with the Sinhalese. But the LTTE sabotaged it. Alth ough they repeatedly talk of massacre, they wasted an opportunity to stop this massacre and bring the Tamils on a par with the other citizens of Sri Lanka...

Again another opportunity, a better opportunity, came when Chandrika Kumaratunga became the President and made an offer of devolution of powers. That was actually a step beyond the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement. That could have provided a basis for the negoti ations during which the grey areas in it could have been removed, people saved and the war avoided. Actually, at that time, all the people in Sri Lanka - the Tamils, the Sinhalese and the Muslims - wanted peace. Chandrika Kumara-tunga's main election slo gan was devolution of powers. The people's desire for peace and negotiations got reflected in the LTTE's consent to come to the negotiating table at the time. The LTTE entered into a dialogue because the popular mood was for negotiations. That was a very good chance, for a second time, to avoid war and save the Tamils. LTTE leaders came to the talks on the first day. They fixed the date for the next round of talks and disappeared. They never came back. Not only that. They sank two Sri Lankan naval boats . What was the signal? War.

So, when there was an opportunity for a second time, they (the LTTE) broke away from the negotiations without giving any reasons. And the sinking of the boats was a signal to the government that the war was being resumed. The war was resumed by the LTTE for a second time. They talk of protecting Tamils' interests and bringing Tamils on a par with other citizens. They speak of the genocide of the past even as the people suffer in the ongoing war they have resumed, only to cover up their role in sabotagin g two opportunities that came their way. These parties, which support the LTTE, are, however, not prepared to settle the problem with anything short of an independent Tamil Eelam. That is (LTTE supremo) Prabakaran's position. That is also Vaiko's and Ram adoss' position. Karunanidhi's latest position will also help Prabakaran and the LTTE further their objective.

What in your opinion is the relevance of the Czech model?

The Czech model proposed by Karunanidhi is a total misrepresentation of facts and twisting of events of world history to suit his chauvinistic needs and electoral manoeuvrings. The fact is that until the socialist state was established in Czechoslovakia, Slov-akia was a backward region of ethnic minorities, while Czech was the advanced ethnic-majority region. After the establishment of the socialist state, the Communist government took conscious steps to develop the Slovak region in many respects and br ought the living conditions of the Slovak people on a par with those in the other regions. In fact 50 per cent of the country's budget was allotted for the development of the Slovak region. But the chauvinistic sections of the Slovak region represented b y the rightist Republican Party opposed the government's moves. After the collapse of the socialist system in Czechoslovakia, the chauvinists and the rightist forces gained the upper hand. They came to power. It was they who wanted to uncouple the Slovak region from the federation. In fact the Slovak region wanted to remain within the Czechoslovakian federation.

This mindset of the Slovak people was reflected in the first elections held after the collapse of the socialist system. In that election, the communists and other Left forces won a majority in the Slovak region. In the Czech region, the communists polled 30 per cent of the votes. The communists were not for separation. That is the significance of that victory.

So, it was not a case of, as Karunanidhi said, separation from an unwilling wife. The Czech model is a case of a willing wife being ditched by the he-man husband. Karunanidhi has not only distorted facts, but also hidden parts of the facts. What he is hi ding is that in the Moravian ethnic region of the federation there was a strong section demanding separation from the federation. But that region is rich in natural resources. The present Czech ruling circles did not allow Moravia to separate. So, the Cz ech model is a case of ditching a willing wife because she is poor and forcing an unwilling wife to remain because she is rich. How can this model be relevant to Sri Lanka? Either Karunanidhi is ignorant of historical facts or he is deliberately misleadi ng the people.

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