Thursday, February 19, 2009
இலங்கையில் நடக்கும் போர் குறித்து நோம் சோம்ஸ்கி கூறியிருக்கிற கருத்துகளுக்கான நம் பதில்
கீழே பதிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கிற அறிக்கையை வாசிக்கவும். உலகின் சிறந்த மொழியியல் அறிஞர்கள், சிந்தனையாளர்கள், அரசியல் ஆய்வாளர்கள் வரிசையில் முக்கிய இடம்பெறும் நோம் சோம்ஸ்கி (Noam Chomsky) இலங்கையிலிருந்து வெளிவரும் “லங்கா கார்டியன்” பத்திரிக்கைக்கு ஒரு பேட்டி அளித்திருக்கிறார். அவரது பேட்டி பற்றிய விமரிசனமாகவும் அந்த பேட்டியில் சோம்ஸ்கியை சாதுர்யமாக தனது இனவாதத்திற்கு பயன்படுத்த முனையும் பேட்டியாளரின் நோக்கத்தை சோம்ஸ்கிக்கு அறிவுறுத்தும் வகையிலும் ஈழத்தில் நடக்கும் உண்மை நிலைகளை அவரது கவனத்திற்கு கொண்டு செல்லும் நோக்கத்தோடும் எழுதப்பட்ட அறிக்கையே இது.
சோம்ஸ்கி தொடர்ந்து உலகின் பல்வேறு மக்கள் போராட்டங்களுக்கு அதரவு அளிப்பதுடன் அமேரிக்காவின் வெளியுறவுக் கொள்கையை தொடர்ந்து விமரிச்சித்து வருபவர். ஏற்கனவே சென்னையில் வளைகுடா யுத்தம் பற்றிய ஒரு கூட்டத்தில் கலந்து கொண்டு பேசியவர். உலகளவில் நன்கு அறியப்பட்ட ஒரு செயல்பாடுமிக்க அறிவுஜீ்வி. மொழியியல் குறித்து உலக அளவில் வளமிக்க புதிய கண்டுபிடிப்புகளையும், பங்களிப்புகளையும் செய்தவர். கிழக்குத் திமூர் துவங்கி காஸாவரை தொடர்ந்து போராட்டங்களை கவனித்து தனது கருத்தக்களை உலக அறிவஜீவிகள், அரசுகளின் கவனத்திற்கு கொண்டு செல்பவர். அவரது கவனத்திற்கு ஈழப்பிரச்சனையின் பரிமாணங்களைக் கொண்டு செல்வதற்கான ஒரு சிறு முயற்சியாக உருவானதே இந்த அறிக்கை.
ஈழம் குறித்து நமக்குள் பல்வேறு அரசியல் மாறுபாடுகள், முரண்பாடுகள் இருக்கலாம். அவைகள் அப்படியே இருக்கட்டும். ஆனால் ஈழம் பற்றி உருவாக்கப்படும் கருத்துப் பரவலில் அதன் உண்மை நிலையை கொண்டு செல்வதில் நமக்கு அனைவருக்கும் ஒரு குறைந்தபட்ச பொறுப்பு உள்ளது. அந்த பொறுப்புணர்ச்சியின் அடிப்படையிலேயே இந்த அறிக்கை வரையப்பட்டிருக்கிறது, உங்கள் பார்வைக்கும் வைக்கப்பட்டிருக்கிறது. இந்த அறிக்கையை நம்மால் முடிந்த இலக்கியவாதிகள், அறிவுஜீவிகள், அரசியல் ஆர்வலர்கள் மற்றும் இணையத்தில் எழுதும் நண்பர்கள் என அனைவரிடமும் கையெழுத்து பெற்று இதனை சோம்ஸ்கி கவனத்திற்கு ஒரு கூட்டுக்குரலாக கொண்டு செல்வதே நமது நோக்கம்.
சோம்ஸ்கி-யின் நேர்காணலை இந்த இணையத்தளங்களில் நீங்கள் வாசிக்கலாம்:
Sri Lanka Guardian
1. "'I AGREE WITH THIS RESPONSE" என்று "SUBJECT" -ல் உங்கள் சம்மதத்தை அறிவித்து இந்த மின்னஞ்சலுக்கு அனுப்புங்கள்: email@example.com
மின்கடிதத்தில், உங்களைப்பற்றி-- உங்கள் துறை, பணியாற்றும் களம் (அதாவது எழுத்தாளர், அரசியல் களப்பணியாளர் என்பது போல-- ஒரு சிறு குறிப்பையும் எழுதுங்கள். இது அறிக்கையை அதிகக்கவனம் பெறச்செய்யும்.
2. சோம்ஸ்கி-யின் நேர்காணலையும் அறிக்கையையும் வாசித்த பின்னரே உங்கள் ஒப்புதலை, கையெழுத்தை அனுப்புங்கள்.
3. வாய்ப்புள்ள நண்பர்கள் தங்களுக்கு அறிமுகமான நண்பர்கள் மற்றும் ஈழப்பிரச்சனையில் அக்கறை உள்ளவர்களிடம் இந்த நிலைப்பாட்டை விளக்கி ஒரே அச்சுப்பிரதியில் கையெழுத்து பெற்று அதனை ஸ்கேன் செய்து அனுப்பி வைக்கவும். கையெழுத்துடன், இடுபவர்கள் பற்றி மேற்சொன்னது போல சிறு குறிப்புகளையும் அனுப்புங்கள்.
4. வரும் திங்கள் 23 பிப்ரவரி, நேரம் 0630 GMT or 1230 IST or 0100 US Eastern Standard Time-க்குள் நீங்கள் உங்கள் கையெழுத்து மின்கடிதமும் நண்பர்களிடம் கையெழுத்துப் பெற்ற அச்சுப்பிரதியின் ஸ்கேன் செய்யப்பட்ட பக்கமும் அனுப்பி வைக்கவும்.
இவற்றை தொகுத்து நாங்கள் நோம் சோம்ஸ்கியின் முகவரிக்கு அனுப்பிவிட்டு உங்களுக்கும் அதை தெரியப்படுத்துகிறோம்.
firstname.lastname@example.org -க்காக ஜமாலன், பெருந்தேவி
The interview, as can be seen below, sidesteps the crucial issue of suffering of the Tamil people during the war in Wanni. Hence, the following response has been circulated by friends after a thorough discussion (Please see Nagarjunan's blog entry) to focus on this issue and urging him to have a relook at his own interview.
Response to Noam Chomsky’s comments on the ongoing war in Sri Lanka
We (the undersigned), who have immense respect for Professor Noam Chomsky’s work for peace on a global scale, are nevertheless dismayed by his recent comments on the ongoing war in Sri Lanka, made in a telephonic interview to a military analyst working for a journal known to be close to the Sri Lankan government (1).
The interviewer describes Professor Chomsky as a “a self-described anarchist… probably most famous for his strong stances in support of suffering peoples, such as those in Palestine and Somalia” and hopes to “apply his years of experience and insight to Sri Lanka to help the nation make the transition from a house divided to a united and peaceful country.”
Ignoring loss of lives
The interviewer and, more unfortunately, Professor Chomsky clearly sidestep the key issue of the suffering of the ordinary Tamil people in the Wanni region facing the artillery and aerial onslaughts of the Sri Lankan armed forces in its drive against the Tamil Tiger guerrillas fighting for a separate Tamil State.
Professor Chomsky does state, right at the outset of the interview, that “I don't feel that I have a profound enough knowledge of the details to offer a confident opinion”, but “it is clear that.. the military aspect of the conflict seems to be coming to an end.” But the interview totally ignores that this war is increasingly fought away from the eyes of the world, with enormous cost of lives.
A war without witnesses
Professor Chomsky should have been aware that the Sri Lankan government, on 16 September 2008, ordered all international relief organizations out of the Wanni region which was under the control of the Tamil Tiger guerrillas. The Sri Lankan armed forces have repeatedly charged the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, probably numbering around 5,000, of holding around 150,000 to 200,000 civilians at ransom in an ever-shrinking patch, now around 50 sq. km in the coastal Mullaitivu district; something denied by the Tamil Tiger guerrillas.
No journalist, domestic or foreign, is allowed to go beyond Vavuniya town to independently verify information emanating from the battlefields; all journalists travelling to these areas are embedded with the armed forces; unofficial censorship on news from the front including those of casualties of armed forces has been in force in Sri Lanka. One Colombo-based journalist who tried to verify such information, Chris Morris of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), received an open threat from Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary, Gothabaya Rajapakse, who also happens to be the President’s brother and a US citizen, that he would be chased from Sri Lanka. In a few days, Mr. Morris left the country. (2)
Reports from the battlefields nevertheless indicate that more than 1,000 civilians, all of whom ordinary Tamil people, have been killed; a far higher number of people injured, as the Sri Lankan armed forces have shelled homes, roads, makeshift hospitals and even homes for the aged and bombed civilians, which if proved, could amount to war crimes. The suffering endured by the people is in addition to the lack of food, shelter, water, transport, essential drugs and medical care. Some of the targets lay in designated safe zones by the Sri Lankan armed forces where people had taken shelter. The International Red Cross alone has a thin presence of medical personnel in the region and they have recently managed to ship 1,150 injured persons to Trincomalee port for emergency medical treatment.
The armed sources estimate that around 25,000 people have made it from the battlefields to the areas now fully controlled by the armed forces; we understand that they are being held in several makeshift detention camps after a screening process. Some reports say the Tamil Tigers have attacked civilians fleeing the war. Very few independent journalists or political leaders have met with those who had fled the battlefields or had been evacuated from there (3). We also learn that plans are afoot to detain the fleeing population a period of three years in five “model villages”, which is in gross violation of international norms for taking care of internally displaced persons (4).
World aids the war
More importantly, the Sri Lankan government conducts this war with various levels of military assistance from governments around the world - the United States, the United Kingdom, some European nations, India, Pakistan, China and Iran. Thus, the Sri Lankan government is emboldened to ignore calls from international humanitarian agencies including those of the United Nations, to ensure safety of civilians caught in war; it has also ignored calls from prominent human rights organizations including the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for a truce and a humanitarian corridor to provide relief for the suffering people; the only exception so far has been the ships which have evacuated 650 injured persons to Trincomalee.
Procuring consent for war
We can well understand the interviewer’s motive in suppressing the above information. But we wonder why Professor Chomsky, having been eloquentl on the US administration and media’s attempts to manufacture consent for war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, fails to question this (Ironically, the interviewer later asks Professor Chomsky about such strategies of the US administration!). Professor Chomsky appears to be unaware of the Sri Lankan government’s tactics of intimidating and bulldozing sections of the media which have refused to be part of the machinery manufacturing consent for this war. Several journalists who have questioned the cost of this war, in terms of lives of civilians and soldiers which are unreported or deliberately underreported, have faced intimidation and even murder.
Indeed, the most well-known case has been that of Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the Sunday Leader, a prominent critic of the government who was gunned down last month in Colombo while he was on his way to work (5). Following his murder, at least five journalists who have criticised the Sri Lankan government have fled the country so far (6). Earlier this month, the BBC World Service suspended the flow of its Sinhala and Tamil language services to the state-owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation after the latter censored selective programmes since November last (7). These indicate that Sri Lanka continues to be one of the most dangerous places for journalists; paramilitary organizations widely perceived to be supported by the authorities stand accused of suppressing media and killing journalists, something which the Tamil Tigers earlier stood accused of (8).
No to truce, yes to war
The interviewer continues to attempt to procure Professor Chomsky’s consent for the Sri Lankan government’s stand of ignoring the demands for a truce and resumption of peace talks with the Tamil Tiger guerrillas. He advocates a bitter fight to the end and asks Professor Chomsky: “Might it be that more lives will be saved if conflicts are allowed to see themselves out and decisive military victories and defeats are allowed to be determined instead of stopping a war before it can be really resolved?” Professor Chomsky’s reply to this, advocating a peaceful resolution of the conflict, is most welcome (9).
The interviewer is keen to ask Professor Chomsky about the fate of the Tamil Tiger guerrillas, whether those charged with atrocities and war crimes should be tried in tribunals; however, when he deals with those committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces, he slips in the word “people”: “what do you think should be the fate of the tens of thousands of people who have fought with the LTTE (Tamil tigers) over the decades, including lower level soldiers all the way up to leading officers?” The interviewer, as seen above, does not even acknowledge the suffering of the Tamil people in the ongoing war, tries to equate members of the armed forces who are fighting on behalf of a majoritarian government, with “people”, revealing a clear bias (10).
At the political level, the interviewer tries to lead Professor Chomsky to the point that “it is in the best interests of the island to remain as one independent nation, or one united nation, rather.” Professor Chomsky, while replying to this issue, puts forth a “federal arrangement,” listing the Basque, Catalina, Wales and Scotland questions, all in Europe. Strangely, he does not cite the more intractable Irish national question. It is also important to point out that for both Basque and Catalonia regions of Spain, federal systems were reached after a prolonged civil war which also was part of the Second World War. These issues continue to be raised in some manner. Thus, Europe appears to have arrived at this “federal arrangement” after two world wars, but the recent Balkan experience belies this as well.
Professor Chomsky does not cite the post-USSR experience where countries were able to secede without much violence. Also, more crucially, Professor Chomsky does not discuss longstanding similar issues in Asia and Africa, much of which are fallouts from the colonial era and have been characterised by violence. He also does not cite the fact that colonial powers divided regions and incited discourses based on rivalry, identity and ethnicity.
Knowledge is must
As for Sri Lanka, Professor Chomsky says “without a really deep knowledge of these matters would be just too presumptuous for an outsider to offer opinions.” Nevertheless, it will not be difficult for him to recognize that:
• the country’s majoritarian political establishment remained averse to any federal arrangement, provoking the Tamil youth to take up arms in the seventies; thus, when the democratic rights of the Tamil people have been violated by successive governments, a violent form of resistance grew.
• Sri Lanka continues to have a unitary constitution giving preferential treatment to the majority in terms of ethnicity and religion (Sinhala-Buddhism) and its cavalier treatment of the minorities has a long history;
• time and again, Sri Lanka’s major political parties have missed opportunities to amend the constitution towards a secular, federal framework and failed to ensure equal rights to minorities and nationalities in the country.
• Sri Lanka has long failed to punish those responsible for carrying out attacks and pogroms against the Tamil minorities; its independent institutions including the judiciary have shown no signs of ensuring justice for the victims of such attacks. The armed forces and the police continue to be majoritarian in their constitution and outlook.
• the Sri Lankan government appears wanting to force its current solution framework of provincial councils, under the 13th amendment, on a population which has suffered war, forced internal displacement, detention in camps, displacement to several countries including India (The Tamil chief minister of the newly-formed eastern provincial council, a former guerrilla leader, is already out complaining that he does not even have powers to appoint clerks and schoolteachers. ). And it is not at all clear whether, in the long run, this will satisfy Tamil political demands.
Peace with honour
We wish to remind Professor Chomsky that it that it is necessary to go further than depending on information received from media establishments in Sri Lanka and India which have not risen to the occasion to cover this war independently and courageously. We also urge him to independently check all information, including all that we have said above, and get fully equipped to make any further comments on the ongoing war in Sri Lanka.
Given the above background and context, it is necessary to be sensitive to the suffering of a minority population during their struggle for their legitimate civil and political rights towards a solution which genuinely satisfies them. The ordinary Tamil people of Wanni are facing the despair of a brutal war of aggression unleashed by a majoritarian government aided by governments across the world. What they seek is peace with honour. And we urge Professor Chomsky to recognize this.
1. Professor Chomsky on Sri Lanka And American Affairs, Interview by Sri Lanka Guardian's Washington correspondent Eric Bailey, Sri Lanka Guardian, 12 February 2009.
2. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Sri Lanka: government targets media under civil war cover, Inter Press Service, 9 February 2009. For more on authorities’ bid to suppress information, see below.
3. One journalist, Emily Wax in Vavuniya town met with fleeing refugees who were critical of the Tamil Tigers and praised the Sri Lankan armed forces. It was also evident that these people were scared and dependent on the mercy of the armed forces after the interviewer departs from the scene. See: Sri Lanka Debates Fate of War Refugees in Government Camps, The Washington Post, 15 February 2009; In Sri Lanka, Tales Of Jungle Terror: Civilians Fleeing War Describe Forbidding Terrain, The Washington Post, 13 February 2009.
4. Jeremy Page, Barbed wire villages raise fears of refugee concentration camps, The Times UK, 14 February 2009. International humanitarian and human rights organizations have already protested against this and have taken this up with governments which have promised aid to Sri Lanka.
5. Amnesty International, Outspoken Journalist Killed in Sri Lanka, 9 January 2009. This was followed by an attack on a private television channel.
6. Melani Manel Perera, Sri Lanka government behind murder of journalist, Speronews, 21 January 2009. Also, BBC services rebroadcast suspended, Journalists at risk in Sri Lanka: BBC
7. In its Press Freedom Index for 2008, Reporters sans Frontiers ranked Sri Lanka in 165th place out of a total of 173 countries. Earlier this week, Reporters sans Frontiers expressed revulsion at the death of a Tamil journalist, Satyamoorthy, in the ongoing bombardment as a “war crime.”
8. Professor Chomsky states: “There's a terrible burden of proof to bear for those who would advise violence as a solution, and I think the resort to violence has almost always been harmful, almost bitterly so, so I think the first assumption should be that international peacekeepers and diplomacy would be a far preferred outcome and only if it is simply impossible to execute should the situation be allowed to deteriorate into violence, which is usually very harmful for everyone.”
9. Professor Chomsky goes on to caution the interviewer that war crimes are usually committed by both sides and that all of them need to be investigated if a tribunal were to sit on judgment; instead, he recommends that the society decide on the issue of amnesty and suggests a truth or reconciliation commission without punitive powers on the lines of South Africa, El Salvador or Guatemala. Professor Chomsky’s recommendation is a welcome step which can be part of a peaceful resolution.
10. Ravi Nessman, Sri Lanka war near end, but ethnic tension remains, Associated Press, 5 February 2009.
(For Chomsky's image at this page, thanks to www.changeany1thing.com/.../03/noam_chomsky.jpg)