Feature Article

Oppressed nations shouldn’t take mere existence of geopolitics for granted: Tamil academic

[TamilNet, Friday, 22 May 2015, 23:31 GMT]
“Despite the emergence of a multipolar world, in which international and regional powers will battle each other and intervene in various conflicts in order to enhance their respective geopolitical dominance, oppressed people and Eezham Tamils should be wary,” writes Norway-based Anthropology academic Athithan Jayapalan. The patronage given by rivalling geopolitical powers to the genocidal policies of Sri Lanka and Pakistan in South Asia imply that a multipolar world does not by itself serve the interest of oppressed nations, the academic from the second generation diaspora, concludes that the national political mobilization within the oppressed nations themselves and a global solidarity transcending the State borders, would create the necessary de-facto situations to empower the nations without States to achieve their freedom.

Mr Athithan scrutinizes the recent approach of the United States towards Sri Lanka, especially the recent visit by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the island. The discourse sheds light on the accelerated geo-political rivalry between the U.S. and China in the Indian Ocean, he writes noting how the USA, despite being challenged, seeks to maintain its ‘adamant stand’ on strengthening Colombo and the unitary state to retain its hold in the region.

Full text of the article follows:

Geopolitical rivalry in the Indian Ocean and the U.S approach to Sri Lanka

In a bid to enhance strategic position in the wake of accelerated geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. axis and China pivoted around the regions of the Indian Ocean, the U.S. is augmenting its structural attendance of the unitary Sri Lankan state by dissecting Eezham Tamil political rights and nationhood. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Sri Lanka marked the first trip to the island by a U.S. official after a decade and was testimony to the geo-political shift in the region.

John Kerry lauded the ‘achievements’ of the new regime and stated that it was the beginning of a new era in U.S. – Lanka relations. The LRRC paradigm of achieving a ‘trilingual nation’ and pursuing domestic investigations was evidently the modus operandi corroborated by the U.S. in addressing the plight of the Eezham Tamil nation. This was also in line with the discourse of transitional justice sans persecution of the South African Truth Commission model championed by Sri Lanka’s foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera, and facilitated by Norway and Switzerland.

Following the welcome by the Sri Lankan foreign minister, John Kerry delivered a speech which began by absolving the new regime from recent actions (1).

For the convenience of U.S. geo-politics he overlooked the new regimes continuity of the structural alienation and colonization of Tamils’ private, agricultural, grazing and coastal lands in the North-East and the prohibition of the Tamils’ right to convene, commemorate and mourn the death of tens of thousands of Tamils during the 2009 genocide.

John Kerry stated “Under President Sirisena’s leadership, Sri Lanka’s traditions of critical debate, free press, and independent civil society are returning. The armed forces have started to give back land to people in the north. Your citizens have been asked to mourn all the dead – not just those from one part of the country or one ethnicity or one faith. Incidents of violence decreased.”

He continued by conveying the need for a U.S. led strategic and economic partnership promoting free market economic integration amongst nations in the Indian Ocean. The geo-political role and imperatives of the U.S. in the region was made clear despite its convoluted presentation.

“The United States is already providing leadership on maritime security in the Indian Ocean in association with close friends and allies across the region, including India, Australia, Indonesia, and Japan. And that requires, in part, a focus on counter-piracy and counter-trafficking operations……The United States and Sri Lanka are also working together to oppose the use of intimidation or force to assert a territorial or maritime claim by anyone. And we reject any suggestion that freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea and airspace are somehow privileges granted by big states to small ones. They’re not privileges; they’re rights. And these principles bind all nations equally. And the recent decision by India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh to submit to binding arbitration – that’s an example of how maritime claims can be resolved peacefully and through good-faith negotiations.”

“That is why the United States is promoting the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor to connect South Asia to Southeast Asia and to spur sustainable development in both regions. IPEC will strengthen energy, transit, trade, and people-to-people ties – on land and sea. And the challenge is: What’s the pace going to be of this integration? If commerce across South Asia is going to become the economic driver that it ought to be, governments have to act with urgency, not settle for half-measures or wait for the next country to go first. And we look forward to working with the Sri Lankan Government as it increases trade and investment with its neighbours in the Indian Ocean and beyond.”

John Kerry, noting neither the structural oppression faced by Eezham Tamils nor the destructions of genocidal violence which has specifically targeted Tamils due to their national, ethnic and religious characters, opts to give credence to the annihilation of Tamil sovereignty and resistance.

“Let me be very clear about this: It is sometimes necessary to go to war, despite the pain it brings. For all of my country’s disagreements with the previous government in Sri Lanka over how it fought the LTTE, we clearly understood the necessity of ridding this country of a murderous terrorist group and the fear that it sowed.”

In the wake of his comments, it is relevant for oppressed and a sovereign people to be edified on what U.S. sponsored regime change, geo-politics and democracy implies.

USA, regime change and democracy
John Kerry’s visit follows the 50thyear’s anniversary of the U.S. intervention and coup d’étate in the small but strategically crucial Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic in 1965.

During a three decade rule of U.S. allied tyrant General Rafael Trujillo, the people of the island successfully mobilized a united resistance front spearheaded by Juan Bosh’s Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD), and the Maoist Movimiento Popular Dominicano (MPD) and were eventually joined by sections of the lower strata of the military led by Colonel Francisco Caamano.

Following the assassination of Trujillo and the movement’s victory in deposing his rule, a democratic election was held which resulted in Juan Bosh forming a governing administration.

Forces loyal to Trujillo instigated an insurrection supported by the U.S., who in order to destroy any sovereign peoples’ movement which potentially threatened their sphere of influence, sent 42 000 U.S. soldiers who supported the fascist military (2).

Subsequently the forces loyal to Trujillo gained momentum and forced the people’s movements into negotiations which led to the undemocratic instalment of Joaquin Balaguer. His regime was characterized by U.S. friendly policies and brutal elimination of the resistance movements of the people.

John Kerry’s arrival to the strategic important island of Sri Lanka coincided with the events in the Dominican Republic as well as the anniversary of the phenomenal triumph of the Vietnamese people led by the Viet Minh, and its leaders Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap over the genocidal U.S. led coalition forces and its South Vietnamese puppet regime.

Driven by ulterior motives, Kerry’s stated concerns for the people of Sri Lanka and his remarks on the LTTE and the Tamil resistance obscured the U.S.’s own record of undemocratic and anti-people’s intervention and abuses which prompted regimes changes.

In more recent times, the U.S. role in the Ukrainian crisis, prompting a regime change in favour of their strategic interests led to the current bloody civil war, in which the U.S. and Russia support opposing sides. Recent reports also indicate that the U.S. military is involved in equipping and training the notorious Neo-Nazi Azov brigade (3).

The Azov brigade is a ‘volunteer’ brigade associated with the right-wing Right Sector movement and the Kiev government which alongside the Ukrainian military is viciously pursuing a military solution to the secessionist rebellions launched by Russian speakers in Donetsk and Lugansk of eastern Ukraine.

Contemporary geo-political rivalry and the oppressed
Tamils should be wary of the political obfuscations pursued by the U.S. axis as well as regional establishments, which under the pretext of securing justice for the genocide struck Eezham Tamils, are rather attempting to hijack their struggle to secure their own respective geopolitical interests.

Until the regime change in Colombo the U.S. backed UNHRC sessions and Geneva discourses were propagating ‘international investigation’ into war crimes and crimes against humanity while ostensibly lacking the charge of genocide.

Following the regime change the human rights prerogatives of the USA has brazenly been changed to toe in line with the LRRC discourse opting for a domestic process of investigation into crimes perpetuated by ‘both sides’ during the war. This in turn corroborates with the discourse of transitional justice sans persecution pursued by elements of international and Colombo based human rights NGOs considered the ‘soft powers’ of the U.S. axis.

These actors, rather than aiding the oppressed Tamils, are diluting the genocidal crimes of the Sri Lankan unitary state by promoting multiple narratives of what was a blatant genocide by propagating ambivalence in understanding the material reality on the island.

Such ambivalence legitimizes the very structures of oppression, the unitary state of Sri Lanka and delegalizes the right to self-determination and resistance by the oppressed.

The right to self-determination as delineated by V.I. Lenin and the UN charters to be an inalienable right vested among and determined by the oppressed in their own right, is instead being constituted and conditioned by the interests and likes of the INGOs and the U.S.

In this spirit these actors are in the present thrusting upon the Tamils ‘internal self-determination’ within the unitary state and proclaiming that anything else is extremism.

Through their epistemological agency the soft powers are facilitating political orientations among the oppressed, which conjoin with the geo-political interests of the U.S. This is warranted even more so as the main rival of the USA in the region, China has recently pursued multifaceted approaches to strengthen their sphere of influence in world and regional affairs challenging the U.S. hegemony.

Earlier this year China founded the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which has openly challenged the U.S.-Japan dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB). Such a venture within the global economic fold even seduced stalwart U.S. allies such as the U.K., Taiwan, Australia, South Korea and Norway to apply for the new bank against opposition expressed by the USA.

Chinese economic assertion paralleled with its maritime Silk Road Initiative aims to secure the allegiance of countries in the Indian Ocean through economic and infrastructural investments, facilitating Chinese spheres of influence along the sea trade route linking China with Africa, Middle East and Europe. Such a geopolitical strategy is mainly guided by the ‘String of Pearls’ theory pursued by Beijing to build or control harbour, airbase and infrastructural facilities along the coastal countries in the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese rise of influence and the unexpected challenge to U.S. finance institutions have led Washington to realign geopolitical approaches in order to balance the competition with China, and recent approaches to Cuba and Iran are to be interpreted towards such effect.

The U.S. pursuing the ‘Pivot Asia’ strategy to counterbalance the rise of Chinese regional hegemony and assertion in the Indian Ocean has increased competition between these powers for both world and regional hegemony. The regional power centred in New Delhi is caught between aligning with the U.S., and countering China whilst independently pursuing aspirations of regional hegemony.

Despite the emergence of a multipolar world, in which international and regional powers will battle each other and intervene in various conflicts in order to enhance their respective geopolitical dominance, oppressed people and Eezham Tamils should be wary.

Although a multipolar world potentially broadens the possibilities of change and action for oppressed people who are in the present submerged by the alliance of their respective oppressor with the world hegemons, the approaches meted out to countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan signal that rivalling geopolitics does not necessarily mean that oppressed nations will benefit.

It is the independent and national mobilization of the Eezham Tamil nation and other oppressed which can prevent potential hijacking and exploitation by competing powers and safeguard and emancipate the pillars of their democratic expectation: national sovereignty, territorial contiguity of their traditional homeland and external self-determination to secure equity, liberty and security of the oppressed.

In the present, in the occupied homeland of the Eezham Tamils, various Tamil political and grass root movements and the elected Northern Provincial Council (NPC) have shown signs of increasing coordinated mobilization of protests and political activity giving once again rise to a national political character.

During this year’s commemoration of the 2009 genocide, Tamil political, civic and grass root elements braved the intimidation and prohibition enforced by the occupying military in commemorating their martyrs and the dead.

The increased integration and political mobilization within the oppressed Tamils is paramount to gain political power in the present. Such unity will also provide political platforms to address grievances and aspirations of Tamils amidst a structural genocide perpetuated by the new regime in Colombo. Such continuity follows protracted state practices of previous regimes, and as evident in John Kerry’s speech, is continually legitimized by the international community of nations.

On the international level, interaction and coordination among the wretched of the earth, among the oppressed nations, can form geopolitical leverage and alternatives which can enhance oppressed peoples’ struggles and legitimacy in the wake of exploitative geo-political dynamics pursued by world and regional power establishments.

 

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