Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC)

The coalition of Muslims and Tamils is a Sri Lanka based organization-comprising Muslim and Tamil identified persons who as a general principle are committed to pluralism and social justice in all its forms. Specifically, we are committed to the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Tamils in the country, particularly in the north and east, and to a just and equitable solution to the ethnic conflict. We can be contacted at:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kethesh: From Tamil Militancy To Tamil Democracy

Ahilan Kadirgamar, is a co-editor of lines magazine
Source :

Kethesh Loganathan, friend, activist, mentor, political analyst and former militant was also one of those few who came out of that generation of politicized Lankan Tamils that were able to make the transition into democratic politics. One of his major pre-occupations was to challenge the culture of political killings and political violence, which was decimating Tamil politics and any possibility of Tamil democracy. It is therefore all the more tragic that one of those few in our community that understood and attempted to challenge the culture of political killings and political violence himself became the victim of a cowardly movement and a cowardly leader, that targets unarmed dissenters. The assassination of Kethesh so committed to transforming a politics of militarism to democratic politics, is also an unpardonable attack on Tamil democracy.

There are many perspectives as to why the prevalent culture of political killings is disastrous for any community and the definition of political killings itself can be contentious, see for example my editorial in lines two years ago in the November 2004 issue, titled ‘Defining Political Killings’ or the more recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Execution.
And while Kethesh would have agreed with all these perspectives, particularly in terms of its assault on dissent and democratization, Kethesh also had a unique perspective, which came out of his depth of experience having participated in the Tamil militant movement, namely EPRLF. His last dozen years of work in civil society and the last few months in the government, were indeed based on his previous twelve years of experience as a militant. He knew intimately the culture of political violence that decimated a generation of politicized and committed youth, willing to come forward for the struggles for justice. Kethesh had great sympathy for those men and women who had taken up arms and were often trapped into a culture of violence. He struggled to think of a process by which former militants could enter the political mainstream through self-criticism and broader societal acceptance. It was this shared experience of a militant past and the torment of seeing others who were trapped in a politics of violence, which he himself had left behind, that pre-occupied Kethesh during the first year of the Ceasefire Agreement in 2002. It was this concern for those active with former militant groups and even those in the ranks of the LTTE, that made him think about how the LTTE’s military structures can be transformed into political and administrative structures, and how the former armed groups including his own EPRLF can be transformed into democratic political parties. He recognized that this not only involved self-criticism and political will among the armed militants but also an openness and acceptance by state and society, as well as those activists and groups in the Tamil community that can facilitate such a transformation.

The acceptance of the former militants by the broader Tamil society was critical, but it was a product of a tension that Kethesh was very much aware.
In a May 2003 interview with lines, Kethesh had the following to say:

“One area of difference was on the relations between the people and the organization. The LTTE consciously relegated the people to the state of mute “observers” who would contribute resources and manpower as and when their “saviours” sought it. The more left-oriented organizations like the PLOTE and EPRLF held the notions of “People’s War” and “mass-based” armed struggle. Both were in a way extreme positions which either led to militarism and nihilism, as in the case of the LTTE, or “revolutionary romanticism”, as in the case of EPRLF and PLOTE. Ultimately, myopic organizational interests was the winner – and the people the losers.”

Such a problem that may have emerged due to the approach of the militants to society was now both a problem for those armed groups as well as society.
Three decades of armed militancy had destroyed the very fabric of Tamil society, and democracy was sacrificed for militarism and “myopic organizational interests.” A peace process should have addressed this issue in parallel with all the other issues, but to Kethesh’s disappointment, such matters were sidelined. And by early 2003, a year after the CFA, the LTTE initiated a major campaign of political killings, which more or less closed the door for any effort towards bringing the former militants into democratic politics. While political killings is the modus operandi of the LTTE, the state, society and international community, did not seem too concerned about such killings until the murder of the Foreign Minister two and a half years later.

Kethesh for his part, when he saw that the political space for transforming Tamil militants into Tamil democrats was shutting down, put all his energy into preserving society.
He opposed forced recruitment and political killings, which he knew if unchecked will consume all of society in the North and East. Today, when we mourn Kethesh, his worst fears have come true. Daily, there is an increasing count of killings by State-backed forces and the LTTE. We hear of continuing child and youth recruitment by the LTTE and the Karuna faction. The LTTE and the State are bent on sacrificing the people of the North and East, by forced training and by recruiting home guards. Any residual space for democratization in Tamil society is being eclipsed by a militarization by all sides, and from Kethesh we know that the people will be the losers. And militarization and repression will not be limited to the North and East, for we know from the two decades of war and the last few years of “peace” that political violence and militarization will spread like cancer to the entire country.

In mourning Kethesh and honoring his life, we must oppose all political killings and the culture of political violence.
We must put forward dissent over militarism and military expediency. That will be the first step towards reclaiming the space for democracy and a people centered politics.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Coalition Statement : There is no room for peace loving persons like Kethesh Loganathan

The Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence in the East joins all champions of democracy, human rights and social justice in condemning the cowardly act of the murder of Kethesh Loganathan by the LTTE. We call upon all peace activists to raise their voices in unison in the condemnation of this champion of peace and human rights. As we all know Kethesh Loganathan had for a long time campaigned for the rights of Tamil people in the north and east and in Sri Lanka as a whole. Kethesh stood for the principles of democracy so critical today in our war ravaged country. A long-standing activist, Kethesh was a founder member of the EPRLF and spearheaded the first ever peace talks on the national question in Sri Lanka at Thimpu in 1985. While he distanced himself from militant Tamil politics and narrow Tamil nationalism, he continued to fight for the rights of the marginalized and the minorities. In reevaluating Tamil militancy of the 80s and 90s, he also held the view that the ethno-nationalism of the militants marginalized and alienated the Muslims of the north and east.

For us, Tamils and Muslims of the north and east, the space for dialogue is becoming more and more constricted. At the mercy of the armed forces, becoming increasingly vicious and brutal, and the military fanaticism of the LTTE, seemingly actualizing their rhetorical claim to fight to the last Tamil alive, on north-eastern soil, and elsewhere, the minorities have no space for dialogue, action, even in the sphere of the everyday.. We live in a deeply militarized culture of activism. All civil action is being squeezed out of our lives in the east and in the north. There are small and large groups acting out agendas of peace. But there is no concerted action for democracy anywhere. In this climate of collapse of civil society Kethesh Loganathan stood out as a beacon of hope, He longed for peace, he longed for a just solution for the Tamils and the Tamil-speaking peoples. But he also longed for justice for all people in the north and east, not just Tamils and Muslims. He never wavered from that vision of justice that made him found the EPRLF with leaders like Pathmanabha and others. It is this same impetus for a negotiated settlement that pushed him to make that ultimate move to join the Peace Secretariat at the beginning of this year; his yearning for a peaceful settlement. The LTTE feared just that; that Loganathan’s involvement in the peace negotiations might take it in the direction of a just solution, lending it credibility and acceptance by the battle weary Tamil populace of Sri Lanka. Kethesh might just infuse the failed peace talks with a dynamism that would undermine the suicidal politics of the LTTE. There is no room for peace loving persons like Kethesh Loganathan within the culture of politics promoted by the sui LTTE.

The murder of Kethesh Loganathan is a victory for the militarism of the LTTE and for those who see militarism as an alternative to a negotiated settlement. Muttur and the surrounding areas in the east continue to simmer; Killings and harthals mark the lives of the people in Batticaloa; Armies on both sides battle one another, bombing and counter bombing civilian settlements, schools and hospitals, in the north and in the east, and slaying aid workers; Bombs explode in the streets of Colombo as regularly as motor vehicle accidents. In the midst of such bleakness, the action of leaders like Kethesh expressed some hope and future for a build up towards democracy. There is a task that awaits us today, in the name of Kethesh Loganathan.

''We urge all people of this country and the international community to cry out against this murder of this political figure who rose above sectarianism and narrow nationalism. In the name of peace and justice among Muslims and Tamils, we urge all Tamils and Muslims to express their solidarity with the cause for democracy that Kethesh so tragically but also heroically espoused."

Coalition Statement : New Year in Trincomalee : What is wrong with the Geneva Talks and the Peace Process?

In this analysis of the situation of war and peace following the recent violence in Trincomalee, the Coalition for Muslims and Tamils speaks for and pleads for once aga in placing people at the centre of peace and the need for the peace process to work towards justice for all peoples in this country.

The Coalition for Muslims and Tamils was formed during an intense period of violence last year between Tamils and Muslims in the East, culm in at in g in the grenade attack on the Grand Mosque in Akkaraipattu in November, which took the lives of 6 persons and in tensified the already stra in ed relations between Muslims and Tamils in the region. Despite repeated pleas by the communities concerned, the State and civil society took little notice of this incident. Today, the kill in g cont in ues. Kill in gs that are politically and ethnically motivated and steeped in the violence that has become an in tr in sic part of the peace process as we know it.

The peace process and its violences
The current peace process, Geneva Talks I, picks up the thread of negotiation from the stalled talks between the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), the LTTE and the donor community that commenced with the Ceasefire Agreement of February, 2002. It adopted a two pronged approach to the conflict.

1. The idea of cement in g good relations between the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka through confidence build in g measures.

2. Initiat in g talks on power shar in g between these two actors.

This strategy was hailed as pragmatic and realistic by political scientists, diplomats, conflict resolution experts and others. Politicians, political analysts, activists and the bus in ess communities considered it as the way to peace. But the success story left out a crucial aspect, critical to any successful resolution or transformation of conflict. The realism of the strategy did not br in g realistic relief to the people in the areas where the war and the conflict had been most in tense. As a result, this approach to peace is flawed in its very fundamentals. The failures of the peace process can be categorized, not necessarily exclusively, as follows:

a. The singular focus on the LTTE as the ma in actor on behalf of the Tamils and the concern with cementing ties between the organization and the Government give undue legitimacy to the LTTE, rid in g roughshod over any concern over its outrageous track record of human rights where people of all communities, particularly Tamils and Muslims, have been the ma in target; its blatant and repeated acts of ethnic cleans in g targett in g Muslims and S in halese in the north and east; and its repeated reneg in g on its promise of desist in g from carry in g out violent acts aga in st the Sri Lankan State, particularly the forces.

The current wave of attacks on armed personnel by the LTTE is strong evidence of the organization’s inability to transform itself in to a democratic movement, concerned about solv in g the conflict and work with in a ‘peace’ setup. Leaflets have appeared in Batticaloa announc in g that war is imm in ent, while leaflets in Jaffna have called on people to vacate the area and go in to the Vanni. The LTTE is able to function only with in a language of militarism. This is most apparent in the way it conducts negotiations by flex in g its muscle.

b. The Peace Process is sadly lack in g in another aspect. It holds the State to no account over the lives of large numbers of ord in ary people from different communities caught with in the conflict. With immense pressure brought to bear on the government to concede to the demands of the LTTE at almost every turn in the name of confidence build in g measures, the substantive issue of devolution of power was relegated to the background. Most crucially in this regard, the important issue of Muslim representation, both with in the peace process and in any solution to come, was deferred too. The Muslim question, whether it concerned the north or the east, was treated as a secondary and temporary problem of manag in g conflict and not as a fundamental part of the solution to the ethnic conflict. The State, dom in ated by diverse S in hala dom in ant factions in clud in g chauv in ist elements, has not committed itself to a peaceful and just solution, in which the in terests and concerns of all communities in the north and east are addressed.

c) The peace process has also betrayed the people in the role played by donor community, especially the Norwegian facilitators. Heavy on conflict resolution theory and weak on their preparedness for the task at hand, the Norwegian facilitators were mostly concerned about go in g home with a success story for the media; they did not hear the bombs go in g off, the pistol crack in g even in Colombo , the cry of a mother when her child was conscripted. The in ternational communities and the Norwegian facilitators should look beyond the LTTE at the people; the Tamil, Muslim, S in hala and other people in the north and east. The realistic approach of the in ternational community should look at the needs of “real” people.

d) Discussions on power shar in g have dealt largely with issues of rehabilitation of the north and east, particularly on divid in g f in ancial resources between the two parties. This is where the donor agencies were crucial to the settlement and the process. Whether it be discussion on the ISGA, P-TOMS or after the arrival of President Mah in da Rajapakse on the scene, RADA , power shar in g has dealt with f in ancial management of aid and other funds. The tsunami, which in its in itial stages, brought the Muslim, S in hala and Tamil people together, compounded ethnic tensions when aid poured in , br in g in g in its wake monies unaccounted for and a greater disparity between the haves and the have nots.

The peace process has miserably failed the people of Sri Lanka in heal in g old wounds; in stead it has exacerbated those wounds and created new ones. While the LTTE, GoSL and the donor community carried on with their barga in in g over the spoils of the tsunami, the north and east simmered with its own violences, new and old. In 2004, the break with in the LTTE caught many political analysts and activists by deep traumatic surprise. Not know in g how to react, they p in ned the ‘blame’ for the break up on the mach in ations of Colombo and India . Political wisdom in the country, caught up in the realism of aid, was neither able to identify the resistance well in g up from with in the Tamil polity nor understand and react to the in creas in g violence in the east in the past year or so. Preoccupied with cement in g ties between the GoSL and the LTTE, they and we could not see LTTE implode, tak in g the east down with it.

The Violence of Tr in comalee and the ongo in g crisis on the ground

Over the past few years, Tr in comalee has been at the centre of Tamil-S in hala tension, most of which is aggravated by the LTTE on the one hand and S in hala chauv in ist and anti-Tamil political mobilizations on the other. ON 2nd January, 2006 , personnel of the State forces, in response to a grenade thrown at a truck by unidentified persons, killed five young men who were mere bystanders at the in cident. No State agency claimed responsibility for this wanton kill in g at that time. Given this scenario, the State should have been alert both to the LTTE’s tactic of provok in g armed personnel to retaliate aga in st people and the mount in g tension with in the personnel as well. It should have taken measures to avoid further deterioration of relations between the Government and the Tamil people.

But when a bomb exploded in the market place on the 12th of April, kill in g a soldier and civilians belong in g to all communities, anti-Tamil and -Muslim riots took place and spread to other places. While the riot in g cont in ued, the LTTE too did not let up. In further provocation, they undertook to kill S in hala civillians, successfully turn in g such in cidents in to attacks on pockets of Tamil habitation in the Tr in comalee district.

We watched with sadness the grief of the families of bereaved soldiers on the media as the President publicly consoled them. And in that same spirit, we also waited to hear a word of consolation for those families, Muslim, Tamil and S in hala, who had lost their loved ones in the destruction, riot in g and loot in g, but heard none.. Most of the families were Tamils and Muslims. This partiality is unwise politically. It serves to alienate m in orities, Tamils in particular in this in stance, from the State polity, push in g them heedlessly in to the hands of the LTTE.

As the attacks on armed personnel in the north and east by the LTTE cont in ue, thousands of refugees have crowded schools and other places in the Tr in comalee District. While the LTTE is on a path of schizoid destruction, the State is wait in g for the next round of peace talks in Geneva , hop in g for calm. This wait in g game br in gs no relief to the soldiers at the front, the LTTE cadres, many of whom are young and forcibly recruited, political activists, and ‘ord in ary’ people. It br in gs no relief to those who feel they cannot expect justice from the State. It means noth in g to those who are not represented either by the State or the LTTE, the majority of the people in the north and east. . The State must undertake the follow in g measures to br in g relief to those suffer in g people and to ga in the confidence of m in ority communities.

1. The State must make provision for immediate relief to those who have been forced to flee their homes by the recent wave of violence in Tr in comalee.

2. It must also develop mechanisms that protect Tamils at times of raids and check in g, to safeguard them from Human Rights abuses at the hands of the forces.

3. There must be a check on the growing culture of impunity. The state must hold itself accountable for the acts of the armed forces. As an immediate measure, it needs to carry out an in dependent and thorough in vestigation of what happened in Trincomalee to provide justice for the victims of violence and ensure that the findings are made public.

Tr in comalee cannot be looked at in isolation. What happened in Tr in comalee in April 2006, is what happened in Akkaraipattu in November 2005; or in Batticaloa and Ampara in April, 2004; in Eravur in 1990, in Pesalai in February 2006; in the Northern Prov in ce on October 23rd 1990 ; in Anuradhapura in 1985; or in July1983 in Sri Lanka . Our task then as a community is to raise the cry of democracy, accountability on the part of the State for all its people, and to demand a people-centred approach to peace and not a war centred or partisan approach.

Toward Peace: what must the Process do?
The peace process must at this po in t prioritize above all the follow in g issues.

a) De-militarize the north and the east by curb in g all armed activity in the area, Including that of the LTTE.

b) Safeguard the Human Rights of all communities.

c) Protect all communities aga in st the terror of armed groups, above all that of the LTTE and chauv in ist forces.

d) Address the concerns of Muslims in the north and east.

e) Address security concerns of S in hala people in the north and east, particularly in the border areas.

f) Address the fears and in securities of m in orities, especially Tamils in this in stance, with regard to State forces and State patronage.

g) Immediately set to work on a programme of power shar in g in the north and east and work toward a pluralist structure that would accommodate representation of all communities and political allegiances.