|Rajiva Wijesinha deconstructs Peter Schalk|
|Monday, 05 May 2008|
NOT BY A LONG SCHALKIntellectual dishonesty in the service of terror:
Prof Peter Schalk’s sleights of hand to justify terrorism
I was sent recently an essay entitled ‘Pax Americana, the EU, and the Tamil Resistance Movement (TRM), written by Peter Schalk of Uppsala University. Prof Schalk has been concerned with Sri Lankan affairs for many years now, and this shows, in his rather dogged adherence to the battles of the seventies. His view is that the EU ban on the LTTE is ‘part of a falling in line with a worldwide pax americana’ which the man explains as analogous to the pax romana, which he also then has to explain.
His explanations are simplistic, but they suggest a splendid cunning that he doubtless thinks justified, since he clearly believes in a world without morality, provided the cause is good enough. This does not however preclude him from snide asides about similar views in others. Thus, his very first paragraph describes ‘water torture sanctioned by the President of the United States’ as part of the ‘martial pax Americana’which he claims ‘is presented with a Christian-evangelical signature also as jus ad bellum, ‘just war’, and as jus in bello, ‘just (method) in war’, fighting Communism in the 1950s and now terrorism. A little learning is indeed a dangerous thing.
Prof. Peter Schalk
The man then brings in Cornelius Nepos and conflates the theory of just war with ‘the formulation paritur pax bello, ‘peace is won by war’, and then talks of India and China also having ‘ideologues of just war’. George Orwell would have had a delightful time taking this essay apart. You do not need ideologues to justify what common sense dictates, that self-defence is ample justification in itself for war, and that extrapolations as to what constitutes self-defence have always been acceptable as justifying war. Unfortunately that does not solve the problem since there will generally be questions about the acceptability of such extrapolations. Most people for instance accept that the wars against Iraq in 1991 and Afghanistan in 2001 were acceptable in terms of self-defence (and were authorized as such by the UN), but the war against Iraq in 2003 was not (and was not so authorized).
Then again there will be questions as to the legitimacy of the means employed. Schalk’s confounding of confusion becomes understandable at this point because, having chided the American president, he then claims that, in its own concept of just war, revived as he claims ‘by the Buddhist monk Walpola Rahula in 1992 and by President Chandrika Kumaranatunga Bandaranayake (sic) in 1995’, Sri Lanka included ‘counter terrorism methods like terrorizing civilians by making them homeless, raping, torturing and killing them’. And then the man declares that ‘Being confronted with a ‘just war’ of the Lankan Government, the Tamil Resistance Movement (TRM) responded by its own version of a just war known in Tamil as punita por, ‘holy war’, in the terminology of Veluppillai Pirapakaran, to resist an attempted genocide of the Tamil speakers. Significantly, at no point in his 14 page article does Prof Schalk note that the Tigers, or the TRM as he terms it, uses terror as a tool. Now there can be no question as to the fact that, in the course of war, illegitimate methods are used. The question is, are they sanctioned and justified by government. Using his sleight of hand, Prof Schalk insinuates that, just as the American President sanctioned water torture, so the Sri Lankan government sanctioned rape and torture and killing of civilians. This is nonsense. Prof Schalk may complain that the Sri Lankan government is slow or inefficient in punishing such activities – a trait it shares with all governments – but it has never sanctioned them. With regard to the Tigers the case is different.
Though often they deny obvious atrocities, the rulings of the Scandinavian Monitoring Mission alone show how they were systemic. The claim that they have reformed with regard to child soldiers may or may not be credited, but it makes clear the fact that they did engage in forced recruitment in the past. And the ethnic cleansing of Muslims they engaged in in 1990 was not only patent, it still finds apologists in the form of Mr Vaiko, their apologist in Tamilnadu. Even though both Mr Pirapakaran, as Prof Schalk calls him, and Anton Balasingham came as close as Tigers can to an apology for the action, even though Sri Lankan Tamils to a man seem to regret it now, Vaiko’s recent justification recently in Oslo, on the grounds that the expelled Muslims included collaborators with the Sinhala government, suggests that at least some elements in the LTTE believe that tactics such as ‘terrorizing civilians by making them homeless’ are acceptable, in the context of what is justified as a ‘holy war’. In short, what Prof Schalk’s collection of conflations is designed to do is to belittle the European Union ban on the Tigers as being not a conscious decision based on recognition of their terrorist nature but rather simply obeisance to self-righteous American impositions that include immoral methods; to claim that the Sri Lankan government asserted the righteousness of not only war but also similar immorality in the form of terrorizing techniques; to suggest that the Tigers are fighting only because they were confronted by such tactics; and finally to characterize the EU ban on the Tigers as ‘biased and evil, because it insinuates motives’.
Innocent Sri Lanka civilians killed by LTTE Terrorists
The theologian in Prof Schalk comes out here, as benefits a denizen of Uppsala, but whilst the attribution of motives may be a terrible sin, equally nasty is the assertion as well as the insinuation of falsehoods designed to denigrate. When he then claims that the EU action ‘is immoral and counteracts scientific principles of interpretation’ and complains about ‘the sloppy way historical facts are handled by the EU’ one wonders whether his biblical studies ever extended to the man with the beam in his eye who pointed out the mote in another’s. ***The archaic nature of Schalk’s mindset becomes even clearer in the next section of his essay, when he privileges the Tigers, whom he continues to call the TRM, on the grounds that it ‘is the only party that sticks to the election program from 1977 that demanded a separate state for the Tamils’. The fact that in successive elections since then that program has not figured matters not a whit to Schalk’s sense of history. Indeed the program of the TNA in 2004 was different, but their victory is simply seen as ‘democratic proof that the Tigers are considered the bulwark and guarantee of the Sri Lankan Tamils’ existential interests’. Further slight of hand is apparent here in that he asserts that the TNA ‘obtained 22 out of 23 seats in the Tamil dominated electoral districts of the Northeast. First, the fraudulent nature of that election in the Northeast has been amply documented, including by European Union election observers.
Second, while the TNA won all but one of the seats in the three districts of the Northern Province, it won only about a third of the seats in the three districts of the Eastern Province, thus providing democratic proof that the LTTE cannot be taken as the authority for the East. Third, since by then the Eastern Tamils were trying to break free of LTTE domination, the latter killed one candidate at the time of the election, and then forced another who topped the poll to resign, and subsequently killed him as well. This was their way of eliminating Tamils who supported the Eastern breakaway group. Doubtless for Schalk such murders of Tamils are quite acceptable, as part of a strategy ‘to resist an attempted genocide of the Tamil speakers’. Another example of Schalk’s scientific principles of interpretation is apparent in his dismissal of the EU’s characterization of the Karuna group, the Eastern Tamils who broke away from the LTTE, as ‘effectively a third party to be considered in the conflict’. He asserts that this is ‘disingenuous’ because the then UNP government ‘boasted having secretly helped (sic) the Karuna group to split off from the LTTE’, because ‘the LTTE revealed what had been an open secret that the paramilitaries work hand in hand with the army’ and because ‘according to the CFA of February 2002 it is the responsibility of the GOSL to disarm the paramilitaries, a stipulation which, however, has at no time been implemented’. If Schalk cannot see that all this is nonsense, he has no claims to being a serious academic. The validity of the determination of the Karuna group to split from the LTTE cannot depend on whether anyone helped them, let alone boasted of having secretly helped them.
Characterization by the LTTE of the Karuna group as paramilitaries does not make them paramilitaries unless the LTTE too are seen as paramilitaries, on the grounds that that is the right term to describe any unofficial armed group – in any case, since the LTTE has no mechanism for allowing different perspectives to be weighed democratically, a group that broke away from the LTTE is still in essence of the same genus as the parent group. Finally, the GOSL did disarm the former militant groups in terms of the CFA, only to find the LTTE picking them off ruthlessly, with no mechanism for them to point out that this violated the CFA since complaints were only entertained by the Monitoring Mission from the government or the LTTE. In this section of his essay Schalk also suggests that the LTTE is willing to negotiate whereas ‘no concession has been offered by the Singhalese parties and governments’. This again is nonsense.
The agreement in Oslo to explore a solution based on a federal solution within a united Sri Lanka was questioned initially by the LTTE leader Mr Pirapakaran, who seemed indeed to have lost confidence in his chief negotiator, Anton Balasingham, because of that agreement. It was the LTTE that subsequently withdrew from negotiations, and stayed away for three long years.
Schalk then refers to the P-TOMS, ‘the organizational set-up suggested for the distribution of aid to the tsunami victims’, which was of course a concession offered by the government, rejected by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional. Now Mr Schalk might disagree with that judgment, as many others did including the President at the time, but none of these opponents has argued against it on a legal basis, as opposed to simply asserting prejudice.
Unfortunately for Mr Schalk, as the present government too has found, Sri Lanka has an independent Supreme Court, unlike the Tigers would have, given that their guidelines on the ‘Judicial Administration of Tamil Eelam’ begins with the stirring assertion ‘It functions on the basis of the direct approval of His Excellency, Mr V Prabhakaran, the National Leader…Only he has the authority to reduce or increase the sentences of the courts wherever the need arises. All laws are made with his approval.’
Finally, Schalk asserts that the EU listing will make ‘the already socially marginalized, legally insecure Tamils living in the EU…subject to permanent surveillance and rampant denunciation’, and quotes approvingly a Professor John Neelsen, also called Nelson, who says that ‘it is high time that not only the Tamils but all immigrants in the EU and, not least, the native citizens of Europe themselves rise in protest against this new government sponsored attack on human rights.
After this clarion call, Schalk beats his breast to say that he too once fell in with a trend of calling the TRM ruthless, though he makes it clear that he will not succumb to ‘the influence of pax americana’ so as to describe it as terrorist. He approves of what he describes as the brave reaction to the EU ban by a German Minister who has demanded sanctions against Sri Lanka, but then goes on to criticize ‘leading EU politicians’ who are dependent on the work of ‘administrative officials’ who do not know ‘Tamil and/or Sinhala but are in part dependent of partisan Lankan propaganda in English’. He does not mention in what language Tiger propaganda is presented. Presumably the German Minister he celebrates knows to resist propaganda, unlike everyone else in Europe who he claims was compelled ‘to vote for a proposal in the EU, even against their conviction’. For good measure he adds, perhaps realizing the idiocy of suggesting that Lankan propaganda achieved this, that the real pressure was from pax Americana.
Prof.Rajiva WijesinghaSecretary General
Then Schalk critiques diplomats as well as politicians who claim the TRM will not reform, allowing his guard to slip for a moment in that he seems to accept that the TRM did at some stage engage in ‘child recruiting, assassinations, terrorizing the population under its control, violating cease fire agreements, etc’.
His final dismissive assertion is that such views arise from historical determinism but these misguided individuals have a limited historical perspective, unlike he Peter Schalk.
To display his ‘long historical perspective’ he then discourses on the ‘Flexibility of the TRM’, basically to assert that the TRM is flexible about its methods but will not change its aim. Assessing this section of the argument is hardly necessary, because Schalk makes clear his total amorality when he seems to celebrate ‘conditioned flexibility’, the TRM being ‘extremely goal and gain oriented, but this is an advantage in peace negotiations’, ‘a tactical surrender that again transformed into fatal attacks on the IPFK’, a situation which has ‘no place for ethics’, flexibility ‘with regard to methods, but of course only conditionally within certain boundary conditions. The method must lead step by step to the ultimate aim, which is Tamililam’.
He seems to relish the fact that ‘True, the TRM is not democratic movement. It is an armed resistance movement in a situation of war. It hits right and left, wherever a threat appears, much likethe French resistance during World war II. The internecine fights between groups with the French resistance cost many lives … A resistance movement in war cannot afford pluralism. Pluralism is historically a democratic achievement in a situation of peace.’ Finally, in this section, Schalk claims legitimacy for the TRM on the grounds of its own ‘conviction that the TRM is now the only movement that represents the will of the Tamil people from the 1977 election, when a majority of them elected the TULF.
As mentioned above, it had on its programme the achievement of Tamililam by peaceful methods, agitation and struggle. The TRM acted completely in accordance with the mandate that was given to the TULF, but which the TULF did not follow up’. Schalk does not mention that such action involved killing the leader of the TULF who had received a fresh mandate in 1989 for working within a revised constitutional structure that included devolution through Provincial Councils. In short, the legitimacy of the Tigers depends on a mandate conferred in 1977 for ‘peaceful methods, agitation and struggle’, which is assumed to justify violent armed struggle that incorporates ‘child recruiting, assassinations, terrorizing the population under its control, violating cease fire agreements, etc’. That is now cast in stone, and the different mandates conferred in subsequent years count for nothing.
Finally in this section Schalk turns the Tigers into lambs in claiming that the ‘TRM has pushed to get the Government to accept a meeting for a renewal of the Cease Fire Agreement’. He does not date this push, suggesting it was long ago in that he thinks it odd that ‘the EU in January 2006 urges exclusively the TRM to agree to meet representatives of the Government without delay to discuss the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement’. At this stage it would seem that Schalk has lost his head completely. The EU made its plea at a time when the Tigers had stayed away from negotiations for nearly three years. They did in conformity with this plea meet the Government for negotiations, one and a half times. There were discussions in February, after which they fought shy of negotiations, telling the Norwegian ambassador that the issue of child soldiers should not be a matter for discussion. They then tried to assassinate the army commander. Despite this the Government agreed to negotiations in June, the Tigers came to Oslo, and then refused to appear. They then launched two massive attacks, in the North and the East, in August.
When these were successfully repulsed, they returned to negotiations in October, but withdrew after just one day. Throughout 2007 the Government tried to resume talks but the Tigers were adamant, making it clear to the poor Norwegian ambassador in his last visit to them that they would not talk. Then, after the Government formally abrogated the Ceasefire – which the Tigers had according to the Scandinavian monitors violated nearly 4000 times, with Government violations less than a tenth of that number – they declared that they wanted to go back to the Ceasefire Agreement which they now promised to observe 100%. Most people would of course have assumed that, when they first signed the Ceasefire Agreement, they intended to follow it 100%. But Schalk’s casuistry suggests that he quite understands the mindset and approach of those who make reservations in their hearts that they will not proclaim publicly. So, having criticized the EU, he waxes lyrical about the charms of life in the Vanni where ‘the armed forces of the TRM are invisible…Law and order prevails. The surplus of production is redistributed among the poor.’ The forcible recruitment of the children of the poor is ignored by Schalk – unless, that is, he is now delighted that such recruitment extends now to all families, including those working for international NGOs. Doubtless such egalitarianism would excite him considerably, as a tremendous blow against pax Americana.
H.E. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Geneva Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka
The next section of Schalk’s essay is a charming interlude about how the TRM was educated about different systems of state building and democracy and federal structures and demilitarization and other delights – which are then promptly shattered in the next section with its paean to Pirapakaran’s intransigence. Entitled ‘The Norwegian Connection’, this section is a forceful critique of the ambition of ‘Norwegian diplomats…to move the two parties explicitly towards federalism’. This is first seen as counterproductive because of ‘the ethnonationalist side of government supporters’, characterized as those who came together under the current President, ignoring the fact that mention of federalism was way back in 2003, and that Mahinda Rajapakse was not even the leader of his party until a couple of years later.
Conversely, Pirapakaran’s opposition to federalism is eulogized, on the grounds that the TRM fighters take an oath to die ‘for the liberation of a self-ruling / independent Tamililam…None has died for federalism.’ So Pirapakaran cannot be expected to change, but Mahinda Rajapakse must of course abandon the political manifesto on which he won a democratic election.
And to conclude this wonderful exercise in lunacy, Schalk criticizes the latest FBI analysis of the TRM as being possibly inspired by Dayan Jayatilleka, ‘the present Ambassador of Lanka at the UN in Geneva’. Given Dr Jayatilleka’s forceful critiques of American policy in many areas, the idea of him influencing the FBI is quite wonderful, confirming the image of Prof Schalk as a sixties socialist warrior, seeing collusion with capitalism in any radical who differed in even the smallest particular from the preferred formula.
It is sad that Schalk’s formula is basically totally commitment to terror. No compromise is required from Pirapakaran, because his is a just cause, whereas the Sri Lankan state may need to be crushed militarily because, though democratic, it is unjust in the eyes of Pirapakaran and Schalk. So, forgetting the history of East Timor, and the willingness of the Indonesian government to accept self-determination for an area they had invaded several years earlier, Schalk demands military offence against the Sri Lankan government, assuming this will be like East Timor where ‘many thousands of lives were saved’. One would assume the man had finally fallen over the edge into madness, were it not that he figures on the Resource Network of the Centre for Just Peace and Democracy, which the Berghof Foundation said it helped the LTTE to set up in the hope that it would move them towards democratic practices. Others on this Network are Karen Parker, who tried to justify child soldiers over fifteen to a recent United Nations Human Rights Council meeting, while Schalk’s fellow apologist for terrorism, John Neelsan (as he appears here, from Germany it seems where he doubtless bombards the celebrated German Minister with truth rather than propaganda) is on the Advisory Board.
With resources and friends and advisers like these, it is no wonder that the LTTE is being driven further and further into terrorism and intolerance. John Neelsen or whatever he really is may believe that the native citizens of Europe will rise in protest ‘in their own long-term interest’ at the proscription of the Tigers, but until the Tigers are saved from such friends and realize that most people in the world abhor terrorism, they will not be able to do much for the Tamil people they claim to serve.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 June 2008 )|
|< Prev||Next >|