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Published on Sunday, 23 June 2013 09:34
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UNGA 630px 13 06 23United Nations membership after the end of the Cold War grew from 151 to 193. It has been essentially due, broadly speaking, to secession.

Whilst addressing MPhil/PhD students at Kotelawala Defence Academy on ‘Sri Lanka’s National Security Concerns’, the Secretary of Defence commented on the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), an international Tamil organization which aims at furthering Tamil causes in Sri Lanka. The Secretary of Defence stated, “All of the LTTE-linked groups are coordinated by the GTF and united by one overarching objective. Their unwavering intent is the division of Sri Lanka and the establishment of a separate state for Tamil Eelam.”

According to the Secretary of Defence, the GFT aims at ‘Secession’. However, the question is whether ‘Secession’ is possible? In the international context, although secession is not an easy task (even India will oppose any move to create a separate state in northern Sri Lanka by any group), it is achievable. Thus, the Secretary of Defence’s observation is correct and countering GTF as a ‘secessionist movement’ should be considered as an important item on the National Security agenda.
The term ‘secession’ refers to the political expression of separation by the inhabitants of a region from some pre-existing state. It is not a new phenomenon and even in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, new states emerged due to forms of secession under the pre-text of ‘de-colonisation’, declaring independence from their European colonial powers. The end of the Cold War ultimately brought the term ‘secession’ back into the international political discourse and the growth of the United Nations membership after the end of the Cold War from 151 to 193 at present has been essentially due, broadly speaking, to secession.

As Dr Karsten Frey from Institute Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals [IBEI] observes, “successful secessions are always enforced by creating political facts but not by meeting legal requirements”. The case of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991 is one of the fine examples and the arbitration commission of the Peace Conference (Badinter Commission) in Yugoslavia’s argument was that “The existence or disappearance of the State is a question of fact.” At the end, the arbitration commission ruled out the significance of ‘international law’ in recognising new entities and emphasised the importance of the actual ‘status quo’ or ‘the matter of fact’ of the given State.

Therefore, international community’s ‘recognition’ and ‘attitude’ with regard to a new entity, which are political issues, are important than to ‘international law’ in recognising new separate states. Even in the Sri Lankan case, any claims that the GTF wants to make in supporting a separate state in the North should have the ability to shape international community’s ‘recognition’ and ‘attitude’ in recognising a Tamil Eelam.

However, all the evidence that the GTF wants to present to the international community in this regard should be backed up with evidence from the Sri Lanka’s socio-political ‘reality’ and, mere political rhetoric, which may be valid amongst GTF supporters, will not be adequate in shaping international community’s attitude.

Therefore, the Sri Lanka’s National Security agenda should give priority in creating an adverse socio-political context in Sri Lanka to the GTF when countering the threat posed by them. This context should necessarily challenge the domestic likelihood of secession.

As I view in accordance with Dr Stephane Dion from University of Montreal’s renowned observations on secession, creating a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka is possible in a socio-political context where, the level of ‘fear’ (a sense among members of Tamils that their cultural, political, socio-economic situation and fundamental rights are getting deteriorated by the actions of the Sri Lankan government and within the existing union with the majority Sinhalese) and the level of ‘rejection’ (a sense of being discriminated by the majority Sinhalese that creates a belief in Tamils that they have no equal position with the Sinhalese majority) among the Tamils are ‘high’ whilst the level of ‘confidence’ (a sense among Tamils that they can perform better on their own and that secession is not too risky) and the level of ‘acceptance’ (a sense that the Tamil Eelam is the only option which could restore their ethnic integrity) for ‘secession’ among the Tamils are also ‘high’.

However, secession is impossible in a context where the level of ‘fear’ and ‘rejection’ created by the Majority is ‘low’, despite the existence of a ‘high’ level of ‘confidence’ and ‘acceptance’ for secession among Tamils. Furthermore, secession is impossible in a context where the levels of ‘confidence’ and’ acceptance’ for secession is ‘low’ whilst the levels of ‘fear’ and ‘rejection’ amongst Tamils are also ‘low’.

Therefore, challenging the domestic likelihood of secession warrants an honest context of co-existence between the Majority and the Tamils. Hence, the task of introducing an effective reconciliation process in the post-conflict Sri Lanka in achieving a context of co-existence should be given priority on the National Security agenda and the strategic approach will remove the GTF’s ability to shape international community’s ‘recognition’ and ‘attitude’ in favouring a Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, the unwavering intent of the Global Tamil Forum.

(By Dinesh D. Dodamgoda)

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 June 2013 09:34