Diaspora, IDPs and Refugees, Peace and Conflict, Post-War, Reconciliation

A Wobbly Bridge (Or Is It A Footpath?) From The Tamil Diaspora

For a long time I didn’t think of myself as being a part of the Tamil Diaspora. I had this vague feeling that I was going to go back home some day.  Even when it was pretty obvious that I was not going back, I still didn’t want to identify myself as a member of the Diaspora.  For me, acknowledging that I was a part of the Diaspora meant closing the door on my life in Colombo.  Forever.  After this past year, I am humbled and grateful to be able to call myself a part of the Diaspora (and furious, sad, and horrified, like much of the Tamil Diaspora, by the plight of Tamil citizens callously sacrificed to the Sri Lankan State’s all-out war against the LTTE).  Still, it has not been easy to find my place in this amorphous and evolving Diaspora and to figure out my relationship to Sri Lanka from within it.

Until now, it seemed to me that identifying oneself as part of the Tamil Diaspora involved having to articulate where one stood on the LTTE and on Eelam.  And there, I think, lay the crux of the dilemma for many Tamils living abroad.  But because I am reluctant to speak for anyone else about such personal, complex, and explosive emotions, I am going to speak only for myself.

For me, taking a position on the LTTE was not easy.  Over the years, as I came across mounting evidence of the increasing and systematic human rights abuses by the Tigers, I gradually and quietly pulled back from supporting them in any way.  But I could not bring myself to denounce them.  I have asked myself why and I am not sure I have the answers.

Part of it was loyalty, because they fought for us when we were left unprotected and exposed by what was supposedly our own government. I knew that fighting a guerrilla war against the might of a State created an uneven battleground and so I did not condone, but despairingly understood, the tactics they employed.  I didn’t want Eelam (I loved my childhood in multicultural Colombo), but I didn’t feel I could judge those who felt the need for it.  Because I grew up in Colombo, I had many close Sinhalese friends and didn’t see the Sinhalese race and its people represented in the State’s actions. But being Tamil, many people in my life that I loved and respected had vastly different experiences that led to them supporting the LTTE and believing in the need for a separate State for Tamils.  In the end, it was hard to denounce the LTTE without feeling like I was somehow sanctioning the Government of Sri Lanka and its actions by doing that.  Taking a principled position for a unified Sri Lanka with equal rights for all minorities, I could do.  And in an ideal world, that is what I want.  But the truth is that I did not, and do not, believe in its plausibility.  And I was too angry with the Sri Lankan State for the misery and rootless life it was forcing on Tamils everywhere, to find it in me to work towards anything that I saw as helping them in their fight against the LTTE (even if I no longer supported them).

So I chose to stay out of Diaspora and Sri Lankan politics altogether and focus instead on maintaining my ties to my large extended family, now dispersed all over the world.  It became the surrogate for my commitment to Tamils.  The rest of it was just too painful and complicated and morally compromised to confront and negotiate.

I write this because I feel that the Tamil Diaspora is viewed today by much (not all) of the non-Tamil Sri Lankan universe as a monolithic, extreme, out-of-touch, LTTE-loving group of fringe maniacs. The Dark Side waiting in the wings to ruin Sri Lanka by funding and creating a neo-LTTE any moment now.  This is not the Tamil Diaspora in my life.

Lost somewhere is the enormity of the anguish and alienation that Tamils abroad have had to endure over the years, while living with the bitter realization that there is no going back home.  Ever.  And many Tamils still have relatives living in the war zones, now in IDP camps; relatives who were killed both before and after the war; and relatives who continue to disappear from the camps.  The Diaspora’s fury is not without just cause.  Still, I don’t purport to begin to understand anyone in the Diaspora and what motivates them, or the ways in which their myriad traumatic experiences, large and small, manifest themselves and where it leads people to put their energy.  But I do know that our collective loss is vast and deep.

Yes, I know we all (Sri Lankans from every ethnic community) have lost much and I know Sri Lanka as a country has suffered greatly.  But let’s not get started on who began what, when, and how, whose fault it all is, who betrayed whom, and whose pain and loss is greater.  None of it negates the reality of the tragedy that is the Tamil Diaspora’s to bear.

So this is simply my request to you (dear readers), to try to see the Tamil Diaspora in its complicated, diverse, proud, and traumatized entirety, and see it in light of the tortuous journey its people have traveled for at least the last twenty-six years.  I don’t have much hope for a rapprochement of any kind between the larger Tamil Diaspora and Sri Lanka given the way the government has treated Tamils in the IDP camps just in the few months since the war ended.  It has only served to affirm the worst fears of the Diaspora, that Sri Lanka will always treat Tamils as second-class citizens and cannot be trusted to protect them.

But from the sliver of the Diaspora that I speak from, I am making a modest attempt at a dialogue that I hope will help me sort out my relationship at least with civilian Sri Lanka.  Maybe even find a path of reconciliation.  For no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to call any place else home.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Anjali,

    Thank you for your article. I understand and appreciate that the Tamil diaspora is NOT simply a “monolithic, extreme, out-of-touch, LTTE-loving group of fringe maniacs.” In my work in Sri Lanka I’ve interacted with plenty of 2nd generation Tamil expatriates who impressed me with their sober and objective understanding of the situation.

    I have to ask a tough question though.

    I don’t have much hope for a rapprochement of any kind between the larger Tamil Diaspora and Sri Lanka given the way the government has treated Tamils in the IDP camps just in the few months since the war ended.

    Whom do you think is worse off as a result?

  • Velu Balendran

    This writer was probably born before LTTE era, and can relate to Tamils as citizens of SL albeit second-class. The situation for Tamils has worsened in Sri Lanka for those born after the 70s. The 300,000 IDPs, their children and the present generation of Tamils living in SL – who have no political clout, military might or external friends – are treated as “Desadrohi” and must surely feel they are not citizens of SL but slaves, who can be captured and held at whim, for any length of time, under any false excuse, for meting out the collective punishment for seeking freedom.

    The irony is the developed nations, who banned slavery many years ago in their lands, their friends – like Japan, Australia, Canada, India and Pakistan – and their foes – like China, Russia and Iran – practically the whole world, are all at best keeping silent pretending not to have seen what is going on or at worst overtly and covertly encouraging politically and financially the continuation of Sinhala policy of subjugation of the Tamils.

    The Tigers made countless mistakes, and were not open or amenable for timely correction. But their goal of self-determination for the Tamils (and their single-minded steadfastness towards that goal) cannot be denied which is why most Tamils even today are kind to them. Yet again the world is silent on this matter due perhaps to overriding geopolitical and economic interests. But some day, in the name of civilisation, they will have to break this silence. They will have to acknowledge that Eezham Tamils are a distinct ethnic group with a separate language, culture and homeland and their future should the determined by them only. The fantastic Tamil Diaspora will voice this demand until it is heard.

  • Waruna

    Anjali, I have no answers and I even may be wrong in what I have to say but felt compelled to string a few sentences as you made my vision go blury with your closing statement.

    I can totally understand your sentiments and I am sad that a fellow Sri lankan feels like this way and ashamed at the causes that led our country to such a state. I am sorry that you and other Tamil folk have had to suffer along with people from the other ethnicities and my apologies to you as someone coming from a Singhalese background though I know no amount of apologies would cut it. All our heads of governments since Independence have been Singhalese and they ought to have nipped this in the bud. But they didn’t. They have been extremely irresponsible leaders. Ef you I say to those leaders.

    Anyway, in general, most political parties are dense, corrupt and suck big time regardless of the country; and most Asian political parties tend to be at the worst end of the spectrum. But haven’t you noticed that the Singhalese general public too get step-motherly treatment from the Political Hierarchy and not just Tamils? I myself have been at the wrong end of the stick even though I am a Singhalese. When Singhalese are bashed by the Politicos, the Singhalese point the finger at the latter group – and rightly so. But when Tamils are bashed, they tend to point the finger at the Singhalese. This adds more fuel to the fire, don’t you think? And I have had Tamil friends whilst growing up in Sri lanka and I don’t know what I had in terms of facilities that they didn’t!

    Many Tamils know that the general Singhalese population is happy to live side by side with the Tamils and would never treat them as 2nd class citizens bar a few rotten apples. The generation I belong to have grown up NEVER knowing what Sri Lanka is without a war…until now. Despite such a bad track record for a country, I too, like yourself can’t seem to call any other place home but Sri Lanka. Best wishes to you.

  • KK

    I would like to point out to the writer that people of both sides were killed during the war,more innocent civilians then combatants. If she says after the war as well it is not true. If it is true why on earth did they came to the so called enemy side?.

    There were no abductions from the camps but people who were identified as ltte participants of LTTE with evidence were taken away for questioning and rehabilitation. There were many escaping the camps by bribing people who helped in the camps. Many of them have ended up in Canada UK EU and Australi and Malaysia joining their relatives.All these would give the appearance of disappearance.

    About the IDP camps. They were a necessity under the circumstances with land mines buried all over the place and LTTE militants hiding among the IDPs. True things would have been quite hard at first in the camps with people arriving in hundreds and thousands. Eventually there were more facilities for people to tide over few months after a devastating war. Now that they are being settled in their own lands after clearance of mines on target by the GoSL I hope they will find peace.

    IN all these exercises GoSL did what a democratically elected government had to do, and I believe they did their best. SL is only a poor developing country. If you look at IDPs all over the world I can say for sure SL did a first class job in the way they handled the challenge with the best possible outcome for the people concerned under the given circumstances. Whether the recipients of such care will look back with gratitude is another matter. It is entirely up to them. If not it doesn’t matter either. Gratitude is a commodity that is in short supply in the hearts of people this acquisitive world and most troubles are caused by the lack of it.

    It is easy for people living in luxury over seas to find fault with all this.
    Remember in your back yards where you live in luxury at present there are people living in worst conditions for life times, not due to lack of money but due to carelessness of the govts and people living in these countries.

    Let us learn from the past and take SL towards a peaceful and prosperous nation for those who live in that country with out adding more fuel to the fire from far off countries where you live luxurious life. That is the best you can do.

    When you say SL is the only place you can call home it means SL has given safe and caring environment for you in your growing up years. Let us give the same privilege to the young ones being born and growing up in SL today, by the smallest possible way, of a kind thought.

    When you consider the 8 vicissitudes of life , life on earth for vast majority is one of discontentment and sadness. Only few win and those are the contented ones not the rich and the famous.

  • N

    “None of it negates the reality of the tragedy that is the Tamil Diaspora’s to bear.” – The true tragedy that the Tamil Diaspora has to bear is that they are primarily responsible for what happened in the final phase of the war against the LTTE. They thoughtlessly funded the LTTE throughout the CFA, did not speak against the LTTE’s dictatorship and allowed the Tigers to prepare for their ‘final battle’ by providing funds without asking for responsibility. Where was the Diaspora when the LTTE kept walking out of talks?

    “I don’t have much hope for a rapprochement of any kind between the larger Tamil Diaspora and Sri Lanka given the way the government has treated Tamils in the IDP camps just in the few months since the war ended. ” – frankly considering how much death and destruction the Diaspora has visited upon the regular Sri Lankan citizen by the former funding all those suicide bombs, claymores, etc. I feel the chances for rapprochement are probably pretty poor as well. Perhaps it is best that the Diaspora (who share the above world view) stay out of Sri Lanka in the future for everybody’s benefit?

  • Ram2009

    The “Deshadhrohis” are not the Tamil youth who were misled by their elders, but the latter who enjoyed the benefits a free education, yet were unwilling to work for a short period for the benefit of the Sri Lankans who had funded this education. They left Sri Lanka by whatever means possible legal and otherwise, and sought their fortune in the West. They sought the sympathy of the West by claiming discrimination in Sri Lanka, yet two of them appeared on Australian television and made the same claim against the Australians. These are therefore traitors not only to their motherland, but also to the country they adopted.
    The Tamils who live in Colombo have a good life, living as equals and sharing the wealth and the burdens that every has to bear, who live there. I have no doubt that the Tamils in Jaffna will no doubt be able to share in the same, as equal citizens, not as those demanding privileges at the expense of others.

  • Atheist

    Anjali Chen:

    The impression you are giving us here is that you are identifying yourself, willingly or unwillingly, as part of the Tamil Diaspora only after the defeat of the Tigers. Maybe you never wanted to leave Sri-Lanka, but circumstances made you to. You tell us that you led your childhood in cosmopolitan Colombo and also that you had many Sinhalese friends. Yes, I’ve heard time and again from both the Sinhalese and the Tamils that old cliché: “My best friend is Tamil/Sinhalese; we have lots of Tamil/Sinhalese friends”. To my dismay, such people often try to hide their racist attitudes behind these silly platitudes.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that a large number of the Tamil Diaspora – who never knew the English language; never have been exposed to certain facilities (e.g. indoor bathrooms) ; never heard the sound of a piano – are getting a chance to experience the things some people (perhaps someone like you) took for granted all their lives. I am glad to see that kids, whose parents have never even owned a pair of shoes back home in Sri-Lanka, are learning the piano, skating, skiing, rollerblading, and anything else of their choice. People who left their “backward” lives in Sri-Lanka for relative “luxury” in the West are not keen on going back – especially not their kids. I am sure they don’t need you to cry them a river!

    It is nice if their counterparts, the poor Sinhalese and the Muslims, can also enjoy at least a little bit of what the Tamil Diaspora has.
    All Sri-Lankans deserve equal rights, don’t you think? Your use of the term “minority” is a little narrow for my taste; it does not take into consideration the forgotten poor who may comprise the “majority” in number but are exploited by everybody. They have no agency.

    Racism has no leg to stand on if we all practice equal rights.

  • anuladevi

    I know that all of the Tamil diaspora are not one monolithic, and terrorist supporting group. I was in Toronto last year visiting my cousin(who is a Sinhalese) and he told me how he knew of some Tamils who abhorred prabakaran. In 2001 I met a lecturer (Tamil) from Jaffna who told me that he and many other Tamils do not approve of the LTTE and will if elections are ever held, show the LTTE what they thought of them. I admire these Tamils because they didn’t condone and molly-coddle a group of murderers, despite having legitimate grievances against the Sinhala dominated regime. My principal in life is that you do not kill and harm another human being in order to get your rights. The moment you shed the blood of another human being you lose your humanity and become eligible to have your own blood shed by another. “Those who take the sword shall die by it” said Christ.
    This why I utterly abhor the behaviour and the actions of a part of the Tamil diaspora who financed and supported in very many ways the murderous LTTE. To me, if someone decides to throw in their lot with murderers and support them, they themselves become guilty of the human blood that is shed.
    This part of the Tamil diaspora was ok with all the killing of Tamils as long as it was the LTTE who did it. Even when people like Neelan Tiruchelvam and Kardirgamar were killed, they rejoiced. They would not even know the numbers of the not so well known Tamil citizens that were killed by the LTTE. Do you?
    So it was ok for the murderous Tamil LTTE to kill Tamils, but it was not ok for the SL govt to go ahead with the annihilation of these murderous terrorists, because innocent Tamil civilians were being killed!!!! That is racism and utter hypocrisy. I deeply regret the deaths of the tamil civilians who were caught in the middle. But, who put them there? and let’s also not forget the Singhala soldiers who sacrificed their lives trying to save these civilians from the LTTE clutches and bring them over to safety. Let’s stop this hypocritical charade. I deeply regret the civilians deaths and suffering, I regret the loss of life of the SL soldier, but I would not have approved the stopping of the war at that time and letting the vicious, mindless LTTE murderers go free. They would have carried this bloody war for another couple of decades. It was not practical to ask the SL govt to stop and let the B——ds go scot free. If the SL forces had been allowed (without the Rajiv Gandhi “parrippu drop ” in 1987) to wipe out the LTTE menace, more lives than that were lost in May 2009 would have been saved.
    When the LTTE abducted young Tamil kids from their parents, and killed all the moderate Tamils, the diaspora kept silent, but now they are weeping over the treatment of the Tamils in the IDP camps. This is a temporary measure. I do not agree with the idea to keep anyone in camps, but, if there are logistic issues and terrorism issues maybe these measures are necessary, for a short while.
    I also acknowledge that the Tamils have not been treated all that fairly by the successive SL govts, and that the Tamils have gone through some terrible experiences.
    These should never happen, but they did, and needs to be addressed in a civilized way with people mature enough to enter into constructive and fair dialog about building a country with equal rights to all. It cannot be solved by killing some more people, just because some of your people were killed.
    One must not murder or condone murder, no matter what! If one does that one loses one’s humanity and will be held responsible by an authority higher than all world authorities(this is my belief). No matter what faith one belongs to, there is no justification in any faith for violent uprisings to get one’s rights.
    There are civilized ways to do that.
    What if the diaspora without financing and supporting the murderous LTTE ,had lobbied the powerful western nations from the 1970’s to get involved with the SL govt to get a fair deal for the Tamils? I believe that the SL Tamil would have been in a much better position today. All the violence and shedding of human blood would have been avoided.
    If one is out to do things with pure hatred and revenge in mind, one will continue to destroy and achieve nothing.
    This is what part of the Tamil diaspora did for over 2 decades, and it got you nowhere, except have human blood on your hands. Doesn’t make you any better than the SL regime and the Sinhalese supporters who killed innocent Tamils in the 1983 riots. They all have human blood on their hands.
    Do not condone violence, no matter where it comes from and on whose behalf.
    I’m a Sinhalese Christian and I love my country. If we are ill treated, marginalized and killed in SL, will I ever support a “christian” group to become militant and murder people to protect my rights!!!!! God forbid it. I do not have permission to condone violence against even the one who comes to harm me, because I follow the Christ who healed the ear of a man who came to arrest him at the Garden of Gethsamane. This was when Peter the disciple with misguided motives thought of protecting the life of Christ and chopped off the ear of a man who came to arrest Christ. Christ rebuked Peter, and healed the man whose ear was chopped off and said this timeless saying “those who take the sword will perish by the sword”.
    This is what ultimately happened to prabakaran and all his murderous thugs. This is what has happened to all the murderers down the lane of History. Hitler, Polpot and other violent lunatics, what was their end? what did they achieve?!!! They achieved nothing for anyone.
    It is what will happen to all who murder and spread violence. You will be held accountable.
    I hope and pray that mature, peaceful minds from all communities of SL will sit down together and draw out plans to live peacefully and on equal footing in this glorious country. I also pray that leaders of all communities will be willing to give and take and treat each other with love and respect.
    Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but I support that wish with all the prayer I can muster and I pray to the One who condemned violence and loved and died for all humanity, irrespective of race, colour and belief systems!!!!!

  • old Man

    KK

    “There were no abductions from the camps but people who were identified as ltte participants of LTTE with evidence were taken away for questioning and rehabilitation. There were many escaping the camps by bribing people who helped in the camps. Many of them have ended up in Canada UK EU and Australi and Malaysia joining their relatives.All these would give the appearance of disappearance.”

    There is a very simple solution here- accountability. Have lists of the people, allow outsiders access to the people – if we know who is there then they cannot disappear can they?

  • aadhavan

    Anuladevi, I wonder whether the bible you are reading omits mention of the wars God is supposed to have commanded his chosen people to fight, for the sake of establishing the historical antecedent to the modern state of Israel? The complicity of the southern Christian church is the subordination of Tamils in Sri Lanka is sorry tale.

  • malaselvi

    Alas, the myth of that, tigers did defend us is yet not vanished. All these years we are able to point the finger against the governments. Did we ever dreamed that against the tigers? common wake up.
    I am middle aged Jaffna tamil and so called diaspora. Truth is so simple, ” LTTE is a full grown mafia”, Thats all. They had control the mass with fear tactics and extorted money. They simply high jack the Tamil community . They engineered to bring the tribal mentality among diaspora and succeeded. Whenever any body talked with out tribal mentality is suspected as anti tiger and people began to avoid them.
    They cultivate hate against every body. They hate other tamil organisations, singhalease and muslims.
    They did not fight for self determination or freedom for tamil people. They fight for their Megaloa mania ideas, Such as Polpot, Hitler or Idi Amin.
    Lot of so called tamil intellectual had support this terrorists for their own self fish motives. If they have a tiny remorse about people who are suffering in camps has to come out openly and admit their past horrible mistakes. Many educated tamils are hysterically support tigers and never had concerns for children kidnappings by tigers.
    Shamelessly, these peoples are accusing government for every thing.
    I think my people yet not realize that what label they earned in the World. Following and defending the worst killer gang in modern civilize world had cost us very much. It will take long years to recover, Look Germany.
    Tigers is the main cause for this destruction. Those who support tigers has to come out openly and admit their horrible blunders.
    All the Mafia type gangsters in the world use to cover up their business with some kind of labels such as liberation, revolution or whatever. They never love people. They hate people,whether its tamil , muslim or sinhala. They try to squeeze and kill everybody. They brain washed children to achieve their self fish motives.
    Sad part of this history is, Late Mr.Premadasa becomes god father and gave them oxigene for one time. As usual tigers showed their true character later . After this tradition followed by some times. This becomes more dangerous to normal tamil people. And began to believe that tigers are never going to be vanished.
    When they got support from Late president, It was very shocked development for common people. .
    Even Government’s began to bow down to terrorists, how can common people could open their mouth against them?
    Cease fire times are more dangerous for those who resists to tigers.
    Most of the anti tiger tamil politicians are killed in peace days.
    My self keep out of any diaspora and politics.
    One side is Mafia’s and sycophants. Other side was unreliable politicians . Any time any politicians could make a deal with terrorists for some short gains.

    This is the first time in history we are able to talk with out fear of tiger goons.
    Reconcile is on the way.
    Diaspora, Please admit your faults, be honest.
    Thanks to those who gave their life for this freedom.

  • james

    It’s sad to see that even as we dream of re-building our country into a better place for all communities, many of the responses to this post are accusatory and playing the blame game.

    Obviously we Sri Lankans can never hope to see an unbiased country in which all people are equal anytime in the near future.

  • anuladevi

    aadhavan

    So are the Tamils the new chosen people of God? and if so when were they selected and when were they given these Godly instructions to go and kill innocent civilians in SL to establish a “historical” homeland for the Tamils???
    If you want to talk about the merits or the negatives of the Old testament history as the Israelites went about establishing their kingdom, find a Bible scholar. I have my own views on that but prefer to keep them out of this forum.
    I’m more interested in seeing people live in peace and trying to achieve that peace without blasting each other to smithereens, dashing children on the ground and burning people alive.
    This is why I talked about the message of Christ.
    If you want to find points from the Bible to justify a blood war go ahead by all means.
    I don’t believe that I have been “chosen” by God to stop you.

  • kk

    Hi old man
    To identify and establish records of 300.00 thousand IDPs took time. How else are they being resettled in their own places. Accountability is not knowing the numbers but being responsible for the situation in hand. GoSL did well in that aspect.

  • Belle

    Anjali,
    Given the harsh reaction to your article, I just want to say that I understand you entirely, cos I too have been there–though not as part of the first-generation but second-generation diaspora. Like you, I too was caught in that in-between position of not supporting the LTTE but understanding why history had surfaced them.

    Unfortunately, don’t expect there to be any understanding of the complex, multi-facetted phenomenon of the Tamil diaspora, nor the trauma they have had to undergo. It should tell you something that those who are attacking you are focussed on the numbers of Sinhalese that the LTTE killed, and not on the far greater numbers of Sinhalese killed by the Sinhalese state over the years. Prabhakaran is compared to Hitler, Pol Pot, but those who masterminded pogroms after pogroms against Tamils in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977, 1981–they have conveniently forgotten about them. Anuladevi remembers only the 1983 massacre. She quotes the Bible, and doesn’t know that the ears of many Tamils were cut off during those pogroms, that even as recently as December 2005, Rajapakse’s men were going around the countryside breaking the limbs of innocent countryside store keepers to terrorise them. Since it never featured in her sacred text, I guess it can’t be important.

    We Tamils of SL origin are all little Pol Pots. When we were being massacred, we should have just laid down to die and accept our fate. When we were being beaten, we should have asked for more. How could we have had the gall to return violence with violence? Who did we think we were? Human beings, equal to Sinhalese? Geez, what a travesty, eh? We surely did not know our place!

    Why were we so uncivilized as not to try negotiating with our murderers? That’s what holier-than-thou Sinhalese Christians would have done.

    Do notice that you, Anjali, are NOT ALLOWED to have ambivalent feelings about the LTTE. But Anuladevi who swears that even if she were “ill-treated” or “marginalized”, she would “never support a ‘christian’ group to become militant and murder people to protect [her] rights” actually gave her blessings for SL soldiers to go kill those “B——ds”. It was “not practical” apparently to cease that killing. This from the person who says, “Do not condone violence, no matter where it comes from and on whose behalf.” Another quote from this Christian saint: “No matter what faith one belongs to, there is no justification in any faith for violent uprisings to get one’s rights. There are civilized ways to do that.”

    Gee, Anuladevi, couldn’t you and your ilk think of civilized ways for the SL govt to get rid of the LTTE and obtain your rights? Or is that civilizational burden just something to be demanded from Tamils?

    And, Anuladevi, for your information, from the 1970s onwards, there were indeed many Tamils who were trying to interest Western governments in fighting their cause. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka didn’t have the rich oil deposits to interest these Western nations. There were hundreds of thousands of Tamils who coped with their traumatic situation by leaving their homeland behind and becoming refugees wherever they could. They never took up arms, and they never contributed to arms. That “civilized” enough for you?

    Give me Anjali’s honest ambivalence anytime to these other people’s double standards.

  • Burning_Issue

    kk,

    One could not be more convinced about the treatments rendered to the Tamils in the IDP camps after reading your comments! You seem one who is at the forefront of the activities at the camps! Are you proclaiming on this forum that, there was no raping, torture, and extortion? Do you know that many Tamils paid vast sums of money as bribe to individuals who work in coalition with the men of authority in order to buy freedom?
    Basically; the GOSL cared two hoots about the feeling and perceptions of the Tamils at large as all along total subjugation is what in order not accommodation. The GOSL had a wonderful opportunity to manifest magnanimity in victory, but spent all its energy on glamorous celebrations and gloating. What it has done is that, it helped to galvanise all Tamils in post LTTE era!

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    I have come across peaceniks, conflict resolutionists and those who try to appease,`my best frind is a Tamil’. but this writer supercedes them all.
    She has stayed away from Tamil cause and kept herself to her own relatives. And she probably looked after her own selfish interest by supporting the government when it suited her.
    Would I be wrong I assuming that she does not come from either the North or the East and that none of her relatives were displaced since 1983 or suffered chekcpoint humiliations, or left languishing in closed concentration camps,
    bombed and shelled at while fleeing.
    Tamils cannot and will not forget or fogive wrongs perpetrated on them sicne independence and if the LTTE is a spent force there are many in the Tamil diaspora willing to stick their neck out so that one day we can reclaim our legitimate rights in our country which is Sri Lanka.
    On the other hand what with the recent split among the ruling Sinhala this would also give us an opportunity to carve out our own state.
    Dear writer do not delude yourself. I have met too many of your ilk.

  • kk

    Hi Mr/M burning -issue
    There were no rapes. The tents were too close for that. I have only heard this news from over seas.True they paid lot of money to get out of the camps and out of SL. In SL tamils live on equal footings and there were times when they were in advantageous position too. Present issue is a temporary one created by a power hungry maniac Praba with the help of Ltte diaspora.
    The ability to see good in what others do is a quality that need to be cultivated with lot of mindfulness. It takes lot of care and time. Spend time doing that rather than looking at the world in a negative way.

  • Anjali C

    Hey guys, it’s been interesting to read what everyone has had to say so far. I knew I would elicit strong reactions on all sides, because I know everyone feels passionate about their opinions on this topic, but wow! 🙂 I am a firm believer in at least trying to understand how others see things to help me understand the world more fully, to at least try and get to a better place with all our brethren in this very harsh world, but maybe not everyone is interested in it. Maybe picking the scabs of old wounds is more satisfying than trying to heal them and move on for the sake of everyone. And I wish we could have a conversation without the personal attacks — when can we ever move beyond that?

    Belle, thanks much for understanding, and for your support of the honesty in my ambivalence.
    Waruna, you vindicate my faith in us Sri Lankans and our capacity for compassion and fellow citizenship.
    James, ’tis indeed a monumental task, rebuilding the country as a better place for all communities, with so much anger still boiling over everywhere. I hope things will improve with time.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Belle, Anjalie.

    While I understand and appreciate the points you make, I would like to add some alternate perspectives to the issue.

    It’s true that many Tamils felt compelled to support the LTTE at a time when there were widespread riots incited by racist/politically motivated elements. Had I been in your shoes, doubtless I would have felt the compulsion to do the same. There is however, a difference between an immediate, passionate reaction to persecution in the aftermath of a riot, and a sustained terrorist movement aimed not at reconciliation and moving forward, but on countering the racism of a few with even greater racism. This should have become manifestly clear to anyone following the actions of the LTTE over the past 30 years.

    This is for example, what differentiates someone like Nirmala Rajasingham or Rajanie Thiranagama, who fought for the LTTE but realized that the path they were treading was likely leading to greater evils than the one they were fighting against. The war the LTTE was leading was not a war for Tamil emancipaton, but one targeting innocent civilians of all races as well as any dissenting Tamil intelligentsia (all conveniently branded “traitors” of course) and the general political leadership. A war which enslaved the entire Tamil population in the Vanni, gearing their entire existence towards nothing but fighting for a racist ideal of an Eelam, and not for the non-racist ideal of equal rights. And while the children and future of these destitute Vanni people were hijacked for this less than stellar cause, many members of the Tamil Diaspora continued to cheer from the sidelines and condoned the deaths of innocent civilians as “regrettable collateral” in their march for the “Tamil cause”. (just as many Sinhalese may rationalize the deaths of Tamil civilians during the final stages of the war today)

    This is why I have immense respect for someone like Nirmala or Rajanie, who had the guts to risk their lives and face the bullets (bullets which kill in case someone only has some romantic notion of living in the trenches) for what they believed in, and later, even greater courage to speak out against an evil which they did not wish to represent. This is in stark contrast to keyboard warriors like Pearl Thevanayagam who just now branded Anjalie a coward and more or less a traitor for turning her back on the “Tamil cause”, while being safely ensconced in the luxury of her first world suburban home. So what is the “Tamil cause”? Equality? or (reverse) Racism?

    For some, it’s neither. It’s pure revenge and self-righteousness. Such people will issue breathtaking generalizations against entire swathes of people, and in their blind racial prejudice, make no attempt to team up with reasonable Sinhalese or Tamil counterparts in building a just, equitable and better future for all human beings concerned. The unfortunate reality we see happening today is partially explained by a quote from Mahatma Ghandi: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless.”

  • anuladevi

    Anjalie, I was not attacking you personally. You wrote about what you felt and you have the freedom to do that.
    As for Belle’s irrational outburst, wow,I did not in anyway ignore or justify the crimes committed by the Sinhalese thugs then and now. They too will come to the end they are heading into.
    I wrote about the LTTE since it was the LTTE and her feelings towards it that Anjali wrote about.
    Well, one can certainly go down the path of violent, and murderous resistance that Prabakaran opted to take and end up with death and nothing in the end. Or one can choose the paths that other freedom fighters like Gandhi and Mandela took and continue the struggle and achieve something.
    These violent acts like suicide bombings, use of child soldiers, drug smuggling, human trafficking of the LTTE and parts of the diaspora has degraded the Tamil in the eyes of the world.Then the bogus fast in London. Great way to fight for your rights!!!!!
    It is more like a bad comedy!!!!!

    The political idiots of the West who salivate for the Tamil vote will pander to the Tamil Diaspora, but all the intelligence agencies of the world know exactly who the terrorists are and what they are upto!!!! One by one they will be hunted down, it is happening even now, in the USA, France etc. Watch for more.

    I support the eradication of Prabakaran and the LTTE because they were violent murderers who spurned so many offers that were extended their way by the SL govt. Do you not know of the deal Chandrika offered him. No, he was not interested in peace for anyone but power for himself.
    To get that, it didn’t matter to him who he used and killed. Children, women and everyone else who stood in his way. What a saviour!!!!!!!

    He bumped off so many moderate, intelligent Tamil leaders that now you all are left with no one strong and wise enough to deal with the SL govt for a fair deal. Oh you have Karuna the former terrorist!!!!
    As for my supporting the soldiers, a soldier has to do what he has to do and that is to protect the country that he works for, happened in every war all over the world.
    What the LTTE did was murder everyone that came across their path. They were no soldiers, but mad killers.
    I was not preaching to anyone, just mentioned what I saw as the useless and destructive path of violence that took you people nowhere.

    Of course one can hallucinate about some more bloody uprisings. It is easy to do that when one is in the comfort of a well heated house in a Western country, well fed and in front of a computer. The ground realities are that it is the poor and the helpless Tamil and the Sinhala and the Muslim man, woman and child in Sril Lanka who will pay the ultimate price.
    Send your protected children to fight in any future uprising, and then you might perhaps see the futility of “bloody uprisings”.
    Let your demands be reasonable ones and not the division of the country. That was the unspoken demand of the Tamil people down the ages and that is not feasible.
    So, the West was not interested in helping the Tamil cause!!! Gee that is news to me!!!!
    I thought that is was weird that your own people in Tamil Nadu didn’t give a dot about what was happening in SL in May when the LTTE was getting smashed. In spite of all expectations of the LTTE and the hate spewing Vaiko and company what did the Tamil Nadu voter choose?
    So it seems that it is not only the West that has had enough of all this, but even your own people in TN.
    My prayer is that there be strong wise leaders on both sides in SL who will hammer out a deal that is fair for all, and that everyone in SL will live in peace. No division of the country and no more blood shed.

  • anuladevi

    SomewhatDisgusted

    I agree with what you say about “Had I been in your shoes, doubtless I would have felt the compulsion to do the same. There is however, a difference between an immediate, passionate reaction to persecution in the aftermath of a riot, and a sustained terrorist movement aimed not at reconciliation and moving forward, but on countering the racism of a few with even greater racism. This should have become manifestly clear to anyone following the actions of the LTTE over the past 30 years.”
    Passionate, instant reaction is not what I talk about too. We are human and it isn’t that easy to ignore pain and suffering at the time it happens. Some do it, and it is amazing, but most of us will react to it, and it is natural.
    What I’m against is the justification of prolonged revenge and destruction to get back at your enemy and to do that also in the belief that it is right to do that to gain your rights.

    Someone had said ” Plot revenge and dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself!!”

  • anuladevi

    Hey Belle,

    I know of many Tamils who stayed in SL and never supported the LTTE. Read the beginning sections of my comment, without getting your tail up over something I never intended to convey in my comment!!!!!.
    Yes, they are more than “civilized” they are a beacon of great light for all of us who struggle to see that violence is not the correct option to solve anything.

  • Observer

    most people don’t understand they (the diaspora) financed murder contracts literally that have some of our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends dead now. innocent [Edited out] people! you can have all those fuzzy feelings towards the ltte, go nuts. but if u have ever given them a dollar, then u my friend is the person who contracted the death of my relative. just keep that in mind, how we feel. and understand where we got the boundless motivation and courage to wipe them out. we can play this game again if u wish. thanks for making us immune to such brutality. we used cry once upon a time, weep holding body parts, not anymore!

  • Belle

    Somewhat Disgusted,
    I can’t help but see in your comment the way you profile Tamil people, especially the Diaspora, and how you see the ethnic conflict–basically as a minority overreacting with supreme vindictiveness to little slights hurled at them, by a “few” Sinhalese people. The deprivation of rights of Tamils went on for decades, before the LTTE came on the scene, and it continued after. There were enough racists among the Sinhalese people to vote government after government into power on the promise that they would deliver Sri Lanka for the Sinhalese. Look at what is happening now—the two leading contenders in the Presidential elections are Sinhalese chauvinists. So please don’t tell me that there are only a “few” racists among the majority community in Sri Lanka. My own impression is that the non-racists, the people who are really prepared to give equal rights to the Tamils, are a minority.

    You talk about how the children and the future of the Vanni people were hijacked for the LTTE cause. The far greater hijacking of Tamil people’s future was done by your racist state. As a child, I grew up constantly irritated that my father sent so much money abroad to Jaffna to feed his many siblings and their children. When I was in my 20s, I met these ‘children’, scrawny undernourished kids, being sneaked into one country after another, to wind up as refugees in London, Paris, Germany, Toronto. They had to leave their parents and siblings behind and make a future for themselves alone in strange countries. Later, in their 30s and 40s, they would bring out these parents, who had to spend their last years in alien lands, freezing in the hostile weather to which their bodies were not accustomed.

    If you were in their shoes, would you look kindly at those who forced you and your family from your homeland to become refugees elsewhere? Would you view with compassion the very same people who never spared a kind thought towards you, who treated you and your family like animals when you were back home, and who were still threatening your family?

    I don’t think the Tamil Diaspora is vindictive. They are just normal people, reacting in a predictable way to what was done to them, and normal in wanting to protect their people ‘back home’. You guys fling around statistics of LTTE violence, and itemise all the horrors they did. Do you even know what horrors your government and your army has been doing these past 30 years to Tamil civilians? They don’t publicise that, do they? Tamils in the Diaspora know what has been happening—not through the Tiger grapevine but direct from their own relatives. Do you have any clue of the iron hand that your government has been exercising on information over the ethnic conflict these past decades in the international scene? In Singapore, the media does not accept any information about the SL government’s murders and terror visited on Tamil civilians because the High Commission here denies all allegations and threatens to sue. They don’t bother to give proof. I know because I used to work in the media. So, in Singapore, Canada, the US, Germany, France, Norway, the Tamils know very well the complete terror that was experienced on a day-to-day basis by civilians in the Tamil areas. I never supported the LTTE but I can understand why sections of the Tamil Diaspora gave money to them, despite knowing very well the atrocities committed by them. They couldn’t stand by and do nothing when young male children were being ‘disappeared’ , when women and young girls were being raped, when the army would shoot and terrorise civilians because they could not get at the LTTE fighters. I have had two domestic helpers who returned to SL when their daughters came of age, in order to protect them from rape from the soldiers.

    But the truth is that only small sections of the diaspora supported the LTTE. Most of them did not. Many who supported them in the very early days stopped because they realised the futility of it all, that the LTTE was merely prolonging the conflict by refusing negotiations. They sent money to their relatives instead.

    Tamils are criticised for supporting violence. Were they given any choice? It wasn’t the Tamils who created the LTTE, it was the Sinhalese who brought them into being with their treatment of Tamils. Anuladevi gives the example of South Africa, where apparently the Africans used peaceful means. In the first place, that is not true—there were terror units and violent insurrections in South Africa too. But also, the West was in support of the native population because South African apartheid was not kept hidden but announced even in its laws. The injustice was visible to any visitor there. There was no problem getting evidence of injustice against the native population. This was not the case in Sri Lanka, where the violence against Tamils has been very successfully hidden from the world. In addition, in South Africa, the Africans were a majority—they could bring the country’s economy to its knees by strikes and demonstrations. Tamils as a small minority did not have that option. They were put in a position where violence became their only means. What is remarkable is that the majority of SL Tamils did not support the LTTE but avoided them like the plague. That’s why LTTE had to forcibly conscript child soldiers, why they had to kidnap Tamils for ransom.

    The hatred I see here towards the Tamil Diaspora is quite understandable. It’s the Sinhalese psychological defence against coming to terms with what their people have been doing to Tamils all these decades. You grab at every ideology the government offers—the Western conspiracy, the Tamil diaspora, etc. Everything is designed to stop yourselves from LOOKING at what YOU have done, the atrocities that were committed in your name. Observer damns Tamils who gave even one dollar to LTTE cos it was used to kill his relatives. How about the dollars spent by the Sri Lankan state over many decades, even pre-LTTE, to kill Tamils, their own citizens? Do you guys even feel ANY shame at how the SL Army accepted bribes of US $20K for each person who they released from the camps, including LTTE cadres? Don’t make me laugh that rape of Tamil women is not happening in the camps. The SL army has international fame in this regard.

    800,000 Tamils at least were forced from Sri Lanka, and 250,000 were incarcerated behind camps, and thousands more innocent civilians died in the latest phase of the war. Many more thousands have been killed by the Sri Lankan army over these decades, far more deaths than the LTTE was responsible for. And there’s total silence on the state’s murders of Sinhalese, which again, was more than that committed by the LTTE. And Observer thinks that Tamils should understand how the poor Sinhalese feel? If you are a decent human being, I think you will see the indecency of that statement. Indeed, if you are a decent human being, you will notice the unbecoming jeering against the Tamils by Anuladevi and Observer for their having lost the war.

    Chauvinism is not part of Tamil culture. That is why SL Tamils could never rely on support from Tamil Nadu. That is why SL Tamils did not volunteer their children to the LTTE. If today, the SL government gave full rights to Tamils in a unitary Sri Lanka (which they should have rightfully done long ago), made moves to show that their community and their culture was respected and had a place in Sri Lanka, instead of still continuing with their shenanigans, I believe that the Eelam cause will be instantly crippled in the diaspora. There will be very few Tamils who will continue to support it. However, Sinhalese will never give space for Tamils. That is what this whole conflict has been about—from the very beginning. Anuladevi can pray all she wants—recognition of Tamils will never happen in Sri Lanka. And the reason why has nothing to do with Tamils, but with Sinhalese.

  • Belle

    Anuladevi,

    You said, “I know of many Tamils who stayed in SL and never supported the LTTE. Read the beginning sections of my comment, without getting your tail up over something I never intended to convey in my comment!!!!!.”

    Who are you kidding? You used those few lines in the beginning as the alibi against all the hatred you spew in the rest of your commentary. Anyone who knows rhetoric will see through the falsity of that move. When you start to spout just as much anger at violence against Tamils committed by Sinhalese, I will know that you are sincere in your belief that all violence is evil, and not just that committed by Tamils.

    My “irrational outburst”? You should get a textual expert to go through our two posts and let them establish who is the irrational one. As a hint, just compare the rhythm of the two posts. Speak them aloud. Which sounds more mad to you? Ah, but I would be irrational to expect a mad woman to see through her own madness, wouldn’t I?

  • Christina

    Atheist: “I am sure they don’t need you to cry them a river!”

    In all fairness, the author did state at the offset that she’s speaking only for herself. Although I agree with many of the points you raise.

  • Christina

    Observer,

    Yes, we’re standing on top of our dead families, amidst our destroyed homes and schools and churches and temples, and while we’re collecting our dead babies from where we left them and ran for our lives, our hearts are bleeding for you.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Belle,

    “I can’t help but see in your comment the way you profile Tamil people, especially the Diaspora, and how you see the ethnic conflict–basically as a minority overreacting with supreme vindictiveness to little slights hurled at them, by a “few” Sinhalese people”

    I say this kindly, but I don’t think we’ll make a lot of headway in this discussion if you base your response on a caricaturial interpretation of things I never said. Let’s stick to the facts and the arguments presented. I did not say the “minority overreacted” to “little slights”. Being burned out of your house and killed is hardly a “little slight”. What I said instead was that the reaction at the time was completely understandable. What I disagreed with was the sustained support for terrorism despite the self-evident direction things were headed in. I’ve highlighted a few reasons as to why in my previous post. A better synposis is provided here: http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/24/stories/2009042454191000.htm which was also put up for discussion on Pradeep J’s blog. Please read it if you haven’t already.

    I did say “the racism of a few”. I should have qualified it with “the violent racism of a few”. The majority of Sinhalese people do not seek to persecute others on account of their race. I think there is clear evidence for this. What they do attempt to do is to foist their race to the foremost position in the country, which is, I agree, racially discriminatory. There is however, a difference between persecuting others based on race, and grievances arising from not giving equal recognition to Tamil language/culture. A violent reaction to outright persecution is understandable, which is why I agreed with the initial support for the LTTE in the face of riots. An unabated, non-negotiable violent reaction to grievances via a crypto-fascist terrorist group, less so.

    The discrimination and grievances in question must be taken in their historical context. Again, Pradeep J. provides a good synposis here: http://www.pjeganathan.org/south-paw/2009/5/17/sri-lankas-conflict-an-interview-with-pact-part-iii.html. Time has not stood still on those issues as you seem to think.

    “My own impression is that the non-racists, the people who are really prepared to give equal rights to the Tamils, are a minority.”

    Today, the issue has less to do with giving rights to the Tamils than it has to do with fighting against secessionism. Can you tell me, what *are* the grievances Tamils have today? (And please omit things resulting from the existence of the LTTE). I think you’ll see that many have been solved and the remaining are solvable through peaceful means. Please read Pradeep J’s article above to see why.

    This is why I keep highlighting the fact that the issue in question has metamorphosed from a fight for equality to one for secession. The fight for equality has progressed greatly. But the fight for secession, is another matter altogether. This, IMO, is why the people keep voting for nationalist govts. Not because they have some irrepressible urge to discriminate against Tamils.

    “When I was in my 20s, I met these ‘children’, scrawny undernourished kids…”

    Please come to Sri Lanka and go around rural areas for a bit, including rural Sinhalese villages. Let me know your opinion then. Poverty is and always has been, *the* pressing issue in Sri Lanka. That’s why such people are easily exploitable by nationalistic elements. I know the people in the Vanni were amongst the poorest. Let’s not go into how they were exploited in a similar fashion.

    “Would you view with compassion the very same people who never spared a kind thought towards you, who treated you and your family like animals when you were back home, and who were still threatening your family?”

    It’s a pretty blanket generalization isn’t it? Who is their hatred directed against? The other rural poverty-stricken Sinhalese villagers who compose the majority of this country? I can certainly understand the point you’re making, but there’s a difference between an educated person, in a first world country, hating blindly on a blanket generalization and an uneducated person doing the same. I can excuse the uneducated person. Not so much the “educated” person. This is why I don’t take kindly to people like Pearl.

    Further, please do note that a majority of Sinhalese people differentiated between “Tamils” and “Terrorists”. Doubtless there were a few who made blanket generalizations of a similar nature, but for the most part, they refrained from hating an amorphous blob of “all Tamils”. Otherwise, how do you explain how the majority of Tamils lived in the south amongst the Sinhalese?

    “I don’t think the Tamil Diaspora is vindictive. They are just normal people, reacting in a predictable way to what was done to them, and normal in wanting to protect their people ‘back home’.”

    I did *not* say all were. I said some. My confidence in the bona-fides of their intentions were eroded when they packed up their bags and left the moment VP was killed. If the real concern was for the people ‘back home’, that would have been the most important moment to mobilize and help them, and demand their release, don’t you think? But how many of the protestors did? Why were there no similar protests to “release the refugees”? Was VP the only person worth protesting for?

    It’s also worth noting that the much vilified Sinhalese in the South (vilified by those same people of course), collected and dispatched what they could to alleviate the situation in the North.

    I think all of these issues must be considered in their entirety when analyzing this situation. It’s important that the Tamil diaspora work towards marginalizing those who support terror and violence. It’s also important to unite with progressive Sinhalese people.

    “You guys fling around statistics of LTTE violence, and itemise all the horrors they did.”

    I see that I’ve been bundled into “you guys”, so I assume that it’s an “us versus them” situation now. This is precisely the kind of thing I think shouldn’t be happening.

    “Do you even know what horrors your government and your army has been doing these past 30 years to Tamil civilians?”

    Yes, I do. Which is why it was all the more important for the violence to end. Whether you agree with it or not, the only path forward IMO was to terminate the LTTE, which repeatedly walked away from the negotiating table. Otherwise, the horrors would simply have continued into the foreseeable future.

    “They don’t publicise that, do they?”

    No, they don’t. But not everyone is fool enough to read defense.lk and think everything is hunky dory, just like those only reading tamilnet.com.

    “Tamils in the Diaspora know what has been happening—not through the Tiger grapevine but direct from their own relatives”

    Belle, I’ve lived in a country of violence all my life. The LTTE problem was there since I was a little child. I’ve never faced a direct threat to my life, but I’ve had first hand experience of the scares and threats of living in such conditions. So I don’t speak only from an empathetic reaction to horror stories. I’ve heard plenty that befell Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims myself. I am aware of the horrific situation in the north, which is why its perpetuation *must* be stopped. How do you propose this be done when people like Pearl exhort violence instead?

    “They couldn’t stand by and do nothing when young male children were being ‘disappeared'”

    I’m not unsympathetic, but is the solution to arm them with RPGs? They do not see the LTTE as perpetuating the problem? What about the majority of Tamils who were in the south living with the Sinhalese? Were they being raped and killed also? So can you say the underlying reason to fund the LTTE was to protect them?

    “But the truth is that only small sections of the diaspora supported the LTTE. Most of them did not.”

    Kudos to those who understood. But let’s not forget that the LTTE received $300 million per year from Diaspora collections. That’s a pretty hefty amount to be accounted for. So should the Tamil diaspora also not be fighting to correct such people in their midst?

    “Tamils as a small minority did not have that option. They were put in a position where violence became their only means.”

    “That’s why LTTE had to forcibly conscript child soldiers, why they had to kidnap Tamils for ransom.”

    I think history has falsified such arguments, possibly at about the time the LTTE walked away from the negotiating table for the umpteenth time.

    “It’s the Sinhalese psychological defence against coming to terms with what their people have been doing to Tamils all these decades”

    I agree to some extent. It’s similar in nature to the elaborate rationalizations you’ve provided for terrorism for example. And I don’t say it unkindly.

    “Do you guys even feel ANY shame at how the SL Army accepted bribes of US $20K for each person who they released from the camps, including LTTE cadres?”

    Should you feel any shame that the LTTE blew up innocent civilians since you never financed them? Should I be feeling shame for the crimes committed by others because I happen to belong to the same race? Aren’t you lumping me together with criminals on account of race? Should I think all Tamils are terrorists? Isn’t that racism? As you can see, such arguments don’t really hold water.

    “Indeed, if you are a decent human being, you will notice the unbecoming jeering against the Tamils by Anuladevi and Observer for their having lost the war.”

    I can’t speak for Observer or Anuladevi, but I think it’s safe to say that very few people are “jeering” Tamils for “losing the war”. That automatically assumes that they are out to kill Tamils by default, which is more reflective of your own mindset than theirs. No, most people are relieved the worst of the violence is over.

    “Chauvinism is not part of Tamil culture.”

    You won’t believe the number of Sinhalese I’ve heard say the same about Sinhalese culture.

    Quite frankly, my experience is that most Tamils and Sinhalese want to live and let live. It’s just a few nationalist rotten eggs who keep exacerbating the situation.

    “…, I believe that the Eelam cause will be instantly crippled in the diaspora..”

    The main reason for the Sinhalese not giving into the Tamils today is precisely the Eelam cause. “Western conspiracies” and the “Tamil diaspora” are merely fanciful versions of the primary fear of a splintered country. That’s why progress from both sides is necessary. With regard to rights, we’ve already progressed far as highlighted by Pradeep J, but of course, there’s more to do. As long as the diaspora continues to back Eelam however, further progress will be hampered. This is why I said at the outset, fight for equal rights and no one can object. Fight for Eelam, well, even I’m not on that side then.

    “However, Sinhalese will never give space for Tamils. That is what this whole conflict has been about—from the very beginning.”

    Sri Lanka is a very poor country still struggling to find its way in a post-colonial era. Most of the people are still rural peasant folk, very malleable in the hands of those who seek to exploit their fears of identity loss (This applies to both Sinhalese and Tamils). What we’ve really had trouble with is exactly that, deciding on the identity and character of the nation. Right now, it’s Sinhala dominated but less so than it was 50 years ago. What we must continue to move to, is a more multi-cultural and secular state.

    None of these things are going to happen overnight. It’s a long slow process. I believe that such a situation cannot be redressed through violence. Such problems can only be solved by gradual conciousness raising, anti-discriminatory laws and economic and cultural upliftment.

    The best example to take inspiration from I believe are the African-Americans. From far worse conditions, slavery in fact, today they have an African-American president, achieved through peaceful means in the main. I believe the realistic way to correct the situation is through such gradual means. As Pradeep J. has pointed out, we’ve already come a long way.

    But it is those who exhort violence (and continue to do so), and demand first world standards overnight from a third world nation who will drag us back by decades and visit catastrophe upon us once again. It’s those Sinhalese and Tamils who are fathomless wells of anger and hatred, where others can drink deep from to intoxicate themselves with prejudice, that will destroy us. Imagine what the $300 million from the diaspora could do in the future to uplift Tamil language and culture, instead of facilitating violence? Understanding the reasons for our past is one thing, but continuing to justify their actions in the future is another.

    That’s what my entire argument has been about. Against future violence, born more out of prejudice and ignorance than fact.

  • Heshan

    “Please come to Sri Lanka and go around rural areas for a bit, including rural Sinhalese villages. Let me know your opinion then. Poverty is and always has been, *the* pressing issue in Sri Lanka. That’s why such people are easily exploitable by nationalistic elements. I know the people in the Vanni were amongst the poorest. Let’s not go into how they were exploited in a similar fashion.

    “Would you view with compassion the very same people who never spared a kind thought towards you, who treated you and your family like animals when you were back home, and who were still threatening your family?”

    It’s a pretty blanket generalization isn’t it? Who is their hatred directed against? The other rural poverty-stricken Sinhalese villagers who compose the majority of this country? ”

    I apologize for butting in, but the above statement makes me cringe. If the Sri Lankan Government cannot (or is unwilling) to alleviate the poverty of the rural South, is it not best to simply let the Tamils go their own way (federalism, LTTE or whatever they choose). It’s like bad real estate; you buy up one house and are unable to foot the bill, yet you buy another house on credit (for whatever reason).

    I would say, if the Sri Lankan Government (and by extension the majority community) are serious about reaching out to Tamils, they ought to come up with something CONCRETE… not the APRC sham which was used to bluff the IC during the war. And they should come up with something VERY FAST; they should be having emergency sessions in the Parliament.

    Then again, the above could be interpreted as an oxymoron, as there is barely any democratic platform for even the majority to voice its agenda (look at the sorry state of the UNP). The Tamil community has lost its voice since the fall of the TULF. Basically, the whole country is at the mercy of the JVP, JHU, and SLFP – an unholy alliance of the Three Stooges, if you will.

    Asking the Government to implement meaningful reform in the absence of any democratic framework is an exercise in futility. In other words, the Government is itself a failure and in bad need of reform (whatever angle you look at it from, whether Constitutional, elimination of nepotism, down-sizing, etc.). Even Sinhalese will readily admit this; what they forget to admit is that as the majority community, the onus for choosing able politicians falls on them.

    Maximum devolution – in the form of federalism – is the best solution now. Let the minorities empower themselves with minimum help from the Center, as is the case in India. It might lead to uneven economic development, yet it will go a long way in addressing the concerns of the minorities. After 60 years of frustration, a concession (a real concession) is not only justified, but is the only fair option available.

  • Observer

    belle, ltte did not have to kill innocent civilians to make a point. that’s the most lowly form of vindictiveness. and people who gave money knew full well of the atrocities they did yet they’re immune from the courts in hague? why is the west not prosecuting identified individuals who donned money while their own state department admits they’re war criminals. lead by example west! wtf?
    all i’m saying is violence is a path that some choses. choice is yours, just keep in mind basic laws of the universe. violence begets violence. so don’t cry about it. when you pick a sword, do contemplate on the fact of death by a sword. how shallow!
    for all the money you gave, each innocent person killed, our resolved exponentially increased.
    diaspora really has 2 options still. go back to 30 years ago and dance to the same tune. trust me that tune won’t charm a single sri lankan or educated in the west. or cut the propaganda crap and engage in a genuine conversation. we’re waiting to talk – genuinely!
    sri lanka would have already took the initiative and engaged not for the fact that they’re (diaspora) having a field day just trying to tarnish sri lanka in anyway possible – more unshamed display of vindictiveness, bitterness and sore loser qualities. i mean some of the attempts are quite pathetic really. so don’t blame sri lanka for not initiating – we’re too busy in the defensive just to deal with this bs. when you’re ready. ready to listen. we shall hope for some peace.

  • Observer

    what tamil diaspora needs to understand is that:

    1. there simply is no viable solution without winning the hearts of sri lankans.

    therefore if you keep at your current strategy you will only further polarise the 2 communities and move even further away from reconciliation.

    your current strategy: demonise sri lanka -> win west support -> put pressure on sri lanka
    is a futile effort. because it simply ends at putting pressure and nothing else. i mean what else can they do? sri lanka isn’t a bad country to do anything drastic – sensible people know that. and those who go ape, do so only to get your vote really. you’re not that naive are u? also people don’t respond well to pressure! so it is totally the wrong way to go.

    2. the only solution i see is not in segregation but living with each other along side. which currently happens quite well FYI!

    so you can support that hope for a real peace.

  • Observer

    just always keep in mind. statistically the tamils cannot win a war. so don’t waste your valuable human and monetary resources on a war. whether it be lobby war, accusation war, or full armed war. you can only win the peace!

  • Heshan

    Unfortunately, people like Observer don’t understand the notion of equity. They simply wish to dominate the minorities at any cost. This is why the military approach was wrong to begin with; all it did is serve to reinforce that black and white view. Now the Observer-types, indulging in their “conquest”, are even less open to reform.

    My advice to the Tamil diaspora: get your families out as soon as possible. The North is going to be a legally sanctioned open prison for several decades to come, if the next election is any indication. Colombo is only slightly better, but that is assuming you have the means. Kandy, surprisingly, is quite civilized, but economic opportunities are far and few between.

    On another note, don’t blame just the Sinhala-Buddhists in SL for your plight. It is the international community that continues to prop up the welfare state. China never had morals to begin with, but India has no excuse. The way that things on the island are now is strange indeed – it is an artificial state of things that has been influenced by a host of geo-political factors. So while the Sinhalese should take the most blame, never forget that it was India & China which won the war.. it was the UN which funded the inhumane detention camps… and it was Western nations like the US which refused to level economic sanctions or the like to bring about an equitable political result.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Observer,

    I believe Belle’s entire argument was in defense of sweeping generalizations against the Tamil diaspora, and not advocacy of militancy or violence. Advocacy of militancy seems to have been Pearl’s prerogative. So I don’t think it’s correct to hold her accountable for it.

    “violence begets violence. so don’t cry about it. “

    She could say the same thing about the Sinhalese crying out against the LTTE. So I don’t think that’s a valid argument. The question is how to break the cycle.

    Your call for the Diaspora to engage constructively is valid. But do keep in mind that many in the Diaspora are as helpless as we are in the face of the events that occur. That was Belle’s entire point really (at least in my understanding).

    The only flaw in Belle’s defense is that she does not ask that the diaspora take measures to correct itself and engage constructively. Being sympathetic/understanding of a phenomenon and not asking that the phenomenon be corrected are two different things.

    Belle’s misunderstanding seems to stem from the fact that Sinhalese people in general are refusing to give parity of status to Tamil language/culture. It may have been an issue once, but that’s not the burning issue now. What most Sinhalese people are refusing to give into, at least in my understanding, is what they see as inequitable demands – secession being the main issue. On the other hand, there are enough people who would be happy to work together to restore any missing rights.

  • aadhavan

    Heshan, Kandy is no safe haven for Tamils. it is a deeply racist place, and a lot of “sri lankan” tamils have taken the easy option and assimilated into sinhala society. I don’t blame them. The “Indian” Tamils are not allowed to assimilate, since the plantations need to be staffed.

  • Belle

    Somewhat Disgusted,
    I am encouraged by many of the things you say, and your overall position on the matter. It is quite similar to mine. However, I don’t see your position as one that has any power in SL. I hope you can prove me wrong on that. What I see happening now is that the government will either not bother with equal rights for Tamils, or go real slow on it. One does not get the impression that they are rushing about trying to correct the situation that led to the ethnic conflict in the first place.

    I don’t justify violence. There is a tendency in these posts to delegitimize any discourse that suggests sympathy for Tamils as being pro-LTTE. My anger is that the unequal situation was allowed to proceed until violence became the only available path to take, and then Tamils were crucified for taking that path. The fact that LTTE walked away from the negotiating table does not disprove my claim that the Tamils were put in a position where violence was the only solution. The Tamils did not elect the LTTE to speak for them. The LTTE forced itself on them. This is a bid to make Tamils responsible for the LTTE. I reiterate that it is the Sinhalese state and the people who voted for these governments who brought the LTTE into existence and who are responsible for LTTE behaviour. That ability/tendency to blame Tamils for the ethnic conflict, when the Tamils were as much victims of the LTTE as anyone else, is symptomatic of the power that the Sinhalese majority have. They don’t feel they have to answer for anything. They do have to. They have to answer for driving away their own citizens, for forcing people from their homeland. The LTTE murdering innocent civilians was wrong, but just as heinous to me is driving people from their homeland, and hundreds of thousands at that. Then they compound that by saying that the diaspora is flush with money and comforts in the East. Maybe that is their way of dealing with their guilt.

    It is simply not true that the diaspora is sitting pretty in the West. Some are, but many, many more are not. Many, many more are people without the cultural and educational resources to thrive in the West. What is it that leads people to think that they are all doing well and are happy, taking piano lessons and what not, and in their spare time, do what they can to kill Sinhalese back home? Nothing is further from the truth. They live in alien lands, with huge desire to be back home, to be somewhere they belong. That is a human need. If some of them believe in the Tamil Eelam cause, then is it not up to the SL people and government to persuade them that there are other options that would work too? Does the answer lie in demonizing them, in invalidating their feelings?

    I understand that it is Jane’s Intelligence Report that says that the LTTE made between $200-300 million annually. That report also cites various sources of income, the bulk of which are from illegal business sources. It was apparently second to only one other terrorist organization, the Revolutionary Armed Group of Colombia, which sources its funds from cocaine. LTTE has been in the drug business since the 1980s. So where is this accusation of the diaspora funding LTTE coming from? The diaspora did contribute during the IPKF days because the violence against Tamils then was horrific and needed urgent attention. But after that, to my knowledge, diaspora contribution dipped. Most of them work double shifts in the West to feed their families. Politically, this talk of diaspora funding the LTTE is very politically convenient. Now that the LTTE is gone, the Tamil diaspora can be blamed for the situation. Anybody but the Sinhalese, the only ones who actually have the real political power to effect change.

    You say that the Sinhalese are afraid of secession, and that’s why they’re being nationalistic; that they would not object to giving equal rights. I don’t see how the Tamil Eelam cause can have any power in SL. SL Tamils have no such power to insist on separatism. I don’t see Eelam mentioned in the discourse about the upcoming Presidential election. Even their politicians are being co-opted. Jeganathan notes that in the 1977 election, the mandate for Eelam was strong in the North but not in the East. Thanks to the LTTE, relations between North and East have fractured, so I don’t see them agreeing to Eelam now. The diaspora can insist all they want, but on grounds of sovereignty, the SL government does not need to give in to these demands. The West cannot demand anything more from SL than mechanisms to give Tamils equal rights. So is this fear of Eelam genuine? I believe it is not. I believe that the Tamil Eelam fear is being fed and exaggerated by Sinhalese nationalistic elements as the excuse not to give Tamils equal rights.

    That is not to say however that the Tamils don’t have right of self-determination. They do have a right to demand an Eelam through constitutional means. And the SL government has the responsibility to negotiate with them, to offer alternatives, to offer real equal rights. As Jeganathan points out, this should have been done after the 1977 elections. The Sinhalese need to consider on what ethical grounds they can possibly demand that they, and only they, have exclusive say that Sri Lanka must be unitary.

    Having said that, personally, I think Tamil Eelam is not a clever idea because forever after, SL and TE will be fighting (like India and Pakistan). What kind of a future is that for anybody?

    I don’t understand what you mean by suggesting that Jeganathan is saying that the situation has improved for Tamils in SL. From what I gather, he is saying that the situation has changed in that economically, the Tamils don’t have to put up with racism in public sector employment since the private sector is an option now. He says that there is equality in law with regard Tamil as an official language, but in practice, this is not so. It’s safe to assume that with Tamils still risking life and limb to become refugees in other countries, that the situation has not improved for them with regards to opportunities even for survival.

    You say that we need to give time for the situation to improve. I agree that it takes much time and education for people on the ground to get on with each other. But with regard to equal rights being ordained in laws and in political representation, nobody should drag their feet here. This should have been done decades ago. It is urgent. Equal rights is not an option that the government needs to weigh; it is not a favour they are doing for Tamils and all other minorities. The nation cannot go about its business until this issue has been sorted out because this is germane to the constitution of the nation.

  • Heshan

    aadhavan, I am sorry to hear that. That is not the Kandy I knew. In Colombo, the shop owners, cabbies, etc. are openly dishonest – is it the same way in Kandy now? Last time I was in Colombo, the cabbie bugger carefully folded the change from the fare, handed it back, and sped off. I didn’t count it till later in the afternoon – as having lived in the West, one takes correct change for granted. Needless to say, it was a hundred odd short. I know at tourist sites they openly cheat the tourists by writing different rates in two different languages & charging the tourist about 10 times more. Perhaps it is inevitable that such a mentality has spread to the local people also.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Aadhavan,

    “…a lot of “sri lankan” tamils have taken the easy option and assimilated into sinhala society. “

    What did you mean by this? How do you live and interact with other people in Kandy without assimilating to some degree with those other people? Isn’t that how a multi-cultural society works? Are you suggesting that the Tamils form some sort of racial ghetto in Kandy? What have the rest of the Kandyans done to prevent the Tamils from following their religion and culture? In case you don’t know, there are several Kovils surrounding the Temple of the tooth, the most holy shrine of the “racist Sinhala Buddhists”, and many Sinhalese visit these Kovils. It is a part and parcel of their belief system and demonstrative of the chaotic ethnic fusion we see in Sri Lanka.

    And what about when people go to Jaffna? Don’t the Sinhalese living there have to assimilate to Tamil culture mostly?

    How exactly do you propose to make a multi-cultural society work?

    I get the feeling your statements are an expose of your own racialism than that of the racialism of the people in Kandy.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Aadhavan,

    In case the meaning of my post is misconstrued, I do not in any way mean that one should lose one’s cultural identity and completely take on a different one, which the word “assimilation”, taken to its extremes, could mean. I mean it in a moderate sense. How do you propose a multi-cultural society works if each individual lives in an isolated cultural bubble with no means of communication with each other? Isn’t some degree of integration mandatory? So I ask, in all honesty, what did you mean through your post?

  • Heshan

    “Isn’t that how a multi-cultural society works?”

    A multicultural society where only Tamils are asked to register with the police? Like someone said before, your motivations, while laudable, ignore the reality.

  • Heshan

    “And what about when people go to Jaffna? Don’t the Sinhalese living there have to assimilate to Tamil culture mostly?”

    Sorry, I can’t resist 🙂

    You mean by chasing Tamils off their land and building high-security zones?

    Or building a checkpoint every 10 km to greet the schoolgirls every morning?

  • Observer

    “Unfortunately, people like Observer don’t understand the notion of equity. They simply wish to dominate the minorities at any cost. This is why the military approach was wrong to begin with; all it did is serve to reinforce that black and white view. Now the Observer-types, indulging in their “conquest”, are even less open to reform.”

    Surprise, surprise, my anglo saxon brown skin buoy (the only one in the world) decides to comment on my post. Shouldn’t you be accelerating your pretend expertise on Civil engineering (cough Wikipeida reading) instead of shooting all over the place including your own foot? Really, I no longer consider you as someone that can be engaged in a reasonable conversation with. Your arrogance precedes your ignorance. In your own bubble world you’re the all knowing king and don’t even have the humility to accept rationality. Therefore I will save my energy with you. Go back to that other thread and talk about Bisokotuwas, at least you’re learning something there! I hope. If you have anytime left, practice sugar coating torture and illegal invasions.

    “My advice to the Tamil diaspora: get your families out as soon as possible. The North is going to be a legally sanctioned open prison for several decades to come,”

    Open prison, you mean like Iraq or Afghanistan? Run by your adopted country that you have a massive boner for? Hardly! So stop telling my country men to leave. They unlike you would like to see Sri Lanka get better.

  • Observer

    “Dear Observer,
    I believe Belle’s entire argument was in defense of sweeping generalizations against the Tamil diaspora, and not advocacy of militancy or violence. Advocacy of militancy seems to have been Pearl’s prerogative. So I don’t think it’s correct to hold her accountable for it.”

    SomeWhatDisgusted, Ok I admit when I use the word diaspora, I do generalise when I should be saying some of the diaspora. Point taken. But the reason I am driven towards the generalisation is due to the lack of proactivity in other sections of the diaspora in countering pro LTTE elements of their own community.

    Instead of accusing the Sri Lankan government of being evil, why could not they (those who abhor the LTTE) fight those who supported an oppressive regime (a much, much greater evil – imo anyway) that went beyond what you can call defensive use of violence?

    Those who monitor the Sri Lankan conflict all of sudden witnessed a sudden surge of lobbyist, freelance journalists, and other ethnic Tamil professionals leading a huge campaign against the SL Gov just as when they were about to get destroyed. Where was the voice of anti-LTTE Tamil diaspora? Barely heard because the racial ties produced a greater affection for a more dangerous regime. The majority consensus wanted the LTTE to survive. Hence my sweeping generalisation!

    “violence begets violence. so don’t cry about it. “
    She could say the same thing about the Sinhalese crying out against the LTTE. So I don’t think that’s a valid argument. The question is how to break the cycle.”

    Of course. My point is that LTTE went beyond defensive use of violence. In fact during the hay days, the happy investors of the LTTE were celebrating the latest over run and slaughter of the next Army base, and it’s soldiers, the bus explosion and its dead passengers at their community hall. Indulging in victorious activities. Am I wrong? And all of a sudden you don’t understand why the other community celebrated the demise of their opponent? At the point where LTTE openly targeted civilians, their support base did not send the necessary signals to inform LTTE that it was unacceptable. What I mean is that they did not squeeze their funding. In fact it increased with each successful attack on the enemy – no matter when, where, who. Woohooo the effers are paying for what they did to us decades ago! So yes the cycle continued until the recent eventuality. So don’t get too upset when it was your seeds that sowed that outcome.

    It was that drunk feeling of elam or nothing confidence spurred on by during the LTTE’s ruthless successful days that prevented you from negotiating a workable peace deal. Hence my reason for saying – so don’t cry about it!

  • Observer

    Belle, Tamils enacted their form of justice through the LTTE for what they thought was injustice. And those around people who got punished more often the non-guilty than the guilty picked up on what they thought of was injustices and responded through voting in a leader capable of countering trigger happy justice.

    The difference between me and you is that you say only Sinhalese raped, Sinhalese are chauvinists and you know your standard diaspora comment template. You say that Tamils are not chauvinists. How can you even say that when we know that each race has their fair share of chauvinists.
    Why not say some Sinhalese raped but Tamil tigers raped too. That’s where I’m different. At least I am aware of Sinhalese’s short comings.

    Clear example – that cheap shot with “international reputation in this regard (rape)” which I thought better left ignored at the time since it was that cheap, wasn’t it a case of some UN soldiers hooking up with some hookers? When was hookers rape?
    http://www.greenparty.ca/en/node/3093
    Paying for sex while not something to be proud of it clearly aint rape.
    I recall recently (last month) a US Naval officer being taken to court in Sydney, Australia I think after a hooker complained that she was raped durng a booze filled night out while docked in Australia. Clearly while she could have been raped he was judged by the jury not guilty since it was a hooker!
    http://www.smh.com.au/national/us-sailor-an-animal-prostitute-tells-rape-hearing-20091117-ijzo.html
    And that’s the one who screwed it up don’t you think there were other sailors that had a good time with that bunch? 😉 Don’t you think they get up to that in every port city. I can only imagine the fun they have when they dock in Thailand.

    You see that Belle, this what I’m talkin about! Vicious inaccurate statements birthing deep within your mind due to your vindictiveness. You just wanna bash the sh1t out of Sri Lanka and anything to with Sri Lanka out of your frustration rather than work towards a meaningful dialogue. You see why we’re distancing our selves?

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Heshan,

    “f the Sri Lankan Government cannot (or is unwilling) to alleviate the poverty of the rural South, is it not best to simply let the Tamils go their own way (federalism, LTTE or whatever they choose).”

    Please don’t use a tragedy to push forward a racial agenda. That is what has exacerbated the problem and brought us to this sad stage. Don’t forget that the Tamils in the north were stuck with Prabhakaran too, so your argument fails before it even manages to get off the ground. The rest of Sri Lanka at least managed to hang on to a semblance of democracy, a travesty though it may be.

    Furthermore, I see no compelling reason to agree with the right to self-determination for an ethnic minority. It’s just a glorified rationalization for what is essentially racialism. You cannot arbitrarily decree that a country which belongs to all its citizens be split asunder to fulfill racist destinies. As I’ve mentioned earlier, that logic, carried to its ultimate conclusion, would require a mini Eelam for each race and perhaps each citizen even. It is even more absurd when considering that a bulk of Tamils live with the Sinhalese in the south. I see no reason to support either Tamil racialism or Sinhalese racialism.

    No. The only struggle which has moral validity in a 21st century context is a struggle for equal rights and a plural society. That is something I have no hesitation in voicing my support for.That is the Sri Lanka we *must* create, not just in the interests of the Tamils, but in the interests of all its marginalized citizens.

  • Heshan

    “Surprise, surprise, my anglo saxon brown skin buoy (the only one in the world) decides to comment on my post.”

    You are simply frustrated that the *British* were able to accomplish far more than the native rulers… show me a single hospital that Mahinda Rajapakse built, show me a single school, show me a $1 billion dollar per annum investment like tea that he introduced to the island. Destruction is what the man accomplished, all with the blessings of your monks; no doubt you are very proud, a “son of the soil” slaughtering 30,000 of the Dravidian enemy in 3 months flat, so you could wave your Lion Flag in Colombo with the other unemployed racists.

    http://i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01401/Mullivaikal_1401523c.jpg

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/breakfast/galleries/2009/2581663/full/refugee-camp.jpg

    http://media.nowpublic.net/images//36/4/364135b04f6e287ef40a66c752dafa86.jpg

    http://lh5.ggpht.com/_sbr-dBlg9To/Sh_QguCzbCI/AAAAAAAABL0/OlZIOzlCyVo/Expose%20of%20the%20hidden%20massacre.jpg

  • Heshan

    @ SomeWhatDisgusted:

    The demand for federalism was there well before Prabhakaran. I have had this discussion numerous times; the inclination (on the part of members from the majority community) seems to be to equate the entire Tamil struggle for equality with a demand for secession (e.g. Eelam). Secession is a controversial word, nevertheless, it is also at one extreme of the conflict-resolution spectrum. When you say secession, you are not allowing for any other possibilities. Which is why I prefer a more mild-mannered term like “space.” More than Tamils simply pushing for secession all of these past 60 years, what they have really asked to have is their own “space.”

    Putting unity aside, we need to understand that people need their own space. The ethnic “ghettos” you see in practically every major world capital are not there by accident. Federalism is the political version of the ethnic ghetto. It recognizes the “ghetto” on a somewhat larger scale. But the premise is still the same; that people of a certain group feel a need to cluster together. Federalism does not recognize the independence of the ghetto; it gives the ghetto administrative power to run its own affairs. The ghetto cannot, I repeat cannot, secede because it does not have the power to raise an army (real-world examples: there is no Scottish Army, Québécois Army, etc.)

    Now let me leave you with this question: if you are okay with a Welawatte in Colombo, why are you not okay with three or four Welawatte’s in the North?

  • ayshya

    Observer:

    perhaps, ir regards to rape, Belle is talking about international reports such as this: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA37/001/2002 or local reports, such as: http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport31.htm ?

  • Observer

    ayshya, was 2002 the latest report of “allegations” you could find? i believe it’s 2009 now. or are u that bad with google? leaves me to wonder… as for uthr.org it sure looks like something run by the diaspora – i’m just sayin.. whois/traceroute ends up in the US.
    i can make a statement here now that “allegedly amnesty got it wrong due to unverified sources” u know i’m just alleging away… alleging is a fun activity no?
    last time i checked stats, rape was still thriving all over the world.
    oh no, hang on, that’s right, experts from uk said that rape was eradicated all over the world except in sri lanka. their top scientists were working around the clock to make the miraculous rape antidote compatible with the sinhalese genome. alas, but no success!
    i encourage you to visit you local court archives in your respective countries and pull up all the rape cases! some men in this world are just bastards, i agree!

    btw, i’m not being insensitive suggesting some Tamil women weren’t raped by Sinhalese, I’m sure it may have happened much as Sinhalese women who got raped at the hands of Sinhalese men, just as the fact that Sinhalese women were raped during LTTE raids on sinhalese, muslim border villages and massacres. at least be fair about it. for some rape is just political ammunition which really makes me sick to my stomach!

  • Observer

    it’s funny how these allegation float away in the realm of propaganda but when challenged, the accusers go in to defensive. like when sri lanka challenged hillary’s recent statement and the state department actually said, u know what, some one alleged to us and we were just forwarding those allegations when we really should have checked our facts before opening our mouths. it’s just they’re one of our good clients paying the bills on time so we just kinda gave them a freebie. jesus!

  • Observer

    Dear groundviews, when Heshan accused me of being an unemployed racist, why did you not approve my reply to that? Sure it was sarcastic, is sarcasm banned here now? It wasn’t offensive or anything. I have a right to respond to that – personal accusations. Please approve it if you understand fair. No need to let this post through. I’m just voicing concern against censorship. Hehsan is a guy who just went on another rant against me in another thread when he was clearly mistaken me for someone else’s post. You have no issues letting all his garbage through. Thanks!

  • ayshya

    Observer:

    reputations are often not based on fact.
    reputations often stick around for a lot longer than the original allegations do.

  • SomeOne

    Hi Heshan,

    “…Federalism is the political version of the ethnic ghetto. It recognizes the “ghetto” on a somewhat larger scale…”

    Look at Australian federal system. Six colonies got together and formed the federation for their own benefit.

    The Australian defense force (unlike the Sri Lankan defense force) truly represents all states and its people.

    Australians don’t worry much about defense force because they don’t really need it. They need it for the purpose of border security, of course.

    “..The ghetto cannot, I repeat cannot, secede because it does not have the power to raise an army..”

    The purpose of your federal system is to keep some sections of people in check and in control.

    I am of the opinion that your version of federal system is worse than the current political system which we have.

  • Heshan

    SomeOne:

    What if I told you that the only nation in history, that had a federal system, which experienced a dictatorship, was Germany?

  • SomeOne

    Dear Heshan,

    “…What if I told you that the only nation in history, that had a federal system, which experienced a dictatorship, was Germany?..”

    What is your point? This kind of dictatorship won’t last long and that is why it short lived.

    Hitler, precisely, knew the weakness of Germans and manipulated them for achieving his objectives (probably, to become a powerful man).

    Germans were misled or brain washed (what ever you call it) by Hitler, I guess.

    We must forget these events in the history. Let alone discussing this here.

  • Heshan

    SomeOne:

    What I have shown is that from a historical viewpoint, the unitary form of government is more likely to lead to repression.

  • Off the Cuff

    Velu Balendran,

    Your post of November 24, 2009 @ 11:20 pm refers
    http://www.groundviews.org/2009/11/24/a-wobbly-bridge-or-is-it-a-footpath-from-the-tamil-diaspora/#comment-11186

    They will have to acknowledge that Eezham Tamils are a distinct ethnic group with a separate language, culture and homeland and their future should the determined by them only.

    This is the type of mentality that drives people apart. You have even managed to separate yourselves from 60m + other Tamils of Tamil Nadu in just one sentence.

    BTW, where exactly is this “Homeland” that you refer to? On what grounds do you make such a claim?

  • Off the Cuff

    Dear Anjali Chen,

    You obviously write with nostalgia and anguish and you have finally decided to close the door on your life in Colombo.

    You say that “…… and furious, sad, and horrified, like much of the Tamil Diaspora, by the plight of Tamil citizens callously sacrificed to the Sri Lankan State’s all-out war against the LTTE”

    Reflect a moment on what you wrote. Why were you not angry at the LTTE for the degrading and inhumane treatment of these same people? According to Ms. Anna Marie Loos of Medicines Sans Frontier, the LTTE were cutting off limbs and shooting them in the back to retain them in a “Human Shield” for the LTTE to hide behind and shoot at the SL Forces. Why could not the Diaspora organize their massive coordinated protests in Canada, UK, Australia, EU and USA against such treatment of the Vanni Tamils by the LTTE? Why were the Vanni Tamils ignored when they were under the LTTE and were being abused?

    Look at the carnage left behind by the LTTE during their 27 year war. The LTTE was even offered the Administration of the North and the East for 10 years without an election even that was rejected. What other alternative did the Sri Lankan state have other than “All out war” as you put it?

    You state that “For me, taking a position on the LTTE was not easy. Over the years, as I came across mounting evidence of the increasing and systematic human rights abuses by the Tigers, I gradually and quietly pulled back from supporting them in any way. But I could not bring myself to denounce them……..Part of it was loyalty,…….. In the end, it was hard to denounce the LTTE without feeling like I was somehow sanctioning the Government of Sri Lanka and its actions by doing that. ”

    You accept there were mounting Human rights abuses … who did they abuse most? Was it not the Tamils held captive under them? Still you could not denounce them why? Was it only loyalty?

    You state that “I write this because I feel that the Tamil Diaspora is viewed today by much (not all) of the non-Tamil Sri Lankan universe as a monolithic, extreme, out-of-touch, LTTE-loving group of fringe maniacs. The Dark Side waiting in the wings to ruin Sri Lanka by funding and creating a neo-LTTE any moment now. This is not the Tamil Diaspora in my life.”

    Amongst my many friends in the Tamil Diaspora are some who do not support the LTTE as they have been victims of the LTTE themselves. Then there are some who keep a low profile out of fear for the LTTE but these are in the minority, many are openly supportive of the LTTE. The majority Tamils of the Diaspora supported the LTTE and decided to stay blind to what they did to their own people. Even when the LTTE was pilfering food meant for the civilians, imposing heavy taxes on food supplied free by the SL Govt and recruiting children as young as 8 years, the Diaspora maintained a “Pin Drop Silence” on such issues affecting the Tamils (let alone the other ethnics), why? Was it because they were insulated from such deprivation and were prepared to sacrifice the Vanni Tamils? Don’t you think they have earned their infamous reputation?

    Tens of thousands of Tamils who now live amongst the Diaspora were saved from a certain death by brave Sinhalese men and women who were prepared to risk the lives of their own families to save their Tamil friends from mob violence in 1983. Read the comments on the web and see how many Tamils acknowledge it.

    You state “Taking a principled position for a unified Sri Lanka with equal rights for all minorities, I could do. And in an ideal world, that is what I want. But the truth is that I did not, and do not, believe in its plausibility.”

    Equal rights are never a problem as long as what is sought is equitable. If the Tamils want to perpetuate the dominant position that the British conferred on them during colonial rule it would hardly be conducive to the above goal. If on the other hand the Tamils give up the divisive “Traditional Homeland” concept and accept the right of any citizen to live anywhere within the island as guaranteed by the Constitution then that will be a great step in the right direction

    I hope you will change your mind and work for reconciliation

  • Anjali C

    I have not checked this for awhile, so am not sure if people are still checking back in here, but I wanted to respond to some of the comments.

    First of all, Belle, your eloquence on, and understanding of, the complexities of the Tamil Diaspora are amazing and far more evolved than mine — you need to be writing articles cos there is a dearth of nuanced viewpoints on this topic out there.

    To SomewhatDisgusted, I have to say that Belle offers a very eloquent defense of the Tamil Diaspora to your comments that I have to agree with entirely.
    Also, I greatly admire Rajani Thiranagama and Nirmala also, but do you really expect most regular human beings to be such heroes, take such courageous stands and forsake their families and stand in the front lines to get killed for truth and justice? Heroes are heroes and martyrs for a reason. Most others live in the grey areas of the middle, where they have to do what they have to do to take care of their families, live with their doubts, caught in a situation that is not of their making, live with their cynicism, their disappointment, their losses, and just go on. If Tamils did not come out publicly against the LTTE in droves, there is no one to blame but their own government that let them down so badly and left them with such terrible options, on top of all the anger and bitterness it left.

    To Off the Cuff, I wanted to say that while I have closed the door on my life in Colombo, somehow I seem to find myself working on reconciliation. Some old friends dragged me into it– it’s an NGO with people from all SL ethnic communities that we formed here in the U.S. Diaspora to try and fund inter-ethnic projects throughout the country (SL), by partnering with local NGOs. So apparently I am not feeling as defeated as I probably sounded in the article.

    My final point to all those who bothered to try and convince me of the horrors of the LTTE — yes, I know how heinous their violence became — but in my article I was trying to get people to see why so many in the diaspora did not denounce them and how some may have put on blinkers because it was all too difficult to deal with, or else people just chose sides, between the LTTE and the GoSL.
    Personally, I think Belle needs to write another article trying to explain it because she has some excellent points that I think would be useful to highlighting why the larger Diaspora never quite came out against the LTTE.

    In any event, you guys are a great bunch — you are all slowly renewing my faith in SL (well, a part of it anyway). 🙂

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Dear Anjali,

    “If Tamils did not come out publicly against the LTTE in droves, there is no one to blame but their own government that let them down so badly and left them with such terrible options, on top of all the anger and bitterness it left.”

    I hope you read my detailed response to Belle. I believe this question was answered in detail there.

    Quite honestly, I’m not interested in the past. The past was created by “different” people under “different” circumstances. Generalizing these actions to all individuals and ignoring the overall humanitarian catastrophe which has befallen so many innocent individuals is where the tragedy lies. It’s up to the more educated people to provide thought-leadership in moving forward.

    But apparently, what the more “educated” people, seem unable to agree on is the vision of a plural society, in which each human being can live in dignity regardless of race, caste, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief (or absence of it) or whatever other kind of silly division it is that undermines our humanity.

    They seem to be more concerned about racial ghettos, who this country belongs to and the constitutionalization of racism in order to preserve minority identities etc. as the solution. This is what causes some to talk about Eelams, some to talk about Sri Lanka belonging to the Sinhalese, some to talk of power devolution on racial lines etc but few or none to talk about the most important point – how to bring about equality for all (not just Tamils, not just Sinhalese, ALL). This is where the true failure in the imagination lies.

  • pasan

    to some what disgusted
    what may aslo neeis a change of view.. no body has to get anything as handouts,, everyne is expected ake themself equal by working hard for it.
    1. its like universty arts students who study a area which of Little comercial value and expect a pensioned government job
    2. like a tamil who wants equality handed over just because he was born as a tamil.
    3. or as a sinhales who want more than equality…

    we should stop trying to hand over these and ask people to work for it.. say look at all people from sri lanka who migrate. they go and work hard without complain -so whats the issue when it comes to been lankan?

  • Heshan

    ” like a tamil who wants equality handed over just because he was born as a tamil. ”

    I have to point out, the above statement is RIDICULOUS. No one should have to “work hard” for equality. Equality is a God-given right. As far as society is concerned, equality needs to be written into the Constitution, and the relevant clauses stringently enforced.

  • Heshan

    “If Tamils did not come out publicly against the LTTE in droves”

    It is silly to ask why the Tamils did not come out publicly against the LTTE, when the alternatives are considered. The alternative is Sri Lankan military occupation, end of story. If these people who question why the Tamils did not speak out against the LTTE, were just as vociferous in their condemnation of excesses by the Sri Lankan Government, then such people might have a point. On the other hand, we can rest assured that the same people have very little to say when it comes to such abuses. Therefore, had Tamils spoken out publicly against the LTTE, they would be simultaneously vouching for Sri Lankan military occupation, which as I have pointed out here, has no safeguards in place to prevent abuses.

    The real problem here is lack of any neutral, third-party space. People like Rajani T. tried to fill the vacuum, but were quickly silenced. The international community, particularly the West, could have played such a role, but they were perceived as sympathetic to the LTTE (and still are). Since the demise of the TULF, Sri Lankan politics has veered between extremes. That situation can’t change until the majority community releases its iron grip on power. Remember that this conflict did not start overnight; it was the systematic discrimination against Tamils over a sustained period of time that finally pushed things over the edge. The majority wanted everything, as far as undisputed control over the island goes – it took them 60 years to consolidate their gains. But at what price they can hold on to those gains is an open questions. The 21st century is vastly different from the 20th century in which conflict began. The consequences are more dire. For example, if the next age of terrorism involves biological/chemical weapons, another rebellion will take even longer to crush. I would say, it is better to create that democratic space and address the grievances of the Tamils NOW, than continue with this 13th century mythological conquest.

  • Belle

    Thank you, Anjali for your very generous comments and suggestions! I just may take them up!

    When I saw that there was someone else who felt the same ambivalence as I did, it helped me to realize that there could be actually something quite ‘normal’ about my mixed feelings. Earlier I had thought that my ambivalence was due to my disconnect from both the pro-LTTE and anti-LTTE sections, and that it was a ‘weird’ reaction. It has been very helpful for me to explore those ambivalent feelings, to realise that they are actually warranted by the morally ambiguous nature of the situation itself. I suspect that if we poll the SL Tamil diaspora, we will find even more multiple positions due to our different connections to the struggle, our different generational histories, etc. These stories of our feelings deserve to be heard in all their complexity and variety, especially given the enormous psychological, cultural and geographic displacements that the community has experienced since independence.

  • JonathanMiller

    [cit]“My own impression is that the non-racists, the people who are really prepared to give equal rights to the Tamils, are a minority.”[/cit]

    [cit]But the truth is that only small sections of the diaspora supported the LTTE.[/cit]

    What Belle is saying: Most Sinhalese are racists. [note she has not been to Sri Lanka and from what she’s written the only Sri Lankans she’s met are Tamil refugees] Only a minority of them are good.

    The Tamils on the other hand are in general really nice normal people with a minority of bad LTTE-supporters.

    Okay.. to sum up Sinhalese in general are bad and Tamils in general are good. Thank you, Belle.

  • JonathanMiller

    And btw Belle.. it’s really pathetic to compare the post-1983 situation to the pre-183 situations. You rant and whine about riots in 1956, 1958 and 1977. Of these only the 1958 affected people in a major way and still was an isolated incident. Tamils were not being constantly subject to violence in the years leading up to 1983 except in isolated incidents. Tamils in general could live and work — Indeed they maintained many of the major businesses in Colombo. There was the racist college standardization thing started around 1971 but this was ended in 1977. Government jobs required Sinhalese but since 1977 Tamil was made a national language and this problem was being alleviated. And the fact that Sinhalese was the only official language didn’t mean that Tamil was barred from signs, buildings, etc. Most buildings I see in old Sri Lankan films have Tamil identifiers alongside the Sinhala and the English. So to conclude this evil racist torture that you imagine the Sinhalese to have unleased on the Tamils till the war started — DID NOT EXIST!!

    And note that the Sinhala majority in each election voted for the opposition which won hugely each time. You blame the Sinhalese for voting in bad evil racist government that tortured the Tamil but the Sinhalese have always moved away from the government in power to the other each and every time. What the hell do you think they should or could have done? The Sirimavo government that imposed standardization was voted out in 1977.. SWRD lost earlier in the 1960s.. You say Tamils had no choice.. What choice did the Sinhalese have that you assign all the blame for Tamil problems on them as a whole (with a tiny minority of good Sinhalese of course — no you’re not racist in anyway– pass judgment on us without having ever met a single member of our race).