Colombo, Diaspora, Identity, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Post-war Sri Lanka: A conversation with Shanthi Sachithananthan

Shanthi Sachithananthan, the Chairperson of Viluthu has been featured on Groundviews during the war. This interview, conducted late 2009 after war’s end, considers significant developments over the course of the year including the demise of the LTTE.

Shanthi talks about the need to change the timbre of political interactions between the South and the tamil peoples. She also speaks about the Tamil diaspora, noting that their tactics at the time pandered to the mindset of the Tamil people in the country. She noted that in the future, more constructive engagement was necessary, pegged to treating Tamils in Sri Lanka as agents of change, and not just as helpless victims.

Noting that post-war, there is greater space for civil society in the North and East in comparison to the South, Shanthi observes that the dominance of large political parties in the South leave no place for independent groups or smaller political parties, leading to elections where the winners are not necessarily the best candidates. In response, I asked her to imagine whether this space for dissent and democracy would have been possible under the LTTE.

Shanthi also talks about what it feels like and means to call Sri Lanka home, and using this as a metaphor, talks about enduring need for Tamil self-determination.

  • Shanthi is a wonderful person with even more wonderful ideas. Enjoyed the interview except where you were trying to feed her with what you want her to say. Loved the way she handled herself.
    Only if we had enough people like her to eliminate the perceived hatred among Sri Lankans.
    Thank you for letting me listen to her and introducing Viluthu. (Looks like I have to learn a whole bunch about Sri Lanka and her people. I will.

  • wijayapala

    There was a post here critical of Ms. Satchithananthan and her former support for the LTTE. I wanted to respond to it but it was deleted. How do you have dialogue with this kind of censorship?

    I was going to say that there have been far more courageous Tamils like UTHR and V. Anandasangaree who unlike Ms. Satchithananthan never got tongue-tied on the topic of LTTE misdeeds. However, we “patriots” have sidelined them and avoided engaging in dialogue in favor of associating with Douglas Devananda and Karuna who don’t complain about government neglect. So we cannot complain very much when the LTTE apologists get more support from the Tamil community.

    If we want Tamils to criticize the LTTE and separatism, then we must be able to criticize the new “Thesiya Thalaivar” in Temple Trees and the current “Pongu Sinhala” mentality.

    • @wijayapala, neither have we deleted any comment nor can we remember any coming in on the lines you mention.

  • ordinary lankan

    Yes it was good to listen to her – and I continue to be amazed at how the moral and personal dimension is left out of this kind of dialogue. This is positively harmful.
    I dont see our politics making any headway without soul searching and honesty – and this is the same for JVP, LTTE and the current Rajapakse regime and their supporters.
    Please tell us if you condoned killings because it was done for your group – and whether you will continue to do so.
    The moral clarity of UTHR, rajini and Anandasangaree – this is the quality that can push us forward – not a wishy washy approach that sweeps the stench of the past under the carpet. And sinhalese please note – you are now suffering from this same moral confusion – Wijepala is dead right.

  • georgethebushpig

    He who has not sinned cast the first stone…

    Really appreciated the interview and positivity with which she sees the future.

  • ordinary lankan

    Yes Sir!

    but we will make a tiny exception for you to throw a stone at George Bush …

    but seriously this is a rare opportunity we have and please dont rush to anyone’s defence. That is anot necessary. Let me apologise for the tone of the earlier post in case it was too patriarchal and confrontational. There is a residue of anger left – and it is best that we acknowledge this.

    Let us put our guards down and have a conversation in the same positive spirit that Shanthi and Sanjana had. I believe we can be honest and friendly at the same time …

    Soul seraching and honesty is not for the purpose of a blame game or for throwing stones. It is for a diametrically opposite purpose of seeking peace through forgiveness. As Bishop Tutu said – NO HEALING OR PEACE WITHOUT FORGIVENESS …

    In this regard let me say this straightaway that this is more the function of Shanthi the mother rather than Shanthi the Tamil leader.

    Children as we know need a LOT of love. Adults are no different. Behind the adult political speak are human beings whose humanity does not get the chance to come out. So at this high philosophical level my point is that GOD IS LOVE – and she who abides in love abides in God. So Shanthi dont keep God at the end of the tunnel – start with God and stay with God.

    Forgiveness is divine because love knows no race and knows no boundaries. I dont know how – and i dont know how long this will take but I know that this is the road – so this is my invitation to you – cross the boundary and keep walking – back and forth – eventually the boundary will acquire a positive connotation instead of a negative one – see yourself as a Sri lankan leader and a sri lankan mother with tamil origins — expand your love and vision — follow the great examples of Gandhi and sarojini naidu across the palk straits.

    As the great Indians always said – see all beings as yourself and see yourself in all beings – Let God guide you – not your thinking mind and ego –

  • wijayapala

    ordinary lankan, what about those of us who don’t believe in God?

  • ordinary lankan

    God – is what you ultimately believe in – everyone has their own definition – we all have a code of life we follow – and this is something unique to each one of us –
    some one will say – I dont believe in God – then that is their creed – what is important is to be adult and critical – not children who believe in this and that – your experience and your own wisdom is the best – nothing can beat it!

    and wisdom of course begins by acknowledging what we dont know – and that is one helluva lot ….

  • ordinary lankan

    Shanthi akka … please talk to us – is it too early to think about forgiveness?

  • ordinary lankan

    While we wait … I wrote this several years back to another lady of the same name ….

    We are all tiny atoms within this mighty universe – every one of us, with no inherent significance except our sharing of this universal characteristic of appearing and disappearing. Isn’t this what happens to everything? Human beings like every thing else are born and they die from moment to moment. Once you turn the light of awareness inwards and outwards you see this characteristic of impermanence both within and all around you. So connecting with our true nature is the first step to connecting with other people and the universe itself. It is this free connection with ourselves – unobstructed by the maya of ego – that we call love. Nothing more – it’s that simple. So to connect you need to be silent – and open. Accept what comes into your life and let go of what goes out.

    To be present and positive in this way is to be Sath – Chitta – Nandan in every sense of that meaningful and beautiful word. In Buddhism we call it nirvana. This is the bliss experienced by a united heart and mind (Chitta) which is aligned according to reality or truth. Experience this reality or the moment fully and completely – without attachment and with equanimity. Our hopes and fears are all outside this reality and take us away from life which is a succession of ever new and fresh phenomena.

    Each community in this island has many miles to go. It is worth preparing for this great journey, from suffering to happiness, from darkness to light and from separation to unity. This is a state of unity that emanates naturally from people who understand the magic of ‘sathchithananthan.’ Unity is ultimately a personal and collective state of well being.

  • ordinary lankan

    I think sinhalese, tamils, muslims – any one in sri lanka will only become truly effective by following the path of NON VIOLENCE.

    UNTIL WE KEEP PUSSYFOOTING AROUND IT WE ARE CONDEMNED TO A LIFE OF SELF DECEPTION