Diaspora, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

An open letter to the Remote Control Diaspora

Note: Contrary to what you might assume from the title, this is not a general onslaught on the diaspora at large. This is based on two recent incidents that really ‘got my goat,’ in a matter of speaking. Therefore, I’d like any readers who’d fall into the bracket of the ‘diaspora’ to please take the contents of this letter in that context, and not as an attack on anyone who’s ever stepped off the shores of sunny Lanka. Also, I’d like to add that I have absolutely no political affiliation or agenda to achieve by writing this. It was just two pieces of news that really got to me, so I just had to write this. That’s it.

Dear RCD,

I was having a meal at home recently when I heard this piece of news repeated on the radio.

“…two men caught while trying to buy missiles and hundreds of AK-47 automatics rifles for the now routed Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka were jailed for 14 to 26 years by a US court. Sathajhan Sarachandran and Nadarasa Yogarasa were sentenced to 26 and 14 years in prison respectively for attempting to purchase $1 million worth of high-powered weaponry for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).”

Now you might wonder what about this piece of news warranted me to get so rattled up about the sentencing recently of two men arrested in 2008?

I’m not too sure if you’ve realized that it’s been just nine months or so since the conclusion of one of the longest, bloodiest and most futile wars of recent times. A war my generation was in fact born into. A war that brutally cost too many lives, limbs and property to even begin speaking of. But, I’m sure you already know all this. So, let me then perhaps draw your attention to a few crucial details that you don’t seem to have, or rather, conveniently seem not to have addressed.

Messrs. Sathajhan Sarachandran and Nadarasa Yogarasa (although you both are potentially lying in a prison cell right now, I’m assuming you have friends or family who might see this), I’d like to pose one question to you both. At the point of attempting to purchase these weapons, did either of you plann on following these weapons back to Sri Lanka? Did you each take the decision to return to Sri Lanka, along with your friends and family to fight for your “cause”? (The very same cause that ironically enough, has now wound you both in prison for a good part of your lives.) Or were you merely doing some of the ‘legwork’ in support of some organisation, that would in turn ship these weapons to Sri Lanka to further maim and kill people who’ve seen enough blood and gore? Did either of you ever question this reality?

Did you for one minute think about the people who would actually have to fight this war you’re helping to re-start? Did you ponder for a moment on what the last 30 years of war has actually achieved? Have you realized that the Tamil community here are as badly off, if not worse off, than they were 30 years ago?  Did either of you give pause to think about the consequences of your actions?

The next bit of absurd news was actually a message I got on Facebook.

“Act Now believes the Sri Lankan Tamil people deserve the right to self determination especially after the atrocities which have been inflicted upon them during the recent years. We believe that letting the Sri Lankan Government govern the Tamil people would be equivalent to letting the Germans govern the Jews after the Second World War.

This weekend the 30th and 31st January there is a referendum organised by the Tamil National Council being held for the Tamil Diaspora in the U.K. Similar votes have already taken place in France, Norway, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and Canada.”- http://www.vkr1976.org.uk/pollstations.html

A referendum being held for Tamils across the world to vote on whether or not there should be an Eelam in Sri Lanka? And France, Norway, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and Canada have already cast their votes. What I’m really curious to know is what do you hope to do with the results of this referendum, and how do they propose to achieve this ‘self-determination’ you speak of? Most importantly though, what percentage of your vote base is actually willing to anything more than cast their vote? Who will have to bear the brunt of these referendums and futile efforts? You, the Tiger-flag-waving diaspora, or “your people” over here?

I’m not talking off the cuff here. I’ve met, spoken with and most of all seen the immense suffering of the people affected by war. The very same people you and your organisations ‘claim’ to represent. One would think diasporic organisations were better informed of the enduring plight of people on the ground. I guess not, because the people want to just ‘live’ a normal life again, and not be part of any more violence, trauma and suffering. So tell me, does this sound like people who want to, or should be made to lose anything more?

Reality Check. The only solution has to, and will be a political one. That, if at all, is the long overdue space where the diaspora can step up and intervene constructively. Unfortunately though, that option doesn’t seem to hold as much appeal, or seem as “marketable” as the idea of collecting funds to buy arms to send back to Sri Lanka, a country few in the diaspora have any intention of returning to live in. Received memories and M.I.A.’s nonsensical statements have no bearing on what it is like in post-war Sri Lanka.

Let’s just cut the crap. If you genuinely care about “your people”, contribute in a way that actually makes sense. Or if you don’t care, please, just carry on with your lives and let us be. Your help is no help at all. We must be the engineers of hope and peace. Diaspora that tragically thinks purchasing weapons and conducting referenda for Eelam have no place in our future.

Yours sincerely,

Marisa de Silva