An open letter to the External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris
| by Rajasingham Jayadevan
Dear Prof Peiris
(November 24, ,London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Your call for ‘government and Tamil Diaspora partnership’ is viewed with interest and also with considerable scepticism. Viewed with interest because of the realisation of the importance of much needed Tamil Diaspora role in Sri Lanka but regretfully your appeal is also viewed with considerable scepticism due to the age old ranting of the Tamil Diaspora is a ‘LTTE Eelam project’. Much of what is reported in the government friendly ‘The Island’ about your speech on this subject at the Maritime Security Conference at Light House Hotel, Galle was focussed mainly on attacking the ‘LTTE Eelam Project’ without detailing how a honest partnership could develop between the parties.
A meaningful government-Tamil Diaspora partnership must deal with number of issues without which mere public rhetorics will not help to build the much wanted relationship. In this regard, I wish to detail the way forward which in your thoughts may differ to find a fair and meaningful partnership to take forward Sri Lanka as an icon nation in the world map.
The former President Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranayake under whom you have served as a minister and engaged in finding a resolution to the conflict through constitutional means has publicly owned the root cause of the Tamil agitation as her father’s fault in introducing the Sinhala Only Act, when he was the Prime Minister. Though her claim is welcome, unfortunately it comes too late, having missed the opportunity, when she was the president of Sri Lanka. She failed to make this claim at the fitting time when she called the LTTE leader a megalomaniac- the very baby of the dreadful Sinhala Only Act that she is now criticising.
Ownership of the prolonging failures of the state is a calculated effort to marginalise the Tamils to make them a manageable minority – a mission that is still continuing in a systematic way. Accountability, dealing with root causes of the problem honestly accompanied by good governance practices will be the honest way forward that could deal with the problem in a responsible and accommodative manner.
Without recognising and dealing with the root causes that evicted the Tamils from the country en masse to form the Tamil Diaspora it will be a difficult to build bridges, and there must be political will to end the culture of demeaning the Tamil Diaspora.
Since the defeat of the LTTE, the government has made several appeals to the Tamil Diaspora to join force to build a better Sri Lanka without putting forward a plan for the engagement, whilst a systematic campaign is carried out to prevent the engagement. Imposition of visa controls, abandoning dual nationality, targeting the visiting Tamils at the Katunayake airport etc., contradicts with the very appeal you have made to the Tamil Diaspora.
Unless and until the government of Sri Lanka claim ownership of the LTTE as its product, due to its failures to politically deal with the festering Tamil distrust that is dogging the country since independence, it will be very difficult to convince the Tamil Diaspora to fully engage with the state. Mere rhetoric and appeals without acceptable efforts to deal with the issues in a tangible manner will not produce any results.
The very conflict between the government of the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils is hurting even the majority community. Military rule, violence, culture of impunity, bad governance and the autocratic rule are product of this conflict which cannot be corrected without mature handling of the affairs of Sri Lanka. The very governance is corroded in every respect that needs to be dealt with far sighted vision and in a pragmatic way. Patchwork may cure the problem temporarily but what needed is complete overhaul of attitude and approach and fine tuning is needed thereafter to avoid any corrosion intruding.
Sri Lanka has not taken any meaningful steps to create a conducive climate to engage with the Tamil Diaspora. Tamils have lost in human terms and materially in the state sponsored anti-Tamil riots and lack of safeguards in Sri Lanka. The country has not brought in legislative provisions to prevent such conduct recurring. The impunity provided to the violators and states unwillingness to deal with the violence against the Tamils are worrying issues and the judiciary too has become a passive servant of the executive. The engagement of any right thinking Diaspora Tamils will be a non event except for the handful who had already joined hands with the government for personal and opportunistic reasons.
Your appeal ‘government and Tamil Diaspora partnership’ must go further than a mere stunt to mislead the international community.
In order to progress on this vital engagement, it is important that effort must be made to engage with the Tamil Diaspora to try and understand their psyche. In the UK, it is estimated over 250,000 Tamils are domiciled. You have made several visits to the UK and have you ever made any effort to reach the right thinking Tamils than meeting few of those who call at the High Commission in London regularly.
The very Sri Lanka High Commission in London that comes under your ministry is the hotbed for the Sinhala extremism of the Jayaweva (victory) Brigade and the handful of Tamils who are insensitive to their abuse can only have any engagement with the mission.
Like the Sinhalese, the Tamils too have aspirations. The Sinhala aspiration is controlling aspiration, whereas the Tamil’s is a survival one. For many years Tamils have strongly cried for peaceful existence through political empowerment. If the political empowerment process is not sincerely taken up, the controlling mindset of the Sinhalese will progress further to treat the Tamils with irredeemable contempt.
As a active Tamil Diaspora member, I too have my own painful history that is the collective experience of my Tamil brothers and sisters. This experience will be sadistic satisfaction to the ruling class that wish to cover its misdeeds under the shadow of its violent baby-the LTTE.
I sincerely appeal to you to meet the Tamil Diaspora to have an open engagement to understand their consciousness with the view to put the foundation for a better ‘government and Tamil Diaspora partnership’. I hope you will have the will and the humility to meet them in a place outside the Sri Lanka High Commission. If I can be of help in any way to arrange such a meeting, please do not hesitate to contact me. I hope you will give them the opportunity to vent their feelings without which a process cannot start and such effort must not be branded as a ‘LTTE Eelam project’