| by Shenali Waduge
( March 31, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In a country as small as Sri Lanka where over 14.8m of the 20m population are Sinhalese and possibly less than 10% are Sri Lankan Tamils, a question never answered is what are these grievances that the Sri Lankan Tamils finds exclusively to be theirs and how much of these grievances are relevant to the present.
We need to first identify how many of these oft-quoted Tamil grievances are now non-existent though quoted for convenience, how many of these grievances are being quoted by those living overseas who have no understanding of what the Tamils in Sri Lanka need, how many of these Tamil grievances resulted from injustices imposed by the Tamil elite upon their own and how many of these Tamil grievances are exclusively suffered by Tamils alone which Sinhalese & Muslims enjoy. Unless we are able to answer these simple questions there is no point drafting “political solutions”.
The reality of political solutions is that all political solutions are meant to suit the politicians and their cohorts in power. Are Tamil politicians not guilty of living comfortably in Colombo guarded by the State and preferring to only seek land and police powers when all that the people of the north are asking for is education for their children, employment and the means to live in peace? Were all these not denied by the LTTE and not the Government? Could parents of the north send their children to school and not fear that they would have been kidnapped and made into child soldiers. Did the LTTE not issue an order that every Tamil family had to forsake at least 1 child to the LTTE – how “equal” was this ruling since invariably it was the poor and low caste Tamils that ended up sacrificing their children to the LTTE while the upper class Tamil children were excluded?
What a tragedy it would be if it were to emerge that for 30 years Tamils had been denying Tamils whilst pointing blame at the Sinhalese to hide this truth. It appears there is a segment of truth in this. If not for the LTTE, 1m Tamils would not be living overseas today. So who made up these 30,000 LTTE cadres – were they from the elite Tamils or just downtrodden low caste Tamils whom the rest of the Tamils didn’t care about anyway. It was these cadres that enabled Tamils to use “ethnic” issue and push for benefits for themselves which excluded ordinary Tamils. It was not hard to distinguish how fed the Mahavir families were as against other Tamils pleading for food, water & medical assistance. Then there were also the issue of the unexplainable number of refugees. This number demands an investigation because it is impossible that the Wanni had so many Sri Lankan Tamils unless over the years LTTE had been encouraging illegal immigrants from Tamil Nadu. Was this a bigger conspiracy to infuse North with Indian Tamils while encouraging Sri Lankan Tamils to go overseas.
If so, these were some home truths that the UN Colombo office & many NGOs/INGOs knew about but chose to purposely ignore. The UN Colombo office including its former heads also need to be investigated for their links to the LTTE & the Government should not hesitate to make this request.
When over 11,000 former LTTE cadres have been rehabilitated and reintroduced to society and a policy is taken not to prosecute any of the child cadres of the LTTE does it not show “accountability” of the Government? When these cadres are given vocational training, allowed to sit for competitive exams, given away in marriage whilst women who were taught nothing other than to shoot appear on the fashion ramp modeling bridal wear shouldn’t the Government be given a few accolades at least?
When Tamils are not denied purchase of property in any part of Sri Lanka, are able to live in any mode of housing throughout Sri Lanka, when they can work in private or public sectors, when they hold key portfolios in these sectors, when they can travel on any mode of transport, apply for any position where is there discrimination. Do we have queues separated for Tamils? Do we not allow Tamils to sit on any seat in a bus? Are Tamils denied going to Kovils or holding Kovil processions every now & then? Can Tamils deny that the heart of Colombo’s business is owned & run by Tamils? These were all discriminations that existed in the US, Africa & in parts of India where Dalits are still treated as untouchables.
Are Sinhalese treated better – does the postman deliver their letters first, do the Sinhalese enjoy privileges that the other ethnic groups are denied…if so let us know what these are.….. for any foreign reader it is important to note that all public documents (marriage certificates, death certificates, passport forms etc) all are in Sinhalese & Tamils, all road signs are in Sinhalese & Tamil, all currencies & notes are in Sinhalese & Tamil, all public events have presenters speaking in Sinhala, Tamil & English, even lottery ticket results presented over tv has presenters speaking in Sinhala & Tamil….this privilege has been given to less than 1.5m Tamils in Sri Lanka…not even India can match this.
It is time that Tamils themselves weigh the odds. Are they to continue thinking about some elusive Eelaam which has been turned into a bargaining tool to advance the interests of Tamil politicians? Would the other Tamils who have made good of the domino effect of the LTTE still want to deny their own people some relief at least now after 3 decades? India’s role in this is primarily to keep Sri Lanka unstable and secondly to avoid separatist chants in Tamil Nadu as well as to economically engulf us to make us a paralyzed nation. What is true is that the LTTE would have remained no different than the JVP if not for the fact that India took LTTE under its wing to train them and to use them to destabilize Sri Lanka.
A country that stoops to this type of ugly practice does not deserve to be welcomed on our shores and we need to tell the Government out loud that no amount of diplomatic chivalry will divert India’s policy to subvert our sovereignty. Are we not going to take the threat of India seriously? Now this question is being put to our President, his Ministers and especially his advisors – do we have a counter plan to protect our sovereignty from India?
Every opportunity India gets, India continues to push for the 13a and devolution using the excuse of the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils. All of India’s paid locals subtly or directly are pushing for the reality of this objective. What is stopping anyone from asking India or any other nation what these grievances of Tamils are? Let us also remind everyone in Sri Lanka that by 1953 there were 974,100 Indian Tamils whilst there were just over 880,000 Sri Lankan Tamils!
The colonial rulers mastered the art of divide & rule. They merged education with religion to create a dual effect – indoctrinate the people’s minds as well as to convert the locals. From zero Christians before arrival of colonial rulers by independence there were over 650,000 Christians. The elite that emerged were a combination of Sinhalese & Tamils who cared little for the rest of the masses except indulge in caste competition against each other. What they didn’t achieve when they could should not be repeated by present day leaders of the government & opposition simply because they too prefer to not look at the larger picture which entails that they act in the interest of the country first.
In many ways the positive of the UNHRC ruling is that Sri Lanka’s leaders have had to face the facts and face it with embarrassment. It gives us the masses a better say in matters of governance for we now can insist that the delays on account of diplomatic niceties for former favors are now null & void for the countries that have betrayed us.
We again question how countries that voted for the Resolution could have voted for clauses requesting the implementation of the LLR when none of these countries were officially given a copy of the LLRC. Moreover, would it have made a difference had we conveyed hard enough amongst these member countries that the Resolution was the first instance of a country been held accountable for a terrorist conflict that is now over when the UNHRC did little to get involved to stop terrorism that was raging for 30 years by a terrorist movement that was far more lethal than the Al Qaeda. Would it matter to any of these member nations that precedence was created whatever excuse India gave about tweaking its language?
These questions reveal that world bodies are certainly not functioning as unbiased entities and certainly not championing the motto for world peace. If we cannot have faith in these bodies at least we need to ensure our own house is in order.
For starters we need to reiterate the importance of law and order. Irrespective of ethnic issues it is disheartening to read any of the local newspapers and their cover stories.
The US invaded Iraq to give peace to the Iraqi people by getting rid of Saddam its dictator – can Iraqi people please tell us are they happy today. The US/NATO invaded Afghanistan accusing it of being responsible for 9/11 –then they promised the people that they would get rid of Taliban – can the Afghan people please tell us if they are happy today. The US/NATO created an independent Kosovo – can these people tell us if they are better off than they were. The US got rid of Hosni Mubarak a long time friend – Can the Egyptian people please tell us how great Egypt is today. The US/NATO took 7 months to get rid of Gaddafi – can the Libyan people please tell us if Libya is now free? Can even Sudan say that it is better off now?
What we first need to do is to clean up the distorted lies – we had a terrorist problem & not an ethnic problem needs to be first rectified. India has to either acknowledge or we need to publicly make aware that the LTTE was first trained & supported by India which nullifies most arguments. We need to place every effort the Governments have taken insisted by the West & India for a negotiated settlement when these very nations did not really intend for such a settlement to occur. It was only to buy time for all stakeholders. We need to reiterate that no one can deny the desire of any citizen to live in any part of the island therefore the efforts to say Sinhala colonization must stop. If Tamils can live outside of their so-called Tamil areas what is stopping a Sinhalese or a Muslim from purchasing property & living in the North? Besides thousands of Sinhalese & Muslims were living in the North prior to be ethnically cleansed. Historical architecture also proves the existence of Sinhalese in these ancient areas as well.
If we are to open a new chapter in our history we need to bury the lies and nurture the truth. We also need to discard all interventions that have manifested itself into our lives and that first step is the 13a – we do not need it and the provincial council system – we do not need that either. Whilst the Government needs to realize that its own performance needs a boost and public service needs to realign itself to serving the people with administrative changes that need to take off the ground without delays.