| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam
( 02 March 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the article in Sri Lanka Guardian ‘Enragement over UN-India stand results in Sumanthiran-effigy in Jaffna’ ’ by P. Sivakumaran.
In the article ‘Three Sri Lankas – Sinhala, Tamil and English’, I discussed the way I would identify myself as an individual. Most of us are supported in this through various positions we hold in family, community and society. Tamils are known to be strongly committed to structures and due processes and status is allocated as per our investments in these structures and due processes – commonly known as ‘vithi muraikal’ in Tamil. As I grew up and matured into an independent member of my community, I was disciplined and punished when I showed lack of commitment to or acted in breach of such structures and due processes. In the presence of even one person who seemed to have committed more than I in those structures and due processes, I accepted those punishments. That acceptance was the beginning of self-discipline leading to independence from other individuals. Hence my advice to my children to first develop in their children dependence on them as parents and then facilitate the children become independent of the parent. The former is more easy in money poor countries like Sri Lanka and the latter is more easy in money rich countries like Australia. Similarly in terms of Government and Citizen.
Pre LTTE political investments by the Tamil community were seriously damaged by the LTTE killing Tamil Political leaders and through them their investments and the investments that Tamils as a community had made in Political structures and due processes. Tamils as a community are now struggling to give form to what we have saved from the past – largely through the values being carried forward by the surviving politicians like Mr. Sampanthan and citizens without political portfolios, who believe in their political leadership developed over at least two generations. Beyond two generations that leadership would have been white politicians for Sri Lankans. This to my mind is one strong reason why Tamils of Sri Lankan origin find it relatively easy to settle down in Western countries and to work the Western political systems – resulting in the resolution against Sri Lanka being proposed at the UNHCR.
Mr. Sivakumaran reports ‘Mr. Sumanthiran enraged Tamil public opinion in the island by recently saying to the BBC Sinhala Service, “TNA backs a domestic process to implement the LLRC recommendations. We should ask for an international probe only after a failure of that,” adding further, “It is a step-by-step process. It will take time. They took 30 years in Cambodia.”
Later, Mr. Sumanthiran circulated emails that he was only telling what was in the agenda of the powers and not his opinion. But the BBC stuck to its reporting.’
To me, through the above conclusion Mr. Sumanthiran is saying ‘do as I say and not as I do’ . Thus, Mr. Sumanthiran joins the list of those politicians who send their children overseas for education but promote Sinhala or Tamil only education for the children of their voters. Based on this, Sumanthiran seems an example of those who desire the money of Tamils living in the West but without their thoughts and values being included in the work at Government level in Sri Lanka. Academics of the University of Jaffna are another such example I have come across.
‘Sovereignty’ has been earned only to the extent of our ability to recognize and bring together both sides of an issue to achieve a balance. That is the law of nature and hence the equal sides of anything physical. The moment the LTTE was listed as a Terrorist organization by the UN, with the help of the Sri Lankan Government, the ethnic issue was no longer a ‘local’ issue and there was no right to ‘Sovereignty’ by the government that needed ‘outside’ help. The Sri Lankan government thus damaged its own Sovereignty by going outside. To the extent the Sri Lankan Government invested in global positions, it had the right to draw on those investments. Such a government would naturally include those global standards in its solution to the ethnic problem.
It is to strengthen and facilitate this ‘sovereign’ power that we have structures, positions and due processes. Through such common structures and systems we invest in each other – even though we may never have physically met each other or are likely to meet each other in future. Those driven by benefits are likely to invest in the individual and limit themselves to the ability of a particular individual to return the benefits relating to their costs – often with interest/profit. Those of us who invest in particular individuals / parties as per our assessment of their ability and willingness to return with profit – our costs – would move away from the common system through which all individuals investing in and through a position are serviced.
Positions help us assume common responsibility. They help the other person settle immediately by performing their duty as per their position. Thus a child who respects a parent does not owe the parent. The parent in turn has the duty to do work that would commonly take care of all children. All special favors to particular children would take value away from this common structure and hence needs to be limited to exceptional needs – such as humanitarian needs.
It is not uncommon for Tamil parents and elder siblings to say ‘I brought you up and now you owe me’. Similarly political leaders with their voters. In many instances I have witnessed the reverse of this – with the children demanding parents to fund their educational and other activities – beyond the level of the parents and voters demanding politicians to ‘give’ them quick benefits. That to me is like reverse discrimination. In many such instances voters write out what they desire and use political influence to achieve this. This deteriorates the development and / or maintenance of common positions and structures essential in good governance.
A civilized structure would ensure that there are no bilateral debts in a family/institution/country. Settlement is instantaneous through performance of duties as per one’s position. Anything beyond needs to be from our hearts and therefore without expectations of returns. Anything blow position duty deteriorates – even when it is from the heart. Many welfare payments in areas where there is very little administrative structure and/or humanitarian need – have deteriorated the Sri Lankan Public Service.
This premature ‘giving’, to me is the reason why Tamil Political structures have weakened to this extent. As a natural alternate to the government of Sri Lanka, we need to practice higher standards than the government, to have the moral authority to lead ALL Tamils and not just current voters. The investments made by past voters is the foundation on which a strong political structure would emerge to confirm our entitlement to Political Independence. Tamil Politicians need to seek and find such investors if their current voters are not to get more and more disenfranchised in Sri Lanka. That would keep them connected to the wider world.