I know the bloody struggle between the Tamil Tigers and the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka has not been on the average American’s radar screen, and the news that the government forces have finally crushed the Tigers and killed their leaders got little coverage here. I happen to have several friends and associates from Sri Lanka, and have empathized with those among them who are ethnic Tamils. Needless to say, one can suffer ethnic discrimination without actively supporting a terrorist organization battling it. Yet, it must be difficult not to have some sympathy for their cause, if not their tactics. How many moderate Muslims have a similar relationship with the Jihadis?
Sri Lanka now has the opportunity to rebuild a peaceful society, as the radicals have been eliminated within their country, and it seems that the only remnant of it exists among their diaspora scattered around the world. Thus, it was incredibly encouraging to me to receive the following e-mail from one of my Tamil friend’s brother in Australia. It deserves loud applause and a wider distribution:
I write this with a lot of sadness, relief and hope, form what has happened in the past few months. As a Tamil, (and proud to be one) I deeply feel that together, we can build the burnt bridges and pave a path to peace, happiness, equality and prosperity for us and for the future generations to come.
We cannot forget what happened for the past three decades, however we need to put aside our emotions, despair and remember those lives, which were lost in bloody war in the name of “equality”. We (Tamils) have to now reconcile and win the trust of the nation. For decades, we have been secretive, unpredictable and uncompromising. Sure enough, we were discriminated in the past, deprived of our equal rights and treated unfairly. Now we have to give the nation a chance to prove that, it is not the case.
We have to let go of the past and not react to our feelings in an irrational and selfish way. We talk about the 1953 era, of the riots and how the Tamils were discriminated and treated badly. In 1953, the whole world was a different place and had a different attitude. In America blacks could not go in to a restaurant or a supermarket or attend a white school, the aborigines in Australia did not have any rights. Now America has a black president, and the Aborigines have equal rights; we Tamils now have to give it a chance for change to happen in our motherland. We are hanging on to views and ideologies, which formed thirty years ago, which are not appropriate anymore. I think that, in the past 20 years we have created a doubt in the minds of the Sinhalese and the nation, making them wonder weather every other Tamil is a Tamil Tiger or not.
Prior, to 1988, before I left to Australia, I remember after a rugby game at Longden Place and a few (in my context) drinks at the club, going home in the early hours of the morning, my only fear was whether I will be stopped and breathalysed and charged for DUI. In the later years in my many trips to SL, the fear was whether I would be subject to harassment because of my Tamil name. Why do you think it is so? Is it not because of the war, the suicide bombings? All of this distrust of Tamils started after the war began. So, did we not create this for ourselves? This is not only happening to the Tamils, in fact If you send money to the US or visit the US bearing an Arabic name, you are scrutinised vigorously, which began after “9/11”. The Arabic world calls it “discrimination”.
In 1983, the news of the death of 13 soldiers sparked an organised riot, and over 2000 Tamils lost their lives and over 100,000 Tamils were displaced. The nation soon realised that it should not have let it happen, and the wider community shared the same sentiment. In 1996 a raid on a Military camp in Mullaitivu by the Tigers, 1,500 soldiers were killed, yet there was no repeat of 1983, or for that matter since 1983 several thousands soldiers have lost their lives and we did not see a repeat of 1983.
We talk about “Genocide”, which is a very powerful and compelling word. No doubt, that many women and children have lost their lives, but one has to remember in every war, innocent people loose their lives. There is blame on both the armed forces and the Tigers. Lets not be the judge of that, let the appropriate organisations investigate and report the findings.
The Tamil Diaspora and number of organisations are having protest marches and their websites are relentlessly publishing calls for the IC to intervene about the mistreatment and harassment of the civilians. However much we are angry and anxious, we must have patients and let the government, UN and the other aid organisation to embark on the huge task ahead of them to relocate, resettle and reconcile the civilian casualties.
We have been having protest marches for decades around the world. Has one head of state or a member of a parliament took a flight and gone to Sri Lanka and discussed the problem with the authorities? I do not think so. The IC will mention our plea in their speeches, or talk about it when the next election comes around.
Does the IC know the differences between Jayasinghe and Jayasingham? It is up to us reconcile and rebuild friendships. What has happened in the past has happened, we cannot turn back the clock. The truth of what happened in the battle zones will only surface, if the victims have no fear in revelling the truth. From this point, onwards it is up to us to make sure that this is possible. We should regain the trust and the sympathy of the grater community.
We Tamils started this war his was never an option. For thirty years, we have fought a bloody war with no results. Are we going to continue this for another thirty years? No. We, have lost too much, the nation has lost too much. It is time to take a step back and think sensibly putting aside our emotions and pride.
The Tamil Diaspora and community leaders, spokespersons and organisations are calling for the Tamil community to “re-group and realise our leaders dream”, after three decades of war, is it not the time now to wake up from that dream? They say now that the Tigers are defeated that we will be systematically eradicated, as there is no one to protect us. We should stop speculating of what the future holds for the Tamils in Sri Lanka and need to get these myths out of our heads and win the trust of the nation we should responsibly publish and circulate articles and news items, or even refrain from doing so until the displaced civilians are settled. Now we need to concentrate and work closely with those who are in SL to help the refugees.
In the past, few days there are reports that, during the celebrations following the governments victory over the Tigers, that may Tamil business were forced to give money towards the celebrations, and this news is from “Reliable sources”. This may be true may not be true, however when we hear such news we need to think rationally and responsibly before we spread it around, Sometimes, in times of sadness, desperation and anxiety the, truth is often exaggerated and taken out of context. We all remember, back in SL at a big match we generally have a “hat collection” to pay for our celebrations. This has been a culture. Every Christmas, New-year, Vesak or during Vel Festival, the garbage collectors, the posties etc go house-to-house collecting money for celebrations. It is not an unusually thing to happen. The people who have not experience this should not be alarmed and portrait such incidents as “ discrimination and harassment”.
I ask those who receive this mail, to support me in achieving a united and equal Sri Lanka for all who were born there. One day I wish to return to the country of my birth and live as an equal citizen in peace and harmony.
How can you help? Tamils should reach out to the Sinhalese and speak about the grievance you have, and ask them to help you achieve security and equality. My, Sinhalese friends should reach out to a Tamil and unconditionally trust them and help them achieve security and equality.
We, Tamils have to realise that this is the only nation that Sinhalese is spoken, and we should respect that, win their trust and respect in return.
Very well said, Mohan. I wish you much success in promulgating this voice of reason among your people. I admire your effort. ◄Dave►