28 September, 2020

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Five Years After The War: Meandering, Dreary Reminiscences Of My Losses

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Foreign Doors Closed?

Five years after the war the situation for the Tamil in the North-East has few bright spots. We older folk do not matter. The young do.  The schools in Sri Lanka are better built but bereft of the teachers who taught the older generation. The level of English has collapsed. Few Tamils from the North-East will get the required English scores to enter western universities. Even if they did, western universities that my generation had access to now have prohibitively high tuition fees. Migrating as a refugee is no longer an option. The Tamils who can most easily escape from Sri Lanka are those with family members who have already made it and whose sponsorship under family reunification will ultimately bear fruit. If they do manage to migrate, what awaits them?

Local Options

So those who are left behind in Sri Lanka are best off making the most of what there is.  The universities are in a parlous state. The lucky ones, who get into Moratuwa, Colombo and Peradeniya, still have to contend with communalist teachers. For example, there are those who teach in Sinhalese after admitting Tamils to a so-called English medium course. Then there was the student at Peradeniya who topped his class of some 324 students and had difficulties getting postgraduate admission in the West. It turns out that a Peradeniya colleague of mine was asked to write a confidential reference to the university, and wrote that he did not think this batch-topper was capable of finishing his doctorate (I came to know through my colleague at this end who could not believe his eyes and took the student into his group).

DiasporaThe students who do not get admission to the big three universities do not have adequate staff to teach them. These students, however, are still among our brightest, so with a good transcript and the appearance of a firm foundational education through the syllabus, they are enabled to leave the system for foreign studies. Western nations, ever looking for clever Third-Worlders trained at other people’s expense, always have provisions for these people to stay on after postgraduate studies. I often wonder if these other students are not better off going to India for their higher studies (For more on this, await my upcoming article “The Expansion of the Sri Lankan University System: Good if Properly Done.”) In Sri Lanka they will study with other bright students but not in English and under teachers who are so poorly qualified that they will not learn much. Indeed I have had students at our new engineering college asking for help with homework on Skype. The tutorials were in poor English and designed more to challenge than to teach – for example having to invert a 4×4 matrix rather than a 3×3 which teaches the same principles without the hard, error-prone labour of a 4×4. In India they would have studied in English, and also by living in a cosmopolitan environment, could study without the stress or fear of being attacked because of their language or religion.

But what is there for the rest, the vast majority of Tamil youth of Sri Lanka? Roadblocks, censorship, having to say “Sir, Sir!” to soldiers who were likely involved in the murder and rape of other Tamils, or the very least silent observers. I see them abjectly smiling at and greeting military men and the highest persons of the land knowing they are involved in the murder of thousands of fellow Tamils. School children and even university students are taken by their Principals and Vice Chancellors for these rites in obsequiousness. They have no choice. It is the life they need to live. Those who have the livelihoods to obviate such prostrating cannot understand the internal conflicts that face these poor souls.

How do the people left behind make common cause with those who deny that thousands were slaughtered? In the Bar Association, Tamils were given no choice but to vote to reject the UN resolution without even having seen it. In such a state, can there be a dignified future for Tamils in Sri Lanka?

Life in the West

Five years after the war, even for those of us in the West, the prospects as Tamils are dim. Prospects of returning home are dimmer as there are fewer and fewer jobs back home even if we are offered the jobs. Even an apartment here, carefully furnished with second hand things that go cheap, gives us a seemingly luxurious life. A decently running used Toyota can be bought for a weeks’ salary. Spending just a small fraction of our salary, we can support relatives at home and in Indian universities. We could buy land at home and be extravagant on holidays.

But many of us increasingly find that for the sake of convenient work and the pressing need to sponsor relatives, we have taken on new citizenships. Now with dual citizenship curtailed by Sri Lanka we have fewer prospects of returning and are prohibited from buying land by exorbitant taxes. Visas on arrival at Colombo are restricted to a month. And there is always the prospect that some EPDP or TID goon at the airport will mistake even the apolitical among us and carry us off for special treatment.

So our trips home are fewer. The chances of our community grow fainter. I have retained my accent and so I find myself having to repeat myself so many times. Even when I say my first name is Samuel I am asked how to spell that. Men in my family having three given names, my son too has three. Without even asking, institutions including the licence bureaux cut off one. I use my second name but it is forced to be my middle initial because here the first name is what is used. My son’s best friends at high school are all immigrants, one from Africa and another from Turkey and the rest all Indians. These are but a tiny measure of the fact that we are isolated from the mainstream (except when we can afford high school fees to send our children to elite private schools). We need to fall in line, despite the claims to multiculturalism. With these pressures will we continue as Tamils?

It is unlikely that our community will survive even two more generations. Divorce rates are high. Hindu cultural values like abstinence from beef and female abstinence from alcohol are gone. Teenagers dash away from a sumptuous Hindu wedding vegetarian lunch to eat cheap two dollar beef burgers. Like Hitler there are vegetarian Tamils who still argue that massacres of Sinhalese and Muslim civilians were a good thing. (With the LTTE gone they are less vocal but if provoked, this view comes out).

Children increasingly marry outside the community. Arranged or cousin marriage? “Chic!” they say. As children grow up and educate their mothers on how “dowdy” they look, aging mothers abandon their saris and switch to sleeveless dresses, crew-cuts with hair dyed golden brown or occasionally blonde, and shaven limbs. Cheap talcum powder gives way to translucent foundation. Even as a Christian in a Christian-majority country my faith is difficult to preserve and pass on, as both conservative and liberal churches disregard the Bible to gain relevance to sociopolitical trends like divorce or homosexuality.  Christian Theology, with faith standing on the three-legged stool of Bible, Church Tradition and Reason, once provided a vigorous mental exercise through the test of reason. The reading and the discussions I benefited from as a boy on the important thoughts that made and split the church, children here are no longer privy to because religion is now passé.

But all that aside, most in the next generation – with the exception of those who live in Tamil communal neighbourhoods – do not speak Tamil. The higher the wealth and the higher the education, the truer this is. While Tamils in Sri Lanka face one kind of genocide, those who have escaped that genocide face another devastation here.

Resenting the State

I am determined to return to Sri Lanka. But even my children who were trained with Tamil as their first language and love Sri Lanka as their home now plead “Do not go back Appah. Think about us.” I know that I have lost all. Not just my Tamilness but also my Jaffna Tamil Christianness. I resent the Sri Lankan state for all that it has deprived me of. And the more I resent it, the less the chances that my children will ever return. My loss then becomes greater as we – our faith, our way of life – can no longer survive through our children long after we are gone. It becomes an evil cycle in which we are all trapped. Five years later, we remember the loss of life in the war. But a few years from now, will there be anyone left to remember?

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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      Balu Kela Kolla

      Your canine intellect is your biggest enemy.

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    Thank you Dr Hoole for this excellent, touching and truthful analysis. I could not help feeling enormously sad after reading it. My only comment is while the plight of Tamil speaking people is worse it is also terrible for others. And I assume the 30 years of misdirected resources, lost opportunities and chaos it created is partly to be blamed for this sad state of affairs. I sincerely hope the Govt. of SL is intelligent enough to attract gems like yourselves back to SL to remedy , in some way, this national disaster.

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      Srilanka is making a big mistake of ignoring educationists like Professor Hoole.In the interest of SL, Professor Hoole should be invited and offered at least some sort of ministerial post. It is because he tried hard and nothing was offered,H is attacking Mahinda and the government.At the same time,Prof.Hoole also should stop attacking MR and write some articles praising the government and MR,which is not a problem for Professor Hoole.

  • 2
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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      Balu Kela Kolla,

      You are a product of canine spit due to a dry input hole. Your place is in the dog pound – not the CT forum which is for humans.

      • 0
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        navin, your hstory doesn’t give you anything other than toilet cleaning…pathetic loser

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          ela kolla

          “navin, your hstory doesn’t give you anything other than toilet cleaning…pathetic loser”

          May I ask you for the umpteenth time why are you so obsessed with toilet cleaning? Is it the pay, working condition, climate or is it you who does not want to continue with the present employer?

          I think we can fix it, all you have to do is just ask.

          Remember when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

  • 4
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    Very disturbing. A broken community. Generational continuity has been lost. I do not know whether this is a problem peculiar to Tamils. It may be our common fate.

  • 2
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    Thanks Dr Hoole for sharing your thoughts about the plight of SL Tamils after the civil war. Many of us feel exactly the same way.

  • 8
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    Not only you Ratnajeevan, almost all from Sri Lanka, Tamil, Sinhalese or whoever from the old school have to face this because of living in the west and for wanting to earn more in the west and enjoy the so called good life.

    Like I did, you too elected to live in the West, in your case the US. Simply analyzed you are simply talking like an old man who wants to have the life in USA but want your children who are brought up in the US to adopt and follow the Sri Lankan Tamil culture and traditions.

    Tough Luck.

  • 6
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    My advice to you good Sir is to embrace your freedom. Forget Sri Lanka. Consider yourself fortunate to have escaped, as do many Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims. Your chidrens’ future is bright. Make your childrens’ education and progress your purpose in life. Forget community. Soon we will be dust and Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim labels will not matter any more.

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      Tamils should continue to keep the faith in their Nation. The Sinhala Race is less than 20 million. Their racism will surely annihilate them. Rajiv Ghandi’s delivery of dry fish over the air completely routed the arrogance of then genius J.R. Jayawardena. He was forced to grovel at the feet of the Indian Baby Prince. What is to prevent a similar scenario in the future.

      The fools at Temple Trees think China will sacrifice their global ambitions to protect a less than worthless pawn in international power politics. Can any sane person give that happening even a thousand to one chance? At the moment it is a certainty that racial and religious minorities in Sri Lanka will actively invite foreign invasion when the circumstances are right. They have no reason to protect Sri Lanka. The motto of the minorities will be if I am deprived of a decent citizenship, then you shall lose it too. The Sinhala racists have made sure of that. And due to the shrinking political globe, digital communication, the UN, human rights movements, R2P, etc etc, the Racists can do fukoll about it.

      The world recognizes that every citizen has the right to live as an honored citizen. That alone is justification to keep the faith alive.

  • 3
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    Ratnajeevan should advise di-ass-pora to pay up Somali pirates to move ‘innocent’ Tamils (drug traffickers) to the nearest western country and then pay the mafia to get them transported to the desired sweatshop for rump LTTE to fatten their pockets more and get ready to fight the Eelam war V.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    I wish we had many more Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole in the North in 1982. When Tamils controlled over 70% of the Sri Lankan economy, higher proportion of university admission and yet claimed they were discriminate against and started killing Sinhala solders in the north.

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    “Then there was the student at Peradeniya who topped his class of some 324 students and had difficulties getting postgraduate admission in the West. It turns out that a Peradeniya colleague of mine was asked to write a confidential reference to the university, and wrote that he did not think this batch-topper was capable of finishing his doctorate “

    You are the right person, Dr Hoole. Would you please tell us the percentage of Tamils to have won Fulbright scholarship to undertake their higher degrees over, say, last 20 years? I could not find the right place to look for this info. My batchmates and seniors and juniors who finished within top five or so in the engineering faculty could not get NOT EVEN ONE placement!

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    Hoole,
    Why don’t you ask the catholic missionaries and/or their successors who baptised you for help – you have been extolling them and denigrating others – which cost you the professorship.
    Maybe they will pray for you.
    Many bright tamil kids have done and are doing well in North America,
    Britain and Australia.
    Why are you discouraging others.
    Listen to your children.

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    If the Home Ministry of India has to issue a fresh notice to extend the ban on LTTE for five more years, five years after ending the war, I am not surprised if Tamil in the North have a future. Tamils have a dark shade cast over their heads.

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    Touching article indeed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. You are one of the rare non racist Tamil academics who meant well for those who are left behind. Many have vain fully haboured the thought of country called home – run now by racist, who live off the earning of their women in the most horrid countries in Arabia. Their crimes are globally known and detested world wide.

    Thing again please,do you want to suffer this association ? Do you want this association inflicted on your children. For when they grow up the Hutos and Tutus whill be considered far more civilized.

    Time to forget the pit and leave it for the Sinhalese it poison and drown in. It is they who need help.

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    At this moment i am in wellawatte. I can go to several streets in Wellawatte highly populated area without hearing a single sinhala word. What I hear is a indian tamil song in the air. I am not complaining and i am just enjoying this diversity.

    In the Nugegoda sunday fair which used to be a Sinhala area, I can see several women everyday wearing the pottu and of course the mottakili.

    I went to Kandy, the restaurant i ate belonged to a tamil and a good tamil population. I went to Nuwara Eliya and i was among tamils. I remember a Hindu kovil built in the city of Galle.

    And this is where our sinhala people came to city from. Our Colombages, bandaras, Heraths, Amunugamas, Pilimathalawwuas all came from these areas. Now in their land all I hear is an alien language with alien people. And here in CT a tamil gentleman is crying about an invisible tamil genocide.

    Tamil schools, tamil religious instituions thrive in SL. One cant even imagine what this person is mourning about. This is what SL is.

    Most of the tamils left SL because of the opportunities in west, real refugees are few. The war provided an ideal opportunity for tamils to get into west. This man who is sad west is getting freer for homosexual people is worried he cant keep his christian faith.

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      sach, you apear to be a pathetic Sinhalese. Check in to the Wellawatte police station and find out of they speak Tamil.

      Dr.Hoole is a distinguished academic and researcher with deep roots in Sri Lanka. He has many publications and text books that are used in the best universities of the world. He wants to come back. You appear to be in contrast is a pathetic rat who wants to leave a sinking ship but cannot and jealous of those who have.

      If you were a women and willing to serve Arabic masters according to their wishes you can sign up in a Job agency. That is your only way out.

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        So according to you tamil language to survive in SL policemen should be talking in Tamil?

        I have a good job and earn a good money, I have a good life in SL. I dont need to act like a foreigner in my country and act like an eerie immigrant in another like you poor souls.

        And your comment “if youre woman find a job with arabs” is a very pathetic one, degrading for women and degrading for people who make a living by going to mid east. may be the worship in castes and female discrimination ingrained in tamil society make you think like that.

        • 0
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          “So according to you tamil language to survive in SL policemen should be talking in Tamil?”

          Without a doubt sach.

          What good if Wellawatta is so full of Tamils,street after street as you claim, if they can not communicate with the law enforcement officers in their language?

          I think Sri Lanka must teach Sinhala and Tamil as a second language to respective students as a first step towards nation building.

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            Police officers speaking tamil in tamil areas is a different requirment and a part of having a fully fledged multi lingual system. I pointed the fallacy of the argument in the article by this educated prejudicied idiot.

            My question was how can there be a tamil genocide or erase of tamil language in a country when streets full of tamils are a possibility in the capital itself. That too in Wigneshwaran’s Sinhala nation.

            Read the comments after reading the article. That will help you to understand the context.

            • 0
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              “Read the comments after reading the article. That will help you to understand the context”.
              You are being presumptuous sach for I made my 15 May 1:50pm comment after reading this article from beginning to the end.
              Perhaps you should take time to read CT Comment Policy before rushing to respond since 2 of your comments on this page alone had been rejected since they do not abide by it:-).

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        Kiri Yakka

        sach, wathie, nuisance, saroj, thrish, ……. are all one and the same stupid who is recycling the same stale products under different brand names. Compare the one sach wrote above with what wathie wrote (on May 14, 2014.) below.

        wathie (The War That Wasn’t Live May 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm)

        My pharmacist is a Tamils; he is doing brisk business along Pagoda road, Nugegoda. My ceramic and bathware trader is a Tamil; he is doing a fantastic business in Nawala Road and drives a brand new mercedes E class. My consultant cardiologist is a Tamil; he must be earning much more than few hundred thousands rupees every day in Apollo and other hospitals in Colombo. Majority of Colombo residents are Tamil; you can see them walking along all kinds of walkways and parks chatting in Tamil. And this woman writes about some PG’s struggle who says; “… But I am lucky because in Sri Lanka every Tamil is afraid, very afraid, and still running.” What a BS.

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          To help you in your confusion, i am not any of those persons in your list. Had you spend the time in CT without going after names and polluting comment section with your stupidities you could have made a rational comment which normal rational people would read.

          And what is wrong in saying what is quoted by you? Doesnt he and my comment show that Tamils are better off in south and actually doing well which is the truth. Does the comment section and the space in CT should be filled with usual melancholy and Lankan hatred?

          Do you need the CT comment section to be filled with anti Lankan, pro LTTE, and whining lieing tamil prejudicial ‘gentlemen’ like Hooles? And the comment section be filled with pompous, racist and LTTE tamils spreading the anti sinhala venom so you can have some masterbation?

          what about some reality check about the real living condition of tamils in SL?

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    Normally CT publishes many articles related to SL and HR. They have missed this one. To help them i am publishing this.
    One of the former prominent LTTE cadres, said to have been tortured and killed by the Sri Lankan security forces in 2009 as claimed by many local and international NGOs, was among the arrested person by the Tamil Nadu police in Dhanushkodi in India, when they entered India without valid documents, defence sources revealed.

    Indian media reported that ten Sri Lankan Tamils, including five children, illegally landed at Arichamunai, off Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu, India in the early hours on May 5. One of the suspects identified by the Indian police as K. Thayapararaja, 33 a computer engineer in Jaffna had come with wife Uthayakala, son Diyaroan 12, daughters Dilany 6, Dilshiya 4.

    Accordingly, several prominent NGOs including University Teachers of Human Rights (UTHR – J), the Australian Government Refugee Review Tribunal and several pro-LTTE groups had earlier stated that the Sri Lanka Security forces tortured and killed Thayapararaja.

    The report titled War without Witnesses had claimed that Tamil Engineer working for a US Charity ((ITTPO) was extra judicially executed near Colombo. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights report 2010 (page 32) quotes from the University Teachers of Human Rights Report and published a Report on the same lines.

    Thayapararaja had told media in Tamil Nadu that he had worked as an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy after graduation from the Peradeniya University in 2005 as an Engineer. The rest of his story covered how he lost contact with his parents and 3 sisters, that his family was in Kilinochchi and how he spent a month at a Vavuniya camp and decided to flee to Tamil Nadu.

    Defence sources also alleged that Thayapararaja and his wife Uthayakala had also duped numerous persons from Mullativu, Mannar and Colombo, collecting millions of rupees promising safe passage and employment in London.

    However she had not provided employment or returned their money. Many such victims from Wanni have handed a letter to the Indian Consulate in Jaffna requesting the Indian consulate to intervene in this case and provided them justice. It is also unfolding that both husband and wife had close links with some NGOs operating from London with links to LTTE. They had allegedly used this is a connection to promise lucrative jobs and operated the racket with pro-LTTE elements pretending to help Tamils.

    “There were several complaints about this husband and wife to the Criminal Investigations Department and several police stations and we would work with the Indian police to bring down both the suspects soon, as CID is currently conducting separate inquiries against these suspects,” a senior police official said.

    From Left: Uthayakala, her husband S. Thayaparaja, their children and K. Sudhakaran. (The Hindu)

    • 0
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      Sach,

      You seem to be an intelligence officer aware off all the misinformation. Wonder if you would welcome the Human Rights Commission and share your detailed knowledge ? I am sure you know a lot more.

      • 0
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        Dont worry, you neednt fear me, i am not any intel officer. The so called ‘misinformation’ was in news papers both DailyMirror and The Hindu. The person is arrested in TN and it is said would be brought to SL to question.

        You neednt join intel to know these things, read a newspaper otherthan propaganda like CT, tamil net

        • 0
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          Ok sach,

          If you are not intel officer and a consumer of government garbage news, you can still help me.

          I like to make a police report on something, but the monolingual morons in the shed do not understand anything – except the Sinhalese Language. So can you please help translate this for me :

          ” A bunch of venerable robe wearing folks walked into my shop and burnt it down , because I was not a mono lingual moron of their kind”

  • 1
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    “And there is always the prospect that some EPDP or TID goon at the airport will mistake even the apolitical among us and carry us off for special treatment”.
    -Professor, when you wanted the VC post,you were a frequent visitor to the EPDP office and honeymooning with Douglas.Even though some academics sought the political influence of Douglas, an “insider” said that you were given “special treatment” by Douglas and made you the VC of JU.Consequently,Tigers didn’t trust you and you fled the country.
    -In your second attempt for the VC post,you wanted to go one step higher and testified before the LLRC and praised Douglas and met him with the copies of your testimony.This is what you said before LLRC,
    “After all,politics is patronage as Mr.Douglas Devananda has properly understood but the FP and the TNA have failed to grasp.
    If deals with General Fonseka and the LTTE are fine for TNA,why not with the president?
    In our minds is the question whether the government is serious about cultivating a serious credible Tamil leadership with whom it can work.
    Daya master of the LTTE too tried to help through my clerical contacts that put me in touch with him but I understand that Thamilchelvan had told him to keep off”.

    -In your third attempt, “well informed “ sources said that you sent an email from Turkey to Douglas begging for pardon and consider the VC post for you.
    IS THAT THE DOUGLAS YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT?
    PROFESSOR HOOLE KNOWS VERY WELL WHICH SIDE OF HIS BREAD IS BUTTERED

  • 1
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    Professor Hoole,
    According to UTHR(J) Special Report No: 34, K. Thayapararajah was killed in September in 2009.

    “He was arrested in September 2009 in Colombo and tortured at a security camp in Avissawela, was shot and injured on 13th September while being taken to court under escort and died at Kalubowila Hospital two days later”
    (Please note,he was not alleged to have been killed,HE WAS TORTURED AND KILLED)

    Now,the whole world knows that Thayapararaja is alive in India.

    Some people believe that you always call a spade a spade.If so,
    -Dont you think that Dr.Rajan Hoole’s UTHR(j) is writing lies.
    -Do you accept that the so called HR organizations are working with hidden agenda?
    -What do you think about the “killing” of Thayapararaja?

  • 1
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    what a whiner! I remember this man writing that traditional sri lankan foods are being forgotten and people are eating parathas, naan and chapathis. I pity his children.

  • 0
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    “So according to you tamil language to survive in SL policemen should be talking in Tamil?”

    Without a doubt sach.

    What good if Wellawatta is so full of Tamils,street after street as you claim, if they can not communicate with the law enforcement officers in their language?

    I think Sri Lanka must teach Sinhala and Tamil as a second language to respective students as a first step towards nation building.

  • 0
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    “Read the comments after reading the article. That will help you to understand the context”.
    You are being presumptuous sach for I made my 15 May 1:50pm comment after reading this article from beginning to the end.
    Perhaps you should take time to read CT Comment Policy before rushing to respond since 2 of your comments on this page alone had been rejected since they do not abide by it:-).

  • 0
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    Please allow this man his right to lament his losses. What he talks about pertains to the immigrant experience, that is common to many in the US. The loss of the culture and language – as he knew it – is changing and will be replaced with other cultures. White Americans could say the same about the fate of their “race” as America becomes more and more mixed-race.

    If he had been a hindu or buddhist perhaps he’d have a different response to this loss. Impermanence is the only constant in our lives, our indigenous faiths tell us.

    I do not share his disappointment at the changing attitudes of Tamil diaspora children toward cousin, arranged marriage and homosexuals. I believe the changes in attitudes towards such are in fact positive changes. How can one complain about the evils of majority culture imposing itself on minority cultures, yet condone the irrational fears about homosexuals, who make up perhaps 5% of the population?

    Life goes on my friend; your children and grandchildren in America will be proud of being descendants of Jaffna-Tamil Christians, I am sure – but they will NOT be Jaffna Tamil Christians, they will be proud Americans. They will help mold your adopted country in to a better, more diverse and accepting place for you and the rest of immigrant generations.

    Vive la Difference!

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