By Paul Newman –
“… I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people now… Now we cannot think of them. Not about their lives or of their opinion about us… The more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here… really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy…”President Jayawardne as quoted by Ian Ward in the “London Daily Telegraph” of 11 July 1983
First let me thank CT for giving us the space to ‘agree to disagree’. I can always have the luxury of celebrating differences with Kusaliah. I begin from where you end. ‘So why blame me ?’, me or Chandran do not blame you or anyone in our articles other than the Sri Lankan state which has continued to persecute the Tamils. It is the students who have been blaming the Government of India for not doing enough. First let me deal with the issue of ‘anti-Sri Lankan’. The Tamils in Sri Lanka were never accepted as Sri Lankans, if at all they had been accepted as Sri Lankans, there would not have been a problem there and Sri Lanka would have been a Paradise for everyone. The Sri Lanka which I speak is a Sri Lanka where the majoritarian Sinhala Buddhists have persecuted the Tamils since 1948. People like you are a microscopic minority in Sri Lanka, hope at least you agree with me on that! Even on your Identity Cards, your identity whether you are a Sinhalese, a Tamil, a Tamil of Indian origin or Muslim is mentioned. So when people like me speak of being ‘anti-Sri Lankan’, it is not ‘anti-Sinhala as a whole’, it is merely anti establishment and those who are against the Tamils. To me anti-Sri Lanka means it is pro-Tamil in simple layman’s language.
Solidarity is shown by relatives, friends and well wishers, not by one’s own brothers and sisters, they are part of the struggle. From 1948, the Tamils in Tamilnadu have been involved in the Tamil struggle for equality, more deeply from the 1980s when the struggle for justice intensified. The Tamils are a nation, when one brother is wounded it is the duty of the other to lend a helping hand, this is what exactly the students of TN are doing. So far since 2009, 20 Tamils from my side of the Palk straits have given up their precious lives just to catch the attention of the authorities in power. These are not acts of solidarity but sacrifices made on behalf of their suffering brethren though these are not prescribed by any of us. It is not just the TN students; everyone who belongs to the Tamil race is a stakeholder, not just a one who shows solidarity!
On the other hand it is wrong to state that we have not shown our solidarity with the movements in North East, Khalistan or Kashmir. Kusaliah knows too well that Deena organizes North East solidarity meets in Bangalore and other cities of the south. We have always been part of the Free Tibet movement and we have even hosted Kashmiri movement seminars and conferences. Just last month there was a big protest in Chennai on the hanging of Afzal Guru of Kashmir.
Dr.Maithreyan, the AIADMK leader of the Rajya Sabha called the Sri Lankan state as an enemy of the Tamils in a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the 27th of February 2013 when the Indian External Affairs Minister called Sri Lanka as a friend. Dr.Maithreyan explained how a country that has massacred our sisters and brothers, orphaned our children, widowed our sisters be treated as ‘friends’. It is this umbilical cord relationship that makes these students and activists to take up this cause as their own and directing it against the Indian government, which continues to treat Sri Lanka as a ‘friend’.
Mainstream Tamil political parties insulted as fringe groups
By repeatedly referring to those who seek justice as fringe groups, Kusaliah is insulting the intellect and democratic fervor of the Tamils of Tamilnadu. He must remember that time and again the whole Tamilnadu assembly which represents a total of 46 million voters has passed resolutions against MR and Sri Lanka. Is there a better democratic way than this? The world looks for democratic precedence’s and Tamilnadu has provided it against Sri Lanka that is the reason the former US Secretary of State, Ms.Hilary Clinton comes down to meet the Chief Minister privately. What more evidence do you require than that to prove that the Sri Lankan policies of the mainstream political parties of Tamilnadu, now insulted as fringe groups are on the right track?
The TNA the legitimate democratic representatives of the Tamils in Sri Lanka
The TNA is the legitimate representatives of the Tamil voices in the island as they are elected by the Tamils, but 14 rounds of talks with them have yielded nothing and the GoSL still wants more fruitless talks with TNA just to buy time. From the beginning of the struggle, one needs to understand that Sri Lanka has never committed itself to implementing anything they have put on table starting with the SC pact of 1957 to the DC pact of 1965 to the Indo-Sri Lankan accord of 1987, ending with their own LLRC report. It is here that Mr.Sampanthan, leader of the TNA, says that nothing much can be expected from the GoSL, if that is the case with whom you talk? MR spoke of the home grown solutions, he has never put it on table so far.
On their part the TNA rejected the LLRC report and even prepared a list of flaws, they have been consistently demanding an International Inquiry, if Sri Lanka has nothing to fear, more so of Genocide what prevents them from allowing International Experts to Inquire? There cannot be a fair domestic means of Inquiry as we recently saw the army absolving itself of all war crimes in its own Inquiry! Above all how can a criminal conduct his own trial?
It is good that you have recognized TNAs role, I wish to state that one of the most popular young MPs of TNA who is vociferous has had to visit the dreaded 4th floor, four times in a span of two years for speaking his mind out. That is the freedom of Expression enjoyed by Tamil MPs, under such circumstances how can the TNA ever open its mouth and speak freely?
Will they be spared without imposition of 6th amendment if they speak for referendum in the parliament or outside? The TNA too is engaged with the Diaspora communities and groups to seek a just solution, but will the SL state give enough rope for them to walk?
Immediately after the screening of the ‘No Fire Zones’ at the 22nd UNHRC in Geneva, Mr.M.A.Sumanthiran, was asked to comment. Without any hesitation he demanded an International Inquiry as a starting point.
The demand for a separate state was not put forward by the LTTE, but by the TULF in the form of the Vaddukottai resolution of 1976. It received overwhelming support from the Tamils as the TULF bagged all the seats in the elections that followed in 1977, that was seen as a referendum. The very election of TNA after 2009 proves that the Tamils may have given up militancy but never gave up the idea of a separate state as the TNA was the political face of the LTTE whether one accepts or not.
Justice should be the starting point for reconciliation. There cannot be a forced reconciliation, for any meaningful reconciliation International Inquiry is the BASIS.
As far as the students in TN are concerned, they never ‘politically dictated’ terms to the Sri Lankan Tamil politicians. I can be sure of that. The students of Tamilnadu may not have a stake in the present Sri Lankan Tamil politics, but surely the Diaspora has, they are not aliens who have landed in different parts of the world out of choice, a large number of them have reached these distant lands as refugees, asylum seekers, people in exile, a few may be economic migrants, but we cannot dispute the fact that they are also stakeholders in this issue as their kith and kin continue to live there.
Chandran who lived through the Dravidian movement has responded into the issue of Dravidastan, so let me not dwell into it.
Referendum, who decides what, is legitimate for the Tamils?
Speaking of referendum no two issues are the same, East Timor and Southern Sudan are not the same as Kashmir, Khalistan or Eelam. They are unique and each case has its own merit. Though Muslims in India are more than the Muslims in Pakistan, the wishes of the Muslim people at that time were to have a country of their own. The Chinese in Malaysia are more than the Chinese in Singapore, but Singapore was carved out of Malaysia. When UNO was formed there were only 51 member countries, today there are 193 members. Since 1990, 26 countries have been formed and there were no Genocides in these countries to emerge as independent entities. Sikkim in India existed as an independent country till 1973, they could not survive on their own, and they joined India.
The Tamils in Sri Lanka lived independently in their geographic territories of North and East until the British brought them together with the Sinhalese for administrative convenience in 1833. When leaving the island, the British trusted the Sinhalese to treat the Tamils and other minorities as equals, that misplaced trust was proved the very same year they left when the Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948 was enacted. Since then the Tamils have been at the receiving end. Now the question is after six and a half decades of continued animosity can the two nations coexist as a unified country, if so for how long? In this context Sri Lanka is a stand out case of a country that has failed as a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country, though it still boasts of being a democracy! The future of the Tamils in Sri Lanka must be decided by them not others.
Surely, Kusaliah would know that Mohammed Ali Jinnah lived in Mumbai and walked away with Pakistan when the majority of Muslims lived in India. The North and East are the original homeland of the Tamils; I do not know what prevents Kusaliah to think that the Tamils living in the South will not go to the north or east if they get a homeland. Furthermore their shifting to the south is an organic one, where in they have put in their blood, sweat and toil to become what they are today despite frequent attacks on them in different forms. On the contrary the successive regimes have flooded unlimited sops to the Sinhalese to settle in the north and the east and now apart from Sinhalisation we also see militarization and Buddhicisation.
Why give clean chit to GoSL on Genocide
Giving Sri lanka a clean chit on ‘Genocide’ is not our job, it is for experts on Genocide to decide whether there was one or not. Genocide not necessarily means taking into account only the last few months of the war, we need to understand how successive regimes have systematically eliminated Tamils since 1948. The Tamils in 1947 elections constituted 33% of voters, but by disenfranching them the percentage was reduced to 20%, then came the Sinhala only Act, the state sponsored pogroms of 1957,1977,1981,1983 the Mulliavaikal massacre, the missing 146,679 people.
I’m sure if there is an International Inquiry into war crimes, the Inquiry would also take into account the different steps the state has undertaken to systematically wipe out Tamil including inducing the Sinhala settlements starting with the Gal Oya project to Weli Oya, the standardization of Education Act, giving Buddhism the foremost place, the creation of job banks by the JRJ regime to promote Sinhalese into government employment, using the PTA as a tool to eliminate Tamils, abduct Tamils in white vans, aerial bombings of Tamil areas, the apartheid like pass system which the Tamils had to procure to travel to the south, the check points, the mass graves, the disappearances, the economic embargo into the Tamil areas, raping Tamil women because they are Tamils (the recent report of Human Rights Watch substantiates this claim), shelling the No Fire Zones after asking people to move into them, use of cluster bombs and banned weapons, expelling the UN, INGOs and the media from the war zones, deliberately withholding food and medicine, having a mono linguistic National anthem in Sinhalese, the aggressive Lion symbol in the flag is Sinhalese, the continuing Sinhalisation of the North, even giving petitions in the north and east is in Sinhalese, the militarization and governance of the north are the few issues which can prompt the Investigators to decide whether these are war crimes or genocide.
It is not necessary that genocide should take place for conducting a referendum. No amount of economic packages would supplement Freedom as made out by the present regime. Honestly Kusaliah and friends need to first think, if at all any Sinhala regime will accept the Tamils as equals and curtail the unfettered freedom bestowed on the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinists? Finally, a good friend of mine always quotes in Tamil, ‘It is for the parrot to decide whether to live in a cage or not, even if it is a golden cage’. Let the Tamils living in North-East of Sri Lanka and the Diaspora decide their future, thank you Kusaliah for making me to write again!