5 December, 2020

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Lessons Sri Lanka Can Learn From The Paris Attack

By Samal Vimukthi Hemachandra

Samal Vimukthi Hemachandra

Samal Vimukthi Hemachandra

Another terrorist attack has captured the attention of the world. More than 120 people are dead. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has taken the responsibility for this barbaric attack. Eye witnesses say that gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar”, before shooting. Unlike most terrorists’ attacks, in which ISIS killed hostages one by one. They did not demand anything. When they knew they were going to get captured, they killed themselves by using explosive vests. It was very clear that they came with a very clear idea that is to kill innocent people who were having a good time with their family and friends after a usual busy week. By killing these innocent people, they also wanted Europe to taste their brutal killings in Middle East which shocked the world. World leaders have issued customary statements using words like “state of war”, “evil of terrorism”, “shocked but resolute, in sorrow but unbowed”, “we are with you” etc. Many landmarks have been illuminated with French colors. Facebook created a new tool to show the solidarity with French people.

How can we understand all these ‘drama’? Talking to BBC Radio 4, Peter Neumann, Professor of Security Studies, King’s College London stated “[…] it is not only about people being killed it is about creating a political effect. What worries me the most is that we will see in France and other European countries a polarisation, with different extremists egging each other on. People on the far right trying to take advantage. It’s about dividing societies.” As he predicts, from here onwards, in France, every Muslim will be treated as a terrorist. Therefore even the most innocent Muslim will be contempt to conscious about his identity? Finally, the society will be divided into two camps. In other words, this will mark the boundaries between Us and Them. Extreme rights will attempt to mobilize the ‘us-ness’ and terrorists will operate on ‘other-ness’.

The main victims in this catastrophe are innocent people. ISIS killed 120 innocent people. (Un)surprisingly the largest refugee camp in Paris has been in flames. So far no one knows who caused it. May be it was a coincident or maybe it was a retaliation. Poland stopped taking migrants[1]. British Prime minister David Cameron has warned “We must recognise that however strong we are, however much we prepare, we in the UK face the same threat.”[2] To induce more fear, ISIS has claimed that they have sent their 4000 terrorists to Europe through refugees[3]. As it seems, both camps are acting quickly to strengthen their camps. This is where people who preach freedom through nonviolent actions, experience ambiguity. Both camps will ridicule them for being impracticable.

What are the lessons ‘Sri Lankans’ can learn from this context? Before 2009, Sri Lanka has experienced the same fear, the south by the hands of LTTE and the north by the hands of government military. However rather than talking about the state terrorism, I would like to discuss how LTTE deployed this same brutality and how extremist nationalist groups manipulated this brutality for their own progress.

As I believe the first incident of the polarization of the post-colonial Sri Lankan society was Black July of 1983. It was the first incident where mass scale violence on people belonging to different ethnicities was perpetrated. Tamils in the south were targeted by Sinhalese and Sinhalese were targeted in the North by Tamils. As there was a popular saying that you can find ‘Matara Bath Kada’ in Jaffna before 1983. On the one hand, a number of Tamils fled to India and Europe and some joined LTTE. On the other hand, LTTE received sympathy and ideological support from Tamils and other states like India and European states.

When LTTE started to send suicide bombers to public places and unleash violence on innocent civilians in boarder villages and Buddhist religious sites, what they were doing was creating the polarization of the society. In 1983 Black July, lot of people helped their neighbors and friends of the other ethnic to escape from the violence. However LTTE made sure that this relationship was no longer possible. The constant barbaric acts made it clear to each and every individual ‘their camp’. In other words, it made Us vs Them. However what LTTE did underestimate was the emergence of ‘Sinhala Buddhist extremism’ as a reaction to it.

In 80s, there were plenty of Tamil sympathizers in Sinhalese community. Some radical Sinhalese publicly accepted and supported Tamil demands. But with the emergence of Sinhala Buddhist extremism, this group had to decide whether to support/sympathize with LTTE or being silent/support Sinhala Buddhist extremism. Between 2005-2015, former were considered as ‘traitors’ and the latter as ‘patriots’.

Making polarization by using violence gave birth to the most extremist government under Mahinda Rajapaksha in 2005. He successfully used this polarization to conduct a bloody war against LTTE. Even this was unexpected for LTTE. For the first time in its post-colonial history, the state military was brought into its highest stage of development? All these were done through the consent of utmost majority of the Sothern society. However even after the war, though LTTE is dead, the burning question is how to approach this polarization which was created through extensive violence. So far the Sri Lankan society has not found a solution.

Therefore the Paris attack is showing the Sri Lankan society what went wrong in the society. Most importantly, it will be a perfect illustration of how the Sri Lankan society got divided. Now the war is over, we have the luxury of observing the Paris attack and its aftermath. If we are intelligent enough, we should be able to take lessons, most probably lessons of ‘not to dos’, to create a long lasting peace among each other. Finally Paris attack and its aftermath will be a mirror for ‘Sri Lankans’ to see how our own society divided through violence

[1] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/11/14/uk-france-shooting-poland-reaction-idUKKCN0T30P920151114

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3318273/We-help-David-Cameron-chair-emergency-Cobra-meeting-Paris-attacks-British-nationals-France-warned-stay-indoors.html

[3] http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/555434/Islamic-State-ISIS-Smuggler-THOUSANDS-Extremists-into-Europe-Refugees

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Yes of course the polarisation wasn’t because of massive sri lankan army abuses and war crimes in the north, including using rape as a weapon of war / genocide? No that wouldn’t be it – has to be the defunct LTTE doesn’t it.

    • 6
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      Alex

      Are you sure you are doing a favor to your community?

      Soma

      • 1
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        I think I am doing all the communities a big favour. Articles about polarisation that omit critical facts of one side are ironically polarising. Sinhala Sri Lanka needs to wake up to what was done in the North-East in their name.

  • 8
    9

    “Now the war is over, we have the luxury of observing the Paris attack and its aftermath”

    I dont think the Tamils in Sri Lanka will say they are enjoying any luxury….

    • 6
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      Why not? I am sure the ones that were taken hostage by LTTE brutes and herded from pillar to post under gun point are enjoying, the brutes probably don’t psychologically asthey lost their evil targets, but at last they have the luxury of living instead of living under their Sun Goat’s death threat and Cyanide.

      • 2
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        Election results of North after 2009 do not justify your claim. In other words, Tamil people in North do not see like that.

    • 8
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      My thoughts goes back to 31st May 1981 just 6 days before the District Development Council Election. There was a political meeting attended by a large number of people. Suddenly there was few gun shots and later we came to know two policeman were shot dead by unidentified gunmen. The night lost it clouds. Over 200 police personal took over the town. Instead of finding the criminals they went on to destroy the shops and temples dragged people from houses and shot them. Next day, there was a silence.People did not come out and the night was calm. Mid night people woke up with blasts and bright lights and dark humes. No one is prepared to go out. Next day we learnt the hugh Jaffna library was burnt completely and not a single paper was found. 100,000 books and manuscripts were made ashes.
      How do you call those who responsible for this crime?
      How do you call the act of burning Library?
      A similar attack on 1998 was carried out in Kandy where a Buddhist Temple was attack. We called the attackers as Terrorists and this act as Terrorim. We investigated this crime and brought them under justice. Criminals were sentenced to death and two other criminals were given over 500 years of rigorous prison sentence but ………..
      those who burnt that library became national hero’s.

    • 5
      1

      You are absolutely right. In fact My target audience here was Sinhalese Buddhists. However LTTE violence and state violence, for me, are two sides of a coin. So when I talk about LTTE violence, the same logic goes to state violence.

    • 0
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      You are absolutely right. In fact My target audience here was Sinhalese Buddhists. However LTTE violence and state violence, for me, are two sides of a same coin. So when I talk about LTTE violence, the same logic goes to state violence.

    • 0
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      That is the separatist Tamils.

  • 2
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    Samal Vimukthi Hemachandra

    RE: Lessons Sri Lanka Can Learn From The Paris Attack

    “Another terrorist attack has captured the attention of the world. More than 120 people are dead. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has taken the responsibility for this barbaric attack”

    Corrections:

    1. ISIS , even though they call themselves Islamic, is in Fact Iblisic.

    “Eye witnesses say that gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar”, before shooting.”

    The Devil Iblis and his followers Wahhabis and ISIS accept Allahu Akbar. The Problem they have is their Ego.

    http://islam.ru/en/content/story/jadidies-and-wahhabies-religious-disputes-dagestan-early-20th-century

    2. They claim their “State” was attached by France, and therefore a state of war exists, and they are free to attack Paris.

    “As he predicts, from here onwards, in France, every Muslim will be treated as a terrorist. “

    Now, in France, All Terrorist are Muslims, even though not all Muslims are Terrorists. That is precisely what Iblis, Devil wants. So the Iblis, Devil Followers are getting there. They want Muslims to follow the Iblis, Devil, not God.

    So, the Muslims need to round up these Iblis Followers, called Wahhabis and ISIS and hand over to the authorities to be decontaminated of the Iblis, the Devil.

    Remember the Barbaric bombings of London,Hamburg, Dresden, Holland and Hanoi?
    Have you forgotten the many barbaric riots and Terrorism in Sri Lanka, many aided by the Sinhala Buddhists state and by LTTE?

    Who created and aided ISIS? George Bush? Dick Cheney? Others? World War 1. Picot-Sykes Agreement?

  • 7
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    Dear author, can you please provide the evidence for the latter part for “Tamils in the south were targeted by Sinhalese and Sinhalese were targeted in the North by Tamils” during 1983? All of my understanding srilankan soldiers were targeted by LTTE (terrorists on your wording) not Tamils. As the retaliation a well planned pogrom was unleashed on Lankan Tamils by the Srilankan government.
    http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/1545
    LTTE was the child of all of these discrimination and subjugation of Tamil people by Sinhalese since 1958 such as 1958 pogroms, Sinhala only policy, University marginalization etc.
    LTTE might have been gone.But the ideology is still there.It will be only achieved when Tamils and Sinhalese come together and accept their mistakes. One sided articles such as this will never going to help to create that harmony. amen

    • 2
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      There were voluntary participation. It is very easy to narrow down the responsibility either to the Sri Lankan government or to the LTTE. But if you see closely, there were people from both camps who did not belong to these institutions or any particular economic benefit, voluntarily participated. There is an interview on Youtube, where you can see how Dr. Nirmal Dewasiri analyses his participation in the Black July.

      • 3
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        Mate, my point is, why all these Sinhala authors use this Paris incident to blame only LTTE and cover their government which,in fact, responsible for the deaths tens of thousands of minority people?
        I can also write an article with my childhood experiences, where I was discriminated for being a minority person, where my people were bombed and shelled irrespective to their age and gender, where our girls were raped by sinhala forces.
        These will never bring a solution rather increase the hatred and disharmony among communities.

        • 1
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          I dont know about other Sinhala authors. However, in this article, I have never taken a side. I was talking how violence polarizes a society. I was referring to Black July as well as LTTE terrorism. Though I have not specifically engaged with State terrorism, the same logic applies to it as well.
          However as I see it, LTTE’s use of violence has a massive negatice effect on Tamil Liberation movements in two ways.
          1. It strenghtened the Sinhala Buddhist nationalism.
          2. Sinhalese people who supported Tamils’ demands in 80s, either had to become silence or take the side of Sinhalese.

          • 1
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            Given the overwhelming proportion of violence unleashed by state terrorism in Sri Lanka, ‘not engaging with State terrorism’ in is an unfortunate omission that does undermine your independence. The Sri Lankan state, should like the Western states have always made it clear that Tamils were citizens of this country and should always have prevented its ‘forces’ from committing vast crimes against humanity, such as using ‘rape as a weapon’. Time for authors like you to start to address these issues.

            • 0
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              ” overwhelming proportion of violence unleashed “

              That is HOW you win a war or control terrorism. That is the lesson the West has learned and are implementing against ISIS.

  • 2
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    Samal Vimukthi Hemachandra

    Paris Attack, Beiruit Attack, Baghdad Attack and DOUBLE Standards

    http://mic.com/articles/128551/terrorist-suicide-bombing-attack-on-beirut-lebanon-kills-43-and-injures-hundreds#.rZ8AGyi5H

    The events went largely unnoticed in the American news cycle. Interest in the Paris attacks trounced the media attention to Beirut. Google Trends searches highlight the massive disparity in news headlines and search interest. But on Twitter, the demand was loud and clear.

    Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh wrote a poem that’s gone viral since the Paris attacks. “It’s not Paris we should pray for,” she wrote. “It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut, reeling from bombings … is not covered in the press.”

    “I woke this morning deeply disturbed by the news from ‪#‎Paris‬, but more amazed by the attention it received on social media. I understand Paris is a beloved and familiar space for a lot of people, but it troubled me that ‪#‎Beirut‬, a city my father grew up in, had received so little attention after the horrific bombings two days earlier. It also troubled me that ‪#‎Baghdad‬, a place I have absolutely no connection with, received even less attention after the senseless bombing that took place there last week. Worst of all, I found the understanding of the refugee crisis skewed and simplistic. If you’ve been following the journeys of the people leaving their homes around the world right now, perhaps you’ll understand why the words ‪#‎SyrianRefugeeCrisis‬ are just as devastating as ‪#‎PrayForParis‬. It’s time to pray for humanity. It is time to make all places beloved. It’s time to pray for the world.”

  • 8
    5

    Do you see any Muslims writers or commentators coming and contributing this discussion on any of the French attack threads? Did ever Rajan Hoole, Naren, Arashi …..anybody missed to comment favorably to government when it does brutal attack? Forget about the outsiders like Karuna, Pillayan, Ananthasagar…

    Your conclusion of created polarization by this type of incidence is only to cover up Sinhala Buddhists existence before 1983. You were so comfortable to ignore Sinhala Only, Standardization, 1972, 1978 Constitutions like initiations. Yours, Jehan PhD’s like twisting and writing galvanizing Tamils to lose hope if ever a moderate citizen will ever be born in Lankawe. It is not LTTE wrote the Sinhala Buddhist Extremists Mahavamsa. Further you are purposefully ignoring that Lankawe yet to see a good leaders for Sinhala Citizens. It has seen Don Stephen who created the division between the societies. Then the brutal dictators like Sirimavo, JR, Premadasa, Chandrika, War Criminals Old King and New King and the greatest Fox Ranil.

    Paris incident is the result of weaker UN and America-Russia tug of war. Not just the Paris incident is not going to teach any lessons to the international players, even Russian plane’s loss also did not teach them anything. The International players just simply withdraw their flights and left it like that. In that condition an unrelated incident which completely incomparable environment of the suppression of Tamils by laws and violent pogroms from 1948 will teach anything to the Modaya crowd.

    There nothing to learn the Sinhala Modayas to from Paris incident.

  • 4
    0

    Samal

    One crucial question to ask is “what creates a terrorist”? A consequent one is “how do we prevent those conditions that nurtures such terrorists”?

    If we Sri Lankans can answer these questions, we’ll be well on our way to a peaceful co-existence among the various ethnicities. If we don’t we’ll be doomed for ever – regardless of whether we live in one country of two.

    Let’s stop abusing one another by majoritarian and nationalistic politics. Let’s help improve the quality of life of the Northerners, and provide a fair share of our national resources to them, so they have a bigger stake in peace building and not in separatist politics.

  • 5
    5

    I think Gota maintained good vigilance.

    who knows CBK group of SLFP and Ranil Group of UNP are doing and screw up Sri lanka from Wahabis and ISIS.

  • 2
    1

    while this is a great topic, the given lesson to be learned is stupid. If the militants were sent from outside the how is the attack due to polorization?

    • 0
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      The article is actually saying that the PURPOSE of the attack is to polarize.

  • 5
    3

    Ven Samal,
    You are condesending with your analysis.Do you know there are countries which learnt from Sri Lanka’s /Ceylon’s dirty politics from 4th Feb 1948 to Black July and made sure their countries do not go down similar or same slippery slopes.

    How come you conveniently forgot or left out the following :
    1. 1956 election propaganda
    2. 1956 constitution
    3. 1958 riots
    4. Abrogation of BC pact
    5. 1971 Sinhalese youths uprising crushed by state terror
    6. Abrogation of DC pact
    7. Introduction of Republican Constitution by a rathu COMRADE
    8. State terror on innocent public at the International Tamil Conference held in Jaffa
    9.Burning of Jaffa Library.

    • 2
      1

      your list is inconsistent. However I get your point. For instance, I too consider 1956, 1958 and Burning Jaffna Library are very important incidents regarding my argument of polarization. However it was black july that put the nail to the coffin. The effect of Black July was not restricted to a specific space or a time. It received an international attention as well a never ending reference point. After Black July, everyone was forced to identify either with Tamils or Sinhalese.

  • 5
    5

    Excellant article. The answers to polarisation and our own destiny is in our own hands. Western and Indian demands to have a finger in our own destiny must be rejected by all communities. The answer is good governance,rule of law and human rights. This should pervade every aspect of our society. Demands must be national with a view to establishing social justice not that of sinhalese, Tamils ,Muslims. but for all sri lankans. Our political class must reject the regular pilgrimages taken by Tamils, Sinhala politicians to India. India has historically been the country that ruined sri lanka .

  • 11
    0

    Samal

    “…the burning question is how to approach this polarization which was created through extensive violence.”

    A very pertinent question indeed. Unfortunately I don’t think there is a ready answer. People will suggest all kinds of political proposals that are preferable to them, but will not make the necessary compromises to reach a consensus without which no solution can be found. For that you need understanding, trust and a change of heart. But it is difficult to see that happening in the prevailing situation where people have deeply entrenched views based on their ethnicity and religion. Unless we learn to soften these tribal attachments a rational approach to the problem is not feasible. That will only happen if our identity, our self-worth is based more on our achievement in life and less on social inheritance such as caste, religion and ethnicity. That means overhauling our social values and cultural outlook. That is why I say there is no ready answer.

    But there’s hope….and that lies with the younger generation – the Millennials and Post-Millennials. They are growing up in a globalized world where transnational plural identities and multiple allegiances are facts of life. They are exposed to multiculturalism and fusion arts through the new media. The globalized youth culture is more secular, egalitarian, and shows a concern for human rights and the protection of the environment. They aspire to forge their identities and social statuses on merit-based achievement rather than on tribal attachments. In my view, it is this next generation with its cosmopolitanism based on universal values that would end the polarization in our country. At least that is my hope.

    • 0
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      Cosmopolitanism gores hand in hand with a liberal state. Fix the state and the rest will follow. The Tamils are indigenous peoples of Sri Lanka. I.e. it is not just a Sinhala island. Fix the constitution. Recognise the sovereignty of the Tamil people and their political rights and all else will naturally follow. Fail to fix the problem and you will deny basic rights that cause conflict.

  • 1
    0

    Terrorism in Sri Lanka as the author explains was caused due to a tragic dispute between two races in a country to divide land masses. Terrorist attacks in Paris is the cause of inter-terrestrial warfare. It is not easy to relate these scenarios with each other and to gather lessons learnt. If there are any lessons learnt by Sri Lanka from the Paris attacks, it would be not to polarize terrorism with religion. Sri Lankans should be more attentive of how information is composed to be distributed among the general public. People should critically view the context of the information. They should understand if information is a representation of a majority or if it is a representation of a few who want to stir a controversy just for political gain. Terrorism should never be associated with religion. Although it is saddening that most terrorist groups use this as their face for violence.
    Terrorism has been defeated in Sri Lanka. It can only rise if you stop respecting your fellow human beings who come from different ethnicities, race or religion. Every individual in our country is only another valuable human, a Sri Lankan. Let us not forget that.

  • 2
    0

    Amarasiri

    You contribution naming the criminals who created this kind of terrorism is perfect but you
    missed out the most important man in the UK .

    First great leaders who caused this bloodbath in the world nobody other than George Bush and the second man who signed blank cheques For George Bush is Tony Blair and why did you leave him safe.

    These two criminals have committed crime against humanity and once they are tried for causing
    the death of millions of people all over the world these barbarians will think twice before they kill innocent people.

  • 1
    1

    If the Sri Lankans can FORGET their very recent history, there is absolutely nothing they would learn from the Paris atrocity.

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