25 November, 2020

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Meeting Our Demons Head-On

By Jude Ratnam

Jude Ratnam

Jude Ratnam

9th January 2015 – End of an era

On January 9th 2015, the day the presidential election results were announced in Sri Lanka I went out for a walk around 7 p.m. It was not a declared public holiday; nevertheless the streets were completely deserted to the level of it being virtually void of any single person on the road. I was strolling about 2 Km practically alone.

As I was walking a thought occurred to me. Probably ever since the brutal war ended in the most gory manner sacrificing thousands of lives in 2009, probably this was the first day that I felt a sense of relief. I’m not too sure what to call this feeling; maybe it was relief, maybe it was delight or maybe it was even end of paranoia.

Yes probably that was what it was! A sense of relief came about because of the end of paranoia one had experienced for a very long time. Probably it was this paranoia that still made people stay inside their homes this day. Probably because people could hardly believe that it could all end so quietly. The paranoia was to such a level, that people thought that the previous regime would never let go of and that they would do anything to stay in power. The people were probably drawn too much into the myth of the ‘invincibility of the Rajapaksa’ propaganda, that this day seemed too ‘shocking’ to accept that reality.

Strangely enough I was struck with a parallel thought. When in 2009 the war ended in the north of the country, as a Tamil living in Colombo I felt a sense of similar ‘shock’. This was probably because we as a community believed (apart from our personal likes and dislikes) in the ‘invincibility of Prabakaran and his LTTE’.

May 2009 was an end of an era for the Tamil people and surely for the whole of Sri Lanka and in the same light 2015 probably marked the end of an era for the Sinhala people and in that sense for the whole country. The former ended with a blood bath and the latter with the ballet box. Nevertheless there was wide fear and speculation that if the ‘the Rajapaksa regime’ was not dismantled this time; it would take a blood bath to dismantle it.

Feeling of togetherness

The very first district election result that was to come out from the election commissioner’s office was that of Killinochchi.

The result was in favor of the then opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena with an unsurpassable ratio of 72% to 24% to the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Looking at this I told my wife that “with this result the Tamils have reached a point of no return” and that “if Rajapaksa won now, it would be the end of the story for the Tamils (minorities) “. The writing on the wall for Rajapaksa in a sense of a verdict from the Tamil and Muslim minority votes was already written very early in the race. Now it was to be seen how the Sinhalese majority would vote! This would eventually not only decide the fate of the country but also of the minorities in this country.

When the finish line was reached, nearly 5.2 million people from the south, majority of them Sinhalese had voted against the oligarchic, nepotistic ‘Rajapaksa regime’. This enabled the opposition contender Sirisena to have just the bare minimum majority of 51% of the votes to become the new President. But ‘King Rajapaksa’ was not too far behind with 47% of the votes primarily coming from the deep south of the country where the Sinhalese are almost an absolute majority.

I called my friend around 01:30 a.m. and told him that WE had done it together and that I felt proud today to call myself a Sri Lankan.

10th January 2015 – Morning

I woke up a bit late that morning around 10 a.m. I went to the computer with my cup of coffee. In the news I read how at the wee hours on the 9th morning (the day the election results were being just announced) the Rajapaksa regime had attempted a coup with the help of the military. President Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the defence secretary and the coup was to happen under his supervision. But the last minute thwarting efforts by the Civil Defence Commander, Attorney General and the Election Commissioner put an halt to this diabolic plan.

After reading the news I logged onto facebook. There on facebook the following post awaited me;

GunaGunaThe first map shows the land claimed by LTTE as the homeland of the Tamils and the second map showing the Presidential election results. The yellow indicating the districts won by Sirisena and the blue indicating the districts won by Rajapaksa. This was posted by an admin by the name of Sinhala Buddhist and was shared by many, surprisingly including by some of my friends as well. The post unanimously read ‘DEAR SINHALESE BRETHREN! IS THIS WHAT YOU VOTED FOR?’

On news that day they showed the former President Rajapaksa going back to his village and he his met by a large crowed from his village. On a megaphone he addresses the crowed and says “I DON’T TAKE THIS AS A DEFEAT, BECAUSE THEY WON WITH THE EELAM VOTES!. Then almost in a casual tone one voice from the crowed asks him “WHY DIDN’T YOU RETAIN POWER BY KILLING THEM!” the entire crowed bursts into a laugh and the former President replies “NO WE CANNOT DO THAT…..WE CANNOT DO THAT….THERE SHOULD BE DEMOCRACY IN THE COUNTRY”. But by then the intended message by the former President had sunk into whoever ‘heard’ him.

GunaOn the stroke of midnight on the 9th January a prominent Sinhalese filmmaker Asoka Handagama posted this following picture of the Sri Lankan map on facebook with the title reading ‘CORIDIALLY EMBRACED!

Though pacified by this, I went to bed on the 10th night with my mind clogged with fear.

11th January 2015 – A conversation

I dropped my son at a class and was returning home when I saw the usual tuk tuk driver who takes my son to school. He is an old Sinhalese man of about 70 years. I also know that his son-in-law is an Army Colonel and that he took part in the final battle in the north.

He told me that his entire family voted for the new president and that it was absolutely baseless to say that the Tamils and the Muslims voted him into power. He also said that some will continue to harp on this divisive line without allowing ever the country to be in peace.

13th January 2015 – M.I.A. Channel 4 interview

Maya Arulpragasam the Canadian based Tamil Pop singer appeared on a Channel 4 interview and was expressing her opinion about the elections and said that ‘it was the same government with a different face’. During her interview she was alluding to all the usual rhetoric of the Tamil Diaspora of War crimes, independent investigations, Hague etc…etc. She even candidly evaded the question very cleverly when asked if LTTE was responsible for Human Rights violations and war crimes during the interview. You can watch the interview by clicking on the link below.

MIA colombotelegraphBut what interested me most was the last question that was asked by the interviewer and MIA’s candid answer for that. He asked her that he feels that she sounds like a spokes person for the Tamils in Sri Lanka and if she really feels that she is one. For this MIA answered ‘I don’t think they look to me, but unfortunately they’ve got me, this is what they’ve got’.

“We Need To Face Our Demons Ourselves”

As complicated and contradictory the above examples may seem, in the final analysis it goes to show that the ‘Fear of the other’ is what will play a pivotal role in defining the politics of Sri Lanka in the future.

If and unless we are prepared to face the truth of our violent past as individuals, as communities and as a nation, it will be inevitable that the country will once again fall into the old snare of violence and brutality.

Meeting Our Demons Head-On

I am sure there were many unknown reconciliation efforts taking place amongst the ordinary people even during the Rajapaksa regime on a person-to-person level. If this was earlier done in a subterfuge manner under the previous regime due to its dictatorial tendency, the present context and the political developments in the country has brought about an opportunity to do this in a head-on manner. I personally see this as something positive and as yet another opportunity to talk about our past in the open in order to reconcile in the future.

I write this as an effort towards making the thus far silenced voice of the Tamils living in Sri Lanka being heard (who want to live equally and peacefully with the Sinhalese) which goes beyond the MIAian rhetoric of the hate mongering Diaspora and shows the intricate complexities of the Sri Lankan conflict.

*Jude Ratnam is an independent filmmaker living and working in Sri Lanka

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Latest comments

  • 12
    29

    Well, its incredible isn’t it? Now its your turn.

    Disband your Tamil only Alliance, no more Tamil Homeland and end to Tamil nationalism.

    • 18
      8

      Imbecile,

      You are a Sinhala Buddhist bigot; isn’t the case that you and your counterparts within the Tamil community are two sides of a same coin?

      You belong to the overwhelming majority and you show the way by denouncing bigotry and by not denigrating the their language, culture and most importantly the contribution that they made to Sri Lanka as a whole. Can you do that?

      • 4
        14

        Can you please tell us what Tamils have contributed to Sri Lanka? It would be good to record all of it.

        • 11
          4

          Sani,

          you have asked an ignorant question! Why do you feel that the Tamils did not contribute to Sri Lanka? The history of Sri Lanka is littered with Tamil participations including the territorial wars. Tamils fought along side of the Sinhala and against! Since independence, Tamils served in civil and private sectors contributing in many ways just like the Sinhala have been doing! Tea and rubber plantations contributed to the economy immeasurably. Please get your head examined as you think and breath Sinhala and cannot see beyond that.

          The list goes on mate but your ignorant brain will not cope with it! Your little brain thinks that Sri Lanka means Sinhala!

          • 0
            0

            too high coming from a guy who cannot accept funding LTTE terrorism was wrong

        • 2
          8

          Tamils are tea pluckers, suicide bombers, black tigers.

          they came from South India, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore ….got educated free and migrated to west. From there, they want their own country in Sri lanka.

          • 2
            1

            Jim,

            Just get real; I know you are extremely jealous of tamils but this time you stooped too low!

          • 1
            1

            Sinhalese are maids working for the Arabs and working for the Tamils un educatable modayas
            Sorry my Sinhala friends but jim asked for it softly softly

            • 0
              0

              then why fear sinhalese so much?

        • 3
          1

          Sani ya;

          Aney modayo?????.

          I Am a Buddhist, And a Sinhalese.
          I LOVe My religion [ philosophy] first, And
          secondly My Sinhala Culture.
          I am proud of that.
          But If some body make tarnishing that good images, I feel very angry.
          that is what Jarapassa Did!.

          Yako; Idiot,
          There is a simple Answer for you.
          Do not go too far for History,
          Just Start from years 1800s to 1970s
          The Tamils Helped Our economy Run,
          from Working in Tea Plantations.
          that is enough you fool.
          And it Is said that Sri Lanka’s Educated Tamils Helped Hon D S Senanayeka to Get us FREEDOM from UK.
          So We must Have little Gratitude and Respect from Humanity for them,
          that is what I learned from my Sinhala culture and Buddhism.
          And Not Like Malaccan Ancestry, JARAPASSA CLAN.
          better get a life.
          and get education from society.

          • 0
            1

            @ JA “…… And Not Like Malaccan Ancestry, JARAPASSA CLAN……..”

            What’s this? Are you creating news or quoting a fact? Please enlighten us! They not Sinhala?

            • 1
              1

              I wrote, “IT IS SAID”,

              Please check, Lanka e news,
              27 October 2014,
              Rajapakse Ancestry: Rajapaksa’s are born Catholics of Malaccan origin..!

        • 1
          0

          I’m not a tamil and even if the tamils haven’t contributed a single thing to Sri Lanka, they are still Sri Lankan citizens and deserve the same things that you do. Even our constitution says Tamil and Sinhala are the national language and English is only a link language.

          If you can’t accept tamil people deserve and equal right, then you are not a true Sri Lankan and even less a human being.

    • 16
      4

      VibushanaM,
      Then you have to give up your Sinhalese Buddhists (only) homeland perceptions too.

    • 2
      2

      Jude Ratnam –

      RE: Meeting Our Demons Head-On

      Thanks. Good Title.

      Meeting Our Demons Head-On? The Two Muṭṭāḷs(முட்டாள்), Madus, Fools, Modayas of Lanka, Muṭṭāḷs(முட்டாள்), Velupillai Prabakaran and Muṭṭāḷs(முட்டாள்) Hahinda Rajapaksa, the two Dictatorial “Kings”, may join Louis XVI pf France in Governance..

      Louis XVI of France
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XVI_of_France

      “This was probably because we as a community believed (apart from our personal likes and dislikes) in the ‘invincibility of Prabakaran and his LTTE’.”

    • 2
      3

      Jude Ratnam,
      I ask you to consider that your Thamil culture is very robust in Tamil Nadu. Can’t you at least keep Sri Lanka for Sinhalese? 74 million Tamil Naduians vs 16 million Sinhalese.

      Udaya Gammanpilla, that so called Sinhala nationalist/chauvinist politician, gave a report on the diversity of the Sinhala race, but Tamils have always preferred to be unadulterated. Are the Tamils ready to become one Lanka race upholding Lion culture? Or is Sri Lanka to forever endure as a divided nation in various stages of push and pull of Sinhala culture vs. Tamil Nadu culture.

    • 1
      0

      I agree. The TNA, the SLMC and similar should have NO role in Sri Lankan politics.

  • 16
    3

    Believe me… Many Tamil families, both in the ‘traditional homeland’ and in Colombo packed their important documents and other essentials, in full preparedness to run! If Mahinda loses, he will organise a coup or a riot, and if they won they would beat the minorities up they believed.

    • 7
      1

      “if Mahinda loses, he will organise a coup or a riot, and if they won they would beat the minorities up they believed.”
      Now that Democracy has been saved, should not the new Govt. honour the 3 involved in
      countering the alleged coup, with National Awards in April, next. Of course they were
      duty-bound to act legally – however that was not the trend under MR Regime.

      Let Peace prevail.

    • 2
      3

      This is Fate. In our Faith we believe that the Almighty gives in plenty and watches, and watches. And if you continuously do wrong and harm others then he takes back everything leaving you with nothing. This is what happened to the MARA regime and his cronies. This proves that there is a God above all of us who will never fail us. Thank God.

      • 6
        1

        ‘the Almighty gives in plenty and watches, and watches’.

        What chance did he give the children in that plane that crashed?

        ‘This proves that there is a God above all of us who will never fail us’

        I’m sure the Jews at Sobibor extermination camp felt the same.

        Humbug indeed!

        • 0
          1

          Sorry to disaqppoint you Paul, but yes there is definitely a God whose unseen hand works in different ways. Aethists would not understand. Children die everywhere, children died in Syria and Palestine. May be God had other plans for those children. BUT this has nothing to do with the corrupt, despotic, racist regime that was sent home. May be you condone with all those attrocities of the Rajapakse regime.

          • 1
            0

            ‘Children die everywhere, children died in Syria and Palestine. May be God had other plans for those children’

            Rubbish, and you know it. Have you seen children born dead? Born deformed? Cojoined twins? Born blind, deaf, cancer ridden?

            ‘May be you condone with all those attrocities of the Rajapakse regime’

            Humbug I would never condone the atrocities committed by the Rajapakse regime. Do you condone the atrocities committed by God?

  • 3
    10

    Hey Jude…

    Sinhala buddhists do not want the votes of the minorities. Sinhala buddhists want to rule this island with Sinhala Buddhists votes. That is why hundreds of Sinhala Buddhist PhDs are pouring over the statistics trying their best to find an interpretation that will show that the Sinhala Buddhists – or Singala buddhists as you would say – voted the Siri Sena in without any damn bloo– fuck— minority mother ——- votes right! (Sorry that was the Sinhala Buddhist in me trying to bite you – remember our champion Sinhala Buddhist SBs language and mental imagery?)

    You ain’t gonna get rid of this racism easily my dear man. Thanks for trying though. This could be a decent place if you succeed.

    • 1
      0

      LOL……….someone help this poor soul…..he is sad to know sinhalese voted for Sirisena hoping for a tamils defeating MR at election…

      well the other one who keep saying tamils defeat MR is SInhala ultra racists in MR camp and this Tamil fanatic has agreed with them…i have always seen how sinhala and tamil fanatics agree with each other

  • 9
    3

    Jude Ratnam:

    It was a nice try but don’t delude yourself. Wait for the euphoria to die down and you will see what happens when MS gets down to dealing with the Thorny issue of Devolving Power. The Nation will explode if he tries to implement 13th Amendment but if you are happy to live in Colombo and be a 2nd Class citizen I will say to you beggars cant be choosers.
    It is not your so called brethren from inside who are going confront the born Racists but the Diaspora from outside make no mistake. The majority will never willingly give you anything.

  • 7
    1

    I appreciate your effort, Jude. Not only the Tamil voices, even majority of the right-minded Sinhalese were ‘forced’ to have their mouths under lock & key for over 5 years. It’s about time we all get together and make our country a paradise once again.

  • 5
    4

    I think she gave a good interview. She has radically toned down her extreme views which she used to have. There was no hate mongering in her interview at all.Instead she is hoping now that there was no LTTE terrorism since 2009 and now that Rajapakse is taken out, that state terrorism will also be taken out. She confirm crazyoldmansl view that racism is still there and its not going to go.

    I hope she doesn’t write a letter to the new President!!

  • 2
    1

    The srteets were empty because people are feared to come out. Thanks for John Kerry for warning ex president if something goes wrong. as MIA said, it is true that it is the same people. Only difference Tamils andd Muslims gave their support believing that there will be a change to their lives, their security and their grievances. We have seen similar situations when JRJ was ousted by Chandrika but it became worse. We replaced Chandrika with Mahinda. No body wanted change until recently defeat of the LTTE converted into a dictatorship. We have to wait and see this victory is only for Sinhalese or a victory for all. It is not impossible that the situation may change in three months time or 3 years time. So sar no one touched the devolution and demilitarisation. That is the point where everything collapse. Who is going to break that cycle and take forward with honestly?

  • 4
    2

    “On the stroke of midnight on the 9th January a prominent Sinhalese filmmaker Asoka Handagama posted this following picture of the Sri Lankan map on facebook with the title reading ‘CORIDIALLY EMBRACED!”

    The picture drawn by Asoka is very apprrpriate, illustration showing the Tamils embracing the Sinhalease.

    Tamils have been doing this since independence. Now is the time for the Sinhala people to reciprocate.

    • 2
      4

      ‘.showing the Tamils embracing the Sinhalease. Tamils have been doing this since independence’

      Are you nuts? The only embrace I am aware of is that of a suicide bomber.

      • 1
        2

        Yes memories are short
        Read the history of ceylon

    • 0
      1

      “Tamils have been doing this since independence. Now is the time for the Sinhala people to reciprocat”

      LOL……do tamils kill, massacre and crush little babies heads on trees when embracing others? very different culture i must say

  • 4
    0

    Hey Jude

    Thanks for the article. I appreciate your effort to counteract forces that want to polarize us along ethno/religious lines in perpetuity and fan the flames of war.

    Sri Lankans of all communities share much more in common with each other than they do with anyone outside the Island – that is the reality, period. We need more voices of moderation and people who act based not on political expediency but rather with maturity and good long-term vision.

    All communities who have inhabited this island have contributed to what it is today – both positive and negative. Let us acknowledge and appreciate the positive and decry and work to alleviate the negative.

    Ethnic and religious identities are mutable, even language can be adopted and over time become “native”. As buddhism informs me change is the only constant and finding equanimity in responding to change is the best course of action.

    Let’s not fight on whose language and culture is better, more “native”, more “patriotic” etc. etc. Live in the reality that 20 million people are crammed into this tiny island and have nowhere else to go. So let’s make a resolve to live amongst each other as better human beings than we have been so far.

    Peace.

  • 1
    4

    The all Sri Lankan street was empty since 2009 May after defeated LTTE Tamil ruthless terrorist, who run war mongers back by Tamil nationalist 30 odd years.

    People of Sri Lankan basically peaceful, not that day of election.
    Majority people of Sri lankan heated take up gun to killed other, except JVP.

    We believe and practice ballots not like GUN RULE POLITICS IN NORTH by Tamils. People who run the war by LTTE now blames to other corpus of pseudo history.

    • 5
      2

      Millory

      “We believe and practice ballots not like GUN RULE POLITICS IN NORTH by Tamils.”

      My Elders tell me SWRD Banda died of natural death.

      In 1915, 1958, 1977, 1983 the Muslims and Tamils committed suicide.

      In 1971 and between 1987 and 1991 the Sinhala/Buddhist armed forces and JVP fought each other armed with pillows/feather for fun.

  • 4
    0

    This is an honest and refreshing reflection enabled by the relief felt by many. We have been given the opportunity to believe in a united, peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka again and like you said brother it is nice to hear the voice of our Tamil brothers and sisters living in Sri Lanka being heard.

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