26 July, 2017

Mullivaikkal: A Call For Reason

By Chamindra Weerawardhana

Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana

It has been eight years since Sri Lanka underwent one of the most decisive turns, if not the most decisive and epoch-changing turn, in her post-1948 history. The conclusion of the final military offensive against the LTTE, Colombo’s resounding victory, and the LTTE’s defeat, resulted in a substantive transformation of the national and regional security configurations. This was an outcome previously deemed impossible in practitioner and academic circles. To so-called ‘Sri Lanka researchers’ – a mixture of anthropologists, geographers and development studies people – where ‘whiteness’ is deemed carte blanche to write authoritatively about Sri Lanka, May 2009 was an unexpected outcome.

On the diplomatic front, many governments, especially in Delhi and in the West, expected what they termed a ‘peace settlement’. Their worries about the course of action the government of Sri Lanka eventually chose were evident in the Kouchner-Miliband diplomatic visit to Sri Lanka, weeks before Mullivailkkal.

To some, this day represents the ultimate victory, if not the ‘liberation’ of Sri Lanka from the ‘terrorists’.

To others, this day is a day of tremendous and unprecedented violence, of murder, of rape, of torture.

The military victory led to a major humanitarian crisis, and the personal narratives of Tamil people who experienced it were extremely disturbing, to say the very least. The state, however, practiced a policy of abject denial. To state authorities, the treatment of people in the ‘camps’ was exemplary. Cases of sexual violence were abjectly rejected. When amateur videos from mobile phone cameras, capturing moments of the war’s final stages, leaked out to the Western world and a British media company and a cis-white man capitalised upon them, Colombo continued its policy of abject denial, and even went as far as making its own ‘film’, entitled ‘Lies agreed upon’.

This writer, a Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lankan, wishes to stay in her lane when discussing Mullivaikkal.

What follows is a Sinhala, and Sinhala-Buddhist perspective on Mullivaikkal, a reflection of how the government of Sri Lanka can begin a mature conversation on what happened and what lies ahead.

No room for politics of denial

The politics of denial – denial of the suffering of people, especially the economically and financially most vulnerable of Tamils – are never viable. This is the first reality that requires repetitive emphasis. Wars are never fought in the absence of civilian casualties. It is a fact that there was a sense of tremendous anger among segments of the armed forces with regards to the LTTE. This was also the case in the wider Sinhala community. The media and the political class were never intent upon highlighting one salient reality – that the Tamil Tigers, if not the LTTE, or the youth who joined the LTTE since the late 1970s to the late 2000s, were all Sri Lankan citizens. They were all Sri Lankans, just like us all. The only difference was their sheer sense of discontent, anger and despair over a range of issues (which, to a large extent, continue to be unaddressed).

The LTTE: why?

The LTTE committed acts of atrocity. There is no denial of its tactics, of the violence, of the internalised forms of repression it generated within segments of the Tamil community. There is widespread anger against the LTTE not only among the Sinhala and Muslim people, but also among many Tamil people.

However, and despite all of the violence that the LTTE generated, the government of Sri Lanka needs to recognize, and openly admit one key fact – that the LTTE came to being due to the repetitive failings of the government of Sri Lanka vis-à-vis the Tamil people. If a more cautious approach was pursued in the post-1948 years, the rise of the LTTE – among a hard-working, upwardly-mobile and diligent people – would not have occurred.

In making this statement, it is also necessary to not to lose sight of the fact that the government of Sri Lanka also failed Sinhalese youth, especially those who shared the same social stratification as Tamil youth who created and fought in the LTTE. When we look at the divisive politics of today, where a great deal of silencing of marginal voices operates, a system that systematically favours and encourages political dynasties, and the continuity of social divisions, the problems that led to armed violence in the north and south continue to be, to a large extent, under-if not-un-addressed.

Admitting basic realities

The way forward lies in accepting the fact that the JVP members who resorted to armed violence in 1971 and 88-89, and the LTTE members (and those of other Tamil groups) who opted for armed violence from the 1970s on, did so for reasons. They were all Sri Lankan citizens. Those who created, strengthened and fought for the LTTE may certainly have called for a separate state. At the present juncture, it is important for us, especially in the Sinhala community and in the government of Sri Lanka, to revisit the reasons why they developed the separate state argument. It is in such a line of reflection that concrete responses to today’s challenges can be found.

Right to remember

The people who suffered due to the war, irrespective of their ethnicity, faith or political positions, have a right to commemorate the fallen. That right is non-negotiable and inalienable. It is a right that the state and the armed forces need to respect. May 18th should be a date for the government of Sri Lanka, at its highest levels, to reflect upon the reasons that led to the rise of Tamil militant activity and the role of past governments in bringing about such violence.

In terms of governance, there are salient factors – such as the geopolitics that concern northern and eastern Sri Lanka – that play into government policy in the post-war phase. The most vital, centre-point for future action is that of seeking to avoid, to the best possible level, forms of oppression that keep the local populations of northern and eastern Sri Lanka marginalised. This does not, obviously, mean that multiple forms of marginalisation do not occur elsewhere in Sri Lanka. The necessity of the day is an intersectional and consistent focus on fundamental rights, along a logic of empowerment, of gender justice and equality.

*The writer is (@fremancourt) is a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, and the LGBTQI Officer of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland.

 

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  • 7
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    Most of these sympathizers, NGOs, foreign countries who look for something valuable out of this for them are all talk about Tamils.

    Sinhala people are used to violence since late 1960s during which JVP violence. We also know how Tamils chased out sinhala people who lived in the north. JVP violence and the govt response to JVP violence was the most brutal that had to see first.

    No one talks about. No one celebrate the dead youths during JVP times, Still families are broken, have not recovered, some mothers and fathers died as insane people. Some families lost their lives for ever.

    But, crying out loud for Tamils is a fashion.

    Don’t think, that LTTE – tamils were saints. They killed soldiers., sailors etc., they were working for govt. Their decision to serve the country is secondary. Their foremost desire was to earn some thing for their families.

    You passionate crying out loud people never talk every side of the equation.

    • 3
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      What are you trying to say? Of course, when someone loses live, obviously it is “forever”. Are you in one piece really?

    • 1
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      Jimmy,

      You remember a childhood song, “Balla Piduru Kanneth Na..”. Who stopped JVP commemorating theirs? I guess JVPers wish or wait till people completely forget about that, rather than annually mourning on it – I have seen present day key JVP members apologizing for the same on TV shows.

  • 3
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    Funny, none of these myriad of Yahaalana supporters do not talk about Social and Economic inequality among the inhabitants of Srilanka …Inhabitants of 14 of the 25 Districts in Srilanka, live below the Poverty Line, with only an average income of LKR 4000 a month….Insurrections and Revolutions mainly evolve from the Social and Economic disparity… Dr Ranil’s Yapalana supporters pay Millions to buy Colombo Apartments And drink Bloody Mary’s at 800 Bux a pop…. JVP Insurrection was purely on such grounds. Although they are now with the Cocktail popping Dr Ranil and his mates…But the Tamil Terrorism by Mr Pirahaparan is not. ..He was into creating the homeland for the Tamils, who are dispersed all over the World ,but do not have a country to call their own..Thanks to Pirahaparan, Srilankan Tamils are on the verge on creating one, encompassing the North and the East of Srilanka…. But will that eliminate the Socio Economic disparity of the Tamils?… Vellala Tamils with the money always lived in Colombo and the other parts of the country.. Now they are the beneficiaries of the up coming Eelaam. ..Indians are going f ul l bore to take the whole of Srilanka under their Wing… Is it because Hard Core Hindus of Modi Party are scared that the up coming Eelaam will be the centre piece of the greater Eelaam, joining with Vaiko and Co in Madurai., Is that why Modi wants Trinco under his belt , open the doors of Srilanka for the Hindians to move in and out at free will , and join Jaffna to India by restoring the Old Hanuman Highway. in case Vaiko & co join hands with the Mullivaikal crowd ,who were stirring up the Vellala Chief of the TNA at the LTTE commemoration organized by CM Vellala Wigneswaran. yesterday…

    • 2
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      Looks like you like to bark a lot, only that you have a habit of barking at the wrong tree.

  • 2
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    [Edited out]

    You make very good points. But you may not remember that the soldiers who fell, the 140,000 who are disabled permanently also need to be honored for ending the war by killing VP. Killing VP has brought an end to war. A self loathing person struggling with gender identity is likely to say things like what you say. Let the Tamils commemorate, but this day Victory Day is as significant as D-Day . Why ignore the heroes like Hasalaka Gamini or the ones who sacrificed their water and rations to rescue civilans who were forcibly held by the Tamil Tigers? Yes Both Tamils and Sinhalese should commemorate but the day should also be a victory day.

  • 3
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    Here is something from Facebook today.
    I am ‘inhuman’. I celebrate victory.

    Knowing my child will not be blown up with a bomb is victory. Knowing children of north will not be conscripted as cannon fodder is also victory.

    My being able to travel to Ampara, to work for more than a year via Mahaoya, Bakkiella, Aranthalawa without the fear of an ambush is victory. People of north coming and staying in Colombo without having to register at Police stations is also victory.

    My not having to take leave to check the bags for bombs at the gate of my childs school is victory. Parents of north not having to worry about shells falling on their children’s schools is also victory.

    Couples in the south not having to take different transport for the sake of their children is victory. Eliminating the necessity for underage marriages in north to prevent forced conscription is also victory.

    My being able to take Yaal Devi to Jaffna without a visa is victory. A Jaffna man being able to take Yaal Devi to Colombo without a visa is also victory.

    Jaffna onions coming to Pettah is victory. Batteries going to Jaffna is also victory.

    Residents of Kebithigollewa not having to sleep in the jungle is victory. Residents of Mannar not having to pack their belongings and go on an endless march towards Mullathivu is also victory.

    I could go on & on.

    All this was possible because Prabhakaran was killed. That is victory. Because of his death, thousands and thousands of lives were saved. That is also victory.

    This is probably the biggest achievement of Sri Lanka since she became a crown colony. In the process thousands of brave soldiers, innocent citizens and misguided youth lost their lives.

    Let’s observe a two minute silence for them.

    Some believe that there is no victory to celebrate.

    Let’s observe a two minute silence for them, too.

  • 2
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    Here is what you say

    The necessity of the day is an intersectional and consistent focus on fundamental rights, along a logic of empowerment, of gender justice and equality.

    You really think Hindu CONSERVATIVE TAMILS and TIGERS would support TG rights that somehow the Tigers and Eelam was about TG rights? Hell shit no. Neither will our Southern Polity nor even your own relatives. What are you going to say to them? I will come back in SL and live openly as a TG person and you must all accept me from Tamil To Sinhala to Muslim? I support you rights and empathize with your dilemma but do not conflate the issues from Belfast please. No one will be fooled by this. [Edited out]

    • 4
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      KaradaraDias:

      You are so damn wrong. A number of us are not “TG” but we have no business to tell how people should live. And that includes anyone, conservative Tamils, Tigers, etc. Ignorant as you are, you just mind your own business instead of being a moron on expecting the reaction of every om, Dick and Harry.

  • 5
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    My Fair Lady from the Paddies’ Land,
    Bravo. Brilliant . What a dissection and prognosis !

    I hope Vasudeva, Tissa, Dew et al read this. May be Dr.David Kumar can elucidate more on reasons to his rathu sahotharayos.

    It is a pity that your write up came few days late. Otherwise Mano Ganeshan could have given a cpoy of this to Ven Gnanasara. If Kadu is a problem for Gnana he could get help from Dr.DJ or GoRa or Ambassador Jeyasekera.

    Budhu Saranai My Fair Lady from the Paddys’ & Mics’ Land

  • 6
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    I don’t know how to thank this writer for writing this. Will the President and the Prime Minister(and all other parliamentarians and all voters too) try to understand this lease?

    • 3
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      Please post a translation into Sinhala to get the message to the Sinhala masses because our ”leaders” only follow voters.

  • 5
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    Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana, I cannot agree with you more.

  • 2
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    May 18th should be a date for the Government of Srilanka,at its highest levels,to reflect upon the reasons that led to the rise of Tamil Militant activity and the role of the past governments in bringing about such violence says Dr.Chamindra. ……….

    I could not have said it better Dr.Chamindra.

  • 1
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    Chamindra Weerawardhane as a real patriot has raised the moot points .

    I would like to read the response to the above article from the learned people given below . It can be their comments or another article of their own. . Mother Lanka needs their input :

    Mr. Lionel Bopage, Ms Thisuri Wanni..,Ms Nipuli Gajan…., Mr.Lukman Harees, Mr.Sarath de Alwis, Mr.Nagananda…, Dr DJ, Mr. Vishwamithra, Mr.Malinda Seni…, Mr.Gomyn Daya…, Mr Asanga Abeya…, Mr.Ranil Sena…, Mr.Emil van der Po..,
    Ms Usha Sri…, Mr Laksri Fern.., Mr.Shyamon Jeya….

  • 3
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    Tears of mothers and grief is the same for all humans.
    Let there be no more war.
    There has been far too much violence in SL after independence.
    It is NOT just Tamils who were subjected to violence.
    Thousands of Sinhalese died in the first foolish Marxist Insurgency in 1971
    Tens of thousands died in the savage barbaric period after the Indian invasion in JVP and Governments killings. That was a period of death squads, tyre pyres, lamp-post killings, beheadings. There is something in our innate attributes that seem to resort to violence. I find that odd considering how people used to stone the Dog Pound vans when they came around to collect dangerous stray dogs in the 1960s and 70s.

    Is it economic inequities? Is it caste and social hierarchical differences and privileges? Tamils and Sinhalese both have been victims as well as perpetrators of massive violence. It is easy to brainwash kids to kill. We see that even now still in some African nations. We saw that in Rwanda. We saw it in Cambodia. It is something related to lack of law and order? or in our genes? But then again White christians committed massive atrocities too. In the Belgian Congo more massive genocide occurred than most other places. In US, Whites lynched and attacked Blacks in at least 2 recorded acts similar to our 1983. Indian Hindus slaughtered thousands and thousands of Sikhs in 1984.

  • 2
    0

    So what gives?To continue..

    Two of my relatives were killed by class envious JVP DJV extremists. One uncle was burnt alive in his car.. The other(more distantly connected) was chased out from his tea estate for putting up the National flag because President Premedasa ordered patriots to raise the flag on Feb 4th. They came looking for him, he ran but unfortunately tripped on his sarong and fell. They dragged him to the flag post and shot him. 2 of my former students at USJ just “disappeared” . One I knew was a JVP agitator but the other was more of a rabble rouser but both were anti-UNP during the 1988-89 period.

    Violence begets violence. And we still have bigots who push SL to the edge with their racism; BBS is an example and so are some of the Tamil racists in the north and Islamic fundamentalists. But right now the BBS is the most dangerous. No more violence please. Or is Violence a part of Darwinian traits human animals use to dominate others as part of nature?

  • 2
    0

    Christian White Leopold II of Belgium was a savage who engineered the genocide of Congolese people in the Congo Free State.L eopold extracted a fortune from the Congo, initially by the collection of ivory, and – after a rise in the price of rubber in the 1890s – by forced labour from the natives to harvest and process rubber. Under his régime millions of the Congolese people died; modern estimates range from 1 to 15 million, with a consensus growing around 10 million. Human-rights abuses under his régime contributed significantly to these deaths. Reports of deaths and abuse led to a major international scandal in the early 20th century, and the Belgian government ultimately forced Leopold to relinquish control of the colony to Belgian civil administration in 1908.(VERBATIM WIKI)

    THE ONLY reason I raise this is because it seems no matter “how superior civilized” one race is or one nation is, deep down it perhaps is innate to our animalistic make up to be savage onto people weaker than us? In that context you have to justify the rise of the LTTE seen as defenders of Tamils after the terrible acts of 1983 and in the growing political clashes and previous targeted attacks on Tamils mostly during the UNP regime of the Dharmishta man. 1983 was different because it spread to Colombo and not even English speaking upper class Tamils and rich tamils were spared the barbaric savagery of UNP gangs.

    • 0
      0

      Mano,

      “Christian White Leopold II of Belgium was a savage who engineered the genocide of Congolese people in the Congo Free State.L eopold extracted a fortune from the Congo, initially by the collection of ivory, and – after a rise in the price of rubber in the 1890s – by forced labour from the natives to harvest and process rubber. Under his régime millions of the Congolese people died; modern estimates range from 1 to 15 million, “
      Yes, many people have never heard of this episode. Some of the Facebook generation think that ISIS , and by extension, all Muslims are the bee’s knees when it comes to savagery. It is good that you brought this up

  • 0
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    And then Hindu gangs in 1984 savagely murdered, burnt alive, raped thousands of innocent Sikhs. Modi sahib was persona non grata in the US for a long time because he was seen as complicit in the attacks on Muslims in Gujarat and the massacres there. It is only security and business interests that brought about an alignment of forces with India and US and now their interests are the same in terms of national security.

  • 1
    1

    The Sinhala intelligentsia has a lot to do to set things right so that SB voters
    will have some guidelines to political thinking in keeping with the 21st-century
    stand. Let us begin at some point – an opportune moment is now – today.

  • 1
    1

    economically and financially most vulnerable of Tamils!

    Come on sis, With what are you saying this crap, When did you last visit a Sinhalese village?

    Life is not some feitsh transgender dream! Come down from your Ire land and see how everyone suffers under gonpalane!

  • 0
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    This is a Sinhala Budhist country and it has always been like it. [Edited out]

    • 4
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      Heil Adolf-softy!

      • 0
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        Jimsofty doesn’t deserve more than ‘dimwitty’ :)

    • 2
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      Does this type of comment by Jim theSoft (in the head) Savage deserve publication?Is this comment the product of the so called 2500 year old civilization we speak about ad nausem?It is bloody shame to say the least for me as a Sinhalese Buddhist.

    • 1
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      Does this type of comment by Jim the Soft (in the head?) Savage deserve publication?Is this comment the product of the so called 2500 year old civilization we speak about ad nauseum?It is a bloody shame to say the least for me as a Sinhalese Buddhist.

    • 2
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      The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness. Psalm 24,1 He will return to reclaim it

    • 0
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      Jim the dim,
      When did you discover that Vijaya was a Buddhist?
      Why don’t you write it up in your revised history book?

  • 2
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    Chamindra Weerawardhana: Wants to stay in her Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lankan lane. Use right side or left side? Not far is a huge fortress occupied by the near mono-lingual Lankan armed services and anther fortress occupied by near mono-lingual Police. Over the years they have become a law unto themselves, built businesses with state support. Even though the war ended in May 2009, they keep the spectre of terrorism going to hang on to their privileges. Their loyalty to GoSL is questionable because GoSL is plain scared to over-rule them. Is there too much culture of impunity? This leads to corruption, nepotism and the cycle goes on. The saddest part of the evolving scene is Lankans getting used to these matter-of-factly. Try the Lankan lane Chamindra.

    s writer, a Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lankan, wishes to stay in her lane when discussing Mullivaikkal

    • 0
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      K.Pillai,
      Is Chamindra W, a male or female?
      I am confused.

  • 0
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    The monkeys of Sri Lanka will need years perhaps decades to realize that they are capttives of the Indian and Western Powers and exposed to a wholesale massacre equivalent to the Mullivaikaal tragedy caught up in a war of powers in the region. The accusation that LTTE used the people as a Human shield would then become true of Sri Lankan people exposed to the war that is to come .

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out] Please avoid typing all capitalized comments – CT

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