By Roma Tearne –
Ah! They have found some cluster bombs in Paradise and no one is responsible. No surprises here. Naturally the army will blame the rebel Tigers but hey, the rebel Tigers are dead so they cannot answer for themselves.
The consequences of Sri Lanka’s war live on and on untended while its children are maimed and destroyed. Young limbs, young minds, what amounts to the future itself, destroyed in a moment by those with power in their hands. While the world continues to sunbathe on the island’s sunlit beaches.
Years ago, as a child living in London, listening to the arguments going on around me, I used to hate the fact that I was Sri Lankan. I understood perfectly, even then, exactly what was happening in that dreadful country. Wasn’t it simple? Some Tamils, discriminated against for years, wrongly, resorted to violence in order to get their voices heard.
Thereby playing into the hands of majority rule.
For in those days the majority of Sinhalese hated the Tamils people without quite knowing why.
The words to describe this, as every child of ten knew, were, Prejudice and Discrimination.
From then onwards this Discrimination and Violence stalked the streets as government after government began to push the Tamils back from the capital up towards the north of this beautiful island.
The Dog that came to represent the Tamil people, got itself a bad name with which to hang itself, and Hey Presto! majority rule had the upper hand. Or to put it another way, the right to kill as many Tamils as possible in the name of anti-terrorism. It mattered not that many of these Tamils were innocent civilians. Who cared about the details. All is fair in love and war. Isn’t it? So that, as the lorryloads of white paint arrived at the capital to wash down its bloodstained, bullet marked walls, the phrase on the lips of everyone was:
‘But the Tigers are terrorists, don’t you know…’
Yes, and the people who govern the country are murderers.
And murder, as the world knows, will out. Eventually.
So that in spite of The Great Whitewashing Programme other images are seeping and oozing out of the cesspit. Images that will not go away.
Of the dead,
Children whose faces stare out from eternity pleading for recognition.
The truth remains that every single time a tourist visits the world’s ‘Number One Holiday Destination’, every time the uninitiated say that things are fine in Sri Lanka, the abuse, rape, murder and torture in that place is being endorsed.
Two children were killed last month. What were they doing? Trying to collect scrap metal to sell. Unaware they were touching an explosive device. Thus has innocence always been destroyed by grown men.
We in the West must remember that the real cost to life cannot be counted immediately after a war ends, but several generations later. Sri Lanka and its people, one hopes, will one day understand this, too.
*Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan born novelist and film maker living in the UK. She left Sri Lanka with her family, at the start of the civil unrest during the 1960s. She trained as a painter & filmmaker at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford and then was Leverhulme artist in residence at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Subsequently she was awarded an AHRC Fellowship and worked for three years in museums around Europe on a project accessing narrative within the collections