By Mahesan Niranjan –
It was a day in the year 1976. A teen aged boy returning from his calculus class stops his bicycle at a political rally and listens to persuasive arguments from the stage. It was, in the eyes of the young boy, emotional, narrow minded nationalistic thinking at its very worst.
“It is all the fault of the ‘other’,” the young boy heard the speaker lament. “It is all because of them, it is they who have controlled our economy, sent troops and bombs to suppress us, erased our great identity, and taken away our sovereignty. It is their fishermen who sail down here and take our fish away. We should be free to mind our own affairs and re-establish the greatness we once had,” speaker after speaker thundered from that stage.
There, however, was no acknowledgement of the societal injustices we ourselves had created from within.
There, however, was no clear analysis of how feasible minding our own business was going to be.
There, however, was no plan of how to move from freeing ourselves from the clutches of the other, to that imagined state of milk and honey flowing in our very own sovereign state.
There, however, was no acceptance that the problems of our few that were being exaggerated to take us down a path that was going to affect us all.
Aspiration of a few power hungry politicians to take control of their party was to be confused with a far more serious issue of how to tackle known problems.
Emotion drove a people into the abyss.
The event the young boy witnessed, readers of Colombo Telegraph will readily recognize, was the Vaddukkoddai resolution of the Tamil nationalists in Sri Lanka, calling for the establishment of a separate state in the North and East of the country, being passed.
The genie that was let out that day in 1976 enjoyed a long field day starting with a killing spree and enjoying thirty years of war, the end of which came about only by the total destruction of a community and its way of life. Even seven years after its bitter end, you only need to travel two hundred yards in either direction perpendicular to the A9 highway to see its residual scars. That is the cost of letting the genie out.
It is now the year 2016.
This afternoon, on the eve of the referendum to decide if Great Britain should exit from the European Union, I met my friend and regular drinking partner, the Sri Lankan Tamil fellow, Sivapuranam Thevaram in the Bridgetown pub. Now a middle aged man with balding head and paayaasam belly, Thevaram remembered that day in 1976, when he cycled past the political rally after his calculus lesson.
All faults are caused by them, the campaigners for exit are heard saying.
It is them to whom we have surrendered our sovereignty; It is they who are making the rules we have to live by; it is they who will cross the Channel in large numbers and swamp the little piece of land we have lived in, in all its past Greatness and Glory; and it is them who are stopping us from catching as much fish as we like from our own waters.
There, however, is very little acknowledgement of the societal injustices that have been locally created and sustained over a long period of time.
There, however, is very little analysis of how feasible minding our own business is going to be in such an integrated world of today.
There, however, is no plan as to how this transition from the clutches of Brussels bureaucracy to us taking control shall be effected.
There, however, is no appreciation of the diminished meaning of sovereignty in a world in which bankers and multi-national corporations hold so much power that tax evasion is routine and the “too big to fail” argument can trump any other call on the public purse.
Here, too, the genie is out. At least one killing and a couple of death threats have been recorded.
Aspiration of a few power hungry politicians to take control of their party is being confused with far more serious issues of how to tackle known problems.
Will ill-informed emotion drive these people into the abyss?
“We will know tomorrow, machan (buddy),” said Thevaram with a long sip of his beer followed by an equally long sigh.