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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The day I realised I was poor

”Their fears are real and almost paranoid. They are not dissimilar to the fear of the so-called high castes in Jaffna including Tamil politicians of yesterday that only they could realise Tamil dreams and not the majority of those perceived to belong to the lower strata of Tamil society.”
 by Pearl Thevanayagam

When school boys from Royal, Ananda and Nalanda set about looting, burning and plundering the properties of Tamils in Colombo with the blessings of the government of J.R. Jayewardene under the direct guidance of PM Ranasinghe Premadasa and ministers Gamini Dissanaike and Cyril Matthew, tens of thousands of Tamils who made South their homes were herded into camps in Kovils, airports, schools and temples.

While I stood outside a Sinhalese neighbour’s house in Nugegoda who gave refuge to us for a few hours after our possessions belonging to several generation were set on fire before our very eyes until a matriarch asked us to leave and we were on the streets I asked my mother, “Are we poor now?”. She replied, “ Yes”.

Tamil refugees who had to flee State terrorism and sought refuge in foreign countries may be living a better life than the average Sri Lankan in Sri Lanka but their memories of their last days when they were made penniless, homeless and forced to live in virtual fear for their lives still haunt them.

Shenali Waduge in her recent article to Sri Lanka Guardian contends that Tamils are now happier without the LTTE. The best part of this government ‘s tactics is that having wiped out the LTTE along with well over 40,000 innocent Tamil civilians (the numbers could be considerably more) it has amalgamated the same LTTE leaders into its enclave thus proving it has absolutely no agenda to provide any kind of autonomy or security to the Tamils it calls liberated from the clutches of the LTTE.

Are Tamils happy without the LTTE? Tamils certainly do not suffer from amnesia. The government of the time gave ammo to Tamil insurgency and rightly or wrongly Tamil youth took to fighting and Velupillai Pirabakaran, a protégé of the Federal Party who was a youthful and charismatic leader would seek to establish Tamil Eeelam.

If it were not for the Tamil diaspora, Tamils in the North and South would be worse off than the population in Somalia and Ethiopia contrary to what Ms Waduge believes. International aid for North and East are re-directed to the South and government stooges in the form of contractors who are close to government politicians to build up showcase projects in the North and East.

Ms Waduge further states, `This is how 1 million Tamils have found their way out of Sri Lanka & whilst most of them may have not had time to gain permanent residency status the present agitations are meant to signal to these foreign governments that it is dangerous for them to return. Why would we want people who do not love our country. Instead of creating lies & falsehoods it is best that they remain in these foreign countries & they should never be allowed to come to Sri Lanka even as tourists’.

Tamils do not love their country? Tamils were forced to flee and it is those who were forced to flee State persecution who are looking after their Tamil brethren and not the State. Unless by `our country’ she means areas outside North and East the Tamil man has spoken with the ballot. The overwhelming victory for TNA despite threats and intimidation proves that Tamils do not trust the government.

Ms Waduge’s venom of hatred towards Tamils pours out throughout this article. She also reflects Sinhala majority thinking and attitude towards Tamils. Otherwise ordinary friendly room mates in Colombo’s hostels went about looting their Tamil chums’ rooms and were seen wearing two or three gold chains round their necks and wearing bangles which belonged to those fleeing when rioters attacked Tamils in July 1983.

I also have deep sympathy for the likes of Ms Waduge. She is but one of many writers who never ventured out of Colombo and who like many journalists are fed state press releases and they are conditioned to believe the government. They also do not have the capacity of independent thinking since their minds are clouded in patriotism and the ever presence psychosis of relegating their Sinhala hegemony or sharing the island with other ethnic communities.

Their fears are real and almost paranoid. They are not dissimilar to the fear of the so-called high castes in Jaffna including Tamil politicians of yesterday that only they could realise Tamil dreams and not the majority of those perceived to belong to the lower strata of Tamil society.

Was the government successful in its suppressing media during its unleashing of state terrorism in 1971, 1983, 1989/1990 and more recently in the last two years? Are Colombo journalists suffering from selective amnesia? The classical music played on radio and TV during the July pogrom and the blank front pages of national dailies are evidences of the government’s terrible history of the most virulent form of State suppression to hide its atrocities committed in the name of holding onto power and placating the Sinhala majority voters.

The Tamils cannot reach closure and trust the Sinhalese unless the government atones for war crimes and crimes against humanity and to this effect Tamils abroad would continue to pressurise the international community to make Sri Lanka accountable for its conduct in the war that ended and moreover investigate and redeem lost property land and rights to Tamils.

Wikileaks, Channel 4 video UNSG report are only the tip of the iceberg. When international investigation proper begins, the government will have nowhere to hide and exposed to its very bones. There will not be fig leaves this time either.

Tamils are going nowhere until justice is meted out.


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