was born in 1982 and I have never known a Sri Lanka
without war. I have never known a life free of
terrorism. I have never known a state that was not in
Emergency, nor the full benefits of our constitution. I
was born at the same time as our tragic riots and the
rise of the LTTE. I have seen them take a real Tamil
struggle and pervert it into a suicide pact run by
criminals. I have seen them blacken youth and send them
to die in charred buses and planes, with the wreckage of
have known 26 years of violence, which has failed.
Before that there was 26 years of non-violence, which
also failed. By that logic it's time for a change.
However, the LTTE has systematically strapped bombs to
the next generation and sent them off to die. They have
enabled the monolithic southern government they fear by
killing off the moderates and prohibiting people from
voting. So perhaps after violence comes silence. This I
refuse to believe.
don't think the next generation wants revolution. I
think those days are over. There is no ideology left in
our leadership, only power. The only creed is greed.
What I want is simply freedom, education, employment and
the ability to move about in this country I love. I like
to think that northern and eastern youth want the same.
I think these are reasonable demands.
This is not to lighten Tamil grievances, which are very
real. They do not have the same constitutional rights to
travel, speak or live as I do. And the suffering in
Mullaithivu is very real. Yet the people I see screaming
'Eelam or Bust!' are quite safe and comfortable abroad.
The people going bust are here.
some point - after 26 years - it should become obvious
that hacking villagers to death does not lead to equal
rights. It's just a bunch of dead villagers and more
checkpoints. This leadership doesn't lead anywhere. The
LTTE was never much more than a cyanide capsule dressed
up in fatigues. But they have led, and we have followed.
By assassination, provocation and pure terror they have
shaped the Sri Lankan state over the last 26 years. They
have given ammunition to the racist Sinhala forces and
polarised debate, aiming for the point where the tension
would snap off a chunk of Eelam. But it hasn't.
Snap off a diaspora
they have done is snap off a diaspora and kill the best
and brightest here. The LTTE has killed Sinhala leaders,
Tamil leaders, Indian leaders, and countless civilians.
In response, the military state they feared has become
more entrenched and the middle ground has become more
and more squeezed. They have made the debate about Eelam
or a Sinhala state when it should be about Sri Lanka.
that is the danger. Looking back now, we have allowed
ourselves to be defined by the LTTE. We claim the moral
high ground next to them, but that is no noble claim.
It's easy to have the moral high ground standing next to
an open sewer. The issues we face are not about us
against the terrorists. That's an easy one. The real
issues are about us. Who are we? Are we a nation of
laws? Of freedom? Of peace? Of course we're better than
the LTTE. But are we the best that we can be?
our rush to defeat terrorism we have taken land and lost
our minds. Twenty five years of violence has taken its
toll, and this island is effectively terrorised. No one
notices that the state of Emergency has effectively gone
on for a lifetime.
Prevention of Terrorism Act
Prevention of Terrorism Act reads 'the provisions of
this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything
contained in any other written law.' This means that we
have placed the prevention of terrorism higher than our
own constitution. That our constitution does not hold.
And it obviously doesn't. Fundamental rights are
violated everyday and the government ignores whole
amendments and Supreme Court orders.
This column is called Article 14, which refers to our
vestigial constitution. It's the right to free speech.
It's not a right that really exists. People that
practice it end up dead or in jail. Or lovingly censored
by their family and friends. The last editor of this
paper practiced free speech. Now he is dead. And we
consider these acceptable losses. The loss of our
don't. I am firmly opposed to the LTTE and terror. And
yet I criticise this government at every possible
juncture. This is possible without being a traitor.
Indeed, this is possible while being a patriot.
Many in the government frame opposition as support for
the LTTE. This is a deep insult to
itself. Our democracy - however flawed - is not even in
the same moral universe as the LTTE. Terror does not
excuse corruption, lawlessness and oppression. We have
to hold ourselves to a much higher standard. Citizens
have to do it. Writers and bloggers and artists have to
do it. Even though our democracy barely exists in a
legal sense, we have to practice it. Not because we are
LTTE, but because we are free. It is not enough to
defeat the LTTE. We have to win.