read this, Tamil children, women and men – fellow Sri
Lankans -- are being massacred at the rate of around 43
a day. This is, sadly, a fact, not hyperbole. The
International Crisis Group (ICG) notes that “since
fighting intensified in mid-January 2009, available
reports suggest 5,000 civilians, including at least 500
children, have died, and more than 10,000 have been
Current UN estimates put around 100,000 at ‘most risk’
right now. The UN Secretary General, UN Security
Council, India, England, France and other countries,
along with domestic and foreign NGOs and humanitarian
organisations just this week alone and in unison warn us
of a humanitarian crisis reaching horrific proportions.
Reuters notes that of those who manage to escape the
last bastion of the LTTE, “some are dying in buses on
their way to hospital” and “many patients are also
deeply traumatised after seeing loved-ones killed in
front of them.” Images, stories and video increasingly
coming out from the Wanni highlight conditions on the
ground so macabre that we simply switch off.
calculation behind the all out offensive by the
Rajapakse regime to decimate the LTTE is fiendishly
simple. Because international condemnation is growing
apace with no signs of effective diplomatic counter and
coffers are running out, the Rajapakse regime knows
victory is needed to secure its legitimacy, one it will
pursue at any cost in the short-term.
ceasefire would be a huge loss of face, and this is more
important in domestic politics than international
condemnation, which the regime believes it can ride out
and will be short-lived after a decisive turn of events
in the Wanni soon. It is then precisely because of
growing condemnation and media scrutiny that civilians
in the Wanni are at most risk from government offensives
to decimate the LTTE right now.
more the pressure on government, the more they will care
less about collateral damage. Of course, it’s the LTTE
that is killing civilians as well, and how! By firing at
fleeing civilians, by using them as human shields, by
holding them hostage, by firing against the army in
their midst and then telling the world that retaliatory
fire were indiscriminate and unprovoked acts of violence
against unarmed civilians.
then is the essence of Eelam, liberation and freedom
under the LTTE, and in this article I look at the Tamil
diaspora’s response to this catastrophe.
chants first wafted in through the window, strange
garbled sounds of ricocheted anger, with
LTTE and genocide piquing interest. This was
and the volume necessary to drive echoes up to my hotel
room suggested that this was not a small gathering, or a
silent vigil. The group had congregated near Trump
Towers, and were according to a NYPD officer I asked,
around 2,000 in number.
I could see far less, this was indubitably a large
gathering of pro-LTTE Tamils armed with the usual
paraphernalia – placards boldly emblazoned with Eelam,
LTTE and Pirapaharan as saviours, heroes and liberators,
and slogans both chiding the UN for its double standards
and requesting it to bring about a halt to the genocide.
crowd was emotionally charged and I could recognise the
scope for violence if, as in Australia, a pro-government
or anti-LTTE group decided to contest ground realities.
two blocks away however, I was handed flyers by a group
calling itself the Sri Lanka Peace and Democracy Forum
(clearly using the better known and well established Sri
Lanka Democracy Forum as cover) that were addressed to
Obama and Hillary Clinton, pointing to the atrocities
committed by the LTTE, that it is banned by the State
Department, that Pirapaharan is wanted by Interpol and
stating that “Tamil Tigers disguised as freedom fighters
are the pioneers of suicide bombing and use children as
young as 14 for their deadly missions.”
that day I spotted youth, mostly male, sporting loud
Eelam emblazoned t-shirts and flags with a purposeful
gait and gaunt gaze moving towards
Times Square. I watched from afar as some journalists covered the
protest. Others who were filming looked as if they were
doing so for online propaganda, focussing on only
frontline faces and oblique angles that gave a
heightened sense of participation and crowd strength.
woman I passed by within earshot suggested to a TV crew
that the Sri Lankan President had overseen the
extermination of hundreds of thousands of Tamils, and
the fate of many more hung in the balance. Bizarrely,
there were others recording those showing interest in
and interacting with the demonstration, even if it was
to ask what it was all in support of.
a surreal environment – a vocal section of the Tamil
diaspora, clearly in favour of saving lives yet
egregiously self-deluded, parading tired propaganda as
fact, producing content largely for their own
consumption and mobilisation and monitored by others.
in front of the diplomats’ entrance to the UN, five or
six protestors had also gathered. They were from
Moldova, protesting against gross human rights
violations by Russia, bordering on what they said was
human tragedy of and politics exacerbating the
Transnistrian conflict was as invisible to me as the Sri
Lanka one was perhaps to them. Separated by a few blocks
and both tellingly appealing to the UN, the US
administration and global media to urgently intervene,
the large LTTE protest and the more symbolic Moldovian
demonstration were humbling reminders that it is not
always easy to understand and respond to intra-state
is precisely where, in Sri Lanka’s case, many in the
Sinhala and Tamil diaspora fail so miserably to address
the on-going humanitarian tragedy in
and have been at best marginal in efforts to secure
peace in the country. Through violent coercion or
volition, many in the Tamil diaspora have supported the
LTTE and its terrorism to the tune of millions of
dollars over the years.
Through ignorance or hypocrisy, many in the Sinhala
diaspora suggest that the Rajapakse regime is fighting a
clean war. No war is. And the regime is far from clean.
Here then is ferocity in the diaspora born not out of
rigorous intellectual engagement or any real sacrifice,
but out of the vicious denial of fact, and a sickeningly
vicarious pleasure in pyrrhic violence.
is a dangerously believable yet exclusive rendering of
ground realities, supported by propaganda and
hagiography touted as verified and impartial fact. Much
as they would like to think they are different,
pro-government and pro-LTTE diaspora mirror each other,
their extremism feeds off each other – they in fact
exist on account of each other.
a strange juxtaposition to see a pro-LTTE group
demonstrate in front of the UN, to see such overt
support of terrorism in front of an institution that
represents the best of us, and our human values, dignity
and rights. You don’t need to be born in Sri Lanka, or
even Sri Lankan, to stand up against the massacre of
Anyone, in words overused today but still resonant, can
nurture the ‘audacity to hope’ that even out of this
carnage, there will emerge a peace that over
generations, will be our burden in Sri Lanka to forge
and sustain. Radical diaspora must realise and support
this, with as much vigour as they decry or support the
government and the LTTE today.
quite simply, shut up.