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Perth Diary


Sri Lankans must protest loud and long

Sometimes things happen very fast and you really donít know what to think.

This weekend was a case in point. Sometimes not a single interesting thing happens to me for months on end, then suddenly several different things that make you go ďHmmm...Ē turn up in the space of two days.

It was May Day and International Press Freedom Day this weekend. While the town hall was blocking off some streets with traffic cones for the usual May Day union march through Fremantle, a huge SUV was unable to see the traffic cones and drove over one. He caught the tip in the undercarriage (if thatís the right word) of his SUV and dragged the cone all the way down the street as he drove. Heads all over High Street in Fremantle whipped around to find out what the horrendous noise was and every single person on the street burst out laughing at the exact same moment as we saw what had happened. Several of us waved at him to stop but he looked at us quizzically and drove on.

May day march

Then the march started. I stood at the door of a boutique and watched them go by. Down the street came the mayor and his supporters ó about 50 of them. Very conveniently at the other end of the parade came a group of people who were for various reasons against the mayor. That was rather amusing.  Along came the unions, trucks, microphones, songs, bullhorns, kids, balloons, posters and banners. Right at the start of the parade came the samba steel drum band ó I swear, Freo people love making a racket.

Sri Lankans marching

What surprised me was one of the groups at the end. All sorts of political activism gets tacked onto the May Day parade ó I mean, someone came and gave me a flyer denouncing capitalism. There was a group of Sri Lankans marching.

What were they marching for? I am not entirely sure. I know they were ďagainst the genocide of TamilsĒ but I couldnít tell if they were against genocide as committed against Tamils by the Sri Lankan government or by the LTTE. All I know is they gave me a flyer that didnít explain that detail and they were yelling in Tamil.

I wasnít concerned about their message ó genocide against anyone by anyone is just wrong so more power to anyone protesting for that. What worried me was this: in all the years I have lived in Fremantle and watched the May Day parade, this is the first time the Sri Lankans have marched and protested.

I want to know why. Why, if you had something to say, did you wait so long to say it? Why didnít you march earlier? This war has gone on for so long. Too long.

Sri Lankans, I donít care what race/religion/ethnicity you are, if you only protest when you feel like it, you are fools. You could have stopped this war in the 1980s when it first started if you had protested loud enough instead of trying kill each other in anger. Oh yes, I know all about Black July, youíd better hang your heads in shame, you stupid, stupid people.

Why are we so proud of ourselves as a nation? As people? All we seem to be good at is reacting in anger to anything. Thatís not something to be proud of. You took away my generationís freedom of movement, speech and representation and you let this war drag on for far too long. Now that it might possibly be over you make a show of protesting for what you want. Because it seems like you might just get this time. In the meantime, too many people have died and too many people who are alive wish they were dead too.

As a woman, I donít have freedom. I am restricted in my speech and in what I can and canít do. You have created a culture for my generation that makes us want to leave a place we love just so we can have some freedom and not go insane.

You can march in Fremantle, get arrested in Paris and London and support either side and protest against all these people dying. I am protesting now: and I protest against the fact that you let this war go on for far too long and that you let people suffer through 26 years because you could not be bothered to raise your voices when it was inconvenient for you to do so

Minorities excluded

I am sorry to be the one to point this out to you but winning the war and having one side defeated does not end it. There are thousands of people displaced, there is an economic crisis and unfortunately there are also people in power who have an agenda that is not all inclusive of all races, ethnicities or religions.

So go ahead and celebrate the fact that war is over, go ahead and protest but donít be surprised when in a few years time, the whole mess starts all over again because certain minorities have been excluded from participation, legally, socially and economically in Sri Lankan society.

So by all means, protest. What I want to get into your heads is that it may be in your best interests to form a united front with all the other diasporas and citizens and protest together.

That means you protest against genocide against all Sri Lankan citizens ó Muslims, Tamils, Sinhalese, whoever. That means that even if one newspaper reports it or it becomes worldwide news, you keep on protesting. This is the point ó donít stop. Donít stop protesting. What you want is not something that can be won in a couple of hours, days, weeks or months. What you want will get you arrested, killed, deported, defamed, threatened and harrassed but guess what? If you really, really are so keen on your message getting through, what you do, is you keep on protesting.

Sri Lankans, the world over. Whatever you want, if you really want it, you cannot be lazy and you cannot go after it half heartedly.

What I want to ask you now is this: Whatever you want, peace, justice for war crimes, how badly do you want it? How hard are you going to protest for it? Are you willing to put yourself out there for potential harassment and danger for it? Are you going to keep protesting till there are systems in place that prevent reoccurrence?

Sri Lankans, are you tenacious, passionate and completely willing?

If you want things to change, youíd better be. Your actions are accountable to me and your fellow citizens, never ever forget that.

ó Marisa Wikramanayake









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